Fresh Video, Went There



Once upon a time, one could find oneself at a movie (usually a bad one) and folks would call out funny remarks to characters in the film. This still happens in places around the world where folks aren’t so stiff as us, and also it happens here, at events like THE BOSTON SCIENCE FICTION MOVIE MARATHON. Thirty nine years running, nerdy pilgrims sojourn together with old friends at one of several hospitable art-house theaters around (most recently THE SOMERVILLE THEATER). They pack for a slumber party and stay up 24 hours cackling with high spirits as a curated blend of new and old science fiction movies play onscreen. The films are really just a backdrop for merriment. There are silly intermission contests, costumes, props and traditional shout-outs like one would expect at any other cinematic cargo cult, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) or THE ROOM (2003) for example. In short, it’s a laser-blast.

As with all beautiful subculture, there are a core of kind souls working behind the scenes to keep it going. Garen Daly is chief organizer and has developed, over the years, a network of industry connections that somehow retrieves those rare celluloid reels from dimensions unknown. This past President’s Day weekend, a devoted 600+ sat amongst our survival gear and heard chief projectionist David Kornfeld forecast the glories awaiting us in 35mm. Like a sommelier, he extolled the virtues of film over digital projection, as well as the special qualities of rare surviving ‘Show Print’ and ‘Answer Print’ copies dug out and delivered for us to taste.

Aside from these residual reels, there were digital projections of old and new sci-fi gems of various cut and sparkle. Two of these were newer indie films that had been participants in the BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL leading up to the marathon.

SENN (2013) directed by Josh Feldman, was shown in a side-screening and had both director and co-writer Britton Watkins present to speak about the film and field questions. SENN was produced nano-budget style, but manifests brilliant imagery and effects nonetheless. It tells a story of planetary liberation, somewhat along the lines of AVATAR (2009), and features an entirely unique alien written language developed by Mr. Watkins. His interest in sci-fi linguistics led him to become an alien language coach, recently consulting for the actors playing ‘Klingon’ roles in 2013’s STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. Marathoners were even treated to some backstage footage of this training along with a short primer in ‘Klingon’ phonetics.

COHERENCE (2013), directed by James Ward Byrkit, was shown in the main lineup and was similarly micro-budgeted, relying on dramatic tension and conceptual novelty to implement its sci-fi aesthetic. More about this film can be learned from an earlier Hassle article, but marathoners were treated to a short talk after screening by co-star Nicholas Brendon who you might recognize as the actor who portrayed Xander Harris in the long-running show BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER directed by Josh Whedon.

With various shorts, talks and contests between, the survivors coursed through 13 feature-films over 24 hours, sprinting through the magnificently colorful 1980 cheese-terpiece FLASH GORDON to the finish line. They came. They partied, and at last, like Brigadoon, the merry village of the BSF-marathon faded back into the mists to await next year’s return.

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