Boston's Annual Science Fiction Festival/Movie Marathon Blasts Off This Weekend

Every Presidents' Day weekend for the last few years I've been up in Boston for the science fiction convention Boskone, where I speak about movies and TV and generally party like a geek. (I'll be there this weekend, too -- stop by and say hi!) And a lot of folks there are very excited round this time of year because just as Boskone is ending on Sunday, the annual Boston Science Fiction Film Festival is getting started. This Presidents' Day weekend tradition is now in its 32nd year, and it's a doozy: a 24-hour marathon of science fiction movies, a pay-one-price event that allows you to come and go or stay in your seat for an entire day and night.

The slate of films is exciting -- for geeks, anyway -- a combination of schlock and good stuff. It's mostly older films this year -- classics including Forbidden Planet and Robocop, delicious junk such as Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, and John Carpenter's goofy and ultra-low-budget film-school project Dark Star -- although two terrific movies from last year will be playing, the wonderful animated flick Monster House and the hilarious horror-comedy Slither. Cartoons, vintage movie trailers, and "a few surprises" are also on the metaphorical marquee.

What kind of surprises? Well, on the festival's site, organizer Garen Daly says:

Two more films have been added to this year's event, but we can't talk about them. One of them is a classic and one is a brand new film.

The brand new film is not a major Hollywood production, but it does have Boston ties and we (and I mean all of us) will be 'testing' it. The producer of the film is excited to have our event be the 'test screening' for the film. We'll be asked what we thought and may even have some impact on how it will be distributed. I think this is pretty cool.

As if the prospect of seeing a bunch of fun movies with like-minded fanboys and fangirls weren't enough, there's extra coolness like a cherry on top.

Most intriguing on the festival's site is the peek into how it is put together ... and how the business of getting movies in front of people works. Daly explains why, for instance, Children of Men won't be showing at the festival, even though it seems like an obvious choice. And why won't another of last year's best SF films be at the festival? It seems that Idiocracy (the industry trial and tribulations of which I wrote about recently) ain't just the name of the movie:

The distributor for this particular film gave up on it. After a very brief run in the mid-West, they dropped it like a hot potato. The film was 'pulled ' from release and forgotten. I could make no headway with the theatrical distributor. I tried to get their marketing department to put me in touch with Mike Judge directly. Stonewalled again. Then I decided to try the non-theatrical route. There I am told there are no 35 mm prints. The person I speak to says the distributor destroyed over 200 prints. There is only a DVD available.

Unbelievable. And unfortunately, not science fiction itself, just how the world sometimes rejects smart, speculative film.

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MaryAnn Johanson

author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride

minder of FlickFilosopher.com