After discussing Wired's choice of the top 25 sci-fi films pre and post-star wars at work, James lent me three of his favourites. Well ok, two of his favourites and Buckaroo Banzai. I've watched two so far.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai in the Eighth Dimension
Buckaroo Banzai is a brilliant neurosurgeon/physicist/rock musician, who has been involved in developing an "overthruster" that allows travel to and through the eighth dimension (as long as you're driving a car really really fast). Unfortunately some bad aliens from the eighth dimension want this device so they can return home and be evil there. While they try to steal the overthruster another set of aliens is hovering in orbit threatening to start a nuclear war if Banzai doesn't stop the evil aliens. Also, there's a woman who appears to be the twin of Banzai's former wife. She's just there as a love interest; we find nothing more out about the two. This is just one of many things in the film that makes no sense. This film makes no sense at all. What makes it all the more puzzling is that on paper it sounds like a trashy low-budget flick, but in fact the direction is competent, the production values are high, and the cast is decent (Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Golblum (in fluffy cowboy pants)). It's not really so bad it's good, it just makes no sense. The design of the aliens' spacecraft is pretty cool though.
This is a classic 70s environmental fable, but I'd never seen it before. The earth's only remaining plant and animal life is drifting in freighters, manned by uninterested crew. When the order comes in to destroy them and return to commercial service, only one rejects it, ending up drifting with his forest, alone save for three diminutive robots. I'm not sure about some of the science in the film, but as an evocation of loneliness and a parable, it works very well. I also like the 70s NASA era technology in the film, all girders on the outside, blue screens and chunky keyboards on the inside.
Radical activists break into rich people's houses, rearrange the furniture and leave notes saying "your days of plenty are numbered". It's a little predictable, a little sentimental at times and the politics isn't very deep, but it's still a worthwhile watch. On a technical note, it's very much a post-dogmé film of cheap but high quality hand-held and mobile cameras, which lends the film a nice rough, personal feel.