Brooks Peck’s 16 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Faves (of the Past 16 Years)
In celebration of the 16th annual Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (presented by SIFF and the Museum of Pop Culture), we asked MoPOP Senior Curator Brooks Peck for his favorite sci-fi/fantasy movies and TV shows of the past 16 years. What follows is his expert and truly excellent opinion. Read on!
Because, I believe, of my overly-lofty job title (MoPOP Senior Curator), people sometimes expect my tastes to be equally lofty or even snobbish. But the more senior I become, the more I appreciate whimsy, sense of wonder, and flat-out bonkersness. So while this list contains a number of works I consider important, mainly I’m sharing what gives me joy. Your joy may vary.
CBS created a number of short films when it rolled out the new Discovery series, and this one is tops. Learn, at last, the secret origin of tribbles! Includes a wonderful performance by H. Jon Benjamin, as well as a rare sighting of a tribble vacuum.
Live. Die. Repeat. Any alien invasion movie starring Tom Cruise has hate me written all over it (looking at you, War of the Worlds.) But this film bundles in another old trope, the time loop, and the result is a really enjoyable actioner. Bonus: Tom Cruise dies 26 times.
This isn’t one of the stronger Marvel films, and as for Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent . . . well, at last we found out that he isn’t perfect. But the climax, when the heroes move one way in time while the rest of the world goes in the opposite direction, is one of the most inventive sequences I’ve ever watched.
Sets a high bar for low-budget, people-talking-in-a-cabin movies. Seriously, this film combines an excellent script with great acting resulting in a compelling story. Features John Billingsly, whom Trekkies will remember as Doctor Phlox.
Another low budget gem, and the directorial debut of Duncan Jones. This film takes full advantage of Sam Rockwell’s ability to look bewildered, and harkens back to some of the thoughtful, less explosive sci-fi films of the ’70s.
This film’s minimalist visual style and taut performances have stuck with me. Though I’m confused that some people find it subversive. To me, the robot Ava’s actions at the end aren’t a liberation, but only underscore old-school male terror of female power.
While we’re talking about robots, here’s a film that was poorly marketed and deeply misunderstood. I think it’s an effective if uncomfortable tale about how tech itself may be neutral, but humans instantly bend it to their needs and viewpoints. (See: the internet).
Even if you eschew all superhero movies, see this! And sit 12 inches from your screen to simulate being in a movie theater. It’s big, bold, frenetic, and fun. Now can we please have a Spider-Gwen movie?
An animated version of the Ramayana set to tracks by 1920s jazz vocalist Annette Hanshaw. Released into the public domain by sole creator Nina Paley as an FU to the corporate copyright machine. Beautiful film.
Weird, weird, weird in the best possible way. I love a story that keeps me guessing yet is internally consistent and satisfying. After season 1 you’ll think there’s no way there could be more, but there is, and it adds a giant octopus, all the better for it.