Many of us here at Paste are fans of science fiction. And, in the last year, Netflix has boosted its sci-fi movie game, now including several of our 100 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time. The streaming film repertoire is particularly great when it comes to 21st-century independent films like Okja and Sorry to Bother You while being supplemented by Netflix originals like Project Power or The Platform. And, of course, see Blade Runner whenever you can. It’s an exciting time for speculative fiction, whether you want aliens, superheroes, space travel, technological perils, or innovative looks into the future
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Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edgar James Olmos
Runtime: 117 minutes
Just as The Road Warrior established the style and tone for innumerable post-apocalyptic cinema scapes to come, Ridley Scott’s dark, rainy, and overcrowded Blade Runner established the standard for depicting pre-apocalyptic dystopias. But he also had Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, and a group of actors that bring this Philip K. Dick-inspired story of a replicant-retiring cop to gritty, believable life. Underneath the film’s amazing set design and outstanding performances is a captivating meditation on the latent loneliness of the human (and, possibly, inhuman) condition that continues to reverberate (and inspire new works, such as Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049). Mr. Michael Burgin
Sorry to Bother You
Director: Boots Riley
Stars: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Stephen Yeun, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Terry Crews, Danny Glover
runtime: 105 minutes
Sorry for bothering you. You have so many ideas spilling out of every seam, so much ambition, so much it wants to say that it almost feels churlish to point out that the film ends up careening gloriously out of control. This is rapper and producer Boots Riley’s debut film, and it shows in every way—good, awful, wonderful, ridiculous—as if he didn’t know whether he’d ever be able to make another, so he dumped every notion he’d ever had into it. There are parts of Sorry To Bother You that will make you want to leap around the theater with delight. There are also instances when you wonder why on earth gave this madman a camera.
(Some of those moments are also rather ecstatic.) The former outnumber the latter by a large margin. Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius, a good-hearted guy who feels like his life is slipping away from him and thus tries his hand at telemarketing, failing miserably (in a series of fantastic scenes in which his desk literally drops into the homes of whoever he is dialing) until a colleague (Danny Glover, interesting until the film drops him entirely) suggests he use his “white voice” on calls. Stanfield suddenly sounds just like David Cross at his most nasally and has become a company superstar, leading him “upstairs,” where “super callers” like him go after the Glengarry leads.
Blade Runner 2049
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto
Runtime: 163 minutes
In the three-plus decades since Ridley Scott made one genre masterpiece after another dithering over the same debate, the strength of Blade Runner 2049 is in how intimately Villeneuve (and writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green) attempt to have us experience this world through the unreal eyes of a Replicant, K. (Ryan Gosling). When empathy—caring about these robots—is the inevitable conclusion of the filmmakers’ storytelling, we are compelled to consider what “humanity” is.
Blade Runner 2049 is, without a doubt, the most beautiful thing to come out of a big studio in a long time. Roger Deakins has instilled Jordan Cronenweth’s lived-in feeling of a future on the verge of obsolescence, leaning into the overpowering anxiety that pervades Ridley Scott’s monolithic Los Angeles. The film’s immensity is only matched by the perpetual fear of obscurity—illumination fluctuates inexorably, dust and haze both magnifying and submerging the sense-shattering corporate edifices and hyper-stylized rooms into which humanity retreats from the lifeless natural environment they’ve created.
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, An Seo Hyun, Byun Hee-bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je Moon, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Woo Shik Choi, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal
Runtime: 118 minutes
Okja takes more creative risks in its first five minutes than most films do in their whole running time, and it doesn’t stop there. The somewhat inconsistent tone, from sentiment to suspense to joyful action to whimsy to horror to whatever Jake Gyllenhaal is doing, tends to be a sticking point for some critics and moviegoers, particularly Western ones. But this is part of what makes Bong Joon-ho films, well, Bong Joon-ho movies: They’re deep and complicated, but far from subtle or constrained. They are detail-oriented, yet not gentle in their treatment. They have several intentions, and they combine those intentions to jam.
Okja is innovative works that create momentum through part-counterpart alternations and is possibly the best illustration yet of a Bong film’s rhythmic tonality’s wild pendulum swing. Okja is not a vegan film, but it does address how we may discover integrity and, more importantly, how we can act ethically toward other creatures, including humans. Okja’s responses are straightforward and vital, and without really stating them, it helps you hear those answers for yourself since it has asked all the proper questions in an immensely fascinating manner. —Betz, Chad
Creator: Charlie Brooker
Most of us have certainly experienced periods in our life when we regard our technological world as more of a dystopia than a utopia. It can feel like an unforgivable violation to limit our freedom, impair our privacy, and subject us to anonymous attacks. But the worst part is that we’re complicit—we’ve accepted the intrusion and, in some, if not most, situations, we’ve gotten addicted. The pervasiveness of technology is an unavoidable truth that we must accept in order to keep our sanity. But that doesn’t make it any less worth questioning, which is precisely what Black Mirror is all about.