High Museum of Art: Films

Apocalypse Now: Film Mavens’ Picks by Linda Dubler

Continuing with the theme pulled from Misrach’s On The Beach exhibition, my film world colleagues contributed these suggestions for outstanding apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies.
Linda Dubler

From Bruce Fletcher, Idaho International Film Festival

Things To Come
Panic in Year Zero

La Jetee
No Blade of Grass

No Blade of Grass:  “And then one day the polluted Earth could take no more.” So begins No Blade of Grass, director, co-writer and producer Cornel Wilde’s adaptation of The Death of Grass by John Christopher. Wilde’s too little-seen (yet very influential) dystopian nightmare gets bleaker (and more brutal) soon thereafter.  A global viral pandemic has killed all the cereal grasses causing global starvation and the total collapse of civilization. Nigel Hawthorne leads a ragtag band of survivors across Northern England as they scavenge for food, kill to live, and fend off marauding biker gangs. “Yesterday, they were decent people letting their environment die. Now they are savages, killing to keep themselves alive.”

From James Rice, Film House/Edinburgh International Film Festival


Death Watch
Time of the Wolf

Planet of the Apes

From Paul Kazee, Proctors Theatre, Schenectady, New York

The best, to my mind, is A Boy and His Dog.  Despite the ending being played for humor, rather than horror, the film presents a truly disturbing depiction of what “Every MAN for himself” can devolve into.

From Livia Bloom, Nantucket Film Festival

Strange Days, 1995

Strange Days, 1995

Once the threat of apocalypse is raised, subtly or overtly, the stakes of a film can go sky high. Kiss Me Deadly and Strange Days, released forty years apart, take very different approaches to the ultimate prospect of destruction. Watch for top-notch filmmaking, and to find out whether their characters avert disaster—or see the threat of destruction to its final conclusion.

Shadows are inky, black as despair, and whites are the sun about to explode in the high-contrast cinematography of Robert Aldrichs 1955 film, Kiss Me Deadly. Or perhaps what’s about to explode is “the great whats-it,” the secret, glowing contents of a pre-Pulp Fiction box that leaves a trail of victims in its wake. Hoping for a pay-off, private eye Mike Hammer (a harder-than-nails Ralph Meeker) and his dames track the box though the underworld. But are they getting too close for comfort? Based on a novel by Mickey Spillane and a script by A. I. “Buzz” Bezzerides, Kiss Me Deadly channels post-war nuclear paranoia into a noir that is as uncompromising in its cynicism as in its artistic vision.

Forty years later came Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days, a film that began life as futuristic. Released in 1995, and set in 1999 under threat of Y2K apocalypse, it should have become dated with the millennium’s dawn. Instead, Strange Days stays uncannily relevant. When a lovelorn neo-drug dealer (Ralph Fiennes) learns a torturer is on the loose, he tries to protect a pitiless songtress (Juliette Lewis, whose version of P.J. Harvey’s I Can Hardly Wait smolders). Meanwhile an avenging cop (Angela Bassett) tries in turn to protect him. Racial, sexual, and political tensions run high in this alternate past where, “The question isn’t whether you’re paranoid. [It’s] whether you’re paranoid…enough.”

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