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Will The Hollywood Prophets Hold Sway?


LOOKING BACK OVER the last year and forward to the next, I think it's best to review the events that cinema brought us. Not the movies that were released in 1999 or will be released in 2000, but the movies that were set in 1999 and 2000. Based on that, 1999 was a tough year, what with the killer robot-teachers running amok in Class of 1999, and the destruction of the earth in Space 1999. Frankly, it's amazing that we made it all the way through to December.

Of course, this only means we have to prepare for the difficult year ahead, or at least find some way to kill the time until the giant space-monoliths lead us to a higher plane in 2001: A Space Odyssey. So, what does cinema say the year ahead holds for us?

Well, there are only a few movies that are explicitly set in the year 2000. Perhaps most telling is the classic Death Race 2000. This film presents an extremely frightening future wherein David Carradine is actually given lead roles. On the more jolly and upbeat side, the film features a brutal car race across the country, with bonus points for killing pedestrians, so it does promise some lighthearted amusement for the coming months.

Then there's Cherry 2000. Actually, it's not clear that this movie is set in the year 2000, but it is about sex robots, so it's a big surprise that it received no Oscar nominations. The academy has been a sham ever since they made it clear that they were going to snub Barbra Streisand every year, so I guess that's just par for the course. Anyway, Cherry 2000 is a good date movie, what with the sex robots, and also my favorite thing from the future: a wasteland full of dangerous, motorcycle-riding nomads. That alone is reason enough to look forward to the big 2-0-0-0.

Which brings us to Mad Max. There's no reason to believe that this one isn't set in the year 2000, considering that the technology that we have now is well advanced beyond what is seen in the movie. Of course, it does take place in Australia, a country whose biggest technological invention is the black box flight recorder. Yeah, they thought of putting a tape recorder in a box. I've actually met Australians who are proud of that. Still, if they can combine that with leather-clad hooligans who terrorize the outback on souped-up monster-machines, I guess they have something to crow about.

The best hooligan-riddled future-movie is, of course, A Clockwork Orange. Stanley Kubrick directed that one, and considering that he cast both Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in a drama, he is no doubt in touch with our most dreaded unconscious fears. What does A Clockwork Orange tell us to expect? First off, bars where you can get drug-enhanced milk. Actually, when you consider what they're feeding cows, that one would have to count as already having come true.

Then there's the rise to power of a fascistic government in England. I'm guessing Margaret Thatcher won't be making a comeback next year, so that one's a miss.

But best of all, and I can only pray that this really happens, A Clockwork Orange is about a world where vicious teenage hipsters listen to classical music. If that means that next year's teen films will feature Beethoven instead of Britney Spears, well, it'd be worth putting up with the ultraviolence and the corrupt police state and the total decay of society.

Actually, though, I think Rollerball may have been the most prescient of futuristic movies potentially set in the year 2000. It's about a world where multinational corporations actually control the government. Based on what I saw in Seattle recently, that sounds about right. So anyway, now that our elected officials have ceded control to these capitalist monoliths, what does Rollerball tell us to look out for?

On the plus side, there will still be organized sporting events. On the minus side, the only organized sporting event is basically rollerderby combined with lacrosse, not the two most compelling sports. Back on the plus side, motorcycles are added to the rollerderby/lacrosse mix, raising it right up there with the Mad Max-type future. Another plus: the athletes are encouraged to take drugs. When I go to a sporting event, I want to see the most hopped-up steroid cases possible, and I want them to be able to present that without fear of some boring "scandal" ruining the whole thing. Wasn't pro baseball much better the year they decided to let Mark McGuire wire himself up on androstinedione? Which shows, I guess, that Rollerball was pretty accurate in some respects.

Hopping people up on drugs brings us to the most chilling future film of all: Fantasia. Fantasia is actually being rereleased next year in an updated, IMax version called, of course, Fantasia 2000. The last time I saw Fantasia I distinctly remember that giant space lizards chewed out my eyeballs and forced me to have sex with skeletons, so I can only pray that that movie is one of those rare cases where Hollywood is wrong about what the future will bring.

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