Programmed by Hunter Owens, Michael Castelle, and Julia Reinitz
Before social media, cloud computing, tech bros, deep learning, and overenrolled programming classes, there was the 1980s and 1990s—a time when the Internet was really more of a nifty concept than a practical reality. While we are all cyborgs now, when did we, as a nation, collectively realize our totalized imbrication in symbol-processing infrastructures? Find your answer here as we survey the collective consciousness of domestic cinema regarding hacker culture, robots in the workplace, and pre-Snowden computer security concerns.
Special thanks to Borja Sotomayor and Griffin Dennis for their help with the series.
(Ridley Scott, 1982) · When the bioengineered space slaves of 2019 escape to L.A.-cum-Hong Kong, seminal cybernoir gumshoe Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is on the case administering Turing Tests from plutocratic ziggurat penthouses and cruising the skies to Vangelis' moody jazz-synth score. Widely misunderstood when released, Blade Runner provides an inspirational neon template for those charged with actually implementing our upcoming biotech dystopia. The final cut will be screened.
runtime: 117 min format: DCP
(Steven Lisberger, 1982 · Flynn (Jeff Bridges), former 10x software engineer and arcade parlour owner, is digitally zapped into the internals of a corporate mainframe; en route to escape, he must joust with enslaved anthropomorphic software programs filled with theological speculations about their developers. With a visual aesthetic like Fritz Lang huffing fluorescent paint and spectacular Fairlight synthesizer-driven sound design, Tron is a still-mesmerizing achievement.
runtime: 96 min format: 35mm
(Martha Coolidge, 1985) · Is the future of 15-year-old science-fair prodigy and Pacific Tech recruit Mitch reflected in the senioritis of slacker genius Chris (Val Kilmer) or in the mysterious burnout post-doc living in his dorm closet? DoD-funded research in the physical sciences—largely predicated on the exploitation of ethically myopic, immature male engineers by egotistical PIs—is brilliantly skewered here in Martha Coolidge's critical but compassionate geek bildungsroman.
runtime: 108 min format: DCP
(John Hughes, 1985) · From the Bard of Highland Park, Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith are the Martin & Lewis of the Northbrook Court mall in this puerile farce. Summoning a Frankenstein's supermodel via their 3D-printing and mainframe-hacking prowess, they corporeally unleash the varied fashion and social mores of then-contemporary London (sequins, leather, S&M) and South Side Chicago (moustaches, cigars, blues music) to the still-drearily-conservative North Shore.
runtime: 94 min format: 35mm
(Paul Verhoeven, 1987) · A preview of coming attractions for contemporary neoliberalism, Dutch national Paul Verhoeven's ultraviolent toxic-waste love letter to America portrays the privatization and mechanized routinization of previously unionized labor in a bankrupt city, as enacted via political claims for data-driven metrics and efficiency. From public school teachers to police officers, Amazon warehouse workers to Amazon software engineers—we are all Robocop now.
runtime: 102 min format: 35mm
(Phil Alden Robinson, 1992) · Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier's crew of leftist whitehat security consultants take on the NSA—or is it the KGB?—when some nerd proves P=NP in the form of a MacGuffin and destabilizes the entire international cryptographic apparatus. Ben Kingsley plays an Aaron Swartz-turned-Peter Thiel rogue, cursed by his kingdom of information, while James Horner’s jazzy score soars throughout. A dramatic and comic masterpiece that looks utterly prescient today.
runtime: 126 min format: 35mm
(Iain Softley, 1995) · Convicted Pacific NW teen hacker Zero Cool (Jonny Lee Miller) moves to the Big Apple, only to meet his greatest match—downtown NYC's crew of rollerblading, net-savvy juvenile delinquents, led by the charismatic Acid Burn (Angelina Jolie). The sparks (and floppy disks) fly when our protagonists uncover a plot by skateboarding blackhat "The Plague" (Fisher Stevens) to infect international shipping software with a virus. Hack the Planet!
runtime: 107 min format: Blu-Ray
(Robert Longo, 1995) · In this creative adaptation of William Gibson’s short story, the Zaibatsu and Yakuza have merged and Johnny (Keanu Reeves), a “mnemonic courier”, must travel from Beijing to the Free City of Newark while transnational corporate hitmen attempt to extricate stolen data from his brain. An inspiration to both neo-Luddites and conspiracy theorists, the film also features hardcore icon Henry Rollins delivering a classic rant on the dangers of information overload.
runtime: 96 min format: 35mm
(Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999) · Under-the-radar idiosyncratic hometown heroes Lana and Andy Wachowski were given carte blanche to realize their populist fantasies in this blockbuster film, concerning vinyl-clad hackers clubbing at Neo (Keanu Reeves), studying Bruce Lee movies, and smashing the camera obscura of corporate office life, all via a continually fruitful virtual reality / Plato's Cave metaphor.
runtime: 136 min format: 35mm
(Andy and Lana Wachowski, 2003) · Neo and Trinity, now a romantic couple, return to face a new crisis in this sequel to The Matrix, set six months after the first film’s events. Filled with surreal fighting sequences—watch as Neo takes on 100 Agent Smith clones in a fist fight—and novel special effects, The Matrix Reloaded serves as further proof that the Wachowski siblings know how to make a fun and thrilling action movie.
runtime: 138 min format: 35mm