5 Films (And A TV Show)… A new series where we recommend films referenced, inspired, influenced or generally like a certain Woody Allen film, from his first to his latest. All picks are subjective – let the arguments begin!
This is the fifth in our new series to expand recommendations for films like Woody Allen films (you only ever get other Allen films!).
Sleeper continues Allen’s early film MO – throwing his famous bumbling persona into out of water situations. This time it is the future, and it is Allen’s most overtly science fiction film. It’s also one of his funniest, and it joins a very slim tradition of funny sci fi.
There’s not many influences in film for this – Allen looked to wider futurism and even talked to Isaac Asimov. We didn’t want to just go any sci fi, we focus on the future and films that, like this, makes light of our view of the future.
Here’s our picks for 5 films and a TV show to watch after ‘Sleeper‘.
1. Modern Times (1936)
Dir. Charlie Chaplin
Yes, more Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin turned his political eye on the future, the absurdity of it and what it was doing to us. Chaplin throws his own persona – The Little Tramp – into the impersonal world of industry and automation. It resulted into another classic, one that was high on large set pieces.
The mind boggles to think what Chaplin would have thought of office cubicles and iPhones.
2. Playtime (1967)
Dir. Jacque Tati
Like ‘Sleeper‘, and all sci fi, it is fascinating to see what the past thought of the future. It is also fascinating when auteurs decide to double their usual budget on the bison of some crazy futuristic set. That all applies to Jacque Tati‘s ‘Playtime‘, his vision of an alienating, automated future. He created a massive ‘Tativille’, a futuristic set to tell his story.
Like all of Tati’s work, it is pretty much a silent film. Tati’s character – Mr Hulot – wanders through a modern France that is all glass and metal. Yet, he makes the scene beautiful with touches of colour and life. Is Tati really against progress?
This is Tati’s masterwork, and predicted the future we all live in.
3. Simon (1980)
Dir. Marshall Brickman
‘Sleeper‘ is one of the few films where Allen shares a writing credit. Here he shared it with Marshall Brickman, who would later co-write Annie Hall, Manhattan and Manhattan Murder Mystery. It was Brickman’s success with Allen that allowed him to write and direct his own films. His first was ‘Simon‘, and it feels a lot like ‘Sleeper‘.
A fantastic, eccentric performance from Alan Arkin plays Simon. We are in an alternate near future where a group of shadowy scientists have made Simon appear to be an alien. He soon takes over the world with hilarious results.
As well as Brickman, many others in Allen’s world at the time appear in the film – his ex wife Lousie Lasser, good friend Wallace Shawn. Fred Gwynne (Shadows And Fog) also appears. Longtime Allen collaborator Santo Loquasto appears in the crew. There’s a lot of Allen’s absurd sensibility and this is really one of the best Woody Allen-ish films around.
4. Idiocracy (2006)
Dir. Mike Judge
Sci fi films show us the truth of how we live. Great sci fi comedies makes light of the dark truths. ‘Idiocracy‘ makes light of the dark idea that maybe we are getting stupider, and only the stupid are breeding. Directed by Mike Judge (‘Office Space‘, ‘Silicon Valley‘), he put Luke Wilson as an average man who finds himself in the future, the smartest man in the world.
The comedy is dark but hilarious. Wilson is wonderfully cast as the Everyman. And probably far too many of the predictions of this film has come true. At least we can laugh at it.
5. Her (2013)
Dir. Spike Jonze
In putting together this series, there were plenty of films that we could put against many Woody Allen films. Spike Jonze‘s extraordinary ‘Her‘ is one of them. But one of the most resonant parts is the scene setting – that vision of our future.
What could be a silly giggly premise – a man falls in love with an operating system – ends up being poetic and charming. Joaquín Phoenix (who would work with Allen on Irrational Man soon after) falls in love with Scarlett Johansson (Match Point, Scoop, Vicky Cristina Barcelona – although she replaced another Allen alum, Sweet And Lowdown‘s Samantha Morton).
We see a world of computers covered in wood. We write again in handwriting. The world is epic and advanced, but it has a human touch that can’t be denied. Beefed out by an awesome cast, it is one of the best films about our future and our modern pick.
And… Futurama (1999-2013)
‘Futurama‘ had it hard when it started, trying to escape the shadow of ‘The Simpsons‘. It always lived on the verge of cancellation. Yet despite it all, it remained smart and funny the whole time, and occasionally heart breaking.
The premise is very much ‘Sleeper‘ – cryogenics takes a man into the future. But just because it was a funny cartoon didn’t mean they didn’t go very hard with the sci fi. Time travel, parallel universes, aliens, cloning – everything. And we laughed the whole time.
It looks like ‘Futurama‘ as a TV show has finally ended but who knows. Maybe streaming service will bring it back?
Let us know your picks for ‘Sleeper‘ and if you agree with our picks. We are also looking for picks for Love And Death, which is the next film we will cover. Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.
Charlie Brooker’s excellent ‘Black Mirror’ definitely deserves a mention here!
That is one of my favourite shows. Can’t wait for more!