Artist, arts writer and science-fiction enthusiast Sarah Hotchkiss kicks off San Francisco’s new Max 2019: A Space Festival this week with her snarky movie commentary in “Space Travel Sci-Fi Style.”
She’s purposely focusing on moderately-known films for Thursday’s opener of the inaugural three-day, three-venue series of presentations by artists, actors, musicians and engineers exploring scientific advances of the space age and their effects on humanity.
“I wanted to call attention to some of these weirder outliers; I wanted things that people might not have seen already — not ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Star Trek,’ movies we’ve all thought about,” says Hotchkiss, KQED visual arts editor and author-publisher of Sci-Fi Sundays, a zine dedicated to science fiction movies.
Hotchkiss — pleased to be sharing the evening with Alexander Reben, Alice Sheppard and Sasha Samochina’s dancing robots — will talk about and show clips and stills from “Solaris,” “Silent Running,” “Sunshine” and “High Life” at The Exploratorium’s After Dark session.
She picked Andre Tarkovsky’s 1972 “Solaris” because she wanted a foreign art house classic, and thought it would be an interesting contrast with 1972’s “Silent Running,” a “completely opposite, painful but kind of fun to watch” B-movie in which “Bruce Dern has too many facial expressions.”
She calls Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” from 2007 an interesting adventure-in-space story with elements of horror that not too many people have seen.
And 2019’s “High Life” by Claire Denis is a contemporary film by a female director.
Hotchkiss says it turned out to be her least favorite of her program’s selections. While it’s beautiful and has some interesting gender dynamics, she says it also “regurgitates some of the same old stories we’ve been telling for decades” including the eventuality of making contact with “either an alien intelligence or a celestial god that’s bigger than you can possibly understand.”
Having watched more than 100 science fiction movies, Hotchkiss calls “Alien” the “by far the best thing out there,” mentioning that the franchise and “her feminist monster thesis” were the themes of her 2018 sixth volume of Sci-Fi Sundays, the zine she established in 2010.
Having come to the attention of festival producing director Kay Matschullat, who found her work on the internet, Hotchkiss is dismayed that it’s still fairly rare to see women weighing in on science fiction.
She’ll being doing her part to change that with her pithy presentation on Thursday. She says, “There’s just not enough time, there’s so much to say.”
IF YOU GO
Max 2019: A Space Festival
Where: California Academy of Sciences, Exploratorium and Z Space
When: May 16-May 18
Tickets: Free through $40 individual events; $99 for pass
Note: Space Travel Sci-Fi Style is at 7 p.m. May 16 in Osher Gallery at the Exploratorium, Pier 15, The Embarcadero, S.F.; tickets are $19.95.