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Movies at MoPOP Presents: ‘Good Planets are Hard to Find’

Movies at MoPOP Presents: 'Good Planets are Hard to Find'

Even in its early days, the year 2020 has been discussed as a momentous one for the environment. Whether looking toward the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this April, the American presidential election in November, the meeting of the Paris Climate Agreement signatory countries in December, or the bushfire emergency currently burning in Australia, the topic of climate change and its impact on our lives will undoubtedly be top of mind.

But pop culture authors, filmmakers, and artists have been addressing the human effects on the planet for decades! They’ve warned us about the drastic changes in the weather brought about by our addiction to burning fossil fuels; they’ve imagined a world in which nature exacts revenge on us for our bad behavior; they’ve encouraged activism, and pointed out the dangers of our passivity. And while it seems we haven’t exactly heeded the warnings that, as Steve Forbert sang in his 1998 song, Good Planets are Hard to Find, discussions of climate change and how to stem its rising (and increasingly toasty) tide are everywhere.

At the Museum of Pop Culture, we have several in-gallery examples of artists envisioning the future of our planet. From the Build a Better World section of Minecraft: The Exhibition, Pearl Jam’s Yield album, featured in Pearl Jam: Home and Away, to Rachel’s dress from Blade Runner in our Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, there are many objects that represent both warnings of environmental degradation as well as our power to alter the path of the climate crisis.  

In the interest of seeing what pop culture creators over the last 50 years have been warning us about, we at MoPOP decided to give our winter/spring 2020 film series an environmental theme. And maybe through watching these films, visiting our galleries, and engaging with our community partners, we might just be convinced that now is the time not only to watch classic, prescient films from Hollywood’s history, but to do something! 

Here are the films in our Good Planets are Hard to Find winter/spring series:

Mad Max: Fury Road (Campout Cinema, January 26)

  • Theme: Environmental inequality
  • Synopsis: Big cars, bad blood, badlands, and badass babes come together in this stark tale of the collapse of civilization. Mad Max: Fury Road explores the consolidation of resources by a privileged few in a not-so-distant dystopian future.

Princess Mononoke (Matinee, February 16)

  • Theme: Conservation
  • Synopsis: An alternate medieval Japan is ravaged by pollution, industrialization, and violence, bringing the wrath of the wolf god Moro and his human companion, Princess Mononoke. A young man seeking a cure for blight meets the feral princess, and, witnessing her devotion and connection to nature, attempts to enlist her to bring harmony back to the world.

Snowpiercer (Campout Cinema, April 17)

  • Theme: Class division
  • Synopsis: After ecological collapse has transformed the earth into a frozen wasteland, the surviving population lives on a train circumnavigating the earth. The rich occupy the front of the train in luxury; the poor at the back in squalor. Snowpiercer takes a critical lens (and a battering ram) to status, resource hoarding, and sustainability.

Dune (Reel Dark, May 22)

  • Theme(s): Eco diversity, preservation
  • Synopsis“Men and their works have been a disease on the surface of their plane… you cannot go on forever stealing what you need without regard to those who come after.” On the harsh planet of Arrakis, also known as 'Dune,' rival noble families battle for control of the land and its resources, primarily the superdrug melange, which is essential to space travel. This cult classic reminds us that growth and greed can be destructive when left unchecked.

Planet of the Apes (1968) (Reel Dark, June 20)

  • Theme: Interspecies relationships
  • Synopsis: Three astronauts are marooned on a futuristic planet where apes rule and humans are slaves. The stunned trio discovers that these highly intellectual simians can both walk upright and talk. They have even established a class system and a political structure. The astronauts suddenly find themselves part of a devalued species, trapped and imprisoned by the apes.

And because we know people have opinions about these sorts of things, here are some movies that, for a variety of reasons, we didn’t choose for this series; though just because we aren’t screening them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch them: Waterworld, Soylent Green, The Day After Tomorrow, Ferngully, The Lorax, Avatar, Twister, An Inconvenient Truth, Dante’s Peak

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About the author

Jason is the Director of Education and Programs at MoPOP.