Idiocracy

The Future Is Now

10 Comedies That Eerily Predicted the Future

Catch Idiocracy Monday, March 28th at 4:15P on IFC.

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Everett Collection/20th Century Fox

Hollywood is full of dreamers, making up whole worlds from scratch. They love to look past the real world, and wonder what could be. As a result, there are countless movies and shows that have taken a stab at how the future could turn out, and gotten it completely wrong. Flying cars and robot time travelers litter the wastebin of failed predictions. Oddly enough, the films that have often come closest to predicting the future were comedies. By exaggerating our culture to outrageous degrees, a few smart comedies have managed to show us a vision of the future that actually panned out. Idiocracy, Mike Judge’s cult comedy which is airing this month on IFC, has proved to be so prescient, its coscreenwriter actually marveled at his and Judge’s soothsaying abilities. Check out a few of the miraculous predictions our favorite comedies have nailed.

10. EDtv Predicts the Rise of Reality TV

EDtv would read as a pitch perfect parody of reality television if it came out today. What’s remarkable is that this Ron Howard comedy, considered a massive flop at the time, was released in 1999, a year before Survivor, and two years before American Idol changed the game of American television. The movie starred Matthew McConaughey as Eddie, an average Joe transformed into a media sensation, in the vein of Joe Millionaire or Jersey Shore‘s The Situation, thanks to his star turn on a show documenting his life.

All the tropes of the reality TV genre are here. The show within the film is a failure until a drunken confrontation reveals infidelity, and pits brother against brother. Conflict leads to ratings, which leads to more conflict. The hit show turns Ed into an empty calorie celebrity, chasing ratings to maintain his own fame. When his popularity falters, his family members become a proto-Kardashian clan, getting their own spin-offs. From the talking heads who feed off his popularity, while simultaneously putting him down, to the increasingly artificial way Eddie presents himself on camera, this film understood a genre that was just in its infancy. By the end of the movie, Ed’s fleeting fame gets the most ’90s explanation ever — he’s washed up, just like the “Macarena”

Some compare EDtv to The Truman Show, released a year earlier, and while that film was undeniably more complex, tackling larger ideas about privacy and nostalgia, the Jim Carrey vehicle was more of a parody of squeaky clean sitcoms than reality TV tropes. Who would actually watch a boring show about a bland man leading an ordinary life? The American TV audience craves drama. That’s what EDtv understood, calling out all the cliches and desperation of a genre that hadn’t yet broken through.


9. Portlandia Predicts The Hipsterfication of the World

Put a Bird on It

It’s often hard to tell if Portlandia is predicting the future, or if the world is just following Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein‘s lead. A sketch about flirting in yoga class has turned into singles speed yoga. YouTube even has its own verison of militant bike enthusiast Spyke in the form of Casey Neistat’s war with New York City over cyclist rights. And let’s be honest, birds are on everything, even presidential candidates.

But perhaps no prediction coming to pass is more surprising than Preschool Mastermind, a preschool for adults. While Portlandia poked fun at babysitters for the aging hipster, this sanctuary for the kid in all of us was founded by Brooklynite Michelle Joni Lapidos as a place for “grown-up boys and girls” to make play more a part of their lives. For prices as low as $333 (and as high as $999) adults will play games, conduct show-and-tell and have nap times. Discussing the trust fund that pays for all of this is optional.


8. A Failed Matthew Perry Sitcom Nearly Predicts the Date of Gaddafi’s Death


Few remember Second Chance, a quickly canceled 1980s sitcom about a dead man who’s sent back in time to relive his teen years. The material was forgettable. The concept tired. Sure, Matthew Perry completists might remember the Friends star got an early break playing the teen at the center of this sitcom, but otherwise the show has languished in failed TV heaven.

A few years back, Second Chance got a, uh, second chance at fame when the Internet noticed that the show almost correctly predicted the date of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s death. In the sitcom’s opening scene, the show’s protagonist was sent to the Pearly Gates of Heaven, where he bumps into a recently deceased Colonel Gaddafi. The date of this encounter? July 29th, 2011. Gaddafi’s actual death? October 20th, 2011. Not spot on, but considering a group of sitcom writers, more concerned with getting their ALF spec scripts finished than accurately predicting the future, guess-timated this date 24 years before the Middle Eastern dictator met his untimely demise, it’s not all that bad.


7. The Chris Rock Show Predicts O.J. Simpson’s Confessional Book

Airing on HBO from 1997 to 2000, The Chris Rock Show never shied away from controversy. The show was a reflection of the opinionated comedian whose name it carried, ready and able to tackle anything it found funny or infuriating. That’s how Rock ended up predicating O.J. Simpson’s book, “If I Did It,” a full decade before it would be foisted on the world.

All the way back in 1997, Rock was leading a backstage tour of his show during a segment, when he jokingly stumbled upon a VHS tape The Juice supposedly gave him called “I Didn’t Kill My Wife… But If I Did, Here’s How I’d Do it.” Who knows, maybe that’s where Simpson got the idea? Fortunately, his little money-making venture would turn into a failure. While the book, along with a FOX TV special called “O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened,” were ultimately called off, the Goldman family sued for rights to the book, releasing it in 2007 and claiming all the proceeds.


6. Americathon Predicts America’s Decline Before Idiocracy

1979’s Americathon was sort of like Idiocracy before Idiocracy, a broad comedy predicting how far our country could sink. At the peak of the Carter malaise, with gas prices through the roof and growing economic unrest, this movie tried to envision a world where we kept on going in that direction.

Sure, not everything’s right. The “Jews and Arabs” haven’t joined forces. San Diego wasn’t bought by Mexico. The President doesn’t run the country from his apartment in Los Angeles. Everyone knows our next President is going to run the country from his gold plated dinning room in Trump Tower.

But for all the details this movie got wrong, it somehow got a lot right. China became a capitalist nation, and an economic force in the world. The USSR collapsed. America’s debt to other nations grew exponentially. The relative of a former President would rise to hold the office himself. Granted, if you keep throwing predictions against a wall, some are bound to stick, but it’s still pretty impressive how many this unassuming John Ritter comedy got right. Still waiting for Jay Leno to get punched in the face though. That would be the cherry on top.


5. Scrubs Predicts Where We Found Osama Bin Laden

The Janitor on Scrubs always seemed to have one up of J.D., the forever frazzled intern at Sacred Heart. But never before had the Janitor pulled one over on us. In the seventh episode of Scrubs’ sixth season, titled “His Story IV,” J.D. found himself longing to debate the Iraq war with his colleagues. No one seemed interested. Well, no one except for his greatest foil, who matter-of-factly stated that we should be looking for Bin Laden in Pakistan. While J.D. has no idea what he was talking about, four short years later the whole world would pay attention, as a Navy Seal strike would kill Osama Bin Laden in — wait for it — Pakistan. If only our military leaders had been tuning into Must See TV, we might have nipped that in the bud years earlier.


4. Airplane II Predicts Airport Body Scanners

Paramount Pictures

If you’re a fan of Nostradamus, but wish he’d had a bit more T&A in his prognostications, this might be the one for you. Airplane and its appropriately titled sequel, Airplane II: The Sequel, were well-oiled joke delivery machines. The second they plowed through one gag, they were on to the next. When you’re chasing that many laughs in a movie, you’re bound to stumble in some unexpected directions. Seeing how a large part of the movie’s audience was made up of teenage boys, jokes that had a little titillation were par for the course. Somehow the instinct to make a joke as an excuse to show some naked breasts ended up predicting a future air travel security measure.

Early in the film, a blink-and-you’d-miss-it joke about scanners at an airport shows a monitor exposing the travelers’ naked bodies. No one could’ve known at the time that such a sophomoric gag could be so prescient, but after 9/11, airports stopped being the happy-go-lucky locations our movies used for sight gags and romantic reunions.

In recent years, most passengers have had to pass through a full body scanner that showed a virtually naked image of our bodies to a select few TSA agents. After an uproar from concerned travelers back in 2013, who didn’t feel like flashing their junk every time they caught a Southwest flight to Phoenix, the TSA altered their machines to show more generic outlines, and not the Full Monty. A win for personal privacy, for sure, but a loss from the horny teen boy that lives inside all of us.


3. South Park Predicts the Downfall of our Favorite Stars

South Park has been on the air for 19 years. With that many episodes in the can, the show was bound to stumble upon a few eerie coincidences. Still, the specific nature of the show’s predictions has us thinking that Trey Parker and Matt Stone may have a crystal ball or two up their sleeves. It may seem obvious now that Miley Cyrus would turn into an over-sexualized unicorn of pop music fluff, but back in 2008, she was still a sugary sweet Disney star. Somehow, South Park was ahead of the curve, predicting she would follow in the footsteps of Britney Spears, and go off the deep end.

The show was also onto Tom Cruise’s connections to Scientology way before the documentary Going Clear exposed the church’s secrets. And of course few predicted the social media meltdowns and bizarre public behavior of Kanye West better than the South Park gang.

Comedy Central

Back in 2009, the episode “Fishsticks” caused Kanye to write an angry blog (a blog post! how quaint!) about how the episode hurt his feelings. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Kanye would erupt over a perceived slight. And really, is Kanye loving on a fish any crazier than that time he loved on Kim on a motorcycle in the “Bound 2” video?


2. Idiocracy Predicts Donald Trump’s America

We live in strange times. A reality show “carnival barker,” in the words of Martin O’Malley, has ridden a wave of resentment to the precipice of the Republican nomination. Yes, there are many reasons to be pissed these days, but the toxic mix of stupidity and anger that Mr. Trump seems to have built his political career on is threatening to become the new American way. And what if it does? What would that world look like?

A lot of people lately have been pointing to the 2006 cult hit comedy Idiocracy as a marker for our new way of life. The blending of politics and entertainment, turning our presidential race into a wrestling match, full of heel turns and cheap insults, certainly resembles the administration of President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho. The screaming crowds who are fed exactly what they want to hear, without the foggiest idea on how to deliver their promises, doesn’t seem that far off from a Trump rally. Sadly, Idiocracy would be preferable to what we have now. It may have been full of dumb people, but they weren’t foaming at the mouth, and full of hate. So while Mike Judge may have had an idea of where this country was going, even he didn’t know how ugly it could get.


1. The Simpsons Predicts Everything

20th Century Fox TV

If we’ve learned anything from Airplane II and South Park, it’s that making non-stop jokes over long periods of time leads to some eerie predictions. There is no better example of this than The Simpsons, which has seemingly predicated every twist and turn this world has taken over the last couple of decades.

Roy of Siegfried and Roy getting mauled by a tiger? Check. Arnold Schwarzenegger making bad “ice” puns? Check. Farmville becoming an addictively popular video game? Check. A nuclear accident causing tomatoes to mutate? Check. Voting machines malfunctioning in the 2012 presidential race? Check. Eerily predicting the Syrian war, right down to the flag of certain Syrian rebel groups? Check. Don Mattingly getting benched because of his hair? Check. Predicating an equation that equals the mass of Higgs Boson 14 years before it was discovered? Check. Hinting at the specifics of 9/11? Check. Predicating that our universe is shaped like a donut? Unsurprisingly, check. And last, but hopefully least, predicting the Presidency of Donald Trump, right down to how he announced his candidacy. Check. It’s nice to see, as the television world pushes for more diversity, that the writing staff of The Simpsons has always made room for a precog or two.

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Rocky IV Paulie Robot

Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

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Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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