Traditional sci-fi is taking some nontraditional twists and turns in the borough these days.

Queens Museum is currently offering the “What If? Spring 2019 Film Series” in conjunction with the “Mundos Alternos” exhibition that has pieces on site and at the New York Hall of Science. Meanwhile, the Museum of the Moving Image is in the middle of its “Mundos Alternos” version, which features Spanish- and Portuguese-language flicks.

Let’s go venue by venue. “What If?” is showing motion pictures from various eras that look at altered time and space in Queens Museum’s second-floor theater on the next Wednesdays at 2 p.m. Mark Ethan Toporek, a member of The Actors Studio who has curated programs at the venue since 1998, will introduce each movie and lead post-screening discussions.

Attendance is free with admission, and the events should last about three hours. The remaining “What If?” schedule follows.

  • The Truman Show” (April 24) stars Jim Carry as a man who unknowingly lives in a TV reality show. His every move is on camera in this 1998 blockbuster, and all his interactions with society are manipulated.
  • Gattaca” (May 1) flopped at the box office, but attracted a small cult following. With Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law, this futurist 1997 movie looks at eugenics. Scientists enforce genetic selection so all children that are allowed to be born carry their parents’ best hereditary traits.
  • Charly” (May 8) is a chilling 1968 drama based on the short story “Flowers for Algernon.” Cliff Robertson is a mentally retarded adult who undergoes a surgery that triples his IQ.
  • Robot and Frank” (May 15) is a 2012 comedy about a former jewel thief with dementia. His son gives him a robot to take care of him, but he quickly learns that it can be used to commit crimes.
  • A Guy Named Joe” (May 22) stars Spencer Tracy as an ace World War II bomber. He dies in an attack but then returns to earth as the guardian angel for another pilot. A girlfriend thickens the plot in this 1943 classic.
  • Stairway to Heaven” (May 29) is an absurd 1946 work about a British pilot who cheats death in a World War II bombing. At first all is good, but then a divine messenger shows up to correct his mistaken survival.

“What If?” coincides with “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas,” which is at Queens Museum until Aug. 18. Artists pondered science fiction’s capacity to imagine new realities, both utopian and dystopian, before creating their pieces for this exhibition. One work, “Alien Toy” by Rubén Ortiz Torres, is on view at the New York Hall of Science until Aug. 18. This video centers on a white Nissan pickup truck, the same model commonly used by the United States Border Patrol.

The Museum of the Moving Image is adding its spice to the mix via “Uchronias and Dystopian Futures: Latin American Science Fiction Cinema of the 21st Century,” which will run until July 21. The series promotes Latin American-style Sci-Fi with features and shorts from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Peru. They range from comedy to horror to experimental.

Admission is $15, and all show times are 6:30 p.m. Here’s the remaining schedule.

  • “Third World” (April 28) unites a Chilean scientist on a secret NASA mission, an indigenous Bolivian whose grandfather transmits knowledge to her about pre-Hispanic cultures with extraterrestrial contacts, and a group of Costa Rican friends, including one who thinks he’s an alien.
  • “The Project of the Century” (May 12) combines a fictional story in modern Cuba with a documentary about the Cuban Revolution using archival material. The plot revolves around a never used nuclear power plant built with Soviet technology.
  • “I’m Another” (May 26) comments on the art scene in Cali, Colombia. In fact, some scenes take place in the legendary Lugar a Dudas gallery, founded by Oscar Muñoz, whose unsettling photographs are incorporated into the film. The plot deals with a herpes-like contagion that becomes a catalyst for the spread of violence.
  • “Videophilia” (June 9) is seen through cellphones, security cameras, Google glass, and computer interfaces as a way to show how technology has transformed Peruvian society. A teenage girl goes online to meet a slacker who is obsessed with conspiracy theories, Mayan prophecies of the end of the world, and amateur porn. They connect in real life, and strange supernatural events ensue.
  • “White Out, Black In” (June 23) is set in Ceilândia, a satellite city established by the Brazilian government to prevent the poor from settling in Brasília. Two middle-aged friends build prosthetic limbs after an unjust police assault left them disabled. A parallel story depicts an investigator from 2073 who is summoned by a time travel machine to collect evidence against the state to derail an event that could change the country forever.
  • UFOs in Zacapa (July 7) is anti-hero story about drug traffickers mixed with New Age messianic discourse, shamans, healers, and UFO sitings. 
  • The Untamed (July 21) begins with a violent love triangle between a man, his wife, and his brother-in-law. The drama is interrupted by an extraterrestrial octopus whose phallic tentacles feed on the pleasure they produce in humans.
Images: Queens Museum


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