Sean Connery in a bandolier in John Boorman’s insane Zardoz
You have to admire the doomsayers. Those guys really know how to stick to their guns. No, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the end of the Mayan calendar means that the world will end next Friday - or rather, there's exactly as much reason to believe that as there was to believe Harold Camping's repeatedly revised predictions of the world ending last year.
(Me, I think the Mayans simply got tired of laying out their calendar, put the project on hold while they went out and got a hot chocolate, and never got back to it. Why would you bother, when you have hot chocolate? Makes perfect sense.)
But we love a good apocalypse, don't we? Wondering what we'd do when the meteor/asteroid/alien invasion made itself known, imagining ourselves among the handful of survivors making their way through a world turned upside-down. Putting everything in canned goods and shotguns, just in case.
While I would never suggest that the fine folks at TIFF Bell Lightbox would take advantage of public hysteria, I can't help but notice that their new Countdown To Armageddon series is launching at just the right time to capitalize on the inevitable media frenzy over the Mayan end-date. And of course I'd never suggest you buy into that sort of thing.
But you know something? Apocalypse movies can be hell of a lot of fun, and this series definitely favours the silly over the sombre. Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb kicks things off in high style tonight at 6:30 pm; the series continues through the coming week with an impressive range of world-enders. Logan's Run brings the disco apocalypse Saturday at 7 pm; Lars Von Trier's moving Melancholia screens Sunday at 9:30 pm. Alfonso Cuarón's eerily plausible Children Of Men plays Monday at 9:15 pm; John Boorman's ludicrous but mesmerizing Zardoz gets a rare big-screen outing Tuesday at 9 pm.
Wednesday, it's Geoff Murphy's minimalist creeper The Quiet Earth - another film that deserves to be seen on a really big screen - at 9 pm; Thursday, Michael Bay's fun-by-accident Armageddon plays at 9 pm. (Fun fact: no fewer than five of Armageddon's stars are also screenwriters - two of them Oscar-winners, even - and yet there's not a single decent line of dialogue in the whole picture. Except maybe for Owen Wilson's observation about "the outer part of space.")
And on the night of the 21st, when it's all supposed to go to hell, they're doing a triple bill of Don McKellar's Last Night at 6:30 pm, Rob Bowman's demented dragon fantasy Reign Of Fire - you know, the one where Matthew McConaughey turns up as the Burning Man version of Quint from Jaws - at 9 pm and George Miller's The Road Warrior at 11:30 pm. See you on the other side.
If you're too stuffy to entertain the thought of laughing your way through the end of several worlds, there's always the Dickens On Screen series, which got underway last night and continues through the end of the year - assuming everything doesn't suddenly wink out of existence on the 21st. (That'd be a shame, since there's a screening of the Alastair Sim Christmas Carol adaptation, Scrooge, that afternoon at 1 pm.) An array of adaptations of Charles Dickens's texts, the series goes well beyond the usual suspects - not that David Lean's Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are in any way lacking in quality, mind you - to include variations on themes like Richard Donner's Scrooged, which is far better (and far weirder) than its reputation, and Christine Edzard's epic 1988 adaptation of Little Dorrit, split into two parts over two consecutive Saturday afternoon. Nobody's Fault screens tomorrow at 12:30 pm, with Little Dorrit's Story December 22 at 3:15 pm.
And then there's the eight-hour 1982 Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby, presented in its entirety starting at 12 noon on Sunday December 23. Hey, if you make it through the end of the world, you're going to want a little culture, aren't you?