It’s been a long time since I’ve written a Sci-Fi Saturday post. (I didn’t post at all in 2017, so it’s been a long time since I’ve written a lot of things.) But last night I watched Mr. Nobody (2009), a slightly surreal science fiction film that I found hugely engaging and affecting, and it inspired me to write about it.
The truth is that Mr. Nobody isn’t actually surrealism — it does have a concrete narrative, but it’s a jumbled, imaginary, and fantastic one. That can sometimes be the case with really good science fiction. A common trick SF authors play is keeping you guessing until they reveal their mysteries.
Mr. Nobody isn’t particularly mysterious, but it does require that you pay close attention!
At one point in HBO’s Westworld (don’t worry, no spoilers) Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) gives a speech about stories, about the value of fiction. He references a belief that fiction elevates — or at least illuminates to good value — the human condition. The belief also holds that those who read a lot of fiction are in some sense “better” people.
The idea is controversial on several grounds. Firstly, it’s hard to define what makes people “better,” and you can’t measure or test what you can’t define. Secondly, even if “better” is defined, not everyone will agree with the definition. Thirdly, there’s a nature-nurture aspect that makes comparisons like this very hard to tease out of any data you can gather.
Maybe a place to start exploring the idea is to first define “fiction” and go from there…
So,… I finally saw the most recent Star Wars movie the other night (it has already made its way to cable; meanwhile, I’m still waiting for Interstellar and Ex Machina to show up). Those who know my value system with regard to science fiction, with regard to movies, and especially with regard to science fiction movies, warned me I that I probably wouldn’t like it very much.
But I already knew that was likely just because of who directed it (same guy who nailed the Star Trek coffin shut), so I approached watching it with very low expectations and without any oxen to gore (since I was never really a fan and never really got into the characters or story).
And even so I still really disliked it. A whole bunch.
Yesterday’s post was a rant; this one counters with a rave. The bad news is that it’s my even earlier writing chops from three years prior to the Stargate review, plus — as this was essentially an email — the writing is especially informal and unstructured.
Therefore original plan was to write a new piece on Grand Canyon, because it’s one of my all-time favorite films, and I wanted to do it proper justice. The “review” you’re about to read I wrote shortly after seeing the film for the first time, so it lacks any thoughts I have about it after 25 years and many viewings since then.
But I’m all about clearing my weblog backlog (the blog bog), so here it is in all its informal gushy glory.
You read the title correctly, dear Reader, this is, indeed, a review of a movie that came out 22 years ago. (And tomorrow I plan to post a review of a movie from 25 years ago!) This blog of late is operating in a personal archeology vein (or would vain be the better word in this case?) as well as a sociopolitical one. Remembrances and Rants R me!
The two reviews this weekend are very Yang-Yin in nature: I really hated, Stargate and really loved Grand Canyon (in fact, it’s one of my all-time Fave Five movies). Yet the former film spawned a multi-film and TV series franchise, so there ya go.
If anything, the amusing thing is how much I hated the film. It passed some threshold that put it forever on my blacklist…
In the last quarter of the 19th century — USA-centrically, call it 139 years ago — we began to experience having the sound of strangers’ voices in our lives, even in our homes. Not just voices, but music from concert halls and clubs. And other sounds, too: the clip-clop of horse feet, the slam of a door, a gun-shot. Less than 100 years go, those sounds went electric, and we never looked back.
At the beginning of the 20th century, we started another love affair — this one with moving images on rectangular screens, a dance of light and shadow, windows to imaginary worlds. Or windows to recorded memories or news of distant places. When sound went electric, those moving images took voice and spoke and sang. No one alive in our society today remembers a time when moving images weren’t woven into our lives.
Here, now, into the 21st century, in an age of streaming video and music, from cloud to your pocket device (with its high-resolution display and built-in video camera), I can’t help but be impressed by how far we’ve come.
A long way, indeed.
As I watch nearly everyone in the country simultaneously succumb to the seasonal short bout of red carpet fever, I’m trying to remember the last time I actually watched “The Oscars” — the Academy Awards, Hollywood’s incestuous night of indulgent and opulent self-congratulation.
I’m pretty sure the last time I watched was back in the 1990s. It’s possible it’s even back in the 1980s. For sure, I can’t recall watching them this century. But I can say for sure when is the last time I cared about the Oscars. Because that one is easy. Because that one is: never!
For the record, here’s why…
You know that great action movie where the bad guys suddenly storm in and take over the place where all the people are, and the bad guys’ evil (but well-planned) operation goes off without a hitch… except they didn’t count on that on that one guy, that unexpected hero who saves the day against terrible odds?
Or how about that awesome disaster movie where that really bad thing happened to that place where all the people are, and only a handful of plucky (or purely lucky) people survive against terrible odds?
Remember those? I sure do. And that may be a problem.
I finally watched The Imitation Game last night. I have a great deal of regard for Alan Turing, and I’ve always enjoyed codes and cryptography (the story of breaking the Enigma machine is especially fascinating), so I was really looking forward to finally seeing it.
And… I didn’t like it. A lot. Turns out it reflects everything I see as wrong with movies — and with society — in these social media-driven, over-amped, uncritical modern era days.
Watching the movie to get away from politics, it dragged me right back for having the same lack of authenticity, made up conflict, and disregard for history.