Category Archives: Movies

What is Fiction?

robert-fordAt 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…

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Movies: Star Wars VII

star-wars-viiSo,… 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.

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BB #53: Fan Bubbles

BrainFireIn its early days, circa 1990, social media provided a ready platform for fan communities of TV shows and movies. I spent a lot of time in a group devoted to Star Trek. We fans believed the creators were aware of our groups, that they even silently monitored them, but it was very rare that they ever engaged us.

Today the power and allure of social media has broken down the wall. Artists of all stripes use these public platforms to reach, and be reached by, fans. The visible connection between artist and fan has never been stronger.

And as always, there’s a Yang to the Yin…

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Movies: Grand Canyon

Grand-CanyonYesterday’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.

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Movies: Stargate

StargateYou 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…

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What We Wrought

His Masters Voice
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.

The iPad

A long way, indeed.


Oscar Who?

OscarAs 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…

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Lights, Camera, Action!

Avengers UltronYou 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.

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The Imitation Game

The Imitation GameI 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.

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The Lost Works (#2)

film slateWhen I was a college film student, one of the first classes putting theory into practice divided the students into groups of three. The class goal was for each group to make three films. The group would rotate among themselves the key positions of Writer, Director, and Cinematographer. This allowed everyone a chance to experience those roles.

Our group produced one that was silly fun, one that was weird and off-the-cuff, and one that was interesting and which affected people.

Sadly, I have only memories (so I might be making this up).

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