I had plans today but woke up feeling less-than-great (still have a headache). Fortunately, friend was fine with tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s a post planned for next Sci-Fi Saturday. Ironically, after my complaints about modern movies, here’s another delight.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), starring Chinese superstar Michelle Yeoh, written and directed by Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), is wild and wacky — a comedy action thriller about family, choices, and saving the multiverse. Also, a bagel with everything on it.
Gets a Wow! rating. Recommended (as ever: if you like that sort of thing).
What if, as more than one science fiction story has imagined, the sheer size and complexity of the World Wide Web made it become self-aware. And what if, contrary to most of those stories, it was wonderful in every sense of the word. What if it meant world peace, freedom, and humanity at long last growing up.
That’s the vision Robert J. Sawyer presents in his WWW trilogy, which consists of Wake (2009), Watch (2010), and Wonder (2011). It’s the tale of a young woman blind from birth who gains sight, a bonobo-chimpanzee hybrid who makes a choice, and an emergent machine-based superintelligence who wants to serve man.
And not, it (or rather he) adds, in the cookbook sense.
Early last year I wrote about Cowboy Bebop, an award-winning Japanese anime classic from 1998. It’s on my list of favorite things ever. It’s so rich on so many levels that I’ve watched and enjoyed it at least half a dozen times. For me it’s an almost perfect combination of anime, hard SF, music, action, and humor.
Late last year Netflix released a live action version with John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda, as Spike, Jet, and Faye, respectively. I watched three episodes and bailed. It wasn’t just me. Netflix cancelled the series only a few weeks after its release.
Ever since, I’ve wanted to give it another try, see if it really is that bad.
While I may not have been posting much lately, I have not been idle. One good descriptor for me — one that has been valid for nearly my entire life — is voracious reader. One thing I’m not, however, is a broadly eclectic reader. I tend to stay in the realms of science and science fiction, with the latter leaning well towards hard science fiction.
There is a third reading axis I love, the murder mystery, detective, crime, thriller axis (so: Christie, Grisham, Leonard, Child, et many al). And lately I’ve discovered some interest in historical accounts of quantum mechanics and the people behind it.
But Sci-Fi Saturday is all about the science fiction!
Quite some years ago, poking around Apple’s collection of science fiction eBooks, I noticed Calculating God (2000), by Robert J. Sawyer. I’d never heard of him but got the impression he was a literary author who’d written a science fiction novel about God.
But the book’s description intrigued enough to add to my wish list. It sat there for years. An unknown author, a very long reading list, and Apple’s obnoxious prices, all conspired to keep me from buying it. Recently I noticed Apple had removed it from their catalog.
The library didn’t have it either, but an author search turned up lots of his other SF novels. I tried one, loved it, then tried three more with good result. We seem to have similar interests and sensibilities.
Last night I decided to enjoy a special double feature: Blade Runner (1982), the Ridley Scott classic (final cut), followed by Blade Runner 2049 (2017), the Denis Villeneuve sequel. I’ve seen the original many times, although not in years, so it was great to see it once again. For a 40-year-old science fiction movie, it’s stood the test of time well and is rightfully considered a modern classic.
The Villeneuve sequel, I think, will never be more than a forgotten footnote. It comes out the gate suffering from being an attempt to ride the coattails of an original work by another (better) artist. Stir in Villeneuve’s self-indulgent excessively languid pacing and tendency to put image over substance, and the result is (at least to me) unmemorable.
I started fast-forwarding scenes and ultimately turned it off 45 minutes from the end. I only lasted that long because I wanted to see the part with Harrison Ford.
I learned a very long time ago that, when it comes to movies, it’s the little ones from the filmmaker’s heart I find most interesting and worthwhile. This seems ever truer in an era of endless, empty sequels and mind-numbing blockbusters with no more depth than an amusement park ride. Nothing wrong with amusement park rides, they can be fun, but they’re rarely memorable, let alone creative.
Sorry to Bother You (2018), written and directed by Boots Riley, is exactly the sort of thing I mean when I say my main ask of a story is to take me someplace new.
A bonus for me is that it stars LaKeith Stanfield, whose work I’ve found so delightful in the surreal (and outstanding) TV series Atlanta (which also nails the “take me someplace new” thing).
There have been good science fiction movies and TV shows going at least back to Metropolis. Of course, there is always Sturgeon’s Law, so we’ve also had ten times as many that were bad in one way or another. A few were memorably awful; a few are remembered as classics.
When it comes to fantastical material, I’m convinced books are best. Animation is a distant second, and live action can often be a mistake, depending on the material. Too much realism in visualizing the fantastic collapses the wavefunction of our imagination.
But our imagination is the best part, and it needs exercise!
Recently I posted about one of my new favorite YouTube channels, The Critical Drinker, which features reviews of movies and TV shows. The Drinker is the alias of thriller novelist (and YouTuber) Will Jordan, and one reason I like his channel so much is that our tastes seem well aligned. (I confess that I also love his extremely blunt presentation style.)
Another reason I enjoy his channel involves how he reviews and highlights unregarded movie gems. He and I share an appreciation for some fairly obscure, but very worthwhile, movies many have never heard of (let alone seen).
For Sci-Fi Saturday I thought I’d present some of his SF recommendations.
Two weeks ago, for Sci-Fi Saturday I posted about Absolution Gap (2003), by Alastair Reynolds. It’s the third book in his Revelation Space series. If you read the post, you know I didn’t care for it. Really didn’t care for it, especially after some disappointment with his writing style in the second book in the series, Redemption Ark (2002).
Now I’ve read Inhibitor Phase (2021), the last book of the series. For the first three-quarters of the book, I was once again rather enjoying Alastair Reynolds. Unfortunately, the last quarter, not to mention the resolution to the series, was a huge disappointment.
In that previous post I also mentioned Uranus (2020), by Ben Bova. Now I’ve read the sequel, Neptune (2021), and it was… strange.