Thursday, October 31, 2013

THX 1138

I really liked this movie.  I can’t say I fully understand it or even agree with it at times but there is something about it that I really enjoyed.  It has a lot going for it stylistically.  We could all obviously do without the Lucas updates to his work, as many of the “improvements” take away from the ambience it had going for it.  The THX 1138 dystopia feels very “A Brave New World”-like, with everyone carefully crafted to fulfill their societal role.  Being controlled by their surroundings and medicated into complacency. 
However, I am left wondering why Lucas has such a problem with women.  I has been discussed before the overall lack of any female characters in Star Wars apart from Leia and this movie doesn’t fair much better.  LUX is the only woman we see and it seems to stand that this entire film is her fault.  She is the one who initially stops taking her medication and then has THX stop.  Because of this THX fails at installing the core that blows up the factory, gets him thrown into jail and leaves for the surface world.  LUX seems to be punished for her desire to break free as she gets pregnant and is essentially executed for it.  Not the happiest of endings for our only female character.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

La Jette/Dark Star

First off, La Jette was very cool.  Who knew that still pictures with minimal narration could be so engaging?  It is so visually striking and manages to not come off as cheesy despite a kind of wack-a-doo plot.  The storyline actually, for some reason, feels very familiar.  Not that I have necessarily seen it before, but it works.  IT isn’t so far off from classic sci-fi tropes that it becomes improbable.  Is feels like a video game plot.  There are plenty of games that deal with the apocalyptic wasteland so it would feel right at home.
Secondly, Dark Star.  Man, this movie makes the semester for me.  We have watched plenty of things I am grateful for having seen as they are important pieces of cinema history but this movie makes it all worthwhile.  I had never heard of it because why would I?  But it is amazing.  It starts off as so uninspiring.  I was so convinced we were going to sit through a monumental waste of time on a crappy student film but boy was I wrong.  It follows so many sci-fi rules but totally breaks the mold.  It is genuinely funny without relying on too many gags.  It really reminds e of the old show Quark, with was a sort of spoof Star Trek about a ship charged with collecting the universe’s garbage.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Adaptation versus Evolution in the Spatial Context of Outer Space

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is one, if not the most, influential science fiction film ever made.  There is probably more written about that film and what it means than any other.  Any science fiction film set in space is destined to be compared to it, for better or worse.  Alfonso Cuarรณn’s Gravity lends itself well to comparison though.  Both films focus on a singular character to follow through their journey, both alone in space and for a period of time, drifting helplessly.  The films explore the relationship between humans, the technology they have created and the reliance on it in this harsh environment.  They beg the classic questions of the existence of other intelligent life, humanity’s place in the universe and the future of the species.  While there are similarities and definitely the occasional homage, the films deviate on their outlook on what science fiction can accomplish and ultimately what it means to be human in an increasingly technological age.
In the Susan Sontag reading she mentions “Science fiction films are not about science.  They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art.”  [pg. 41]  Gravity follows this to a T.  The movie is not about the exploration of space and is only narrowly concerned with its own characters.  What matters is that disaster occurs and the audience gets to watch the aftermath.  Its story arc is fairly one dimensional, get out of space alive.  2001, to a degree, deals with this theme.  The audience witnesses both the events on the moon and en route to Jupiter but these seem to be merely means to an end.  2001 disposes of those characters not to depict disaster but seemingly to show something else, they are auxiliary.  It looks to delve into the greater purpose of humanity and the evolutionary jump that will lead to the next plane of existence.
Both films follow along some of Sontag’s phases described in the reading as well as Joseph Campbell’s monomyth stages.  Dave Horton and Dr. Ryan Stone are called to their mission, achieve their ultimate boon (including the magic flight back with it) and end ultimately with their freedom to live.  The boon for Dave being the monolith granting him the knowledge and ability to ascend to the next evolutionary stage and Dr. Stone finally reaches an escape pod with the will to live.  Their journeys make them both masters of two worlds, having evolved and returned to Earth, respectively.  The literal story arcs of the films are not revolutionary in the science fiction genre.  But that is where film is allowed to flourish is in the nitty gritty details and nuance of interpretation. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Planet of the Apes

This is definitely a movie I have felt guilty for not having seen up until now.  So I am glad I was finally forced to watch it.  There is something about this time period in film that is sort of fascinating, just bizarre cultural ideas that seemed to manifest themselves in everything.  I love the nonchalantness of discovering the one woman on-board died.  They seem most upset that they won’t have something pretty to look at, instead of being mournful for their friend and fellow scientist.  But whatever.  Chareton Heston is just such a dick too.  Usually your main character is sympathetic to some degree or why would you care to watch them?  But Heston doesn’t need this, he can be a prick to everyone but he’s our hero ladies and gentlemen.  The societal structure of the apes is of interest, obviously having a racial/castle type system based on species.  But within that gender doesn’t seem to be of much importance.  They live by their very strict religious laws set forth to keep the population ignorant of the past, some political commentary there if you couldn’t feel it poking you in the eye like a shark stick.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thing From Another World

I have to say, this has been my favorite movie thus far.  This film alone is just well executed and fun.  Ahh, Martian, watch out!  The attitudes of the characters so exemplify the idea of the 50's to me.  The blind following of the military construct in the beginning is amazing.  Oh, we finally found a flying saucer, let's strap bombs to it.  Oops, we blew it up, oh well.  Not only that, but the mentality of the time made it almost expected they would eventually discover an alien craft.  No one even hesitates when they outline it and realize it is a flying saucer.  Not for a second does someone question their safety or sanity.  The good ol' newspaper man is just thrilled he gets to be the one to break the story.  The adherence to procedure is later less important.  After the alien escapes his icy tomb the group begins to think on their own and are primarily concerned with protecting themselves.
While intermittent messages coming in from HQ instruct them to keep the creature alive until they can get there Captain Hendry is having none of it.
The other remarkable thing is despite having only one main female character, she is outstandingly outspoken.  As the reading points out, even though she tries to break up the boys club by coming in and offering