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Making the Present into Science Fiction

More interesting is the question of the intersection between Science Fiction and modern technology. Science Fiction often has the idea right but the implementation wrong. Flying cars and walkie talkie watches were entirely feasible from a technological standpoint. We have them today. We can build them and use them. But they are unworkable from a practical standpoint. A sky full of flying cars would present too many practical problems in an urban environment. A watch we can talk into is an inelegant and awkward solution at best. The cell phone has become the central integrating point for our appliances. The real problem has not been how to miniaturize technology. We’re already there. The problem has been how to make their interfaces accessible despite their miniaturization, a problem that companies like Apple, Motorola and Microsoft are all tackling in different ways.

As we move forward into the future, advancing 5 minutes from now into the future, in every 5 minute increment of our lives, the problems and challenges of technology that are worked out behind the scenes reshape our reality into Science Fiction. A privatized space program now looks likelier than ever while a government space program seems like an outdated fossil. A global data network that can feed us data at a touch is here but has brought as much bad as good with it. People are vanishing into virtual worlds in spirit but not in body leaving behind broken marriages while creating new social relationships.

5 Minutes from Now – How Reality Becomes Science Fiction

Great SciFi Movies

In some ways it is not that difficult to create a list of the greatest Science Fiction movies of all time as it might be to create a list of the greatest detective movies or westerns primarily because Hollywood has made few good Science Fiction films, let alone great movies. Even today relatively few Science Fiction movies get made and the majority that do are often misclassified comic book themed movies or disaster movies or ghost stories with a technological twist, ala Pulse. Few true Science Fiction movies are made and those that are worthwhile are truly worthwhile.

Metropolis

One of the great classics, Metropolis ushered in the modern world with its vision of oppressed masses, mechanical women and a society built on the shaky pedestal of human misery. As revolutionary socially as it was technologically, Metropolis remains one of the great classics of cinema and Science Fiction.

The Greatest Science Fiction Movies Of All Time

Mystery Men Movie Review

There’s plenty of comedy potential in “Mystery Men” and plenty to like too. From the opening set in a comic book city that’s part Batman’s Gotham and part The Tick’s The City, complete with Artie Lange as leader of The Red Eyes, a gang wearing red eyed goggles and robbing a nursing home’s bingo night, Mystery Men establishes itself as holding down a comfortable ground between parody and a serious stab at the superhero genre.

Mystery Men brought on board a talented cast from William H. Macy to Ben Stiller and Hank Azaria and Paul Reubens and Greg Kinnear and Geoffrey Rush as the villain, Frankenstein Casanova, Mystery Men should have amazingly entertaining. Unfortunately inexperienced director Kinka Usher wasn’t nearly up to the task. The result is an oddball sort of film that tries to fly by on its oddball charm but more often than not simply cannot manage to transcend its own basic flaws.

Mystery Men – Wacky Superheroes Come to DVD

One Hour Photo – Robin Williams Goes Dark

From the moment Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) emerges on screen an aura of the kindly shopkeeper emerges on the screen, the friendly uncle all the children love and the warm persona that has taken Robin Williams through so many family friendly films– but underneath it is layered something else. Something deeply unnerving that is at the heart of the movie. Robin Williams has often traded in the former but far less often in the latter and the man that finally emerges from underneath, the real Sy Parrish is a disturbing mixture of both.

Alternating between creepiness and kindliness, Parrish at once inspires a mix of sympathy, pity, unease and downright revulsion. Sy Parris works behind the counter developing photos at SaveMart, a WallMart type superstore overseen by a ruthless and unfeeling manager, Bill Owens (Gary Cole) who is distinctly uncomfortable with him. Sy Parrish is dedicated to what he sees as his art, the development of photos. The photos are stolen moments, happy narrative passages in the lives of strangers which Sy Parris makes his own by duplicating their photos and lovingly lingering over them.

One Hour Photo on DVD – Horror in Development

Rushmore review: The Evolution of Max Fischer

If “The Royal Tennenbaums”, Wes Anderson’s second major release film was formatted as a novel with chapters and narration and his third major release film, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou ” mimicked the stylings of a documentary, “Rushmore” was quite simply and cleanly a play. With a curtain that rises and falls between acts and a main character who constantly writes plays (in a form of metafiction these plays are themselves derived from a melange of popular movies reprocessed by Max Fischer into his own ‘hit plays’) and a wish by two characters for a ‘happy ending.’

The play is a fundamentally artificial structure. Its meaning is that it presents a public performance. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) lives a public life throwing himself into a frenzy of public activities and leadership roles. He dreams of being a Senator or a diplomat. Or rather Max Fischer lives in his dreams and like many teenagers, often fails to see the difference between the real world and the one he determinedly creates. Max Fischer’s biggest play is ultimately his life, a work he performs by his day to day activities which collide unpredictably with the wishes and desires of others forcing Max to begin growing up as a human being.

Rushmore on DVD review: Making your Life into a Play

starship troopers vs the forever war

In some ways it would seem as if Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War” should be very similar novels. Both after all are novels about humanity’s war against an alien race fought by infantrymen on planetary surfaces, with the use of powered armor. Both were written by military veterans and go into great detail into infantry tactics and the process of fighting an interstellar war. Yet both served as mirror opposites dealing with similar subjects and similar settings, written by somewhat similar authors, from dramatically perspectives.

The debate went on as the years passed and sections of Science Fiction fandom split down over their views of “Starship Troopers”. For many of the more military minded and conservative readers and writers, “Starship Troopers” represented a powerful and timely message about the importance of defending the patria, the homeland, and how wars needed to be fought and what it took to become a soldier and a responsible citizen of a human society. By contrast for the more progressive and liberal minded writers and fans, “Starship Troopers” represented the triumphant celebration of war, ruthless brutality, territorial expansionism, military dictatorship and armed conquest of every race which could be represented or misrepresented as “Other”.

Starship Troopers and the Forever War

Mr. Eko’s Lonely Journey of Faith

A fundamental function of the presence of the Oceanic Flight 815 survivors on the Island is not merely to follow a well trodden path, but to evaluate the choices they made in their lives and break those patterns. While Mr. Eko had faith and while he had broken with his old life and remade himself anew, he had not broken with the same attitude that had determined the choices he had made to reach this point. Mr. Eko’s defiance of the Smoke Monster The Angel telling him he must repent is rooted in his belief that he never truly had the ability to choose and he therefore has nothing to repent for.

When God challenges Adam and Eve in the Garden, both blame others for their actions, claiming that it is not they who are responsible for what they did. If Lost’s Island is once again a second chance for mankind to return to the Garden of Eden and this time learn to use free will wisely, Eko’s attitude completely frustrates that design. Rather than repenting of his choices, Mr. Eko insists he had no choice and thereby proved himself unable to reach the plateau needed for the spiritual path of the Island, the Garden of Eden.

TV’s Lost and Mr. Eko’s Journey of Faith

Lost’s Religious Theology

The leader of the Losties, the castaways of Lost, is Jack Shephard. The Shepherd is the Judeo-Christian archetype of the leader, ranging from Moses to Saul to David. The rest of the castaways form the “flock” of the shepherd. By contrast John Locke is named after the British Enlightenment philosopher John Locke Locke’s empiricism prioritized learning from experience. On “Lost” as it is for the moment, it is Jack however who is the rationalist and Locke who is the “Man of Faith.” This suggests the possibility that these two antagonists may yet switch positions realigning themselves with their names.

Where Jack views the island from a purely rational and scientific standpoint as an entity that follows natural laws which can be understood from experience, Locke views the island as a spiritual entity which can only be reached through faith. Jack serves as The Shepherd, the practical leader who sees to the physical welfare of his flock. Locke serves as The Pilgrim, the man of faith whose inner and outer journeys mesh as he pursues the painful progress of his faith. Representing the two extremes, State and Chuch, Jack and Locke frequently collide. Viewing the island in the fundamentally different ways that they do, results in the emergence of fundamentally different goals. Jack cares primarily about survival and rescue. Locke cares about finding the meaning of his life.

Read more here The Theology of Lost

Heroines of Joss Whedon’s Universe

Joss Whedon’s innovation was to treat the female heroine as male heroes had been, creating female Peter Parkers, but also to recognize the painful reality this imposed particularly on the feminine psyche. The psychological punishment of loneliness and having to shoulder impossible burdens with no one to lean on is at the root of the Whedonverse heroines, as it is at the root of the Whedon influenced “Veronica Mars.”

The self-sacrifice of the heroines created by Joss Whedon is rooted in what they can never have. When in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode “Anne”, Buffy abandons her responsibilities and escapes to L.A. where she works as a waitress and turns her back on her destiny, as she is drawn back to search for a missing boy, in her confrontation with a worker at a blood bank who had been feeding the names of healthy teenagers to a demon slave labor camp, Buffy says; “I don’t want any trouble. I just wanna be alone and quiet in a room with a chair and a fireplace and a tea cozy. I don’t even know what a tea cozy is but I want one.”

This is an attitude typical of Whedonverse heroines who remain girls at heart, wanting a more feminine life, wanting to be the princess, the girl in the schoolroom and knowing that they cannot, push away the heartbreak and get on with the job that needs to be done and the fight ahead that needs to be won. They do not and cannot look forward to a happy ending. In the Buffyverse most slayers finish up by being killed by that one Vampire or Demon who has himself, in Spike’s words, “A lucky day.” A day that comes about when the Slayer finally gives up hope and allows herself to be killed. They do not fight on out of hope, but out of the recognition that what they do must be done and that their own nature and the nature of the world around them has left them no choice but to go out and do it.

Read More here Buffy, River, Faith and Fray, Female Heroines in the Whedonverse

Star Trek and Firefly: In the Shadow of Utopia

“In the “Star Trek” universe, the Maquis rebels represented the Browncoats of the “Firefly” universe. The Maquis were human settlers who remained dispossessed after a Federation attempt to achieve peace through diplomacy with the Cardassian Empire resulted in the creation of the DMZ, the Demilitarized Zone. Within the Demilitarized Zone, war was waged between the human settlers and the Cardassian settlers, degenerating into terrorism and planetary assaults.

In DS9’s “For the Uniform”, Lieutenant Commander Michael Eddington pointed out the dispossessed settlers to Captain Sisko, showing him the injustice that lay at the heart of the Federation’s utopia. A utopia that as in “Firefly” was shown to be achieved at the expense of individual rights and freedoms. Sisko callously ignores Eddington’s plea and instead goes on to bombard Maquis planets with toxic substances rendering them uninhabitable. “The Uniform” and a commitment to Starfleet has trumped human rights in the utopia. As in “Firefly”, individual rights are sacrificed to the vast bureaucracy of the Alliance which is determined to chart an ideal future for humanity.

In the “Star Trek” universe, the Maquis are eventually wiped out in the Dominion War, except for that handful which goes on to serve on Voyager. In the “Firefly” universe, the Browncoats lost their war against the Alliance and have become rebels and refugees fleeing the expanding power of the Alliance and nibbling away at its edges.”

Read more here Star Trek and Firefly – Insiders and Outsiders

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