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That Pixar's latest film Ratatouille is excellent is unsurprising. It's from Pixar. Directed by Brad Bird. It measures up and again surpasses the standard to be expected from that pedigree.

You want to go see this movie. If you've not seen it yet, plug it's name into the search bar of your browser and buy the tickets.

How great is this movie? I dislike both zucchini and eggplant, and can do without bellpeppers, and yet now I want a bite of the eponymous provençal dish. And the scene when the food critic character Anton Ego takes his first bite brought tears to my eyes.

(And the resulting review he writes is pure poetry, and should be read and reread by all realworld art and venue critics everywhere, present and future.)

Leading the movie was, of course, another Pixar short film. This one, Lifted, while funny and cute, I don't think was as good as their previous two, For the Birds and Boundin'. Also leading the movie was the teaser trailer for the next Pixar movie, WALL-E. I have high hopes.

Also leading the movie was the the trailer for Bee Movie. The contrast between Pixar and Dreamworks keeps getting wider. Pixar makes masterworks that are also popular. Dreamworks throws money at renderfarms, don't push the technology, and buys Big Name Stars to make films that will be forgotten a year later and won't make any sense at all a generation later.
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The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic of the genre. This is an overused term, but in this case it's true.

Many parts of the movie that feel formula today, originated here. And were better done here than in any of it's successors.

While on one hand, it is a 50's SF B movie, on the other hand, it's actually reasonably well written, well directed, and well acted.

I couldn't help but feel that the a couple of the scenes were shot just to put into the trailer, as formulaic images of a 50s monster movie. (The Pretty Woman falling back screaming as the Monster and his Shadow Looms. The pretty woman carried unconscious by the monster to a Uncertain Fate. etc). But ignore those bits.

It's a truly science fiction story, which was not improved upon by it's successors for many decades, and in some respects, not improved upon even today.

Also, unusual for a movie, it improves on it's source material. I've read the original short story, "Farewell to the Master". The original story had elements of transhumanism and AI oversight that were never again properly mined for another generation, and were mostly only implied in the movie. However, the story was also clunky, hookey, and was in almost all respects an good example of the published SF writing at the time (e.g., not really all that good).

And now that I've praised the movie, there are several flaws.

This is the canonical original well-known First Contact SF story. One would think that Klaatu's organization had done the "First Contact with the Warning" mission many times before. And yet they utterly flubbed it this time.

Despite stating that they had been listening to Earth radio for years, and despite demonstrating that they had sufficient information processing power, analytic abilities, and effector capabilities to both map and manipulate every electric power circuit on the planet, and to reknit a human body, they didn't use that analytic ability to understand Earth politics at all.

In 1951, the frailty and at-the-edge-ness of Earth politics and the US military would have been clearly discernible. The fact that it was frail and becoming very very fraught, was, in fact, the reason he was there. And yet he flubbed it.

He was far far too insistent on a general assembly of all the heads of state. And dismissed the UN General Assembly, not because it didn't consist of heads of state, but because not every single nation was in the UN in 1951. While that may have been true, even by then, the ones that were not, really didn't matter, especially for the purpose of his mission. Everyone in or about to be in the Nuclear Club, and/or with the ability to pursue space or advanced physics, were in it.

Plus, calling the meeting would have been unnecessary. All he would have had to do was to speak, especially at any place accessible to the world press, and every single word would have been followed by the very close and personal attention of every advanced government in the world. Especially since he didn't need a dialog, he just needed to make an announcement.

I suspect that this failure of imagination on the part of the writers is from the fact that in 1951, people had not really quite fully realized just how electronic communications had shrunk the world, how mass broadcasting had replaced in-the-flesh public speaking.

It also suffered from the flaw that afflict most SF up until the New Wave, in that it excessively valorized the worldwide caste of scientists, and assumed and indirectly stated that they would be free from the political squabbles that were paralyzing the national governments. Right....

If Klaatu had, instead of shutting down power systems, commandeers the broadcast radio networks worldwide for 5 minutes, he would have been orders of magnitude more effective, and much safer.
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Yesterday afternoon I decided I wanted to the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, while it was still on the big screen. Specifically, the best big screen in the city, the Cinerama. And I didn't want to just go alone. So I texted a lot of people in my `phone with an invite. Got back a lot of regretful nos, and a few yeses.

In the end, there was me, [livejournal.com profile] solomoning, [livejournal.com profile] happilymyself and her creature, [livejournal.com profile] lauraflora, and [livejournal.com profile] omahas and [livejournal.com profile] elfs.

Elf posted a review, which I pretty much agree with.

Before the movie were previews for Transformers and for The Golden Compass, which I'm also now looking forward to.
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I'm going to see "Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End" this evening, 7:20pm, at the Seattle Cinerama. If anyone of y'all want to come see it, or see it again tonight...
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Getting caught up on my NetFlix.

The film of the day is Clan of the Cave Bear. One and a half stars. It wasn't actively bad, but it wasn't at all good, either.

It inherited most of what didn't make the book very good, and added to it that which tends to make movie adaptations of thick books not very good.

It was interesting and amusing that the script and the director "played it straight", with the People "speaking" mostly in gestures. They did leave in the two things I do remember from the book, from when I read it many years ago, that Alya could intuitively grasp the concept of "number", and that the "unusual" shape of her shoulders gifted her with the ability to use a sling.

I'm sure that there really are amazing and breathtaking and tearjerking true stories key to the rise of humanity and about the time when there were two human species. However, Clan of the Cave Bear is not amazing, is not breathtaking, and not tearjerking. Neither the book, nor the movie.
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I just got back from the second annual Seattle Science Fiction Short Film Festival. Like last year, it was a mixed bag.

Too many authors/scriptwriters see "SciFi" to mean "I can do anything. Consistancy? Who cares!". And the more they claim otherwise, the more guilty of that sin they are.

Under the heading of "Art with a capital A" (which means they otherwise utterly sucked), was Spaceball (I have this really cool lens to play with, but otherwise have no clue), Life Signs, which, if it had been entered unchanged in a contest for music videos, would have fit better, 13 Ways to Die at Home, which won one of the juried prizes, which really lowered my opinion of the jury, and finally Agnieskza, oh so very European, in all the worst ways. Textbook "artistic" lighting and camera angles, uberskinny supermodel actresses in panties and high goth babydoll tops, no dialog at all, and a theme of descruction and decay. Yuck.

For mildly amusing, there was The Incredible Bulk, basically "The Fly", but with broccoli, Atomic Banana, again with "The Fly", only with this time with a scientist, a chimp, and a banana, and The Tragical Historie of Guidolon the Giant Space Chicken, about a 1960s city smashing giant monster being allowed to make his own movie about his life. The best one in the "amusing" camp was Maklar, Anyone?, about a small Trekkie fan club, with a at least one member who really does belong there.

Under "heavy on the romance, lots of expensive FX, but pay no attention to the science", there is Mizar, about an estranged couple on a manned Saturn probe that suffers a mishap. And Face Machine, about a future so polluted that everyone has to wear environmental helmets, but for some reason it's utterly impossible to build a sealed arcology.

For heavily "inspired by Phillip K. Dick", we have Machinations, about a hot rising politico who turns out to be less than he seems, TV Man, something about impossible love and too many tv ads, Project K.A.T., which felt too much like a pitch for a TV show that would have been a natural fit on the bottom half of UPNs roster, and for best in this category, Haunted Planet, about a woman who's convienced that the world is a nightmare that her friend cannot awaken from.

For "the world is different, lets explore how, but not really think things thru TOO deeply", we have F*ck You, Pay Me!, where bad credit rating is a felony. The Un-gone, that tries to be about a creepy varient of scan/construct/destroy teleportation.

The most happy-making and uplifting was Fantastic Fortune, about a poor redneck `roid prospector that makes a First Encounter, that gets smoothed over despite some mishaps.

And for the best in show, there was Transgressions. It was a "world is different, and we DID think things thru", about a very shiny, very clean, very low-crime, VERY torturiously violent future. I was sick to my stomach (and not because of any splatterfest FX), but I gave it my highest rating on the ballot. It did very well both on the audience ballots, and on the jury.
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I've been slowly watching A Clockwork Orange. Slowly, because it's a hard film to watch.

Not because the imagery is really all that shocking. At over forty years remove, the "shock" of the tittalating visual sexuality of that future (technically now an "alternate past") has been drained of most of it's energy. In fact, it's rather amusing and quaint, and oh so very "the future of 1970" in feel. And the portrayals of "ultra-violence" likewise. Alex and his "droogs" would have been chewed up as a light snack by any real-world contemporary urban street gang.

I think that's what makes it hard to watch, is that I can see what Kubrick and Burgess were trying to do, and they were being rather dumb about it. They were being so in the way that most every other non-genre writer is when they try to slum around in the SF genre neighborhood. Heck, SF writers from the mortifying era of Hugo Gernsback often did a better job of thinking their way thru the social implications of social and technological changes, and by the time that John Campbell was at the helm, quite a lot better.

Piers Anthony once wrote a schlocky SF novel titled The Ring, and everything that A Clockwork Orange was about, The Ring did better. (Otherwise, Anthony's novel was crap deeply flawed.)

Hell, Anthony even got correct the need for protective oversight of "the cured", and the deep social divide between "normal people" and "the cured", that the people in ACO were so surprised to discover and exploit.

This movie is important because of all the cultural referants based on it.

But as a story of ideas, it doesn't live up to the hype, and the older it gets, the less it does.
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I have not seen a better "don't do drugs" movie than this one.

The best word for this movie was "tawdry". Which is exactly what the director was going for. It's a tawdry movie about a tawdry time about a tawdry subculture involved in a tawdry business.

I don't think there was a single character with a 3 digit IQ. This is not to say they were stupid dumb. This wasn't in the "Dumb & Dumber" genre. They were just, well, not really bright, in an average below average way, trying to get by on talents other than mental.
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One thing that I can do now that I have more time is work my way thru my NetFlix queue.

Last night was The Opposite of Sex, Christina Ricci's 1998 movie.

She plays a completely unlikeable and untrustworthy manipulative user, who wrecks the lives of her brother, her brother's boyfriend, her brother's deceased former boyfriend's sister, and her own old boyfriend. Most of them end up better off at the end, but only despite her own destructive efforts.

The best part was a rant in the middle, delivered by her brother, who is otherwise such a nice guy that it's almost painful.

Listen to me, you little grunge faggot. I survived my family, my schoolyard, every Republican, every other Democrat, Anita Bryant, the Pope, the fucking Christian Coalition, not to mention a real son of a bitch of a virus, in case you haven't noticed. In all that time since Paul Lynde and Truman Capote were the only fairies in America, I've been busting my ass so that you'd be able to do what you wanted with yours! So I don't just want your obedience right now — which I do want and plenty of it — but I want your fucking gratitude, right fucking now, or you're going to be looking down a long road at your nipple in the dirt! Do you hear what I'm saying?!

I loved that scene so much I burst into applause, then stopped the DVD and replayed the whole scene again.
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This movie, Grimm (direct link, 41MiB, quicktime), is 3 minutes long, was shot in 7 hours, and is a heartbreakingly sad fairy tale.

(gakked from [livejournal.com profile] jatg)
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I really have watched a lot of movies this week.

This evening, [livejournal.com profile] amythis and I watched my havnt-got-around-to-it-for-months NetFlix of Better than Chocolate.

It was cute, and sweet, and funny, and sexy.

It was worth watching. It was worth NetFlixing. It might even be worth renting.
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Boy I'm seeing a lot of movies this week. [livejournal.com profile] omahas and I went to see Corpse Bride at the Neptune. This was my first time in that theater.

It was good. Cute and nice. Nightmare Before Christmas was a better movie, but this one is worth seeing.

Usually when I see these sort of stories ("Help, I'm falling in love with two people!") my reaction usually is "It's stupid that one can't marry them both.", but in this case, there really were some differences impossible to overcome.

They stole the post-finale conclusion right out of different story (Hans Christian Anderson's "Little Mermaid" (not the Disney ending)), but in a setting with demonstrable "immortality" (universal, but rather boring and gruesome) it was probably necessary, in order to wrap things up.

Interestingly, in this and the last movie I saw (Were-Rabbit), the main female leads were both voice by the same person, Helena Bonham Carter.

Another place were it suffers in comparison to NBC is the music. The musical numbers tried to be engaging, but they were nowhere near as memorable or character-illuminating.

But still, if you like Tim Burton movies, go see it.
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It was an ok fun flick, but it wasn't as good as The Wrong Trousers.

It just may be my personal annoyances, in that I don't find large groups of idiots being idiotic fun to watch. Even Grommit's typical extreme competence didn't make up for all of it.

The little Harry Potter joke at the start was cute.
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I liked it.

If you loved The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth because of the lush organic costumes and backgrounds, you might be disappointed. But if you liked them for all the quirky and fun bit part characters, you will enjoy this for the same reasons.

The visuals, instead of "lush and organic", are instead very spare, evocative of pen and ink, with some brush and greyscale watercolor, for reasons that make sense in the context of the story.

The overall plot is not original. But then, for this sort of thing, the overall frame of the plot isn't important. We all know where we are going to end up, what is important is the view from the ride, and all the little plot-presents we are gifted with on the way.

And an amusing little insight I had a few hours after seeing it, one of the major sources of conflict between the Dark Queen and the Dark Princess was, the Queen was a goth, and wanted her daughter to be a goth. But the princess wasn't a goth, she didn't want to be a goth. She was a punker.

Oh, and I have to recommend it to [livejournal.com profile] jatg's attention, in that the protaganist was a girl who loves to draw and ink.
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Tonight's MST3K was Robot Monster, which is definately one of the most painfully bad movies I have ever seen.

I mean, come on, the bad guy is a gorilla with a television set for a head!

What's worse, is there was almost a there, there. There are shades of Gernsbackian SF, Cambellian SF, and post-apocalypic SF stirred around. I also couldn't help but start plotting out breeding schedules after the, ahem, wedding.
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Tuesday. We in the Knuth group ran out of "brain juice" quite a bit sooner than we usually do, but still made good progress, and wrapped things up with a crash refresher in real calculus, because we could see some integration signs looming before us in the upcoming paragraphs.

Wednesday. In piano, we did more sightreading, and then processed my way thru the current piece, Chant, by Christopher Norton. My main difficulty with the piano work is becoming more and more apparent, which is when I get overloaded or confused, my whole mentation just falls apart and I freeze up, doing nothing and thinking nothing. I don't even "get distracted", I just freeze and stop. This unuseful reaction is all too familiar, from other attempts to learn or do "real time" tasks.

Thursday. There was a change in the usual first-Thursday plans, and instead I enjoyed babysitting Kouryou-chan while her parents, [livejournal.com profile] elfs and [livejournal.com profile] omahas, went out together on a married-couple grownup-time date. She was extremely easy to handle. Dinner was pulped lentel stew, then she lined up all her "minions" (dolls and plushes), then some Dora on the TiVo, story reading from "Thomas the Tank Engine", and then to sleep in the big giant bed. (After she "went to bed", she still wandered back and forth between the giant bed and her bed, trying to get comfortably cool.

Friday. I joined the pack of supporters as [livejournal.com profile] desirae executed her testing for her Karate blackbelt-recommended. Her peer students and her sensei were a bit surprised at the size of the crowd of her supporters. She, of course, did very well, doing the warmups, katas, and round after round of sparring and of groundfighting, and finished off with the traditional and crowdpleasing breaking-the-board. We all went out for dinner and then hot-tubbing after.

Saturday. I had a lot on my TODO, but got very little of it done. The air was way too warm, and I had a fair amount of sleep to catch up and social after-processing to do. But I did hook up with the ever-lovely [livejournal.com profile] omahas to see "Fantastic Four".
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If you enjoy superhero action movies, this is worth seeing.

We went the whole movie saying "Who is he?", regarding the actor who plays Reed Richards. When we got back to a `net connection, IMDB gave us the answer. He also played Horatio Hornblower for the A&E series.

Update: He also part of the regular cast on the half-season TV show "Century City", which I rather enjoyed, and thus, of course, bombed in the ratings. Interestingly, in that show, he played an USian Latino, in FF he was a generic USian, in the Hornblowers he was English, and yet he is actually a native (and native speaker) Welsh.
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It looks like American Dog isn't going to suck.. Here's hoping the story lives up to the visuals.
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It was amusing. Funny, even.
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Finally saw Batman Begins. One has to ignore the comicbook science fiction elements (microwaves dont work like that, even if they did, they would also vaporize every person in the vicinity, and the poison would have been flushed into the sewers as fast as it got added to the watermains), but it was well worth watching.

I think it was a better movie, and a better "Batman" movie, then the Tim Burton version. (Can you believe it was 16 years ago?) Mainly because that one was really more "Jack Nicholson's scenery chewing Joker", and this was more about Bruce Wayne, and what it is that he does, why he does it, and the people who help him do it.


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Mark Atwood

September 2017

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