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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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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'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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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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Mark Atwood

September 2017

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