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SFFH in NonTextual Media

Saturday 30 June 2001

Not A.I.

§ Ray Bradbury is scripting a new version of his collection The Illustrated Man, among many other projects in work.

CNN, 21 June
Sci Fi Wire, 22 June

§ Not quite SFFH, but a fascinating intellectual-puzzle film, is Memento, an art-house hit in the US about a man with short-term memory loss trying to solve the mystery of his wife's murder -- a film told in reverse chronological order. But does it, upon examination, make sense?

— Yes, more or less: Salon, 28 June
— No, full of plot-holes: Slate, 27 June

A.I. Peripheral

§ This long profile of Steven Spielberg, from last weekend's NYT, perceives a darker trend in both A.I. and the next film, Minority Report, due next Summer.

New York Times, 24 June

§ Meanwhile, the release of A.I. is prompting renewed attention to the reality of artificial intelligence.

New York Times, 30 June

§ This article in The Economist reflects on the history of computers and robots in film.

The Economist, Jun 28th 2001

§ And if you still haven't checked out those A.I. websites, here's a primer:

Friday 22 June 2001

A.I. Countdown

[A.I. opens June 29th; Locus Online will have two reviews of the film, by prominent SF critics, in the week or so following.]

§ Background: This Salon article by Dan Dinello recaps the history of robots and machines in sci-fi cinema, from Metropolis to Blade Runner and beyond, celebrating one particular obscure 1962 film...

"Creation of the Humanoids," nearly 40 years old and created by filmmakers now forgotten, anticipated "Blade Runner," "Android" and "A.I." "Creation of the Humanoids" -- promoted as Andy Warhol's favorite movie -- describes a post-apocalyptic world where the dividing line between human and robot no longer exists. ... The film has stilted, often hilarious, philosophical dialogue that eerily echoes the present-day theories of A.I. experts Ray Kurzweil ("The Age of Spiritual Machines") and Hans Moravec ("Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind"), but among its sci-fi cinematic brethren, "Creation of the Humanoids" is unusual in that it -- like the upcoming "A.I." -- dares to suggest that robots may be the next stage in human evolution.

The Brian Aldiss story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long", currently in print in volumes from St. Martin's and Little Brown/Orbit [UK] (while the 2 sequel stories are offered up by the July issue of Playboy), is available online in the archives of Wired.

§ The Buzz: Interviews and advance reviews are plentiful, as are spoilers. Time offers a feature article by Richard Corliss...

A.I. will beguile some viewers, perplex others. Its vision is too capacious, its narrative route too extended, the shift in tone (from suburban domestic to rural nightmare to urban archaeology) too ornery to make the film a flat-out wowser of the E.T. stripe. A.I. boasts a beautiful central performance — Haley Joel Osment, 13, plays David with a kind of buoyant gravity — and a canny turn by Jude Law as a robo-stud, while other actors are wan. The film is bold, rigorous and sentimental by turns, and often all at once, as should be expected from a two-man movie where both have strong wills to match their great gifts, and one is dead. "This will be a repeat of 2001," says Harlan. "Some people will hate it. Never mind." well as interviews with Steven Spielberg, with producer Jan Harlan, and with actors Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment.

§ David Ansen's Newsweek review calls it

...a rich, strange, problematical movie full of wild tonal shifts and bravura moviemaking. It’s like nothing else Spielberg has done...

§ Other reviews (from Robot Wisdom) include an Ain't It Cool News "decimation" by Moriarty; and an New York Observer rave by Andrew Sarris.

§ Reality Check: A 17-year project to develop an artificial intelligence system called Cyc (pronounced 'psych') will be unveiled this Summer. Creator Douglas B. Lenat remarks

"HAL killed the ['2001'] crew because it had been told not to lie to them, but also to lie to them about the mission," he observes. "No one ever told HAL that killing is worse than lying. But we've told Cyc."
Los Angeles Times, 21 June

Movie Thrills

§ The latest Top-100 list from the American Film Institute, 100 Years...100 Thrills, is based on this definition of "thrills":

Regardless of genre, the total adrenaline-inducing impact of a film’s artistry and craft, creating an experience that engages our bodies as well as our minds.
The results put Psycho at #1, Alien at #6, King Kong at #12, and Star Wars at #27, with many other SFFH films in the top 100. (This page has, in its left frame, the list of 400 movies from which the top 100 were voted.)

Movie Reviewers

§ You've heard all the reports about the phony reviewer, David Manning, invented by Columbia Pictures to promote its films? Here's film critic David Ansen's response and revenge (a Newsweek web exclusive).

§ David Ansen observed this (in Newsweek, 18 June) about the success of Shrek:

Ironically, what “Shrek” and the “Toy Story” movies have over almost all of the recent Hollywood products is the old-fashioned virtue of tighter, more focused storytelling. These witty screenplays leave most of their live-action competitors in the dust: there’s not an ounce of extraneous fat on their bones. Every scene has a purpose, a point and a payoff. Inspired by the constraints of 90-minute running times (to fit kids’ short attention spans), these CGI movies seem to be the only studio products these days that understand that good movies are built from the bottom up. You never hear of an animated movie rushing into production before the script is finished, which happens all the time in the ego-dominated world of star-studded, special-effects-driven live-action movies.

Operatic Thrills

§ Getting back to opera, here's a review of that Philip Glass version of Kafka's "In the Penal Colony".

Mr. Glass's signature technique of ravishment by repetition lends itself well to the story's dreamlike state of unbroken suspense. And given elegant life by the show's string quintet, overseen by Alan Johnson, the music subtly echoes shifts in power and fear. (Think of a flattened, understated version of the tense opening of Schubert's "Death and the Maiden," too polite to cut loose into a full- fledged scream.)
New York Times, 15 June

§ And here's another opera on a fantastic theme, Heinz Holliger's "Schneewittchen" ("Snow White"), due shortly on an ECM recording and reviewed by Paul Griffiths--

New York Times, 17 June

Monday 11 June 2001

Not SF

§ Composer Philip Glass has written operas based on Doris Lessing novels The Making of the Representative for Planet Eight and The Marriages Between Zones 3, 4 and 5 -- the latter opera's US-premiere, by the DePaul Opera Theatre near Chicago, on June 7.

Spaceships are a recurring image in Glass operas, from "Einstein on the Beach" in 1976 to "The Voyage" in 1992. But he doesn't consider his work with Lessing to be science-fiction opera.

"People say her stories are science fiction," Glass said. "They're not really. It's like saying the Bible is science fiction. They're allegorical, morality stories about human nature, the human race, life, death, eternity. They address very profound human questions that have to do with transformation and change. They're not science fiction at all. They just have a few spaceships in them."
Chicago Sun-Times, 7 June

§ Here's Philip Glass again, adapting Kafka's "In the Penal Colony" into a chamber opera.

New York Times, 10 June


§ If only Alfred Hitchcock or Orson Welles could have lived to see 21st century technology...

New York Times, 10 June

§ Another view on "Myst III: Exile": eye candy, but without ideas, unlike "Riven" and the original "Myst":

[T]o the people who fell in love with Myst, it's more than a series of brain twisters. It's a place, a favorite place, and therefore not exhaustible the way a mere game is. You can't help wanting to see more of it, and at the same time you know that its mysteries will never be entirely yielded up. And that, come to think of it, is a pretty good definition of art.
Salon, 29 May

§ Why is American pop culture taking over the world? What could the answer be...?

New York Times, 2 June

May Media Refractions

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