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SFFH in Film, TV, and other NonTextual Media

Friday 18 October 2002

§ Naqoyqatsi, the third collaboration between filmmaker Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass, opens today in Los Angeles and Manhattan. Following Koyaanisqatsi ("Life Out of Balance", 1983) and Powaqqatsi ("Life in Transformation", 1988), the conclusion of the "Qatsi" trilogy, whose title is the Hopi term for "war as a way of life", concerns

the most significant event of the last five thousand years: the transition from the natural milieu, old nature, to the "new" nature, the technological milieu.
according to the film's webpage. Stephen Holden reviews the film in today's New York Times:
An overriding theme of the movie is the impersonality of technology and the degree to which its promises of power and perfection have seized the human imagination and begun determining human activity. There is, after all, a part of us that is profoundly attracted to the notion of the body and the mind as perfectible machines and parts of machines. [...]

Both the director and the composer take a cosmic view of the earth and its ills. Even when they are contemplating the mechanics of the human body, their perspective seems closer to that of an extraterrestrial explorer than to a social commentator. If there is a bleeding heart behind it all - and I think deep down that there is - it is largely camouflaged.

Wednesday 2 October 2002

§ A long New York Times Magazine profile of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly creator Joss Whedon...

Audaciously combining two more neglected juvenile genres, westerns and science fiction, the series [Firefly] began as Whedon's most experimental yet... Yes, it's a space show, but it's also an intellectual drama about nine underdogs struggling in the moral chaos of a postglobalist universe. Adventure and ethical debate are melded in one sexy package. ''It's about the search for meaning,'' he explains. ''And did I mention there's a whore?''


Atheist though he may be, Joss Whedon has a kind of faith -- in narrative passion, the kind that creates lasting loyalties. ''Every time people say, 'You've transcended the genre,' I'm like: No! I believe in genre.'' For Whedon, fantasy inspires a visceral response that realism can't match.

§ Salon: About those Apocalypse movies -- a whole fantastic film genre probably not often screened at SF cons...

The "Apocalypse" films are similar to the hot-selling "Left Behind" novels, and in fact the Lalondes also produced "Left Behind: The Movie," with a straight-to-video sequel due in October. As in "Left Behind," it turns out the United Nations is the ideal framework for Satan's One Nation Earth (ONE) regime. The antichrist wins his throne by promising to end hatred, prejudice and other things of which bleeding-heart liberals are always accusing the folks on TBN.
Another example: "Deceived", in which SETI@Home is "Satan's own peer-to-peer AudioGalaxy network":
When a signal arrives with a suspicious duration of 6.66 seconds, the usual archetypal characters from rapture movies have their own plans for it. Louis Gossett Jr., as a power-mad general, wants to control it. A crackpot New Age radio host -- the kind of comic-relief character only found in Christian entertainment -- begins raving about how the signal will "evolve" humans to a "higher consciousness" (evolution frequently appears in these movies in conjunction with madness.) The eyebrow-cocking "dot-com billionaire" wants to sell it, exclaiming: "It'll be the biggest webcast in history!" And the lusty TV reporter, naturally, wants to corrupt Judd.

§ At Midnight Eye -- a site about Japanese cinema -- an interview with Spirited Away writer/director Hayao Miyazaki.

Do you believe in the necessity of fantasy in telling children's stories?
I believe that fantasy in the meaning of imagination is very important. We shouldn't stick too close to everyday reality but give room to the reality of the heart, of the mind and of the imagination. Those things can help us in life. But we have to be cautious in using this word fantasy. In Japan, the word fantasy these days is applied to everything from TV shows to video games, like virtual reality. But virtual reality is a denial of reality. We need to be open to the powers of imagination, which brings something useful to reality. Virtual reality can imprison people. It's a dilemma I struggle with in my work, that balance between imaginary worlds and virtual worlds.

§ Seattle Times: all about BloodHag, a band whose four members wear thick glasses, white button-down shirts and ties, and who sing about science fiction writers... (And check out their website.)

These metal kings sing songs of George Orwell and Isaac Asimov, as well as Franz Kafka and William S. Burroughs. Usually author Octavia Butler would be represented in a set, but her ode has been nixed from tonight's lineup, since they've played it so much.

§ Reuters via Yahoo: Hollywood reaches out to NASA (or vice versa)

[Producer Robert] Shapiro said NASA and Hollywood are not such strange bedfellows when one considers that man's quest for knowledge often inspires great art -- and vice versa. In other words, while the meeting might be a small step for those present, it could be a giant leap toward future cooperation.


"Would we have gone to the moon if Jules Verne hadn't written about it first?" he said. "In a weird way NASA is trying to answer some of the biggest questions in life and sometimes Hollywood is asking those same questions."

§ Slate's David Edelstein reviews the restoration of Fritz Lang's 1927 Metropolis -- "one of the greatest ballets ever put on film".

The movie was directly inspired by the skyline of Manhattan, which the Austrian Lang beheld in 1924 from a ship in New York harbor. He told his wife, Thea von Harbou, that he envisioned a scenario in which the cityscape would be dominated by soaring towers of glass and steel while far below, in cellars and catacombs, the workers whose labor sustained it were physically and spiritually crushed-almost literally turned into machines. There was no middle class: You were literally way up or way, way down.


It's little wonder that some people had no idea what Lang was trying to say. But that's what has given Metropolis the power to endure. A great artist contains multitudes, and Lang packed a host of contradictory longings into a single allegory. He showed us the horror of "the machine-man," but he also gave us, in Brigitte Helm, the sexiest robot of all time.

August Media Refractions

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