Why being honest about AI stifles good storytelling?

Jake Orthwein of Film School Rejects really nailed it. A very good article that explores the topic without bias, usual stereotypes and scientific snobbery. I was thinking somewhat similar while covering this wonderful Polish/Soviet 1978 sci-fi film about androids – ”Inquest of Pilot Pirx”, but I couldn’t have said it any better.

https://filmschoolrejects.com/ai-and-good-storytelling-68328953e0d5

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Romcom YA pretending to be hard sci-fi ”Frequencies

Timelooped minimal sci-fi thriller ”ARQ
BvS, or How To Spend $300 Mln & Make A Dull Film
Beautiful love horror deconstruction named ”Spring
Dystopian human identity research ”Embers
Post-apocalyptic oldschool sci-fi B-movie ”Screamers
Comatose fight of Solaris, 2001 and Alien & called ”400 Days
Punishment by dismemberment?
80-s crazed subcultures and aliens with ”Liquid Sky
Witty couple relationship’s sci-fi dissection in ”The One I Love

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Robocop, pt 2. ”You sick cunt mate” mashup
Robocop, pt 1
Eternal Sunshine of the Topless Mind
M. Night Shyamalan
Minimal graphics with Moon & Duncan Jones’ new film
Arrival, or This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get
Creepiness of The Mist & 28 Days Later
Robots Get Bullied!
Retro surrealism of High-Rise

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Intertia creeps in my short horror film ”Black Melt

Surrealist cinema with Jonas Mekas, Vladimir Kobrin & Wire
Abel Ferrara & Tarkovsky & dream-pop of ”Cigarettes After Sex

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Day 22. ”Gray Death

Day 21. ”How Do You Do It
Day 20. ”Only Tomorrow
Day 19. ”Who Sees You
Day 18. ”Slowdive
Day 17. ”Visitors, They Crawl
Day 16. ”Dissolve
Day 15. ”How About This, Mr. Gray?
Day 14. ”Opinion
Day 13. ”Cold

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WHAT THE FUCK IS ALL THIS?

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Fahrenheit 451

fahrenheitDirector: François Truffaut. Starring: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack. UK, France, USA, 1966. IMDb: 7.3. My rating: 3.5/4. Budget: $1.5 million. Dystopian science fiction.

– Well, it’s a job just like any other. Good work with lots of variety. Monday, we burn Miller; Tuesday, Tolstoy; Wednesday, Walt Whitman; Friday, Faulkner; and Saturday and Sunday, Schopenhauer and Sartre. We burn them to ashes and then burn the ashes. That’s our official motto.
(Guy Montag)

– Here’s a book about lung cancer. You see, all the cigarette smokers got into a panic, so for everybody’s peace of mind, we burn it.
(The Captain)

– These are all novels, all about people that never existed, the people that read them it makes them unhappy with their own lives. Makes them want to live in other ways they can never really be.
(The Captain)

Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” easily divided the audience in two – some praised the film for black ruthless satire mixed with poetical and sensual style, while the others blamed it for simplicity, lack of imagination and small scale. Probably most of those who have read or heard of Ray Bradbury’s famous novel imagined it differently – sharper, darker, heavier. 20170425_115142But Truffaut, being a truly big artist, tried to blend with great imagination his own sensual style and the pressing rhythm of the novel. If you have seen “The 400 Blows”, you will surely recognize the style of the French director. Apparently, “Fahrenheit 451” is not a big movie, rather an intimate tale. It’s also is a perfect example of what happens a talented director is struggling to make a film. Truffaut was obviously not into sci-fi, and it makes “Fahrenheit 451” especially appealing. Continue reading

Inquest of Pilot Pirx

PirxDirector: Marek Piestrak. Starring: Sergei Desnitsky, Alexander Kaidanovsky, Vladimir Ivashov, Zbigniew Lesien, Boleslaw Abart. Poland, USSR, 1978. IMDb: 6.6. My rating 3.5/4. Android and space travel science fiction thriller.

– Brown, do you believe in God?
– It’s not part of my duties.
(a dialogue between Pirx and a crew member)

– Your world is horribly empty for me, your ideals laughable and your democracy is just a reign of schemers chosen by fools.
(one of the main characters)

“Inquest of Pilot Pirx” is one of those good old sci-fi movies I miss sometimes so desperately. Unhurried, detailed, with a smart plot and good acting, the film takes its time to prepare you for everything and develops slowly, but somewhere in the middle you suddenly realize that it’s grasping you right by the throat. Based on a series of short stories by Stanislav Lem, “Pirx” a solid psychological sci-fi thriller about human-like androids and space travel, that with years gained somewhat of a cult following, especially in Poland and ex-USSR countries. It didn’t have a lot of realistic CGI for what was largely criticized, but surprisingly it aged well – what did not seem realistic turned out to be very cool from a graphical point of view.

The style and overall feel of “Pirx” is something like “Blade Runner” vs. “Alien”… but the movie was actually made few years before them. Among all the cool stuff about androids and increasing levels of suspense, “Pirx” featured first-person view 6 years before “The Terminator” and here it’s not just some pure entertaining element, but an organic part of the plot. Good old science fiction, dammit.

”Pirx” also caused a chain reaction in my mind about several important topics:
– Why there has been no progress in A. I. development since the 50-s and do we really need it – in its classic sci-fi understanding? (short answer would be ‘no’)
– Why pre-CGI or early CGI specials effects were often more awesome than the photorealistic CGI we have nowadays?

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Coherence

CoherenceDirector: James Ward Byrkit. Starring: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen, Hugh Armstrong, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher, Lorene Scafaria. USA, 2013. IMDb: 7.2. My rating: 4/4. A metaphysical jazz-like improvisation about your inner self and your choices, wrapped into a relationship drama and disguised as a science fiction puzzle.

– And then, he took me to some lawyer bar.
– A lawyer bar?
– Yeah. A lawyer bar, kind of. I don’t know. Everybody there seemed like a lawyer. I felt like I was the only person without a tie.
– Well, maybe we should get you a tie for emergencies.
– Yeah, wardrobe emergencies.
(a dialogue between Em and Kevin)

20170417_132232It’s surprising to see how easily “Coherence” operates on a multitude of layers. Apparently, it’s a mature and delicate observation of what happens when a group of seemingly adult people and old friends gather for a dinner (check out great psychological theatre-like movies like “Carnage”, “Little White Lies”, “Perfect Strangers”). Then it easily turns into a science fiction thriller in a minimal setting (“Moon“, “Resolution“), that soon becomes quite disturbing. Even when you understand what is happening, the film won’t calm down and stop there, but bring its premise further and further. Thirdly, it’s a mind-bending puzzle that almost causes a brain fracture – lots of other sci-fi will seem like a relaxing stroll on a beach after the labyrinths you immerse 20170417_132056in here. Like “Primer“, the film gained a huge notoriety between all kind of geeks because of its riddles. But while “Primer” was a film about nerds and brainiacs for nerds and brainiacs, “Coherence” could be easily appreciated by everybody.

But what makes me really praise it is that finally, all these things blend naturally to bring the viewer to a different kind of reflection – on almost metaphysical level. Whether to see it in that way, is your choice. “Coherence” works well on any of its layers, no matter how deep (or not deep) you want to go. Continue reading

Metropolis

1927-Metropolis-2Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Germany, 1927. IMDB: 8.3. My rating: 4/4. “The mediator between head ad hands must be the heart”.

– Who is the living food for the machines? Who lubricates the machine joints with their own blood? Who feeds the machines with their own flesh? Let the machines starve, you fools! Let them die! Kill them – the machines!
(The Machine Man, disguised as Maria)

The grandaddy of all science fiction cinema. First ever blockbuster. The above quote is not from some 90-s cyberpunk movies, it is ”Metropolis”. But the dark and haunting creation of Fritz Lang is not only interesting due to its age, cult status or influence. It’s simply a breathtaking movie to watch, regardless of its heritage. Even 90 years since its first release.

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Morgan

Director: Luke Scott. Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy,morgan Rose Leslie, Michale Yare, Toby Jones. USA, 2016. IMDB: 5.8. My rating: 1/4. Sci-fi thriller about androids and stuff.

– Do you know the cruelest thing you can do to someone you’ve locked in a room? Press their face to the window.
(one of the scientists)

20170415_080345”Morgan” will surely provide you with some powerful insight about which tales Ridley Scott told his kids before sleep. It is another take on androids in the recent wake of independent A.I. science fiction and a debut feature of Luke Scott, whose father directed several movies we all adore. But “Morgan” is too immature to tell a complex story and the movie admits this quickly by itself, as it quickly abandons any attempts of being smart and tries to compensate it with some action. Not really good action. Continue reading

Dr. Strange

Director: Scott Derrickson. Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen. USA, 2016. IMDb: 7.6. My rating: 2.5/4. Marvel superhero flick, this time with magic.

– Well, what’s this? My mantra?doctor-strange-poster
– The Wi-Fi password. We’re not savages.
(conversation between Dr. Strange and a monk)

The never sleeping guys from Marvel continue to expand its cinematic universe, this time with the introduction of magic and Benedict Cumberbatch. As usually, “Dr. Strange” gives us exactly what is expected from an average Marvel film – awesome effects, humour, not much gore, cynical but good-hearted main hero and an overall charming feel of a little marvel. Maybe it doesn’t reach the heights set by the first “Avengers” or “Iron Man”, but lots of fun and entertainment are guaranteed.

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Still, I feel that ”Dr. Strange” got way too much praise than it actually deserved. Continue reading

Soylent Green

Director: Richard Fleischer. Starring: Charlton Heston, Edwarg G. Robinson, Leighsoylent_green Taylor-Young. USA, 1973. IMDb: 7.3. My rating: 1.5/4. Dystopian future cli-fi.

– Why, in my day, you could buy meat anywhere! Eggs they had, real butter! Fresh lettuce in the stores.
– I know, Sol, you told me before.
(conversation between Sol and Det. Thorn)

Imagine Ellen Ripley would stop lurking around in a middle of the heat and starting a love affair with a crew member, because the alien suddenly went vegan? Stuff like “Soylent Green” is the worst kind of cinema. The trailers and marketing campaign say it is science fiction (adventure, action, thriller, put what’s right in your case). 10 minutes pass, and you think – well, maybe it will start now. Other 10 minutes are gone, and you say – well, it was just a good warm up, now is the time! And as you reach 30-minute mark, you admit – you have been cheated. It’s a fucking melodrama. Continue reading

10 Cloverfield Lane

Director: Dan Trachtenberg. Producer: J. J. Abrams.Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elisabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. USA, 2016. IMDb: 7.2. My rating: 4/4. Exemplary sci-fi thriller.

– It’s the end of the world and he’s upset about a dead pig.cloverfield-lane
(one of the main characters)

“10 Cloverfield Lane” will beat you up, drag down the stairs and then suddenly act like an old friend who will tell you some good jokes and offer a few beers. Just to beat you up to death again 10 minutes later. And with all due respect to Dwayne Johnson, it’s John Goodman who should be called The Rock. Damn. It’s such a relief to finally see a great thriller, one of the most abused genres probably. And a good sci-fi thriller is even a more rare specimen.

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