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

400 Days

400Director: Matt Osterman. Starring: Brandon Ruth, Tom Cavanagh, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman, Dane Cook. USA, 2015. IMDb: 4.7. Budget: unknown, but very low. My rating: 0.5/4. Comatose fight of Solaris vs 2001 vs Alien vs Moon.

 What is your current mood?
 Tired… and a little hung over.
 Tired and hung over aren’t moods, I need something like happy, sad, depressed, angry.
(a dialogue between main characters)

“400 Days” is a brilliant showcase of how with very little you can achieve even less. I found it on some faraway dusty sci-fi forums thanks to a viewer who complained about ”10 Cloverfield Lane”, criticizing it as a dull and uninspiring movie with bad acting. Thank you, dear unknown viewer! I must confess I feel like a snob by saying this, but should a basic cinema education be introduced in secondary education program? At least, as a short course?

Still, I am particularly proud I have seen a movie that grossed $58.00 (fifty eight dollars). Way better than ”Man Down” with Shia LaBeouf that took just £7.00 at UK box office during its premiere, isn’t it? I am also deeply convinced that even worst movies can tell you something new – for example, this year NASA will be actually testing 6 potential cosmonauts for 8 months in closed environment to examine psychological issues. On Hawaii. Continue reading

20170127_1603361This blog is dedicated to independent science fiction movies.

Funny, dark, psychological, deep, smart, weird, odd, low budget, gory, eccentric and created in first place not for cash earning, although some occasional exceptions for big budget sci-fi will be made.

Independent means under $15-20 mln budget. No trash – in most cases I don’t review trash (with that said, “Ex Drummer” is one of my all-time favourites). All the films are rated from 0 to 4 only within the sci-fi genre.

Why indie? Because since late 90-s indie movie production has been growing into something big, bigger than ever. So many awesome films with tiny budget and unknown names were made, most of them remaining virtually hidden in the shade of commercial sci-fi, blockbusters and YA franchises. More and more of the recent indie sci-fi is not about aliens, monsters, robots and stuff, but more about us, humans, our nature and psychology. This change is still ongoing and it’s great.

I watch all movie genres, so… it would be reasonable to ask why did I start this blog? Simply put, I haven’t found any other that concentrates purely on good science fiction. It lacks coverage. The movie that inspired me particularly in first place was probably ”Coherence”. Some all-time favourite movies of mine are One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Stalker, Mulholland Drive and Lost In Translation. Welcome! On the right panel you can browse by categories, otherwise go directly to reviews a-z.

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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading