December 12th

These blog posts are thinning out to say the least, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I've already said a lot of things I wanted to. Which is better, repeating yourself endlessly, or staying silent once you've said your piece?

Quote of the Week

  • "This house has been far out at sea all night, |The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, |Winds stampeding the fields under the window |Floundering black astride and blinding wet |Till day rose; then under an orange sky |The hills had new places, and wind wielded |Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, |Flexing like the lens of a mad eye." - Ted Hughes, Wind

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Movie Review Time!

Before I begin the actual post, I need you guys to be my witnesses for something. I hereby declare that “I shall not download any more films before I finish watching at least ¾ of the ones I’ve already downloaded”. However, I’ve decided to make some exceptions. Technically, I watched them already on the flight back home and am simply adding them onto my list of greats, so they don’t really count. I’ve omitted reviewing Surrogates and Transformers 2, simply because I don’t really think they’re worth discussing. Anyways, the first of these films is...

Moon

“…What?” you ask. You may or may not have heard of Moon, starring Sam Rockwell. It’s a quietly intelligent sci-fi, minimalist in design but punching far above its weight. The premise is simple: Sam Bell is the only man on the moon, overseeing the automated mining station that provides the world with clean energy. Home is 40 minutes away by videophone, thanks to old tech that isn’t going to be upgraded anytime soon, and Sam’s only company is GERTY (an AI with the disembodied voice of Kevin Spacey) and delayed video transmissions from Sam’s wife and his employers. At the end of his three-year contract, he’s just about ready to go home, when things take a turn for the bizarre.

Now lets’ stop and think about this. The film has so far intelligently stuck with exploring ideas that are so-often left out of sci-fi (or glanced over to add pseudo-emotion before tossing in more fight scenes), ideas like how isolation affects the mind, GERTY’s uncanny valley effect which affects us but which Sam has grown immune to, and what happens to people after three years in an automated space station.

At this point, the plot could go anywhere, from the usual sci-fi stuff like aliens and the man-versus-machine battle, to the save-the-world (space station?) disaster movie, or, Lord forbid, the Sunshine-esque horror hack-and-slash. We’ve seen promising films collapse at this plot point, but cleverly Moon avoids this by making Sam have an accident while driving out to fix a roving miner, and waking up back at base. But hang on, how did he get back in from outside the base? Why is he looking healthier than before even though he had a major accident? How come he doesn’t seem to remember anything? And is GERTY really the calm mechanical butler he appears to be, or is he (it?) up to something else?

To elaborate further would be to give away the plot, so I won’t do that. Instead I’ll tell you that Moon explores even more ideas, like what it means to be human, and how people change over time. GERTY’s true role is revealed, leaving the audience simultaneously relieved, disappointed, and curious. Whether or not you spot the plot twist (after all it’s been used before), Moon is so well-directed and well-acted that the twist becomes secondary to the ideas that it conveys to the audience. And that’s the hallmark of good sci-fi.


(500) Days of Summer

This is a surprisingly good film, despite it being a romantic comedy (At this point the more macho of my readers may call me gay, shoot me in the back several times over, and then dump my blog address in the recycling bin and my body into a ditch somewhere). But hear me out, because this one is different.

Right at the start of the film, you’re warned straight up that it doesn’t end with the guy getting the girl, which on its own would make the film stand out against all the other rom-coms. You’re then told what happens, but you’re never told why. In fact, you get the feeling that nobody really know why, another one-up against the Freudian cause-and-effect approach of other rom-coms. Zooey Deschanel’s leading lady Summer remains complex, mysterious, and inaccessible to the main man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the audience. Even as the relationship evolves and grows, Summer declares that she’s interested only in friendship; Tom, who’s a classical romantic, struggles against the contradicting signs she gives him.

The film flits back and forth from good times to bad, not in the slow unstoppable spiral of a crashing relationship, but in the manner of a man desperately trying to understand why everything fell to pieces, and getting no answers. Eventually, we watch as the main man stops asking why the jigsaw is incomplete, accepts it as it is, and moves on with his life. And we can relate to that.

News Recap

Wow, it's been more than a month since I made my last post. Exams have left me thoroughly washed out, which I hope will disappate soon because I want to enjoy learning again, especially about non-medical stuff which i've neglected for a long while. So, in light of the pursuit of new knowledge, I thought it was time to look back at what managed to catch my eye over the past few months:

Bhopal, India, 1984: A chemical factory spewed tonnes of toxic gas into the air, killing thousands and exposing half a million to chronic diseases. A quarter of a century later, villagers say they still feel the effects. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8388355.stm

In 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez spilled its contents into the Alaskan ocean, wiping out thousands of miles of coastland. In recent news, oil has been detected just under the surface of these gravel beaches. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8465607.stm

These stories are reminders that the environment is more delicate than we think.

In other news, animals are smarter than we think, using tools (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8181233.stm), mind control (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8383577.stm) and disinfectant (http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8152000/8152574.stm), and even being picky in their mates (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/08/sci_nat_enl_1248872466/html/1.stm), although some get a bit confused about the species barrier (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8281382.stm). Some mating battles are simply more titanic than others, as proven by the filming of these humpback whales (http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8318000/8318182.stm). And just because nature is cool, here are some pretty pictures: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/08/sci_nat_enl_1256135662/html/1.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/8364761.stm

And we still keep learning from nature, in less desirable (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8237691.stm) and more desirable (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8286500.stm, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/south_of_scotland/8279194.stm) and some bizarre (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8302903.stm) ways.

To round it off, a few articles that which we so desire, choice:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8280564.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8395780.stm

I'll not say much this time, because if you follow up on all these articles it'll be enough to make your head spin. It's time for you guys to decide what to read, and what to believe.