It’s probably pretty revealing of the understanding that Ayn Rand had of the mechanical world that her genius’ greatest invention in Atlas Shrugged was a perpetual motion machine.
Now, admittedly, Ayn Rand never uses the phrase “perpetual motion” in the novel. Instead she whips up a concoction that never needs recharging because it collects the static energy from the atmosphere around it. The charge of creating a perpetual motion machine comes into play when Dagny Taggart observes that the engine “could run forever and never need recharging.” That, in a nutshell, is a perpetual motion machine or engine.
This conceptualization reminds me of the Zero Point Modules or ZPM’s used in later years of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. A technobabble workaround for the vast amounts of energy needed to power the gates, shields and weapons in that fictional universe. But at least those writers admitted that the modules, which drew energy from other spatial dimensions, did eventually run out of juice. They appear to be interdimensional disposable batteries, since the writers never got around to explaining how the modules tapped the energy, or how they could be recharged or even created in the first place.
It’s possible that the ship in Stargate Universe siphoned the energy from stellar fusion directly into ZPM’s, but they didn’t have much of a chance to technobabble about how Destiny stored the energy it drew from flying into the photosphere of a star and collecting plasma before SyFy canned the series.
This kind of slapstick comes across as too funny. Too funny as in 90 minutes of this would kill me with stupid. I might watch it. I might not. I can’t say. It is billed as featuring 40 previous iconic “Star Trek” actors so I might have to see it. But then that is what the filmmakers are counting on when they make these kinds of movies.
While I’m sitting there contemplating whether to hazard my diminishing quantities of brain cells watching so much stupid at one time (like a Marx Brothers film) the dreaded Youtube autoplay kicked in. First it was this short.
Camera motion, blood effects. Chopping one’s own arm off. Yeah, I can see walking out of all of these (I haven’t watched any American Horror Story. It’s just not my style. I am surprised the wife hasn’t wanted to watch it) which is why I haven’t seen some of them. Infrasound would explain a lot of things about certain horror films and my reactions to them.
Crap. Autoplay kicked in again while contemplating Tree of Life (Should I, shouldn’t I? Have I already? Is this me thinking?) What the hell will be next is anybody’s guess.
I’ve seen all but three of these (those three are now in my Netflix queue) Two or three of them are on my “must see” list when someone asks me what to watch next (hint; I have a soft spot for Bruce Dern, Roy Scheider and Sam Rockwell) For the inquiring minds, Heavy Metal was a movie about an adult comic book which apparently nobody ever admits to reading, not about the rock music which may or may not have been either inspired by or the inspiration for the magazine. The artwork in the movie is drawn directly from the various illustration styles in the magazine. Yes, I will admit to reading a few copies in my youth. Regrettably I don’t own any of them anymore.
Had Pitch Black made it on their list, it would have been four movies. I am once again victimized by autoplay.
Not sure all of these films are worth watching, much less being best films you should watch but haven’t. Foreign language films are not for everyone, so I don’t generally recommend them to people I know who won’t be up for reading subtitles, even if I might watch them myself.
I would personally recommend A Boy and His Dog. This is where the list starts to go sideways for me. This and the list that follows this one. It starts with the still image that introduces the list.
Don’t get me wrong, I think 2001 is a fine film. I think you should watch that and 2010 back to back. But 2001 is a snooze-fest. It is glacially slow as a movie. I don’t think a lot of people watch that movie over and over. They remember watching it as a child, but haven’t tried to watch it recently. I have, several times. Like the 60’s it was created in, it takes the right kinds of drugs to appreciate this film properly.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Stanley Kubrick. He has three films at least that I would put in the category of Best Science Fiction Films. Not just 2001 but also A Clockwork Orange and Doctor Strangelove. Most film critics will speak highly of Stanley Kubrick and his films. He is an auteur, his films bear the indelible mark of his authorship. But few of his films are light or fun to watch. You don’t just pop in A Clockwork Orange for a bit of light afternoon entertainment.
If they can recommend Strange Days without a caution (and I wouldn’t do that. Be prepared for murder and rape scenes conducted in the first person) then A Clockwork Orange is a walk in the park to watch.
No top ten list of Science Fiction is complete without Metropolis and Forbidden Planet. You cannot be a science fiction film fanatic without having seen those two films and recommending those two films. They can’t be on a list of films you haven’t seen; and if they are, your fan credentials will be subject to revocation.
Metropolis is arguably the mother of all modern Science Fiction, a film that has been revisited and reimagined in nearly every tale of dystopia, every film that questions who we really are, any film that posits the difference between man and machine. In the same vein Forbidden Planet is the forebear of Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. Those two films have to be on the top ten list or the list is invalid, in my opinion.
Especially any list that credits The Empire Strikes Back as the best science fiction film of all time. I doubt very much that anyone who wasn’t raised on Star Wars will think that Empire Strikes Back (much less any other Star Wars film aside from the original) should be on the list, much less topping it. Well, perhaps the original Star Wars; not the now-titled Episode 4, but the film which aired back in 1977, the film that may single-handedly require my maintenance of a functioning laserdisc player in my home. You remember, the movie where Han is the only person to fire a blaster in the famous bar scene? That film goes on a top ten list, if I could ever settle for ten.
I’m lying by the way. I won’t maintain the laserdisc player just for Star Wars. I will do it for the making of disc for The Abyss, for Tron, for the pressing of Highlander 2 Renegade cut and the copy of 1776 with the bits Jack Warner personally cut out of the film spliced back in and the splice marks still visible. I can link the version of 1776 that says “director’s cut” but there isn’t any way to watch the version I like other than on laserdisc. Same for the making of the Abyss which goes into the ordeal of constructing a set inside of and then flooding an abandoned nuclear reactor vessel so that real underwater shots could be pulled off with that deep water feel. The Abyss (special edition only) is one of the many, many films I would have to include in any list of Science Fiction films worth compiling.
There are a lot of good films included in their list, but I disagree with most of the films in the top five. I like them but they are all modern films. Derivative works of derivative works, unless you are talking about the Matrix or the Terminator (Not Terminator II. It’s good and a decent rewatch, just not as good as the first movie which it is derived from) both of which should be way up the list, higher than the Matrix actually appears.
Ten through six are all good solid films. I need to rewatch the War of The Worlds. I haven’t seen it since the 70’s on broadcast TV. I have the box set of all the original Planet of the Apes films. They all rewatch well aside from the last one.
Children of Men was a heart-wrenching film to watch, but I have little doubt it will survive as a cautionary tale of meddling with mother nature. The original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still was almost unique in its time period with the portrayal of aliens as not being hellbent on destroying us (a fact that the equally good but not as memorable remake decided to change) which lends it the credibility to withstand time. Children of Men is actually one among many films which portray humans as our own worst enemy.
Jurassic Park is showing signs of age, despite their insistence that it isn’t. Maybe it is the weight of the miserable sequels that colors my impression of it. Can’t tell yet. But Aliens? Really, Aliens but not Alien? I agree the sequels that follow are best forgotten, but how do you watch Aliens without first watching Alien? Can’t be done.
Which is the problem with derivative works and especially sequels. Without context the film is divorced from most of its meaning and has to survive on its own merit alone. This is why The Empire Strikes Back will not be remembered as the best science fiction film ever. Because without the first film (1977 Star Wars) you don’t know who the Empire is. Why the villain being Luke’s dad is a problem. Who the hell Luke is in the first place.
If we’re just going to recommend sequels, movies that you have to have watched the previous versions to be able to appreciate, I’d like to put in a shameless plug for Terminator Genisys (deja vu if you’ve read my last post carefully) As I’ve noted when recommending previously, the first 10 to 20 minutes of the film (after the first time jump) is a shot for shot tribute to the original film. It is the most beautifully made and scripted film that I’ve seen for awhile now, and it builds on established previous entries into the film canon, builds on them then knocks them all down, in ways that the viewer will not see coming. If you want to watch a good sequel, this is one for you to enjoy.
If I was going to make a list of ten films you probably haven’t seen recently (if ever) but speak highly of, 2001 is going to be top of that list. In fact, most of the Top 10 list that WatchMojo put together are films that I guarantee the compilers have not rewatched recently.
If you surf over to the WatchMojo website you will notice that they do an awful lot of top ten lists. Way, way more of them than is healthy, quite frankly. In fact, I can’t even find the films-by-decade lists that are mentioned in the Top Ten list just to see if the films I think are relevant are on those lists. I think that creating these endless list films that they produce keeps them from taking the time to enjoy the life that they rate in top ten increments several times a day.
I appear to have stumbled upon the kind of site that internet surfers loathe. The dreaded clickbait. The site that sucks up all your life and time, without giving you much in return. This explains why their films list is mostly modern films, or films recently remade with modern versions, like War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Not an in depth analysis of any real kind at all. And I’ve written how much on this subject now? Several pages, at least.
So what about a real Top Ten List? The ten best SF (Science Fiction) films ever made? I don’t think I can create a list of only 10 of them. I tried to create one of those kinds of lists ages ago on Flixster. I soon found out that limiting the list to ten films requires that I eliminate films that are essential to understanding the artform. Films like Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.
The profile link for my list says I have 15 films on it. I can’t see them because their website enters an error when I go to click on my own created content. The web 2.0, more broken than the web 1.0 and now featuring more advertising. Luckily I copied a version of it off and posted it to this blog. I have no idea if it is the last one or not, but here is at least one of my lists.
Avatar should be in the top five. We can start with that. A lot of people love to hate on Avatar, but it is the film that inspired the resurgence of 3D and it wasn’t the 3D in the film that was remarkable. It is the fact that you cannot tell the animation from the real images in the film that makes it so remarkable. That you can have such a realistically animated film and not cross the uncanny valley in the process. It is an amazing film, soon to be a series of 4 films.
Top Ten worthy films produced since Avatar? I can offer a few.
Ex Machina. Highly rated and very watchable, it explores the boundaries of what is or isn’t human better than any film I’ve seen on the subject. A film worth mentioning that is also in the vein of Ex Machina is Transcendence, one of those poorly received for no good reason films, consequently not a film that would make a top ten list.
Because commercial success figures into the calculation of what is or isn’t good, what is or isn’t preserved, what is or isn’t watchable by people who pick up the material to watch later. It was highly rated and it made a lot of money, it is also still a valuable experience to have, even though I don’t know who Luke is (figuratively, from the future) if you want to make lists that don’t make you sound like an idiot, you have to take all of those metrics into account. And since future prediction is something we humans suck at, most of our lists will be utterly worthless.
Take, for instance, Gravity. This is a fine film. Highly rated. Made lots of money. Probably won’t be remembered (my apologies to Sandra Bullock) because it deals with current technology and doesn’t do that really well, even though the cinematography is excellent an the acting is nearly faultless.
In the same vein the mainstays of current cinema, the sequel, the franchise, none of those films survive without the other films in the series, like the Saturday morning serials of old. Consequently no Star Wars, no Star Trek, no Mad Max, no Alien will go down in history as worthy of mention, unless the first in the series merits it, or there is established a place for serial media (like television) to be consumed in the order it was produced. This gives it context, gives it meaning it doesn’t contain by itself.
That is why Alien appears at number five in my old list, and Aliens at number 10, and those are the only sequelized films on the list. Because films that are part of another genre, that can’t hold their own alone, will not be remembered. This means most of the comic book movies will also not be on any lists, if we can call those Science Fiction and not Fantasy. That is an open question, so don’t dismiss it. If we’re talking fantasy films, that is a whole other ball of wax.
Blade Runner would also have to be on the list. It is iconic. Worth mentioning is Dark City a twisted little film with the same feel and a completely different storyline. Both of those border on fantasy, so I could see how they would be excluded from a hard SF list. That is, if anyone actually knew what hard SF was, could meet others who thought they knew and that group could then agree on what the term meant. I consider that likely to be a fantasy in and of itself.
As I go down that old list, I can discard several films as being temporarily relevant. Films like Serenity. I still love it, but I am reconciled with the show never returning now. I keep hoping the Firefly online game will release, but I’m beginning to suspect that is also not going to happen.
Vanilla Sky and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind really are hard to rewatch. The Truman Show is still watchable, but really not surprising in the current age of reality TV. You can easily see someone pretending not to be on camera, deluding themselves into thinking the illusion is real. Sadly, it is all too believable now. Truman not knowing he was on camera? That is hard to believe.
I think A.I. should still be on the list, but it may fall off soon. We are just now getting to the point where robots are real things, much less making them capable of passing for human. The singularity that futurists are still fascinated with is portrayed loosely in that film, making it still relevant. Once the robots are among us, there is no telling what will happen next.
The last film that I’ve seen that should probably be included in any top 10 list is The Martian. Worlds better than Red Planet or Mission to Mars(Hollywood is so incestuous) both of which I paid money to see (Red Planet is good fun, just not good science fiction) The Martian holds up to the most intense scrutiny of scientists (other than the storm at the beginning) making it the most solidly science based fiction film since 2001.
Worthy of mention is Interstellar. Almost a time travel story (almost!) it mixes science and fantasy and comes up with a decent little film exploring the near future and what we might be facing soon if we aren’t careful.
Which brings me to the last great film that Robin Williams was in before he died, the movie The Final Cut; the story of a man afraid to live his own life, so instead spends his time authoring the stories of other people’s lives.
The actual current list? I’m still working on that.
I thought every Stargate fan would have known this already; but I mentioned that there will be additional SG-1 stories released to video to a fellow fan the other day, and they hadn’t heard the news. I guess some people still have real lives they have to attend to.
So, if you haven’t heard, there are two Stargate movies due to be released straight to video, supposedly tying up loose ends left over after the SG-1 series finale.
First out will be Stargate: The Ark of Truth which is purported to be the end of the Ori story arc. While the story of the Ori is one of my least favorite story arcs, I would really like to see how they end this, so I’m looking forward seeing it even though it’s not about my favorite parts of the show.
The other straight to video release is called Stargate: Continuum. This film I’m really looking forward to. It features the return of Richard Dean Anderson as Major General Jack O’Neill (without a doubt my favorite character in the show) and some excellent footage filmed at the US Navy’s Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station in the Arctic, 200 nautical miles (370 km) north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. There’s a video clip on the MGM site that highlights the filming of these scenes (click here) there’s an Ark of Truth video in the gallery as well. Rumor is that this will be a time travel story featuring Baal attempting to reverse the successes of the Tau’ri by altering the past. I actually like time travel stories (even if they are done too often in SciFi) as long as they are internally consistent. Stargate’s track record on this is a bit spotty, but I’ll try to keep an open mind.
Got my SciFi update from About the other day, giving me the low-down on all the new shows coming out midseason. There seem to be a lot of them. I hope this trend continues, because I’m truly tired of the rerun hell that usually abounds on television after about February.
Top of the list is one I’m going to make a point to miss. The ads for Sarah Connor Chronicles have looked so lame that not even the appearance of Summer Glau in the series will be enough to get this Firefly fan to tune in. Not even for one episode. I actually don’t need to write anything else on the subject, because the new editor over at About SciFi pretty well sums it up with this:
Is there anything left to say about Sarah and John Connor? Apparently. Not only is a fourth movie coming, but now Sarah Connor, inserted after T2, with Sarah (British actress Lena Headey) and 15-year-old John (Thomas Dekker, from Heroes) on the run from both contemporary authorities and cyborgs from the future. Watch creator Josh Friedman try to create jeopardy for characters whose complete past and future we already know! Watch the urbane Headey evoke unslakable yearning for Linda Hamilton’s angry growl and big biceps! Watch a series designed to revive a moribund franchise turn out to be completely inessential!
Don’ t believe me about the ads? Here’s one. Wish I could find the one that set me off; it was full of action and explosions, just like this one, and ended with a comment about mom fixing dinner. Sorry, just can’t suspend disbelief that far; I don’t want to risk brain damage by hitting myself in the head that hard.
There’s a reason why none of the dystopia stories seems to translate well to series television (and even seems to break down in sequel films) and it has to do with maintaining tension in the story on a week to week basis, and keeping it believable at the same time. I predict that this series will be every bit as lame as the Planet of the Apes television series was, and just as short lived.
On the other hand, I see that Jericho is up for a second season, and now I’m kicking myself for not having taken the time to watch the first. Several friends (whose opinions I trust) told me I needed to check it out when it first aired. Now I’m on the fence about coming in mid-story. I might take the time.
I doubt it, though. What with Torchwood (which I watch just for the fun of it) Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who all coming out with new shows (not to mention Ghost Hunters, Ghost Whisperer and other shows that I follow with The Wife. The fact that we watch Ghost Whisperer, Moonlight and Numb3rs has us tuned in to CBS pretty much all night Friday. Thank goodness for the PVR or I wouldn’t get to watch Stargate Atlantis and 20/20 as well) There was so much to watch last year, that I started watching both Bionic Woman and Journeyman, and had to drop them for lack of time (not to mention I just couldn’t seem to get into the shows. That goes double for Chuck. I’m sorry Adam, I just can’t go there) I’m quite glad that Heroes seems to be done for the season; I was getting near to letting that one drop off my radar as well.
The About SciFi guide left LOST off the list (I guess it’s just not SciFi enough for them) That and Stargate Atlantis are the two shows I’m really looking forward to. I have no idea how they will maintain tension on LOST (which is sort of dystopic) either. After loosing their way in the second season, and going somewhere completely unexpected in the third, I don’t even want to hazard a guess about the rest of the series. I’m just hoping it ends as well as it began.
I have a confession to make. I generically despise television series that pimp themselves out to movie fans; production studios that try to milk a few more dollars out of a franchise (I even hate the word franchise when applied to entertainment properties) as if a cherished memory is nothing more than their cash cow to be milked at whim.
I liked M*A*S*H, watched it every time it came on for the entire length of it’s run. I didn’t know until later that it had been a film first (no theater in the home town) and after watching the film, it did make me think “Oh, that’s what they were trying for”. But I think it was the dismal failure of the Planet of the Apes television series that informed my decision to stay away from any series that attempted to copy a hit film.
When Stargate SG-1 was rolled out, I took one look at the ungainly plastic snake-heads that the antagonists wore, and just gave up on the whole series (not to mention that it was on a subscriber channel on cable TV. I don’t have money for pan-and-scan versions of feature films, either. Yes, I’m a film snob) and I would never have looked back.
Last year, a friend of mine was turning off her cable access so that she could save some money, and she asked me to dub the Stargate SG-1 episodes for the last half of season 10 so she could see them. She had been watching the show since it first aired on Showtime, and she was damned if she was going to miss the last few episodes. Having a lot of free time on my hands these days, I readily agreed to take an extra hour out of my day on SciFi Friday to dub the new episodes as they aired.
The first episode to air was going to be the second half of a two-parter, and SciFi ran a marathon before it that included the first half. So I set the DVR to record SG1 all day, and wandered in at some point to make sure that the recording was going off as planned…
…and I didn’t leave. I watched the entire marathon, and the new episodes. Even stayed to watch Stargate Atlantis afterwards. I kept wondering, how did the show get here, and how did it get to be so good…? So I started watching the earlier episodes as they aired at other times on Sciffy; but they don’t air them in any logical sequence, and I still couldn’t figure out the progression. When did the show get good?
I liked Atlantis, so I picked up a copy of season 1 on DVD; just 3 seasons, that’s easy enough to catch up on (and I pretty much have) but how did we get from plastic snake heads to exploring another galaxy? So I picked up some of the early seasons of SG-1, and continued to watch the hodge-podge of episodes that Sciffy chooses to air.
It was when I was explaining to my friend, as we were sitting in front of one of the re-runs, about how I had seen the episodes that started this particular story arc, and I had seen how it ended, but I had never seen the middle before; it was then that I realized that I was hooked on the show. Damn it all. From the quiet reserve of Teal’c, to the wisecracks of Jack O’Neill (two L’s) and his Atlantis doppleganger John Shepard, the chapa’ai has captured my attention.
“Then, it’s a teenage thing; pimples, rebellion, life-sucking.” -John Shepard
So, I’m watching yet another marathon, another one touted as being “The Best of” Stargate, and I can’t find it on Sciffy’s site, even though they’ve been advertising it all week.
These were the episodes (the numbers are from the Wiki entry):
If you look at the numbers, you can get a sense of what viewing order I’ve seen all 10 seasons in. All of them are very good, but I don’t know if I’d call them the Best. Window of Opportunity reminds me of Trouble with Tribbles, in that Tribbles is hands down the funniest (on purpose) of the classic Star Trek episodes, and it was voted the best as well. But I don’t agree that Tribbles is the best Star Trek episode. I don’t know if I’m even that interested in singling out one episode that would be my hands down favorite, of any series that I’ve ever watched.
As an example, of the episodes aired the two part Lost City would be my favorite; but even those two episodes don’t stand alone as well as they do book-ended with the episodes that precede them in the story arc, and the episodes that follow them in the next season. Window of Opportunity is funny precisely because we already know the characters involved well enough to appreciate the quandary they are in. Without the context of several seasons of familiarity, a good portion of the humor is lost.
Star Trek isn’t complete without Spock’s Brain as well as Trouble with Tribbles. The same is true of Stargate, apparently. At least classic Trek is easier to collect.
Another post with a mysterious amount of traffic; 6589 at this count. Has to be a webcrawler program setting it off, although it has scrolled off the most viewed list lately. This one at least makes sense, it is a post about a popular subject. Or was a popular subject not so long ago. You couldn’t get me to watch a show on syfy these days. When they canceled Stargate Universe(Season 1 & 2 links) while keeping wrestling in the lineup, I swore off ever watching that channel again.