26 May, 2007

My top five sci-fi movies

Here's a list of what I perceive as the best science fiction movies around. These movies are classics in terms of film and science fiction. Of course, you may notice some notable films that didn't make the list, such as Star Wars. I really love Star Wars, but that's more of a fantasy movies and as far as films go it just ain't that good.

Firstly, some notable mentions (coincidently both films have "run" in the title):
  • Silent Running - (1972) - A sad movie, with a commentary on the state of the environment and our perceptions towards it. Stars Bruce Dern and is directed by Douglas Trumbull.
  • Blade Runner - (1982) - A good movie, a prototypical cyberpunk film. I'm a sucker for a good cyberpunk. Directed by Ridley Scott, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Stars Harrison Ford in probably his best role.
So here's the list, starting at 5 and finishing at the Number 1 film:

5 - Fantastic Planet (1973)

An animated film which from the seventies. Sure the animation isn't that good, and sure it may seem a little dated, but the immense fantasy of the world and the artwork makes up for any short-comings. The story tells of a race of creatures called Oms who live an existence as pets for the giant Draags. This film is really a story of role-reversal, what if Humans became subservient to another gigantic species. The Draags have a completely different culture from the Oms, so they assume that any semblance of intelligence is just a "cute-thing" that the creature is doing. This film is important from a social/behavioural/cultural viewpoint. Particularly as the Oms have been dispossessed from their original home world, Terra.

It is originally a French film entitled, La Planète sauvage and was created by René Laloux.

4 - Dune (1984)

This film is epic in scope, has a solid story base, strong visuals and an evocative film score. A pity that it was poorly executed, and is one of the weakest films in this list. The biggest problem is trying to create a filmic version of an epic novel. It is based on a story by Frank Herbert (who novel could be argued as a philosophical thesis) and was directed by David Lynch. It tells the story of Paul "Maud'Dib" Atreides, heir to the Atreides throne. It is set on the planet, Dune, also known as Arrakis, a desert planet. This planet is home to the Fremen, an indigenous people who believe that Arrakis was created by God "to train the faithful". The harsh conditions enabled the Fremen to be superior warriors to fight an evil empire. (That's why we must keep an eye on the "insurgency" in Iraq, perhaps the Coalition of the Willing has created circumstances where the "faithful" can be trained). I'm only scratching the surface with this rough outline, there is a struggle, mysticism, religion, and ecology, just to name a few. It is easy to see that David Lynch may have been out of his depth in making this film. It is hard to visualise "plans within plans" and "schemes within schemes". The score by composer Brian Eno and 80's has-been group Toto gets an honourable mention. The main theme/overture is very memorable.

An early 70's film was going to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (who has been quite influential in this list) with art from H.R. Giger (see the next film). Trom what has been released of the pre-production work, although it would have been a huge departure from the Novels, would have been quite an interesting experience. His ideas later developed into his comic book stories, The Incal, The Metabarons, and The Technopriests.

3 - Alien (1979)

This star of this film and its follow-ups is not Sigourney Weaver. It is the monster created by H.R. Giger. An almost humanoid creature that shows no emotion, but is extremely intelligent. It is a reflection of the darkness of people, both physically and in the way in which we act. We are vicious in achieving our goals and would hurt our peers for our aims. This alien is dark, evil, nasty creature with the some-what human face. The best films of this series are the first film and last film, Alien Resurrection, where the fine line between the monster and humans is blurred and we are left thinking about who is the greater monster. This movie is an important reflection on the darkness of our species.

It was filmed by Ridley Scott, who I regard as one of the best directors around.

2 - The Fifth Element (1997)

This film is sort of a easy going, light-hearted adventure. It was directed by Luc Besson. It doesn't take itself too seriously. What makes this movie so good is the quality of it and the world that was created. I really enjoy the diversity in the scope of the world. A lot of this film has been influenced by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius. Overall, this film is really an enjoyable experience, both visually and in terms of audio. Diva Plavalaguna? A stand-out point of the movie!

1 - 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Ok, this Arthur C. Clarke storied, Stanley Kubrick directed film. It is a monolith as far as sci-fi films go. It involves a huge epic story line, and huge questions. Where do we come from? What does it all mean? It deals with the Savage ape theory (I don't really agree with this theory), exo-genesis, evolution and lots of other things. It really is quite a remarkable film. It combines very effective visuals with an immense storyline.

So here's an open discussion, what do other people put in their own top five?

24 May, 2007

Truth? That's bullshit!

Why is it that when there is a contradiction, there is instantly an idea that one must be true and one must be wrong? Let us take, for instance, the conflict between science and religion, namely the debate over whether evolution or intelligent-design(creationism) should be taught in children.

You have one side arguing that life on Earth derives from a process called evolution, which was developed by Charles Darwin (simultaneously with Alfred Russell Wallace1). On the other side you have people arguing that life shows "intelligent" design to it, meaning that there was an "intelligent" designer behind the creation of life. There is a contradiction here. One side says it was a natural process, ape-ancestor to man. The other side says, man, designed by an intelligence. The very nature of our society is to interpret this as there is one person being wrong, and one must be wrong, because there can only be one truth. Only one interpretation of the truth2.

So I argue that this is where most conflict is derived from. There is the idea that there is only one truth to all matters. But looking at the world, we are consistently faced with contradictions and are easily able to deal with both truths:

  • We know3 that scientifically it is impossible for a woman to get pregnant without there being two gametes to complete a fertilization developing into a zygote. However, 2 billion of us believe that it has happened, and yet we can live perfectly fine with this contradiction of two "truths". (This example came from Annie Ross)
  • It is often that we exemplify our beliefs and its truthfulness from the very fact that our faith is strong. In the same stroke, however, we argue that others' beliefs are not true even though they would argue that they have the same strength of faith. It is a contradiction that we all readily live with. (Reference to the closing scene of God on My Side - Andrew Denton)

1 Everyone seems to forget poor little Alfred Russell Wallace. This dude developed the Wallace Line. He was a pretty smart cookie.
2 I understand the irony of me talking about the "wrongness" of there being only one truth and the one truth is that there are possibly many, contradictory truths. It hurts my head too.
3 An interesting side note, the word know in Ancient Greek is οίδα which in Modern Greek directly translates into the word for "I have seen". One could argue that the idea of truth as being something that one has seen. Effectively, most of western epistemology derives from Ancient Greek philosophy.

Some little points that are related to this topic that I haven't dealt with here, but I may talk about later: Post-modernism versus modernism; Lewis Binford (that's for all you archaeology people out there!); Processualism and post-processualism (again, archaeology bums!); cultural relativism; epistomology

Welcome to my blog.

A bunch of people I know have their own blogs. So I followed the masses and started making this. I've also had a bunch of ideas that I wanted to write about and I haven't had a good outlet for those ideas. So basically, this place will come to function as the place where I dump all my writings and musings about the world.

Posts will probably be quite sporadic. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will be able to post with increasing regularity.