Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Light Recycle

I saw the preview for Tron Legacy. It looks neat, and gave me the slightest shiver of anticipation, but I've learned to squelch my hopes in these matters. In any case, it made me want to watch the original again, so I did.
I saw Tron in the theater when it was released, and I am still reeling a bit from realizing that that was 28 years ago. This movie is still fun to watch, and very pretty. Obviously, the animation will seem outdated at first, but once you give it a minute, you'll stop comparing and get into it. The computer animation, along with rotoscoping and other lighting and coloring techniques, all of which were cutting edge at the time, make for a movie that is still visually brilliant and absorbing. Ebert gave this movie four stars when it came out, mainly for the visual effects.
Tron is criticized for being light on plot and character development, and it is. But there's enough story and suspense to string together this eye candy necklace, and it's fun to see the young Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner in action. Also, there are ideas about deity incarnation and avatars in there - pretty cool!
Furthermore, now that it's 28 years old, the movie is also interesting as an artifact of the [then] young computer and video game culture.
Interesting lil' side note: According to Wiki, the Motion Picture Academy refused to nominate Tron for special effects because the creators "cheated" by using computers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Qapla' petaQ!

I know, I know. That title is not a sentence you’d hear often in Klingon, as it seems a little contradictory. But According to IMDB, some Trek fans claim that the insult is derived from the name of Michael Pataki, the character actor who played a Klingon on the original Star Trek series. Specifically, he’s the guy named Korax who started the bar brawl in The Trouble with Tribbles by goading Scotty into throwing the first punch. In the scene, Scotty, as the ranking officer in the bar, urges other officers to remain calm as Korax roundly ridicules the Captain Kirk and the crew, but when the Klingon insults the Enterprise itself, Scotty stands up and slugs him. That was just going too far.

Pataki was a well-respected character actor who, during a long career, played parts on stage and in over 150 movies and TV shows. He died of cancer on April 15 at the age of 72.

Monday, April 26, 2010

'Tis a gift to be simple

We love post-apocalyptic scenarios. I think the reason is that we’re drowning in a sea of gadgets and information, and sometimes we’d just like it to all go away.

In an interview with Conan O’Brien last year, Louis CK jokes about how “Everything is amazing and nobody’s happy.” His routine, which went viral, is hilarious because we see the truth in it. Referring to the possibility of total economic collapse, he says, “…maybe we need that; maybe we need some time where we’re walking around with a donkey with pots clanging on the sides.”

I recently saw Book of Eli. It was a lot of fun, with some cool photography and symbolism to boot, and the setting reminded me a lot of the Mad Max movies. There are countless examples of books and movies taking place in a world that has been ravaged by war, disease, environmental collapse, or the total failure (or rebellion) of computers and electronics. In these stories, the unpleasantness is often glossed over – the crisis is just the vehicle to get us to a world that is familiar, but simpler than our own and full of adventure. After all, who wouldn’t like to camp in the desert with a nice fire, especially if your ancient iPod still works?

But really, I want modern medicine when I get sick, and I want a cell phone when my car breaks down. I want my kids to be safe and healthy, and technology can help, a lot. I geek out when I ask my phone (as in, with my actual voice) for a pizza place near my hotel, and it pulls up a map and a phone number. I love watching post-apocalyptic movies on my decidedly pre-apocalyptic high-def TV. Screw the good old days!

I think what really attracts me to fanciful settings is the combination of simple pleasures and adventure – and the lack of clutter and trivia. The cozy scene by the fire at the inn is as fun to read as the fight with the dragon. Even in most futuristic sci-fi, day-to-day life is often uncluttered. The folks aboard the Enterprise are not worried about answering email or finding their laptop cable. They are getting into scrapes on a wild planet or playing chess in the officer’s mess. They are laughing it up with friends in the ship’s lounge, not updating their Facebook status.

I find I need to make a conscious effort to occasionally unplug and sit by a fire, under the stars, with my cell phone turned off. Or at least set to vibrate. Then again, Google Sky Map could tell me what that constellation is…

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Long-lived and prosperous

This week are the birthdays of William Shatner (March 22) and Leonard Nimoy (March 26). Yes, Kirk and Spock were born within a week of each other in 1931, making them 79 this year. Wow. They both continue to work and create. They seem to have a lot of energy and show no signs of slowing down. Fascinating! These guys are a real inspiration.

This photo is all over the Internet, but I'm sure it's copyright Paramount.