In a recent post we talked about Dr. Stephen Hawking’s concerns that we may encounter unfriendly aliens, and the idea that we don’t even want no stinking alien contact around our earth. I disagreed and to my surprise cannot find nearly enough support for what I think is an obvious notion – superintelligences are very likely to be friends not foes, or at least will just ignore us because we are, well, pretty unimpressive by the likely standards of the probably millions of intelligent species likely to be all over the place in our spectacularly large known universe.
Horatiox suggested I may be biased by what he suggests is a “cute alien” Hollywood standard to come to my conclusion so I thought it would be fun to look at the top 20 Sci Fi movies from IMDB and see what kinds of Aliens appear in those.
||Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back(1980)
||Star Wars (1977)
||The Matrix (1999)
||Iron Man 2 (2010)
||Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
||A Clockwork Orange (1971)
||2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
||Back to the Future (1985)
||Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
||Blade Runner (1982)
||District 9 (2009)
||The War Game (1965)
||Donnie Darko (2001)
||Ivan Vasilevich menyaet professiyu (1973)
||The Thing (1982)
Well, I’d hoped to make a stronger case that Hollywood aliens are mean, but it’s looking like you could make either case from these films. Star Wars bad guys vs Star Wars cute nice guys, Terminator bad vs Wall E good, etc. I think Hollywood is all over the place on this though I guess Horatiox could point to AVATAR and note how cute they are and how mean the humans are.
Watching Slumdog Millionaire scoop up Oscars tonight is more than a sign that this is a great film. I’d suggest it’s also a sign that the world is getting smaller and flatter and that brilliant, talented folks don’t all come from the USA. Although this film is a British more than Indian production, the appeal is thanks in large part to a rising India.
Of course we all have known for some time that there are millions and millions of talented folks from nations all over the world, but the lesson of Slumdog’s Oscar success is that we’ll be seeing a lot more of that Talent in a lot more venues a lot more often.
The Slumdog phenomenon is ‘in your face’ globalization, and its importance is significant. We’ve enjoyed
great success and prosperity in the USA much to the envy and sometimes the anger of other parts of the world. We’ve shared some stuff and hogged other stuff, but the new rules of a global economy have equalized much of the playing field – flattened the earth as Tom Friedman suggests in his book “The Earth is Flat”.
We’ll be reeling for some time from the negative economic forces created as tens of millions played the paper wealth game while the government fiddled and Wall Street schemed to cash in on the folly of a massive housing bubble. Yet this is likely to pale in comparison to the massive global changes sweeping over us at every turn. These changes are unstoppable and mostly positive if you believe in fair chances for everybody.
The overwhelming success of Slumdog Millionaire isn’t just telling us that the Indian themes and talent in the film industry are rising, its telling us that the whole developing world is rising up to match – and sometimes exceed – the remarkable history of American accomplishment and prosperity.
In this increasingly globalized world it’s not longer enough just to copy and expand on former great ideas – we all need to look for the best ways for *everybody* to be run faster, jump higher, and be smarter and more productive than ever before.
But before that I’m going to finish watching the Oscars…
Although it’s probably a transitional mode of movie distribution until streaming becomes the preferred mode – probably in 3-4 years, Redbox really puts conventional movie stores to shame when you want a popular title.
The friendly big movie boxes are located at heavy traffic stores like Wal Mart, and offer popular titles (as well as a limited selection of older films) at only $1. The combination of a very intuitive and simple touchscreen interface, credit card scan, networking and the “robotics” of the Redbox are impressive to me. The entire system seems well designed to eliminate the challenges that face other touch systems – clunky navigation and printer problems. No printer problems at RedBox because they don’t use one – instead you are emailed both when you rent and when you return.
Another innovative solution is to avoid the frustrating and usurous “late fees” by simply charging a dollar a day – the standard low rental rate – until 25 days after which you own the movie. This is an approach likely to get some revenues from movie sales and avoid pissing off customers who forget or keep the film for a few extra days. I’d guess the optimal “you’ve bought it” number is lower than this – probably about $12 or so – but to know that you’d have to have information such as the cost to replenish titles in the machines, cost of lost revenue before titles are replenished, etc. I’m assuming that RedBox’ largest long term cost is the human interaction needed to maintain and load the machines.
———- Return receipts are emailed immediately ——-
Your copy of “Cloverfield” was successfully returned on 7/11/2008 11:30 AM.
Your return was on time. You will receive a receipt via email when we process your account.
Thanks for using Redbox!
||Wal-Mart (view inventory here)
300 W Valley View Rd
Talent, OR 97540-9629
||7/10/2008 1:16 PM
||7/11/2008 9:00 PM
||7/11/2008 11:30 AM
DVD rentals cost only $1.00 + tax until 9:00 PM the next evening, then $1.00 + tax for each night thereafter. After 25 days, rental charges will cease and the DVD is yours to keep.
I’m not sure if I enjoyed this documentary so much because it was great or just because I’m very familiar with the internet bubble, startup themes, and the complications of getting up and going with a large internet project.
I found Startup.com fascinating, touching, and tragic. The true life documentary, condensed brilliantly from some 400 hours of footage, follows childhood pals Tom and Khalial as they conceptualize and build a site for government business interactions called GovWorks.com, raise 60 million dollars in Venture Capital, and then preside over the collapse of the company, friendly relationships, and more.
A little more research reveals why this is so good. It’s by Jhane Noujaim, one of the world’s most brilliant documentary filmmakers. She made “Control Room” about spin before and as the Iraq War began, and she’s the winner of the prestigious TED Prize in 2006.
Jehane Noujaim at the Internet Movie Database
Official Control Room website
Jehane Noujaim’s 26 min TEDPrize Talk at TED Conference (2006) Monterey, CA.
Control Room at the Internet Movie Database
Metacritic – Control Room review collection
Rotten Tomatoes – Control Room review collection
Open Directory Project – Control Room directory category
This superb legal drama was one of the best films of the year with George Clooney in excellent form as the “fixer” for a large legal firm handling a massive and complex liability case. Clayton’s friend, a manic depressive in charge of the case, is brilliantly played by Tom Wilkinson. Fast paced, rich dialog makes this a joy to watch as the plot unravels and Clayton faces his greatest personal challenge.
This finely crafted film has been judged by many to be a masterpiece, but I think this over-rating is simply because it offers a “different” approach to the genre – something critics who have seen far too many films enjoy a lot more than they should. No Country for Old Men is another quirky vision of America from the Coen Brothers. It’s a grim, gray, and violent vision of the Western landscape. Mostly centered on a psychopathic murdering rampage by a the seemingly indestructible Anton Chigurh, the film’s characters stand as stark metaphors for various features of humanity.
I read Roger Ebert’s glowing review and still don’t see why he loved the film so much, but clearly I’m in something of a minority to suggest that a film like 3:10 to Yuma is a better movie in both style and treatment of the theme of morality, violence, and moral ambiguity.
This beautiful and clever film takes a fanciful “alternative history” of Napoleon’s imprisonment on the island of St. Helene, following a conspiracy to replace him on the throne by trading places with a commoner who looks like Napoleon. Ian Holm is magnificent in one of his best roles, Iben Hjejle is radiant as Napoleon’s thoughful and down to earth love interest. This film uses several very clever, subtle film allusions to add depth and humor to a complex storyline. The Emperor’s New Clothes is a great story and a joy to watch.
Note – this 2001 film is not a remake of film by same name about a Roman Emperor. Have not seen that one.
This excellent film chronicles the life and cultural journey of an American Indian family from their roots in Calcutta to the American “dream” with its quirky and affluent complications. Kal Penn and Tabu are marvelous as Indian mother in America and American son of India.
The film does a fantastic job of transitioning almost seamlessly between two very different cultures, and offers insights into the deep history of Indian tradition and family values. A great movie for anybody with an interest in other cultures.
Beowulf has some simply remarkable animation sequences, especially those showing the title character. I need to study up to see how they transition between the real people and the CGI computerized animations, but in the best scenes it is difficult to tell the actor from the animation. In general though the film appears as animation, which makes it a bit harder to suspend your disbelief. The quality is high enough however that one wonders how long it will be before we can’t tell real characters from animated ones.
The poem Beowulf is one of the oldest surviving stories in the English language. Unfortunately the film takes too many liberties with the actual story, though I suppose Zemeckis could argue that in some storytelling traditions it’s normal to embellish and change things with each telling.
He appears to have embellished to bring more nude Angelina Jolie scenes into the film since in the real Beowulf poem Grendel’s mother is killed rather than … bedded.
Here’s a great summary of Beowulf, the epic poem.
You don’t want to miss this excellent western, filmed and acted much in the tradition of the old westerns but with some exceptional scenes that would leave even John Huston in awe of the filming technique. 3:10 is a complicated exploration of the two key characters – a sociopathic robber / gunslinger and a mildly disabled civil war farmer, played brilliantly by Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. The film is set in Arizona but was filmed in New Mexico and on sound stages. The film is set in an early, post civil war Arizona. Bale and Crowe cross paths and wits dramatically in this western action morality play. I felt that some of the action was unneccesary to the plot though this is a film where the violence is part of the story, and the chase scene in the train tunnels was a stunning example of bringing the exitement of an old western to a modern audience.
New York Times Movie Reviews are now available online. Fantastic. Thanks, Dave Winer, for pointing this out.