Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Invasion

Nicole Kidman is very pretty and certainly talented, but I think I like her mostly because she was in a Kubrick film. That always rates special appreciation for me. Then again I'd give Slim Pickens a foot massage for the same reason.

I'll give Kidman this, she's a whole person in this movie. And that makes her completely unlike the split personality, spineless panderer portrayed by Jodie Foster in Contact. I think Foster's a fine actor, too. The fault in Contact lay in its writing and direction...

The use of all that current news footage of Bush, Iraq and whatnot in The Invasion didn't bother me nearly as much as the use of President Clinton in Contact. There's a huge difference between a relevant real life addition and a gimmick. The moment Zemeckis saw real-life Clinton's Mars microbe news conference he just had to have it in his movie. Don't bother asking whether it actually enhances the story! Who cares? It's newsworthy. It steals importance, and lends credibility through association with some other important event. Use it!

The Invasion added a suitable, current events background that enhanced the story. This is global invasion after all. We need a sense of the before and after. The use of current media creates a viable alternative history within the film. In Contact, Clinton is more like a sight gag, or an inside joke. Wink wink. It's just so much Gump.

I do wish this movie had taken the time to slow down a little. They started out fast, and that's fine. But I needed more breaks, a little more emotional closeness between the principles. The dinner table conversation foreshadowing the conflict felt very fresh and smart. It definitely helped the ending and the film as a whole. But I think the period right before Dr. Bennell pulls the trigger should have been longer, more reflective. The entire movie was logistically set up for that scene, but it felt too rushed to me. More emphasis was placed on the following chase scene. A proper rest will always naturally enhance a crescendo. It just didn't have quite the emotional climax I needed.

I have an idea. In the final chase scene Bennell could have plowed through a city block long mob of changelings. It would have been a better contrast to the lone woman in the tunnel and would have emphasized her cross-over to the darker side of raw animal instinct. It could have been an admission of guilt, as it were.

And please, more Law&Order, and less CSI. If they'd left those stupidass red corpuscle close-ups out I might have been happier with the happy ending. Maybe include a track without the showoffy CG blood vessel crap on the DVD release?

The Invasion did get under my skin a little. I found myself looking over my shoulder even more than usual on the walk home last night. And my natural facial resting state has never been so stoic.

And regarding the dismay I hear on those horrible, vapid morning talk shows over how serious it is... it's serious... it is. It's the serious, smart side of scifi. What's your problem? You mentally retarded, fucking hairdos on 'Good Morning Ameriduh' didn't complain about the much darker 28 Weeks Later being 'too serious' for a summer flick. Did ya? Huh? No!

Think of this movie as summer school. OK, bad example.

Try this: go see Transformers, then turn your brain back on and see The Invasion. Then go home, drink a six-pack and take a dip in the pool to get you back in summer vacation mode.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I got one fairly decent, low-res photo out of last nights light show.


We had a great view of the lunar eclipse from Denver this morning.

It was raining
around eleven when I walked home from work, thinking I might miss it. But the night turned out cool and clear a few hours later, just in time for the show. I even woke up without an alarm. I got out my camera and snapped a few pictures.

After totality there wasn't much to do but wait for the moon to reemerge, so I opened Photoshop and started playing. Thinking
earth might look even more bazaar than the moon during a total eclipse I imagined this series of pictures.

Ambient light during such an event is the name of the game. The earth is much larger than the moon, and so will completely obscure the sun. I think the solar corona would also be blotted out if one were dead center of the shadow, but I'm not sure.

I think the most interesting feature would be a bright ring caused by the bending of sunlight through our thick, movable feast of an atmosphere, into the shadow zone. Unlike the rough, airless horizon of the moon the atmospheric ring around earth would be like a smooth reddish halo.

During such an eclipse one could observe
every sunrise and every sunset on our tiny little planet, simultaneously.

I think the stars and city lights might still be visible, depending on the relative brightness of the ring.
And the background stars might be very bright as well, or not. I've never been shot into space, so I don't know.

I modeled this fake picture, minus the rings, after this amazing photograph
taken by our collective robot, the Cassini space probe, in the shadow of Saturn.

As the sun reemerges, a 'diamond ring,' similar to that seen during a solar eclipse on Earth, would appear.

The solar corona would rise first...

...followed by the ultra-bright disk of the Sun.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Contact Movie Review: Ten Years...

It has been ten years now since Carl Sagan’s death and the release of the movie Contact, and I remain unhappy about both.

It's some kind of Greek tragedy that Sagan died right before his message was about to reach the largest possible audience. But worse is that the message itself was distorted, diluted and made minor.

I first became aware of Dr. Sagan on public television, Channel 39 in Fort Wayne, Indiana; that weird science/puppet show channel from beyond the moon. I loved the way his multi layered teaching style put physical science into historical and social context. Before Sagan, at least on television,
the stars were separate from the earth; removed from everyday life. But after Sagan everything got connected and became interrelated in the most intimate way. In the very first episode of Cosmos, in contrast to our usual earth-centric way of thinking, he starts his cosmic journey not down here, but out there, at the edge of the universe. He better showed us our place in the scheme of things by putting us between immensity and eternity, and then showed exactly what those limits ought to mean to us.

Sagan opened my eyes to a much larger world, and changed me for the better. We need people like him to appear among us poor dumb apes more often. And as an atheist I will say this much 'for Carl'… In Cosmos, Carl Sagan elevated my soul.

That said… There is something seriously wrong with this movie.

I watched a few episodes of Cosmos again the other day and was amazed how relevant it remains, nearly thirty years after it’s initial release. But I am sorry to say that Contact has not improved with age. In fact it is now painfully dated.

The most glaring absence for me is of course the wonderful book ending where Ellie finds
, hiding in the infinite permutations of pi, scientific proof that there is an intelligence which predates the universe. This proof is represented as a simple, elegant signature, a circle of ones written out on a field of zeros. It is an unambiguous sign that on some higher level our universe is somebody else's construct.

The key to this fine film that never was lay in the last chapter of the novel.

For this reason I have entitled my blog... The Artist’s Signature