Monday, September 23, 2013

reading three - key points

(in correspondence with Liquid Metal: The Science Fiction Film Reader edited and compiled by Sean Redmond)

one, Re-examining the 1950's Invasion Narratives, by Mark Jancovich (325-336)
  • "The system of scientific-technical rationality was impersonal, and it oppressed human feelings and emotions. It did not value individual qualities, but attempted to convert people into undifferentiated functionaries of the social whole, functionaries who did not think or act for themselves but were ordered and controlled from without by experts," (Jancovich, pg. 325).
  • "If the invaders are presented as natural, they are carefully distinguished from associations with 'human nature' may save us at times, but is also creates a world which we can no longer recognize, a world in which giant ants or man-eating plants threaten to overwhelm us," (Jancovich, pg. 325).
  • "...qualities such as emotion, feeling, intuition, interaction and imagination - qualities that are usually defined as femining and 'irrational' - that are identified as distinctly 'human,'" (Jancovich, pg. 326).
  • "...while the latter ...want to communicate with it. This latter goal is clearly presented as absurd within the film but, for Biskind, the film suggests that the scientists' real problem is not their use of reason, or even their attempt to consort with the enemy, but rather their refusal to accept the authority of the military, and by extension, the state," (Jancovich, pg. 328).
  • " The Thing from Another World, it is not the military personnel who are associated with the authority of the state, but the scientist ...the military heroes have little authority and even have to disobey orders to defeat the alien," (Jancovich, pg. 329).
  • "...The Thing from Another World dramatizes the conflict between these two modes of social organization. It suggests that in the latter system, people are merely objects to be used, and this situation is dramatized through the film's presentation of the alien as a kind of modernist vampire. It feeds on human blood which it also needs to reproduce itself as a species," (Jancovich, pg. 330).
  • "Carrington gives monologues and speeches in which he sets himself up as an authority who hands down information and orders to others ...he frequently withholds information in an attempt to control situations, and he shows little concern when this often endangers people ...the more he tries to understand the alien and to communicate with it, the more he findes himself unable to communicate with other humans" (Jancovich, pg. 331).
  • "For Klattu, human emotions have no foundation or validity, and it is only rational thought which has any positive value. The problems of human societies and their conflicts are simply dismissed as the product of these irrational emotions," (Jancovich, pg. 332).
  • "Klattu takes the role of Christ. He comes to Earth to save it from its follies; goes amongst the common people; is killed by human ignorance and intolerance,' and eventually rises again before delivering a message to the world and ascending to the heavens. He even takes the name Carpenter while on Earth. Klattu does tell Helen that his resurrection is only temporary and that only God can give back life once it has been taken, but this only further associates technology and science with the powers of God. They become powers to be worshiped and adored," (Jancovich, pg. 335).
  • "Klattu decides that instead of addressing the world's political leaders, he will address its scientists ...Politicains are associated with the defense of particular interests, while scientists are presented as objective and rational," (Jancovich, pg. 335).

week four - film reviews

Gojira (Godzilla), 1954, 98 minutes, Japan, Director Ishiro Honda
     There are several elements that are crucial to the understanding of the Japanese film, Gojira. The first to be examined is its correspondence to technology, and secondly, it’s reflection of the aftermath left behind after WWII. There’s a shift in the film, where the main objective from a technological stand point is the advancement of the sciences. When Gojira presents itself and the citizens realize that he is leaving traces of radioactivity behind, they immediately discard the idea of utilizing an atomic bomb against the monster. Instead, the community initially attacks it with the only other defense mechanism that they know – guns. With knowledge that they are deficient in technology, local scientists are looked upon for help. Serizawa is one character that should be highly noted in the fact that although he had accidentally come across a remedy, he makes it clear from the moment that Hideto Ogata learns of the substance that if utilized, it shall never be replicated. This is in fear that the substance may be used as a weapon, and by exposing it, Serizawa chose to burn all evidence of its creation and ultimately sacrifice himself from the public after its release so no answers can be pried from him by the media. Secondly, there’s a strong connection between the film and the emotions that lingered from WWII. At the time, the Japanese were getting back on their feet and reconstructing their country – both physically reconstructing the areas that experienced bombing, and emotionally with an attempt to boost the overall morale of the country. Many of these sensitive topics were integrated into the film, by their references to the atomic bomb, to characters referring to loved ones that were lost at war.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956, 80 minutes, USA, Director Don Seigel
     When considering the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, one of the first elements that resonated with me post-viewing was the theme of the film in correlation to last week’s reading. In the film, a viewer experiences the same elements that scenario two had brought forth:
1.      Suddenly, someone starts behaving strangely; or some innocent form of vegetation becomes monstrously enlarged and ambulatory.
2. short, conducting some sort of crude investigation - the hero tries to warn the local authorities, without effect...
3.      The advice of whoever further is consulted proves useless.
4.      Either the hero prepares to do battle alone, accidentally discovers the thing's one vulnerable point, and destroys it. Or, he somehow manages to get out of town and succeeds in laying his case before competent authorities.
Phase two is experienced at the beginning of the film, when the doctor is attempting to inform the city that resides on the outskirts of Santa Mira, but initially, they believe that he’s in need of psychiatric assistance. Phase one occurs soon after and can be compared to the “change” that the citizens of Santa Mira begin to observe of one another, that although the same physical being, there’s something different and less heartfelt about those around them. The third phase is first experienced by the psychiatrist when the Doctor interacts with him at the beginning of the film in the parking lot of a diner and he insists that this hysteria will blow over, and then is perpetuated throughout the film by all of the “transformed” individuals who attempt to reassure the Doctor that nothing is wrong and he should stop looking further into the “issue” at hand.  Lastly, phase four is carried out through the latter half of the film when the Doctor comes to realize what exactly is happening and he can no longer trust those around him. Though he attempts to destroy the pods that appear that are to be developed into him, he manages to escape town and inform the authorities in a surrounding community that initially thought he was insane, but come to realize everything he had stated was true. The film in it of itself follows the same guidelines of a typical black and white low budget film, but it manages to carry a sense of suspense throughout the work that keeps a viewer engaged, regardless if they’re familiar with this four-step film format or not.

Monday, September 16, 2013

reading two - key points

(in correspondence with Liquid Metal: The Science Fiction Film Reader edited and compiled by Sean Redmond)

one, Two - Science Fiction's Disaster Imagination by Sean Redmond
  • " fiction seems to be able to represent and reproduce the individual and collective fears, paranoias, and cultural and political transformations that exist in society," (Redmond, pg. 38).
  • "J.P. Telotte examines the significance of what he calls the 'doubling process' ... this 'alluring and potentially destructive' desire to reproduce oneself  'seems to promise a reduction of man to no more than artifice' but with nonetheless holds 'man' in its spell because of the promise of 'bringing us back to ourselves, making us at home with the self and the natural world in spite of ourselves,'" (Remond, pg. 39).
two, The Imagination of Disaster by Susan Sontag
  • Scenario 1, colour/wide screen, pg. 40:
    1. The arrival of the thing.
    2. Confirmation of the hero's report by a host of witnesses to a great act of destruction.
    3. In the capital of the country, conferences between scientists and the military take place, with the hero lecturing before a chart, map or blackboard. A national emergency is declared.
    4. Further atrocities. At some point, the hero's girlfriend is in grave danger. Massive counter-attacks by international forces...
    5. More conferences, whose motif is: 'They must be vulnerable to something.' Throughout the hero has been working in his lab to this end.
  • Scenario 2: black&white/low budget, pg. 40:
    1. Suddenly, someone starts behaving strangely; or some innocent form of vegetation becomes monstrously enlarged and ambulatory.
    2. short, conducting some sort of crude investigation - the hero tries to warn the local authorities, without effect...
    3. The advice of whoever further is consulted proves useless.
    4. Either the hero prepares to do battle alone, accidentally discovers the thing's one vulnerable point, and destroys it. Or, he somehow manages to get out of town and succeeds in laying his case before competent authorities.
  • "Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster... it is a matter of quantity and ingenuity. If you will, it is a question of scale," (Sontag, pg. 41).
  • "The standard message is the one about the proper, or humane, use of science, versus the mad, obsessional use..." (Sontag, pg. 43).
  • "Most of the science fiction films bear witness to this trauma, and, in a way, attempt to exorcise it. The accidental awakening of the super-destructive monster who has slept in the earth since prehistory is, often, an obvious metaphor for the Bomb ... [and] radiation causalities - ultimately, the conception of the whole world as a casualty of nuclear testing and nuclear warfare..." (Sontag, pg. 44).
  • "Science - technology - is conceived of as the great unifier. Thus the sicence fiction films also project a Utopian fantasy... In these societies reasonableness had achieved an unbreakable supremacy over the emotions," (Sontag, pg. 45).
  • Depersonalization:
    "For, again, there is a historically specifiable twist which intensifies the anxiety.  mean, the trauma suffered by everyone in the middle of the twentieth century when it became clear that, from now on to the end of human history, every person would spend his individual life under the threat not only of individual death, which is certain, but of something almost insupportable psychologically - collective in - cineration and extinction which could come at any time, virtually without warning," (Sontag, pg. 47).
  • "For we live under continual threat of two equally fearful, but seemingly opposed, destinies: unremitting banality and inconceivable terror... for one job that fantasy can do is to lift us out of the unbearably humdrum and to distract us from terrors - real or anticipated - by an escape into exotic, dangerous situations which have last-minute happy endings. But another of the things that fantasy can do is to normalize what is psychologically unbearable, thereby inuring us to it. In one case, fantasy beautifies the world. In the other, it neutralizes it," (Sontag, pg. 47).

week three - film reviews

Things to Come, 1936, 97 minutes, Great Britain, Director William Cameron Menzies
     When considering H.G. Wells’ Things to Come, one cannot help but to observe the underlying themes that begin to unravel and present themselves throughout the film. The first is the recognition of how impactful and influential technology can be when exploited to a society. In most cases, when a technological advancement is made, you see communities adapt to the new development and, as a whole, continue to move forward in research. In the film, there’s a fear of the unknown within the city-state of Everytown, where a complete rejection for technological advancements is implemented and the community as a whole reverts to a way of life without the materials of a mechanized world, such as planes, gas, et cetera. This of course was part in parcel to the position Everytown was left in post-war and post-epidemic, as well as an example of how in times of war, there’s a shift in priorities, but it was nonetheless a choice. Upon being faced with conflict from an outlying territory, you begin to see a parallel to reality, in particular to World War II. At a point in the film, the viewer begins to see a development of an arms race, where both societies are attempting to build a more efficient aircraft. With the exterior community having continued their research, whereas Everytown had yielded their own, it’s evident which of the societies has a stronger sense of knowledge and resources, and in turn, which society would be the successor of the city. Secondary to the arms race, is the aftermath. Upon Everytown being overtaken by an outside community, there’s a shift within society as a whole; there’s a sense of prosperity and equilibrium from one location to the next. This is an unrealistic expectation of our world today, but it makes sense in the case of the film due to a hard-headed leader being extracted from his authority (the chief of Everytown) and being replaced by an authority that oversees a larger community elsewhere. In a sense, you can see how both societies are on the same sheet of music, causing less conflicts within themselves and a unanimous vision for the future.

The Atomic Café, 1982, 86 minutes, United States, Directors Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, and Pierce Rafferty

    Upon being exposed to the documentary The Atomic Café, the film can be analyzed from two outlooks – the film as concrete fact and depictions of the cold war era, or the manner the film was portrayed. When considering the film for what it is – a documentary – it’s successful in its actual depictions of what occurred around the 1950s; with the visual representation of the film being speeches from world leaders, the aftermath of bombs on a “virgin” city, or physical copies of newspaper articles, there’s a stronger sense of the film being real, as opposed to a farfetched, exaggerated interpretation of events that had taken place. Although some scenes were difficult to view and understand, a sense of black humor is integrated to almost make the heavy material tolerable. In a sense, that relationship between truth and wit can almost translate directly over to the way that we are relayed information – whether it be in the 1950s, 1980s, or now. There’s a relationship between how things are scientifically defined and understood, to the way that that same information is regurgitated and commercialized to the community. There’s a sense of sugarcoating, where what is actually occurring or yet to occur is much more devastating than what is anticipated. Throughout the film, there’s a glorification of the hydrogen bomb, where citizens of the United States have this dream-like perception of what it has the ability to do, because it’s placed on a pedestal and develops into a scare tactic to threatening countries. It’s evident in the conversations that are held around the dinner table, the exercises that are held in the class room, as well as the interviews that occur on the streets with everyday people. With all of this said and done, when considering the target audience of the film in the 1980s, the revival of the 1950s almost served as an opportunity for Americans to see the countries past and how the country was able to maintain a high level of morale and passion through times of war.