week eight - film reviews [and] reading seven - key points
Blade Runner - The Final Cut, 2007 (1982), 177 minutes, USA, Director Ridley Scott
One of the prevalent considerations amongst the characters of the 2007 cut of Blade Runner is the manner in which a being can be identified as a replicant or not. With memories implanted, it’s interesting to see the manner in which replicants carry themselves and respond to moral based scenarios, as tested by blade runners. As sophisticated as Rachael is as a replicant, it’s an interesting thought that she may not only be the only indistinguishable replicant in existence. After viewing the film, there’s an interesting following of the film that has come to believe that Rick Deckard is indeed a replicant as well. The character is very stoic throughout the film, and although this may be a result of the manner of his profession, it almost gives off an anti-personal presence as well, similar to those of a replicant. Additionally, he develops a strong connection with Rachael that outweighs his relationships with other humans, which could solely be on the basis of lust, but more interestingly could be a recognition that he himself understands the feeling of recognizing that you are not real and have a minimalized existence harvested on someone else’s thoughts. Additionally, Deckard is threatened into taking the position of blade runner up by his former employer. The threats that Harry Bryant articulates are extremely brief and hold a series of personal references as well, but the threat level could be the fear of actual “retirement” if Deckard truly is a replicant himself.
Total Recall, 1990, 113 minutes, USA, Director Paul Verhoeven
When viewing the 1990 film, Total Recall, one of the prevailing concepts of the film is its ability to mask the integrity of its characters and create a world inside of a world. The film does not present the storyline blatantly, but layers begin to shed as a viewer progresses through the film. Quaid, the protagonist of the work, is placed in a state of nostalgia, where he is lacking an ability to, "[engage] with 'real history'. He therefore finds a fundamental 'incompatibility of a postmodernist nostalgia and language with genuine historicity,'" (Landsberg, pg. 240). This sense of nostalgia presents itself on a number of accounts as Quaid attempts to discover his real past, which a viewer learns has already been manipulated a number of years previous to the start of the film. This concept is continually visited throughout the film—a longing for something that cannot be articulated because there is an uncertainty as to what the desire is. This concept also poses the concern that the individuals living in this not-so-far-off futuristic society are living in a state of constant fear, as they are unable to distinguish the difference between real and artificial memories, whether within themselves or those around them.
one, Prosthetic Memory: Total Recall and Blade Runner by Alison Landsberg
- "By prosthetic memories I mean memories which do not come from a person's lived experience in any strict sense. These are implanted memories, and the unsettled boundaries between real and simulated ones are frequently accompanied by another disruption: of the human body, its flesh, its subjective autonomy, its difference from both the animal and the technological," (Landsberg, pg. 239).
- "Nostalgia instead of engaging with 'real history'. He therefore finds a fundamental 'incompatibility of a postmodernist nostalgia and language with genuine historicity,'" (Landsberg, pg. 240).
week nine - film reviews [and] reading eight - key points
Ender's Game, 2013, 114 minutes, USA, Director Gavin Hood
Upon viewing the 2013 book-to-film adaptation of Ender’s Game in theaters, what lingered with me was how physically disassociated, but virtually engaged the characters were. Although a “war” has been acknowledged and the objective of each student’s training is to prepare them to command as an officer, there’s a disconnection between the commander and their fleet. The definition of war is, "a coherent sequence of conflicts, involving physical combats between large organized groups of people that include the armed forces of at least one State, which aim to exercise political and economic control over a given territory," (Suvin, pg. 116). Meanwhile, the conflicts of the film are viewed by their commanders in the manner of a game, whether they know what they’re participating in is a simulation or not. Throughout the film, Ender’s participation with virtual games carries more weight than those of physicality. What remains with him as he progresses through school are the scenarios that are placed before him on his personalized computer or class simulations, as opposed to the physical games that each detachment is required to participate in. Though features of these games, such as that of the mouse and poison, are dictated by the player’s emotional state and are not programmed, they leave a larger mark on the character. With minimal physical activity and conflict throughout the film, it places a viewer in an interesting disposition as this is the very opposite of warfare in the world that we coexist with. It also sheds light on the impact that virtual reality (represented by video games) can leave on today’s younger population, as there’s a clearer slate to embed strategy and purpose within.
Starship Troopers, 1997, 119 minutes, Director Paul Verhoeven
After viewing the 1997 film Starship Troopers, there’s an unsettling but prideful impression left upon a viewer. Although the film identifies two different species that are in opposition of one another, it does not leave a viewer with a definite resolution. The film displays that the battle has come to an end and there’s a better understanding of the enemies strategy and thought process, but it only brings a viewer to the end of the campaign and the placement of each main character within the military force. This implication leaves a viewer curious as to what the outcomes of proceeding events may have been —whether all of their hard work was successful or for not —and an uneasiness in not knowing the end result. Although a discomfort in the unknown is provided, it allows a viewer the opportunity to dissect and explore the work in mediums such as fan-fictions. This investigation allows for the viewer to create an ending that will satisfy the meaning in the film that they desire, meanwhile preventing the feeling of being cheated from the work. Additionally, war is rather probable and a single campaign can be highly influential to the overall picture of combat, so this method would also allow for viewers to explore different scenarios. Whether a viewer decides to interpret the work as it is or continue to explore it on an individual basis, one thing is certain—the characters that propel the film forward represent a wide range of personalities, which lead to a large pool of individuals for viewers to identify with. Whether physically fit or technology-savvy, there’s a character present that a viewer can see themselves in.
two, Of Starship Troopers and Refuseniks by Darko Suvin
- "[Definition of war] a coherent sequence of conflicts, involving physical combats between large organized groups of people that include the armed forces of at least one State, which aim to exercise political and economic control over a given territory," (Suvin, pg. 116).
- "...words on the paradoxical relationship of war to political economy and production of goods. On one hand, "A simple definition of warrior might be a person who survives by taking what others have or have produced" ... yet on another, from the inception of the modern state and market, wars have always been "the greatest and the most profitable of investments," (Suvin, pg. 117).
- "'The direct cultural value of a warlike business policy is unequivocal. It makes for a conservative animus on the part of the populace. During wartime, and within military organization at all times, civil rights are in abeyance ... [T]he members of the community [will] ... learn to think in warlike terms of rank, authority, and subordination, and to grow progressively more patient of encroachments on their civil rights ... Warfare, with the stress on subordination and master and the insistence on gradations of dignity and honor ... has always proved an effective school in barbarian methods of thought,'" (Suvin, pg. 118).
- "[On corpus] the first delimitation is to focus on the last sixty years—in which we today inevitably read premonitions of, and sometimes resistances to ... The second delimitation is for me to focus on literary fictions rather than on TV [and other media]—which may be more important as immediate shapers of people's minds ... The third delimitation is to focus on U.S. science fiction, as befits and hugely dominant position of the United States-based warfare and military, as well as analyses of either," (Suvin, pg. 120).
- "[On U.S. science fiction] At one extreme is, then, the stance that mass slaughters, with all weapons imaginable and regardless of the military-civilian divide, and a concomitant militarization of scoiety are inevitable for the salvation of the commonwealth and should therefore be envisaged in spread between sad necessity and cynical glee ... At the other extreme is the stance that while dangers and lures of mass warfare and militarization are real and have deep systemic roots, they out to be resisted in all possible ways because the commonwealth would thereby either not be saved and.or would be corrupted into something not worth saving," (Suvin, pg. 122).
- "Clear thinking [about war prevention] becomes more at a premium than ever, plus the need for the clear-thinkers to write it all down and teach it to others. False models of thinking about each other, of human beings who are in conflict, are as deadly as false-maps to the tactician ... the anti-war thought that I've encountered in both fiction and real life has been so far too much addicted to feelings and not enough to convincing analysis. (Lois Bujold)," (Suvin, pg. 135).
- "No doubt, this constitution was enabled by the fact that the salaried are "the assistants of authority" ... but no authority can abide without their assistance. We share to an exasperated degree the tug-of-war between wage labor and self-determination ... In a living contradiction, we are essential to the encadrement and policing of workers, but we are ourselves workers," (Suvin, pg. 137).
week ten - film reviews [and] reading nine - key points
Trekkies, 1997, 86 minutes, USA, Director Roger Nygard
Upon viewing the 1997 documentary film Trekkies, the culture behind fandoms and their inhabitants were not only exposed universally, but more importantly, these individuals were accurately represented. For fans of these immense universes, it isn't just a matter of enjoying the overall plot and compilation of characters, but it’s moreover about the morals and manner in which these carry themselves. This behavior can be so influential that a viewer’s demeanor may change and reflect those of the fandom, causing a crossover from one’s fantasy to their reality. Of course, there are different levels that this “behavior” can be adapted to, and in the case of Trekkies, the greatest extreme is exemplified. In the essay Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten by Henry Jenkins III, Jenkins explains how, “For these fans, Star Trek is not simply something that can be reread; it is something that can and must be rewritten in order to make it more responsive to their needs, in order to make it a better producer of personal meanings and pleasures," (Jenkins, pg. 265). Jenkins describes how for many fans, there is a sense of dissatisfaction that occurs with the end of a saga. In order for it to maintain in its integrity and values, it must be adapted and to some extent recreated—providing fans with the opportunity to make the saga into what they need at that particular given point in time. For many fans, this results in the development in fan fictions, assembling with others to commemorate the saga, or even the creation of episodes to understand the sets, commemorate the characters, or explore a concept that was not yet touched on in the saga. Trekkies displays each of these behaviors and the immense amount of dedication and love that is poured into such topics; meanwhile explains the communities that have been developed that both support and critique such developments.
Fanboys, 2009, 90 minutes, Director Kyle Newman
After viewing the 2009 film Fanboys, I couldn’t help but to reflect upon myself. I know that these reviews are to be subjective and referring to oneself isn’t always the best route to take, but I just couldn’t help myself in this case. Some may view the work as being extremely exaggerated, but it was spot on with the feelings that some areas of sci-fi have led individuals to experience. As someone who grew up on comic books, LARPing, and a vocabulary that makes absolute sense on an RPG forum but not in the “real world,” I could almost see my friends and I assuming the roles of the characters that were present in the film. There comes a point where one may become so consumed by a film, video game, or television show that these mediums begin to alter not only their identity, but also their reality. Even as someone who hasn’t picked up a sword in six years, the vocabulary that I used to communicate with my companions has managed to embed itself so deeply that it has affected my character as a person to the point that I still catch myself making sound effects when I’m performing the smallest of tasks (like putting a cap on a pen or breaking down boxes to recycle them). Several of the concerns that arise with such an environment are presented in the film, from the fear of finding out who you’re actually talking to on a forum site, to the transitional period where one grows out of the art. Even as one digresses away from being engulfed in the phenomenon, it’s something that is never forgotten, and this film is able to articulate each perspective adequately.
three, Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten by Henry Jenkins III
three, Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten by Henry Jenkins III
- "For these fans, Star Trek is not simply something that can be reread; it is something that can and must be rewritten in order to make it more responsive to their needs, in order to make it a better producer of personal meanings and pleasures," (Jenkins, pg. 265).
- "Lorrah's description blurs all boundaries between producers and consumers, spectators and participants, the commercial ant the home crafted, to construct an image of fandom as a cultural and social network that spans the globe," (Jenkins, pg. 266).
- "...many fan writers characterise themselves as 'repairing the damage' caused by the program's inconsistent and often demeaning treatment of its female characters ... telling such stories requires the stripping away of stereotypically feminine traits," (Jenkins, pg. 270-271).
- "It should not be forgotten, however, that fan writing involves a translation of personal response into a social expression and that fans, like any other interpretive community, generate their own normals that work to insure a reasonable degree of conformity between readings of the primary text ... moreover, the strange mixture of fascination and frustration characteristic of fan response means that fans continue to respect the creators of the original series, even as they wish to rework some program materials to better satisfy their personal interest," (Jenkins, pg. 275).
- "Producers insist upon their right to regulate what their texts may mean and what types of pleasure they can produce. Yet, such remarks carry little weight. Undaunted by the barking dogs, the 'no trespassing' signs and the threats of prosecution, the fans already have poached those texts from under the proprietors' noses," (Jenkins, pg. 279).
week eleven - film reviews [and] reading ten - key points
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 2013, USA, Director Francis Lawrence
After viewing the 2013 book-to-film rendition of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, it’s interesting to see the character development of Katniss throughout the film. As an individual who isn’t keen on making friends, or at the very least being favorable in a crowd, she is placed in a handful of situations throughout the film that forces her to relinquish control and trust those around her. This is apparent from the alliance that was set forth by her advisor, and additionally by her gut feeling to affiliate herself with those who utilize their knowledge as opposed to their physique. Although the character surrenders control and order over several occasions, she remains true to her character and hesitates about the intent of those around her. She shows an inability to put her faith in the hands of another being(s) when the environment is fixated with the idea of survival of the fittest. As a theme of the work, it is reiterated throughout the film to remember who the real enemy is. The enemy is depicted as an extremely wealthy, capitalistic society that utilizes the mortality of the characters for their benefit —the benefit being comic relief through means of reality television. Meanwhile, each district is struggling through poverty and control by this society, as well as the disheartening deed of sacrificing their young to the “cause.” The paradoxes that are formulated are quite applicable to the world that is lived in today, where the wealthy continue to take from the poor, although the poor has little to nothing to give. The film does an excellent job in allowing the viewer to realize this on their own and understand how applicable the struggles the characters within the film are in comparison to our own societies.
Another Earth, 2011, USA, Director Mike Cahill
When viewing the 2011 independent film Another Earth, the component of the film that resonated with me was the manner in which morals were incorporated. There’s an interesting contrast present in the work. Although considered a science fiction film, the film has eloquently portrayed everyday life. With the familiar set forth, the idea of another earth being present in the vicinity isn’t as farfetched or ludicrous as one would think. Another consideration that truly grounds the concept to being something believable is the fact that the individuals inhabiting “Earth 2” take on a humanistic form as well. They’re depicted in a similar manner, carrying out many of the same activities as their counterparts on Earth, such as that of the woman who had made the initial contact with the planet over the news. Although the two Earth’s are “identical” in their physical states, the film carries a much heavier theme. The two worlds are similar to the concept of a choose-your-own quest, where many of the paths are similar between two beings, but not all. An example is the protagonist, Rhoda, who at the end views her second self outside of her front door on Earth 1. In one role, you have Rhoda after a long day at work as a custodian as a result of her felony, and in contrast is the prestige Rhoda who had the opportunity to attend a university and progress through her life as anticipated. Though the two characters are the same, they aren’t identical in their experiences. This is the phenomenon that breaks the work away from everyday life into the genre of science fiction. Secondly, this phenomenon provides a sense of hope for some, such as John, who had lost his family on Earth 1 due to Rhoda’s unawareness one the road as a minor. For him, there’s a sense of hope on Earth 2 to rediscover what had been previously taken from him; a second chance that is not applicable, but often times desired in real life.
four, Hunger Games review by Andrew O'Hehir
- "Panem, the deep-future dictatorship that has apparently replaced present-day America after an unspecified combination of civil war, social meltdown and ecological catastrophe, has the semiotic appearance of fascism – white-helmeted storm troopers and barbed-wire walls – but is really more like an old-fashioned feudal society, concerned entirely with maintaining its internal order."
five, Hunger Games review by Manohla Dargis
- "Like most cultural sensations, which invariably owe part of their success to their recognizability (familiarity breeds revenue), “The Hunger Games” builds on stories deep in our collective databanks, from the Greek myth of the Minotaur to the fall of Rome, and “Survivor,” the seemingly indestructible reality TV franchise. Like the 2000 Japanese movie “Battle Royale,” to which it bears some resemblance, “The Hunger Games” works because it hits that sweet spot where classical myth meets contemporary anxiety to become a pop mind-blower."
six, Hunger Games review by Katha Pollitt
- “You can also read the book as an indictment of reality television, in which a bored and cynical audience amuses itself watching desperate people destroy themselves, and the movie plays this angle for all it’s worth."
seven, Hunger Games review by Tarina Quraishi
- “Indeed, they serve as the moral center of Katniss’s universe precisely because of their impermeability to the aggression around them, what Collins symbolically alludes to as “fire.” In The Hunger Games, fire is attractive and powerful, but it destroys everything in its path. On the contrary, redemption is possible through love, nurturing, and non-violence—qualities that carry feminine connotations."
- “At the same time, the story inspires us with the lofty feminized ideal of prioritizing altruistic selflessness over self-preservation, as demonstrated by an official trailer for the movie that heavily emphasizes the heroic self-sacrifice Katniss commits by taking her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games. Somehow, the series refuses to fully embrace aggression or non-violence, and even hints at the futility of searching for a happy medium. With no resolution in sight, The Hunger Games leaves its fans confronting what we knew all along: Neither gender is superior. There is no paradigm for a perfect human, because no such being exists."
- “The Hunger Games largely avoids the restrictive lens of gender. Within Collins’ literary world, Katniss is characterized neither as feminine nor as feminist; she is merely a complex, humanized character. Perhaps this is the real victory of the Games."