George Lucas not digitally reanimating dead movie stars after all

Paul Raven @ 07-12-2010

A brief post at Wired‘s Underwire blog seeks to quash rumours that George Lucas has plans to digitally reanimate the dead movie stars of years gone by for use in his productions. Given that the story started at notorious lie-stuffed UK hate-rag The Daily Mail, you’d think it would have been written off as bunk much earlier…

That said, there is a precedent for the Lucas story lurking in the Futurismic archives – back in January, James Cameron was talking about how CGI can be used to restore the vigour of youth to ageing stars, and pointed out that the same technology could permit Tom Cruise to keep making Impossible Mission sequels long after his eventual death. If that’s not a deeply dystopian misuse of technological progress, I don’t know what is.


Zombienomics

Paul Raven @ 14-10-2010

Looks like someone at Wired decided to test Stephen King’s aphorism about undead-themed movies being tied to the movements of the fiscal economy (i.e. zombies populate a boom, vampires haunt a bust). Bad news for fans of simple explanations: either the theory is bunk, or the zombie movie genre bubble is about to do a dot-com and burst spectacularly.

Well, a guy can dream, right?


Guilty Pleasures

Gareth L Powell @ 09-09-2010

Escapism gets a lot of bad press. Some mainstream critics use it as a derogatory term when dismissing genre literature; some serious genre writers go to great lengths to  prove that their books are more than “simple” escapism. However, escapism has its place.

Part of the reason we read science fiction is to be transported into new imaginative realms, and this is especially true in cinema. After a hard day of work, what better way to unwind than with an hour and a half of relatively mindless spectacle?

As we’re bombarded with doom-laden news reports and press anxiety over terrorism, global disaster, and societal collapse, films such as Cloverfield, Independence Day, and 28 Days Later provide us with a cathartic release. They enable us to explore our fears in a secure context. While watching the film, we can wonder “what would I do?”, and take reassurance from the fact that the protagonists and their families survive whatever disaster has befallen the world.

And then again, sometimes we just want to see a fleet of spaceships blow the living hell out of famous American landmarks.

In the 1950s, they called these films “B-movies”, and they primarily dealt with society’s fears concerning radiation (The Amazing Colossal Man), nuclear war (The Day The Earth Stood Still) and communism (Invasion of The Body Snatchers). Their modern counterparts, the Hollywood ‘blockbusters’, address our modern concerns in a similar way: with the focus primarily on entertainment.

Yes, they’re sensational and yes they’re frequently implausible; but they have their place. Gritty realism cannot transport us from the day-to-day world. When I’ve been writing all day and I need something to take my mind off the plot for a couple of hours, I don’t want a film I’m going to have to concentrate on, or one that reminds me how grim the real world can be. Instead, I’d rather sit down with a bowl of popcorn to watch Armageddon, Back To The Future, or Aliens.

Do you have films you revisit over and over again? What are your guilty viewing pleasures? Please feel free to share your recommendations in the comments section below.

Gareth L Powell is the author of the novels The Recollection and Silversands, and the short story collection The Last Reef. He is also a regular contributor to Interzone and can be found online at www.garethlpowell.com


High-street Hollywood: UK supermarkets as movie studios

Paul Raven @ 11-08-2010

While Hollywood dithers about, lobbying governments and suing its customers in an effort to maintain its box office numbers (which, despite all the moaning about piracy from them and about crappy cookie-cutter movies from us, are riding higher than ever before), new players are looking to get a slice of the action. Enter UK supermarket Tesco, who have started producing straight-to-DVD films for sale in their own stores [via TechDirt].

It looks good on paper – lots of middlemen being cut out of the loop, for a start – but quality control will be an issue, not to mention the VHS-era stigma around films that skip a theatrical release. But whether it works isn’t really the point: the point is that you don’t have to be in the movie business to make and sell movies any more… and that should be much more worrying to Hollywood than piracy.


Philip Palmer glorifies violence

Paul Raven @ 14-07-2010

It’s not my accusation, mind you; he’s claiming it himself. Sf novelist and screenwriter Philip Palmer’s had it up to here with people bemoaning sensationalist violence in cinema – don’t they realise that sensationalism is the entire point of the medium?

What I’m saying is; let’s stop pretending.  Of course violence, when it’s in fiction rather than in life, is fun.  It’s part of the imaginative experience; imagination is our way of living other lives, and since we can do so without incurring actual injury, the more violent the better.  It’s cathartic, it’s exhilarating, it can be beautiful; but the key point is; IF YOU’RE A SANE AND MORAL PERSON, WATCHING VIOLENT MOVIES DOESN’T MAKE YOU VIOLENT.  Reality, fiction; fiction, reality: two different things.

[…]

Hell, I read this stuff all the time, and what I write is often WORSE in terms of gruesome barbarity. […] So does that mean I have calluses on the tenderest parts of my mind, the bits that are used to focus empathy, as Adam so beautifully if cruelly phrases it?

Well perhaps so.  But on balance I feel that constantly wallowing in imaginative violence has made me not one whit more aggressive, or capable of violence. I remain as timid, fearful, and cowardly as I have  always been. I would happily slay a Barsoomian plant man with my long sword; but I am not in the habit of mugging elderly ladies, or randomly shooting people in pubs.

[…]

But why, I am forced to ask, does violence in fiction appeal so strongly, to me and to so many of you?  Why do we not daydream about peaceful characters, who broker peace and leave a trail of concord and amity behind them? Why do we prefer the Man with No Name, or Conan, who are more inclined to leave a trail of corpses behind them?

I guess the answer is obvious; we’re never more alive than when we are in fear of dying. And to experience that intensity of life while reading a book, or watching a film, and without any ACTUAL possibility of dying, is vicarious ecstasy.

Having met Philip in person a couple of times, I struggle to imagine a less aggressive or more softly-spoken man (with the notable exception of his part in discussions regarding the funding models of the film industry); having read a few of his books, I can also assure you he’s not overselling his own pleasure in writing (and by extension consuming) media with violent content..

For my money, I’ve always been opposed to campaigns against violence (or sex, or controversial topics) in media, not so much because I feel that they aren’t at all problematic, but because I believe that censorship is far more problematic to society than the media it seeks to control. The internet is something of a vindication to me in this case; as ill-informed and banal as some of them can be, the fact that we can (and do) have passionate debates about what art and entertainment should and shouldn’t say is one I take great comfort in. Let those who want to watch violent movies do so; if you don’t like ’em, don’t go see ’em. Censorship starts and ends with your own thumb on the remote.

That said, I’m not at all fond of gratuitous violence in movies. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve lived without a television for over a decade (and have thus become resensitized), but really graphic violence physically unsettles me to the point that I can struggle to watch a film that has more than a few moments of it*. But perhaps it’s as much to do with being more of a reader, too; strong fiction writing is all about implication, letting the reader’s mind fill in the nastiness in the gaps, and I still find implicit violence in cinema or television far more effective at generating a brainkick without booting me out of the narrative completely.

But what about you lot – are you gonna follow Philip down to your local multiplex for a ninja-swords gorefest, or stay at home and put your feet up with something more subtle?

[ * – My ex-girlfriend convinced me to watch P2 with her last year. Half way through, I had to leave the room. If you’ve seen the film, you probably know the scene I’m talking about; much as I understand Philip’s argument, I don’t know how I could justify the graphic nastiness of that particular bit of cinema on any level that makes a real difference to the story being told. And don’t even get me started on the Saw franchise. Your mileage, of course, may vary. ]


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