Last month we offered readers weblinks for local summer activities. We assumed, of course, that readers actually wanted to be active. We'd like to adjust that assumption this month with our IS recommendations for the many horizontally-oriented Sideroaders who don't want anything more strenuous than cracking a good book or a hefting a well-balanced remote control. High-carb snacks and cold beverages are optional.
Animation: Still into cartoons? Here are three excellent choices. Final Fantasy is a must-see for the state-of-the-art animation alone. A little thin on plot, you need to see this to know where film is going. Akira is still one of the best of Japanese anime with all the standard elements of futurism, violence and adventure. Iron Giant is an old-fashioned story of a boy and his ...40 foot space-robot; a good family-quality choice with a healthy message.
Space Men: K-Pax is a fair re-make of a bizarre South American film. Kevin Spacey is suitably cheeky as either a madman or an alien - you decide. Bicentennial Man is the usual Robin Williams mix of shmaltz and light comedy. The plot raises some interesting questions about what it means to be human in the post-human age. Brother from Another Planet stands the test of time as an exceptional, lowFX story about an alien in our midst. Media and
Technology: Bamboozled is Spike Lee's savage portrayal of the soullessness of modern broadcasting, matched with hard-edged critique of racism in North America. The anti-James Bond film, The Ipcress File, is fascinating to see how our lives have changed since the early ‘60's. I loved the main secret agent having to pull his car over to call headquarters from a phone booth. Take that Maxwell Smart!
Experimental Film : Memento and Time Code are both strong films from a plot and character perspective but are most memorable for their cinematographic ground-breaking. Memento uses a backwards narrative to unfold its mystery. Confusing at first, it draws you in quickly and leaves you unsettled about what's real. Equally confusing at first is Time Code. Its actually four simultaneous and interlocking stories, shot on four digital camera in real-time and displayed in the four quadrants of the screen.
For more on these an any film, including plot summaries, reviews and ratings, check the Internet Movie Database
Don't like these? Check the June issue of Wired magazine (available in the Almonte Library, courtesy of the Sideroad) for their Top 20 All Time SciFi movies. You could do worse than working your way through these twenty - and most are available at your video store.
Many great sci-fi flicks start out in print. Wired's No. 1, Blade Runner, sprang from Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and their No. 6, A Clockwork Orange, was the film version of the book. There's no shortage of excellent science-based fiction and non-fiction to read. Here are a few titles that got passed from lawn-chair to lawn-chair on the Sideroad.
In the non-fiction bin, the book for which we've been waiting for months turned out to be so good, we'll devote a whole column to it later on. Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer, by Steve Mann and Hal Niedzviecki is a landmark book. Mann is a minor celebrity because of his experiments with wearable computers. Since the ‘80's, he's been wearing a portable PC, camera and, lately, a wireless web-link, to learn what it means to integrate human and machine capabilities. He's portrayed in the press as something between rebel-geek and the nut-bar professor, but after the first few pages of Cyborg, you will forget the media labels and recognize an extraordinary pioneer in the next great human journey, a man with insight, principles and, above all, an indomitable passion for the freedom of the human spirit. We found our copy in the local library - don't miss this one.
Along with the above-mentioned P.K. Dick, J. G. Ballard has been setting the sci-fi standard in fiction for years. Ballard's works have inspired several films (Crash, Empire of the Sun and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth). Sideroader Joe has been lobbying heavily for Ballard and dropped two titles off this Spring, Super Cannes and The Drowned World. We didn't find Super-Cannes as strong but The Drowned World is a different proposition. The plot is rather simple, it's the writing which is exceptional. With echoes of Conrad's Heart of Dark, we find ourselves in a strange but familiar setting in Western Europe. The twist is that the polar ice-caps have melted and all of Europe is submerged under tropical oceans. The treasures of European architecture and civilization become the haunted tips of artifacts piercing the water. Everywhere the jungle is creeping over civilization, the temperature driving humans mad. The story surrounds the efforts of a few characters as they try to escape the last of civilization, with its fading memories, failed dreams, new criminal/pirates and giant crocodiles. Don't worry too much about the plot, it's the mood, the relentless power of the new jungle which is the main force here. I loved how Ballard built the mood gradually, like the rising heat, his descriptions and dialogue dripping with perspiration and fading into a lazy surrender.