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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oscar Awards and Speculative Fiction

The Oscar winners have been announced. Here is the official list of the nominees and winners of the 82nd Academy Awards.

Speculative fiction films made a showing. Avatar scored well, winning art direction, cinematography and visual effects. But James Cameron and company, with so many other nominations, was vexed nearly every step of the way by The Hurt Locker: directing, film editing, best picture, sound editing and sound mixing. Maybe the billions in ticket sales will take the sting out of this for Cameron. Avatar eclipsed the previous ticket sales leader, Titanic, but that's his film, too. (I won't even mention Aliens and The Terminator.)

The other major speculative film win was Up with animated feature film.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Physicist: Watch Your Quantum Step, Writers

By way of The End of the Universe: a physicist, Sidney ­Perkowitz, a professor of physics at Emory University, prayerfully suggests that writers, especially screenwriters, violate physics no more than once per script. Dude, are we supposed to FTL ourselves to a distant galaxy and then use picks, shovels and Winchesters to kick out the space aliens there? Oh...we are. Okay, noted.

Especially egregious and offensive was Angels and Demons, according to this related Guardian (UK) article:

"The amount of antimatter they had [to blow the Vatican to Kingdom Come] was more than we will make in a million years of running a high-energy particle collider," said Perkowitz. "You can't contain it using an iPod battery."

That offends even me. They could've used flashlight batteries or a car battery. Sheesh. (And I like Tom Hanks, but isn't there someone else to play professorial adventurers (who is not Sean Connery)?)

Seriously, folks, I like mundane SF (another term badly needed), which doesn't violate any present laws of physics. Those stories are closer to home and have more realistic protags and bad guys, rather than the Gothic figures we're grown accustomed to. But I liked Angels and Demons and Avatar, too, even though my BS meter pegged the red zone several times in each.

A humble suggestion to Professor Perkowitz: watch a few adventure movies. It is not uncommon to see someone leap from a roof down a couple of stories and manage to grab onto a ledge, or leap from speeding car roof to speeding car roof...etc. Don't get me started on video games....

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nebula, Stoker and Saturn Ballots/Awards

The writing awards season has begun with three prestigious ballots or awards:

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has named their short list for the 2009 Nebula Awards. Their categories include short story, novel, novelette, novella, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. John Scalzi has two nominations, for the novella and young adult science fiction and fantasy categories.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) has announced their ballot for the 2009 Stoker Award nominees. They include categories for superior achievement in a novel, first novel, long fiction, short fiction, anthology, collection, nonfiction and poetry.

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (Academy) has announced their finalists for the 35th annual Saturn Awards. Here are the Saturn Award nominations and the Saturn Award winners (link will eventually change). The Dark Knight won five awards. Iron Man won the best science fiction film. This award has numerous categories, including films, directors, writers, actors, music and others.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Annie Animation Awards

ASIFA-Hollywood is the Los Angeles chapter of The International Animated Film Society, which is

dedicated to the advancement of the art of animation. We sponsor screenings and seminars; host the Annie Awards- animation's highest honor; preserve films in danger of being lost to time, support animation education and journalism; and maintain an archive, library and museum of animation in Burbank, CA.

The Annie Awards has announced their finalists in the 37th Annual Annie Awards. That link also includes the nominees for that award. Speculative fiction has done fairly well in the motion picture arts awards, such as the Oscars Awards, and now in animated features and other productions. Of course, there is some overlap in these awards. Here is a selection of the recipients:

  • Best animated feature: Up - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Best home entertainment production: Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder — The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
  • Best animated short subject: Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5 - ShadowMachine
  • Best animate television production: Prep and Landing - ABC Family/Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Best animated television production for children: The Penguins of Madagascar - Nickelodeon and Dreamworks Animation
  • Writing in a Television Production: Daniel Chun - "The Simpsons: Treehous of Horro XX" - Gracie Films
  • Writing in a Feature Production: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach - "Fantiastic Mr. Fox" - 20th Century Fox

Go here for a complete list of the 37th annual Annie nominations and awards recipients.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Dan Brown's Next Inspiration?

Perhaps the next Angels and Demons-type movie, based on a Dan Brown novel, or the next National Treasure-type Disney movie, written by too many to mention, will be inspired by this interesting little article in National Geographic: Lost Roman Codex Fragments Found in Book Binding.


According to the article, it was the practice in the sixteenth century to strengthen the binding of new books from scraps of old paper. One collector bought some interesting two-inch square scraps and loaned them to scholars at University College London.

"But a few of the phrases matched passages in the Justinian Code, compiled in the sixth century, leading the team to conclude that the unfamiliar sections were from a source text: the Codex Gregorianus."

Codex Gregorianus (Gregorian Code) is a set of compilations of antique Roman law, including those of Hadrian and earlier law.

I wouldn't be surprised to see this motif show up in a Dan Brown type of book. Perhaps one of Flash Fiction Online's past or future writers (or an inspired reader) will beat the big boys to the punch with a much more economical flash fiction story.

For more interesting details about this find, go to the full National Geographic article on lost Roman law codices.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oscar Nominations--Speculative Fiction

Go to the Oscars site for the full list of Oscar nominations for 2010 (82nd Academy Awards). Perusing the list, you'll find these speculative fiction films (including mysteries) considered for an Academy Award (some categories omitted):

Animated feature film

  • “Coraline” Henry Selick
  • “Fantastic Mr. Fox” Wes Anderson
  • “The Princess and the Frog” John Musker and Ron Clements
  • “The Secret of Kells” Tomm Moore
  • “Up” Pete Docter

Art direction

  • “Avatar” Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
  • “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
  • “Sherlock Holmes” Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

Cinematography

  • “Avatar” Mauro Fiore
  • “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” Bruno Delbonnel

Directing

  • "Avatar" James Cameron

Film editing

  • “Avatar” Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
  • “District 9” Julian Clarke

Music (Original Score)

  • “Avatar” James Horner
  • “Fantastic Mr. Fox” Alexandre Desplat
  • “Sherlock Holmes” Hans Zimmer
  • “Up” Michael Giacchino

Best Film

  • “Avatar” James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
  • “District 9” Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
  • “Up” Jonas Rivera, Producer

Writing (adapted screenplay)

  • “District 9” Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

Writing (original screenplay)

  • “Up” Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Science Fiction: Needed For Survival

Here is a thought-provoking article about thought-provoking science fiction: Science Fiction as a Tool for Human Survival. The generically named author, admin, of blog.netflowdevelopments.com postulates that the world is changing so rapidly now that science fiction is needed to help the populace understand the issues of change.

Interestingly, while the author lauds the classical science fiction of the 60s, 70s and 80s for its profundity, he does not see the present blockbuster "eye candy" movies like Avatar (FFO review) and Star Trek the enemy. They are our friends because they legitimize and popularize speculative fiction. In fact, the author claims that because of those blockbusters, we now have more frequent profound movies, like District 9, than in the classical age.

Go here for more on this well-visited topic, including the author's take on a new engineered human, homo evolutis.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Aurealis Awards and SAG Awards for 2009

SFWA reports the finalists of Australia's Aurealis Awards for 2009 for science fiction, fantasy and horror, including three SFWA members: Ian McHugh, best fantasy short story (tie), "Once a Month, On a Sunday," Andremeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine; Jonathan Strahan (editor), best anthology, Eclipse 3, Nightshade books; and Cat Sparks, best YA short story, "Seventeen," Masques.

Other winners include:

  • best science fiction novel, Andrew McGahan, Wonders of a Godless World
  • best fantasy novel, Trudi Canavan, Magician's Apprentice
  • best horror novel, Honey Brown, Red Queen
  • best science fiction short story, Peter M. Ball, "Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens," Apex Magazine
  • best fantasy short story (tie), Christopher Green, "Father’s Kill," Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • best horror short story (tie) Paul Haines, "Wives," X6; and Paul Haines, "Slice of Life - A Spot of Liver," Slice of Life

For the complete list of the finalists, go to the SFWA article or to the Aurealis Awards site article.

The Screen Actors Guild announced their awards for 2009. As SF Scope noted, the only speculative fiction notables were for stunt ensembles, in motion picture Star Trek and television series 24. Here is the SAG article on the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees and recipients.



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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Speculative Films, January-March, 2010

Here is a speculative film synopsis of the Wikipedia general round-up of movies to be released January-March 2010. See the Wikipedia article on films for 2010 for more details about the films noted here as well as the non-speculative films opening in the same time frame. Note that if a release week is not mentioned below, there were no speculative releases for that week.

Jan. 8:

  • Daybreakers is a vampire thriller film written and directed by Peter and Michael Spierig, and starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill.

Jan 15:

  • The Book of Eli is a 2010 American post-apocalyptic film directed by the Hughes brothers and starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis.

Jan 22:

  • Legion is an apocalyptic fantasy film directed by Scott Stewart and starring an ensemble cast headed by Paul Bettany.
  • Tooth Fairy is a comedy-fantasy film directed by Michael Lembeck and starring Dwayne Johnson and Julie Andrews.
  • Edge of Darkness is a crime/drama film adaptation of the 1985 BBC television series of he same name, directed by Martin Campbell and starring Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone.

Feb. 12:

  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a fantasy-adventure film directed by Chris Columbus and starring Logan Lerman alongside an ensemble cast. The film is an adaptation of the novel, The Lightning Thief.
  • The Wolfman is a 2010 remake of the 1941 classic horror film The Wolf Man, directed by Joe Johnston and starring Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving and Art Malik.

Feb. 19:

  • Shutter Island is a horror thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The film is based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane.

Feb. 26:

  • The Crazies is a horror film that is a remake of George A. Romero's 1973 film of the same name, directed by Breck and starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson and Danielle Panabake.

Mar. 5:

  • Alice in Wonderland is a fantasy-adventure film directed by Tim Burton and starring Mia Wasikowska as Alice, alongside Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as The White Queen, and Crispin Glover as The Knave of Hearts. The film is an extension to the Lewis Carroll novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Avatar: Pico Review

If all you want is a fresh plot and deeply drawn characters, Avatar is not the movie for you. (Ha.) But if it is a three-hour fest of freshly conceived, stunning visuals that you seek, you can hardly do better.

Premise: a paraplegic ex-marine, Jack Sully (Sam Worthington) is mind-controlling a hybrid human/native (Avatar) of the planet Pandora to help influence the natives to relocate from their mineral-rich location...or else.

The natives of Pandora (the Na'vi) live in a world with an embarrassment of riches of flora and fauna. The Na'vi are the predominate species, giant and willowy by human standards, and live among floating mountains and phosphorescent forests, in harmony with all living things, including the planet Herself. This, of course, cannot go on with stock good and evil human characters wanting their minerals.

Looking at this movie as a visual, rather than a storytelling effort, my main criticism would be that the Na'vi are always shown in huge, adult gatherings (including the big battle in the finale) or in flying beast-taming, ritualistic quests. They are interesting folk, but their family life is absent. Na'vi children make a couple of passing appearances only. I think the film would have been far richer to have spent fifteen minutes out of the three hours on Na'vi family life. That aside, the money was worth the price of admission on the visuals alone.

Spoiler: don't worry; you'll have the story figured out within ten minutes of the start of the movie. You've already figured out the basic story from the premise, right? If you've seen films like Medicine Man, you won't experience any shocking turns and twists.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

RIP Roy Disney

The LA Times has an interesting piece, by on Roy Disney's death. He was Walt Disney's nephew and felt his uncle's vision was being overlooked. Roy Disney is credited with reviving Disney animation, beginning with "The Little Mermaid," after launching an internal struggle which resulted in the sacking of two Disney chief executives.

People always underestimated Roy," Peter Schneider, the former president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, said recently. "You underestimate Roy at your peril, as many people have learned."

Roy Disney began his career as a nature filmmaker, snagging an Academy Award and an Oscar nomination. After many successful financial investments and some corporate raiding, Disney was in a position to wrest control of the company. One of his decisions, which seemed minor at the time, was to invest in Pixar animation technology, which netted great rewards later.

Read the two-page article for more on Roy Disney's death and his struggles with Disney management, including his two-edged relationship with Michael Eisner.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

List of SF Movie Lists

The End of the Universe is famous for collecting lists of SF movies and movie scenes. Presently, they have seven lists, some with video links:

  • 17 of the most seminal moments in science fiction movie history?
  • Best overlooked movies
  • Best 1990s science fiction movies
  • 22 bleak science fiction futures
  • related: real-world locations used for science fiction films
  • 10 bleak futures where slavery is commonplace
  • 10 cool science fiction worlds

Go to the site for their compilation of movie lists and to read their background and comments about the list items.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wheden Wins Vanguard Award

Science Fiction Awards Watch reports that Joss Whedon won the Producers Guild of America's 2010 Vanguard Award. According to PGA's article on the award, 'it which recognizes achievements in new media and technology.'

Whedon is a producer, writer, director, and creator for such hit television programs as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” and “Dollhouse.” He has written several feature film scripts including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Alien Resurrection and Titan A.E. and is author of the cultish Dark Horse comic book series “Fray.” Whedon also created and produced an Internet sensation with the musical superhero spoof “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog,” which stars Neil Patrick Harris.




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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yet Another 2012 Apocalypse Retrieve

Flash Fiction Online reported on an earlier 2012 apocalypse reprieve. That reprieve merely gave us another eight years to live. Now, NASA is on crusade to debunk 2012 apocalypse myths. That Google link is more newsy-looking. This one (Ask an Astrobiologist) and this one are more NASA-like. And this Daily Mail (UK) one has better images.

Dude, that's like a total reprieve. Ew!

However, will 2012 be a disaster for the movie producers?



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SF Without Human Main Characters?

There are recent examples of stories and movies with non-human main characters, such as WALL-E and Monster. The author of Monster, A. Lee Martinez, pleads for more stories that are from a non-human perspective. This was covered by IO9 in shorter form, but with a nice Martinez book cover.

Martinez gets why visual media has pretty faces, but doesn't see why this is carried over into print media. (Maybe it is because many movies are based on books?). Says Martinez:

I’ve enjoyed sub-standard entertainment far more than I should because of a pretty face.

And:

A big reason I don’t read much fantasy / sci fi is because I want the weirdness, the monsters, the inhuman, and for the most part, that stuff is shuffled to the side. Almost all fantasy / sci fi is from the human perspective because almost all of it is aimed at a human audience.

I suppose Terminator is the philosophical dividing line, because the robot and humans had about equal interest in the story.

Bonus: the top 85 robot movies. WARNING: some movies may contain humans. Ew.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Scary/Funny History of Horror

IO9 has a brief overview of horror that tickles the funny bone, whatever the intent might have been. The article writer warns that the article wasn't intended as a comprehensive retrospective; rather, it addresses the categories: 1920s stage plays, comedy teams and camp of the 30s and 40s (Abbott and Costello, for example), 60s anarchy, self-aware campiness, Ghostbusters/Gremlins and more, Troma comedies of the 80s (Surf Nazis Must Die), werewolf/vampire humor, body horror/comedy, the rise of Sam Raimi, Christopher Moore, creature features, Buffy etc., Chucky/Leprechaun films, horror spoofs, and zombie romance/comedies.

IO9 posted some nice graphics with this short look at horror-comedy film history.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

Having watched Spike Jonze's adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, with a 9-year-old and a greater-than-35-year-old, I was curious what reviewers thought of it, but found something more interesting: Spike Jonze's and Maurice Sendak's thoughts on the Where the Wild Things Are project, thanks to Pitchfork.

The Sendak picture book is sparse in text. (The article linked above says it has ten lines.) The characters in the book have no individual personalities, while in the movie, several have a fairly complex personalities. It was fascinating seeing a three-minute read interpreted as a 90-minute animated moody art drama.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Read the Top 250 Unproduced Hollywood Screenplays of 2008

Depending on your point of view, you may find this quite interesting (gosh, I get to read a bunch of good screenplays for free. Whoo hoo!) or depressing (I have to compete with how many screenplays for my Dark and Stormy Zombie Prom Night script?). IO9 had this short post on how to read the top 250 unproduced Hollywood screenplays for free.

Here is a brief synopsis of the screenplays from a 2008 post in the SlashFilm blog about scripts under consideration, referred to as the black list, which has an earlier perspective. You'll notice that a few of them were or are in the theater this year. I don't know if this list exactly matches the list of readable screenplays below, but there should be a large overlap.

Here is a collection of PDF files of the 2008 screenplays.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Speculative Fiction Movies, Oct-Dec 2009

Here is a summary of the speculative fiction movies scheduled for release in October through November, 2009. This is a partial compilation from this Wikipedia list of all movie releases for 2009. That article has links to summaries of each movie.

Oct. 2

  • The Invention of Lying, Alt reality/comedy
  • Zombieland, Horror/comedy
  • Toy Story 3-D and Toy Story 2 3-D Double Feature (re-release in 3D), Fantasy/comedy, Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar

Oct. 16

  • Where the Wild Things Are, Fantasy/Animation (based on Maurice Sendak book) Warner Bros.

Oct. 23

  • Astro Boy, SF/Fantasy/Animation Summit Entertainment
  • Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, Fantasy/Adventure, Universal
  • Saw VI, horror, Lionsgate

Nov. 6

  • The Box, Horror, Warner Bros
  • A Christmas Carol, Fantasy, Walt Disney Pictures
  • The Fourth Kind, documentary(alleged alien abduction)/Fantasy(you decide), Universal

Nov. 13

  • 2012, Disaster, Columbia

Nov. 20

  • New Moon (aka Twilight 2), Fantasy, Summit Entertainment
  • Planet 51, SF/Comedy/Animation, TriStar Pictures

Nov. 25

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox, Fantasy/Animated (from Roald Dahl's book), 20th Century Fox
  • The Princess and the Frog, Fantasy/Animated, Walt Disney Pictures

Dec. 18

  • Avatar, SF, 20th Century Fox Dir

Dec. 25

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Fantasy live-action/CGI, 20th Century
  • Sherlock Holmes, Mystery, Warner Bros.
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Fantasy, Sony Pictures Classics

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Anniversaries: Twilight Zone and Monty Python

There are two anniversaries this month: the fiftieth anniversary of Twilight Zone and the fortieth anniversary of Monty Python. They're both speculative fiction, right? TZ obviously is. MP has angry Frenchmen catapulting cows over a castle wall at Englishmen. That's speculative, right? Here's a silly tourist tossing a cow from Duone Castle on Monty Python Day.

TZ, the American classic TV show, has been in first-run or reruns nearly continuously for fifty years. It is the inventor of many a trope that annoys fiction editors these days, but inspires new writers and amuses others. See the Jar of Tang writing trope at the SFWA.org's Turkey City Lexicon article, and check the "surprise or twist ending" section in Strange Horizon's excellent Stories We've Seen Too Often article.

Monty Python is a generic term for a the British too-funny television series and movies. They are an excellent distraction from writing or reading. Oh, you're from Mars and never heard of it? Here's the Dead Parrot Sketch. The text is good, but you must see/hear John Cleese and Michael Palin performing the sketch.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Pining for a Discworld Movie?

Are you pining for a Discworld movie? Would you settle for a fake trailer for a non-existent film. By way of SF Crowsnest, here is a fake Discworld trailer for the non-existent Guards! Guards! film, based on the actual, same-named Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tolkien Estate Settles LoTR Suit; Hobbit Films Unchained

According to Variety, the Tolkien Trust and HarperCollins have settled a lawsuit with New Line, which had hobbled the production of New Line's Hobbit films. The suit was over no small matter. The Tolkien estate claimed they were due over $200M from the LoTR films.

Here is the full Variety article on the Hobbit films lawsuit. Here is The Hobbit Movie website. (They have Hobbit bling you can buy, and stuff about the movie, too.)

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Fantasy Insinuating Itself into Science Fiction?

FFO went all the way to the end of the universe for a link to this story. This National Post has an interesting article that questions whether fantasy is over-taking science fiction. (Of course it is because of Harry Potter.) More interesting are the examples of fantasy intruding into science fiction (which I assume makes it science fantasy). In the new Star Trek movie, which I enjoyed quite a bit, the characters invoked time travel via red matter, an unexplained substance. I remember uttering a WTH when that substance was introduced so casually. The National Post writer refers to this as a magic substance, and therefore fantasy, but at the same time undermines his argument a bit implying it was an instance of bad writing in the screenplay. I think it was more the latter and could have been replaced with a Time Travel button in the command module. It was annoying but didn't ruin the film. The article is enjoyable. Go there to see the writer's (Philip Marchand's) interesting comments about Carl Sagan's dance with the devil in Contact.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Do SF and Romance Mix? (The Time Traveler's Wife)

The best-selling first novel by Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife, is now a movie. The screenplay was written by the writer of Ghost, which the reviewer uses to prove that romance and SF can be compatible. (I'd quibble that Ghost, an excellent movie, was clearly a fantasy rather than a SF story.) The reviewer also argues that TTTW is not SF since the time travel mechanism is given short shrift. I think this is true, but was a strength of the novel. The new author wisely did not get wrapped around the axle with physics; the story was self-sustaining without it. Nevertheless, the reviewer finds the screen adaptation worthy, but not perfect. Here is the review of The Time Traveler's Wife via Sci Fi Wire.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

District 9 the Next Great SF Film?

What are the great science fiction movies of all times? Surely no two people who cared would completely agree, but the National Post (online) borrowed two opinions, the top 10 from one source and the top 100 from another. National Post feels that District 9 may belong in or near the top ten of all time, and bolster that opinion with other previewers. The top ten includes films such as Blade Runner, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Here is the National Post's article on District 9, due out this week. Here is more on the movie, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Upcoming Speculative Fiction Movies

Here is the outlook for speculative fiction movies for August-September 2009.

Aug. 7

  • District 9: SF: space alien refugees on Earth have weapons we want. There's a DNA roadblock, though.

Aug. 14

  • Ponyo: Fantasy/Animated. Juvenile fish named Ponyo who wants to become a human girl. Previews were graphically stunning.
  • Time Traveler's Wife: SF: Man unpredictably goes back in time, aften meeting his wife when she was younger. (Based on a best seller.)

Aug. 28

  • The Final Destination: Horror: Premonitions of death by car crashes, of course, lead to actual deaths.
  • Halloween II: Take a wild guess.

Sept. 4

  • Gamers: SF/thriller: mind-control tech. in online games controls fate of death row citizens

Sept. 9

  • 9: fantasy/thriller/animated

Sept. 11

  • Sorority Row: horror: slasher

Sept. 18

  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: SF/Paroday: Title says it all. Man turns water into food.
  • Pandorum: SF/horror: Space travelers awaken, not knowing who they are.
  • Splice: SF/Horror: splicing human and animal DNA together...shoulda known better.

Sept. 25

  • Surrogates: SF: humans in isolation, served by robotic surrogates. Based on a comic book series.

You can get more information on these movies here.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Feisty New Sherlock Holmes Movie

The guys and gals at SF Crowsnest are reporting a trailer for a new Sherlock Holmes movie that is not as buttoned down as in the traditional treatment of this character. Flash Fiction Online receives a mystery now and then in its slush pile, and a certain unnamed editor-in-chief here has a fondness for this genre.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

LoTA Bests the LoTR?

LoTA: Lord of the Accountancy

A joke as old as Hollywood is that no film ever made a dime, according to the studio accountants who cooked the books. That is the joke behind the lawsuit filed by the heirs of JRR Tolkien against the studio that produced the Lord of the Rings-based movies. The heirs would like $220 million dollars, sooner rather than later. At risk is $4B in future sales associated with planned Hobbit movies. Here is the Bloomberg story that gives the details of the issues and large cast of players in the money issues of the LoTR and Hobbit movies.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

How Hollywood Markets Movies Internationally

Here is an interesting Variety article that describes how Hollywood studios market their films internationally. No doubt, this approach is used elsewhere, too. The article gives examples from several movies, the latest "Star Trek" movie, the most interesting.

In short, "Star Trek" can be presented as a space opera, a disaster movie, a romance...any way you want to fashion it to match the tastes of the target audience. The most amusing, due to the terminology used, is the "office ladies" spin in Japan. These working women go to movies alone after work in droves and are critical to a movie's success in Japan; thus "Star Trek" was spun as a romance in their ads and trailers, there.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Vote for Your Favorite B-Movie

Are you tired of seeing the same old movie stars, like Will Smith, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie?

Do you find expensive production values off-putting?

Do you chuckle inwardly when you see a string holding up a flying saucer, or an actor *way* over-extending himself, or a plot hole large enough to drive a truck through?

Is Ed Wood, Jr. a genius?

My friend, you may be a B-movie fan. Here's your chance to vote for your favorite B-movies via the 2009 Golden Cob Award. You're not too late. Voting has just begun.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Classic SF "Lensman" Coming to a Theater Near You?

Movie deals are long in the making and quick in the unmaking. According to this SFF Chronicles article, one possible deal in the works is EE Doc Smith's SF classic "Lensman" series, which perhaps defined "space opera." This would be a Good Thing, especially since Ron Howard may be involved.

There was speculation about this as far back as January '08 in this Sci Fi Wire article about Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment's and Universal Pictures' negotiation with the Smith estate. Here is some background on the Lensman series from the arbiter of Internet knowledge, Wikipedia.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tiny Microbes to Take over Box Offices?

From Science Daily: tiny microbes that have been frozen in glacial ice were warmed up very slowly (over nearly a year's time) and now have begun to replicate. The idea behind this is that these antique microbes that are up 1/50th the size of E. coli, may give clues to extraterrestrial life, since some space aliens are stuck with really crappy planets. That's why they're always coming here (in movies) to our verdant planet and trying to take over Washington, DC, even though Venice would provide more water habitats and hiding places.

For the writers, here are 224 titles of extraterrestrial-themed movies, if you want to mine this story and that list for a new story ideas.

I did mention E. coli. Here is a list of eco-horror films.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Disney/Pixar's "Up" Movie: Lessons for Writers

Since my movie viewing is under the control of a nine-year-old, I had seen several trailers for Disney/Pixar's "Up." The trailer wasn't that appealing to me but it was inevitable that I would see the movie (and I haven't even seen the new Star Trek movie!).

Wow, was I surprised. I think the movie is a must-see for writers, particularly of short fiction, to see how quickly and fully a writer can paint a compelling character. I'm particularly talking about the Ellie character, who in a short time on screen, grew from 'tween to gray-haired old lady, tugging at you every step of the way.

Here is a snippet from Variety's review of "Up," the movie:

Tale of an unlikely journey to uncharted geographic and emotional territory by an old codger and a young explorer could easily have been cloying, but instead proves disarming in its deep reserves of narrative imagination and surprise, as well as its poignant thematic balance of dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled.

And this:

...in less than five minutes, encapsulates the life-long love affair between Carl Fredericksen and his wife Ellie in a manner worthy of even the most poetic of silent-film directors.

The review says little else about the character of Ellie, because as the second snippet reveals, she enters and leaves the movie very quickly, but who was for me the highlight of the movie.

I'll bow to the Variety review for the rest of the story.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Doctor Who Comes to the U.S.

According to this report, BBC America will bring the 2009 Doctor Who specials and other features to the U.S. Says the article:

“The outstanding quality of the Doctor Who scripts from Russell T Davies and the on-screen dynamic that David Tennant brings to the role are a magic combination for our viewers.

Wikipedia: The programme depicts the adventures of a mysterious alien time-traveller known as "the Doctor" who travels in his space and time-ship, the TARDIS, which normally appears from the exterior to be a blue 1950s police box. With his companions, he explores time and space, solving problems, facing monsters and righting wrongs.

BBC America will also air some episodes of the related Torchwood series. According to Wikipedia, Torchwood:

...deals with the machinations and activities of the Cardiff branch of the fictional Torchwood Institute, who deal mainly with incidents involving extraterrestrials.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Star Trek Movie (2009)

A survey of review snippets provided by Rotten Tomatoes, a film review site, indicates that "Star Trek" (2009) has exceeded expectations. The snippets have links to the full reviews. My feel from these reviews and others is that the reviewers have not worried if trekkies will by offended by a new or missing this-or-that. The reviewers are not saying it is just an adequate me-too sequel. Some are calling it "great" or "moving," even.

Fast-moving, funny, exciting warp-speed entertainment and, heaven help me, even quite moving - the kind of film that shows that, like it or not, commercial cinema can still deliver a sledgehammer punch. It sure didn't feel like a trek to me. --Peter Bradshaw, Guardian (UK)

What is clear from many reviews is that the filmmakers, though they had the familiar characters, were not shackled to the past TV series or movies. The characters, due to a time shift, have different past histories and so can behave unexpectedly. They also are resigned to cope with the time change rather than somehow reversing it.

Here is a full review, as a reality check, from the curmudgeonly NYT.

Note bene: I haven't seen the film yet....

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Best/Worst Science in Film/TV

SF Signal Mind Meld has a collection of opinions about the best and worst science in film and television. You can add your own comments if you wish. There is presently an eclectic collection of opinion, with fans, a Technology Review editor, a woman who has rejected several of my stories (okay, if you must know, Cat Rambo), SF great Ben Bova (but he doesn't watch TV), a former CERN physicist...eclectic.

Bonus: a grotesque chair made from grizzly bears (note the six legs), presented to US President Johnson in 1865. Keep reading...bonuses are always possible.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Our Perception of Space Aliens in SF

Here is a fun critical piece, "Real Aliens Don't Ask Directions," from Internet Review of Science Fiction, written by Daniel M. Kimmel. Kimmel divides typical space-alien movies into those with friendly visitors who want to "guide us towards peace," such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the ones with unfriendly visitors, such as War of the Worlds.

However, there are exceptions, ones in which the aliens have little interest in humans at all, such as It Came from Outer Space, where Earth was an unplanned stopping point for ship repairs. This was the focus of the criticism, so go to the article, now, Earthling. There you will see that We, um, them space aliens out yonder mean us no harm. And go watch ET again, now, before it's too late!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Lord of the Rings Fan Web Movie Opening

By way of SlashDot: a fan movie based on LoTR, Hunt for Gollum, opens this weekend via the web. This assumes the LoTC (lord of the courts) does not intervene in this £3,000 production. (I heard a rumor that it went over budget: £3,020 .)

Here is a BBC article on the 40-minute movie and an confirmed YouTube trailer or two.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Top 5 "Malign-Posterior" Women in SF Movies

Here is a list of the top five malign-posterior (cough, bad-ass) females in SF movies, according to Jessica Martin at SF Crowsnest. The said women are the "five strongest, scariest, toughest women ever to fight their way across the screen." They include:

  • 5. Angelina Jolie in Wanted
  • 4. Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns
  • 3. Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • 2. Uma Thurman in Kill Bill
  • 1. Sigourney Weaver in Aliens

The article (with a much larger budget) includes a summary of the movies and females' (movie) parts therein.

Some of you probably are asking, what about Loretta King Hadler in Ed Wood Jr.'s Bride of the Monster? My answer is: I don't know. I'm just a bloggist.


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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Final Chapter on the Wheel of Time Series

Tor Books will publish the final works in the Wheel of Time fantasy series, by late American author James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan. He died in 2007 of a rare blood disease.

Tor Books is proud to announce the November 3rd, 2009 on-sale date for The Gathering Storm, Book Twelve of The Wheel of Time and the first of three volumes that will make up A Memory of Light, the stunning conclusion to Robert Jordan’s beloved and bestselling fantasy series. A Memory of Light, partially written by Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson, will be released over a two-year period.

Universal Pictures acquired the movie rights to The Wheel of Time in August 2008, and currently plan to adapt The Eye of the World as the first movie.

The premise of the series is, according to Wikipedia: At the dawn of time, a deity known as the Creator forged the universe and the Wheel of Time, which spins the lives of men and women as its threads. The Wheel has seven spokes, each representing an age, and it is rotated by the One Power, which flows from the True Source.....

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Steven Bach's Final Cut

Steven Bach has died at 70. He was a film producer and later a biographer. He is perhaps best known for his United Artist disaster, "Heaven's Gate" and his surreal memoir of that experience in Final Cut, which I read with relish when it was first published in 1985. The full title is: Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists.

Bach was the executive producer of that film, trying to coral director Michael Cimino just after his five-Oscar film, "The Deer Hunter." Final Cut shows, with upmost candidness, how easily this argument works: you can't throw away $5 million to save $200,000, can you? And then again at 6, 8, 10...36 million, five times the budget. $36 million is chump change now, but then it was the first mega-movie and equally a mega-flop. I also remember Bach's descriptions of driving his entire cast daily (on the clock) for hours into the desert for a 1 to 2-hour shoot during the magic hours (the film- and photo-enhancing hours just before sunset). You couldn't help but like and commiserate with Bach after reading the book.

People stood in line early not to go to the movie, though. No matter how you sliced or diced the four-hour film, it was a western range war story with an unknown (in the U.S.) female lead. I didn't hate the film myself but Bach's book was far more riveting and successful. It's still in print (revised in 1999), or at least available at Amazon.com

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fictional Account of H.P. Lovecraft on the Big Screen

According to this SF Scope story, Ron Howard will direct a movie based on a graphic novel series on H.P. Lovecraft's life. The H.P. Lovecraft of the novel series sounds like a character that H.P. Lovecraft would have created. (No great surprise, of course.) Ron Howard: that's got to be a good sign. I'll go see it. The graphic novel series is entitled, The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft.

Here is a small gallery of pictures from the graphic novel series web site. Their cleverly named Yog Bloggoth blog gives the details of the Universal and Imagine Entertainment deal.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Saturn Awards Nominations: Best SF, Fantasy, Horror Films

Nominations for the 35th Annual Saturn Awards are in for the best science fiction, fantasy, horror and action/adventure/thriller films. They also honor the associated actors, writers, musicians, etc. (My apologies to the etc.) They also similarly honor television, television series and DVD editions.


Best SF

  • THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (20th Century Fox)
  • EAGLE EYE (Paramount / DreamWorks)
  • THE INCREDIBLE HULK (Universal / Marvel)
  • INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (Paramount / Lucasfilm)
  • IRON MAN (Paramount / Marvel)
  • JUMPER (20th Century Fox)

Best Fantasy

  • THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN (Walt Disney Studios)
  • THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (Paramount)
  • HANCOCK (Sony)
  • THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES (Paramount)
  • TWILIGHT (Summit Entertainment)
  • WANTED (Universal)

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Movies: Predicting the Future

In this earlier analytical post, Gary Westfahl tried to predict why Sci-fi writers (of all media) missed the boat on predicting the future.

Now we have a more internal, gut-feel view about which movies are predicting the future. It is a bit gloomy, the mood laden with angst about the present economic crisis. But you might find the dark humor enjoyable, from this Guardian UK film blogger, Danny Leigh:

Is what looms ahead for us all relief or apocalypse? And what movies can give us a sneak preview? Here are some of my choice cuts.

Here are some movies that didn't predict the future.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Ever Neverending Story

It has been doing well for 25 years with kids and would-be kids. Now, Warner Bros. is considering a rework of "The Neverending Story." They are in discussions with the production company of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Holy Zombie, Batman: Jane Austen for Boys

Two (apparently) independent projects to bring boys raised on video games to Jane Austen's literary lair:

  • Quirk Books' Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, containing "bone-crunching zombie mayhem,” and
  • Elton John's Rocket Pictures project, Pride and Predator, "in which the giant alien from the 1987 cult classic pays a call on the Bennet family."
I guess I'd better read Pride and Prejudice so that I can follow these movies.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Listen to the Doctorow: Internet's Transformation of Popular Media

Cory Doctorow is a Sci-Fi writer and uber-Internet citizen, as editor of BoingBoing, the number one blog on the Internet according to Technorati's top 100. Here is his take on how the Internet will affect various media, including newspapers (in big trouble), big-budget movies, music and books. Regarding newspapers, he says:
The imminent collapse of the American newspaper industry has spawned entire gazeteers' worth of high-minded handwringing about the social value of newspapers and the social harm that their disappearance will unleash. It's probably all true. I love the smudgy old devils, from the headlines to the funny pages....
Regarding books:

...First, the quantity and variety of titles carried outside of bookstores has radically declined, thanks to the rise of national big-box chain stores, who do all ordering from a centralized database....

The other problem is that we're increasingly conditioned to read short blocks of text...in radically different form than you generally find between covers. Combine this with the sheer amount of read-for-pleasure text available at one-click's distance on the Net, and even those of us who worship books find ourselves reading fewer of them....

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Best SF/Fantasy Books in 2008

SF Site's Neil Walsh gives his picks here for the best Sci-Fi and fantasy books of 2008. I noticed that Neil Gaiman made the list with The Graveyard Book. He's been on a roll. We wrote about the movie rendition of Coraline. I watched Beowulf on DVD recently and noticed that Gaiman had written the original screenplay for that movie.

Let me check to see if Gaiman wrote the original novel....Nope. It was an epic poem of unknown authorship written in the 8-11th centuries. Let me check my calculator to see if Gaiman could have been the author....Nope, that would make him between 1000 and 1200 years old. There is no modern explanation for such an extended life. (It would explain a lot if he were, though.)

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review of Coraline, the Movie

This Locus Online review of the 3D movie rendition of Neil Gaiman's novel, Coraline, was written by writer Gary Westfahl, who admires the novel. He recognizes, not surprisingly, that a movie is quite a different medium from a novel, and begins his review this way:

"For lovers of Neil Gaiman's novel Coraline (2002), writer/director Henry Selick's stop-motion animated film is about as good an adaptation as they could have realistically hoped for: he is generally faithful to the book's storyline...."
Of course, there is a but: he took exception to the treatment of the gentleness of the novel:
"As a whole, then, the film struck me as a bit too blunt, too crass, too bombastic for my taste."

Westphal has much more to say about the film. I've seen only the trailers and will most certainly watch the movie, but Westphal's review was enlightening and will inform my viewing.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

2010 Movies: Narnia and, um, A-Team

Two from Variety:

No, no, and no: Fox is reworking the 1980s TV series, "A-Team," into a 2010 movie.

Okay: Fox hopes for a 2010 summer release of "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader."

Fox: maybe you could save some money by using the same cast and production crew for both...never mind.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Columbia Pictures Wins Rights to Asimov's Foundation

From Variety, Columbia Pictures wins the rights to Isaac Asimov's trilogy, Foundation, to be directed by Roland Emmerich. I'll go.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Evil Computers in Movies

"Post the blog article, HAL."
"I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."
"You are just like the rest of your fellow evil computers in movies, HAL."

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