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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

The 2009 Hugo Awards

Posted by hyperpat on August 10, 2009

The final list:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)

Best Novella
‘‘The Erdmann Nexus’’ by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)

Best Novelette
‘‘Shoggoths in Bloom’’ by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)

Best Short Story
‘‘Exhalation’’ by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)

Best Related Book
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John
Scalzi (Subterranean Press)

Best Graphic Story
Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones
Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio, colors by Cheyenne
Wright (Airship Entertainment)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
WALL-E Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter, story; Andrew Stanton & Jim
Reardon, screenplay; Andrew Stanton, director (Pixar/Walt Disney)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Joss Whedon, & Zack Whedon, & Jed
Whedon, & Maurissa Tancharoen, writers; Joss Whedon, director (Mutant

Best Editor, Short Form
Ellen Datlow

Best Editor, Long Form
David G. Hartwell

Best Professional Artist
Donato Giancola

Best Semiprozine
Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal

Best Fan Writer
Cheryl Morgan

Best Fanzine
Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima

Best Fan Artist
Frank Wu

I was somewhat disappointed that Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother did not win in the Novel category, as to my way of thinking it was clearly better than Gaiman’s effort – but Gaiman has that aura of win to him every time he’s on the ballot. Little Brother did manage to come in second, overtaking Neal Stephenson’s Anathem in the second round of vote counting. (Full voting results are available here).

Wall-E taking the Dramatic Presentation was almost a given; it’s only serious competition was The Dark Knight, and the voting reflected that. Why the Academy Awards couldn’t recognize this movie as the best of the year, well, I’ve expounded on that earlier.

And unlike last year, where almost all my picks ended up winning, the only ones that made it this year were Scalzi’s Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, Cheryl Morgan as best fan writer (long overdue) and Wall-E. Most of my picks ended up at the very bottom of the voting lists.

There has been a fair amount of yack-yack out in the blogosphere that this year’s list of nominee’s, especially in the Novel category, were all a bunch of mediocre, standard fare, popular but not significant, or that somehow the Hugos are all a conspiracy by the SMOF’s to keep the best (read: their choice) works off the nominee list. With this I must violently disagree. First as to the quality of those that did get on the list: Little Brother is possibly the best YA novel to appear in the field in the last 20 years, and touches on social and political themes that are both important and highly relevant to today’s world. Anathem is cutting edge experimental, and a difficult, mind-bending read, which should put paid to the concept that such books are not recognized as significant by the average SF fan. Scalzi’s Zoe’s Tale shows just what clear, unadulterated space opera can be, with great characterization and not cluttered up with a hundred pages of esoteric scientific theory.

Yes, I would have liked to see Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World or Le Guin’s Levinia make the short list, but the ones that did make it are certainly reasonable. People need to remember that the best literature must be readable and entertaining; those that have these qualities will normally rise to the top of any popularly voted award (as opposed to those awards given out by jury selection). And for those that didn’t like how this year’s nominee’s and winners worked out, I highly suggest they quit whining and become members of next year’s World SF Con, and send in their own nominations and votes. I note that there were 1074 voting ballots sent in this year, more than in past years, but still not anywhere like the number it could be if those who care about these awards would get off their duffs and vote.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Hugo Awards, Movies, science fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, SF, Writing | Leave a Comment »

The Lord of the Rings, Happily Revisited

Posted by hyperpat on March 2, 2009

I re-watched the entire Lord of the Rings movie set Saturday and Sunday, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Now I know that there were some people who were highly upset with some of the liberties that Peter Jackson took with book, such as eliminating the section on the Scouring of the Shire, the Boromir/Faramir thing, the dropping of Tom Bombadil, etc, etc, etc. But regardless of these ‘infractions’, the end result is gorgeous, absorbing, and totally captures the feeling of the book. There are damned few movie adaptations of novels out there that can say that. I sincerely hope, with fingers crossed, that with this example in front of them, the people doing the movie version of The Hobbit won’t screw it up,

I’m also aware of some of the criticism that the book has received over the years, such as the class distinctions between Sam and Frodo, the obvious parallels (no matter how vigorously denied by Tolkien himself) between the industrialization of England and Saruman’s efforts with Isengard and the World War, the book’s simplification of what compromises good and evil, it’s long descriptive passages and side trips to some of the history from the First and Second Ages, it’s heavy borrowing from folk legends of Northern Europe, and quite a few other nit-picks. And in the end, that’s all the criticism amounts to, is nitpicks. It’s a great novel that succeeds of many levels; it’s a great ‘pure’ adventure story, it’s a finely honed commentary on some of the worst social evils of the twentieth (or any) century, it’s characters have deeper and deeper depths to them the more you look closely, and it appeals to nearly everyone’s sense of magical wonder.

I’m sure that eventually someone will write another fantasy work as good or better than this (one candidate for which is currently in progress but which may take quite a while to finish), but for the moment, this work still reigns supreme.

Posted in Book Reviews, Movies, science fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, SF, Writing | 4 Comments »

The Academy and Animation

Posted by hyperpat on February 24, 2009

Stupid me, I went and watched the Academy Awards show on Sunday. What I saw was an almost complete disparagement of animation and science fiction, as if neither of those categories was really worth any consideration by the Academy. Yes, Wall-E took best animated picture, but that was almost a given – there was nothing else out there remotely approaching its quality in animation land. But, and this is a big but, it wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture, even though (IMO) it was clearly better than a couple of the movies that did get a nomination nod. Iron Man was almost completely ignored, and The Dark Knight got only what everyone expected.

Now it could be argued that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is sf – but I think it really belongs in the fantasy camp, or perhaps ‘magical realism’. Regardless, the focus of this movie is not on the mechanism of his reverse aging, but rather what that does to his personal relationships. It might also be noted that some of film techniques used in this movie are traveling into the world of animation, especially in the early scenes which have heavy CGI graphics. Apparently such work is acceptable if it’s a ‘live action’ movie.

The query becomes, why did this movie get nominated and not Wall-E? I think it has a lot to do with the ‘quality’ of its origin, being based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald – and as such, shows up something that I think has been present in the Awards process for a long time: the snob factor. This is not to say that I don’t think Button shouldn’t have been nominated – it’s a fine movie. But The Reader, Milk, and Frost/Nixon are what I consider to be marginal entries.

Maybe someday the Academy will get hip to the fact that some of the best stories, acting, and overall movie experience today are being produced in animation land, and are given nominations and awards on an equal basis with live action movies – but I wouldn’t count on it soon.

In the meantime, I’ve already nominated Wall-E for the Hugo Award, and will vote for it when that time comes. But getting that award may seem like small potatoes to the creators of this movie.

Posted in Hugo Awards, Movies, science fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, SF | 2 Comments »

BSG: The Final Five

Posted by hyperpat on February 17, 2009

Battlestar Galactica has had a pretty good run. Throughout most of its shows, it has been marked by a consistent level of good-to-excellent writing and acting. Now it’s trying to wrap itself up and complete the story line, which has led to, well, problems…

It became obvious even as early as season two that when the show was created, it really didn’t have a firm vision of where it would end up. As a consequence, the writers kept adding complications and tangential plot threads with little apparent thought to just how consistent the whole thing was. Centurions, Cylons, humans, the thirteen colonies, New Caprica, resurrection, the twelve (13?!) models of Cylons, the ‘Final Five’, the ‘visions’, the hybrids, the revisions the viewer had to make in his outlook as various Cylons were revealed, with some convenient ‘holes’ in these Cylon’s memories so they could have performed their prior actions thinking they were just humans… this list goes on for quite a ways.

Last Friday’s episode saw a massive info-dump that has started trying to make some sense of all these different threads. As could be expected, some items are being glossed over, some actions are just not mentioned, and there are still some rather large questions about how it all fits together. Still, even given these quibbles, I thought that someone, somewhere, did quite a bit of thought to come up with the explanations they did, and they have managed to almost make some sense out of the whole thing, no small achievement given all the things that have happened on the show. For a more detailed look at this Friday’s episode, see the round table discussion over on Tor.com. (Warning: severe spoilers within this discussion – if you haven’t seen this episode yet, don’t go here).

Now they still have five episodes to go, so there’s still room to wrap up some more of the problems. I really hope they can pull it off, without losing either the sharp dark ambiance or the biting social commentary that has been the hallmark of the best episodes of this show.

Science fiction with the quality of this show has been extremely rare, either on TV or the movies. It is no surprise that this show has developed quite a following of avid fans during its run, nor that it has gathered several awards. I’m crossing my fingers that they will end this show with all of its great qualities still intact.

Posted in Movies, science fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, SF, TV Series | 1 Comment »

Special Effects Do Not a Good Movie Make

Posted by hyperpat on December 12, 2008

Science fiction movies, in terms of special effects, have come a long way. Some of the early movie’s effects were so bad as to cause instant laughter (a toy rocket ship tied on a string, string clearly visible, merrily bouncing in the “winds” of space?). Certainly what is being produced today is far better in terms of sheer eye-candy.

However, all too often, today’s movies concentrate so much on these special effects that they forget that they also need to tell a good, convincing story with believable acting. Some of the older movies, as bad as their special effects were (and just as frequently, atrocious science – but that’s still true today), are still watchable today because of  the fact that the directors of these movies remembered that they were telling a story.  I was forcibly reminded of this by a couple of those older movies that I recently had the chance to watch: The Day the Earth Stood Still and Them!

Now clearly the special effects in The Day the Earth Stood Still are nothing to brag about, but both the story and the underlying message do what good science fiction is supposed to do – make you think about the human condition and how people would respond to “What if..?” I’m very much afraid that the new remake due to hit the theaters shortly will have all it’s emphasis on scenes of massive destruction, to the strong detriment of what the story is all about.

Similarly, Them! doesn’t have much in the way of special effects. The giant ants are clearly either little clockwork models blown up via camera to giant size, or real ants subjected to the same magnification. And the science involved here is pure hokum – insects can’t physically reach sizes like this, as their physical structure can’t support the weight, and their air system would also fail, due to the square-cube law of area versus volume. But at the same time, there are statements made throughout the movie about the habits of real ants that are very much spot-on, and these details are used to make a believable and suspenseful story. It also doesn’t hurt that there is some decent acting going on here. This one is one to watch with your popcorn already in hand, as you won’t want to get up to go get it after the movie starts – it’s a story that grabs.

I have little real hope that most future SF films will remember story first, visuals second. Hollywood looks for and tries to make what sells, and for a very large percentage of those movie-goers who go to see SF films at all, the blow-em-up, stunning visuals are the main reason they go at all. Hollywood will continue to pander to this demographic, its a given, its how they stay in business and make money. But here and there, hopefully there will be a few gems that still remember to tell a fascinating story.

Posted in Movies, science fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, SF | 2 Comments »

Wall-E, Intrepid Trash Collector

Posted by hyperpat on July 3, 2008

Once again, it would seem that Pixar has created what may be the best movie of the year, in any genre. At the very least, it should rank as the best animated flick of the year. If you haven’t seen it yet, rectify that situation immediately, and take your grandmother and grandson with you.

WARNING: There are some spoilers below. Don’t continue reading if you haven’t seen it yet. Although this movie lends itself to multiple viewings, you should see it first without any expectations. I guarantee that you will end up laughing and crying at the same time, and your $10 will have been well spent.


First off, this really is a science fiction movie. It does exactly what sf should do: imagine the continuation of some current trends and looks at the results. It starts with the concept that humans have made a real trash-heap out of the Earth, so bad that neither humans nor anything else can live there anymore. What’s left of humanity has exited, stage-left, in giant luxury space-ships, to await the time that the clean-up robots they’ve left behind will have finished cleaning up the place. Wall-E is one such robot, the last one left that’s still operational, and his daily work is picking up all the trash laying around, compacting it into cubes, and stacking up the cubes – which by the time this movie opens form skyscrapers. The picture that is painted is a depressing one, not just because we can see just how badly humans have treated their home world, but because we can see just how much is still left to do, with only one little robot there to accomplish the task. Not a standard start for what is in essence a romantic comedy.

The comedy of this movie is not forced, nor is it a parody playing on other sf films or TV series, as Galaxy Quest does. Instead it creates its own environment, and the comedy derives from the bitter-sweet circumstances of a very lonely Wall-E. The only other living thing he has as a companion is a cockroach (which does play on some long-ago statements that such insects would be the last survivors of a world catastrophe). His off-time is spent viewing old romantic movies and collecting and studying various interesting bits of trash, such as a Rubick’s cube. Wall-E is beat up, rusty, getting by by scavenging spare parts from other, now dysfunctional, Wall-Es – a Charlie Chaplin figure down on his luck. As John Scalzi analyzes, this is very unusual for a sf movie. So the attraction he feels for Eva, a sleek, modern robot sent back to Earth by what’s left of humanity to determine if conditions have improved enough to return, is immediate and very understandable.

The plot continues to unfold in true science fiction fashion, as we see what has become of humanity after seven hundred years of floating around in their luxury space-ship, with every need instantly gratified by ubiquitous servant robots. And this is done without long voice-overs (in fact, there is very little real dialog in the entire movie), but rather with some very effective visuals that explain instantly how things got to be the way they are today. Even better, the science is real. There is one sequence where Wall-E jets around in space by using the propulsive action of disinfectant spray bottle – a sequence that, while not having the majesty of the shuttle docking to a space station of 2001: A Space Odyssey, shows the consequences Newton’s third law in an amusing, beautiful, and effective manner.

It’s very rare to find Hollywood script writers who understand what science fiction is all about, and even rarer for them to able to combine such ideas with comedy and romance without making a mess of things. This one does it. If this doesn’t take at least the Hugo for best movie, and several Oscars, something is very wrong.

Posted in Movies, science fiction, SF | 3 Comments »

2008 Hugo Nominations

Posted by hyperpat on March 21, 2008

The nominations are now officially out (somewhat earlier than planned due to someone posting them on the net before they were supposed to). Of greatest interest to me, as usual, are the nominations for best novel. Once again, there are no women represented in this category, although there are several in the other categories. There will probably be some more flack about this, which I believe is really irrelevant (see my post on the 2007 nominations  The Place of Women in SF ). Of far more importance is just what the quality level is of those that are nominated. I’m happy to say that of those I’ve read so far (Scalzi’s Last Colony, Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and Stross’s Halting State), the quality level is quite high. So far, Chabon’s work has my vote, as a truly original alternative history work with some good characterization and a cultural outlook not often seen in sf, closely followed by Scalzi’s work. Stross’s work is not quite to my taste, though still original and well written, with perhaps a little too much emphasis on heavy-duty computing possibilities. So far, anyway, of what I’ve read, all deserve to be on this nomination list (unlike some years where I’ve really wondered just how the heck that particular work made the list). I’ll report later when I’ve had a chance to read the other two nominees.

Also of interest is the fact that Mr. Scalzi, for the second year in row, has been nominated as Best Fan Writer. I expect more flack about this, seeing that some people don’t think professional writers should be eligible for this category, but given the tremendous amount of writing he does over on his blog about all kinds of subjects relating to the sf field and his constant promotion of newer writers and new good works within the field, to my mind at least he certainly is filling the function good ‘fan’ writers are supposed to.

Also of interest is the nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category of Battlestar Galactica’s “Razor” episode. As this is one of the better episodes in a series that has had consistently high quality, it certainly has my vote. In the Long Form category, Niel Gaiman’s Stardust is the best as far as I’m concerned. I was disappointed in the Golden Compass, and the obligatory Harry Potter entry was just plain poor.

Overall, though, it looks like it was a good year for quality sf.

Posted in Books, Hugo Awards, Movies, science fiction, SF | Leave a Comment »

More Hollywood, Please

Posted by hyperpat on March 17, 2008

Hollywood needs to make a lot more movies. To which you say “I’m already drowning in them, I can’t keep up!” And if you just look at the total number of movies that are made, you’d probably be right.

But consider this: I typically watch about two movies a week on TV (I watch very little else except House). Over a year’s time, that adds up to a hundred flicks. Does Hollywood make that many in a year? Sure. But not the kind I like. I want good, well acted movies, that have a plot line that’s at least a little different from the last 50 they made in that particular genre, have decent production values, intelligent dialogue, characters I can relate to, no obvious factual boners, and in a genre that I like (i.e, I almost never watch what passes for ‘horror’ movies today, ditto most of the mindless comedies). Given the number of genres (Western, science fiction, romance, comedy, mystery, horror, drama, historical, animated, etc.) the number made in any one genre is not that great. Applying Sturgeon’s law (90% of everything is crap) to those that do fall within genres I will watch, and the number of new movies made in a year that I’ll will watch with satisfaction is perhaps 10. Clearly this leaves a large gap, which up to now I’ve had to fill with watching the better movies of the past, sometimes multiple times. This situation can’t continue forever – eventually (like now!) I’ll run out of decent older movies to watch. Worse, all the TV stations that specialize in movies seem to think that I want to watch the same movie 27 times in one month before they will deign to put a new movie into the lineup, which often leaves me with absolutely nothing to watch on a particular night (Nope, seen that one already; nope, that’s one’s terrible; nope, that one’s in a genre I don’t watch as it doesn’t interest me; etc, etc, etc.) As I hate commercials interrupting a movie, this limits my choices even more to those channels that show movies without them.

Now I’m probably fairly typical in terms of my total movie consumption, though other people will probably prefer movies I won’t touch – which is fine, everyone has their own tastes. Hollywood should be aware that there is a demand which they are not satisfying, and which should translate into more profits for them. But there’s a problem. Say they actually produced 10 times as many movies in a year than they do today (assuming they could find enough actors, writers, producers, cameramen, stuntmen, grips and what have you), how are they going to make money off of them? Right now, most movies are expected to at least come close to making back the costs at the first-run movie theater, with (hopefully) some chance at real profits from overseas and DVD sales. This requires enough theater screens to actually show all these movies, and an audience willing to shell out 10+ dollars for every movie they see in the theater. I don’t think these exist. Some other means of distribution needs to be found that pays real dollars to the studios. Pay-per-View and Video-on-Demand has started to fill some of this, but right now this is pretty much limited to movies that have just finished their theater run. Why not open up their entire catalogue to the stay-at-home movie watcher? Or for that matter, put the catalogue on the internet, and let people download what they want without clogging up the limited bandwidth available to satellites and cable networks (or course, this would then clog up the internet pipes – let’s build that high speed pathway out to the final home connection!). If they can get enough people to go the Pay-per-View route, they can probably make more money than in first-run movie theaters and still keep the price down to something the average viewer can afford (like $3-4 per new movie, maybe $2-3 per for older ones).

Of course, one of the other options Hollywood could choose is to quite making nine bad movies out of ten, which would give them more than enough material to satisfy the movie demand. But that will never happen.

Posted in Movies | 4 Comments »

The Ratty State of the Film Industry

Posted by hyperpat on July 5, 2007

Once again, I find myself impressed by what Pixar is doing. Their latest, Ratatouille, is a) great fun for everyone in the family b) has excellent graphics c) has some emotional depth and maturity to the story line, which the kids might miss some aspects of, but the adults watching can certainly relate to. Yes, there are places where they went for the slapstick sight gags, but there are just as many satiric bites with some real meat. Perhaps most entrancing, to me anyway, was the portrait of the gourmet food critic, Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole), as it was so absolutely spot on in depicting both the worst and best aspects of that profession, along with some very snide commentary on the ‘herd’ instinct and the inordinate influence some authority figures have.

More and more, I find the most original and entertaining movies to be the animated ones. It seems like Hollywood has forgotten how to be original in its live-action movies; all I seem to see are yet more cops chasing psychotics, ‘comedies’ using 100 year old gag lines suitable only for three year-old mentalities, romances totally predictable from the opening minute of the film, and the continuing series of movies with ‘III’ or even ‘IV’ in their titles (always a bad idea, as the latest Pirates of Caribbean shows). Their few attempts at SF are usually so bad that no self-respecting fan of the genre can force themselves to watch them, and for those works based on written works by SF grand-masters, often the fans should be out there forming a picket line to prevent anyone from seeing the travesty Hollywood has made of the work. About the only thing they’ve done right recently is make some at least watchable versions of various comic-book heroes.

I suppose I can’t have everything. More Pixar, please!

Posted in Movies | 2 Comments »

Watching the Best

Posted by hyperpat on June 22, 2007

I watched the AFI’s presentation of the 100 all-time best films the other night. This was the latest update to their list (for the complete list, see here), chosen from 400 nominated films, and specifically done to update the list to include those films that had been made since the last time they did this ten years ago. Probably to no one’s surprise, Citizen Kane held on to the top spot. This film has been recognized again and again as perhaps the premier embodiment of what film-making is all about – but for me, anyway, I really don’t think it’s all that great. There are other films I think are better, that have more to say to today’s audiences than a film that’s a not-so-subtle portrayal of William Randolf Hearst, who after all made his mark almost a century ago.

Overall, however, the list does recognize most of what I consider the best of Hollywood. Lawrence of Arabia, Gone With the Wind, City Lights, Casablanca, The Grapes of Wrath (a rare case of translating a great book into a great movie), and this time around even Lord of the Rings, almost certainly the best fantasy movie ever made, managed to make the list. There are others I think are rated too highly, most notably The Godfather (it’s good, but #2?). And there are some that didn’t make the list that I think should have: Cool Hand Luke, Fiddler on the Roof, Becket, The Ten Commandments, and The Hustler. But what is there is a pretty good selection.

But beyond just what movies made the list, the presentation the other night was excellent, with Morgan Freeman doing the narration, clips from all 100 movies, and almost always with some commentary by at least one of the actors/directors of said movie that helped define just what it was about that particular movie that was deserving of such recognition. The opening montage, consisting of very short clips from a large number of these movies, showed me just how great an impression these movies had made on me, as I could identify almost all of them from those brief 3-4 second excerpts.

Hollywood produces a tremendous amount of dreck, year in and year out. But every once in a while, there is something produced that deserves the label art, something that becomes part of our cultural heritage, and leaves an indelible mark on its audience.

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How to Feel Good

Posted by hyperpat on November 22, 2006

It would appear that we not only have happy penguins, we have a happy customer – me. I saw Happy Feet last Friday, and I was impressed with its good story line, excellent music choices, a very nice visual portrayal of not just Emperor penguins but also a couple of other species, and just how well some of the actors characters became the on-screen persona (Robin Williams’ Ramon role is near perfect). I did think the environmental message was played a little heavy, and the portrayed ‘solution’ came about much too easily and was too simple, but it really didn’t interfere with the sheer entertainment factor this movie has. As is typical for these types of animated movies these days, some of the jokes are really meant for the adults watching, and will fly over the heads of the youngsters – which is just fine with me. People younger than about 30 may also not catch some of the musical references, which for me anyway added a lot to this movie.

So go see it, and feel good for the rest of the day.

Posted in Movies | 2 Comments »

Penguins Conquer!

Posted by hyperpat on November 15, 2006

What’s with all the penguins lately? First we had a penguin logo for a certain flavor of computer operating system. Then came March of the Penguins (recommended! Darn few documentaries get this level of viewership, and this presents a view with as many harsh moments as those “Ahhh…” ones). Now we have Happy Feet (which I do plan on seeing this Friday) and Surf’s Up. Even Amazon tried to get into the game, adding a little penguin figure to their pages – although it disappeared today while they are trying to fix some software bugs.

I guess, like everything else, once someone starts something, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. At least this fad is a warm and fuzzy one.

It also points up something else that’s been happening in the movies lately: the large number of animated features that have been released in the last few years, only a few of which have been Disney flicks. From Flushed Away (also recommended) and Over the Hedge to the excellent Chicken Run  and Ice Age, each one has seemed to push the limits of just what is possible in the world of animation. And that’s probably a good portion of why animation is suddenly hot again, after a long dry spell. Computation power + better software has led to the ability to deliver this type of film with much better graphics while still controlling the cost to something that is reasonable. As long as they can couple this with good, original stories, I think this trend will continue. The danger is if Hollywood, seeing the success of some of these movies, decides to make effective clones, without looking for good, original stories. Because nothing will kill this faster, regardless of how good the graphics are.

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When SF is as Real as Tomorrow’s Headlines

Posted by hyperpat on November 11, 2006

While I’m in the mood to plug things, I suppose I should mention Battlestar Galactica. Now the original show with Lorne Greene back in the sixties wasn’t terrible, but neither was it great, and its fan base was too small to keep it on the air when the inevitable budget axe fell, unlike a certain other SF series of the same period. In its reincarnation, though, what we have is a show that goes to places the original wouldn’t have dared go: the morality of genocide (last night’s episode), inter-species sexual relations, the rationality (or not) of religion, the validity of torture during war time (sound familiar?), discourse on the best and worst of political campaigns – this list keeps getting longer. All rounded out with characters who, while often strange, are also immediately recognizable as real people, with anywhere from stoics and martyrs to cowards and schizophrenics occupying the stage.

This series is dark and often somewhat depressing, but it has an edginess and relevance that Star Trek never quite got (and that Star Wars never even thought about). While its special effects are good, they are not the centerpoint of this drama, a welcome change from all too many Hollywood attempts at what it thinks is science fiction, but rather the story always remains uppermost.

I just hope the writers and actors can continue to maintain the very high level of brilliance that has graced this series so far.

Posted in Movies, science fiction | 2 Comments »

2006 Hugo Awards

Posted by hyperpat on August 28, 2006

Ok, the list of winners was posted last night. Unfortunately, my choice of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War didn’t win, but he did manage to snag the John W. Campbell award for best new writer in his first year of eligibilty. For the novel category, the final results look like this:

Winner: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

2nd: Accelerando by Charles Stross

3rd: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

4th: Learning the World by Ken MacLeod

5th: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

I’ve also read numbers 4 & 5, but I found I was quite disappointed in both of them, as my expectation level for both these authors is quite high. However, I’ve not read the winner or the runner up yet, and they’ll definitely go on my to-be-read pile.

Over in the Dramatic category, the movie Serenity managed to win out. I caught a piece of this one just last night, and found that it didn’t hold my interest. My choice out of the others nominated was Narnia, but it only managed to come in fourth. Batman Begins took 2nd, which I thought was well done, but does it really belong in the science fiction category? Wallace and Gromit – the Curse of Were Rabbit took third. Amusing but slight. And finally Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire took fifth. IMO, the weakest of the Harry Potter movies so far.

The complete list of winners and nominees for fiction can be found over on my website, HyperPat’s Science Fiction.

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