“Contact” by Carl Sagan

Contact_SaganFor me, the film version Contact is still the gold standard for intelligent science fiction in cinema. After having read Carl Sagan’s Contact, I realize that the movie benefitted from exceptionally strong source material. Sagan manages to explore Big Ideas™, but also develops compelling characters. In addition to being a talented scientist, Sagan could write better than most professional science fiction authors.

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“Miyazakiworld” by Susan Napier

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A few years ago, I discovered Studio Ghibli and fell in love with Japanese anime. I’m particularly fond of Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki’s ability to use animation to tell stories that are emotionally moving, visually stunning, and intellectually stimulating. Miyazaki’s films combine whimsical settings, strong female protagonists, and unconventional plots. I’m still new to this brave new world of anime, so I was excited to find Japanese culture expert Susan Napier’s latest book to help me make sense of Miyazaki’s oeuvre. Continue reading ““Miyazakiworld” by Susan Napier”

“Jodorowsky’s Dune”

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I’ve talked about David Lynch’s Dune movie and the Sci-Fi Channel’s Dune miniseries, but the most ambitious Dune adaptation never made it off the page. Jodorowsky’s Dune chronicles Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to bring Dune to the big screen during the 1970s. He failed, but, as the documentary argues, that failure had an enormous on science fiction in cinema. It’s certainly a fascinating look at what might have been, even if I’m not convinced a Jodorowsky Dune would have been faithful to the novel.   Continue reading ““Jodorowsky’s Dune””

“Children of Dune” (Sci-Fi miniseries)

51DQ3EJGD5LI enjoyed the Sci-Fi Channel’s Dune miniseries, but was also frustrated by its weak acting and special effects. Fortunately, the Sci-Fi Channel’s Children of Dune miniseries improves upon its predecessor in every way. It manages to provide an effective distillation of Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

 

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“Dune” (Sci-Fi miniseries)

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Last week, I made clear my opinion of David Lynch’s Dune. That remains the only version of Dune ever released in theaters. However, in 2000, the Sci-Fi Channel released a TV miniseries adaptation of Dune. Fortunately, it’s not bad. The screenplay actually resembles Frank Herbert’s novel and manages to balance political intrigue with action. The show’s problems are mostly technical, particularly the acting and special effects.

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“Dune” (1984 film)

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I admit I’m not a fan David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune. I have many problems with the film, but the biggest is that it completely misses the point of the novel. Dune is not a hero’s journey. It’s not simply a grimdark Star Wars. Rather, it’s a story about the dangers of charismatic leadership and the interplay between political and religious power. In the movie, we don’t get to her Paul’s internal struggle, much less any hint that his jihad might have negative repercussions for the future. Indeed, in the final scene from the film, rain pours down as if to bless Paul’s victory.    Continue reading ““Dune” (1984 film)”

Dune Marathon!

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Dune… Frank Herbert’s epic space opera is one of my favorite works of fiction. This summer, I’ll be rereading the saga as I do research for a paper I’m writing about the politics in Dune. I plan to present the paper in late June at the Mythgard Academy’s Mythmoot V conference. If you’ve never read these books or it’s been a while, feel free to join me in this reread.

The Spice must flow!

The “Alien” Female

615Jt--UndL._SL1024_On May 3, I’ll be joining the Mythgard Movie Club to talk about Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi movie Alien. Here I share my thoughts on what the film means to me, especially when it comes to gender representation in cinema…

During the past few years, female fans have become increasingly vocal in their disappointment over the lack of female protagonists in science fiction and fantasy. To be honest, I initially found this somewhat puzzling – not because I didn’t want female action heroes, but because I thought we already had them. When I was growing up, the biggest pop culture franchises featured characters like Princess Leia and Sarah Connor, while Dana Scully, Xena, and Buffy dominated on the small screen. My favorite sci-fi action hero was (and still is) Ellen Ripley.  Continue reading “The “Alien” Female”

“The Shape of Water”

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Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is the first science fiction film ever to win an Oscar for Best Picture. This alone makes it worthy of a place in the annals of sci-fi. It’s also a great example of what makes del Toro such a fascinating filmmaker and storyteller. Like many geniuses, del Toro has an ability to look at the ordinary and see something extraordinary. His films often take familiar story tropes and make them feel fresh again. In The Shape of Water, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a janitor at a government lab in Baltimore, falls in love with a humanoid fish-creature (Doug Jones). In one sense, this is simply a twist on the classic “odd-couple romance” story, like Beauty & the Beast or The Frog Prince. However, del Toro does several things to make the story feel completely unlike anything that’s come before. Continue reading ““The Shape of Water””