There are three films coming out this year about which I am very excited: Planet of the Apes (July 27th), Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (November 16th), and The Fellowship of the Ring (December 19th). To that list I can now add A.I. (June 29th).
I've heard buzz about A.I. for several months, but the project has never intrigued me that much. It is the last film that Stanley Kubrick had begun to work on before his death; Steven Spielberg has since taken over the project and both directed it and wrote the screenplay. The story has a very Spielbergian theme. Last night, during the season finale to The West Wing, I saw a real commercial for A.I. for the first time (instead of that mysterious teaser trailer that we've all seen). Now I am intrigued. By searching the web, I was able to find a link to Supertoys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss, the short story on which the film is based. I read the story. I think the film has potential for greatness.
In reading Prelude to Foundation, this month's book group book, I'm reminded of how shallow Isaac Asimov's writing style was. Many considered him one of the Masters of science fiction, but I have never understood the reason for their admiration. True, he has many great short stories, and the three Foundation books are good (and I also liked the Lucky Starr series of juveniles), but his writing style, especially in his later years, was poor. For example, in Prelude we are treated to the following delights:
- "There were a few other persons taking advantage of the park all wearing light hats, some quite small."
- Not one, not two, but three instances of the tenants of psychohistory presented in exposition.
- A main character that is supposed to be some sort of genius but who, in most situations, acts like an uneducated simpleton.
- This same main character is rather meek and mild, yet at times (for no apparent reason) becomes rude and hostile.
- Instances in which Asimov uses the phrase "for some reason" to explain away a plot point (basically "for some reason" == "for the expediency of the plot").
- "So he stared at the list of reference book-films he had not yet checked through and tried to decide which of the unappetizing number had the slightest chance of being useful to him. He had about decided that the answer was "none of the above" and saw no way out but to look at samples of each when he was startled by a gentle tap against the alcove wall."
- A strange sequence of events in which the main character decides to go on a trip, wanders away from the group and nearly dies, and then the book and its protagonists attempt to have us believe that two other people are at fault. What? The main character has no free will? Careful rereading clearly indicates that the main character is completely at fault (actually, not-so-careful rereading indicated this to begin with).
- In once sentence we are told that "the impact of a speck of grit will send the indicator skittering off the screen", but a few sentences later we are told that "footsteps would scarcely be noticeable".
- The motivations of the characters are impossible to fathom, and seem to change with the needs of the plot.
- The dialogue is laughable: "Sunmaster, I am curious --" "If you are, then ask what you wish, although I am by no means required to answer."
This book is sprinkled with Asimov aphorisms (in the 184 pages I've read so far -- that's right, all of my complaints above are based on only one-third of the book). The worst so far is: "The downtrodden are more religious than the satisfied." Asimov spends several paragraphs attempting to justify this statement, but it is ultimately as false as the "violence" statement. I'm under the impression that these little aphorisms occurred to Asimov while writing, and they sounded nice (as if they might be true), and so he plopped them into his stories and attempted to validate them.
I have two days left to read this book. I'll get it finished, but I'm not enjoying it (perhaps I will change my mind). It is a marked contrast to last month's excellent The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin.
- Who wouldn't want to read Bleak House online?
- A cool optical illusion: focus on the black dot and move your head back and forth...
- Pedroncelli, makers of a great inexpensive 1998 Cabarnet Sauvignon that I first had when Andrew and I visited Dane in Minnesota last summer.
- An excellent tester report on the Diablo II expansion.
On this day at foldedspace.org
2005 — Good Television I've consumed several television shows recently via Netflix and BitTorrent. Today I'll share capsule reviews of the new Battlestar Galactica, the new Doctor Who, the US version of The Office, Farscape, Lost, Homicide: Life on the Streets, and The Wire.
2004 — Talking Animals When I think about, I realize that I don't often hear other 'parents' giving voice to their pets. It's then that I think maybe I'm a little strange in this regard, think maybe I should stop talking with the animals.
2003 — All That We See or Seem... Nearly every review I've read has hit the nail on the head: The Matrix Reloaded is not a good film, though it's certainly not a bad one.