One Second Left

I really enjoyed Edge of Tomorrow (an 8 on my movie list), but one plot detail really bugged me. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m not going to spoil anything directly.

countdown-timer

(Image link—pretty funny.)

It’s part of a larger category that happens in most action movies actually. This particular example doesn’t happen in Edge of Tomorrow: every time there is a countdown timer where something really, really bad will happen (typically an explosion), the protagonist will save the day with one second left til destruction, whether the timer was originally set to five minutes or five hours. In every action movie there are several of these “just in time” moments. And yes, I understand, this is what makes the movies suspenseful.

That really annoys me.

Did the aliens annoy me? Nope. Time travel loops? Nope. But impeccable luck and timing? Yes.

Is there any deeper meaning behind this? People have said that I over-criticize movie meanings, but I think this does have some harmful effects. The “protagonist always gets the girl” cliché is the worst in terms of social damage for obvious reasons, but “one second left” has its own issues. It distorts our views of luck and chance, thereby affecting our risk judgment, and it turns the extremely improbable into the probable.

A bigger issue still is that the “protagonist wins” cliché, which is in 99% of movies, may warp our sense of justice. There is a known cognitive bias called the just-world bias, where we falsely expect justice to be served (we unconsciously believe in karma), and movies can really take advantage of this. How do you explain why the good side was able to defuse the bomb at the last second? Easy, the good side deserved it. (How might this translate into real life? We feel that we deserve something great, so instead of trying for it, we wait for the universe to give it to us.)

Of course, I still enjoy action movies and TV that use “one second left.” But it just gets difficult to keep up suspension of disbelief when the most absurd chance events happen over and over again.

How Movies Have Conditioned Us to Hate Science and the Future

According to film, science and technology solve nothing. Either one of two things occur: (1) the exact same social problems will happen in the future even with significantly advanced technology, or (2) social problems will be even worse than they are today.

The perspective I am writing this from is that of concern with the future of American education with particular interest in math and science. There are many voices in the STEM discussion. I just hope to contribute in fleshing out the relation between the public sentiment towards science and Hollywood’s portrayal of science.

1. The Future Sucks

HungerGamesPoster

I have not read the books, but The Hunger Games is quite dystopic: a society where young people are randomly selected and put to a grandiose battle to the death, as entertainment for the upper classes. But the stadium is an extraordinary technological feat: the environment can be changed at will, fires can be triggered anywhere, and cameras are hidden in every location. Of course, those with advanced technology are bad. Those with poor technology are good.

Elysium

Elysium makes the technological divide even more blatant. The rich, bad guys are in a utopian, ultra-technologically advanced ship experiencing luxurious lives with all-powerful healing chambers, leaving the rest of humanity, i.e. the good guys, to rot away on a dystopic Earth.

terminator_salvation

With the Terminator franchise, the message is clear: Artificial intelligence is super evil! Don’t let the machines ever have power, else they will kill you.

The_Matrix

Yeah.

Intime

And that.

Dredd-Poster

And that.

The-island

Also that. And many, many more. Every time, technological advances lead to a terrible world devoid of any current notion of morality.

2. Scientists Are Evil Murderers

Alien-poster

The premise of Alien is massively disheartening. The off-camera scientists want to study an alien creature at all costs, disregarding all morality, i.e., letting a killer alien parasite on board and massacre everyone (almost). Of course, a backstabbing android was in on the conspiracy from the start.

Prometheus

Yes, Prometheus is part of the Alien franchise, but it is so insulting to scientists that it deserves its own rant. The scientists in this movie are so stupid that no one would ever want to be a scientist after seeing this movie. From Cracked:

“Instead of a worthy follow-up to the best sci-fi action movie ever, we got an attempt at a stand-alone plot that wouldn’t have even happened if the characters weren’t stupid enough to pet alien snakes, get lost in tunnels that they themselves had mapped, and take their helmets off on an alien planet most likely so full of dangerous microbes that they’d be shitting their intestines out within the hour. Seriously, they’re like the dumbest scientists ever.”

Last_Days_on_Mars_Poster

Regarding The Last Days on Mars:

“Another Prometheus basically. In the way that the world’s most prominent scientists are trusted to be the first to search for life on Mars, then they turn out to be a bunch of emotion driven morons making the most ridiculous and rash nonsensical decisions they could make time and time again. I really don’t see why the people making these types of movies feel the need to have these people constantly being petty emotion driven morons. Things can go wrong even when the people are making the right decisions.”

The “emotion driven moron” depiction of scientists is superbly ironic. Are they trying to criticize scientists in general, i.e. criticizing rationality and intelligence, and supporting emotion and ignorance? Or are they trying to criticize emotions and idiocy, i.e. supporting scientists?

Jurassic_Park

Dammit scientists, stop sciencing!

the-host_

Chemistry = monsters!

Rise_of_the_Planet_of_the_Apes

Seriously, stop it, scientists.

Godzilla_poster

We give up.

3. Zombie Apocalypse, or Any Man-Made Apocalypse

Resident_evil

The Umbrella Corporation makes us really hate science. When not creating zombie viruses, it does… whatever the heck it does, making other viruses and figuring out how to murder people. Good job, Resident Evil.

28-days-later

While the release of the virus in 28 Days Later subverts the typical trope in that it was caused by animal rights activists, the blame is on the scientists for having those caged infected animals stuck at a research lab in the first place.

World_War_Z

I don’t remember World War Z too well, but I remember the scientist was practically useless and accidentally killed himself in a hilariously undignified fashion.

Either science will cause the apocalypse, or given the apocalypse, it is old-fashioned values that triumph over science.

4. Nature/Magic/Tradition/Spirituality/Irrationality/Emotion vs Science

avatar

Avatar is basically the ultimate nature vs technology film ever made, and of course, nature trumps technology easily. In addition, nature is good and technology is bad. You could argue that the message of this movie, or any of the ones above, is good: technology is not automatically good, and we should not take technological superiority as an excuse to exploit others. But the message of “science is not necessarily good,” hammered into our brains again and again and again, that “science is not necessarily good,” eventually translates to “science is evil.” In addition, these types of movies always depict science as in conflict with something like nature or emotions, when in reality, science tries to help them.

Equilibrium

A man with some emotion (good) vs a society where emotion is forbidden (evil). It assumes that advancements in science automatically lead to its being used for totalitarian control somehow.

Minority_Report_Poster

A man with good conscience (good) vs a cold rational police force (evil).

Fifth_element_poster

The answer is always love.

StarWarsMoviePoster

An ancient traditional religion (Jedi, The Force, lightsaber resembling a sword) triumphs over technology (Death Star, droids, and laser guns). And yes, this happens a long time ago, but it pragmatically fits into our analysis of sentiments of the future.

StarTrekIntoDarkness

Even in an age of interstellar space exploration, people still are adversely affected by notions like revenge, anger, self-interest, massive-scale conspiracy, and the pursuit of personal power. (On the other hand, the original TV series were quite optimistic. Such negative “human” traits were mostly absent, and when they did appear, it was because the crew was observing a less advanced civilization that still had them.)

As a caveat, I’d like to point out that I think most of the movies above are individually great. But if you combine all the anti-technology, anti-future sentiments, you get an extremely negative, if not socially dangerous, depiction of the future.

Poll Results on Technological Optimism

Because of the linearity of scientific progress, much of anti-science sentiment is related to anti-future sentiment. According to one poll, 48% think that America’s best days are in the past (Rasmussen, 2014). Another poll reports that 30% of Americans believe that future technological changes will cause people’s lives to be mostly worse (Pew, 2014). From the site’s own findings:

  • “66% think it would be a change for the worse if prospective parents could alter the DNA of their children to produce smarter, healthier, or more athletic offspring.
  • 65% think it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health.
  • 63% think it would be a change for the worse if personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace.
  • 53% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them. Women are especially wary of a future in which these devices are widespread.”

These percentages are affected by many factors. For instance, wealthier people are generally more optimistic about the future of technology: 52% of those with an income of $30,000 or less think technology will be for the better, but 67% of those with an income of $75,000 or more do.

TechFuture_better_or_worse

According to Gallup, there is also a significant partisan gap in optimism, with Democrats significantly more optimistic: 74% of Republicans have positive views of America 5 years in the past, whereas 75% of Democrats have positive views of America 5 years in the future.

This post was inspired by Neal Stephenson’s argument that science fiction is fixated on nihilism and apocalyptic scenarios and that sci-fi should dream more optimistically. From the Smithsonian Mag website: “He fears that no one will be inspired to build the next great space vessel or find a way to completely end dependence on fossil fuels when our stories about the future promise a shattered world.” These are legitimate fears. If we as a society abandon science now, what kind of Dark Ages will we slip back into?

What Is the Best Superpower?

smbc-negative-wishes
From SMBC Comics

We often have discussions in our apartment on the most arbitrary topics. One time, we debated the question: What is the best superpower?

Despite the catchy title, this post is not really about the best superpower. Sure, it talks about that a lot, but that’s not the main point. The main point is about how messy a debate can be when the rules and terms are ill-defined.

What Is a Superpower?

From the start, it was unclear what was meant by “superpower.” It was implicitly understood that something completely all-encompassing like omnipotence is invalid because it is too broad, but this wasn’t formally forbidden. The only thing that was formally forbidden was any superpower than entailed having multiple other superpowers, like wishing for more wishes (but it gets fuzzy as to what counts as one superpower and what counts as multiple).

Being a smart-ass, instead of answering with the usual answers like telekinesis or mind control or invisibility or flying, I suggested the power to move subatomic particles. Let’s just call this particle manipulation for short.

From a naturalist perspective, i.e., physics, particle manipulation encompasses most other plausible powers (hold on for what “plausible” means):

  • To move a large object, you just make quadrillions of quadrillions of particles move in the same direction.
  • To start a fire, you make the particles move faster.
  • To create something out of thin air, or to regenerate any injury, you rearrange particles from the air into atoms and molecules to get what you want.
  • To control someone’s mind, you manipulate the neurons directly and make certain connections fire and others not fire.
  • To defuse a world war, you could just vaporize every nuke into air.
  • To become infinitely rich, you could just turn lead, or any other material, into gold, or into dollar bills.

However, my friend who initiated this discussion, and whose own answer was mind control, thought this answer I gave was “implausible” or “unrealistic.” So what is plausible and implausible? What is realistic and unrealistic?

Doesn’t the word “superpower” imply that it is NOT real? Why does moving a nearby object with your mind seem “realistic”? Does it take a lot of mental power or concentration? Are you limited in the number of objects you can control? Do I always write blog posts that have 7 questions in a row?

Much of our intuition of superpowers comes from the film industry (and thus indirectly from the comic book industry). Before getting bogged down with more philosophical questions, let’s appreciate some good old superpower usage in X-Men: First Class!

Observe the amount of concentration required in the first scene, compared to the relative ease in the second.

The second act is arguably more difficult: it requires control of a scattered collection of objects rather than just one, the control is required at far range, and the change in velocity is much greater. It’s hard to say which is more valid or realistic.

What Powers Are Valid?

Because the particle manipulation power was considered too strong, we decided to forbid it and use only well-known superpowers, to avoid some of the questions as to what was considered a superpower. But this clarification did not come at the beginning, it was more of a change of rules halfway in.

Even so, if you look at the comics, some powers are significantly stronger than portrayed in film. It’s still arguable that Jean Grey’s powers, especially as the Phoenix, are valid and are much stronger than most of the ones we talked about later in the discussion. Even so, do we count these powers separately? Are telepathy and telekinesis separate, or are they included together like in Jean’s case?

Magneto, for instance, is mostly known for him namesake, magnetism. But according to science, electricity and magnetism are really the same force, so does control of magnetism also come with control of electricity? According to Wikipedia:

The primary application of his power is control over magnetism and the manipulation of ferrous and nonferrous metal. While the maximum amount of mass he can manipulate at one time is unknown, he has moved large asteroids several times and effortlessly levitated a 30,000 ton nuclear submarine. His powers extend into the subatomic level (insofar as the electromagnetic force is responsible for chemical bonding), allowing him to manipulate chemical structures and rearrange matter, although this is often a strenuous task. He can manipulate a large number of individual objects simultaneously and has assembled complex machinery with his powers. He can also affect non-metallic and non-magnetic objects to a lesser extent and frequently levitates himself and others. He can also generate electromagnetic pulses of great strength and generate and manipulate electromagnetic energy down to photons. He can turn invisible by warping visible light around his body. […] On occasion he has altered the behavior of gravitational fields around him, which has been suggested as evidence of the existence of a unified field which he can manipulate. He has demonstrated the capacity to produce a wormhole and to safely teleport himself and others via the wormhole.

Thus, from a logical and consistency perspective, I found it difficult to reject the validity of powers such as these. We essentially watered down telekinesis to being able to move objects within X meters and within sight range.

Telekinesis vs Mind Control

Among the remaining, weaker powers, the debate ended up being between telekinesis and mind control. More and more rules were made up on the spot. Once it was established that one power was generally stronger, the other side tried to state some technicality that would limit the power, and thus bring both back to equal levels. At this point, I thought the debate was pointless because we already conceded so many of the better powers, and then kept limiting the remaining powers because of arbitrary, subjective reasons such as being “unrealistic,” which was the main counterpoint. This seems absurd, because you are debating superpowers in the first place—they’re not supposed to be realistic!

It seemed like a debate regarding “What is the highest whole number?” At first we got rid of infinity (omnipotence was not allowed). Getting rid of really strong powers turned into “What is the highest whole number less than 100?” Then when one side says 99, the other side uses a limiting argument basically saying, “The same way numbers over 100 are not allowed, 99 is absurdly high and should not allowed either.” It then becomes “What is the highest whole number less than 99?” And so on.

While there was some semblance to rational debate, it was clear that on the big picture scale, there were essentially no logical points being discussed. It was a matter of imposed fairness. “It’s unfair that your superpower gets to do X and ours does not, so yours is invalid.” But this defeats the purpose of the question in the first place, which was to determine which one was the best. It devolved into the question, “Given that a superpower does not exceed some power level N, what is the best superpower?” Of course, the answer will just be ANY sufficiently good superpower, restricted enough to be at level N. In this case, making up rules on the spot completely defeated the purpose of the question.

Conclusion

There were a bunch of other complications in the debate, but overall it was pretty fruitless. The rules of the debate, namely allowing one to make up rules spontaneously, defeated the purpose of the debate in the first place. It was not completely pointless, however, as it showed the need for setting clear guidelines at the start, and for being consistent.

The Number 23

It turned out to be one of those movies that seems kind of interesting when you’re watching it, but then, when you’ve finished it, you can’t help but to notice how much time you just wasted. The problem is that The Number 23 takes the paranoia of the number 23 far too seriously, despite some scenes being totally hilarious. It wasn’t clear at certain parts whether we were supposed to laugh or not.

Also, some of the references to 23 seemed way too far-fetched. I thought it was cool that numerous events and even names (by adding their letters) were linked to the number 23, but what crossed the line was linking things to the number 32, which is explained of course as 23 backwards. If anything that adds to 32 can pass, why not just make the title of the film The Number 32 and have all the things that add up to 23 be explained as just 32 backwards? This made absolutely no sense.

Perhaps the funniest event was when Jim Carrey (I don’t really remember any of the names, except for a fictional character that exists in a book inside the movie) explains that a certain person is innocent of a crime just because his numbers don’t add up to 23. Almost by definition, there must be some way to make it add up to 23. In fact, after we watched the movie, some friends and I spent the next two hours turning literally anything we thought of into the number 23. This was probably more of a waste of time than watching the movie itself.

And then of course, the length of the paper that I handed in today was… okay yep, 23 pages. *Cues dramatic music.*

Movies of 2010

I guess this shall be my mid-January tradition, to make a blog post with short reviews on the movies of the previous year. (For one year before, see the post Movies of 2009.)

2010 had some nice films, some of which I still haven’t seen. Once again, I’ll go in order of release date.

*At some points I quote my other posts. Just fyi.

Youth in Revolt (Jan 2010)

Youth in Revolt

Rating: 7/10

This is one weird but witty movie. Nick (played by Michael Cera, perfect for this role) and his alter ego (also Cera) are both hilarious, either in being awkward, as in the first case, or in being a super rebel, as in the second. A few parts of this movie are done very well—there are some very witty and nicely placed remarks—but most of the film is nothing special. Still QUITE funny though!

Leap Year (Jan 2010)

Rating: 3/10

It was pretty funny at times, but seems overly dramatic and full of clichés.

The Book of Eli (Jan 2010) (New)

Rating: 3/10

It lasted too long for what it delivered; the only parts with any meaning were at the very end, when a couple of key facts are revealed. Otherwise, it was very uninteresting: the plot moved slowly, the fight scenes were dull, and the characters undeveloped.

The Spy Next Door (Jan 2010)

Rating: 5/10

Throughly funny and entertaining, but utterly lacking in any depth. It seemed the whole purpose of the movie was to star Jackie Chan.

Edge of Darkness (Jan 2010)

Rating: 2/10

Mel Gibson’s acting doesn’t make up for the virtual lack of anything else in this “movie.”

Shutter Island (Feb 2010)

Rating: 7/10

This is a deep, mind-boggling thriller with a strong cast and artistic direction; however, it wasn’t the most thrilling and it moved at an unsteady pace.

Alice in Wonderland (Mar 2010)

Alice in Wonderland

Rating: 7/10

As I have said here before: “It is difficult to create a bad movie from Lewis Carroll’s ingenious vision of Wonderland, and likewise, it is exceedingly difficult to imitate or surpass it…. Tim Burton’s version takes place in a different time, and is hence necessarily different, but loses much of the fine wit and ridiculousness of the original work.” Otherwise pretty good. Just nothing outstanding about it, which was the whole point.

The Bounty Hunter (Mar 2010)

Rating: 2/10

Yeah, I don’t recommend anybody to watch this. I should really be giving this a 1, but because you get to hear Jennifer Aniston occasionally saying funny things, I’ll bump it up to a 2. (Though if you wanted that, you could just watch Friends, which is much better.)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Mar 2010)

Rating: 2/10

The problem is that at the end I could identify with none of the characters; even the protagonist was very unlikeable. And it’s plot seems without a lot of thought.

Hot Tub Time Machine (Mar 2010)

Rating: 6/10

An unusually creative use of time traveling. It has its funny moments, but feels lacking overall.

How to Train Your Dragon (Mar 2010)

Rating: 7/10

This animated film had a very convincing plot, excellent plot twist, and a good mix of Viking customs with dragon lore and fantasy. I was delighted by the film’s humor as well, especially in the protagonist’s name—Hiccup—and in the blacksmith’s tone that is jolly no matter the situation. The only part sub-par was the music, which I really wasn’t paying attention to.

Clash of the Titans (Apr 2010)

Clash of the Titans

Rating: 5/10

“I have not seen the 1981 rendition, but I will say the 2010 Clash of the Titans (the 2D version) was fairly nice. A fascination with Greek mythology also helps, as in my case, and it is fun to see the fight of gods from a modern lens.” Sam Worthington’s acting is pretty awesome, and the special effects that include the gods are dazzling.

Kick-Ass (Apr 2010)

Rating: 9/10

Although the story is somewhat silly, one actress single-handedly more than compensates for it: Chloë Moretz. Her brilliant (and extremely violent) performance as Hit-Girl makes this possibly the most entertaining movie of 2010.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Apr 2010)

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Rating: 2/10

This is a boring horror movie, which is almost a contradiction in terms. The plot is extremely simple: a bunch of teenagers get killed by Freddy. There is very little meaningful character development, and each death is predictable and unsatisfying. Many non-horror movies, such as The Terminator, are scarier than this.

Iron Man 2 (May 2010)

Rating: 5/10

TOO MANY EXPLOSIONS!!! Seriously though. Every minute, approximately two things blow up—I didn’t actually count, but that’s what it felt like—and it wasn’t too pleasant at all. Later on, about two things blow up every second. The plot too was very fictitious and not developed the most clearly. Then again, I haven’t watched the first Iron Man, but even so, it should be watchable stand-alone, which it wasn’t quite. The acting is quite brilliant though. Props especially to Robert Downey Jr.

Splice (Jun 2010)

Splice

Rating: 9/10

A fresh, original sci-fi movie, and that alone gives it at least an 8. The philosophical questions it raises are quite profound, and that for me bumps it up to a 9. The plot is basically that two genetic researchers illegally splice human DNA into a mix of other animals’ DNA, and the result is a creature named Dren (‘nerd’ backwards). Splice is a very believable movie—it could easily happen five or ten years from now, and it’s very scientifically accurate. [read more]

The Karate Kid (Jun 2010)

The Karate Kid

Rating: 7/10

Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan are amazing actors. The fight scenes are excellent; however, there is not enough of it—the beginning and the middle of the movie are rather slow. This is more than compensated in the last 15 minutes, a scene that is one of the best in film history.

Toy Story 3 (Jun 2010)

Toy Story 3

Rating: 9/10

Though this one in my opinion not as good as the first, it’s still a heck of a good movie. There were a lot of nostalgic moments from the earlier ones, and the timing of the release itself was perfect: the summer before the class of ’14 would go to college. (Yep, class of ’14 ftw!)

Predators (Jul 2010)

Rating: 3/10

Fairly weak and uninteresting; it does not compare at all to the original Predator (1987), which I think is great. A Predator film without Arnold is like a Terminator film without Arnold—oh wait…

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Jul 2010)

Rating: 5/10

Terribly, terribly cheesy, but not too bad. The acting was done well, and I loved how physics played ironically a large part in the plans of both the good guys and the bad guys.

Inception (Jul 2010)

Inception

Rating: 9/10

A film of intellectual brilliance. With stunning scenes as well, this is a solid film. Reminds me of The Matrix (1999).

Salt (Jul 2010)

Rating: 8/10

Salt has a remarkable plot and equally remarkable acting especially from Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt. The other characters however seem stereotypical and uninteresting.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Aug 2010)

Rating: 8/10

Despite the extremely predictable role of Michael Cera’s character (not that he’s a bad actor, but he’s pretty much the same person in every single movie), everything else about the film was entertaining, creative, witty, or a combination of the three.

Machete (Sep 2010)

Rating: 9/10

A surprisingly good movie that exceeded my expectations significantly. The acting and action are perfect, and though the story may be cheesy, it does manage to provide a good amount of social commentary as well. The gritty scenes follow perfectly the crime-filled plot. And for an action movie, it does have a sizable share of scenes that scream awesome.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (Sep 2010)

Rating: 3/10

Definitely not the worst, but perhaps the most disappointing movie of 2010. Having seen the first three Resident Evil’s (2002, 2004, 2007), I was expecting something interesting, but the creativity seems to have run out by the first movie. Also, I felt that this film would be very hard to grasp for someone who has not seen the other films in the series. The plot DOES make sense in context. But by itself, this film is quite random.

Easy A (Sep 2010)

Rating: 9/10

Let me get this clear: I’m usually not into teen comedies. But there is so much wit in this movie that it’s hard to not like. It’s also really satisfying to hear Emma Stone make clever retorts at everything. Overall, it is a much more sophisticated film than most of its type.

The Town (Sep 2010)

Rating: 8/10

An interesting crime movie, and a very good one too. The resolution was fairly weak, but this was made up for by the film’s overall intensity.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Sep 2010)

Rating: 7/10

Pretty engaging for a movie about owls. Even with an incredibly cliché plot, it manages to be convincing and provide beautiful scenes.

Let Me In (Oct 2010)

Rating: 7/10

I found this impressive but at the same time unimpressive—it matched up almost scene to scene with the Swedish film Let the Right One In (2008) on which it was based. (I gave the original a 10/10, by the way.) The American version is basically different actors, same movie. Then again, it’s still a strong film on its own.

The Social Network (Oct 2010)

Rating: 8/10

I think this was overhyped a bit; I didn’t think it was THAT good; then again, it wasn’t bad. And I’m actually quite a fan of Zuckerberg and Facebook, but after this movie, I was more unsure of Facebook’s origins than I was before.

Due Date (Nov 2010)

Rating: 5/10

Funny most of the time, but Robert Downey Jr.’s role definitely could have been funnier than it was. Also, some of the funny parts were more awkward-funny than comedic-funny. For a good laugh, I’d watch Iron Man 2 again over this, and that says something.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Nov 2010)

Rating: 6/10

Yet another Harry Potter movie. Some scenes were cool, but many seemed forced and less emotional than before.

The King’s Speech (Nov 2010)

Rating: 8/10

A splendid performance! It’s funny, serious, dramatic, and passionate.

The Warrior’s Way (Dec 2010)

Rating: 3/10

What was the point of this? I have no idea. The only part interesting to see the juxtaposition of an Asian warrior culture with the small-town culture of the American West.

Black Swan (Dec 2010)

Rating: 8/10

A very cohesive movie, more artful than any other in this list. There isn’t much action, but it manages to move at a brisk pace.

The Tourist (Dec 2010)

Rating: 8/10

Another excellent film, its only weakness is that it pins all of its excitement on one single plot twist, which isn’t too hard to figure out. It was genuinely entertaining the first time around, but I’m not sure I could enjoy it a second time, knowing what happens from the very start.

Tron: Legacy (Dec 2010)

Rating: 6/10

Some of the best visual effects I have ever seen, especially in 3-D. The storyline is a bit lacking though, and the dialog is nothing but cliché.

True Grit (Dec 2010)

Rating: 10/10

Truly one of the best movies of the year.

Trópico de Sangre [Tropic of Blood] (2010)

Rating: 7/10

A tale about oppression in the Dominican Republic under the rule of Rafael Trujillo, one of the most ruthless rulers in the Americas. If you watch this, I would strongly recommend that you watch this in the original Spanish version, even if you don’t know Spanish. I watched this in the English-dubbed version, and the voices were laughable. I initially gave this a 5, but then I saw a trailer of this in Spanish, and it was so much more convincing. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt for a 7.

My Favorite 2010 Film:

  • True Grit or Inception (woohoo!)

Movies of 2011 that I really want to watch (definitely incomplete list):

  • Sucker Punch (see the trailer if you haven’t already!)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (big fan of the Pirates series)

For films outside of 2010, see Movies.

7 (+1) Awesome Movie Scenes with the Most Fitting Music

Edit: Apparently YouTube has disabled the embedding of some of these videos. For those, #4 and #6, I’ll give the links instead.

What we hear can make just as much an impact as what we see. Since movies gained sound, the audio elements of a scene can turn it from a great one into a memorable one. Here I have compiled 7 (+1) of the scenes I find to have the most compelling pieces or songs. Each time, music has helped to immortalize an amazing moment.

7. “Thé à la menthe” – Laser Scene in Ocean’s Twelve

The only scene from a heist movie on this list, it is enjoyable to watch.

6. “Lux Aeterna” – Ending Scene of Requiem for a Dream

An excellent film about spiraling drug addiction. This visually and musically artistic scene ties everything up about the consequences of drugs. Most of you have probably heard this somewhere before; I had known this piece for years before learning its dark context.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuzNohk5cYw [the piece is audible starting 0:55]

5. Schindler’s List Theme – “I Could Have Got More” Scene in Schindler’s List

The music here, even if only part of the background, echoes what is played earlier at sad, often horrific moments of the movie. In this scene, Schindler laments that he could have saved even more human lives from the fate of the Holocaust than the 1100 he had already saved.

4. “The Times They Are A Changin'” – Opening Credits in Watchmen

While the visual portrays numerous historical references, Bob Dylan’s song echoes the spirit of the generation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-T5Yv2Xb4E

4b. “The Sound of Silence” – Funeral Scene in Watchmen

Here’s where the (+1) comes from. This scene from the same movie is matched by Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXNc53rIFe8

3. “The Circle of Life” – Opening Scene of The Lion King

The visual and musical elements of this scene go together beyond perfectly. I doubt that anyone in my audience does not recognize this.

2. “The Blue Danube” – Docking Scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey

For context: The movie has just jumped ahead 4 million years from its opening act, and not a single word has been spoken thus far (nor has there appeared a single human being). This scene was the one that popularized Strauss’s piece “The Blue Danube.” This was imagined in 1968 but is still wonderful to watch.

1. “My Heart Will Go On” – “I’m Flying” Scene in Titanic

No words can describe the power of music in this scene.

This is the first time I have ever embedded this many videos into a single post. Enjoy!

Edit: Reader submissions below!

“Married Life” – Married Life Scene from Up

One of the most heart-touching scenes out there.

“Claire de Lune” – Ending Scene of Ocean’s Eleven

This scene would make much more sense in context, which is that the group of men have just spent the movie pulling off an epic robbery.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLDFOzB2iHc

Inception (2010)

Inception

Rating: 9/10

Nolan’s mind-boggling dream film is a stunning and outstanding experience.

Although the idea of existing in another person’s dream is not new, Inception combines together several thoughts on dreams and presents them in an original and thrilling way. In the book Through the Looking Glass (1871, sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Alice is told she is not inhabiting her own dream, but the Red King’s. (“Life, what is it but a dream?”) In Inception, when Mal and Cobb are in limbo (before the events of the movie), Mal seems to echo Alice in her denial of the dream world: “‘I AM real!’ said Alice and began to cry.” But then, plot twist occurs.

Inception definitely reminds the viewer of The Matrix, which also has actors switching between illusion and reality. The scene where Cobb teaches Ariadne the foundations of the dream world strongly evokes the scene where Morpheus teaches Neo the foundations of the Matrix.  Nolan’s film, however, goes into multiple dream layers, which have very important roles in the story. And yet, overall the two films are different, and both have their crowning moments.