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2019 Diary: January
Movie list created by Mackenzi
Not only do I need to watch more, but I gotta pick my way through my untouched books and video games. I've got 70+ books and 100+ games in my backlog and I want to pick up the pace getting through them, since it's not like I'm gonna stop buying any time soon ahahaha. And to inspire me I have come up with monthly themes to help me pick what to read, watch and play.
January's theme is: Robots! A.I., machines, cyborgs, artificial life, created bodies, anything related.
JAN - Robots. FEB - Gothic. MARCH - Youth & Old Age. APRIL - Detectives. MAY - Westerns. JUNE - Stars & Planets.
JULY- Snowed In! AUG- Royalty. SEP - Travel. OCT- Mythology. NOV - Artists. DEC - Ghosts.
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Decade: Rating: List Type:
~~~~~~~~~~~Bots! Bots! Bots!
Autonomous: A Novel (2018)
A great start to my robots theme, but I'm a little worried it may have ruined robot movies for me a little bit. When it comes to film we are just getting to a point of showing cool looking robots on-screen without being really expensive, and I think robots in film (that aren't simply humans) are a little under-developed.
This book is a genre moved forward from iRobot, from Blade Runner, actually building on the concepts of robot autonomy as well as human autonomy, and envisions a world where we're beyond asking "are robots individuals, should they be considered alive, do they deserve rights?". Sure robots have rights as living individuals, but they're created by companies who deserve to see a profit from their investments, so there is a system of indentured servitude in place where robots must "work" without autonomy for a certain amount of years to earn autonomy. But if robots have the opportunity to benefit from the indenture system, why can't humans? Yes, with the opportunity to enslave for profit, humanity decided instead of making a step forward and banishing the system, to take a huge step back and re-apply it to people too- so society has essentially taken a step backwards and re-introduced the concept of slavery to humans as a response to robots wanting autonomy. Of course the people living in this world see the irony and whether the entire concept is referred to as "indentured" or "enslaved" depends on who you talk to.
And moving another step beyond, the book itself is about a woman who pirates medicine and sells it dirt cheap to those who can't afford it, and the romantic relationship between a vaguely humanoid military robot and its human partner who are hunting the woman down. The final result is a world that is very well realized and developed, without getting too caught up in exposition or worldbuilding.
I had a great time reading it, it hooked me from the first chapter and it is written in an easy to read style, so even though I was 1/3 through a William Gibson novel I dropped it and finished Autonomous in about three days. The only criticism I have of it is not objective: I was totally taken by the robot/human relationship parts of the book, in fact anything robot related was significantly more interesting to me for the first half. It's probably just my personal preferences though, and by the midway point things began to come together and the different stories meshed more and more. Overall a great read, and the inspiration to make January a robot theme.
NieR Automata - PC Games
I've finished one playthrough of the supposed 3 required to really delve deep into this game's story. I will need a break for a bit, but I'm glad I decided to play on easy mode so it doesn't take all too long to get through. The gameplay itself is alright, the scenery is gorgeous, decent writing so far, and I really like the story of the previous NieR game, so I'm sure I'll get back to it asap.
I can't say much on the narrative yet, one playthrough just dips your toes in, but I enjoy what I've sampled so far. I like the irony of androids treating robots with prejudice, the total lack of humans despite the entire point of the android/robot war being to take back Earth for humanity, and all of the strange religious, philosophy, and sexual concepts applied to metal creatures who struggle with those ideas as much as we do. I also like how parodies or points out weird anime tropes: for example, all of the androids on the space base are full-on ecchi anime, either lolita-dressed young women or boys who look much too young to be around lolita-dressed young women. But all of the androids on earth are significantly more normal human proportions, looking like actual adults and wearing practical clothing. YMMV but I am enjoying the weirdness of these styles being put under the spotlight.
Typing this out is getting me motivated to play through it more. Hopefully I can finish at least one more playthrough this month, if not two.
Hardcore Henry (2016)
Ridiculous and stupid, but in all the same ways FPS games are. It really did look like action game cutscenes through the whole thing. The first person aspect worked better than I thought, it was less jostling than a lot of found footage movies I've seen and did a good job keeping the pace up and going. I don't know if that justifies its existence or means it's worth watching, as the writing is about as bottom-of-the-barrel as most of the games it imitates, but I was at the least impressed by how much it actually was like a juvenile, brainless shooting game.
There is some robotic concepts here, lots of humans or human-looking people with robot parts, enhancements, programmed memories, etc. But it's about the same depth as your buddy saying "hey what if Russia has soldiers who had mech enhancements?" and then you change the subject.
This wasn't an especially fascinating or fresh idea for a movie. It's a story we know all the beats to by now. But it looked very lovely. Beautifully filmed, and a great melancholy atmosphere. I thought I'd be bored with it, and truly I did not care very much what most of the characters had to say, especially the big bad corporate goons. But it held my interest to see these great clunky robots maneuvering painfully slow and wobbly through the whole thing, with no CGI until the very end. It was pretty cool.
Subsurface Circular - PC Games
Oh, hell yeah. This was cool. Shorter than I expected but it was really good to get through in one sitting. And it did what it needed to do, no need to draw it out.
I liked the format a lot, pure dialogue that you could sit and absorb, with more than decent writing, made it quite cozy. It did a good job painting a futuristic world just through spoken words and I could imagine the world outside the little subway system very vividly.
Let's compare to other media with similar concepts. Unlike the movie Automata, but similar to the book Autonomous (we could get some better titles going here LOL), Subsurface Circular has gone past "do robots with AI count as individuals?" and exists in a space where they do indeed, and the journey to robot's gaining rights has lasting effects on human society that are reflected in the dialogue. Our main playable character is a robot, or a "tek", who is a detective for what sounds like some kind of government body and who is "geolocked" to the subway system while it's working. Even this simple concept illustrates the current climate for teks: there are paying jobs, but humans can program you to literally not be able to leave your workplace. We see more of this as we talk to other individuals who are on this robots-only subway system: an athletic tek who signed up for a job promoting a sports drink whose communication is reprogrammed during business hours to only be able to discuss the drink. A robot from a different city that hasn't banned individual ownership of robots and the two discuss if it's actually an improvement to be technically owned by the government, even if you're getting paid for it.
The game gets momentum from a classic detective trope; an individual asks you to look into their friend's disappearance off the record, and you agree. What you eventually discover through various lines of questioning is a much more dire problem that leads to no less than an impending revolution.
I'd rate it higher but the end was a little frustrating. I don't think I'd go so far to say it's bad writing. The things each individual says makes sense in context for their beliefs. But it's a little frustrating as a player to have to chose between two different options that both seem bad. In the end I decided it was time for a change; the status quo doesn't need to stay the same, and from what I understood of the world this game takes place in, the status of one major city won't necessarily change others, but it will have ripple effects. So in that sense this game was wildly successful; it made me actually weigh both options from every point of view I could think of, and I sat on the final decision screen and discussed with my girlfriend for about twenty minutes before choosing. So maybe I've talked myself into a higher rating after all, haha.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
Whoah! Whoah! Whoah! Whoah!
Holy shit! I had no idea what this movie was gonna be about. I have skipped over this one two Halloweens in a row for other horror flicks, but hell with it, this definitely counts in my robots theme. It's [i]hard to watch[/i]. You can practically smell this movie, in a very gross, bloody way. I drank one of those green machine smoothies while I watched and the bottle has this hilarious sticker on the back that says "the GOODNESS INSIDE" on the back, which was really funny to see right next to this disgusting mess of a movie.
I had no clue what this film was like going in. It worked really well after a morning of looking up new books to read and my mind was kind of all over the place while this was on to one side of my PC. I probably would have been less fond of it on the bigger TV screen, had I sat down on the couch and focused all my attention to it.
I don't think it's for everyone, in fact there is a very limited number of people on this earth that this movie is for haha. But I had an appreciation for the way all of this absolute terror was shown to us bit by hallucinogenic bit. Strange, quite fuzzy moments almost totally lacking in dialogue, hard cut to being blasted with some kind of graphic body horror that is exponentially worse than it seemed six seconds ago, more like a musical composition than a movie. Like some bizarre, grotesque song of metal and flesh.
It had more in common with Hardcore Henry than any other robot content I've watched this month; this mechanical side of robots, replacing our organic parts with mechanical ones. The incompatibility of those two concepts. In this case in a very Junji Ito style, intended to disturb, to focus on that very graphic loss of humanity (or lack of any humanity to begin with I suppose).
As an example of what the genre is capable of, a look at what's out there, what's been made in the past and by different cultures, it's worth watching. But if anyone is even remotely uncertain about watching it I'd say skip it, because it is truly a niche film, and incredibly disturbing.
Ex Machina (2015)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
I end up watching a lot of movies and TV at my job, though I don't get to pick them, usually my boss has pretty decent taste. Well, most movies are pretty good if you're getting paid while you watch them huh? :D
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
I hadn't seen this since I was a kid because the gigantic wolf scared me so darn much, and I was so sad about the swamp scene, that it just left 8 year old me too raw and emotional to watch over again. Now of course it's a whirlwind, every scene whether funny or sad or scary goes by in the blink of an eye and it doesn't have quite the same emotional impact. I am also not very fond of "chosen one" tropes so that seemed a little trite- but honestly I love the idea of The NeverEnding Story, that we're all part of it because it's our story too. It's very uplifting. The visuals of this movie still hold up after all these years and the dialogue is a lot of fun.
(pictured above: childhood trauma)
Back to the Future (1985)
The hype for this movie is insane and though I feel like I'd seen it once before a long time ago, when I watched this again I didn't recognize pretty much any of it.
I will give it to the ultra-fans, this is a pretty great movie. It's well paced, funny, pretty intense in some parts, it looks great. I was kind of neutral on it before, but now I think I'd go so far as to say it's actually pretty good. I still gotta watch the next two, though.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017)
Season 2 has been a lot less focused and you can feel the lack of forward momentum in most episodes. A lil more meandering, a little slower. But the dialogue is still hilarious, the set and costume design is still beautiful and colorful, and I still enjoy the characters... except Joel, who really doesn't even need to be in the show anymore, and while his parents banter is quite funny, his presence is less and less compelling every episode. Otherwise, still a stellar show even without the full force that season 1 had. Funny and highly recommended.
Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Back to the Future Part III (1990)
White Christmas (1954)
Future Man (2017)
Little Monsters (1989)
The Lego Movie (2014)
~~~~~~~~~~~All the rest!
Bird Box (2018)
More drama than horror, less intense than The Happening, you can usually tell what's about to happen next, but it doesn't pretend to be more clever than it is. It is some of the best speculative fiction I've seen in a bit, taking a "What if?" scenario and really running with it, feeling out the corners, and taking the time to give us characters who we can enjoy and root for and cry for. Sandra Bullock did a good job and Trevante Rhodes and his stunningly white, perfect teeth where also good.
I'm hopeful the next few years give us more interesting horror films like this one.
Fewer birds in boxes than I expected. But it was cool.
The Little Hours (2017)
Went into it with cautious optimism and you know what, it was pretty damn funny. The comedy was right up my alley. It could have been mean-spirited and "raunchy" but it was actually pretty cute, and I laughed quite a bit. The cinematography was spot on, beautiful and hilarious. I'd watch it again and recommend it to anyone who is not going to be upset by religious figures being the main focus. I'll reiterate it wasn't mean-spirited, religion itself never came under fire, so I hope it's something a good amount of people can enjoy.
Stargate SG-1 (1997)
What's life without a scifi serial beginning with the word star? My girlfriend and I started from episode 1 and it's been extremely fun so far. The show has a lot of typical 90's nonsense and typical scifi nonsense in the first season and we've been having a lot of fun watching and discussing episodes over dinner.
I've been wanting to watch Hero for a long time, and I was very happy to see it pop up on Netflix. Truly beautiful. The story could have been nothing and I still would have liked it. But the story was interesting, fun to watch unfold, and had plenty of food for thought. That paired with beautiful choreography, it was a real treat to watch. A classic!
Random docu to have on while I did some chores one day. I am not sure how much it resonated with me personally, but in general I do like learning about odd, quirky, or unusual artists, people with vision or presence or otherwise interesting. And I enjoyed seeing his progression through the years, as history happened around him and how he interacted with events and how they changed him. I was expecting something meh but I liked hearing about the strange narrative of this man's life. He seems like a character someone might dream up for a fantasy novel. Odd, headstrong, passionate, problematic at times, practically his entire body of artwork destroyed, ends up alone in California with kooky, unscientific ideas about the origins of the human race... he could be my next Dungeons and Dragons character.
The Duchess (2008)
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