Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pictures of Pictures

We visited NYC in days long before the invention of digital cameras, so these are digital pictures of the photographic prints we made.

This shot is a reflection across the atrium. The camera is on the railing just in front of my belly--used a timer of course.

The small white lights are Christmas decorations and you can see them in the previous picture as well.

NYC skyline from a distance.

What is that spiky thing at the top of the picture?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Last Week's Movies

We brought two Netflix movies with us to our NH trip: Avatar and Fantastic Mr. Fox. At first I thought they were total opposites of each other, but on further reflection, I'm not so sure that is true. As usual, "Blake" has great reviews of Avatar and Fantastic Mr. Fox. As for this post, it will just be random musings and criticism.


"Unobtainium", Really Mr Cameron? Did you call it that just so that if it was a bomb, you could claim the whole concept was parody? Two problems: One, why is this stuff so valuable? It cannot be essential for interstellar flight since Humans got to Pandorum without it. Two, all the stable elements are already accounted for.

Can any evolutionary biologist even imagine a scenario where plants and animals would have that braid thing which allows the humanoids to control them? I mean, it is great for the Na'vi, but what do the other plants and animals get out of it? One can imagine this being done via genetic engineering, but the Na'vi are stone-aged people.

Speaking of stone-aged, there is some point in the movie where the hero claims that "we don't have anything they want". Nonsense on stilts: How about cooking pots and pans, knives, hatchets, swords and a myriad of other useful things you can make out of metal? Much more likely is the scenario where the natives fight over a discarded Coke bottle as in The Gods Must Be Crazy.

Rather than starting a war with the natives, here are a couple of ways the Humans would really have operated, you know, if they were actual Humans and not two dimensional black-hats: The Humans would set-up a trade alliance with one group of Na'vi and exchange metal things, trinkets and exotic food like Mars bars in payment for driving away the Na'vi which are living over the mine. Or the Humans could have just tunneled under the tree from miles away, etc.

I could go on till the end of time finding whoppers like the above, but one final one before turning to the next movie. What mechanism allows the remote control of the Avatars? Physically, they are complete and there is no radio receiver on-board. We know this because (spoiler alert for those who still haven't seen the thing in the year since it came out...) at the end when the hero's mind is moved to his avatar, they didn't yank-out any hardware or make any physical changes to the avatar. So, why doesn't it operate autonomously in the first place? The mind is a construct of a working brain after all...

On to Fantastic Mr. Fox

Yeah! I liked it a whole lot more than Avatar. First a caveat; Fantastic Mr. Fox is first and foremost a Wes Anderson film. I like his style of films and so, no big surprise, I like this too. Mr. Fox is much like the character played by Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums. George Clooney plays Mr. Fox as a younger, hipper lovable rogue, but it is essentially the same part. The similarities to other Anderson films are abundant--my wife and I both exclaimed how the tunneling sequences in Mr. Fox were a lot like the cutaway of the ship in The Life Aquatic...I think "Blake" more ably delves into the Wes Anderson style, so I won't go beyond this.

So, what about all that "opposite" stuff from the start of this bit? Well, there is the obvious: In Avatar there is huge expense spent making the thing look wonderful and yet the story is moronic and the characters totally predictable. In Mr. Fox, the production values are low; you hardly ever forget that you are looking at stop-action animation. Yet the characters are human, at least in spirit, full of personality, humor and idiosyncrasy. Plus, it is an interesting and believable story.