Well well well. 2015 has finally reached its end. After 201 films, 25 interviews (including Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, Jason Segel, Jason Schwartzman, Greta Gerwig, Jemaine Clement, Alex Garland, and Nick Kroll to name just a few), three massive international film festivals and countless hours spend idly engaged in film banter with my always entertaining gang of colleagues and peers at various Seattle screening rooms, I can finally come to the conclusion that, for what it’s worth, 2015 was an odd duck for film. Read More
For the casual film-goer, 2015 has started off on relative slow footing. Dumping ground months January and February held few critical or commercial surprise hits – outside of one release featured on this rundown – with anything of worth reserved for festival-going audiences. Barring the outrageous international money-vacuum that is Furious 7, Summer 2015 has proved a touch disappointing with expected giants such as Avengers: Age of Ultron landing softer than anticipation (while still claiming the second biggest opening weekend ever) and big franchise resets like Terminator: Genisys and Jurassic World waiting in the wings with big question marks (and budgets) hanging over their heads. Read More
A barber’s straight razor cuts through the membrane of a young woman’s eyeball to reveal the gushing fluid inside. Ants crawl out of a mysterious hole in a man’s hand. Neither of these disturbing images have context, nor do they need it in the pure insanity of Un Chien Andalou, a 15-minute short directed by Luis Bunuel in 1929 with participation from fellow Spaniard and avant-garde artist Salvador Dali. It was a monumental stepping stone for cinema; one that represents one of the earliest depictions of surrealism in film. Read More
Alex Garland has been lurking through the film world since the turn of the century, trying on all kinds of hats on all kinds of projects. His career began somewhat inauspiciously when Danny Boyle turned Garland’s 1996 Thailand travelogue nightmare into a critically flunky Leonardo DiCaprio project (though I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for The Beach, both the novel and the film.) Shortly thereafter, Garland teamed with Boyle again to greater effect; producing what was to become one of the greatest zombie features of all time in 28 Days Later…, a film that really set the stage for the success of a cultural phenomenon like The Walking Dead. Read More
In Alex Garland‘s sci-fi opus, Ex Machina – most commonly seen in the phrase “deus ex machina”, meaning “god from the machine” and frequently used to describe convenient plot contrivances (of which Ex Machina has none) – refers to the process by which a machine transcends its “machininess”. The Turing test has come to describe this as-of-yet unrealized phenomenon more specifically. This experiment tests for a “machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.” Thus the barrier to entry for any truly credible A.I. is sky-high.
Not only must you exhibit superlative intelligence but it must also be nigh indistinguishable from that of a human; a tricky task indeed and one that drives the audience to question what it is specifically that makes an intelligence human. Halfway through Garland’s film, a character drives a scalpel into his arm fervently hunting for circuitry. When the aesthetic design and electronic capacities are this close to impeccable, who’s to say what is man and what is machine. Read More