Science on Film

As scientists we get a pretty hard time of it.  If we’re not struggling for publishable results, or being misquoted in the press about our research; then we’re being portrayed as über-geeks in The Big Bang Theory or with cinema-screen foreheads and clipboards in adverts (I’m looking at you Tefal).  Some of my non-science friends still call me boffin. If that isn’t enough, our subject matter, our interest, nae, our passion can be treated with such cavalier contempt in films.

As I see it, there are several issues to address here.  There is a fair amount (as you might expect) of bad science in movies; however there is also some good science (or at least the director has made an attempt to grasp some basics).  Quite often the scientist is the voice of reason (though the incidence of anyone paying them any attention is rather less); more often than not however, the mad scientist is the preferred flavour.  Finally I shall give some thought to the stereotypes that are perpetuated in the movies and whether there is any likelihood that it may change.

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Oblivion (2013)

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I first saw Oblivion almost two years ago as an inflight movie:

Oblivion is one of the many films I wanted to see last year, but I just didn’t get the chance.  I’d heard mixed responses to the film so I was keen to take a gander myself.  Tom is usually good to watch, and Oblivion is no different.  Morgan Freeman is the other big name, but I felt he was mostly wasted, rather like in Wanted.  Andrea Riseborough is good as Victoria, the soulless robotic woman who is Tom’s partner, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister) is fine as Morgan Freeman’s head of security without really being able to excel as he does in GOT.  The design was terrific and the effects were top notch, though overall I thought the film was missing something.  All the best Sci-Fi has something to say about human nature, and I’m just not sure what this was saying.  Maybe it’s because it borrowed from some of the best Sci-Fi: there were definite strains ofPlanet of the Apes, Moon, Logan’s Run and perhaps even Silent Running; the result is quite a mish mash of themes.  A very enjoyable film (with an excellent soundtrack), just lacking that little bit extra to make it a really good film.

I must say that I think I enjoyed it rather more this time; that could be a combination of a bigger screen (cinematography by Claudio Miranda (Tron Legacy, 2010; Life of Pi, 2012) is stunning), and the fact that I really quite love the score composed by Anthony Gonzalez (M83).  I still think there are many different Sci-Fi tropes as mentioned above, but with less mish-mash than I previously commented.  But, you know, that’s just, like, my opinion man.

10 Scores that are better than the movie

This is an idea that’s been brewing for some time now.  I listen to soundtracks more than anything else, and I’d noticed how quite a few of the ones I really like are from films that aren’t considered that great.  I couldn’t initially think of 10 movies, I think I only got as far as 8; but thanks to the wonders of social media I was helped by others.  So, many thanks to +Steve Nixon +Jaina Mistry +Daniel Silva +Josh Murphy +Valerie J +Benjamin L. Harris and +Alain Kemp for their help, ideas and discussion.

So here is my final list.  Maybe you agree with me, maybe you think I’ve missed some howlers, or (more likely) you think I’m being unduly harsh on Up!  But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.

For those on Spotify, the playlist of all these scores is here.

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