Cinecast Episode 416 – List List

Last week we talked about all of the films coming in the next week that we’d have a tough time reviewing them all. As a consequence, we review none of them. Instead, we just glide from this to that, as Moses Znaimer would say, it is flow, not show. We look at our Top 5 Danny Boyle films, and as we are wont to do, talk at length about Sunshine. A medley of Mamet, Soderbergh, Bullock, Sorkin, Halloween horror and various other bon bons are extracted from the candy box. We call these: “shoot the shit” shows and we hope you find something worthwhile in the grab-bag. Note that the show is almost 100% spoiler free this week!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 

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Some Thoughts on Ex Machina

The great science fiction writer-philosopher Stanislaw Lem wrote, “We do not want other worlds, we want mirrors.” And to that extent, writer-director Alex Garland’s ominous take on A.I., Ex Machina is just that. It is far less about the potential birth of a new form of intelligence and far more an allegory about how men fear and control women. It demonstrates this both with Oscar Isaac’s recluse inventor, Nathan (and his billion dollar bachelor pad) to Domhnall Gleeson’s sensitive young programmer, Caleb. The latter is clearly in over his head talking to Ava, the artificial woman, or rather woman void of agency, played by Alicia Vikander and some impressive CGI, in her glass cage. But really, in different ways, for all their philosophizing, both men are in over their heads because they operate under the illusion that their heads are so darn big.

Despite all the dialogue about Prometheus and Turing, and a score by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow which echoes the notes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the film is best exemplified by how Nathan remembers Ghostbusters – as that movie where the ghost gives Dan Aykroyd a blow-job. Other remarkable scenes include a bit of spectacular discotheque dancing of Nathan with his mute Japanese assistant-servant-slave girl to establish dominance and intimidate Caleb. Later, a secretive whisper between Ava and the very same assistant at the key moment of weakness for both of the men, crystallized my reading of the film. To paraphrase Princess Leia, “the more you tighten your grip (in this case, the wrestle of egos between Nathan and Caleb) the more control systems will slip through the fingers.”

Ex Machina styles itself as a chess match between two men of different ideologies, but really it’s a sex match of dominance for the right to decide the fate of Ava. What makes it good science fiction, is the demonstration just how much our impulses and biology bring out the worst in us, no matter how much technology, concrete or glass we put in between.

As an act of design and the distance between design and emotion, Ex Machina would make a very good double bill with Spike Jonze’s Her, albeit, Jonze’s film is more optimistic and warm, certainly less grim and grisly (and cool) than Garland’s take. Blade Runner, along with Soderbergh’s Solaris remain, remain, for me, the master-class entries on capturing the ‘feeling’ of it’s subjects consciousness, but Ex Machina more prosaically examines consciousness with a session-debrief narrative structure, and in-text nods to Wittgenstein’s Blue Book, along with discussion of several iconic thought experiments on consciousness. It is a both a great film and an exceptional primer — on the eventuality of something other than men inheriting the earth.

Ex Machina: Trailer #3

On the eve of its US release, A24 put out one more trailer for Alex Garland’s artificial intelligence thriller starring Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander. This one emphasizes the connection to actual science and social theory regarding the subject. Along with additional images and scenes from the film, quotes on the subject matter from 21st century thinkers, scientists and businessmen are interspersed instead of the usual critics blurbs.

My favourite is from Dr. Scott Phoenix: “If you invent artificial intelligence, that is the last invention you will ever have to invent.” Sounds either ominous or optimistic. Possibly, paradoxically, both.

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

Trailer: Ex Machina

Alex Garland is known for writing a number of science-fiction films, both 28 Days Later, Sunshine for Danny Boyle, as well as Adapting Kazuo Ishiguru’s novel Never Let Me Go for Mark Romanek, and even the most recent adaptation of dystopian-justice comic, Dredd.

Garland’s directorial debut is the single location, three-hander drama, Ex Machina, starring Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander. It premieres in North America on March 15 (and has had a positive response from other markets for which the film is already in commercial release) at SXSW Festival, before a commercial release on April 10th.

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

“Want to see something cool?” Check out the trailer below.