Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bicentennial Man (1999)

Williams/Columbus Engage Smith/Proyas In An Asimov Rape-Off

Isaac Asimov didn't like sci-fi movies, dismissing them as showcases for scenes of destruction – and it's hard not to see what he meant, looking upon the sci-fi movies prior to his death and since. Oh, how he would roll in his grave if he knew Roland Emmerich was supposedly attached to film the Foundation story.

For all of its crimes, Bicentennial Man is perfectly innocent of this accusation. The only thing you'll see destroyed here is Asimov's delicate, necrotic sphincter as Chris Columbus and Robin Williams take turns plunging their dicks into it. What we're basically asked to accept in this movie is to watch Robin Williams make the journey from servile automaton to somebody who gets away with farting in bed with Embeth Davidtz.

Sam Neill, for a while anyway, brings the dignity of a father being patient with an intensely curious child to a role of the patriarch of a "not too distant future" (2005) family, which purchases a robot butler, Andrew. We learn that such robot butlers are not so uncommon among the moneyed, though I'm already feeling a little uncomfortable about this arrangement, not because of any possibility of household kill-bottery (I can trust the Three Laws at least that much) but because it seems like a gimme that at least one kid is gonna form a weird, unhealthy attachment to the 'bot that a human butler would at least recognize as weird and unhealthy. Dad attemptes to explain the finer points of the human experience in fireside chats, which allow Williams to do his...thing.

37 minutes in, things start looking like they might be getting interesting. It flash-forwards a number of years – I don't know how many, but Embeth Davidtz plays the younger sister and she was at least 33 at the time of filming - and this remarkably tolerant family has allowed Andrew to accumulate a vast collection of grandfather clocks that BONG BONG BONG every hour, driving mom to drink. That shit would drive me to dry up crack babies and smoke them.

Too bad this is kicked to the shit curb 38 minutes in when suddenly dad is all like, "He's only a machine!" Neill spends the remainder of his scenes bouncing between attitudes about Andrew's sentience, to say nothing of his own ("What floor are we on here?" What the fuck, what button did you press in the elevator?!?!?).

We hear how Andrew is an older model...and then it flash-forwards another dozen years, and Davidtz has her own bratty kids with her almost entirely unseen husband (Asimov certainly didn't shy away from the possibilities of human/robot sexual coupling) and I still have no idea how this world works with its robots. Neill is doing crosswords on an iphone the size of a VCR.

Andrew's apparently been making a fortune from his art. How does the art world receive him? How does the scientific community regard an attemptedly artful machine? Where are the new-generation robots? Where's the non-robot artificial intelligence?

In the movie's most agonizing scene yet, the screenwriters don't even appear to know what a "mutation" is. Later, Andrew sullenly takes the inability of Embeth's granddaughter (also played by Embeth) to emotionally attach herself to a machine as "a genetic trait" – what, has the rest of humanity been humping his leg all this time?

Andrew searches for more of his own kind for ten years. How far has android technology come in this like...fifty years since the beginning of the movie? Nowhere, androids have fallen out of fashion. Out of fashion, what the fuck?!? He finally finds other models like his own. They're either dead, or idiots. He finds a girl version. She has robo-tits, and nobody pays any mind when a forty-year-old robot chick dances around in public to a loudly blasted recording of Aretha Franklin. She's an idiot (the robot, not Aretha). What made Andrew so special? I'm sure the secret ingredient was love.

It's 82 minutes before we see anything that suggests to us that we've gone into the future. 91 minutes in and it occurs to me, this is the first brown person I've seen in this whole movie. She's singing for the entertainment of a bunch of white people. 104 minutes in Andrew excitedly claims he's always been fascinated by human sexual processes, despite showing no evidence of that previously in the movie.

When he is upgraded to be able to taste things, he immediately perceives certain foods as "wonderful" and "marvellous". There's nothing that tastes like shit to him. So what value has his sense of taste? The chief speaker of the One World Goverment or whatever is flanked by Canada and Portugal. Call me snooty if you will, but Canada, I can see; we're nothing if not so all-inclusive of others that we're still bickering about whether we even have our own identity. But Portugal? Bullshit man, the Portuguese are the gold medallists of the douchebag olympics. Just ask any Portuguese guy.

It ends with one of those scenes that extols Robin Williams's heartwarming awesomeness to the strains of James Horner's heartstring-tugging strings. It even follows that up with some sorta Celine Dion-sounding song. WAIT, it actually is Celine Dion, fuck you world, obviously you hate the two-legged plague that walks your surface.

The bottom line with this movie, aside from the expected hand-wringing about Williams's mugging and Columbus's...being all Columbus (there's a scene where idiot-bot sings "If I Only Had A Heart"), is that this was all done in Star Trek: The Next Generation already and it was bullshit then too. An android that doesn't explore the limits of being as awesome an android as it can be before wanting to be a Real Boy is an android I'd ask for a refund over.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Okay, this is looking pretty official now.

Jeez, this kicks livejournal right in the dick. Either that or I'm easily impressed within a very short amount of time by free webhosts that require a minimum of effort to get your shit online (probably why I was with geocities for 11 years). If you have a compelling argument to sway me over to another blog site, send it on, but right now this is looking like the place!

Some history for the uninitiated:

The Cavalcade Of Schlock started in 1998-ish when I didn't even really know I was writing movie reviews. At the start, I was just writing posts on the alt.horror newsgroup detailing why I wasn't enjoying the movies that the newsgroup's regular posters were regularly hailing as classics. Basically, it was me bitching.

Soon this had happened often enough that it seemed like a good idea to compile all these posts in one place, and thus the COS was born.

This was quite the snazzy novelty at the time - remember, this was back when the internet consisted of six guys with tin cans and string - and it was helped by my being cheerfully prolific, watching and writing about four movies a day for months on end (probably had something to do with my best friend at the time being some guy named Captain Morgan...and where the fuck is he now?!?). Over the next whole buncha years I drifted away from the newsgroup, as my pop-culture interests looked to a more all-genre inclusive appreciation of movies, but also music, comics, strippers, neighbour-killing, whatever - but I kept posting, if increasingly infrequently (for which my sanity is grateful), to the COS. This went on until October 2009 when apparently geocities called it quits, and I found myself having to rescue about a thousand movie reviews from cyber-oblivion. I am of mixed feelings about this; about 80% of these, I can't even read without cringing a little. But, they're an honest representation of my thoughts at the time, and I'd rather be honest than try to retroactively correct my thoughts about anything.

Another aspect of the Calvalcade was the "horrormetal" section, where I compiled a fairly vast trove of samples used in metal music, linking them to their original sources - which was, to my knowledge, the only resource of its kind for a while. How many of us can say that? Fucking me and no one else, that's who. But I didn't really have a lasting interest in it; the problem was, I got a ton of emails from people listing the samples they'd heard in songs by bands I'd never heard of and had no interest in. This is the kind of thing that would work best in a wiki-style user-edited database. I haven't rescued all that information from the archives yet, but that endeavour is in hand.

Now that the Cavalcade Of Schlock has found its new home, this is what you can expect:

-Smaller, but more regular updates. I won't wait until I have a dozen reviews up to post - if I have one, I'll throw that up there once it's done.

-More interaction between me and you, the reader. I've been pretty much shit when it comes to answering my emails - and that's honestly not going to change, because my hotmail account has always largely been used as a spam sink and not something I attach to the really important shit. My reviews were originally intended as a starting point for discussion about the movie I was writing about, and that's what I want them to be. You want to comment, please comment! Just leave a consistent name, even a made-up one, I don't want everything to come from one "anonymous" after another.

-The occasional bit of non-review bullshit. Once in a while I'm probably going to want to ramble on about some sort of thing that's tickling/bothering/arousing/stabbing me that day.

-The horrormetal thing is done, for me anyway. If somebody wants to take it over, get in touch with me.

-"Classic" reviews - the ones from the geocities days - will be reproduced verbatim, over time. If I can scarcely live with myself for having written them, I'll mention that in a comment.

That's all I've got for now. New reviews will be coming, and I've gotta alter to redirect to here instead of the now-dead geocities, but this is the Cavalcade Of Schlock's new home. Hope you enjoy it. And thank you for reading all this time.

Post one, test post!

Just comparing this versus livejournal. Whichever one I like working with more, gets to be the new home.