Automata Poster

Automata (2014)

Directed by Gabe Ibanez. Written by Igor Legarreta, Javier Sanchez Donate and Gabe Ibanez.

On paper, this film should be really, really good. It has a strong cast, the cinematography is equal to many contemporary films, and the overall production design is really excellent, albeit a little too reminiscent at times of some other, better known films. The narrative premise (again, nothing new) is solid and offers the promise of a deeper interrogation of questions of value, the nature of life and so on.

So why doesn’t work?

By the end of the first act I found myself wondering why I was watching yet another dystopian sci-fi, with a jaded but essentially goodhearted male anti-hero at its core. Antonio Banderas is in the hot seat this time, just trying to do the right thing by everyone – the company he works for, his heavily pregnant wife and increasingly, a sex robot named Cleo and her group of fellow robots trying to escape human interference across an irradiated wasteland. Yeah, I know, I don’t get it either.

This sombre piece uses a faded colour palette, and often overbearing score, the age-old cinematic tropes around femininity and motherhood and some very clunky dialogue to hammer home its message of human frailty in the face of self-aware machines. All in all it’s incredibly heavy-handed and should have been much more fun.

Automata is available to watch in Australia on Netflix, but I’d suggest revisiting Blade Runner (1982) or Mad Max (1979) for better quality dystopian sci-fi.

The Wandering Earth

The Wandering Earth Poster

The Wandering Earth (2019)

Directed by Frant Gwo.

This 2019 Chinese science-fiction film is loosely based on a novella of the same name from 2000 by Liu Cixin. Made for a relatively modest US$50 million, this made US$700 million world wide, making it the third highest grossing Chinese production of all time.

Narratively, it’s messy with too many side plots, but essentially, the sun is dying and in an audacious move, a newly formed world government decides to turn the earth into a spaceship, using multiple propulsion engines around the planet. The remaining inhabitants are sheltered deep underground in specially built bunkers, only returning to the now frozen surface to carry out maintenance activities. Leading the earth on its 2500 year voyage is a massive rotating space station, complete with a HAL-like computer, all eerily reminiscent of 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968). As the station and Earth pass by Jupiter things start to come unstuck and shenanigans ensue.

Directed by Frant Gwo, this is a big movie with big ideas and big themes. Everything about this film is over the top, with spectacular special effects, bombastic performances and frenetic pacing throughout. At times, it was really hard to keep up with the action and in many respects, it reminded me of an anime or manga.

Unfortunately, this was only ever released in the west on the streaming platform Netflix and I think it could have gained much from a cinematic release outside of China. Also, the science is frankly preposterous, and that did take me out of the action at times. Nevertheless, I had fun with this film and for all its flaws, found it quite enjoyable.

The Wandering Earth is available in Australia on Netflix in the original Mandarin with English subtitles, English closed caption or dubbed.

2020: The Year of Topsy-Turvy


Nectarine blossom September 2020

Well, if nothing else this year has proven to be always eventful, challenging and more recently, downright overwhelming.

It seems a lifetime ago now that I was hoping to fill my days in isolation with gardening, watching films, reading, music and writing. That was back in March.

Since then, I’ve had to sit quietly and watch while the world changed irrevocably. There have been illnesses, deaths, joys and triumphs – but above all things, hundreds of films to keep me going.

In June, I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a postgraduate course at my alma mater, Griffith University. I could do it part-time, fully online and there was enough interest from Screen Studies academics on staff to make me feel confident in my choices and less like an imposter.

Then in July my ex-husband died. This unleashed a torrent of conflicting emotions which I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say it was a very difficult time.

A few weeks ago, I started to notice unusual and frequent pain in my hands and fingers. I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary, so put it down to a Spring flare up. (Those of you with autoimmune and/or arthritic conditions will understand!) But it didn’t get any better, and by last week I couldn’t type, hold heavy objects or really do anything that required strength in my fingers. I was devastated.

Yesterday I went to my GP and I’ve started new anti-inflammatory drugs. Today I had x-rays taken of my hands and I started wearing compression gloves. Tomorrow it’s blood tests to determine if I have rheumatoid arthritis, which both my parents suffered from. Currently, the smart money is on psoriatic arthritis but we’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, I do what I can to keep everything moving, including some gardening, household/urban farming chores and patting the cat – who is purring next to me at the moment. I am eternally grateful for the support I have here at home, I really am a very lucky woman!

I’ve also made an investment in my future and bought voice recognition software – and that’s how I’m typing (or rather not typing) this post.

Hopefully, this will enable me to fulfil my uni requirements without causing undue pain and encourage me to write/dictate more blog posts, training this new software along the way.

I think I’ll call him Jarvis 🙂