Saturday, June 29, 2002

Library, a movie and some music?

First off, the weather of the day stinks -- hot and sultry ... being wet in sweat is the pits. And my body's willingness to switch to porcine sweat mode with ease doesn't help matters much. Nevertheless, the library trip was rather rewarding.


The sleaze merchants : adventures in exploitation filmmaking/John McCarty

Careers as a disc jockey/Chris Weigant

What it is, what it was! : the black film explosion

Get Shorty/Elmore Leonard



The movie for the weekend was Minority Report. And a free small popcorn to boot (AMC member perks). I must say the film was rather satisfying. The end, as with Spielberg's recent cerebral ventures, suffers from his populist filmmaking foundations in being a tad sappy and optimistically defeatist. The effects are great and less plastic than Mr Lucas's circus film.

There are the evident touches of a Dick universe:

Commissioner Anderton's substance deals with the blind peddler on the street

the spiders as a technological innovation for policing set against the unkempt, tardy, weather-beaten apartment complex that Anderton hides in

nice little lines in the film (Agatha: I'm tired of the future)

the retina scan that shatters all notions of privacy (even customizing fluid ads for the person in question)

The ordinariness and emptiness of useful inventions like the precog vision analysis consoles, the vid-screen at home where Anderton uses home videos (stored against on transparent media) in a modified 3D perspective to assuage his grief at the loss of his son Sean. Spielberg even emphasises the void that these devices fail to fill, as he adopts a side view of Anderton's interaction with the image of his wife Lara.

Even the PreCrime transport ships are nicely contrasted against the tranquil everyday images of life in D. C. In fact, they seem almost completely out of place against the seemingly unchanged landscape of the city with all its green and grime.

The analysis of precog visions also reminds me of some of the videos we saw in the HCI classes. The dystopia of the future is not uniform, however, and some of the gadgetry actually gives it an optimistic upbeat note. But kudos to Mr. Spielberg for restraining the irritating star charm of Mr. Cruise for most of the film. I was only drawn to the starry wart when he began to emote and lend voice and emotion to dialogue in the exchange at Dr. Hineman's greenhouse. There are several odes to Stanley Kubrick, who has become Spielberg's posthumous muse: Anderton studying the precog visions for clues to the background of classical music, the motif of the eyes (which also recalls Blade Runner) and the operation that clearly quotes A Clockword Orange. In fact, Max von Sydow's character is [Lamar] Burgess, perhaps another affectionate reference to Orange's writer Anthony Burgess. Naming the precogs after famous creators of classic literary sleuths was also a cute idea: Dashiel [Hammett], Arthur [Conan Doyle] and Agatha [Christie]. Baz Luhrmann had tampered with the 20th Century Fox Logo to match the period of Moulin Rouge.
Spielberg does another take here: the Fox and Dreamworks logos are submerged ... to match with Agatha whose vision opens the film.

Ad spots: Kawasaki (at the plant that Anderton struggles to evade capture -- echoes of the sequence in the clowns movie), Lexus (the improved model that Anderton is 'fused' with as he escapes), Gap, Revo, Pepsi, Hydroplant, Ben & Jerry's, Geico Direct, Aquafin, USA Today, Reebok {more} {and more}


Temporal incongruity: The date for voting for/against PreCrime is advertised as Tuesday, April 22, 2054. April 22, 2054 would be a Wednesday not a Tuesday. {check it out}

Anderton handles two cases in the course of the film: The opening has him handling case 1108. Case 1109 is the one that implicates him as the perpetrator of a murder. However, when he is studying the precog visions on the transparent screen, you can see the case number indicated as 1108 (probably an artifact of the cut-copy-paste evil).

After his operation, John Anderton is instructed not to take off his bandages until time's up, or he will go blind. With time still to go, a spider lifts his bandage to scan an eyeball. This means, that Anderton would be blind in one eye (thus seemingly echoing the statement of the blind pusher: in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King). Yet this does not happen. Dangling plot thread anyone?

Vanilla Sky peeks: Cruise's director for Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe and co-star href=",+Cameron">Cameron Diaz cameo as people who notice Anderton in the metro over a dynamic edition of USA Today. And on that note, Stanley Kauffmann's review. {Sight and Sound}

After the film, we visited Borders. Thanks to the film, there's a resurgence of interest in Dick's work leading to a row devoted to Dick as well as specially packaged editions of the short story that inspired the film. I read the short story at the store and the differences can fill a novella. The central dilemma remains the same, but the crimes, the precogs, the perpertrators and Anderton's age are different enough. The good thing about adapting a short story is that there is so much you can add to the narrative to provide the audience with context (Total Recall did just that, adding hip and humour to an interesting Dick narrative, but diluting its dystopia). Overall, Spielberg has taken Dick's short story and made it his own, which apart from the end, is a commendable effort.

I gave in to consumerism as I purchased The Blues Years, a British import featuring tracks from the Yardbirds, the Immediate All-Stars, and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. {more about this album from}

One of the CDs I sampled at the listening ports was Their Greatest Hits: The Record, a two-disc compilation of Bee Gees hits. The first track off Disc One, New York Mining Disaster 1941, had The Beatles written all over it with the singing and the instrumentation. Interesting indeed.

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