Welcome to a very special Saturday edition of Maddd Science. Today's topic: Ex Machina, a quite good three-hander about guys being creeps. Some spoilers:
Ava: Ex Machina (dir. Alex Garland, 2014)
Dangerous Characters, Sady Doyle
At this point, you can guess that I’m fairly impatient with a lot of the feminist discourse around Ex Machina. To use the critic Alex West’s formulation, there’s a difference between a violent movie and a movie about violence, and there’s also a difference between a sexist movie and a movie about sexism. We see truly terrible things over the course of this movie [...] But the movie is asking us to be repulsed and disturbed by these images; to think about how they reflect on the fungibility of female flesh, or the degradation of female labor, in our own lives.
Here's a Film Crit Hulk piece that reads the film basically the same way, but with way more detail, so Sady's take is the more concise one. I was kinda obsessed with Ex Machina when I saw it like a year after everyone stopped caring about it, so this 2,800-word article was chewy enough to satisfy me.
EX MACHINA And The Art Of Character Identification
FILM CRIT HULK, Birth Movies Death
EX MACHINA HAS THE KIND OF PROVOCATIVE ENDING WHERE YOUR REACTION TO IT PROBABLY SAYS MORE ABOUT YOU THAN IT DOES THE MOVIE ITSELF. THAT'S WHAT MAKES IT SO GREAT.
Vortex was a short-lived 1977 U.K. sci-fi magazine. More importantly, this short profile of it doubles as an overview of the drama behind the U.K science fiction magazine scene in the 70s, which I of course found fascinating.
Vortex – The Science Fiction Fantasy
John Guy Collick, on his personal blog
When Smiths banned New Worlds following the serialisation of Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron (1969) (because it was disrespectful to politicians!) that was pretty well that. With the collapse of Science Fiction Monthly the general consensus was that the British SF magazine industry was dead.
Follow the arrow: Hidden designs in famous logos
Jacopo Prisco, CNN
"The practice of hiding elements is common to all visual communications, not solely logos. It's as old as the practice of the design of logos itself, but it probably reached its peak in the 1970s, when supposedly witty visual and verbal analogies became central to graphic design practice -- the era of the big idea," Paul McNeil, a typographic designer and lecturer at the London College of Communication, said in an email.
When a Cinematic Universe Is Built Around Something New
Ciara Wardlow, The Hollywood Reporter
The prestige that time has given the established fictional universes we know and love is ultimately a double-edged sword. High expectations and illustrious legacies are also heavy burdens. Yes, new cinematic universes are risky — they don’t have built-in fan bases— but they also have the freedom bestowed by that lack of expectations. They can have fun; go a little crazy.
This next one is from the AV Club's week-long series on Sherlock-adjacent movies. It's the sort of series that's fun because you can tell the writers have been waiting a long time to get the chance to talk about a favorite film.
Sherlock gets a high-camp makeover in a forgotten classic of queer Japanese cinema
Katie Rife, AV Club
Proper Victorian gentleman Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have been shocked by Black Lizard, future Battle Royale director Kinji Fukasaku’s 1968 high-camp crime caper that reinterprets the dance between Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, as an erotically charged game of cat and mouse between a glamorous jewel thief played by celebrated female impersonator Akihiro Maruyama and a dashing private eye played by Seven Samurai’s Isao Kimura.
(The runner-up article for that slot was on Young Sherlock Holmes, which I definitely have a soft spot for.)
My New Year's Resolution was to be less caustic in general conversation. One unexpected side-effect: I'm loving extra-caustic hot takes even more than normal to make up for the dip in sarcasm in my life. Here's something on the meaningless philosophy of Jordan Peterson. Unrelated, but I once mistook that guy for the fictional aspiring poet Paterson, which made for a confusing few tweets.
The Intellectual We Deserve
Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs
If you want to appear very profound and convince people to take you seriously, but have nothing of value to say, there is a tried and tested method. First, take some extremely obvious platitude or truism. Make sure it actually does contain some insight, though it can be rather vague. Something like “if you’re too conciliatory, you will sometimes get taken advantage of” or “many moral values are similar across human societies.” Then, try to restate your platitude using as many words as possible, as unintelligibly as possible, while never repeating yourself exactly. Use highly technical language drawn from many different academic disciplines, so that no one person will ever have adequate training to fully evaluate your work. Construct elaborate theories with many parts. Draw diagrams. Use italics liberally to indicate that you are using words in a highly specific and idiosyncratic sense. Never say anything too specific, and if you do, qualify it heavily so that you can always insist you meant the opposite. Then evangelize: speak as confidently as possible, as if you are sharing God’s own truth. Accept no criticisms: insist that any skeptic has either misinterpreted you or has actually already admitted that you are correct. Talk as much as possible and listen as little as possible. Follow these steps, and your success will be assured. (It does help if you are male and Caucasian.)
Why is Wes Anderson's 'Isle of Dogs' set in Japan? We're not sure either.
Angie Han, Mashable
Watching Isle of Dogs, it's hard not to think that the U.S. is maybe the last country on earth that should be preaching about how awful it would be if the Japanese carted off an unfairly maligned American-coded population to an internment camp.
Video: Jordan Peele Breaks Down "Get Out" Fan Theories from Reddit I forget if I've ever linked to this before, but it's definitely worth watching if you've seen the film.
Next Week on Maddd Science: Spoilers = good?
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