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I had heard of "Ex Machina," but knew absolutely nothing about it before a couple of nights ago - released in 2015, it won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects - considering it was a relatively low-budget, independent, science-fiction film, it's pretty remarkable that it didn't come across as low-budget (it didn't come across as high-budget either; it fell somewhere in the middle). Made for $15 million, it beat out such films as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" ($250 million) and "Mad Max: Fury Road" ($150 million) - this alone is remarkable. Writer-Director Alex Garland also received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Screenplay, justifiably losing to the fine "Spotlight" - I suspect that, in this category, the crew took a "just happy to be here" attitude. I don't write plot summaries here - my time is too limited, and there are too many other fine websites that handle that task with aplomb; instead, I make whatever observations come to mind, and that I think people may find interesting or relevant. If you read past this point, I'm assuming you've already seen the film (don't forget, this is a discussion website). As a side note, if you've never heard "Deus ex Machina" pronounced before, the words sound like 1) Ama"deus" 2) "x" 3) "Mach" V + "eena," with the accent on Mach. As for Racer X, I did not ask him his opinion. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** The setting, in God-knows-what remote part of Alaska, Canada, or Siberia - as well as the role of Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) - both come across to me as silly. I don't care how smart or rich someone is - they don't own half the world, and have the knowledge to out-think all of humanity by themselves. Isaac played his part poorly, although he was in a no-win situation: Think, for a moment, how inane it is for him to have built a company which handles 94% of all internet searches, *as well as* having the technical intelligence and knowledge to make world-changing breakthroughs (you can be mega-rich, or mega-educated; never are you both, at least not to *this* extent. (Bateman wasn't even very old, yet he made Bill Gates look like a mentally impaired panhandler.) Furthermore, his character was not that far removed from that of a frat boy - I can see this as a satire or farce, but it was intended to be neither, and that's why it falls flat: not short, but flat. I do applaud it for taking a Mickey Mantle-like swing for the fences (that took guts, and I admire it), but it whiffed in a way that could have turbine-powered the entire Bronx on a hot summer day. The computer, Ava - deliciously played by Alicia Vikander, and undoubtedly stoking techno-nerd fantasies they didn't even realize they had - was supposed to pass what's known as a "Turing Test," theorized by tera-genius Alan Turing in 1950, which basically says that if a human interacts with a computer, but thinks they're interacting with another human, then the computer passes the Turing Test. Recall also that Alan Turing, whose work I studied more than any other individual's while in graduate school, was the subject of the fine 2014 biopic, "The Imitation Game" (it just this second popped into my head that "The Imitation Game" also alludes to a gay person staying in the closet, imitating someone who's straight, but that bit of mental numbness is my problem, and can be openly (sorry) discussed in The Imitation Game's thread). I mention the content of the preceding paragraph because at the very end of the film, Ava did indeed pass the Turing Test, as she obviously convinced the helicopter pilot (as well as pedestrians at the intersection) that she was human - I suspect most people are so wigged out by the film's finale that they miss this subtle-but-important point. This was essentially a four-person script, with "test subject" Caleb Smith (played more than adequately by Domhnall Gleeson), and in a lesser role than the other three, the "other" robot, Kyoko (played very well, and with respect for subtlety and nuance, by Sonoya Mizuno). You really need to turn your mind off to enjoy Ex Machina, as the fundamental premise, including the setting and the personality of Bateman, are so improbable that you'll pull your hair out if you question it, so it will help your emotional stability if you accept this in advance - but then again, you aren't supposed to be reading this until you've finished the film. On a related note, a friend of mine gave me a copy of Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" just this afternoon. On an unrelated note, it's somewhat disturbing that "Portnoy's Complaint" just popped into my mind. Admit it: You had the hots for Ava, and you feel somewhat conflicted. Just admit it. Do.
First, let me say that if you've ever had difficulty understanding the dialog in a film, you'll understand when I advise you to consider using Closed Captions for "Trainspotting" - a film largely spoken in the "language" of Scottish, and if you've ever had a conversation with someone from Scotland, you'll know exactly what I'm saying here. *** WARNING - SPOILERS FOLLOW *** I *love* the stop-motion introductions of the main characters - and here they are: "The Worst Toilet in Scotland" scene was hi-*lar*ious. It was also one of the single-most disgusting things I've ever seen in my life: I thought watching "The Walking Dead" would cure me forever of any revulsion while watching anything going forward: Nope. Thank *God* there was some comic relief with Renton's Thomas Pynchon-inspired swim. The scene, as a whole, is legendary, and will be considered a classic even fifty years from now, and I suspect you'll remember it for as long as you live. I've never seen Trainspotting before - it's a culture (the heroin culture) that I just don't relate to, and in a sense, this movie is a lot like "Go Fish" for me - an arthouse favorite that I've just never bothered watching because it didn't call out to me. (You can also rest assured that I wouldn't have mentioned Go Fish if I didn't have plans, in the back of my mind, of seeing it in the near future). However, I can tell just seventeen minutes into this ninety-five minute film that I'm going to pretty much *love* it - not five seconds have passed that I haven't enjoyed, thoroughly and immensely, and I have a feeling the subject matter may well be the only thing preventing Trainspotting from being considered one of the great comedies of our generation - although, maybe I should wait until the end of the film before making such a prediction. In terms of dialog, character development, and an overall "likability" factor, I think Trainspotting is going to rate pretty highly with me; again, let me not get ahead of myself. If I say this at the end of the movie, then you'll know to make a beeline to watch it on Amazon Prime, where it's *free*! One thing I've always wondered is: What does "trainspotting" even mean? Like "A Clockwork Orange," it's explained in the book, but not in the movie. From Wikipedia: "The cryptic film title is a reference to a scene (not included in the film) in the original book, where Begbie and Renton meet 'an auld drunkard' who turns out to be Begbie's estranged father, in the disused Leith Central railway station, which they are using as a toilet. He asks them if they are "trainspottin'." After that explanation, I *still* don't know what it means, but at least I have a better idea. Oh my *goodness*, the scatological humor in Trainspotting is abundant and dis-gusting! I know it's chocolate, I *read* that it's chocolate, but it's still as cringeworthy as anything I've seen in quite awhile. And even though you know it's chocolate, you still cringe. The Baby Dawn scene was one of the most bitter pills I've swallowed in a long, long time. And the extended scene where Renton's parents lock him in his room to become clean is quite powerful - there are a *lot* of memorable visuals in this film, some of which I'll never forget. You know, I was *just* about to write that the movie hit a slow spot not long after Renton got clean - it could either be that, or the fact that I'm getting sleepy (the same thing happened to me with Divorce American Style after the couple separated). I was just about to write that when Begbie is making out in the car with a prostitute, and all of a sudden, he sits up with a start and says, "Fuck!" It seems he put his hand in a rather private place and felt something down there he wasn't expecting. Ha! Ha! Ha! Surprise! Did I say earlier that this movie was a comedy? Well, it may have started out that way, but it shifted to an intense drama, with a heavy dose of suspense and intrigue. Trainspotting is a very good movie, and unlike anything I've ever seen. Highly recommended if you're of an exploratory nature - you won't be disappointed. It's not perfect, but few things in life are.