SF in Movies podcast, Eternal Sunshine for a Spotless Mind, Charlie Kaufman, Batman Begins, Pilot Vanishing Point

by Mike Shea on 29 July 2005

I listened to a very interesting Podcast (a podcast is a fancy new way to say "a recording of someone talking") on science fiction in modern movies (large mp3). Science fiction veteran, Harlin Ellison, had some very interesting things to say. The topic of Hollywood's fascination with special effects over story comes up a lot. It's an excellent podcast.

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is the best science fiction movie I have seen in years. With very few special effects and a large focus on story and character, Eternal Sunshine managed to fool everyone into thinking it wasn't science fiction. Next to Quinten Tarrantino, Charlie Kaufman is the best writer in Hollywood. According to my latest Movie Rule, anyone in Hollywood can suck at any time, so there is nothing to say his newer movies, nor Tarrantino's or M. Night Shamalan's, won't suck in the future. Being John Malcovich, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, are some of the most creative and well-written movies to date.

Being John Malcovich and Eternal Sunshine easily fall into the category of "speculative fiction" but Adaptation reminded me Fellini's 8 1/2 with its self-aware plot that twists upon the very creation of the movie itself. Watch how the movie transitions from a deep character driven movie of self discovery into a shlocky action flick and then ask yourself why that happened. It's a lot of fun when you realize what happened behind the screen.

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind shows how good science fiction movies can slip by once in a while and fill in the huge gaping gaps between shit like Star Wars Episode 3 and Speilberg's big-Hollywood War of the Worlds. Some of the best science fiction can happen with two characters sitting in a room having a conversation. If a science fiction movie can't survive without special effects, it can't survive.

I have the same philosophy with superhero movies. A good superhero movie can take place with two old guys in trench coats having a conversation like the scene between Xavier and Magneto in X-Men. Batman Begins shows how a good superhero movie, a movie about the origin of a hero, doesn't spend much time on the hero's power but instead on his humanity. Batman isn't about how he dresses up like a bat and beats the shit out of people. Batman is about how Bruce Wayne deals with the deaths of his parents.

The best scene in Batman Begins is the sword fight between Liam Neeson and Christian Bale on the ice. It's a simple but powerful scene that is not only visually excellent but the dialog between them is wonderful. The minute Batman Begins starts to suck is right when he actually puts on the Batman suit. That is where the movie should have ended, that is all that is really important.

Some pen news. I still love my Pilot Vanishing Point fine-point with Noodler's black ink. I have two of them now, one for writing stories and another for my walk-around Moleskine pen. One thing I noticed is that neither the fine nor the medium points will write well on rough textured paper like Arches Text Wove paper in my Renaissance Art journals. For those I found my Waterman Phileas fountain pen writes best. Thats sort of disappointing, I hoped the Pilot would be the best pen in most circumstances, but at least I have a purpose for my other fountain pens. For Moleskine writing, however, nothing beats a Pilot Vanishing Point.