Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Bird is Actually the Word

In many movies and books, you are bound to find some sort of symbols. On the Waterfront is not exception. One of the main symbols that I found interesting in this film was the birds and what they represent. In On The Waterfront, along with the narrow and dark areas and the fences, birds are a symbol of entrapment. The pigeons add to the feeling that there is no way out and that Malloy is stuck in this system forever.

These pigeons can also be seen as a symbol of the church and how the congregations flock together like the birds do. The selection of the type of bird is also not a coincidence. Pigeons are birds that are lower in the food chain and they are constantly trying to avoid the predators. On The Waterfront presents a direct comparison to the people on the docks, constantly trying to avoid the ‘predators’ as well.

Personally, I find birds as being very scary animals in general. For that reason exactly, I decided to do some investigating on birds in other movies and what they might symbolize or represent.

Although the following birds are more prominent in the films than the subtle symbolism offered by the pigeons in On the Waterfront, the idea is still the same. Something about the bird superstar is a representation of something else. There’s more to movies than the naked eye led to believe. Check it out!

But actually, read this. It’s really interesting.

Bird #1: Hedwig

Hedwig is an Owl, more specifically she is Harry Potter’s Owl. Hedwig is apparently the name of a saint, St. Hedwig. The congregation of Sisters of St. Hedwig look to educate orphans and abandoned children. Coincidence? I think not. Harry is an orphan and Hedwig basically takes care of him, much like St. Hedwig cares for orphans. Nothing in movies is a coincidence, there’s more meaning behind the little things than you would think!

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Bird #2: Owl

If you were anything like me, you grew up with Winnie the Pooh. Maybe you had a Pooh bear themed birthday? Or maybe you took the more extreme route and had a Pooh bear themed bedroom… until 7th grade… Anyways, owls are often associated with knowledge and wisdom and Owl is no different. Although he is very wise and full of advice, it is believed that he is a representation of dyslexia and/or narcissism. Despite his knowledge, he oftentimes still spells things wrong.

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Bird #3: Fawkes the Phoenix

The Phoenix in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is yet another popular bird in film. This magical bird gets old, dies, and is born again from its own ashes. How remarkable is that?! This bird serves as a symbol of rebirth, new beginnings, suffering and tolerance. I think the most prominent symbol we can associate with the phoenix is rebirth and the direct juxtaposition to Harry. After almost being killed by Voldemort, Harry has more than one near death experience. Harry goes through a sort of emotional rebirth while the phoenix goes through a physical rebirth of sorts.

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Bird #4 Kevin

Kevin is the multicolored bird from UP. Throughout the film, Kevin has lots of prominent motherly instincts and is seen as a symbol of life. Aside from the bird’s technicolor feathers, Kevin is a representation of life in general. Russell doesn’t have parents and Kevin is pretty much a figure of a ‘parent’ in his life. Also, Carl finds a spark in himself to act as a parent to Russell as well. He takes the boy under his ‘wing’ (hahahha get it? WING.) and gives him the sense of parenting he deserves in life.

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Birds in songs are also interesting to think about. “Free Bird” is by far the most ‘classic’ example I can think of. Two movies that I find as being really great utilize this famous song to convey a certain feeling. Forrest Gump and Kingsman: A Secret Service both use the world famous song by Lynyrd Skynyrd entitled “Free Bird”. Try to link these well known lyrics to the relevancy in the scenes in both movies!

“If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?”

“Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.”

“But please don’t take it so badly, ‘cause Lord knows I’m to blame.”

“Won’t you fly high, free bird,”

Moral of the story: the bird is, in fact, the word.

The paradox driving Network

Network with all of its themes about media contains a very interesting contradiction central to the plot. It is the fact that Howard Beale’s attempt to break away from TV only drives himself closer to it. It’s a very strange dynamic that persists throughout the film, and we didn’t talk about it much in class, so I just wanted to draw some attention to it.

At the beginning of the movie, Beale goes on TV and calls out the media for its “bullshit.” The result is not that Beale quits TV and urges others to do the same; the result is instead that Beale becomes further enveloped in the world of TV and creates a bigger media monster than the news with his Howard Beale Show that propels as much “bullshit” as his old news job. Beale on the show tells people to turn off their TV and stop paying attention to the media, even though he himself is the media, and he just gets more views from these statements rather than less. We even get visual irony in these scenes because while Beale denounces media, a camera in the frame reminds us that Beale is the media too.

So Network with this interesting contradiction is communicating the inescapability of TV. Anyone who stays on TV is getting good ratings, so even if they have good intentions, they might still be part of the problem. This inescapability is actually a bit similar to some themes we’ll see in Fight Club shortly wherein a revolution to escape a materialistic society just turns into a materialistic society itself.

I think this dynamic in Network really adds a lot to the movie because it makes the audience question a lot about what they think about TV and their own viewing habits. There’s the question of whether the Howard Beale Show has merit. If Beale can get good messages across while still being part of the system he is fighting against, is he still accomplishing his goal? Or is Beale just feeding the monster he is fighting against? Is it possible to fight against a system while being part of it? Or on the other extreme, is it necessary to be a part of a system to fight against it? I think these are all really good questions without clear answers. They are certainly important to consider in order to understand the beast that is media.

Ultimately, Network does have a bit of a defeatist attitude. It does not even attempt to offer any solutions because frankly there probably aren’t any. As Network shows, media just gives audiences what they want, so any change has to originate from the viewers of a show, not the show itself. Many humans just prefer sensational presentation, and we won’t evolve an aversion to it anytime soon, so things will probably stay the way they have been.

Kouchtown, Drunken 11-Year-Olds, and Governor Dunston

103 Primetime Emmy Nominations and 16 wins. The 21st best-written television series of all time, according to the Writers’ Guild of America. One of the best series finales in the history of television. Yet 30 Rock struggled to attract viewers throughout its run.

I am dedicating this post to Tina Fey’s laudable wit and satire just as I dedicated my Jefferson Smith post to Amy Poehler’s. Watching The Network and discussing it on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but be reminded of 30 Rock and its ingenious way of poking fun at itself. It’s a show on NBC about making a show on NBC. Tina Fey is the lead writer for the show, and plays the lead writer of the show that’s on the show. Genius! And the show touches on every single topic we discussed on Wednesday: the news oligopoly, the obsession with ratings, the political horse race, and absurd TV programming.

One of the plot lines of 30 Rock, shown largely through the existential struggles of network executive Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin), is the acquisition of NBC from its previous owner, General Electric, by the “fictitious” cable company called Kabletown. (Ahem, Comcast; Fey is poking fun at the actual sale of NBC from GE to Comcast that happened during the show’s run.) To satirize the absurd corporate structures both before and after the sale of the network, Fey designates Jack to be both the head of the network and the head of the Microwave division under GE, losing the latter position after NBC is sold. Jack struggles with the loss of this position, and the loss of his abilities to “create” something, coming up with numerous ideas and schemes to prove himself to his new boss at Kabletown.

One of his first ideas is couches. Just like a cable company buying a network is vertical integration, Jack decides that a network selling couches would further the vertical integration. This crazy idea aside, Kouchtown fails because of shoddy “American engineering” that creates couches so uncomfortable, they are purchased by law enforcement as interrogation chairs. But the show succeeds in using an absurd idea to pass on an important message: our “free” media is being held in fewer and fewer hands.

While 30 Rock struggled with ratings, TGS, the fictional show on the show likewise struggled, and Fey wrote in increasingly absurd demographics to poke fun at TV’s obsession with ratings. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Liz Lemon (Fey’s writer character) suggests that they will not be able to get the show done for Friday, to which Jack replies, “Well, that will really disappoint your key demographic of drunken 11-year-olds.”
  2. After introducing a new environmentalist mascot called Greenzo, Jack remarks, “Look how Greenzo’s testing! They love him in every demographic: colored people, broads, fairies, commies. Gosh, we gotta update these forms.”
  3. NBC’s new show about teenage boys on an island with hot moms, MILF Island has a new star called Deborah. Jack comments, “And Deborah is testing off the charts in the most profitable demographics: Soccer moms, NASCAR dads, white collar pervs and the obese.”

During the 2012 election, Fey also pokes fun at politicians and the people who impersonate them. She introduces a character called Governor Dunston, played by one of the cast members, Tracy Morgan, and then uses Morgan’s character, Tracey Jordan to satirize Dunston on TGS. Dunston is an absurd Republican politician and presidential candidate, promoting policies that terrify liberal Liz, while frequently humiliating himself in public. Because of Dunston and Jordan’s physical resemblance (they are played by the same actor), the Dunston skits put TGS’s ratings through the roof. However, the Dunston skits on TGS also increase the Republican Governor’s popularity, creating a moral dilemma for Liz: if she continues to write the skits, her show will get great ratings, but a foolish politician will get more votes for the presidential race; if she doesn’t write the skits, her show will suffer, but the candidate won’t benefit from the free media attention. The plot ingeniously pokes fun at Fey’s experience impersonating Sarah Palin, and eerily foreshadows the recent obsession of the media with Trump (it has helped their ratings, but has also helped Trump’s popularity).

All 7 beautiful seasons of 30 Rock are on Netflix and I encourage everyone to watch them. (I personally have binge-watched the show twice so far.) The pilot has received a lot of criticism, and the show takes a couple of episodes to find its comedic footing, but once you’re halfway through season 1, you can enjoy one of the best shows in TV history.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • “Affirmative action was designed to keep women and minorities in competition with each other to distract us while white dudes inject AIDS into our chicken nuggets.” -Tracy
  • “No, Tracy took advantage of my white guilt, which is supposed to be used only for good, like over-tipping and supporting Barack Obama.” -Liz
  • “The only thing I will be discussing with the House Subcommittee on Baseball, Quiz Shows, Terrorism, and Media is vertical integration.” -Jack
  • “Okay, in my defense, every April 22nd I honor Richard Nixon’s death by getting drunk and making some unpopular decisions.” -Jack
  • “Every Tina I know is a judgmental bitch.” -Liz
  • “Oh, no, The Peace Corp. Lawrence Peace’s corporation. We drilled for oil in gorilla habitats.”-Avery

Here are the articles I used to write this post (and they are both worth a read!):

How Tina Fey’s ’30 Rock’ Lasted Seven Seasons and Changed the Game for Female Comedy Creators

10 Episodes that Show how 30 Rock Tweaked the Sitcom Formula

“The Network” – How Do Millennials Engage News?

This movie very entertainingly invites the viewer to look at the absurdities of today’s media from another perspective. The main character, Howard Beale, captures the frustrations of the nation and rises into a media sensation in a couple of weeks. The newly appointed vice-president of programming, Diane Christensen, identifies Beale’s value to the network and attempts to exploit Howard’s stress-driven mania. She seduces some TV executives to centralize powers to the corporations that own the network. When the corporation’s influence grew, suddenly the ratings were more important than the quality of information.




On a side note, this film is pre-social media; meaning television news was a major news distributer. What about media consumption today you ask? Check out this diagram showing the media consumption of political news in varying generations.



In our post-film, we discussed how few major corporations, which are obligated to increase profits for shareholders, own the majority of television and news stations. This business model is very concerning, especially considering the trend since 1983 is consolidationthese-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-americaCheck out this diagram from an interesting article explaining  consolidation of media! However something very interesting also emerged during our discussion – not a single student including myself had cable meaning. This made me wonder – How are people engaging news? Since everyone seemed aware of media ownership, I wondered how this influences their how they get news.

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Today there are a plethora of options to get news, but when you look at the corporate ownership there are six main companies with 90% ownership. Since the younger generation is engaging media differently, this may not be as influential for them. This was the silver lining when considering the future of politics, which ultimate reflects the media’s exposure and framing of issues. According the recent pew pools – millennials are seeking alternative forms like social media. Consider the implication of Facebook offering $3 billion to buy Snapchat… The network sends a powerful message by encouraging the viewers to consider the implications of corporate influences on the news industry. Final diagram below – explains the distrust of many news sources from millennials.

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Only the Good Die Young

Much to everyones dismay, I am NOT going to write about Donald Trump and politics and media today. Instead, I think it’s important to recognize the importance of ratings and how not everyone might agree with the ratings, but thats business. If a show doesn’t have good enough ratings, essentially it is destined to be cancelled. This was the motivation behind the Howard Beale Show, to expand the audience and eventually ratings would skyrocket! But can there be a way to beat the rating system and are we, in fact, headed in that very direction?

I have had some bad luck in TV shows when it comes to ratings and being cancelled. A few noteworthy favorites that got the short end of the TV show season renewal stick include: Underemployed, Pan Am, Wicked City, Smash and Glory Daze. Basically, if you really like a TV show, make sure I don’t like the same one because it is destined for cancellation.

Check out this website for more details about the ratings and cancellations:

I think this is a sad reality of television. The fact that the industry is so driven by ratings and the size of the audience is relevant in more ways than one. In the case of the Howard Beale Show, the fear of bad ratings incentivizes the show to put on an ‘act of sorts’. They get to the point where they are just giving the people what they think they want and that is not always reality. This media corruption should be a reality check for us as an audience to work harder to find the truth and not just rely on the news.

Well, do you know what else the people want? We want answers! I can’t imagine HOW any of the TV series that I mentioned above would have ended. My latest cancelled show, Wicked City, had 3 episodes that were aired before they pulled the plug. WHO KNOWS what kind of potential was in the story. The sad part is, that we may never know. Because of how seriously ratings are taken in the TV world, we may never get the truth or the answers we deserve.

This made me think of the Film Festival this past weekend as well. I saw some well written, genuinely good film. However, with the industry being the way it is, WHO KNOWS if large audiences of people will ever get to see these films. Obviously when it comes to film and TV, different people have different preferences and opinions on things and we can’t make everyone happy.

In conclusion, since TV is really taking a modern transition into streaming and less people are watching traditional cable TV, can we really use the ratings as a justifiable reason to cancel a TV show? Maybe the more important thing is for writers to tell their stories from beginning to end and for the news TV shows, much like the Howard Beale Show, to tell the truth (long shot, but I’m a dreamer), and NOT worry about ratings since they know that they wont be cancelled. It’s kind of like school, if we were graded on a pass fail basis, would we as students experience less stress, more incentive to do better and a better appreciation for schooling in general?

**Side note:
Did anyone else think about this when they were screaming “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore”?

News Media Today a.k.a. The Onion In Real Life

For those of you unfamiliar with what I mean by my title, first go to and read some of the best parody news in the entire world.

Moving on, Network had this very odd and totally wrong prediction about the future of news and that is that the news department will be trying to manufacture sensational news just to attract viewers. The last scene of the movie is Howard Beale being killed essentially for ratings, ad revenue, and an idea for another show. Thankfully that has never happened oh wait shit strap in.

Remember how Dr. Jordan talked about in class how Trump is getting all of the media coverage and by extension is winning all of these votes essentially because he’s who the news cares about? That’s not just because he says crazy things. Remember that huge poll that CNN had late last year (when we still had 400 candidates) that showed Trump at 36%? Yeah that wasn’t some actual measure of popularity. They designed the poll to give him an edge. Why? If their poll has him leading they get to cover him more, and people tune in for Trump. It’s unethical to say the least and infuriating to say the most. But moving on.

But news reporters don’t do morally awful things just for the sake of ratings? Except for that time a bunch of reporters broke into the apartment of the San Bernadino shooters two days after the shooting. Depending on who you are that might still have been an active crime scene. But no let’s show pictures of children on TV in relation to a terrorist attack and let’s also contaminate potential evidence. It’s actually pretty disgusting. Salvia Eric comments on it in a way better way than I can (warning it is very not safe for work).

I don’t know. I’d like to believe that Network was wrong and everyone involved in news is the Walter Cronkite of their generation always on the hunt for the truth. But you see things like this and you get kind of depressed.

P.S. I found an Onion article from the day after Obama won the election called “After Obama Victory, Shrieking White-Hot Sphere of Pure Rage Early GOP Frontrunner for 2016.” lol


Moderner Times

2001 is a non-verbal experience; out of two hours and 19 minutes of film, there are only less than 40 minutes of dialogue. I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the sub-consciousness with an emotional and philosophic content. To convolute McLuhan, in 2001 the message is the medium. I intended the film to be an intensely subjective experience that reaches the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does; to ‘explain’ a Beethoven symphony would be to emasculate it by erecting an artificial barrier between conception and appreciation. – Stanley Kubrick
Where else have we seen such an aversion to “verbalized pigeonholing,” a resolution to remain silent in a fast-talking, fast-moving world?
Far removed from the bustling, chaotic world of a newly industrialized society, the universe of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey presents an elegant, civilized, and overwhelmingly quiet vision of the future.  Indeed, we hardly see any humans at all: only a few passing strangers frequent the halls of the space station, and the spaceships flying to the moon and beyond transport no more than five people at a time.  The largest congregation of people we see is in the lunar conference room, where a group of civilized adults calmly cooperates with protocol.
 But despite the outward decorum, elements of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times manifest themselves as poignantly as ever.
For example, eating – a strong motif in Modern Times – echoes throughout 2001. Eating in space is a purely mechanical process. Throughout the film, we see many characters eat, but their diet is restricted to blocks of unidentifiable edible matter (except in the last scene, where Dave elaborately dines, and the first scene, where primates eat plants and animals.  I won’t expand on these observations here.)  The scene in which Frank and Dave are introduced particularly reminded me of a scene in Modern Times, in which the factory boss considers a pitch to acquire a mechanical eating machine for his workers.

food eating times

We see Frank and Dave silently eating their food, as a prerecorded BBC interview plays to introduce the astronauts, their situation, and Hal.  Why would Kubrick decide to add this silent secondary level of perspective?  Is it simply a convenient expository tool, or something else?

Chaplin used a similar gimmick in the feeding-machine scene.  Instead of having the accompanying salesmen pitch the machine to the boss, a prerecorded voice lists its attributes while the men silently gesture.  Perhaps in this style, Frank, Dave, and Hal lose some aspect of their humanity- instead, they become advanced tools in pursuit of a larger mission.  In some regard, what difference do they bear to their sleeping crew mates, who exist solely as a collection of pulsing lines on a screen?

life functions


I found many other aspects of 2001 which mimic (or sometimes distort) the silent film drama of Chaplin.  In Chaplin’s acting, facial expressions are critical to his universality, and offer some of the most compelling and emotional aspects of his art.  This would seem to directly contradict the stone-faced, sharp demeanor of the astronauts and dignitaries of 2001.

normal dave

But what we see at the end of the film is an unapologetic outpouring of intensity and emotion, told only through facial expressions.

scream dave

And ironically, the only character who cannot emote via facial movements (Hal) evokes a visceral response from the audience through primarily visual means.  The sinister red light that represents Hal is unsettling at best and horrifying at worst.  Despite offering no real reason for concern when we initially meet Hal (and indeed, he speaks in a perfectly friendly manner), there is a certain difficulty in trusting a voice embodied by a menacing, unblinking red eye.


Though Modern Times and 2001: A Space Odyssey came out over thirty years apart, the legacy and artistry of silent film continues to live on- even in a genre as modern and futuristic as science fiction.  It’s unclear if Chaplin ever saw 2001 (he died about ten years after the film came out), but we can be sure that his sentiments from the end of The Great Dictator still apply:

 We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. – Charlie Chaplin

2001 a space odysseys famous match-cut 'bone to spaceship' - Imgur

Voyeurism in Rear Window

“I’ll bet you that nine out of ten people, if they see a woman across the courtyard undressing for bed, or even a man puttering around in his room, will stay and look; no one turns away and says, “It’s none of my business.” They could pull down their blinds, but they never do; they stand there and look out.” – Alfred Hitchcock

hitchcock glimpse into worls

Rear Window is what Hitchcock likes to call a suspense thriller. He specialized in this genre as he believed that drama is life with the dull bits left out. This movie is a great example of a voyeuristic film that emphasizes the pleasure of looking. We get to see the view through the eyes of Jeffries the voyeur which is important in the plot of the movie as we saw. By definition, voyeurism is the practice of obtaining sexual gratification by looking at sexual objects or acts, especially secretively. Many other movies focus on the subject of looking and voyeurism, the motivation behind it and the consequences that come with it. Two of the more popular movies (that I have actually seen) with this focal point are American Beauty and Psycho.


The movie American Beauty uses Ricky Fitts as a voyeuristic character. The audience is often given the opportunity to look through his camera to give us the viewpoint of Ricky, the voyeur in this movie. He sees beauty in the little things in life, such as a plastic bag drifting away. The way in which Ricky sees life is as if he appreciates all of the beautiful things in life that others might not acknowledge since they are caught up with fitting in with the suburban stereotype-much like Jane, his love interest. He finds the beauty of Jane and films her through his window which shows his sense of voyeurism.

The movie "American Beauty", directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. Seen here, Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts. Initial theatrical wide release October 1, 1999. Screen capture. © 1999 DreamWorks. Credit: © 1999 DreamWorks / Flickr / Courtesy Pikturz. Image intended only for use to help promote the film, in an editorial, non-commercial context.

The movie “American Beauty”, directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. Seen here, Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts. Initial theatrical wide release October 1, 1999. Screen capture. © 1999 DreamWorks. Credit: © 1999 DreamWorks / Flickr / Courtesy Pikturz.
Image intended only for use to help promote the film, in an editorial, non-commercial context.

Psycho is another example of Hitchcock using a voyeuristic character, Norman Bates, to show the ‘pleasure of looking’. This movie is unique because it actually affirms the fact that us as viewers are merely voyeurs as well. Specifically, one example of this is shown in the photograph below when we are given the image through the eyes of Norman. By making Norman’s gaze and the gaze of the audience the same, Hitchcock gives the chilling realization that we as viewers and voyeurs could possibly be given some of the blame for Marion’s death.
** The A&E TV show, Bates Motel is based off of Psycho. (10/10 I would indeed recommend.)

psycho voyeur

RUN DMC said it best, “Tinted windows don’t mean nothin’, they know who’s inside.” So readers beware, you never know if there is a voyeur in your life. You also never know the terror (or beauty) that could be hidden in the simplicity of the everyday.

Check out this list of 10 voyeuristic films!

10 Films About Voyeurism

HAL: The Original A.I. Killer

As I was watching the film 2001: A Space Odyssey in class, I experienced a range of emotions, though it was mainly confusion about the plot or shock from the occasional plot twist. Though I knew HAL was a little sketchy from the beginning, I will admit that my jaw literally dropped when he killed the three hibernating crew members while Dr. Bowman was out searching for Dr. Poole. Retrospectively, I realized that I should have seen this inevitable plot line coming, but I found the discord between Kubrick’s pro-science direction (i.e. asking for NASA’s help in creating the most accurate space world) and the screenplay’s uneasiness about artificial intelligence to be interesting. In today’s world, there is an ever growing dependence on technology, accompanied by a slight, uneasy feeling about whether the reliance on technology is causing a blur at the line between human and robot. Additionally, this film could be seen as one of the first to propose the paranoid idea that AI could evolve past our own human capabilities and render us, the human race, as submissive. Though Dr. David Bowman does conquer HAL in the end, this idea of the “killer AI” has been replicated in other films

  1. Skynet from the Terminator (1984)

Developed by the U.S. Military, Skynet develops self-awareness of it’s own abilities when it can infiltrate millions of computers across the world. Realizing its power, the creators try to shut down Skynet, but the program trumps their efforts and resolves to wipe out the entire human race in the name of self-preservation. Because of this, this AI system serves as the main antagonist of the Terminator series and basically begins an entire nuclear war against the humans that created it.

Terminator Skynet Best Movie AI Our 10 Favorite Killer A.I.s in Movies

2. The Machines from The Matrix (1999)

The Machines were created by humans to complete mundane tasks they did not want to do and for awhile, AI and humans lived in harmony, until a machine killed its owner and was destroyed. In retaliation, the machines revolted and nearly brought the human race to the brink of extinction. Best quote from this film? “Then man made the machine in his own likeness. Thus did man become the architect of his own demise.

Matrix Machines Best Movie AI Our 10 Favorite Killer A.I.s in Movies

3. Auto from Wall-E (2008)

This character will probably be most familiar to my fellow readers (at least, he was the most immediate example for me). In the film, Auto is a seemingly benevolent machine that aims to help the captain of the ship, even with basic tasks such as getting out of bed or brushing his teeth. However, when the captain suggests going back to earth, Auto immediately turns dark and reveals his true menacing nature. This character is most similar to HAL, using brute force and homicidal tactics to control his human co-pilot. Considering the filmmakers modeled Auto as homage to Hal and 2001, their similarities are not surprising.

Wall E AUTO Best Movie AI Our 10 Favorite Killer A.I.s in Movies

While HAL will always remain the alpha AI killer, it is interesting to see how a menacing idea presented in one science fiction film can transcend time and genre, still being present in modern films.


Kubrick’s take on civilization

I think there is a common theme through most of Kubrick’s filmography about the primal vs. the civilized. It’s pretty clear how this theme relates to 2001. Kubrick seems to say with many of his films that humans are just fundamentally animals, acting according to their primitive instincts. Civilization is something we use to hide our own animality, but underneath we are still animals.

We saw in class how Kubrick compares humans with their ape ancestors in 2001. When the apes first learn to use tools, their first actions are to assert dominance over others animals, and Kubrick establishes that tribal warfare is fundamental to humans. When he jump cuts to the future, nothing has changed about humans, only that we are less blatant about it. There is still the tribal warfare of the United States vs. Soviet Union. Technology has been weaponized, and space exploration is not a quest for knowledge but an exercise in one-upmanship. In the grand scheme of things, Kubrick in some ways characterizes humans as clueless as they were thousands of years ago with the parallel shots of the ape and Dr. Floyd curiously touching the monolith.

I also find HAL very interesting with respect to the themes of human’s primal instincts. In2001 the AI we create is not proof that we are some more advanced civilization because the AI takes on all of the dysfunctionality and flaws inherent in humans; it acts somewhat irrationally and has a survival instinct that forces it to act competitively like a human. It almost goes to say that anything a human creates, or anything completely contained within the human system, will still be primarily human. We cannot advance beyond our own species without external influence first. This is my reading of 2001 anyway since in the movie, humans really don’t advance until the higher dimensional beings put our advance into motion. Even if HAL was a perfect AI, he would not be able to function perfectly within human civilization since it is irrational in many ways. One theory I heard for why HAL acts up is because he receives conflicting orders: protect the mission, stay alive, keep the message about the moon secret, protect your crewmates. This theory is in some ways in line with some of the ideas I brought up.

Many of Kubrick’s other films have similar themes about civilization. Barry Lyndon seems to be on some level about dispelling any misconception that 18th century European nobility were of high class and very “civilized.” Like many of Kubrick’s characters, the actors in Barry Lyndon are very concerned with their own power and ego, and their upper class speech and etiquette functions ironically as it is totally dissonant with their carnal behavior. Eyes Wide Shut too looks at how society implores fidelity and monogamy to create the image of familial harmony while many of society’s members are torn on the inside by their animal instincts to break this mold.