This is the second Arthur C. Clarke novel I’ve read (the first being Rendezvous With Rama), and I’ve been blown away by both. For some reason I expected Clarke’s books to be a bit drier and more dated, but his is some of the most exciting and mind-expanding science fiction I’ve ever read. I should have expected no less from the mind behind 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps I had that prejudice because in some older sci-fi books, the science and ideas become outdated or the writing style does (or it was never any good to begin with). Especially with hard science fiction, which Clarke is often categorized as, the science is prioritized over the story, craft, and characters, so once the science itself becomes dated, the book does as well. But this is NOT the case with Arthur C. Clarke. Though there is some “hard science” in Childhood’s End, it was also quite weird, speculative, and philosophical (like 2001). Clarke’s ideas remain highly relevant and he is an exquisite composer of prose. This novel particularly features so many brilliant lines of philosophical insight, such as: “There were some things that only time could cure. Evil men could be destroyed, but nothing could be done with good men who were deluded.”
There is a growing consensus in the scientific community (and society at large) that the idea of a lone genius who makes great discoveries and innovations in isolation is a myth. That may be partially true—the accomplishments of famous individuals in the past were sometimes overstated while diminishing the efforts of others who helped them along the way. However, the pendulum has swung too far in this respect. The truth is that there were lone geniuses (in science and art), without whom certain discoveries and innovations would not have been made.
As a child I was terrified of horror movies and avoided watching them. Two of my favorite movies were Jurassic Park and Independence Day, and while they were not directly horror, there were certain scenes in each film that I had to close my eyes during because I was so terrified. (They were when the raptors popped out and when they showed the alien body in the Area 51 base). Though I avoided explicit horror, I enjoyed spooky movies and TV shows intended for children, such as Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?. I liked PG horror because it was merely spooky and creepy, not outright terrifying. The first true horror movie I remember seeing was Scream, which came out in 1996 when I was ten years old. Though that movie was meant to be somewhat comedic, the Ghostface mask nevertheless remained burned in my mind and gave me nightmares for months after.
Have you ever noticed that most artists tend to get less creative when they get older? A band’s first album is often their best—or maybe their second or third album is better—but rarely does a band record their most creative music on their twelfth album. Sure, some artists like The Rolling Stones continue to perform well into their 70s, but they are only rehashing the creativity of their 20s and 30s. They are not recording new songs, or if they are, those new songs are nowhere near as beloved or creative as their earlier work. That is the normal life cycle of most musical artists: they release creative music when young, get popular, then “play the hits” for the rest of their career.
Last year, I vowed to see more old movies in 2018 to improve this annual list, but halfway through the year, I was failing to do so. I was a MoviePass subscriber, so I spent most of my free time seeing new movies in the theater. When MoviePass changed their deal toward the end of the summer, I canceled my plan, which was a blessing in disguise because I suddenly had a lot more free time to watch older movies. There are so many classics I’ve yet to see, plus masterpieces I want to rewatch. The ten-year rule is kind of arbitrary, but a decade is a good benchmark to judge a film outside of its original context. You can see how it stacks up in history and if it stands the test of time. Again, this is a somewhat random list, based on the movies (at least ten years old) that I happened to watch (or re-watch) this past year. Continue reading →
I saw a lot of great movies in 2016 (the best so far being Arrival) but there are still too many I need to see before I can do a best-of list. So I was thinking of doing a “best of 2015 list,” since I spent 2016 catching up on all the movies I missed last year. But there’d be nothing interesting about my list, as it would be pretty similar to any film critic’s best of 2015 list. So I decided to do a unique list. Continue reading →