TBT: Sexy. Kinetic. Thriller.

 "Strange Days" (1995)

Pre-Millennial Tension: “Strange Days” (1995)

Our TBT is dedicated to “Strange Days” (1995), the “sexy kinetic thriller” and feminist gem which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and co-written by two dudes, James Cameron and Jay Cocks (insert joke here). The film portrays a perilous time when violence and lawlessness were rampant and technology was used to satisfy society’s desperate quest for escapism and most base urges. Sound familiar?

As leading lady Mace, Angela Bassett is a thing of wonder and beauty. She’s gorgeous, strong, smart, sexy and self-possessed.
Angela Bassett in "Strange Days"Angela Bassett in "Strange Days"

Juliette Lewis in "Strange Days"

Juliette Lewis in “Strange Days”

A raw, pre-Licks Juliette Lewis is Faith, the dysfunctional flipside of Mace: a tragically beautiful hot mess. Both women are doing their best to navigate what many thought would be the ‘end of days’ — New Year’s Eve 1999.

And of course, Ralph Fiennes is….damned fine (even as an oily virtual reality dealer). There are also  plenty of hot character performances by thespians who later became well-known faces: Vincent D’Onofrio (where Brooklyn at?); Tom Sizemore, Glenn Plummer (in a brilliant and timely turn as militant rapper Jeriko One), William Fichtner, Josef Summer, Richard Edson and Canadian Michael Wincott.

There’s a lot going on here. Social turmoil, police brutality, technology, the economy, race, America’s general agitation on the eve of the new millennium. This dystopian thriller is smarter and more interesting story than a lot of what we see lately. First off, it’s set in an Los Angeles that actually looks like L.A.: multi-cultural and multi-racial….throughout the film, not just the scenes of poverty or violence. The fact that there is a militant rapper whose gripes with the system are presented as legit seems astounding in retrospect. (The film was released only 17 days after the verdict in O.J. Simpson’s trial.) Last but not least, this film represents the best of feminism — that which shows women as they really are: are equally capable of the best and worst of what it is to be human.

Director Kathryn Bigelow

Director Kathryn Bigelow

Size Matters

Artist: Ron Miller

Artist rendition of J1407b by Ron Miller

So you thought Saturn was big? Well, it is…but heavenly body J1407b is even bigger than our darling Saturn and it’s surrounded by 37 rings that are 200 times the size of Saturn’s rings. Sit with that for a second.

Galileo discovered Saturn in 1610; that’s old news. Now a joint team of American and Dutch astronomers has published definitive findings on J1407b, which was first peeped in 2012. J1407b is a brown dwarf (i.e., not quite in Magnum territory): it’s smaller than a star, but bigger than a planet. And if you’re in a traveling mood, it’s also only (!) 434 light years away, in the constellation Centaurus. (BTW, this is our first discovery of rings outside of our solar system.) Astronomers speculate that J1407b’s massive, 90-million-kilometer-wide bracelets were carved out by orbiting moons.

A little context: according to Dutch astronomer, Matthew Kenworthy of Team J1407b, “If we could replace Saturn’s rings with the rings around J1407b, they would be easily visible at night and be many times larger than the full moon.”

J1407 in sky

Copyright: M. Kenworthy / Universiteit Leiden

Knock-knock. Who’s there? THE FUTURE. (Apple Is Making Minority Report a Reality)

Tom-Cruise-Minority-reportApple has just brought us one step closer to sci-fi reality. Business Insider reports that the tech innovator has been granted a patent for “three dimensional user interface session control” — translation: a technology that will enable users to operate their computers (and devices?) using hand gestures in the air. You know….like in the film “Minority Report.” According to BI, the technology already exists, but kind of sucks as is. So now Apple is in prime position to work their magic and make it so. Take a look.

(Shout out to director of photography Jendra Jarnagin for the 411.)

This Is Not Science Fiction

From May to November of this year, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst was on the International Space Station. While hanging out in the stratosphere, he took thousands of snaps of Planet Earth with ultra-high-def cameras….and when he got back, he did what most techies eventually do: he made a video. But Gerst’s video is not your everyday mash-up — he edited 12,500 images of what the cameras saw from space into a stunning (and we mean stunning!) timelapse video. And he gave it a dope soundtrack.

This is Earth as extraterrestrials might see it.

SIDE NOTE: from 3:11 to 3:31, there is footage of space that is MIND. BLOWING. To say that it puts everything happening down here in perspective is an understatement.

The Robots Are Coming

artificial intelligenceArtificial intelligence has just evolved in a huge way. The NY Times reports that scientists at Google and at Google Stanford University have developed a software that can teach itself to recognize what’s happening in photographs. Google’s old-school image-recognition software could only teach itself to identify individual objects. (After seeing 10 million images from YouTube, it taught itself to recognize cats. Ha!) This new program is braniac in comparison; in most cases, the software’s photo captions were pretty much the same as those of human observers. It’s very cool, but maybe a little unsettling? I just wonder, when the software describes  “A pizza sitting on top of a pan on top of a stove,” what does that mean to the software? What is its understanding of what pizza, a pan, and a stove are?

I guess one day very soon, I’ll be able to ask it myself.

Science + Art = The Truth

conch shell-rafael-araujo9-horizontal-galleryVenezuelan artist Rafael Araujo creates exquisite, incredibly complex art using math as a foundation — but he doesn’t use electronics to create these pieces. He uses a ruler and a protractor to translate lines, spirals and helixes into haunting images that defy gravity and blast our sense of scale and space. That’s what’s up.

Rafael Araujo: The Calculations Series

ROXË15: Update!

You’re probably wondering:
Where in the world is Roxë?

A new voice in science fiction

Roxë15: A sci fi short film

We are thrilled to report that as you read these words,
Roxë15 is in the very capable hands of superb editor Lamont Jack Pearley!
YAAAAAY!

Lamont Jack Pearley

He’s very serious about editing: Lamont Jack Pearley

Jack (who’s also a fantastic filmmaker in his own right) has edited for Bloomberg Business Week and City Lights Media, worked production with Upright Citizens Brigade and in the documentary world — not to mention his work producing, directing and editing his films and Web series. We’re amped that he is now slicing, dicing and cutting Roxë15 into the future-forward visual journey it’s destined to be. Our ETA for the finished film? Early 2014. After Jack does his thing, we still have a couple more post-production bases to cover before prime time…..but baby, we are well on our way.

Stay tuned!