Monday, October 12, 2009

The 10 best space movies

IMO Here are the best 5 space movies ever made I am picking movies that are semi realistic, shot mostly in space and with a low silliness factor (no Jar Jar)

10.FOR ALL MANKIND. 1989, Criterion video. This is the only space movie on the list FILMED in space. It is a fascinating and somewhat surreal documentary about the Apollo missions, in the astronauts own words. There is a lot of really beautiful footage, featuring a soundtrack by none other than space musician Brian Eno, no less. Its a very visual and ambient movie, highly recommended.
9. APOLLO 13. 1995, Universal. Ron Howard's movie adaptation of the ill fated Apollo 13 moon mission (did you know Apollo 13 launched on 13:13 on April 13Th?). Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, and of course Tom hanks give a moving performance, as well as some ground support by Ed Harris and Gary Sinise.
8. THE RIGHT STUFF 1983 The Ladd company/Warner Bros. A memorable and moving account of the first days of the space age, beginning with Chuck Yeager's sound busting flight on the X-1 into the days of the Mercury program. A long movie but there is a lot to cover here.
7. FORBIDDEN PLANET MGM took a chance with this one, and if you haven't seen it, you MUST. Said by some to be the direct inspiration for Star Trek, the film concerns the story of an expedition to the planet Altair 4 to search for survivors of a lost expedition. Survivors they find, and a ancient secret of terrifying and unlimited power lies below the sands of this nearly deserted planet. Featuring Leslie Nelson (in a non comedic role) as the captain, and Robby the robot.
6. SILENT RUNNING Filmed in the early seventies, when ecology was all the vogue. Bruce Dern gives a moving but somewhat over the top performance as space freighter crewman Freeman Lowell, space bound ecologist tending a cargo of domes containing the last surviving ecosystems of an Earth devastated by pollution and apathy. When the command comes to destroy the domes and return to Earth, Freeman's buddies are jubilant. But he has different ideas. Highlights include shooting the rapids of Saturn's Rings, three very realistic robots named Huey Duey and Louie, and some deep thinking about the quality of life. Highly recommended.
5. ALIEN Ridley Scott's masterpiece about a bunch of space truckers who answer an alien distress beacon, with disastrous results. The only movie I have ever seen where someone actually stood up in the theater and screamed (and it was a guy). I loved the dark claustrophobic atmosphere of this movie. The space scenes are just seamless.
4. ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS A very underrated classic, concerns the crash landing and subsequent stranding on Mars of American Astronaut Christopher "Kit" Draper, lone survivor of a two man orbital foray to the red planet. He deals with loneliness, no oxygen, no food no water and whips all these problems. He is joined on Mars with runaway slave "Friday" (played by Victor Lundin, Star Treks FIRST klingon). I don't know where to start with this movie. The movie is somewhat dated, but the idea to film in Death Valley was just brilliant. and there is even a semi pink sky (we didn't know Mars had a pink sky until 1976). Its just an amazing film.
3.VOYAGE TO A PREHISTORIC PLANET American International Pictures, 1965. Originally a Russian film, concerns the exploration of the planet Venus, not the scorching hot sulfuric acid Venus, a milder somewhat prehistoric Venus with some amazingly humanoid Venusian swimsuit models here and there. This movie actually has a lot going for it, there are some pretty cheesy scenes inter spaced, but also some intriguing ones. One of my faves is when the robot tries to save one of the astronauts by administering a pill. Pretty amazing considering the state of robotics in the 1960s. Worth a watch.
2. CONQUEST OF SPACE Paramount Pictures, 1955. This is a gem, concerning a mission to Mars. The movie is based on the book of the same name. Chelsey Bonstell and Willey Ley had released a non fiction work about spaceflight and this is a gorgeous film adaptation, with some dramatic license of course taken. Lots of eye candy including a space station, Mars rocket plane and of course meteors, the bane of 50s sci fi.
1. 2001; A SPACE ODYSSEY Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1968. For so many reasons, the best space movie of all time. Concerning the discovery of an alien artifact on the Moon and the subsequent mission to Jupiter to investigate a mysterious signal sent there. The cinematography is beautiful, with fantastic special effects (f0r 1968, way ahead of its time) The spaceship models are just unforgettable, and remember this is before CGI was even a thought in anyone's minds.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The edge of the universe

How many times have you looked up at the sky and thought; "where does it end?" Well according to astronomers, the visible universe can be seen to a distance of about 13 billion light years. The visible universe meaning the matter in the universe that is detectable through its radiant energy, be it light or radio waves. Nothing is seen beyond this point because as you are looking deeper into space you are looking farther back in time; current theories about the formation of the universe give the date of the Big Bang, or the moment of creation of all we know, at about 13 billion years ago. So as you are looking farther and farther out, you reach a point where the light of the object you are looking at started its journey shortly after the big bang. Its a strange and eerie effect, and in essence the entire sky is a sort of time machine. But I wondered, what would you find if you were able to go out to the last galaxy, on the edge of the expansion, and fly out past it? Suppose it was totally empty?
One strange thing occurred to me immediately. If you went farther and farther out, until that last galaxy you past was for whatever reason no longer detectable, you would lose all points of reference, so it would be difficult if not impossible to prove you were moving, or to calculate which direction you were moving in. You would be completely lost. The concept of the space around you having dimensions would be greatly diminished. Which made me think, does matter somehow create the space around it? If you can no longer detect motion or direction, is the space around you for all intents and purposes now nonexistent? If you are in a universe with say just two objects in it, you can always measure distance and velocity between the two objects. But what if you are in a spacecraft that has flown so far out into the cosmos that no other objects are longer visible? You might still have velocity, but since you are not moving towards anything and cannot detect anything to be moving away from, you may be from one frame of reference motionless. So for this reason, I theorize that the "edge of the universe" is the self imposed limit of detection of physical matter. once you reach that point, where you cannot detect any physical object except your space craft, you may have reached a sort of edge. I will ponder this idea later...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

From the singularity to now

I spent the last week in a rained in beach condo wanting to snorkel. What amazed me is that this particular week, there was heavy rain in South Florida, which just happened to be the week of my vacation. Then today, a day after I got home, the weather started improving. I know the two are unrelated, or are they? Some theorists have put forward that every event in the universe is related to every other event. This dates all the way back to the time when the universe was a singularity, to the point of the rapid expansion from that singularity to the universe of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars. As all elementary particles once shared a space many times smaller than the head of a pin, they interacted, and the after effects of their interactions have lingered even when they traveled through the eons and many light years of space. As a result, events separated by immense distances could be connected. In effect, the behavior of every particle in the universe may have been influenced by every other particle. So a lightning bolt on a planet 20,000 light years away could be somehow connected to the Kentucky derby. Do the interactions of particles billions of years ago now result in my vacation being rained out? Maybe. Just something to ponder.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I am back!

Sorry about the time off, I had some family matters to take care of. Its good to be back and I look forward to hopefully writing some stuff that you may find interesting.