Tuesday, November 7, 2023

ENG 281 Week #13: Aliens - Contemporary Films

District 9 (South Africa/USA/New Zealand: Neil Blomkamp, 2009)
Film Description: "Violence ensues after an extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth finds a kindred spirit in a government agent exposed to their biotechnology."
"That 24-hour warning, the papers to be signed? Absolute crap. This is apartheid, plain and simple. Can you hear that? Under the cries of digitally rendered aliens in a realistic setting? It’s the scream of Mississippi, the Mexican border, weekend ICE raids, and dozens of other dehumanization headlines of late. Go bigger, it’s the echoes of Jewish genocide, Japanese interment, slavery, and hundreds of other racial segregation stories ripped from history. It’s foreigners, families, and children being maligned to crappy ghettos, only to get the boot after much hand-wringing, repeated without any shred of a lesson learned. District 9 is a primal scream on de-location." -- Blake Gobel
Resources for after you watch the film

Under the Skin (UK/Switzerland/USA: Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
Film Description: "A mysterious young woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. However, events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery."
"Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013) is an exercise in cinema as a sensorial machine. The film is preoccupied with the systematic capture of bodies, of flesh and light, of faces and skins, of elemental substances like fog, rain and watery rocks, smoke and snow, glass panes and thick woods, the luminous and the numinous. Like a sensory overstimulation chamber, the film presents us from its start with a surfeit of contradictory material that veer from the experimentally abstract to the verité. We watch the formation of geometric shapes that suddenly appears as the building of an eye; then the inky dark roads illuminated by a glowing trail of car lights from a motorcycle; a woman’s corpse, emitting a single tear, bluntly undressed in a blinding white light box." - Elena Gorfinkel
Resources for after you watch the film

Arrival (2016)
"A linguist works with the military to communicate with alien lifeforms after twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world."
"They look like deflated footballs compressed into oblong frisbee shapes. Twelve UFOs hover over nondescript locations around the planet without a proclamation of war or peace, no ultimatums, and no understanding of our language whatsoever. Rather than float over major cities, they linger over locations such as an empty field in Montana, over the Black Sea, or in Siberia. They stand 1,500 feet high on their ends, with one end just a few dozen feet away from the Earth’s surface. Just there, a door opens, where scientists and paranoid military officials enter to make contact. Human representatives around the world preserve their teams’ exchanges with the visitors jealously, although they’re all looking for answers to the same question: “What is your purpose on Earth?” But answers in Arrival do not come without some searching, introspection, abstract thought, and solemn emotion. And that’s one of the best things about it." - Brian Eggert
Resources for after you watch the film

Annihilation (UK/USA: Alex Garland, 2018)
Film description: "A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don't apply."
Michael Benton -- 
What is very interesting to me is the idea that the "new weird" genre is speaking to a 21st Century dis-ease sparked by an awareness of the impossibility of truly knowing reality. Propaganda, disinformation & official lies instantaneously and repeatedly disseminated through ubiquitous screen technologies, radically transforming science/technology/theories that even leave those that devote their lives to a particular discipline overwhelmed, and a general distrust from the general population in their traditional experts/leaders. This is played out vividly in Vandermeer's trilogy and Garland's film as the main characters struggling to understand/survive the transmutating Area X/The Shimmer are scientists/soldiers
“We have many theories, few facts.” -Dr. Ventress (in the film Annihilation)
"[T]he longer I stared at it, the less comprehensible the creature became. The more it became something alien to me, and the more I had a sense that I knew nothing at all—about nature, about ecosystems." — The biologist in the novel Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, 175
Resources for after you watch the film

Nope (USA: Jordan Peele, 2022)
Film description: "Residents in a lonely gulch of inland California bear witness to an uncanny, chilling discovery."
"In this instance, the look is also a threat to those doing the looking. The act of seeing can be damaging not only to the target but also to the beholder. There are obvious parallels here with the consumption of exploitation film and how we, as audiences, are unwilling to look away, even when we should. It is what Peele referred to as “the dark side” of our obsession with spectacle." - Rhys Peregrine

Prey (USA: Dan Tachtenberg, 2022)
Film Description: "Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, “Prey” is the story of a young woman, Naru, a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her people. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries."
"It’s a prequel, but radical even for that typically accursed genre. Set in 1719 on the Northern Great Plains, its protagonists are not a corps of heavily armed mercenaries but a small tribe of Comanche. The lead character, Naru (Amber Midthunder) is a medicine woman-in-training who actually aspires to hunt alongside the tribe’s males, including her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers). No brawny dudes here, just a group of subsistence hunters, facing down an alien foe. At that level alone, it’s a compelling contemplation of the nature of predation. But then, Prey goes further." - Dan Persons
Resources for after you watch the film:

Cutter, Jeff and Dan Trachtenberg. "Prey." Clubhouse Conversations (June 3, 2023) ["In this episode, cinematographer Jeff Cutter and director Dan Trachtenberg are joined by interviewer Shelly Johnson, ASC to discuss their work in Prey — the prequel to Predator that follows a young Comanche woman's fight for survival against both human and alien invaders."]

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