Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reconstructing: Cryptozoology

The X-Files dealt with the theme of cryptozoology in various episodes throughout the history of the series. The term, at its most basic, from the Greek root, means study of hidden animals. There has been a rich history of documented accounts via film or photos, of alleged animals that fall in this category. The two of note that have remained the most iconic are the Loch Ness Monster, and Sasquatch (Big Foot). Yet like in all fields of research into the unexplained, one should be wary of taking any image documentation at face value, as I have previously argued here, and here, as well as in this piece: perception and the unexplained. As I previously stated:

According to present neurological scientific research, our receptors, i.e., our eyes, ears, and senses, receive four hundred billion bits of information per second, yet our brain only processes two thousand bits per second. Think about that. In other words our brain imprints the ability of what we can see. We can only see what we believe is possible.

In light of such information, while I’m not necessarily a believer, I can’t discount the possibility that events, and life forms, exist around us that we have no point of reference to be able to process. One of my great personal frustrations with websites that reference past cryptozoology documented accounts is the lack of context, or critical thought in explaining what has been documented.

The Thunderbird / Pterodactyl photos

One example I’d like to cite is a series of old and iconic photos from circa 1890 of the capture of "Thunderbirds,"-- large, bird like creatures that are usually identified with Native American traditions. Some researchers have drawn distinctions between the lizard-like features of the Native American legends with pterosaurs, the prehistoric pterodactyl, which are related to other breeds of pteranodon. It should be noted that "Thunderbirds" are described as incredibly large, feathered birds in Native American lore. Some cryptozoologists believe that "Thunderbirds"
were teratorns, presumably extinct birds, related to condors, and this distinction between small pterodactyls and teratorns was confused or blurred. It should be noted that pterodactyls are considered to be true reptiles, and not part of the dinosaur group. Teratorns were the largest flying birds accepted by scientists as real. Due to the fact that pterodactyls are considered reptiles, for some cryptozoologists, this leaves the possibility open that such creatures exist in isolated numbers. Yet there is a serious flaw in the reasoning of cryptozoologists; all living organisms on Earth leave some kind of evidence of their existence, such as bones, carcasses, droppings, nests, eggs, etc. For the scientific community, no credible evidence has been produced.

The following series of photos might have been inspired, or prompted by a story in April, 1890 of two cowboys in Arizona who killed a giant bird like creature with an enormous wingspan, that had smooth skin, featherless wings like a bat, as well as a face that resembled an alligator. It has been alleged the cowboys dragged the carcass back into town, where it was pinned with wings outstretched across the entire length of a barn. On April 26, 1890, a story was indeed published by The Epitaph, but considering that no further historic corroboration by eyewitness accounts has confirmed the incident, it is usually regarded as an urban legend. Yet what to make of this series of photos that seems to be from that period?

Again, historical context is important when accessing the background of such material. The late 1800s was ripe with Yellow Journalism or tabloid journalism. William Randolph Hearst, a mining heir, acquired the San Francisco Examiner in 1887. Hearst was a rival of Joseph Pulitzer, who purchased the New York World in 1883 after making the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the dominant daily of that city. This rivalry between Hearst and Pulitzer peaked between 1895 to 1898. Obviously there was a climate to circulate sensationalistic stories. One of the questions that needs to be raised is, was it possible for photographs to be included in newspaper prints from that period? Indeed, prior to the 1890s, the technology did not exist to economically publish photographs in newspapers. So, indeed due to the timeframe that these pterodactyl photos were created, it was possible for these images to have been published in newspapers to increase circulation, and to entice the curiosity factor of the public.

While I have no reason to believe that the time period of when these photos were shot is not authentic, the photos seem genuinely aged, and the dress of the figures in the photos fit that period. Various newspapers could have paid to have these pterodactyls sculpted and then staged.

One should also factor in that the notion of prehistoric creatures surviving in isolated areas, has had a strong psychological hold on the whims of the public. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, published in 1912, captivated the public with its adventures in a plateau of an Amazon basin of South America that includes dinosaurs, as well as a race of ape-like men. The RKO movie, King Kong (1931), of course, featured the mysterious Skull Island, which was populated by dinosaurs, pterodactyls, as well as the infamous, and deleted, giant insect sequence, and the mighty ape himself.

With the advent of digital technology, as I have previously commented, I suspect nothing has really changed all that much, and the same issues face individuals who are enthusiasts of the cryptozoology field now as they have in the past.

Reconstructing modern video examples

When looking at contemporary 'documentation' of unidentified animals, the same scrutiny should be applied. All professional illusionists / magicians understand there’s a process to deceiving the public; The Pledge (showing something ordinary, when it probably isn’t), The Turn (taking something ordinary and making it extraordinary, challenging spectators to look for an explanation that they won't find), and The Prestige (showing something shocking that has never been seen before), as brilliantly demonstrated in the Christopher Nolan film, The Prestige from 2006. There’s usually a narrative to the build up of unexplained events. Perhaps it is the reason why Magicians from Harry Houdini to Penn and Teller are often so scathing towards individuals whom call themselves professional experts in the field of paranormal research as well as experts into the unexplained. The first example is a video account of a large winged creature flying between scaffolding in Hamburg, Germany at some time in the 2000s.

Indeed odd, yet the video is the only source of this account. It could very likely be staged, and the winged figure added in via some animation software. What leaves this highly suspect is the fact that there’s no alternative footage from other sources to verify the event. Furthermore, I could find no published accounts from German newspapers, or news media of such an eyewitnessed sighting. It would seem strange in the hustle and bustle of a city such as Hamburg, that this would go unnoticed by others. Regarding the quality of the image, there’s a wispy, and transparent quality that seems suspect.

There’s another video of a Pterodactyl sighting, which is interesting, yet also suspect.

The creature in question seems to primarily glide, with a limited amount of motion, in spite of the disclaimers of the people posting the clip; this could have been achieved with a radio-controlled glider.

The next clip is from a documentary of the alleged Mokele-Mbembe, a small living dinosaur that exists in the Congo. Once again, the brief video is inconclusive, the brief blow-up reveals an elongated neck, and something that doesn’t look like a rhinoceros, yet there could have manipulation in post production.

The next clip is one of several Chupacabra videos that play on the stereotypes of the legend. The clip feels like something staged, and that the image manipulated with animation, again, manifests a wispy visual quality that reminds me of the Hamburg footage.

There is a possibility that the Chupacabra is a legitimate unknown breed related to a fox, wolf, or coyote that hasn’t been identified by scientists.

Lastly, there is the issue of Rods--also known as "Skyfish"--mysterious insects that people claim are invisible to the naked eye, shaped like rods, with multiple wings. This might be less a case of deceit, or a hoax, that drives belief in the phenomenon, then a misunderstanding of how insects can be depicted, when you are dealing with video, or photo cameras that run on slower shutter speeds. As demonstrated in this video below.

This streaking phenomenon can be seen in countless examples of nighttime photos, where the headlights of cars are seen as streaks.

I am well aware that some might perceive the tone of this piece to be knee-jerk skepticism on the subject of cryptozoology documentation. I feel that the field has legitimate merit, when you consider the estimate that six species become extinct each day, or 21,894 species per year. When you take into account that scientists keep discovering new species of sea life in parts of the oceans thought too deep for life to survive, and new species in isolated parts of the world, one cannot discount certain possibilities. But this field known as cryptozoology should be explored through proper scientific analysis, and executed through biologists, veterinarians, field researchers, animal behaviorists, and ecologists. To just accept all documentation and verbal eyewitness accounts without proper assessment, or verifiable proof just undermines a field with good intentions.

Regardless of the legitimacy, or lack of legitimacy of such documentation, perhaps it is irrelevant. Perhaps, from a psychological standpoint, the interaction between the viewer and images being viewed touches on our unconscious desire to believe in something greater to our existence – that this is the greater enigma that drives people to pursue real world monsters, or people who produce such media to help validate people’s hope that such creatures do exist.

Special thanks to Xscribe for some further, great, editorial work.

No Copyright infringement is intended with the above video sources, they are used for critical, and educational purposes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A.I. and IWTB con’t (The Limits of Myths and Fables)

In past pieces, I have written about Hero archetypes, and interpretations of prophecy, with part 1 and part 2 of The Ophiuchus Code. My nagging question has remained, to what degree to we just accept the narratives or memes we have been told? What role do genre fans play in the selection of the kind of commercial product that is released?

The reason why I drew parallels between the public’s reaction to both A.I. and I Want To Believe, was due to a larger picture concern I have, which I will explore further here. A few historical parallels can be made between Kubrick, The X-Files, and Chris Carter. Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey thematically dealt with Ancient Astronaut Theory, the meme that Extra-Terrestrials influenced our early development as a race. This meme was frequently explored within The X-Files, and especially in the later seasons. But, from a mythological standpoint, what the about the inverse of that meme? Once you take a look at the overall thematic arches of A.I. – Artificial Intelligence, is it possible that the humans that built the machines, might have inadvertently influenced the advanced mechas to develop a soul? If other races might have influenced our development, could we do the same with our own creations? An interesting thought. Kubrick was known to have a fondness for Robots, and he was known to comment that machines with Artificial Intelligence would replace humans, as humans hold an inability to evolve. As some would argue, if Religion is a human construct, if Mythology is a human construct, shouldn’t we think outside the box and admit that other species would create their mythological construct about us?

"If man merely sat back and thought about his impending termination, and his terrifying insignificance and aloneness in the cosmos, he would surely go mad, or succumb to a numbing sense of futility. Why, he might ask himself, should he bother to write a great symphony, or strive to make a living, or even to love another, when he is no more than a momentary microbe on a dust mote whirling through the unimaginable immensity of space?" – Stanley Kubrick

Again, an interesting thought, and one that parallels along the line of Chris Carter’s monologues from “Syzygy” 3x13

Which brings us back to some questions about Spielberg, what brought him to do A.I., and what developed afterwards. Setting aside his relationship with Stanley Kubrick, could Spielberg have sensed that there were limits to the commercial narrative of Fables, and wanted to dig a little deeper?

Spielberg: The Evolution of an Artist.

In 1991, Spielberg released Hook, a collaboration with James V Hart that addressed issues concerning Peter Pan. Admittedly entertaining, with its share of interesting moments, the film is flawed. One is left with the feeling that it takes only half measures on the issues it attempts to raise.

It should also be said in many respects that Hook embodied Spielberg’s desire to let go of childish things. Soon, his development, his maturation as an artist would make a radical shift. In 1991, Spielberg could have made Hook, but could not have made A.I.; his sensibilities had not matured enough to do so.

Following the commercial juggernaut that was Jurassic Park (1992), Spielberg created the Oscar winning Holocaust drama, Schindler’s List in 1993. With this film, Spielberg tackled more adult, and darker material, and was unflinching and unrelenting in his depiction of the subject. In 1997, he followed it with Amistad, a period film about an incident concerning the American slave trade that was just as unflinching. That same year, he created Jurassic Park: The Lost World, but his sensibility had already progressed, so the second Jurassic Park didn’t quite work; Spielberg could not sanitize some of the more darker aspects of the themes he was addressing. He followed this with his other Oscar winning film, Saving Private Ryan, another WW II film that was forthright in its recounting of the occupation of Germany.

In many respects A.I. was the culmination of Spielberg’s artistic growth. The potential of the film raised the question if Spielberg could delve back into the Science Fiction genre with a more mature outlook, and be as unflinching in his depictions, as he had been with Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan. The argument from the general public seemed to have been; ‘No’, considering the outcome of the film’s release. But fans, due to their assumptions, might have missed what was there. The ramifications have been steep in their way – there’s a personal feeling that Spielberg has artistically back peddled away from tackling more adult themes within escapist genres, after the mixed public reaction of the film. For actor Haley Joel Osment, the ramifications were a little more hard-hitting, regarding the public’s perception of him as a screen presence since 2001.

A number of his smaller independent films have not seen commercial release. For example, Edges of the Lord, a WW II drama about Jewish children who were hidden by Catholic families to be spared from the Nazi’s, was filmed in 2000 within Poland, and was a film whose distribution was bought by Miramax, then was shelved until it was released to DVD with little fanfare. The same problem faced Home of The Giants, another example from 2007, a high school sports drama that ran into distribution problems when the studio that financed the film ran into trouble. His last wide commercial release was 2003’s Secondhand Lions. In fairness, it should be noted that Haley Osment slowed down his acting career to finish high school, and attend NYU to study experimental theatre. His willingness to remain out of the spotlight was his choice, which allowed the opportunity for other young actors who grab the spotlight in his absence. Therefore, the perceived decline in his movie career might be less a reflection of a lack of box office appeal on his part.

Spielberg did follow up A.I. with Minority Report (2002), a science fiction thriller based on a Philip K. Dick story, which was a showcase for Tom Cruise. While the film is nearly on par with A.I., and the visual sensibility shares a lot with A.I., as well as hints at a Kubrick influence, there is an impression that Spielberg felt a need to pander to the audience, a pattern that would become more apparent with each new film. Spielberg then followed up this film with the more escapist fare of Catch Me If You Can (2003). Based on a true account of a conman who played with various identities in the 1960s, the film was a showcase for Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Hanks. While enjoyable, and full of nostalgia, this felt like another step towards Spielberg’s artistic back peddling. In 2004, he followed that film with The Terminal, a film I cannot comment on as I have never seen it.

Yet the real nadir for Spielberg came in 2005 with his adaptation of H.G. Welles’s War Of The Worlds. A film that was the antithesis of A.I., it fails to offer any insight into the human condition, and just offers shallow spectacle. While I never had any issue with changing the setting from the Victorian era to contemporary times, Welles himself had commented in the 30s, that any adaptation of his book should reflect the era of its production. The script adaptation by Josh Friedman and David Koepp was riddled with so many plot holes and lapses of logic, as well as characterizations so poorly written they failed to evoke any credibility, that the script undermines whatever good intentions there might have been. The cast, while capable, had little to work with. Tom Cruise remains one note throughout, and Dakota Fanning’s character is so shrill as to render her almost unwatchable. Tim Robbins, an otherwise fine actor, is saddled with a character that likewise plays as one note insane. There is also the issue of pointless plot threads which do nothing for the story other than serve grim sensationalism. One example is that of the red vines. In Welles’ novel, the purpose of the Martian’s red vines is to change the atmosphere of the Earth for their own means. Here, the red vines are only used for more ghoulish and pointless effect. Yet the greatest disloyalty to Welles’ classic work has to be the end. While the film is effective in establishing a certain dark tone, that tone is betrayed by an ending that just panders to the audience, and one is left with an intellectually dishonest film that is inconsistent in tone. Ironically, some of the past accusations about A.I.’s intellectual dishonesty applied less to A.I. and more to this film.

Spielberg followed this film with Munich (2005). Based on true accounts after the assassination of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics of 1972--Black September--of the black box operation to hunt down and kill the terrorists involved, it was closer in form to Spielberg’s late 90s work. Yet the film was highly controversial, as it presented moral gray areas between the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Spielberg reteamed with George Lucas for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls (2008), a film that indeed does deal with aspects of the Ancient Astronauts theory, yet is many years late in exploring the subject, after The X-Files explored the same memes. It should be noted that David Koepp was the co-writer, and the film does suffer from some of the same structural narrative issues as WOTW. It is difficult to access Crystal Skulls as a true reflection of Spielberg’s interests, when you consider the heavy influence of George Lucas on the story, except to add that again, one is left with the impression at this point that Spielberg had creatively back peddled, and had just about reverted to his escapist inclinations of the late 80s, while producing work that hasn’t really satisfied many demographics over the last decade.

Some fans have steadfastly insisted that Spielberg re-create the kind of work he was producing in the 80s, yet this has created a conundrum. Spielberg, like all artists, has grown, and it has become impossible for him to replicate a sensibility he no longer shares. When he tries to pander to these demands, or second guesses his artistic needs verses the demands of commerce, it feels half-hearted in a subliminal fashion. This inclination is within most people, to expect an artist to turn out what is comfortable. Many of us as genre fans, myself included, do suffer from our own Peter Pan Syndrome.

The Peter Pan Syndrome

Over the summer, I had the fortune of seeing a faithful staged production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and I was left with a few impressions. I was surprised by the very dark aspects that could be found in the production. There was a higher ratio of death than I expected, Pan’s avoidance with growing up, at moments, was disturbing, and the ending is truly a tragedy. Despite his adventures, Pan must suffer eternally because he refused adulthood, whereas, Wendy decides to come back and produce children and dream of the Never land and die. This aspect is made clear in the play, and perhaps while Barrie celebrated childhood, he understood that the idealized notion of Pan, a boy who never grows up, indeed had great limits.

Production still from 360 Productions, "Peter Pan" 2010

Indeed, Peter Pan as a fable has a real bite that has gone missing with the more Walt Disney flavored interpretations. When Spielberg and James Hart attempted to tackle head on the theme of “Pan” with Hook, they adhered too closely to the themes already touched on in the play, and did not take it far enough, emotionally, to offer a way out of the dilemma that the story presented. Yet in 1993, horror maven, fabulist, and dark fantasy author, Clive Barker, did find a way to invert the subject with his children’s tale The Thief of Always.

The story involves Harvey Swick, a ten-year-old who is living in a Middle American town, suffering from post Holiday doldrums. He is enticed by Rictus, and is lured away through a threshold to a place called Holiday House, run by the mysterious Mr. Hood. Harvey befriends two other children at the house: Wendell, and the melancholy Lulu. Within this wonderland of childhood delights, each season is cycled through an entire day, and a nearby lake is inhabited with swarms of mysterious fishes. Harvey soon begins to see there’s a price to be paid for such delights. Lulu disappears within the lake, and Harvey with Wendell escape back into the real world, only to be faced with a cruel discovery. In what appeared to be a one-month escape, it has in fact been thirty-one years since Harvey left his home. His parents are old and decades have been robbed from him. Harvey and Wendell find their way back into Holiday House, defeat Mr. Hood’s deceptive minions, battle Mr. Hood, who we learn is a psychic Vampire King, an entity who feeds on the youth of children, and Harvey outwits him, destroys him and frees the souls of past captive children, or brings back the children in human form from the Lake. Harvey becomes a good thief, a boy whose stolen years are back in his possession.

Illustrations by Clive Barker

As pointed out by Clive Barker’s official biographer, Douglas Winter, from his book The Dark Fantastic, Clive’s story inverts Peter Pan with The Thief of Always.

“It stands for me,’ Barker says, ‘at the crux of the problem of fantasy, because a great deal of fantasy is adolescent, reductionist, misinformed about the human condition, and masturbatory. I don’t mean that in a sexual sense; I mean it’s unproductive, sterile…The beautiful pain of that story (Peter Pan) is at the basis of what I want to do in fantasy. I want to examine how we deal with that problem. How do we deal with the problem that, if we embrace Neverland too strongly, we are forever sucking our thumbs, but if we die without knowing Neverland, we’ve lost our power to dream…If you merely write to escape, you are not interpreting the world, and true fantasy is a way of interpreting the world.”

One could argue that The Thief of Always is also taking a deconstructionist approach to an aspect of Fables and Myths: The child hero archetype. The above concern is a fundamental problem with some genre fans. Great Myths, Fables, Science Fiction and Horror should have an edge; they should have some emotional truth about the human condition. If genre fans as consumers, just embrace the surface aspects of their interests, there is no growth, no real insight.


We have freely used the term “Deconstructionist” and we really should clarify its origin and how this applies to genre film and television and offer a working definition. The term often applies to the field of literature, and as an approach, was introduced by French Philosopher Jacques Derrida, which seeks to rigorously pursue the meaning of a text to the point of exposing the supposed contradictions and internal oppositions upon which it is founded – thereby showing that those foundations are complex, unstable, or impossible. This approach can be deployed in philosophy, literary analysis, or other fields. The sources for this approach that influenced Derrida’s work can be found with Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Andre Leroi-Gourhan, and Ferdinand de Saussure. Deconstructionism was a partial reaction to Structuralism.

It should be noted that the Deconstructionist approach is very open ended. It should also be noted, in forewarning, that due to some of the work of Paul de Man, Deconstuctionism has been viewed as fascist in nature. The theory in its purest form, admittedly, can be elitist, and inaccessible to the public. Opponents will often accuse Deconstructionism of being a threat to traditional values, while proponents will often argue that this approach encourages originality, and an ability to think outside the box. But for our purposes, should this approach, in a more direct form, be used to examine the narrative of Myths, Fables, and genres within film? The deconstructionist approached has already been applied within the Comic book field, once you consider Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s masterpiece Watchmen. Some have argued we are already in a post deconstructionist phase, and have entered a Reconstructionist phase.

Joseph Campbell’s seminal "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" has had such a profound impact with the commercial television and film industry, since George Lucas applied Campbell’s work for Star Wars (1977). Campbell followed the work of Sigmund Freud, and especially Carl Jung, and it should be noted that Campbell’s conception of Myth is closely related to the Jungian method of dream interpretation, which, of course is heavily reliant on symbolic interpretation. It is interesting to note that author James Joyce had a great influence on Campbell’s work. There seems to be an overwhelming consensus about Campbell’s work, and little, if any dissent about his interpretations. But the problem may lie within a selectivity of his breakdowns about myths and archetypes.

Screenwriter Christopher Vogler created a seven-page memo based on Campbell’s work, "A practical guide to The Hero with a Thousand Faces," which lead to the development of Disney’s 1994 film, The Lion King, and was later developed into the late 90s book, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers. But there is a fundamental problem when Myths are commoditized, commercialized, and so distilled that they lose their rough edges. Not everyone had adhered to the structures of Campbell’s work. Author Neil Gaiman has stated he started reading "The Hero with a Thousand Faces," then refused to finish it, and finding himself thinking that if it’s true, he would rather not know, but do it because it’s true, and because he accidentally winds up creating something that falls into the pattern, then be told what the pattern is. The problem might have less to do with Campbell’s work, than with how other’s interpret the work and how to use the symbols. In this respect, Deconstructionism and Reconstructionism might hold constructive tools to bring back more emotional meat and weight to genres that have fallen stagnant.

The Limits of fables and myths

Come away O Human Child,
To the Waters and the Wild,
with a fairy, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping,
than you can understand.

- William Butler Yeats, used in A.I. from "The Stolen Child"

We live in a world full of potential pain and peril for children. Even for a well adjusted child, they can face setbacks, and disappointments. The original constructive use of Myths and fables, as told to children, was to offer roadmaps to understand the world, and to help them find their place in the world, and in a best sense to lay a groundwork for growth, both spiritual and emotional. But what happens, as one gets older, when the symbols and archetypes that are so deeply conditioned in us as children, begin to ring hollow? When we recognize that the world is full of far more gray areas, then the idealism of Myths, fables, and genres, that have become sanitized?

An interesting revelation was found at the following site:

Kubrick's final collaborator on the 'A.I' script was English novelist Sara Maitland whom he felt was necessary in shaping the story into a cohesive whole. "By the time I came to the project it had become enormous, unwieldy and unfocused," said Ms. Maitland. Upon perusing the piles of unfinished scripts, she concluded that the story needed to make emotional sense as a myth or fairy tale does, and believes that Kubrick realized this. In fact Kubrick also was adamant that the story should work in terms of myth. "He never referred to the film as 'A.I.'; he always called it 'Pinocchio.' "

It is interesting to wonder why Kubrick viewed A.I. as a Fable. I won’t claim to have any greater insight into Kubrick’s intentions, for I would be no better than others that claim to be an authority on Kubrick. We are only left to speculate. Within Philosophy, the field of Deconstructionism and Reconstructionism took hold in the early eighties. There’s no evidence that Kubrick was adopting these theories, so therefore, we can only speculate that, from an intuitive level, if Kubrick sensed a new void had to be filled in addressing fables as one of the most potent, and deep-seated, forms of storytelling.

To reiterate, all story telling is about exploring the human condition and making sense of the world. If it is just about escapism for the genre fan, for the consumer, then there can be no real insight, no real depth of meaning. Fables, Mythologies, and genres like Science Fiction, and Horror, should be allowed to address themes, memes, and subjects that are uncomfortable on some level, that touch on deeper philosophical issues, or aspects of the psyche, to overcome, or embrace the shadow self. Incredible strides have been made within Science Fiction and Horror literature, thanks to writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Ramsey Campbell, and the afore mentioned Clive Barker. But if the genre fan of genre television and film just embraces the surface aspect of such genres, if they reject material that is difficult to absorb, they will miss out on opportunities that could truly be personally transformative.

While this appeal might seem presumptive on my behalf, I am hoping this will not be misunderstood. To address the issue of how this concerns the future of Chris Carter’s work, at present, it cannot be determined if the box office for The X-Files: I Want To Believe has stifled Mr. Carter’s willingness to take risks in furthering the narrative of The X-Files mythology. While the outcome of Spielberg’s artistic trajectory has become evident over the past decade. That outcome remains unclear for Mr. Carter. Let’s hope he will continue to listen to his inner muse, and produce the kind of work that remains truthful to himself first, and foremost, and then will feel truthful to fans of his past work.


The following above points are directed at adult genre fans. In an age where the celebration of childhood has been diminished, where children are oversaturated with information that seems to be leaving a segment of this generation jaded, where children are being compelled to ‘act above their age’, and at time when children are being conditioned to accept things, they should not be asked to accept by society. I do find great value in the fables, myths, and fairy tales, that are shared between a parent and child, my hope is that such tales, when told, are explained contextually by a parent to such children, on their own terms, and with clarity.

Special thanks to XScribe for some great editorial work.

I would highly recommend reading The Thief Of Always.

Please check out 'Come Away O Human Child', an exceptional tribute and archive site about 'A.I. - Artificial Intelligence', and thanks to Daniel Chia for his years of great work.

I also must acknowledge the brilliant analytical work of Bryan Harrison, Dave Corcoran, and Bill Coronel, regarding 'A.I.'

Saturday, October 30, 2010

AI and IWTB part 1

Back in 2001, I was involved in a fan site that was helping to promote Steven Spielberg’s new film, A.I. – Artificial Intelligence. I even went to Los Angeles, met the webmaster of this site, and got to check out a screening of the film, which left me floored, and satisfied, as the film was one of my most anticipated of that year. In some respects, 2008 felt like déjà vu, but on a larger scale, when I got to see the debut screening of The X-Files: I Want To Believe in Los Angeles, as well as The Lexicon’s behind the scenes participation with the Blu Ray disc. While following the public reaction to IWTB, I found myself having a feeling of déjà vu all over again.

While both films are very different, I found one parallel with A.I and IWTB; the public built up their anticipation for both films based on perceived assumptions, and when both films ended up being nothing like what the public expected, the reaction was indeed sour. Yet, to those segments within the public that were paying attention, there were ample clues that neither film was going meet assumed expectations. Both films had a marketing strategy that built up mystique, and both films had the baggage of a certain kind of history. In the case of I Want To Believe, it was the past history of The X-Files.
In the case of A.I. – Artificial Intelligence, it was the past history of Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg. In the case of A.I., the promotion strategy included an innovative on-line viral campaign independent of the film, with a complex narrative set fifty years after the domestic events depicted in the Spielberg film. The history of this viral campaign can be found here and here.

Another parallel could be found with the kind of films that were competing with. In 2008, I Want to Believe was competing with the juggernaut The Dark Knight, in 2001, A.I. was competing with two juggernauts, Jackson’s LOTR: The Fellowship Of The Ring, as well as the first Harry Potter film.

The astonishing teaser trailer can be seen here, a trailer that reminded me of the more abstract teaser trailers for Alien and The Exorcist in the 70s.

As well as the other trailer:

In the case of both films – they deconstruct past mythologies, and force us to look at parts of our human condition that we find uncomfortable to examine. I won’t go into a synopsis for ITWB, for which X-Philes are already well versed, but for anyone not familiar with the plot and background of A.I. – Artificial Intelligence, I will offer an analysis.


The origin of A.I can be found in a short story by novelist Brian Aldiss: “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” from 1969, concerning a robot child that doesn’t realize it isn’t human, and therefore, cannot connect with its mother. Director Stanley Kubrick liked the story and bought the rights to develop it in 1982. Brian Aldiss was brought in to adapt it into a screenplay, with the mutual hope the collaboration would be on par with Kubrick’s creative relationship with Arthur C. Clarke. While Kubrick and Aldiss had a friendly relationship, Aldiss had trouble developing the short story into something substantial, and wasn’t able to satisfy Kubrick’s intentions. From 1982 until the mid 90s, a number of writers were brought in: Bob Shaw, Sara Maitland, and primarily Ian Watson, who did the bulk of the work that Steven Spielberg used when he drafted his own script. At one point Warner Bros. was close to green lighting the project in the early 90s with the intent to cast Joseph Mazzello as the robot boy. During this same period, Kubrick dropped the project to work on Wartime Lies. In 1995, Kubrick handed the project to Spielberg with the feeling it was more in line with his sensibilities. The intention was for Kubrick to act as the producer, and Spielberg to direct it, but that was not to be. Kubrick died in 1999. In the 90s Kubrick brought in director Chris Cunningham to do some conceptual work on the project, and one can see his influence in this trailer:

After the director’s death, Jan Harlin and Christine Kubrick approached Spielberg to helm the director’s chair. By November 1999, Spielberg began to write own his script, based on a 90-page treatment by Ian Watson. Meanwhile, Brian Aldiss revisited his old story and wrote two sequels--Supertoys When Winter Comes and Supertoys In Other Seasons. Aldiss sold the rights to Warner Bros, and many of the plot points from these tales made it into Spielberg’s script. The film went into production August 2000, and was rounded out by a top tier cast. Child actor Haley Joel Osment as David Swinton, Francis O’Connor as Monica Swinton, Jude Law as Gigolo Joe, William Hurt as Professor Allen Hobby, Sam Robards as Henry Swinton, Jake Thomas as Martin Swinton, and Brendan Gleeson as Lord Johnson-Johnson. The voiceover talent was just as prodigious; Ben Kingsley as the voice narrator and advanced mecha leader, Jack Angel as David’s companion Teddy, Robin Williams as Dr. Know, Meryl Steep as the Blue Fairy, and Chris Rock as a mecha victim.

Many of the technicians involved with the film essentially brought their ‘A’ game. The musical score, written by John Williams, harkens back to his work on Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Others included were Editor Michael Kahn, Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Costume Designer Bob Ringwood, Production Designer Rick Carter, and sound designer Gary Rydstrom. The visual effects were created by the Stan Winston Studios and ILM with Dennis Muren. Producers Katherine Kennedy and Bonnie Curtis were also on board.

The story, a post modern deconstructionist fable.

The story is set in the future, and the tale is narrated by Ben Kingsley explaining that catastrophic global warming-induced floods have ravaged the continents, and exacerbated population pressures. Millions have already died in the poorer countries. The Kingsley narration is key in understanding the context of the film, for the story is told as a fable from the far future, about our past. Couples are required to secure licenses to have children, and are allowed only one child. Professor Allen Hobby, the genius behind Cybertronic, a company that produces human-like robots, proposes a robot child that has unconditional love for its assigned parent, and has the capacity to transcend its initial programming, but a question is raised--a conundrum; could a human feel the same unconditional love? Twenty months later, an employee of Cybertronic, Henry Swinton, brings home the prototype, David. His wife, Monica, is reluctant to this arrangement, and is initially frightened of David. Henry and Monica have a son that is suffering from a rare disease, and has been placed into suspended animation until a cure can be found. Monica warms to David after activating his imprinting protocol, which irreversibly causes David to love her, as a child would have unconditional love for its mother. Monica reads to David The Adventures of Pinocchio, which includes a key plot point that will act as a catalyst for the rest of the film. As David continues to live in the Swinton home, he is introduced to Teddy, a supertoy, robotic bear who takes upon himself the responsibility of David’s well being.

Unexpectedly Martin is cured of his disease, although disabled, and is brought home. Triggering a sibling rivalry, and bringing about a series of taunts, one challenge by Martin is for David to cut a lock of Monica’s hair while sleeping, which will bring about a major future plot development, but Martin’s scheming behavior backfires, when Martin and his friends trigger David’s self protection programming at a pool party. While Martin is saved from drowning in the pool, it is decided for David to be sent back to the Cybertronic’s factory to be destroyed. But Monica, after arranging a ruse that David believes is an outdoor picnic, has a change of heart, and leaves David and Teddy in a forest. It is an emotionally harrowing scene, that has led to accusations of child abuse by the public. We are then introduced to Gigolo Joe, a male prostitute mecha, who is framed for murder by a jealous husband, and is left unregistered and on the run.

The Rising Moon sequence is the inverse of the light ships from “Close Encounters;” it’s not a harbinger of enlightenment, but destruction.

Joe and David converge, as David stumbles upon a village of abandoned mechas looking for scrap parts. But David, Joe, and others are captured by vigilante anti–mecha humans that run Flesh Fair events where abandoned, useless mechas, are destroyed in a coliseum / gladiator fashion. A technician at the event, believing David is human, realizes he is one of a kind, but the figurehead, Lord Johnson Johnson, wants to make David an example, arguing that this new mecha child is now supplanting their biological children. But the intent backfires. Just as David and Joe are about to be destroyed, David pleads for his life, and the public turns on the organizers. David, Joe, and Teddy escape. The trio set out to find The Blue Fairy, from the Pinocchio fable, with David making the intuitive connection that if he is made real, Monica will have to love him and take him back.

They travel to Rouge City, and extract information from a holographic volumetric display answer engine called “Dr. Know.” When David and Joe cross a flat fact with a fairy tale, they are given a cryptic clue, a quote from William Butler Yeats, that leads them to the flooded ruins of New York, Manhattan, using a stolen police amphibi-copter. Reaching the headquarters of Cybertronic, after David destroys a replica of himself that he fears will supplant him with Monica--another harrowing, disturbing scene--David meets his real father, Professor Hobby, whom through his detached, academic inclinations tells David he was tested to see where his leaps of faith would take him. We also learn that Professor Hobby had a son who died at a young age, and that David is modeled after the boy. But David learns, he is the first of many Davids. When the professor abandons him, David has a breakdown, and leaps off the top of Rockefeller Center on a ledge, where Cybertronic is headquartered, to the oceans below. But Joe, accompanied by Teddy, rescues him, just as David sees his objective, a sculpture of the Blue Fairy. Moments after Joe has saved David on the surface, the authorities capture Joe from another amphibi-copter using an electromagnet, but Joe programs the amphibi-copter to submerge, sparing David.

David and Tebby take the amphibi-copter to the Blue Fairy statue, which turns out to be an attraction from Coney Island, deep in the oceans. David becomes trapped when a rusted Wonder Wheel falls on their vehicle. Believing the statue to be real, David asks to be turned into a real boy, repeating this wish without end until the oceans freezes, and all remaining life dies.

Two thousand years pass, and Manhattan is buried under hundreds of feet of glacial ice, and humans are extinct. Mechas have evolved into an alien-humanoid form and silicone-based life has replaced carbon-based life. They find David and Teddy, the only two functioning mechas who knew living humans. After David is reactivated, he retrieves his memories, and touches the Blue Fairy statue. It crumbles and he realizes it was not real. But the advanced mechas reconstruct the Swinton home, and they explain, with their desire to do what is best for David, that while they have a way to create a clone of humans, their lifespan is only a day, and the process cannot be repeated. Using a lock of hair from Monica that Teddy had faithfully saved, a clone of her is made. David and Monica are together for a day, and it is the happiest day of his life. Monica tells David she loves him, and has always loved him as she drifts to sleep for the final time. This is the “everlasting moment” that David had always been looking for. As she drifts to sleep for the final time, he closes his eyes with her, and achieves his desire to be a real boy by finding the one common trait of all humans, our mortality. David simply chooses to cease to exist, and goes to that place where dreams are born. Teddy survives and becomes the keeper of David’s memory.

Direct and indirect themes of preservation, or being frozen in time, can be found in both films.

The film is propelled by human characters so doused in their own pain, that they are driven to make poor decisions. Professor Hobby acts as the great, passive protagonist in the film, and a truly tragic figure, one could liken to Victor Frankenstein. He is so deep in pain over the death of his son, he creates a living replica, yet is driven by so much hubris, he becomes too wrapped up in an intellectual exercise, and detached from all else, that he fails to see the tragic flaw. Monica is so driven by grief at the belief that her biological son is gone, she uses David as a surrogate, and Henry, is left trying to do his best to hang onto his wife. Lord Johnson-Johnson represents an unscrupulous opportunist, that is playing on the public’s fears.

As a side note, one should mention the visual design of the machines by the end of the film harkens back to the more stylized, surreal magazine cover art work of Science Fiction trades from the mid 1960s.

More examples of this sensibility can be seen in this astonishing fan video, that features segments from the ending. It is also fitting that the music used is Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song,” as Haley Joel Osment is known to be a fan of the band, it should be also noted this track was released within the same year of A.I.s release. One could view Radiohead as a band with a deconstuctionist approach.

Even the industrial band, Ministry, contributed a track for the film, "What About Us", The band also made a cameo in the Flesh Fair sequence. The video can be found here:

Ministry - What About Us
Uploaded by Pzychofreak. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

The Aftermath

A.I. is a complicated, layered, moving, poetic, yet disturbing film that doesn’t pander to genre movie conventions. A.I. works less as a linear film, but works more effectively as an episodic film. It is broken into four sections, and one could liken it to the four movements of a Symphony. The film is more concerned with exploring ideas than maintaining a perfectly threaded storyline, and one should bear that in mind when watching the film. There’s a bottomless sadness to the film, and I suspect there’s a thematic subtext that the public unconsciously picked up on, but couldn’t articulate, that helps to explain the strong reactions. The outlook concerning the human race is indeed, bleak, the film predates the growing concerns about climate change, and predates the popularist spectacle of The Day After Tomorrow, regarding the David and Monica relationship, the Oedipus complex themes are played out, and some have seen religious allegories regarding death, rebirth and transformation. While A.I. received a majority of positive reviews, some reactions were greatly divided, and most importantly, there was a sharp divide between the public’s reaction about the film, many holding a visceral dislike for it, while other’s praised, or appreciated it. The film’s gross revenue earned $235,925,552.

The mixed reactions were not at all surprising when you consider that the bulk of Stanley Kubrick’s films were often seen as polarizing for the public. But the reactions were based on certain assumptions; some key movie news fan sites were expecting another E.T. after the years of Spielberg producing more mature and grim dramas in the 90s, and this lament that the film wasn’t following the conventions of his 80s work, was a frequent mantra of the aforementioned fan sites. Spielberg commented on the public’s reaction to the end of the film in the TCM program "Spielberg on Spielberg" in 2007, and the assumptions of where Kubrick would have taken the film.

“People assume that Stanley ended A.I. with David and Teddy underwater trapped by the ferris wheel, and then end credits role, and they are going to be down there until their batteries run out. That's where they assume Stanley ended it, and I of course get criticized for carrying the film two thousand years into an advanced future where the robots that we created have replaced us, and super-mechas rule the world. It has become a silicon-based society, no longer a carbon-based society, and they certainly assume that's how I wrecked Stanley's movie. When in fact Stanley's treatment, along with Ian Watson, went right into the two thousand year future. This was where Stanley was going to take the movie had he lived to direct it. This is where I was obligated to take the picture, and even if I didn't feel such an obligation to fulfill Stanley's vision, that would have been my vision as well."

I would like to corroborate Mr. Spielberg’s above point, as I have seen many of the storyboards that Kubrick commissioned in the 90s, which does confirm that the ending with the advanced mechas was not a tagged-on afterthought, but very much a part of Kubrick’s intent. But most importantly, most of the key story elements were already sketched out by Stanley Kubrick. Spielberg merely filled in some gaps. Another key reason why many in the public failed to understand the intent of the ending, was perhaps because the intent was too subtle. Again, the Ben Kingsley narration is a key element, for he plays the advanced mecha we see at the end of the film. This film is a Fable, told from the point of view of this lead mecha. In fact, the film’s tale is directed at fellow machines; we the public, are merely eavesdropping, a rather disturbing conceit. We humans are a part of past history, and this makes the film truly a post modern, deconstructionist fable.

One key can be found with Kubrick’s interest in including the Pinocchio subplot; I suspect that Kubrick had a key interest in creating a deconstructionist fable, using Science Fiction as a means to an end. For Kubrick already understood that the Science Fiction genre had already supplanted itself from our classic fable, mythology archetype, and Kubrick saw Science Fiction as our contemporary fable, fairy tale, and mythology. Perhaps Kubrick recognized the limits of the Fable to address the human condition, and wanted to address it.

A second comment from the "Spielberg on Spielberg" program was of interest.

"I found when I looked at Stanley's two thousand storyboards on the unscripted part of that treatment he did, which was the Flesh Fair where David is abandoned by his mother and has to fend for himself, meets Gigolo Joe, and starts having a series of very dark Alice in Wonderland / Into the Looking Glass type adventures that Stanley Kubrick detailed the Flesh Fair. It looked like a concentration camp; it looked like a death camp with all the sub-human mechas being utterly destroyed by the bushel by a very terrified human race. It was so afraid of losing their identities and losing their jobs, first and foremost, to a race of serving men and women, that they just delighted in the inventiveness of decapitation, chainsaw massacring, draw-and-quartering, all of these poor helpless mecha. Stanley's storyboards did not disguise the fact that this all looked like a kind of 24th century holocaust."

This is a second interesting point. While the issue of the holocaust has always been a concern for Spielberg, when you consider his interest in Schindler’s List, as well as the use of Nazis in several Indiana Jones movies, the closest Kubrick ever came to addressing the issue from an official standpoint was the abandoned Wartime Lies project. Yet this correlation is not so far fetched, when you consider human nature. We have always used others as scapegoats for our problems, and unscrupulous figureheads and politicians have always used fear to distract from legitimate woes. It is interesting to note class issues are only passingly addressed in the film as an afterthought.

Regarding Chris Carter’s The X-Files: I Want To Believe, one must ask one’s self if this definition of a deconstructionist film applies to IWTB as well, and the answer is yes and no. Chris Knowles’ brilliant analysis of I Want To Believe, which can be found here, here and here, concluded that the film was exploring the key elements of the alien mythology, but was doing so in a symbolic, allegorical fashion. That the film was about aliens, but does a reversal of mythology and sets it back in the real world. The dying boy Christian Fearon, is a stand-in for their child, William, and Father Joe represents the state-sanctioned institutionalization of the mythology on one hand, as Chris Knowles argues, and the systematic perpetration of child abuse on the other. It is interesting to note that Father Joe and Gigolo Joe both have an odious background related to sex.

Both A.I. and I Want To Believe, thematically deal with abuse on a subconscious level, and to a certain degree.

Chris Carter is using classic myth archetypes, of the Eleusinian Mysteries – Persephone, Hades, Cerberus, and Demeter. Chris Carter might have been taking, to a degree, a deconstructionist approach to the known X-Files mythology narrative, as well as a sub textual approach to deeper belief systems. The problem with the Deconstructionist approach in film story telling, is that it tends to alienate the ticket paying public, further added by the fact that both films were so subtle in their approach that these key elements are missed in the public’s understanding, to help the public appreciate the overall intended context.

We will discuss this further, as well as Deconstructionism, and the Peter Pan Syndrome, in the next section.

Special beyond the call assistance from Xscribe, as well as some assistance from Chris Knowles.

Please check out the film: A.I. – Artificial Intelligence, highly recommended.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Promo for LAX-Files...

While the following is a little unusual for here:

Erica Fraga, also known as Raskolnikov, has kindly asked that we post her new promo for her upcoming book, LAX-Files.

Facebook promo

This is a fan made book dedicated to the memory of the late and great television director, Kim Manners.

Kim is known for his prolific and emotionally captivating work on Booker, 21 Jump St., Brisco County Jr, Simon and Simon, The X-Files, and Supernatural.

Since its inception in 1993, The X-Files has opened up our minds to government conspiracies, alien life, and unexplained phenomena. Nine seasons and two feature films later, The X-Files is still considered one of the most iconic television shows of the 20th century.

Join over 40 Los Angeles fans, cast, and crew members, including Chris Carter, Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, R.W. Goodwin, and Laurie Holden, as they share their behind the scenes memories - some never before told - of working on The X-Files: Fight the Future and Seasons 6 - 9.

Interested in visiting actual filming locations used for the series?

LAX-Files details the most popular Southern California X-Files locations, including William’s birth place, the mansion from How the Ghosts Stole Christmas, and the Federal Building from Fight the Future.

All of the books profits will go to the American Cancer Society, the charity of the Manner's Family choosing.

Thanks for all your support

Erica Fraga
Author, LAX-Files

This looks to be a worthwhile read.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Time Jesum Transeumtum Et Non Rivertentum

While recently working on a CD review for "Songs in the Key of X", and while appreciating Nick Cave’s contributions, I came across an astonishing piece of video media. Someone had compiled a piece for "Dread the Passage of Jesus, For He Will Not Return." or "Time Jesum Transeumtum Et Non Rivertentum". While I don’t agree with some of the visual selections, as I feel they are misleading, and complicate the interpretation. This musical tone poem isn’t a celebration of faith, or resurrection, but a lament, but it is unclear what it is a lament of.

The origin of the line: "Dread the Passage of Jesus, For He Will Not Return" was a line repeated by Monks in the middle ages, and interpreted to mean that when Jesus comes, you need to seek the chance, as well as a reference to a comment from St. Augustine. But the line is spoken by Demon’s, and so it could be interpreted as a warning to not be fooled by the Demon’s deception. One way of interpreting Nick Cave’s recital - and one more in line with the intent of the piece - is that this is a Lament over our disconnect with the universe, or our disconnect with spirituality. Dogmatic religions will often complain about our secular society, yet it is often driven by their own agenda, perhaps the complaint really should be about our disconnect with spirituality.

A friend recently commented to me that one can consider themselves 'Religious', yet that doesn’t necessarily mean they are 'spiritual'. This disconnect with the universe was a fairly regular, implicit, theme within The X-Files, and Millennium. The music manages to be full of implication, as well as Nick Cave’s reading, to support the idea of a lament. Our modern crisis, might have to do with this spiritual disconnect, and I don’t mean within any kind of religious dogma, but a disconnect nevertheless, from what ancient civilizations understood, that all things are indeed connected, and that we are connected to everything and each other. By the season final of Millennium in the third season, Jordan Black points out that ‘we are all shepherds’, and perhaps, by extension, we all are shepherds in our relationship to the Universe. It should be noted that the track is open to all kinds of interpretations.

Chris Carter, at one point, promised that the tracks off of "Songs In the Key of X" would make an appearance on the show. It is indeed a shame that this track never made an appearance on either The X-Files or Millennium, as it would have fitted in well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Office Paranormal?

Recently, I was directed to a potentially interesting project that is ramping up, Office Paranormal, and is in the process of potentially casting a stellar circle of acting talent. While not completely official, the casting includes Nicholas Cage, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Haley Joel Osment, Christopher Walken, and Michael Madsen. A friend commented that the premise sounds like a knockoff of Ghostbusters, nevertheless, this sounds interesting and might reflect on the continuing market for Paranormal subjects, and while I suspect this has to do with the commercial success of Paranormal Activity, one has to wonder if the success of “The X-Files”, so many years back, was the template to illustrate that such subjects could be commercially marketable. Fittingly, this film is supposed to be released in 2012, a year that is considered an equinox for a lot of esoteric subjects.

Office Paranormal

I know almost nothing about the team of Joseph Guinan, and Chelsea Zotta, and I have to admit that Nic Cage’s commercial and critical track record has been hit and miss. Yet considering that Mickey Rourke has enjoyed such a successful streak as of late, it might be a good sign of Rourke’s involvement, in a sense, this is all Monday Night Quarterbacking on my part, so all one can do is be hopeful. I might as well come clean and admit to being a major advocate of actor Haley Joel Osment, since 1999, and his impressive turn in The Sixth Sense, and regard him as being deserving of the label given as one the best young actors of this past decade. Now that he has gone the Jodie Foster route, and graduated from NYU, I hope is able to make the successful transition as an adult actor.

I can’t really say if HJO might be able to maintain his commercial appeal as a lead actor, but I could see him as a solid, and excellent character actor, and Hollywood has had a rich tradition of supporting character actors whose careers are just as remembered and beloved as their known counterparts. After a phenomenal streak with The Sixth Sense, and A.I. – Artificial Intelligence, Haley dropped out of the limelight after 2003, to finish school and pursue NYU, and while he continued making smaller, independent films, most of these have yet to see the light of day, or have not been picked up by major distributors unfortunately. I suspect this is largely due to a shifting marketplace that hasn’t been friendly towards independents. For myself, it has been frustrating to watch Haley’s peers gain momentum, and this isn’t to take anything away from other acting talents, but there is no other young actor that matches his unique persona and talent, and none of his peers remind me of the great actors of the past, Jimmy Stewart, or Spencer Tracy.

So, I am naturally hoping, selfishly, that this film helps to put him back in the deserved limelight. We shall see.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Staying connected with the public...

On Tuesday I had an interesting and unforgettable experience, a friend of mine, who belongs to the Producer’s Guild, will frequently invite me to free industry screenings of Hollywood features. He asked me to join him for a screening of "Toy Story 3" in 3-D, and naturally I brought along my mother, who is an avid fan of animation. What neither of us realized was that the screening was at, none other, than Pixar Studios in Emeryville. So, it was quite an experience to have access to the secure complex for a few hours, the grounds of the complex are laid out like a very sleek, 21st Century university, and the very history of the studio is laid out within the massive lobby.

Another perk of this screening, after the film, was an industry Q&A with Producer Darla K. Anderson, while I won’t reveal the bulk of the exchange; she did have some interesting answers regarding how Pixar stays connected with the Public. One of the general points she raised was that while an animated film is in production, it will be screened for family members of employees, as well as selectively screened for segments of the general public, and the film will be adjusted according to reactions. It is known that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas will go to movies along with the paying public, which I have always considered a very wise decision. After all, the public is spending their hard earned cash to attend a feature film at a Theatre, or Multiplex, and they have a right to expect value for their dollar.

Within Hollywood, it is common for industry people at attend free screenings, and it is an understandable perk: but it is also a two edged sword as well. Producer’s run the risk of becoming so insulated, and by doing so, losing touch with what a paying audience is connecting to. Often the entertainment media, and Hollywood is obsessed with the 'secret' to Pixar’s success - and the answers might be rather simple. Many Studios will, and can, cynically sound the notes without playing the music, of the Pixar formula, that is, to digress, if there is such a thing as a formula, which I personally doubt. The various production teams for Pixar have stressed the quality of the stories, as well as the care, and investment that goes into the characters they create, but a third secret to their success might be a willingness to stay connected with the paying public. In essence, they have found a way to follow the example of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, through their low key screenings, while astonishingly avoiding the scoops of on-line spoilers, that is, to my general knowledge, I don’t recall any revelations from the countless on-line movie news sites that exist, and circulate spoilers at a heavy rate in many cases these days.

So, how is this relevant to The X-Files, you might ask, The producers at 1013 Productions shared a similar savvy, in the mid nineties, of staying connected with the fans, and were accessible in a way, thus setting up a template that other television series use today, that was unusual for the time. One can still find examples of the forward thinking approach that Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter took with the public, while managing to not reveal plot points for the series. It was, indeed, a delicate balance. These are lessons that industry people need to continue to apply when considering the commercial material they release to the public.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The X-Files Lexicon's 5th Anniversary celebrations

When I launched The X-Files Lexicon in May of 2005, all I really had were several pipe dreams, a vision and mission statement, and about a dozen pages. I could not have imagined what would develop, and I mean, I had no idea that we would have so much luck and be so fortunate, but we have been so. I have always felt like this website is the little engine that could, steady and slow, but it has reached or surpassed its objectives. Such fortune only drives myself, and other staffers, to produce better material. Red Scully, Robin and David will always be in my debt for starting on this journey with me. There’s more to come, rest assured, but it’s nice to step back for a moment, breath and look at what has been accomplished. Now onto all of the other goodies to come in 2010! – Matt Allair, webmaster and founder.

A while before I was asked to join The X-Files Lexicon staff as the editor, I used to have vivid dreams about working behind the scenes for The X-Files series. Being part of this significant website is a real privilege. I’m very, very thankful first to Red for recommending me and then to Matt for giving me this great opportunity. – Xscribe

When Matt told me that the X-Files Lexicon had reached its 5th anniversary my first thought was: "Has it only been 5 years?" In some ways it feels like the site has been around forever, always delivering quality content and interesting reads. I'm happy to be a part of it :) Congratulations, Matt - here's to another 5 years! – Jill

With its professional articles and interviews, the whole thing orchestrated by the ever-gracious Matt, the X-Files Lexicon has become a must for all Ten Thirteen fans! Five years is a long time in the internet world, but there's no end in sight: congratulations and long live the Lexicon! – Kimon -

I'm very happy to contribute to this wonderful website because Matt is a very dedicated and efficient person that you automatically want to help. That's because he's also generous, incredibly patient and his passion is just positively contagious! It's been a pleasure to share a few pictures and artwork to add a bit of color to this amazing work. And all those interviews Matt keeps surprising us with are just little cherries on top of a delicious cake. :) – Polly

Congratulations on the Fifth Anniversary of the X-Files Lexicon. It's a great resource and a wonderful commemoration of a television series that meant so much to so many people. – Howard Gordon,
(Producer and Writer, “24” and “The X-Files”.)
Millennium fans were once described as being more restrained in their support of their franchise than X-Files fans. I would concur that this is true. When I began working on the Millennium Movie Campaign I realized the need for the Millennium Fan Community to put its head above the parapet and reach out to our brothers and sisters in the wider Ten Thirteen Fan Community for support. The first webmaster to respond with enthusiasm was Matt Allair. Though my time has come to an end on that score, the Millennium Fan Community continues to enjoy his support and we are grateful to the hand of friendship he has extended to us. I am grateful to the hand of friendship he has extended to me.

I am of the opinion that the output of Ten Thirteen encourages the support of tenacious, creative and intelligent folk who relish the sense of community our enjoyment of the shows encourages. Matt is a fine example of that opinion. Though our show has been off air for over a decade and we do not enjoy new material as our X-Files friends do, our continued efforts to support and celebrate our show is made all the easier thanks to the support of people like Matt. I am sure I speak on the behalf of the whole of Millennium Fan Community as I wish him, and The X-Files Lexicon, many more years of success and prominence. Here's to Matt!

This is who we are!

- Mark Hayden

When XF2 became a reality, one thing I knew I wanted to do this time around, was see the production up close and personal. When I had a chance to do this very thing in February of 2008, and wanted to share the experience with other fans, there was only one place I considered--The Lexicon. Matt has always been fair, generous and gracious in any correspondence, and so it was with delight that I offered him my synopsis of my Pemberton visit to the X Files set. In the ensuing time, the Lexicon has only gotten better. Congratulations, Matt, on making it to year five, and doing so with such integrity. I look forward to the next five years.
- Angie

X-Files Lexicon is a fantastic resource for any X-Files fan. A good place to call home for all Philes. Congratulations on reaching your own Season 5! – Matt Hurwitz (co-author of “The Complete X-Files”)

Congrats to Matt and crew on the fifth anniversary of XFL. Can't wait to see what's cooking for the tenth anniversary! Keep rocking. – Chris Knowles (co-author of “The Complete X-Files”, and creator of The Secret Sun Blog

I had no idea that I would end up as a writer for The X-Files Lexicon. It was a mere suggestion from a friend of mine, Mark Hayden, that told me that Matt Allair could use my useless knowledge of paranormal information for his website. Well, being an X-Files fan I couldn't pass this up. I am so happy being a part of the X-Files Lexicon Family - Joe McBrayer

Congratulations to Matt Allair and X-Files Lexicon on your 5th anniversary! Your ability to survive and thrive in this ever evolving digital world is due to one thing. Relevancy. Your site has remained an incredibly entertaining and informative resource to philes all around the globe. I personally poke around the site just for fun every now and then and smile when I realize we all share this site and this fandom in common. Congrats. – Jana Fain

Happy 5th Anniversary X-Files Lexicon! Congratulations for five years of quality X-Files news and information. I look forward to offering tenth anniversary congrats! - Maurisa - and

XFilesNews would like to wish the X-Files Lexicon a very happy 5th birthday! Congratulations on 5 years and here's to many, many more and an XF3 greenlight over the horizon! Thanks for Believing in the Future with us, Tiffany, Avi and the whole XFN Crew. – X-Files News

As a newish contributor to the Lexicon, writing articles for the site has been a fantastic experience for me. The sheer volume of knowledge on display, and the dedication of Matt and the entire staff, is astounding. As we see more and more authors leaving the community for various reasons, and long-time XF sites going down, it's heartening to have a place like The Lexicon holding strong and continuing to provide their readers with fresh material.

Just because the show is no longer on the air, that doesn't mean the fans are less interested. New people are watching the episodes on DVD every day, then heading out onto the Net to find sites and Philes with whom they can share their new-found interest. It's good to know The Lexicon will be there for them. Congratulations on your 5th anniversary! Five-times-five more years may you reign! – Mimic

Many congratulations on five years of the Lexicon! It's a terrific site, and does The X-Files proud. The series may be out of production, and its future still uncertain - but you all keep it alive. – Robert Shearman (author of “I Want To Believe: a critical guide to The X-Files, Millennium, & The Lone Gunmen”)

It has been a pleasure working with Matt and all the staff at The X-Files Lexicon. I enjoy contributing articles and sharing my memories with Phile alike.

Happy 5th Anniversary and here's to many more. – EF (Raskolnikov)

It's been a pleasure to be part of the X Files Lexicon universe and to help out the indefatigable Matt in his quest to provide the definitive guide to one of TV's most seminal shows on the net. It's remarkable (and highly gratifying) to me that a show that has been off air for quite some time now still commands such enormous affection and fervent feelings and I would like to think that the sterling work of Matt and my co-contributors has contributed a tiny part to that. Five years, eh? I'll have to celebrate with a marathon session of my favourite episodes. Let me see, "Beyond the Sea", "Irresistible", "Bad Blood", "Small Potatoes", "Tempus Fugit".... – Robin England