Thanks to a big fat check from Uncle Sam, which actually came in the form of electronic bits blinking into being and increasing the number of zeros behind the first digit of my checking account, I got a new TV. Hooray for e-filing and wire transfers.
When we moved up here we had a nice 50 inch Sony rear projection monitor I got in 2000, but sadly it did not have component input. So in 2004 we got a Toshiba 52" DLP. It was one of the color wheel ones and unfortunately I could see the rainbow effect. In addition it only did 720p. But it was much nicer than the Sony so I’d basically adjusted to it over the past 5 years. The problem however with DLP’s is that unless they are a new LED one, you have to replace the Bulb to the tune of $250. So getting a new TV for the Rock Band room seemed like a nice way to celebrate paying off a lot of our debt recently.
So we got the Samsung LN52A650, and since it boasted 1080p, advanced image processing and 120hz anti-judder I did what I do any time I get a new TV for that room and used it as an excuse to re-watch a bunch of my favorite movies. So I fired up the PS3 so I could mix Blu-ray and upscaled DVD’s and bathed in the film stuff.
Aside from the fact the TV’s picture is ASTOUNDING sauce drizzled over a powdered FANTASTIC deep fried AWESOME cake, I sort of found myself noodling over the movies I was sampling. Mostly I was thinking about what made them appeal to me but then I got into the fun mental exercise of perusing my collection and trying to come up with movies I thought expressed geekdom pretty well. And by that I don’t mean Star Wars or Star Trek or The Matrix. I was more thinking of if I was trying to explain to someone what the essence of being a geek is all about, what movies would I pick to do so. As culled through some films I thought it might be fun to write about it so here we are. I should also note that I’m writing this while putting off other posts I’m in the middle of but figure at this point posting "The 10 best Xmas movies" would tag me as obnoxiously early.
#1: The Abyss Extended Edition
A lot of people have never seen this edition of the film. The cut that hit the theaters was severely butchered by the studio and the ending made no sense whatsoever. But if you’re trying to hit the high points of geekdom, this has everything you need. A varied cast of interesting people. Aliens. An exotic location. This movie also has an extremely strong female lead in the character of Lindsey, who undergoes a sequence in the film that to this day there’s just no way I would have the courage to go through. She’s by far my favorite person in the story because not only is she smart, capable, she ends up being the only person who is essentially right the whole time. But the film I think embodies that part of every geek’s wish to be in an exotic fantastic location, and interact with an alien intelligence. It’s got cool military stuff in it, geek ingenuity, and a set of out-of-the ordinary characters. The extended cut adds a lot of interaction between Lindsey and Bud, who are two of my favorite characters in all of sci fi. It also adds quite a bit to the ending to provide an explanation.
#2: Jurassic Park
Forget the wining of the kids, and the saturation of Spielberg’s trademark "Slack-jawed look of wonder (TM)", this film has dinosaurs. Cool ones. But more importantly there’s a moment in this film that I think every geek has inside them, even if it’s not specifically about dinosaurs. It’s the moment when Dr. Grant sees the confirmation of what was before just a theory: groups of dinosaurs moving in herds. Even more so than seeing the Apatosaurus just a second before, this moment is important. It represents the confirmation of a scientific theory or a belief held dear. For many geeks that could be proof of extraterrestrial life or what killed the dinosaurs or how life began on Earth. But that moment when he says "They’re moving in herds. They do move in herds." with tears in his eyes, is something that every geek I think reacts too in some way. Plus the movie has dinosaurs did I mention that? Seriously. Dinosaurs. I can put up with a lot of pap dialogue for cool Dinosaurs.
#3: The Last Temptation of Christ
CURVE BALL. Most geeks I know aren’t overtly religious. That doesn’t mean they are all atheists by any means, but they tend to have a more pragmatic take. It’s one of the reasons I love this movie, because it takes basic assumptions about the role and life of Christ and pokes at them like a hacker would. Tinkering, breaking, and reforming the idea of a deity into something more worth worshipping. The Christ in this film is not, as I was taught from my Southern Baptist upbringing, divine from birth. In fact he’s not divine until the moment he dies. Christ as played here by Willem Dafoe is conflicted. He doesn’t know if it is God that provides his abilities, or Satan. He doesn’t know for sure he’s the son of God. He would give anything to just be a normal person. The movie opens with him making, as a carpenter surely would in those times, crosses for crucifixions. Judas isn’t some jealous betrayer, but Christ’s best friend who is tasked by Jesus to betray him or God’s plan cannot come to fruition. While on the cross, in the moment God looks away, the Devil tempts Christ with the life of a human. Nor more torment or pain, a family. A normal job. A normal life. What makes Christ divine, what makes his sacrifice worth worship, is when he denies that temptation and from the cross, bleeding and dying, triumphantly shouts "father, it is accomplished". Again this isn’t to make a point about what is or isn’t real about religion, or what people believe. It’s that I think geeks in general are far more inquisitive about such things and more open to examining them from another angle. Or deconstructing them and rebuilding them to make more sense. I look at this movie like I might look at someone rebuilding a BBQ grill into a computer case.
Probably self explanatory. Every geek wants to be the smart kid who manipulates the system. Also, it’s conflict is centered around video games! 25 years later this film is still better than Hackers or The Net or a variety of other computer oriented films. Second only to Sneakers for mixing plausible realism with fiction.
There are a lot of better comedies that are a parody of something geeks hold dear (Galaxy Quest for instance), but Star Wars, at least for the next decade or so, is still going to be the glue that holds a lot of geeks together. At least until the young ones grow up in a world where they always, duh, knew Vader was Luke’s father. The in-jokes here are funny because they are true: the extra long opening ship shot. Silly puns like pizza the hut. It’s almost as if geeks themselves made this movie which is why I like it. It points to the self deprecating humor that seems present in all the geeks I know.
Sure there’s a lot of others I could have chosen. Alien/Aliens was especially hard to not include, as was Blade Runner or Serenity. I even examined some flicks like Juno, or some John Hughes 80’s flicks. But my thought process was a little different than just saying what movies I love as a geek as opposed to viewing some titles that reflected geek nature. I wanted to limit it to five as well. A fun exercise, as it were. But there’s lots of facets of geek personality to cover, from politics to money to parenting, etc.
And as an aside 120hz anti-judder is nice when it’s implemented on a low setting. It makes even old movies look like you are watching them on stage and I find the effect quite life-like and pleasant. If you have the means and are in the market for a new TV, Newegg has the Samsung LN52A650 for $1999.99.