The A To Z Of SFF: H Is For Hard To Be A God

Over a decade in the making. Three hours long, black and white, an uncompromising political allegory and treatise on the dangers of anti-intellectualism.
Sounds like a laff riot, right? But Aleksei German’s Hard To Be A God has a lot to offer, if you’re prepared to put in the effort. Let Rob and Clive be your guides through a visit to Arkanar…



The A To Z Of SFF: M Is For Midnight Special


 

Jeff Nichol’s masterful SF road movie gets the once over from Rob and Clive. Do they embrace the mystery, or does the film maybe leave a little too much unexplained? One thing’s for sure… it’s a hell of a ride.


 

Clive mentions Alex Roman’s short film The Third And The Seventh as an influence on the climax of Midnight Special. Check it out below. It’s a beautiful thing.

The A To Z Of SFF: S Is For… STREETS OF FIRE


 

The boys celebrate their rescue from CycloMedia’s clutches with an exploration of a truly joyful piece of cinema. You could argue that Streets Of Fire isn’t SF or fantasy. Rob and Clive would argue otherwise.

We’re back. let the revels begin. Let the fires be started.

The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For A.I. Artificial Intelligence


 

A.I was planned and prepped by Stanley Kubrick, then taken over by Steven Spielberg after the auteur’s untimely death. The resulting film is a strange mix of the two director’s signature styles, and even now it polarises opinion. Rob and Clive take a detailed look at the film, its themes and the inhumanly excellent performance of Haley Joel Osment.

Let’s go in search of the Blue Fairy…

(we apologise for the state of Rob’s voice. The space lurgy has him in its snottily-tentacled grasp…)


 

The Best Western You Haven’t Seen

Consider the western. Once, it was the staple diet for cinema-goers everywhere. Cheap and easy to make, the average horse opera was appropriate for all ages, for every type of audience. It was sturdy, uncomplicated fare, with a clear moral message. From Tom Mix, through to Gene Autry and the daddy of them all, John Wayne, there was little confusion, no grey area. Westerns were a genre that hearkened back to simpler times, to a world before global conflict and uncomfortable discussions about race. Continue reading The Best Western You Haven’t Seen

The A To Z Of SFF: Attack Of The Ion Storm! (Part 2)


 

HOLY SMOKES! CycloMedia is getting worse, and the situation becomes ever more desperate for our hapless duo. As the ship is lashed by energetic particles, the question has to be asked… could this really be the end for the Ulysses?

Rob and Clive review:

Attack Of The Crab Monsters
The Atomic Submarine
Arena
The Astronaut’s Wife
Abraxas, Guardian Of The Universe

The A To Z Of SFF: Attack Of The Ion Storm! (Part One)


 

OH NO! Rob and Clive have piloted the Ulysses right bang slap into the middle of an ion storm! With energetic particles scrambling CycloMedia’s logic circuits, the deranged AI is stuck in a recursive loop, demanding more and more input.

Can our hapless heroes snap CycloMedia out of it before the radiation fries them all?


 

Rob and Clive review:

After Earth
Avatar
AVP: Alien Vs. Predator
AVP: Requiem
Attack Of The Puppet People

The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For Alien Resurrection


 

The red-headed stepchild of the Alien franchise gets a brisk going-over from Rob and Clive. Surrealist French director meets a series that badly needed a shot in the arm. It’s pretty out there. Worryingly, they find lots to like in Alien Resurrection. Have they been out in the depths of space maybe that little bit too long?


 

The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For Alien3


 

Controversy on the Ulysses, as Rob confesses a sneaking admiration for David Fincher’s bleak take on the Alien franchise. Can Clive talk him back to his senses, or does our noble astrogator have a point?

One thing’s for sure: this time, it’s personal.

 

Humblebraggery

I tend not to talk about The Day Job on X&HT. I’m always aware of the potential downfalls of letting things slip about the paid gig, particularly if things aren’t going so well. But for once, I’ve had a couple of bits of good news, so I figured I should share them with you.

(Also, of course, yr. humble author is aware that the blog has been of late little more than a shop front for The A To Z Of SFF. Will work on trying to retweak the balance, honest guv).

First up, there’s been news of a rediscovered piece of cinematic history, as a 1928 short, “Sleigh Bells”, featuring Oswald the Rabbit has been unearthed by the BFI. What’s the big deal? Well, Oswald is the precursor to a certain famous cartoon mouse. You know the one. Red shorts. Ears that point the same way no matter which way his head’s pointing.

The 4K scans on this bit of 16mm print that some sharp-eyed researcher dug up from the vaults was carried out by yours truly. To give you an idea of the sort of resolution I was working at, 4K is normally the preserve of the biggest of big-budget blockbusters. It’s a slow process, which has to take place at a glacial six frames per second. However, the end result is good enough to be projected in cinemas–which is exactly what’s happening this Christmas. It will be screened on 12th December as part of a programme of Disney shorts at the BFI Southbank. It’s something of a big deal, and I’m pleased and proud to have been involved in the project.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-34711495

Meanwhile, documentarian Chris Barnett interviewed me as part of his MA for a short film he’s making on the subject of colour. We chatted in the bowels of Bristol University’s Film Department, amongst old clip bins and Steenbeck film editing flatbeds. I don’t often sit on the other side of the camera, and wasn’t convinced that I was doing that well. Chris, however, seemed happy enough, to the point where he restarted the cameras after the end of the shoot to catch some more of my stream-of-consciousness ramblings.

Here, see what you think.

There’s more of the interviews that Chris shot for his project on his site, The Dark Art Of Light. I recommend it if you want more insight into the strange world in which I make a living. Oh, and kudos to him for getting a distinction in his MA. I’m sure it was down to me…

Finally, I was floored to find out that my interview was featured as the opening link on this week’s Tao Of Color newsletter, which goes out to the colourist community every week. Humbled, flattered, and frankly a little scared now.

There, enough bragging for one week, don’t you think?