A Man Escaped (1956)

My blog posts have been full of more recent releases lately so I thought I’d go back to plumbing the back catalogue of some of the most highly regarded films of yesteryear. Robert Bresson is considered one of the greatest French directors ever but this is the first time I’ve watched one of his films. His work is cited by the French New Wave directors as one of their primary inspirations and I believe that A Man Escaped is his most famous film.

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The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

So I have to confess to feeling a bit tricked by this film. Some of its posters floating around prominently feature Marilyn Monroe but in fact she only has a very minor role here. I also thought that this was a noir but it’s really more of a heist film. It was directed by John Huston whose most famous work is probably The Maltese Falcon that we watched only recently.

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Recent Interesting Science Articles (August 2017)

It’s been a crazy month for cool science stuff and none of it is even about the eclipse. I found myself being inundated with articles this month. There are in fact so many that I will eschew any kind of logical ordering and write minimal commentary.

  • The first one is about the discovery of a species of methane-eating bacteria underneath the West Antarctic ice sheet. If it bears out, it could be a significant reason why the methane thought to be stored under the permafrost hasn’t had as much of an effect on global warming as it could have.
  • This next one is an announcement for a device that could have come right out of Star Trek, which makes me an instant skeptic. It’s a one-touch healing device that works by injecting genetic code directly onto wounded tissue, reprogramming them to grow the necessary cells needed for a quick repair job.
  • Then there’s this over the top bit about how it’s possible to insert malware into DNA. It is basically a roundabout way to hack the devices used to sequence DNA by inserting malware into the genetic material that they analyze.
  • I believe I’ve posted about similar research before about how faces actually do reveal a lot about a person. This study concluded that judgments of a person’s intelligence based on an image of his or her face is reasonably well correlated with measured IQ.
  • Traditionally minded Chinese value highly children born during the year of the Dragon under the zodiac calendar, believing that they tend to be more successful and are destined for greatness. This study examines that belief, at least inasmuch as it applies to academic achievement and finds it to be true. However it argues that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Simply because they have higher expectations of Dragon children, families tend to invest greater resources in their education and upbringing.
  • We’re getting used to hearing news about AIs beating humans in all kinds of endeavors. This article is about an AI developed an Elon Musk start-up beating one of the world’s best DOTA 2 players. As any gamer can tell you, this is a game with an incredibly complex ruleset.
  • Finally here is a fascinating reminder of the realities of genetic engineering in humans. This is a survey of mothers asking what they would prefer to change in their children if they could do so. Most of them chose extraversion as their most desired trait followed by agreeableness. Less than 10% picked intelligence as most important.

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight was one of two films that swept the nominations during the Oscars earlier this year. La La Land went on to win most of them but Moonlight did win some important ones including the award for Best Picture. It’s also notable in a few other ways, such as being an all-black film, one that touches on LGBT issues even. I had high expectations for this one going in but it unfortunately was mostly a disappointment.

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Toni Erdmann (2016)

Together with The Salesman, this was one of the two front runners for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award earlier this year. My wife recently commented that we seem to watch disproportionately fewer German films and this is indeed the case. One reason might be that German film traditions feel odd even to those used to other European films given their links to German expressionism. I will certainly try to add more films to our watch list but in the meantime Toni Erdmann makes for a decent reminder how German films can be excellent and yet feel very strange to our sensibilities.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

So I finally got around to playing this, hailed by many as perhaps the greatest RPG ever made. I held off for a long while because of the high recommended technical requirements for the CPU and I only just built a new rig a few months ago. It’s a massive undertaking and according to Steam, I spent over a 130 hours on it without any big DLC content. In fact, I’m so tired out after this that I probably won’t buy and play the DLC stuff even though they’ve been well reviewed.

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The Chinese Mayor (2014)

One benefit of being a subscriber to The Economist and frequenting economics blogs is that I get film recommendations like this which I doubt appear on the radar of most critics. This documentary follows the efforts of Geng Yanbo who was the mayor of Datong, a small Chinese city in Shanxi province, to transform it into a cultural and tourism center. It doesn’t seem to be very well known as it wasn’t distributed widely.

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The unexamined life is a life not worth living