Think Sky Net, but under water. According to the media, “the US Navy has reportedly launched and recovered an underwater drone from its USS North Dakota submarine, which is said to be its first such mission.”
Like the rest of the armed forces, the Navy has been taking a hard look at employing drones.
The traditional missions for drones are the dull, the dirty, and the dangerous. No military environment includes more of those missions that operating undersea.
While employing underwater terminators seem to make perfect sense, it is not as easy as it looks. There are few places more difficult for machines to operate than deep under the ocean—corrosion, pressure, power and communications requirements–almost nothing is as effortless as it was in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
It remains to be seen whether the Navy’s latest test is an interesting science fair experiment or the shape of things to come.
A couple of months ago, DARPA Dan made news during a 60 Minutes profile when he showed how scientists could hack into a car’s computer, making it move independently of the driver. Senator Ed Markey got so worked up that he announced new proposed legislation to set standards for “protection against digital attacks and privacy.”
Well, this ought to get Markey excited. It has happened again. “Former National Security Agency hacker Charlie Miller, now at Twitter, and IOActive researcher Chris Valasek,” Reuters reports, “used a feature in the Fiat Chrysler telematics system Uconnect to break into a car being driven on the highway by a reporter for technology news site Wired.com.”
Whether this is a real threat that requires more red-tape regulations from Washington is a hot debate topic. There is an argument that hacks like these are more publicity stunts than real science.
That said, there are already folks out there peddling cyber security for sedans. A grassroots cyber advocacy group recently published its Five Star Automotive Cyber Safety Program.
Serious or silly, this is an issue that is likely going to get more attention as the auto and cyber worlds collide.
Meet Buddy, a “family-oriented household robot…. inspired by robots from pop culture like R2-D2 from “Star Wars” and Disney’s “WALL-E.” A French tech start-up is marking a machine that can hang around the house and make itself semi-useful or at least amusing.
Buddy has more to do with movie killer-robots such as the Terminator than one might imagine. War machines (like all the other kinds of autonomous technologies that are likely to be part of future) will evolve based on designs informed by the experiences of our everyday interactions with robotics. Robots such as Buddy are going to teach us lessons in how humans and robots work side-by-side. That in turn will help us think through the human-robot future. In peace and war the sooner we start living with robots, the sooner will we figure out how to live with robots.
In the future, top cop Tom Cruise uses sci-fi technology to single out and arrest violent criminals before they commit a crime. The 2002 hit movie seemed like such a super cool idea that Fox is bringing the concept back as a series starting in September. But the cautionary tale, originally penned by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick in 1956, may be more than science fiction after all.
According to news reports, “The New York Police Department is embarking on a new experiment with ‘predictive policing.’” The department will study “neighborhood-specific data like weather, time of year, school calendars and past criminal activity to create statistical models that forecast where and when certain crimes are likely to occur.”
Intelligence-led policing (trying to figure out where the crimes are going to be) is a controversial but increasingly more common tactic of metropolitan police departments.
The NYPD is taking the task to the next level through sophisticated software that merges predictors together and kicks out probabilities that certain kinds of crimes are more likely to occur. The Big Apple actually isn’t the first to try out this approach. It has also been used in cities in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska.
If that sounds one step closer to the Minority Report, “that’s not happening,” said the CEO of the company that developed the software.
We’ll see if the ACLU agrees.
The war being waged online is breathtaking. Not only are the likes of ISIS running wild in cyberspace, there are all other kinds of hijinks as well. The Saudi government is bogged down in a hashtag war with allies of ISIS recruiting suicide bombers. Meanwhile, Russian hackers are posing as a “cyber caliphate” to cover their online mayhem.
While the online world is on fire, the White House is acting like it has got everything under control. “We are in touch with these [social networking] companies on a regular basis,” National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey told the Washington Examiner, “and have a constant, constructive dialogue on the question of freedom of expression versus security and incitement.” The FBI, on the other hand, sounds a lot less confident. Just the other day, FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that “[t]here’s a group of tweeters in Syria, and their message is two pronged: Come to the so-called caliphate and live the life of some sort of glory or something, and if you can’t come, kill somebody where you are. Kill somebody in uniform, kill anybody, if you can cut their head off, great. Videotape it. Do it, do it, do it….They’re pushing this through Twitter.”
What’s lost in all the hysteria over terrorists tweeting online is what is making all this terror talk so terrifying. ISIS has the capacity to link its social networks with human networks – real humans on the ground willing to turn into ideas into action. That is what makes the terrorist talkers so dangerous. Tweeting is just a symptom of the problem. The best way to take the terrorists offline is start taking down ISIS in the field.
The staff at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, were recently put on “lockdown” after reports of shots fired on the grounds.
That’s the second time in less than a week a military site in the Metropolitan area has jumped to high alert. Right before the 4th of July there was a report of shots fired at the Washington Navy Yard prompting a massive law enforcement response.
It’s no surprise law enforcement rushed to the scene. In 2013, employees at the Navy Yard were terrorized by a shooting incident. Further, authorities were jumpy over a warning of possible terrorist attack over the holiday weekend.
Not only were authorities right to rush to the report of shooters at a public place. The rest of us ought to take this stuff seriously as well. Tragedies happen. Here is the advice I dispensed in my book Surviving the End.
If you suspect that you are trapped in the middle of these scenarios, you must be prepared to act if you plan to survive. You can’t be a passive bystander. The FBI has a pretty good video explaining what to do. Here is a simple summary of the best advice.
Don’t panic. Remember the basics of survival—faith, health, and good common sense. If you are armed with these things, you are as equipped as anyone to deal with the situation. Have trust and confidence in your own judgment.
Take cover. You don’t want to be out in the open where an assailant has a line-of-sight to you. If you are in the proximity of an incident, the safest bet might be to get to a secure location (just like Dick Cheney)—a room with brick or block walls, the fewer windows the better (pull down the shades or close the curtains if there are windows), and a solid door that you can lock. Barricade the access points with whatever is available. Stay calm and quiet (take precautions like putting cell phones on vibrate). Stay out of sight.
Contact for help. Hopefully you can call, text, email, or safely signal to someone for help. We have already talked about the importance of knowing how to make an effective 911 call or use an emergency app on your digital device. In an active-shooter scenario, you won’t just be asking for help, but you’ll be sharing critical information that may help authorities at the scene. You should be prepared to share: a) your specific location, b) the number of people with you and their conditions (i.e. injuries), and c) critical information about the assailants—numbers, description including race and gender, physical features (height, weight, facial hair, glasses), clothing, types of weapons they are using and their current activities (e.g., have you heard explosions or gunshots?).
Treat the injured. Remember the advice about being an expert at first aid. You might have to put that into practice—stemming blood loss or treating for shock.
Evacuate. You want to evacuate when it is safe. Hopefully, the authorities will arrive and establish safe corridors for passage, directing where and when to go. Most likely, if you are trapped in the middle of an active shooter scenario, you will be escorted out of the danger area by law enforcement personnel. You should cooperate with safety or security officials and follow their directions explicitly.
Fight back. If you are trapped and can’t escape, take the battle to your assailant. Fight back with whatever you have. Your only chance of survival is to incapacitate or deter your would-be murderer.
And then I added this one.
Get a gun. You know what’s weird? Go through all the advice from FEMA, the Red Cross and so on. Did you find any information about arming yourself as a means of protecting your home and hearth? Me neither. How dumb is that? Being armed is a perfectly appropriate response for everyday Americans concerned about the safety of themselves and their family—not just for an active-shooter scenario, but any of the disaster situations that threaten the life and property of your loved ones.
There is more than one news report of a tragic accident in Germany. A technician died after being struck in the chest by an assembly robot. What does that tell us about a future where robots run around taking matters into their own metal hands?
This isn’t close to the first incident of unintentional robotic mayhem, where the machines came after us. Over four million, for example, have watched the You Tube video of a self-parking car demonstration gone horribly wrong.
Still, people are already panicking. There is a groundswell against autonomous operating robotics, including wanting to ban them from the battlefield.
Well, the doubters are going to have to get over their robot-phobia.
Word is out that Tom Cruise will reprise his role as the reckless combat-ace Maverick in a Top Gun redo. This must end badly.
Cruise is long past the day when he could deliver a film performance worth watching. Recently, in Edge of Tomorrow and Oblivion, he delivered two back-to-back performances that were as lackluster and interchangeable as Legos.
And what exactly do we expect Maverick to do? The US Navy won’t be taking on the Chinese. That would be politically incorrect and threaten ticket sales on the mainland.
And, what exactly will Maverick be flying? The Navy’s F-18 Super Hornet is a fine aircraft, but its been around since the 1980s. That’s old and boring. The Navy’s new fighter the F-35 is still in trials.
They could always put Maverick in charge of a Navy unmanned fighter. Then he could fly combat missions from the ward room. That would be an age appropriate activity for a 52 years old fighter pilot.
To make matters worse, modern air-to-air combat doesn’t look anything like old-fashioned dog-fighting. Planes engage at long range with missiles. From a movie-watcher’s perspective, following a real air-to-air engagement would probably be pretty boring.
So with no enemy to fight, nothing to fly, and nothing to see it is hard to imagine how Hollywood is going to come up with much of a movie. Hopefully, the music will be good.
Both famous and infamous, a 1971 Stanford University experiment recreated the conditions of prison life with volunteers role-playing both inmates and guards. Shockingly, but perhaps not unsurprisingly, when the guards were allowed to brutalize the prisoners things pretty much spun out of control. After six days they had to shut the whole thing down before somebody got hurt.
The movie, released this summer, presents a dramatization of events at the mock prison. But this is far from the first film about the grisly academic affair. There have been a number of documentaries including one by the university.
Nor was Stanford’s prison experiment the first time serious science went pyscho. The “obedience experiments” by Yale scientist Stanley Milgram were even more infamous. The tests, which began in 1961, measured whether subjects could be induced to give a lethal electrical shock to innocent people just because an authority figure said it was alright.
Eventually, even the Ivory Tower figured out conducting human experiments that intentionally inflicted turmoil and anguish might be a bit shady. Research institutions adopted institutional review boards to determine whether research was ethical—before the experiment started.
Given that we know what happens when these things go haywire, it is doubly shocking that modern abuses, such as were inflicted at Abu Ghraib, are ever allowed to happen. How could the Army be so dumb as not to recognize the potential for a toxic environment and not provide more stringent oversight?
Such lessons are worth remembering. When we act inhuman to humans, inhumanity often results.
There is a reason the U.S. Senate just voted to ban torture, even though torture is already against the law. Senators want to again make the statement that no matter how brutal our enemies are, we don’t defeat them by joining them.
Conversely, don’t expect those who act inhumanely to act human just because we treat them nice. So, it is also not surprising that Congress just held a hearing lambasting the administration for its anti-ISIS strategy. Obama’s secretary of State may have thought it’s a good idea to emphasize with our enemies. Most realists think that’s a dead-end idea. They would prefer we defeat our enemies rather than coddle them. We can act humanely and also be mean and win wars.
In the end, this film about the Stanford experiment reminds us that humans act human.
Let’s confine the horror of inhumanity to stomach-churning films like Hostel, and then let’s just skip those movies.
You thought the Chinese are bad actors online? Now comes news the FBI are investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for hacking into the computer system of the Houston Astros. If the allegations are proved true, this is a big deal. Hacking is not just another case of baseball hijinks. It is serious criminal activity.
Bad baseball behavior online is yet more proof that that game is no longer about the boys of summer. It is about big business, a business that is increasingly disconnected from what once was noble about the game.
In many ways this is worse than the Chinese hack of OPM. The attack from Beijing is the kind of espionage activity we ought to expect from a foreign power. That’s what great powers do. They spy on one another. Live with it.
On the other hand, American companies maliciously spying on other companies are no different from bankers robbing other banks.
Cyber-crime is a crime. There ought to be little tolerance for it, particularly from companies that fly the American flag over their stadium and play the national anthem before every game.
If baseball wants to be America’s game, it needs to start acting more American.
Jurassic World is setting world records for the biggest box office movie opening ever. One reviewer called it “big dumb fun.” No wonder audiences are flocking to the film like interns to free donuts. Good creature-features have always been a healthy cash cow for filmmakers. Before Chris Pratt took on the role of dinosaur whisperer, the silver screen had its share of unforgettable movies about the monsters from our lost world. Here are five films that are worth a look.
#5. Gertie the Dinosaur (1914). Maybe The Lost World (1925) was the first full-length big production of a SciFi dinosaur movie. But it wasn’t by a long shot the first big reptile on the silver screen. Animation pioneer Winsor McCay made this short in 1914. This is the great-grandfather of Hollywood’s fascination with the Mesozoic Era. This first deserves to be on the list of the very best.
#4. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). No master monster-movie list would be complete if it didn’t include a film by the special effects genius Raymond Frederick “Ray” Harryhausen. Ray created his dinosaurs using animated stop-motion models. The strange “beast” released from the frozen Arctic that makes its way to Coney Island is one of his most marvelous creations. This film inspired countless other monster movies. This black and white movie is a not-to-be-missed classic.
Don’t blow your mind! In the future a record of brain biometrics could replace conventional passwords. This may be a little short of extreme mind-control (featured in Sci-Fi movies like the classic 1981 thriller Scanners), but a recent study from researchers at Binghamton University predicted “brain prints” could be used instead of fingerprints, retina scans or facial recognition as a unique identifier for security purposes including online passwords.
While the technology has promise, according to one of the researchers, don’t expect to be using your brain to open up your Android anytime soon. “We tend to see the applications of this system as being more along the lines of high-security physical locations, like the Pentagon or Air Force Labs, where there aren’t that many users that are authorized to enter,” concluded one of the research team.
Apparently, mind-melding with a laptop or the monstrous Krell mind-machine is still a ways off.
Lately, from Caitlyn Jenner’s new Twitter account to Charlize Theron’s road-rage character in the new Mad Max film, Americans seem obsessed with gender-bending. But Theron’s sci-fi feminist heroine isn’t all that groundbreaking. And, that’s business as usual for the movie business. Hollywood heroines are the last to catch on. Here are seven films that make the case for how female sci-fi heroes have transformed from willowy window dressing to being rougher than Rambo.
#7. The Lost World (1925). In 1920 women got the vote. But as far as Hollywood was concerned, as part of the show, they are pretty much there for show. This film adaption of the Arthur Conan Doyle story about a plateau populated by dinosaurs (think Jurassic World without sound) was one of the first Hollywood studio science-fiction hits. Bessie Love plays Paula White, whose main purpose seems to be making terrified faces in front of the Triceratops. Paula’s pet monkey Jocko plays a more prominent role in the plot.
#6. King Kong (1933). This monster movie wowed critics and audiences. “One of the very best of all the screen thrillers, done with all the cinema’s slickest camera tricks,” raved the New York World-Telegram. King Kong also set the standard for Hollywood’s women in peril. While Amelia Earhart was making headlines as a daredevil aviatrix and real-life heroine, there are no females piloting the planes taking pot-shots at the Empire State Building. Instead, the heroine’s job was to be threatened by the monster and saved by the hero. Nobody did it better than Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) — her screaming is unmatched in cinematic film history.
Our president has a Twitter account. Who cares? Apparently a lot of people. @POTUS set a Guinness world record for attracting a million followers in five hours. That number included the abject faithful, harassing racist trolls and the curious.
What makes social networks (like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) serious business, however, is not just their size. Online networks are important when they are linked to human networks— webs of people that get together in real space not just cyberspace. ISIS, for instance, is dangerous not because it can post videos online. It’s the people that get together after watching terrorist online murder porn and do dangerous things that you have to worry about.
And that is why we should pay attention to what our president is doing online. As a recent piece in the Washington Post points out, the White House is mostly using social media to whip up the faithful with calls to action that prompt them to advocate for Obama’s political agenda. This approach “raises the prospect of fostering further political polarization if the president opts to communicate mostly with parts of the electorate that identify with him ideologically or can be helpful politically.”
Americans ought to be concerned, when instead of speaking to all Americans, White House digital media outreach becomes little more than his personal political action project paid for by all of us.
Calling Memorial Day a “federal holiday” is a bit of a sacrilege. More than a day for big sales or a stretch at the beach, this is a time for remembrance. Our freedoms are secured and preserved by those that serve. This is our day to honor their sacrifice—and our loss. Over the years, Hollywood hasn’t been half-bad at recounting the nobility and the pain of war’s cost. These movies are particularly moving—unforgettable films where the sense of loss on the silver screen is just sometimes overwhelming.
#7. The Fighting Sullivans (1944). They were five brothers from Waterloo, Iowa. They all served on the cruiser USS Juneau. They all died on November 13, 1942, when the ship went down. Their true story was lovingly told in this wartime drama. The film is often cited as an inspiration for the 1998 blockbuster hit Saving Private Ryan.
#6. Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). John Wayne dies. Really? John Wayne never (well, almost never) dies. Arguing he was too old when World War II broke out to make much of a contribution as a soldier, Hollywood’s biggest wartime star played patriotic heroes in a number of films. In this movie, Sergeant Stryker (John Wayne) bravely leads men through some of the toughest fighting of the Pacific War. On Iwo Jima, after taking over 26,000 casualties the Marines snagged the summit of Mount Suribachi. In the film, the battle won, Stryker’s platoon takes the spot right at the foot of the iconic raising of the American flag. One of Stryker’s squad mates is distracted reading a letter from home. Sacrificing himself, Stryker throws his body across a grenade tossed at their feet. The audience just gasps. Did that really just happen?
Apparently, some people don’t know it is make-believe or at least that is what British authorities thought.
According to recently released 1997 report, Scotland Yard feared young viewers might be inspired by Star Trek and other sci-fi TV to commit suicide or mass violence. While it is true Star Trek fans can get pretty zealous (They keep track of how many people show up at conventions in costume. The current record is over 1,000.), Trekkies certainly never turned into the Manson Cult.
There are lots of reasons to scratch your head and wonder what Scotland Yard was thinking back in the day.
Media can be used to inspire madness. ISIS has used its presence online to add to its ranks, raise recruits, fund raise and even motivate terrorist attacks against the West. But it is not just ISIS’ online abilities (which, of course, wasn’t around in the 1990s) that is the problem. What makes radicalization on social networks so dangerous is when they can be linked to human networks—where people engage with one another face-to-face. The merging of social networks and human webs can be formidable force. No country in the West has a bigger challenge in dealing with that challenge right now than Great Britain where radicalization of Muslim youth is a major concern.
I bet Scotland Yard is wistful for the good old days when they just tracked Trekkies.
Rape, sex and fisticuffs in space are only some of the musings about what awaits us out there. If that was the strangest story, it might not merit much attention, but it is not.
And that’s not all. There is Mars One, a non-profit organization promoting a “one way mission to Mars” in 2026.
A bigger question than “who wants to blast-off with who” is asking “why do we care?”
Following the debacle of Vietnam, we just kind of gave up on Kennedy’s vision of Camelot in space.
America pretty much lost interest in the space race when we won it. Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969. Then our attitude pretty much became “been there, done that.”
After that our interest in space was, at best, episodic. Everybody paid attention to the Challenger disaster in 1986. The Apollo 13 movie in 1995 may have pulled a bigger audience than the original moon mission in 1970.
Now, all of sudden, we all want to be lost in space again.
Also we are seeing some unprecedented developments in private sector commercial space efforts. Maybe we think we can make a buck?
Certainly space is back in our imagination. Why else would Disney be interested in cranking out new Star Wars movies other than to cash in on our new lust to go to (and, I guess, lust in) space?
Maybe a little (age-appropriate) discussion of sex and violence isn’t bad. After all, as soon as humans started thinking seriously about going into the great beyond, Hollywood started making films of fighting and wooing there–like Cat-Women of the Moon.
We should be capitalizing on a renewed interest in space to inspire a new generation to study, learn, invent, create and dream.
Whatever it takes to get America thinking big and bold again works for me.
Josh Trank, slated to direct the second of the new Star Wars films from Disney, won’t be taking us to a galaxy far, far away after all. News reports declare he is out. At least one source claims Trank got trashed because he was, like with his forthcoming reboot of Fantastic Four, moving away from the stock material and charting his own course.
Last month, Disney launched its effort to take over the Star Wars universe by making a big deal out of dumping “digital” versions of the old films on the Internet. This sure looked like an effort to cash in on the mythology created by George Lucas in the original 1977 film rather than bring audiences something fresh. The release of the trailer for the first new Disney film, slated for later this year, just confirmed that Disney looks like it wants to play it safe – and just cash the check.
When the world’s greatest “imagineers” go all risk averse, that’s bad for the company. Walt Disney once said, “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”
Apparently, that virtue is lost on the suits.
Sure, letting directors run loose might crash and burn like the Death Star, but it would have been worth the risk.
Disney is passing up the opportunity to inspire a new generation with the vision to think bold. Instead, audiences will get to go where everyone has gone before.
The next generation of military robots hasn’t been built yet. But, there are already efforts to ban machines operating independent of human control. There is even a Facebook page.
In practice, military robots are already joining the ranks. The US Navy recently unveiled its ship-board firefighting robot.
But, the Pentagon isn’t the only one trying manage the rise of the machines. Google, for one, recently took out a patent for commanding a robot army.
The robotic arms race is going to match the military against the private sector. Don’t be surprised with its deeper pockets and innovative practices if the private sector wins. Maybe the plot of RoboCop is not that far-fetched after all.
HBO is already hyping its soon-to-launch original series based on the 1973 sci-fi thriller Westworld. And now Galaxy Quest, Hollywood’s hilarious 1999 send-up of Star Trek, is slated to become a series. It’s a trend!
Sadly, experience suggests we keep our expectations low for both efforts. Science fiction rarely translates well from the silver screen to the small screen. Case in point: Planet of the Apes. The original 1968 movie was awesome. The TV version was awful.
Most TV adaptations fail because they never move beyond the original premise of the film. A successful transition to a series requires both an engaging plot that travels beyond the starting storyline and engrossing characters who continue to evolve as the tale unwinds. This formula can work, but studios need to pick better material. Here are six films that are strong enough to be made into viable series.
#6 The Thing (1982). This film is a re-imagining, not a remake, of the 1951 original. An alien shows up at a remote arctic ice station, devours the occupants and assumes their shape. This freaks out the remaining survivors who spend the rest of film trying to parse co-workers from gruesome monsters. (A 2011 sequel was a dud, failing to build on the originality of the previous films.) For the series, let the monster go global, and show us how people in different climates and cultures approach the challenge of containing the contagion. And, let’s get some insight into the alien, too. How and why did he come to Earth? And what’s the plan for after he’s eaten everyone?
China Maybe Taking over Our Internet
By James Jay Carafano
Except, people are still wonder if Red China really is the bad guy?
Hauwei, China’s massive global telecom giant just rolled out its new smartphone to compete with Apple and Samsung.
Nobody really sees that as much of a threat. Between them, Apple and Samsung own more than half the global market. Hauwei has a cool video, but less than five percent of the market.
On the other hand, Hauwei sells a lot of the stuff the Internet is run on. That raises big concerns. The company doesn’t sell that stuff here. But they are doing business big time in Canada and Mexico. Isn’t that just a backdoor into the US cyber-infrastructure? Who wants the Red Dawn running our Internet?
The Day is Coming When Your Body Will be Your Mobile Device
By James Jay Carafano
Passwords are stupid security. Jimmy Kimmel proved it.
Corporate America is frustrated with how dumb we are. They are busy looking for other ways for you to prove that you are you-before you start using their stuff.
The most unique identifier we have is us.
American Express is looking at facial recognition. They are busy “trying to figure out how to capture and authenticate face images accurately and quickly on a mobile device, given that facial recognition has a potential to be more secure than usernames and passwords.”
PayPal wants to be even more intrusive—and gross. How about ingesting an authenticator and carrying it in your stomach?
As these systems proliferate they blur the line between us and our machines. And what privacy do we have left when corporations take up space in our intestines?
Hollywood loves wickedly lethal killer robots on the loose. The common fear of “killer robots” is grounded in what we learned from the movies, not in the science behind autonomous weapons. Here, to make the case, are seven of the more bodacious boogieman ‘bots of the Silver Screen.
7. The Golem (1915)
This silent film was hailed as the first science-fiction movie ever. (It predates Sharknado III by a full century!) Only fragments of the film still exist. Plot summary: antique dealer finds mythical ancient Golem and brings it back to life; Golem falls in love with dealer’s wife; Golem goes postal. Not much science in this fiction. Heck, the dude is made of clay.
6. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Robots became a staple of Hollywood science fiction. Most were mindless drones like the trash-can robots that battle “Crash” Corrigan in Undersea Kingdom (1936). But this classic sci-fi film offers a different take. Here, the eight-foot tall Gort has a mind of his own. He’s aboard an alien spacecraft that lands next to the Washington Monument. When an earthling speaks those mysterious words “Klaatu barada nikto,” Gort takes off on a rampage to recover the spaceship’s pilot. The filmmakers were mostly interested in presenting pacifist metaphors that chide Cold War hysteria. Their message: The only way to handle violence is to have no violence. Sure, get right on that. Warning: A 2008 remake of this movie is brain-numbingly terrible. Watch it at your own peril.
$212.46. That is what the average family of four spent at a major league ballgame last year. For the budget-conscious, that price tag makes it mighty tempting to stay home and enjoy the boys of summer on TV—either a live game or a classic baseball movie.
But watching some of the most fondly remembered films about the national passtime suggest that maybe both the game’s time and what made America great are passing. Here are five films that make the case.
5. Moneyball (2011)
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill take the Oakland Athletics from a mediocre, going-broke franchise to a cash-cow winner by using analytical, evidence-based “sabermetrics.” The film garnered six Oscar nominations, critical acclaim, and box-office success. That’s terrible. Celebrating the “corporatization” of baseball is not a good thing. Sure, making money is a good thing. “Last season,” Forbes reports, “MLB saw gross revenues of over $8 billion, and the expectation is it will reach $10 billion within a year or two.”
But where is the gut, the intuition, the love of sport for sport’s sake that we learned from movies like The Pride of the Yankees (1942), Gary Cooper’s epic portrayal of the greatest star of baseball’s finest hour?