Filmism.net Dispatch April 29, 2015

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Not all of us consider ourselves hardcore movie fans, but the movies touch all of us. I don't mean that in some Gaia spirit/hippy dippy kind of way, either, it's true in a very practical sense.

If you ever doubt the power of cinema over our social discourse and shared language just remember two words; Minority Report.

Even if you didn't see the movie (and a lot of people did) John Anderton's (Tom Cruise) computer interface where he uses pointing fingers to manipulate images on a HUD-style screen by flipping them, zooming in on them, swiping to discard them became a kind of shorthand for the way we expected to use computers in the near future.

The images were so powerful we instinctively felt like it was the way we'd interact with technology in the near future. Fast forward just a decade or so from the film's 2002 release and the kind of pinching, rotating, swiping and tapping Anderton did in the movie was second nature for most of us on our phones and tablets.

Did director Steven Spielberg (along with the futurists he collected to brainstorm what the world of 2054 would look like) have a crystal ball, or did the touch interface become a self-fulfilling prophecy because it was so emblematic of a way of living we thought we recognised?

I actually think it's the artists who lead the way, leaving the inventors with the job of making what they imagined real. It's one many of them relish, incidentally - the number of astronauts, engineers, software developers and scientists who admit their love of 50s serials, comic books, science fiction novels, TV or movies informed on their choice of career speaks for itself.

By way of a shameless plug I actually wrote about it once, right here. We dream up space ships, mobile communicators and robot helpers and then generations to come, duly inspired, work to make them happen because they we such cool ideas.

Of course the way movies touch us all isn't even as deep as all that. If you ask around widely enough it's still possible to find people who've never seen Jerry Maguire, The Terminator, Airplane! and even Star Wars and Jaws, but you'll find far fewer who don't know what 'show me the money', 'I'll be back', 'I am serious, and don't call me Shirley', 'may the force be with you' and 'we're going to need a bigger boat' mean.

Movies have a very unique power. They break their original banks of just being shown in cinemas and entertaining us. Their ideas and motifs gestate in our collective consciousness and find themselves used for far more than just lines written by a screenwriter.

You only have to look at the media where every magazine you care to pick up will talk about a movie, whether it's a fitness title talking to Dwayne Johnson about the exercise regime that makes him so huge in San Andreas or the science behind the AI of Ex Machina or Avengers: Age of Ultron in a technology publication. Call it the memosphere, but whatever you call it, it's saturated with cinema-stuff.

That's the power of cinema.

Meanwhile, here's a quick shoutout to Gareth Edwards, director of Monsters, Godzilla and the forthcoming Star Wars: Rogue One, which we saw footage and a teaser of during a recent Star Wars convention.

Most of the time, film artists like directors and actors have to struggle with small budgets and little-seen projects, maybe take one or two big rom coms or interchangeable superhero movies to pay the bills and hope they move up the rungs of the studio system a little bit at a time and get more clout. In Hollywood it's called paying your dues.

Before Warner Bros ever gave Edwards $160m to reimagine one of the movies' more legendary (get it?) monsters, Disney announced they were giving the helm of their first standalone Star Wars film to the English digital effects engineer.

That was when he'd made one single film for half a million dollars and done the effects on the computer in his bedroom. What's the lesson here, kids? 'Dues' are bullshit. The only dues you have to pay are making a great movie, and Edwards proved just how hard that is for everyone else but him.

New on screens (and newly seen by yours truly) recently? The chilly, clean lined and classy Ex Machina comes as close to perfect as a sci-fi thriller about AI has come thus far.

At the other end of the scale, Furious 7 is like Godzilla playing with his toy Matchbox cars collection. You'll never believe a handful of people with cars can cause so much destruction across three continents.

But there are two small-scale releases I urge you to seek out. First is Cam Girlz, which looks behind the webcams of the women who perform (sexually or otherwise) for online audiences via laptops. It's nuanced, classy, respectful and eye opening. In other words, everything you don't expect it to be.

The other is 5 to 7, that rarest of beasts in a romantic movie for grown ups. There's no ham-fisted Katherine Heigl-inspired comic hijinks and no gilt-edged Hallmark Channel aesthetic where the director only captures the visual trappings of beauty.

Henry Levin's tale captures some real, accessible magic in an age deathly devoid of it and while it's all fantasy, it will make you wish it was true.

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