from the in-flight-film dept.
Here's a quick overview of "documentaries" to watch before, during and after a pandemic:
The Andromeda Strain film: An early Michael Crichton adaptation which came before the Westworld film and series and the Jurassic Park film series. Like many Michael Crichton stories, factual science is extended with credible speculation. In this case, a prion-like infection has killed almost everyone in a village and the survivors are seemingly unrelated. The film is best known for its cartoonish but very photogenic indoor set which serves as the backdrop of a Level 4 Biolab. Such eloborate sets were common in the era. (Other examples include Rollerball and disaster parody/Airplane predecessor, The Big Bus.) The film features concurrent action which was a common experimental film technique in the 1960s but, nowadays, is most commonly associated with Kiefer Sutherland in the 24 series. There is also a lesser-known mini-series.
Outbreak: A rather dull film which nevertheless provides a graphic portrayal of uncontained pandemic and towns being quarantined. It would be marginally improved if the antagonists were re-cast. Possible source material for DeepFaking.
The Resident Evil film series: These films considerably advanced the tropes of amoral corporation, rogue artificial intelligence as antagonist, reality within reality, experimentation without informed consent and the horror of a medicalized vampire/zombie rabies virus. The Red Queen versus White Queen subplot dovetails with Alice in Wonderland, prey versus predator evolution and Umbrella Corp's red and white logo which - in a case of life mirroring art - was copied by Wuhan's Level 4 Biolab. Many people prefer the competent and detailed Resident Evil series of computer games which are arguably better than the Half Life series or the SCP game.
28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, 28 Months Later: Gritty films which borrow liberally from Resident Evil and a rich seam of British, Cold War, post-apocalyptic drama, such as Survivors. The most iconic scenes of the film - Central London without people - weren't composited or closed for filming. They were merely shot at dawn, on a Sunday morning, around the summer solstice. The first film may have influenced Black Mirror episodes: The National Anthem and White Bear.
World War Z: If Dan Brown wrote zombie stories, they'd be like World War Z. Brad Pitt's character dashes to a number of exotic locations and is swept up by events such as panic buying and stampedes from an unspecified infection which has an incubation period of about 20 seconds. (A duration which appears to have been chosen to maximize tension while staying within the one minute beat sheet of the Hero's Journey monomyth.) It builds upon the zombie mythology of Resident Evil and 28 Day Later. However, it is undermined by cheap grading, cheap compositing and reliance on flocking software.
Contagion: I haven't seen this one. It may or may not involve Gwyneth Paltrow, Harvey Weinstein, an Oscars acceptance speech, Seth MacFarlane and a vaginal steamer. Well, it probably relieves the itching of genital herpes.
Cloverfield 1, 2, 3 and 4: Found footage genre which is heavily influenced by the Blair Witch Project (obviously), Godzilla films, The Day the Earth Stood Still, any B-movie with a military Jeep and medicalized zombie films. The first film has fantastic compositing which may be of particular interest to anyone working on an augmented reality horror game.
Bad Taste: Peter Jackson's first commercial film. It was almost unfinished due to the ridiculous ending which blatently copies from a film which - to prevent spoiler - I won't mention. A particularly low budget effect was used for gun flash. Specifically, the original 16mm footage was poked with a pin. Regardless, if you've seen the carnage of Peter Jackson's orc battles then you may be curious to see the carnage of Peter Jackson's zombie fights. Additionally, Bad Taste works particularly well as a drinking game.
George A. Romero and John A. Russo films: These classics brought zombies out of a largely undifferentiated mess of vampire/mummy/voodoo/swamp monster B-movies. Unfortunately, they have been overshadowed by escalating gore and violence. This leave each classic looking more like an extended episode of the A-Team.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Anything is more exciting with zombies and Jane Austen's dull novel certainly benefits. This wilfully inaccurate historical drama, a genre shared with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Snow White and the Seven Samurai, features square dancing and blunderbuss zombie carnage.
Any better suggestions out there?
There has been some controversy over Deepfakes, a process of substituting faces in video. Almost immediately, it was used for pornography. While celebrities were generally unamused, porn stars were alarmed by the further commodification of their rôle. The algorithm is widely available and several web sites removed objectionable examples. You know something is controversial when porn sites remove it. Reddit was central for Deepfakes/FakeApp tech support and took drastic action to remove discussion after it started to become synonymous with fictitious revenge porn and other variants of anti-social practices.
I found a good description of the deepfakes algorithm. It runs via a standard neural network library but requires considerable processing power on specific GPUs. I will describe the video input (with face to be removed) as the source and the face to be replaced as the target. The neural network is trained with the target face only. The source is distorted and the neural network is trained to approximate reference images of the target. When the neural network is given the source, it has been trained to "undistort" the source to target.
I previously reviewed Rudy Rucker's Ware Tetralogy and Postsingular and found that Rudy Rucker's best work comes after ideas had the most time to percolate. Postsingular was a relative dud, although still far superior to Neal Stephenson's REAMDE. In contrast, Rainbows End is highly recommended. Indeed, it is essential reading for anyone concerned about the progression of software from desktop, web and mobile to augmented reality. The book has a shockingly similar game to Pokémon Go in addition to a plausible mix of tech mergers and new entrants in a near-future universe where smartphones have given way to wearable augmented reality.
Many books, comics and films have covered the purgatory of high school and some have covered the special purgatory of going back to high school (for a re-union or as a student). The film: 21 Jump Street is a particularly silly example of the sub-genre. Rainbows End covers a world leading humanities academic who spends years in the fugue of dementia, responds almost perfectly to medical advances and is enrolled in high school to complete his therapy. While he looks almost perfectly like a 17 year old, his contemporaries remain in decline or have bounced back with far more random results.