And The Bradscribe Award For Best Sci-Fi Of The Year Goes To…

The Bradscribe Awards 2015: What Was Best: Maz, Max, Mish Or Machina?

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The academy may pride itself on its history, but the world around it is changing, and unless it begins to reflect these changes, I can see the Oscars ceasing to be of any relevance to a growing and vocal new generation of artists who see it as a relic of the old world” – David Harewood.  

Hello and welcome to the Bradscribe Awards!

As we were blessed with a year brimming with various cinematic nuggets to choose from, it’s only fair to review it in our own lavish ceremony. And besides, many of you have been wondering – especially as this site has slagged off more than its fair share of crud these past twelve months – what actually managed to impress me during 2015!

One thing you can be certain about the Bradscribe Awards – activated to honour the criminally-overlooked field of science fictionthey are bright and visionary. And diverse. Nominees can be black, brown, blue or green. Or shiny and chrome. 

Also, there’s lots of cake on offer…

Why Don’t The Oscars Celebrate SF?

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“It is a genre that I think doesn’t get enough respect when you consider how many issues sci-fi brings up that we need to deal with” – Sigourney Weaver.

There seems to be an unwritten rule stipulating that science fiction – and fantasy, and horror, come to that – do not receive awards recognition in the main categories. Sure, the Academy recognises the technical achievements of this genre, but really, you can quite easily find some of the best scripts and acting in this continually innovative field.

In trying to sort this migraine out, trust longtime Bradscribe fave, Sigourney Weaver, to come to the rescue:

“The work being done in sci-fi is some of the most interesting, provocative work out there.”

Yet why should this genre tend to make little impact when Oscar season gets into full swing?

She has remarked how the Academy consists of “mostly people like me who are over a certain age” who tend to look for the “the more conventional movie.”

Uff, nuts to that. 

Part of SF’s wonder is its ability to offer more unconventional thrills. Rather than get stuck in the same mundane, formulaic soup – which, let’s be honest, too many mainstream dramas do – the genre is experimental and challenging, vital components sought, surely, by the modern movie-goer.

Before launching into the main ceremony, here’s a little sketch to get you warmed up. Hey, it was either this, or a flashy-but-ultimately-pointless song-an’-dance extravaganza: 

Without further ado, let’s get down to the essential categories:

Best SFX: Mad Max: Fury Road

Jurassic World just looked big; Star Wars: The Force Awakens looked impressive, but Namibia nabbed it.  

Best Music Score: Mad Max: Fury Road

This would have been set aside for John Williams – continuing the fine tradition of classic scores for Star Wars – but on first viewing, the new score was barely discernible. 

Best Original Screenplay: Ex Machina

Intellectually-stimulating sci-fi is what we crave at this site. Nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, how it did not win last night is my pet peeve of this year’s ceremony. 

Congrats to Alex Garland, who made his directorial debut with this instant classic. Here, honestly, this Award was as predictable as that Titanic boy getting the Best Actor Oscar… 

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Martian 

Drew Goddard worked wonders with Andrew Weir’s novel.

Rising Star Of The Year 

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“It’s important that the conversation carries on… Everybody should be the change they want to see and go from there, but keep talking, keep doing” – John Boyega. 

This Rogue Stormtrooper received most of the biggest laughs at the packed cinema this reviewer attended. While everybody is quite rightfully lauding Daisy Ridley as the new New Hope – an equally impressive entry to the SW galaxy, we should not overlook this young and promising boy from Peckham. The Oscars have, but Brad hasn’t…

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Let’s assess candidates for the Woman Of The Year and Man Of The Year:

Woman Of The Year 

Always keen to catch strong and memorable women’s roles, especially in SF. However, there seemed to be fewer notable women’s roles on offer this year. Emilia Clarke should have brought in an exceptional Sarah Connor, but had weak material with which to work; and Bryce Dallas Howard made a mark only by outrunning a T Rex. In high heels. Never gonna let that lie… 

But who made it onto the final list? 

Honestly, Sigourney should be here – for old times sake – but Chappie was so underwhelming; even she couldn’t make it bearable. Instead, we have plumped for:

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5. Scarlet Witch 

It was great to see Wanda Maximoff on the big screen at last, but so frustrating that she had so little to do, and had barely any “character” to develop sufficiently. Oh well, hope she gets more (worthy) screentime in the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War… 

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4. Maz Kanata

Maz is over one hundred years old, and she had – until those First Order loons swept in and trashed the place! – her own swell pad at which anyone in the galaxy can hang out; even got her own awesome statue outside it(!). She happens to possess Luke’s lightsaber, and also counts Chewie as her boyfriend. Way ta go, girl! 

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3. Imperator Furiosa

When Mad Max made his energising and explosive return to the big screen, little did anyone expect that Cherlize Theron would not only steal Immortan Joe’s War-Rig, but steal all the scenes in the year’s most explosive actionfest. Her presence was so seismic that the subtitle should have read: Furiosa Road. 

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2. Alicia Vikander

As Eva: the AI centre of attention in Ex Machina this Swedish actress made an immediate impact. And held her own against the big boys in The Man From UNCLE. Already looking forward to her next projects.

Congrats to Alicia for confounding the run of play by snatching the Best Supporting Actress gong; but really, she deserved the Best Actress Oscar. For a vastly more impressive picture…

This girl should go far. We hope. 

1. Not surprisingly, the Real Greatest Woman of this – and, for that matter, every other – year just happens to be – unreservedly, wholeheartedly: Mrs. B, but seeing how we really should be talkin’ about movie stars (and me darlin’ still won’t reverse that online pics ban) let’s move swiftly on. 

But in case you’re still wondering, you can find the Woman Of The Year here:

And now, on to the:

Man Of The Year 

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5. Ant-Man.

Always a personal fave comic character, it seemed inconceivable how the tiniest Avenger could transfer easily onto the big screen. Initially, Paul Rudd looked like a disastrous case of miscasting, but he helped make this little movie the surprise package of the year. 

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4. Andy Serkis

The actor most synonymous with motion capture – who lit up the Bradmonitor when he first crawled onscreen as Gollum – not only brought us our new villain of the Dark Side: Supreme Leader Snoke, but a traditional live action nasty called Ullysses Klaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron. 

Always a treat to watch, Serkis is the only reason to look forward to yet another Planet of the Apes sequel. 

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3. Kylo Ren

The villain of the long-awaited new Star Wars episode, had to make a rather special impact. Fotunately, Kylo Ren did just that. How many times has Brad replayed that scene of him staggering through the dark forest, then energising his lightsaber? Guess that correctly, dear reader, and YOU can have a slice of cake… 

Best Supporting Actor Award for Adam Driver methinks?

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2. Ultron

“Look at me! Do I look like Iron Man?!”

Traditionally a formidable villain in the Avengers comic, a certain degree of trepidation led up to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. 

No worries! They got the look just right. Voiced malevolently by the Amazing Spader-Man, he turned out to be supercool as well as superbad! And he was blessed with oodles of great lines! 

In any other year, Ultron would have stolen this category, but there was one fella who managed to impress me even more, and that was: 

1. Oscar Isaac

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“There’s some stuff he’s got in his tool set which is properly rare. Fierce talent, that’s what you want – and that’s exactly what Oscar’s got. You don’t need to be a filmmaker to see it” – Alex Garland. 

You may be thinking this was staged so that yours truly could chortle: “And the oscar goes to Oscar!”

Ha ha, no really, ever since spotting him steal scenes from the Crowe way back in Ridley Scott’s otherwise lacklustre Robin Hood, Isaac has been carving a very special niche in modern movies. He gave one of the best performances of the year in Ex Machina, but Poe Dameron was woefully underused.

We just can’t wait to see him steal the show as the eponymous archvillain in X-Men: Apocalypse!

Right? 

Crud Of The Year 

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“It was stupid. It was trash… It was not a flop that quietly came and went without anyone noticing. It got the disrespect it deserved” – Joe Queenan.

Gotta take the rough with the smooth, so they say, but even so…

It’s hard to believe, but 2015 still manage to serve up some particularly underwhelming duds. Rather than rant eloquently about the ever-dwindling standard of movie-making, let’s get these turkeys out of the way, sharpish:

Chappie; Fant4stic Four; Jupiter Ascending; Pixels; Terminator: Genisys;

Even presented with the offer of sitting through this abysmal cack for free, you still couldn’t entice me. Honestly, you would think Game Of Thrones adequately paid Peter Dinklage’s rent, so why did he have to get involved in this tragedy? 

Let’s cheer ourselves up with the:

Magic Moments Of The Year 

Well, bless my frickin’ quarnex battery! Here are the most awesome scenes to have graced our local popcorn parlours this past year:

5. 2015 Arnie vs. 1984 Arnie in Terminator: Genisys

You can’t beat nostalgia. A stylish nod to the classic scene from the original Terminator movie. If only the rest of the movie was as cool as this. One to search for on Youtube only.

4. T Rex vs. Indominus Rex from Jurassic World

This fourth installment of the Dinoland franchise may not have wrangled its way onto my Best of The Year list, but the climactic scrap between these two giants evokes the spirit of the original Jurassic Park. An extra slice of cake for that Mosasaurus 😉 If anyone can get near it, that is…

3. Kylo Ren stops a laser blast in midair

 So Snoke says Kylo needs to complete his training. If he can do that, his powers look pretty formidable to us!   

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2. That Ex Machina Dance 

Just when you think you’re gonna bust some heavy-duty grey matter getting to grips with the premise of top class AI drama: Ex Machina, so Professor Isaac – really unexpectedly – teaches us how to cut up the dance floor – yeah! This was destined to be THE Magic Moment Of The Year, until we gawped at: 

1. The Sandstorm from Mad Max: Fury Road

Let’s face it, all two hours of this exhilarating high-octane thrill-ride exudes movie magic of the highest calibre, but you can enjoy this classic scene right here: 

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The cake!

Best Movie Of The Year

So, what provided the most outstanding viewing experience of the year?

  • It was wonderful to be able to marvel at a new Star Wars movie, but although it was great to have new exciting characters and elements to savour, feelings that we were watching a retread of the 1977 original still filtered through.
  • The Martian certainly provided our happiest visit to the cinema together this past year.
  • Ex Machina is the solidly-written, well-crafted thought-provoking movie that the genre cries out for, but:

The frenetic energy, stunts, and sheer irresistible spectacle of Mad Max: Fury Road clinches it!

Last, but not least, is the:

Outstanding Contribution To Film

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Douglas Slocombe was a British cinematographer of exceptional skill. Some of his film credits: Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Italian Job (1969) and the Indiana Jones trilogy, read like a list from the Bradscribe Hall of Fame. 

He passed away last Monday aged 103. As a tribute, here is perhaps his most iconic work: 

So, congrats to Max. Your cake is thoroughly well-deserved. 

While compiling this Post, we were delighted to learn last night that Fury Road secured a mightily impressive hoard of six Oscars: Costume Design; Editing; Make-Up; Production Design; Sound Editing; and Sound Mixing. 

But why stop there? Best Actress should have gone to Theron; moreover, Fury Road deserves Best Picture…

Officially the top cinematic sensation of 2015, show us your appreciation, Max: 

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Oh, what a year! What a lovely year!

And they discovered water on Mars. Which was nice. 

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The Man From S.C.R.I.B.E.

I Spy With My Little ’60s Eye.

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“This organisation does not tolerate failure” – Ernst Stavro Blofeld. 

It was only a matter of time before we got around to the ubiquitous spy thriller. Preferably, any such fare produced these days worth its bespoke tailoring has to be set in the 1960s: arguably the best period for Bond movies – the franchise to which any thriller teeming with dapper-suited agents, beautiful yet mysterious femme fatales, guns and gadgets, must inevitably be compared.

In my relentless quest for quality sci-fi, should spy thrillers be counted here? Of course, the gadgetry wielded by 007 during his Sixties heyday, heralded – some say directly inspired – this more technological era in which we live and work.

The covert world of the spy – the colder the war, the more dangerous the assignments – was given such a ridiculously glamorous edge, thanks in large part to the fiction concocted by Ian Fleming. Ultimately, the “spy” was elevated to the status of becoming “what every woman wanted and every man wanted to be.”

“Shocking… positively shocking…”

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“Not very good at this whole subtlety thing, are you?” – Napoleon Solo. 

Amidst the heavy revival of the spy thriller genre this year is a revitalised rejig of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. This slick and (lightly) enjoyable ride starring Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander and Armie Hammer has thankfully stayed rooted in the ’60s, immersing itself in the fashions, music and politics of that so-called “swinging” era.

It’s directed by Guy Ritchie, which means that you can expect his unique quotient of style to shine through. Cavill cuts a suitably devilish dash as the debonair illicit-art-dealer-turned-CIA agent: Napoleon Solo, who goes up against high-strung Soviet powerhouse: Ilya Kuryakin (Hammer) before they are forced to collaborate in thwarting the usual nasty plot involving that old chestnut of – oh yes – “world domination.” Yet behind the predictable postcard locations, champagne and caviar-coated glamour and the – oh nosame old dodgy Russian “accents,” there is neither any drama, nor tension. 

The major flaw here lies with the script; it lacks that necessary edge of substance and sophistication. Sounds therefore like the perfect mission for the White Rabbit, aka Agent Brad.  

The earliest Bond pictures were especially blessed with sensational music by John Barry; in keeping with that essential element, this film does come with a cool soundtrack. At least Ritchie‘s U.N.C.L.E. certainly beats sitting through that present-day-set blockbuster featuring a diminutive Scientologist hanging from the side of a plane. 

“This never happened to the other fella.”

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“You come over for dinner… and I’ll cook you a wonderful angel cake” – Miss Moneypenny. 

Apart from the ludicrous-yet-painfully-predictable “model-like hotel clerk submit[ting] within minutes of casual proposition,” one of the highlights about the Man From U.N.C.L.E. is Alicia Vikander. She plays Gabby Teller, the daughter of “Hitler’s favourite rocket scientist” whom Solo and Kuryakin must find. Having already made waves in the impressive Ex Machina, this Swedish actress is particularly good in this feisty female lead, first seen working as a car mechanic in East Berlin, and later proceeding to try and melt Ilya’s big cold heart.

Just as well, for the majority of women to have crossed the path of this gentleman spy – emphasis on the gentleman, you understand – were cool and confident, quite the opposite of the archetypal “Bond girl,” who invariably played the feeble screamer and not much else. 

“I must be dreaming.”

Forever fit and well-attired, the Man From  S.C.R.I.B..E. can be found propping up the bar with a cool White Russian. And that’s just the drink…

What is my secret? Why, its top, and well-kept, obviously. And just what does the acronym: S.C.R.I.B..E. stand for exactly? That’s Classified, like most of my best missions, of course. 

“Do you expect me to talk?” 

Well, the ‘C’ has to stand for ‘Cake’ – the best bargaining chip an(y) agent could have in this business; the ‘I’ denotes ‘International,’ naturally – a perusal of any one of my passports would tell you that; while the ‘E’ would have to be ‘Enjoyment’ – otherwise, what’s the point, eh?

Hang on – sniff, sniff – what’s that burning? Will this blog self-destruct in five seconds? 

No, this spy has just accidentally sat on his own exploding pen…

“Oh, the things I do for England…”

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Licenced to thrill. 

Ex Machina: The Most Intelligent SF of 2015?

Just a machine? That’s like saying that you’re just an ape…

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“You just can’t differentiate between a robot and the very best of humans” – Isaac Asimov: I, Robot. 

If a Top 10 list of my most anticipated movies of 2015 was compiled then Ex Machina – described as a sleek and stylish SF thriller – would sit comfortably near the top. Among the latest crop of trailers for big blockbusters, it is comforting to note that small-scale productions like this are still developed. This movie looks like it will offer more cerebral and challenging visual feasts which, almost ironically, is what SF should be all about.

In a week where the new Ant-Man trailer failed to impress, Ex Machina offers some reassurance that 2015 is not all about Avengers and awakenings…

This British production (in collaboration with Film4) marks the directorial debut of Alex Garland – better-known as the screenwriter for The Beach (1999) and several Danny Boyle films including SF thriller Sunshine (2007), and will star only Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson… and Alicia Vikander who looks quite extraordinary in pre-release pics. 

Basically, this is a simple specimen with only three characters, and two of them will be appearing together again in Star Wars VII. So, at the very least, this film can be studied for what to expect from these “new faces” of the SW galaxy come December. 

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“I feel more attached to this film than to anything before” – Alex Garland.  

To see here the tremendous advances in the development of the AI subgenre, considering that during the 19th century, the creation of artificial beings could never be covered in fiction as it was deemed too blasphemous; come the 20th century, it was considered merely dangerous, but ever since Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938) introduced the term: ‘robot,’ in R.U.R. (1921), the theme has really taken off, with both friendly and fiendish artificial characters becoming some of the most popular icons of sci-fi heritage.

Just as SF seemed to have lost its affinity with non-violent, intellectual and well-crafted works, this little movie sprang from nowhere… and managed to create the sort of uplifting buzz which that Ant-Man trailer failed to induce at all!

Ex Machina is a psychological thriller in which a reclusive billionaire programmer: Nathan (Isaac) invites one of his employees: Caleb (Gleeson) to come to his hi-tech research facility and conduct a “Turing Test”: when a human interacts with a computer; if it exhibits artificial intelligence, unbeknownst to the human, then it has passed. Caleb is invited to test Ava, possibly the most sophisticated artificial intelligence yet devised.  

Bear in mind that although the trailer for Ex Machina looks intriguing, so did the one for last year’s Automata which garnered an unwanted pile of poor reviews. That SF thriller starring Antonio Banderas had some cool scenes to offer, and the poster, with its intriguing lost-droids-in-wasteland motif, looked promising enough…  

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“The sci-fi films that intrigue me have human questions behind the technology… and I think this is just full of that…” – Domhnall Gleeson.

What is most significant about this upcoming release is what Ex Machina does not offer: violence (no ubiquitous comicbook punch-ups), pointless CGI explosions (with any luck, aforementioned facility should remain intact); clanking, cliched automatons bellowing in deep, ridiculous voices; useless dialogue littered with too many expletives (often a bad sign for any writer), and forgettable starlets shouting annoyingly at each other.

Perhaps, at the very least, this movie will serve as the template from which the Three Laws of AI Movie-Making can be implemented…

There are high hopes in this camp for Ex Machina, but just remember this: if it should fail – with the tremendous rate at which technological advances are being made these days – we’ll be faced with the slightly deflating prospect of having engineered a fully-automated, self-aware human-like droid well before anyone has managed to craft an intelligent and engaging movie about one!

Ex Machina will be released in the UK next week, and will hit US screens in early-April. 

Lastly, it seems only fitting that the concluding thoughts should come from Asimov himself. Rather than prolong banal introspective tales about automatons turning against their creators, he endeavoured to question the attitudes towards artificial beings. If such machines can exhibit some discernible form of calm and collected intelligence, they have earned the right to be counted as good people for it is the capacity to do just deeds in life rather than mere flesh and blood which makes true humanity. 

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The Three Laws of Robotics

  • as first stated by Isaac Asimov in the short story: Runaround (1942)

 

postscript

a-big-thank-you

  • to all the fantastic Followers who gave me 10 Likes and some fabulous Comments for my last Post: Brad’s Guide To The Future – my 1st foray into double figures! This is really encouraging, and inspires me to strive further; this year should see big positive changes to this Blog; notice the video upload here – hopefully the first of many!

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Cheers!