Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dune: A movie I once disliked but I now love

Dune movie poster

Picture life in the universe in the year 10,191. Such is the basis of the movie Dune, which was adapted from the 1965 novel of the same name, written by Frank Herbert. The story takes place on 4 different planets, and it deals with the harvesting of a so-called spice known as “Melange,” which is used to extend life and to allow an individual to fold space, among other things.

Dune movieDune movie

An interplanetary body known as the Spacing Guild arrives at the determination that there may be an interruption to the harvesting of the spice Melange, and thus sends a representative to investigate the circumstances by speaking with the emperor of the known universe, Shaddam IV. What subsequently ensues involves a feud between warring, rival, noble dynasties for control of the spice harvesting and of the planet where the spice is produced: Arrakis…also known as Dune.

Dune Kyle MacLachlanDune Kyle MacLachlan

The leading character, Paul Atreides, is played by Kyle MacLachlan. And, as it turns out, Paul happens to be a messianic figure of sorts, due to his having been conceived by a “Bene Gesserit” mother -- who, like those of her kind, possesses a particular variety of mind powers which Paul himself has inherited.

Dune movieDune Virginia Madsen

The movie boasts a stellar cast that includes Francesca Annis, Jose Ferrer, Jürgen Prochnow, Sean Young, Patrick Stewart, Max von Sydow, Dean Stockwell, Siân Phillips, Everett McGill, Brad Dourif, and Sting. Virginia Madsen plays the emperor’s daughter Irulan, who also happens to serve as the movie’s narrator.

Dune David LynchDune Alan Smithee

Speaking of the narrator, there are two versions of this movie. One version is known as the “theatrical version,” which is 137 minutes long and features Madsen narrating the opening monologue. The other version is known as the “extended version” or the “tv version”, and it is 176 minutes long. There is a prologue at the beginning of the extended version with an undisclosed male narrator, and it contains paintings which help to set the story up. Also, the extended version lists the director’s name as “Alan Smithee” (rather than the real name of the movie’s director, David Lynch). Supposedly, Lynch did not have a hand in the editing of the extended version and did not want to be associated with it, and therefore the pseudonym “Alan Smithee” was used in place of his own name.

Dune movie poster 1984Dune movie poster 1984
Two additional Dune movie posters

I first saw this movie on cable in the 80s, and I didn't really understand what it was about. In fact, I saw it multiple times back then, and I still didn't understand it. I even found it boring. Now as an adult, the movie makes better sense to me, and thus I have a better appreciation for it. It’s a visually stunning movie, and I really like the whole atmospheric feel that the movie has. It's the type of movie that makes you wanna stay in on a weekend night and watch it in its entirety.

I think a reason why some people don't like this movie is probably because they've only ever seen the extended/tv version and not the theatrical version (which in my opinion is the more coherent version). The extended version is more confusing, and I can understand why people who’ve only seen that version don’t like the movie. But regardless, I can honestly say that I love this movie. It's one of my favorite movies from one of the greatest year for movies: 1984.

Friday, August 3, 2012

My first computer: A Commodore 64

Commodore 64 computer
Image by mwichary licensed under CC BY 2.0

It's funny how now in the 21st century, with all of the modern conveniences that exist, we pretty much take for granted today’s technology. Over the last 15 or so years, the internet has become so ubiquitous and so ingrained in our society that we can’t really picture our lives without it. In fact, internet usage is now a part of many people’s everyday routine. I myself have become reliant on daily internet usage, particularly because of the "at your fingertips" abundance of information that the internet contains -- any topic that you want to look up is just a mouse click away.

Nevertheless, there's just something about the rawness of 80s technology that I happen to miss. The first computer that I ever owned was a Commodore 64. My father bought it for me. The year was 1986. Back then, a Commodore 64 computer was considered state of the art. I remember that the computer had the Basic programming language, and that it required large floppy disks as storage devices. To think of the way technology has changed during the last quarter of a century!

And here's an interesting tidbit about the Commodore 64: it had close to 17 million total unit sales, thus it became the "best-selling single personal computer model of all time" (source: Wikipedia).

Commodore 64 computer screen
Image by regorius licensed under CC BY 2.0