Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday Top Ten: Robots in Disguise

Tuesday Top Ten Returns

My friend txt critic sent me this note yesterday:
Any interest in coming with me to tues midnight Transformers 2 on IMAX? Only drawbacks:

1. It's $20
2. We'd have to get there early
3. It's Transformers 2
After I recovered from the LOL'ing following #3, I said no. No way am I giving $20 to Michael Bay. I assume Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will beat Up to steal that #2 box office hit of the year position and I weep for the (safely assumed) qualitative drop in that switcheroo. I don't understand the Transformers phenom. A lot of movies are good at blowing shit up and some of them actually have narrative and visual coherency to go with the pretty fireballs and lovely dust clouds. Why not line up for those? And as I bitched when the first Transformers picture rolled around, the only reason I ever enjoyed the robots in disguise was watching them transform out of their disguises. If I want liquid metal, I'm totally just watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day. When anything can become anything with high speed morphing, the joy is lost. There's no reveal to stun you with the hot joy of brilliantly designed internal architecture... "That came from that. OHMYGOD it did!"

Plus, apart from Megan Fox, I can't tell the robots apart.

10 Favorite Movie Robots
(not always in disguise)

I went with mostly the android'ish since I like people better than things. Strangely, I couldn't think of any cool animal robots from the movie (apart from the reliably creepy mechnical spider device that filmmakers from Michael Crichton to Steven Spielberg are fond of) but I'm sure they exist. The only ones that came to mind were incredibly stupid... like that mechanical owl in Clash of the Titans (1981). I only pray that the remake is sensible enough to ditch the owls. At least any owls that require batteries.

Honorable Mention: The Buffy Bot
I always want to include Buffy the Vampire Slayer in every list. But it's a tv show damnit. Buffy always confuses me because it's better than much cinema. The Buffy Bot was another reminder, as if we needed one, that Sarah Michelle Gellar was shamefully robbed of Emmy nominations for 7 (give or take) years. My god, she could barely get arrested at the Globes. Only one nomination there? and that was right at the start.

10 Herbie the Love Bug
That's a robot, right? Artificial intelligence, moving parts, etcetera. Or is he magical like Frosty the Snowman? Either way he survived Monte Carlo, a failed spinoff tv series, continual underestimation of his gifts, injuries, numerous drivers and Lindsay Lohan. Plus, he's totally cute and wins extra points for nostalgia since they (literally) don't make them like they used to. Volkswagen Beetle RIP (1938-2003)

09 R2-D2
If you had asked me as a kid "what is your favorite sound?" I probably would have started beeping like R2-D2 but after the childhood apocalypse that was Star Wars: Episode I, all things Star Wars have since been downgraded. Hence, #09.

08 HAL 9000 & Gertie
HAL (voiced by Douglas Rain) is of course super smooth and insinuatingly creepy but I wanted to include Gertie (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for memorably riffing on the collective memory of HAL in the new movie Moon, reviewed here in case you have finally had the chance to see it.

07 Gigolo Joe & Pris
Mmmm, pleasure models. It helps that one of them looks like Jude Law and the other has the endless legs and Amazonian kink of primo Daryl Hannah. I still think there's a classic sci-fi film waiting to be made that's ABOUT a pleasure model rather than expecting them to vivify the sidelines like they do in A.I. Artifial Intelligence and Blade Runner. But who would finance erotic sci-fi these days? Eroticism is a no no. Think of all the trouble Robert Rodriguez had trying to remake Barbarella.

Ian Holm, Lance Henriksen and Winona Ryder in the long dead Alien franchise

06 Ash & Bishop
Because they elevate Alien and Aliens... not that either film particularly needs the elevation being spectacular in dozens of other ways as well. Please note that I didn't include "Call" from Alien Ressurection as I still have no idea how that fell so flat. I mean other than that the role was played by Noni in that phase of her career when she suddenly seemed entirely lost. That said, Alien 4 gets a bad rap but it's hard to argue with Sigourney Weaver's slightly twisted star turn as "Ripley 8". Even after four films she never once phoned it in.

05 The Iron Giant
I really need to watch this animated gem again. I've seen it but once and every time I have thought about since (many many times) I whisper "Superman" in my brain and, voila, instant lump in throat.

04 T-1000
I think I gave him short shift in my Judgment Day retrospective. I love everything about him from his mean, lean and naked entrance to Robert Patrick's otoplasty-free ears to the way he chases the heroes with cheetah speed (yikes) to the way that the only barely expressed "emotions" are negative ones: annoyance, dishonesty, condescencion, anger.

03 Roy Batty
If only some new sci-fi picture would ever be as good as Blade Runner. I guess that only happens once every quarter century or so. Hey, it's been 27 years! Hurry up cinema. [More on Batty]

02 WALL•E & EVE
I know I'm supposed to be moving on to Up... but really. How will Pixar ever top WALL•E ? Too much loveliness, creativity, control and exquisite characterizations for one animated film. Plus, EVE rocks.

01 False Maria
I'm giving Brigitte Helms immortal rendition of The Maschinenmensch the top spot not just because I've seen Metropolis more than any other silent film (it's not my all time favorite silent: get in line behind The Passion of Joan of Arc and Pandora's Box, Fritz) but because you can still feel Maria reverberating in pop culture. Or at least I can. But maybe that's because I Madonna too much? Plus Maria's dance sequence is all kinds of "!!!" including the most gloriously overstated reaction shots of lust the cinema ever came up with: lip licking, eyebrow acrobatics, arm grabbing... it's all win.





Which robot things excite you or are you strictly flesh and blood oriented?
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27 comments:

Cristhian said...

Even though it's not part of a movie, Bjork's robotic lesbian version in her video for "All is Full of Love" is the most beautiful I've ever seen.
Also, I have a soft spot for Teddy, from A.I.

Cristhian said...

Oh! and the femmebots in AustinPowers.

NATHANIEL R said...

oh "all is full of love" that is beauteous yes.

Aracir said...

i wonder if that Buffybot site is being transferred / backed up...

adelutza said...

Any post about robots that somehow manages to mention Passion of Joan of Arc in it is a wonder of nature ;-)

Anonymous said...

Claire Wellington in "The Stepford Wives" and Gort in "The Day The Earth Stood Still"

Honorable Mention: Kylie Minogue http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cf0ZS1EJjSM

Joe Shetina said...

ugh Michael Bay

pomme said...

what is good with "transformer" movies ,it's totally silly,senselessly funny! you don't need to have your brain even my 2 years old nephrew can understand because it wrote by scenarists with 5 years old mental!

Ryan T. said...

Would the cyclons work? I mean BSG did have two movie-esque events. First to start the series and then Razor. So I say they count!

adri said...

Roy Batty, of course. Saddest death scene ever.

I also liked Susan Seidelman's ("Desperately Seeking Susan", with Madonna in her early days) film about a robot, "Making Mr. Right", with John Malkovich playing the dual roles of the cold-hearted inventor and the sweet-natured robot.

The women who "educate" the robot on human behavior are the sadly-underused-in-the-industry Ann Magnuson, Glenne Headly and Laurie Metcalf. I thought this one was pretty funny, but I guess it had too many actresses in it to be popular.

adri said...

Oh, and for cheesy B-movies about robots, let's not forget Melanie Griffith as the sex-bot in "Cherry 2000" or Renee Soutendijk as Eve (with Gregory Hines) in "Eve of Destruction", both perfect for that 2AM movie viewing.

Fox said...

No love for Heartbeeps?!? Ahh... come on Nathaniel!! :)

NoNo said...

The first anonymous was me but for some reason it got messed up.

Adam said...

Much love for Buffybot as well. And I swear I don't comment on this site only to say how delicious Jude Law is, but never have I given so much thought to robot prostitution. I'd definitely put marzipan in his pie plate, bingo.

Fernando Moss said...

Love the love for the Buffybot, and I think SMG is really a very underrated performer... Buffy might always be her peak but she was very good in Cruel Intentions and great Southland Tales and I'm expecting greatness again in Veronika Decides to Die...

Plus is Whedon's birthday =)

Chris Na Taraja said...

Love that Maria dance.

how about Johnny 5 from SHORT CURCUIT

And ROBOCOP!

NoNo said...

Nathaniel, I wish u had seen this so that we could get a review. Bcuz the things I heard about this movie is just incredible.

Ben said...

Hopefully SMG will get some kind of recognition for her new show. I read an early script review from someone who said it was the best thing they'd read in 10 years. Then she'll get the Golden Globe she deserves. I'm rewatching Season 5 at the moment and saw "Forever" this morning. When she breaks down and says "Who's gonna take care of us?" to Dawn I become some kind of uncontrollable wreck.

Mikadzuki said...

I can't remember which WKW regular played the robot in 2046, was it Faye Wong or Carina Lau? Anyway, that one!

John P. said...

I'll second the love for Johnny 5.

Robert said...

Faye Wong and Carina Lau played robots (and humans) in 2046, though Wong's robot part was bigger.

(okay, that sounds 9 kinds of dirty).

NATHANIEL R said...

u funny.

maybe Faye Wong shoulda been on this list. I love the futuristic parts of 2046. I wish i loved the whole movie though. Inevitably it was going to be hard to follow up in the mood for love

VulcanNonibird said...

I quite liked Alien Ressurection - the 2nd best Alien IMO....

Next to that: Were is our Star Trek android Data? (-;

changetheworld360 said...

Man, I totally agree. Unfortunately, I'm in high school, and Transformers is the only movie my friends seem to give a damn about. That and Twilight. Ugh, sorry to complain.
I don't know, there's something about WALL•E that seems to stick in your mind long after you've seen it. I saw Up a few weeks ago, and while I enjoyed it, I kept thinking about how fantastic WALL•E was.

NATHANIEL R said...

vulcannonibird...

i hate DATA. that annoying pasty makeup. ugh. sorry :(

;)

Bailey said...

Oh God, False Maria TOTALLY deserves the number #1 spot, but I would've put the mechanical owl on the list before Buffy Bot. Then again, I always hated that show.

Vincetastic said...

Nice, another awesome list Nathaniel. I would have to go with the T-1000, best robot from the coolest action/sci-fi movie ever. Feel free to cross-post this on my site toptentopten.com, hopefully you can attract some of our users to your blog.