Dune (2021) – The movie we’ve been waiting for.

Well, half of it anyway.

 For Halloween 2021 Roberta and I went to see Dennis Villeneuve’s  rendition of Frank Herbert’s Dune. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Dune is about the battle between two noble houses for control of ‘The Spice’, a drug which enables human pilots to navigate the mind-bending space facilitating travel between solar systems at speeds faster than light. This drug, which cannot be manufactured, only refined, is found naturally in only one place, on a desert planet known as Arrakis, home of giant sandworms and the indigenous people who worship them, The Fremen. It is a poignant story of a people, their land, and its natural resources being exploited by outsiders who feel they have the right simply because they have both the greed and the power to do so. Sound familiar?

 I first read the book when I was in grade 9 and like many longtime fans of the Dune series of novels, I have been sadly disappointed by previous attempts to bring it to the big screen. Based on the hype and foreplay the Internet was providing before the release, I went in with a guarded hope for a better outcome. Thankfully, I was NOT disappointed.

They Nailed It!

 Villeneuve’s life-long love of the story (he first read it when he was 13) and his dedication to getting it right comes through scene after scene. It is every bit as epic in scope as the novel, presenting for us Herbert’s iconic universe, where imperial rule and feuding noble houses have endured across not just thousands of years, but tens of thousands of light years as well. The desert vistas, the massive interstellar constructs, and the sheer bulk of the architecture make streaming this on your iPad totally inadequate. If you are thinking of seeing it, do yourself a favour and don’t wait for the streaming release, well – unless you have a 90-inch TV with 7.1 surround sound. This movie was definitely made for theatre release; it needs to be seen on as large a screen as you can manage in a room that will immerse you in the soundscape.

 A huge difference for those of us who endured the 1984 version is the cast. Dune (2021) is populated by an ensemble of actors who bring out not only the humanity of the characters, but their inhumanity as well. And, in the case of the House Atreides, their insecurities.

 I found myself fully impressed with Timothée Chalamet (Homeland, Call Me By Your Name) as Paul Atreides. The young heir to Duke Leto is torn by his duty to his father, his love for his mother, and his own feelings of inadequacy, all lathered in the realization he is being played like a pawn in someone else’s game. Chalamet navigates this storm every bit as well as Jason Mamoa‘s character, Duncan Idaho, pilots an ornithopter.

 Can it really be this good? Yes, but then, I’m biased. As I said I’ve been in love with this story most of my life. Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune are books I’ve gone back to numerous times. To see it made large with such skill is a joy to behold.

 That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, however. I want to address a couple of things that I think are responsible for many of the negative responses to the film I’ve seen on ‘anti-social’ media.

First off: This is only half a movie.

 That’s right; in fact, it says “PART ONE” right at the start and I think at least some of the people who hated the movie or found it boring seemed to have missed this point. The big reason the 1984 version failed (other than being underfunded and over-acted) was David Lynch tried to squeeze 600+ pages of novel into a two-hour movie. (OK, fine – it was 137 minutes. Still WAY too short.) Even Patrick Stewart couldn’t save it.

 Villeneuve doesn’t make that mistake. He spends three hours showing us the first half of the first book, and even then, choices needed to be made. So, if you are looking for the exciting triumphal climax and denouement, you’re in the wrong theatre. What you will get here is universe building, a bit of backstory, and establishing the crisis our hero must contend with. As noted, that’s why it’s called “Part One”.

Second:  This movie was made for fans of the book.

 I say this because Villeneuve’s doesn’t spend a lot of time on exposition. Now, too much exposition is indeed a bad thing; character voice-overs are best in small doses. However, sometimes the uninitiated need a little help making the transition.

 For example: (Kinda, sorta, but not quite spoiler alert.) If you’re coming at this cold, especially from a world where not only Sci-Fi but real life are so inundated with computers their presence is pretty much a given, it might help to understand that computers, as we know them, don’t exist in the Dune universe. Instead, human abilities have, over 10,000 years of civilization, evolved to the point where doctors can assess a patient largely by touch and sight alone (no scanners needed), those who manage vast financial concerns can roll their eyes into the back of their heads and perform complex calculations with the speed of your laptop, and interstellar pilots can navigate the hazards of faster-than-light space with only the mind-altering assistance of The Spice. The movie could communicate this fact a little better.

 Now, making movies for a niche market can be risky, and finding creative methods of exposition is certainly challenging; but then, when that market contains millions of individuals who grew up with Dune as part of their most formative years, a director might not feel the need.

One more thing.

 This is not so much about the movie Dune, but about film making in general. When are we going to get over this tendency toward “dark” cinematography? I get it, it’s a dark story with dark themes, but really, does that mean we can’t dial back the f-stop a little and let us actually see all those wonderful details you worked so hard on? Or is that the point? You cheaped out on the set details so we’re turning down the lights.

 In the case of Dune (tiny spoiler) floating light globes are the main source of lighting in many parts of the house/mansion/castle. Fine. I get it. But why do these high-tech lighting globes have the lumen output of the nightlight I have plugged into my bathroom outlet? “Film noir” does not mean closing the blinds and dimming the LEDs!

All that said…

 In the final analysis, there’s no such thing as a perfect adaptation, but I think this one comes really close. In fact, for all its limitations, the worst part of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One is the excruciating wait for Part Two in October 2023.

The Truth about Knowledge

“I think the Net generation is beginning to see knowledge in a way that is closer to the truth about knowledge — a truth we’ve long known but couldn’t instantiate. My generation, and the many generations before mine, have thought about knowledge as being the collected set of trusted content, typically expressed in libraries full of books. Our tradition has taken the trans-generational project of building this Library of Knowledge book by book as our God-given task as humans. Yet, for the coming generation, knowing looks less like capturing truths in books than engaging in never-settled networks of discussion and argument. That social activity — collaborative and contentious, often at the same time — is a more accurate reflection of our condition as imperfect social creatures trying to understand a world that is too big and too complex for even the biggest-headed expert.

“This new topology of knowledge reflects the topology of the Net. The Net (and especially the Web) is constructed quite literally out of links, each of which expresses some human interest. If I link to a site, it’s because I think it matters in some way, and I want it to matter that way to you. The result is a World Wide Web with billions of pages and probably trillions of links that is a direct reflection of what matters to us humans, for better or worse. The knowledge networks that live in this new ecosystem share in that property; they are built out of, and reflect, human interest. Like our collective interests, the Web and the knowledge that resides there is at odds and linked in conversation. That’s why the Internet, for all its weirdness, feels so familiar and comfortable to so many of us. And that’s the sense in which I think networked knowledge is more “natural.” ”

– “What the Internet Means for How We Think About the World” by Rebecca J. Rosen, January 5, 2012.

First published by The Atlantic.

via Google Reader.

Guelph Waste Management Now Includes Bomb Disposal

Has this ever happened to you? You’re surfin’ the net, trying to find the recipe for Glazed Turnips you saw on Canada AM, when you stumble across a recipe for a homemade bomb.

“Wow,” you think to yourself,  “is that ever cool! I wonder if they’re hard to make?”

Checking out the instructions you discover it’s much easier than you had previously imagined. Thinking this would make a great science experiment for the kids you’re homeschooling you downoad the pdf, print out the instructions and before you can say “homeland security” you’ve got a nifty little extreme-urban-renewal device complete with digital timer. Now what?

I mean it’s not like you intended to use it, right? You weren’t going to actually blow up anything were you?  Okay, for a moment you thought about your neighbour with the yappy little dog-wanna-be that barks at every bird, butterfly and snowflake that comes near it’s yard, but in reality you just built it to see if you could. Now you need to get rid of it. So what do you do? Where do you turn?

Well this year in Guelph, Ontario (and most other parts of the province I suspect) you need look no further than your brand new community phonebook from Bell Canada. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a phone book user these days, finding all the information I need on the web. In fact, I can’t even tell you exatly where ours is at home right now. However, when the new phone books arrived at the shop today, I took a few moments to flip through and check that they spelled my name right. (Oh Come on; don’t be like that! You do it too, you know you do.)

Right at the front of the book I noticed a rather large section on waste management, recycling and Guelph’s 3 bags-of-separation curb pick-up program. Now, let me say that I was somewhat impressed as it is the most thorough explaination of what goes where, when  and how that I think I’ve ever seen. There’s not only sections on what can go curbside in which colour of bag and what can’t; there is also a lengthy list of various corporations, businesses and organizations that will help you get rid of all the refuse of our overly consumptive lives that pose a threat to good ol’ Mother Nature and can’t be put curbside, including homemade bombs.

Section L8 Page 17 Guelph Phone Book

Section L8 Page 17

Yes friends, it surprised me too; but there it was, in Section L8 on page 17 of the Green Pages, complete with photo illustration (see pic at right) – a handy tip on what to do with Homeschool Science Experiment #235 –  drop it off at your Local Police Station!

And while you’re at it why don’t you take those unspent shotgun cartridges Uncle Fred left between the cushions of the sofa when he fell asleep after Thanksgiving dinner. Or better yet, if I may offer a suggestion, why not have your lawyer drop it off for you and avoid all those pesky questions I’m sure the officer on the front desk will have as you strive to be a greener citizen.

It certainly is good to know that all our bases are covered when it comes to Guelph’s Waste Management program. Why, even urban terrorists can do their part in creating a greener tomorrow. But then what else would you expect from a government as thorough and efficient as ours?

BTW.. did you also know there’s a line for reporting “bribes” on your income tax return?

Until next time…

To Much Time on Thier Hands

Okay,  I’m beginning to understand why the cattlemen in the US protested the introduction of sheep.  Shepherds obviously don’t have nearly enough to do.  This is weird on sooo many levels.

The floor is now open for attempts to connect this video to shepherding the Christian flock.  Best attempts will be acknowledged in a future post.

Until next time… try not to get fleeced.


Give It a Second…

Came across this video today at The Long Now Foundation.  It is a great commentary of increasing impatience with technology.

I’ll be the first to admit I have an obsession with technology.  There is little that gives me more satisfaction than finding the right technology to simplify a task.  But as Louis CK points out, I think my fascination is born out of the fact that I remember when we had the dial phones. I remember my aunt who was on a party line and I had to wait until the neighbour was finished before I could make my call. I remember going to Malton Airport in Toronto for an afternoon to do nothing other than watch the planes come and go, amazed that something that big and heavy could actually fly.

Yeah. I know. I’m showing my age. But that’s okay. I’ve waited a long time to be this old and experienced and I’m going to relish every minute of it. So have a little patience, it wasn’t all that long ago the cell phone in your hand was the stuff of science fiction.
Till next time… give it a second!