Nuking the suspension of disbelief

In my favorite long read of the week, David Shechner of Overthinking It sets out to determine whether Indiana Jones could’ve survived an atomic bomb from the safety of a lead-lined refridgerator, as depicted in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Spoiler alert: Indy (and the franchise) wouldn’t have survived, in the real world. But exactly how Professor Jones would most likely meet his end is a much more enjoyable question. Here’s a tiny bit:

Sadly, the lead and steel shielding which the authors intend to protect their protagonist from ionizing radiation can itself become a source of it. While beta decay constitutes a relatively small portion of the average nuclear device’s output, what little sprinkle the Frigidaire receives it will transmute, in kind, into an X-ray bath for its inhabitant. It’s sort of like the way a Russian Sauna works, but instead of hot coals there’s a nuclear explosion, and instead of steam there’s a burst of X-rays, and instead of a wood hut it’s a Frigidaire, and also you’re dead. [Link sic.]

As additional evidence of Shechner’s scientific bona fides, he presents the whole analysis in the persona of the third reviewer. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a takedown of one of George Lucas’s late-career cinematic catastrophes so much since Anthony Lane wrote, in reference to Yoda’s diction in Revenge of the Sith, “break me a fucking give.” ◼

43 seconds

Mike D’Angelo of the AV Club, on 2001: A Space Odyssey, pretty much my favorite movie ever:

What makes the human beings in 2001 seem a bit less than fully human isn’t just the nature of the performances—it’s that every interaction among them is completely functional. We’re seeing people say and do whatever is required to achieve their objective at that particular moment, and nothing more. HAL, by contrast, demonstrates what we all recognize as neurosis. And while it’s mostly implied by his behavior, it does have one explicit manifestation: that refusal to answer Dullea’s summons for 43 seconds, followed by capitulation when it becomes clear that Dullea isn’t gonna shut up. That’s so human, it almost hurts.

Cane Toads!

Cane Toads: An Unnatural History is a film that seems almost engineered for geeky cult status. It’s an Australian documentary about one of the most graphic examples of an invasive species, the cane toad Bufo marinus, which was introduced to the continent to control cane beetle grubs. This didn’t work out exactly as planned – the extremely fecund toads have swarmed over northeastern Australia, eating everything they can catch, killing most things that catch them (they’re poisonous), and not eating cane beetle grubs.

The documentary describes this ecological disaster, and Australians’ wildly varied responses to it – from treating the toads as pets to slaloming across the pavement so as to road-kill as many as possible – with a sort of wry glee. Delightfully, it’s all on YouTube. Even more delightfully, there is a brand-new sequel, in 3D.

That’s right. Cane toads. In 3D.

No word on a U.S. general release date, but I’ll be keeping an eye out. This has me way more excited than Avatar ever did. In the meantime, here’s the first ten minutes of the original. Just imagine the added depth this will have, when you’re wearing the silly glasses in front of an Imax screen.


Creation, the first feature-length biographic film about Charles Darwin, is playing now at the Toronto Film Festival. NCSE’s Eugenie Scott got to attend a preview, and she likes it.

I believe it to be a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the public—for the good. The acting is strong, the visuals are wonderful, and it treats with loving care the Victorian details of the furnishings at Down house and other sites (such as Malvern), and the local church.

The film focuses not directly on the writing of The Origin, but instead on Darwin’s relationship with his devout wife Emma, which by every account I’ve read was uncommonly tender. Roger Ebert makes some remarks, too, though he’s waiting on a full review until the film is released. Which, unfortunately, hasn’t been arranged yet in the States. I think it looks really good, and it’ll be a crying shame if it doesn’t arrive stateside during the year of the Darwin Bicentenary.

Via GrrlScientist, who links to more reviews and the movie’s website [flash].

“There were a few flipper babies.”

The AV Club gives the under-appreciated Brain Candy its dues.

The Kids In The Hall’s ill-fated debut feature is closer in conception, ambition, and scope to Monty Python movies like Life Of Brian and Monty Python And The Holy Grail than the Saturday Night Live movies being churned out at the time by SNL Studios. Like Idiocracy,it’s less about a character or a set of characters than society as a whole.

Comedy doesn’t come much blacker than when one of your movie’s most quotable laugh lines is a crack about birth defects.

AV Club on Eyes Wide Shut

Via The Onion AV Club rehabilitates Eyes Wide Shut. I don’t remember much of the critical panning that accompanied the movie’s original release, and I didn’t see it till some grad-student friends and I committed to watch Stanley Kubrick’s major films in chronological order a couple years ago. But I agree with the review that it’s up to Kubrick’s usual high standards.

Given the choice, though, I tend to prefer 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Strangelove, which between the two of them account for my interests in evolution, hard science fiction, conscientious objection to war, and Peter Sellers.