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R.I.P. Ray Bradbury

When you say Ray Bradbury the memory of another Golden Age comes back to haunt. One that has just ended when his last legend died. I know, I know, Jack Vance is still alive. And so are others, like James Gunn, but they are familiar faces only to the fans of Science Fiction, whereas Bradbury, Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Dick are familiar to everybody, through their books and movies. Today everybody knows about Asimov’s Foundation or I, Robot, Clarke’s and Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Dick’s Blade Runner, Minority Report or Total Recall or Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles or Fahrenheit 451. They are just part of our world now. If anything, each of these masters predicted some facets of our future. Clarke made lots of predictions about the Space Colonies, Space Flight and Space Elevator. Asimov predicted social networks, created robotics out of nothing and wrote some of the most beautiful space opera about the rise and fall of Galactic Empires. Heinlein predicted the current industrial-military complex that has grown in United States. Dick, was maybe the only one interested in the human facets of the problems, and his works are mostly philosophical in nature, but no less important, because in today’s networked world, identity and privacy are extremely important. As for Bradbury, it’s not just the Martian colonization that we should thank him for, but also for his warnings related to the world without books. His fantasy works inspired an entire generation of writers, from Stephen King to Neil Gaiman. Thank you, Mr. Bradbury! Golden Age ends here. The first one at least.
Ray Bradbury with George and Laura Bush

June 7, 2012 Permalink

A Golden Age – Sustainable living, space and other frontiers

A thousand years from now people will most likely remember this year, and this last week in particular, not for the Facebook IPO or Zuckerberg’s wedding, but for the successful launch of the first private space flight: Space X Dragon. Ten years since its launch, the company of Elon Musk, former co-founder of PayPal, managed to launch the first private capsule without men on board into space. Another PayPal Mafia member, Peter Thiel, has gone on to fund floating islands. Others have launched hundreds of companies. More than any other company’s former founders or employees, the ones that came from PayPal know how to make a stand and create something beautiful. Aim for the stars seems to be their motto. This generation of dreamers more than anything, has created something that their parents hardly dreamt of. We are not that far from Gerard O’Neill’s famous space colonies, even tough many will say we don’t need them. That’s up for debate. What I admire most about Elon Musk is his vision, his ability to fight for his dreams and to follow them to the stars if needed. He is not the rock superstar that Steve Jobs was, but he is able to create and sustain billion dollar ideas out of thin air. Solar City aims to provide energy from sustainable sources to home owners, Tesla Motors will start selling electric sports car, and Space X will reach for the stars. If anything, Musk is not the new Tesla, or Jobs, but a man who can easily act as both of them, which is a rare feat in itself. It is nice to see us going back to space and resurrect dreams from the ’60s or ’70s. It almost feels like a new Golden Age. I only wonder how long will it take this time? 10? 20? 30 years? 30 days? Because if we can be sure of something in today’s world, then we can easily be sure of the fact that golden ages don’t last long.
Elon Musk
As other companies led by such luminaries as Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame, or Richard Branson of Virgin fame will follow, we feel a new shift is approaching. This shift will give wings to teenagers. They will no longer dream to be just computer geeks, but hopefully will go back to hard engineering, physics and drawing boards to finally create the world their parents dreamed of. Should we move to Florida instead of Silicon Valley? I mean, of course maybe they will not move here to work for NASA, but these space companies will provide the next gold rush. A gold rush of gargantuan proportion that is, because now we are talking about the whole space: asteroid mining (gold anyone?), terraformations, space hotels, space colonies and all the other things we barely dared to dream about. Buy your house now, as tomorrow it might be too late or too expensive. Welcome to Space!

May 23, 2012 Permalink

Back to Basics!

After a long break we are back! Back to business, and back to basics! We start today with the ambition to deliver visions of the present and of the future in a clean and simple manner. We also hope to provide you with a forum for your innovative ideas and bring you to our pages through interviews, profiles, and even short documentaries. Stay tunned!

May 22, 2012 Permalink

Awards Season 2012

We are back from vacation. There are lots of news, so we will just start with Awards Season 2012.

GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS, January 15, 2012
Best Drama – The Descendants
Best Comedy/Musical – The Artist
Best Animated Film – The Adventures of TinTin
Best Actor in a Drama – George Clooney, The Descendants
Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical – Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture – Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Actress in a Drama – Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy – Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture – Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Director
 – Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Best Screenplay – Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
Best Score – Motion Picture – The Artist – Ludovic Bource
Best Original Song – Motion Picture – “Masterpiece” – Madonna
Best Foreign Language Film – A Separation, Iran
Cecil B. Demille Award – Morgan Freeman

Best TV Comedy or Musical – Modern Family
Best Television Series – Drama – Homeland
Best Mini-Series – Downton Abbey
Best Actor in a TV Drama – Kelsey Grammer, Boss
Best Actor in a TV Musical or Comedy – Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Best Supporting Actor in TV Series, Mini-Series, or Made-for-TV Movie – Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Best Actress in a TV Drama – Claire Danes, Homeland
Best Actress in a TV Musical or Comedy – Laura Dern, Enlightened
Best Supporting Actress in TV Series, Mini-Series, or Made-for-TV Movie
 – Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Best Actor in a TV Movie – Idris Elba, Luther
Best Actress in a TV Movie – Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Best Picture – The Artist
Best Director – Michel Hazanavicius, THE ARTIST
Best Screenplay – Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, MONEYBALL
Best Actress – Meryl Streep, THE IRON LADY
Best Supporting Actress – Jessica Chastain, THE TREE OF LIFE, THE HELP, TAKE SHELTER
Best Supporting Actor – Albert Brooks, DRIVE
Best Cinematographer – Emmanuel Lubezki, THE TREE OF LIFE
Best Non-Fiction Film (Documentary) – Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Best Foreign Film – A Separation
Best First Film – J.C. Chandor, MARGIN CALL
Special Award – Raoul Ruiz

The Artist
1. The Artist
2. A Separation
3. Drive
4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
5. The Tree of Life
6. We Need to Talk About Kevin
7. Melancholia
8. Shame
9. Margaret
10. The Descendants
The Attenborough Award:
We Need to Talk About Kevin
A Separation
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Asghar Farhadi – A Separation
The Virgin Atlantic Award:
Andrew Haigh – Weekend
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Anna Paquin – Margaret
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
Sareh Bayat – A Separation
Michael Fassbender – A Dangerous Method, Shame
The Moët & Chandon Award:
Olivia Colman – The Iron Lady, Tyrannosaur
Craig Roberts – Submarine
The Sky 3D Award:
Maria Djurkovic, production design – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Dilys Powell Award:
Nicolas Roeg

January 22, 2012 Permalink

Game of Empires – The Best TV Series of 2011

This was not an easy year for those who have not seen ’80s Italian Mafia series La Piovra. Even if we like it or not, the year’s most interesting moments in television were those related to the death of several major characters. We will not deliver you too many spoilers, but you will know what we are talking about when we tell you the name of the series: Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and least but not last Two and A Half Men, the Charlie Sheen version. Almost all the shows killed important characters in the last episode of the season. The prize for originality goes to Fringe, for a true revelation: they didn’t simply killed one of the main characters, they completely deleted him from the history! If that’s not cool, than what is?
Without many warnings about what you can see in the shows, here are the trailers and some words about the best of them.
Game of Thrones – This is the equivalent of The Lord of The Rings or Harry Potter movies for television. The most surprising aspect is that we don’t notice a big difference in production values. If that’s not enough to make you interested, let us add some other details: they kill what appeared a major character by the end of this first season, they present a lot of sex scenes with actresses like Lena Headey (known from 300 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) or Emilia Clarke, and they will have to do at least 7 season to show us the whole story from the books by George R.R. Martin, and the most impressive battles are yet to come.

Boardwalk Empire – When Martin Scorsese directs the first episode from a series created by a Sopranos alumni you know you’re in for a feast. And what a feast this is! Simply put, the best television show ever. Watching Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano and Mayer Lansky’s evolution is a dream come true. For all of those still fascinated with the bootleggers era, Prohibition, gambling, risky businesses, crime, mafia, and the history of immigration this is a must watch. Did I mentioned Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson? Well that’s just part of the show that’s every bit as impressive as Rome.

Breaking Bad – Considered to be the best TV show today. Well this is a position for series like Twin Peaks, The X Files, Sopranos, Lost, Prison Break. Need we say more?

Borgia – This is not the Showtime – Jeremy Irons version, but the Canal + version with unknown cast done by some of the producers of Rome. Probably the best European show of the last years. Too bad we have to watch two identical shows. It’s just the POV that is different between the two productions.

Fringe - Best season finale of the year. They simply erase a character from history.

The Big Bang Theory – Best geek comedy. This year Johnny Galecki gets the Golden Globe nomination he deserves.

Californication – Our favorite writer. We can’t write about him. You just have to watch it. Here is the trailer for the next season.

Modern Family - Ed O’Neill lives the life he just dreamed about when playing Al Bundy. Now he has the wife that’s 20 years younger and all the money he needs. Enough gags to get lots of awards.

Episodes - Matt LeBlanc’s first serious role after Joey from Friends and Joey Tribbiani. It is a short show, but one that will make you laugh a lot.

How I Met Your Mother – It’s like a soap, but addiction it’s hard to cure.

We also had to watch the last hours of some of our favorite shows, so R.I.P. Entourage.

December 18, 2011 Permalink

Comics and Spielberg [Best Movies of 2011]

This is the third article in the series about the best movies of 2011.
The time when Jack Kirby or Stan Lee were kings of the comics is gone, but their legacy will always be present on our screens. The reason is simple: as long as the studios will have the rights to their characters they will need to make movies otherwise they will loose their rights. This is why we will always have Batman or Hulk reboots.
Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby was given a new life with the help of Kenneth Branaugh, famous for the huge number of Shakespeare adaptation. The Norse god is the hero of the best comics adaptation of the year. The cast was almost perfect (Chris Hemsworth as Thors, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Natalie Portman as Thor’s love interest, and so on) and the 3D spectacular (not Hugo level, but still convincing). The 3D fights have been a delight. The only minus comes from the love story, but it’s hard to present everything in 2 hours and still be convincing. Choosing an almost unknown actor for this part was a trick that worked. We are eagerly waiting for The Avengers as Loki, Thor’s evil brother will be back on top form.

Jack Kirby’s other famous creation, Captain America shined only because of special effects and some veteran actors like Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones, while X-Men: First Class will be remembered primarily because it was one of the 4 Michael Fassbender movies that were launched this year.
The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of The Unicorn is another 3D marvel. The Herge comics adapted by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are the first serious attempt at a 3D motion-capture done by 2 great directors/producers. The next movie in the series will likely be directed by Peter Jackson. Herge himself appointed Spielberg to adapt his series after The Raiders of The Lost Ark was compared to his books. He made no mistake, but of course given the different medium, Tintin is not exactly the one from the comic books. The adaptation is not a page to page translation like the French movies that feature another similar hero: Corto Maltese (I really want to see a Corto Maltese movie done by Spielberg, but this is unlikely to happen). No spoilers here! It’s best to see it as it is! Daniel Craig steals the movie.

We can not say anything about War Hero yet, since we haven’t seen it (will be launched by Christmas), but the trailer looks great. It’s definitely one of the best movies of the year. Might even steal the cinematography prize from Hugo, even tough it’s unlikely.

Since we mentioned Spielberg you should also see another movie he produced: Super 8. Maybe J.J. Abrams ruined the ending by doing it an E.T. homage, but the movie is still easily one of the top 20 movies done this year. No spoilers on this one, as it really is best to see it when you don’t know what happens.

I know apparently you don’t see any connection between the movies that we mentioned except for the fact that some of them are based on comics, and the other ones have something to do with Spielberg, but Spielberg and comics always wanted to bring to light the best of us. And both try to speak to all audiences, from 5 to 500 years.

December 7, 2011 Permalink

We’ll Always Have Paris, City of Lights [Best Movies of 2011]

This is the second article in the series about the best movies of 2011.
We are not talking about Casablanca here, but about two special movies which definitely explain cinematographer’s fascination for the City of Lights. The quality of light was one of the reasons why Hollywood became the top spot in this industry. Anyone who read a book about the beginnings of this city knows that. It wasn’t about the gold rush, but about the quality of light. And what other city in the world could give us magnificent light at any given hour if not Paris? The fact that Woody Allen’s career was rebooted in the moment he escaped from New York (remember Match Point) is the main reason why the comedian started to travel around the globe for his next movies. Midnight in Paris is not just another Woody Allen movie set in another foreign city, but probably his best movie since Match Point, if not ever, because what he achieves here is more than a declaration of love for this city, his culture and being an expat in the ’20s in the City of Lights. It is quite possibly his best looking movie and contains what I call A Poetry of Light, the reason why movies have always been successful. Because what else are movies if not a poetry of light? Or a poetry of dark (for the horror movies or thrillers)? The dynamic shadows, the lights, the different angles from which you see the buildings, the movements, and many many other small ingredients like these that help recreate specific scenes and help you walk through that magic spaces are the ones that transform this movie into our grandmother’s cake, the best cake we ever tasted. It’s not Owen Wilson or Rachel McAdams that are worth watching in this movie, but the city itself and those shadows and lights that play over it. Midnight in Paris should at least take the prize for Cinematography if not for the Best Picture.

Now if we wouldn’t have had the other big movie set in Paris, I would have said that Midnight in Paris was the best yet, but a 3D movie coming from Scorsese can not go unnoticed. So here it is: Hugo. Like Allen, Scorsese needs no introduction. We have all seen at least The Departed and GoodFellas, if not Raging Bull or Mean Streets. When he decided to make Hugo, he didn’t do it to play with 3D, but to pay an homage to one of the first great director this art ever had (George Melies) and also because he is deeply involved in the restoration of old movies. He pushes the art further than ever before and gives us quite possibly the first 3D masterpiece. It’s bittersweet knowing that it took precisely 58 years for this to happen (believe it or not, the first 3D movie appeared in 1953!), but in the end it had to happen. If you liked movies like Harry Potter or The Bicenntenial Man, than this movie is definitely for you. Based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (yes! the nephew of that great producer), the movie tells the story of an orphan who discovers cinema and Melies automata and movies (we don’t want to spoil anything :) – this is simply a movie you have to see, if for nothing else than at least for the fact that is the first who truly succeeds into adding that third dimension to cinema). I would say Best Picture, but there are still contenders like War Horse that haven’t been launched.

While it’s not connected with Paris, The Artist is a silent movie (yes! silent movie!) done by a French director (Michel Hazanavicius) with a French star (Jean Dujardin). It’s not about Paris, but it is also about the lost art of black and white silent movie making where everything had to be transmitted through images because the titles might have been annoying. It was received very well in Cannes and it already has Oscar buzz. In fact because of this, we can almost assume this will be the year in which the Academy will offer the Best Picture Award as an homage to the grandmasters of the past.

Since the object of desire for New Yorkers seems to be Paris this year, we should mention that the best movie about New York is based on a Phillip K. Dick story and is called The Adjustment Bureau. We will not ruin you the pleasure to watch the best seduction scene of the year, and an unlikely but extremely good thriller.

So Paris is not just the City of Lights, but also the Muse for two of the most technical directors living today (I know you wouldn’t think about Allen this way, but the guy has done virtually tens of movies based on the same script – nevrotic Jew writer who lives in New York and has problems with women – until he diversified in the last ten years). Must be something with the light. It’s definitely the light. Can’t be something else. We are talking about real cinema here. And from the Lumiere brothers and Melies until today’s Allen or Scorsese, we can sincerely say that thanks to the cinema we’all always have Paris.

December 4, 2011 Permalink

Drive at the Movies [Best Movies of 2011]

This is the first in a series about the best movies of 2011.
This is not the best years at the movies, but even so it has his highlights. Obviously one of the trends worth exploring was driving. Unfortunately no 3D racing movie won our hearts and there was no Need for Speed movie yet, but that’s not a problem. The Fast and Furios franchise continues. As we remember it even delivered its best episode since the first and the first blockbuster of this summer (not that it was a great summer, but still). For a 10-year old franchise it’s quite an achievement. Many franchises die at their 2nd or 3rd trial. Not in this case. Which is nothing short of a surprise since the original was a sort of remake of the Keanu Reeves / Patrick Swayze vehicle: Point Break, by Kathryn Bigelow (the first woman to take a Best Director award). The addition of The Rock to a star crowded cast that already has Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Gal Gadot and others, transformed this into the next The Expendables (even more so if we have Michelle Rodriguez back and Jason Statham on board in the next movie), but unlike that movie it was loaded with lots of humor. It was maybe the best of the series because it moved from fast cars to heist movies, and we always adore the likes of Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job. Fast Five is definitely one of the best movies of 2011, and probably the only action movie that deserves to be on the list of the best movies.

If we included Fast Five on the list it was only for its action packed scenes. Another serious movie delivered the art. Drive, the Ryan Gosling / Carey Mulligan vehicle presented us with an almost Clint Eastwood Man with No Name character, that rarely speaks and drives like a mad man. It just happens that the look of the movie is somewhere between Stanley Kubrick and Michael Mann, which is enough to add it to this list. It reminds us of the L.A. from Collateral. The city is a silent character, just like the driver. And if we add some unfinished business with the mob and some scenes that pay an homage to the ’70s and the ’80s unfinished mafia business movies, we got ourselves with a recipe for something worth watching. You might not like it, but the visuals are between the best ones we have seen this year. We already mentioned Kubrick. That should be enough. Go see it! Gosling might get an Academy Award nomination for his part.

Cars 2 is not as funny as the first part, but it is a Pixar movie, so we will add it to this list since it is one of the best driving movies of the year. It also leads us to the next set of movies. Can you guess what they contain?

December 3, 2011 Permalink

Goodbye my friend, it’s hard to die: Part 2 – Flex goes open source

Adobe returns with another shocking news: Flex, another Flash product, goes open source. It will be continued by the Apache Foundation. While this might be a smart move, it clearly signals Adobe’s intentions to move out of the Flash ecosystem.

Once the only platform that allowed use to write once, run anywhere, the Flash ecosystem had several great tools:

  • the Flash Player – usually an Active X browser plug-in or a simple plug-in for any browser.
  • the mobile Flash Player – the mobile version of the player.
  • the Adobe Flash editor – the tool that allowed you to author Flash content and create swf files
  • Flex – an Eclipse-based Rich Internet Applications (RIA) editor that offered controls similar to those used to author desktop applications
  • Flash Catalyst – a tool for creating advanced GUIs for RIA
  • Flash Media Server – a server for delivering media content
  • DRM and codecs – were necessary to deliver video through Flash
  • A series of products like Flash Paper and others
  • A series of Flash-like products, decompilers, and RIA tools inspired by Flash which are used to output content into swf files.
  • Now that at least 2 major components are discontinued, the faith of the whole ecosystem is in doubt. This can be the beginning of the end for the Flash ecosystem, but for all the programmers who worked with Flash, the time is not lost. Many of the features introduced in HTML 5 were inspired by Flash, so this new technology is not only the deathly enemy of Flash, but also it’s true heir. If you ever wondered why HTML 5 it’s called like that since most of the new features are in JavaScript, rather than in the new HTML 5 tags, than you are already in the HTML 5 developer’s club and you know that the most important part of the new specs is JavaScript which was the basis for Flash’s ActionScript (as ECMAScript specification).

    November 17, 2011 Permalink

    Goodbye my friend, it’s hard to die – The Death of Mobile Flash

    It’s almost one week and it’s hard to realize that the inevitable eventually happened. And it happened sooner than many would have tought it would happen. It was just common sense that in order to escape from mobile development hell, one would have dump the may platforms like Flash, J2ME, and so on, and focus on a single platform: HTML 5. Of course we are only talking about development packages here, not about operating systems, but the thinking should be the same: when having to deal with thousands of devices and configurations, it’s best to keep things simple and open-source. This is the single most important reason why HTML 5 won the hearts of many so fast.

    Adobe took this decision in order to focus on mobile HTML 5. They already made a Flash like interface for one of their products: Edge. Adobe Edge has all the bells and whistles that once belonged to Flash: elements, object, stage, timelines, triggers, events, transitions, etc, all of them implemented in native JavaScript. It’s not too late for them to win this market. In fact if done right, Edge has the chance to provide the same web domination Adobe used to have with Flash several years ago. It’s just that unlike Flash in the early 2000s, this tool has a lot of competition from simple libraries like JQuery (which it already integrates quite nicely), D3, Popcorn, and many others. But by far, from a developer’s point of view, the biggest competitor is one that has not yet been released, and it’s not really focused on animations: Yahoo! Mojito, a tool that allows you to write the same code for server and client, a promise that is still the Grail for web applications, even tough it’s already several decades old. The Write Once, Run Anywhere has been the Java mantra for almost two decades, but Flash was the only technology to provide it for real. Today, by giving the mobile Flash the axe, Adobe will join a dying Yahoo! in the quest for the new web domination.

    November 14, 2011 Permalink

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