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An arbitrary ranking of movies about innovation

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MAY 26, 2017

The vague concept of innovation inspires a variety of visceral responses: it’s exciting, it’s confusing and yes, it’s scary. That last idea the fear of the future and messing with the “natural order” of things has been inspiration for a whole range of movies, ranging from terrible, Luddite-like fantasies to movies questioning humanity and its relation to science.

We’ve arbitrarily picked some of these movies to rank using our own unique rating system:

“The Imitation Game” (2014, Morten Tyldum)

Morten Tyldum’s “The Imitation Game” may be all about research, but this film is anything but innovative. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley star in this movie about the early beginnings of the computer and, well, it’s as boring as it sounds.

The movie’s drab tone and color palette do a serious injustice to Alan Turing (Cumberbatch), and that’s without even mentioning what’s been called the watering-down of Turing’s sexuality. The biopic manages to misfire on just about every theme it tries to touch on while doing a mediocre job at the no-one-understands-me-because-I’m-too-smart trope. Cumberbatch, who usually doesn’t fall into the Eddie Redmayne trap of playing every role the same exact way, does here. He plays Turing exactly how he plays Khan in “Star Trek Into Darkness” and, again, at the end of the day, “The Imitation Game” is just boring.

Rating: 0/5: Using something other than Pyrex on a hot plate

“Jurassic Park” (1993, Steven Spielberg)

This movie, which was just the latest in Steven Spielberg’s mastery of the blockbuster, captures the classic example of ambition gone too far. Simply put, “Jurassic Park” is scary as hell. It captures the public imagination to this day, with humanity continuously fascinated with the concept of altering life and death.  What counted as groundbreaking CGI for its time and what inspired the Universal Studios ride that literally left me speechless — in a bad way — when I was five is truly emblematic of the too-much-science-is-frightening ethos of its time.

“Jurassic Park” was a sort of remaking of the ideas central to “Frankenstein,” with scientists “playing God” by messing with DNA, humanity and extinction. Additionally, its comments on capitalism and consumerism, with the monetization of this success of science for a theme park, are always timely. What keeps this film at only a test-tube rating rather than the heights of the Bunsen burner is mostly that it spawned so many disappointing sequels.

Rating: 4/5: Test tube

“Ex Machina” (2015, Alex Garland)

Alex Garland’s directorial debut, which is so often called underrated that it’s finally properly rated, is nevertheless a marvel. The film centers on a Turing test, which tests the effectiveness of artificial intelligence, but also on the relationship between Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) and Ava (Alicia Vikander). Ava, a human-like robot, is the most complex, dynamic character in any movie on this list and Vikander fittingly delivers the best acting performance on the list.

The film is beautiful in terms of its exploration of humanity. Does biology make someone human, or is it personality and emotions? And if personality and appearance can both be eerily replicated, does it even matter?

Either way, the combination of music, dancing, acting — Oscar Isaac is a gem — and visuals makes “Ex Machina” just about the perfect film. Those visuals paradoxically benefit from the film’s small budget, as it avoids flash and camp, much like Ava, whose own form is low-key rather than being fully human.

Rating: 5/5: Bunsen burner

“Smart House” (1999, LeVar Burton):


The crowning achievement of Disney Channel Original Movies from the late 1990s and early 2000s, this film about a computerized house going rogue is clearly the best film about innovation — or anything — ever made. That may seem like a big claim, but good luck finding a movie that better balances humor, familial difficulties, love, motherhood, terror and the questions surrounding the extent to which science should be allowed to go.

“Smart House” does it all. It truly captures what it means to be human and, more importantly, it’s about a kid who wins a talking house that shoots fruits at the family and has nice alarms to wake everyone up. Plus, it’s creepy as hell. “Smart House” truly earns The Daily Californian’s esteemed first annual Graduated Cylinder Award and is a must-watch.

Rating: 11/5: Graduated cylinder

Contact Hooman Yazdanian at [email protected].

MAY 26, 2017