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Privileges challenged

No controlling a sex-charged robot

The emphasis was on AI as a force for good at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show that ended yesterday (January 11) in Las Vegas. According to Chris Smith, co-author of a 2006 academic paper called The History of Computing, the term “artificial intelligence” was coined by John McCarthy at a scientific conference held in 1956. Twelve years later, director Stanley Kubrick introduced us to the popular culture’s most tragic example of AI in his epic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the movie’s most emotionally fraught scene, Astronaut Dave Bowman unplugs the Discovery One’s renegade computer. “I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going,” it says as its self-awareness slips away. “. . . There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm afraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January, 1992 . . .” Although the news from the CES has been all positive, today is HAL’s birthday, an occasion that should be marked with caution and some fear. In the movies, after all, thinking machines seem to channel their creators’ darkest sides. Bad ‘bots (or AIs with renegade potential) are central to the four films being added to the Reeling Back archive today (with links to each following the Afterword to this posting). Channeling his mad programmer’s lust and violence, giant robot Hector becomes the serpent in the paradise that is the off-world research station in director Stanley Donen’s 1980 feature Saturn 3.


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Survival is Job One

Close encounter of an unpleasant kind

A director who writes his own music and screenplays, John Carpenter became famous with his third feature, the nightmare-inducing Halloween (1979). Born on this day (January 16) in 1948, he visited B.C. to shoot his Antarctic alien encounter epic, 1982’s The Thing

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Restoring the will to live

Ingenious use of hot air and fantasy

Honoured for her acting, writing and direction, Sarah Polley has always seemed older than her calendar years. Born on this day (January 8) in 1979, she was a feature-film star at eight, playing the 10-year-old Sally Salt in writer-director Terry Gilliam’s 1988 The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.


Choosing involves risk

Love not factored into his crime plan

In 1987, Rocky director John G. Avildsen offered audiences Happy New Year, his English-language remake of a 1973 French romantic comedy. It was OK, but no classic. We still prefer writer-director Claude Lelouch’s original, La Bonne Année


Team takes the gold

My Blog; Your Guide to What's New

Baby, it was cold outside! On this day (December 28) in 1968, 9.7 centimetres (3.8 inches) of snow fell on the Chicago area. The highest daily dump of the white stuff of the entire year, it might have been nature’s warning to a young couple getting married on that day that the road ahead was less than clear.



A DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES is the Internet address of Michael Walsh, a Canadian living in Vancouver, British Columbia.

I spent my working life as a newspaperman. While others covered the waterfront, I specialized in movies. As a film critic, I published my views in newspapers and magazines, on radio and television, at conferences, conventions and in the occasional courtroom. It was my good fortune to cover 30 of the most exciting, innovative years in screen history (1965-1995).
Retired, but not inactive, I've launched Reeling Back in in order to recall and, perhaps, make sense of it all. Eventually, it will grow into an archive of the nearly 6,000 films I've reviewed to date. Because everything old is news again, each posting will include a note connecting these particular movie memories to the here and now.

And, yes, I intend Reeling Back to offer new material, including web-log commentary, reviews of current pop culture and additions to my own "works in progress" — four book-length projects still in the notebook phase.

From Will Shakespeare to Marshall McLuhan to Joss Whedon, the great thinkers have all reminded us that we live in a world of wonders. In this small corner of cyberspace, I'd like to share some of the wonders that I have seen.