Periodical 13

Image ecology and my top 10 science fiction films.

Hello from warm Vibeland, where we are enjoying a glass of wine, a great record on the stereo, and skillet-roasting a nicely seasoned chicken surrounded by root vegetables. All is well.

I’ve promised to myself to only included dithered images this year, seeing as they are often a tiny fraction of the size of the picture of dinner I inserted at the top of this page. It’s truly amazing, when you take a moment to think it over:

  • Straight from phone .JPG: 3,038,179 bytes
  • Resized .JPG: 539,587 bytes
  • Resized .GIF: 41,916 bytes

That’s an astonishing scale, isn’t it? The dithered GIF is a much smaller 8% of the resized .JPG, which is 18% the size of the original. In other words, the “weight” of the original image, which I could easily have embedded here, is worth 72 of my dithered GIFs. That’s probably more images than I’d upload to my website in an entire year.

Beautiful pictures of roasted dinner notwithstanding, I actually love the aesthetic of a dithered image. I love the way dot-density can describe so much detail; it’s computer pointillism. Seurat would approve, I think.

I was perusing a recently updated list of the top 150 science fiction films of all time from Rolling Stone the other day and decided that I’d come up with my own list, but much smaller.

My top ten:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Children of Men
  • Contact
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Blade Runner
  • The Matrix
  • La Jetée
  • Existenz

At this moment, this is the order — descending from the top. However, I chose a bullet list over a numbered one because I know that given the day or moment, I could easily reorder a few of these.

No one really needs to defend their preferences, but I do feel it’s worth mentioning a few points toward my rationale. First of all, yes, my top film is probably everyone’s top film. All I can say is it’s that good. It transcends many of the films in my own top ten purely on the basis of its craft, risk-taking, and art. As for the rest of the list, my requirements were to represent films that grapple with the themes that I think are essential to science-fiction: awe, discovery, identity, time, suffering, and the strange.

I could probably have chosen any number of Cronenberg films for my list, for example, but I think Existenz is such a perfect visualization of the clash of biology and technology. Contact is not nearly as tonally consistent as, say, Children of Men, but boy does it capture the wonder of discovery and the fears we let get in the way. Blade Runner has to be here for its incredible achievement in world-building, but I also have to admit that I don’t always enjoy watching it; I often even find it boring. But when I just let myself watch it to visit that world, I find little to complain about. A.I. is criminally underrated, and I think its several endings and tonal clashes are features not bugs. La Jetée is a thousand times better than its remake, 12 Monkeys, which I find worse and worse every time I watch it. The Matrix has to be here, for me, as it was an accessible version of the philosophy-nerd’s Brain in a Vat thought experiment.

Some honorable mentions:

  • The Thing
  • Stalker
  • Minority Report
  • Back to the Future
  • Primer
  • Annihilation
  • Logan’s Run
  • Total Recall
  • Strange Days
  • Sunshine
  • Jurassic Park
  • The Time Machine (1954)
  • Dark City

Ok, so what have I left out? Any grievous errors? Email me at .

Written by Christopher Butler on January 7, 2024,   In Log

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