Walking backwards through a mirror into the future

Ok – this isn’t a film review (far be it from me etc)… it’s a loosely rotating bunch of (scrambled) satellite thoughts, revolving around Moon – which is a movie. It’s set on the moon.

But first watch this. It’s Bruce Sterling. He’s brilliant. He goes on for ages.But more about that later. First the trivia.

1) My mate made this movie. Or had something to do with the making of it. Whatever. In my mind it’s my mate’s movie. My Mate’s Movie Moon.

2) I pirated it.

I had to. I live in a small town in New Zealand – the local cinema is never going to show it and the local video store probably won’t stock it either. They don’t even have City of God. They don’t have Paris Texas. Their Science Fiction Section is about 1m Sq shelving, filled with the major franchises/block-busters. Welcome to the suburban desert. It’s Wallmart with the roof come off.

I guess I could have bought the DVD over the internet… if I could trust that the import would be geographically band-fucked, or that Sony weren’t going to try to infect my computer with another root-kit virus etc… but that’s not how the process works, and everybody knows it. We don’t buy DVDs of movies we haven’t seen, we buy DVDs of movies we already love.

File-sharing is acting as free-radio. It’s not something you can control, and if you try, you will become ugly and people will hate you.

3) I’m a sci-fi fan. We don’t watch sci-fi movies, we have relationships with them. I will probably see this movie about once a year for decades to come – on TV when it’s showing, on aeroplanes, when I’m stuck in hotels, from DVD stores to share with other people when I can… maybe even at the cinema to see what it’s like on a big screen. And I will blog about it.

Watching a file-shared version is part of this process. It’s part of the culture. Get used to it. Use it.

If you’re lucky, people will copy you – they will make spin-off films. They will dress up as you and turn up to conferences looking like dipshits, and people will take photographs of them and go LOL, and more people will see the dance-remixes of the LOL-cat version than the original film. History is repeated as farce, but if you haven’t reinvented yourself or moved on by the time that happens… then you are (deservedly) part of the farce, or a forgotten backwater thereof.

4) The other day, this film-group I’m tangentially involved with pointed me to a list of all the movies for sale last year at Cannes.

There are fucking hundreds of them! And these are NOT actually all the movies for sale at Cannes, these are just the British ones. Moon is on the list. “For Sale”? What does that mean? Do they sell it to a distributor or something?

So you spend years, millions and… whatever, making something in the hope that someone might buy it? Notice a potential, unfair imbalance of power here?

So the third thought… distribution: You don’t really appreciate just how much the traditional distribution bottle-neck is choking the culture until you start pirating – and find out that the movies available are a tiny tiny subset of those made. I think it’s fucking criminal to be honest. This top-down control is impoverishing.

5) So enough about that, back to Moon and Bruce Sterling.

I think this movie is a classic piece of neo-paleo-futurism… ie: Something that’s been made to look like yesterday’s idea of the future.

It’s classic (it says so at the beginning) because it’s a classic period – the 70s… the computers and technology all look a bit like 70s technology – it’s got that whole Kubrick vibe going – Apollo Punk. In the future people will do their houses up to look like this – once the Favela Chic thing gets truly underway.

It’s a byproduct of what I call The Science-Fiction Singularity – a not entirely new notion… that we’ve hit a point where we can’t believably predict what the future holds because it’ become too unstable. Our trends have gone exponential – so this film has cloning… which is predictable enough, but the other technology is all very linear and uni/bi directional. The social constructs (such as they are) are all from the uni-tasking broadcast-era rather than the massively networked era that we currently creating. It’s a film from the 70s – which is (in my opinion) the period when movies were still art – before the whole industry turned into an exercise in selling Genre, then Franchise.

The movie industry appears to be in a Emmerson Lake And Palmer phase… and it’s badly in need of some Velvet Underground… as a culture we don’t need films like Avatar (which make billions, and make everyone go “oooooh”), we need films that make everyone think “I could do that”.

I’m not sure if Moon is one of these so much as a (classic) homage to a period when classics were… classics… and maybe that’s what atemporality is about… you can’t tell if this film is from the future or the past. You can’t really tell if it’s even set in the future or the past – though it claims be the future.

This film comes from an era (spanning future and past) when what made a great movie wasn’t special-effects (or being pinned to the ground while angry dishwashers shit on your face for two hours) – but intelligent… premises? derivations? It’s from an era when exploration of the vocabulary of film was fairly virginal territory, so could throw up surprises in its own right. Angry dishwashers are so yesterday.

I think gloss is a negative now. We’re post-gloss. Moon is a post-gloss film that is constructed from the sets of 1970s classic sci-fi. It’s historical.

I really do hope there are loads more like this. Whole worlds of them. Cool film. Makes you think dunnit. Makes you think “what if, what if…”.

Now go back and listen to the Bruce Sterling thing again – and forget all this crap you’ve been hearing about “Free” destroying culture. It’s not – it’s just freeing us from the puppet-strings of middle-men… we haven’t figured out how to walk on our own yet, but we will. It’s getting easier.

Culture is like quicksilver – it will live. What you’re seeing now isn’t Culture being attacked by the Internet, but Culture itself using the Internet to attack the Yoke-Meisters. They protesteth, but then they would.

6 Comments » for Walking backwards through a mirror into the future
  1. Brilliant post, Nick.

  2. Alhazred says:

    Moon. Excellent movie, I watched it three nights in a row, thought it was the best science fiction flick I’d seen since Dark City or Event Horizon…

    The difficulties in finding rental vids: we joined an outfit called screenclick.ie They have a massive library, lots of oldies as well as new stuff, for a pittance (less than 15 yoyos a month) they send out DVDs in the mail, and when you send it back they send out the next one. I see that there is a company in the UK just started to do the same thing. Someone should set it up in NZ, I know I’m looking into doing the same for Finland….

  3. hapa says:

    hello! temporarily working from iphone and can’t see the sterling video. is it the slideshow keynote in germany?

  4. admin says:

    There are other videos here:



    But they look like embeds of the same video to me. It’s not a slide-show… it’s an actual video – there’s a link to a transcript at the bottom of one – but you don’t get the full sarcastic effect with text

    So is this the old iPhone refusing to do flash thing?

  5. hapa says:

    thx for links will watch. ya flash. slowly vid sites are html5-ing but not yet for embeds. also flash embeds all alt-link to adobe, instead of to mobile-viewable versions of the video if available. it’s messed up, man, like it’s one big hurry hustle man, not like a plan a man can understand & watch on the train, dig

  6. admin says:


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