Blinded by Science

The scientist is one of the great movie archetypes. He's the person who can't look past his own idealism to see the corruption and destruction he has wrought. His sin is the sin of pride--and though he's rarely the main character, his actions inform the rest of whatever film he's in. I'm not talking just about the mad scientists, either. It's the actions of the good scientists that can have the most devastating effects.

Is there anything more noble than trying to feed the world? Of course not. And yet the scientists working toward this (and maybe a lucrative patent on a new strain of wheat) are constantly made the "bad guy" in documentaries like Fed Up! (Sat July 12 at 911 Media Arts). Biotechnologists are the goat in a movie that talks about how family farmers have been replaced by scientists, toxic pesticides (remember when a plague of bugs used to be the bad guy?) pollute the environment, and most of our food contains genetically modified ingredients. It's almost as though we're about to wake up the monsters who live under the earth.

Godzilla wakes up again for a Japanese Monster Movie Rumble (Wed July 16 at Linda's), starting with the 1973 gem Godzilla vs. Megalon, in which Godzilla teams up with Ultraman look-alike Jet Jaguar to tag-team wrestle a couple of giant nasties. Then Gappa gets angry in Monster from a Prehistoric Planet when a rich magazine publisher sends his team of scientists (every publisher needs a team of scientists) to search for rare animals, and they come back with a baby prehistoric bird whose angry parents soon follow.

Speaking of insane editors (the publisher's scientists tend to drive them crazy), the Grand Illusion kicks off its late-night Don Knotts Film Festival this weekend with The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Mr. Knotts plays a meek typesetter who wants to be a reporter. When he thinks he sees a murder in the local haunted house, the newspaper's editor (Dick Sargent from Bewitched) has him stay the night and write about it.

Maybe you saw and enjoyed Winged Migration, and you were curious as to what those scientist-filmmakers had made before. Well, you're in luck this weekend, because the Egyptian's midnight movie is Microcosmos. If these scientists seem harmless, they still suffer the sin of pride. This Koyaanisqatsi for the bug world has some beautiful close-ups of crazy bugs, but the lack of narration and simple connections to human behavior makes this little more than a stoner's paradise.

Finally, over at the Seattle Art Museum, the South Asian Reels series continues on Friday (July 11) with The Long Night (Raat Chali Hai Jhoom Ke), which is being pumped as Pakistan's first digital feature--but don't let that scare you away. In it is a different kind of scientist, an MIT-trained software engineer, who sets off to meet a mysterious woman on the eve of a big Microsoft deal and winds up discovering the dark side of urban Karachi. Whether they want to or not, scientists are always finding the dark sides of everything.