LUC Briefing 001: Robots

Welcome to the first Leamington Underground Cinema Briefing – a new bulletin that will be emerging every two weeks from LUC’s cold war era subterranean lair. Each edition will provide important, possibly life-saving, information on a particular subject or theme through the murky lens of films, cinema and LUC. This time we are looking at the clanking, oil-ridden world of robots…

i. The First Robot In Cinema History

houdiniTry not to have nightmares about the jarring mechanical golem that featured in The Master Mystery, a silent film starring Houdini. Apparently it was referred to as an ‘automaton’ because no-one had taken the time to invent the word ‘Robot’ yet. A likely story.

You can read plenty more about this anxiety inducing vision and see it in action over at Boing Boing

ii. The Robot Cameras Of Automavision

“One of the main reasons for using Automavision was to ensure the actors couldn’t use any of their usual tricks. Thanks to the randomised framing and audio settings, they had no idea of how the camera was going to behave and therefore weren’t able to try to show off their best side or steal scenes. (Von Trier’s original idea had been to hide the camera altogether and film through a double mirror)”


iii. Bjork Sex Robots

If you’ve watched Westworld, you might have had a strange reminiscence tugging away at the back of your memory during the title sequence – most likely because you remember this stunning Chris Cunning Video from years ago.


iv. Artificial Intelligence Is Probably Going To Ruin Movies For Us All

Fairly soon we are all going to be replaced by Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and all manner of invisible robots that live inside software code. This could have fantastic implications for your leisure time, but our inevitable journey towards a cinematic singularity has depressing implications for film fans. Hollywood is already using ‘intelligent’ software services such as Epagogix (crazy name, crazy guy), to decide which films it will make (hint: the same ones over and over again).

Perhaps even more soul-sapping is the idea that neural networks and A.I.’s can bang out a decent film script. A recent experiment proved that this is either a) a long way off, or b) we are all going to have to adjust our idea of what makes a film engaging, entertaining, worthwhile and enjoyable – because the result of said experiment, Sunspring, is terrible.


v. Rocky 4 – Post Organic Intimacy

As robots become more human in appearance – perhaps even developing realistic personalities and senses of humour – people are almost certainly going to want to start having sex with them. The cinema of science fiction has often depicted robots that people have wanted to form sexual relationships with despite knowing that they are not real. This bold new facet of human sexuality seems less extreme when the robot in question looks like Sean Young in Blade Runner, or Jude Law in A.I.

One film that really gets into the nuts and bolts of human/robot intimacy is the subversive 1985 movie, Rocky 4. Seemingly an appalling jingoistic pile of crap, Rocky 4 was actually a trojan horse for normalising the seemingly transgressive love between a man and a pile of metal and plastic. In the space of two scenes, the irascible trainer Paulie forms an intimate and profoundly meaningful relationship with a robot that looks like this:


vi. The Butter Robot

Cinema has often dealt with the difficult existential questions around robotics and A.I. Think of the replicants in Blade Runner, HAL in 2001 and that dolphin in Johnny Mnemonic.

Probably the finest and certainly the most succinct exchange on the matter took place in LUC’s favourite animated universe, between Rick Sanchez and his latest creation.

vii. Robot Actors Lost In The Uncanny Valley

Wikipedia says:

“In aesthetics, the uncanny valley is the hypothesis that human replicas that appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings elicit feelings of eeriness and revulsion among some observers. Valley denotes a dip in the human observer’s affinity for the replica, a relation that otherwise increases with the replica’s human likeness. Examples can be found in robotics, 3D computer animations, and life-like dolls among others.”

Really? This seemed almost flawless:


viii. Movie Robot Recognition Test

Time to prove your film knowledge skills – identify the films that each of these robotic characters appeared in. Fill in your answers on this form and we will select a winner from all those who get them all right to win an exciting prize.


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