The original idea was to post a list of movies protocol programmers would enjoy watching. Then I discovered that
Therefore, I decided to do something a little bit different. I’ll have an award night for movies I like and I think you will too.
First Category: Hacker movies
Hacking is probably the most exciting aspect of programming, so no wander movies use the hacking element for suspense. The bit old-ish but fun “War Games” (let’s call random numbers with our modem and start a nuclear war!); the excellent “Sneakers” (Robert Redford is a good example for the sex-appeal of a average programmer); the teen oriented “Hackers” (Angelina Jolie is again, an example of a the average female programmer); and the later “Swordfish“. These movies are direct decedents of the old caper or Heist movies, but computer work now replaces document forgeries. The plot is the same: a group of talented but morally questionable and colorful individuals takes on (or inadvertently provoke) a powerful individual, and after some hardships, emerge victorious. The good guy also gets the girl, and all that thanks to crafty people with handy knowledge of computer systems and security protocols. I love this job.
The award goes to “Sneakers“. The cast can’t be beat, the host of characters is colorful yet believable and a combination of the Holy Grail with the philosopher’s stone in a super hacker chip (which could actually exist) to boot.
The most underrated is “Hackers“. It’s a colorful and fun movie, if you do not try to take it seriously.
Second Category: Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence
Why group VR and AI to the same category? In both cases, representatives of one form of intelligence meet with representatives of the other form of intelligence. In “The Matrix“, humans and software coexist, with no real distinction between the two. The idea was already presented in “Tr0n“, where a “user” is sucked to the software world to battle with (and alongside) software. Nothing can be said about “The Thirteenth Floor” without spoiling it, but it again explores the difference between a simulated and real world. “Short Circuit” explores the meaning of a machine being alive (mainly the first movie in the series), way before “Wall-E“, and sneaks in some critique of militarism. “Blade Runner” takes a more gloomy approach to the same question: is manufactured life different from real life? Are manufactured memories different from real ones? Which is the exact same question in the center of VR movies – is a simulated form of reality different from the real reality? The exploration of the stitches between reality and imagination, the trust we can place on our own senses and what it is to be human have been recurring themes in movies and books for ages, all the way from Shakespeare’s “A midsummer night’s dream“. With virtual presence and 3D screens coming our way, these aspects of reality will become more and more relevant.
The award goes to “Blade Runner“. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.” Enough said.
The most underrated is “Short Circuit“. It combines family fun with cool robots, 80′s trash with philosophical questions of life. Who could ask for more?
Third Category: Isolation and Communication
Communication programmers all do something important for the world: they help people communicate. Communication bridges the gaps, brings people closer together, until, in a utopian world, physical distance will no longer matter. In “The Postman“, the postal service unites survivors in a post apocalyptic world. Another post apocalyptic world tries to communicate with the past in “Twelve Monkeys“, sending a messenger into the past and leaving cryptic messages to answering machines for the future to find. “Pink Floyd The Wall” explores the maddening effect of physical and social isolation. The effects of social isolation are explored in many movies. Once movies like “Metropolis” discussed the separation of social classes (working class and planners), Later they discussed the separation of individuals of different types. “The Breakfast Club” shows the walls between five high school students even as they are compressed into the same space. The internet revolution did a lot to blur these gaps, to allow communication without social classes, stereotypes, generation gaps. Video communications restore these gaps in many ways, because the better video terminals cost more, the higher bandwidth cost more and the face that appears on the screen carries with it gender, age and race bias. Are we heading towards isolation again? Time will tell.
The award goes to “Pink Floyd The Wall“. If you want a movie that won’t come out of your mind for quite some time, this is it. Together with Pink Floyd music and surreal animated sequences, it is more an experience than a movie.
The most underrated is “The Breakfast Club“. Two words: Molly Ringwald.
Last Category: Movies for testing video compression
“The Matrix” has been doing it for so long now that video lab rats know it by heart. Far be it from me to object – but really, are there no good alternatives? Any favorites in your labs?