“Dirty Pictures” Giveaway
Aug20

“Dirty Pictures” Giveaway

I'm not sure what type of spam the title of this post is going to attract, but I thought it might also catch the eyes of folks who might otherwise skip over offerings from the Newscripts gang (who are not, by the way, the subject of the titular pictures). You might not be aware of it, but one little online corner of C&EN, known as Reel Science, is devoted to spurring discussion of how science is presented in film. Reel Science reviews new movies coming out in theaters and also recommends science-y films out on DVD. Jovana Grbić, a contributing editor for Reel Science, recently filed a recommendation for the documentary "Dirty Pictures" about psychedelics maker and garage chemist Alexander Shulgin. She suggested that we give away the screener copy she watched to review the film. So we came up with a little contest to decide who gets the screener. Reel Science has gotten woefully behind on Recommendations. You can see from the list here that there was a two-year gap between our last recommendation and "Dirty Pictures." So here's the contest: Suggest a film for us to recommend in the comments. Science doesn't have to be its main focus, but the flick should have some relevance to science or scientists; it can even be sci-fi. Also, the movie should be something we haven't already reviewed or recommended, and we should be able to get the film via Netflix or some other easy-to-access (and inexpensive) source. I'll select a winner by the end of the week and write up a recommendation of the person's suggested film (not by the end of the week, but sometime soon). We have only one screener, but we may still recommend other films from the suggestions, so you'd win our thanks, which is good too, right? UPDATE: Thanks to the folks who wrote in. I loved all of your suggestions, but we've only got one DVD, and that goes to Chemjobber. I can't believe we haven't already recommended "Lorenzo's Oil." I look forward to watching it and writing it...

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Reel Science Reviews Tron: Legacy
Dec17

Reel Science Reviews Tron: Legacy

This review is by guest contributor Jovana J. Grbić, Ph.D., the creative director of ScriptPhD.com, which covers science in entertainment and media, and who tweets as @ScriptPhD. It has been 28 years since the release of the groundbreaking science-fiction adventure "Tron," the story of Kevin Flynn (Bridges), a video-game programmer who gets sucked into the virtual grid of the very game he created, only to disappear forever. Flash-forward to a 27-year-old Sam Flynn (Hedlund): reckless, bored, apathetic, but a regular chip off the old techie block—a geeky rebel without a cause. Encom, the developer of the Tron video game, has now become a software hegemony—think Atari meets Apple—and has strayed far from Kevin's principle that software should be open to all. After sabotaging the company's grand operating software launch, Sam is visited by his father's old partner, Alan Bradley (Boxleitner), who has never given up on Kevin. Alan tells Sam that he's received a mysterious page from Kevin and begs him to go to the old arcade that he frequented as a kid. There, Sam discovers his dad's secret underground office and the portal that transports him to the digital grid of Tron, far different now from the utopia his father envisioned. Sam is first grouped with other deficient "programs" for inspection, outfitted with a sleek gamer's costume and disc (half memory-storage device, half weapon), and thrust into a world of brutal gladiator games where the only goal is survival and the rules change with each treacherous level. His father's avatar, known as Clu, is no longer the brave warrior and digital replica of Kevin. He is a brutal overlord who committed virtual genocide, hacked the program, and has ultimate plans to teleport to Earth to be with humankind. Sam is rescued from the grid by Quorra (Wilde), an advanced program not initially designed to go off the grid, as well as a self-evolved isometric being or "iso," which is an entirely new life form—the last surviving one. When reunited with Sam, Kevin recounts getting trapped in the grid after a violent overthrow by Clu and his partner, Tron. In addition to bringing about genocide against the isos, closing the portal to the outside world, they stole Kevin's original disc for their nefarious purposes. With the help of Quorra and Sam, Kevin has only eight hours to overthrow Clu's digital army before the portal closes again ... forever. "Tron: Legacy" largely has the feel of a two-hour interactive video game, aided both by the color-coded costumes and a catchy, techno-pop soundtrack by Daft Punk. Sci-fi fans, geeks, and gamers will be able to feast on astounding visual mastery, life-size...

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“Naturally Obsessed” Tackles Why Scientists Do Science
Jul09

“Naturally Obsessed” Tackles Why Scientists Do Science

I’ve had documentary fever recently. A few weeks ago, I took in a film fest, and this week, I wrote a recommendation of “Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist” for C&EN’s Reel Science feature. Although “Naturally Obsessed” was released last year in some places, it was recently made available on the website of New York’s public TV station, Thirteen. So you can now watch it anytime and anywhere (well, anywhere with an Internet connection)—for free. The one-hour film follows the trials and tribulations of graduate students in a molecular biology lab at Columbia University Medical School. And it gives viewers a good idea of what a regular day is like for a research scientist—something that is mostly a mystery to the general public. But this documentary isn’t just for audiences filled with nonscientists. There’s something in there for the experts as well. Maybe it’s grad school nostalgia, maybe it’s pride at having survived the trauma of the Ph.D. process, and maybe it’s inspiration to keep plugging away in the lab. In any case, it’s worth watching. Of course, some of the technical details are watered down for general consumption, and you’ll be left wanting to know more about what happened to certain students. But as Robert Townley, one of the grad-student stars of the film, told me, it’s nevertheless “compelling and fun and dramatic.” He added, “It’s just the beginning” for this type of science-based film. After writing the recommendation, I caught up with Townley and Lawrence Shapiro, the professor whose lab provides the backdrop for the film and who calmly advises the students in “Naturally Obsessed.” We talked about what it was like to do research under the lens of a video camera and how the documentary has affected their lives. When I tracked Shapiro down, he seemed just as busy as he appears in the film. “I’m still doing the same things,” he said. “I’m writing papers and grants and just running experiments.” But he pointed out that the film has opened certain doors for him, too. “I get asked to give certain kinds of talks that I never got asked to give before,” he said. For example, he’s recently been asked to speak at undergraduate institutions and at student seminars. “It’s put me in a position to focus a little bit more on the broad needs of science education and to do something about that,” he added. Townley, now a postdoc at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the Bronx, said that although the film hasn’t exactly made him famous, “every now and then, someone will” come up to him and say “Oh, I saw...

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“Splice,” A Reel Science Review
Jun04

“Splice,” A Reel Science Review

This post comes from guest blogger Bonni McCoy. She’s our resident movie critic, who often writes for C&EN’s online Reel Science feature. Did all of you “Newscripts” readers even know that the magazine reviews science-based movies? Here’s a little introduction from Bonni to accompany her review of the new movie “Splice”: Perhaps the plummest perk of being a reviewer in Reel Science’s Northeast Bureau is the opportunity to attend critics’ screenings in New York City.  These are the events, held a week or two before a movie’s premiere, at which powerful reviewers from such outlets as the New York Times, “Entertainment Tonight,” and Reel Science (natch) gather so they can watch films and then render the opinions that make or break them. The quality of the venues for these screenings varies widely, depending on which studio is backing the film.  I've found myself walking down a dimly lit hallway to join five other notebook-wielding cynics (I mean ... critics!) in a minuscule, poorly ventilated room.  “Splice,” which is being released nationwide today, is distributed by Warner Bros., a film giant with posh screening rooms to match.  Located on the ground floor of a building on West 53rd Street, the screening quarters include a lounge decorated with black-and-white photos of 1920s and ’30s Warner Bros. stars such as Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and James Cagney. There wasn’t any popcorn at my screening of “Splice” (there never is), but—at any rate—we critics can’t be swayed by the superficial trappings arranged by studio functionaries.  Ultimately, it’s all about the movie—and its science content.  Reel Science’s review of “Splice” can be found...

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