“They’re trapped! Trapped in a soft, vice-like grip of robot lips.”

One recent news item deserves a post all to itself, if only because it gives me an excuse to post an image from a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Last Thursday, the Globe and Mail posted an interview with David Levy, author of Love + Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. The newspaper introduces it by stating: “In the book, he predicts that by 2050, men and women will be enjoying physical and emotional bonds with extremely lifelike, apparently conscious and remarkably suave robots.”

A couple of sample questions and answers:

Which is harder for people to imagine with robots: sex or love?

The love aspect. Most people seem to acknowledge that there are sex dolls that sell at high prices and people clearly enjoy using them, which is the start of the sexual functioning of robots. Since vibrators sell so well, clearly a male sex doll with a vibrating penis will sell better than one without. But I think people will have to wait until the middle of the century to experience true love with robots because conversation is one of the most difficult problems facing artificial intelligence researchers. . . .

Does the issue of consent come into it at all? Are sex robots anything more than just possessions?

Consent hasn’t really come into it much. Would it be rape if your robot said no? If a robot has consciousness, then I believe that how we treat it is important. If we treat a conscious robot in a negative way, then that sends a message that we believe it’s okay to treat conscious entities in that way.

Hmmm, I don’t think Bugs is interested in “loving” the “mechanical” female rabbit above. Maybe an image from a Star Trek episode — especially one from The Next Generation or later, when the franchise got used to the idea of Data and other artificial lifeforms becoming romantically attached and not just sexually involved with humans — would have been more appropriate for this post. But I don’t have any of those shows on DVD, so oh well.

I also don’t have the third season of Futurama on DVD, or else I’d have a picture to go with the quote that forms the title of this post. It’s taken from a robophobic instructional video that appears in the episode ‘I Dated a Robot‘.

This topic also brings to mind A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001; my BCCN review; my CT review), which featured Jude Law as a robot who provides sex and Haley Joel Osment as a robot who supposedly provides love. It’s been a while since I linked to the article that I wrote for the Vancouver Sun on that film, and on the question of whether robots can love — so here is that link again.

Newsbites: Tron! Galactica! Darkness! Siblings! Terminator! Desplat! Confucius! Rollers! Etc.!

Time to unload some more recent and semi-recent news items.

1. Jeff Bridges says he has been approached about appearing in Tron 2. Woo-hoo! — Collider.com

2. Nikki Finke reports that Battlestar Galactica, which was shooting its fourth and final season until the writers’ strike got in the way, may be one of several series that ends up being cancelled altogether, now that a “brawl” is beginning to brew between the studio and the actors whose careers have been put on indefinite hold without pay. — Deadline Hollywood Daily

3. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991), the documentary on the making of Apocalypse Now (1979), is out on DVD now, and the reviews are middling. Apparently the master was taken from a 16-year-old videotape, and thus the DVD looks no better than the VHS version. — Hollywood Elsewhere, DVDizzy.com

4. Films about adult brother-sister relationships are a rare breed, and somehow Laura Linney has managed to co-star in two of the better ones: You Can Count on Me (2000), which prompted me to write this article on cinematic siblings for the Vancouver Sun, and The Savages, which I saw at the local film festival a month or two ago; it begins its regular theatrical release November 28. So I was tickled to read that Mark Ruffalo and Philip Seymour Hoffman, her “brothers” in those two films, were both on hand to pay tribute to Linney at the AFI Fest last week. — FilmStew.com

5. McG, of all people, is still attached to direct Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins for release sometime in summer 2009. A videogame is already being developed to coincide with that release. — JoBlo.com, Moviehole, Hollywood Reporter

6. Alexandre Desplat is easily one of my favorite film composers these days — in the past 12 months alone, he’s written some great music for The Painted Veil, Lust Caution and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium — so I’m looking forward to the music he’s whipped up for The Golden Compass. A track listing for the soundtrack album is now online. — Play.com

7. The Confucius Foundation is teaming up with two Chinese media firms to make a series of 13-minute cartoons on the life and teachings of the legendary philosopher Confucius, who is apparently “undergoing a major revival in China these days.” The first of a projected 100 episodes is set to air in 2009. — Variety

8. The Squid and the Whale‘s Jesse Eisenberg and National Treasure‘s Justin Bartha will play “drug-dealing Hasidic Jews” in a “comic drama” called Holy Rollers. “The film, one of the first to emerge from the burgeoning ‘Jewsploitation’ genre, is ripped from true-crime headlines and follows an impressionable youth (Eisenberg) from an Orthodox Brooklyn community. He’s lured into becoming an Ecstasy dealer by a friend (Bartha) with ties to an Israeli drug cartel.” — Hollywood Reporter

9. Jean-Marc Vallée, writer-director-star of the Québécois hit C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005), is now directing Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria, a movie about the early days of the English queen who came to embody 19th-century Britain. Vallée has brought a number of key production crew members from Montreal, and he says it feels like “a French-Canadian invasion of Britain.” — Globe and Mail

10. The crackdown on movie piracy has begun: a man in Montreal has been arrested under the new Canadian law banning camcording in movie theatres. — Canadian Press

11. Violence in Baghdad has dropped as much as 77% since the “surge” began in February, so the locals are staging their first film festival in two years in mid-December. Most cinemas remain closed, but it is hoped that the festival will get people going to the movies again. — Variety

12. Sylvester Stallone explains again how John Rambo has lost faith in his country, God, and humanity in general when Rambo IV begins: “He realizes his entire existence has been for naught . . . Peace is an accident, war is natural. Old men start it, young men fight it, everybody in the middle dies, and nobody tells the truth. He says, ‘You think God’s going to make it all go away? What has he done and changed in the world? He has done nothing. We are an aggressive animal and will never be at peace.’ That’s how he feels.” The Christian missionaries who reach out to him for help “somehow touch the last remaining nerve in Rambo’s body”. — USA Today

13. New Line Cinema has set February 13, 2009 as the release date for its remake of Friday the 13th (1980). That happens to be my 4th wedding anniversary, and the 6th anniversary of the second date I went on with my wife-to-be. I have only seen the original Friday the 13th once, and it was with her. — ComingSoon.net

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days… if only!

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days — the Romanian abortion drama that won the top prize at Cannes six months ago, and is easily one of the best films of this year — may be running into some trouble, audience-wise, as it leaves the festival circuit and moves into more mainstream venues.

Jeffrey Wells, the Hollywood Elsewhere blogger who called the film a “masterpiece” a few weeks ago, says he has heard rumblings from within the Academy’s ranks that the film — which opens in the U.S. in January, during awards season — might not even be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film award:

“Some felt it was a masterpiece and others didn’t,” according to a publicist. The journalist says he heard that some complained that Cristian Mungiu’s film is “too slow” and that some “didn’t like the fetus on the floor shot.” The publicist says that “some complained about Oleg Mutu’s static camera work” as well as “some of the hand-held tracking shots.”

In related news, I was surprised today to discover that the film has already left Vancouver. It opened here two weeks ago and its first week was pretty standard — matinees, evening shows, the works — but then, in its second week, it was relegated to one screening per night at 10pm. And now, it’s gone. Yikes.

Fortunately, it seems to be playing still in Toronto and Montreal, and perhaps it’s playing in other Canadian cities as well. But I’m still a little shocked to see that it’s left my town so quickly — especially since I was planning to see it a second time before revising my review for an American outlet or two.

Robots infiltrate cockroach society

A story that was reported this week in the New York Times and the Associated Press, on robots infiltrating a group of cockroaches and influencing their behaviour, is as good a reason as any to post a couple of 10th-anniversary links to my review of Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997) and my interview with its director, Errol Morris. I haven’t watched the film in years, but I think of it often, and fondly.

Angels & Demons hit by writers’ strike

Variety reports that Angels & Demons, the “prequel” to The Da Vinci Code (2006) that was going to begin filming in February, has “become the first major casualty of the ongoing writers strike.” The original release date was set for Christmas 2008, but has now been postponed to May 15 2009 — two weeks after the current release date for X-Men Origins: Wolverine and one week before the current release date for James Cameron’s Avatar — because there were “insurmountable problems” with the script, which was written in a rush just prior to the strike. At the moment, the only actor attached to the film is Tom Hanks, no new start date has been set yet — and it is possible that the film could be postponed again if the actors’ and directors’ guilds go on strike in June.

Comings and goings.

Just a note before I return to all the errands and distractions that have been keeping me away from the blog for the past few days.

Assuming I can find my passport somewhere in the piles and piles of boxes that my wife and I are still unpacking, it looks like I will be in Los Angeles for a junket the weekend of December 1-2.

Four weeks later, on December 29, I will also be in Renton, Washington for the Hollywood Jesus Annual Gathering 2007, where I will be one of the speakers — as will my friend and colleague Jeffrey Overstreet, as well as several members of the HJ staff. I spoke at a similar event two years ago, and it was a blast. (And, hmmm, come to think of it, my wife was pregnant at that time, too.)

If anybody in either of those areas wants to meet, let me know! Just leave a comment below, or — better — write me at the contact address linked at the top of this page.