Friday, April 14, 2017

Jason goes to SFFILM--Day 6

Most days, with my day job, I'll only be able to see one film per weeknight. But Monday was special. I wasn't going to miss the first show, BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY. Especially since Mr. Nye himself was there. Now most of the audience were fans of his show when they were kids. Or there were older fans whose kids were fans of his show. But I'm in the in-between generation where I was a fan because I watched his show in college--he had a pretty big following at Caltech. So I knew most of the science he was teaching, and either enjoyed his show ironically, or for the genuine entertainment value, or for just how freakin' cool it is that someone is pushing the meme that Science Rules!

Anyway, the movie mentions his show briefly, but quickly gets on to what he's been doing since then. He's the CEO of the Planetary Society  (I imagine him idolizing Carl Sagan the same way the next generation idolized him) and is making Sagan's dream of a solar sail a reality. He's brought in as an expert on news shows to talk about science, and that has gotten him into feuds. He famously debated evolution vs. creationism with young-earth creationist minister Ken Ham. And most recently, he's injected himself into the debate on global warming/climate change. Now, I don't remember years ago anyone particularly caring that Bill Nye didn't have a PhD. He was the "Science Guy" not the scientist (he's a mechanical engineer who studied a lot of physics.) But it seems once he got himself into political issues, speaking on behalf of the pro-science side, it's now a very important point to make sure everyone knows he's Mr. Nye, not Dr. Nye (because, of course, the difference between science being correct or incorrect hinges on the difference between a D and an M) Okay, enough editorializing, back to the film. A large part of the climate change section of the movie is devoted to his friendly duel with Joe Bastardi, meteorologist and outspoken skeptic of human-induced climate change. One of the funniest dynamics in the film is how Joe's son grew up as a big Bill Nye fan, and so he spends a lot of his screen time kind in amazement as his father argues with his 4th grade hero. It's very funny.

After the film, there was a brief panel discussion with Bill Nye; the filmmakers David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg; and Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, the former Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education. One of the most interesting points to come out is how public, moderated debates (like the one Nye had with Ham over creationism) are a pretty bad way at getting to scientific truth. Because debates are about scoring points and winning the debate, while science is about getting at truth. Also, because scientists are good at drilling into complicated subjects, but to win people over you need three things. A simple message...repeated...from a trusted source. Let me repeat that:
- A simple message
- Repeated
- From a trusted source

Scientists tend to be bad at the first one (but Bill Nye is great at it.) The second one anyone can do. And the third one is always tricky, because you tend to be trusted right up until you say something that your audience disagrees with. It's maintaining that trust that's hard.

I would've loved to stick around more, at least to shake Bill Nye's hand, but I had another movie to run off to, over at YBCA. I have to say, with a more spread out festival this year, I'm getting my exercise.

78/52 is an excellent documentary with an awful name that nobody understands. It refers to 78 set-ups and 52 cuts that make up the iconic shower scene in Hitchcock's PSYCHO. The circumstances in the world and in Hitchcock's career that led up to PSYCHO. The setup of the scene, and finally the scene itself. Dissected by directors, editors, actors, and the actual body double in the scene (who was hired for a 2-3 day job that went on for 7 days...just to get like 45 seconds of screen time.) How the shrieking strings make such an impact (which we had seen the day before in SCORE.) How, despite what everyone thinks, you never actually see any nudity (okay a little side-boob) or ever see the knife touch the skin (or do you? Hitchcock himself said it never happened, but the body double said that they pressed the knife against her belly, then pulled it away and ran the scene in reverse and you see it in the film.) Or how about the great sound effects of knife stabbing flesh (the key--casaba melons.) Director Alexandre O. Philippe seems to have lined up everyone in Hollywood eager to talk about the scene, then put them in a mock-up of the Bates Motel to do it, which is clever and funny wall-breaking that's appropriate for such an intense and film-geeky dissection of less than a minute of cinema.

Total Running Time: 181 minutes
My Total Minutes: 425,885

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