Friday, October 19, 2012

Film Friday: Alien (1979)

Alien is one of my favorite horror movies. It’s also one of my favorite science fiction movies. This is a film which does everything right in both genres, and that’s really impressive. It’s also really rare. And what makes this film work is what Ridley Scott doesn’t show us. Let’s talk about this classic film.

Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien is the story of the crew of the commercial towing vessel Nostromo. They are returning to Earth with a cargo of twenty million tons of ore. As the film begins, the crew is awoken from stasis when the ship detects lifesigns on a nearby uninhabitable planet. They are required to investigate. On the planet, one member of the crew has an alien creature break through his helmet and attach itself to his face. It appears to die, but as the crew is about to find out, they now have an alien problem.
The Perfect Horror Movie
What makes a film the perfect horror movie? The obvious answer is that it scares you. But there’s more to it than that because there are three different types of fear. The first is shock, such as when something jumps out at you. Horror movies need this to give the film a pulse. Alien does this extremely well. In fact, Alien is full of surprises and Ridley Scott often manipulates the level of surprise by teasing the audience with false tension, which he releases right before landing the real surprise. This catches the audience right after they’ve let their guard down and makes these shocks all the more effective.

The second is akin to dread or instinctual fear. This is achieved by putting the audience in a position where our natural instincts cause us to feel uneasy. Examples of this include our fear of the dark, fear of being in tight spaces or being trapped, fear of being in spaces that are too large for us to monitor and control, and fear of the unknown. These are harder to achieve on film because it requires pulling the audience into the film. But once again, Alien does this perfectly. In fact, the ship is perfectly designed for this. It is far too vast for the crew to monitor and control, yet at the same time, wherever the crew is at the moment feels confined, with no easy escapes. What’s more, Scott was smart enough to never show you enough of the creature to take away the mystery or to let you get accustomed to it. Thus, the full extent of the threat itself remains unknown, and that scares us.
The third is a true sense of terror. This is the kind of thing that sticks with you and makes you shiver days later. This is the Holy Grail of horror and few films achieve it, with Jaws and The Exorcist being notable examples. One would think Alien couldn’t really achieve this because its subject matter isn’t something to which we can related. Indeed, while any of us can imagine being eaten by a shark or possessed by something demonic, few of us think we’re going to end up fighting aliens in deep space. But Alien cleverly gets around this problem by giving the audience moments to which they can relate. For example, having the alien burst out of Kane’s chest is something humans can imagine because it fits right in with any number of urban legends about creatures laying eggs inside someone. This lets the audience relate to the horror, and the strength of this vision has been proven by the fact everyone continues to talk about that moment thirty years later.

This is why Alien is such a phenomenal horror movie, because it hits on all three types of fear. Few films manage to achieve this, and those that do tend to be remembered as classics. Alien is one of these elite few.
The Perfect Science Fiction Movie
Not only is Alien the perfect horror movie, but it’s also the perfect science fiction film. The most critical aspect of any science fiction film is that it presents a world the audience can believe is real. Too often, the worlds presented are shallow or make no sense. They include technological changes that would remake society, yet society hasn’t been remade. They present a world without laborers and people who own no personal effects. They talk about the elimination of money, yet still show people having jobs. And sometimes, they’re just dated, where our own society is now more advanced. Alien falls into none of these traps.
Despite the entire film taking place on only one ship and involving only seven people, Alien gives us an incredibly rich and detailed glimpse of their universe. Indeed, Alien tells us everything we need to know about their society. They have blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, and bosses. The interaction between the computer and the crew tells us that society very much remains a society which humans run, it is not automated. The suits at corporate still run the world. The crew worry about money and their contracts. They talk about food and grouse about work. They still think about sex and haven’t been “pair bonded” or some crap like that. The Nostromo is crawling with personal knickknacks. Their clothes are dirty. Their equipment is used. This is a real world, and we can visualize it, and these are real people with real lives, not science fiction prop-people.

Moreover, we get tantalizing glimpses of the rest of the universe. We see there are aliens in this universe, as we see two species – the alien itself and the alien corpse on the ship where they find the alien. We discover there are robots, and they look just like people. We know from the Nostromo that the universe is crawling with advanced spaceships. How do we know? To us, the Nostromo would be stunningly fantastic, but to her crew, the Nostromo is a piece of junk. It is a tired, common workhorse of a spaceship. That tells us there must be larger, more modern vessels ferrying people, exploring space, or even defending worlds. We know all these things without ever seeing them.

And that is the key point: what makes Alien such great science fiction is actually not what Ridley Scott shows us, it’s what he doesn’t show us. He shows us the usual things every science fiction film shows us: aliens, computers, and spaceships, but he never shows us too much.
We see enough of the alien to understand its more terrifying aspects, such as its acid blood, its murderous instincts, and its being impervious to extreme atmospheres. We are even given a hint of its life cycle. That makes this creature very real to us. But beyond that, we really only get glimpses and little real knowledge. That make the creature real and yet simultaneously keeps it a mystery. This results in a very satisfying creature because we feel we know it, yet we don’t know enough about it to disbelieve it. To the contrary, we know just enough to leave us hungry for more.

The Nostromo is the same. Spaceships often feel fake because they are designed for the sleek visual or built like mazes to accommodate the horror plot. . . cough cough Event Horizon. The Nostromo isn’t. It is built for a genuine task and its design is ergonomic. The part where the crew lives is bright and well lit. Its style and shape make sense. All of this makes the ship real to us because this is very much a ship that real people would take into space. Yet, at the same time, we know nothing about the ship’s size, shape or technology. This lack of knowledge actually helps us believe the ship is real because we don’t have anything to criticize and thus we can’t poke holes in the design.
This lack of knowledge also keeps the film from feeling dated. Consider the computer. While the computer interface feels somewhat dated, Scott does enough to make us think we aren’t seeing “the whole picture,” so we never get a chance to compare the supposed capabilities of this computer with our own. Moreover, since the Nostromo is a piece of junk, we know the computer is not the high end. All of this prevents us from laughing at the film when our own technological achievements surpass those in the film. Had Scott tried to show off how great this computer was, the film probably would be dated by now.

These were brilliant choices. By focusing on the personal relationships of the crew, while only teasing us with glimpses of the science fiction and leaving the rest to our imaginations, Scott lets the audience fill in the blanks and build the world in their heads. This makes the film remarkably adaptable because everything outside of the story itself can change with tastes and time. Thus, it will never grow stale and it will never grow old. This is a perfect formula and it’s amazing so few science fiction (or horror) films have grasped what Scott does here. And the key to what Scott has done is to give us just enough to make everything seem real, but absolutely nothing more.

Interesting.

62 comments:

shawn said...

Favorite horror movie ever. All the creative team really came together well, from direction, writing, production, to acting. Great movie.

Looking forward to the discussion on Prometheus once you get a chance to see it.

ScottDS said...

Sheer elegance in its simplicity and a great example of a "small" movie that nevertheless seems "big." Or to put it another way, it reminds me of something we talked about a few months ago: too many movies today are too concerned with setting up their own mythology that they forget to tell a cohesive story. Alien's sole concern was to scare the crap out of you - all the mythology and backstory was filled in later by fans, comics, sequels, etc. Not to mention all the psycho-sexual subtext that critics like to talk about.

Star Wars pioneered the "used universe" look but, and I might be wrong, but I swear I read somewhere that Alien was the first sci-fi film to have characters aboard a spaceship wear regular clothes and not uniforms.

And speaking of the computer, you know what I'd love to see one day? I'd love to see someone make a sci-fi film as if it were made in the 80s. That's right. For some reason, I think it'd be pretty neat to see a sci-fi film today with big computer screens with green text, old-school FX work, etc. Call me nostalgic. :-)

obiwan2009 said...

Andrew, first of all, great review, I would add to the biological portion of what you wrote that it's not just an aspect of urban legend, but in ecology, there's the condition of parasitoidism, performed by fungi and insects where the mother literally lays an egg, or a spiked fungal spore injects it's core into an insect's body, Alien was an awesome film by itself because it took this kind of natural phenomena to a whole new level. What if humans really aren't at the top of the food chain? What if there's a creature out there that can effectively prey on humans? Alien, and to an extent, Aliens, played to that theme fairly well by creating a world in which the general meme of humans being the best and by far superior is reversed, so that now some creature out there preys on you.

Alien also was impressive for dealing with the very real fear that NASA has exhibited on such occasions as the moon landings, and also based on past experiences such as colonization of the New World, that there is the threat of picking up deadly diseases or from an alien world.

Part of what I felt from seeing Alien is how Scott actually addressed things that convincingly could happen. Not to say that some parts of Alien are a stretch to what we understand from science, but still fears such as a foreign space-borne disease are real concerns that have some serious precedent in history, and which make the film more terrifying.

BIG MO said...

"And what makes this film work is what Ridley Scott doesn’t show us."

BINGO!

On another board many moons ago I declared Alien the best sci-fi film of the 1970s, pretty much for the same reasons you give.

The Nostromo is claustrophobic and functional, quite unlike the bright and cheery corridors of Star Trek vessels (except for Enterprise). The intricacies of the landing sequence, the contamination protocols, the ship's creaks and groans, treating space as space (i.e., no sound), etc. all make this movie seem like science future or even science present instead of science fiction.

Couple that with the brilliant presentation of horror, and we have a pretty timeless movie that never reminds the audience that we're merely watching a movie.


Ed said...

Awesome film and a great review. I think the key really is what doesn't get shown combined with the fact you think so much more gets shown. You never feel like they are hiding the ball, but they really are.

Mark said...

Scariest movie I've ever seen, bar none.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I'm still looking forward to Prometheus as soon as I can get my hands on it.

I love Alien. This movie blew me away the first time I saw it and it's never lost me. It's still fresh 30 years after I first saw it. That's a very rare thing.

AndrewPrice said...

Mark, It isn't scary to me anymore because I know it by now, but when I first saw it, it really was a terrifying film.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, This is indeed a "small" film that feels "big." And that's impressive because so many films have tried to fall in its footsteps (direct copies basically) and yet they all feel small. So it is a truly difficult line to draw.

I love the look in this film. I love the grittiness, the dirty, the sense that this is a real world. That's truly rare in science fiction where everything is always shown to be spotless and new. As for reusing the tech, I think people wouldn't believe it anymore, although I think the tech presented here is really timeless and could probably be transposed onto a more modern film if you tweaked it a bit. I think people will accept a world that isn't all holograms.

tryanmax said...

I'm going to latch on to this sentence, too.

"And what makes this film work is what Ridley Scott doesn’t show us."

Not only do I grow tired of films that try to show everything, I'm also weary of audiences who demand it. I want to strangle people who complain that films didn't spoon-feed the plot to them.

If Alien were released today it would probably bomb. Leaving the theater, I would expect to hear "didn't show enough of the alien," "it didn't tell us anything about it," "where did it come from?" "what does it want?"

Movies like Alien are great b/c they require participation and imagination from the audience.

AndrewPrice said...

obiwan, Thanks! And excellent additions. Scott very much tapped into "well-known" fears to make the more science-fictiony aspects of this film into something to which we can relate. It's hard to relate to "saw ugly alien, it attacked us with laser breath." But it is easy to relate to "went to unknown planet, picked up incredibly dangerous thing that was waiting for us, it lays eggs inside us and then wraps us in a spider cocoon and uses us for food." Those are things we can relate to from our own world, and that helps us feel the terror.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I'm glad we agree! :)

I like your phrase "science future" instead of "science fiction." I think that's exactly what this film feels like. It feels like this is really how humans will live in 100 years. Star Trek TNG never felt that way to me because their society makes no sense -- it's too perfect and too sterile and it feels like they just took the present and set it in the future. Alien really does feel like it's a world that evolved from ours over time. I think that's a key difference and I think few films manage to achieve that.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I think that's the real key to not showing everything, it's to make sure that the audience thinks they get enough to feel like nothing was hidden. That's who most other films that try this fail. They don't realize that you need to show enough that people feel like you aren't trying to be vague. That way they don't feel cheated. But at the same time, you can leave these huge gaps which they can then fill in.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I totally agree. And when I look back on the great movies of the last 30-40 years, most of them leave more to the audience than they share. It's that mystery that allows them to pull the audience in, i.e. it forces audience participation, and which leaves these films fresh because it allows the film to change with us and it allows different interpretations. When a film tries to tell you everything, there's just nothing more there than the film itself.

For a couple classic examples, consider The Usual Suspects and The Shining. Both are absolute classics that left so much to the viewer to fill in.

I think that really is the key to building a timeless, gripping film.

Tennessee Jed said...

the posts (and reviews) that I most enjoy are those that either a) tell me something I didn't know, or b) cause me to think about something in a new or at least different way. This is one of those, and in particular, I loved your description of the three different kinds of terror. Wonderful job on that. Don't know if that is something you drew off the top of your head or whether it is an observation you developed over years of watching and critiquing "horror." It doesn't really matter other than that it is true ;)

As far as science fiction, I agree the best situation is when the story teller is able to create a world that is credible. That isn't to say there are not excellent stories that can require some willing suspension of belief, but no question, when you can accomplish credibility, you are wll on the way to breaking into a home run trot instead of a stand up double :)

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed! I usually only review films where I think there is something worth saying, so I'm happy to hear that you found the discussion of the types of fear to be interesting!

To answer your question, I thought about it as I wrote the review. I've always known there are different types of fear that horror movies create, but I hadn't tried to classify it specifically until I started this review. I do think these are the three types though and I think each is more complex to generate than the last. Anybody can do shock, but few have ever achieve true terror. In fact, most horror film do little more than rely on shock and some attempt to generate dread.

Interestingly, it strikes me that all three types should be fairly easy to achieve, but apparently that's not the case.

As for science fiction, I think credibility is absolutely the key.

K said...

Very nice review Andrew and excellent analysis!

I would add the effect of the H.R. Giger design for the monster and alien ship. Otherwise we're talking Ray Corrigan in a rubber monster suit. The play off between the shockingly exotic Giger designs and the homey spaceship interiors. Also a bow for the chest burster concept to the original script writers, Dan O'Bannon & Ronald Shusett.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks K! I agree completely about the effects. They are fantastic. And again, I think it's what they didn't show that mattered. They never gave you a great look at the monster, so it remains hidden. Ditto on the Nostromo. Basically, by teasing rather than trying to show off, they leave a lot for your imagination to fill in and that makes all the effects even better than they would have been if you had gotten to stare at either.

Mark said...

Andrew - I've seen it several times and it still freaks me out!

Maybe I'm just a wuss.

AndrewPrice said...

Mark, I've seen it so many times that I can quote the dialog by now, so it's really hard to surprise me or scare me at this point. Plus, I rarely find myself scared by horror movies anymore.

Individualist said...

Alien was a great movie, there is no aguement about that.

Thinking about it there is another aspect to the universe that makes it more real. Everything technical they use may be based on advanced genetics and quantum physics howerver the average person did not refer to those things in terminology that you'd expect to only read in a graduate discertation.

Even the more technical engineers and medical people in the film refered to these scientific concepts in generic terms the average individual might understand. This made the film more believable as Hard Science Fiction. It helped you to see the ship as real.

Individualist said...

that is the one thing that tended to make star trek and many other space opera movies more cartoonish. no one would sit there and recite the most esoteric principles einsteinian physics just to say the warp core was broken.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, That's true and that really does help the realism. In Star Trek TNG especially, everyone knew the most minute details of everything technical on the ship. In Alien, people knew their jobs but they weren't all the ultimate scientists. That made the characters much more real.

Not to mention, it makes it that much easier for the audience to relate.

T-Rav said...

I haven't seen this movie, except the opening credits, but that alone was enough to freak me out--the slow way the letters filled in made me certain something was about to happen. The only thing I can compare it to is when Jack Torrance walks into Room 237 but hasn't reached the bathroom yet. Sort of like that. Anyway, I was like "No thanks" and changed the channel. So I probably would have put this down on my "Scary Movies" list.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, You're kidding? You've never seen Alien? You really need to see this film!

T-Rav said...

Have you ever heard me talk about it?

Besides, I thought I was reinforcing your point! The first 90 seconds was enough to really spook me!

Individualist said...

T-RAV

We appreciate you reinforcing Andrew's point but

we really think ALIEN should be topson your NETFLIX request.

Dude you have to see this movie!

rlaWTX said...

I have seen Aliens any number of times (yum - M Biehn), but only seen pieces of Alien. I think it tends to be because I "know" what's going to happen, so I haven't bothered to watch it all the way through. I also have a lower "intensity toleration" point - if a movie/TV show gets too stressful, I bail. (Although mine is apparently higher than T-Rav's "scare point". lol)
But, like most of your reviews, Andrew, now I want to see the whole thing...

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav and Indi, This should definitely be on everyone's Netflix list if they haven't seen it. This is a classic.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, This is absolutely worth seeing even if you know how it ends. And I would hope you have a better intensity toleration point than 90 seconds!

T-Rav said...

FINE! I'LL WATCH IT, YOU JACKASSES!

ScottDS said...

T-Rav, et al -

I'm not good when it comes to "scary" movies, which is why I had trouble with Andrew's recent horror question, but if I can make it through Alien, so can you guys!

Besides, the film's been parodied to death over the years so certain elements might be familiar to you anyway. :-) (i.e.: there are certain things you can expect.)

As an aside, the music that plays over the opening credits wasn't Jerry Goldsmith's first pass. He originally scored it with a touch of beauty and mystery but Ridley Scott wanted him to go for scary, which Jerry felt was the wrong choice - he thought "scary" music would give things away much too early and I guess he was right! (And judging from his interview on the DVD, he was still pissed about it 20 years later!)

ScottDS said...

By the way...

For anyone who hasn't seen the film yet and intends to, if you check out the Blu-Ray or the most recent multi-disc DVD release, select the original theatrical version from the menu and NOT the director's cut, which adds some filler and was only done as a cynical marketing ploy.

AndrewPrice said...

Sounds like we need to send some people to horror-boot-camp and toughen everyone up!

I agree about the director's cut, I don't like it. I think the extra footage detracts from the flow of the film and doesn't really add anything.

I think the music they ultimately went with is fantastic for setting the mood.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, LOL! You made the right decision!

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

If you plan on reviewing it, then by all means don't spill the beans here... but what's your official line on Aliens? I still think it's one of Cameron's best-written films (not a tough competition lately, I know!) and he and his collaborators were firing on all cylinders and then some.

I'm tempted to review Alien 3 one day... I've been singing its praises on this site forever.

rlaWTX said...

Poor T-Rav...

On the upside - It's Five on Friday (CDT)!!!!

Individualist said...

Ok now T-Rav

we understand we may have been a little forward with you but that is no excuse for labelling someone a democrat now...

Sheesh!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm not sure yet if I'm going to review it or not. I would like to, but I don't really want to review most of the rest... maybe 4.

My overall take on Aliens is that it is a really good movie (if you see the long version), but it's really a let down to Alien and it does a lot of harm to the original. So it's one of those that is best kept separate in your mind from the original. But it is a very entertaining film, and the sequels are all really based on that film, not the original.

Brittney Spears said...

LEAVE T-RAV ALONE!!!

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Fair enough, though rarely does a sequel completely change genres (horror sci-fi to action sci-fi). I have a friend who loves the film as much as I do and he doesn't care for the extended cut. "Do I need another 30 minutes of sentry guns?!" he asked me once, tongue in cheek.

I still think it'd be cool to get a "proper" Alien sequel - not an Alien vs. Predator mashup or a prequel like Prometheus but an honest to God Alien sequel.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think the extended cut is a lot better because you see the colonists, which helps to set up the story and put in context. Also, I think the action is better paced.

My complaint with Aliens isn't so much that it changes gears from horror/sci-fi to action, it's more about the total change in the nature of the alien. It took what was the coolest, most perfect killing machine in the universe and turned it into a generic bug creature that you can kill by the thousands. That really diminishes the first film a lot.

AndrewPrice said...

I haven't seen Prometheus yet, but I agree that an Alien sequel or prequel would be pretty cool.

Critch said...

I remember telling people that if Hitchcock had done Sci-Fi it wouild look like this. The characters were real, very real. I liked the way everything looked like a factory ship would look, dirty, cramped and lots of hard edges. I think it's important also that there are very few weapons on board, this is a mining ship, not a warship on some voyage of discovery. These people had to think their way out of this mess. I wish Ridley Scott would take on the novel, The Stars My Destination, he could do that book into a great movie.

T-Rav said...

Dear Britney Spears, I do not want you on my side, under any circumstances. Ever.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, That's a great way to look at this, like a Hitchcock film. I sometimes wonder about things like that, like what someone like Hitchcock would have done if he'd lived in a more modern era, especially a creative era like the end of the 1970s. I could definitely see how Hitchcock would create a film like Alien.

You've mentioned "The Stars My Destination" before and I have not yet had a chance to read it -- been doing too much writing to read much, but from what I've read about it, it sounds like it would make an excellent film. You just need to get someone really good to adapt it, otherwise you end up with the something like John Carter of Mars.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I know Robert Zemeckis directed What Lies Beneath intending it to be a modern-day homage to Hitchcock, in other words, a film Hitchcock might've made if he had digital technology. I haven't seen the film in years but as I recall, it's merely okay.

As for John Carter, I haven't seen it (which puts me in the majority), but I've heard it wasn't a bad movie, just badly marketed.

Jim Carter of Earth said...

John was always the more adventurous twin.....

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I haven't seen it either, but I can't imagine it was a good movie either, not from the bits I've seen. I'll wait for it to come to television, if it ever does.

What Lies Beneath struck me as just a dull movie. I could see where the script sounded like it would be a real thriller, but it just never got there. It felt derivative and the surprises were so not surprising that the whole thing felt to me like someone just going through the motions.

AndrewPrice said...

Jim, I'd heard that. LOL!

PikeBishop said...

Oh Andrew, sorry to be nag there old chap, but I have to say, "The Rapture?" :-)

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I haven't had the chance. I really haven't been able to take the time lately to sit and watch anything. Too many things going on right now. I will though. It is on my list.

PikeBishop said...

Andrew: I know what you mean with debates and news and stuff, wife and I have not been able to sit down and realy enjoy any of the movies we have DVRed or the shows we enjoy as well.

Commander Max said...

I thought the art direction was beautiful.
But I wasn't that impressed with the story(that's what I get for watching Dark Star), when watching Alien recently I found I really didn't like the characters. Way to negative for my taste, Alien was one of the first truly dark films Scott was known for. I'm tired of these kinds of films(bored is more like it), it's been going on for 33 years. I want some old fashioned goodness and light films. Or would that be new, since we have had a number of generations of dark films.

Here is a link on subject, Alien Makers. It's really good stuff.
http://www.zen171398.zen.co.uk/

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I liked the characters because they struck me as very real. They were so different than all these other perfect people you always see in sci-fi.

Jon said...

In space, no one can hear you scream.

AndrewPrice said...

Jon, That was one of the best tag lines ever! :)

Alex said...

Saw this when I was about fourteen with some of my buddies. Scared the hell out of us. GREAT movie; not many can pull off the horror/sci-fi hybrid and do each well. I think that Pitch Black is probably the only other horror/sci-fi movie I've seen that worked (though before I get flamed, I fully admit that Pitch Black is nowhere near the movie Alien is, though I did enjoy it).

Would you believe I've never seen any of the other movies in the Alien franchise?

AndrewPrice said...

Alex, Agreed on Pitch Black. I reviewed that one a while back because I thought it was just all around great science fiction.

Jon said...

I thought Pitch Black captured the same suspense-oriented quality found in Alien. It is always going to suffer comparisons to a classic, but I thought it was well done. Vin Diesel played a convincing protagonist (antagonist?). . . loved the altered retinas. This stuff reminds me of Heavy Metal Magazine.

Haven't tried Prometheus, had you?

Jon said...

Aliens. . . .well, same action-thriller entertainment as the Terminator series, right? Liked it for different reasons.

My type of sci-fi is more the plausible kind, or the perhaps literature of dystopian societies.

Alex said...

What's up Jon. I have not tried Prometheus yet. I have heard mixed things, but as always, it is impossible to form an opinion until you see the movie for yourself.

I, too, enjoy dystopian sci-fi. Maybe it's because I'm a born pessimist? Actually, it's because stories like Animal Farm, 1984 and Brave New World become more and more plausible (inevitable?) every day...

Well, now that I've officially brought this thread down, I'll turn it over to the rest of you! :)

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