Just saw Contact for the first time.
Int'resting fax wut I haz lern'd:
1, Jodie Foster is awesome (I'm putting her between Starbuck and Samantha Carter on my list of "best depictions of non-standard feminity in Sci-Fi"*).
2, Hollywood apparently CAN do a female character who is a scientist, smart, and who also is passionate, and can handle contractions AND who isn't a creepy frigid robot woman.
3, Hollywood can also apparently handle said female scientist character having a romantic interest who isn't there just to teach her the meaning of "kiss", take her glasses off, unfurl her Sexy!hairdo and generally teach her who to be normative!sexy and generally bland - indeed the relationship between Foster and Surfboard McPriest is primarily an intellectual one, even though it is also a physical one (and the physicality is consummated right at the start of the movie, so there's this brilliant bit where they meet up again later on and they basically have sex with their minds for the rest of the movie wtf!? This is totally against all the established cliches of the genre!!).
4, the precise phrase that escaped my lips when Foster was all like "yeah just hang around, sleep in, there's some food in the fridge and leave your number and I'll call you, 'k?" and then went off to work immediately after boinking Surfboard McPriest was: "holy shit, Jodie Foster is a stone cold pimp!" but as I am not generally one easily taken by slightly racist cliches, I'm assuming it was a totally fair and objective assessment of the situation.
5.1, It is apparently possible for hollywood to do an intelligent, Skiffy-as-all-get-out, yet also character driven, well plotted and awesome to watch sci-fi movie WITH DIALOGUE THAT ACTUALLY FURTHERS THE PLOT!!!
5.2, AND AN ENDING THAT IS EMOTIONALLY AND NARRATIVELY SATISFYING WITHOUT RESORTING TO RANDOM IMAGES STREAMING INCOHERENTLY ACROSS THE SCREEN BECAUSE THE SCRIPT WRITER COULDN'T THINK OF ANYTHING!!!!!
6, holy shit Kubrick, you and 2001 are officially fired. Contact is The Best Sci-fi Movie Evr.
7, It has one explosion in the entire movie, yet something about that one explosion is significantly better, explosion-wise, than all the myriad explosions seen in any given sci-fi blockbuster movie put together. Note that 2001 had no explosions at all.
8, So you know when people say "well they can't have characters like that because it doesn't sell/isn't intersting/whatever", where "that" is "a female character not constructed entirely out of cliches, sexism and heteronormativity", well that's wrong, in the sense that it is a factually incorrect statement. And Contact is the evidence that disproves it.
9, The black female adivisor to the president and Foster sort of converse a few times, about things other than men, but it's never... quite... a full blown conversation so it's borderline whether it genuinely passes Blechdel's test. No female characters are shown as close or friendly towards each other, so it certainly fails the spirit of the Blechdel test.
10, I love that the depiction of Clinton's advisors includes a sort of generic bible thumping southerner. Oh 90's, we had no idea what was in store for us...
11, the CGI doesn't date at all!! It's rarely used, but when it is it all sort of works and looks pretty. In fact the only thing that date the movie is Clinton, and that's artfully enough done as to justify itself.
12, The biggest problem is probably the blind character who is depicted as having what is in effect super-human ability at audio-signal-processing - because as we all know the only way someone with a disability could make their way up the ranks in the sciences is because they have some special talent above and beyond their intellect. A neat little meme that both furthers the whole thing where disabled characters have to have their existence justified by the plot (because they can't just exist as people they have to have a use), and acts to further the stigma attached to disabled people in the sciences by making out that the only way for a disabled person to get ahead at all is to be in some way better than an equivalent able bodied person, rather than just being a good scientist, as obviously they have to some how rise above their disability - which is realistic wrt the effect of ablism in the sciences to an extent, but the way every single movie tends to enter disabled people into the red queen's race as matter of course probably isn't healthy, and can't be having a positive effect on things. That deaf guy is, one hopes, going to date quite horribly in a few decades, like the random "blink and you'd miss it" implied homosexuality in the movie adaption of The Deep Sleep, or the depiction of any black character before Uhuru broke through the beige ceiling in Star Trek.
But on balance, after due consideration is given to all facts about this movie... IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE GO WATCH IT NOW. ZOG COMMANDS THIS OF YOU!!!
* Also: Thrace/Foster/Carter sandwhich mmm... though there'd be a race to see who would be out of that bed first after the act, as none of them seem particularly fond of snuggling in the afterglow. I imagine the post game conversation going pretty much;
Foster: Aliens! *hops out of bed and gets dressed*
Carter: Aliens! *hops out of bed and gets dressed*
Starbuck: Drink! *hops out of bed and gets beer*