Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Theory of Biopics

By Steven Moore

As part of our annual run up to the Academy Awards on the Buried Cinema podcast, we watch all the Best Picture nominees. This year the list is heavy with biopics. Audiences love stories of exceptional human beings who overcame insurmountable odds to do something special. These movies help remind us that there is something great about the little human animal, even as we are inundated with horrors such as ISIS and Ferguson.

Two of the biopics up for Best Picture are The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game. Both are stories about brilliant British scientists who answered some of the biggest scientific questions of the 20th century. What’s so interesting about the lives of these men is not simply the questions they tackled (and answered), but how their dedication to science and understanding the universe gives a greater understanding of the human spirit.

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Alan Turing, often called the father of Computer Science, essentially invented the modern concept of an algorithm (the basis for today’s computers) and artificial intelligence. Despite creating the very concepts that will, of course, one day bring about the enslavement of humanity (I, for one, welcome our Robot Overlords), his story manages to show us the beautiful heights of the human mind side by side with the repulsive depths of human ignorance and prejudice.

Stephen Hawking, on the other hand, is another kind of triumph of the human spirit. He is a brilliant man who changed the way we think about time, space, and the very laws of the universe; however, his story is also a triumph of science just through his existence. Without great minds like Alan Turing and Charles Bell, we would not have the greater understanding of the universe that Hawking provided us. His very life is a testament to scientific progress and the human will. Because of the dedication to knowledge of those that came before him, he was able to progress that knowledge further.

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There have not been not many years when there is not at least one biopic among the nominees for Best Picture, and while I wouldn’t dismissively claim that it is easy to make an Oscar-worthy movie from the struggles of a real human being, I’m sure it makes the job easier. In the hands of skilled directors, careful screenwriters, and talented actors, biopics can help reminds us that we are special.

Despite a machine that can mimic every outward appearance of a human being, or a cosmos that seems to persistently remind us of how very small we are, there is a unique and wonderful spark that resides in the little human germ infecting a tiny blue planet on the dusty outer edge of an unremarkable spiral galaxy in a middle-aged universe that is, in all likelihood, one of an infinite number of universes popping in and out of existence for all eternity.

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About the Author:

Steve was just a hapless young kid who couldn’t get into Starfleet, but by sheer wit, determination, and a hell of a lot of luck, he was made full ensign of Starfleet’s flagship anyway, despite having never even attended the Academy. He told me I could write anything I wanted about him here, as long as I said that he was like Nate, but better. When he’s not brooding over the graves of dead Irish poets, he is our talented Webmaster. We also record our podcast in his barn, so we’d be doubly non-existent without his considerable talents. . . and barn. His favorite films include Chinatown, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and anything Brian hates.