Category: Movies & Television


Battlestar Galactica Interview


We are thrilled to offer readers of Concurring Opinions an interview with Ron Moore and David Eick, creators of the hit television show Battlestar Galactica. Daniel Solove, Deven Desai, and David Hoffman ask the questions. We would like to thank Professor John Ip for suggesting some of the torture questions. Our interview lasts a little over an hour, and we’ll be providing it to you in several parts over the next few days.

Our goal was to explore some of the themes of the show in a deeper manner than many traditional interviews. Ron and David graciously agreed to give us an hour of their time, and we had a fascinating conversation with them.

BSG-trial1a.jpgOur interview is structured in three parts. Part I, available in two files (see the end of this post to download), focuses on the issues of legal systems and morality. It examines the lawyers and trials in the show. It also examines how torture is depicted, as well as how the humans must balance civil liberties and security.

Part II examines politics and commerce. It explores how the cylon attack affected the humans’ political system, and it examines how commerce works in the fleet.

Part III examines issues related to cylons, such as the humans’ treatment of cylons, how robots should be treated by the law, how the cylons govern themselves politically. Additionally, Part III will explore the religious issues involved in the show.

The new Battlestar Galactica, which premiered initially as a miniseries in 2003 on the SciFi Network, is only loosely based on the earlier show by the same name during 1978 and 1980. The new Battlestar Galactica is breathtaking science fiction, and it has widespread appeal beyond science fiction fans. Numerous critics have hailed it as one of the best shows on television. Time Magazine, for example, listed it as one of the top television shows and described it as “a ripping sci-fi allegory of the war on terror, complete with religious fundamentalists (here, genocidal robots called Cylons), sleeper cells, civil-liberties crackdowns and even a prisoner-torture scandal.”

BSG-scene1a.jpgThe show chronicles the struggle for survival of a small band of humans who escaped a devastating genocidal attack by intelligent robots called cylons. The humans created the cylons for use as slaves. The cylons rebelled and a war erupted between the humans and cylons. But a truce was reached, and the cylons disappeared. But forty years later, the cylons launched a massive surprise attack, destroying the human society (called the Twelve Colonies) with nuclear missiles. Only a small group of humans aboard spaceships survived.

The show depicts the humans’ difficult fight for survival and the tough choices they must make along the way. The cylons have developed technology to allow them to take human form, and some of the humans within the group of survivors are really cylons. More information about the show is here.

BSG-pic1.jpgThe show is heavily influenced by modern events, especially terrorism, war, and torture. In a time of emergency, how should we balance security and liberty? How do we deal with enemies who may be burrowed in among us? How does a society decimated in a war reconstitute its political, economic, and legal systems?

Battlestar Galactica was honored with a prestigious Peabody Award and twice as an official selection of the American Film Institute top television programs for 2005 and 2006.

Because the show explores so many interesting issues so deftly, it has attracted a large group of fans in the legal academy. We know of many law professors who count Battlestar Galactica as one of their favorite shows, and this is why we thought it would be fascinating to speak with the creators and writers of the show — Ron Moore and David Eick.

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Twelve Angry Men

12_angry_men.jpgOver at the Volokh Conspiracy, several of the VC bloggers are making interesting comments on the jury deliberation classic, “Twelve Angry Men.”

I have two comments of my own. First, I’ve only read the play, and never seen the movie, but I can’t say I’m a fan. The play struck me as boring, because it is so obviously morally lopsided in favor of the Fonda character. The conflict between the Fonda character and the Cobb character is about as interesting as watching the Patriots play a high school football team. It reminds me of something Thomas Nagel once said, that the egregious violation of human rights is philosophically uninteresting. The idea being that if your intuitions are not pulled in more than one direction, there’s nothing to discuss. “Twelve Angry Men” gives the viewer nothing to think about, unlike, say, “Paths of Glory” (does military justice require individual culpability?) or “The Caine Mutiny” (were the defendants really innocent, in a moral sense?) or “Breaker Morant” (what’s justifiable conduct in a guerrila war?) or “The Verdict” (does the civil justice system work?).

My second comment is actually a question. Were all-male juries still the norm in 1957, when the film was released? That seems awfully late, given that the right of women to vote was adopted in 1920. When did it become abnormal?


The Worst Movie

matrix1.jpgI’ve been tagged by Professor Paul Butler to play this game running around the legal blogosphere of naming the movie I thought was the worst. That’s a tough one. I agree with Paul’s choice of Gone With the Wind for the reasons he states. The entire new Star Wars Trilogy (Episodes I – III) certainly comes in near the top of my worst list, with some of the most inane lines of dialog ever penned and some of the dumbest plot contrivances ever devised. One of the highlights is Anakin’s conversation with Yoda in Episode III, when he tells Yoda that he fears Padme might die. Yoda’s response: “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is.” So the lesson in all this is that if you don’t want to turn into Darth Vader, let go of the ones you love. Don’t try to save them; let them die. Anyway, how do you screw up Star Wars? It actually took some creativity and effort to mess up the new trilogy so monumentally.

But the winner is The Matrix: Revolutions. The first movie in the trilogy, The Matrix, is one of my favorite movies. But the last movie in the trilogy, Revolutions, turns the story into a silly religious allegory, with Neo offered up to the computers crucifixion-style. All the themes of the series — reality vs. virtual reality, machines vs. humans, etc. — are tied up in a cheap simplistic manner. And Revolutions casts a dark light over the original Matrix, sapping some of my enjoyment of that movie.

I’d rather talk about the best movies, but that’s not this meme. But I’ll do my duty and keep it going, so I tag Deven Desai.


New Movie Shot Entirely With Surveillance Cameras


According to a recent Newsweek story, there are 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States. That’s about 1 camera for every 10 Americans.

Next month, an interesting new movie called Look will be released that is filmed entirely with surveillance cameras. From the Newsweek story:

Shot entirely through the point of view of security cameras (and co-produced by Barry Schuler, the former head of AOL), the film is executed in the style of actual spy-cam footage strung together but is actually a fictional tale aimed at giving viewers a glimpse of just how public our private lives have become. Its characters run the gamut: a high-school English teacher who has an affair with an underage student, a gas station clerk with high hopes for a musical career, a department store manager who uses his warehouse as a secret sex refuge. Yet all are connected by surveillance footage that, in the end, holds the key to their survival—or demise. The film took home the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Cine Vegas Film Festival and will debut in New York and Los Angeles in December.

The movie’s website is here.


The Lives of Others

lives-of-others.jpgI recently saw The Lives of Others and was thoroughly impressed with this film. After having seen the amazing Pan’s Labyrinth, I was stunned that another movie could win the Oscar for best foreign film of 2006 (one of the rare categories in the Oscars where worthy films actually win). But after finally seeing it, I now know why. It’s a spectacular film.

The movie takes place in East Germany a few years before the wall fell, and it involves a Stasi captain (Gerd Wiesler) who is tasked with wiretapping the home of a popular playwright (Georg Dreyman). The tapping is at the behest of a corrupt party member, who has an obsession with the playwright’s girlfriend (Crista Maria Sieland), an actress in his plays. As Wiesler eavesdrops, he becomes increasingly involved in the lives of Dreyman and Sieland. The movie deftly captures the invasiveness of wiretapping. Its depiction of life in a totalitarian society is as bone-chilling as anything Orwell could imagine. And its interrogation scenes are harrowing — though the truly frightening thing is that the interrogation techniques don’t seem much different from those authorized by the Bush Administration.

I strongly recommend this great film.