Here’s a small, specially curated set of wonderful, unforgivably ignored short films about robots.
Robots are as old as – well, clock mechanisms and religious statues that move on their own (I know, robots are that old! Research tells me things like nativity statues and monks that kiss crosses that you find in really old European churches and museums are in fact, early robots); and famously, a technophile Frenchman called Jacques de Vaucanson used to entertain Mr-inferiority-complex-Number-One Napoleon with his robot playing the flute…presumably when being a dictator somehow bored him.
Anyway. It appears that friendly, old style robot iconogrpahy: big glowing eyes, big teeth, antennae, large, Fisher Price-esque buttons on chest, with blocky legs, feet and arms – is something that ironically reminds us of the beginnings of 20th century technology. Cult comedy series Look Around You makes the most of this with numerous sketches about ‘Medibot’, an giant robot that is supposed to be able to replace a doctor but is hilariously and dangerously inept; clunky, is powered by an addiction to cake toppings.
Moreover, robot iconography represents a complex human innocence – a desire to both be productive but not at the cost of an overarching moral ‘good’. It is this good which contained within what directors and animators placed in robot symbolism in films, as well as the robots we found in science fiction films from 1950-1987. Bizarrely, the most recent and therefore out-of-kilter, post 9/11 popular culture robot symbols are Wall-E and iRobot, where the Heroes are artificially created, 2D techno-life forms, personified, and seen to wish for a better world. And they’re like…cute as buttons.
Here’s some very new films which pay homage to the now co-opted iconography of Old Style Robots.
Spike Jonze’s gorgeous, tearjerker, classic Spike Jonze film about robots ‘I’m Here’ (3o mins)
Music video for N.A.M.B.’s ‘Radiorace’ by Fransesco Calabrese (below)
AHD168: robot cut from an advertising job (remind you of any actors you know….?) Made by We Are Mi
Robots in love with dinosaurs…yes it really happened…!
FIlm by by Charlie Williams
A very lo-fi film about bank fraud…
Gratuitous insertion of a Muse video with a robot in it for a few seconds