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GemLand's Favorite Hollywood Movies

   Movies about rocks?  Well, kind of.
   The films below are our favorites for being gemologically, geologically, or astronomically inspirational.  Some of them I saw at an early age -- they helped induce my fascination with rocks.  Don't be put off by their age -- they are still great movies!
   Others are more recent, and again I mention them because they involve the subject of rocks, they are entertaining, and may inspire you to think about the place of rocks in the world or their effect on your life.
   These pictures are not documentaries, but are vintage Hollywood, are all fictional, and feature rocks of some kind prominently in the background or story line.
   They are not necessarily scientifically accurate, and in fact most are way out of line with reality.  It doesn't matter though -- if any one of them makes you interested in rocks, having seen it will be worthwhile.
   If you have a candidate for this list, please send it to us by using our contact form.  If we place your suggestion, we will give you credit.
   We don't sell the movies, yet.  You'll have to go to the video store or download site, and get them on your own!

   Journey to the Center of the Earth

- with James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl; action, adventure, science fiction (1959)
   An Edinburgh professor and assorted colleagues follow an explorer's trail down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the earth's center.  I think this is the most captivating geology movie ever made.  Total fantasy, of course, but great scenery, mineral formations, and dinosaurs.  After this picture came out, I couldn't wait to get to Iceland!

   The Time Machine (original version)

- with Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, Alan Young, Sebastian Cabot; action, adventure, science fiction (1960)
   If you want a close visual representation of H.G. Wells' classic novel, see this version, and not the 2002 remake.
   The newer version is so awash in political correctness, with emphasis on violence and special effects, that the main ideas are lost.  Besides not following the story, it is simply a terrible movie, and if anyone in Hollywood is reading this and wants to know more about why their films fail, watch this remake and learn from its example.
   The original movie fully exploits the concept of traveling through time, in the same place.  If there is any one mind-boggler about geology, it is the concept of "deep time".
   Here, you can see the same spot evolve through the millennia.  Human beings, 800,000 years in the future, have evolved into two species, a sort of symbiotic relationship.  Yvette Mimieux plays gentle, beautiful, blonde Weena.  Rod Taylor, the Time Traveler, appears from the past, into her seemingly (at first) idyllic world.
   For 1960, the special effects are pretty good, and the geological impressions it offers leave food for thought.

   Jurassic Park

- with Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum; action, adventure, science fiction (1993)
   Scientists clone dinosaurs to populate a theme park which suffers a major security breakdown and releases the dinosaurs.  The DNA comes from a piece of Dominican amber, cultivated into the most realistic dinosaurs ever portrayed in the movies.  Amber theoretically can contain this kind of material.  The sequels are more of the same, with great effects, but the stories suffer.

   The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

- with Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt; action, adventure, western (1943)
   Dobbs and Curtin meet up in Mexico, and after misfortune decide to go strike it rich in the Sierra Madre.  The depiction of placer gold mining is fairly accurate.  The portrayal of the greed and paranoia that overtakes one of them is classic.  But gold just wouldn't blow away in the wind like that!  This movie is one of Bogart's best.

   Blood Diamond

- with Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly; action, adventure (2006)
   So you want to be in the diamond business?  Some sage once proclaimed: "the price one pays for pursuing any calling or profession is an intimate knowledge of its "dark" side".  This film shows you a little of that side.  And by that I am not talking about race or the continent of Africa.
   The powers that be would like you all to think that the problem of "blood diamonds" has been solved -- that the nice bunch of folks in the big meeting at the end of the movie were all decent, straight-forward, and conscientious, and have figured out how to eliminate the brutality from the trade.
   But in reality there is NO WAY TO KNOW if a diamond is "conflict-free", and the practice of "looking the other way" (or even lying, for that matter) is all too common in the jewelry business.  Unless you see it come out of the ground, THERE IS NO WAY TO RELIABLY KNOW.
   I felt like the film started out to make a "buyer beware" statement about diamonds, and then in the end, bowed down at the very feet of the jewelry industry, begging forgiveness for having such a thought!
   Initially, the jewelry industry was fearful of this movie.  Might ruin those sales of diamonds, you know.  But it didn't, and maybe its timidity is why.
   That said, Blood Diamond has a great plot, is action (and violence) packed, features great acting (especially on Leonardo's part), and the scenery is breathtaking.  Besides the "gloss-over" ending, though, the biggest flaw I saw was the big diamond crystal itself.  It looked like a piece of frosted glass or quartz, and is the wrong shape.
   A real rough diamond looks like it is shiny, even oily, and is more equidimensional.  I know -- only a gemologist would know that -- maybe I am being picky.  But then, if we want accuracy, then let's have accuracy.
   See the movie anyway!

   Forbidden Planet

- with Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis, Walter Pidgeon; action, adventure, science fiction (1956)
   A starship crew goes to investigate the silence of a planet's colony on Altair IV, only to find two survivors and a deadly secret that one of them has.  The story is an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and was also a model for a Star Trek episode.
   In reality, the star Altair is visible in Arizona's summer night sky, and inspired the name of the first personal computer.  The rock formations and landscapes (though completely fake-looking I now realize!) in this film fascinated me as a child -- I wanted to visit a place like that as soon as possible.  Now, Anne Francis would probably command more of my attention.

   Fire in the Sky

- with D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, Craig Sheffer; action, adventure (1993)
   I include this film here because so many people ask me about aliens during my stargazing sessions.  Not that I have any definitive answers, but I do believe they are out there!
   Possibly the most famous alien abduction story of all time comes out of Arizona -- the 1975 abduction of Travis Walton. This movie documents it well.
   Mostly a depiction of the effects on Walton and his fellow loggers after the close encounter took place, it sums up the "abduction experience" well, without just resorting to special effects and the usual gratuitous violence prevalent in today's films.  Over the years, these men have withstood ridicule, family traumas, investigations by numerous government authorities, and passed lie detector test after test, and their story still stands.
   Good sound track, too!

   Romancing the Stone

- with Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito; action, adventure, romantic comedy (1984)
   A romance writer sets off to Colombia to ransom her kidnapped sister, and soon finds herself in the middle of a dangerous adventure.  Yes, dealing in emeralds is a risky business.  The real emerald business should be so much fun!


- with Jodie Foster, Jena Malone, Mathew McConaughey; action, adventure, science fiction (1997)
   Dr. Ellie Arroway, after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of intelligent aliens, who send plans for a mysterious machine.  Her quest, not unlike the real, current-day SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Project, leads to some unexpected quandaries.  The target star system, Vega, 25 light years away, is also visible in our real life summer sky.

   One Million Years B.C.

- with Raquel Welch, John Richardson; action, adventure, science fiction (1966)
   This is the movie that made Raquel Welch famous.  Cave people have never looked better.  I think I still somewhere have the poster from my dorm-room wall of Ms. Welch in her fur bikini.  It is another fantasy and mixing of geologic periods, but the dinosaurs in action are not bad (though not accurate in their representation), and the steaming, volcanic landscape would now be in a national park somewhere -- a geologist's delight!

   Green Ice

- with Ryan O'Neal, Anne Archer, Omar Sharif; action, adventure (1981)
   Another look at the world of emeralds and the violence that surrounds it.  Maybe it will make you want to be a gemologist, too.  Just remember that trying to take your microscope along on your buying trips might be cumbersome.

   Dante's Peak

- with Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton; action, adventure, fiction (1997)
   Dr. Harry Dalton discovers that Dante's Peak, which has recently been named the second most desirable place to live in America, is being threatened by a volcano that hasn't been live for four hundred years.  The science behind this film is fairly accurate, but the boat dissolving beneath the passenger's feet is a little hard to fathom.  See this one and remember it if you live anywhere near Mt. Rainier.

   Close Encounters of the Third Kind

- with Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr; action, adventure, science fiction (1977)
   A line worker, after a encounter with UFO's, feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area (Devil's Tower) in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen.  Devil's Tower, which really exists in Wyoming, is a remnant of an early Tertiary period igneous intrusion, composed of phonolite porphyry, now eroded and exposing some fine columnar jointing.  Maybe there is something about phonolite that attracts little gray men.

   Diamonds are Forever

- with Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Jimmy Dean; action, adventure, science fiction (1971)
   Agent 007 goes to Las Vegas to investigate the disappearance of diamonds in transit and discovers the involvement of his archenemy, Blofeld.  This is another picture that made me want to be a gemologist.  Working around people like these could be exciting.  The title is a take-off on DeBeers' famous slogan, coined by N.W. Ayer & Son in 1947.  DeBeers probably paid the producers to name this movie.

   MacKenna's Gold

- with Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, Telly Savalas, Julie Newmar; action, adventure, western (1969)
   A gangster kidnaps Marshal MacKenna, and believes that MacKenna has seen a map which leads to a rich vein of gold in the mountains and forces him to show him the way.  But they're not the only ones who're after the gold; soon they meet a group of "honorable" citizens and the cavalry crosses their way too - and that is even before they enter Indian territory. 
   Much of it was filmed in the area of Monument Valley (see GemLand's logo above).  I saw this movie during my first summer's work as a geologist.  The scene of the thick solid gold vein in the sandstone made me laugh (as it would any geologist), but the other scenery is grand.  It will make you want to go there for a visit.

   Killer Force (aka The Diamond Mercenaries)

- with Peter Fonda, Telly Savalas, Maud Adams, Hugh O'Brien; action, adventure (1975)
   This 70's action thriller features a twisted plot about a group of diamond thieves operating at the source of the stones.  It shows a somewhat accurate representation of the "Forbidden Zone", the coastal area of southern Africa where indeed rich diamond deposits are mined in heavily guarded conditions.  Not many people realize that diamonds are mined from beaches, as well as hard rock!

   Quest for Fire (aka La Guerre du Feu)

- with Everett McGill, Ron Perlman, Nameer El-Kadi, Rae Dawn Chong; action, adventure, fiction (1981)
   This movie is more in the sphere of archaeology, rather than geology, but close enough.  Early humans travel the savanna, encountering sabre-toothed tigers, mammoths and cannibalistic tribes in search of a flame that would replace the fire their tribe has lost.  We mention this film and love it, as pains were taken to ensure its accuracy, from what science knew of prehistoric humans in 1980 (still pretty much the same in 2003).  So, there are no dinosaurs in this one. 
   The scenery is awesome, and although the picture was originally a French production, you don't have to worry about sub-titles, as there is no language spoken.  Here you can really see just how much can be conveyed just by facial expressions and body language.

   Source for some material above is courtesy of
_Movie_Database, Inc.

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NEW --

  This new section of the website features writings about rocks by Richard Allen, as well as other recommended reading.

of the Southwest

   View a really fascinating set of drawings of what
this part of the world has looked like throughout geologic time.

Rocks Galore

   GemLand has launched a new section devoted to Rock Art in the Phoenix area.
   You can see the beginnings of it, and already take several virtual tours.

Virtual Tour
of the World

   Visit the Degree Confluence Project and its "organized sampling of the Earth".

The Dark Side

   Read all about
Ruby, Sapphire, and the dark side of the gem world, by "the devil" himself, Richard W. Hughes.

Down by the River

   Check out exclusive Montana river front properties -- rock formations optional.
   This site also includes guides, lodging, RV sites, other real estate, and more.

Arizona Peridot, Four Peaks Amethyst, & Sleeping Beauty Turquoise -- all American Gemstones, all from Arizona, all NATURAL.

The Degree Confluence Project

   Now this is a website with a MISSION: visit every place on the land surface of the planet where a full degree line of latitude and a full degree line of longitude cross, and document it!  Unfortunately, there are no such "confluence" places within our map of the Valley of the Sun (but they aren't too far away).
   So far (as of January 2, 2014), people have visited and photographed 913 such spots in the United States, and 6204 such spots around the world! In Arizona, all 28 of 28 possible places have been visited.
   You can see this amazing collection of data at the Degree Confluence Project where they even tell you how to become involved if you like. So far, only about 15% of the degree confluences on Earth have been visited, so there is plenty of room left if you want to contribute!

   "The purest essence of the energy of the heaven-earth world coalesces into rock. ... Within the size of a fist can be assembled the beauty of a thousands cliffs. Rocks are large enough to set up in great courtyards, small enough to set up on a stand.
   The Sage (Confucius) once said, "The humane man loves mountains", and the love of stones has the same meaning.
   Thus, longevity through quietude is achieved through this love."
   --- Du Wan, 1133 BCE

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."
   --- Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, 1854 CE

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