Archive | December, 2014

Interstellar Redux

28 Dec

In our last post, we talked about the film Interstellar, but we ended up critiquing our own critique. Sure, we said some glib things, but we really didn’t get to the heart of the thing.  One of the ways we judge a movie is whether it ‘lives’ in our minds.  If we forget a movie right after the end credits roll, we know that the movie was not very good.  If we find ourselves thinking about a movie days after seeing it, we know that the film has engaged us, even if we didn’t find it completely satisfying.

Interstellar is that kind of movie for us – we knew there we’re problems with the picture, but we nevertheless found ourselves thinking about it.  We’d seen the film with our daughter (https://dejungle.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/the-hobbit/) and several days ago she noted “You know, I’m still not sure how I feel about the movie,” mirroring our own thoughts.  At the time we’d written it off as a picture with lofty ambitions, but one that director Christopher Nolan had allowed to get away from him.  It now occurs to us that perhaps that is what inevitably happens when directors take on such sweeping subjects.

2001 is one of our all-time favorite movies – dissin’ 2001 to us is fightin’ words.  Nevertheless, we can see why many find it perplexing and even annoying – the “light show” can seem disconnected from what has gone before and some viewers may feel that the astronaut’s transformation at the end comes out of left field.  For many, 2001 ultimately fails to deliver the goods.

Though some movie goers may find the Interstellar’s third act uplifting,  others may feel as perplexed as some of 2001’s viewers did. Though we didn’t feel perplexed, we think that films that try to show us the infinite come up against the limits of the human mind, not to mention the limits of special effects technology, as impressive as the latter has become over the last decade.  In other words, we think it’s really hard to blow people’s minds in film, ’cause to really blow their minds you’d have to show ’em something beyond your ability to show on screen and beyond your capacity to imagine it.

Then again, maybe all ya need is a good car chase scene …

Maybe a car chase is all ya need ...

Maybe a car chase is all ya need …

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A feller looks at Interstellar

15 Dec

We finally got around to seeing Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s big budgeted sci-fi picture.  In our humble opinion, it’s a lot like 2001: A Space Odyssey, only longer. OK, we’re being flip – the film is quite different from 2001 in many ways, and yet, there are parallels.  Both films deal with a trans-dimensional duct / wormhole near a planet in our solar system. Both have a character who thinks that the mission is too important to allow the others to jeopardize it, and both deal with the paradoxes of travel in space/time (although 2001 handles the latter much more obliquely than Interstellar does.)

The situation on Earth in Interstellar is a mixed bag.  On the positive side, there is apparently no more war, as armies are a thing of the past. It’s not all Shangri-La though; the U.S. (and presumably the rest of the planet) has become one big dust bowl.  Instead of heading to California in like the Joad family in “The Grapes of Wrath”,  NASA decides to push out toward the stars in search of a new planet for us humans to trash. Indeed, they’ve already sent a team of astronauts through the wormhole, though no one has apparently heard from those folks in 10 years.

Interstellar takes the viewer to the stars, but getting there is not half the fun. The film is a bit of a slog at times, clocking in at 169 minutes. The picture left us a bit frustrated, as it tackles some pretty heady ideas, but left us wanting more, although we weren’t quite sure what that something was.  Nonetheless, the film boasts impressive visuals, and  Matthew McConaughey carries the picture quite well.  It also manages to dishes out a few surprises along the way. To us, however, it never quite achieved the escape velocity we were hoping for.

Interstellar still

Latter day Joads

Film Schools are B.S.!

2 Dec

“Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.”
-Stanley Kubrick

It occurs to us that we haven’t posted anything in over a month.  If one is to have a blog, one must write things, otherwise it’s not a blog; it’s a defunct blog.  We’ve decided that this time that we’re going to rail against film schools, like those at NYU and USC and any other ones out there.  Our purpose in doing so is twofold; it’ll put us back on the map as a going concern, and it might even make some people mad.  We’ve always fancied ourselves as agents-provocateurs and this is our chance.

We think film schools should be viewed with suspicion, ’cause most of the great film directors never went to film school – they were their own film schools.  Kubrick got himself an Eyemo motion picture camera and made a short documentary called “Day of the Fight.”  He didn’t sit around in a classroom and discuss the close up versus the medium shot versus the long shot; he shot a buncha film (or at least as much as he could afford to shoot with almost no budget. ) This was back before the days of video and video assist, when you didn’t know if what you’d shot was any good until it came back from the lab.  The great Russian film theorists had difficulty getting film stock, so they edited existing footage and developed their theories based on these experiments. Again, they learned by doing it – they didn’t have some professor to tell them about film theory.

young stanley kubrick

You go, Stanley!

If you’ve ever taken a film class, there’s always that one person in the class who thinks of him/herself as the next wunderkind.  That person usually has very little upon which to base that opinion.  That person is really annoying, isn’t s/he? (We were that person and we even annoyed ourselves.)  Another reason to avoid film schools and film classes.

The one useful role that film schools might fulfill is to provide equipment for those folks bitten by the film bug.  Even if you’re determined to strike out on your own a la Kubrick, you’re going to have a tougher time of it if you don’t have access to decent equipment (though in this day and age,  some pretty good results can be had even with less than stellar stuff.)  Why go out and rent a bunch of stuff if it’s  included in the tuition?

Now’s  the time to admit that we really don’t know what we’re talking about – we never actually attended a film school, only a few film classes, and that was decades ago.  Nonetheless, most of our our opinions are based on rather less than that…