Monthly Archives: May 2014

Gravity

It is an unprecedented situation, my anger at a film has becomes so all encompassing that I feel I must return to it a second time in light of new and disturbing information. This piece contains spoilers. My original issue with the film was the disconnect between the apparent care and attention given over to carefully constructing the space craft, and the complete disregard for any sense of a realistic storyline. Since a discussion with a work colleague about the potential physical impossibility of Kowalski (Clooney) floating off into space like that, I found my suspicions confirmed by this article http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/astronaut-fact-checks-gravity.html alongside all manner of other darker implications. Now this astronaut says he actually quite liked the film in spite of these inconsistencies, but I wonder if he would have felt the same way if he realized Ryan Stone was a space assassin? Of course none of this will argue that it is not an amazing story of survival against the odds, but it might make you question why Stone was in space at all. It all really stems from the moment when she lets Kowalski go, to float into space and eventually suffer a horrific, cold, airless death. Bullshit I hear you call, even if the characters forward motion had been stymied and they could simply have pulled themselves back to the ship, and even if Kowalski would simply have floated in a stationary position when he was let go he did tell Stone (Bullock) to let him go, Stone is no assassin. I have also since been reminded that even if Kowalski had farted it wouldn’t have provided the thrust to send him careening off into space, it would merely have stunk up his space suit. So lets look at the facts. We know from later in the film that Stone is especially susceptible to hallucinations when she is running out of oxygen – and this is certainly the case when she is in this life or death situation. It is possible that here she is simply hallucinating a serene calm Kowalski, when the reality is that his is shouting to her “don’t let me go, please, don’t let me go”, her oxygen starved brain is simply hallucinating a convenient coping strategy with the murder she is about to commit. Why would it be murder though? Could she not simply be the victim of her own hallucination? Potentially, but other things in the film point towards her being a hired space assassin. The fact checking astronaut points out that someone with that little training would unlikely be allowed on the mission at all, wouldn’t be involved in a space walk, and would usually be bought in at short notice to fill a very specific role. That very specific role here is the murder of Kowalski. It is evident that Stone has received far more training than her position would imply, given her ability to save herself, but note that her skills are very limited to only those required to get herself back to earth – a space assassin training program would unlikely be concerned with the complexity of space travel when it serves such a limited function, her training is limited but absolutely in line with her needs. There is that back story, the one where she has no family and no friends and lost her daughter in a car crash, it sounds a lot like someone with nothing to lose, it sounds like an assassin. Clearly the space debris situation was not part of the plan, but notice the point when Kowalski is murdered. As far as Stone knows at this stage the escape pod in the space station will allow her to return safely to earth, the point when she lets go of Kowalski he serves her no further purpose having safely returned her to the ship. Only a cold calculating assassin would make such a choice, she requires his help no more so she completes her more sinister task. So what about that other hallucination, the one where Kowalski returns from the dead to tell her how to get home. Stone is not the perfect assassin, it is a simple manifestation of her guilt and the fact that she was falling in love with her victim, he did after all have beautiful blue eyes. Guilt nearly consumes her and she contemplates taking her own life, despite having the knowledge to get herself to the second space station. What is more important about this hallucination though is that it is seen from outside of Stone, from a third person perspective – and yet we still see the hallucination exactly as she does. This, importantly, means that the whole film is being told from Stones perspective, but not the first person, she is telling the story, but potentially at a later date as a memory, or, I prefer to believe, in the debriefing room at her assassin employers. Effectively, as a memory she can alter the story in any way she pleases. Which brings us to her employer. There is only one motive as far as I can see. Kowalski points out his desire to beat the current record for time spent space walking … the current record holder simply cannot let that happen.

Tagged

Side Effects

So if you have not watched Side Effects yet you definitely should do that now. Then come back, because I don’t have a huge amount to say about it aside from its pretty good. Watched it? What on earth am I supposed to make of that ending. I mean I have no issue with guys dealing out justice, Batman, he is absolutely the shit, he can swing by anytime and sort out the bad guys in my town then stop by my place for a beer whilst we watch reruns of Adam West. Judge Dredd, also awesome, the whole point is that there is no jury and no executioner, just Dredd, all badass and cool. What Alfie, sorry, Dr Banks, hereafter named Agent Cody Banks, does is engineer a situation where he can indefinitely detain someone who has wronged him whilst giving her any cocktail of drugs he desires. This is a big, wonky step up from Dredds “I am the Law!” and Batman, whose whole deal is that eventually, after he has knocked them around a bit, the criminals end up in the clink. Agent Cody Banks though, ostensibly because of good old double jeopardy laws but more because he is clearly a nut case has nothing on his side that looks like legal due process. Absolutely it is murder in cold blood, almost number one on the bad crimes list, but nowhere in any legal system does the victim get to choose the length of the punishment, nor the form it should take. Its annoying too, I really enjoyed it when Agent Cody Banks worked it all out, started putting two and two together then making it all go his way again, even though they chicken right out of explaining how he explained all this to his wife – probably because that conversation would end with her realizing how cray cray he is – and when he gets one up on evil seductress Dr Sideboob I was really cheering for him. I really thought Taylor was going to throw herself out of the window at the end or something and be done with it, it might have made it a little more palatable, but what happens instead is she stays there, staring out of her window and contemplating her crime – becoming involved in an investment/murder/deception/affair – and who can blame her for seeing that as an attractive option.

Tagged

Gravity

Gravity is a big bag of rather infuriating contradictions. It is undoubtedly an amazing looking film, a huge part of the marketing was concerned with how long it took to make, to get every minute detail correct, the effort involved in making the whole thing believable. But really, it sort of feels like it would have taken a studio with a little more cash to throw at it a couple of years at the most. Its like the only reason this thing took so damn long was because someone made it all out of paper mache in their garage. This physical aspect of it though is believable, I have no idea what the inside of a Russian spacecraft looks like, but I trust the film to have got it right. What patently isn’t believable is the storyline. It would be difficult to spoil the film for you, from the word go its fairly clear what is going down, but its not revealing too much to say that the main character must have the luck of literally a billion lottery winners, to get to the end of this film. Except for one specific moment which is so infuriatingly close to defying the laws of physics that I cant even begin to describe how angry I am with it. Anyway it is a series of “oh shit…this is bad, how will this end up” tension building moments interspersed with some not tense kind of annoying moments. Nothing inherently bad there, everyone likes tension. Unless they have bladder problems. And you do have to have moments in between the tension or it is like watching Paranormal Activity and rather than enjoying it everyone leaves feeling a bit sick. So. The back story begins in the realms of non existent, then ramps up, honestly, ramps UP, to a “I really could not care less” sort of level. I couldn’t care less because it is such a lame attempt to get the audience to invest in the worst possible way. It crossed my lips: “well just die already!!”. With all their time tinkering with pretend spaceships they sort of forgot to write a story that you can really care about and had to resort to sort of cliche emo rubbish to get you to give a crap. I for one would have enjoyed this so much better if they had spent the same sort of time, with the same attention to detail making a movie where someone just kicks space butt, no fantastic luck needed, just turns up in space, does awesome space activities, hovers around being amazing then comes back to earth. There is even less story line there than Gravity, but that film would rule.

Tagged

Slaughterhouse Five

I really cant decide if I think Slaughterhouse Five is a brilliant movie or a complete dud. Perhaps it is a little of both. I am inclined to believe it is brilliant with some dud moments, rather than a dud with some moments of brilliance, but its all the same really. To break it down, there is some heavy commentary on war here, its futility, its stupidness and mostly how bloody horrible it is. These scenes are really exceptional, reminding you that WWII was not just about the soldiers on the front line, but that hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives as well. The film doesn’t shy away from this, it piles it on heavy. But this is the point, the juxtaposition of this horror with all the ridiculous mundane things which surround it leads to an almost inevitable conclusion – that none of it really matters at all. When our sort of hero stands and faces death he argues that it already did happen, will happen and will always happen, and that isn’t just because the film plays around with time so much – it is because there is no point in fighting it. Where I don’t like the movie is that this sort of nihilistic attitude comes off as apathy, and sometimes even stupidity – the film doesn’t make clear if when time jumps around it is being experienced for the first time or in the context of … jumping around in time, the latter would make sense given the beginning of the film, but this just means that the main character is as a stupid when he is old as he is when he is young. I think I need to read the book so it all makes a little more sense, but really, having to read the book to make sense of the film makes it all a little pointless. Technically though it is brilliant, there are more examples here of graphic matches and sound bridges to keep the most avid student of film technique happy for a couple of weeks. So, personal issues with the main character aside, this is a good movie, even if it mostly just keeps you interested because you have absolutely no idea where it will take you next.

Tagged

Session 9

It has been a while since an EFIHR post has gone up. I was away for a while and didn’t watch a single film, then before that I got absurdly engrossed in the series Black Sails which is all about pirates and boats and boobs. It is not a film though so I wont even write about it. So I finally had a little spare time after the post holiday comedown/work catch up and settled down to Session 9. The premise is pretty excellent, some asbestos removal workers take a job in a former mental institute and spooky stuff ensues. It all starts off well, the actual setting is really brilliant. I am not sure if they actually just found an old crappy building which was like this, or if they have a top rate art director, but this place looks spooky as. Whats good about this aspect of it is that most of the film still takes place during the day with sunlight streaming in through the windows, but it still manages to maintain the spooky, mostly through liberal use of white asbestos sheets, meat hooks and abandoned wheelchairs. It all falls apart after that though, the plot is pretty awful and is sort of a lift of Shutter Island but with less thought put into it. Or perhaps it is more over thought, this could have worked so well as a straight up horror film with some good jumpy moments, the setting is perfect and the actors (the ginger guy from CSI) are more than up to it – but despite a couple of really creepy bits it never plays out like this, choosing to go dumb intellectual psychological horror instead. The director Brad Anderson has made some really great movies since (see Transiberian) along the same sort of psychological thriller vein, we can put this down as a learning curve movie. Its not the worst thing you could watch, and its almost worth it for a couple of really great basement scares, but it could have been so much more.

Tagged