Thoughts on Interstellar

Firstly, I must complain about the sound in the film. Fuck Nolan for trying to damage my ear drums. How he thought it was a good idea to crank Zimmer’s score to such a high level that it was, at points, impossible to discern dialogue, is a mystery to me. Surely this is basic editing. The sound really ruined a lot of my enjoyment for the film.

Okay. Might as well say this now: I only liked the first 1/3 of Interstellar. This is a huge fucking problem for a film that lasts almost 3 HOURS. Did it really need to be that long? There were also steps of deterioration which tracked my dislike of Interstellar.

A/ When Coop and Murph find NASA.

Up until this point, the family drama was engaging and actually quite touching, particularly about this man just trying to live his life teaching his kids life lessons (the parent-teacher scene) and just living. The whole NASA bit moved the focus from the family too quickly, which was not helped by the absurd choice to give – what – HOURS for Coop to say goodbye and leave? From the little time we spent with Coop, I never thought he’d leave Murph, in particular, so abruptly. You could literally see the script say: yup, that’s where their conflict begins. It would have been more interesting if Coop admitted his excitement to explore space/save the world is what drove him to leave so quickly, but I suppose that would have given him a villainous colour (but more interesting drama).

B/ Dr. Mann’s introduction.

I have to say I am surprised I was not spoiled for this one; it’s a fairly big deal in the “space chapter”. This whole thing didn’t make an iota of sense to me. The biggest question is WHY did he want to kill Coop (and Romley – i.e. the only men)? Okay, he lied about the planet being sustainable and wanted to be saved. Okay, so he wanted to go home (like Coop)! But why did he want to kill some of the members of the spaceship? It’s not like they were going to LEAVE him there. Yes, he’s a coward, but as he explained he was driving on survival instinct. Ultimately, this was just a machination from Nolan to split up Coop and Amelia, and it’s silly that there weren’t other ways to do this. This whole section could have shaved 30-45 mins off the film.

C/ The bookshelf and/or 5th dimension arc.

I can’t believe this is the story arc the film finished on. It would have been so much better to move this whole part to the middle and in the final arc to watch people be saved on Earth. IMO anyway. Everything about this chapter was boring and predictable as soon as we saw the bookshelves and young!Murph. To actually watch Coop and older!Murph connect the dots was agonizing and roll-your-eyes worthy.  For some, it’ll be easy to go along with the explanations, but for me it took way too much of a leap of faith. At this point, I checked out until literally the last scenes where Coop met Murph again (surely one of them should have died?! Then for Coop to fuck off and search for Amelia after HOURS of just connecting with his daughter!?) Amelia actually finding the sustainable planet was cool.

Other contrivances that annoyed me: I’m grateful that a Sci-Fi movie dedicated so much to a father-daughter story, but Coop had a son. His lack of character depth was incredibly annoying, which I figured out was because initially there was so much to play with there (as illustrated nicely by Casey Affleck). Then there was Amelia’s little love story – with a man who literally left Earth 11 years ago. Anne Hathaway looks 30, so her character was willing to risk the mission for a man she loved in her late teens!? That almost ruined her character for me. But of course, the planet that turned out to be sustainable was the one Amelia’s man was placed. So, what’s the moral here, Nolan? It couldn’t be to follow your heart is it? Maybe to even never give up on love? What about love transcends all? Well, apparently all this soppy crap worked on some people because I’ve heard a descriptor of this movie that I find to be impossible; “emotional” is the last word to describe Interstellar.

I must admit the majority of the science went completely over my head which contributed a lot as to why I found the last 2/3 of the film boring. Reading up on the theories did help diminish the confusion to a certain extent, and it is rare that a film makes me want to research a topic so badly after a viewing. However, the science was only the tip of the iceberg for the problems this film had as already discussed. Indeed, for such a long film, it’s tremendously disappointing that character development took a backseat. Yes, I enjoyed the first 1/3, but I still cannot understand why Tom was left with such little depth. He resented his sister – fact. And his father for favouring her – fact. Why did he lose contact with his sister for all those years? Why did he want to stay in the hazardous house which endangered his wife and children? Why did he let Murph hug him after she burned down his livelihood? There was no way he even knew what she was talking about regarding Coop sending her a message. Where was Tom at the end of the film when Coop met Murphy on her death bed and before he left again?

Anyway, let’s end this on a good note. One storyline I did appreciate was Dr. Brand lying about the gravity equation and never intending to save the people on Earth. Of course, it was impossible to hear anything Michael Caine said because the sound was ramped to level destroy-everybody’s-eardrums, but I got the gist and I enjoyed the insidious nature of Dr. Brand willing to sacrifice the now for the future. Also, this is possibly Nolan’s most visually beautiful film. Everything up in space did imprint a sense of wonder and adventure. There was no fear though, something Cuarón’s Gravity captured much better. Whoever cast young!Murph did an excellent job; she was my favourite character. In fact, all the actors did a great job with what they were given.

Finally, massive shoutout to TARS. I loved that little thing.

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Outlander Series 1 – Episodes 1-8

So, this is different, but let’s give it a try.

Outlander is a new TV show developed by the network Starz in America. It centres around a young woman, Mrs. Claire Randall, in the 1940s who has survived WWII as a combat nurse and is readjusting to life with her husband. They plan to spend some time together in the Scottish countryside when things go awry in the way of our heroine vanishing at Craigh na Dun. We soon find out she has time travelled to the 1740s in a period of history that has the Scottish Highlanders and the English in growing conflict.

I had first heard of the show on the blogosphere as well as TV and gossip forums. It seemed people were excited because it was a new historical fictional drama. Then I found out it was a drama based on a popular series of books that had been published decades ago with its own built-in fans. There was also strong buzz for the show because the executive producer is Ronald D. Moore – he of Battlestar Galactica fame. So, I said why not!? Might as well jump on this bandwagon and see where it goes. Here are some brief points.

5 Reasons to watch Outlander:

1) Claire is a HBIC. A fierce female character with feminist values which she not only believes in, but also voices. Out loud. In the 1740s. She’s brave and takes no bullshit from the men around her. She’s also empathetic and deals with danger only a survivor knows how to. Basically, Claire is amazing.

2) Vulture have enrolled Roxane Gay to write the recaps, and they are fucking hilarious. For example,

As always, Claire is appalled by the Highlanders’ barbaric ways. At what point will she stop being so surprised by the 18th century? She’s getting a bit Taylor Swift about the whole thing, all that wide-eyed surprise.

3) Acting. Music. Cinematography. These three aspects of the show truly stand out even from the pilot episode. A lot of pressure is on Caitriona Balfe (Claire) to pull off this show as the story is told primarily through her eyes. We have to feel for the character as she become accustomed to this new way of life. Her bewilderment is both endearing and terrifying at times, but it’s up to her to figure this world out and we just have to trust and follow her lead. The music by Bear McCreary is simply brilliant. To be honest, I rarely notice music in TV shows, but the score chosen by McCreary is often evocative and the mix of 1940s swing with the more folk music just makes the show that much more inclusive. The cinematography is truly stunning. Outlander captures the countryside of Scotland in all its glory.

Outlander

4) Sam Heughan.

5) The show is pretty timely. Days after episode 6 aired in the USA, Scotland was to vote in a referendum to decide if the nation should gain independence from the UK. Was it coincidence that the bloodiest episode – the one in which the English were portrayed at their most evil – was the one aired prior to the most important vote in British history since the 1970s and most likely earlier? Conspirators, I call thee.

3 Reasons not to watch Outlander:

1) The dialogue can be cringey at times. It’s always difficult to write dialogue from centuries ago, and there are a lot turns of phrases that seem unnatural to the ear. However, this is nothing to the Scottish accent which is difficult to decipher. The show is challenging in this aspect.

2) Listen Moore, whoever told you the voice-overs was a good idea should be fired on the spot. Let’s not patronise your audience. Thankfully, they only last heavily for a couple of episodes in.

3) Do NOT watch if you are a member of the Men’s Rights Movement. Seriously, don’t do it. You’ll just get all bothered and flustered and the older members will probably suffer heart failures and other atrocities which would rid them of the world. And we need you dammit. *smiles*

PS. I adore the theme tune of the show: