Posts Tagged ‘gravity’

by Alex Huntsberger (not to be confused by the one Andrew wrote)

Gravity (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron (Dir.), Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

It's like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of an evil robot it's GOD.

It’s like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of an evil robot it’s GOD.

God I fucking hated the first two Harry Potter movies. Like, seriously, you guys. Especially because I loved the first two Harry Potter books. (Well, okay, I basically shat my pants with rainbows when I read the first book and then read the second book and only really liked it.) I was in…lemme see (checks IMDB, realizes how long it’s been since these movies came out, weeps) my freshman year of high school and while most of my friends were definitely more excited for the Lord of the Rings movie coming out, I was 500% more into Harry Potter. JK Rowling didn’t waste 3 pages telling you the history whatever goddamn hillock her protagonists happened walking along at the time. Those books were lean, mean wish-fulfillment machines and their films were gonna wipe the floor with those stupid, prancing hobbits. It was gonna be great.

Until it wasn’t. Lord of the Rings got entrusted to some weirdo director of low-budget New Zealand gore-comedies, Kate-Winslet-starring teen lesbian psychodramas and Michael J. Fox ghost-buddy flicks whose strange, obsessive version of reality turned out to be just the thing that made Tolkein’s magical kingdom leap off the screen bestride a majestic steed and ram its motherfucking elvish blade right through your goddamn soul. Harry Potter got Chris Columbus, the guy who made Mrs. Doubtfire. He took a world teeming with originality and wit and flying motorcycles and moving stairwells and three-headed dogs and secret train stations and I MEAN QUIDDITCH FOR CHRISSAKES and he turned it into a fucking Thomas Kinkade painting with weirdly anti-semitic goblins.

Harry Potter and the Fucking Hell I Hate Thomas Kinkade

Harry Potter and the Fucking Hell I Hate Thomas Kinkade

So by the time Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was set to open, I was pretty much over it. By then I was reading Hunter S. Thompson and listening to Bright Eyes and, you know, the country was mired in Iraq so I had that to worry about and I just really didn’t give a shit. I was still gonna see it, cuz I was still a nerd who didn’t like the outdoors, but I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

And then I loved it. And the reason I loved it was because someone over at Warner Bros. had realized that Chris Columbus was as good at making movies as the explorer with the same name was at sailing to India. Chris Columbus had been fired and replaced by a little known Mexican guy by the name of Guillermo Del Toro I know it didn’t happen but how freaking cool would that have been Alfonso Cuaron. Whereas Chris Columbus was like a quarterback who wasn’t trying to score a touchdown so much as he was trying to not turn the ball over, Alfonso was like a quarterback who wasn’t a quarterback at all, but was actually a sexy, bearded poetry professor who seduced his students (both male and female) and read them Neruda while feeding them Turkish wines out of handmade clay cups and who just sped across the football field one day on his moped, grabbed the football out of the other quarterback’s hands and zipped into the end zone as pages of his never-to-be-finished-but-still-brilliant novel  fell out of his bag and scattered to the wind behind him and the entire stadium was filled with a spectacular sense of effervescent joie de vivre. It was an upgrade, to say the least.

2 years after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Cuaron released Children of Men, a piece of dystopian sci-fi that remains to this day one of my favorite movies. But after Children of Men there was nothing. For years and years and years, absolutely nothing. One of the best director’s working in film had all but vanished. I personally just assumed that he moved to Italy to study the art of cobbling, because if everyone was crazy in the way that Daniel Day-Lewis was crazy then the world would be a better place. But no, Alfonso was not cobbling. Or rather, he was cobbling, but not with shoes. He was cobbling with the very nature of filmmaking itself. He was constructing and, for the most part, entirely inventing anew a rig that would allow him to shoot a live action film entirely in Zero G. And not just floaty-floaty Zero-G but floaty-spinny-out-of-controlly-zoomy-zoomy-law-of-Murphy Zero G. It took him 7 years to complete.

And it’s called Gravity.

That is exact same I look that I get when my browser tells me to "clear my cache."

That is exact same I look that I get when my browser tells me to “clear my cache.”

THE BASICS: During a routine mission by the crew of the Space Shuttle Explorer  to service the Hubble telescope, disaster strikes. The shrapnel from a recently detonated Russian satellite destroys both the Hubble as well as The Explorer itself, stranding long-time-scientist, first-time-astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in the middle of freaking space. Kowalski, who Clooney pretty much plays as a cross between George Clooney in real life and every other character he was ever played, calmly explains that he and Stone are simply going to mosey on over to the abandoned International Space Station and take one of their escape pods back down to earth. (They have a different and actually official name but, fuck it, they’re escape pods.) But when they arrive at the ISS it turns out that neither escape pod is a go-go for re-entry. Kowalski, ever the cucumber, says that this isn’t a problem, as they can just use one of the escape pods to jet on over to the Chinese space station a little ways away and use on of their escape pods.  It is at this point in the film that things really start to go awry. And remember, this is a movie that began with its characters getting stranded in the the middle of freaking space.

For those of you who haven’t seen the film, (And don’t worry, I’ll be berating you in a second) I’m going to stop this summary here. Some things just have to be enjoyed in the moment. For instance, the act of wiping the poop of your pants after this movie makes you shit yourself with horror.

Now, once again, for those of you who haven’t seen the film…What the hell is wrong with you?! Go see it IMAX 3-D right now! For those of you who have seen the film but haven’t seen it in 3-D, let alone in IMAX 3-D… What the hell is wrong with you?! Go see it IMAX 3-D right now! For those of you who have seen the film in regular 3-D but had the option of seeing it in IMAX 3-D…What the hell is wrong with you? Go see previous instructions.

Certain critics have derided this film as pure spectacle, and this is not entirely inaccurate. The script is pretty pro-forma, with moment’s like the revealing  of Sandra Bullock’s tragic backstory coming off as such an awkward info dump, it’s like living at the bottom of the info outhouse and then hearing that Newt Gingrich just ate a whole buffet full of info and is currently headed your way, Wall Street Journal in hand. But to write this movie off as just a spectacle is to write the Grand Canyon off as just a pretty sizeable divot. Gravity is a visceral experience. It doesn’t set out to make you think, it just wants to make you feel. And in that regard the thing, is a friggin’ masterpiece.

AND THE NOMINEES MIGHT BE…

Best Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects, Cinematography, Production Design and, fuck it, throw in Short Film (Animation) too cuz this bitch is gonna clean UP!

While a lot of people have been calling Gravity an Oscar front runner, it is in these categories that it can really be considered a juggernaut. There is barely a shot or moment in this movie that is special effect free. This because the nature of the story that is being told. These characters are trapped in outer space, orbiting above earth. As this is something that cannot be captured casually (for instance they couldn’t pull a Joss Whedon and just go film it at Cuaron’s house unless Cuaron was secretly Magneto and lived in a floating asteroid fortress), so the special effects are an integral part to the story. And even the few shots in the movie that essentially amount to “look how fucking beautiful Earth is from space, you dicks” are so well done that you really are just sitting there thinking “damn, that shit IS purdy.” Without the special effects, this movie would not work. It’s why it took Cuaron so long to make. He was obsessed with getting it right. Hell, they filmed the thing in 2011. All the rest of that time was spent in post.

When I remember the sound of this movie, the only thing I can recall is Sandra Bullock hyper-ventilating. Since the movie is set in space, where sound doesn’t travel, there are far fewer ambient elements to work with. The sound design here is very sparse, very elegant, and very terrifying because of that. And while some people might ask, “well shouldn’t we be rewarding the films that had the most complicated sound design?” these are probably the same people who listen solely to speed metal because those musicians can play the fastest. The soundtrack starts out very gentle, with the reassuring buzz of Mission Control bantering back and forth with George Clooney. Once the shrapnel hits and the astronauts are cut from their communications with home, that silence become deafening. It didn’t even hit me until a later scene where Bullock is able to pick a transmission coming through via HAM radio just how nice it was to hear the electric whirr of static. It’s become such a signifier of connectedness, of home.

I won’t get too much into the other visual effects, other than to say that this movie is beautiful. I think Gravity stands to wipe the floor in these technical categories, possibly setting it up for Titanic-esque Oscars takedown. It could definitely challenge Slumdog Millionaire’s eight statues and possibly go after Return of the King’s eleven. However, it most likely won’t win as many as Titanic, which I’m pretty sure won all of them. All. Even the shorts.

James Cameron at the 1998 Academy Awards

James Cameron at the 1998 Academy Awards

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock

Yes. This is going to happen. Maybe in a stronger year with a stronger crop of leading ladies she could be edged out…except that no, she would still be in it. Right now I would even call her an early favorite to win the whole damn thing. One could even say she’s…driving the bus?

Bus

Keanu’s helping

Okay, with my requisite Speed joke out of the way, I can actually talk about her performance. Cuz it’s kind of a doozy. Bullock here is that thing she does best: she’s our every woman. Dr. Ryan Stone ain’t no spacetronaut. She’s just a normal brilliant scientist that for vague and/or unintelligible reasons has been called to service the Hubble Telescope. You know, cuz sometimes that just happens. What’s amazing about her performance though is a) the relative dearth of quality dialogue she is given to deliver and b) that she spends almost the entire movie in various degrees of nervous breakdown without ever once losing our sympathy. Never once in this movie did I think “God, Sandy, why don’t you just pull it together already?!” Instead I just kept thinking “pull yourself together, Huntsberger, it’s just a movie, it’s just a—OH GOD SANDY WATCH OUT.”

Throughout her entire career, Bullock has possessed this inner steeliness that’s made her Hollywood’s go to Tough-Ass Cookie. She’s an Oreo made out of coal and C-4.  Oddly enough, it’s also the thing that’s made her a pretty damn good romantic comedy lead as well. When allowed to bring the sass, she’s actually got a very down-home-style Katharine Hepburn vibe. In Gravity, she uses that steeliness to mitigate Stone’s outright panic. Even when the character is literally hyperventilating her air supply away, Bullock maintains this undertone of control, of inner strength the mutes the panic and keeps you on her side.

That steeliness is also why her entire character arc works.  Once Stone is called upon to take charge of the situation and get her ass home, Bullock turns into a one-woman wrecking machine of pure will. If Bullock didn’t seem like she had it in her from the very beginning, then this moment would be laughable. But I wasn’t laughing. I was cheering. I was yelling “Go Sandy Go! Fuck Space! Kick it’s fucking Ass! U.S.A!!! U.S.A!!!”

In summation, Sandra Bullock is a goddamn national treasure, so much so that the third National Treasure movie isn’t even going to have Nicolas Cage in it. It’s just going to be Sandy getting kidnapped and then saving her damn self. She’s getting nominated for an Oscar. Take that, terrorists.

Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney

SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!

So yeah George Clooney dies in this movie. Now he goes out like a fucking badass, sacrificing himself so that Bullock can make it home and then floating out into space, just talking about life and bullshit. But he does die. This is why he is in the supporting category and not the lead. It’s because he dies. (He DOES come back in a later scene as, basically, “The Ghost of Christmas Clooney” but he’s only a ghost because HE DIES.)

It’s not that George Clooney is bad in this movie, far from it. I think he’s great. Matt Kowalski  a consummate good old boy, bantering back and forth with Mission Control about his various ex-wives and then later calmly prodding a panicked Stone into conversation in order to keep her calm. When he sacrifices himself, it feels like a huge loss because he was the one who knew (or at least pretended to know) how they were going to get out of this. The characters a security blanket, and nothing makes you feel more secure than the dulcet tones of El Clooney.

However, “security blanket” is different than “complex, human being.” Clooney serves his purpose in this film very well but he isn’t asked to do much. He is perfectly in his comfort zone. Hell, he is the movie’s comfort zone. His character exists long enough to get the audience situated and introduce some hope and then he floats away, taking the rug that the audience was standing on with him. Matt Kowalski is not a human, and the role is not a challenge. And while the Wrinkled Fuckers love them some Georgie Porgie Pudding & Pie, they don’t nominate him unless he’s stretching his comfort zone. He won the Oscar for Syriana, wherein he was schlubby and bearded and he was nominated again for Up in the Air where he had to cry and be a person and stuff. This role is not either one of those. It is “Danny Ocean in Space.” I’m not feeling it.

Best Screenplay: Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron

The script for this movie is essentially the script for a video game. It sets the rules of how things work, bridges the gap between set pieces A and B and throws in a little pathos for flavor. But the quality of the writing is about the same. The only way that this script is getting nominated is if it gets swept in on the coattails of a bunch of other nominations. That could definitely happen, but it’s not very likely.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Clooney in repose.

Clooney in repose.

Look back at Cuaron’s previous films and Gravity is actually a very natural endpoint. It’s a huge leap forward, yes, but it is the movie that Cuaron has been moving towards for over a decade. Cuaron has always had a roving eye, wanting his camera to take in everything a scene has to offer. A lot of directors who wander in this fashion opt for either the 1st-person shaky cam (think Steven Soderbergh) or the sweeping tracking shot (Paul Thomas Anderson). Cuaron seeks to have both. He wants the scope that a tracking shot brings with the intimacy of the hand-held shaky cam. But both of those methods draw attention to themselves, to their sheer immediacy and/or virtuosity. Cuaron does not seek that. While his ambitions for the camera are far greater than probably any other living director (Orson Welles is honestly the best comparison I can think of) he does not want innovation for innovation’s sake. (Okay, so scratch Orson Welles. Citizen Kane is pretty much the original dick pic.) He’s a storyteller, who wants his stories to resonate at a deeper level than they have before. With Children of Men he pushed traditional methods about as far as he could go. With Gravity he creates something entirely new.

The reason to see this movie in 3-D is because it is movie that takes place in 3-D. When you take gravity out of the equation you go from a horizontal plane to a cubic one. The action can be moving in any direction at any moment. And with the complex rigging system that Cuaron constructed for this movie, so can his camera. The opening shot of this movie is 13 minutes long, covering the initial mission through all hell breaking loose. By never cutting away and instead staying in the chaos of the Stone and Kowalski’s world exploding he does not give you an out. He does not give you that split second to remember that this is just a movie. It is that immediacy, the result of extreme precision, that makes what Cuaron has done so amazing. Gravity doesn’t feel like it’s a movie. It feels like it’s just happening. Like it’s a force of nature. A force of nature like, oh, I don’t know, gravity ???

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Huntsberger, I hate you. I hate you so much.)

Best Picture: Gravity

The Wrinkled Fuckers love it when a movie looks expensive. They’re tacky like that. They don’t just want insights into the human condition, the kind of thing that can be executed solely through good acting/writing/directing. Nah playa. They want a little bit of grandeur in there too. You’re gonna set your story in modern suburbia with everybody wearing polos and sundresses and driving Nissan Ultimas? Well screw you, cuz THIS guy’s movie (note: it’s almost always a guy, and it’s almost always Ridley Scott) has got characters wearing doublets and they’re sword fighting in ballrooms and…oh my god is that a blimp! Holy Shit that is a fucking blimp! Oh I am SOLD. (note: it really should be called a zeppelin, and I’m pretty sure the film I just described is Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers.) When a movie like Titanic comes around, which isn’t often, the Wrinkled Fuckers are in heaven. Most other times they have to make do with a movie that wasn’t made with such an Ahab-like obsession, but they do often find a way to ultimately honor movies that have a little bit of technical oomph. Let’s look at the Best Picture Nominees from the past 10 years, shall we?

2013: Argo

2012: The Artist

2011: The King’s Speech

2010: The Hurt Locker

2009: Slumdog Millionaire

2008 No Country For Old Men

2007 The Departed

2006 Crash

2005 Million Dollar Baby

2004 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The most recent three were all period pieces which means that production values are naturally going to be on display throughout. Before that was a war movie and before the war epic was a high-budget fantasia set in a foreign country. The four before that were all actually pretty modern, but even then: No Country for Old Men was a western slash action-noir. The Departed was a cops and robbers epic and Crash won because lot’s of people thought two dudes kissing was gross. Even Million Dollar Baby was a sports movie. And then of course there was Return of the King: a restrained, low-budget chamber piece if ever there was one.

Remember, The Wrinkled Fuckers are not just actors and writers and such. Their ranks cover every inch of the industry. A lot of them are scenic artists and sound engineers and Mickey Rourke fluffers. They like to see the technical elements represented on screen too, not just the hoity toity “art” ones.

And holy shit are the technical elements well-represented in this movie. So what if the script’s not great when the movie’s also got an incredibly solid lead performance as well as an incredibly Clooney supporting one? The movie is riveting, in that it is like being attacked with a rivet gun and having your brain drilled into. This movie is getting a nomination for best picture. It’s getting a nomination for best director too. And best actress. And best all-the-technical-categories-that-no-one-gives-a-shit-about.

Internet, meet your 2014 Academy Awards juggernaut, courtesy of the guy who replaced the guy who eventually made Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I look forward to its eventual close defeat at the hands of Machete Kills.

Gravity (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron (Dir.), Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, the infinite abyss of deep space, Neil Degrasse Tyson’s voice in the back of my head going “Na-uh, not how it works”

Either that's Sandra Bullock falling into the infinite darkness of space, or someone who just did a sick break dancing move in zero G.

Either that’s Sandra Bullock falling into the infinite darkness of space, or someone who just did a sick break dancing move in zero G.

There is a place in Chicago. It is a dark place, its covert shadow hidden behind the facade of infinite twinkling lights and signs for Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. A world, a candyland, if you will, of actual candy and misappropriated dreams. It is, at once, a monument to a crowning achievement of civic engineering and, at second, a cesspool of fantastical nonsense. Yes, I talk of course about Chicago’s Navy Pier. It’s neither navy, and it barely gets under the rope of the definition of ‘pier’ but, this hellscape of a tourist trap is the location of the city’s only IMAX theater. The pilgrimage to this end of the universe, this Harry Carray-infested ring of the Inferno, is an ordeal both annoying and existentially testing for any who are willing to endure it. How much do you really need to see Gravity in IMAX 3D BS OMFG HPV ASAP? As much as you needed to see those three scenes from Iron Man 3 that are actually appropriate for a massive fucking screen? Hmmm?

Well, the lady Coleman and I braved the thronging masses of cheapened Chicagoan touchstones as we traipsed into the massive undulating snake tail that is the line into the IMAX theater. To call it insanity is doing a disservice to the mentally ill. It is putrid humanity at worst. And, because this place is run by the version of Schrodinger’s cat that was poisoned in that box and then clawed its way out by way of sheer will and a heart of throbbing evil, one cannot get both snacks AND a movie, seeing as the lines for both are a MILLION MILES LONG. So choose! Would you like sustenance but miss the first fifteen minutes of film? Or do you want a movie while sustaining a mouth drier than the Sahara in a drought? Choose ye and despair!

Erin and I chose the second option. And we were not disappointed. A little parched, but not disappointed.

For all my bellyaching, the concept of this IMAX in 3-Dimensions nonsense has probably saved the theatrical experience from itself. Too often, as technology makes a product more easily accessible, the industry that this practice hurts usually stamps its feet, gnashes its teeth, and holds its breath. However, eventually, people innovate or die. It’s a simple law of the universe. IMAX is an experience one cannot see anywhere other than those monstrosity orbs latched onto museums and theme parks like benign civic tumors. But, lordy, are they incredible. Assigned seating. No bathroom breaks. It’s like going back to school. However, the magic of IMAX is, if done correctly, you can truly be transported. Until this point in my life, I’ve never fully understood what this means, what with the meager offerings of The Dark Knight’s specially filmed scenes or the five minutes of Iron Man 3 that weren’t shot in extreme close-up on RDJ’s beard (don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine beard, but it’s not going to win the mantel of PORE-COUNTING: THE MOVIE aka Les Miserables)…that was, until I saw Gravity.

"Hey, all these screws remind me of your mother." ~ George Clooney will never not be George Clooney

“Hey, all these screws remind me of your mother.” ~ George Clooney will never not be George Clooney

Mr. Alfonso “One Take” Cuaron, otherwise known as Mr. Children of Men, perhaps my favorite film of all fucking time, or as Mr. “The Guy that Destroyed Harry Potter 3”, as that one girl furiously stated on Facebook when Prisoner of Azkaban was released  is one of those bastards audacious enough to have taste and to encourage artistic merit even in his movies about fictitious wizards. What a piece of smegma. Well, after taking a break from, well, the universe, Mr. Cuaron has returned to the screen with his development-hell tale hanging in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Gravity is pretty simple. Sandra Bullock is a medical doctor inexplicably working on the Hubble Telescope, cracking jokes with George “He’s Never Not George Clooney” Clooney as a veteran NASA space-man. During a routine upgrade, the Russians blow up a satellite which then causes a barrage of 20,000 mile an hour debris to shred them like one ply toilet paper. From there, the script takes the hero’s journey in its elemental form: get from A to B to C. I’m talking physically. The script is basically a set of celestial GPS directions. And that’s just fine.

There are few things that have to be acknowledged with Mr. Cuaron’s achievement here, because it is an achievement of almost every kind. First and foremost: technical. I don’t know the name of his cinematographer, but the man must have been touched by god in the womb. This guy is the Jesus of the long-take. Cuaron approaches him being like, “Yo, I have like four shots…” and this guy shakes his head and, like water into wine, is like, “Nah, son. ONE shot.” I think you can count the number of shot breaks in Gravity on one hand. And, while in Children of Men this was more a gimmick, a penis-showing contest, if you will, in Gravity it is nothing but seamless. I completely forgot that the camera hadn’t broken from its subject after a while. Granted, with this thing showing more CGI than a George Lucas Weight Loss Convention, it might be considered a dubious honor. There is no question that Cuaron has crafted something harrowing, intense and all-consuming. In the few moments of breath Ms. Bullock takes before leaping into yet another Zero-G Shit Fest (note to self: open club called Zero-G Shit Fest), we too are forced to come up for air if only momentarily before being dragged into the emotional maelstrom on display. For the length of the film’s 90 minutes I never once tore my eyes from the screen. Such an act would be one of sacrilege, an affront of the gods of cinematography. You might miss a panoramic view of the Earth’s surface at sunrise, or Ms. Bullock sucking down the last of her oxygen while escaping the current of her suffocating panic attack. If seen in the right way, you won’t be able to look away. In this day and age, that demands an award of the highest order.

"Hey George, George, hey George...wanna see my Mission: Impossible impression? George? ...George?" ~ an awkward moment of realization for Ms. Bullock.

“Hey George, George, hey George…wanna see my Mission: Impossible impression? George? …George?” ~ an awkward moment of realization for Ms. Bullock.

Though, with any experiment in technicality (because, let’s be real, that’s what this is) there are some drawbacks. Through Cuaron’s constant employment of POV and the excessive prevalence of CGI the action looks more of a video game than anything else. This is a meager complaint because that comment usually means that the movie is about as exciting as watching your 12 year old cousin play Call of Duty for about 10 hours straight. Here, the opposite is true. In fact, it seems as though Cuaron has finally realized the mecca of video-game cut scene excitement that all Call of Duty games reach for. Unfortunately, those network-connected plebs (read: most males between 18 and 30) are too locked into a video game to come and see this exercise in zero-G storytelling. The other drawbacks are that of character and literary theme. When most of the movie is people screaming and begging for lives versus nature, there’s little room for nuance. Granted we get snippets of backstory for both Clooney and Bullock…but who gives a shit? Other than one fascinating comment from Bullock about her daughter, their characterization is a futile experiment. Most of the dialogue is directional and plainly objective. Any subtext is fairly useless when the ISS is exploding behind you.

Between the eruptions and the tension, there are some clever strings being pulled. Cuaron is a smart man, smart enough to make a movie about a lack of child birth into something about hope for a dying future. This movie plays with a few themes in a subtle manner. Firstly: nature vs. humanity. It’s clear from the opening credits that space is uninhabitable. It seems as though Cuaron intends to encourage humanity to keep its feet firmly on the ground. Though it is called “Gravity“, that character never makes an appearance. It is the Godot to Bullock and Clooney’s Didi and Gogo. They beg for it to be there and yet it isn’t. Cuaron is careful that very little of this movie, in space terms, is extraordinary. The events of the catastrophe come from nothing more than routine work. Even when the missile strike is discussed over the radio, Housten is barely worried. The entire movie is an example of how deadly the universe is when humans are stripped of their basic assumptions namely: gravity, oxygen and heat. I mean, it seems obvious, but with movies such as Star Wars and Star Trek purveying absurd inaccuracies about the very nature of space travel, it’s refreshing to see a genre dragged back to its roots. Unfortunately, for the most part it’s a one trick pony, unlike its brilliantly bizarre and superior predecessor 2001: A Space Odyssey (SPOILERS: George Clooney is the massive space baby). It’s interesting to note that it’s a sad day for NASA when movie makers need to historicize a fictitious event that had to happen in the PAST when concerning SPACE TRAVEL. That’s right, since the shutdown of the space shuttle program, this movie is impossible. What the Carl Sagan fuck, guys?

In space, it's all a mater of perspective. Here it looks like Sandra Bullock is about to be crushed my a fucking space station. BUT if you turn your head, she's the strongest member of the 'SPEED' cast the world' ever known.

In space, it’s all a mater of perspective. Here it looks like Sandra Bullock is about to be crushed by a fucking space station. BUT if you turn your head, she’s the strongest member of the ‘SPEED’ cast the world’s ever known.

Cuaron carefully plays with both space and time (no joke intended – okay, fine, there was a joke but I was too lazy to make it. DEAL WITH IT). Firstly, though space is infinite, I’ve never felt so claustrophobic. Both he and his cinematographer are obsessed with examining the beauty of the cosmos…but that beauty is a distant creature. All they have in the meantime is the vacuum of nothingness. Every vessel they visit is the size of a boarding school bathroom stall, barely enough room to fit two children, even if one of them has their head in a toilet, and that kid is totally not me, I’m just using a hypothetical situation to prove a point and I certainly don’t still have a debilitating fear of clockwise rotating water. All things taken for granted on earth (100 meters, fire, momentum, etc.) are a mess in space. Seeing Bullock and Clooney handle each challenge moment to moment is thrilling and, somehow, never hits the point of diminishing returns. Even that video-game-esque excitement of the POV shots adds to the crushing sense of closeness, our protagonists’ faces always reflected on the meager barrier between them and the obliterative death of deep space. Likewise, time takes on a new meaning out in the black. You are constantly aware of the debris barrage coming every 90 minutes, though each second seems an eternity. There is a moment when Bullock reaches safety for the first time and removes her suit, she lies, floating in the airlock, like a baby in the womb, curled tightly into a fetal position. The seconds tick away and she doesn’t move an inch. It is not only a powerful moment of relief, it’s also a transformation where, for the first time, we see her as a fully-fledged and vulnerable human being.

From here on…there be SPOILERS. Beware…

Most of the movie is Sandra Bullock grabbing things. If you don't like it, you're an IDIOT.

Most of the movie is Sandra Bullock grabbing things. If you don’t like it, you’re an IDIOT.

This, as with Children of Men, is a story about hope. It’s the tale of a person facing insurmountable and deadly odds, one that will not only kill but utterly dehumanize before the end. It’s about people seeing the end of their fate and deciding to press on into the darkness. In CoM, because, yes that movie is so essential to society that it requires an abbreviation, we see Clive Owen beaten, slammed, shot, tortured, chased, and generally emotionally mutilated, all in service of saving the first child born in 20 something years. Gravity plays with similar themes though reduced like a fine sauce to a simmering and simple delicacy. The is no need to save earth, it’s just a tale of survival. For the length of the movie I expected Bullock to bite the proverbial space dust. However, she persists, hallucinating her way into action and doing the impossible to find her way back to Earth. Every inch of the way, your heart is hurting for this poor woman as she has to go through catastrophe after catastrophe all of it caused by a routine satellite SNAFU. Cuaron makes an interesting point of highlighting the deadliness of the mundane especially in Bullock’s story about her daughters death (hackneyed choice, b-tee-dubs, guys, but I’ll let it slide. The script isn’t exactly the work of a master. “GRAB ONTO SOMETHING, ANYTHING!” is just a teensy bit short of Shakespeare. But whatevs) she discusses that her kid tripped while playing, hit her head and died. Nothing more to it. It’s that spark of the minor devastations that drives this tale to its optimistic end. But while my heart yearned for her to survive, my mind begged this movie to be slightly more complex. It’s not. There was something chilly to the ending of Liam Neeson tour-de-wolf-punching-force The Grey (both literally and figuratively), where it becomes apparent that the film following the survivors of a plane crash in Alaska slowly succumb to the elements until they’re left as frozen meat-cicles. I hoped for a similar end to Gravity. Perhaps something mildly ambiguous…not Sandra Bullock standing in red mud while the orchestra climaxes (both literally and figuratively).

The only actual complaint I could have about Children of Men is the ending. The same is mostly true of Gravity. You beg them to survive, you pray and hope and clench and hold your breath and then…when they do, you find yourself lacking. We, the audience, are children screaming for a big-kid meal…but when we get it, we’re disappointed, unaware that we didn’t actually want a positive ending at all. It’s beautiful to think there is an intelligent artist doing good work in the horrifically existentially disemboweling creature that is Hollywood, pumping out tales of unfettered hope. I guess…I don’t want that. I wanted Sandra Bullock to die. And this is the first time in like two years that I wanted it to happen for a reason other than because she won the Oscar for The Blind Side. I wanted this to be about man’s folly in confronting nature, just like I did with Sunshine. But then people win against nature and, once more, it transforms a harrowing tale into one of a power fantasy. Where’s the ‘cautionary’ in the cautionary tale? Le sigh.

*SPOILERS OVER*

Either Ms. Bullock is drifting into the abyss or this is the laziest Muse album cover I've ever seen.

Either Ms. Bullock is drifting into the abyss or this is the laziest Muse album cover I’ve ever seen.

In the end, sci-fi is a limping, damaged filmic genre. These days people are more content to settle for nonsense like Star Trek Into Darkness and everything to come out of the penis that spawned Transformers and Battleship. It’s refreshing to see something different, something challenging. Should it win Oscars? Maybe for technical achievements. Anything else? Not in my humble (read: not humble in the slightest) opinion. Remember Avatar? No? Good. This is a piece of technical brilliance with a thematically cogent tale laid over the top, like flesh over the metal innards of the Terminator. In a few years, these tricks and techniques will be old. Watch Avatar again and yawn. Why? Because it’s fucking stupid. The magic of newness died long ago. It’s amusing to read Neil Degrasse Tyson’s comments about the factual inaccuracies of this movie. A fire extinguisher will not propel you in a direction while in a vacuum. Why? Because science. Maybe, hopefully, one day this movie will simply be an artifact of past ignorance. Future children (new band name!) will view this on a zero-G hologram computer and laugh, much like I giggle my ass off at Bullock’s absurd indictment of the Internet in 1995’s The NetUntil that point, well done, Cuaron. You are still one of the most talented and interesting directors out there. And I love you.

Wait. Ignore that last part. I don’t want it to be creepy.