Gravity (2013)

Gravity

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, U.S., 2013

When we think of space exploration, several iconic images come to mind.  The Earthrise and Blue Marble photographs.  The Apollo 11 moonwalk.  The Soyuz-Apollo meeting.  The Space Shuttle docking at the International Space Station. These images make us think of the adventurous, grandiose, and cooperative aspects of space travel.  What these images fail to convey is that interplanetary space is a hellscape of almost unimaginable danger.  Enter Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity.”

Gravity is, of course, a thriller, so in order to fully enjoy it one must be kept mostly in the dark about its plot.  What I’ll share can be gleaned from the trailer and other promotional materials.  George Clooney and Sandra Bullock play astronauts Kowalski and Stone.  There is an accident that results in their spacecraft being ripped apart by a massive debris field.  They are drifting in space and must find a way to survive.

There are only a handful of speaking parts in the film, with Bullock and Clooney receiving 99% of the lines.  Cuarón doesn’t need any more actors.  There are no scenes showing a launch or reaction shots on Earth as there were in Apollo 13.  The astronauts are alone, and by making them alone their perspective becomes the audience’s perspective. It is the only perspective available.  We don’t get a break because the astronauts don’t get a break.

This may sound completely exhausting, and it is emotionally draining, but Cuarón’s genius is that the non-stop ride is punctuated by scenes of extraordinary beauty, thought provoking symbolism, and even humor.  The film is intense, but singularly irresistible.

Space travel is one of the most dangerous human endeavors, but is also one of the most inspirational.  Gravity allows us to experience both extremes without leaving our remarkable, and comfortable, homeworld.

You might like Gravity if: You have ever enjoyed a thriller, because it is one of the best ever created.

You might not like Gravity if: You just want to see a goofy comedy.

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe

Really? They Made a Movie About That?!? Top Five Worst Ideas for Movies in the Last 10 Years

By D.G. McCabe

Green-lighting some movies can get you fired, at least if there’s justice in the universe.  The sad part is that some people put good time and money into making films with premises that a fifth grader may well have come up with.  I haven’t done a list post in quite some time, so here we go with the top five worst ideas for movies in the last 10 years:

Gigli (2003)

With Ben Affleck’s career rebounding thanks to the stellar resume of thrillers under his directoral belt, it seems like bad timing to point out the film that almost ruined his career.  Still, could you imagine being in that pitch-meeting?  “Say,” you’d start out, “Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are quite the item, why they could be the next Hepburn and Tracy!  Let’s put them in a movie together, only the twist is, she’s starts the movie as a lesbian and he ‘converts’ her by the end.  And if you think that’s good stuff, let’s put in a really over the top, developmentally disabled guy!”  Who could say no to that?

The Ringer (2005)

If you weren’t already offended enough with Gigli’s homophobia and mean spirited mocking of the disabled and vulnerable, this movie takes it to the next level.  “So you know that guy on TV with no acting ability but those hilarious stunts on that show ‘Jackass?’  Isn’t that show great?  Let’s get that guy, and get this – he joins the Special Olympics as a ‘Ringer’ to try to beat all the disabled kids!  But it’ll be okay, in the end he learns his lesson. And the best part – we’ll call the movie ‘The Ringer!'”  Sure, because learning his lesson at the end totally makes this a great idea.

All About Steve (2009)

So everyone loves Sandra Bullock.  She won an Oscar for 2009’s The Blind Side, so she was clearly on a role that year, right?  “Sandra Bullock is so bankable, we could put her in anything!  Anything! You challenge me – fine!  Accepted.  Let’s have her star as an unfunny, bipolar stalker…but get this – it’s a comedy.  Funny right?”  Fortunately no one except a few unfortunate critics actually saw this movie and Ms. Bullock got so much praise for her Oscar winning role that it didn’t affect her career.

Jack and Jill (2011)

Now Adam Sandler has always been the master of the silly and the stupid, but he’s well past his prime as a comedian.  One could say he wore out his welcome ten years ago, or when we all realized that Billy Madison (1995) and Happy Gilmore (1996) are basically the same movie.  Still, “You remember Adam Sandler?  Of course you do!  He’s hilarious, right?  So he hasn’t been in anything that’s made any money in years but I think we can get another drop or two out of that udder, so I have an idea.  He plays twins, only one is a overweight, obnoxious, ugly woman and the other is a total misanthropic douchey man!  Awesome right?”  The only thing that could excuse the guys who said yes to this slop was the fact that Sandler himself wrote part of the screenplay, so they probably didn’t have a choice.

Battleship (2012)

The board game Battleship lends itself to an action movie if your idea of “action” is calling out letters and numbers until someone mercifully cries out “You sunk my battleship!”  It isn’t as bad as all of that when you’re a kid, after all kids are pretty easily amused (give them a ping pong paddle with a ball and string attached if you don’t believe me – fun for hours).  Still, “Let’s make a movie about Battleship!  Yeah, the board game Battleship!  The merchandizing of the game alone will be worth it!  But, I think we’ll need aliens, and something with them being hidden, or something…meh we’ll make something up.  As long as there are explosions it won’t matter if it doesn’t make sense.  Still, think how much money we can make on special edition board games!”  Apparently, whoever pitched this had them at “special edition board games.”

I’m tapped out – until next time!

(c) 2013 D. G. McCabe