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 Post subject: Gravity
PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 2:57 pm 
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Mr. Prim and I saw this yesterday, in IMAX 3D.

I'm going to use spoiler text at the end (though I won't spoil the ending even there). But most of what I have to say isn't a spoiler. Gravity is beautiful, tense, thrilling, and short (91 minutes, just right). Sandra Bullock is wonderful—I think it's an Oscar-caliber performance, which is difficult to pull off considering that so much of it is seen through the face screen of a space helmet, and so much is just heard as we see through her eyes. It is her story, her struggle, for the most part. George Clooney does fine work and exhibits his usual intelligent charm. There's almost no one else in the film—just a few voices on radio, but one sequence of that is especially moving.

The effects are brilliant, all of them. I completely bought that they were in zero gravity. Everything moves as it should; angular momentum is a bitch; flames look exactly like zero-G flames (spherical); tears float away from a character's face like little jewels. [spoiler]I've read complaints that Bullock's hair doesn't floof out when she takes her helmet off, but c'mon—she's wearing a tight hood under the helmet, her hair is short, and she's been in space for a week. Unwashed, sweaty hair doesn't floof.[/spoiler]

I have some quibbles about motion from one place to another. There's a serious problem discussed in other places online—a fundamental impossibility that would be an issue in real life but is ignored here—but people pointing that out tend to end with, go see it anyway, you'll love it.

I would see it in 3D at least, if not IMAX 3D. It's meticulously done and the effect adds to the experience.[spoiler] At one point Bullock's character is spinning alone in space, in the shadow of Earth, and she's a dark outline against the stars. Seeing her clearly in front of them made me feel the depth of her aloneness.[/spoiler]

The problem discussed elsewhere, in brief:

[spoiler]The Hubble orbits at 347 miles above the Earth; the ISS orbits at 230 miles. Getting from one orbit to another takes a lot of energy, far more than any rocket pack could hold. It's not the distance; it's the change of motion. Real astronauts in Clooney and Bullock's situation at the beginning of the movie would simply have died in orbit when their air ran out.[/spoiler]

On a couple of more personal notes: I enjoy seeing things "for real" that I've put a lot of energy into imagining; and I love that this space movie can't be considered science fiction. Everything in it exists now and is a commonplace to people who've lived and worked in space. It's a riveting story, and the setting is essential to it—but the setting is a real place, and the events are [almost] all entirely possible. It's no more science fiction than a story set in Antarctica or at the top of Everest is (just because of its setting) science fiction.

I think that's really cool. 8)

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 3:45 pm 
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I'm planning to go to out one local IMAX to see it a 2nd time, if possible. It's really really worth seeing BIG and 3D in a way that no other movie I can recall would be.

I had some major quibbles with the dialogue - much of it felt corny or false or on-the-nose to me - and I really can't stand that Clooney can't put his "suave and debonaire" act away for even a minute (are you really flirting with me right now??). Those things bugged me enough that I couldn't call it a total, flat-out masterpiece but I would say that nearly everything that isn't dialogue (and there isn't all that much dialogue) is genius.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 4:59 pm 
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Not susceptible to Clooney, I see. Poor yov. :nono:

There was so little dialog that I didn't come away feeling it was bad. A lot of it is monologue, realistically done, I thought.

For really banal dialogue set against the backdrop of space, rewatch 2001. :P Though there it was a deliberate artistic choice. Here—well, it's not a circumstance that leads to wide-ranging conversation, so maybe it is what it has to be.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:11 pm 
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Here—well, it's not a circumstance that leads to wide-ranging conversation, so maybe it is what it has to be.


This is actually my issue with it. Under the circumstances you can't really imagine these characters really saying or thinking about much except the moment-by-moment survival so the attempt at giving Bullock a sympathetic backstory felt forced and very unnecessary to me. Plus as backstories go it didn't add much of anything and IMO kinda detracted and distracted from the greater meaning of her struggle.


As to Clooney - he's great at playing Clooney, but sometimes the fact that he always sounds like he's sitting at a upscale bar trying to charm a beautiful woman kinda works against him. :P

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:34 pm 
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yov--did you ever see Confessions of a Dangerous Mind? He kind of plays against type there...and he directed, which may be why...


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:58 pm 
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My theory as to the backstory is that [spoiler]a movie this short and full of entirely necessary action doesn't really leave time to give the protagonist an onscreen reason to want to die—and the turning point in the film is when she realizes (with help of a sort) that she does want to live, that she's going to fight. Without that, there is no turning point; it would be one long action sequence, very entertaining but with nothing else to it.[/spoiler]

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:15 pm 
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See, before the backstory, I felt like her struggle had this grand, metaphysical weight to it. It felt like it was about so much more than one person's survival. But by trying to make the struggle more "personal", they ended up shrinking the scope.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 10:24 pm 
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I can see your point. I just tend to focus on characters more than on the big idea, theme, principle, etc.—if there is one. Great if there is, but what pulls me in to the story is how it changes the characters, not how it might change my own ideas about the world.

That's probably a moral and intellectual failing that I should be working to address. :P But life is short.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 2:46 am 
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There, there, Prim, it's okay, we still love you. :wooper:

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 5:05 am 
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*sob*

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 12:40 pm 
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Is anyone aware of any (good) analysis of the symbolism in this film? There is a tendency to take everything at face value since the story has that science fiction flavor, but there was obviously more going on there, particularly in the end sequence where a character recapitulates evolution in real time just before they hit you with the title and the credits. But I can't figure out what it's all supposed to mean.

And why is the title "Gravity" anyway?


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 12:51 pm 
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Dave_LF wrote:
Is anyone aware of any (good) analysis of the symbolism in this film? There is a tendency to take everything at face value since the story has that science fiction flavor, but there was obviously more going on there, particularly in the end sequence where a character recapitulates evolution in real time just before they hit you with the title and the credits. But I can't figure out what it's all supposed to mean.

And why is the title "Gravity" anyway?



I took the entire story as becoming as a sort of grand reflection on the endless struggle of man vs nature. Nature is endlessly strong, merciless,deadly, uncaring and yet Man perseveres. That final sequence - after she saves herself from the horrible struggle of surviving space only to have to save herself from the horrible struggle of surviving the ocean - is not, IMO about evolution but just a punctuation mark on that theme. Note how the first time she tries to stand on that beach, she fails - Gravity wins. But she doesn't give up, she perseveres, and in doing so Gravity loses.

(This grand universally human theme is why I found the "my daughter died" bit a major distraction and mistake. The movie isn't about her - it is indeed about Gravity.)

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:22 pm 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
Not susceptible to Clooney, I see. Poor yov. :nono:

There was so little dialog that I didn't come away feeling it was bad. A lot of it is monologue, realistically done, I thought.

For really banal dialogue set against the backdrop of space, rewatch 2001. :P Though there it was a deliberate artistic choice. Here—well, it's not a circumstance that leads to wide-ranging conversation, so maybe it is what it has to be.


It was certainly a deliberate choice for Cuaron to go with a very simple story, with simple dialogue. The film is very minimalist, both visually and narratively, and that's why it works so well, IMO. It knows what it is, and it sticks to it.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:26 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
See, before the backstory, I felt like her struggle had this grand, metaphysical weight to it. It felt like it was about so much more than one person's survival. But by trying to make the struggle more "personal", they ended up shrinking the scope.


I agree with this to a certain degree. Though I think Cuaron may have been making the point that Bullock wanted to live despite her personal despair. It is the grand metaphysical idea of "life" that keeps her alive. In short, she rejects the small interpretation of life, and embraces the big.

I personally would have made some changes to how the backstory was revealed, but think that for the kind of story Cuaron was going for, it worked quite welll.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:31 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
Dave_LF wrote:
Is anyone aware of any (good) analysis of the symbolism in this film? There is a tendency to take everything at face value since the story has that science fiction flavor, but there was obviously more going on there, particularly in the end sequence where a character recapitulates evolution in real time just before they hit you with the title and the credits. But I can't figure out what it's all supposed to mean.

And why is the title "Gravity" anyway?



I took the entire story as becoming as a sort of grand reflection on the endless struggle of man vs nature. Nature is endlessly strong, merciless,deadly, uncaring and yet Man perseveres. That final sequence - after she saves herself from the horrible struggle of surviving space only to have to save herself from the horrible struggle of surviving the ocean - is not, IMO about evolution but just a punctuation mark on that theme. Note how the first time she tries to stand on that beach, she fails - Gravity wins. But she doesn't give up, she perseveres, and in doing so Gravity loses.

(This grand universally human theme is why I found the "my daughter died" bit a major distraction and mistake. The movie isn't about her - it is indeed about Gravity.)


I would say that it's more about humanity fighting for life (Earth), and against barrenness, sterility and an abhorrent vacuum (space). She doesn't really fight the ocean when she arrives back on Earth - she is essentially reborn in it. The imagery of her emerging from the round pod into the water, nearly naked, is very reminiscent of birth (and according to Cuaron, that's deliberate). In that sense, it's almost exactly the same story as Children of Men. In that story, humanity is almost wholly infertile, the world is barren, and the great hope for mankind lies in a child born, who emerges from darkness and despair and is delivered across the ocean.

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Note how the first time she tries to stand on that beach, she fails - Gravity wins. But she doesn't give up, she perseveres, and in doing so Gravity loses.


But this would imply that she's generally winning against gravity while up in space, since she's able to float around far more freely against its force. In fact, what saves her from space is gravity, since it allows her to return to Earth, and stand on solid ground again. This film may be about gravity, in a sense, but its not about persevering against gravity, IMO. It's about getting back to Earth, to the natural order of things. Back to the gravity that humanity has lived with for millions of years, and back to the lush and invigorating life of Earth. The only disconcerting thing about this, for me, is that it feels like an anti-space faring film, in a way. And that's not a message I'm that comfortable with. But Cuaron is almost certainly just using the device of space vs. Earth to make a broader thematic point about life and lifelessness in the modern world.

A very Tolkienian philosophy, IMO.

Ultimately, the space/Earth thing is just a conceit. This is not a science fiction film. It's an expensive and elaborate metaphor.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:23 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
That final sequence - after she saves herself from the horrible struggle of surviving space only to have to save herself from the horrible struggle of surviving the ocean - is not, IMO about evolution but just a punctuation mark on that theme. Note how the first time she tries to stand on that beach, she fails - Gravity wins. But she doesn't give up, she perseveres, and in doing so Gravity loses.


Maybe not literally, but it certainly seemed like it was meant to evoke thoughts about evolution. She goes from swimming to crawling out on the sand to walking on all fours to standing hunched to standing fully upright.

Passdagas the Brown wrote:
This film may be about gravity, in a sense, but its not about persevering against gravity, IMO. It's about getting back to Earth, to the natural order of things. Back to the gravity that humanity has lived with for millions of years, and back to the lush and invigorating life of Earth. The only disconcerting thing about this, for me, is that it feels like an anti-space faring film, in a way. And that's not a message I'm that comfortable with.


Yes, that occurred to me too. Unless it's only the metaphorical outer space (solipsism, emptiness) that needs to be overcome by gravitating back to the community.

I also wonder what significance, if any, there was to the progression of iconography across the three locations. In the shuttle, we pointedly encounter a Marvin the Martian figurine floating around. At ISS, we see either Christ or a saint (couldn't quite tell; it went too fast and the text was Russian, I think). At the Chinese station, it's what I took for a smiling Buddha. My thought is that each location is meant to represent a stage in her journey of rebirth/evolution.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:32 pm 
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Gonna try my best to see it at a mega-IMAX theatre before it leaves this weekend. I shall take these thoughts to chew on while there. :)

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:56 pm 
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Dave_LF wrote:
yovargas wrote:
That final sequence - after she saves herself from the horrible struggle of surviving space only to have to save herself from the horrible struggle of surviving the ocean - is not, IMO about evolution but just a punctuation mark on that theme. Note how the first time she tries to stand on that beach, she fails - Gravity wins. But she doesn't give up, she perseveres, and in doing so Gravity loses.


Maybe not literally, but it certainly seemed like it was meant to evoke thoughts about evolution. She goes from swimming to crawling out on the sand to walking on all fours to standing hunched to standing fully upright.

Passdagas the Brown wrote:
This film may be about gravity, in a sense, but its not about persevering against gravity, IMO. It's about getting back to Earth, to the natural order of things. Back to the gravity that humanity has lived with for millions of years, and back to the lush and invigorating life of Earth. The only disconcerting thing about this, for me, is that it feels like an anti-space faring film, in a way. And that's not a message I'm that comfortable with.


Yes, that occurred to me too. Unless it's only the metaphorical outer space (solipsism, emptiness) that needs to be overcome by gravitating back to the community.

I also wonder what significance, if any, there was to the progression of iconography across the three locations. In the shuttle, we pointedly encounter a Marvin the Martian figurine floating around. At ISS, we see either Christ or a saint (couldn't quite tell; it went too fast and the text was Russian, I think). At the Chinese station, it's what I took for a smiling Buddha. My thought is that each location is meant to represent a stage in her journey of rebirth/evolution.


I think it's a very clear progression of "re-embeddedness" with life. From the initially lifeless, cold, sterile and plastic Marvin the Martian, to the earthy, warm, fat, smiling Buddha (punctuated by the Chinese man on the radio, with his howling dog), and finally, into the frog-packed waters of Earth.

IMO, it's a very, very simple story Cuaron was telling:

Rejection of lifelessness, barrenness and despair. Embracing of life, and hope.

This is not necessarily an allegory of evolution, IMO. If it is an allegory, it's more likely an allegory of birth, and of life in general, punctuated by a social commentary of "getting back to nature, and away from the sterile emptiness of our modern existence." From the cold emptiness of space, to the amniotic fluid of the Earth's waters, to the solid ground. This is what it feels like to me, and based on both Cuaron's previous works (esp. Children of Men), and his extensive commentary about those films, and his brief commentary about this film, I think that's what he was after.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 6:11 pm 
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I like that there are these varying perspectives that all feel valid. :)

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She doesn't really fight the ocean when she arrives back on Earth - she is essentially reborn in it.


To me, there was this prevailing sense throughout the whole movie that if only she could return to Earth, this terrifying disaster would be over and there's such an enormous sense of relief when she finally manages to land safely in the ocean - YES!....only to find that the ocean is just as willing and capable of killing her as space was. That her plight didn't easily end upon a safe landing, and that even when getting back to the beach she had to struggle to simply stand, felt very significant to me.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 6:14 pm 
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Here are some comments from Cuaron himself that confirm much of this:
http://io9.com/gravitys-ending-holds-a- ... 1442690788

He does say that the final scene was supposed to reflect the evolution of life on Earth, though.


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