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Gravity

Gravity film posterSynopsis

Alfonso Cuarón’s film about missile fragments wrecking a Hubble space shuttle killing one astronaut and spinning Sandra Bullock and George Clooney into a state of marooned drifting.  There is a Russian station nearby and a Chinese one further away.  Can they reach a station and get back to Earth…?

Review

One of the first Son et Lumiere films of 1894 was of a moon shot, so it’s highly appropriate that a film set in outer space should be a landmark in cinema.  Gravity is visually superb, making 2001 and Silent Running look like toy models on black paper.  The rolling three dimensional effect gives you an idea of what it might be like to be in space.  The story itself is an old one in space movies: isolation in which space becomes a pervasive metaphor of the mind itself, which might struggle with the idea of God or loneliness or emotional issues.  Gravity reminds me of that Ray Bradbury story about astronauts adrift in space.  There is a reference to the ill-fated Apollo 13 which starred Ed Harris, and here he is the ground control voice.  Bullock plays a bereaved mother (having a child always confers ultimate human status in American films).  She plays a sort of Robinson Crusoe pioneer dealing with the Russian equipment in a Heath-Robinson way, never too fazed by the peril of her situation.  When she gets emotional her tears float towards us (the film might have been called “Where Tears Don’t Fall”).  She deals with the surrounding isolation and terror by using verbal distractions and noise for her comfort code.  As she clambers out of her space suit she is like Ripley in Alien.  In Gravity no one can hear you scream but there is no alien enemy, just the silence of infinite spaces that terrified Pascal.  She adapts the foetal posture as if awaiting the emotional epiphany that came to Jodie Foster in Contact when she met her ‘Father’.  Critics interested in reviving Freudian tropes might note the birth, womb imagery of the umbilical rope, the foetal appearance of the space suits, and the blazing projectiles from the space shuttle as they re-enter the atmosphere (they look like sperm hurtling towards the Earth egg).  

Spoiler Alert!!! As she ejects from the pod womb she takes staggering baby steps on Earth or maybe she’s Eve returned to paradise.

At times George Clooney is laid back as if he’s still selling coffee but generally the tension is at breaking point. Please watch this excellent film.

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Posted by on November 15, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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The Descendants

The Descendants posterSynopsis

Set in present day Hawaii starring George Clooney as Matt, a lawyer whose wife is in a coma after a boating accident.  He wants to be with his daughters to await the outcome of his wife’s accident.  His older daughter is accompanied by her boyfriend who has had a recent bereavement.  His older daughter tells him his wife had had an affair with Brian Spears.  Matt has some unspoilt land in trust and he will sell it to rake in a fortune, Spears, he learns, will be involved in the business deal.  He wants to confront Spears and tell him about his wife’s condition.  Will Spears visit her?  Matt and his family visit his wife Elizabeth and await the doctor’s verdict.  Will Matt sign away the land?

Criticism

When I was young we got Hawaii Five O on TV, a cop series.  The music was brash and local Hawiian culture was acknowledged in an offhand and touristy way.  Half a century later we get ecological sensitivity and cultural diversity in the guardianship of Matt the patron saint of liberal chic and right-on rhetoric.  The US takeover of Hawaii was of course colonialist and although he has some indigenous Hawiian  ancestry, we realize that Matt is effectively a beneficiary of colonialist theft.  He stresses that the land is in trust to his family but he can make millions of dollars out of it, it’s his to dispose of.  Matt reminds us in voice over that Hawaii is no paradise but shares the same problems as the rest of the world, as if we needed to be told that  This introducing us to the wise guy commentator whose observations about quirkiness are meant to be hilarious, not so in The Descendants.  This film seems to share similarities with Little Miss Sunshine and Juno but lacks the wit and comic inventiveness of those films.  Alexander Payne directed this and it reminds me of his other unlovely look at middle class, middle aged, male, self pity about the wine boozers in Sideways (2004).  Considering the things he goes through in this story Matt seems remarkably unchanged, we get Clooney’s same smug one-expression-that-fits-all-occasions at the end as at the beginning.  I could be missing something here but to me Clooney exploits his easy on the eye appearance to keep you waiting for some intelligent riposte, but you often get a banal remark.  Juno and Little Miss Sunshine benefit from quirky characters caught in comical situations often based on incongruities of appearance, manner, and intention with the surrounding social contexts but Matt’s character is always in charge, his wounded vanity guilt-tripping the man who cuckolded him.  There is no room for comic misunderstandings.  The lad is mildly amusing, he gets a whack on the face from Elizabeth’s father who blames Matt for not giving his daughter the money for a better life.  This guy is avaricious and unlikeable.  The wronged wife commiserates with Matt in the hospital, and the over all tone is sentimental.  Matt gets a chance to save the unspoilt land in the face of pressure from his avaricious family (especially Beau Bridges).

None of the characters are likeable.  The two daughters are motor-mouthed attitudes and it’s not heartwarming.  An unlikeable and unpleasant film

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in All-time favourites, Film Reviews

 

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