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Corey
Fri, Dec 5, 2014, 9:32am (UTC -6)
Re: Interstellar

Peter Watts, SF author, and author of one of the best first contact novels, on 'Interstellar':

"In a market owned by genre, where every second movie is crammed to the gills with spaceships and aliens (or, at the very least, plucky young protagonists dishing out Truth to Power), Interstellar aspires to inspire. It explicitly sets out to follow in the footsteps of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It wants to make you think, and wonder.

It succeeds, too. It makes me wonder how it could fall so far short of a movie made half a century ago.

This is not to say that Interstellar is a bad movie. It actually has significantly more on the ball than your average 21rst-century genre flick (although granted, that’s a much lower bar to clear than the one Kubrick presented). The dust-bowl vistas of a dying Earth evoke the sort of grim desolation we used to get from John Brunner’s environmental dytopias, and — most of the time, anyway — Interstellar shows a respect for science comparable to that evident in Gravity and 2001.

Admittedly, my delight at seeing space presented as silent has more to do with the way decades of Hollywood crap have hammered down my own expectations than it does with any groundbreaking peaks of verisimilitude; it’s not as though every school kid doesn’t know there’s no sound in a vacuum. On the other hand, the equations Interstellar‘s FX team used to render the lensing effects around Gargantua, the movie’s black hole — equations derived by theoretical physicist-and-science-consultant Kip Thorne — have provided the basis for at least one astrophysics paper here in the real world, an accomplishment that would make Arthur C. Clarke jealous. The hole was carefully parameterized to let our protags do what the plot required without being spaghettified or cooked by radiation. The physics of space travel and Gargantua’s relativistic extremes are, I’m willing to believe, plausibly worked out. So much of the science seems so much better than we have any right to expect from a big-budget blockbuster aimed at the popcorn set.

Why, then, does the same movie that gets the physics of event horizons right also ask us to believe that icebergs float unsupported in the clouds of alien worlds? How can the same movie that shows such a nuanced grasp of the gravity around black holes serve up such a face-palming portrayal of gravity around planets? And even if we accept the premise of ocean swells the size of the Himalayas (Thorne himself serves up some numbers that I’m not going to dispute), wouldn’t such colossal formations be blindingly obvious from orbit? Wouldn’t our heroes have seen them by just looking out the window on the way down? How dumb do you have to be to let yourself get snuck up on by a mountain range?

Almost as dumb, perhaps, as you’d be to believe that “love” is some kind of mysterious cosmic force transcending time and space, even though you hold a doctorate in biology.

You’re probably already aware of the wails and sighs that arose from that particular gaffe. Personally, I didn’t find it as egregious as I expected — at least Amelia Brand’s inane proclamation was immediately rebutted by Cooper’s itemization of the mundane social-bonding functions for which “love” is a convenient shorthand. It was far from a perfect exchange, but at least the woo did not go unchallenged. What most bothered me about that line — beyond the fact that anyone with any scientific background could deliver it with a straight face — was the fact that it had to be delivered by Anne Hathaway. If we’re going to get all mystic about the Transcendent Power of Lurve, could we a least invert the cliché a bit by using a male as the delivery platform?

The world that contains Interstellar is far more competent than the story it holds. It was built by astrophysicists and engineers, and it is a thing of wonder. The good ship Endurance, for example, oozes verisimilitude right down to the spin rate. Oddly, though, the same movie also shows us a civilization over a century into the future — a whole species luxuriating in the spacious comfort of a myriad O’Neil cylinders orbiting Saturn — in which the medical technology stuck up Murphy Cooper’s nose hasn’t changed its appearance since 2012. Compare that to 2001, which anticipated flatscreen tech so effectively that it got cited in Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung half a century later. (Compare it also to Peter Hyam’s inferior sequel 2010, in which Discovery‘s flatscreens somehow devolved back into cathode-ray-tubes during its decade parked over Io.)

Why such simultaneous success and failure of technical extrapolation in the same movie? I can only assume that the Nolans sought out expert help to design their spaceships, but figured their own vision would suffice for the medtech. Unfortunately, their vision isn’t all it could be.

This is the heart of the problem. Interstellar soars when outsourced; only when the Nolans do something on their own does it suck. The result is a movie in which the natural science of the cosmos is rendered with glorious mind-boggling precision, while the people blundering about within it are morons.

In Interstellar, NASA happens to be set up just down the road from the only qualified test pilot on the continent— a guy who’s friends with the Mission Director, for Chrissakes— yet nobody thinks to just knock on his door and ask for a hand. No, they just sit there through years of R&D until cryptic Talfamadorians herd Cooper into their clutches by scribbling messages in the dirt. Once the mission finally achieves liftoff, Endurance‘s crew can’t seem to take a dump without explaining to each other what they’re doing and why. (Seriously, dude? You’re a bleeding-edge astronaut on a last-ditch Humanity-saving mission through a wormhole, and you didn’t even know what a wormhole looked like until someone explained it to you while you were both staring at the damn thing through your windshield?)

You could argue that the Nolans don’t regard their characters as morons so much as they regard us that way; some of this might just be especially clunky infodumping delivered for our benefit. If so, they apparently think we’re just as dumb about emotional resonance and literary allusion as we are about the technical specs on black holes. Michael Caine has to hammer home the same damn rage against the dying of the light stanza on three separate occasions, just in case it might slip under our radar.

And yet, Interstellar came so close in some ways. The sheer milk-out-the-nose absurdity of a project to lift billions of people off-planet turns out to be, after all, just a grand lie to motivate short-sighted human brain stems— until Murphy Cooper figures out how to do it for real after all. Amelia Brand’s heartbroken, irrational description of love as some kind of transcendent Cosmic Force, invoked in a desperate bid to reunite with her lost lover and instantly shot down by Cooper’s cooler intellect— until Cooper encounters the truth of those idiot beliefs in the heart of a black hole. Time and again, Interstellar edges toward the Cold Equations, only to chicken out when the chips are down.

But the thing that most bugs me about this movie — the thing that comes closest to offending me, although I can’t summon anywhere near that much intensity — was something I knew going in, because it’s right there in the tag line on every advance promo, every Coming-Soon poster:

'The end of the Earth will not be the end of us.'

Or..

'Mankind was born on earth. It was never meant to die here.'

Or..

'We were not meant to save the Earth. We were meant to leave it.'

Which all comes down to..

'Let’s trash the place, then skip out and stick everyone else with the bill.'

This is where I finally connect with my inner antiabortionist. Because I, too, think you should pay for your sins. I think that if you break it, you damn well own it; and if your own short-sighted stupidity has killed off your life-support system, it’s only right and proper that that you suffer, that you sink into the quagmire along with the other nine million species your appetites have condemned to extinction. There should be consequences.

And yet, even in the face of Interstellar‘s objectionable political stance — baldly stated, unquestioned, and unapologetic— I can only bristle, not find fault. Because this is perhaps the one time the Nolan sibs got their characters right. Crapping all over the living room rug and leaving our roommates to deal with the mess? That’s exactly what we’d do, if we could get away with it."
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Corey
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
Re: Interstellar

Dom, 2001's ending is brilliant! I love how Kubrick's composition of the astronaut (David Bowman) reaching out his hand mimic's Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam, if only Michelangelo painted it from another angle. That space, that gap between Bowman's outstretched hand and monolith/God/Knowledge/Truth, is the key. It's man's desire to bridge that gap, and his inability to ever do so - he is always an infant - which propells humanity in all endeavours. A profound, complex film. Kubrick was a great intellect and artist.
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Corey
Thu, Nov 13, 2014, 5:02pm (UTC -6)
Re: Interstellar

All throughout Interstellar I kept thinking, gee, this Kubrick lite.

The film desperately wanted to be deep, to be Kubrick, but it came across as a very fancy Spielberg movie. Loved the film's optimism, but even there, it's Star Trek lite. I hope someone makes a hard SF movie that, like Kubrick, isnt so antropomocentric and egotistical (in the sense that humans and human "selfhood" are the center of the universe).
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Corey
Tue, Sep 2, 2014, 4:01pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S7: Prophecy

Wow, surprised no one likes this one; I thought it was excellent.
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Corey
Sat, Jul 12, 2014, 6:10pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S6: The Voyager Conspiracy

A great episode. Notice how it opens with a parable about Tom and the crew jumping to conclusions based on incompete data (they believe an entire deck to be pregnant lol).
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Corey
Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 2:05pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Dark Frontier

A very good episode, with action, thrills and wonderful little character bits woven together.
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Corey
Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 7:45am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Latent Image

Wow, watched this again after having watched it a few months ago. Still 4 stars Jammer! 4 stars! If any Voyager deserves your love, it's this one. Counterpoint, which precedes it, is a wonderful episode as well.
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Corey
Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 5:33pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Counterpoint

Counterpoint and Latent Image are Voyager at its best IMHO.
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Corey
Sat, May 31, 2014, 2:42pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: One

Hokey in places, this is nevertheless a warm, compassion look at 7's lonliness and her budding camraderie with the crew. It strikes me that Season 4 is a giant arc in which the FEDERATION essentially ASSIMILATES a BORG and replaces its ideology with Janeway's FED ETHOS. Nice.
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Corey
Tue, Apr 29, 2014, 5:54pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Mortal Coil

Elliot, where are you? Elliot has single handledly convinced many to watch Voyager and fall in love with it.

Anyway, onto "Mortal Coil". I found this to be a touching episode, and a strong four stars. It is also one of the most atheistic episodes, and radically political. "Duty calls," Neelix says, duty to one's fellowman revealed to be the highest spiritual ideal in the absence of God.
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Corey
Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 7:25am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: Wolf in the Fold

As others have noted, this is a pretty great and tense episode, but the sexism displayed by the Enterprise crew is disgusting (the entire season is sex obsessed), especially in light of the episode's broader story, which is ABOUT the sexism and violence of a crazy serial killer. In essense, the good guys are portrayed as being no better than the bad guy, but we're positioned to accept this because they're only "casually sexist" and dont kill people. Oh my.
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Corey
Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 6:41pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Scientific Method

I'd give this 3 and a half stars. Voyager's 4th season may be the most consistent season of Trek ever.
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Corey
Sun, Apr 20, 2014, 9:12am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: The Raven

I'd give this three or three and a half stars. A very touching episode, I thought.
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Corey
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 10:21am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: The Gift

A touching episode.
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Corey
Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 9:57am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Scorpion, Part II

I loved how, when they no longer had use for the Voyager, the Borg swiftly began assimilating Janeway's ship. They get what they want, and then instantly break the alliance. Very machine-like and methodical.
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Corey
Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 9:50am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S3: Scorpion, Part I

This is the best Voyager action 2 parter I've seen so far. Very dramatic, bombastic, some nice music and Janeway and Chakotay's little verbal spars were riveting. Superficial? Yep, but it's one of Trek's best action outtings.
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Corey R
Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 1:29pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S5: Silicon Avatar

Jack said...
Soong scanning everyone's frontal lobes on Omicron Theta and programming Data with the material seems quite the violation of privacy...
...end quote

I could have sworn there was dialog between Dr. Marr and Data about this - she asked does Data possess the colonists memories - Data said no, but he said he did possess all of their log, diary, and journal entries, or something to that effect.
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Corey
Tue, Apr 1, 2014, 10:26pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: Amok Time

I'd give this four stars.
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Corey
Tue, Mar 25, 2014, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: The Devil in the Dark

lol@ Adara and Jack.
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Corey
Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 8:18pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: A Taste of Armageddon

Overacting? Shatner's not even acting. The guy perpetually radiates pure awesome.

As for this episode: personally, I think it's a classic, and represents the best of Original Trek. I love how the abstract tone of Original Trek lends itself well to episodes set on alien planets. DS9, TNG and Voyager struggled to create "realistic" alien cultures, whilst Original Trek simply goes for abstract, metaphor and surrealism.
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Corey
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 8:25pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S3: Future's End, Part II

The first episode was excellent, so it's all the more painful to see how poorly written and directed the second parter was. It's just a collection of badly written, awkwardly connected sequences.
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Corey
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 7:37am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: The Return of the Archons

The Festival allows selected townsfolk to rape, dance and beat one another, getting all their bottled up emotions released.
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Corey
Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: Arena

Unlike later Treks, the Original Series always had genuinely alien looking aliens.
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Corey
Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 9:53am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: Court Martial

Come on Jam Man, this is a four star episode. Absolutely gripping, a nice Man vs Machine subplot, Kirk is magnificent in the way he chews scenery, and the over the top flirting is totally funny. Not to mention that this is the bedrock of all other Trek Courtroom episodes.
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Corey
Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 7:24pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: Arena

I thought the pacifist message was quite radical and powerful. This episode opens with the slaughter of a human outpost and then positions you to accept this as being "our fault". This is quite a brave stance. The episode positions you to side and sympathise with a group who have commited a massacre.
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