The Theory Of Everything – Hawking on film

I’ve been out of touch with films for some time, so I thought I’d better catch up, seeing as it’s the Academy Awards later this week. I’m pretty jaded these days and I know longer care who wins the big awards, and I’m fairly jaded with the experience of going to the cinema as well, but never-the-less I gave this Stephen Hawking bio-pic a go.

x900

It’s a good film, and though predictable in usual Oscar bait fashion, Eddie Redmayne as Hawking is pretty remarkable, as is Felicity Jones as his wife, Jane Wilde. It cannot have been easy for Redmayne to pull off the various stages of Hawking’s life, both the eccentricity of his early life and his rapid physical decline due to motor neurone disease. The filmmakers never get manipulative with the emotional content of the story, instead presenting it as it was, investigating the complex nature of Hawking and Wilde’s relationship as they move from being loves, to husband and wife, and encounter many of the same issues that face all couples.

Theory-of-Everything_612x381

The direction is clever, with certain elements chosen to reflect Hawking’s theories (particularly those about time). The science is simplified, but not skipped over, so the film is some sense representative of Hawking’s career.

Perhaps what I like most about the film, is it has gotten me interested again in Hawking. I’ve always meant to read his Brief History Of Time and I imagine soon I will. The film has so far inspired me to watch the Errol Morris documentary based on that book and I recommend that film to anyone interested in Hawking’s life and his ideas. It goes well beyond the scope of a bio-pic, so in my opinion it’s still the more necessary of Hawking on film. The whole thing is on youtube, so check it out if you haven’t yet. Produced in the late-80s, Hawking narrates the film from his wheel chair, via characteristic robotic speech. Exploring both his theories and his life, with re-enactments, archival footage, interviews with his family and colleagues and fantastic sci-fi-esque sequences that portray Hawking as a mysterious traveler of space and time – the film is a masterpiece of mixed media documentary form. Surely one of Morris’ best, if not one of the greatest documentary’s ever.

After I’ve read Brief History of Time and perhaps some more recent of Hawking’s writings (and anything else relevant), I hope to be able to discuss his theories more in depth and will hopefully do so on this blog. He has lived a very inspirational life, as the recent bio-pic and classic documentary reveal. Not everyone would lose all their motor functions, their ability to speak and continue to do work and live a relatively normal life –  it helps I guess that Hawking had the money and esteem for nurses and technology and people to help him through his struggles, but never-the-less, as particularly the documentary points out – not everyone could live and create a life’s work predominantly inside their head (without being able to greatly make contact with the outside work in a traditional way) .

Towards the end of Brief History Of Time, things get really deep, discussing the curved nature of the universe, the fact that it may not have a beginning or an end – and that how many calculations seem to indicate that the future effects the past. All awesome and mid boggling theories. Hawking ends by discussing how, if scientists, philosophers and the general public are able to one day discover the meaning of our existence on earth – then we will know the mind of God. Massive ideas there, and very inspiring – part of why Hawking’s influence has traveled so far, from books, to documentaries, to Oscar contending bio-pics.

briefhistory

[Review] Life Itself (Steve James, 2014)

 

ebert

The life of Roger Ebert, flaws and all is celebrated in this particularly moving documentary on the late, great cinematic figure. I initially wasn’t going to review this film, but Ebert is an inspirational kind of person, if an unlikely one, and his love of film makes film criticism seem like something honorable. His was an arguably right-place, right-time kind of success story, and film criticism does not have any kind of the weight now that it had in Ebert’s prime, thanks to sprawling destructive beast that is the internet. But any art-form has it’s golden era, and film criticism is no different. Ebert is one of the lucky few to have been able to do what he loved for a job, perfected it and been recognized for his talents. A colossal presence in the world of film criticism, Ebert’s love of film as presented in this film is infectious.

ebert siskel

The real reason why Ebert has such a moving and successful documentary made about him when so many other deceased writers, Hollywood figures and film reviewers have not, is that we can learn a lot from how he responded to the challenges thrown at him in the last several years of his life. Having lost his jaw to thyroid cancer, he chose not to give up and throw in the towel, but instead to carry on reviewing films, carry on hosting lectures and write even more through his blog. He was helped with the love of his very loyal wife, so not only do we get an insight into personal struggle and hope that can found within but also an insight into the lives of those who will continue to care for us even in ailment. Ebert’s relationship with his wife is a particularly moving thread throughout the film, an unlikely relationship in some ways as his wife even admits.

The documentary is well pieced together, jumping between narrated sections taken from Ebert’s book also titled Life Itself, cutting to his youth and early career and to struggles in between. Ebert’s life is presented warts and all and the documentary makers don’t shy from talking about his troubles, such as alcoholism in his youth. His relationship with Gene Siskel is equally shown in an unbiased light, showing the tension between the two, both rival reviewers of different Chicago papers, and how strained their relationship behind the set of At The Movies often was. Siskel is shown as being creatively more dominant in decisions regarding At The Movies, yet Ebert was crucial to the success of the TV show. Ebert held the cards with each ongoing season of At The Movies, with Siskel said to have been in fear that his partner would eventually go solo. The developing dynamics between the two are explored as we see them becoming a tighter unit, and eventually friends.

life-itself-documentary

The life of a film critic might not seem the most gripping subject for a documentary but this film ends up being about so much more, showing a life fully lived –  with all aspects of Ebert’s inspiring and very human journey explored. Ebert truly loved life – and film just as much. If he was alive to watch this biographical documentary on himself, he most certainly would have given t a very favorable rating. Probably even two thumbs up.

Final thoughts on film and music for 2014 (Babadook, Under The Skin, The Interview)

The year has pretty much ended, only one Wednesday left to go. This is the time of year for reflection, so without getting too deep into rumination I will attempt one last discussion of the years cultural moments that resonated with me. There’s quite few albums and films I haven’t discussed throughout the year, so for the sake of conclusiveness I’ll write them up here.

Films

In the previous post I discussed favourite films from 2014, but there were a few I missed. I’ve recently been catching up on missed films, which I probably should have included in that list. One of which is The Babadook, an Australian horror directed by actor and first time director, Jennifer Kent. This is a thinking persons psychological horror, heart felt as well as horrible and dealing with relatable themes. Critics loved this and it’s worth checking out, some very creepy moments and clever twists and turns. Comparable to classic horror/dramas like The Exorcist or Asian horror – it’s hard to discuss the narrative without giving away too much, so I’ll leave it vague. The acting of six-year old Noah Wiseman is notable as well, and credit to director Kent for getting such a performance from a child.

mister-babadook-53a4404decc07

Another I enjoyed is the much raved about Under The Skin, from Jonathon Glazer, an unusual science fiction thriller starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien seducing and preying on men in Scotland. The aesthetic is a mix of realism and fantasy, with hidden cameras employed in the driving scenes – some conversations unscripted with non-actors. This is juxtaposed with stylized scenes – once Johansson’s unnamed creature succeeds in seducing a victim back to a desolate flat in the middle of some Scottish city, we enter a surreal black environment where men are sucked into this infinite dark swamp. These unusual images contrast with the gritty bleakness of the Scottish normality, although there is also something I found quite appealing about the northern landscape. In many ways the film is Johansson’s, she dominates the screen, her sensuality subverted into something sinister. But this is certainly not a horror film, more of an observation on modern life and the search for human connection in our distant contemporary communities – through the eyes of a creature far from human. The narrative becomes more complex throughout the running time and the themes are subverted further. Probably a surprise it’s so successful given the strange combination of styles, but deserving of the critical response and a film that will outlast many other 2014 releases.

hero_UnderTheSkin-2014-1

Upstream Color, the second from Primer director Shane Carruth was equally unusual and contained within it a wealth of themes ready to be unpacked by an undergrad film class. It’s entertainment value is arguable, and it is challenging, but the sound design is amazing, and credit to the skilled way the narrative is chopped up and gradually presented to the audience throughout the film. Worth a mention, but not my favourite of the years offerings.

Lastly, The Interview, which I have to mention as it’s last minute Christmas VOD release makes at least the last most talked about film of 2014. I enjoyed the film, not as much as Franco and Rogan’s previous This Is The End, but it’s not as bad as the pre-release reviews would have had me believe. There are lot of funny moments, it’s all immature as hell, but the script misses opportunities to properly critique American foreign policy, the media and the great dictatorship of our time. What we’ve got is a pretty good mainstream Hollywood comedy, which is better than the bulk of Hollywood comedies (but that’s not saying much). Rogan is likeable and there are some good performances from Randall Park as Kim Jong-un (giving a very Americanized performance) and Diana Bang as a North Korean minister and romantic interest Sook. I laughed a lot – at the repeated gags, slapstick scenarios and buddy-comedy situations, but the irresponsible elements of the narrative remained distasteful after the credits rolled. Although I initially enjoyed the gory shoot-out towards the end as a bit of comic fun, I can’t get with the killing of Kim Jong-un on screen – even if it is for the sake of a mildly funny Katie Perry joke (this context was not apparent when the footage was first released). The moral the filmmakers leave us with is that violence solves everything, an all too American approach, and one only has to take a look at the result of violence within the US to know this is false. It’s a film yes, and not something to be taken serious – it’s good the film was released, censorship is bullshit – but killing Kim Jong-un was not actually necessary to the plot of the film and there were many other less-arrogant ways the filmmakers could have ended things. There were more subtle options the filmmakers could have taken – a fictional dictatorship for example – from a capitalist perspective at least (one of making a profit that is), they’ve probably made the right choice.

the-interview_612x380

Music

I was going to end by talking about some of my most enjoyed music picks from 2014, but I feel I’ve talked enough now – so true to the title of this blog, I’m going to shut up. Instead I’ll let the tracks speak for themselves. I haven’t blogged a heck of a lot about music so this is perhaps something I’ll try to do more of next year. For now, here are some of the albums worthy of a bash from 2014.

Run The Jewels 2

The best rap album this year. El-P brings his best beats, and along with Killer Mike trade some great, angry, revolutionary and witty rhymes. No filler, all killer.

Ariel Pink – Pom Pom

A time warp to a musical age in between the 80s and 90s that never existed. Yet one that is really catchy, full of odd and interesting characters and much diversity.

Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

Not necessarily a great album, but there’s a lot of diversity in the tracks and some inventive flows. She tries a bit hard at times, but this track bangs.

Jack White – Lazaretto

The best Led Zeppelin and Rage Against The Machine song released this year. Fat as hell guitar tone from Mr. White. Good ideas all throughout the album as well.

——

How will 2015 stack up against ’14? I predict it to be better music wise (new Kendrick Lamar and new Kanye will shake things up rap wise no doubt), but perhaps it’ll be a bit harder to match twenty fourteens film effort. Of course there’ll be a bunch more important things happening world wide in current events as well. Hopefully the world doesn’t end, and hopefully things in our personal lives go well also. I’m sure they will. On that note of positivity, see you next year!

A few favourite 2014 cinema experiences

There has been a lot of great films this year, but I’ve forgotten most of them or missed them for various reasons, never-the-less here’s a few of my favourites. (oh, and – Merry Christmas Eve!)

Concerning Violence / We Come As Friends

concerning violence

One of the best documentaries at the NZIFF Concerning Violence (Göran Olsson), also one of the most intense. A sad and violent reflection of the affect of colonial rule on African people. Adapted from an academic study on the subject, but put together with news images from a Swedish news archive. Doesn’t sound like the most entertaining prospect on paper, and it’s probably not, but it is intense, important and thought provoking. Also worth a watch was a documentary on South Sudan, We Come As Friends (Hubert Sauper). Friends is the more contemporary, following Sauper as he flies around South Sudan, interviewing the rich and poor, wealthy investors and impoverished locals. Also good example of how modern digital filmmaking techniques can be employed (such as using smart phone cameras to conduct covert interviews.

Whiplash

whiplash

Nail biting, gut wrenching drama about something close to my heart – drumming. Through the story of the super-ambitious and talented Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) we are introduced to the world of academic music performance, and the sink or swim environment of the big leagues of Jazz. Neiman is enrolled in Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the states, and promptly becomes the pupil of it’s most famous conductor/teacher, Terence Fletcher. Neiman wants to be the best, like Buddy Rich, and Fletcher will help him get there, but the manipulative and abusive journey Fletcher forces him to take makes you wonder what’s the worth. Never the less, the film got me practicing drums for hours after viewing, and even those uninterested in jazz and music will find something to enjoy in this superbly scripted and shot narrative by second time director Damien Chazelle.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s latest was funny, beautifully shot with a great cast and littered with references to classic literature and cinema. Mostly just one of the most fun films of the year, with a touching script and lots of great Anderson visual ideas, such as the mixing of animation styles with live action.

Nightcrawler

nightcrawler

This years Drive, Taxi Driver, American Psycho, Network – though closer to Drive than the others. An unpredictable thriller about a slightly unhinged man, his personality quirks never fully explained, who when unemployed and searching for work stumbles across his passion – freelance news footage capturing, or Nightcrawling. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the nightcrawler, Lou Bloom, who’s determination to get ahead in the modern capitalist world sees him sacrificing all those around him –  and getting away with it. Bloom’s encouraged by the producer of a local late night television station, Ninia (Rene Russo), who relishes his voyeuristic footage and airs it to huge ratings – making obvious parallels with the state of news broadcasting in 2014, where we find for example the death of Eric Garner aired on a screens frequently. Darkly funny, morbidly brutal, the film features a stunning performance from Gyllenhaal, that is both creepy, scary and sympathetic in equal turns. The feature debut from Dan Gilroy, visually polished and thematically relevant, surely one of the darkest films to have been a success this year.

Boyhood

Boyhood

Shot over eleven years with the same cast, has any other mainstream director other than Richard Linklater attempted this? I doubt it, and the wikipedia page confirms my suspicions. I like this film so much, I’m not even sure how to praise it, other than that Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and the two lead kids Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater put in great performance, with the script adapter and tailored to suit the real life changes in the kids personalities, as well as the parents characters adapted from the real life families of Arquette and Hawke. The film is relatable, insightful and as Hawke put it in one interview – “it’s a little bit like timelapse photography of a human being”. Although the title and film do focus on the boy’s growth throughout 12 years, many more family situations are observed, marriages, divorces, graduations, first relationships. Worth a watch for any human being – probably my favourite film of the year if I had to chose one.

[Live Review] The Rolling Stones, Auckland, 22nd November – ’14 On Fire tour

20141122_201007

In order to review a The Rolling Stones concert there are a few requirements. I have to mention that in spite or because of their age, they’re a pretty impressive live band. I have to mention Mick’s energy; that he has showed no signs of slowing down in the ten years since their last world tour. I definitely need to include a few song puns, saying that in spite of the rain, the 38,000 strong crowd left Satisfied knowing that they may have seen this classic band for The Last Time.

Disregarding facetiousness, the Stones did genuinely put on a great show – as I was expecting – although I was unsure it would match up to their performance at Wellington’s Caketin in 2006. It did, with an inspired setlist that included recent-era songs such as Doom And Gloom and Out Of Control, their cover of Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone as voted by the public and a Keith Richards set that managed to be one of the highlights of the night. Richards played three as opposed to his usual two, perhaps giving Mick a break after having to cancel an Australian show due to a throat infection. Richards’ You Got The Silver was the bluesiest moment of the night, his creaky vocals housing a lot of emotion, and the upbeat Before You Make Me Run was a welcome inclusion as well as the standard Happy. Mick’s stage presence is still something to be marveled at, shaking like a man possessed, venturing out onto the catwalk multiple times, in spite of the drizzly Auckland weather.

20141122_204041

I hate to bring age into it again, but Charlie Watts, at 73, is a mother-fucking miracle. Most of the people I know in their 50s or 60s would find it tiring even attending a concert for a few hours. But at his age, still managing to hold down the grooves and with impressive flare is something to behold. His fills have always been sloppy but there is something unique and delicious in his grooves, part of the reason the ‘Stones repertoire is so diverse rhythmically compared to their contemporaries (of which are getting less and less) from the disco of Miss You, to the modern rock of Doom And Gloom. Rock drumming need not be perfectly tight, and Watts’ instinctively knows how to keep the beat just loose enough to roll, but tight enough to rock – and has lost none of this touch with the years.

Rolling Stones Auckland lights

I’ll digress slightly to talk about Stadium concert politics – I went for a few wanders during the show, attempted to view the concert from as many vantage points as possible. The giant screens and multicolored stage looked great from all angles, although the money orientated decision to have the G.A. section behind the costly front seated section, meant a lack of atmosphere in many place. The G.A. section was the most energetic in some ways, with a group of Argentinians sporting a hand-crafted Stones flag, and attempting crowd surfing. The seated areas had plenty of people getting up to dance, especially in the stands, and in their defense the majority of the seated floor crowd stood for nearly the entire show. So a minor gripe would be that the G.A. floor couldn’t have been extended to the front of the stage, or at least had a cheaper G.A. standing section and a pricier one right at the front, such as the set-up for Bruce Springsteen’s tour earlier in the year. I guess if you want a standing Stones show you’d have to see them at a festival, and seeing as this most probably will be their last New Zealand show and perhaps last tour – it’s true that You Can’t Always Get What You Want, but if you try.. (you know the rest).

The best place to be in the whole stadium was of course, right at the front, because although the screens were huge they couldn’t compensate for seeing the musicians in the flesh. I may have pulled another concert sneak and made my way near the catwalk.. but I’ll let the photo’s say the rest.

20141122_224147

I haven’t discussed the rest of the band yet, and it would be a crime if I didn’t mention the great guitar work of Ronnie Wood, the youngest of the main four, and guest Stone Mick Taylor, who provided the best solos of the night during Midnight Rambler. On paper a Stones set of this era may appear formulaic, but when there, everything comes to life, with the professional ensemble of support musicians, the sax, keyboards and soaring backing vocals from Lisa Fischer, notably in Gimme Shelter. On stage banter and rapport between the band mates enthusiastic, Jagger reminiscing with the crowd about the Stones visiting Auckland for now nearly fifty years, mentioning the shows with Roy Orbison, and stating that it was too long perhaps.

Fifty years is an extremely long time for a rock band like this to be going, and to be going with all of the enthusiasm and camaraderie they’ve always appeared to have. A large amount of the audience perhaps turned up to celebrate this fact. Though the setlist was slightly familiar at times, they’ve lost none of their ability to entertain and still put on a show that’s probably a shit-ton better than Stadium acts half their age.

Stones Auckland

Original-era rock bands such as The Rolling Stones will soon fade away. Will we have a constant revolving platform of other bands aging and taking their place? Will it be Metallica next celebrating their 50th anniversary? Arctic Monkeys a generation after that? Or will rock audiences splinter and festivals that cater to the diverse tastes of those raised on electronic just as much as rock – metal just as much as rap – be the only places where crowds big enough to fill stadiums will come together to celebrate the strange movement that is modern rock. Or will the music industry finally collapse onto itself along with the capitalist machine due to irreparable human consequences, over-population and worsening global weather conditions. Who knows. For now, we still have our rock titan’s. And The Rolling Stones prove with their seemingly unstoppable stadium filling appeal and age defying energy, that just like any Renaissance-era statue – human achievements can be immortal.

Ok, that last paragraph was maybe a stretch too far, and I’d better end on a song pun, so not to break the cliche of Stones show reviews. It was Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, but we liked it.

Queen – “Let Me In Your Heart Again” (Song Discussion)

This month saw the release of a new Queen compilation; Queen Forever. In order to differentiate from the other worn out Greatest Hits collections previously released, this time both album tracks and singles are collected, under the theme of classic love songs. There’s some decent deep cuts, Nevermore off Queen II (which I wrote about here) is a beautiful and not too well known Freddie Mercury ballad. Jealousy is a favourite of mine from Jazz and one of Brian May’s best non-singles, Sail Away Sweet Sister is a great inclusion.

QueenForever

But the stand-out is by far the forgotten unfinished song from The Works’ sessions, Let Me In Your Heart Again. Written by May, it’s a touching and earnest heavy-ballad, comparable to earlier stadium hits like Somebody To Live or Save Me but with it’s own unique energy. Some of the melodies are recognizably similar to other May songs written around the same time, the bridge/solo being of similar melodic structure to Hammer To Fall. The lyrics seem slightly unfinished, with certain verses appearing rather aimless in sentiment;

When People Talk Of Love
I Have No Hesitation
( It’s Your Heart Again)
Tell Me What Your Dreaming Of
I’ll Hold That Conversation For You Best
( it’s Your Heart Again)

Not the most deep lyrics ever on the subject of love, but this is made up for by the narrative that runs through the rest of the lyrics; of a man putting on a brave face in response to the questioning of others, but who’s heartbreak is transparent. Much better lyrics are found in the first verse;

When People Talk Of Love
I’ll Lead The Conversation
I’ll Say I Feel Just Fine
Happy With My Situation

But When I Look Away ha
People Know My Mind Is Straying
To Where I Once Belonged
Dreaming About Your Heart Again

Brian May was near the end of his first marriage upon the time of writing this song, so I can only wonder if that was an influence on the lyrical content. But lyrics aside, the reason why this song is worth talking about is of course Mercury, and hearing such a strong vocal from him twenty four years after his death, when one assumed they had heard all they would ever hear of Fred, is pretty remarkable.

The vocal take sounds raw – it may have well been the demo vocal. There has probably been a lot of studio processing to brighten it up. A fantastic bass track from the now retired John Deacon is also heard on the track. I believe it’s Fred’s original piano take, though am unsure. Brian and Roger have added new backing vocals and guitars, and it really does sound fantastic. It’s a great piece of songwriting and I’ve not heard many posthumous releases this strong. If only there was more. It would have been great on their first posthumous albums Made In Heaven and perhaps would have been the single that album was missing – a bit of dramatic, heart-on-the-sleeve balladry to distract from the themes of death that permeate the rest of Heaven. Queen’s final album released during Fred’s life, Innuendo is also strikingly dark and worth a listen if you haven’t checked it out.

Producer William Orbit provides a second version of the song, remixing it into a synth heavy pop anthem, aligning the song with the poppier side of 80s Queen, i.e. Radio Gaga and A Kind Of Magic. I wasn’t sold on this version at first, although it was the first version of the new song I’d heard. The drums seemed slightly to quiet, the synth and bass too loud, and all kinds of studio effects were used and thrown around the place, bit-crushed drums, distorted vocals, a pitch shifted operatic section in the middle. It still seems a bit thrown together, but the new melodies he includes have grown on me, to the extent that I almost prefer this version. I think Freddie would have led the song towards this dramatic vibe had he still been around. This version ends with an emotionally charged outro which places the pre-chorus and chorus vocals over the bridge melody. An inspired improvisation that works. At six minutes long, it reaches towards Bohemian Rhapsody epic-ness, perhaps with mixed results. But I could have gone for another eight reworked demos such as this.

If this is the last original song we get from Queen so be it. It’s a pretty fantastic final note, even if it would have been that much better with a whole album to go with it, rather than another compilation. But to be hearing new material featuring Fred at this stage, and of this caliber – can’t complain really.

queen 1973 3Though it might be a bit of a corporate plug, Coke is donating a bunch of money to AIDS research for the sponsor rights to the new Queen remix. It’s a good cause no doubt, can’t help but be cynical towards the free advertising the company gets however.

Interstellar: Review and/or Discussion

Maybe don’t read before watching the film – although I don’t spoil too much, it’s a good one to know nothing about before viewing.interstellar

I’ve not read any reviews of Christopher Nolan’s newest science-fiction epic, so I don’t entirely know the mass-consensus, or at least what the big critics are saying. This is quite fun, as I get to have an opinion not influenced by the musings of others. I also managed to avoid knowing anything about the plot of the film going in, having not watching any trailers and purposely avoided promotional material. It didn’t seem hard to avoid the promotional material, it felt as if the film sneaked its way into theaters. For what I’m assuming is a very expensive film, with some big names in it, it’s surprising the marketing hasn’t been as big as Nolan’s previous films like The Dark Knight or Inception, films that surely did well because of how hard it was to avoid them in the lead up to the films. Of course TDK was helped by the death of one of the main cast members, but Inception seemed to be all about the marketing – teasing certain scenes in a similar manner to before the release of The Matrix (with the rooftop bullet time sequence played all the time on TV for example). Perhaps Interstellar has been publicized hard and I’ve just avoided it through share luck or ignorance. I’m not looking up the wikipedia page before writing this blog, so I’m not going to bring any new revelations or facts to the table.

So without any research taking place, all I’ve got to go on is my gut feeling. Emotions, you know. Based purely on my initial thoughts about the film – I have to say, it’s a hell of an experience. Which is what we may have come to expect with Nolan; big expensive blockbusters that provide a thrilling experience especially when viewed with the intended IMAX projection. He takes the plot in some really fantastic directions and I recommend everyone, even people not usually that interested in science fiction to give it a go. I was getting pretty bored with the idea of movies in general that last few months – getting more interested in the odd TV show (mostly ancient documentaries like Civilization), or just not bothering with any fiction at all. It’s always good when going through a movie watching rut to stumble across a film that shakes you awake and reminds you of why you love cinema.

The film isn’t perfect. Without getting too into spoilers, the problems I have with the film are also partially reasons I liked it. Nolan goes just a little bit too far with the narrative, unable to pull back and know when the important stuff has been said – which is perhaps due to studio interference or maybe just due to having too much control and not enough objectivity from the piece of art being created. He missed the opportunity to pose some grand questions and make us think – letting an obsession with tying up insignificant narrative threads overshadow the deeper themes driving them. Similar issues that I had with The Dark Knight Rises. Lack of self-control seems to be a big problem with Hollywood auteur’s, affecting New Zealand’s own Peter Jackson in a similar way with his overblown and over-indulgent Hobbit trilogy. Nolan is the superior filmmaker though, so when he gets indulgent, at least there’s a heck of a lot to chew on and ruminate about – not just pretty high frame rate visuals hanging on a long narrative of nothing at all.

But disregarding comparisons with other lesser auteurs, and forgetting the negatives – it’s an amazing, pretty, ambitious, complex and hugely entertaining film. My favorite film of the year so far along with The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) and documentary We Come As Friends (Hubert Sauper). Without ruining too much for those who read one in spite of the spoiler warning – there’s not many films that dare to explore concepts of the nature of time and space, and finite nature of human existence and the preciousness of earth in such a massive blockbuster context.

Go see it. Go see it now. Take your Mum to it. She’ll possibly hate it. But it’s the science fiction film of our generation – similar to 2001, and everyone had to see that, so everyone should have to see this.

interstellarI wrote about The Dark Knight Rises upon release here