tn_gravityGRAVITY is the new one from Alfonso Cuaron, genius director who hasn’t done one since CHILDREN OF MEN seven years ago. You remember for that he and his criminally award-snubbed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (THE TREE OF LIFE, THE CAT IN THE HAT [!?]) devised several completely jaw-dropping long take shots where the protagonists run through these crazy battles and go through all kinds of shit without any visible edits. Remember that scene where the car is rolling down the hill and they get attacked by a band of marauders, or the one where he has to fight his way up the stairs looking for his elephant? Or actually I think one of those was TOM YUM-GOONG. But even so there were some great ones in CHILDREN OF MEN, and for GRAVITY they took that to the next level, doing most of the movie in long unbroken takes. You just stop thinking about it, but apparently the first shot lasts 17 minutes. And this is in an era when 17 seconds without a cut would seem like a long time.

Like AVATAR, this plays like a live action movie but actually has more animation onscreen than organic human flesh. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts who are out in their astronaut suits fixing a satellite or telescope or some scientifical type shit when debris from an exploded satellite wrecks the shuttle and kills the rest of their crew. They have no contact with earth, no space ship and limited resources they gotta try to use to get their ass to the International Space Station or whatever. One of those space joints they got up there. Stop me if I use too much technical jargon and what not.

I was surprised by the jokiness in the opening scene. Usually a movie about astronauts or any type of real science professionals is pretty dry and serious, but they have Clooney flipping shit at his crew, playing Hank Williams songs on his radio and fucking around with mission control (Ed Harris, obviously), purposely boring him with stories of his childhood.

It’s jarring at first but I think it was a smart move to have some levity in what could’ve been an upsettingly intense experience. Forget about unbroken shots, the best thing is the unbroken action. This one is not far off from being one long action scene. These two moonwalkers are climbing on things, spinning through empty space, dodging flying debris, trying to grab onto shit before they float away and slowly suffocate while spinning uncontrollably into the great void. Which is something they’d prefer to avoid. In the rare moments of non-action poor Sandra doesn’t have much of a choice but to freak out about her lack of options, so I’m not sure it really counts as a breather.

When the credits came up I actually heard a guy saying “I’ve never seen anything like that before!” The weird genius of it is that it’s not some fantastically imaginative scenario, it’s something extremely simple and straightforward. “Space shuttle breaks down and astronauts try to survive” is something many people could’ve thought of before, it’s just that nobody until Cuaron wanted to go through the trouble to figure out how the fuck you put that on screen. I haven’t yet read anything about how exactly they did it, and maybe it’s better not to know. They’re floating around for almost the entire movie!

In fact, it’s such a spectacular filmatistical achievement it forced me to create a new logo to use only on rare occasions like this:


Honestly it’s the first post-Ebert movie to really give me a strong feeling of that. I can picture how excited they probly would’ve been talking about this. I bet they would’ve loved it. Or if one of them didn’t it would’ve been a funny argument.

mp_gravityBut all this incredible technology is used to tell a quick and very simple story. GRAVITY is huge and small at the same time. Huge in the sense that Cuaron creates outer space and NASA technology in such detail, and depicts characters surviving a calamity in a place that only a very few humans have ever been throughout history. Small in the sense that alot of it is one character alone onscreen, and only two total actors onscreen after the opening. There are many shots that show the whole planet of earth below, and others that stay about an inch from Bullock’s helmet for long stretches. It’s like an intimate play except it could only be done by spending years inventing crazy new special effects technology.

In fact it’s so dedicated to simplicity that (END OF THE MOVIE SPOILERS THIS PARAGRAPH ONLY) they don’t give you the satisfaction of her return to humanity, stumbling up to a bustling crew of medical professionals ready to help. They cut away before another human is seen. I got a feeling they could’ve afforded a big helicopter shot and crowd of extras and ambulances and shit. Instead you see her feet on earth and it doesn’t matter what happens next. It’s beautiful. And by the way I was SO relieved she wasn’t greeted by ape people.

Ah hell, as long as we’re already whispering this paragraph is gonna be SPOILERS too. Last one I swear. First I want to say that I would’ve been pissed if she just drowned at the end. Alotta times a happy ending is good. Second, I want to ask what you guys make of that scene where Clooney shows up again? I liked it, it was funny to have him suddenly knocking on the window, and a good way to illustrate her coming up with an idea. I fell for the trick but, horrible as it is I was kinda relieved it was a hallucination because otherwise it would’ve been “don’t worry ladies, the man has returned and he knows what to do.” But he’s not a man, he’s just a man-shaped vehicle for her resolve to deal with her past traumas and climb out of this disaster.

Bullock is really good, a character who is vulnerable (she’s the rookie and starts the movie with everybody worried she’s gonna puke) but obviously more capable than any of us dumb earthbound motherfuckers. She talks like she doesn’t know what she’s doing but she adapts to situation after situation, even though the instruction booklets are in Russian or Chinese. She doesn’t puke, which is arguably too bad considering how few movies have 3D zero-g vomit scenes in them. She’s a space survivor on par with Ripley, but since there are no aliens to fight she makes up for it by stripping to her underwear two times instead of just one. But then she floats around. Honestly it’s not sexual at all but she’s got plenty to be proud of there, she’s in science shape, looking younger than usual. Maybe it’s the haircut.

I guess all or some of the live action parts were post-converted 3D, but so much of it is animation anyway that it looks great. This is a topnotch use of 3D because it’s so much about the physical space, as they float around it’s great to see the different levels and the debris coming at you and you feel like you’re up there with them. We say that about alot of movies but more than almost any other this movie is designed to make you feel like you’re there on the scene. And it works.

It did remind me of one of the problems with the modern presentationing technology, though. In the old days of film, if the shutter was misaligned it would cause a flickering that was especially noticeable when a camera pans sideways, it could hurt your eyes and make it hard to look at. With digital projection for some reasons this just happens regularly. I guess it must not bother everybody, and sometimes it’s worse than other times, but here’s a movie where the camera is floating the whole time and sometimes my eyes have trouble focusing on it and that’s a real bummer for a pure visual spectacle on this level. That’s the main reason if I see it again I’m gonna go to the real Imax theater where it’s an actual film print. But most people won’t have an opportunity to ever see it except on digital.

There must be some solution to this flickering. George Lucas, are you completely retired now, or can you get your guys on this? (and don’t you dare tell me higher frame rate Hobbitvision is the answer. Who do you think you’re dealing with here?)

I saw somebody refer to this as science fiction. Is it sci-fi if it has space in it at all? Or is that in the sense that this is a fictional story about scientists? Would an underwater exploration movie with no peacemongering see-through aliens be sci-fi? I think this is not sci-fi, this is space drama, or an astroplay.

Whatever it is it’s clearly a huge technical achievement in filmatism and cinematical computering. Only a crazy person would deny that. Most people seem to love it, but I’m sure (especially the more hyperbole we pile on it) some will be confused that so much technological ambition goes into such a non-epic story. Myself, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it yet. I don’t think I connected with it as much as CHILDREN OF MEN, but it’s not like I love every nook and cranny of that more traditionally complicated story. GRAVITY has the emotions and the triumph of the human spirit and what not but it’s best at being a thrill ride. That is not an insult. I like a good thrill ride, and this is better than good. When I see it again I figure I’ll probly break one way or the other, either it’s an amazing trifle and no more, or it’s better than I was prepared to comprehend on one viewing. Either way I’m thankful for it.

Meanwhile, I have cancelled my plans to become an astronaut. I’m just not sure it’s for me, you guys.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 7th, 2013 at 12:25 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

103 Responses to “Gravity”

  1. I’m going to be SPOILERIFIC so be warned. I’ve seen a few words bandied about concerning the gender roles in the film and I’m not sure I agree with them. I think it’s more significant that Clooney is this really experienced guy (on his last mission) and Bullock is a civilian on her first space walk. That she’s naturally looking to him for guidance and advice speaks more to their levels of experience than there genders, the way I saw it.

    Even if you were going to interpret it in terms of the movie having some sort of viewpoint on what men and women are respectively capable of, I think it breaks down in Dr. Stone’s favor. First of all, she never threw up, and Clooney said he did his first voyage (fact check me on that one, I don’t remember the specific line).

    Secondly, she’s a fast learner and by the time she’s on HER last voyage (assuming they ever talk her ass onto another space shuttle) she’s going to be running rings around the Clooneys. One of my favorite aspects of the movie was when they sort of role reversal and she’s the one holding HIS tether and saying “don’t worry, I got you” and stuff and she’s clearly reflecting the mannerism and specific phrases she’s learned from him. Later on she starts copying his whole “I got a bad feeling about this mission” shtick. I found all that very touching.

    I’ve heard people say that the Clooney vision is a hallucination, but I think it’s just supposed to be a light daydream she has, musing to herself “if I were Matt, what would i do?”

    Do you think when she gets on the ISS and tries to radio him, he can actually hear her and just doesn’t want to argue about whether she should try to rescue him?

  2. Amazing movie. I already want to see it again. One thing I’ll say is that I was surprised how moved I was during the scene where Ryan tells Matt to give a message to Sarah. I think the movie has more humanity and more to chew on thematically than people have been giving it credit for.

    It’s been a little annoying to see this movie that blew me away and reminded me why I love movies, and then I go online and read reviews & posts of people whining about things like the dialogue… how about the fact that it’s pure fucking cinema? Maybe it’s dumb for me to feel defensive on behalf of a movie, but I’m not saying everyone has to like it. but to me its like if you eat at the best taqueria in town and all you do afterwards is complain that the vinyl booths were ratty and the radio was too loud. What about the thing you actually went there to do, which is eat tacos. also in my opinion the dialogue was fine

  3. Hey Vern. Nice to see your thoughts on this one. I think I’m in the former camp – an obviously technically impressive ride but not much behind that – but I’d be open to changing my mind on another viewing. I think one of the things is that I’d maybe expected it to be a bit slower and more contemplative so the constant, rollicking thrill-ride element threw me a bit (as did all the Germans in the audience talking through the bit where Ryan says the thing she likes best about space is the silence.)

    As to your question about being Clooney: I wasn’t fooled and I did kind of like getting another short blast of his shit-talking character. However, I thought the section of five minutes or so leading up to that point, where she’s just sitting in the broken Soyuz, was by far the best bit of the film (something really affecting about it and the reaching out to the faint voices on the radio) and that kind of broke the spell. However, it’s interesting that the first related review in your list is the Clooney Solaris as that section did make me think of this as a sort of thematic inversion of gorgeous George’s relationship with his wife in that one.

  4. this movie is OUT. FUCKING. STANDING. and if it doesn’t win best picture I’m never watching the Oscars ever again

    to say I was floored by this movie puts it lightly, CHILDREN OF MEN is actually one of my favorite movies of all time and yet this movie still managed to actually EXCEED my expectations, how? well I was a little worried that it was gonna be all thrills without the emotions of CHILDREN OF MEN, but I was wrong, I teared up during a few moments (a little inconvenient with 3D glasses on though), that scene where *SPOILER* Bullock listens to that foreign guy on the radio sing his baby to sleep as she accepts death? unbelievable

    and I also like the fact that though it’s a movie about space and shit, it’s not afraid to be spiritual, I like to think that that was *SPOILER AGAIN* literally Clooney’s character’s spirit or whatever that visited her and helped her out, I mean who knows right?

    Alfonso Cuaron, man, he’s got the touch, he’s got the power, yeah! and I hope we don’t have to wait another 7 years before he graces movies with his magic again

  5. Watched this (in 3D of course) over the weekend. Bullock carried it surprisingly well, even to me. Of all the things I read, it annoys me that one of them has been “well she’s in it, so I won’t see it”. Call it a mark of a bonafide film snob but I’ll be more likely not to see something based on who’s directing it as opposed to who’s starring in it. Granted, she’s done a lot of stuff I’ll never likely see with interest, but based on this film’s critical and box office performance she might do some more out-there stuff now instead of stock romantic comedies.

    As to the Clooney reappearance, I didn’t feel right away it was a hallucination (or daydream, or whatever word you would describe it as). But his repeated line about it being a hell of a story (and the sudden appearance of the booze) was a bit of a giveaway. He was great here as well, but he was practically born to play an astronaut so that’s no surprise. The last time we see him alive and her reaching to him (and subsequently telling Houston she believes he’s dead) was quite chilling.

    The 3D felt miles ahead of my previous experiences with the format (PROMETHEUS, and the Metallica movie). Vern I wonder how you feel about the stuff in outer space that Clint did for SPACE COWBOYS in contrast to this. I remember at the time feeling like that one got it right (like APOLLO 13 before it), as far as being a realistic portrait of what it all looks like out there. Ultimately I cannot argue with someone like James Cameron who’s called it the best space film ever. His (and David Fincher’s) involvement in this is interesting in that it also seems they had a hand in helping the Metallica movie as well because their names are in the “thank you” sections of both.

    Oh, and it was cool to hear Ed Harris as mission control. It seems having him in a movie about space brings good luck.

  6. Like I said, I really liked that movie, especially because it was just a simple survivor story without any necessary fat. Comeone, when was the last time you saw a studio tentpole movie that ran for just 90 minutes? I can sit through a 3 hour epic without any trouble and actually get angry once the break happens (Do American cinemas have that? A break in the middle during overlong moveies?), but it’s really nice to have a movie that just goes from a to b to c to d without any extras.

    Although of course on the opposite it’s the most show offy movie of the last 10 or so years. So it’s that oxymoron that makes this movie so enjoyable.

    Also I really liked the final Clooney scene…but then I didn’t. I actually laughed when he suddenly knocked at the door, but once he opnened it, it lost me. I don’t think her eyeballs would have been sucked out of her head or something, but for any reason I thought that Clooney, as the big pro, would have at least waited a few more seconds till she got her helmet on and that Bullock probably would have worse effects from the decompression than just a few seconds of tinitus. So in a movie, that tries to be scientific acuurate to a degree, a scene like this really gives away that it might not be real.

    Actually the one (admittedly very small) problem that I have, was the endless string of bad luck, that Bullock had at this movie. At one point she sits in a capsule and a pen flaots around and I really expected it to poke her in the eye, just because it seemed appropriate. Or…maybe getting a case of diarrhea.

    But to be honest, one of the reasons why I loved this movie so much, is because I grew up with those disaster movies, like AIRPORT or THE TOWERING INFERNO. I just love that shit.

  7. Good review, Vern. So much of this movie is just great. Instead of constantly telling us things, it just shows us. Instead of assuming we will be sympathetic to Ryan Stone, the movie instead shows her humanity and strength and makes us care about her. Scenes that are tense are tense, but the quiet scenes are so poignant and touching that it really makes it all so much more important. The movie would only be half the film it is without the scene of Sandra Bullock hearing the radio of the man on earth singing a lullaby.

    Just a tremendous movie. Not sure if it is “better” than Children of Men, but it is a movie that I really liked after leaving the theater and have really dwelled on and grown to love since Friday night. But, if we’re comparing it to Children of Men that is only a good thing.

  8. Hi Vern, Yes, I liked it a lot, too, and I am okay with it not being super duper deep, because is it? I need to see it again, too. I think one of the reasons it’s seen as science fiction is because it takes place in the future (that Chinese space station has apparently not been launched yet) and depicts an event (that satellite destruction chain reaction) which could happen, but never actually has yet.

  9. Question: is ARMAGEDDON or DEEP IMPACT science fiction?

  10. Isn´t the logic of ARMAGEDDON considered pure fantasy…?

  11. Sure, but I think it still gets to the question. They are both movies that deal with scenarios (an object heading to Earth that will end humanity) that are plausible, and the solutions are scientific in nature. Is that science fiction?

  12. I’d say yes. People often confuse what’s science fiction and what’s purely just fantasy.

    They had an interesting segment on 60 MINUTES last night about the meteors that fell from Russia and what people in NASA are observing about the real impact some of these objects might have on earth, and that there’s a lot more than we think out there.

  13. I loved the George Clooney “dream” sequence. It was a clever way for her to have a light-bulb moment without it just being her REALIZING the whole soft-landing thing or whatever. It came to her in a dream. That’s awesome.

  14. Also, re: your comments about strobing/flickering, where did you see it Vern? I saw it at the Thornton Place theater, up in Northgate. I chose to see it there because from what I understand (and everyone, please, feel free to tell me if I’m wrong) a “traditional” IMAX theater like Pacific Science Center do indeed project on film, but since the movie was shot digitally, it has to be transferred to film stock, and in doing so it loses sharpness. I saw Avatar at the Pacific Science Center IMAX, and then I saw it again at the Thornton Place “Lie-MAX” (as the kids call it) and I thought it was ten times sharper and clearer. Sure, the “true” IMAX is much, much bigger, and the surround sound is way more awesome, but the picture quality was way better when it was projected digitally.

    I still want to see it at the Pacific Science Center to test this theory out again. I just really want to see Gravity again.

  15. And ONE more thing: I’d like to know if the HFR (Hobbitvision) could be implemented ONLY during pans and shit. Like speed ramping in Zack Snyder movies….only with frame rates instead of film speeds. So like 90% of the movie would be shot in standard 24 frames per second, but then they bump up the frame rate ONLY during a pan, or a hectic action shot or whatever. Wouldn’t that make a lot of sense? I think so.

    I kinda thought that’s what Peter Jackson was going to do with The Hobbit when he first announced it, but no, of course not.

  16. A Great Movie.

  17. And A Good Review Vern. You know how to tell it.

  18. Gravity is definitely one of those movies that you *have to* see on a big screen. The visuals are terrific and the 3D actually enhances the experience! That’s the first time I’ve said that about 3D. I think it’s a worthless feature most of the time.

  19. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 7th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Just got back from seeing it. Now that’s a fucking movie! But still… Still I could have done without the 3D. It added something sure, but my eyeballs still would have had a better experience without that shit. My wallet too.

  20. Can we get a dissenting opinion in here already? As Ryan Gosling would say, wanna fight?

  21. I’m seeing it later this week. My luck, I’ll end up being that guy.

  22. You mention there are only two actors on screen after the opening shot. Actually, there are only two actors on screen the entire movie. Actor #3….not an actor. All CGI! I know, I was fooled too.

  23. Majestyk, how are you even able to see it now that we confiscated your nerd badge? They check those at the door.

  24. Justin – I saw it at the Cinerama. For the most part it looks great, that’s my preferred place to see most movies. I want to see it a second time at the Science Center though to compare.

    They’re tricky though, because they also have the second smaller theater that’s digital.

    Interesting thing about the Cinerama: next year they will be the first theater to install some new projector that uses lasers. I don’t know what that means, but I’m interested to find out.

  25. I don’t know if advertising is downplaying 3D these days or I’m just an ignorant motherfucker, but I didn’t even realise this movie was being shown in 3D. I got gypped out of a whole dimension.

    I’m quite enjoying this circlejerk of positivity but I’m sure someone will be along soon to piss in everyone’s cereal. Probably Majestyk; he has a psychological condition where he sees unanimous internet praise as “the man” and is forced to rebel against it.

    I noticed the gender thing as well. It didn’t bother me, but I couldn’t help but think how much cooler/unexpected it would have been if it was the woman who was the calm, experienced pro and the man who was the panicking rookie. It was nice being reminded that Sandra Bullock is a real actress, though. I’m always forgetting because she’s in so many films that I would gnaw my foot off to escape.

    Did anyone else roll their eyes a little bit at the cheesy shot of Bullock curled up in the pod with the spacesuit umbilical?

  26. The advertising definitely downplays the 3D aspect, something I’ve only noticed now that you bring it up CH. I only noticed because it was in web articles about the film, but Joe Q. Filmgoer may not know that.

  27. CH the shot you’re referring to, if I’m thinking of the same one, was the turning point for me where I realized it wasn’t just going to be a fun space ride and that it was going to be the emotionally sumptuous follow up to CoM that I had been waiting for. Transcendent.

  28. Crusty: It’s an affliction I fight every day. Sometimes I beat it. INCEPTION, for example.

    I got a good feeling about this one, though. Seems like my kinda deal.

  29. “Piss in everyone’s cereal”? The hell you say, Crusty! After a second viewing of Gravity, I exited the theatre bathed in a golden glow of sublime happiness, serene in the knowledge that my life had forever changed for the better.

    As I walked to my car in the parking lot, I was fist pumping so vociferously that some old biddy on her way in stopped and axed me if I was having an epileptic fit. I hugged her and replied “YEAH, Granny!— keep it real. Work that shit!”.

    And it’s not just me either. Behold:

    That is one happy kitten. His owner just took him to see Gravity. No one could have anticipated the worldwide panacean effect this movie has produced. All manner of different people and critters setting aside their differences and celebrating life n’ stuff: men and women, kittens and puppies, Sinead O’Connor and Miley Cyrus, Griff and Griff impersonators, Obama and Boehner, jihadists and infidels, and the list goes on & on. Group hug, bitches!

    Muchas gracias, Alfonso Cuaron. “You’re the man”.

    [Fuckit; sarcasm ain’t gettin’ it done. Where’s the liquor?]

  30. Well, yea…Cinerama is always the preferred place to see movies. I didn’t mean to imply that Northgate can even hang with the Cinerama. I just live in Wallingford and Northgate is a five minute drive away, plus there’s free parking.

    And I had absolutely no idea Pacific Science Center had two theaters. Absolutely no idea at all.

  31. He dies? Fuck that, then.

    *whew* Saved me twenty bucks. Thanks, Vern!

  32. I love the “Siskel & Ebert” logo, I miss those guys, too.

  33. Justin – I know, I wasn’t criticizing Thornton Place either. I think we’re on the same page here.

    I didn’t know about the second Imax screen until I saw FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE. They also had WIZARD OF OZ there. Basically, if they say “one week only” it means there aren’t prints of it and it will be on that screen. The main one is called Boeing Imax and this one is PACCARR Imax.

  34. basically everything larry said except sincere.

    as far as criticism though, basically the only thing i can think of at the moment is the scene with the chinese dude on the ham radio or whatever that was supposed to be. a little too on the nose for me that scene was. its a tough scene to pull off because its just bullock by herself, feeling shit, in a very tiny space, with nothing else happening. but if i had written that scene i would have had her speaking more gibberishy, almost drugged, things. nothing sententious or anything like that, but this character’s adrenal glands are probably hemorrhaging at the time (mine were), she thinks she might die any minute, and shes been without oxygen for long stretches of time. it would be perfectly reasonable, even predictable, for her to not entirely make sense at this point in the film. i think it would have been an improvement.

  35. “it would be perfectly reasonable, even predictable, for her to not entirely make sense at this point in the film.”

    I really liked it when she barked.

  36. Like your guys interpretation of the dream. I just thought it was unnecessary for an idea she could just have by being smart, not dreaming it. Didn’t ruin the movie or anything, just a screenwriting choice that lots of blockbusters tend to do.

    That was vague, but here is a major SPOILER thought below in reply to other SPOILERS above…

    And yeah, he was totally still alive when she radioed from the station. He just stopped responding because he knew she’d made it and he just wanted to drift away in peace.

  37. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 8th, 2013 at 2:09 am

    “either it’s an amazing trifle and no more, or it’s better than I was prepared to comprehend on one viewing.”

    I’m predicting it’s gonna be the second option, at least it seems to be leaning that way for me. More so after reading this:


    Some good stuff about the simplicity but also deeper layers behind it. It’s worth reading the comments too (those sequel ideas are pretty funny).

  38. ” I just thought it was unnecessary for an idea she could just have by being smart, not dreaming it.”

    But it was a more cinematic way to let her have this idea!

  39. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 8th, 2013 at 7:55 am

    It wasn’t just about her having the idea either. It was also a way of showing her internal conflict, convincing herself she should keep fighting and live her life instead of just giving up and let herself die.

    Instead of having her say these things to herself out loud, I think George’s visit was indeed a more cinematic way of showing her internal struggle.

  40. fred: im confused. it sounds like youre saying, from the writers point of view, they had bullock attempt suicide for no other reason than to give her an idea she could use to save her own life. thats not just unnecessary, that makes no sense. so im thinking there was more going on there, along the lines of what the Gaul is saying.

  41. Not only is it more cinematic but I think it’s part of a larger thread about how she emulates his behavior as a way of coaching herself through the ordeal. Later on she has “a bad feeling about this mission” and in my opinion the various radio-isms she uses like “houston in the blind” and others she probably picked up on fly, or who knows maybe they trained her about that stuff. Just, keep in mind she was a civilian so I don’t know how well she is supposed to know the radio jargon. And, SPOILER, it also perhaps gives the audience a sense of closure that would have otherwise been lacking given his abrupt departure. So the hallucination/musing and the emulation are means of honoring his memory.

  42. Nice review – you said some cool things I didn’t know I needed words for to say myself and now wish I said them. Good job!

    Really, really dug this movie. Personally up there as a favorite film going experience in a long, long time. Such a thrill and I really bought into the characters, saw the blatant subtext as just that and moved on, loved seeing space put on screen in such a way. Really want to go again at the IMAX.

    I also think this film will re-release a few times just for the experience people get out of it.


    Regarding her hallucination / dream of George Clooney coming back, for a moment I wanted it to be real so bad, but deep inside just knew it wasn’t. There were tonnes of other ways Cauron could have shown us how she convinces herself to try to live, but I thought he chose that one for us as the audience’s (and the movie’s) sake, rather than to have more George or say something etc.

    The film needs that relief and the warmth of his character is very welcome at that point. She’s obviously at the point of exhaustion, ready to give up when she starts to think what would that optimistic, delightful and total pro-astronaut who I was just with do?

    But the fact it comes through in the form of him coming onto the ship is to give us a bit of a break from the nail-biting other 98% of the movie.

  43. What I want to know is, was the stash of vodka really there?

  44. CrustaceanHate: It’s a Russian vehicle. A stash of Vodka is standard equipment. They use it to change their tires or when they run out of gas, man.

    What I loved about this film is its nature: it’s an action thriller through and through. The blogosphere is rolling over itself to heap praise on it because they’re floored that anyone would bother to make a thriller this good. In their brains, it’s not good enough that it’s the best of its kind we’ve seen in a long while. It as to be meaningful and IMPORTANT! So they talk about Oscars and all that meaningless bullshit. It’s like they need to justify how much they loved it which is kind of silly. They loved it because it’s an amazing movie. Getting marooned in space and getting back to earth in one piece is indeed a thin story but it’s good enough for me if it’s going to be treated as well as this one was. And hell, when did all this stuff become so boring to people that there needs to be some kind of philosophy course included?


    As for the Clooney scene, Sandra isn’t wearing her helmet when he opens the airlock. She would have died instantly and the film follows those rules. So right off the bat, I felt it was something else. But I don’t think of it as a hallucination or dream. It’s a clever narrative device by great storytellers who found a way to turn a scene heavy in exposition into one of the most memorable parts of the film. (I admit that I told myself “If this turns out to be real and George miraculously lives on, I’m OK with it.” That’s how much I loved his presence in the film.) It’s also a welcome breath of fresh air before the final descent to earth. You know, a couple of minutes of quiet and comfort before Cuaron blows up our eyes and eardrums on the way down to the hard planet.

    So, to echo the overwhelming consensus: THIS is a how you make a space movie and I’m going back. I’m taking my dad and my mom and I may have to wrangle a friend who is being lazy about it. If I see it 3 times in theaters, well, I don’t even mind.

  45. Sorry about the double post but I feel pretty passionately that all this “sexism” talk about Sandra Bullock’s character is pure bullshit. It’s more musings from writers staring at a deadline and looking for clicks. Sandra is as hot and badass as Sigourney was in all her Alien movies. But because what Sandra does is realistic and possible, girls can (and will) aspire to her character’s strength and resourcefulness. Hollywood churns out one piece of shit after another in which women are nothing but a pair of pretty boobs and a comforting hug for the hero in the end. Here’s a great action movie starring a beautiful woman playing the part of a person whose fortitude anyone would be proud to possess and the press is stirring shit over it. It boggles my mind.

  46. “She would have died instantly.”

    You can survive for a while actually.


    “For about ten full seconds– a long time to be loitering in space without protection– an average human would be rather uncomfortable, but they would still have their wits about them” (needless to say it gets worse from there)

  47. renfield, that article doesnt with the issue of hypothermia, which in the dream situation would have been very relevant. the tv show BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA showed pretty accurately what happens when you are briefly exposed to not only the vacuum of space, but also to its frigid temperatures.

  48. phillip it does address the issue, whether accurately or no, when it says “Heat does not transfer out of the body very rapidly in the absence of a medium such as air or water, so freezing to death is not an immediate risk in outer space despite the extreme cold.”

  49. Mouth’ll be that guy. This is a good film on some levels, but it is a bad film.


    IMAX 3D was fun to behold, and allah praise the 3D for being gimmicky-in-my-face (50,000 mph debris storms were no joke!) instead of “subtle,” especially for a bloke seated in dead center of the front row of the middle section, but I hated almost every word of the script.

    Somehow this thing celebrated the worst of the phenomenon of mansplaining while also exploring the worst of the phenomenon of making a female protagonist a total unqualified bitchass
    (6 months astro-training — hey, that’s more than the drillers from ARMAGEDDON, so this must be realistic!)
    who misses home and can’t handle the physicality of the adventure and also has DEAD KID ISSUES because maternal-this-and-that-that-we-were-taught-in-cinema-drama-writing-for-female-characters-101.


    And I can’t believe Vern sort of praised the inclusion of Ed Harris’s voice as “Houston” when Vern is on record as saying this:

    “By the way, real imaginative getting Morgan Freeman as the narrator, guys. That’s what I call thinking inside the box with about two or three extra layers of box around the original box to make sure that none of your thinking leaks outside of the box at all because that would be bad.

    source: https://outlawvern.com/2011/08/21/conan-the-barbarian-fake-3d-2011/

    Wow, Ed Harris as “Houston.” Way to stretch our minds, Alfonso. American audiences are very challenged when we hear his tones on an FM connection within a spaceship’s cockpit. What a daring filmmaking choice that is, {cough}.


    I’m embarrassed for contemporary cinema — especially for the armies of quality film writers out there — when this is what is praised as A Great Film.

    I kinda enjoyed it, though. Ish. Not really. Pretty picture, I guess.

  50. Fuck all y’all’s cereals, my bladder is empty now.

  51. But you’re a romantic humanist just like Cuaron. For shame, Mouth.

  52. My friend & I were groaning together about GRAVITY, razing most of the glowing reviews to make ourselves feel better while also frustrating ourselves for not being *with* the rest of GRAVITY-loving humanity
    (This is called Majestyk TDK Syndrome — incurable),
    trying to determine if the entire final, like, 15 minutes is a dream or Heaven or post-mortem hallucination or something. Cuz if it’s not, then the movie is incredibly stupid, or thinks its audience is incredibly stupid, or the whole thing is an utter fantasy (a painstakingly detailed, semi-naturalistic dream fantasy) from start to finish.

    So you’re a failed pseudo-astronaut with a simulator record of 100% failure now landing a rogue, damaged, unhinged, incommunicado space vessel without most engine or guidance functions and without the usual accelerated headstart to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, and okay you get past those obstacles, fine, hit your Chinese buttons (not that button! the other one! no not that one! the other one, that’s it…) and all is going well and your seatbelt is holding as firm as your heatshields, it’s all good. . .

    now you’ve a 77% chance of hitting water, 70% chance of hitting deep ocean, and about 23% chance of hitting land, which would probably give you a concussion at least in my opinion.
    Okay, and you hit a part of a sea with a seafloor no more than 30 feet deep, and your parachute works perfectly, and you’re able to pop open the capsule and breathe and experience water and sink and bound up from the sea floor
    (which wouldn’t be possible in 99.9% of the ocean, where it’d be much deeper that you’d sink before you realized you had to shed your cumbersome spacesuit, and also by then it’d be 100% darkness at that depth, plus if you did then miraculously manage to swim upward then you’d feel a severe head rush & pressure/compression symptoms, but Dr. Stone’s only at Olympic Pool depth so it’s okay)
    and surface and live, like a majestic frog-person-resurrected.

    And also you happened to have landed within 200 meters of land, and it’s a shoreline that you can swim upon, not some rocky bullshit with cliffs, and also the water is not freezing.

    We calculate the odds of an unguided space vessel re-entering Earth and hitting a patch of warm sea with a shallow depth and within a 2 minute swim of shore-soil to be aboooooouuuuuuuttt 0.002%. At best.

    But hey, the PROMETHEUS crew approached planet LV-226whatever with zero topography or atmospheric readings and they spotted exactly where that idiotic movie needed them to land within 2 minutes, too, because one of the co-pilots, like, looked out the window and saw the Engineer buildings, which occupied 0.00000000000000000000001% of the land mass of that celestial rock.

    Inappropriate vodka consumption isn’t the only thing these 2 shitty films have in common.

  53. Wait… you and your friend hated it? What, did you move to Paul’s village or something?

  54. That hurts. That cuts deep.

    That also reminds me, the score for GRAVITY is not a good one, and it’s too much. That fucking jump-scare (so cliche) when the corpse-face suddenly enters the frame from the left, accompanied by a toddler’s version of Bernard Herrmann by way of a raven’s caw. . . made me roll my eyes so hard I almost saw the whole IMAX screen in one iris swoop.

  55. What else you got? Can I raise you some anti Lubezki sentiments?

  56. You’ll raise nothing of the sort. Won’t allow it, even as a facetious dare on your own websight. I’ll fight anyone foolish enough to speak ill of that camera god, even if he participated in the befouling of my beloved Olga at the hands of Skinny Pete.

    Lubezki coulda spoke up about Sandra Bullock’s hair staying in place while a bunch of tiny screws, seatbelts, pens, & teardrops floated in zero-G around her anti-scientifically out-of-place face, though.

  57. Phillip, I meant I quite literally saw it as a dream sequence and she woke up with an idea. It didn’t occur to me as a cinematic portrayal of a thought process. Clearly I need to dig deeper. I like that.

    I love you, Mouth.

    Looks like I’m the pisser on CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.

  58. I saw the CAPTAIN PHILLIPS trailer so many times this summer I feel like I’ve already sat through the movie twice on a plane. I’m done.

  59. Warning: Resolution of popcorn thriller may rely on unlikely coincidences and have dubious scientific merit.

  60. Didn’t Bullock have one of those short haircuts, where the hair just can’t move, even when you are in zero G? BEcause I remember sitting in the theatre and thinking “That’s clever. They gave her this haircut to avoid animating her hair.”

  61. So you want to be an astronaut, eh?

    One of 110 candidates to be the nation’s first astronauts, Carpenter became an instant celebrity in 1958 when he was chosen one of the original seven Mercury astronauts. Like his colleagues, Carpenter basked in lavish attention and public rewards, but it wasn’t exactly easy. The astronauts were subjected to grueling medical tests — keeping their feet in cold water, rapid spinning and tumbling and open-ended psychological quizzes. He had to endure forces 16 times gravity in his tests, far more than in space, something he said he managed with “great difficulty.”

    Dude knew how the fuck to make a dramatic surprise emergency landing, too:

    But things started to go wrong on re-entry. He was low on fuel and a key instrument that tells the pilot which way the capsule is pointing malfunctioned, forcing Carpenter to manually take over control of the landing.

    NASA’s Mission Control then announced that he would overshoot his landing zone by more than 200 miles and, worse, they had lost contact with him.

    Talking to a suddenly solemn nation, CBS newsman Walter Cronkite told the audience: “We may have … lost an astronaut.”

    But Carpenter survived the landing that day.

    Always cool under pressure — his heart rate never went above 105 during the flight — he oriented himself by simply peering out the space capsule’s window. The Navy found him in the Caribbean, floating in his life raft with his feet propped up. He offered up some of his space rations.

    R.I.P., Official Badasstronaut Scott Carpenter

  62. Mouth, holy crap how did i not know that was SKINNY PETE with Olga in To The Wonder. On a related note, Breaking Bad’s Badger gets to play love interest to LIZZY CAPLAN in a movie called High Road, so those two seem to be doing pretty well for themselves, (and keeping the hot girl/goofy guy pairing alive and well)

    Re: Gravity, I liked it but I wish I liked it more. It’s exciting, never boring, and nice to look at, but it stopped just short of connecting with me in that emotional way I need to categorize it as great. I think alot of it is the dead child subplot just seemed a bit rote and played out to me (I grew up on Aliens Director’s Cut, after all). Nitpick-wise, my only real complaint is I have no idea why her character would pause for that whole umbilical cord scene and then suddenly be like “oh yeah, I was in the middle of trying to save someone a minute ago”

    But anyways, i still preferred it to Perfect Storm, Open Water, Buried, Cast Away, etc..

  63. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 12th, 2013 at 5:22 am

    Neal – I think any normal person would be completely overwhelmed after reaching (relative) safety after such an exhausting, traumatic near-death experience. Makes sense that you collapse for a bit after that until you catch your breath and are able to continue.

  64. Neal: The Undefeated Gaul is spot-on correct. The umbilical cord scene was (rather eloquently, I thought) showing how Bullock’s character needed to take a moment in timeout, and just collect herself before proceeding to deal with a situation that suddenly went from bad to worse. Truth be told, it was my favorite part of the movie.

    [Meanwhile, back at the ranch…..]

    $44 million second weekend; pretty impressive lack of dropoff. The people have spoken!, but I still think they (and most of the critics) are base idiots for buying into this movie on such a profound/spiritual level.

    I never thought I’d post this, but I COMPLETELY agree with everything Mouth opined about Gravity. Fucking brutal in its clarity, and an evisceration that would inspire envy from coroners ’round the globe. His comments reminded me of what Alec Baldwin said to that O.R. lackey in Malice: “… If you ever again tell me or my surgical staff that we’re going to lose a patient, I’m going to take your lungs out with a fucking ice cream scoop”.

    The truth can sometimes be harsh and without remorse, but that’s when it’s most necessary. Good call, Mouth. DAMN good.

  65. Don’t get me wrong, I know if I was in this situation I’d be reduced to a whiny puddle of immobility after the first scene. I guess it just rubbed me the wrong way that her character went from “i don’t care what you say, logic be damned, i’m coming to rescue you!” to then beautiful fetal position resting/resignment, to then watching him float away and being like, “Oh hey, I’m back now buddy, you still out there?” It’s basically the space equivalent of “oh crap, you’re drowning and every second counts, but let me meditate for a second here before I reach out my hand. Oh shit you’re gone? Hey buddy I tried.”

    Again, i liked the movie, it’s a minor nitpick, and you could argue it’s not a valid ticking clock situation because Clooney hinted it was hopeless to come and get him, but that didn’t make the scene any less frustrating to watch. (even though it’s a testament to how likable Clooney is in this and how much I wanted her to save him).

    Any thoughts from you guys on how this would have worked with original stars Angelina Jolie/Robert Downey Jr.? Downey obviously could have played this character in his sleep (and is a big enough star that his early-ish demise would have held the weight it needed to), and I actually think Jolie would have been a riskier, more challenging choice. Her public persona is so clinical and steely yet strangely also intertwined with motherhood that this would have been a fascinating role for her. Bullock was great, though, even though her “no no no no no no no” scenes brought back unpleasant memories of Speed 2 and Shia Lebouef.

  66. Her body does a weird jerk before curling up in the fetal position. I was under the impression that was her blacking out.

    Vern, I’m interested in why you describe the film as (potentially) an “amazing trifle and no more.” That seems like an unusually dismissive statement from you for this kind of film. I doubt you would ever refer to DUEL as a trifle, for instance. Or SPEED or whatever. Even if you end up thinking this film doesn’t have much depth other than the surface thrill ride it seems weird to me to trivialize it for just being great at that. Isn’t that what other critics are for?

  67. Jake – I see what you mean, but I didn’t mean it to be dismissive at all. I meant “an amazing trifle” as something that is great even if it doesn’t have alot of depth. So blame my imprecise wording.

  68. Actually, Vern, now that you mention it, I have indeed recently come up with a concept of how to fix the flickering during fast camera movements in 3D.
    (Sorry for being off topic and arguably boring, but I’m guessing this will intrigue you. Or maybe not, in which case I’m sorry.)

    I hate to disappoint for you, but the flickering is DIRECTLY caused by the relatively low frame rate, and can also DIRECTLY be solved by increasing the frame rate. So yeah, hobbitvision would help, but that’s not really my idea, so hear me out. The reason why regular, non-panning shots don’t appear to flicker at 24 frames per second is because the relative optical distance traveled by a fixed point between two frames is so small that our eyes don’t perceive it. But when the camera starts to move, there are suddenly noticeable gaps through which fixed points (e.g. recognizable shapes in the environment) seem to move without passing through the intermediate space. This “jumping” between the perceived locations of fixed objects in adjacent frames is what your brain interprets as flickering.

    You can now see that, by simply adding an intermediate frame between every 24Hz frame of motion (and thus doubling the frame rate), this effect can be mitigated. But you’ve seen what 48fps does to THE HOBBIT — a film which, in principle, is visually impressive. Calm shots in 48fps reminds us of daytime TV, due to our cultural associations between high frame rate and the poor photographic quality of video images up until the late 90s. And I agree completely. But here’s my idea.

    It should be relatively straightforward to create a 48fps video stream where, during calm shots, the frame rate is slowed down to 24fps and only increased (smoothly) for specific moments during quick shots. The basic video would run at 48fps, but mostly show 24fps footage (repeating each frame twice) except for special moments that include quick camera movements. This acceleration and deceleration of frame rate would be unnoticeable in the same sense that, in audio editing, continuous increases and decreases of volume (also known as cross-fades) can mask perceptible transitions between tracks. It would certainly be much better than the 48fps fiasco.

    It’s such a simple concept, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t work (I say that as an experienced computer scientist). I don’t know why the technological evangelists of the 48fps movement (james cameron, peter jackson, et al) don’t simply adopt this approach, as it perfectly solves the visual problem they’re trying to solve without diminishing the experience for people who simply cannot stand 48fps.

    Anyway, back to gravity. Seeing it in a week with my SO, cannot wait.

  69. The Original... Paul

    October 14th, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    “Wait… you and your friend hated it? What, did you move to Paul’s village or something?”

    Oh boy… what did I do now?

  70. You often hate stuff that is objectively good.

  71. The Original... Paul

    October 14th, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Renfield – when exactly was the last time that happened? With “Young Adult”, almost two years ago?

    I know I have a (deserved) reputation here of having some unconventional opinions, but give me a break here.

  72. Sorry for the ribbing, Paul. I’m just teasing about your knack for being the one person I ever heard of with a particular opinion, and then you say that all your friends feel the same. I picture that you live in a little walled off or island village where the culture is completely different from everybody else I know. And now Mouth lives there.

  73. Need I remind you about Bioshock Infinite you HERETIC? ;)

  74. So Vern, you can see 3D really well but you notice a flicker in panning shots? I’ve never had a complaint about panning shots but I always worry I’m not seeing the full 3D.

    Mouth,when you saw space debris come at you, how close did it get? I mean I could tell it was out of the screen but not past the first row of the theater. Was it actually all the way up to your face?

  75. The Original... Paul

    October 15th, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Vern – in all fairness, I can only think of three times that that’s happened offhand: “Out of Sight”, “Casino Royale”, and the politics of “Saving Private Ryan”. And I think that last one is more of a British “thing” than a Paul-and-his-friends “thing”. Heck, I have problems with the politics of SPR but I enjoy it regardless. (I can’t say whether or not “Gravity” would be a case of the Pauls as I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t think it’s even come out over here yet – at any rate I haven’t seen it listed anywhere.)

    But thanks for responding anyway. I will take that, and the “Thing” quote-of-the-week, and accept them both as a gracious tribute to my zany unpredictability… or something like that. Anyway, thanks.

    Mouth – I love you, despite our differences. In a purely platonic way you understand. But if you start using anything to do with Bernard Herrmann as a point of comparison for bad scoring, you may find yourself driven out of the village by eight burly men wielding pitchforks. And yes, I know your intention was not to speak ill of the master. I’m just saying… be careful.

  76. SPOILERS: It’s interesting that someone brought up that they like to think that the visit from Clooney was like his spirit visiting her. There are a lot of theories about near death experiences, and it seems that at that point she’d turned off the air, oxygen levels were low, and she very likely was dying, so I like the thought of his spirit visiting because it dove tails with the more scientific less spriritual explanations about the brain losing oxygen and hallucinating when near death. Hallucination? Angel? Both work in this scenario, and I adore abiding in the gray space of my agnosicism, though I like the explanation of it being from her own internal thought processes the best. And that one works best with “hallucination” versus “angel”.

    I guess I can see having to suspend your disbelief that a rookie civilian with 6-months of training could survive. I enjoyed the ride so much that I willingly suspended that disbelief, and was not bugged that she continued to survive by the skin of her teeth or the tips of her astronaut suit’s gloves. If she dies, she gave it a try. But it’s within the realm of possibility that she survives, and it’s all because she keeps going (apart from that one interlude where she accepts death). In fact, accepting death is probably the only reason she was willing to try the fire extinguisher propulsion method. But it’s established in the beginning that she’s a genius, and that her very presence is unprecedented because it’s a prototype that she’s installing, and they usually don’t go for that. So they establish her as extraordinary. And genius is often described as not what you know, but how quickly your learn. So who’s to say that those previous simulator crashes wouldn’t have led to proficiency on her next try, particularly when everything was hyperfocused on surviving.

    Anyway, I agree with whoever described this as “transcendent”. I actually said that word aloud to myself after watching it (at Cinerama). I loved it, and I was blown away by it, minor flaws and all. I think its simplicity allows it to be really accessible, wherein everyone can shape it to fit their own experience emotionally.

    I’m also confused about the shit-stirring regarding sexism. I mean, I can see how you can twist that, but I can see a complete role-reversal also being used that way so there’s no “win” in this scenario, even though discussions about sexism tropes in storytelling are usually useful.

  77. “It’s interesting that someone brought up that they like to think that the visit from Clooney was like his spirit visiting her.”

    that would be me, I’ve noticed a subtle spiritual element in Cuaron’s movies, for example it’s never explained how the mother was able to get pregnant in CHILDREN OF MEN, for all we know it could have been divine intervention

    similarly it’s left open to interpretation whether or not it’s Clooney’s spirit, but I like the fact that it’s an outer space movie not afraid to have spiritual elements

    and for me personally, there’s something very inspiring about the idea of Clooney facing his death with bravery and being dead but still being just his same old self, Bullock survives but the movie seems to be saying that even those that didn’t make it are still heroes in their own way

  78. Finally saw this yesterday. Plunked down my $21.50 for the IMAX 3D with the assigned seats that apparently everyone else knew about except me. And it was worth every damn penny. It’s the best piece of pure cinema I’ve seen in ages, displaying for its entire running time a confidence and bravura that even most very good films only show for isolated sequences.

    I can sympathize with some of Mouth’s quibbles on the narrative front. The “dead daughter” backstory was as hackneyed and manipulative as it always is when used as a shortcut to audience sympathy, and its inclusion is particularly head-scratching here when you’d think just being a perfectly nice lady caught way over her head in the worst space disaster in history would be enough to win the crowd over. But you know how studios are. Everybody needs some kind of tragedy in their immediate past or they think nobody can relate to them.

    I have to take Mouth’s other criticisms with a grain of salt. He is particularly sensitive to the depiction of highly trained and disciplined professional persons of action (like himself) as neurotic and unreliable spazoids (like ourselves). Sure, the rest of us would wet our spacesuits immediately if faced with Bullock’s predicament, but Mouth has been in actual life-or-death situations before without indulging in such pantywaistery. He expects no less of his movie protagonists. While I feel that Bullock’s inexperience and lack of training more than accounts for her relative lack of grace under fire, I can see how it would grate on one who’s been trained to keep his cool in any situation, and possibly to eat things that would make a billygoat puke. (I can only verify that he takes shots of whiskey that would make a billygoat highly insufferable.)

    But why focus on such bourgeois concerns as characterization and theme when dealing with a work of such pure visceral impact? Its title is appropriate, because it’s subject, more than space travel, is physics. It’s a study in the logical but merciless effect of action and reaction, of objects in a vacuum set in motion and staying in motion no matter what the ill-equipped meatbags at their mercy have to say about it. It’s the perfect 3D movie, as its content (objects moving in three-dimensional space) fits it form even more seamlessly than the last film to have the same medium and the same message (JACKASS 3D).

    Ultimately, it’s an almost unconscionably exciting thriller made with as much filmmaking brio as has ever been mustered for a single motion picture. That its attempt at deeper thematic resonance is a swing and a miss is a bummer, but only because these minor errors point out how close to all-time masterpiece the movie came.

  79. For anyone complaining that Bullock is insufficiently professional, I suggest you watch EUROPA REPORT, where a team of highly trained, incredibly efficient scientists do a very good job at what they’re trying to accomplish. It’s quite realistic and never has any moments where you want to yell at them, and also is kind of dry and without tension. When you’ve done everything that anyone could possibly be expected to do and it still doesn’t work out so good, things start to feel a little arbitrary from a narrative standpoint. Stories are not real life, they’re stories. Good role models don’t usually translate into very good stories.

  80. Majestyk, dont you think you answered your concerns about the dead girl backstory in your penultimate paragraph? the story wasnt primarily to make us sympathize with bullock, it was to support the theme of “the logical but merciless effect of action and reaction”. the girl fell, she hit her head the wrong way, shes dead. nothing dramatic or emotional or spiritual in the backstory; just bare, cold physics. bullock calls it “the stupidest thing in the world” or something like that.

  81. Phillip: I get what it was going for. “I had a daughter…once” is still a painfully overused cliche, one that’s been utilized to lend unearned gravitas to everything from buddy cop flicks to haunted house movies for decades. It’s so obviously the work of a filmmaker trying to insert meaning into his story instead of just letting the story stand for itself that it momentarily dragged me out of the movie that until then I’d been utterly immersed in.

    I’m also against the whole spiritual angle that Griff and others seemed to enjoy. It’s just too soft for a movie about the hard truths of science. I know it’s all about hope and the human spirit and yadda yadda but that’s something that comes from within, not from some vague promise of a New Age afterlife where we all get hugs. I can accept the concept of an afterlife in a movie where that’s the cost of admission (a ghost movie, for instance) but not a movie about science that expects me to take it as a given out of nowhere in the third act. Bullock’s character gave no hint of being a spiritual person prior to her little speech about seeing her daughter in heaven. It’s sloppy screenwriting, straining for meaning where there is none.

    Again, it’s not the worst thing in the world. This stuff only stands out because it’s the film’s one major flaw. It succeeds wondrously in everything else it sets out to do.

  82. I’m not sure the spirituality of the film is going where people are saying it is. Does the film give us any reason to think there is an afterlife? Does it do anything to try to present an afterlife as something that is even possible? Nope. All we get is that it is a vaguely held belief of the protagonist that helped her get through this crazy day, no more real than Clooney and the Stoli.

    Given the physics-ladenness of the plot, and the obvious evolutionary reference of the ending where she emerges from the ocean and learns to walk, I just don’t think there is anything non-materialistic being asserted here.

  83. Then why is it there? We get about ten minutes alone with Bullock’s character where she’s not in immediate mortal jeopardy, and she spends a good chunk of them blithering about meeting her daughter in heaven, where she’s encouraged to hug strange middle-aged men she just met. If this is supposed to be portrayed as a harmless delusion that helped Bullock get through a tough time (the “no atheists in a foxhole” theory) and not as a life-changing epiphany, nobody told the guy who wrote the score. I believe we are supposed to take her embrace of the afterlife as sincere and transformative, which is why it was so distracting to me. I don’t feel that GRAVITY is the story of how the biggest space disaster of all time helped Sandra Bullock get over losing her daughter. I feel that’s it’s the story of how one tiny little person used all of her wits and guts to escape a pitiless vacuum. That story requires no other baggage. It is whole unto itself.

    To reiterate: great cinema, kinda wonky screenwriting. I had admired how dry and understated the drama had been up until it tried to get deep, but it’s far from a deal breaker.

  84. I don’t know, Mr Majestyk. I think one of the things atheists and those of that persuasion don’t often get is that most expressions of faith or of the supernatural aren’t to be taken literally. I don’t think the take away of the movie is that she survived this beautifully shot and brilliantly staged disaster just to believe in The Christian God. I think it’s more about that just because she lost her daughter, and someone she became close to very quickly, doesn’t mean she has to be a husk of a person driving around listening to the radio in her free time. She can let go, it’s okay. They’re both gone and wherever they are, probably nowhere at all, it’s okay because they’re there (or nowhere) together. I take her talking of the supernatural, spiritual, or whatever as a way for her to express feelings and emotions that are otherwise impossible to talk about. Less metaphor than just a fairly of language, but one in which the language of film manages to convey.

  85. I’m less concerned with the spirituality angle (I never mentioned Christianity, as it’s never brought up in the movie) than I am with the obviousness of the entire dead daughter backstory. It’s just clumsy framing for the movie’s themes, not something important to the story at hand. I’m getting really tired of the screenwritery insistence on having every adventure/catastrophe depicted in a film just happen to be a metaphor for the protagonist’s past trauma. Why isn’t the story that’s happening right now enough to sustain a simple survival tale? GRAVITY is strong enough as a visceral, meat-and-potatoes thrill ride that it doesn’t need such hackneyed contrivances.

  86. Question: Did her back story, and its impact on her as a person as seen in the film, get in the way of the story that was being told through the “thrill ride” portions?

    That’s a genuine question, not trying to be rude or otherwise disrespectful.

  87. No, not at all. That’s why it’s not that big a problem. The movie is still the most exciting time I’ve had at the cinema in ages. And I’ll finally have a horse in the Best Picture race this year, which is always fun. Despite my problems with the way the themes were handled, the movie played me like a violin when it just shut up and got out of its own way—which, luckily, was the lion’s share of the running time. I left the theater absolutely loving it, with only a few minor misgivings. However, “That was fucking awesome, dude, you’ve never seen so much flying debris” isn’t really that much fun to discuss, so I’ve spent way more time dissecting the movie’s flaws than I have celebrating its virtues, which are far greater in number and obvious to one and all.

  88. So it’s universally agreed that the dead daughter backstory is worn and cliche. I can’t myself think of any instances of this in my own experience with cinema… in my mind, having children, let alone ones who died, is antithetical to our culture’s obsession with youth and youthfulness and I can’t for the life of me call to mind any female protagonists who were so unglamorously characterized other than Dr. Stone.

    To be sure, I accept that this must be the case because literally everybody thinks so, I just am hoping for some education from my betters.

  89. I’m kind of excited to see ALL IS LOST. It’s just Robert Redford dealing with shit on a boat, dialog free, for the entire running time.

  90. That trailer did look pretty awesome.

  91. Saw it in Cannes. It’s awesome.

  92. I would say the daughter story was included for two reasons:

    1) It’s something for her to talk about when she’s alone, in a small bubble, pressing buttons and looking through manuals for a while.

    2) It’s emotional cover for her suicide attempt. Here I do think this is the wussy way out, but I can see why they did it. I LOVE that an action hero tried to kill herself. I wish that would happen more often. Despair is something people feel all the time, but I seldom see it on the big screen (I say below a discussion for a film called ALL IS LOST). I think Americans are made very uncomfortable by suicide, and for them it’s not good enough that you decide to end it because there is simply no reason to continue. There has to be some trauma that pushes you to self destruction.

  93. I heard that originally the daughter was alive way back when, maybe even before principal photography. People say it’s kind of cliche in the movie but I thought making the daughter dead was more daring than having her strive the entire film to return to her family.

  94. I saw this over the weekend and I really liked it. I loved how the violence was silent. It added to the tension, especially when she was trying to unhook the parachute tethers and you could see it all happening behind her with increasing tempo, even though it was making no noise. I admit that I flinched/ducked at least twice from flying space debris.

    I don’t think the dead daughter was meant to create sympathy for her character or make us like or bond with her. I think it was to explain why she was the way she was. She starts out as a cold, isolated person who doesn’t want to joke around with the others; she just wants them to turn off the goddamn music, stop dicking around and leave her in her silence and her work. One of the best reasons the writers could give that would make someone this way would be a tragedy on the level of a dead child. They could’ve gone a couple of other ways – they could have not given a reason for her being so remote, but who wants to watch a movie with a hero like that? Or they could’ve gone the route Majestyk suggests and not make her sad and remote and have the only need to overcome be not dying. Obviously they wanted something more than that and I don’t mind at all that they chose something cliche like a dead child.

    I liked the end a lot. I liked how it went from cold and mechanical to lush and organic. I thought it was a beautiful image signifying her coming out of her self imposed isolation to embracing life again.

  95. This was great.

  96. FINALLY just got to see this. It didn’t come out in 2D in cinemas until last week, and only then in afternoon showings in (uh-oh) the Odeon. I think I’ve stated my thoughts on that cinema before in my “worst of 2012” list, and why I don’t use it any more. Ironically, this time out it was the other cinema that only had 3D showings. So I had to go into the Odeon, in which the adverts last half an hour and there are no “standard” seats near the back of the cinema except those on the very side.

    Oh, and I now officially hate Kevin Bacon. That fucking “EE” advert needs to GO AWAY.

    So now that I’ve completely disregarded my principles and given money to a company that I’ve stated many times in these very forums is anti-consumer, even by modern cinema chain standards – was the film worth it? Short answer: YES.

    Lemme address some of your criticisms first. The “dead family member” thing bothers me, a helluva lot, when it’s used as an excuse for the character being an asshole. (“This character treats everyone like shit, but he lost his wife to the terrorists! So we’re supposed to like him now!”) That’s not the case in this film: Bullock’s character isn’t an asshole. I don’t regard the use of that particular character point as manipulative at all because it’s not used in a way that I feel is trying to tug on my emotions, it’s purely used to further develop a character.

    And I gotta call Mouth out on this one. Man, you practically wrote a love-letter to “Young Adult”, which has possibly the worst case of “dead baby syndrome” that I’ve ever seen, yet THIS bothers you? I don’t even understand that.

    As for the Cloon, I think he was perfect for this role. No problems with him at all. With this and 2011’s “Ides of March”, he’s really starting to impress me in his non-lead roles. I can imagine him going the same way as late-career Dustin Hoffman, which is not a bad thing for him or for his fans at all. I’ve said before that a lot of my favorite Hoffman performances have come when he’s given up the spotlight and starting taking on really interesting character parts that get a lower billing on the movie posters.

    I think the jetpack failure could’ve been handled better. The timing is just TOO on-point. That for me is a problem. I have no problem whatsoever with the ending, and like Vern I absolutely love that they didn’t bring anybody else into it.

    I absolutely could’ve done without the dog bit. (“Awoo!”) I know why it’s there but it’s just too much.

    So there were two moments, out of hundreds, that this film wasn’t completely immersive for me. For the rest of it… I frequently found myself holding my breath when Bullock’s character was low on oxygen, instinctively crouching in my seat from debris, wincing at some of the impacts, and half-reaching to grab things that she needed to grab onto. I frequently felt a sense of vertigo when watching this film. It’s incredibly immersive, but what I don’t think I can adequately describe is just how completely the movie gives you the “feeling” of being in space. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something quite like that, and I doubt I will again.

    I think “Gravity” absolutely needs to be seen on the big screen – you won’t get the same experience watching it on a television or monitor – and it’s definitely not for everybody. I’m not sure that I’ll ever see it again – it’s the kind of film that, however great it is, really only needs to be experienced once. But damn, that was one hell of an experience. Another one for the “best of 2013” list methinks. This year has just got better and better as it’s gone on, hasn’t it?

  97. Oh… can’t believe I didn’t mention the sound design. The scoring is top-notch (another one for the library) but what really impressed me was – not just that the the violent parts were silent, as Maggie has pointed out – but how everything that we hear is what Bullock hears. I can’t think of a more effective way to put the audience “in her shoes” than to do something like that.

    And I’d almost given up on the Bullock ever appearing in a film that I was interested in again – so many family comedies and “inspirational” dramas at Oscar season – but this has brought the old Sandra Bullock back into my good graces in a big way. Reminds me of why I used to view her name on a movie as a reason to go see it.

  98. Spoilers….I had a lot of problems with Gravity and they all related to gender. I really didn’t like how incompetently Bullock was framed in context with Clooney. She was always doing STUPID stuff, being the stumbling bumbling screaming female being rescued and hauled around by Clooney at first, and then doing her usual flustered female thang to the implacable relentless monster – space. After some thought though, and after seeing the short film Cuaron’s son did – it shows the conversation Bullock has with the guy on Earth from his perspective – I came around to forgiving that aspect. I think the gender choice was deliberate – not because women are incompetent compared to men but more that women are more imbued with a humanistic capacity BECAUSE of their gender and life giving caregiver roles, and these aspects of herself were parts she had rejected. It’s more the norm for women to have feelings, than to repress them, for them to be vulnerable and grow is also more acceptable. Ultimately my take away from the film – and here I agree with MaggieMayPIe – our connection to others is what’s important and makes life worthwhile. Not space jockey high tech ego shit. That’s the moral message I got anyway.

    dammit, why won’t this comment post!!!

  99. hmm…I took out a link to my review and it worked, try it again


  100. I’m glad it posted, Stefaneechi. Very insightful and well put. I’ve been avoiding watching that short because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what was on the other end of that call. But maybe I should check it out.

  101. Thanks Vern. I think it’s worth watching because, like I said, it changed my perspective on the flick quite a bit. It’s very low key and peaceful, and that’s the point eh? There’s a link to it in my review.

  102. I’m very late to the discussion on GRAVITY (which I finally saw last night), but I wanted to contribute my thoughts on the reappearance of Clooney. I think it was Bex who mentioned the neurological implications of extreme situations, and that’s more or less what I thought was going on in that scene. This effect is known as the and has been documented many times since Ernest Shackleton first wrote about it. I thought GRAVITY depicted this phenomenon quite well.

  103. Clearly I am a failure at utilizing the “href” tag. Sorry about that.

    That sentence should have read “This effect is known as the Third Man Factor and has been documented…”. Here’s the link again:


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