Tag Archives: Interstellar

Arrival: thank God (or alien equivalent) for sci-fi with a brain

13 Nov
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Amy Adams attempts to communicate with the visitors in Arrival

Arrival is that vanishingly rare thing: a major sci-fi release with a brain. When was the last one? Probably Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar in 2014, and its brain was pretty small: the whole film seemed based, as I wrote at the time, on a Queen song, while its striking time-dilation planet scene will be familiar to any fan, as Nolan is, of the works of Alan Moore (Halo Jones Book 3 on the planet Hispus, I’m looking at you).

Directed by the awesomely talented Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) and based on a short story, it imagines what would happen, and how people would feel, if alien ships suddenly took up position over the earth. Spoiler-free hint: it’s nothing like Independence Day.

I don’t want to give away too much about the film, as ever, but I will just give you one example of why and how it works. Doctor Strange has several striking fight scenes in which gravity is spectacularly upended. They are fun. But they don’t make you think. It’s all just special effects. The moment in Arrival when the heroes realise that gravity is no longer working according to accepted laws is a hundred times more powerful. Communicated through the panicked breath of Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, it feels real. We’re there, with them, as the enormity of the situation takes hold. There really are aliens, and they really are changing the laws of physics.

It’s that level of realism, applied to a science-fictional premise, that makes this a great film. I had thought, coming out of a preview a few months ago, that Amy Adams would be a lock for Best Actress at the Oscars. I’ve since seen La La Land, and without question that will sweep the board, including, probably, for Emma Stone. Nevertheless, Adams is terrific: Arrival rests entirely on her slender shoulders, and she Atlases it. Go see.

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The Theory of Everything to do with Oscar odds

9 Dec
Eddie Redmayne as a young Stephen Hawking, with Felicity Jones as his wife Jane, in The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne as a young Stephen Hawking, with Felicity Jones as his wife Jane, in The Theory of Everything

The Theory Of Everything is only recently out in the States, at first opening in just five theatres, and isn’t even released in the UK until Jan 1, but already it’s generating Oscar buzz: William Hill has just slashed the odds on it winning to the same level as Interstellar. About the relationship between a young Stephen Hawking and his wife, it has everything Oscar loves: disability, a veneer of intellectuality, and a romance. “His mind changed our world. Her love changed his,” runs the tagline.

It’s certain to make young Eddie Redmayne, whose dashingly freckled good looks attracted attention in Les Misérables, the next major British Hollywood star. And it’s tough luck for Benedict Cumberbatch, whose Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game has been left in the backwash; especially since Benedict played Stephen Hawking first, ten whole years ago. (For the time when I went on set with Hawking himself, click here.)

The odds released today by William Hill make for interesting reading. Boyhood is the clear favourite, while Gone Girl trails in tenth place, despite the heat it generated on release. A bet on Rosamund Pike at 11-1 seems like a good flutter.

Here’s the list in full:

Best Picture: 4-7 Boyhood, 10-3 Unbroken, 5-1 The Imitation Game, 7-1 Birdman, Selma, 10-1 Interstellar, The Theory Of Everything, 16-1Foxcatcher, Whiplash, 20-1 Gone Girl, 25-1 Inherent Vice, Mr Turner, 33-1 A Most Violent Year, American Sniper, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 40-1 Trash, 50-1 Big Eyes, Fury, Into The Woods, Rosewater, Suite Francaise, Wild, 66-1 Kill The Messenger

Best Actor: 4-6 Michael Keaton – Birdman, 13-8 Eddie Redmayne – The Theory Of Everything, 9-2 Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game, 9-1 David Oyelowo – Selma, 10-1 Steve Carell – Foxcatcher, 12-1 Jack O’Connell – Unbroken, 14-1 Timothy Spall – Mr Turner, 25-1Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Best Actress: 1-5 Julianne Moore – Still Alice, 10-3 Reese Witherspoon – Wild, 6-1 Amy Adams – Big Eyes, 10-1 Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night, 11-1 Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl, 12-1 Felicity Jones – The Theory Of Everything, 14-1 Jennifer Aniston – Cake, 16-1Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year, 20-1 Jessica Chastain – The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them, 25-1 Hilary Swank – The Homesman

Best Supporting Actress: 1-5 Patricia Arquette – Boyhood, 6-1 Laura Dern – Wild, 9-1 Emma Stone – Birdman, 12-1 Carmen Ejogo – Selma, 12-1 Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game, 14-1 Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year, 14-1 Meryl Streep – Into The Woods, 25-1Carrie Coon – Gone Girl, 25-1 Jessica Chastain – Interstellar, 25-1 Katherine Waterston – Inherent Vice, 25-1 Kristen Stewart – Still Alice,33-1 Dorothy Atkinson – Mr Turner, 33-1 Julianne Moore – Maps To The Stars, 33-1 Sienna Miller – American Sniper

Interstellar: the Queen connection to Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster

8 Nov

Interstellar

Interstellar. Great film. But what the credits won’t tell you is that although it is ostensibly scripted by the Nolan brothers, Christopher and Jonathan, it was really dreamt up by Brian May of Queen.

Let me explain.

Brian May, as well as being an ace guitarist and implausibly coiffed rock god, is also a PhD in Astrophysics. He put his interest in Space to good use by writing and singing one of Queen’s finest songs. ’39, as you will see from the lyrics below, uncannily parallels the plot of Interstellar. [Spoiler note: this is just the broad thrust of the plot – I don’t think it will spoil your enjoyment of the film. If you are worried, come back to this after you’ve seen the film, and tell me I’m right!]

In the year of ’39 assembled here the volunteers
In the days when the lands were few
Here the ship [ie spaceship] sailed out into the blue and sunny morn
Sweetest sign ever seen

And the night followed day
And the story tellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day sailed across the milky seas [ie Milky Way]
Ne’er looked back, never feared, never cried

[chorus] Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand [once you’ve seen Interstellar, you will know how spookily this line parallels the film!]
For the day I take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew

In the year of ’39 [a hundred years later, that is] came a ship in from the blue
The volunteers came home that day
And they bring good news of a world so newly born [yep, they’d gone off looking for a new planet]
Though their hearts so heavily weigh
For the earth is old and grey [because the Earth is screwed], little darling we’ll away
But my love this cannot be
Oh so many years have gone though I’m older but a year [basic Theory of Relativity: time passes relatively more slowly the closer you get to the speed of light]
Your mother’s eyes from your eyes cry to me [and so the love of his life is now as old and grey as the Earth]

Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand for the day I take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew

Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
All your letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand

For my life
Still ahead
Pity me

Love that song. Surprisingly moving. As is the film. Interstellar is that very rare beast: a big-budget sci-fi movie that deals with big questions about the human condition, rather than just going for action (though that’s also well done). It’s best seen in 70mm or IMAX, though I must caution you that, on the BFI IMAX screen, the size of Anne Hathaway’s eyes and lips is downright alarming.

Dear Christopher Nolan and his lawyers: I am not genuinely suggesting plagiarism here. There are plenty of sci-fi stories predating ’39 that deal with the same subject, and anyway there is no copyright on ideas in the public domain, only on the execution. But you have to admit, it’s a nice parallel.