Gravity reviews

Mister Tee
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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:19 pm

I don't have the time or energy for a full-out discussion -- maybe over the weekend, if it's still ongoing at taht point -- but a few points related to what's been said:

I'm with okri in that I like the movie alot/think it has the underpinnings I wrote about originally that make it more than a merely enjoyable ride, but on the other hand I do think the critical response has been a bit more rapturous than I'd sign on for. I wonder if it's somewhat analogous to the wild standing ovation Ang Lee got at the Oscars this year: partly respect for the work at hand, but also partly retroactive tribute to previous work now fairly universally acknowledged to have been under-appreciated. Regardless of the dissents thrown in here, Children of Men is a film whose reputation has grown massively in the years since its release. At the time, it finished behind The frickin' Queen, as well as The Departed and United 93, in critics' year end voting; today, I think it, like The Searchers or 2001, would be a strong favorite to win such votes.

Speaking of critics' votes: where is this mythical world where people hated Y Tu Mama Tambien? The film swept the critics' foreign language awards, made a ton of money by subtitled standards, and got a screenplay Oscar nomination. It more than anything launched this stage of Cuaron's career.

I completely disagree that Gravity uses the image of the departed duaghter to draw Bullock back to earth. That's likely what Clooney's character intended, but, for Bullock, it's knowing that she'd be going back to that world, where such a horrible/random thing happened and can't be reversed, that makes her in fact waver about how important it is to survive. It takes force of will to decide to live in such a world, will she finally summons up. I think this is the opposite of sentimentality.

In fact, I think "sentimental" is a word thrown around way too cavalierly -- it basically amounts to "something that has emotional content to which I don't respond", with the most pejorative connotation imaginable. I'm plenty responsive to irony, but I'm also open to cinematic moments of emotional power -- and, as to the latter, I think it's a case of one man's meat is another's poison. To wit: that scene Johnny references in Children of Men is, for me, the single most emotionally overwhelming moment I've experienced in a film in living memory. (And I deeply disgaree that it's some sort of Symbolic Gesture Toward Militarism. I thought Cuaron's sympathies were clearly with Theo and Kee -- that what they were doing (transporting the seemingly impossible child) had a touch of the divine, and that the actions of the soldiers were an ongoing madness that will continue after the brief moment of recognition has passed). If the scene doesn't evoke response in you, fine; different strokes. There are plenty of movies/scenes that work for alot of folk that I find grotesquely sentimental (including much of Douglas Sirk -- to throw an auteurist grenade). But simply labelling it sentimentality seems to me to be tossing those with differeing opinions into a slot where there views don't need to be taken seriously.

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Greg » Tue Oct 08, 2013 11:42 am

Okri wrote:If it's any consolation, you'll have company with Armond White, I'm almost sure of it.


Speaking of: http://www.nyfcc.com/2013/10/space-junk ... ond-white/
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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Eric » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:21 am

All very valid points, but at the end of the day, I think we process films intending to deliver a guttural emotional response very similarly to matters of taste in musical genre. In other words, if I find myself scanning for whether my feelings are authentic, that answers the question: they aren't authentic, and like Geraldine Hunt said you can't fake the feeling. (In my case, this happily applied to both the music of Bob Dylan as well as Todd Haynes' I'm Not There.) I know this kind of subjectivity seems a very self-defeating stance for someone who (reluctantly, and with I feel diminishing returns) still writes reviews every now and again, but it also doesn't seem an appropriate response to a movie that seems to count, among its virtues, simplicity. (Actually, now that I think of it, Gravity's strategy of contrasting severely limited human drama against a backdrop of exaggeratedly massive scope reminds me a lot of The Tree of Life, another movie that split perceptive critics every which way.)

I have less problem with the feminist politics of the film in the sense that having a woman portray the central role also serves to feminize the film's presumptively masculine-by-default apparatus, in the same way Cameron centralized Titanic around Winslet, not DiCaprio (arguably turning him, not her, into the object of desire).

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Johnny Guitar » Tue Oct 08, 2013 8:25 am

Eric wrote:
Johnny Guitar wrote:His instincts tend toward this understated, totally unnecessary mawkishness.

I dunno. It's not like I've ever resisted unequivocal rejections of irony on the largest of all possible canvasses (not just Children of Men -- which along with Inland Empire very literally restored my enthusiasm for movies in late '06 after a long string of disappointments both new and repertory -- but also the king of this particular strain, Titanic), but maybe even more so lately as my faith in film as a medium drifts ever more cynicism. I just started yoga last month, so ... maybe my tastes are inevitably drifting toward IMDB land.

*double-checks scores on Rush and Spring Breakers*

Mmm, nope.


Ha! :P

(SPOILER WARNING.)

Cuarón reminds me of the really serious kid in some kind of environment like an art school ... who has really middlebrow taste. (In fact I have a few in mind from my own life.) It's not the unabashed sentimentality, the refusal of irony, or the invocation of emotional totems of family that I find the problem. (Though I admit as I get older, my own tastes tend to be more receptive to irony than they were when I was 15 or 20.) There are plenty of films I like, to varying degrees, that can get straight-up schmaltzy. What bothers me is that it often just feels very rigged to me. It's a meta-sincerity that doesn't seem to understand what it's doing (or, perhaps, doesn't know that it just has plain boring middlebrow taste). What does the existence of the child's backstory, the random death ("look at how fragile and tenuous our grasp on life always is," Cuarón makes sure we see him wistfully muse), the magnification of small quirky details (one shoe; messy hair) ... it's sentimental but it's played in a very Hollywood way, it feels (to this jaded viewer) only slick, polished, like a commercial. I'm not saying it doesn't have its effect. I'm saying that these "small things," the randomness and understatedness, are themselves part of the rhetorical strategy. I was somewhat moved by the material, but not in a full-bodied way - i.e., not in an authentic way. I was moved in the way that I knew exactly how they were pulling strings and pushing buttons.

After all, must a woman's will to live/survive be tied to her motherhood? Why make it this way? I would argue it's because it's convenient, conventional, and sentimental storytelling. Which is fine, it gets you far enough. But considering the careful effort to which Cuarón & Co go for their unconventional camera movements, presumably labor-intensive special effects, and so on, wouldn't you think someone, at some point, would have said, "Hey, it's a little hackneyed to have a dead kid haunting this woman's life, and to have that kid be the catalyst for her last big push toward survival?"

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Eric » Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:38 am

Johnny Guitar wrote:His instincts tend toward this understated, totally unnecessary mawkishness.

I dunno. It's not like I've ever resisted unequivocal rejections of irony on the largest of all possible canvasses (not just Children of Men -- which along with Inland Empire very literally restored my enthusiasm for movies in late '06 after a long string of disappointments both new and repertory -- but also the king of this particular strain, Titanic), but maybe even more so lately as my faith in film as a medium drifts ever more cynicism. I just started yoga last month, so ... maybe my tastes are inevitably drifting toward IMDB land.

*double-checks scores on Rush and Spring Breakers*

Mmm, nope.

There's definitely a think piece to be written about the nature of "earnest blockbusters" and the notion that they successfully smuggle in the sort of unsophisticated emotional pleas most of us see right through in the standard middlebrow entertainments that don't necessarily seek to dazzle with craftmanship (to go back to '06, Little Miss Sunshine and Babel).

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Oct 08, 2013 6:13 am

Okri wrote: I find it odd that you'd accuse Eric of being "desperate to find profound meanings" and connect that to conformism (which really makes you see rather off base in this whole debate, even though I think my opinion is closer to yours than to the high-heavens crowd)


Was I referring to Eric?!

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Okri » Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:59 am

I enjoyed it. It wasn't my favourite film of the festival (that would be The Great Beauty, but I also loved The Square); I'm not sure I'd classify it as my favourite science fiction film of the year (I really loved Upstream Color). But the way Cuaron uses the camera does inspire awe and excitement - if the average film was this well made, I think we'd have less cause to complain. I flat out love Children of Men (one of my two or three favourite films of the previous decade)

I'm intrigued by Eric's review and would be willing to see it again based on that - I don't think Eric or Tee are conformists at all (based on their contributions to this forum as well as Eric's Slant reviews) so I find it odd that you'd accuse Eric of being "desperate to find profound meanings" and connect that to conformism (which really makes you see rather off base in this whole debate, even though I think my opinion is closer to yours than to the high-heavens crowd)

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:52 am

Okri wrote:Oh, well, if you said it, it's been said once and for all. I'd love to see a list of really good science fiction movies, though.

If it's any consolation, you'll have company with Armond White, I'm almost sure of it.



In this case he'd be right. It can happen to anyone.

I'd be curious to know what YOU think of this movie though.

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Okri » Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:47 am

Oh, well, if you said it, it's been said once and for all. I'd love to see a list of really good science fiction movies, though.

If it's any consolation, you'll have company with Armond White, I'm almost sure of it.

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:28 am

Johnny Guitar wrote:I enjoyed Gravity but I'm completely puzzled as to why it's getting some of its more ecstatic rave reviews.


I am not only puzzled - I am shocked. It's as if they have never seen a really good movie before (or even just a really good science fiction movie). Movies today may not be like they used to be - but this certainly can be said of film reviewers, too.

And the comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey are especially insulting, I'd say. They shown not only a lack of artistic knowledge, but of historical perspective, too.

Plus, I find all those absolute sentences frankly ridiculous... "Not in 45 years has a science fiction film so awakened the emotional and spiritual consciousness of its audience"... Hello? How can one write things like this only one weekend after a movie has opened? And did he ask ME? I am part of the audience, after all. As for the emotional and especially the "spiriual" consciousness - one wonders, which emotional and spiritual life do these people have? Ok, they enjoyed Gravity. But why are they so desperate to find profound meanings in a movie which is very basic, very simple? Only because other reviewers did, too? But this is terribly, and sadly, conformist.

Relax, guys. It's just a well-made, but average, movie. If you want a list of REALLY good movie, ask Italiano.

As for Cuaron. He once made a "little" but good movie - not a masterpiece, but good - called Y Tu Mama Tambien. It was hated by the same people who now think that Gravity is a work of art. In my opinion, he has never made another interesting movie since. And finally, can we say it once for all? Children of Men is DREADFUL. Ok, I've said it.

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Uri » Tue Oct 08, 2013 12:35 am

Johnny Guitar wrote:Children of Men is a really bad film IMO, just about the most overrated thing from the last 10-15 years.


Thank you.

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Johnny Guitar » Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:05 pm

I enjoyed Gravity but I'm completely puzzled as to why it's getting some of its more ecstatic rave reviews.

Cuarón strikes me as kind of a minor virtuoso with camera movement and staging, but otherwise not a particularly good filmmaker. His instincts tend toward this understated, totally unnecessary mawkishness. Children of Men had that scene where, if I remember correctly, the previously silent and docile baby in the film cries at an opportune moment in the story, thereby touching the hearts of and making precisely such an "understated" Symbolic Gesture Towards Militarism. Embarrassing. (Children of Men is a really bad film IMO, just about the most overrated thing from the last 10-15 years. I know that's a very minority stance so I won't harp on it.) Gravity is better than Children of Men in part, I think, because it is leaner, more sparse. The Bullock-child backstory is 100% sentimentality - I'm not saying it's completely unaffecting, but usually when drama I personally prefer such moves to be full-blooded & melodramatic rather than enacted as if they were being "subtly" worked into the story. But at least this backstory doesn't consume the entirety of the film, and you can just revel in the impressive feats of staging.

The stuff where Gravity is a little more interesting on aesthetic and philosophical levels is the stuff that I think Cuarón is, ultimately, less interested in. I don't really expect otherwise. He's a commercial filmmaker making a prestige picture. I also wished that Avatar would have abandoned all semblance of plot and just been a "Planet Earth"-style pseudo-documentary.

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:29 pm

Eric wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:if one gives Gravity three stars and a half, what will he give to, say, L'Avventura?

... Four stars?



Seven or eight, I'd say...

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Eric » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:24 pm

ITALIANO wrote:if one gives Gravity three stars and a half, what will he give to, say, L'Avventura?

... Four stars?

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Re: Gravity reviews

Postby Greg » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:01 pm

So, if Gravity wins the Best Picture Oscar, it will be the first for a sci-fi film. The only other sci-fi films I can think of that were nominated are Star Wars, E.T., and District 9. Does anybody know of any others?
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