It’s about a lonely man, Theodore, who falls in love with his computer operating system, Samantha. Just to be clear, he isn’t simply infatuated with the voice of his smartphone. Samantha is not just an OS, she’s a learning, evolving artificial intelligence, a consciousness. She is her own person, she just isn’t human.
Samantha comes into Theodore’s life a year into his separation, when he knows he needs to sign the divorce papers, but still isn’t ready to let go. She breaths new life into Theodore just by the nature of her own newness. She tells him, “I want to learn everything about everything, I want to discover myself,” and he’s swept up in her enthusiasm and in experiencing the world through her fresh eyes. She’s excited about living, and he’s excited to be with someone who is excited about living.
That feeling of renewal we get when we embark on a new relationship is only one of the topics in this movie that I could explore. I love a movie with many layers, that makes me think, especially about my own life and how I’m living it. Can we discover new things about ourselves well into adulthood? Do we need a body to be considered a “real” person and have relationships with others? Are our emotions real? Can we learn from the mistakes of past relationships and move forward? Can a relationship survive when one person is going places the other can’t follow? The advertising for these artificially intelligent operating systems asks: “Who are you? What can you be? Where are you going? What are the possiblities?” These are all threads that weave themselves through the film.
Her asks lots of questions, but in the end it’s a love story.
Love can open us up and expand our souls and take us places we never even dreamed existed. And it can chew us up and crunch our bones in its teeth. You can say we do these things to each other, and that’s true. But without love, the pain and joy we feel wouldn’t reach such depths and heights in the first place.
All relationships are complicated. All relationships have their difficulties. Some will thrive and prosper, and some will shrivel and die. This movie is the study of one relationship. Will it work or not? It’s a movie about how wonderful and scary and frustrating and complicated and exhilarating love can be. Falling in love, the possibilities of love.
So, my favorite line:
Theodore: “Will you come with me?”
He asks this of his friend Amy, and she doesn’t ask where, or why, or do I need a jacket. She just nods her head and follows him out the door.
That’s the only thing we absolutely know we can control, is our willingness to open ourselves up to the possibilities of love or friendship. To be vulnerable enough, daring enough, hopeful enough to ask that question. Will you come with me?
And when someone asks us, to be vulnerable enough, daring enough, hopeful enough to go.
IN WHICH I SQUEEZE 10 YEARS INTO 52 DAYS ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When I think 80’s movies, I first think Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Footloose, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Say Anything. They all have some form of teen angst at their center, so it’s no wonder they stuck out most for me when I was going through many of the same kinds of emotions myself.
But when I sat down to make a real list of the 80’s movies I liked, it got out of hand pretty quickly. And then , when I searched movies by release year, fuhgeddaboudit! I realized I’d have to majorly spread my movie picks out over this year, and it would still be too many films. So be forewarned: I love movies, this is my blog, and I’m gonna put as many picks and write as much as I like on these posts. Continue at your own risk.
To start, here’s a sampler of movies that made a lasting impression on me for one reason or another:
I’m 44 years old, and last week I cried my eyes out when E.T. died. Or didn’t really die. Doesn’t matter, I’m gonna cry every time, even though I know he’s coming back in the next scene. Then I cry at the end, too. You know, just for good measure. This movie never, ever, ever gets old. It just gets better every time I see it. Ahem, in its original, pre-“fixed” state, the way God intended E.T. to be watched. Here’s a super fun scene (though I’m not a fan of the CGI ET face), and one of my favorites:
Terms of Endearment (83)
I haven’t watched this movie in years, but I always remember this particular scene. I especially love it when she starts to climb in. It resonated with me from the first moment I saw it, and it’s one of my favorite opening scenes of any movie ever. Also, I’ve done this to my dog countless times, poor guy. Terms of Endearment is still alive as a pop culture reference today, but typically when this movie comes up, people quote the hospital scene. You know, the “give my daughter the shot!” scene. But this is the one I love:
Eddie and the Cruisers (83)
I was captivated by this movie when I first saw it at about 15 or so, and I always remembered it. I watched it again about six months ago. It’s kind of dated, and I couldn’t stop focusing on how every person in every scene is smoking a cigarette. But it’s still good; I was still hooked on the hope and melancholy and regret and acceptance. And the music! Not so believable lip-syncing, but awesome music by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band (as Eddie’s voice and band). I totally owned the hell out of that movie soundtrack on cassette tape, ya’ll. Here’s the trailer and a song:
Red Dawn (84)
This one made a big impression on me when I was younger, but when I watched it last year, it upset me a lot. A lot, a lot. I couldn’t get it off my mind for a long time. It was years between viewings (mine’s on VHS, if that tells you anything), and I had no idea it would hit me so hard. But the older I get, the more I understand about love and loss and the preciousness of life. Movies like this have a much greater impact on me than they did when I was 16 or 18 or 25.
I didn’t like the characterizations in the remake; they basically ripped the heart and soul right out of the film. I felt like, “that’s too bad,” when the first Wolverine got killed in the new movie, whereas I felt absolutely soul-gutted in the original. This scene from 1984 is not as vibrant as the remake, the color and sound, the special effects, but everything about it feels more real and more heartbreaking. In this clip, green and ill-prepared kids experience combat for the first time, against an enemy that looks and acts a lot like them:
Night of the Comet (84)
I saw this in the theater when I was 14, and it’s the only time I’ve ever heard people cheer at the movies. The whole audience, not just one little group. I just watched it again on YouTube, and I still got a kick out of it after all these years (shout out to the boombox, cordless phones with extendable antenna, and the awesomely 80’s shirt Reggie wears through most of the movie).
Hey – one guy gets eaten (off camera) by a zombie-like person in an alley, and another is chased through the house by a zombie-like kid. Those two scenes have popped into my head at random times over all these years. It never occurred to me until now that maybe this movie is how I got my zombie fear. Hm.
Prince of Darkness (87) I’ve only seen three scary movies in the theater, and two of those were in the 80’s. This one still haunts me as the scariest movie I’ve ever seen ever. Ever, ever. And that includes The Exorcist. And The Shining – oh my goodness, The Shining! This is worse than The Shining, you guys. I’m sure it’s small potatoes to all the horror fans out there, but I wouldn’t see this movie again if you paid me. Even this trailer freaks me out:
Dirty Dancing (87)
I loved this movie, and it’s still one of my sentimental favorites. The oldest theater in town (which is now a shopping strip) had dollar movies on Wednesdays, and my friends and I saw Dirty Dancing three Wednesdays in a row. We were in love with Patrick Swayze (and who can blame us), with the dancing and the music, and with the adorable, awkward, awesome Jennifer Grey as “Baby”. We were tickled and delighted and left the theater on little happy clouds week after week. This clip has subtitles, but it’s the only one I could find of the entire scene when Baby first meets Johnny. I’m still like Baby, gawking at the moves – lots of music and dancing and awkward in this one! Not to mention, she “carried a watermelon”.
This is another movie I never forgot, but for being the complete opposite of fluffy fun. Heathers is delightfully odd and twisted and a cult classic. It’s a dark comedy about “teen angst bullshit”, and I can’t think of 80’s movies without this one rearing up its psychopathic head. It’s like the Mean Girls of the 80’s. But with a body count. The trailer pretty much tells it all:
The Accidental Tourist (88)
Here is another film about odd people who you just can’t forget. I’m not a great William Hurt fan, but there are roles for which his stiff style are the perfect match, and this was one of them. And Geena Davis, my gosh, so good in her role as Muriel. This is a film full of quirky characters who are so vulnerable and irritating and thoroughly likable. You can’t help but root for each one to find what it is they need to make their lives feel complete.
Platoon (86) – My most memorable movie experience.
The movie started, and I was gone. When a snake slithered across the screen, a lady screamed and I was amazed to “wake up” in a full theater. I gave a nervous titter with the rest of the audience, and then disappeared again. I was that absorbed: I was inside the movie instead of watching it, I was a pair of eyes in a theater. I forgot about my body, the crowd and the uncomfortable seats. When it was over, there was silence. Just a mass of eerily silent people, sitting still in their seats or slowly shuffling out of the theater. I felt shell-shocked and numb and at a loss for words myself. When I got home, I stuck my key in the lock and suddenly burst out crying.
Unlike Red Dawn, Platoon impacted me less as I aged; the memory was more powerful than the film. What felt dramatic and real and emotional at 16 and 25, touched on self-importance, and even felt a bit contrived, as I watched in my mid-thirties. But I think that’s just because there’d been so much in between. Movies like Platoon are the point of a wedge, carving a path for others to follow. But in so doing, that sharp edge dulls a little in comparison to what comes after. Even so, for me this is still one of the most memorable and impressive films of the 1980’s. Just seeing the trailer gave me chills and brought back memories of that first amazing viewing. I want to know what I think of it now, and I guess I need to keep up that ten year pattern.
So that’s the first movie list, just a sampler of 80’s films that stick out in my mind.
What are the 80’s movies that made a lasting impression on you?
Driving into the parking lot, I was still waffling. I didn’t want to miss it on the big screen if all the positive feedback was true, but I’m just not a “stress movie” kind of person. Gravity is about astronauts who get stranded in space and their attempts to find a way back to earth, and I can’t hardly stand it when things go wrong over and over and over, just when you think the person is going to be saved. My fear was that Gravity would be a long, drawn out, tension filled kind of movie. I just absorb movie emotions like a sponge, and steeping in my own anxiety for an hour and a half is not fun for me.
Thankfully I did go in and see it, and let me tell you, that hour-and-a-half movie went by in about 30 minutes. The next day I saw it again on the biggest screen I could find. If you’re going to see this movie, take my advice and see it on the biggest screen you can, and definitely in 3D. I haven’t been a 3D fan in general, but that technology has advanced so much in the past couple of years that it’s simply amazing. And while I’ll definitely buy Gravity when it comes out on dvd, I can safely guarantee that it won’t have the same impact as it did when experienced in the theater and in three dimensions.
Because truly, Gravity is a stunning work of art.
The first time I saw it, I literally thought, “this is like witnessing the brushstrokes of a master painter.” I was in awe of the genius and skill that can go into movie-making. Every shot seems purposeful and well planned; Director Alfonso Cuarón knows exactly where he wants us to look and when. He uses 3D not as a gimmick to make you flinch, but as a tool to impress upon his audience the amazing beauty and vastness and empty loneliness of space. This is not to mention the use of camera angle and focus.
Most importantly though, Cuarón uses perspective to the best advantage that I’ve seen in a long time. Maybe ever.
The camera alternates back and forth between the main protagonist Dr. Ryan Stone’s perspective and an observational attitude, making the audience teeter between participant and spectator. The first time we trade viewpoints is particularly well done and effective. There were times when I felt the physical urge to reach out and help her as I looked through Dr. Stone’s eyes and saw her hands struggling to find a grip. In a movie with a necessarily sparse storyline, this use of first person perspective allowed me to really connect with Dr. Stone in what felt like a very personal way. I knew just what she was feeling because I could see what she was seeing and it was scary as hell.
Equally amazing and memorable is the use of sound. Our primary auditory perspective is that of Dr. Stone, where we hear what she hears and don’t hear what she doesn’t. For example, as she’s using a tool, we experience the sound as a kind of dull vibration heard through her space suit. And you wouldn’t think that not hearing something being destroyed in front of you would be more frightening than hearing it happen, but somehow it is. I almost feel that the sound perspective pulled me in even more than the visual. I could go on and on about the use of sound and silence in this movie, but I don’t think I can do it without spoilers. Suffice it to say that the use of sound is the most impressive and memorable part of the movie for me in terms of overall experience.
But all of that skillful manipulation of camera and sound would be of no use if the story was overdone.
This isn’t for everyone, but one of the things I loved about the film is if you look at it in terms of storyline, there’s not a lot going on. You could tell the whole story in a paragraph and be done. But the beauty of it is you could write an entire book on what this movie is about. It isn’t just about what happens in the action of the movie, it’s about what happens underneath the action. I said before that the story is necessarily sparse and I do believe that. This film could have easily been taken over by dialogue and action sequences. But keeping the story simple and quiet allows the audience to focus on the experience of what it’s like to be Dr. Stone throughout this ordeal. The point of the film is not for us to focus on the decimation that’s happening around her, but the decimation that’s happening inside of her.
And as much as what happened to Dr. Stone, this movie is about what happened to me as an audience member. It’s about the sobs that tried to bubble out of me when it was over. It’s about how on the way home I alternated between wanting to cry all over myself and feeling elated and hopeful. How I keep thinking about it days and days and days after I saw it. That’ s kind of an amazing thing.
And that’s the beauty of art, is that in its most profound form, the artist’s intent isn’t to slap you in the face with his own opinion, but to plant a seed inside you. And what grows there, what you get out of it, depends on who you are. The piece of art becomes almost secondary to the emotions and thoughts that it creates inside of the viewer. Cuarón definitely succeeded in creating a profound work of art here; he didn’t just make a movie, he made me think. And feel.
Even the title is a brush stroke on Cuarón’s canvas, because really this movie is about the opposite of gravity. It’s about floating through space, twisting and turning in the nothingness without a solid place to plant your feet. There are other things out there with you, people, tools, places of temporary refuge. But ultimately all those things are as fragile as you are.
What we need, what we long for, what we search for, what we must have is something so much bigger than ourselves, with a mass so much greater than our own, that not only can it hold our weight, but it clings us to it. Once we find it, its gravity won’t let us go again, won’t let us fall back spinning into that dark emptiness. It’s permanent; not fragile. The things that destroy us can not destroy it. It’s big enough for us to plant our feet on, to be a foundation for our life.
In the movie, Stone seeks salvation in lots of different places. We can relate to that, in that we try to stabilize or even save our lives by putting our faith in lots of different things. It could be the people in our lives, our things, our country, our job. All of these are represented in the film in one way or another, but all of them fail to save her. (Stress movie, remember, so that’s no spoiler.) And while there are a few religious references within the movie as well, Cuarón leaves it up to us to decide for ourselves what our own foundation should be.
But the other play on the title Gravity is that it means weight or significance, “extreme or alarming importance”.
Ultimately what this movie left me thinking about most is how important it is the way we live our lives, what we put into our lives and what we take from it. Dr. Stone had practically stopped living well before this mission ever began. In the opening scenes we observe her serious, quiet work and hear her speaking as little as necessary and without much inflection. Juxtaposed against her demeanor are Mission Commander Matt Kowalski floating through space in an easy manner, telling stories and making jokes. This is his last mission, and he purposefully soaks in the beauty and marvel of the universe. It’s Engineer Shariff’s first trip into space and he is positively giddy with excitement, eating up every moment. Where the weightlessness of space makes Dr. Stone nauseous and stiff, Shariff is as delighted and experimental as a child. He’s living this experience with every bit of his being. In stark contrast to her colleagues, Dr. Stone is just there to do the job as quickly as possible and go home.
As you know, that proves to be more problematic than expected. A catastrophic accident sends Dr. Stone spinning through space. There is no gravity, nothing large enough to draw her in and provide a safe foundation for her to stand on. Nothing that will cling her to itself. As she goes through the process of trying to find a way home, she must face the reality that her life was already lacking in gravity. She was weightless and floating before she ever left Earth. She had emotionally shut down and given up. Her life had no weight or meaning to her anymore.
Matt Kowalski: Do you want to go back or do you want to stay here? I get it, it’s nice up here. you can just…shut down all the systems, turn out all the lights…just close your eyes and tune out everyone. There’s nobody up here that can hurt you. It’s safe.
How important to you is your life?
How much weight do you place on the way you live your life?How do you want to go through this life, and what do you want to get out of it? Will you make it a life well lived, fully lived? Do you want to stop dead in your tracks when life hurts you, or do you want to push through it? Do you want to look around and appreciate where you are, giddy with excitement that you actually get to live? Or do you just want to get the job done so you can get out of here?
I loved this movie and I loved that it made me think about both my life and my faith. I don’t think everyone will get the same things out of Gravity, nor (as I said above) do I think we’re all supposed to come away from it with the exact same message. It depends on who you are and what you’re looking for. Certainly if you’re into big explosions or major storylines, this movie isn’t for you. But if you’re into subtle storytelling and big themes, themes with gravity ;), then give this one a try. In the theater, in 3D.
Saturday A good thing about working the late shift
is I can take a nap before work.
I did, and it was delicious.
Sunday Off today, so I took two naps!
A morning nap and an afternoon nap.
Like a toddler.
Except then I wasn’t sleepy at bedtime,
so I was up half the night.
Monday Oh my gosh,
I am sooooo tired.
Tuesday Last night I had very detailed,
very vivid, zombie dreams.
Still not too gory though,
I only give myself pg-13 zombie dreams.
Wednesday For weeks it’s felt like I was missing clothes.
Hm, maybe they’re in that bag in the foyer.
The one I dropped there when I came back from the river.
And then never noticed again.
Like it was invisible.
Thursday I tried to go to work in my slippers today,
but I only got as far as the porch.
Friday I’ve watched World War Z almost every day
since I bought it, in part or in full, or
maybe in the background just for noise.
I’ve finally – finally! – switched to something else.