Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

GRAVITY (2013)
So few films get this balance right where I want it to be, but the way this film balances the terror and wonder of our endeavors in space with a very human kind of spirituality is masterful. Not only the best film of 2013, but one of the best films I've ever seen. Sandra Bullock stars in an excellent performance as an astronaut attempting to return to the planet after the mid-orbit destruction of her Space Shuttle. Alfonso Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki use long, unbroken shots punctuated by sudden, claustrophobic close-ups to create this sense of being lost against the nothingness of space. Bullock is at once engulfed and completely adrift. It pulled me in and didn't let me go, and gave me an emotional and urgent experience in a relatively short amount of time (90 minutes--it's a succinct and lean movie, and very well-paced; any more would have been harder to endure and maybe not playing fair with the audience). I especially grokked the themes of evolution and of resilience in the face of isolation and disaster. It's a thrilling, powerful movie. (And yes, I'm aware of the scientific inaccuracies and exaggerations, they just don't ruin the emotional reality of the film for me.) An astounding piece of work that I actually feel privileged to have seen. ****

I forgot to mention; Ed Harris is the voice on CAPCOM, which I just thought was really nice, having seen him play John Glenn in The Right Stuff and Gene Kranz in Apollo 13, the two other best movies about astronauts. I don't know what I'd do in a movie about space exploration without him.

THE CONJURING (2013)
A surprisingly fun horror movie. I don't generally go in for haunted house movies (my wife, however, loves them, so I see quite a few), but this one was moody and atmospheric and very cinematic. Most importantly, it's genuinely scary; the sound effect stings and the sudden shocks don't feel cheap. The film stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, but the film wisely decides to focus more on the family caught up in the "true" haunting of the Perron family in 1971; the family theme makes the danger more immediate. It's nothing you haven't seen before, I'd wager, but it's very well-done and involving. ***1/2

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