Christopher Nolan

Paramount Pictures

When Interstellar’s credits rolled, I felt satisfied and relieved – not only because I enjoyed the stunning but imperfect film, but because the very experience of seeing the film on film went smoothly. In a packed house at an Indianapolis IMAX theater late on a rainy midweek opening night, all sub-three hours (and an unfathomable number of feet) of 70mm film cycled through the light of the projector without incident. I had heard stories of disastrous projection experiences at advance screenings from London to San Francisco, and the theater’s manager didn’t assuage my concerns about the volatility of the epic undertaking when he announced, via microphone, how full the plate of 70mm film is, and how Nolan’s 168-minute work could not be a minute longer without the celluloid literally falling off. Even though the 70mm projector and all its needs were invisible to us, Interstellar was not the only spectacle on display that evening – the existence of the apparatus that made the experience possible was a powerful reminder of the increasingly rare experience of filmgoing as an event. And what a strange experience it is to emote over the same massive images with a room full of strangers. I had this experience twice in 2014 – once with Christopher Nolan‘s Hollywood epic, and the other with Goodbye to Language 3D, the most recent work of octogenarian cinematic provocateur Jean-Luc Godard. Though it’s hard to imagine two theatrically released 2014 films that are more different, each of these works fully inhabit and embrace the […]

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INCEPTION

One of my favorite things to do as I’ve gotten older is to take naps. I am an expert nap-taker, even a better nap-taker than sleeper most nights. I never understood why children fight them so much, considering they have been a hobby of mine since college. Four years ago, Christopher Nolan made one of the highest-profile films about sleeping. In the summer of 2010, Inception did more for dreaming than films like 1985’s Dreamscape ever did. Like his most recent film Interstellar, Nolan also brought to life on the big screen some concepts and possible misconceptions about dreaming. One of these was the idea that there is a sort of time dilation in dreams. As the character of Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) points out rather succinctly in the film: “Five minutes in the real world gives you an hour in the dream.” In other words, it’s a bit like the opposite of what happens to Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway while prancing around black holes in Interstellar. Is Nolan simply obsessed with time dilation for his characters, or is he on to something? This got me thinking: Does time really move slower in a dream?

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Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

Christopher Nolan‘s outer space opera, Interstellar, has yet to crack the $100 million mark domestically — although it is close, and could potentially pass that marker as you read these very words — but Paramount Pictures is already banking on return viewers to help drive the film’s box office. In fact, they’re making it even easier for ‘stellar superfans to see the film again (and again and again and again) with a shiny new unlimited ticket program. The studio, in tandem with AMC Theatres, has just released word that they’ve launched an “out-of-this-world opportunity” to see the film as much as you’d like. In AMC Theatres. Until the movie is out of theaters, we guess. Although this specific ticket is the first of its kind, similar specialty deals have recently been offered for other blockbusters. Regal Theatres offered a so-called “super ticket” for Transformers: Age of Extinction — another Paramount offering — just this summer, allowing moviegoers to tack $15 on to their ticket price to get two different digital Transformers movies and a digital copy of Extinction upon its home video release. The year before, Paramount gave a “super” treatment to their Anchorman 2, a $33 offer that gave fans the chance to the sequel in theaters before its official release date, along with downloads of the first film, the “lost movie” Wake Up, Ron Burgundy and a pre-order of Anchorman 2 via digital download. Still, this Interstellar unlimited ticket is the first offer to specifically offer fans the chance to see the same film for a set price. But should you do […]

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interstellar.black_.hole_

As one might expect following the release of any highly anticipated film from a well-respected director, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar was met with some rave reviews but also some harsh criticisms. All character issues aside, many people have been taking aim at the science in the film. It seems odd that such scrutiny is given to a movie when the director’s previous film involved a billionaire who dressed up as a bat to fight crime, who also managed to heal a broken back with a rope and some push-ups in an undisclosed hell-prison with only a dedicated CNN feed and an insane inmate to keep him company, but there you go. In fact, all the science dissection of Interstellar prompted celebrity astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson to offer his support for the film’s underlying scientific themes. He certainly enjoyed the film and was willing to forgive a number of science fiction issues, but we have to remember that the CBS interviewers are asking the difference between a black hole and a wormhole, so there’s a certain degree of dumbing down his answers needed. Tyson also claims Contact to be his favorite and the most realistic science fiction movie he’s ever seen, so we have to wonder if he’s just pushing for the McConaissance above all else. Instead of focusing on a sweeping examination of the science as a whole in Interstellar, I have to wonder about one part, and let’s give a big, fat SPOILER ALERT before getting to it. If you haven’t seen Interstellar, you’ll […]

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Interstellar Memento 1

Time is a precious resource in Christopher Nolan’s most personal (i.e., non-bat-related) films, and time rarely ever runs in a linear, straightforward fashion. In Memento, time is split between a receding past and a stagnant present that changes the shape of knowledge and memory with every revelation it produces. In Inception, time is collapsed upon itself many times over, with a singular moment in one tier of consciousness extending to a multiplied time scale in others. Interstellar perhaps presents his most tortured relationship to the movement of time, wherein time is relative yet deeply consequential depending on your orientation with the cosmos, and must therefore be approached strategically. Your experience of time in Interstellar is hardly universal. It depends very much on where you are. While the film’s genre-entry depiction of the procession of time is intended as a rumination on relativity, black holes and the like, as a cinematic (i.e., non-scientific but experiential) exercise, Interstellar’s depiction of temporal relativity is truly affecting. It’s maybe the strongest suit of a rich but messy film, for it exercises something unique about the very act of watching movies.

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Interstellar flooding

With all the talk right now focused on the science of Interstellar, what it gets wrong and what it gets right, I think it’s time to switch the conversation over to the more appropriate discussion: the fiction. Yes, the genre label “science fiction” has two parts, and it’s the latter part that is more pertinent. Sci-fi is not supposed to be about authenticity. It doesn’t even have to be too plausible. Could we really be headed into a future when the Apollo missions are taught as having been a hoax? It doesn’t matter, no more than the likelihood that we’ll ever eat food made of people or that we’ll ever bring back the dinosaurs or ban sex or be able to travel inside others’ dreams or that the Nazis have secretly been on the Moon since World War II. The last is extremely silly, but in a relative manner to its tone, that doesn’t make it much different from any other speculative sci-fi plot. Interstellar is a movie. It’s cinematic storytelling inspired by the theories of Kip Thorne, not a lecture on them. As Christopher Nolan says in an interview with The Daily Beast, “to really take on the science of the film, you’re going to need to sit down with the film for a bit and probably also read Kip’s book. I know where we cheated in the way you have to cheat in movies, and I’ve made Kip aware of those things.” The question might be, considering all the criticisms, […]

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Paramount

I know what you’re thinking. “Here come those movie-hating FSR jerks to poop on Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar with all their negativity! No wonder they were rejected from film school!” Good one guys. But here’s the thing —  we love movies, and more than that, we know that criticizing or asking questions of a film doesn’t negate the things a movie gets right or the overall entertainment value we derive from the film. Honest. Here’s my positive, spoiler-free review of Interstellar as exhibit A. (And here’s our own Neil Miller’s even more positive collection of words on the film as exhibit B.) Even great movies can have questionable plot turns or head-scratching moments, and while I don’t find Nolan’s latest to be anywhere near great I do think it’s a good movie… with questionable plot turns and head-scratching moments. It’s a story about nothing less than the survival of the human race, about intergalactic travel and the bending of space and time, about love and rockets. The film is a sensory spectacle with incredible visual effects and a fantastic score by Hans Zimmer, and at its heart is an emotional journey about a father’s love for his daughter. It’s worth seeing in theaters. But enough of that. It’s time to poop on Interstellar. **Spoilers for the film are below, obviously.**

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Paramount Pictures

The experience matters. Perhaps it has a lot to do with living in the bubble that is the Austin movie scene — where we’ve got “no talking” policies and an assortment of opportunities to Quote and Sing-along with movies on a weekly basis. Perhaps I’m just a purist. Either way, I believe that there are some movies, good and bad, that provide a unique and unmissable experience in a theater. There are some movies that just aren’t the same in your living room. Last year, Alfonso Cuaron gave us such a movie in Gravity, an exceptionally crafted roller coaster ride that was best seen on the biggest format with the loudest speakers. This year, Christopher Nolan follows with a similarly themed, yet remarkably different ride in Interstellar. In an attempt to be both thoughtful and thrilling, Nolan has created something divisive. It’s ambitious and spectacular, emotionally moving and schmaltzy. The TL;DR version: it’s awe inspiring, but it’s also a mess. Yet while its complexity and ambition will drive the conversations we’ll have after seeing Interstellar, there’s no avoiding the fact that in the moment, in a quiet theater with a giant screen, it’s one hell of an experience.

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Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

Warning: this post contains spoilers for the movies Interstellar and Transcendence. The near-future setting of Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar is unlike most we’ve seen lately. There are no smartphones, let alone ones with personalities to fall in love with. There aren’t even many computers, save for a laptop used by Matthew McConaughey‘s more tech-friendly character. Look at the emptiness of an administrator’s desk when he has a meeting at his kids’ school. In the same scene, a teacher spouts an exposition-laden belief that people of the 20th century were wasteful and excessive and spent too much money on “useless machines.” Given the dialogue and the apparent dependency on textbooks with a rewritten history of the (faked) Apollo program, we can assume there is no longer any Wikipedia, or any internet whatsoever. Outside of the secret NASA facility, it’s a fairly analog world, one in which almost everybody is a farmer. It’s also a world that’s awfully close to the one we’re left with at the end of Transcendence, a movie that Nolan produced and which was directed by his usual cinematographer, Wally Pfister. Also set in the near-future, Transcendence is about technology getting way out of hand. Johnny Depp plays a scientist specializing in artificial intelligence, and he eventually has his consciousness uploaded to a computer server, and subsequently the internet. His digital transcendence leads to the development of useful machines employing nanotechnology to help sick people far beyond even the MRIs that McConaughey’s character in Interstellar defends. But Depp’s computer-dwelling character […]

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Nostalgia for the Light

If you say 2001: A Space Odyssey, you lose a testicle. That’s how I feel about the talk around Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar and its comparisons to the Stanley Kubrick classic. Yes, there are a few reasons to mention the almost 50 years old sci-fi epic, but there are also reasons to mention the more than 100 years old A Trip to the Moon. Those are ancient, highly influential basics, and in a way any movie involving space travel should be linked back to them. They’re also understood by anyone to be essentials, so there’s little need for my added recommendation. I’d rather devote this week’s list of movies to see to less obvious works, especially since I’m including more titles than usual with this one. Interstellar is an original feature, but it’s very much drawn from other material, one predecessor of which may have had footage directly transplanted by Nolan. It’s also long and packs in a ton of ideas and plot paths. I couldn’t limit myself to only 12. And that’s still mostly ignoring Nolan’s admitted inspiration coming from 2001, Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Again, those are all basic necessities anyway. And this week’s list isn’t all about the influences, partly because as Nolan stated at Comic-Con this year, there are many: “I wouldn’t want to give too complete a list [of my sci-fi inspirations], because then when you see the film, you’ll see all the things I’ve ripped off. And I’m not joking […]

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Paramount Pictures

The Earth is in bad shape, and mankind is on the fast track to follow okra and obesity into extinction. A devastating blight has swept the planet, killing off plants and crops and making way for epic dust storms (haboobs to anyone who’s spent time in the Sudan or Arizona) that leave the small communities that remain in constant struggle for food, good health and cleanliness. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer growing the only viable crop left, corn, but his heart is in the skies above. A NASA test pilot before nature and societal pressures grounded him — this is a time/place where textbooks teach that the Apollo moon landing was a hoax — he now settles for the more earthly life along with his two children and father-in-law. But someone, or something, wants him to reach for the skies once again, and they’re communicating through his daughter Murph’s (Mackenzie Foy as a child, Jessica Chastain as an adult) bedroom bookshelf. He’s soon forced to choose between the draw of his family and that of the unknown, and with the fate of humanity at stake he’s compelled to choose the latter. Along with a few other astronauts he sets out for a wormhole that promises to hold the key to the continued existence of our species. Interstellar is in many ways as ambitious and messy a film as the sci-fi adventure it’s portraying, and its themes, visuals and pockets of bald emotion are guaranteed to appeal to fans of director Christopher […]

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Dark Knight Rises

Lynchian. Kubrickian. Felliniesque. A directorial adjective can have strong, transportable power, even if its exact meaning may rely more on general impressions and evocations of inspiration than a concrete set of rules. Many of these terms, however, gain currency well after a director has established a set style, producing a moniker that results as a sort of shorthand for auteurism: a term pregnant with assumed meaning to describe an implied close familiarity with the themes, styles and obsessions that codify a filmmaker’s body of work. “Lynchian” was arguably solidified as popular parlance with David Foster Wallace’s 1996 essay from a visit to the set of Lost Highway, a work of writing that tied together both Lynch’s idiosyncratic film style and his esoteric personality as a person. And that’s the essential formula for the directorial adjective: unlike the auteur theory, which provides insights into the person but takes an analysis of the films themselves as a primary concern, the directorial adjective suggests a fluid coherence between the defining aspects of films and the outsized personality of their maker. To be Kubrickian is to be an obsessive perfectionist of form. To be Hitchcockian is to possess a sadistic sense of humor imbued through the events of the thriller, a personality that regularly makes murder into a game. You don’t know it when you see it with the directorial adjective, you know it when you feel it, when you sense the currents of that personality speak through choices of style and narrative. There […]

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Interstellar Tunnel

Starting today, audiences can experience the most immersive “neat marketing thingie” Hollywood has to offer. As a tie-in to Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar, Paramount and IMAX are shuttling an interactive exhibit to four cities across the country. At whichever population center is closest to you — LA, NYC, Houston or, strangely, Chantilly, Virginia — strap on an Oculus Rift headset and experience some simulated virtual gravity from inside the Endurance, the spaceship from Nolan’s film. An “Oculus Rift,” in case you were looking at those words with the same cocked-head confusion as a dog hearing another dog on TV, is this: virtual reality. Or, at least virtual reality for your face; the Oculus Rift is a boxy, black goggle-like eyepiece that lets you see into a digitally-created world, translating all your head and eye movements so you can look around and see digitally anything you want. Digitally. For the most part, the Oculus is confined to video gaming. Its from-the-neck-up limitations are most easily solved with a mouse and keyboard, although laughably dumb-looking inventions like the virtual reality treadmill and the virtual reality bodysuit pop up every now and then.

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Interstellar

If you’re excited to see Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar on the big screen, you may be still more excited to learn that the latest film from the Dark Knight helmer and Matthew “Alright, Alright, Alright” McConaughey will hit theaters with a large number of viewing options, and not just of the “to IMAX or not to IMAX” variety. FirstShowing has been all over the Interstellar news beat, first breaking the news that the film would hit IMAX two days early and then passing along a bevy of cool screening information once Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures officially announced the news via press release. Interstellar officially opens on November 7th, but a slew of large format screenings will kick off on Tuesday, November 4th, with still more options rolling out on November 5th (all told, about 225 locations will offer the pre-screenings). Basically, if you want to see Interstellar early, you can totally do that, while also getting the best theatrical viewing experience possible. Not too shabby. But if you’re still not sure how to see Interstellar and what format is best, the film’s official site has provided a pretty nifty guide (one that you can use for Interstellar and beyond). Take a look.

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Batmobile in Batman vs Superman

The movies of director Zack Snyder are about as polarizing as any studio filmmaker’s, so when he tweeted out a picture of the new Batmobile from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we can assume he was prepared for some criticism. Fans complained about a particular aspect of the vehicle that does not conform to the version seen in the comics: the guns. This new Batmobile is front-loaded with weapons that would not look out of place in an American military vehicle. It’s a concerning decision, especially since Batman’s code of ethics precludes him from intentionally killing people. But the real problem is that it shows how little Snyder has learned from the mistakes of Man of Steel. We all remember the outcry from fans when Snyder had Superman kill General Zod in that movie’s climax, and it appears that Snyder is doubling down on the violence, despite that criticism. But it is unfair to lay all this at Snyder’s feet. There has been an increasing militarization of our superheroes afoot for decades, and Snyder is only continuing that tradition. In the Marvel world, superheroes perpetually exist in a military milieu. Tony Stark is a reformed defense contractor, while The Avengers was essentially about a Special Forces unit that prevented another 9/11.

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Eraserhead

I love looking at filmmakers’ early work. Sure, it might be juvenile or lacking the grace of experience, but it’s also the artistic eye before fame, celebrity personas or narrowly honed visions. It’s the work they made before output was partially (if not totally) influenced by investors, studios and critics. First films can be like cinematic diaries of the directors’ vision – like David Lynch’s iconic Eraserhead, which is now on Criterion Blu-ray with almost all of his short films – or whiffs of artistry before the mainstream. Some, sadly, are still out of reach to the Internet masses, though they’d be fascinating first glimpses at cinematic themes and techniques. Long before 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen debuted with a revealing video installation, Bear, which only makes the rounds at live events. Kathryn Bigelow “plays down” her first film from 1978, The Set-Up, where Gary Busey and another guy fight each other as semioticians deconstruct the images – a film that certainly speaks to her future work, but hasn’t been released for modern audiences. And though someone who thinks they’re clever put up a slave scene on YouTube, insisting it was Spike Lee’s first film, his debut – the Super 8 film Last Hustle in Brooklyn – is actually about “Black people and Puerto Rican people looting and dancing.” Those three might remain out of reach, but here eight filmmakers’ early visions that speak to humor, darkness, unexpected twists, and for one – an artistry before an obsession with […]

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Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel Studios is still new. Based on their track record, that’s almost hard to believe. Of the nine movies they’ve put out, all of them have performed considerably well, if not completely gangbusters, at the box office. Considering their latest film, Guardians of the Galaxy, is on track to make over $70m this weekend, their luck will continue. At this point, we may have to stop calling it luck and start calling it smart business decisions. One of the people responsible for Marvel’s success is, of course, the president of the studio, Kevin Feige, and he’s fully embraced the spirit — and often downright weirdness — of the characters and their worlds. Feige gambled on an untested formula that’s paid off. Few people expected Iron Man, and with it Marvel, to succeed the way that it did, but he was one of them. Six years ago, it was clear he believed in their ambitious plan from the start. “It’s a little bit of planning, a little bit of luck and you end up with a studio that has the film rights to Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Ant-Man,” he said in 2008. “And clearly, when you put them all together, you know who you get.” He meant The Avengers, as well as a whole series of successful solo superhero films around it. Guardians of the Galaxy is the one that now puts Marvel’s brand to the ultimate test. Iron Man wasn’t a very well known character to the general public, but the Hulk, Thor and Captain America were all pretty […]

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Interstellar

Here is a takeaway from this latest trailer for Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar: Matthew McConaughey is going to cry a lot in this thing. The star of the upcoming sci-fi space opus already teared it up in the film’s first teaser, and now he looks like he’s back at it. This time, though, it looks like he’s crying in space. Here is another takeaway from this latest trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar: we’re going to space, you guys! This new trailer gives us a much better and wider look at what Nolan’s spacey stuff is going to look like — cold, watery, very cool — alongside McConaughey apparently sobbing at every turn. As it so happens, when you decide to go save the world and leave your family in the process, you get emotional about it. We’re right there with you, big guy. Take a look:

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Memento Movie

We can learn a lot from the movies. Of course, sometimes what we learn has no basis in reality. For example, lawyers should not take their cross-examination techniques from Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, and doctors shouldn’t be too quick to use a defibrillator as demonstrated in… well… pretty much every medical drama ever made. Certain real-life afflictions make excellent plot points in movies and television, and one of the biggest cliches that’s still used today is amnesia. Whether it’s Jason Bourne trying to get a hold of his past or a poor widower chasing down a man named John G., amnesia makes for a compelling story where we get to learn alongside a person who already knows the thing that they don’t know. But is movie amnesia realistic, or is it total crap?

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Interstellar Movie

Some people just wanna watch the world burn. Christopher Nolan might be one of them. It’s been almost half a year since our last tease, but this new Interstellar trailer gives the full force of the fire. Our wonderful planet is doomed, so the only hope for humanity is to find a new place to live. That’s where engineering whiz Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and a visionary played by Michael Caine come into the picture. Yet while the larger focus is traveling to another star, Cooper is tethered to this planet by his daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy). Check out the trailer for yourself:

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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