Saturday, December 28, 2013

Top Ten of 2013...#4 Gravity

It's that time of the year. Time for a plethora of Top Ten lists. Many produce them and guess what, they're utterly unabashed, unapologetic subjective filler. Something to plug into copy space so that the writer can take time off to enjoy the holidays. So here are My Top Ten (Plus a Few) Favorite Things of 2013. Some have been around awhile, I generally discover things later than most. I'm going to dribble them out one day at a time, many are completely frivolous because remember: they're filler so that I can do year-end holiday things. (Repeated intro from yesterday, more filler.)

My Favorite 'Actually Going Out to a Theatre to See a Movie' Movie of 2013. In the summer of 1968, my dear friend Jerri and I saw Stanley Kubrick's 2001: a space odyssey at the Capri-70 Cinerama on Kingston Pike in Knoxville. Shown in "Panavision" on a curved screen 72 feet wide and 21 feet deep, it was billed as "An astounding entertainment experience, a dazzling trip to the planets and beyond to the stars."

It was all that and more. 

We had never seen anything remotely like it and for two science-minded kids its impact was profound. Before Apollo 11 landed on the moon a year later, Kubrick taught us that space travel would be long and slow, quiet and often tedious, that is until things go bad. (As they did for Apollo 13 two years later.)

Flash forward 45 years and we get to experience slow, measured space flight again on the big screen, this time in 3-D. 

Many of the scenes in Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, reminded me of Kubrick's 2001. The former obviously paid homage to the latter. A free-floating pen, the majesty of Earth-orbiting space stations, an off-structure astronaut in peril left to their own devices, an innocent face in a bubble gazing down on planet Earth, wondering what to do next. 

Kubrick's film is more layered, more enigmatic, more out there, more—what the heck just happened?—weird. My own place in the universe was shifted. I scrambled to buy the novel by Arthur C. Clarke to see if it would help me fill in some of the gaps as broad as the rings of Saturn, and it did. Are we being watched? Guided?

Still today, every time I hear Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra," I turn expecting to see a mysterious black monolith pointing the way, a guidepost urging me to evolve into a higher form of being and seek the answers that await on the other side of the universe; to become a starchild.

Kubrick's starchild gazing down on planet Earth
With Gravity, we now know what a real space station looks like, and space walks are cumbersome. And that in that most unforgiving environment at 17,000 miles per hour, when things go bad, they go bad in a hurry. I half expected Sandra Bullock's Ryan Stone to say at some point, "Open the pod bay doors, please Hal." But, Sandy had to manage on her own wits.

Gravity is a thrrrrrrrill ride. Yes, I've heard the critics: there is no Chinese Space Station, the Shuttle didn't fly that way, Clooney's backpack hasn't been used since the Coolidge Administration, Sandy should have been wearing an adult diaper (Hello. I don't want to pay $10 to see Sandra Bullock in a diaper.) Picky, picky, picky. It's only a movie. The year 2001 has come and gone, yet, Pan Am isn't flying space planes, a monolith hasn't been found on the Moon buried in the crater Tycho—Geez Louise, we've not even been to Tycho—and, to my knowledge, there's not a wormhole stargate near Jupiter. But Kubrick didn't get his chops busted over it.

If you've yet to see Gravity, breathe copiously beforehand because you'll be holding your breath during and you don't want your O2 level to drop as low as Sandy's did. You get spacey and see dead people. I've already seen the movie twice, once with Eliot and once with Eliot and Karen Sue. But don't wait for the DVD, you have to see it on the big screen.

With this pick, I've gone mainstream. I'm sure Gravity is in a lot of Top Ten of 2013 lists.

Cuarón's Ryan Stone gazing down on planet Earth


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