(Spoiler Free) Movie Review: Interstellar (2014) (IMAX)

November 7, 2014 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

interstellar-poster

Well, it looks like I have to reshuffle my list of the best movies of 2014 – again.

Memento. The Dark Knight trilogy. Inception. Time and time again, Christopher Nolan proven to be one of the most creative and visionary directors of this generation. His latest, Interstellar, is his most ambitious project to date, and also arguably the most rewarding.

I rushed to see the first session available of Interstellar this morning, not knowing what to expect other than a 169-minute sci-fi starring Matthew McConaughey. I intentionally avoided the trailers, the reports, and the early reviews. In fact, I didn’t even know who else was in it. Going in blind was the best decision I ever made, and so I am going to make sure there are no spoilers in this review so that your experience, if you haven’t already seen it, is as fresh and awe-inspiring as it can be.

Interstellar is the very definition of an epic. The ambition, the scale, the scope, the cast, the special effects, the storyline — even the running time; everything about this film is huge, which makes it perfect for the big screen, and in particular, IMAX, which I fortunately saw it on. It is not available in 3D (which I hate anyway), but this is one rare situation where I do wonder if the added dimension could have enhanced the visual experience even more.

I don’t want to give away the plot, so all I will say is that Interstellar is first and foremost a space exploration film. I liked the fact that there was no arbitrary exposition at the start of the film explaining the world the film was depicting. There’s no voice-over, no subtitles, no Star Wars-like opening crawl. It immerses you into the story straight away, while at the same time creating an intriguing mystery that needs to be slowly pieced together. And while the progression of the narrative is relatively simple, there are some exciting twists and turns along the way.

Interstellar is also a great big adventure flick filled with excitement, action, drama, and emotion. There are big set pieces, jaw-dropping landscapes and seamless effects, though all of these things feel like they are there because they are integral to the story, rather than simply to provide candy for the eyes.

My number one film of last year, Gravity, is probably best characterized as a space survival film. That was a thrilling spectacular which had some of the above elements, but Interstellar just takes it to a whole other level in every way. And it’s even twice as long! Interestingly, the film that first popped up into my mind when watching Interstellar was another McConaughey classic, 1997’s Contact, another one of my favorite sci-fi films. Both are about exploring the unknown with a health dose of hope and fear, and pose thought-provoking questions about human nature and humanity.

I don’t know much about the science the film rests on, though I assume there are going to be a lot of gaping holes, inconsistencies and flaws in logic. But the silliness of the science is beside the point. The important thing is that Nolan made me believe in it. Like he did in Inception, Nolan takes some very complex ideas and concepts and boils them down in a way that ordinary audiences can understand. Perhaps not fully comprehend or even grasp everything that is happening, but at least enough to be able to suspend disbelief and not get lost in the storyline. To me, that is the key to the film, and my guess is that if you did not enjoy it, it is because you were unable to buy into the film’s ideas in the first place.

Nolan’s films have been accused of being too cold and emotionless in the past. That is definitely not the case with Interstellar, which is powered by a surprising amount of human drama. Not all of it was effective — some of the dialogue came across as a little mushy, a little sentimental, and shall I say, McConaughey-esqe, though in the grand scheme of things I cannot fault Nolan for trying, because the film’s ultimate pay-off and message would not have worked without emotion.

I know I have not been the biggest Matthew McConaughey fan, and I admit I cringed a little when he first opened his mouth in the film (I expected his dialogue to be “Alright, alright, alright” on an endless loop). Smugness like that is hard to contain, even for an Oscar-winning actor. Slowly but surely, however, McConaghey managed to grow on me, and by the end of the film I was convinced he was the right man for the role. I cannot say much more about the other performances without mentioning their names (not knowing the whole cast adds to the pleasant surprises), so I will simply say that there is more than one Oscar winner in the cast and that they are all very good and go a long way towards mitigating the flaws in the dialogue.

Interstellar might not be perfect. It may not even be as intriguing, action-packed or ground-breaking as some of Nolan’s other films. And it even stars Matthew McConaughey. But man, I don’t think I’ve been more entertained more by a film in years. Nolan really reached for the stars with this grand epic. Some may think it was a spectacular success; others may think it was an admirable failure. For me, I’m just glad I was fortunate enough to be on the journey.

5 stars out of 5

NaNoWriMo Update 1: That’s Rough, Buddy

November 7, 2014 in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

rough

So here’s my first NaNoWriMo update, and it’s not pretty. Better than nothing, I suppose, but the progress has been admittedly slow. I have so far had two days to write and I have barely broken 2000 words, a far cry from the overly optimistic and fairly ridiculous 3000-a-day target I had set for myself.

What I have realized from this process is that writing anything at work is really really hard. There are distractions galore, and I don’t just mean actual work-related stuff that needs to get done. And all it takes is one shithouse article — just one — to screw up my entire schedule and rhythm for the day. Lately, unfortunately, I’ve gotten a few.

As for the writing itself, I’ve decided to tackle my oldest project, the classic fantasy novel that has been rewriting itself in my brain on and off for the last dozen or so years. It’s probably the most ambitious of my projects, but also the one that requires the least amount of planning and thinking through.

I have started again right from the beginning with a new intro that will introduce the protagonist in a more exciting manner so that the story hits the ground running. I’ve since gone back to work on a prologue, though I think it probably works better as a backdated chapter 2. I guess I’ll see how it goes.

The biggest take away from these last couple of days is that I still have not figured out how to just write and not self edit along the way. They always say, when writing first drafts, that you should not think too much and just let the words flow. Sure, it will probably be crap, but it is more important at this stage to just get the words down. You can always fix things up later.

On day one I started off relatively well, getting about 1500 words down, but on the way home at night I kept thinking of things I should have added. So on day two instead of continuing with the writing I spent much of my time putting in those changes, and all the other things I kept thinking would improve the narrative. Due to some of these changes, I have had to stop and think of ways to make the story logical and fit together, which took up a huge chunk of my time as well. In the end, I only had about 500 words down on the second day. And the truth is, it is still crap, so I more or less wasted my time trying to fix it now.

Still hopeful that I will be able to get into some kind of groove so that the words will come more easily. At this stage, unless I catch fire, so to speak, it seems unlikely that I will get close to reaching my goal. We’ll see.