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Home Theater United Episode 20 - Film historian and preservationist Mr. Robert A Harris (1 Viewer)

Josh Steinberg

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Before the pandemic, Mr. Trumbull had extended an offer to the audience at a lecture I attended on his effects work to visit his studio in New England. And then the pandemic hit a week later. When the pandemic subsides, I’ll reach out to the museum that hosted the event to see if they can pass along a message that we’d be interested in talking to him if he was up for it.

I’m also hoping to write an essay/paper on some “2001” research I did at the Kubrick Archives that (to my knowledge) hasn’t been covered in any of the books written about the film. Thinking out loud but maybe there’s a way for us to join forces on all of these things!
 

Brian Dobbs

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Before the pandemic, Mr. Trumbull had extended an offer to the audience at a lecture I attended on his effects work to visit his studio in New England. And then the pandemic hit a week later. When the pandemic subsides, I’ll reach out to the museum that hosted the event to see if they can pass along a message that we’d be interested in talking to him if he was up for it.

I’m also hoping to write an essay/paper on some “2001” research I did at the Kubrick Archives that (to my knowledge) hasn’t been covered in any of the books written about the film. Thinking out loud but maybe there’s a way for us to join forces on all of these things!
Killer bro.
 

DaveF

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Good discussion. I admit, I've never understood RAH's "a few words" threads. This conversation helped me see what he's going for and what others are looking for in them. :)
 

Brian Dobbs

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Contact wants you to think.
Gravity wants you to feel.
I've mellowed out over the years, and try to keep things goofy on the podcast to make it all more fun, but I need to take a serious aside here...

Dave, you're my boy, and these comments are not directed to you, nor to anyone specifically. Not looking to start fights. These are just my opinions, as these films tap into something deeper for me.

I feel like while they are fantastic movies, they're really nothing more than cheap thrill disaster survival movies...for me. And here's why...

Quick Back Story
The topics of space travel, extraterrestrials, time, understanding our place in the cosmos are deeply personal to me. So much so, that I was compelled to write a screenplay back in 2013, and develop it over the next few years. My goal was to write a relatable, realistic, rooted in science-fact, portrayal of making first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, the fear-mongering and political turmoil it would cause, and ultimately what humanity decides to do about it all. It's a mix between Contact and 2001, and attempts to offer a more satisfying, tangible, and less psychedelic conclusion than either of those films.​
It did really well in a variety of screenwriting competitions, even winning an award in 2018. It is the only screenplay I have ever written. If Hollywood makes the movie, then maybe I'll write the sequel. Otherwise, I said what I had to say.​
If you'd like to read it, here you go. Feature length, 120 pages. I know, booo, reading icky. If reading isn't your thing I get it. I don't like reading screenplays either! I'd rather watch the damn movie! LOL.​
brian-dobbs-drake-equation.png

Self-aggrandizement over...

I like Gravity and The Martian (and own both of them on Blu-ray). They are exciting movies and the visual effects are fantastic, but it takes a lot more effort (and wisdom) to craft a narrative that compels the viewer to question the nature and meaning of his/her own existence in order to truly understand the scale and age of the Universe and the extremely limited perspective we have as humans on this pale blue dot in the middle of nowhere. I think this is why Contact has always spoken to me more than others, and Star Trek TNG in many ways.

Ad Astra attempted to say something substantive about the meaning of life and our place in the Universe, despite the filmmakers not really having a firm grasp on what that message was supposed to be. They really tried to make a good film, and I would rather have more films like AA and Interstellar than Gravity or The Martian.
 

DaveF

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Gravity is one the the best cinematic experiences of my life. I saw it twice in the theater and both times it was deeply moving. I love it. It's of a piece with Children of Men. I don't experience it as a survival movie, but a movie about humanity.

Contact was enjoyable as a scifi thriller, but broadly disappointing as a "thinker" for me when I saw it 30 years ago. I don't think I've revisited it since to know if my perspective would change.

What can I say, when you're as old as me and your heart has turned to stone, you're desparate for anything that makes you feel. :D
 

DaveF

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Intersteller was good, if maybe a sloppy ending.
The Martian was solid scifi.
Arrival, of course, was great.
Haven't seen Ad Astra, and I recall the reviews putting me off of it.

Some of the best scifi I've found in recent years are low-budget streaming series: Travelers, Dark Matter, Continuum, Humans. But I'm definitely not up on movie scifi in recent years.
 

Josh Steinberg

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If you liked Gravity, you’ll probably like Ad Astra.

I disliked Ad Astra on my initial viewing and then liked it when I saw it a second time. The reason I disliked it the first time was that the pre-release promotions and interviews led me to expect a film that was going to be about realistic space travel, in the way that something like The Martian or Interstellar might extrapolate a little bit on where future technology could be, but stays grounded within the basic rules of physics. But Ad Astra isn’t like those films. It’s more like Gravity in that it uses a space setting to tell an allegorical tale that doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. The events portrayed in Gravity and Ad Astra are not scientifically plausible; space doesn’t work that way. But space doesn’t work the way Star Trek or Star Wars portrays it either and I like those. It was really about my expectations not aligning with what the filmmakers were trying to do.

mild thematic spoiler on Ad Astra
I was also somewhat bothered by Ad Astra’s running theme that mankind should stay on Earth and should not look to the stars. The film’s general thesis and emotional climax revolve around the idea that there is nothing in space for mankind. There’s nothing else out there in the universe, and there’s no purpose to us looking to the stars. We ruin everything we touch. We’d just ruin space too. We should stay home and reflect on life on earth. We are not meant to explore. I disagreed with that message which made the film a bit of a bummer.
 

Brian Dobbs

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If you liked Gravity, you’ll probably like Ad Astra.

I disliked Ad Astra on my initial viewing and then liked it when I saw it a second time. The reason I disliked it the first time was that the pre-release promotions and interviews led me to expect a film that was going to be about realistic space travel, in the way that something like The Martian or Interstellar might extrapolate a little bit on where future technology could be, but stays grounded within the basic rules of physics. But Ad Astra isn’t like those films. It’s more like Gravity in that it uses a space setting to tell an allegorical tale that doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. The events portrayed in Gravity and Ad Astra are not scientifically plausible; space doesn’t work that way. But space doesn’t work the way Star Trek or Star Wars portrays it either and I like those. It was really about my expectations not aligning with what the filmmakers were trying to do.

mild thematic spoiler on Ad Astra
I was also somewhat bothered by Ad Astra’s running theme that mankind should stay on Earth and should not look to the stars. The film’s general thesis and emotional climax revolve around the idea that there is nothing in space for mankind. There’s nothing else out there in the universe, and there’s no purpose to us looking to the stars. We ruin everything we touch. We’d just ruin space too. We should stay home and reflect on life on earth. We are not meant to explore. I disagreed with that message which made the film a bit of a bummer.
How do I like comments more than once?
 

Josh Steinberg

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Happy to talk space travel sci-fi with you anytime.

Check out the new Netflix original film “Stowaway” for a good example of realistic space travel that uses the science/physics of space as its driving force. The plot only goes in directions that the science supports.
 

Brian Dobbs

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Happy to talk space travel sci-fi with you anytime.

Check out the new Netflix original film “Stowaway” for a good example of realistic space travel that uses the science/physics of space as its driving force. The plot only goes in directions that the science supports.
Watched the trailer. I agree that the space travel looks realistic. I could be wrong, but it looks like a disaster survival movie.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Watched the trailer. I agree that the space travel looks realistic. I could be wrong, but it looks like a disaster survival movie.

Yes and no. Or yes, but a disaster science movie.

General plot spoiler that will make it easy to guess the end
The spacecraft traveling to Mars is designed and stocked to handle only three passengers, with failsafes for extra protection. The accident that leads the stowaway, an unexpected fourth occupant, to be trapped onboard damages the main equipment, and the failsafes only have enough supplies to provide for the three intended to be onboard. The film does not cheat the science in telling a story where there are not enough resources for everyone to survive. And that’s what makes it a unique and interesting film - there are no good solutions and no possibility for everyone to make it. And no gimmicks to cheat the science to allow for a happy ending out of nowhere.
 

Brian Dobbs

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Yes and no. Or yes, but a disaster science movie.

General plot spoiler that will make it easy to guess the end
The spacecraft traveling to Mars is designed and stocked to handle only three passengers, with failsafes for extra protection. The accident that leads the stowaway, an unexpected fourth occupant, to be trapped onboard damages the main equipment, and the failsafes only have enough supplies to provide for the three intended to be onboard. The film does not cheat the science in telling a story where there are not enough resources for everyone to survive. And that’s what makes it a unique and interesting film - there are no good solutions and no possibility for everyone to make it. And no gimmicks to cheat the science to allow for a happy ending out of nowhere.
I can respect that.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I think you might like it. It’s interesting to compare/contrast it to Gravity, which is wonderful in its own way, but if it had followed the science, Clooney and Bullock are dead in the first half hour. Stowaway doesn’t shortchange the science but still presents a compelling survival tale.
 

DaveF

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Happy to talk space travel sci-fi with you anytime.

Check out the new Netflix original film “Stowaway” for a good example of realistic space travel that uses the science/physics of space as its driving force. The plot only goes in directions that the science supports.
FYI, this is a well kept secret, so you probably don’t know….but Brian doesn’t do streaming services ;)
 

DaveF

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I realized I have watched a scifi movie recently that‘s on disc, and is meant to be thoughtful, rather than action oriented: Predestination. It’s only $10 for the blu-ray. I bought it and ripped it to my HTPC rather than digitally rent it for $4.

Amazon product
I won’t try to describe it, since saying anything risks giving away the conceit. If you want to give it a go, I recommend going in knowing nothing except that it’s not an action movie, and keep an open mind because it’s a slow burn and 20 minutes in, you’ll be wondering why you ever listened to me. But the beginning will make sense and it comes together.

 

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