The Gravity of the Situation

I love the cinema.

Sort of.

When I worked for the BBC, part of my job was to review movies.  I liked the fact that press screenings were invariably empty and that you would have a cup of tea and a chat with the manager before it started. Afterwards, there would invariably be discussions about the movie and a lovely glass of sherry with some snacks.   I mean, that was how to go to the cinema.

These days, we go to the cinema as early as possible in the day to try and guarantee the fewest number of people.   The snacks, chats and sherry have long gone and cinema going has become  much more difficult to negotiate.

Its not the lack of food an alcohol that is the problem, but rather the gimmicks.

For the most part, I think if you can’t tell a story in under two hours, you’re doing it wrong.  I’m fed up of seeing movie that are supposedly “event” movies that last for 2:30 hrs ands have a plot that would adequately fill half an hour in a TV schedule.

There are exceptions, most notably the “Lord of the Rings” movies.   They manage to be completely satisfying at the cinema and when the directors cut extended editions came out, they worked even better.   Had the extended versions not come out, you’d still be left with three astounding movies.

Then there’s things like Watchmen, that was simply annoying at the cinema but the Ultimate Cut is amazing.  The cinema version – unlike LOTR – felt like an extended trailer for the Ultimate cut.  The Abyss was edited to the point of incoherence for it’s cinema release but the extended version gave you the movie it should have been.

But I fear I’m rambling.

The point is, I like a good story. I like a movie to be well edited and with no flab.  I have no problems about including character pieces and psychological back-stroy, etc as long as it works in terms of the movie.  The second Batman movie was appalling in that respect.  There were at least three plot threads that simply didn’t need to be there and bloated the movie to an anger inducing, unwatchable mess.  In the same way, Peter Jackson’s King Kong was bloated to the point of collapse under the weight of it’s own pretension. A three hour movie?   Really?  Why?   So you could put in things from the original script to give us a “true indication of the scale of the movie”?  For God’s sake, there was a reason they were excised from the original movie!   IT’S BECAUSE THEY WERE BORING, YOU TWAT!

But again, I’ve still not made the point I wanted to make.

3D.   Why?  Bearing in mind 3D vision only works in humans to a distance of around 2 metres, why are we paying  2 to 3 quid more to see a movie that for the most part, we can’t see anyway?   And most of the time, you forget it’s in 3D anyway until something is thrust in you face – which reminds me, I was accidentally saw a 3D porn movie which was infinitely scarier than the movie I’d actually paid to to see, but again, I digress.

So yeah, overly long movies and gimmicks.  Stop it.  Stop it now.

But, having said that, I saw a movie day which was pretty much perfect, despite being in 3D.

Gravity – and yes, spoilers are on the way – is remarkable, not just for the astonishing 17 minute opening shot, but for the simple reason that it’s 90mins long, and far more satisfying than almost every film I’ve seen this year. It actually works in 3D.

The odd thing is that  I really don’t like Sandra Bullock or George Clooney, not rating either of them as actors, but dear God they turned in amazing performances.  It’s virtually a 2 hander, you see a third astronaut who doesn’t last very long and hear a few voices, but ultimately, Clooney and particularly Bullock carry the movie with breathtaking aplomb.

It’s stately, magisterial and unfolds as and when it needs to.  It simply doesn’t conform to “modern” movie making.  It is, without doubt, art.  Alfonso Cuaron is simply a genius.

To be honest, the only reason we went to see it is that we loved “Children of Men” and “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and, lets be honest, his Harry Potter movie (The Prisoner of Azkaban) is probably the best of the series, certainly in terms of design, style and mood.   Oh hell, yeah, it was the best, no question and set the tone for the grimness to come…

I’ll admit there is some fairly heavy handed symbolism in Gravity, and the film is no more about an accident in space than I am.  Rather, it’s about a woman isolated by grief and with nowhere to go. At one point, post trauma, she floats in foetal position in a cramped but life giving space before suffering one hell of a birth trauma, leaving the symbolic womb and emerging, blinking in the sunlight with faltering steps and onward to a new life.

But what absolutely nails this movie is the camera work.  It’s fluid, dynamic and never less that utterly convincing.  Despite being set in the infinity of space, this is a very small and compact movie.  With so many flat vistas, mostly in pitch black, you wonder what the point of 3D is, but with the ‘sets’ being so small, the 3D genuinely stands out.   It’s probably the first time ever that 3D has been properly utilised; it’s not a gimmick, it actually enhances what is going on in the movie and throws the emptiness and void and the incredibly human story into sharp relief.

90 mins of virtual perfection.

Film of the year?  Quite probably.


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