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Published on January 18th, 2015 | by Tarzan and Jane

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A Case for Interstellar: Who are movies for?

Tarzan and Jane here, from the middle of the Pacific…

The Golden Globes were last Sunday (complete and utterly disappointing not to mention awkward), and the Oscar nominations are out (perplexing while at the same time predictable).  As avid movie watchers, and by avid I mean our life savings has been invested in our local cineplex, we were surprised at the obvious snub for Christopher Nolan (of the Dark Knight trilogy as well as the extremely original and creative Inception notoriety) his amazing work on Interstellar as well as the actors excellent work from Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine among an assortment of other notable actors John Lithgow, Casey Affleck and Matt Damon, a veritable who’s who of acting.  Tarzan and I watched Interstellar on opening weekend and both walked out saying it was the best movie we’ve ever seen. Let’s be clear about that statement: between the two of us, Tarzan and I have seen a library of movies and I’m not talking a single shelf but more like stacks. We’ve been to watch this movie in the theater an additional seven times between us.  It says a lot when we both say it is the best movie we have ever seen.

Movie making, really exceptional movie making, is about telling a story and doing it so adeptly that the audience suspends all disbelief. That is why movies are made, right?  For an audience to lose themselves in story in order to be entertained?  Whether it’s believing that a character can fly or a character wins a lottery ticket and loses herself in the riches; the art of immersing one’s self so completely into the story is the end goal.  Intersteller does this so adeptly, one loses himself in the narrative, suspending disbelief to follow the characters on their impossible journey.
Though this story is a science fiction piece, in some ways it breaks the mold of the true science fiction work because it doesn’t rely on the science fiction to tell the story.  For example, if this were Star Wars or Gravity (Oscar nominated and winner of several Oscar awards between them), need the science fiction premise to tell the story; to change that would be to change the beauty of those respective stories.  Conversely, while the science fiction is the vehicle for Interstellar, and a very interesting piece of the story puzzle, it isn’t the story at it’s heart.  Much like Contact (also overlooked by the Academy in 1998), and its larger question that considered the ideas of faith as science, Interstellar is the story is a human one with themes of home, ingenuity, and exploration to push the narrative.  The broader question it asks us to consider is what does it mean to love so completely that we cross boundaries of space and time?  In some ways, this movie asks us to consider philosophically, what is love and its absolute power? This question is played out in the relationship between a father and his daughter.
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Critics have said that due to the “funny science” Interstellar can’t be considered a good movie. Since when did works if fiction need to be grounded in applied science? Was Star Wars?  Do not all of the same rules apply?  If that’s the case, why the critical acclaim for Star Wars, or Alien?  Or let’s look at the genre of fantasy in which our beliefs must completely be challenged in order to dive into the narrative: The Lord of the Rings or for The Dark Knight trilogies.  This argument may in fact dissuade a physicist to enjoy the movie without breaking apart the scientific plot holes, but the average movie watcher who enjoys a good story?  Should all movies, all books, all graphic novels adhere to applied science religiously.  What then should we make of imagination and creativity?  Is the argument, then, that imagining what might be possible isn’t acceptable in art?  Where then would we be without the imagination and creativity of Richard Linklater (Boyhood) who used his imagination and creativity to create a film that broke the mold of story telling and may win the Oscar for Best Picture this year?  Maybe that is another question that is asked by this movie?  The trailer and marketing for this movie maybe said it best: “We have always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible…”
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While this movie and it’s composer Hans Zimmer were nominated by both the Golden Globes and Oscar for Original Score (it has since lost the original score at the Golden Globes to The Theory of Everything‘s Johann Johannsson – a robbery) as is the sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects, and production design.  Glaringly absent: original screenplay, directing, editing, cinematography, best actor in Matthew McConaghey as the pioneering father, Cooper, and best supporting actresses Anne Hathaway as scientist Amelia Brand and Jessica Chastain (who has been nominated for her work on A Most Violent Year) as Murphy.   Even Gravity, a movie that doesn’t even come close to Interstellar in terms of story was nominated (best picture, best actress, and a host of others) and won best director along with six other Oscars. Interstellar is being robbed by the Foreign Press (The Golden Globes) and the Academy (The Oscars), and while I would like to say I am surprised, I can’t.  It seems of late that unless the movie is a biopic, politically charged, or so full of its own self-importance that is finds itself removed from the audience, it isn’t worth the Academy’s time.  This begs the question: Who, then, are movies for if not for the audience?
While the nominations and the recipients can’t be changed, Tarzan and I make a case for Interstellar as a movie worth your time.  If you are able to see it on the big screen, take some time to do so; it won’t disappoint.  10 vines.

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