Thursday, October 10, 2013


seen @ AMC Loews Fresh Meadows 7, Fresh Meadows, Queens, NY

It was nice to see the response - on Twitter, if no place else - about the news that the Voyager 1 probe left the Milky Way galaxy. (Whether it will evolve into an artificial life form and return to Earth searching for its creator remains to be seen.) Once upon a time, exploring outer space was a much bigger deal than it is now. Sure, it initially had to do, in part, with keeping up with the Soviets, but the way JFK pitched it to the American people in 1962, it seemed like a holy calling:
...We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.
I feel that exploring space is more than just a cool thing to do; it's something we seriously need to work on. As people keep on procreating at a ridiculous rate, we're gonna use up Earth's resources quicker and quicker. Plus, I don't need to explain to you how climate change has become a Thing. Simply put, we need someplace else to live, and soon. So we gotta figure out how to start colonizing the moon, and maybe Mars. And that means we gotta get back into exploring space again.

The problem is, though, that nobody in a position of authority is really standing up for space exploration the way Kennedy did. Has it fallen out of fashion, politically speaking? I think perhaps it has. It's easy to imagine someone thinking something along the lines of "Who cares about space exploration when we can't even agree on what constitutes proper health care?" Short-term goals with a more immediate payoff are always gonna seem more pressing to a politician, especially when you've got one eye towards getting re-elected.

Fortunately, there are individuals outside the political sphere who are thinking bigger. 100 Year Starship, for example, is a group dedicated to getting humanity back on the space exploration track within the next century, and they don't just mean to the moon or Mars; they're talking other star systems. They've held symposia where they've laid out their ideas and they've been written up in the world media, and while it's still early days yet, a lot can happen in 100 years.

But space exploration is a difficult undertaking, to say the very least. As a certain country doctor once said, "space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence" - it's completely inhospitable to life and one mistake can cost you everything if you're not careful. Which brings us to the film Gravity.

Everything you've heard about it is true. Everything you've read about Sandra Bullock's performance, the physical stress it required of her, the visual effects, the way it looks in 3D, the cinematography (they go from outside Bullock's spacesuit to right inside her helmet and back out again!), how nerve-wracking it can be to watch, all of it, it's all true.

True true true.

But it's so much more as well.

This movie has gotten people talking about space travel again. Unlike fine movies like Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff, this isn't a movie that commemorates past accomplishments in space travel. It's an original story that puts us back out into the final frontier without the presence of alien invaders or phasers or lightsabers or any of that stuff we generally associate with movies set in outer space. 

We've gotten so used to seeing movies like that over the years, that it has become easy to forget that, in real-world terms, all that gee-whiz technology, those spaceships and stuff, they don't just magically happen. They take time to develop and they require a lot of brave people taking risks - often big ones, sometimes life-or-death ones, like Bullock's character in Gravity

And I think if there's one thing that we can take away from this monumental film achievement with regard to the future of space exploration, it's that yeah, it's dangerous, it's scary, it's unpredictable, but in the end, the only ones that can stop us from pursuing it... is us.

I almost didn't get to see this monumental film achievement. I like the AMC at Fresh Meadows, but now it seems like every time I go there, something happens. Check this out: I got there about five minutes before showtime with a medium-sized crowd in attendance, but there's only audio coming from the usual pre-show bullshit. This goes on for longer than it should, so I went out to find an usher to complain to, and she said they'd take care of the problem.

Fifteen more minutes or so later and we were still waiting for someone to take care of the problem. Eventually the usher comes into the auditorium and tells us the projector is screwed up or something and they're gonna have to move us into another auditorium (a smaller one) to show the movie. The audience was surprisingly understanding about the whole thing. It helped greatly that we were all given passes to a free admission, plus free popcorn and soda, as compensation. The usher was joking around with people as she gave the passes out and the crowd was just as light-hearted about it. You'd think this sort of thing happened every day.

So eventually the movie starts in the alternate auditorium (sans trailers). The house lights go out. The first shot is of Earth from space, with the space shuttle slowly coming into view, but it's all quiet. This is the first we're all seeing of the movie, so we're not sure whether or not it's supposed to be this way, but then we see George Clooney spacewalking, and though his lips are moving, we can't hear what he's saying. The film is still messed up.

Now the audience is not quite so understanding anymore. A couple of people storm outside to complain as others start grumbling and moving around in their seats. I have yet to put on my 3D glasses.

Suddenly the sound comes on in the middle of the opening scene. We try to readjust to the movie, but then the film cuts out. An usher yells that whoever's in the projection booth is gonna restart from the beginning. And finally, the movie plays as it should, picture and sound in perfect synchronicity.

Now, this is certainly not the first time the Fresh Meadows has shown 3D movies, and I don't think the viewing requirements for Gravity are any different than those for, say, your average DreamWorks animated 3D movie, so I couldn't tell you what the deal was here. I did get to see the movie and I got some free swag out of it as well, so I can't complain too much, but it seems like I always do have something to gripe about whenever I go to an AMC in general (even when it's not my fault). Can't say it pleases me.

So what movie should I use this free stuff for?


  1. Bummer about your viewing experience Rich, heck even with the swags you do have every reason to complain! Did you like the film itself though? I don't even mind seeing it again, though I have sooo much going on this month that I probably just rent it later.

  2. I loved it. I guess I didn't make that entirely clear, did I?


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