Myakka State Park, Florida 2014
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Melissa Fox Artist
I know the feeling. The one I get after booking a cool project. The money is in, contracts are signed and now it is time to get to work. I pour myself a hot cut of tea and look over my notes. I read interviews, creative briefs and brand statements. When I think I am ready, I open up a new document and get ready for the genius to flow.
The cursor then sits there. It blinks in defiance. It begs me to put down an idea. I am stuck. This happens to me at every project. Be it a painting or a script I am writing. I am both thrilled and daunted by the blank page.
"Just start," I tell myself. Even if I have the intention to throw it out later, at least it will be a beginning. So I start. I fall in love with my first few ideas and then pat myself on the back for being so clever. The words are flowing out of me until they hit a brink wall with the weight of a thousand caffinated hang overs. At this point I hate myself. I hate my ideas. My genius is stupid. I give up and walk away for an hour. No use forcing work.
I end up sleeping on it and come back to the computer renewed. This process happens a million times over the course of a project. I both fall in love my work and loathe it at every stage. That part of my work never goes away.
Editing is the worst. Watching footage can be painful. It may be my best work to date. But it might not match the high standards I have set for myself. The footage represents all the choices made on a set. Editing is the process of wrestling with those choices while still seeing the big picture. I have to let go of what could be and focus on what is. I make little happy discoveries as I go. One minute I adore it the next I curse it as rubbish.
At some point I call the work finished. I come to the conclusion that I have done the best with what I have. Months or maybe a year later I watch my work and finally aprreciate it. Creating is vulnerable. I don't think that will ever go away. I often call the same process: wrestling the beast. A blog for another day.
There is much to say about Interstellar. That muchness is still churning around my brain. (Blog does contain spoilers)
My thoughts are at war with each other. I both loved the film and wanted to roll my eyes at it at the same time. I think it will take a second viewing to sort out what that is but here are my initial thoughts.
First, I am utterly impressed with the technology of the film. It is beautiful. In all its stunning americana from corn to 1960s colored film stock it references the golden age of NASA. It harkens your soul like a little boy who dreamed of becoming an Astronaut. I am seduced by its beauty. The film technique makes me drool and I fell in love with the light and color. I was thrilled to see the use of projections instead of green screen and enjoyed its glory in 70mm.
The story elements need work. Most science fiction feels like an ideological lesson or warning about the pit falls of humanity. Interstellar is no different. Ripe with an after school special tone: The moral of the story is that love will save us all... eye roll. For a film that introduces five dimensional thinking it's characters come off as two dimensional.
The script tried to be too smart at times. (Like naming a character ironically after Murphy's Law.) There are some elements that worked. Gravity was one of them. Nothing felt more grave then the realization that a tiny mistake in space time would cost everything to our main characters. This was the best moment of the film. It was a heavy force, a terrifying realization that everything has changed and there is no going back. If I was Keanu I would say : "Whoa." This is about as far as the film goes in dimensions and emotions. Even the best of performances couldn't save the lack of subtext.
Listening to Carl Sagan's pale blue dot, one but can't help but feel small and insignificant. It fills me with wonder, sadness and a vast longing to understand my universe better. This existential crisis is a wonderful theme to explore. It strikes at the heart of the basic questions we all face in lives. Our characters in the film venture out into this unknown. I was hoping we would stay there. In that floating fleeting world of questions and space. A topic another one of my favorite science fiction films does well: Contact.
Interstellar and Contact are closely related on the comfort scale. (And not because they both share Matthew Mcconaughey.) When our main characters venture into that unknown they are greeted with familiarity. At the height of their fear they are met with family, love and peace. Half of me loved this concept and the other half rolled my eyes at the cheesy, "gee-whiz" feeling of it all. Maybe I am just not clear on what I believe the universe be.
Where Interstellar differs from Contact is that Contact leaves you to decide what you believe. I like that better then being told to swallow my moral lesson like a pill and enjoy it. In Interstellar you take the blue pill and daddy's love saves humanity. We are the aliens. We have just figured out how to evolve through time travel. In Contact we return to earth with more questions then answers. The only thing we know for sure is that we are not alone. I had hoped for an Contact like ending. I wanted to walk away with more existential questions than answers.
Instead I had questions like:
Did anyone else notice that if plan B needed to go through, that there was only one woman aboard the ship? That would make her the queen bee of the human race. Wouldn't you send up just a few more ladies in this scenario - especially if you knew your equations would never work?
Did you notice that twelve "astronaut" apostles went into space to check out planets and we ended up on "Judas'" aka Matt Damon's planet first?
What about the theory of relativity for which planets to go to first? If the data looked promising but we were receiving it as if they had just landed wouldn't you wait a bit just to make sure. Our scientists took the time explain that to us but not to themselves.
I have much respect for the science that is represented in the film. What the script lacked in character complexity it made up for in science. I wished I had known this before I went to see the film. Physics and astronomy have always fascinated me. While I am not smart enough to comprehend the math involved in the complicated equations that help explain our universe I am however fascinated by the theories and science behind them.
Ask my husband and he can attest to the hours of lectures and documentaries he has napped through while I absorb as much of the information as I can. Physics is f!%^ing amazing. This is the single redeeming factor of the film that separates it from something you can skip to something you need to see in the theater.
The science is accurate. Geekgasm! The models of the black holes in the film use actual scientific equations.
This made me want to see the film again. The science is the real character not the story we are being told. Overall I do think this is a theater experience. In 70mm the film enveloped its audience and it is a fun film to pick apart.
What did you think? Leave me some comments below.
I was surprised when this snapshot became my most popular instagram photo.
This photo was taken in five minutes. I was splitting open a pomegranate. I looked down and noticed how beautiful it was. It reminded me of a 17th century still life painting. One of my favorites from Art History. I walked the cutting board over to my sunroom and set it on the table. I took one of the paintings off my wall and put it on its side in the background. I then took a book to block the light from the right side of the frame and adjusted the blinds to give me the light I wanted. It took me a few rounds of photographs with my iPhone to get the angle and exposure I wanted. When I touched the screen at the hottest (brightest) point, I got the light quality I wanted. Click on my diagram below to see how to set this up for yourself. The book placement is the key to getting the shadows right.