Tag Archives: George Clooney

Gravity (2013)

Up until the 2014 Academy Awards, I had no interest in seeing to see Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón’s film about a botched mission to repair the Hubble Telescope. Something about the presence of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock just said “mainstream Friday night date film.” But after it did so much better than Her and American Hustle at the Oscars, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

So what’s the fuss all about?

Gravity is without a doubt an exciting and well-made movie. The visuals are stunning. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock do an excellent job in their roles as astronauts Ryan Stone and Matthew Kowalski. Gravity pulls us into the drama of Ryan Stone’s struggle to get back to earth so well that I never even stopped to ask if the film was scientifically accurate or not.

That being said, my Inner Teabagger is curious. Why was Lone Survivor, a very similar and probably better film, shut out at the Oscars? Did “liberal” Hollywood have trouble with its far-right-wing politics?

Say what you will about Lone Survivor’s reactionary, pro-war agenda, at least it wears its politics on its sleeve. Because it’s an attempt to justify a war crime, one that wasn’t in fact committed, Lone Survivor is more than just a visceral, heart pounding tale of one soldier’s escape from Afghanistan. It sets up a moral dilemma. Should the Navy Seals execute an Afghan prisoner after he discovers their position? Or should they let him go and put themselves in danger? They choose to let him go. From my point of view it was the right choice, but from Lone Survivor’s point of view it was the wrong choice, one that got Americans killed.

For Gravity, it’s all about the spectacle. It’s magnificent spectacle. But at the end I couldn’t help but wonder if I had just watched a 90 minute trailer. Cuarón pumps up the adrenaline to 11 right from the beginning and keeps it there almost to the last frame. What I suspected about Gravity turned out to be true after all. It’s a mainstream Hollywood date movie. It’s a well-made version of Transformers. It’s a roller coaster ride that doesn’t leave you with very much to chew on when it’s all over. What was it about? you ask. Not very much, you conclude.

Consider the characters of Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone and George Clooney’s Matt Kowalski Kowalski is believable as an astronaut. He’s got nerves of steel. He’s a little crazy. He likes being in space. If he dies, that means he died doing what he likes doing best. Sadly, Cuarón kills him off halfway into the film. It’s a noble act of sacrifice, but it gets rid of the stronger of the two characters. We’re left with Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone.

The problem isn’t so much Sandra Bullock as it is the script. Bullock does an excellent job, but her character isn’t a believable astronaut. First of all, we never get the sense that she really wants to be in outer space. You don’t get chosen to man (or person) the space shuttle unless you really want it, and want it bad. Bullock is a Doctor. Her character would have made perfect sense as a NASA employee in Houston. But what’s she doing fixing The Hubble Telescope? Yes, she’s a “medical engineer” but the idea of what exactly she’s doing is never quite elaborated. Then there’s her training. Once again, you don’t go up on the space shuttle until you’ve worked through every potential issue so many times that acting on it is more like instinct than conscious behavior. So why does she have to consult the convenient “Soyuz for Dummies” manuals conveniently left lying around in English once she boards the Russian space station? Finally, there’s Ryan Stone’s personality. She’s suffering from unresolved grief over her daughter’s death in a playground accident several years before. Surely NASA would have figured that out and either helped her work through it or gotten someone else for the job. In Gravity, she’s the sole survivor. So when she loses heart and briefly considers killing herself, the only life she risks is her own. In reality, she would have been a weak link who put the whole crew in danger.

The effect is oddly sexist. We, along with Ryan Stone, miss Matt Kowalski’s comforting, patriarchal authority. Ryan Stone, soccer mom in space, passively leans on Kowalski’s ghost as sure as the audience leans on Cuarón’s direction. Unlike Lone Survivor, Gravity doesn’t bring us along on the mission. It straps us in for the ride. Indeed, Gravity squanders even its potential as a recruiting tool for NASA and the space program. Once Ryan Stone makes it back to earth, we’re happy for her. We never want to go back to outer space again, even in a movie.

Monuments Men (2014)

I have, in my life, in circumstances voluntary and involuntary, seen in its entirety, the film You Got Served three times.

Monuments Men is the worst film I have ever seen in my life.

In the dark theater I took out the Elvis biography I had in my bag and wrote a list in the blank endpapers of medical procedures I remembered as being more compelling and enjoyable than Monuments Men. The list included but was not limited to:

-Wisdom tooth removal

-Cavity drilling

-Wart removal

In an earlier draft of this essay I called Monuments Men “sad old man porn” but reconsidered this on remembering that pornography has on occasion been competently framed and effective in its aims. Monuments Men is a film about men who risked their lives to save stolen art in WWII. I’d like to apologize here to the honorable men and women who make great bodily sacrifices to bring us pornography.

Some might complain this review lacks specific details about the film. But when someone tells them “I just got herpes” do they ask for specific details and analysis? No. This film is herpes. These readers are hypocrites.

George Clooney should not have a body. His voice should be computer generated and only employed in car commercials. But we do not live in a fair and equitable world.

Did I ever think one of my most deeply seated regrets in this life would be triggered by the question “Why didn’t I see The Lego Movie instead?” No. No one ever expects tragedy to happened to them. But it happened. As Beckett said: I can’t go on. I must go on.

Later that evening I ate a chicken burrito that was better than the film Monuments Men.


After being put under much pressure to actually engage with the film, though it is herpes and if I engage with it I risk some of that rubbing off on me, I suppose I’ll take the risk just to shut you up. I love you all that much, dear readers. Why did Monuments Men suck so much? Let me count the ways…

1) Dialogue that was schmaltzy in the extreme and repeated itself in the manner of a dog circling its own vomit (a metaphor I stole from a professor whose name I can’t remember. I think he’d call this is a justified use.)
2) Framing that was incompetent to exactly the degree where no joy could even be derived from the incompetence.
3) George Clooney.
4) George Clooney.
5) Cate Blanchett’s accent I would describe as laughable but then I remember I didn’t laugh. I was just thoroughly unimpressed by it.
6) Plentiful montages assembled with the same finesse and deep consideration one employs when arranging the rotted months old left overs cluttering the back of their refrigerator in a trash bag.