November 10, 2014

10 Things to Discuss After Seeing 'Interstellar'

Interstellar poster
Did you see Interstellar this weekend? Let's talk about it.

I'm an unabashed Christopher Nolan fan, and while I've written here about Batman BeginsInceptionThe Dark Knight, and my favorite film of Nolan's, The Prestige, this is not a review. We don't do reviews in the traditional sense at No Film School because I don't believe it is a filmmaker's job to criticize the work of a peer — not that Nolan is a peer to any of us, as he's operating at his own level — but I often find criticism to be based on assumptions. When a critic attributes a film's shortcomings to the screenwriter, for example, what if unbeknownst to the critic it was heavily rewritten by the director? A DP may have carried a lot of weight for an insecure director. The producers may have had their film re-cut by the studio after audience testing. An uncredited writer may have been responsible for pivotal changes. An editor may have pieced together a heralded performance in the edit room. If you weren't there, you don't know! 

Watching a film as a filmmaker is different from watching a film as a critic. We watch the work of other filmmakers to learn from each other, to try to discern what did and didn't work for us (and why), to reflect on our emotional response, and to talk about the story, structure, craft, and meaning of a film. One of the reasons I started this site was to have an elevated conversation about movies — more elevated than what I felt I was able to have with my friends at the time. So let's do that with Interstellar — only if you've already seen it (spoiler alert!). Let's talk about:

1. The first act

As many know, Interstellar was originally developed as a film for Steven Spielberg, and the on-the-nose sentiments in the opening act had me worried that the entire film was going to feel like it was done in a "Nolan does Spielberg" voice. Thankfully, as soon as the characters take off, the film does too. Was it just me? Did the film feel especially uneven, and awkwardly paced (possibly just by trying to cover so much ground) in the first act?

2. The (written) dialogue

Nolan's films generally take place in a heightened reality where every line feels like it was written, as opposed to approximating how people actually speak (as seen in the work of filmmakers like Cassavetes, or any number of "mumblecore" films). To me the lines are often too perfect, in that I feel like I'm listening to Nolan using his characters as mouthpieces to address the themes of the film directly, as opposed to a film like 2001​ where you are left to do much more of the interpretation on your own. Would a studio put up nine figures to make a more ambiguous film like 2001 today? No. This is as close as we get, and frankly, I'm surprised that Warner Brothers and Paramount made this film in its current form... but I'm glad they did.

3. The (unheard?) dialogue

I couldn't hear a lot of the dialogue, and reports of this are widespread. Do you buy that it was a creative choice to have the ever-present Hans Zimmer score and/or rumble of spacecraft drown out the dialogue in the mix? Did it detract from your enjoyment of the film?

4. The box office

In the New York Times profile of Nolan, Gideon Lewis-Kraus writes of the director:

His loyalists have consistently and strenuously defended him against critics who claim that although he may be a masterful technician, he’s not a visionary or true auteur. Regardless of the visionary question, however, it’s pretty much impossible to think of a film that grossed more than a billion dollars and is better than “The Dark Knight” — or, to think of it in the way that Nolan prefers, a better film that was seen, so many times over, by so many people.

It’s also hard to see how “Interstellar” won’t make another billion-plus dollars and thus deepen Nolan’s mystique as the one studio director who’s not a studio hack, as the solitary Hollywood icon who somehow does enormous, surprising, profitable things his own way.

Interstellar is undeniably a blockbuster, and was certainly budgeted as such (with a reported budget in the $165-200 million range). But it is also a movie for adults, in an industry currently dominated by "four-quadrant" or kid-oriented films. Look no further than this weekend's box office results, where Interstellar came in at #2 in the U.S., behind Disney's Big Hero 6. Of Nolan's own films, this opening ranks seventh, after The Prestige. While Interstellar doesn't have the franchise recognition of Nolan's Batman films, and should never have been expected to surpass his comic book movies, it also does not seem to have as broad an appeal as his more action-oriented film Inception, his other recent original IP. Will this affect Nolan's ability to get future original IPs off the ground, or at least force him to use slightly lower budgets? We'll see. Thankfully, the rest of the world made Interstellar #1. But the New York Times' assertion that it's "hard to see how “Interstellar” won’t make another billion-plus dollars" may prove to be false. Gravity had a larger opening, and a 3D ticket surcharge to boost it, and has topped out at (an amazing) $716 million.

5. The "franchise unto himself"

Warner Brothers has to be happy about the international box office for the film, given how much they gave up to get the rights. From The Guardian's profile (also embedded as audio above):

The deal that Paramount and Warner Bros negotiated was anomalous to say the least. For the right to distribute Interstellar internationally, Warner Bros traded the rights for two of their franchises, Friday the 13th and South Park, plus “a to-be-determined A-list Warners property”, while its subsidiary, Legendary, agreed to trade Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for a further piece of the pie... For Warner Bros to hand over the rights to two of its well-known properties, representing money in the bank, for the opportunity to take a spin on an original idea – a film with no sequel potential and few merchandising opportunities, based on the dimly understood recesses of quantum physics – speaks both to the value placed by the studios on Nolan, and also the extent to which he has become a franchise unto himself.

6. The structure (of space-time)

Interstellar timeline diagram
Interstellar Timeline version 1 from stoifics42 on Nolanfans (sto-ifics42 on Reddit).Credit: Reddit

7. The 70mm (and film in general)

Following our post about where to see Interstellar on 70mm film, I saw it at the Ziegfeld theater in New York City — the last large single-screen theater in Manhattan — projected in 70mm (Lincoln Square's 70mm IMAX presentation, which I'm sure is superior, was sold out). And guess what? The top third of the screen was out of focus for the first ten minutes. My friend went to tell the projectionist and they eventually fixed it, but this should not happen, especially for a single-screen theater. You had one job. And while I've experienced problems in plenty of theaters featuring digital projection as well, anecdotally I have endured a lot more problems and human error for films projected on actual film. 

One projection lens error notwithstanding — and I'm sure many will disagree with this — I was not hugely impressed with how the film looked... on film. This is not to say I was not impressed with how the film looked! That's not what I'm saying — what I'm saying is that I don't know that I gained a lot by seeing it on celluloid. This is not to say that 70mm and film in general is not a great format for acquisition, but the last two times I saw a film projected in 70mm I walked away disappointed, per my high expectations (The Master being the other recent release). Maybe I'll have to go to the Lincoln Square screen to see Interstellar a second time, in IMAX, to compare it to Gravity's digital depiction of space — but I do not agree with Quentin Tarantino that digital projection as a travesty, and at this point I would rather see a film on a great 4K digital projector than projected on 35mm film. The problem is, despite a surge in 4K cameras and projectors, most post pipelines and deliverables are still 2K. But that's a problem for another day...

8. The plot holes

I haven't read these yet, but eat your heart out if that's your thing.

9. The brothers' approach to co-writing

I've often wondered what the working relationship is like among the Brothers Nolan, and this THR interview offers some insights into how Jonathan "Jonah" Nolan works:

Jonah, you make movies with your older brother, Christopher Nolan, directing, and your sister-in-law, Emma Thomas, producing. How does that dynamic impact the filmmaking process?

NOLAN There's no politics. No bullshit. You just create. Famously in Hollywood, your friends stab you in the chest. If you can trust the people you collaborate with the most, then hopefully you can reach for that higher level with the material.

What happens when you get rewritten by your brother?

NOLAN It's a conversation. (Laughs.) I grew up with him watching movies, thinking about movies and always understanding movies. I think of film as a director's medium, with no disrespect to the writing aspect of it, but it's f—ing light in a box.

He goes on to talk about their "serial" collaboration, which is to say that Jonah is writing the next film while his brother is off directing the current one, and then he hands off a script and Chris revises it on his own — they are not in the same room co-writing. Chris always does the last pass before going into production.

10. The significance of the ending

Is the ending that we experience in the film what actually happens, or is it the manifestation of what Matt Damon's character, Dr. Mann, foreshadows earlier: that the last thing a dying person sees is their children? Via CinemaBlend:

I think Matthew McConaughey’s character, Cooper, dies after he ejects out of his craft and floats off into outer space. And I think the events that take place after that ejection – including the Morse Code Bookshelf and the "reunion" with Future Murph (Ellen Burstyn) -- are nothing more than manifestations of a death dream… images that are flashing before his eyes as he’s dying, or after he’s already dead. 

I just made it through a list of "ten things to discuss" without even talking about the themes of the story, the cinematography, or the cast... but really I just wanted to get the conversation started. TL;DR version: what did you think of Interstellar    

Your Comment

70 Comments

For once a film that, in my eyes at least, bridges that often missed element in science fiction films, a connection between emotion and science.

The question that has lingered in my mind for a very long time now, a question that came after discovering I'm a confirmed atheist (and a happy one at that, so please don't try to convince me otherwise :o), is this. Can there a be a link between thought and feeling and what we call quantum effects? This question is now very important since religion has ultimately failed to provide any evidence otherwise of the supernatural or the existence of things "unseen". So there now exists a gap and this question asks is there anything that fills that gap. Interstellar kind of tries to answer it and it's a fantastic attempt to do so, one I hugely enjoyed.

Think for a minute what humans have achieved. In an incredibly short time we have discovered a language, mathematics, that not only has revealed the breadth and scope of our universe but is beginning to reveal other things that are truly astonishing. Theories that glimpse into before the creation of our universe. Ideas that there existed ten realities, called membranes and our universe was created by two of them colliding. That just makes me....speechless. But mathematics lacks emotion and psychology, the very stuff that makes us what we are. We need other languages to investigate that and stories are one of the best. Film is a meta language. It's the language of meaning.

So here's the rub. Either language, thought, emotion, mean nothing or somehow they are connected and at a fundamental level. The very fact that our minds, individual or hive, have managed to investigate those very depths, to me automatically means there is a relationship, however subtle.

Exploration of space will probably not get us there. Understanding 'mind' just might.

November 10, 2014 at 9:08AM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1701

I fully agree with what you said. I think what your saying is shown well in the speech Brand makes about love telling her what to do. In her desperation and fear after having calculated the time dilation numbers wrong (should have been less than 23 years) she considers the possibility of love of being something more that can be explained by science (the same sentiment is made by Cooper in the black hole) as it is the only gut feeling inside of her that pushes her after her science had failed her.

I think the reason why some people didn't get it is because we are so used to the "fact" that love simply cannot be explained by science and when that shows up in a film it immediately seems pretentious. Nolan is a smart filmmaker and for someone who is often described as being cold and clinical, I don't think he would have used the idea unless he was trying to consider something that most people would shun away from.

We really need to consider the idea of our emotions being explained by science.

November 10, 2014 at 9:46AM, Edited November 10, 9:46AM

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I think that the ending is real in the sense of the movie and the audience is meant to look at the significance of the events. After Cooper enters the black hole, we aren't meant to take it too literally in the sense that this actually happens and there is no meaning nor is it strictly meant to be a dream, but his whole ordeal ties in with the theme of a father seeing his daughter grow up (i.e. the contrast of seeing her as a child in the black hole and as an old woman on her death bed). Then the last bit of him going off with TARS echoes the idea from 2001 of humanity taking the next step (i.e. from the monolith on earth to the one on the Moon).

Additionally, Nolan only uses the science to convey a sense of reality of interstellar travel so that we may become more involved in the story. The film isn't meant to be 100% accurate in terms of science. The last bit highlights the power of film in that it uses the reality of space travel shown in the film to evoke certain emotions in the audience even though the events don't seem realistic. It allows us to make our own interpretation in the same way as 2001 without explicitly (relatively) saying: "Hey, this is where you interpret." Much like 2001, Interstellar is a film (as a whole) that makes you feel something rather than tell you how to respond.

Like Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said the film "blends the cosmic and the intimate".

This is simply my interpretation and others may see it differently. I just hope this gives you another perspective on the film

November 10, 2014 at 9:30AM

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I was impressed by Interstellar. So impressed I sat down and wrote a sort of a review - comparative study - commentary cross-over. I mostly address story issues, but in a time when most films are devoid or have very limited stories, I think it's crucial to give more attention to good story telling when it is needed. Here's a link to my review. Comments and critiques are welcome: https://medium.com/@tenthirteen/interstellar-a-promise-a94426299fae

November 10, 2014 at 9:47AM

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Andrei-Cristian Murgescu
Freelance Motion Graphics Designer / Director
108

The black hole and the tesseract ACTUALLY happened. If they didn't humanity couldn't be saved. That's the short explanation. I'm happy to give you the long explanation should you request or push me to do so.

November 13, 2014 at 6:23PM

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Sorry if i didn't explain it well enough. I agree with you, the black hole and tesseract stuff did happen but the audience is meant to look at the emotional significance of the events as opposed to taking it at face value. I don't think saying that the ending was a dream really helps or affects what the movie tries to convey.

November 16, 2014 at 2:15PM

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11. Amount of 'soft' shots in the film with that big of a budget is ridiculous

November 10, 2014 at 9:52AM, Edited November 10, 9:52AM

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I noticed a lot of soft focus, too. I imagine the IMAX format isn't very forgiving on focus and it takes a ton of light to get any depth of field, and every tiny error is magnified on a six story screen. That's probably why all the wide IMAX shots looked great, but closeups not so much.

November 10, 2014 at 11:33AM

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Chuck McDowell
1st AC
443

A downside of shooting on film - you can see focus on big HD monitor.

November 10, 2014 at 4:13PM

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Stu Mannion
writer/dir/dp
745

They've made HD monitoring for film cameras since the early 2000's I believe. The Arricams and the later cameras from them had it as well.

November 11, 2014 at 12:51AM

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Peter Phillips
Filmmaker
633

Too bad all of them are utter shit in comparison. Nowhere near a pristine HD feed out of any modern digital camera.

Film has pretty sweet grain texture, still.

November 11, 2014 at 5:39AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1485

Don't comment on what you obviously don't know anything about. I work in film and have worked as an AC for many years (amongst other positions).

REAL ACs don't use monitors. You can't if you want to pull focus in time. REAL ACs use SCIENCE, they know the depth of field of their lenses and test them extensively before checking out camera equipment. Then when pulling focus they look at the scene and directly at the lens markings. Using their peripheries they gauge the distance of the subject and pull according to the markings on the lens to achieve good focus in time and seamlessly.

Monitors are only for directors and producers to see playback at video village. Any monitor on a celluloid camera is merely there for quality control purposes. They aren't used when the crew is in a take.

November 13, 2014 at 6:28PM, Edited November 13, 6:28PM

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lol. Dude you don't exactly sound like you know what you are talking about either. I use a monitor on every shoot. I haven't met another AC in the past 6 years who doesn't use a monitor. Its just another tool to help you do your job. Going off your logic cinetape and the sniper are also useless because you have to look at the distance read out. I guess you don't use those either? Either you are a 65 year old dinosaur or you are a wanna be flexing their nuts and trying to sound cool on the internet. Monitors aren't used when the crew is in a take? haha ok.

November 15, 2014 at 5:16PM

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Jerome Stolly
1st. Assistant Camera
332

There was maybe 1 "soft shot". Coop sitting on the porch drinking beer talking to his father in law before he leaves. It isn't the 1st AC's fault here guys its the DMR process of blowing up the 35mm to 70mm for IMAX. The same issue was all over the dark knight rises...especially the close ups of bane during the fight in the sewer but look at it on blu ray and it is tack sharp.

When you see a movie in IMAX 15/70 its kinda tricky...see you are watching film but for the parts filmed in 35mm you are actually watching a copy of a copy. They have to take the 35mm and digitize it. Then blow it up digitally. Then transfer it back to film. Sometimes this looks great sometimes it looks terrible. The Indiana Jones DMR they released a few years ago looked terrible. If you saw that you'd think the whole movie didn't have one in focus shot and was full of noise.

The only other shot I can think of is Professor Brand dying but after my second viewing you can clearly see the bridge of his nose is sharp and is acceptable over to his back eye. Obviously Hoytema is working wide open here and on anamorphic glass. To get that tight on anamorphic you need to be on a really long lense (100mm or more) and be pretty close to talent. There was like an inch of tack sharp focus and probably looked acceptable to Noaln in the edit bay. It was a dramatic scene and there was probably a tack sharp take but nolan went with the slightly soft take due to performance (I hate when that happens...and it always does haha).

Other than that I can't think of anything that wasn't (to my guess) the fault of the DMR. I'm seeing it again in standard 5 perf 70mm this weekend so I'll be able to tell then since the optical blow up verse the digital blow up should hold way more detail.

ALSO shots are out of focus in movies ALL THE TIME. Always have been always will be. The Hunger Games (which was film) to Birdman (which was digital) there are soft shots in movies of all budget sizes.

November 10, 2014 at 10:56PM

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Jerome Stolly
1st. Assistant Camera
332

Most of the science was realistic, according to Neil DeGrasse Tyson (who trashed Gravity). The only bit that everyone seems to agree is unscientific is Coop traveling through a black hole. Science at the moment suggests he would be shredded spaghetti.

November 10, 2014 at 9:58AM

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More like compacted to the size of a spec of dust, but yeah.

November 10, 2014 at 11:36AM

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Chuck McDowell
1st AC
443

The very same DeGrasse Tyson suggested that Black Holes may be the interdimensional portals or universes within universes or something completely unexpected in "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" documentary which aired on NatGeo.

But then again, Neil is an effective twitter troll.

November 11, 2014 at 5:44AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1485

This is an interesting link if you've seen the film and want to scare yourself with some hardcore mathematical physics, where a Ph.D. in the subject examines and defends the science throughout: http://ikjyotsinghkohli24.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/on-the-science-of-int...

November 12, 2014 at 9:45AM

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I loved Interstellar. I don't want to comment on most of your points, but I agree with points 1, 3 & 7.

#1: I think the first act seems awkwardly paced because it was cut for time. I saw it in 70mm IMAX last Tuesday (also in a sold-out theater), and they explained that the entire film was trimmed as much as possible because they couldn't fit another foot of film on the plates for projection (which is always why the credits are so brief).

#3: I also couldn't hear a lot of the dialog, but I thought it might have been where I was sitting (2nd row center). I heard laughter around me during those scenes, so I assumed the mix was imperfect from my location. Perhaps that wasn't the case.

#7: I have to agree with you here. It did look incredible, but not by as much of a margin over digital projection as I had hoped. I'm going to back to see it this weekend (in a 4K IMAX theater), and I'll solidify my opinion then. But like you, I also disagree with Tarantino – as much as I'd like to agree with him.

November 10, 2014 at 10:02AM

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Ben Yonker
Cinematographer
79

So, basically 10 negative things to talk about the film. The positives completely outweigh the negatives for me.

Plus #10? That's impossible. That doesn't explain how he knocked the books over, planted the watch there after tweaking it, and grabbing Amelia's hand in space, etc.

November 10, 2014 at 11:05AM

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Will Watkins
Cinematographer // Editor
258

Agreed on point 10. I do like the suggestion that it is us in a some kind of dimensional ever existent present/past/future that builds a 3D construct within a black hole just so that this "loop" remain unbroken. Where we go as a race is going to be one hell of a ride...if we survive.

November 10, 2014 at 12:01PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1701

If I didn't like the film, I wouldn't have written about it. And while many of these are nitpicky, to characterize all 10 as "basically negative" is false.

November 10, 2014 at 3:20PM

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Gotcha. Okay, I won't say all of them are negative. ;)
From my perspective, I went in to the movie knowing I would see flickering, softer shots, dust and scratches, and all the expected things of viewing a film on film. The giant 70mm IMAX experience for me was breath-taking. The fact that they used miniatures for a majority of the film blew me away.

November 11, 2014 at 9:02AM

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Will Watkins
Cinematographer // Editor
258

I think the fact that you took the time to post a discussion about this film specifically shows just how much Nolan effects a community like this one. I personally loved the film for the experience, so much so that I really don't care about the "flaws" that critics always seem to find.

He takes you places no other filmmaker seems to have the power too.

November 10, 2014 at 11:29AM

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Alex Smith
Documentary/Cinematographer
1378

I have to agree on the "mouthpieces" argument. It's characteristic to his style, and one of the main reasons why all his films (except maybe Memento and Insomnia) are somewhat cold and distant, always managing to dazzle and fascinate me as far as plot, cinematography, and direction go, but somehow lacking in the "real emotional connection/empathy towards characters" department. It's why we loved TDK so much, because of one really good character(we all know which one), that somehow WORKED, in the sense that it was far more alive and colorful, and with a totally different acting registry than all the other characters (not just in that movie, but pretty much in all of Nolan's films), yet also did tie in well with the plot and dark universe.

Also, I must admit that the portrait interviews that Nolan claims to have stolen from Warren Beatty's Reds didn't really do it for me. They seemed slapped there, without really adding that much to the story. Sure, it was meant, along with other techniques, like the cameras physically set on the spaceship, to give a sense of NASA-documentary realism, but it felt like a somewhat half-assed job.

But surely Interstellar is a good movie, maybe even a great movie, with its "awesome, intriguing, beauty factor" clearly outweighing the flaws.

November 10, 2014 at 12:32PM

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Cosmin Gurau
Director
370

More people have reported back to me that they shed a tear or two at Interstellar. Nobody I know said this about TDK.

November 10, 2014 at 12:49PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1701

In my opinion (which I'm sure is going to be unpopular) Christopher Nolan is hugely overrated. He his most certainly an exceptional technician and definitely not a visionary and I think it's only the fact that his end product is a little bit different from the norm that makes people gush over his films.

Ultimately I think he makes slightly intelligent films (for slightly intelligent people) that flatter to deceive an element of depth. There's not a single one of his films (that I've seen) that has enough going on it to make me watch it a second time.

Also it would be really cool if after I've written a comment and have to log in I'm brought back to the comment rather than taken to my profile page.

November 10, 2014 at 12:37PM

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Studio LAX
Editor/Producer/Director
406

"Also it would be really cool if after I've written a comment and have to log in I'm brought back to the comment rather than taken to my profile page."

Doesn't happen to me...so far. I'm on OSX and FIrefox if that makes a difference.

November 10, 2014 at 12:51PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1701

Thanks for the inof, happens to me on two separate computers and I'm on Firefox as well but on Windows 8, maybe it's NoScript or Dnblocker that's doing it.

Wonder how many down votes that'll get me.

November 15, 2014 at 12:25PM

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Studio LAX
Editor/Producer/Director
406

I'm inclined to agree with you. I found the film a frustrating mix of interesting ideas and clunky direction... (you heard me).

Once in space we should have stayed in space. The cross-cutting with sentimental 'emotional bits' on earth took me out of it when I wanted so badly to be in it. Great production design for the most part, great visuals, mostly solid acting (Michael Caine was miscast) but the editing, score and direction didn't allow me to feel the awe that I should have at the amazing things that were happening.

The score was pedestrian and underwhelming (compare it to the amazing score for Gravity) and in the end the film didn't feel as profound as it wanted to be.

Did anyone else think the robot was ridiculous from an engineering perspective? There's no way it could move around like it did.

My favourite critics at The Guardian nailed it in the first part of their movie show review this week.

I did respect the use of miniatures and old-school special effects rather than CGI - that was very impressive - but as a sci-fi fan I wanted it to captivate me, and mostly it didn't.

November 11, 2014 at 4:27PM

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Stu Mannion
writer/dir/dp
745

my thoughts exactly about the robot. The most painful thing to see was to see the robot reaching out his broomstick-hand for the joystick, so it can guide the spaceship towards Endurance. I mean..he can do back-flips in water without grinding that chick to death, he can calculate trajectories, even tell jokes..yet he doesn't have a freakin USB or bluetooth. Also, I'm wondering if anyone has ever read a single word from those monitors that were consuming its battery with no good reason.

January 6, 2015 at 6:15AM

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I have great respect for Nolan as a filmmaker. His meteoric rise in the industry is inspiring for any practicing director, as it shows that talent, wisdom and perseverance can get you to places where you can make big budgeted dream projects.

Spoilers follow :)

I was ready to be challenged and awed by Interstellar, but it fell way short of my hopes. As with most movies I don't connect with, the problems lie in the script first and foremost. The dialogue felt awkward and forced in many places (at least when you could hear the dialogue under the thundering sound mix). Themes were presented using stiff and sometimes unearned dialogue rather than using visuals. Also, the most powerful emotional moments in the film came from characters who were crying. Lots of crying in this flick.

The middle section severely tested my mental investment. The Mann character was badly realized, a psychologically damaged individual who expresses his flaws using terrible on the nose dialogue rather than wearing it on his face. I'm not sure if Damon even had to act.

The scene with the incessant crescendo of Zimmer's (amazing but ear blasting) organ score, Mann's interminable monologue about survival and subsequent Sunshine-inspired fight, Nolan's intercutting between the ice planet and earth, felt like an unearned and totally forced rise in tension. And it felt like it lasted forever (maybe Nolan's way of bringing relativity directly to the audience?). The following docking scene, a thrilling sequence, was undermined by all this, as it ended up serving more like a relief in tension when it should have been a nail-biting moment of suspense.

The 5th dimension bookcase scene was the most unscientific, but this scene brought me back to the film. It was creative, touching and visually powerful. I wish the film had more of this.

The moments of awe came purely from the visuals. The Gargantua black hole was stunning in IMAX. I can understand that for those who are not yet familiar with the concepts of time dilation and extra dimensions, that those scenes of exposition pack a wondrous punch. But Nolan basically took those concepts from science and put them in the mouths of his characters (until the last scene with Murph). His portrayal of time dilation was way more effective in Inception, and he had fun with it (synchronizing different timescapes using kicks, etc.). It just seems like Interstellar could have benefited from more abstract visuals (as in the bookcase scene). Clocks, timelapses, slow motion, etc... The only clock/watch was used as a plot device that didn't really make much sense.

One could go on about the questionable science, but for a movie I think that's excusable in order to emphasize cinematic experience. But Nolan seems to set the bar high in that regard. The time dilation on the watery planet is so extreme that the planet should have been torn to shreds by the amount of gravity that requires. But I guess the impact of seeing Romily 23 years older was worth the oversight...

In Nolan's past movies, specifically Memento and Inception, the narrative form directly influences the subject matter. It seemed like Interstellar was a prime candidate for such treatment, but it was stitched together very conventionally. To me, this was some of Nolan's weakest directing work (given his stellar filmography, this isn't much of an indictment). But I thought of Gone Girl, where it felt throughout the film that an invisible hand - Fincher's - was firmly guiding the audience. The twists were earned as opposed to being in their own service. In Aronofsky's The Fountain we have recurring visual motifs, whereas in Interstellar we have recurring dialogue with the Dylan Thomas poem, which came across as a naked attempt to manipulate the audience into a sense of meaning.

I was disappointed in Interstellar, but I'm glad Nolan was able to make this film. We need more films like this. Please go see it in IMAX if you can. We need to show the money people that films like this are worth it and to keep the format / exhibition alive. (Although I found it quite ironic that the absolute silence of the space scenes were interrupted by the running projector in the back of the theatre :)

And I will still be there opening weekend for the next Nolan venture.

November 10, 2014 at 1:01PM

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Jon du Toit
Writer / Director
249

If we use science to criticise 2001 Space Odyssey, the black obelisk is pure fantasy and not sustainable. I wonder why people often pull apart a science fiction film based on current knowledge of science. Have you forgotten the fiction part? The 3D library is supposed to be a construct of intelligent origin, same as the black obelisk in 2001. Many aspects of Interstellar may not fit current scientific thinking but that's not the point. Almost all science fiction films break scientific rules, that's half the fun!

November 11, 2014 at 2:42AM, Edited November 11, 2:42AM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1701

That the clock didn't make sense.... I was waiting for that to show up.

I think that little detail almost deserves its own thread, because its touching a subject that humans in general could benefit a lot from understanding or working out.

To me "doesn't make sense" means that there is something I can feel on an intuitive level is true, but I do not have the language to put it into human words.
It brings on the whole idea of how a 1 dimensional being can't understand a 2 dimensional that can't understand a 3 dimensional that can't understand....
But I willing to accept and entertain the idea, it just feels right.

Do we need to find out, to prove it? I'm not sure we do... I think sometimes the proof itself will almost magically appear simply from accepting it.

Energy on its most basic level holds much more secrets than we currently know or understand.

November 11, 2014 at 2:45AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
884

Even Nolan admits his films are held to a "weirdly high standard", and granted I'm probably picking too many nits in my response. At least his films provoke lively and for the most part thoughtful discussion.

I'm totally OK with flexible science in films. The marketing kind of set the standard high for accurate science in a film, but a movie is a movie. It probably still is the most scientifically plausible major film out there.

My issues were with plot and form, mainly in the middle act which I'm sorry to say I really disliked. The watch thing didn't work for me on a logical or intuitive level either. If it did for you, that's awesome because then you got more out of it than me.

Nolan has a rock solid filmography, so I'm sure he will continue to be kept to a weirdly high standard. And that's something to be proud of. Always anticipating the next film in his career...

November 11, 2014 at 11:59AM, Edited November 11, 11:59AM

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Jon du Toit
Writer / Director
249

"Themes were presented using stiff and sometimes unearned dialogue rather than using visuals"

A very common mistake and problem in Nolan's films (especially in Inception) rendering them difficult to engage with.

November 15, 2014 at 12:28PM

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Studio LAX
Editor/Producer/Director
406

Can't say I was impressed with the IMAX screening myself. It generally looked darker (to the point where McConaughey's tanned visage was hard to read at times) and would flicker brighter for a frame every minute or so. You'd get the occasional bug land on Hathaway's face, etc.

Saw Birdman right after in boring old digital projection and it was vibrant, sharp, and absolutely gorgeous (which no doubt is credit to everyone from the DP to the colorist).

November 10, 2014 at 4:14PM, Edited November 10, 4:14PM

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1. Yes. The first act had a strange pace and wasn't as interesting as the rest of it.
2. I kind of see what you mean here with the dialogue, but I've seen this much more in other films. Didn't bother me.
3. Yes. Sound mixing could have been better in a couple of places.
4. It will do well, even if not Inception well.
5. Good.
6. Pretty good handling of complex concepts in physics. I almost wish it had been more complicated, just to go watch it again and again to figure it out.
7. Still need to see it in 70mm. Will report back.
8. I'll think about that tomorrow.
9. I wish I had a director brother to write for.
10. Hmm. I'll have to think about this one. Not sure I'm buying it.

November 10, 2014 at 5:44PM, Edited November 10, 5:44PM

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C.A. Hartman
Author
81

Even though the dialogue was drowned in some portions, i must say i thought the score was excellent and totally conveyed what it was built for in my opinion. I see this as another film i could learn a lot from and absolutely loved it.

November 10, 2014 at 8:57PM

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In my opinion a lot of these points made are really good and well argumented and I just saw the movie and I loved it for what it was. It was one of the most epic, deeply human and meanngful movies that touch our existance that have been released in a long time. Hyped as "the next great space odyssey after 2001" it absolutely lived up to the hype. However it was in a funny dichotomy between being a Inception-type blockbuster and a visually artful bow to your fans. It was too close to both. On one hand many people were waiting for spectacular visuals and metaphysics while others wanted a nice clean blockbuster. But it wasnt either. It was both in a way and therefor it wasnt what it could have been.

But just as 2001 it will be rewatched and dissected and analyzed for the ideas it shares and the visionary style used. So I am saying it will evolve and grow into a piece of history nobody can deny. And as every great art it will become timeless through its very particular use of these new concepts.

November 10, 2014 at 9:28PM, Edited November 10, 9:28PM

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Here is the thing about film. In order for it to look better than digital you have to have a very skilled projectionist. Without that you are screwed. Its like having Blu Ray and VHS but watching both on a standard Def CRT television. To see the difference you need an HD TV. In this case the projectionist needs to be the HD TV...is this analogy making sense haha...

Regardless a lot of projectionist were let go or retired during the Digital switch over and now these theaters are scrambling to find someone...anyone...to run their booths. Unfortunately this is still a business and most places are opting to just throw the pimply popcorn maker up into the booth instead of shelling out for a Union Projectionist. Of the 41 15/70 imax theaters and the handful of standard 70mm and 35mm theaters I bet less than half have anyone in the booth that has even run film before. Sadly unless you go to one of the LOOK theaters in the DFW area or the Grand Lake theater in Oakland CA you aren't seeing the film live up to its potential. This is why Tarantino hates digital and looks at it as the dumbing down of cinema or whatever. It isn't the best but its the best results we can get with the smallest amount of work or effort.

November 10, 2014 at 11:12PM

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Jerome Stolly
1st. Assistant Camera
332

The IMAX film projection at Scotiabank theatre in Toronto looked pretty stunning. Totally worth the extra $. So yes I guess having an inexperienced projectionist would severely tarnish the viewing experience :|

November 11, 2014 at 9:06PM

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Jon du Toit
Writer / Director
249

The IMAX film projection at Scotiabank theatre in Toronto looked pretty stunning. Totally worth the extra $. So yes I guess having an inexperienced projectionist would severely tarnish the viewing experience :|

November 11, 2014 at 9:06PM

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Jon du Toit
Writer / Director
249

Yes I agree. The impact of seeing it on 70 mm reels was phenomenal. Further, Nolan's attempt to reward those who played it on reels is also something to be acknowledge in my opinion.

November 12, 2014 at 1:54AM

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Shivani Jhaveri
Producer
218

I think it's always important to remember that all movies will have a crowd of fans and a crowd of haters. That's just how it goes... a natural form of balance. And when the love is at its highest, the haters will pound it more.

I don't really care for the science fact in this movie... who really cares to be honest? You were there to watch a piece of fiction and if you are to enjoy any movie fully you have to subject yourself fully to its premise regardless of how far fetched the idea is.... otherwise, why would we watch horror movies or movies like Transformers?

The pace was pretty remarkable. I tried not to consciously notice too much about the movie as I was seeing it, but one thing I did notice was how nice the pace was.
There was no unnecessary dilly dally. It was straight to the point and tight in the editing.

I find it hard to discuss the structure, mainly because we have no verified evidence of ANY sort that can tell us wether or not it could happen as it did. Frankly I don't give a hoot to real life science, because science only understands a fraction of what is out there, so who are they to say anyways? Science can't even help not messing up the world as it is right now...

But from a fictional point of view, I found it to connect rather well through the ages. I mean, the time dialation wasn't too messed up that I couldn't accept the idea... again, put yourself into the premise of the movie and enjoy it.

About the sound... from what I've heard, it seems to vary from theatre to theatre. Maybe even from person to person.... we are not all the same and respond to sound as well as sight in different ways. One will person will pick up subtle nuances, while others will here a blob of incoherent sounds.
I found that the sound was very good at involving me in the movie. At some point I found myself grabbing my seat because the floor was actually rumbling during one of the more intense scenes.... now that's a treat!
The same goes for the dialogue issues or non-issues. I imagine that being in a situation like that myself, I would have trouble hearing clearly what my co-pilot was saying and that made it more "real" to me.

The whole film thing.
We are on the verge of the death of film, and that's a tough place to be. So much is coming out of Hollywood that is crispy and clear... for once it was to see sci-fi movie that was more organic in its look. The teal and orange look wasn't overused and the general lighting scheme was pleasant, even the few times where the natural hotspots due to the intense light coming from the source in space.

But what I like the most about films like Inception and Interstellar is how you can play around with the ending after the movie was over.
In Inception we see the spinning top as Cobb had finally returned home, and the last millisecond we see it make a small jud like it's about to topple, but we don't see it topple.... so was it all in his head?
The same thing can be said about Interstellar.

Until reading this article I was set on it being an ending ending.... you know, not too much fuss. But I can totally accept the fact that Cooper is dead and all this was last neurons firing in his brain.

I think that premise gets easier to understand if you have ever tried psychedelics and coming close to the concept of ego-death, since what happens during a trip of mushrooms fx. is that you starve the brain from blood.
In my world that would mimic sort of what it would be like to actually die.
I know I had plenty of flashbacks during those 4 hours of fun as well as floating around in outerspace...

November 11, 2014 at 2:37AM, Edited November 11, 2:37AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
884

As usual with Nolan, it was overly complicated and convoluted plot-wise, overly dramatic and not always convincing acting-wise. It is a solid sci-fi flick, though.

November 11, 2014 at 4:18AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1485

boring, heavy happyending, cliche after cliche, bad written bad acted piece of propaganda that nasa and someone up there takes care

November 11, 2014 at 10:20AM

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Tomasz Gvincinski
composer, director
67

Are you sure it was in fact happy....I see an issue in more and more people taking movies at face value rather than exploring the possibilities they offer.

Like mentioned in the article.... How can you know for sure that everything from Cooper ejecting till we see Grant alive isnt one last big brain shut down.

November 11, 2014 at 11:36AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
884

there are different ways to sell a poor product, even by convincing people that a one third of the film was nothing more than manifestation of a death dream… thats why dady meets his baby girl and finally visits a future girlfriend on a very, very lonely planet

November 11, 2014 at 12:23PM

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Tomasz Gvincinski
composer, director
67

How many movies in a row will Nolan make that are a dream/death ending? Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and now Interstellar? I don't buy that argument and it's a way of falsely leading an audience to thinking the movie is smarter than it really is. Christopher Nolan is a genius in that he makes general audiences feel smarter when they question the movie. After all, it's big budget popcorn movies.

November 11, 2014 at 1:26PM, Edited November 11, 1:26PM

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Luftar Von Rama
Producer / Film Editor
100

All the best writers and directors have themes they return to throughout their careers.

November 13, 2014 at 6:19AM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1701

A couple of decades ago, critic Gary Groth coined the term "neo-hack" to describe creators who have so thoroughly internalized the values of the marketplace that, when freed from the need to cater to that marketplace, they still produce the same kind of work. It seems that the highest one can rise in Hollywood is to become a neo-hack.

November 11, 2014 at 7:33PM

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Minor Mogul
Dilettante
666

Totally off topic- Legendary is not a subsidiary of WB.
Cannot wait to see the work.

November 11, 2014 at 8:24PM

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Richard Gerst
Stills photographer with occasional cine work.
74

I'm surprised at the amount of comments on here that said digital looks better. I saw the imax 70mm in lincoln square in nyc (the biggest in the u.s.?) I have never seen projection that good. I didn't notice any soft shots. I thought the movie was everything it needed to be, entertaining.

I can't even count the times I've seen dcp and have noticed moire and aliasing. (although when I've complained they've given me free movie tickets). I thought that was some of the faults of recent movies. Roger Deakins lately has been using it, and it made prisoners look like a made for tv movie.

I don't really agree with Tarantino on a lot of things, but he's kinda got a good point. I like seeing the scruffs on an old print of a movie thats been ran a bunch of times. There's something nice about it.

November 12, 2014 at 8:18AM

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I don't understand why some people are always so intent to turn Christopher Nolan's great movie endings into dreams and death-dreams and blah-blah..

This man Nolan creates epics after epics with such beautiful, thought-provoking, awe-inspiring endings that blow you away.. and some people, instead of just being blown away, try to think they are a Nolan too and come up with their own absurd opinions about the ending..

For God's sake, don't spoil the beauty of his movies.. they are a gift to mankind.

Stop trying to overwork your mind about the ending.. just feel it.. because they are not a puzzle, they are his genius...

November 13, 2014 at 1:09AM

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Asim Mohamed
Director
86

Afer letting the film sink in a bit more I realised today that there are strong similarities between Interstellar and La Jetée

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Jet%C3%A9e/

November 13, 2014 at 6:26AM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
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Cooper DOES NOT die at the end. He can't If he does there would be a time paradox. He has to live on for 2 reasons - possible 2.

1) If Cooper and TARs DON'T get out of the tesseract alive there will be no one to tell the survivors of earth about the experience in the tesseract. If that doesn't happen the "BULK BEINGs" (5th Dimensional Future Humans) won't know they have to build the tesseract and who to target the tesseract on (Murphy).

2) Cooper has to also survive to steel the ship and meet Brand. He has to help her set up camp for the surviving Humans on the Ark when they arrive. If he doesn't help her she could go insane like Mann did and this could jeopardize human evolution to the point humans never evolve to become the BULK BEINGs and build the tesseract for Cooper to enter and eject from.

A 3rd possible reason (and this is more personal conjecture - not necessarily explicitly laid out in the film): Cooper leaving is both symbolic of humanity's driving force to keep exploring but in the literal plot could serve to ensure Cooper as a "legend" so (if he hasn't already told humans on the Ark) when he does tell of the tesseract that knowledge will be taken more seriously by future generations as he will likely be seen as a pioneer or a legendary figure.

Such an incredible film and there really aren't any plot holes if you watch it carefully find all the breadcrumbs left by the filmmakers.

November 13, 2014 at 6:18PM, Edited November 13, 6:18PM

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*2 possibly 3 reasons...

November 13, 2014 at 6:19PM, Edited November 13, 6:19PM

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I think Cooper was dead from the beginning of the movie (similar to "Jacob's Ladder") when his Ranger flight went bad.

The rest of the movie was his moment of death where he redeemed that piloting error by being a pilot who saves humanity, where he gets to see his children grow up, where he gets to transmit data out of the black hole and where he gets to meet Murph right before she dies.

His being dead from the get-go also negates the need for complex explanations of paradoxes.

December 3, 2015 at 8:56PM

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So I have watched Interstellar at the BFI IMAX in 70mm 15 perf.

The change of aspect ratio was a bit distracting, going from 2:35 to 4:3 wasnt the most immersive experience.

I also felt like the Imax shots were WAY sharper than the rest, lots of my friend noticed that blurriness/out of focus thing with key shots, dont know if it was because of the projection or intentional from Nolan.

All these aside, the film was amazing, I haven't seen a film/fiction that dealt so well with the issues of time relativity since Gunbuster.(1989). and some scene were really good at pulling tears out of your eyes.

November 14, 2014 at 10:34AM

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Interstellar is a magnificent commentary on the human condition! My review here: bit.ly/istellarreview and my detailed take here: bit.ly/interstellarthoughts

November 14, 2014 at 1:00PM

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Avik Kumar Si
Cinephile
147

This comment will be so far down the comment section it probably wont ever be seen, but in my humble opinion-(which counts for very little) I think that some movies contradict science and possibility for the sake of it. At the end of the day the basic premise of interstellar travel is a theoretic concept at best BUT the "fiction' is the point of the story. IMAGINE if we could, what could happen? what would happen?
As far as the way the acts are separated and how they unfold, It may not have been graceful, but I cant imagine trying to communicate THAT much in even three hours odd. It felt like I grew older sitting through it all.
Overall, I commend Nolan on having the balls to go that far and blow our minds!
I may not worthy of giving criticism or praise, but as a movie lover, he made me believe it as much as I believed Jurassic Park!

November 16, 2014 at 1:50AM

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Riaan Myburgh
DP / COLORIST
372

I’ve reduced the movie to the following equation: Interstellar = (1/4 Contact +1/3 Frequency +1/5 2001)/(Asimov’s The Last Question – (Borges’ Garden of Forking Paths + Library of Babel))

November 16, 2014 at 3:46AM

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Hi!
It's great getting someplace to discuss this film.
One other point I couldn't settle on:
What do you think of the discrepancy, opposing fiction and hard fact science in the film?
I'll be more clear: The entire story is fictional, it's a made up future where we even imagine that we can pass through a black hole. Basically, we go through, as with most films, the suspension of disbelief.
But this feels threatened/opposed, or maybe even cancelled, by the fact that Nolan tries to always justify everything with scientifical facts (as a matter fact, everyday there is a new article of a scientist telling you he's seen the film and the science is all good)
Personally, i didn't like it but I don't think it's necessarily bad or even "harmful" for the film. So I was wondering what other people thought, or think, about this relationship.

November 17, 2014 at 10:18AM

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INTERSTELLAR in Five Dimensions: A Trip through the Many Formats of Christopher Nolan’s Epic
http://eatdrinkfilms.com/2014/11/20/interstellar-in-five-dimensions-a-tr...

November 25, 2014 at 1:55AM

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Gary Meyer
Film Festival Director
154

out of focus shots from using anamorphic lenses WIDE OPEN..I'm figuring.
Nolan and Kodak...integrity and artistry

December 7, 2014 at 5:11PM

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Stephanie Mahalis
graduate film student
155

One thing I would like to point out is, when ever we see a movie on a screen inside a movie theatre, getting reasons like you have mentioned above, like:
"When a critic attributes a film's shortcomings to the screenwriter, for example, what if unbeknownst to the critic it was heavily rewritten by the director? A DP may have carried a lot of weight for an insecure director. The producers may have had their film re-cut by the studio after audience testing. An uncredited writer may have been responsible for pivotal changes. An editor may have pieced together a heralded performance in the edit room. If you weren't there, you don't know!"

To me, is way too easy to excuse a filmmaker based on this!
Is not professional and is kind of ridiculous to expect getting simpathy from the audiance giving them these kind of excuses!
The film presented before our eyes is what whoever was in charge decided to show. If Nolan's name is in it, he should complaing about it then, but that should've happened before the movie release, not after!
Or what they would do? Stand at the exit of the movie theatre and apologize to each person who went to see the picture while explaning what was their "initial" intention to show that wasn't in it?

January 7, 2015 at 8:35PM

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MG
90

Interstellar was an amazing experience in the cinema, Christopher Nolan really outdid himself this time. I just noticed that Netflix has already picked up the movie for their library, they are getting fast these days at showing newly release films! I also love their new layout http://netflixmovies.com/interstellar

April 17, 2015 at 11:49AM

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Lindsay Doneal
Cinema Director
74

October 23, 2017 at 3:48AM, Edited October 23, 3:48AM

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Interstellar travel is possible with today's technology.
Considering how far we have advanced in only 100 years, almost anything is possible in the future.

We could travel interstellar now but it would require a very advanced spaceship with a multi-generational crew traveling hundreds of years. Nuclear propulsion could work for such a travel method. I personally believe we will improve on what we know and there will be breakthroughs in Physics that will permit far faster travel than we are yet capable of obtaining.

It is the destiny of man to colonize space. I can only imagine how far we will have gone in 500 years from now.

July 20, 2018 at 7:30AM

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