Fellow geeks and nerds, rejoice! Science is in the news and on the big screen and for once–it’s all good news!
First we have the incredible news about the European Space Agency landing a spacecraft on a the comet. “We’re there, and Philae is talking to us,” says Stephan Ulamec, the manager of the lander, “We are on the comet.” This is big news. We even had a special Google doodle with Philae on it.
In theaters now and coming soon, are three films that celebrate science! Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s latest mind-bender, with a variety of screening options (3-D, IMAX) and it’s an amazing immersive experience any way you choose to see it. It’s science fiction but with a strong science background. A producer credit is given to Kip Thorne, an American theoretical physicist, known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics.
The setting of Instellar may be the future, but the film is firmly grounded in the personal. The narrative is driven by the emotional pull Matthew McConaughey‘s character feels to return across space and time to be reunited with his family. The performances in the film are outstanding. From the beginning, the film embeds you in the lives of one family. Using the isolation of a small farm with the emotional connection audience’s feel for well-known actors (McConaughey and John Lithgow), strong family bonds are quickly established. The focus is on the daughter who yearns to follow in her father’s footsteps. Mackenzie Foy is remarkable as the 10-year who will grow up to be the scientist, Jessica Chastain. They are the heart beat to the science that fills the screen with action.
The scenes in space are thrilling and tense but without the central theme of family ties and the father-daughter bond, the audience might get lost in the technical jargon and be set adrift as an observer in the alien worlds. Instead, despite some clunky dialogue, you care about scientist Anne Hathaway and her love for both her father and a fellow astronaut trapped on a far away star and the fate of this crew. Will they save the Earth or be forced to start a new colony while all they know and love is left behind to perish? You will be left thinking about the science but it’s the emotional drama that will stay with you.
Today comes the announcement that the Turing Award has been tripled. What is that you say? It’s an award named after Alan Turing, an English mathematician, wartime code-breaker and pioneer of computer science. Raising the endowment to a cool million puts this award in the Nobel Prize territory. It also brings an unexpected boost to a film opening this week in Britain and screening this Sat, Nov 15 at the Starz Denver Film Festival. The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch, in an Oscar-caliber performance as the code-breaker who along with a stellar British cast (Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong) tells the stirring story of trying to end World War II. Brilliantly bringing this mathematician, with all his flaws, to life, Cumberbatch embodies the ego and lack of interpersonal skills that almost lose him access to the project he loves. If you’ve never heard of Alan Turing or know nothing of his work, this thrilling film will be an education. Turing was an incredible man and this film is a tribute to his brain-power but also his bravery. He triumphed over incredible odds and was subject to punishing discrimination.
And finally, in another fabulous turn (I couldn’t help it) of events, The Theory of Everything is coming to a theater near you. This is the story of the young Stephen Hawkings and his incredible wife. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones give extraordinary performances in this intimate story of Hawking’s struggle to live a full life and continue his ground-breaking work about Time. Redmayne gets the physicality of the role but also manages to portray the essence of Hawking’s drive and humanity and Jones does a lot of the heavy lifting–both literally and metaphorically–to bring this story to life.
There’s a great piece on Buzzfeed about Eddy’s work to transform his body.
A film about Space, one about the origins of Computers and one featuring the study of Time; Cinema celebrates Science and we are all the better for it!
Interstellar: 4 beers chugged on the porch with Matthew. Bechdel rating: You go (to the stars) girl! Yes, it passes with flying colors.
The Imitation Game: awkward conversation ensues as 5 British beers are swilled in a pub. Bechdel rating: passes: thanks to Keira Knightley’s portrayal of a women who defies convention to join the code-breaking inner circle. Her role is crucial in the film.
The Theory of Everything: 5 champagne glasses–the fancy kind you serve at a wedding for a couple overcoming all odds. Bechdel rating: passes: Jane Hawking’s inspiring story is the basis of this film and without her determination, Stephen’s story may not have had a happy ending.