Friday, October 11, 2013
A former colleague of mine--I'm retired, remember--sent around a review of Gravity, a new movie featuring two of Hollywood's gargantuans--George Clooney and Sandra Bullock (do they get any bigger?)--in a gripping story of primal fear, of being lost in space.
Clooney and Bullock make the movie a must-see by their own sheer star power, of course; but what really gets the headlines here is Gravity's jaw-dropping special effects. I told my wife I'd like to see it, but said I'd likely go alone because she doesn't like 3-D to start with and this film, or so goes the prattle, is sure to make folks with testy balance issues get, well, car sick right there in the theater.
I haven't seen it yet, but the story line plays second fiddle to the movie's tricks. Gravity is about two astronauts--one male, one female--who find themselves lost in space. Much of the movie, I hear, is an almost magic rendition of the effects of weightlessness. What people say is that watching Sandra Bullock's dreamy powerless horror is perfectly riveting. Gravity, people say, moves into a new frontier in technique and technology.
All of which is interesting. Gravity will do well.
The review I read, the one sent around by my ex-colleague, lauds all of that, makes similar claims for the masterly special effects, but then goes into a kind of lament about film-making itself, a lament that's somewhat unusual for the reviewer, a friend of mine, Jeffrey Overstreet, who has reviewed films for years for Christianity Today, but left the magazine a couple of years ago. His book on film, Through a Glass Darkly, is highly respected.
What Overstreet contends, essentially, that the story line is secondary to the special effects. What's wow! about the film is how it was done. And all that technological hoopla, he says, makes him rather tired. (By the way, for reasons I don't understand, the review itself has been removed from his website.) Stories, he suggests, should not just rob us of our senses but entertain the notions of the heart.
I'm not about to moralize. Besides, I've got no right to talk about a movie I didn't see. But I must admit that I have some sympathies with Overstreet's argument in general, even though it seems almost useless to say it. Shock and awe doesn't work all that well in war, but it moves the turnstiles gloriously. There's really nothing new about that.
All of that is the unfolding drama that surrounds the announcement from Oslo yesterday that Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature. Alice Munro, who's been a short story writer for a writing career that has lasted for almost fifty years, has never employed shock and awe. Surprise?--of course. One of her glories is taking us where we'd not expected to go. But no space odysseys, no fantasy, no sci fi. Her range is extraordinary, even though she's never left the terra firma.
Even more astounding, her painstakingly real settings are never far from homely small-town Ontario, with occasional stopovers in British Columbia. Munro found a world in a very small one, the one in which she lives herself; and her settings have not been a limitation. She didn't or doesn't go elsewhere because she lacks courage or wisdom or life's experience, but because she has found that whenever and wherever two or three human beings are gathered, there is a story worth hearing or telling or seeing.
There's room for both of course--for sheer spectacle of Gravity, for nothing but fingernail biting on one side; and for deeply woven tapestries of the truth of human character on the other.
But I will gladly admit that I lean precariously toward the latter. And it may be age, just as it may be age in Jeffrey Overstreet.
I'll go see Gravity, but Munro's huge win yesterday reminded me of one of the items on my bucket list--to read everything Munro ever wrote.
There's a whole world there in rural Ontario, a universe. There's a spacewalk to be experienced in very, very special effects.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:48 AM