Avengers Infinity War – Whose Fault is the Snap?

So…let’s think a bit. Whose fault is the Avengers Infinity War Snap? Why am I, and half the universe, dead? Gone to ashes.

The Avengers most to blame, who come to mind right away are:

  • Star Lord — Mainly just a normal human with specialized combat melee skills. Peter Quill is just a petty thief trying to be a better person. He’s only slightly better at being ‘good’ than Rocket or Drax, after all.
  • Thor — God of Thunder — Should know better than to gloat after 1500 years of Godhood. You’re still not worthy yet, are you?
  • Dr. Strange  — The jury is out til Endgame resolves. Next.
  • Captain America — WTF dude! YOU! J’accuse!
  • Hulk — The Big Green Guy who let us all all down. Just because you have issues with Banner doesn’t excuse toddler tantrums, big guy.

Breaking this down a bit more. Each of these heroes, and a few others, have some big burdens to bear.

  1. Star Lord —  Everyone blames him for the events on Titan. Peter Quill isn’t the sharpest crayon in the Crayola box, but I don’t blame him. It looked like he totally screwed the pooch in Infinity War, didn’t it? He really lost it for our guys on Titan..but, remember, Dr. Strange had to make it look good for his ONE future they would win. That means whatever “Mr. Lord” did was part of the plan.  Also, Peter Quill never set out to be a hero — he just wants his girlfriend back. His investment strategy — Gamora: everything. Universe: whatever.
  2. Hey, THOR — He just HAD to gloat. Not only should he have gone for the head, he should have gone for the arm. But Thor, mighty and all, isn’t the smartest Avenger. Maybe being cute is a liability. A god should do better. Head, arm…you haven’t learned a thing in 1500 years, have you?
  3. Dr. Strange — I don’t blame him at all. He spent what — hundreds of years looking at alternate realities? I’m sure he knew what he was doing when he gave Thanos the time stone. He’s not stupid and we know he made it clear to Stark what his priorities were. There were no mistakes made here. Place your bets with Strange.
  4. Cap — I blame him, really, mostly. We don’t trade lives??? Really? Much as I  love Vision, this should have been a non-starter. Get that Stone out of Vision  now, K? Even Wanda knew this had to happen. Shuri could have fixed this much earlier, and the ending would have been different. We DO trade lives, Cap. Have you not been watching all these movies? Sacrifice is part of the game. You don’t get to win everything just because you want it enough.
  5. Hulk. He couldn’t be bothered to help Earth, or the universe, for that matter. Poor Banner. Poor us. He has a lot to make up for. I know: Hulk is the mental equivalent of a toddler, but that’s no excuse. #HulkSmash… #Smash??? Where did he go? Why leave Banner in a Hulkbuster suit? We better find out why.
  6. Gamora — Thanos never would have found the soul stone without Gamora just giving it to him. I know he was torturing Nebula…but look at the result. I know it’s not nice to talk ill of the departed, but if there’s blame to go around, she should shoulder one infinity stone’s worth.
  7. While we’re talking about about the stones, what about Loki? He gave Thanos the Tesseract for the same reason Gamora gave him the soul stone — to prevent more sibling torture. Also, remember Asgard getting munched during Ragnarok? Loki probably should have left the Tesseract in the vault.

So, who is to blame, besides (obviously) Thanos?

I know a lot of people blame Star Lord and Thor, but really, Cap made the worst call with the fate of the universe at stake. Vision could just go hide in the the internet like JARVIS did before. And Hulk is still basically an infant. Peter Quill is only a dude in love for the first time. Dr. Strange has a plan, and that is where I will place my bets.

Hollywood Celebrities Mourn Stan Lee on Twitter

RIP Stan Lee – you will be missed

Hollywood Celebrities Mourn Stan Lee on Twitter

Pi Day Movies – the Best Math (or Pie) Films to Watch on March 14

the symbol for pi in blue
Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. There might be a few numbers involved.

Mid-march, three unusual holidays rear their heads for movie rewatch fun: Pi Day, The Ides of March, and St Patrick’s Day. It all starts on March 13 with Pi Day. That’s the 14th day of the third month: 3.14. If you pay enough attention, you can even celebrate Pi Minutes and Pi Seconds. (1:59:26 comes around the clock twice, unless you use Military Time.)

If you scroll down, you’ll see every Pi and math movie we consider crucial for your home entertainment curriculum. But first, you have to understand what Pi is, then prepare some actual pies for feasting. On Pi Day, both sweet and savory pies count. More on that soon.

Do you know what Pi is?

long string of Pi numbers
Just memorize this and you’ll be fine.

This is a big topic. You can start by thinking about Pi as the ratio of a circle’s circumference, related to its diameter. Do you consider yourself smart? Apparently you can spend the rest of your life digging into the mysteries of this transcendental,  irrational number. (WIRED gives it a relatively simple whack, while the Wikipedia offers more Pi detail than most people actually want.)

Feast with Pies on Pi Day

Whatever your feelings about Pi, math, and advanced mathematics, I’ve long considered March 13 Pi Day. It’s a holiday that’s picking up more pop-culture steam every year.  For decades, my husband and I used to rewatch a classic math movie each year, feasting on Chicken Pot Pie, Pumpkin Pie, or sometimes Pizza Pie.  Even a Calzone or Omelette is a pie, albeit half of one.  We’d use fractions to eat them, as one does with flat, round food. 🙂 Make a meal with lots of circular edibles. Maybe Pita Bread. Be creative.

Announce the fractions you cut from the whole. Eat like math is your passion for one day a year!

We celebrated Pi Day this way because we’re geeks. RunPee loves weird holidays where you can watch movies, dress for the occasion, and plan an appropriately themed meal.

So. Pull on your geekiest science tee shirt and pick something from this list of great Pi adjacent films.

Make Pi Day 3.14 Times as Nice

It’s a good idea to phone your favorite ‘pie’ place and ask for the Pi Day Special: it’s fun to spread the word, and many places will give you an off the menu deal just for choosing them for your Pi needs. At the very least, you might encourage them to make a Pi Deal for next March.

Oh, please tell them RunPee sent you.

the first few numbers in the Pi string
Pi, looking friendly and fun and not at all intimidating.

Here’s RunPee’s list of favorite math, Pi, and pie movies for Pi Day, in no particular order, with release dates, and a few thoughts to help you select the perfect film to celebrate an irrational number.

Linked titles go to RunPee’s own movie reviews, where we have them. Eventually, we’ll review them all. It’s an easier task than calculating the exact value of Pi.

16.5 Movies To Enjoy in Honor of Pi Day

    1. Pi (1998) – Pure numbers, baby.
    2. Life of Pi (2001) — Not about math, or even pie, but a man named Pi. It’s a great, quietly gripping story, where you’re not sure what’s going on. Pay attention to the details, whether this is your first, or Nth viewing. It’s a very worthwhile film and almost Inception-lite. And BTW, that’s not a spoiler. Just enjoy the rhythm of the film.
    3. Good Will Hunting (1997) – Matt Damon makes this list twice, because he’s got a lock on that understated, funny, and too-pretty-to-be-so-smart look that perfectly bellies his mad science skills.
    4. Hidden Figures (2016) – This recent feel-good film centers around three black women hired by NASA as human computers during the 1960s events of Project Mercury, and its fabulous. (‘Sheldon Cooper’ even has a small role.) Award-winning and based on real people, including John Glen, who was apparently a great guy. If his computers said not to go, he stayed put. Smart man.
    5. The Theory of Everything (2014) – If you adored Stephen Hawking, like we did at RunPee, you probably found news of his death so very, very sad. But from all indications, he loved his life, had joy, family, a great career, and  unfettered commitment to allow his fine brain to roam the cosmos. We saw his sense of humor was as extraordinary as his mind. Not a bad legacy at all. Eddie Redmayne did an A+ job saluting Hawking’s contributions to our understanding of the universe.
    6. A Beautiful Mind (2001) –  I honestly don’t remember much about this film (it was too upsetting and sad for my tastes), but realize it would be a big snub to leave this inspired-by-a-true-life-story it off the list. The IMDb writes this: “From the heights of notoriety to the depths of depravity, John Forbes Nash Jr. experienced it all. A mathematical genius, he made an astonishing discovery early in his career and stood on the brink of international acclaim. But the handsome and arrogant Nash soon found himself on a painful and harrowing journey of self-discovery.
    7. The Imitation Game (2014) – Benedict Cumberbatch plays a lot of geniuses, or at least men smarter than the average bloke. If you like Alan Turning and enjoy cracking impossible Nazi codes, this movie was made for you. It’s also a drama with a message. 
    8. Gifted (2017) – I enjoyed this light film about how a normal brained single Dad (Chris Evans) learns to beat to the system to keep and raise his young, brilliant protegee. This scene is a standout — be sure to watch the whole segment:
    9. x and y (UK)/A Brilliant Young Mind (US) (2014) – A kid with ‘special powers’ in math learns to navigate childhood.
    10. Apollo 13 (1995) – First of all, it’s a space mission that really happened, and through massive sciencing, everybody makes it home alive. Not a spoiler; this is history. Also, Apollo 13 is has Tom Hanks as Captain Jim Lovell,  and those men are gods to me. I think the inspiration for Legos must have come from that scene with the square filter an the round vent — “Work the problem, people!” (Ed Harris is a god too. Godhoods for everyone in Apollo 13!)
    11. The Martian (2105) – Matt Damon’s character scienced the SHIT out of this movie.  A pure joy to watch and rewatch, and I have to remind myself this, unlike Apollo 13, hasn’t actually happened. Yet. 🙂
    12. Contact (1997) – This one happened in real life too, didn’t it? Didn’t it?  Damn. Watching this movie just makes me happy, and yes, it’s full of life, death, and MATH. The scene where we’re contacted with Prime Numbers is a standout. It’s one of those scenes that makes me tear up without a single line of dialog, or even much facial expression. Remember in The Return of the King, when we saw the lighting of the fire beacons above Gondor, calling to Rohan for aid? Same thing. When you saw Contact for the first time, how long did it take you realize those pulses were primes? I expect the universal  language of math will prove yet again that fiction pre-dates fact. This is the best segment in an already outstanding film. I had to add two videos to catch the whole scene:
    13. The Accountant (2106) – Ben Affleck gave a surprisingly charming and understated performance as a certain kind of savant specialist who learns to relate to people in his own, sometimes deadly way.
    14. Stand and Deliver (1988) – What is Calculus? Why should we care, unless we’re lucky enough to have someone like Edward James Olmos teach it? I need to re-watch Stand and Deliver, as I’ve forgotten much of this classic 80s film.  Here’s a summary:  A Los Angeles high school teacher opts to immerse his students in higher math. After intensive study, his students ace California’s calculus test, only to learn their scores are being questioned.
    15. The Cold Equations (1996) – This short, harrowing film details to the Nth degree how important math is – specifically, down to milligrams of weight in space.  Are there any space movies where weight limits aren’t a thing? In this one, math is the whole plot. As the pilot and young stowaway work frantically against the clock, we’re reminded how dangerous space is, how fragile spaceships are, and how very, very much math matters. It’s only 40 minutes and it’s worth a watch, even if the effects are a bit dated. The story is still a good one. Here’s the entire video for The Cold Equations:
    16. Real Genius (1985)  – Taking a trip in the way back machine, Real Genius makes this list by pure force of fun. In fact, you can watch the entire feature film right here. I’ll leave this up until someone takes it down — it’s clearly a film taped on a cell phone. Enjoy this blast from the nerdy past!

…Aaaaand the promised .5 movie: American Pie (1999, the original):

Don’t worry if you hate numbers.  Lock yourself alone in the bedroom with a warm apple pie, and try out just how good it feels. Or, less weirdly, rewatch one of the movies in the American Pie franchise with friends, compare Band Camp Stories, and laugh again at the awkwardness of being young and inexperienced. Beware: this scene is suggestive, and  is clearly intended to be. You can’t unsee it. It’s the PIE scene. On Pi Day. Have fun.

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Quick question: How many numbers in a string can you list for Pi? Write them out in the comments below, and no cheating! Surely there must be some out-of-the-closet geeks out there.

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Just below: a brilliant Pi video for those of you who are too smart for Pi itself. Just peruse this movie list on Tau Day, and you’ll be set.

Super Pi Geeks Argue About how Tau is Better…

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RunPee Movie Reviews Related to Math and Pi

Movie Review – Hidden Figures

Movie Review – The Theory of Everything – More About Stephen Hawking Than Math

Movie Review – Gifted

Movie Review – The Accountant

A Slightly More Than Casual Fan’s Reaction to Avenger 4 Trailer 1

Christopher Estrada for RunPee
Chris Estrada: RunPee’s Newest Guest Geek

Guest article by Christopher Estrada

WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp, and the trailer for Avengers: End Game. 

Wow… Iron Man’s helmet really looks beaten… Because it was. And he was. Pretty severely when Thanos nearly snuffed out the life of Tony Stark. I didn’t expect Tony to survive that fight. In fact I’d prepared myself for the death of all the original team when going to see Avengers: Infinity War. But then Dr. Strange pulled the craziest rabbit out of Knowhere when he handed over the Time Stone. Thanos spares Tony and steps through a portal to Wakanda, where he snaps and turns half of us to dust. (I was spared by Thanos… [http://www.DidThanosKill.me/])

Back to the present day. We see and hear Tony power on the Iron Man helmet to record a message for Pepper Potts. He’s fairly confident his death is about a day away, drifting through the vacuum of space.

[pullquote]Gosh. Why must we be depressed even more?![/pullquote]

Cut to the Avengers’ base in Upstate New York. Cap, Black Widow, Banner, and Thor are all shown in mourning: which is normal and to be expected. They even show us a kinder, sadder side of Nebula, who lost Gamora, her adopted sister. Strange, considering she tried to kill her several times in both Volumes of  Guardians of the Galaxy.

Bruce stands before displays of Scott Lang (Ant-Man), Shuri, sister of T’Challa (Black Panther), and Peter Parker (Spider-Man). It’s not clear to me why he would be torn over the loss of Scott. As far as we know, they’ve never met. Hulk wasn’t around during Civil War, and Banner likely wasn’t hanging out with a cat burglar before going on the run before the MCU kicked off in 2008. So there is no clear connection between Bruce and Scott. Not even Hank Pym. Bruce only knows that Scott exists from brief remarks between Black Widow and Cap.

Bruce being torn over Spider-Man’s Peter Parker makes a bit of sense. He did get to see Pete in action before he was dragged into space with Tony in Infinity War, though Banner didn’t see Pete go into space. It’s a loose bond, but a bond nonetheless. Tony trusted the kid. Bruce trusts Tony, and by extension, Peter.

Thor is likely beating himself up. We see him sitting all lonesome in a gray hoodie, in a cold-looking room. His head bowed. For a split second it looks like he’s removed the prosthetic eye. But… No… He just opened that eye slower, or delayed. The God of Thunder lost half of his Asgardian refugees when Thanos attacked, seeking the Space Stone lodged inside the Tesseract. Then he lost another half of them in The Snap. So we’re down to 25% of the Asgardians we saw escape from Valhalla in Thor: Ragnarok. We can only hope that Valkyrie, Korg, and Meek are still out there somewhere.

[pullquote position=”right”]Through all of this, Steve and Nat have been talking, voicing over these clips. They’re telling us what we know, and what we felt at the end of Infinity War, and still feel today.[/pullquote]

But what really gets me through all this… is Steve’s hair. It’s perfect. Like, it doesn’t make sense in the context given. He’s depressed, in mourning. His best friend, his allies, have died in front of him. The guy he disagrees with, but respects, is lost in space, and for all Cap knows, turned to dust as well.

Why then is his hair perfectly styled? Did he wake up depressed and decide, “Hey, let me gel my hair and shave the beard before I go and talk about the end of the world with Nat?”

Does this really matter? No. It’s a movie. I get it. But still. It’s out of place to me. I mean…Natasha is another story. Her hair is a bit longer and not styled beyond a quick brushing. It flaps around quite freely. Her hair fits. But his doesn’t.

…Back to what matters…

[pullquote]Finally Nat gives Steve a small pep talk, saying that, “This is gonna work, Steve.” He looks at her and replies that he knows it will. That, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do if it doesn’t.”[/pullquote] The Avengers “A” is shown being reconstructed from dust, followed by the full Avengers title beaming over, and the sub-title, End Game, dusting.

Then Scott Lang (the Ant Man) shows up at the front gate of the compound and asks to be buzzed in.

Wait… What? Wasn’t he lost to the Quantum Realm when Thanos snapped and killed the Pyms and Hope?

Cliffhanger!

Guess we’ll have to wait for the next trailer. Unless Marvel/Disney wants to torture us and not release another trailer. Just make us wait until the movie premieres. I’ll be at an opening night showing. How ‘bout you?

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Christopher Estrada bio: “Take a look at my first e-book An Abducted Date. The book is available for free in all e-book formats. So anyone using a Kindle, Ipad, Tablet, Sony Reader, Nook, or Kobo e-reading device can enjoy. Also available as PDF format for reading on a computer! Read and Review!”

Avengers 4 Trailer Hints and Rumors

Mark Ruffalo Spoils Avengers 4 Title – Or Does He?

About the End Credits Scenes in Ant Man & The Wasp

Avengers 4 Endgame – First Trailer Review

Movie Review – Captain Marvel – A Pretty Good Origin Story

I have a bad feeling about this…

Never tell me the odds!
There’s a 100% chance someone will have a bad feeling about this.

In the far away and long ago galaxy of Star Wars, everyone’s a prophet. Who hasn’t said they have a bad feeling about something? Well, except that one time Han said he had a good feeling. It’s the franchise’s longest-running gag, at least through the 10th film of Solo, A Star Wars Story.

Here’s a definitive list of who and when a Star Wars character said “I have a bad feeling about this,” or “I have a very bad feeling,” or even “A really bad feeling,” listed in film production order (with Luke Skywalker getting bonus points for being the first to say it ):

  1. A New Hope – Said twice! First with Luke Skywalker, when the Millennium Falcon approaches the Death Star, and then Han Solo, in the trash compactor.
  2. The Empire Strikes Back – Princess Leia, on the asteroid with the Mynocks.
  3. Return of the Jedi – C-3PO to Artoo Detoo, approaching Jabba’s palace.
  4. The Phantom Menace – Obi-Won Kenobi’s first line in the film, to Qui-gon Jinn.
  5. Attack of the Clones – Anakin Skywalker in the gladiator ring on Geonosis.
  6. Revenge of the Sith – Obi-Won to Anakin, in their starfighters.
  7. The Force Awakens – Han, realizing the deadly rathtars have been set loose on his ship.
  8. Rogue One – K-SO2 to Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor in the elevator scene (although he gets cut off at the end).
  9. The Last Jedi – This one is special and I had to look it up to be sure, but BB-8 says it to Po Dameron, in binary. Director Rian Johnson confirms this. Notice that droids get the bad feeling line three times. (Who knew droids could feel?)
  10. Solo – This one stands out by having the inverse line, spoken by a young Han. In an aside to Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Falcon, he says, “I’ve got a really good feeling about this.” Go with it, Han! Things are going to get a lot worse, soon enough.

So, there it is. EVERY Star Wars movie has a variation on this portent of doom. Next time you pull a re-watch, keep your ears open for the iconic quote.

13 Scenes from Star Wars you won’t have missed if you had RunPee

Ranking The Star Wars Films

Movie Rewatch Review – Solo (A Star Wars Story)

More Powerful Than You Could Possibly Imagine

 

Fact or Fiction – First Man and Neil Armstrong

Hi. My name is Neil Armstrong, and that’s all you’re going to know about me.

First Man is a surprising film. It’s surprisingly devoid of excitement, I mean. Instead of a rousing tale of man’s journey to the moon, it focuses narrowly on life through the eyes of the taciturn and insular Neil Armstrong.

He’s a strange choice to be awarded the honor of the first person to set foot on another world. Buzz Aldrin was right behind him, but I guess being the second  man lacks cache. Even in Apollo 13, Jim Lovell and crew joke around, saying, “Armstrong? Really?”

Laying aside the fact that this man is very personal, I’d have thought he would have gone home and met with colleges, children, UN Summits, or otherwise directed his limelight to the service of NASA’s educational promotion. Nope. Not his gig.

This is a man that after an entire bladder-busting 2 & 1/2 hour movie, remains a cipher to the audience. Clearly, the had the Right Stuff to be a test pilot and astronaut, but had the personality of a Stoic.  And, well, the movie reflects this. Who was Armstrong? Did he even care about his wife…or the moon, even? All I can tell is he deeply loved his daughter, who sadly died as a toddler from brain cancer.

First Man spoilers ahead!

If you’ve seen the film, you’re probably wondering about Karen’s baby bracelet. Did he leave it on the moon? Is it still there, a testament to loving and grieving and family? It’s been a topic of some speculation. [pullquote]It’s known Armstrong deviated a bit from his walk plan, and stood over the Little West Crater for a few minutes. [/pullquote]The movie chooses to show him definitively tossing the precious bracelet into the crater. If he did this, I hope he was able to excoriate some of his demons and find a measure of personal peace. Because, well, walking on the FREAKING moon seemed, to him, a casual matter. Compare his still introspection on the Sea of Tranquility, versus Aldrin hopping joyfully along the surface. Sometimes I think singularly amazing moments are wasted on some people.  I don’t dislike Armstrong, but have to still wonder, like Lovell and crew:  WHY HIM?

So. Does First Man hew closely to what we do know of Armstrong’s life and vision? This excellent article from History Vs Hollywood covers the issue in a very readable fashion — no need for me to repeat it here.

[pullquote position=”right”]Suffice to say the director kept the biography as rigorously accurate as possible. We can feel the authenticity and sincerity bursting through the film. [/pullquote]The science was spot on, but the characterizations of the astronauts were a bit one-sided (ie — how Armstrong saw them), making for a possibly unreliable narrator. For example, Aldrin comes across as a somewhat offensive jerk in the film. Was he really? I imagine these things are in the eye of the beholder.

But back to the bracelet commentary — James Hanson, author of Armstrong’s autobiography First Man, reports that after many hours of personally interviewing him, he’s sure Armstrong left something behind.  He never said what, or admitted to it, but it’s known he did report his personal manifest list as missing to NASA. Then, he later donated his manifest to Purdue University, so it wasn’t so missing after all. There’s a lineage for astronauts leaving things behind. According to this article:

“For instance, Charlie Duke, who in 1972 became the tenth person to walk on the moon, left a photo of his family there, according to Singer. Buzz Aldrin brought a pouch that belonged to the Apollo 1 astronauts as a memorial to them.”

Armstrong’s manifest will be sealed until 2020, so we don’t have too long to know if Karen’s bracelet was on the list. [pullquote]His family hopes and believes he did leave that memento behind. We’ll see. It seems like a logical choice to me. But it did make for a nice bookmark to the movie, either way.[/pullquote]

Last thoughts for First Man: It doesn’t feel like a prequel to the (IMO) far superior Apollo 13 at all: keep in mind it’s NOT an adventure film. There are exciting moments for sure, but most of the runtime is silent and clouded with grief. I did enjoy the space scenes, what we got of them. But we also had to endure a lot of sorrow, silence, and unpleasantness between the space action. That might have highlighted the power of the rocket scenes, which were undeniably cool. I wish the movie had more of that powerful imagery.

Should you see First Man in the theater? I saw it in IMAX, which made the rocket scenes rumble, and the quiet scenes more tense. If you’re a real fan of NASA and the space program, it’s a must-see,  just to experience it properly. For everyone else, wait for the DVD.

 

Movie Review – First Man

 

Movie Review - First ManFirst Man is a thoughtfully crafted, well-made film that a lot of reviewers seemed to love. Ryan Gosling definitely dove into the part. The nostalgia of returning to the 1960s was neat, and the scenes in actual space were close to brilliant at times.  It felt like being there, as the Saturn V thundered out of our atmosphere. There was a sense of transcendence, viewing the Earthrise from orbit, and it was a sight that made even the  generally reticent Armstrong crack a big old smile (more on him, later). The space shots looked very real, albeit coupled with a slightly grainy film quality, making it feel more like the 60s.

[pullquote]The space images alone made seeing this in IMAX worth the extra price.[/pullquote] I wish there were more scenes in space and on the moon, but you can’t have everything you want in a movie, now can you?

Some thoughts: a lot of the purposefully jiggly hand-held camera work was distracting, especially in the many long, quiet interpersonal scenes. It underscored the “documentary” feel, but I noticed it too much, taking me out of the moment.

I understand the story is supposed to be a deeply personal and intimate story of one man’s journey to overcome his emotional pain, and eventually do something extraordinary.

The “one man” in question is Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) –the first man to walk in the moon. It was an amazing moment for mankind, but make no mistake: this is not an exciting movie. [pullquote position=”right”]It’s a slow burn of a tale, and takes a long time to get anywhere.[/pullquote] We spend relatively little movie-time in space, and barely any on the moon. For a 2 hour and 20 minute film, there’s surprisingly little story to tell.

[pullquote]From the perspective of the film, it seems like the moon landing was incidental to the plot, instead focusing quite narrowly on Armstrong’s inability to move on emotionally[/pullquote] from the death of his daughter (and his colleagues in the space program). It seemed to me that 1/3 of the movie was devoted to extreme closeups of Gosling’s face, who did a great job showing almost no emotion behind his cold, blue eyes. I saw these close eye shots of him so many times that I started tracking it in my Peetime notes. It happened so often I eventually gave up. But, as with the hand-held camera jiggling, noticing the trick pulled me out of the story.

So then, with all this attention lavished on Armstrong, why do I feel we never got to know him? It’s a long movie, but Armstrong is still a cipher by the end. I understand he wasn’t a demonstrative or friendly man in real life. That’s got to be hard to base a long movie around. The viewers never get past his eyes and into his head. A few expositional scenes from others were used to describe him, instead of letting us, the viewers, get to empathize with him ourselves.

So, yes, the critics loved this movie. You can see that on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score, however, seems a lot more evenly divided, with a middling overall grade. [pullquote position=”right”]Basically, First Man was competently done, but not stirring or thrilling.[/pullquote] I don’t know how Apollo 13 was such a fantastic film, and this one (taking place in an overlapping time frame with the same historical figures) fell short.

Here’s my conclusion. This film is, first and foremost, a biographical drama. The space program is merely a framework for telling Armstrong’s private story. In that sense, it’s a success. Nicely done within those parameters.

But if you’re looking for a rousing space epic, this isn’t your film. In my theater, people hopped up all over the place to hit the bathrooms — even during the climax of the moon landing scene. As the credits began, a few people started a halfhearted attempt to clap, but gave up quickly when no one else seemed to care.

The science and history seemed rigorously accurate (although the ‘bracelet’ thing might be a storytelling liberty). It’s just unfortunate  the first man walking on the moon was too distracted by personal demons to enjoy the experience. I mean, it’s THE MOON, MAN! You’re going where no man has gone before! Enjoy it a little.  🙂

Grade: B

One Last Note: There were some good ‘action’ moments here and there —  the flight of the Gemini, the tragedy of the Apollo 1 astronauts trapped by the door, the awe-inspiring Earthrise, the sequence with the Saturn V blasting off, and docking with the LEM. (Dan and I visited a real Saturn V at the Kennedy Space Center, and walking under it was a total highlight. And it was sweet to see the VAB here, which really impressed me in person. It’s bigger than the brain wants to accept.) So, I’d say those were the standout moments. The moon scene was surprisingly underwhelming. I know why they filmed it this way — to focus exclusively on Armstrong’s experience — but I wish it had been an ensemble with the three men instead.

(Learn how closely the movie followed Neil Armstrong’s real life, and enjoy the photos showing the differences between the real historical figures, vs the actors’ faces.)

About The Peetimes: Here are 3 good Peetimes, nicely spaced out. You won’t miss any action, or even much dialog, during any of them. The middle one, at 1 hour and 7 minutes, gives you a whole 5 minutes to run and pee, so try to shoot for that. It’s a long film, so you should definitely use a Peetime to stay comfortable through the lunar landing climax. A lot of people got up and down at bad times during the opening showing. .

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of First Man. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

First Man Opinion — Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Through the Wormhole – Are We All Bigots?

Morgan Freeman has a Science Channel series called Through the Wormhole. I highly recommend the series for those interested in learning about a broad range of topics from is the universe a simulation to is privacy dead.

One of my favorite episodes is about the nature of racism: Are We All Bigots? In this episode Freeman comes at this question from a number of angles, as he does the topic in every episode. Below is, what I think, is one of the most important segments.

If you like that clip then I highly recommend you watch the entire episode. You can buy it on YouTube for $1.99 (No affiliation with RunPee.)

Opinion
I have to accept that part of my brain is bigoted. It does things (and sometimes gets away with it) that I don’t like.

That may sound like an odd thing to say: my brain does things that I don’t like. What am I if not my brain and it’s decisions? I think its clear, especially if you watch the entire episode of Are We All Bigots, that our brain instinctively makes decisions without the consent of our brain’s rational consciousness. (Not that consciousness is always rational.)

What researchers have proven is that we are not always in control of our thoughts and actions. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior, but it’s a reality we have to deal with. For instance, when someone is addicted to gambling, or food, a drug, whatever, you can’t attribute that to poor character, or weakness.

Our brains evolved to cope with many situations we no longer face. In this modern age we can manipulate those situations in ways that were never possible while the circuitry in our brains was evolving to help us survive. When we eat carbohydrate-rich food — bread, rice, cake, sweets, etc. — our brain says, “OMG, this is great. More please.” That’s because during our evolution there was hardly a chance that we could overeat those things because of their scarcity. That part of our brain doesn’t understand that we now have unlimited access to calories, and don’t need to overeat at each opportunity. The only way to stop ourselves is to use our rational consciousness to intervene and put the breaks on. Again, the rational part of our brain isn’t always in control — much as we might wish it.

It’s the same for how our brain reacts to people who are different from us. Generally speaking, for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, people from outside their tribe wasn’t always a good thing. Like a dog barking at a stranger, we evolved to be wary of different than us. It’s only through life experience that we can retrain our brains. Essentially, we need take that part of our brain that makes snap judgments and pet it, and say, “Hey, it’s okay. These different people are okay. Don’t get worked up.” Over time, that part of our brain will relax. But, we must recognize that it’s always there, ready to wake up again and bark at the next different person that passes by.

I want to make racism go away; from myself and my country and all of humanity. I believe the only way this will be possible is to acknowledge that part of our brains evolved to be wary of different people — because it gave them an edge in survival.

When we see racism, in ourselves or others, we need to make an effort to retrain us/them. And just like training a dog, the best method is positive reinforcement. Because when you yell at someone for being bigoted it’s about as effective as yelling at a dog — pointless and counterproductive. (Even though it feels as good as eating chocolate cake dripping with melted fudge and covered in icing.)

First Man Opinion — Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

When I was in college, I worked at the United States Space Academy. It was an amazing experience. I grew up fascinated with space and science. I literally cried when my parents dragged me out of the Space and Rocket Center after our first, and only, visit. Years later, when I got to work there, it was rewarding to have the opportunity to help young children experience the joy and wonder I had when I was their age.

Obviously I’ve never flown in space, but I understand better than most the incredible technical hurdles it took getting to the moon. I’ve studied math, physics, and history, and the history of space exploration in depth. There is no doubt that the United States of America achieved something wholly remarkable when Neil and Buzz landed on the moon. But it is truly an epic achievement by all humanity. The USA would have never achieved all they did, in the time they did, if it wasn’t for the German engineers that came to America after WWII. Those engineers would have never come to the USA had the Allies not defeated Germany.  And the Allies couldn’t have defeated the Axis powers if not for the sacrifices of the British people early in the war, and more so the Russian people throughout, who sadly endured horrors that are hardly acknowledged today.

How could anyone land on the moon without radio communications — invented by an Italian? How could they navigate to the moon without calculus — invented by an Englishman and a German? (Note: Newton did it first; Leibniz did it better.) Without Modern Analytic Geometry — invented by the Frenchmen René Descartes and Pierre de Fermat — Newton and Leibniz wouldn’t have the tools to invent calculus in the first place.

As Newton said, If I have seen farther, it is only because I stood on the shoulders of giants. The United States of America finished a long endurance race that began millennia ago when a group of hominids — Homo erectus — discovered that putting meat and vegetables in fire made them more palatable and, unknowingly, more nutritious. Without that discovery, the moon would be nothing more than a bright source of light for a week out of the month to a bunch of bipedal hominids who don’t know what a month is.

The night before Apollo 11 returned to Earth Neil Armstrong signed off by saying:

The responsibility for this flight lies first with history and with the giants of science who have preceded this effort; next with the American people, who have, through their will, indicated their desire; next with four administrations and their Congresses, for implementing that will; and then, with the agency and industry teams that built our spacecraft, the Saturn, the Columbia, the Eagle, and the little EMU, the spacesuit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface. We would like to give special thanks to all those Americans who built the spacecraft; who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their hearts and all their abilities into those craft. To those people tonight, we give a special thank you, and to all the other people that are listening and watching tonight, God bless you. Good night from Apollo 11.

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Where’s the American Flag in First Man?

Movie Review – First Man

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Do you have what it takes to suit up? Take the Apollo 11/Lunar history quiz, and learn some great trivia about  mankind’s first trip to the moon, and the astronauts who made that historic journey in 1969. (Ten questions)

Apollo 11 Trivia

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Movie Review – Interstellar

Movie Review - InterstellarMy one word review would be: disappointed.

I think Christopher Nolan tried too hard to make a modern day 2001 A Space Odyssey. The ships looked much like 2001. There were long, drawn out scenes of docking. The robot TARS simultaneously pays homage to HAL and the monolith. And of course the visuals throughout the movie echo back to 2001.

The best thing I can say about the movie is the acting is top notch. Matthew McConaughey was excellent, and I thought Mackenzie Foy, the young daughter, was fantastic in every scene.

I have a big problem with Anne Hathaway’s role. Her acting was, as usual, superb, but her role was completely wasted on her talents. For such a long movie, there was surprisingly little time devoted to giving her character, Amelia, any meat. Amelia was either giving technical dialog, devoid of emotion, or frantically reacting to something. There wasn’t any time for play and bonding between the characters.

I’m tempted to give this movie a much worse rating, but the acting pulls it out of the gutter.

One more thing: stop playing blaringly loud music over dialog. There were numerous times I had no idea what the actors were saying. It was distracting all the way through the movie.

Grade: C+

Upon further review..
It’s been a few years since I posted the original review, and I’ve seen it a few more times since then. I still don’t love the movie, but I’ve warmed up to it a little. I’d bump the grade up to a solid B, maybe even B+. It is, for me, an easy movie to rewatch because it’s so beautifully filmed, and the music is outstanding, even though my original observation that the music plays too loudly over the dialog still holds.

About The Peetimes: I would recommend that you use the 1st Peetime. #1 is a perfect Peetime. There’s no character development, action, or plot development. #2 has some dramatic scenes, but they are easy to sum up. #3 has one long tension building scene but you’ll be back before it reaches the climax..

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Interstellar. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray