Interstellar

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

As I type, Interstellar is at position 15 on IMDB's top 250 movies of all time. I don't know about that, but it's still pretty good. So Mrs. Salad and I thought it would be a good idea to catch this spectacular flick before it vanished from theaters. It was more comprehensible than it might have been: I'm a subscriber to Wired, and their December 2014 issue was more or less an a spoiler-free ad for Interstellar, with plenty of hints about the speculative science it involved.

Matthew McConaughey plays farmer/widower/ex-astronaut Cooper. He lives with his 10-year-old daughter (Murph) and 15-year-old son (Tom) on a not-too-distant-future dying Earth. Details are a little hazy, but widespread plant blight has caused famine, nasty dust storms, and (worst) a crippling effect on the national psyche. (In an especially poignant bit, it's revealed that Murph's newest school textbooks describe the Apollo program as a hoax, made up by NASA to bankrupt the old Soviet Union. Hey, it worked!)

Mankind's only hope is to get the hell off the planet. But how? Cooper and Murph stumble across a secret government program: what's left of NASA has discovered a wormhole out by Saturn that leads to another galaxy, and there are a number of possibly inhabitable worlds at the other end. The only thing lacking is a skilled astronaut to pilot the ship, and Cooper is quickly recruited. So they're off, with Cooper leaving Murph and Tom behind, on a mission that has small chance of success, and an even smaller chance that Cooper will return to his kids. Tom's OK with that, but Murph is bitter and resentful.

What follows is a heartstring-tugging family drama intertwined with spectacular hard-as-nails science fiction. I'm pretty sure there's never been as much relativistic astrophysics in any other movie. Kip Thorne, who has been a leading researcher in the field for decades, was an advisor to the film, so technical details are as accurate as you're likely to find.

It's pretty much all good. Acting is first-rate (IMDB counts eight Oscar nominees/winners among the cast). And, well, it's Christopher Nolan-directed. My only gripe is that I couldn't understand some of the McConaughey dialogue, some combination of his Texas accent and Cinemagic's poor sound system.


Last Modified 2015-01-23 2:11 PM EST

Frivoloties du Jour - 2014-12-31

Nothing serious for this last post of 2014.

  • You will of course want to stop by The Miami Herald for Dave Barry's Year in Review 2014. From June:

    In Washington scandal news, the Internal Revenue Service, responding to a subpoena, tells congressional investigators that it cannot produce 28 months of Lois Lerner’s emails because the hard drive they were stored on failed, and the hard drive was thrown away, and the backup tapes were erased, and no printed copies were saved — contrary to the IRS’s own record-keeping policy, which was eaten by the IRS’s dog. “It was just one crazy thing after another,” states the IRS, “and it got us to thinking: All these years we’ve been subjecting taxpayers to everything short of rectal probes if they can’t produce EVERY SINGLE DOCUMENT WE WANT, and here we lose YEARS worth of official records! So from now on, if taxpayers tell us they lost something, or just plain forgot to make a tax payment, we’ll be like, ‘Hey, whatever! Stuff happens!’ Because who are we to judge?”

    I will also mention that Dave is very generous about crediting the people who suggest items for his blog.

  • Answering a question that has bugged me ever since I realized that it was a question: "Why Do Brits Say Maths and Americans Say Math?". My theory ("some sort of speech impediment caused by bad teeth") turns out to be incorrect.

  • In higher education news:

    A for-profit Florida college used exotic dancers as admissions officers, falsified documents and coached students to lie on financial forms as it fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in federal money, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Miami.

    I'm not saying that administrators at the University Near Here are slapping their foreheads, wondering "Why didn't we think of that?" But I'm not saying they aren't, either.

  • One of the gifts from my generous kids this Christmas was WKRP In Cincinnati: The Complete Series on DVD. This was long-awaited.

    A previous Season-One-only release was widely held to be insultingly dreadful. (My 2007 blog post on the issue is here, and I'm still kind of fond of my punchline: "I mean, I can't believe, as God is my witness, how they thought this turkey would fly.")

    A major problem was the difficulty in negotiating the music rights. So the first thing I checked out was Season One, Episode Ten: "A Date with Jennifer". During the scene where Les Nessman is first trying on his wig from "Mr. Macho"…

    Yes! They restored the original music, Foreigner's "Hot Blooded", undoing the butchery introduced by the series' syndication. I am very encouraged.

  • But watching these old WKRP episodes raised another question for me: What the heck is that guy singing in the closing credits? A little Googling shows there are competing theories. One is at Wikipedia:

    The closing theme, "WKRP In Cincinnati End Credits", was a hard rock number composed and performed by Jim Ellis, an Atlanta musician who also recorded some of the incidental music for the show. According to people who attended the recording sessions, Ellis didn't yet have lyrics for the closing theme, so he improvised a semi-comprehensible story about a bartender to give an idea of how the finished theme would sound. Wilson decided to use the words anyway, since he felt that it would be funny to use lyrics that were deliberate gibberish, as a satire on the incomprehensibility of many rock songs. Also, because CBS always had an announcer talking over the closing credits, Wilson knew that no one would actually hear the closing theme lyrics anyway.[…]

    But this guy claims:

    Hearing it for the first time, the lyrics may indeed sound a bit like "gibberish and nonsense", but with a little careful listening, most of the words can be made out. (It only needed someone taking a little time to do it...

    I myself lean toward "gibberish and nonsense". But I encourage you to make your own call: