James Gray's "inward-looking" sci-fi film AD ASTRA starring Brad Pitt

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I even liked large bits of We Own the Night. He has a gravity that never turns to camp.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 9 September 2019 23:15 (five months ago) link

the weirdness of WOtN is in its total sincerity in presenting absurd material, which isn't necessarily a demerit...

omar little, Monday, 9 September 2019 23:22 (five months ago) link

now u know how I feel about u, unp

Tommy Lee Jones is plying Pitt's father here... he is a mere 17 years younger than Brad

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Monday, 9 September 2019 23:28 (five months ago) link

Wow how does that work

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 September 2019 01:10 (five months ago) link

lol

WmC, Tuesday, 10 September 2019 01:46 (five months ago) link

relativity.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 10 September 2019 02:09 (five months ago) link

Love all this guy's movies and I'm really excited about this.

ryan, Tuesday, 10 September 2019 02:58 (five months ago) link

otm

johnny crunch, Tuesday, 10 September 2019 03:14 (five months ago) link

i'm starting to really hate every fucking thread in this fucking middle-aged asylum

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 10 September 2019 05:28 (five months ago) link

Saw it this afternoon and I was sadly unimpressed. Brad Pitt's ok and there's some decent space spectacle and a few dark laughs, but it's portentous in the extreme (thankfully dialogue is relatively scant, but I thought both it and Pitt's voiceover border on cringe- and/or laugh-worthy at times) and the whole thing is so utterly unsurprising/unadventurous, in terms of ideas, plot or the emotional side of things. I liked both Gravity and Sunshine, and thought this bears a lot of similarities to and/or took cues from both, without really doing anything different enough for me. Not terrible, but not great either.

Press reviews I've read have been incredibly positive though (Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian and the Skinny and List here in Scotland), so I was surprised and disappointed. Anyone else caught it yet?

brain (krakow), Friday, 20 September 2019 16:52 (five months ago) link

I watched it, loved it. Loved the way it just dives headfirst into banality.

Frederik B, Friday, 20 September 2019 16:56 (five months ago) link

TLJ has some beautiful line readings.

I enjoyed it more than the average metaphysical space film, but this is not my genre.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 20 September 2019 16:59 (five months ago) link

Ah, I wish I had loved it! I'm generally a fan of this kind of film and could have done with a couple of hours proper escape.

How do you mean you loved the dive into banality?

brain (krakow), Friday, 20 September 2019 17:06 (five months ago) link

yikes

Is it true the star Beetle Juice is going to explode in 2012 (bizarro gazzara), Friday, 20 September 2019 20:05 (five months ago) link

i would imagine Gray would not mesh perfectly with big-budget expectations

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Friday, 20 September 2019 20:17 (five months ago) link

I liked this a lot and look forward to seeing it again, but a lot like Z it felt relatively muted to me on first watch. Just like Z I found myself wanting it to go just a bit further *out there* (funny thing to think during a movie that ends literally at Neptune). The music was good but nothing quite as effective as the Ravel in Z.

Perhaps unfair to compare them since I feel so strongly about the prior film, but I think I actually enjoyed this more than Z after the first watch. I will see this again with my aging father (lol) who is a sci fi nut and hopefully untangle my feelings a bit more.

ryan, Friday, 20 September 2019 22:25 (five months ago) link

It’s always upsetting to me when movies like this—ambitiously flawed thoughtful and personal, lyrical, adult—are handled poorly and then bomb—which this will. Every great movie is a miracle but it feels like we could have movies like this pretty regularly.

Also: no idea why 2001 is being metioned with this...the real comparison is Soderbergh’s Solaris.

ryan, Friday, 20 September 2019 22:30 (five months ago) link

I enjoyed this, wasn't totally blown away by it. It's too facile to say "Terence Malick's Apocalypse Now," but I can't shake the phrase. The moon chase and space critters were weird side roads to take, and Natasha Lyonne's cameo was a lol.

There was a shitload of Movie Science in this picture.

WmC, Saturday, 21 September 2019 01:14 (five months ago) link

it sounds interesting, hearing about it makes me think of High Life, but I guess this has more action

Dan S, Saturday, 21 September 2019 01:23 (five months ago) link

Just saw. Really enjoyed this, need to think about it. Kinda wanna see it again.

Lactose Shaolin Wanker (Raymond Cummings), Saturday, 21 September 2019 01:35 (five months ago) link

It's interesting to reflect on the fact that the reserved emotional nature of these last two films is both text and subtext...both are about men with an inability to have intimacy, inhabiting movies that keep us at arm's length (Ad Astra *talks about* feelings, but only in the negative)...but what's particularly intriguing to me is that they see masculinity itself as a kind of woundedness, or a way to cope with being wounded, a survival strategy or search for security that's enormously empathetic and not really interested in scoring cheap shots against "toxic masculinity" so much as it is concerned about charting a way through masculinity towards something...more yielding.

ryan, Saturday, 21 September 2019 02:20 (five months ago) link

The story of how Natasha Lyonne ended up in this movie is so very... Natasha Lyonne: https://slate.com/culture/2019/09/natasha-lyonne-ad-astra-cameo-explained-james-gray.html

I love her.

Roz, Saturday, 21 September 2019 02:48 (five months ago) link

This was impeccably crafted but I get very annoyed when science fiction that is touted as “adult” or “thoughtful” ends up just being more warmed-over Oedipal dreariness.

Conceptualize Wyverns (latebloomer), Sunday, 22 September 2019 02:38 (five months ago) link

Space travel: it’s just an elaborate form of therapy where you learn how to process your feelings about dad

Conceptualize Wyverns (latebloomer), Sunday, 22 September 2019 02:43 (five months ago) link

“Just open up a little, dude. Enjoy some coffee, talk to your wife.” Ok, great. Why did we have to go to fucking space to learn this?

What a bunch of bourgeois horse manure. Urgh.

Very pretty movie though

Conceptualize Wyverns (latebloomer), Sunday, 22 September 2019 03:08 (five months ago) link

I think this would have been more interesting if was from the perspective of TLJ’s character. If we’re gonna dive into the emptiness of the cosmos and the need for humans to appreciate our precious, fleeting existence and learn to live with one another (or whatever this movie thinks it’s saying), then make the story about a character who would actually care about this one way or another. Brad Pitt’s character doesn’t care about anything except doing his mission and reconnecting with daddy. (Yeah, he learns to lighten up a bit at the end, but so what).

We should be able to feel the horror of someone finding out that this search has been pointless. That’s the real story here, but the movie is too chickenshit to deal with it directly.

Conceptualize Wyverns (latebloomer), Sunday, 22 September 2019 04:20 (five months ago) link

I just feel like every James Gray film until now has been from Tommy Lee Jones' characters point of view, so I appreciated he tried something new this time.

Frederik B, Sunday, 22 September 2019 04:40 (five months ago) link

We should be able to feel the horror of someone finding out that this search has been pointless. That’s the real story here, but the movie is too chickenshit to deal with it directly.

that actually is the story of Pitt's character! His entire encounter with his father is disappointing and pointless for him.

ryan, Sunday, 22 September 2019 05:10 (five months ago) link

think this would have been more interesting if was from the perspective of TLJ’s character. If we’re gonna dive into the emptiness of the cosmos and the need for humans to appreciate our precious, fleeting existence and learn to live with one another (or whatever this movie thinks it’s saying), then make the story about a character who would actually care about this one way or another.

You missed the point of the movie

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 22 September 2019 11:36 (five months ago) link

No, I understood what the movie itself was doing. It’s not exactly rocket science*

It’s just that I found Pitt’s character’s journey less interesting than the implied backstory of his father. In other words I freely admit I just wish it was a different kind of movie entirely.

I’ll give Ad Asta this though: it made me care enough to be mad at it. These days that’s gotta count for something.

*i make no apologies for this :D

Conceptualize Wyverns (latebloomer), Sunday, 22 September 2019 19:58 (five months ago) link

but I disagree with your point about Pitt learning to live with stranded Liv Tyler. If anything, Gray's editing and framing decisions are more devastating: he returns to her because "eh fuck it."

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 22 September 2019 20:02 (five months ago) link

I'm not crazy about the film because Sad Space movies are so not my genre.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 22 September 2019 20:02 (five months ago) link

I also want to praise the effects work in this. Other than the baboon (which looked fine but was obviously CGI) the visuals were nearly seamless.

Conceptualize Wyverns (latebloomer), Sunday, 22 September 2019 20:02 (five months ago) link

From what I've read, I'd watch the James Grey version.

hedonic treadmill class action (Sanpaku), Sunday, 22 September 2019 20:39 (five months ago) link

I loved this and found it very exciting. The fall from the space antenna opening is soooo good. It was weird though that Ruth Negga is all dressed up like some Pheobe Philo era Céline model on Mars.

What a ridiculous clusterfuck of totally uncool jokers (jed_), Sunday, 22 September 2019 21:31 (five months ago) link

The Lost Space Station Z

untuned mass damper (mh), Monday, 23 September 2019 02:15 (five months ago) link

As someone who love love loved Gravity and The Martian, I found this underwhelming.

Pacing-wise it felt disjointed, like they'd wanted to go the noble route of creating a scientifically-sound, brooding take on the modern space opera genre but later got told to liven it up with some pointless action sequences which got punched-in at 20-30 minute intervals.

Everything to do with Sutherland and the space pirates felt very pointless. The space baboons sequence was from some other movie. Both those sequences were far-fetched and thrillery.

The film spent a long time taking me down detours and dead-ends, all the while alluding to some great reveal that never really happened. The entire denouement and final sequence was anticlimactic, predictable and ultimately no different to what we've seen on other recent 'lost in space' flicks.

A big part of the problem for me was not being able to connect with Pitt's character, nor bringing myself to care all that much about his relationship with his father, which seemed to be the emotional crux the film was trying to ply on me.

Meanwhile the rather major plotpoint of the power surges was reduced to a MacGuffin, brought up in only the most offhand way by TLJ's character at the end. How the hell was a relatively small spacecraft generating enough power to cause such catastrophic damage on Earth? And why was this happening? And (forgive me, maybe I had a lapse) was this something TLJ was doing on purpose? He seemed to be trying to stop it, but who knows, the film seemed more interested in getting me to care about Liv Tyler's 10 seconds of screentime than the actual science or motive of the mission.

frame casual (dog latin), Monday, 23 September 2019 09:23 (five months ago) link

On the other hand, everyone should stop discussing this film and go see Aniara, another space epic with lots of 'A's in the title, and which really did give me that true sense of space vertigo-madness this was hinting at.

frame casual (dog latin), Monday, 23 September 2019 09:27 (five months ago) link

I admired the Transformers/G.I. Joe-level science insisting that an explosion would "power" the journey back to Earth.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 23 September 2019 11:06 (five months ago) link

There's a plotline in Cixin Liu's (very 'hard' sci-fi) Death's End that proposes you could power a very small craft big enough to hold a housecat (or in the book, a human brain) by daisy chaining a series of nuclear bombs along its path and setting them off behind it at regular intervals. So this is a gross simplification of the same method, although clearly it would never work.

I realise this is Hollywood, but when the makers said they set-out to do a proper science-based space film and you end up with this kind of transparently Deus Ex ending, it stops being sci-fi and starts operating purely on a metaphorical level, the whole 'lost-in-space' device becoming a clothes horse to drape a lightweight sheet of human-interest onto it. But when the main character is a stoic mumbler, the lost father and the work-widowed wife barely present in the story, it's very hard to make the emotional investment the film so dearly beggars.

frame casual (dog latin), Monday, 23 September 2019 11:23 (five months ago) link

I didn't mind the stoic mumbling because middle aged Brad Pitt is a pretty stoic mumbler.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 23 September 2019 11:35 (five months ago) link

Natasha Lyonne was weird... Like, 'hey let's have a full minute where Russian Doll lady does some dull admin work and asks people to sign stuff while dressed in a red boiler suit'

frame casual (dog latin), Monday, 23 September 2019 11:42 (five months ago) link

The unintended downside of having a recognizable actor play a bit role is the projection of prior work on to the present character.

untuned mass damper (mh), Monday, 23 September 2019 14:05 (five months ago) link

also that she was doing nothing especially entertaining or plot-driven save for getting people to sign-in

frame casual (dog latin), Monday, 23 September 2019 14:28 (five months ago) link

Regarding Alfred's questioning of the explosion: a rocket is really a controlled, directly explosion while a bomb is an uncontrolled, undirected one. As long as you're lined up perpendicular to it, and your craft not overly damaged, a bomb is an effective source of thrust. Obviously it's not very efficient, but in the case of a nuclear explosion, you're talking about quite a bit of undirected thrust.

So it's "powered" not in the way you're charging the craft's store of energy, but in the way that a large explosive hand is shoving you off toward the beyond.

mh, Monday, 23 September 2019 14:28 (five months ago) link

Had the film been shot after Lyonne's profile increased due to the Netflix show the role might have been cast differently. As far as I can gather, Ad Astra was shot about six months before Russian Doll

mh, Monday, 23 September 2019 14:30 (five months ago) link

for me, it's 'why have it in at all?'. her character ads so little and yet the camera spends a long time shouting 'LOOK, LOOK WHO IT IS!'. A lot could have been cut from this film and it would have been a generally better sustained and more impactful experience.

frame casual (dog latin), Monday, 23 September 2019 14:42 (five months ago) link

I don't know if it would work, but I'd be interested in what this film would be like with drastically reduced (or even completely without) voiceover exposition.

brain (krakow), Monday, 23 September 2019 15:02 (five months ago) link

The character I related to the most when it comes to the idea of being trapped in space was the baboon tbh

mh, Monday, 23 September 2019 15:10 (five months ago) link

It looked nice and I think there’s a seed of a good movie there, but yeah, it is not great. B-rate Malick voiceovers maybe a big part of what dropped it.

circa1916, Thursday, 30 January 2020 02:06 (three weeks ago) link

Gray >> Malick this decade

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 30 January 2020 02:29 (three weeks ago) link

indubitably

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 30 January 2020 02:31 (three weeks ago) link

I want a panel show with Morbs and Alfred now

babu frik fan account (mh), Thursday, 30 January 2020 03:20 (three weeks ago) link

pay us!

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 30 January 2020 03:21 (three weeks ago) link

He and I meet in Manhattan twice a year.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 30 January 2020 03:21 (three weeks ago) link

lol

I'm behind on 2019 films, but I've put this at the top of my cue

Dan S, Thursday, 30 January 2020 03:24 (three weeks ago) link

the Morbs-Lord Sotosyn doc?

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 30 January 2020 03:25 (three weeks ago) link

I'd make all my film-loving (hating?) friends throw a pittance at a patreon

I've got a dozen or so

babu frik fan account (mh), Thursday, 30 January 2020 03:26 (three weeks ago) link

He and I meet in Manhattan twice a year.

― TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, January 29, 2020 8:21 PM (five minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

i'd buy tickets to this

gbx, Thursday, 30 January 2020 03:28 (three weeks ago) link

I am going to choose to read that as a tryst

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Thursday, 30 January 2020 04:08 (three weeks ago) link

no, my hair isn't good enough for him

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 30 January 2020 04:13 (three weeks ago) link

I mean, I know the fans here want this to be something with fucking, but I just want pure snark. Which is dirtier tbh

babu frik fan account (mh), Thursday, 30 January 2020 04:18 (three weeks ago) link

ad astra - visually stunning, some great scenes, some of the most heavy-handed "meaningfulness" i've ever seen in a movie (e.g. when brad and his dad are clinging to each other in space at the end and tommy lee jones says "you have to let me go" and a big blinking neon subtitle comes up that says HE DOESN'T JUST MEAN PHYSICALLY LET HIM GO HE ALSO MEANS EMOTIONALLY as tommy lee jones winks at the camera), overall pretty dumb and a step down from lost city of z

na (NA), Thursday, 30 January 2020 15:52 (three weeks ago) link

(e.g. when brad and his dad are clinging to each other in space at the end and tommy lee jones says "you have to let me go" and a big blinking neon subtitle comes up that says HE DOESN'T JUST MEAN PHYSICALLY LET HIM GO HE ALSO MEANS EMOTIONALLY as tommy lee jones winks at the camera)

lol yes, this gave me a severe pain

Miami weisse (WmC), Thursday, 30 January 2020 16:06 (three weeks ago) link

lol @ neon subtitle

babu frik fan account (mh), Thursday, 30 January 2020 16:13 (three weeks ago) link

I am not afraid to admit that I enjoy a movie where there is SPACEYELLING at SPACEDAD

also SPACE APES

Οὖτις, Thursday, 30 January 2020 16:22 (three weeks ago) link

and of course SPACE MADNESS

Οὖτις, Thursday, 30 January 2020 16:23 (three weeks ago) link

ad astra - visually stunning, some great scenes, some of the most heavy-handed "meaningfulness" i've ever seen in a movie (e.g. when brad and his dad are clinging to each other in space at the end and tommy lee jones says "you have to let me go" and a big blinking neon subtitle comes up that says HE DOESN'T JUST MEAN PHYSICALLY LET HIM GO HE ALSO MEANS EMOTIONALLY as tommy lee jones winks at the camera), overall pretty dumb and a step down from lost city of z

― na (NA), Thursday, January 30, 2020 8:52 AM (thirty minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

this is basically otm, even though i am generally pretty lenient when it comes to visually stunning space movies

maybe i should see lost city of z??

gbx, Thursday, 30 January 2020 16:31 (three weeks ago) link

yes you should

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 30 January 2020 16:32 (three weeks ago) link

yes!!

bold caucasian eroticism (Simon H.), Thursday, 30 January 2020 16:32 (three weeks ago) link

thirded

babu frik fan account (mh), Thursday, 30 January 2020 16:32 (three weeks ago) link

n/a's right, and Ad Astra is certainly his weakest film, but the visual and sound design and Pitt and the staging of the violence more than compensanted.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 30 January 2020 16:33 (three weeks ago) link


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