I not only sat through Interstellar again last night, but in the same theatre (TCL Chinese) and almost in the same seat I sat in when I saw it nearly two weeks ago, on Thursday, October 23rd. I’m still of the opinion that this earnestly oppressive, partly breathtaking, level-11 space epic deserves points for reaching out and dreaming big and breaking “bahhriers,” but it’s too confounding and exposition-heavy and generally exhausting, and the dialogue is too often buried under the heavy sauce of Hans Zimmer‘s organ score and is basically too damn hard to hear. I did, however, understand a few more particulars last night, possibly because some Nolan techie tweaked the TCL Chinese sound system in the wake of that disastrous 10.23 screening.
I know now that I have given Interstellar my all, and that I don’t have to ever see it again. Two times = almost six hours = more than enough for the rest of my life. But I’m also glad I did round 2 because now I understand the feelings of those who are basically saying “it’s a mess but a good mess” or “it’s laughable but great for that” or “it’s typically cold and at the same time overly emotional, but in a cool way” because they’re all basically saying “look, it’s not perfect but at least it’s crazy and ‘out there’ in its own deranged way and isn’t that a good thing?”
They’re reacting largely to the film, of course, but also, I suspect, to the first wave of naysayers, some of whom focused on the film’s apparently dashed Best Picture hopes. They want the world to know that they’re more sensitive and perceptive than guys like Scott Feinberg or Tom O’Neil or whomever. Or me.
If, as one or two HE commenters have written, the first wave of internet malcontents went into that 10.23 screening looking to take Interstellar down (an absurd hypothesis — serious online movie hounds always want movies directed by big-name auteurs to succeed), last night’s second wave went into it determined to push back against the first wave. “We hear you, Chris,” many of them were saying last night on Twitter. “We get what you’re going for or at least we get that you went for Something Big, and we’re giving you a pass for laying it on the line and swinging for the fences and wearing your heart on your sleeve. Fuck those shallow Oscar-handicappers…we are in touch with our souls, Chris, and particularly with the soul of your movie, which is emotional and celestial and a little bit cuckoo, which is fine by us.”
Forget guys like N.Y. Post critic Lou Lumenick, mind — he’s calling it a flat-out masterpiece, and that’s a ludicrous thing to say. Any movie that has a catastrophically bad scene like the one between McConaughey and The Informant…I’m not going to explain but the existence of that scene removes Interstellar from the masterpiece list for the next thousand years.
But I’m at least intrigued by guys like Kyle Smith and David Edelstein who are more or less saying, “Isn’t it better that somebody like Nolan is putting all of these feelings and notions about love and wormholes and father-daughter bondings and black badass holes into a big silly movie rather than punting and making a safe commercial thing with familiar beats and the same old CG bombast? He might’ve fucked up in this or that respect but we need to give him credit for making The Big Try. At least he means it. At least Interstellar is a dystopian flick about love, family and hope as opposed to…y’know, another lefty gloom trip. At least it’s so excessive and loony-tunes it’s amusing. C’mon over here, Chris…you need a big hug.”
On the other hand I know I couldn’t hear a single damn word that the earth-residing Casey Affleck says to his space-travelling dad Matthew McConaughey during a video chat in the second act. The Texas-residing Affleck, given to guttural murmurs and drawls in the first place, is in a kind of forlorn mood, and perhaps that’s the main thing. But what is this beardo saying? I’ll tell you what he says at one point: “Aahmm…ahm onna trahnin…thuh likah corn….aiykin’..farm…uhhnknowish dahn earsoh…splydin moltin keeyeetn muhloon.”
The trick with horribly-mixed movies like Interstellar is to try and latch on to a single word and then build outward. Give me a word! Just one word and I’ll figure out the rest, or at least I can give it a try! Or a phrase. If you can manage to hear Jessica Chastain say to her dad (McConaughey again), “Did you know?” then you know she feels betrayed and pissed off and that’s enough. I get it. But it’s harder when McConaughey has a big moment with an elderly character (I won’t say who but she’s played by Ellen Burstyn) and 90% of what she says is “meeyssh meeyssh meeyssh…ahkin guhfur…s’been so lawnng…nuthin’…ahnka myeduh…ahkin…meeysh meesyhah mayhah.”
I was able to focus more last night on Nolan’s use of different aspect ratios at the drop of a hat. Interstellar is in 2.39:1, sometimes in 1.85:1 and sometimes in IMAX at what looks like 1.37:1 or 1.5:1. I didn’t detect any particular rhyme or reason, and I didn’t care. And I love the filmic texture and clarity of the IMAX portions.