The Oscars 2015-'16:

Space Travel to Mars, and Spiritual Tales of Survival on Earth —
Movies this year were about man against nature


The Martian
The Martian

The Martian is a great science fiction movie thriller that portrays NASA and a fictionalized space mission to explore Mars, in an amazingly realistic way. This is a futuristic film which entertains the idea that a colony of human beings living on Mars is not just fantasy, but could become a feasible reality at some point in our not-too-distant future. Definitely one of the most exciting movies of 2015, it was a favorite of mine because it was not too serious, but serious enough to portray the scientific aspects of space travel with expert precision, depicting what might be involved in successfully launching space rockets carrying humans back and forth between Earth and Mars, in a wholly believable way. From the background images of the red planet, to the interactions between the space crews, and their fictional NASA colleagues at home; as well as the depcition of the launch of a rocket from the desolate planet, and what travel through space might look like, the movie creates an amazingly realistic drama using real imagery from NASA, and incorporating that into the cinematography and story of this movie.

When the movie begins, Mark Watney, the main character (who is played by Matt Damon and is nominated for Best Actor in this role), is presumed dead after his crewmates are forced to leave him behind when a fierce wind storm whips up on Mars. He his hit by an object and falls unconscious, failing to make it with the rest of the crew back to the space rocket that they are returning to Earth in. His crewmates are forced to abandon the planet without him, to begin their long journey back home. The movie depicts their flight home through space, and how they communicate with NASA, providing updates to the technicians back on Earth along the way, and also relaying to them Mark's fate. But, back on Mars, as the story unfolds to the viewer, it turns out that Mark has just been knocked out for a time, and has actually survived the violent dust storm. Eventually he comes to, only to find himself very much alone on Mars, with no way back home. After surviving this initial shock and disaster, he struggles to make his way back to the team's space outpost on Mars, and there he attempts to secure the facility and looks for a way to survive. He finally does so by putting his biology and botany training to work, and ingeniously creates a way to grow his own food from supplies left at the team's space outpost, by planting plants and watering them inside of the artificial environment of the space outpost. The film tells the riveting tale of how he not only survives and grows his own plants for food, but also finds a way to eventually make contact again with the NASA team back on Earth, but is still separated from them by vast amounts of space and time. In the meantime, the crew is shown on their journey back to Earth, where they still do not realize that Mark is alive, until the NASA team after observing images of their location on Mars, realizes that certain things in the pictures seem to change position. Eventually, they realize that Mark is alive, and he also works on his own to find a way to contact them, by reconnecting the radio signal from the outpost. After they realize that he is alive, much to their suprise, NASA is finally able to communicate with him, over time-lapsed pictures and signals. The rest of this suspenseful story then unfolds as NASA devises a plan to communicate through these images and work with Mark remotely, to eventually help him to resurrect an abandoned space rocket and return home in it. There are many obstacles and perils to deal with, but amazingly Mark survives the ordeal of being left alone on this desolate planet and makes it back home to planet Earth.

The film makes future space travel to Mars look not only exciting, but realistic and plausible, (and perhaps even fun), through amazing cinematography and the use of real-life NASA images of the red planet. It brings to mind questions about our own future survival on planet Earth, and whether Mars could be turned into an inhabitable outpost for future human colonization, but also reminds us of the fragility of human life, on a planet that probably once had water and life itself. The issues of global warming and climate change may also be implied in this movie, and the struggles of man against the forces of nature.

The Martian was nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor, Production Design, Sound Editing & Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and (Best) Writing—of an Adapted Screenplay.

After-Oscars Note: Unfortunately, neither Matt Damon nor the The Martian won any Academy awards for this movie, but it probably should have won something especially for its realistic imagery and cinematography. However, it seems that most of the awards went to Mad Max, Fury Road instead, another science fiction thriller.

 

The Revenant The Revenant

The Revenant directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, was nominated for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio who plays the main character in this movie. The film was also nominated in many other categories too, which included: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Directing, Cinematography, Costume Design, Sound Editing & Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Production Design, Film Editing, and Makeup and Hair Styling.

After-Oscars Note: Since the Oscars took place (on Sunday, February 28th, 2016), The Revenant has won awards for Best Cinematography, Best Director, as well as Best Actor. Three big prizes out of 12 nominations ain’t bad! Leonardo’s well deserved win for Best Actor was one of the best moments of the Oscars, and his acceptance speech as one of the best of the night — ended with a plea for all of us to take climate change seriously, as well as man's role within nature and the environment, in how we care for our ailing planet. We also learned that the movie, while appearing to have been filmed in a location such as the Canadian Rockies, or somewhere in the Pacific Northwest; it turns out that parts of it, (or maybe even most of it) was actually filmed in South America closer to Antarctica, because there wasn't enough snow this past year on our continent, according to Leo. This fact in itself is yet another warning sign of the urgency of global warming and its impact on our climate, and the urgency of acting on climate change before it is all too late, which Leo brought up so eloquently in his speech for his Best Actor award.

Summary:
Taking place back in the early 1800's in the rugged and wild American west, The Revenant movie tells the story of early American trappers who are hunting in a small camping outpost out west somewhere, learning to live off of the land, while also encountering the dangers of Indians. The movie opens to a scene where their campsite is being attacked by Indians who come out of nowhere, and kill many members of their community. The reason for this attack, becomes more apparent as the movie and storyline unfold. The movie is a tale about white men who are more concerned with their own survival and selfish needs, and how to live as comfortably as they can in the colonies of their rugged new environment. Many of them seem to have no loyalty to anyone other than themselves. If this means defeating and/or killing someone else to do survive, then so be it...

Ultimately, The Revenant is a tale of survival against the environment, and nature as well as man against man. The most impressive feature of this movie is its cinematography, and how it has captured the wild, natural beauty of the rugged mountainous terrain where the story takes place—which for the most part, is covered with snow and winter, throughout the film. The movie opens at the campsite/village of American trappers that is being attacked and destroyed by a group of Indians, who shoot most of its population. But a small group survive the attack and are able to flee. From this point on, it becomes a story about their survival; ultimately, about the survival of one man in their group, the main character, Hugh Glass. We learn that Hugh is a little different from the other men because he had an Indian wife at one point —who it is eventually revealed, was killed in another village raid—as well as a half-Indian son, who is traveling with him and the group. Hugh tries to protect his son from being rejected by the other white men because of ‘the color of his skin. Hugh is one of the few white men who seems to understand the native American Indian, while his white comrades do not. However, he soon becomes a victim of his own kind, after being mauled by a grizzly bear when he is out hunting in the forest alone, and finds himself helpless and maimed. Eventually his son and then his fellow comrades find him lying in a ravine after he has shot and killed the bear, badly injured. They attempt to do what they can for his horrible injuries, but Hugh is so bloodied that he cannot walk or speak. They try to decide at this point what to do, and debate whether or not to shoot him outright; but at the last minute, they are persuaded to spare Hugh's life. However, the movie takes a more sordid twist from here. While the group debates whether or not to continue to try to carry Hugh on a stretcher, two of the trappers agree to stay behind and travel more slowly with Hugh and his son, so the rest can go on. The larger group finally peals off, leaving this smaller group behind. It is not clear exactly where they are heading at this point, but is implied that they are trying to get back to the safety of their original village, on the frontier somewhere. Now, however, they encounter more and more difficult situations, and carrying Hugh on a stretcher proves too difficult, so the trapper who decides to stay with Hugh, now attempts to take matters into his own hands. When the second boy is out hunting and not around to see, he attempts to murder Hugh, then turns on his Indian son as well, who tries to come to his father's rescue, and severely beats and injures him in front of Hugh's eyes. Next, he drags Hugh into a makeshift grave he has dug, and attempts to bury him alive. In the meantime, the younger boy returns but has not seen any of this happen. He is then confronted and is threatened by the older trapper before he can ask any questions, with a gun barrel pointed into his face. If he does not cooperate, he too will be killed. The older trapper convinces him that Hugh is dying, and they must place him into this grave and leave him there. The older trapper does not reveal however to the younger boy, that he has also killed Hugh's Indian son, and makes up a story that he has gone on without them. He then bribes the boy to follow him without question, and they both leave Hugh behind in the makeshift grave, where they believe he will die soon. Remarkably, however, Hugh somehow survives this horror, and the rest of the movie is about his quest to find safety, as well as solace in the face of the great evils that have befallen him.

The Revenant is a gory tale of survival and ultimately, revenge. It was not one of my favorite movies because it was a little too gruesome, wild, and wooly for my taste, due to its many violent scenes. However, the saving grace of the film is that it also uses interesting symbolism, along with stunning visual imagery and cinematogrpahy of the natural environment; along with the use of special lighting and sound effects in specific scenes, that include things like Indian voices who speak to Hugh, as he fights his way back from the grueling bear attack, and ultimate abandonment. An underlying theme is the spirituality of the natural world of the Indian, who understands the land and the Earth, and how to survive in harmony with it. This plays off of Hugh’s journey throughout the movie, as he finds himself alone, and having to trek across miles of snowy, mountainous and woodsy terrain, still trying to recover from his brutal injuries, as well as his attempted murder. His journey across the wildnerness makes up the bulk of the story, and how he manages to survive against tremendous odds: swimming in freezing waters, hiding in caves, as well as learning to hunt for his own food, while outfoxing the threats of others—both Indians and white men—whom he encounters along the way. His journey is frought with constant fear and danger from these many threats. Ultimately, the question looms as to who can he ever trust again, among all of those he meets on his journey. It is a story of how Hugh learns to survive both his injuries and the unforgiving environment he finds himself in alone, against all odds.

Throughout the movie, there are several scenes with both visual and sound effects of things such as the sound of the wind rustling through the forest trees, along with voices, and the depitcion of changes in the weather that create a mystical and spiritual and visual ambience. In one scene, as Hugh is trekking through a vast open space atop a mountain, a meteor appears to streak across the sky above him in the background of the scene. While it is not totally clear to the viewer what this flash of fire and light is above him, or where it has come from, the meteor could perhaps be a visual metaphor for a flaming Indian arrow. In many scenes of the movie, Hugh finds himself caught in the middle of the fighting that is going on between the Indians and the white men, where burning arrows are flying all around, and he fears both groups. The flaming meteor streaking across the sky, appearing after many of these fighting scenes, could be a metaphor for an Indian arrow that somehow becomes larger than life, symbolizing the Indian as a force of nature throughout the land and the sky. Historically, the lands of America truly belongs to the Indian, and perhaps he is also the ultimate force of nature, against the white man.

Additionally, in many scenes, spirit voices seem to come to speak to Hugh from his deceased Indian wife, who also later appears before him as a vision, floating in the snowy forest, creating an interesting contrast to all of the harsh and brutal circumstances that Hugh finds himself in, along his journey. In one especially moving scene of the story, Hugh meets another Indian and eventually makes friends and shares food with him, and the Indian also offers him some help and protection. But this friendship is also short lived. After spending the night in a teepee that his Indian friend has made for him to rest and recover in, Hugh awakes alone, and then wanders outside, finding himself eventually at the ruins of a small church in the wilderness, where he seems to see visions in what is left of the faces of religious icons, painted as murals on the church altar wall. He is simultaneously visited by his deceased son here, among these sacred ruins in which he stands, and reaches out to hug him (only to eventually come back to reality, and realize that he is hugging a tree, instead). The visit only lasts a short time, and then Hugh is brought back to harsh reality. He also discovers at this point that his Indian friend has been captured and hung from a nearby tree by white men, who are camping somewhere closeby. They have taken the Indian's horse, so Hugh eventually goes to spy on their camp, and there, he helps an Indian woman escape from being raped, cleverly hosting a shoot-out; then steals the horse that belonged to his Indian friend, and makes an escape, along with the Indian woman. The white men are actually some French trappers seen earlier in the movie, who have stolen the horse after hanging the Indian. Hugh cleverly hides and at the right moment, shoots several of the men, then takes the horse, but is led on a wild chase by the men, and in order to escape, he eventually rides the horse over a cliff, falling into a huge pine tree and a valley below. Once again, Hugh narrowly escapes death, but is seriously injured; left lying at the bottom of this ravine, hidden from the white men now, who probably presume he is dead. The horse was not so lucky. Hugh cleans the insides out of the horse, and hides in the dead caracass, to find some rest and temporary safety from this grueling ordeal.

The symbolism of the place of religious worship by the white man, is juxtaposed against the spirituality of the Indians in the church scene, and also in many other scenes and ways throughout the movie, as Hugh becomes one, in a sense, with nature (and perhaps also with the Indians, in spirit). Hugh continues to be followed throughout his solo journey by the ghosts of his former family, who come back at important times when he is most challenged, to visit him in these spirit forms, and to help guide him to a place of strength and safety through their voices. In one of the final scenes, his former wife appears to thank him with a gesture, for all of his efforts against the brutality of the white man. In these scenes, the movie highlights the the ongoing battle between the white man and the Native American Indian, over their land on this new continent. It becomes apparent that the Indians were victims of these American explorers who were raping and pillaging their people, as well as stealing their rightful ownership of the land. They do not keep their promises as to what they owe the Indians in return for stealing the land from them, as this era of American history is brutally depicted in The Revenant.

The movie is difficult to watch due to its many violent scenes, and the ending leaves the viewer with even more feelings of despair and hopelessness, as Hugh, who does survive and finally finds his way back to the original, walled colony where his fellow trappers had made their home, still finds himself alone in the face of too much evil. They are shocked to see him, having been led to believe that he had died, but then they realize that there the evil trapper who lives amongst them, had actually tried to murder Hugh. Once they have discovered he had lied about Hugh, he flees and escapes up into the mountains. Hugh and another man, then decide that they must hunt him down and destroy him, and set out once again on horseback to do so. The ending involves a remote scene in the mountains, where Hugh and his fellow trapper part ways to hunt for the outcast, but suddenly, gun shots ring out, and Hugh realizes that his comrade has been ambushed by the bad guy. It then falls on his shoulders to chase the fugitive and corner him in the final scenes of the movie, where they battle it out along the banks of a mountain river. This ending is the climax of the entire movie, and results in a fierce fight between Hugh and the outlaw, resulting in the death of the outlaw in the river. Simultaneously, some new Indians appear on horseback, and Hugh allows them to finish off the job. This homecoming for Hugh is bittersweet as he must confront once again, evil and more death, as well as the possibly his own mortality. The viewer is left to wonder what is next for Hugh, after all he has been through already, even though he has finally sought revenge on the evil killer. Can he really go back to his old life with these white explorers who used to be his comrades, or has his experience in the wild changed him forever? The question is left unanswered.

After-Oscars note: During the Oscars, on February 28th, we learned that the definition of a “revenant” is someone who ‘returns as a spirit or a ghost, after death.’ In this movie, Hugh seems to have become the ultimate “revenant,” who has come back to haunt his fellow white man, after evading death many times over.

The story somehow gets lost and overshadowed in my opinion, by too much blood and gore, but the cinematography is what makes this film so interesting, as it is told in many ways through the pairing of visual effects, throughout the dramatic action scenes and the landscape.

Best Actor Contender: I am sure that Leonardo DiCaprio will win a Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Revenant. Happy to just know that he survived the grueling filming of this movie, than I would be about the movie itself, as a possible Oscar contender for Best Picture. Leo's role makes the movie, and it is plain to see that while it was a difficult role for an actor, he plays it very authentically and well.

 


Bridge of Spies movie posterBridge of Spies

A great review of this movie is linked below, from the Robert Ebert film critic website, by writer Brian Tallerico, highlighting Steven Spielberg's talent as a director for making historical films that are also relatable, as human interest stories. The writer elaborates on Spielberg, and the fact he creates movies without embellishing the past, or over-dramatizing real events in an effort to make them more thrilling. The review is complementary of Spielberg, as well as the artistry and subtlety of his set design, and how the Bridge of Spies story is told through the action of its characters. Spielberg he says, “creates very realistic stories that bring famous historical incidents to life, in believable and interesting ways, making them meaningful for the viewer.” The writer discusses how Jim Donovan, the lawyer and main character in this film played by Tom Hanks, is elevated to hero status in the retelling of this real-life spy story. He does this “without over-glamouroizing the role of his character,” or making him “too much like a James Bond,” (as some other movie may have done).

Bridge of Spies is based upon the real-life James Donovan, an insurance lawyer living during the Cold War era, who is tasked with representing a Russian spy, in the American court system. It is also based upon Donovan's book written in 1964, which was an accounting of his experience, titled, Strangers on a Bridge. Both the actors and the storyline of the movie are enhanced by the realistic set design so that characters, locations, and events are all very believable and realistic looking. The set is very successful in setting the mood of the Cold War era and in depicting both Russia and East Germany. The viewer can easily follow the story, and will become engaged with fascination and edge-of-the-seat involvement, as to its outcome.

Bridge of Spies
is an excellent film, highlighting an interesting aspect of the Cold War era, regarding the true story of how our country handled the capture of a Russian spy named Rudolph Abel. The movie portrays the common thoughts, attitudes and beliefs which existed in the U.S. during this uncertain time in our relations with Russia, to perceived poltical and military threats against our country. As an insurance lawyer and also the historical figure in this story, Donovan was chosen by the U.S. government to deal with an unprecedented situation in our history of capturing a Russian spy. He plays an important role in this regard (as well as in the movie), of that of a visionary with an eye towards the future—with deference as to how foreign spys should be handled by our government, bringing to light the question of how we, as Americans, would hope that our own men, who could potentially become captors of other foreign governments, would also be treated. Donovan exhibits great humanity In this regard toward Abel as well being calm in the face of criticism from the court. The movie is thought-provoking, forward-thinking and engaging, and tells a great story with regard to human rights in times of war.

Tom Hanks also does a fantastic job of playing the lawyer, James Donovan — and is not only a very likeable and memorable character in this role, but has aced the character portrayal, and how Donovan fits into the time period with a subtle sophistication that only a great actor such as Tom Hanks, could pull off. He should have been nominated as a Best Actor for this role.

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/bridge-of-spies-2015

“Bridge of Spies Review — Richly Entertaining" by Robbie Collin of The Telegraph:
“Steven Spielberg conjures up a handsome and rewarding Cold War thriller”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/bridge-of-spies/review/

After-Oscars note:
I was excited and glad to see that Mark Rylance won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, for his role in Bridge of Spies. He made a great Russian spy in this interesting movie!

 

 

This year's Oscar-Nominated, Animated Short films included some very creative ones that used interesting animation techniques. Out of all of them, I really enjoyed Bear Story, Sanjay's Super Team, and We Can't Live Without Cosmos the best. The storyline of World of Tomorrow was a little too much dark humor for me, and I did not like the negative message of the film. Perhaps it was negative on purpose, to draw attention to the increasingly automated, computerized, and digitized world that we live in; but I felt that the story fell a little flat, in its overemphasis on the negative outlook of this future world of clones.

The other three animated shorts seemed to be about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, telling tales about both tragedy, as well as survival. The Oscar winner, Bear Story, was the most serious of all of the films, and was notable for the intricately created animated illustrations and world that brings to life the story of a bear family, who appear first as automated, old-fashioned tin toys in a charming family portrait that hangs on the wall of their home. As the story begins, we see that the toys are smaller versions of the real life bear family, who we get to know briefly, before tragedy strikes. The animations are meticulously created, and bring the viewer into a magical world with these mechanical wind-up toys, as seen through a diorama that is operated by the Papa bear. However, as things unfold, we learn that the bears are much more than toys. The old fashioned, illustrated toy world of this animated film matches the spirit of the poignant story about the Papa Bear, who is captured and taken away from his wife and baby bear, and forced to join a circus. After being ripped from his home, he is confined to living in a cage where he is beaten, and must perform tricks to please his captors and their audiences, without any regard for his emotional well being. The story is told through the visuals of the colorful, old-fashioned tin toy world, in which they live and is also a silent film. The first part of the film relates the Papa bear's tragic story about how he was taken from his home and his family and put into the circus, where he spends most of his time locked inside of the cage, with no access to the outside world. We see through the visual storytelling technique of the movie, what a painful experience this is and how sad the Papa bear is. However, he finally escpaes and manages to find his way back to where his home and family were, but can no longer can find either his wife or child where they used to live. In spite of this second tragedy, the Papa bear later seems afer some time has gone by, to have settled back into his old life again, only without his wife and child. He now spends his days on the streets of his village, operating a wind-up diorama machine he has created, that tells the story, most likely, of his own life in captivity in the circus, to a younger generation of children bears, who can watch by paying him a small coin token. The last scene of the film shows a child bear watching the story unfold inside of the diorama, and his shocked, wide-eyed reaction. The Papa bear in effect, seems to be using the diorama as a teaching tool for the younger generation of bears, to relate the secrets of the injustices that existed with his captors. The film however, does not tell what has become of his own wife and child, or anymore details, other than the story itself through the visual illustrations.

The true story behind Bear Story is much more complex, however. It is more than just a story about a toy bear family that comes to life. We learn from the Academy Awards, that the film is actually an allegory about the murderous political climate that existed in Chile, during the 1970's; where many families were torn apart by a dictatorial regime. The filmmaker, Gabriel Osorio, is really telling the story of his own father through this parable, who was imprisoned during the regime, and is the inspiration for the children's story behind the animated film. Osorio and his film won the Best Animated Short at the Oscars. You can read more about him on "The Wrap" website, and also view the trailer for Bear Story there: https://www.thewrap.com/watch-bear-story-oscar-winner-for-best-animated-short-video/.


Sanjay's Super Team is a cute story about an Indian boy and his father who experience a generational gap, when young Sanjay is more interested in watching his superheros on TV cartoons, while his father prays to Hindu icons across the family room. His father becomes annoyed by the TV set being constantly on while he is praying, and finally he destroys the TV after young Sanjay refuses turn off the noise. Greatly disappointed at this action, Sanjay is then forced to go sit and pray with his father and his religious icons, much to his dismay. The father, however, is more concerned that his son learn to preserve the Hindu traditions, than to become mesmerized by meaningless cartoons on TV. But when Sanjay goes to sit next to him to pray, something magical starts to happen, and the icons seem come to life in the form colorful, animated “Super-Hindu Gods” that draw him inside of their world, where they seem larger than life, and perform super actions. The Hindu Gods resemble the boy's own superheros on the TV set. Finally, after some terrifying moments, Sanjay survives this encounter with the deities, and is returned to his own home again, next to his father. Through this magical experience with the Hindu gods, though, eventually both father and son are able to bridge their divide, and come to a place of understanding and acceptance for both the old, and the new traditions.

The animator, whose name is also Sanjay Patel, works for Pixar, and based his film on the story of his own life and relationship with his father. The animations of the Hindu supergods are large and colorful, and exquisite in how they move and change in interesting ways. Patel who has worked as an animator at Pixar for two decades, creates in this short film features that resemble in familiar ways, many of the longer Pixar animated movies, such as A Bug's Life. You can read more about the amazing story behind the making of this beautifully animated film and clever story, as well as Patel's intentions in creating his characters, here: http://www.theverge.com/2015/12/8/9869646/sanjays-super-team-sanjay-patel-pixar-interview.

 

World of Tomorrow tells a story about a clone that is able to take advantage of time travel in a 2-dimensional future world, to go back to her original cloned self, after many generations of the clone's evolution, to explain to the baby clone what her future will hold. The original baby clone is named Emily, (as is the future clone). The film centers upon the future adult clone taking Emily on a journey with her, to the future, in the capacity of some type of mentor, to show this baby clone what her life will be like. The baby clone, Emily, is just starting out in life, but probably does not have the ability to comprehend what the older/future clone is even telling or showing her. The older clone tells her how clones either die off, or progress to something a little bit better, but still very bleak, through their lives. The clones that die off are of an inferior "clone class," and it seems that in this future world clones are placed into different categories. If they die off, they appear to fall into a blackened void in this flattened, 2-D, meaningless world in which they "live," that is depicted through stick drawings and simple geometric shape and color in the film. The older Emily explains to the younger Emily, however, how her life has progressed through many phases in which she has had experiences (mostly horrible), and/or traveled to various other far away planets and locations in the universe, but these are completely devoid of any normal human emotion and are as flat as their visual, two-dimensional world implies; and in most cases just bring more meaninglessness to the life spans of all the clones from the baby Emily, forward. If the baby Emily survives all of these life spans, then she will one day arrive at the future Emily, but after the entire showcase of the life, in the end, the baby Emily is "dropped off" into some future planet that appears to be devoid of any life, with the sound of wind and empty space howling around her. The implication is that this Emily may or may not survive into the future that the older clone has shown her, but also the larger message about the future, is that it will be a bleak one, where humans didn't make it.

The message about the film projects about this possible future, in which humans have become completely automated and digitized, as well as reduced to what seem like simple molecules, is purposely scary and negative, and the film makes the future seem more than a little bit depressing. The clones seem to be cogs in a preprogrammed life that is being unfolded in two-dimensional space, where nothing matters anymore, and clones that don't make it, or are a part of an underclass, seem to die off like flies or ants that are not needed or cared for in this new, harsh reality. The message seems to be that the world as we know is has been swallowed up into this flattened, 2-dimensional digitized world - perhaps of a future Internet, where things like time and space travel are all easy, but humans as we know them no longer exist. The message is pretty bleak, and leaves the viewer feeling about as hopeless as the baby Emily, who suddenly finds herself very much alone in the vast cosmos, without anyone else, or anything that appears to be a living organism. I did like the film's colorful animated graphic representations where stick figures to come to life, and move in interesting ways through their surronding, geometric ”universe.” The simplistic, animated line drawings intersect with various splashes of color and shape in many scenes, which make the animation technique interesting and reenforces the whole notion of an automated, computerized Internet world, in which the clones now live, in a fun (but also kind of a sick, dark way). If this is progress, then humans are in trouble, in my opinion!

The other film I enjoyed was called, “We Can't Live Without Cosmos.” This was also a story about space travel, but involves a Russian cosmonaut training school, in which two men are training for the opportunity to go into space. The film is animated in a simple way, and is also silent, but through lively action of character and scenes it tells a poignant and humorous story about the cosmonaut training school and what it is really like. This film is much more human and relatable than "World of Tomorrow" is.

The film appears to have a message about cosmonaut training in the former Soviet Union which is both funny, but perhaps also a bit of a realistic commentary, on the rigid expectations that the Russian government has for its people. The ending is both sad and happy at the same time —where the two cosmonauts, who have become inseparable as friends, survive every test and all of the difficulties of the rigid training program together— arriving happily to launch day, where only one of them is finally selected to go up into space. They don't know until the last minute, though, which one of them it wil be. Next, the one who is chosen to go into space, proceeds to the launch pad and gets into the rocket, taking with him a book that the two men have treasured as a bond while in training. He is then launched in the rocket, while the other one remains on Earth, now, watching in the control room. Suddenly, a huge disaster takes place, and the rocket appears to blow up, (although we don't actually see that part on the control screens, but we do see the book flying through outer space, in front of the TV cameras). The presumption is that the cosmonaut has been killed in this horrible explosion. The other cosmonaut, who has watched all of this happen, loses his control emotionally at this horror and takes ahold of the control room ”gears” to try to see if he can save the rocket and his friend; but it is too late, and the higher-ups immediately force him to let it go, and they shut down the whole operation. No one says anything, and it appears that the only person who is affected is the cosmonaut who has survived, while the superiors just brush this loss off like it is nothing, and display cold indifference, seeming to care about nothing else other than their mission and the rocket; not the men themselves, or their lives.

At the end of the film, after this disaster, the other cosmonaut goes back to the room he shared with his teammate, and becomes very sad. He remains inside of his space suit. A new roommate shows up and moves in within a short time, but they do not communicate or appear to have any conversation, other than to just occupy the same space. The first cosmonaut continues grieving and stays locked in his space suit. Finally, the superiors come in to see why he is still in his space suit, but they can't seem to find him inside. They try to take off the helmet, but they can't, so they run him through an x-ray scan which shows that he has curled up inside of the spacesuit in a fetal position; however, they still cannot get him out. Eventually, it seems that the cosmonaut has completely disappeared from inside the spacesuit. His superiors come back into the room to try to investigate what has happened to him at this point, and they saw open the space suit, but there is nothing left of him inside, and they remain totally baffled. In the next scene, the film then pans to a view of the roof of the room above the cosmonaut’s bed, where the viewer sees a human-figure shaped hole that has opened up in the ceiling. It appears that the cosmonaut has gone through this hole. The superiors however, never see this hole and do not come back to the room again. The final scene of the film shows the cosmonaut leaving his space suit and floating up through this hole in the roof, into outerspace one night, when no one else is there to notice (not even the new roommate, who is sound asleep). Eventually, the cosmonaut floats high enough up into the starry night sky, when suddenly the arm of his friend reaches out, and grabs his hand. It seems that the two cosmonauts are together once again, floating forever as friends in outerspace.

The last line of the film says, “For our Friends” as a dedication. The film seems to be sending a tongue-in-cheek message about the dehumanizing nature of the Russian space travel program, but does so in a profound and clever way.

For more insights, here is also a link to several reviews of these animated short films, on "The Verge" blog, which is a good read:
http://www.theverge.com/2016/1/29/10871084/academy-awards-2016-shorts-live-action-animation

 

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