Diverse Thoughts on Interstellar

well I swore I wouldn’t, but my old man–who has a nihilistic streak–talked me into going to Interstellar.

I don’t like Christopher Nolan. I don’t like his movies. I don’t like the person I have decided he is based on his movies (a sociopath). I don’t like the grinding, relentless Hans Zimmer scores for his movies. I don’t like the plots of his movies or the main characters in his movies. I don’t like the reception of his movies, where he’s supposed to be some sort of dark brilliant genius because he made a city go upside down or time run backwards.

I think Christopher Nolan has never loved anyone, and that the range of emotions he experiences is much, much narrower than your average fully-functioning adult. I think this has been a common criticism of his films–their coldness, their lack of any kind of realistic-seeming relationship or human bond–and I think Interstellar represents his attempt to confront this criticism, by making a gloriously melodramatic paean to love as the defining feature of humanity. In this sense, the movie is a terrible failure.

However, all that being said, this is by far the best Nolan enterprise I’ve ever seen. It was just melodramatic enough to hold my heartstrings hostage until the last 20 minutes or so at which point I became deeply bored. It looked great, obviously, I’m not made of stone. And quite frankly it was the best Hans Zimmer score I’ve ever heard. Several times during the film I found myself thinking “this score isn’t making me wish I were dead!” which is high praise for any of Hollywood’s Big Four (Williams, Shore, Zimmer, Newton-Howard). For once he kept it pretty chill and tasteful, trading his usual dark churning ostinatos for light churning ostinatos that sounded more like Philipp Glass and less like a shitty first-person shooter game. And I thought the use of pipe organ as primary instrument was pretty brilliant.

Also, there was some gripping drama, as in the epic sequence when cowardly Matt Damon fucks up the ship and then brave Matthew Mcconaughey has to match the spin and dock the thing on the other thing and Anne Hathaway, being a woman, blacks out, but McConaughey of course doesn’t and all is saved

Here are my diverse thoughts:

- it wasn’t until the end of the film that I realized the main character’s LAST name was Cooper, not his first name. Which makes the plot point where Casey Affleck makes the big deal out of naming his second son “Cooper” after his father very weird, because wouldn’t that mean the kid’s name is “Cooper Cooper”? I was very distracted by this.

- the central problem of “solving gravity” was literally never clear to me and thus I didn’t understand the ending of the film

- I really liked TARS. I thought it was the best humorous robot sidekick I have ever seen. I liked how McConaughey was so excited to see TARS at the end.

- In classic Nolan fashion, every plot point that I would have liked to see more fully explored was skimmed over. Like when they return from the water world and the Peripheral Black Character has been waiting in the ship for 23 years. I was like, hell yeah, lets explore the ramifications of this! I wanted to know what he’d been doing, how insane he had gone, I wanted him to be like “I forgot what you guys looked like,” I wanted him to have developed a very deep and intricate relationship with the robot who stayed on board. I wanted there to be consequences of his mind being broken by solitude, like maybe he goes crazy later. Instead he was just like “I’ve been waiting for you. Also I didn’t solve black holes sorry” and then it was just back to business as usual, an hour-long shot of McConnaughey crying watching the videos of his inexplicably furious daughter. Also the 23-years-alone dude physically was completely unchanged save for a streak of white in his beard. Come on Christopher Nolan!

- why would the daughter be so mad even as a grownup?? Surely you would come to realize that your dad had been trying to save the earth, which would seem excusable. Could a person truly remain that utterly selfish even once she became a brilliant grownup scientist literally working on the exact same problem her dad went into space to try to solve? Sending those hateful messages into space! What an asshole.

- was pretty into evil Matt Damon

- Wes Bentley! I haven’t seen you since Hector was a pup

- The time loop thing is always such a downer. It’s so thought-provoking as a concept but all attempts to tie everything neatly together, narratively speaking, always end in sorrow. He told himself to stay? But then he gave himself the NASA coordinates?? There’s some sort of God character who gives a shit about humanity? The morse code thing, “give me the data on the black hole,” what the fuck are you talking about? Data???

- So NASA is secretly working frantically to save the human race, and yet they have somehow not realized that apparently the only living human who can drive their space ship is just working on a farm down the road? It took a miraculous encounter to bring them together? NASA doesn’t seem very good at its job

- I love all the melodrama about the aging, his daughter becoming an old woman while he is still a young man, etc., but in classic Nolan fashion, this was finally resolved so perfunctorily that I was laughing in the theater. “Hi Dad thanks for the whole watch thing. But I have my own kids now, so you should go.” “Where?” “I don’t know, back into outer space?” “Ok”

- Also, like any serious Mr. Show fan, I could not stop imagining her saying “Goodbye Daddy, I’m dying.” He wasted his life spreading mustard and mayonnaise from separate jars! a.k.a. saving humanity from itself

- first and foremost though, what I felt during this film was a deep, deep exhaustion with MEN. I am so tired of men making movies about men and about being men. I am so tired of Dads being able to conquer space-time because they want to protect their families so badly. I am so tired of close-up shots of a man’s sweating face as he confronts and overcomes the sublime. This has been the primary trope of art since like 1815 and I can’t believe we aren’t, as a group, completely sick of it yet. I am so tired of Anne Hathaway blacking out while Matthew McConnaughey stays strong. I am so tired of the particular kind of bravery and heroism that cinema tells us we should want in our men–this sort of goal-oriented, solo conqueror mentality. All the times peripheral characters are like “no way, the top scientists in the world have been working on this problem for 100 years and it’s unsolvable” and then by sheer dint of loving his family hard enough some random dude is like “wait a minute what if we do THIS” and all the scientists are like “IT JUST MIGHT WORK.” Are we supposed to identify with McConnaughey, sitting on a dying planet being sad he didn’t get to fly a spaceship to the moon?

- also, movies like this will never fully work on me, because I don’t get why it’s such a given that humanity must be saved. Those shots of the dying earth that we killed through the exact same hubris and goal-orientation that’s going to get us off the planet (leaving behind all the dogs and cats and lions and bears and plants and everything else that will never be able to exist again because we needed to have Exxon and McDonalds), TO ME, all that shit is like, Jesus Christ, the end can not come soon enough. The idea of humanity bravely going off to do it all again on some other poor fucking planet fills me with ennui yet these movies want me to be stirred. I don’t get it.

- Matthew McConnaughey is not a good actor. You forget that until the McConnaughaissance he had primarily been known for doing truly execratory romantic comedies. I was very, very sick of his stupid McConnaughey voice by the end of the film. I kept thinking about his Oscar speech when he said he was his own hero. Which was the plot of the film!!!! “IT WAS ME! I BROUGHT ME HERE…..IN THE FUTURE”

All movies from now on should be called Dudes and the Dudes Who Love Them

Posted in Opinion | 1 Comment


This will be only the second time I have ever not traveled for Christmas, or been with family. The first time was in Santa Cruz when my boss would only give me christmas eve and christmas day off work, so I couldn’t travel, so the old man and I stayed in a yurt in Big Sur and that’s when he gave me my subscription to the New Yorker and promised me that he would always be in charge of renewing it, which has been true, thus making it one of the more successful gifts I have ever gotten, not counting things like my entire education.

I remember a time when a subscription to the New Yorker seemed so decadent. When I could not imagine having enough leisure money to spend on such a thing. Now look at me! I’m about to go buy a Dr. Hauschka product, that’s how financially successful I have become.

We are not traveling for Christmas this year and we are SO EXCITED. Not because we don’t want to see my parents/brother, of course, but just, can we please be honest and acknowledge that traveling at Christmas ABSOLUTELY SUCKS??? There’s “weather.” The airport crowds make you want to travel back in a time 1,000 years. You miss your connection. Everyone is stressed. Everyone has way too much carry-on luggage. Not to mention, it’s your first year at a tenure track job and you have so much work to do and the idea of taking a week out of your cherished off-campus time in order to slog across the country with a million other panicking people and shrieking children gives you hives.

I’m sure it will be depressing, as our solo Thanksgiving was also mildly depressing. One of my favorite colleagues got a concussion and can’t travel over the holidays and maybe we will see if he wants to come have milk punches with us and hear stories about my grandmother (HOT INVITE ALERT). He is 24 and is always texting us at 9:30 at night being like “hey I’m about to drive to New York want to come” and we are like “WE ARE LITERALLY IN BED.” Getting a taste of age difference in friendships! I’ve always been intrigued by my parents, who have this huge crew of 30-something friends in their town who they have parties with. One time I was visiting and the door slammed open and it was a dude my age just dropping by with a six pack; apparently this is very normal. I am really into it. But obviously there are times when the door slams open and my parents are in bed asleep at 8:30 p.m. and I wonder if that is awkward or just funny.

To combat the potential future loneliness of our Christmas I went outside and got an old wet stick and stuck it in an empty wine bottle and hung my grandmother’s ornaments on it. The old man proclaimed this to be “fun” and said it had “really made it festive in here.” Right now there is one present underneath it, which is a package from Katy that I know is just my Meredith Monk DVD she borrowed a year ago that I have been bugging her to return, but I will still open it on Christmas Day and be delighted.

I was supposed to go to campus today for a meeting but it got canceled at the last minute, which I love. When I saw the dude’s email appear in my inbox my heart already was leaping in my chest. YES! I pump my fist! Now I don’t have to brave HR to see why my dental insurance hasn’t come through, but can instead put it off another week.

Hell is having to go to HR for any reason

Our washer and dryer broke simultaneously and I don’t even know if they are our responsibility or the landlord’s. I JUST had to call the property manager to get a new toilet put in, so I feel bad about this new turn of events. If it’s not one thing it’s another, I swear.

Living in a house with radiator heating is so rad. I love radiators. I don’t really know why, but I always have. They seem so utilitarian and efficient and brilliant and like they haven’t changed in 100 years. I love sitting in the house and listening to them all starting up–why do they clank and hiss so incredibly loudly? And each one has its own unique sound: the one in the living room makes these sharp, very loud BANGS, while the one in the bedroom makes a progressively higher and higher pitched squealing sound that is terminated by a soft clank, over and over again. I like to stand against the one in the kitchen in the morning when it’s so dark and cold, as I wait for the coffee to be ready. I think of the illustration of the 18th century woman lifting up her dress to warm her butt in front of the fire while she reads Matthew Lewis’s Gothic novel “the Monk.”



Not sure how they know that’s what she’s reading, but since I love that book lets just say they are right. “They” being “whoever posted this on the internet where I found it,” I think it was Kate Beaton

It’s glorious here. Every day is beautiful somehow. Whether raining or snowing or glittering in the sunlight it is just weirdly always attractive outside. It’s very strange that a climate so similar to Iowa’s somehow produces a landscape and natural beauty, even just in the color of the sky and the smell of the air, that is significantly different. No one can believe that we lived in Iowa for four years. Least of all us. However, Iowa is where the snoopy was born, so it can’t be all bad. “What’s born?”–snoopy

Snoopy got a bath two days ago and he is just as fine and silky soft as a baby’s butt. He truly looks like a million dollars. I can not believe we have not been approached by a Hollywood Dog Agent offering us a contract for a million dollars if only our snoop’s visage may be used in a commercial for antidepressants

Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

The Last TGIF Of Fall

Arose late (seven)
too-cold kitchen; hot coffee
listened to Primus

Primus is like Ween
we discovered; the nineties
when records were cheap

Regional music
more powerful than genre
Claypool and Hammett

they toured with Jane’s Addiction
signed with Interscope

“this sounds good to me”
“it also sounds good to me”
early live album

I walk the snoopy
hear a Jon Hamm interview
on Pete Holmes’ podcast

Hamm calls Don Draper
a sociopath; says he
does not envy him

the dog took a dump
on the steep side of a hill
it was a dumb choice

Made extra coffee
because of TGIF
googled Dead Milkmen

almost time for school
but I have five tabs open
looking for something

it’s a tarot deck
from the fifteenth century
all illustrated

most decks don’t detail
all the minor arcana
but this one; it does

it was re-printed
by hand, in the late nineties
by a German man

He only did a small run
–just seven hundred copies–
I covet one, hard

it isn’t online
you have to email the man
if you want a deck

No, I won’t do it
but I like to know it’s there
weird-ass cool old shit

But back to Primus:
remember the brown album?
How did I have it?

I have forgotten
how you heard music back then
it seems eons past

once, in my Rock class,
I told them about tape decks
they were astounded

the sound of a tape
rattling in your backpack
under the car seat

tape the radio
try to get Violent Femmes
without getting ads

“How did cassette tapes
help you pirate music, though?”
my students! so young

that’s when it happened;
I told them about tape decks
they were dumbfounded

things took so much time
time was long and very slow
we sat quietly

Posted in Opinion | 1 Comment