Wednesday, October 16, 2013

GRAVITY: Six Reasons You Need to See This Movie Twice ... Especially if You're a Writer

The movie GRAVITY is now the #1 box office attraction in the United States, comforting evidence that my country hasn't yet completely lost its mind. (One wonders lately about the lucidity of the nation given, say, Congress's recent behavior, but that is another topic.)

Herewith six reasons to see this astonishing movie not once, but twice, in a movie theatre:

1) Its airtight script offers yet another compelling example of the power of what Martha Alderson calls the Universal Story. This endlessly resilient template for storytelling is outlined in Alderson's book THE PLOT WHISPERER WORKBOOK, which you should buy. Watch GRAVITY twice so you can see how closely the journey here matches up with her template: End of the Beginning (debris), Crisis (separation), Climax (I'm not going to spoil it for you, but it involves a discussion), Resolution (I'm not going to spoil it for you, but it involves transformation, renewal, and rebirth). If you are writing a screenplay, a novel, or a memoir, and you want to know how it is done, THIS IS HOW IT IS DONE, and the proof is that it triangulates perfectly with Alderson. I started working on my novel with renewed vigor after seeing what screenwriters Jonas and Alfonso Cuaron did with the Universal Story, which "is" Alderson's in the sense that the Collective Unconscious "is" Carl Jung's. So: If you want to see what good storytelling looks like, watch this movie, compare it to Alderson's template, and then watch it again (and read Alderson again).

2) It's directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who also directed the spellbinding CHILDREN OF MEN. If you saw that, you remember that it was one of the most important movies of that painful decade that ended in 2009, whatever we are calling that. Guess what? GRAVITY is even better, impossible as that seems.

3) You have, I promise, never seen anything like it. The cinematography here is so good that words do not to it justice. So I won't try.

4) The 3-D is not a gimmick but an integral part of the cinema experience. Don't miss that experience. The film would be incomplete without it, and you'll want two passes to get clear on just how well it works.

5) The lead performance in GRAVITY is not just the performance of Sandra Bullock's career, it's the performance of everybody's career. What I mean by that is: "Everyman is Actually a Woman" is a pretty impressive accomplishment, one we may have been working our way up to for several thousand years. It's what she and Cuaron pull off here. This is not (just) a space-disaster film, it's a movie about humanity and its response to adversity, and the performance that makes that possible is Bullock's. Her work here is something that people are going to be talking about for a long, long time to come. If this doesn't win Sandra Bullock an Oscar nomination, there is something wrong in Oscar-dom.

6) It's probably as close as you're going to get to the powerful, personal, transformative experience reported by astronauts. Too vague, I know. You'll know what experience I mean when you see this film, though, and whatever you choose to call that, you'll want to experience it again.