Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
Message
Author
ford
Joined: Thu Mar 07, 2019 3:44 pm

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#51 Post by ford » Sat Sep 21, 2019 10:35 pm

A beautiful movie. My mind is kinda blown frankly — and a lot more surprises than I was expecting. Look at what happens when you give James Gray the most bankable star in the world and a decent budget!

User avatar
mfunk9786
Under Chris' Protection
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#52 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:09 pm

Thanks to Twitter's typically braindead reaction to this film, the term "brostronaut" now exists

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#53 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:46 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:09 pm
Thanks to Twitter's typically braindead reaction to this film, the term "brostronaut" now exists
I found a lot wrong with the film, but I reject any reading that this is for “film bros” as Gray removes a lot of the common denominators that exist in films that ‘population’ gravitates towards (many of which I admittedly enjoy). While I have a problem with the label itself, this branding seems to be thrown at any film with a male protagonist that is deliberately paced and whose accessibility doesn’t match expectations, launching it into a damned esoteric minefield of scrutiny for those who are affected on subjective existential levels. Gray subverts so much here, to the point where even those categorized and judged as bros would be hard pressed to access the film on a large enough collective degree of impression like say Tarkovsky, as the name I somehow continue to hear bound to this pejorative marker.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#54 Post by domino harvey » Sun Sep 22, 2019 10:05 pm

I have never in my life seen a film brah praise a James Gray movie, where is Film Twitter even coming from? I’m like one step away from finally quitting the internet every other day it seems, I just have no more threshold anymore for stuff like this. If I leave, someone else has to promise to hate all the Criterion covers every month to maintain equilibrium

Jack Kubrick
Joined: Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:13 pm

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#55 Post by Jack Kubrick » Sun Sep 22, 2019 10:44 pm

"Film bro" gets thrown around a lot in these circles, which makes it seem as if these kinds of movies are misogynistic towards women, as I reportedly heard Liv Tyler has an undeveloped sad wife role. It's just confusing to me because, yeah, I get where the derogatory meaning comes from, giving the kind of obnoxious fanboys directors like Tarantino or Fincher have. Does any film that is appealing to male audiences get thrown the label, or is it a specific kind of aesthetic that appeals to a particular male movie lover, one that is devoid of emotion and heavy on the violence?

User avatar
Never Cursed
Such is life on board the Redoutable
Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2016 12:22 am

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#56 Post by Never Cursed » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:15 am

I didn't think this was a problematically bro-ish movie (and I don't know if any of Gray's other movies even come close to this tendency) so much as I thought it ticked off a lot of the boxes commonly associated with those types of movies. My objection wasn't just with the existence of those elements, or a specific designed appeal to any kind of audience, so much as how I thought some of those characteristics kept a warmth out of the film that was present in recent space movies. That philosophical/emotional area is where my Tarkovsky comparison comes into play, not any of the film bro stuff.

All that said, calling Pitt's character in this a brostronaut is completely ridiculous, as he doesn't demonstrate any tendencies that bros would latch onto. His overall character arc (minus a certain feeling of repression I got from him) is probably the best argument in the film against this film's broishness. I looked up the originator of the phrase and sure enough she had no other arguments against the film beyond "it's boring" and "it's like a Star Wars movie minus the action" (which is just totally wrong). Please, may no one here or elsewhere quit the internet over such nonsense.

User avatar
mfunk9786
Under Chris' Protection
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#57 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:22 am

domino harvey wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 10:05 pm
I have never in my life seen a film brah praise a James Gray movie, where is Film Twitter even coming from? I’m like one step away from finally quitting the internet every other day it seems, I just have no more threshold anymore for stuff like this. If I leave, someone else has to promise to hate all the Criterion covers every month to maintain equilibrium
Don't Forget, You're Here Forever

User avatar
mfunk9786
Under Chris' Protection
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#58 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:48 am

Image

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#59 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Sep 23, 2019 1:04 am

Jack Kubrick wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 10:44 pm
"Film bro" gets thrown around a lot in these circles, which makes it seem as if these kinds of movies are misogynistic towards women, as I reportedly heard Liv Tyler has an undeveloped sad wife role. It's just confusing to me because, yeah, I get where the derogatory meaning comes from, giving the kind of obnoxious fanboys directors like Tarantino or Fincher have. Does any film that is appealing to male audiences get thrown the label, or is it a specific kind of aesthetic that appeals to a particular male movie lover, one that is devoid of emotion and heavy on the violence?
That is what I initially thought the definition meant until a few months ago I read posts referring to film bros as those who worship existential films, with Tarkovsky mentioned more than a few times (I wasn’t referring at all to your post - Never Cursed). Having said that, if it’s the emotional and philosophical elements that trigger the film bro warning, then I’m curious as to what distinguishes those of us who like being existentially and emotionally floored by theoretical films vs. film bros. Am I a film bro because filmmakers like Tarkovsky or Malick strike a chord in me? I think I understand the idea that these people are “phonies” as Holden Caulfield might say, inflating their egos because they like a ‘hip’ filmmaker for the sake of liking them, but I suppose one could also be considered a phony, like Holden, for judging others without knowing how these films truly affect them. I know quite a few people I’d consider “film bros” by this definition but I also wonder who am I to say that their lives haven’t been changed by seeing these films, and for the better? That doesn’t stop me from making my judgments but they have more to do with me than with the people I’m judging, and I think it’s a potentially dangerous or unfair label to throw around especially when the lines are quite blurry as we drift from “obnoxious fanboys” to those who claim to get emotional fulfillment from esoteric films who we assume are just trying to be ‘cool.’

I apologize if I have it wrong, as I honestly had never heard the term “film bro” until a few months ago, but the definition is hazy enough for me that I’m earnestly asking these questions.

User avatar
mfunk9786
Under Chris' Protection
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#60 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 1:06 am

To re-center the impossibly stupid term/thought process, it's referring to the main character in the film as a "bro," not the filmmaker or people who like the film. It is perhaps even dumber than what you're describing, but there ya go

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#61 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 23, 2019 1:36 am

mfunk9786 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:48 am
Image
Image

You’re right, the Internet has good things too. Crisis averted until tomorrow when someone writes 2500 words on why Pretty Woman is the ultimate Film Bro movie

nitin
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2014 6:49 am

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#62 Post by nitin » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:46 am

I thought this was very expensive looking amateur hour, James Gray (for all his faults) is usually at least a lot better at characterisation than he is here. Plot wise there are logic holes and unrealistic scenarios aplenty, but that’s also true of Gray’s previous films (We Own the Night being a prime example). This failed both as a serious film and also as a pulpy film (those action scenes felt as if from another film altogether).

I haven’t yet seen The Lost City Of Z but felt Gray had turned a corner with The Immigrant, the first film of his where I thought the sum finally exceeded the parts and delivered as a whole. This sets him back IMHO, not least because I can’t see it being successful at the box office either.

User avatar
Mr Sheldrake
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 9:09 pm
Location: Jersey burbs exit 4

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#63 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:07 am

I enjoyed the spectacle of this in a Dolby theater as well the genre elements, it's partly an oater in outer space. The father-why-hast-thou-forsaken-me aspect less so, although the mostly effective action sequences balance out the surfeit of male gloom, both overwrought and thin.

I was also thinking of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now as I was watching, wondering if the end game of meeting Kurtz would be catharsis or fizzle, the latter for me.

Pitt is impressive in his tormented closeups, he seems to be using memory associations to draw up the tears. But he is an actor not meant for psychological depth. Fortunately he is meant for resiliency and here he uses ingenuity, knowledge and calm bravery to escape at least a half dozen perilous situations. Not credible of course but exciting.

He ultimately becomes a super-hero, he flies through space, and one might read the film as an offshoot of the Marvel franchises. Dad is Thanos and son is Captain America, who is even able to conjure up the Cap's shield to protect him from the flotsam floating on the outer reaches of Neptune.
SpoilerShow
He doesn't just single-handedly save the schoolmarm and the isolated villagers, or just all the people on earth, but the entire universe!

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#64 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:02 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Sat Sep 21, 2019 3:57 pm
It just hinges far too much on coincidence for me, Brian. She could certainly have been a compelling character were she there for more than a one in a million shot (well, perhaps the universe of space travel is tighter than that...) that her lineage has an incredibly direct relationship to the protagonist's story. But I find it dubious that she would've been written in at all were it not for that.
I'm not sure it's that big of a coincidence. The Mars colony in general is going to be very small, and those born and raised on it, an even smaller group, will've been raised there because their parents are scientists at the extreme end of commitment, ie. precisely those who'd go on a dangerous, potentially one-way trip to the edge of the universe.

Plus it's thematically relevant, since every stage of the journey involves a conversation with someone who's been impacted in a different way by McBride's father. It's important I think that the last one of these is a child dealing with parental loss, but one whose pain and loss do not cause her to turn inward (including by projecting that inward focus into an external quest that takes them away from humanity). Rather, her concerns are focused entirely on the safety of the people around her. Legacy, one's ripple effect on the people around you, is important to the film.

User avatar
mfunk9786
Under Chris' Protection
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#65 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Sep 25, 2019 12:21 am

You make a fair point, though I'm still not quite sure that it worked for me, particularly at that point in the film. This is one I'll need to see again.

User avatar
mfunk9786
Under Chris' Protection
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#66 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Sep 25, 2019 11:32 am


User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#67 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Sep 25, 2019 2:00 pm

Very interesting read, thanks for sharing!
SpoilerShow
Many of his points fit with what I understood the film to be (the intentionally dreamlike nature of the way scenes were shot, the characters and their dynamics are symbols for Pitt's own experience), though obviously more specifically stated here (the mythology of man as compared to mythology of gods). However, I appreciated the degrees to which Gray prioritized and strove for scientific authenticity here, and the interview really hit home how this is truly a complex blend of realism and dreamy symbolic existential metaphor.
I'm not sure it makes me like the film more, but I appreciate Gray's insight into what his intentions were. I specifically enjoyed how he describes the thematic ending of the film better than how it materializes on screen (which I still felt was forced and unearned):
SpoilerShow
Interviewer: But if Tommy Lee Jones had discovered alien life, it would all seem justified. We’d think, He did what he had to do to get to this moment.

Gray: Well, let me ask you a question. If you were searching for something your whole life and you finally found it, what does that mean? That’s its own trouble, isn’t it? It’s partly what I was trying to express with Lost City of Z as well, this idea that finding the city was not really what the movie was about at all. The movie is ultimately about the search, and how you dedicate your life to the idea of a goal. It’s the same way with filmmaking. You find pleasure in the doing.

...I think the tragedy of Tommy Lee’s character is that he never found a pleasure in the beauties that he discovered. He never found beauty in the idea that human beings are what matter. The idea of striving is what matters.

User avatar
Black Hat
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:34 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#68 Post by Black Hat » Thu Oct 24, 2019 2:42 pm

The production design here, especially in the Mars chase scene is extraordinary. Other than that there's not much going on or of note that isn't done much better in other places. I like Gray, think he's an engaging guy, but he has to stop whining about the death of mid tier cinema when he's putting a 55 year old Brad Pitt inside a space suit for two hours by himself crying about his dad. Have at least a modicum of self awareness.

User avatar
Cremildo
Joined: Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:19 pm
Location: Brazil
Contact:

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#69 Post by Cremildo » Thu Oct 24, 2019 4:30 pm

James Gray wrote:He never found beauty in the idea that human beings are what matter.
It's clear that Jones' obsessive character doesn't care about human beings, but what irks me in this movie is that it gives the impression that space exploration and the search for (intelligent) extraterrestrial life are worthless endeavors because our species still needs to figure out important things about itself. See, we can only do one thing at a time! Which is one of the most dim-witted intellectual stances I've ever come across in an allegedly serious film.

User avatar
Black Hat
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:34 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#70 Post by Black Hat » Thu Oct 24, 2019 8:51 pm

I think that's a smart point. Another issue is that it starts to veer off on being a commentary about climate change/resources/humanity etc, etc. which would have been a very interesting direction to take it in, but instead goes full bore with the daddy issue thing. Pretty much all of his movies are about some monstrous, emotionally unavailable, obsessively ambitious father figure. Enough already.

User avatar
Toland's Mitchell
Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2019 2:42 pm

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#71 Post by Toland's Mitchell » Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:39 pm

I felt Ad Astra was good, but not great. The narrations and Donald Sutherland were totally unnecessary. However, the production design and cinematography were top-notch and made seeing the film on the big screen worth it.

User avatar
Never Cursed
Such is life on board the Redoutable
Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2016 12:22 am

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#72 Post by Never Cursed » Wed Nov 20, 2019 7:55 am


User avatar
Red Screamer
Joined: Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:34 pm
Location: Tativille, IA

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#73 Post by Red Screamer » Wed Jan 08, 2020 8:04 pm

Just on a sensory level, this was astonishing. Credit to Hoyte van Hoytema's hybrid film-digital cinematography, because Ad Astra's version of space is maybe the most tangible I've ever seen. In part, I imagine, because of the skillful incorporation of digital effects & physical actors and environments as well as, of course, the sensitivity of Gray's direction. Unlike many recent attempts in this vein, it's an existential spin on a genre that actually works, largely because of its sincere approach which feels, in relation to the material, like a 50s SF paperback by way of an opera. I found it continually surprising narratively while not really being narratively driven. Gray is doing something closer to a fusion of the third-person epic and first-person lyrical modes, which also becomes an essential idea for film's emotional and philosophical thrust. Emblematic of Gray's don't-call-it-minimal poetic approach is a moment near the end of the film that made me gasp:
SpoilerShow
a cut between two shots of stars that registers as a shot-reverse shot because of how the scene is set up spatially. It's one of the most powerful expressions of the enormity of the cosmos and the limits of human imagination because of how simple it is.
I came across a great podcast interview with James Gray, though I'd recommend skipping the annoying Brad Pitt rankings that take up the first half of the episode (the interview begins at 48:47).

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#74 Post by knives » Wed Feb 12, 2020 7:24 pm

What was up with that ape? The only part of the movie I wouldn't defend. Even on the thematic level it's a bit mush.

This continues Z's trend of Gray movies that are good using some of the same tricks, but in a very different direction. The main similarity is using classical genre modes to deal with very personal themes. Sci-fi hasn't suffered the death knell that earth bound exploration has, but this kind of sci-fi feels particularly '50s in its understanding and ambition. Many of the scenes could easily being placed wholesale in some George Pal flick with even the title being basically Conquest of Space. I think it's this very classical sense that allows Gray to get away with some of his odder choices like the use of voice over.

Outside the old Spielberg role about fathers that Gray loves so much I wouldn't call this a film overly interested in the figurative possibilities of the premise, but rather the themes (which I find interesting) seem focused on how the setting effects Pitt and how that could be extended into a generalization (another point that makes me think of Pal). The Ruth Negga scene in particular emphasizes this perspective as we process Pitt's processing of her processing of grief. It's the rare moment without voice over where we have to think about what we are seeing in cinematic rather than literary terms.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

#75 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Feb 12, 2020 8:58 pm

knives wrote:What was up with that ape? The only part of the movie I wouldn't defend. Even on the thematic level it's a bit mush.
No doubt a reference to the apes we sent to die in space as a test for whether humanity could cross that barrier and survive. Past sins taking a sudden and angry revenge. Before heading out into the cosmos, Pitt has to deal with a brutal, oft-forgotten part of our legacy of space travel.

Not sure why everyone's down on this scene just because it's hard to interpret. That's what make it interesting.

Post Reply