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Make Room (Or Space) for ‘Ad Astra’ on 9/20/19

It seems as if major Hollywood studios have unintentionally (or intentionally) designated this week as a new movie trailer week.

On that note, the list of movies that take place in space is long and expansive. As in really long and expansive. Particularly in recent years, there’s clearly been interest from moviemakers in LA and demand from audiences worldwide who want to travel to space via the silver screen sans the otherworldly price tag with acting’s biggest headline-grabbers. Just since 2013, films like ‘Gravity,’ ‘Interstellar,’ ‘The Martian,’ ‘Passengers,’ ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘First Man’ (to name just a few) have explored space, based either on a true story or with a fairly high degree of realism within a fictional story to critical and box office success. Leading A-list actors and actresses in these aforementioned films include Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Octavia Spencer, and Ryan Gosling.

And now fellow A-List actor Brad Pitt wants in on the action with his new space thriller called ‘Ad Astra,’ which is Latin for “to the stars.”

Interestingly, Liv Tyler portrays Brad Pitt’s wife who remains on earth while her husband ventures into the unknown in the heavens above for a mission revolving around the existence of this planet, which is oddly reminiscent of her role in the 1998 movie ‘Armageddon.’

Hmmm…

Anyways, the plot seems intertwined with exciting action sequences and personal relationships — near and far — that will surely reveal the true purpose of this film involving the enigmatic father character portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones as well as potentially ushering in the newest chapter in 21st-century science fiction. One of ‘Ad Astra’ director James Gray’s films is the 2015 documentary ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut.’ With this in mind, we should keep a keen eye on whether Mr. Gray (who wrote and directed ‘Ad Astra’) utilized any suspenseful techniques made famous by Mr. Hitchcock. For a movie that takes place in space with infinite scale, weaving in Hitchcock thrills via claustrophobia, for example, would bring a level of closeness to a story that will prioritize every ounce of available oxygen.

We know what ‘Ad Astra’ means in Latin, but what does it mean cinematically in 2019? Does the movie’s poster playfully reveal any clues?

ad-astra-poster

While the eye immediately goes to the astronaut’s warped movement in space — which is tantalizingly puzzling — why is the “R” in the title sliced in half in the poster? And then there’s the movie’s tag line, “The answers we seek are just outside our reach.” That suggests a new dimension in space with a Gandalf-caliber “You shall not pass” barrier. Where have we seen that before?

‘Ad Astra’ arrives in a theater near you on September 20.

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Happy Monday!

Mankind first walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, by way of American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. In 2019, NASA is beginning to plan how mankind will, well, see for yourself…

NASA’s ambition, as displayed in its video declaration seen above, is American ingenuity at its finest.

“We are going.”

Have a Better Week Than Last Week. 

Revisiting the Golden Record’s Space in Human (and Non-Human) History

Forget talking with aliens. Instead, they might respond to a playlist. This was the logic in the late ’70s.

For this Throwback Thursday, join me in revisiting an actual musical playlist that was blasted into space a few decades ago with the sincere hope of being found by and listened to by, yes, aliens.

A couple of years ago, I made an investment on Kickstarter to receive a replica reproduction of the Golden Record. Reproduced and organized by Ozma Records, this was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. Listening to the eclectic soundtrack — songs and sounds of nature, like rain — it is truly unique to living on Earth.

Of course, there are plenty of additions that could and should be added from 40 years ago. More popular songs plus a few blockbuster, culture-altering movies, as well as classic TV shows, would be added for the Golden Record: Part II.

One of these new film additions would have to be ‘Independence Day.’

The Space Between Truth and Fiction Is Not so Strange Anymore

A black hole is photographed for the first time, thanks in part to Katie Bouman.

“Three years ago, Bouman led the creation of an algorithm that eventually helped capture this first-of-its-kind image: a supermassive black hole and its shadow at the center of a galaxy known as M87. She was then a graduate student in computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

–Michelle Lou and Saeed Ahmed, CNN, ‘That image of a black hole you sae everywhere today? Thank this grad student for making it possible’

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) -- a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration -- was designed to capture images of a black hole. Today, in coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers reveal that they have succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow.

Amazing. And this amazement applies to the first image of a black hole in space as well as Ms. Bouman’s ground–well, space–breaking algorithm.

Life is about pushing boundaries, which is a particular topic of interest with the release of ‘First Man’ starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy and the recent theatrical release of the CNN documentary ‘Apollo 11’ chronicling America’s groundbreaking moon landing. While in awe of the image shown above, American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Kip Thorne and the science fiction epic ‘Interstellar’ by Christopher Nolan immediately came to mind. ‘Interstellar,’ while fiction, is painstakingly rooted in real science. Creating a realistic depiction of a black hole was pivotal to the story for the filmmakers, writers, and audience.

Was the ‘Interstellar’ crew right with their image of a black hole back in 2014?

Kip Thorne, Christopher Nolan, and the entire ‘Interstellar’ team were pretty damn close with their depiction of a black hole in 2014 to the first image of a black hole in 2019!

Who else is going to watch ‘Interstellar’ again?

This scientific revelation as compared to a cinematic epic validates and builds upon the lore of Mr. Nolan’s brilliance as a filmmaker and storyteller of spaces beyond our earthly realities. More importantly, the first image of a black hole is a game-changer in ways we are only just beginning to comprehend.

Yesterday was another giant leap for mankind.