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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

HOW CLOSE IS DEATH?

I saw two movies yesterday, Passengers, made this year, and On the Beach, in 1959.  Both had a pervading theme:  the inevitability of death.  Of course, we'll all die, and death on Passengers still provided a full life, but there were other moral issues at play.  On the Beach gave five months, maybe, for the entirety of Humanity.

Passengers (yikes, a Rotten Tomatoes reviewers rating of 32%, but 69% of audiences liked it) involved starship Avalon transporting 5000 colonists to Planet Homestead II, a journey of 120 years.  Unfortunately, even though the ship had a shield to protect it, an asteroid somehow sneaks through and damages a key computer.  In the process, Chris Pratt as Jim Preston, a mechanical engineer, is awakened only 30 years into the flight.  He does have the company of  robot bartender, Arthur, played by a witty and innocent Michael Sheen.  After a year or so of attempting everything, failing, and contemplating suicide, he sees in one of the hibernation pods, Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Lane, a writer of a double Pulitzer father.  Clearly, she is rich, as her plan is to write about the experience and in a year return to Earth, which will have advanced 250 years.  

Well, Pratt finds a way to wake her up, they fall in love, until Arthur's simple honesty reveals how she awoke.  Lawrence equates this act to murder, and after a series of calamities, they re-establish a relationship.  The undeniable fact is that if both were not around to solve the asteroid problem, no one would have reached the final destination.

I won't reveal the ending, but let me just say that they could have awakened three other couples so that their great grandchildren could have survived the remaining 90 years.  A generation in affluent countries is around 30 years.

I would say I enjoyed this film more than Rogue One, for Passengers did the physics right, and, someday in the future, there could well be a starship Avalon heading off to a new world.  Star Wars?  Pure fantasy.  

Almost a decade ago in the very early planning, the stars were supposed to be Keanu Reeves and Emily Blunt.  Would be interesting to have someone do Passengers 2 with these actors, focusing on they being children in the second generation on Avalon, arriving, and covering the first year on Homestead II.

In 1957 Nevil Shute wrote On the Beach, the horrible aftermath of nuclear war.  World War III had devastated the Northern Hemisphere, and the nuclear fallout was moving south, giving the final major community, Australia, around 5 months to survive.  The one hope was an insensible morse code signal emanating from San Diego.  So the American nuclear sub, Sawfish (stranded in Melbourne by the war), commanded by Gregory Peck as Captain Dwight Towers, who had lost his wife and two children in the holocaust, but fell in love with Ava Gardner, an alcoholic Moira Davidson, was sent to explore.  This infidelity was not in Shute's book, so he bowed out of the production.  The U.S. Department of Defense did not want to cooperate, so ships of the Royal Australian Navy were used.

Waltzing Matilda, the unofficial anthem of Australia, played throughout the film, and became popular across the world.  I was waiting for a climactic ending with three bedraggled street performers walking backwards into extinction singing Waltzing Matilda.  But that scene never came.  I'm now thinking that I never before saw On the Beach (Rotten Tomatoes 75%/69%) before, for nothing clicked, and I wonder from which film came this clip that has stuck in my brain all these years.

If you don't want to become depressed, don't watch this movie, for the final scenes were mostly of how the remaining humans committed suicide, including those on the Sawfish heading home.  I also found it curious that the closest Australian accent might have been Gregory Peck's, who was speaking normally as an American.  To pinpoint who was doing what then:
  • Ava Gardner (did you know she married Mickey Rooney in 1942, and divorced Frank Sinatra in 1959--she died a little more than a quarter century ago).
  • Anthony Perkins was in Psycho a year later (he passed away nearly a quarter century ago).
  • Fred Astaire (hoofer who made Emmy Award-winning dance specials in 1958, 1959 and 1960, and changed his career into a serious actor after this film--went in 1987 at the age of 88).
What about the hope provided by the signal from San Diego?  You can go to any of your film services and watch this film.  So how close is death?  Anytime, but:


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