Wednesday, March 18, 2015

American Sniper

Sometimes the real impact of movies on society and our culture appear in relevant stories that would ordinarily find themselves buried in the back pages of newspapers.  For instance, two days after the 2015 Oscars ceremony, several media outlets, including The New York Times, reported that a jury found Eddie Ray Routh guilty of killing Chris Kyle, sentencing him to life imprisonment.  Perhaps if American Sniper--which chronicled Kyle's life as a Navy SEAL sharpshooter-- had not racked up several award nominations, that story would have not received much attention.  The trial rankled defense lawyers, since several potential jury members may have seen the film, thus tainting their opinions. The film ends with subtitles stating that "Kyle was shot by a veteran he was trying to help." 
"Sniper" also stirred controversy for its alleged glorification of war.  Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted that 'snipers were cowards', while Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin supported the film. 
As for historical accuracy, the film took liberties in some areas while the production team and cast took great pains to realistically portray the legendary sniper's life. Critics have pointed out that the memoir which the film is based on (American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History), doesn't depict Kyle targeting an armed child, and also includes fictitious characters.  In contrast, actor Bradley Cooper reveals that he spoke with Kyle before his death, studied footage of the marksman, gained 40 pounds, and went through vigorous sniper training with a Navy SEAL.  At one point, Kyle's family and friends admitted doing double takes watching Cooper because of his close resemblance to Chris.
Chris Kyle
Bradley Cooper

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Real Life 2014

Every year, there's a significant number of films released based on real people and events.  A lot of them find themselves in Oscar contention and win numerous awards. 2014 is no different.
Here's a list:

The Imitation Game
American Sniper 
The Theory of Everything
Kill the Messenger
Jersey Boys
The Good Lie
Mr. Turner
Get On Up
Million Dollar Arm
Heaven is For Real
When the Game Stands Tall
Jimmy P.

Film2Fact will update this list and profile select movies soon.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species”--Stephen Hawking.

What happens when Hollywood visual effects wizards brainstorm with a legendary physics wiz? Well, in the case of Interstellar , the result is a groundbreaking new look at our universe. Director Christopher Nolan (Inception reviewed by F2F) and famed scientist Kip Thorne wanted a realistic representation of how black holes and wormholes behave, requiring complex computer models (that ate up hundreds of hours of rendering time). Thorne delivered a slew of  theoretical equations to the Vis FX team at Double Negative, who transformed them into accurate computer simulations.    Subsequently, the images became valuable new tools for physicists to study.  Thorne also wrote two new scientific papers: one for the astrophysics community and one for the computer graphics community.  Fiction assisted fact and vice versa. 
Nolan (left)  and Thorne (right) discuss big science ideas
Thorne's depiction of how black hole distorts light
What's interesting is how Nolan, screenwriter brother Johnathon Nolan, the production team, and the actors went to great lengths to present a realistic depiction of how NASA might tackle a way to save a dying Earth. The actors gained insight from real astronauts. In particular, Anne Hathaway (an admitted science nerd) conferred with retired astronaut Marsha Ivens, who completed five missions and logged over a thousand hours in orbit, delivering supplies to the Russian Mir station and the International Space Station.  Michael Caine (who plays Professor Brand) was asked to model his character on Kip Thorne. Also, since the plot involves blight and dust storms plaguing Earth, director Nolan got permission from famed documentarian Ken Burns to include interviews with actual Dust Bowl survivors in the movie.  The production team also mimiced real dust storms of the 1930's that blew through farmlands, caused by severe drought.
Dust storm circa 1935

But the crux of the saga depends on viewers to believe Mankind might find salvation through incredibly lengthy journeys through a wormhole  --shortcuts to other galaxies-- that stem from Einstein's theory of relativity.  Some critics believe it would be impossible for humans to travel through them if they existed.  F2F wanted to learn more and discovered several websites that attempt to explain much of this science behind the fiction. But quite frankly, we don't have Phd's, so we'll reference a neat video here (thanks to ) and another site here.

Black Hole in Interstellar
Side note: Wormholes appear in other sci-fi films and TV fare, most notably "Star Trek". (F2F's author once interviewed science consultant Andre Bormanis about wormholes and other space phenomena for special documentaries available on DVD releases of Star Trek: Voyager). 
Wormhole in Interstellar

Other films featuring wormholes and black holes:
The Avengers
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The Black Hole

More info on Interstellar here and here.