3 Reasons I Wanted to See The Theory of Everything and 5 Things I Came Away Loving

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Over the weekend I finally got a chance to see The Theory of Everything. I’ve been dying to see it for a while now but my schedule and the winter holiday season has kept me pretty busy, which is great, but on Sunday I was able to get together with one of my college friends, have brunch, and go see the movie.

My Pre-viewing Thoughts

I can’t say that I am a science person at all. The last time I took Physics was senior year of high school, and I still believe that the only reason I did well in the class was because I took extremely neat notes (I knew it wasn’t my subject so I was ready to tackle it head on) and I had a really great teacher. But still I actively avoided a lot of science in college, despite the number of friends I have who are into the subject. I’m not the type of person who would leap at a chance to see a Stephen Hawking movie. But I did. So here’s why.

1) Eddie Redmayne

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I have been a huge Eddie Redmayne fan for years, mainly because of his performance in Les Mis (which I am also obsessed with), but I was also sort of aware of who he was a little before then. So when I heard that he was going to be in this, my interest was piqued. Also he is married now, and I am happy for him, but also a little more sad than I really should be…

2) The Trailer I think first saw the trailer for The Theory of Everything a few months ago when I was looking up something on imdb, and I was instantly intrigued. Since then I have watched the trailer more times than I would care to admit in anticipation for the movie. Just something about the music overlaying the voice overs with their selection of scenes and the story as a whole really got me.

3)  David Thewlis aka Remus Lupin

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I only really know David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, one of my favorite characters from Harry Potter, and I don’t think i have ever seen him in anything else, so that also got me interested as well. I must say part of me wanted him to offer chocolate to Eddie Redmayne at some point in the movie to help him along (it works wonders against Dementors).

My Post Viewing Thoughts

So here are my thoughts after watching the movie. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but then again I’m not entirely sure what that was. And if it had ended up being entirely what I thought, I don’t think it would have been as good. They do cover a good portion of the movie in the trailers, but since it is a true story, and Stephen Hawking’s life and work is so well known, it doesn’t give away as much as if this had happened with a fictional story. I thought there was still enough that wasn’t shown in the trailer to make it interesting. I felt like I needed a day or two to fully process what I saw, so here are my somewhat processed thoughts.

1) Eddie Redmayne (again)

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Portraying Stephen Hawking on screen is a huge challenge because of his fame and body of work alone, not to mention ALS, which he was diagnosed with while he was in graduate school at Cambridge. In interviews Redmayne talks about the work and research that went into him learning both about Stephen’s theories and ALS as a whole.

They had to chart what muscles were still working at what points in the film, primarily from photographs, and then Redmayne had to learn how to accurately portray that on screen. Plus, since films aren’t shot in chronological order, he had to be able to jump around to different points in Stephen’s life within the same day. There is some serious acting talent and dedication needed to pull that off well.

I’ve found that I really enjoy hearing about “behind the scenes” stuff like this, whether it is in movies, tv shows or books, so I really appreciated how honest Redmayne was about the work and dedication he needed to put into this job. The other challenge that comes with playing Stephen Hawking is his voice machine.

Since Theory of Everything covers a long span of Hawking’s life, his voice machine isn’t introduced until about the last third of the movie, but it was well into his time in the new wheel chair that I realized that Eddie Redmayne as a actor had no more lines in the movie. And yet his role was far from being over. That just meant that he had to find a way to express himself, whether it was through the pauses in conversation, or expression and eyebrow movements. That is a whole other challenge for him as an actor, which he tackled head on.

I saw this when I was watching interviews about Les Mis, but it was just emphasized even more here – I really enjoy the challenges that Eddie Redmayne goes after as an actor, and the amount of work he does for them. He also has had such a variety of roles that he won’t be type cast any time soon. The other actor that I think of with challenges in roles is Jennifer Lawrence. There are obviously more, but I’ve just seen Jennifer Lawrence and Eddie Redmayne talk more about the behind the scenes preparation that goes on for a role, and they both go after really varied and challenging parts. The third person i think of with this is Daniel Day Lewis. I still haven’t seen Lincoln, but I really want to. I just really like hearing about actors, and authors for that matter, pushing themselves and trying out new things.

No one wants to see your homework,

Redmayne has said in multiple interviews when asked about the research he had to do for the role. The results should be there, but it is not the main focus of the plot. Which leads me to

2) The Story

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While I have read reviews that say there should be more science in the film, I personally like the way they showed the story. I knew the very very basics about Stephen Hawking before this movie, and I didn’t know who Jane was at all.

Stephen is such an icon that I liked that the story focused on the more personal relational side of his life. It  fleshes out his character more than if they had just focused on his fame and theories. They focused on him as a person rather than him as a legend. There is one scene where Hawking’s father reminds him that he is world famous, but it is set in a garden with his family around him – a very private scene compared to a very public fact.

The other thing that the story covers well is Stephen’s humor throughout the movie, which also expanded his character even more. Here is this guy who is going through so much, much more than most other people go through in their lifetimes, and his sense of humor stays with him throughout the film and throughout his life. That is something that Redmayne commented on when he met Stephen Hawking a few weeks before filming began, and the writers and James Marsh, the director, really worked to emphasize. Reedmayne also talked about this in an interview. He said,

Stephen lives with such optimism that there was a sense of optimism that ran through [the movie].

3) Felicity Jones

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I must say I hadn’t seen a movie with Felicity Jones in it before watching this (I am a little hopeless when it comes to celebrities), but this was a great role for me to be introduced to her in. A lot of her character was split between being a young girl in school infatuated with a boy, and caring for him while he has the disease, raising three kids, and doing her own work. I thought she portrayed these two sides of the role really well, and I the stress and the nitty gritty details of dealing with ALS were all shown realistically. While I have heard that there are some parts of the story that aren’t exactly true to life, I think she did a great job emoting her character and really showing it on screen. All in all both she and Eddie Redmayne deserve those Golden Globes they have been nominated for.

4) Science vs. Religion

This was another theme that was slipped in at various points throughout the movie. I wasn’t expecting it, but it makes sense with the themes of the film, and with Stephen’s interest in time and space and the beginning of time that religion would find a way to slip in one way or another. Jane is a Catholic I believe, and that was how that thread started, but it could have been very easy for the science vs. religion debate to become too heavy handed and overdone which didn’t happen, so I appreciated that, and I thought it was well executed.

5) The Cinematography

I am in no way a film student, and usually things like cinematography go over my head, but I really enjoyed a lot of the shots in Theory of Everything. Bits of the more cinematic scenes can be seen in the trailer, but there are more in the film as a whole. There is a lot of spinning and circles throughout the film, but it is all done in a beautiful artistic way that again isn’t overly stated I thought. And the circle motif goes well with time and “winding back the clock” and all that. I also liked the artistic bits because it went well with the “Science?” “Arts” conversation that Stephen and Jane had at the beginning of the movie when they first met, and the cinematography is a good way to fit the arts into a “science movie” (I use quotes because really it’s not a science movie but you know what I mean).

The Theory of Everything is up for 4 Golden Globes including Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones for Best Male and Female in a Drama respectively, Best Motion Picture, Drama, and Best Original Score. But even if it wasn’t up for four awards, and I’m sure more when Oscar season fully rolls around, Stephen Hawking has said that he enjoyed Eddie’s performance, and at time he forgot that Eddie wasn’t himself. If that isn’t the highest praise then I don’t know what is.

Well, this has turned out to be a pretty long post because I have a lot of feelings about this movie, and I knew I wanted to post about it before even watching it, but I would love to hear anyone else’s thoughts on the movie so please leave comments below! I also am planning on seeing The Imitation Game soon, which is also up for a number of Golden Globes, and I’m really interested to see how that all pans out. My bet is on this, but I also love Benedict Cumberbatch, so we’ll just have to wait and see…

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Thoughts on Les Mis: Amazing Movie; To Read the Book or Not To Read the Book?

This past weekend I went with a friend of mine to see Les Mis. I had seen the play while I was in London for a semester in college, and was familiar with the music. I have always thought it was an amazing play, but I never got too immersed in it. Well, seeing the movie blew me away and now I consider myself completely obsessed. I haven’t really discussed movies on my blog before, and I thought I could give it a try now and again.

I saw the movie on Saturday night, and since then have bought many of the songs that I did not previously own, and have had them continually running through my head. I have also been looking at interviews on youtube from the actors etc., and seriously debated the best version of each song to get on itunes. What can I say – when I get into something I really get into it. I would watch it again, and I do want to eventually, but I’m not sure if I have the emotional capacity for two viewings so close together. I didn’t cry during the movie, but it was hugely emotional which came across very powerfully on screen.

I was impressed with the camera angles, especially during solos when the camera was right in an actor’s face. In interviews Eddie Redmayne who plays Marius, talked about how each actor had intensive voice lessons, not only to improve their singing voices, but also to develop specific muscle control in their throats to sustain the amount of singing they had to do. The whole thing is singing after all, which is hugely impressive in the first place as a play, and even more impressive when you think about all the different cuts and takes that a movie goes through before the final product is put together. Especially when the singing is being done live while filming, rather than having it prerecorded to play back during the filming. That is a lot of singing, and a lot of work for one person’s voice. They also had to learn how to sing while showing intense emotion. There was one shot of Anne Hathaway while she is singing “I Dreamed a Dream” where she looks absolutely terrible after being thrown out on the street. She looks terrible, but the fact that there was so much emotion in the scene (where her face took up most of the screen) was really beautiful. There were tons of scenes like this throughout the film, and the same could be said of any of the actors. The emotion just came off the screen really well, and the extreme close ups made the songs and scenes much more personal. Both Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway lost 25 for their roles so they would look drawn, thin, bedraggled, and like a prisoner or a prostitute. But that is a lot of work and dedication within itself. Also, I was not really aware that any of the actors in the film could sing to the extent that they can before I saw it, and they all were amazing. I later found out that Samantha Barks, who played Eponine, was also Eponine in the London production of the play, and was in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Mis as well. (I did think that her voice sounded familiar at one point – On My Own is one of the songs that I owned before seeing the movie) Eddie Redmayne also took singing lessons when he was younger, and Hugh Jackman has been in musicals before.

Anyway, since I am now completely obsessed with all things Les Mis, I have been debating reading the book. Of course it is hugely long and rather intimidating, and the play/movie is a much abbreviated version of the book, but I feel like it is something I want to do eventually. Once again, I’m not sure it is something I have the emotional capacity for, but it is worth thinking about. The friend that I went to go see it with starting reading Les Mis in August with the intention of finishing it before the movie came out on Christmas, which she was able to do. I have read the first page or so and it is well written, which I knew already. It is also dense at times, and I have heard that Victor Hugo likes to go on and on about details in the book, such as a minor character and why he is there at that particular moment doing what he is doing, or the Battle of Waterloo. That sort of thing is interesting if you are in the right mood for it, or tiring if you aren’t.

There is also a version of Les Mis on sale at Barns and Nobles at the moment for $5. The only problem is that it is a rather large hard cover book, and although it is surprisingly light will I want to carry it around with me on the subway etc? These are the things I need to think about. If I do read it, I might read it while reading something else as well – maybe something lighter and cheerier. Les Mis is also available through Goodreads, which is probably the most convenient method of reading such a hugely long book, but I prefer not to read things on a screen. I am willing to try it though. I feel like I have a lot of thinking to do before I embark on this project. In the meantime, I think I will listen to some more songs from the play, and wait for Les Mis to win lots of Oscars come February.

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