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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Read a Good Book (or two) in 2014

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photo from The Independent

Hello all and happy new year! Have you all gotten used to writing 14 in the date yet because I’m not sure I have. Also I hope everyone is keeping warm with all this snow the North East is having.

Last week there was an article floating around Facebook that peaked my interest having to do with brain changes and reading novels. It sounds nerdy and academic but as a former English major and Psychology minor I was interested in what it had to say. (Here is another article that goes into a little more detail about the experiment.)

Researchers at Emory University tested the effect reading a novel can have on the brain. They gave a group of 20 students a gripping book to read that was fast paced and plot driven and then took an fMRI of their brains after finishing certain sections of the novel.

They found that reading a book develops the area of the brain that deals with language comprehension in the left temporal cortex. This makes sense – reading a book helps with language comprehension and development. The interesting part of the article, I thought, was that reading a novel also stimulated the primary sensory motor cortex that deals with physical motion and sensation in the body. Each part of the cortex is devoted to a different body part and its sensory/motor functions, and these areas of the brain can be triggered by physical movement or thinking about a particular sensation or movement.

The scientists conducting this expedient suggest that the stimulation of the primary sensory motor context has to do with a reader relating to a protagonist and putting themselves in their shoes. One scientist told The Independent,

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.

What’s more was that the scientists found that these changes in the brain stayed for days after finishing the novel. It was a fairly small study, but I thought the results were pretty interesting.

I have noticed that I haven’t been reading for as long periods as I normally do. I have a good book going (I’ve moved on to rereading The Two Towers now). I get distracted easily by television, the internet, Netflix, work, anything really. But I do want to carve out more reading time for myself on the weekends or at night where I just sit down with a good book for however long to stimulate my primary sensory motor cortex. And of course to unwind and read a good book. That and work on my story some more. Any goals, literary or otherwise, that you have for 2014?

I also wouldn’t mind reading on that beach. The weather in New York right now is slightly colder than it is there…

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