Friday, April 17, 2015

Catalyst Con 2015: the porn panels

Gram Ponante: Covering Porn: The Life on an American Porn Journalist
After taking a break for lunch, I went on a futile search for coffee, returning to the vendor area where coffee and tea were made available for attendees and as we'd find throughout the weekend, no coffee was to be had. But to my surprise, Lynn Comella was at the convention bookstore unpacking her new publication, New Views On Pornography: Sexuality, Politics, and the Law. So I made my way to over to purchase a copy of the hefty academic text and ended up chatting excitedly about porn studies, since I'd just finished a 6 week couse on the topic. But before long, I was heading out to listen to Gram Ponante's talk on porn journalism.

Turns out at Gram Ponante is a fantastic storyteller as his talk was mostly his story of how having barely even seen any pornographic movies, he ended up with a career writing about porn for AVN, i.e.the Adult Video News.

The take away message from this presentation is that it is nearly impossible to spend any amount of time telling entertaining anecdotes without addressing the various legal challenges faced by the industry. The adult industry has always existed on the line of legality and until the Freemen decision of 1988, the filming of pornographic movies was done in secret, with cops regularly busting shoots and the actors being arrested under charges of prostitution. But thanks to one court battle going all the way to the Supreme Court, the production of pornographic materials became legal in the state of California. And this is why productions are always made in CA. One would logically conclude that the ruling would automatically make the production of porn generally legal, but it hasn't been tested in other parts of the U.S. and no one is eager to find out, especially as many of the courts have become significantly less liberal in their interpretations of law.

But this led gracefully into the final panel I attended that day, New Views on Pornography: Sexuality, Politics, and the Law with  Lynn Comella PhD, Kevin Heffernan PhD, Kimberly A Harchuck Esq LLM, and Carol Queen PhD to discuss the growing field of porn studies. The date of this talk actually coincided with the one year anniversary of the release of the first academic journal dedicated to the discipline, Porn Studies. And the panel talked about the current interest in the academic study of pornography, but they primarily focused on their individual contributions to the newly released book, New Views on Pornography. edited by Lynn Commella and Shira Tarrant.

Kevin Heffernan (Southern Methodist University) pointed out that we talk about pornographic film differently than we do any other media. However, there was a time when porn was exhibited in theaters. In his study of the horror movie, he noticed that the genre responded more to changes in the movie industry than it did to major cultural changes. So in his chapter included in New Views, he explores the impact that shifts in the distribution of pornographic films has on the adult industry, legal battles around censorship, and finally on the films themselves.

First Amendment lawyer, Kimberly H Harchuck, addressed the relationship between the adult film industry and the obscenity laws. Basically, pornography has always pushed up against censorship and is a test of the first amendment. Our regulation of pornography is rooted in the Miller test. Basically, community standards determine when something is deemed obscene, but now that pornography is primarily distributed on-line, how do you determine community standards for a global medium?

So today, pornography and our internet freedoms may be the test that demonstrates our relative human liberties. Kimberly Harchuck pointed out that today, China has locked down their internet, tightly regulating the content that citizens can see. And porn is blocked. By comparison, the UK filters porn at the level of service provider and is attempting to restrict access to certain kinds of pornographic materials.

And finally, Carol Queen sees a resurgence in anti-porn feminism as fueling porn scholarship.

Her chapter in New Views traces the history of legendary women friendly sex toy store, Good Vibrations. When the store opened in 1977, they were opposed to carrying porn. But Susie Bright was instrumental in bringing pornographic film to Good Vibrations and curated a small selection of woman friendly porn. At one time, they even kept a notebook where customers could write their reactions to the movies.

And finally, Carol Queen points out that in today's landscape of very private consumption of porn, we no longer enjoy porn as a cultural phenomenon.

And finally, the panel discussed the major question of 'why do we need porn scholarship?'

Basically this boils down to the general lack of good studies on the topic. The media tends to regurgitate the same poorly executed studies that claim various social harms as a result of the availability of porn. Laws are even drafted citing bad science. So the field is instrumental in our understanding of the social impact of pornography. And this volume even includes essays on how to properly evaluate existing studies on pornography. I cannot wait to tear into my copy, but am waiting until I finish some of the essays by many of the same scholars included in the Feminist Porn Book.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Catalyst Con: therapy is not neutral, it's political.

I attend Catalyst Con for the panels and Saturday morning, I was in desperate need of a time tuner. But I was forced to make hard choices and decided to listen to Sheri Winston talk about The Missing Pieces of the Female Anatomy Puzzle. And it was fascinating and it was about so much more than just anatomy.

The presentation began with Ancient Greeks in walking us along a cultural map of female pleasure. It seems that throughout history, female sexual anatomy is inferior. It seems that female anatomy is only interesting in as it pertains to reproduction and that it is the penis that is for pleasure. Thanks to this long standing bias, even today there is very little accurate information of female sexual pleasure and orgasm. But with a vulva pillow in hand, Sheri Winston presented the basic mechanics of female arousal and orgasm. I believed that I was very well informed on this topic, but still learned so much more.

Cis women have the same volume of erectile tissue as men, it is only underneath the skin. But despite this, full engorgement is still visually apparent, it just isn't as obvious because it can take upwards or 45 min of stimulation to fully engorge and orgasm can happen without. Also, we tend to equate wetness with arousal, which occurs much earlier, but doesn't indicate that they body is ready for penetrative sex. Like the penis, the clitoris and it's two arms will fill with blood. Also, the vestibule bulbs will swell, sometimes quite dramatically. Actually, I learned that at last year's Catalyst Con during a presentation on the history of lesbian porn, when Shar Renoir stopped to point out an actress' highly engorged vulva with the comment that you almost never see that in porn.

She also showed us the layers of muscle that compose the pelvic floor, a topic that I've been attempting to understand but remains a bit elusive. But the pelvic floor, or PC muscles, are multiple sheets of muscle tissue and not distinct 'muscles'. So when my doctors explain that I have pelvic floor weakness or spasticity, that is far from a specific statement. There is a huge number of muscles encompassed and this is likely why physical therapy is so incredibly challenging.

Sheri Winston also talked about the role of the uterus in arousal. I didn't even know it played a role, but it absolutely does. There's a pair of muscles that during arousal contract to pull the cervix back, lengthening the vaginal canal and allowing for vaginal tenting.

And there was so much more. She covered the urethral sponge, where the fluid some women can ejaculate likely comes from, and so much more. Many of the images came from her book, Women's Anatomy of Arousal. This is a book I would have looked past as having too much woo and not enough basis in science, but is actually the concise and reader friendly literature review that I've been looking for.

And now for a selection of live tweets...

Immediately after, I didn't have time to attend Sheri's book signing, since I was racing off to listen to Chris Donaghue's talk, The Sex Education of the Media: How social media impacts and distorts your sexuality.

This is one of the more challenging talks to summarize due to the tremendous amount of exciting ideas flowing. The main points were that our "social media is a direct link into our psyche." What we put out into the world on these platforms are aspects of who we are and additionally, what we see on-line impacts how we see the world. Who we choose to follow on sites like facebook and twitter impacts our perception of the world. We are always learning and the media bombards us with only the most dominant of social norms. And these social norms teach us who we are supposed to be and we will always fall short.

But on the bright side, Chris Donaghue points out that we can shape what we see on-line to create a world more friendly and accepting by following only those who challenge social norms. If someone is always posting body-shaming articles and images, we can choose not to see what they share. On the flip side, we can find communities in social media that can boost our self-esteem and self-worth. The not conventionally attractive can find validation by posting images of themselves to their social networks.

"Social media is great for queers-
Community  Normalization  Intersectionality  Resistance  Identity  Reduce Shame and Isolation   Explore   Escape    Educate"

He also talked about how the media reinforces the social and sexual norms for men and women, creating a Mars and Venus model of the sexes that doesn't actually exist, i.e. the battle of the sexes is completely a social construct played on by the media "There are more differences between women than there are between women and men.

Chris Donaghue didn't just talk about the media, but as a sex therapist, he spoke about the inherent sex negativity in psychology. Basically, any behaviour that isn't "normal" requires treatment. Psychology tends to individualize (privatize) and ignores that mental health is a reflects institutions. Actually, this emphasis on self-improvement can be seen throughout so many of the talks at Catalyst that it was refreshing and exciting to here someone touch upon the sociological ideology behind mental health.

In addition, Chris Donaghue, who was trained in sex addiction treatment, is firmly in the sex addiction isn't a thing camp.  Go Team!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Catalyst Con 2015 Opening Keynote complete with gluten-free pasta and salad.

Catalyst Con opening keynote image credit @dalliances
Monday we returned home from Catalyst Con East in Washington DC and it was an amazing conference. Catalyst gathers together the top voices in sex education, therapy, research, among other disciplines to spend two days discussing human sexuality. This year the conference opened with a discussion between Francisco Ramirez, Kristin Beck, Dr. Melanie Davis, and Rachel Kramer Bussel, moderated by Lynn Comella.

This year opening keynote focused on fostering diversity within the sex-positive communities. Looking around the convention, it is not exactly the most diverse group of people. Attendees and panelists may have a broad range of sexual orientations, gender identities, and even abilities, but are overwhelmingly white. It seems this discussion was part of last year's convention, too. But it was good that they are at least attempting to have the conversation.

The conversation tended to focus on positivity and being inclusive, which is a step, but doesn't do enough. Ignacio Rivera added to this conversation with the most insightful comment, basically stating that it isn't enough to attempt to invite diversity into the community, but to actually engage with existing minority communities. Go to their events and give to their communities.

Despite a bit of frustration over the diversity question bringing up too many of the same ideas, there were still so many insights shared. Francisco Ramirez talked about the rights of all people to be sexual, including the homeless and Dr. Davis talked about the difficulties faced by getting messages of sex positivity to the elderly. And there was a much appreciated discussion of the importance of self-care in a  field where too many appear to be working without much financial compensation.

But the biggest surprise of the night was the announcement from Kristin Beck of her intention to run for Congress. She was probably the most positive and optimistic when it came to offering solutions for reaching out to those outside of the sex-positive community.

The most frustrating moment came when Hedwig asked about the place for anger when uncovering the structural injustices that exist in the community. Suggestions were all about the personal processing of feelings of anger, instead of ways the community might work to dismantle the cultural structures of oppression, but that's America for ya. We are slow to catch on to issues of class, income inequalities, etc and the solutions offered always involve personal betterment when we probably should all attempt to run for office.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Best of 2014, Under the Skin

Under the Skin (2013, Jonathan Glazer)

Probably the most original film viewed last year was Under the Skin, loosely based on a novel about an extraterrestrial being prowling the Scottish highlands for men to harvest. In Jonathan Glazer's film, this being is Scarlett Johansson, but unlike in the novel, the film reveals nothing about her. Instead of giving a traditional narrative, Under the Skin invites us to simply observe the alien Scarlett Johansson as she drives, using her beauty to entice the men she stops to speak with into her car. She then takes them to a place where they slowly undress as she leads them into a dark pool. The film barely hints at her purpose. All we are given is that she drives, delivering men to the mysterious blackness to be consumed in that pool, their flesh floating away.

The resulting cinematic experience of a film with so little traditional exposition, frees one to watch her as the interacts with the men she hunts. Most of these men are not actors, but Scotsmen who they encountered as Johansson drove and she remains cold and unsympathetic for the first half of the film, until she encounters a man who is disfigured, lonely, and ostracized and their conversation turns more intimate. They even touch briefly.

Under the Skin asks what makes us human? And it suggests that something essential to our humanity is within our skin. It is found in our need to be touched, to be caressed, to be held. And the final shots of the film, when the alien has shed her Scarlett Johansson flesh and looks into the now empty face, recognizing the humanity of this skin.

That is the narrative that I saw, but the beauty and strength of Under the Skin is that it is very ambiguous. This is a film made to be reflected up and that likely behave as a mirror, showing us our own beliefs within our interpretations. And it is this ambiguity along with that haunting score that made Under the Skin on of the most exciting films of 2014.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Best of 2014, Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer (2013) dir. Bong Joon-ho

Unlike Locke, which exclusively uses dialog and Tom Hardy's face to construct the narrative, Snowpiercer draws heavily on visual storytelling. In Bong Joon-ho's multilingual, multinational allegorical illustration of capitalism, Snowpiercer is both visually and metaphorically about a quest to overthrow the class structure, by taking the engine of the train. Curtis' (Chris Evans) revolution begins at the rear of the train that houses all of surviving humanity after the earth became inhabitable due to a human induced ice age. The rear is where the underclasses live in the dark, surviving on meals of gelatinous protein blocks. In the quest to take the engine, Curtis leads his band of revolutionaries forward through the train and thus, car by car, visually illustrating upward mobility through the capitalist class structure. Probably, the most striking and funniest section is when they pass through the classroom where a very pregnant teacher (Alison Pill) is indoctrinating the children of the train's upper and middle cars with the story of Wilfred and his eternal train that protects them.

While the focus is on the insane lesson, Namgoon Minsoo (Song Kang-ho) direct's his daughter's attention outside the train in an effort to teach Yona (Ko Asung) about the frozen world outside, a world she knows nothing about having spent her entire 17 years on Wilfred's train. This duo was released from their incarceration in order to open the doors between the cars. They provide an alternative perspective on the revolution underway, that there are other options than to simply move forward.

Snowpiercer is such a powerful cinematic experience because it dares to unfold its narrative using visual cues instead of depending only upon spoken exposition. However, peppered throughout are amazing cinematic moments, like turning the focus away from a gun battle to observe a snowflake drift into the train through a bullet hole. These visual breaks in the narrative sometimes add a touch of humor or whimsy, but also demonstrate the power of Bong Joon-ho's unique cinematic vision.

Best of 2014, Locke

The cinema has been in a state of decline for quite a while now. Theaters have been quietly disappearing from the landscape, sometimes to reopen under different ownership, but sometimes, they are simply gone as in the case of the Neptune Cinema, now a concert venue. Fortunately, after the Egyptian's sudden closure in the summer of 2013, it reopened this fall under new ownership. But sadly, Seattle lost two more movie houses, the Harvard Exit and the Varsity. So 2014 was a tumultuous year for the cinema as the number of screens quietly decline and more and more movie-goers are happy to watch movies at home on the small screen.

As has been the case for several years now, most of the cinema I saw in 2014 was in nearly private screenings. As someone who values the experience of watching film in a cinema, with an audience, I know the sparsely populated screenings have more than a little to do with my not making it out to see many of the big movies of the year.

I still maintain hope that the movie house has a future, due to my experiences as a projectionist at a small, independent, volunteer run cinema. In 2014, the audiences were larger and more enthusiastic than in previous years. I work on Monday nights, historically the slowest night of the week, and saw audiences climb from the low single digits to 20-30 people most nights. I don't understand the trend, but it is one that suggests that young people today will still leave home to watch movies.

So in the first weeks of 2015, I plan to write briefly about a few of my favorites of 2014.

Locke (2013) dir. Steven Knight

In this intensely suspenseful drama, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) spends nearly the entire duration of the film seated behind the wheel as he drives and battles some internal demons. This is a film that isn't in a hurry to reveal Ivan Locke's reasons for not being at home with his family watching the big game, but is instead driving to another destination. He has also left the site of an extremely important concrete pour and much of the film is spent on the phone with Donal (Andrew Scott) making sure that the concrete is poured correctly in his absence.

What is most amazing about Locke is that it is so skillfully crafted that despite being focused on Tom Hardy's face as he answers a never ending series of phone calls, the film never becomes tedious or claustrophobic. No, I spent the duration on the edge of my seat, completely invested in the outcome of this construction site pour. I have never cared so much about concrete and rebar in my life. But as any glitches are being dealt with at the construction site, the real story is being revealed. That night, a haunting sense of obligation and duty takes him away from his family and his work and it is in the need to make different choices than his own father that has resulted in this drive which will likely end both his career and his marriage. And it is incredible that this emotional journey is conveyed simply by the voices in this car and the emotions playing out on Locke's face.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gone in a Blizzard: Two adaptations about missing women

In the last few weeks, I saw two films, Gone Girl and White Bird in a Blizzard, that share similar themes, mainly unhappy marriages, both are literary adaptations, both have noir elements, most notably the missing women are femme fatales, but these films are radically different in subtext and tone.

Spoiler warning: I plan to spoil the hell out of both films, so warning to those who worry about such things.

There has been a bit of an editorial battle waging over director David Fincher's Gone Girl, taking sides on whether the film is feminist. After seeing the film, I can now say that it isn't. The film begins with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) coming home to find his home in disarray, his cat wandering, and his wife gone. As police investigate Amy Dunne's (Rosamund Pike) disappearance, we hear Anne in voiceover detailing their relationship. They met in NYC where they were both writers before the recession. The next relationship stressor was a move to North Carthage, Missouri to be near Nick's sick mother and it is Amy's wealth from her parents royalties from popular children's book series that fund this relocation and even buys Nick his bar, that he runs with his twin sister.

The first half of Gone Girl is totally a police procedural as seen entirely from Nick's perspective. We learn that he has been having an affair with one of his students and had a bad habit of spending money they don't have on electronics, but nothing revealed about Amy and Nick's marriage in part one really makes the view see Nick as anything but sympathetic as the evidence mounts that points to his likely involvement in her brutal murder. But in the second half, suddenly we are pulled away from the police investigation to the narration of alive and well Amy, gleefully detailing her plan to frame her husband for her own murder. And this is where the story, at least as portrayed in the film adaptation, is problematic.

Early in this switch in perspective from Nick searching for his missing wife, to Amy as she is carefully orchestrating her plan, we get the monologue that some point to as the feminist center of the film.
Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men — friends, coworkers, strangers — giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much — no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version — maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.

The problem is the delivery. When we hear this rather awesome monologue, it is from a women who we know to be an unreliable narrater of a past where we saw nothing of this cool girl. So instead of being a critique of the way masks are applied early on in relationships, it comes across as a critique of the ways that women trick men into marriage. Actually, it is difficult not to see this film as a horror movie about an emasculated man who is ultimately trapped in a marriage to a psychopath. Gone Girl could have been a deconstruction of the institution of marriage, but instead is a movie about the heteronormative fear of women and marriage.

Gone Girl should have demonstrated more gender nuance since author, Gillian Flynn supplied the screenplay for Fincher's film and yet, the resulting film has a decidedly male point of view. So it is interesting to contrast Gone Girl to another current theatrical release, White Bird in a Blizzard from Gregg Araki. Gregg Araki adapted White Bird in a Blizzard from the eponymous novel by Laura Kasischke, but the resulting film is decidedly feminine, told from the perspective of Kat (Shailene Woodly). And like Gone Girl, the film is centered on the mysterious disappearance of a wife, Eve (Eva Green).

Kat (Shailene Woodley) is 17 when her mother vanishes, but her mother's sudden disappearance doesn't launch the sort of intense police investigation or media circus that we see in Gone Girl. Instead, it is presented as a fact in Kat's narration. She was 17 when her mother disappeared and their relationship is slowly filled in during meetings with Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane), in therapy sessions with Dr. Thaler (Angela Bassett) and finally in the glimpses of Kat's snow covered nightmares. At the time of Eve's exodus, Kat is focused on pursuing the new next door neighbor, Phil (Shilo Fernandez). Their relationship is a perfect depiction of young love, fueled by hormones and sexual curiosity. But amidst all of the making out, there is the unsettling shadow of Eve's disappearance coupled with Phil's rather sudden sexual withdrawal. From Kat's perspective, Phil's growing disinterest is an excuse to pursue with the police officer investigating the missing person's case.

Alongside Kat's sexual awakening, the clues to Eve's whereabouts linger. As Kat recounts memories of her mother, a portrait of marital distress emerges. There are few clues as to the root, but Eve can barely mask the hatred and disgust she feels for her suburban life and at her husband when he surprises her with a gift of a new crockpot. Eve and Brock (Christopher Meloni) are a portrait of my own parents marriage. As a teenager, I remember my own mother constantly monitoring my eating habits and weight. Although, I don't believe that my own parents were as unhappy with their marital lives, but they did live very separate lives under the same roof only really interacting a meal times. But Eve probably felt unfulfilled, bored, trapped by and jealous of her daughter's sexual agency and awakening.

So like Gone Girl, White Bird is also a document of the erosion of a marriage, but here is is not entirely due to the failings or malevolence of one spouse, but due to a slow spiral of escalating slights and betrayals that are hidden by the outward appearance of a traditional family. Until one day, Eve is gone. While White Bird in a Blizzard is more tentative and uneven in tone, it is also the film with the honest depiction of the actual horrors that hide within a marriage. Not the faked rapes and self-inflicted bruises or the malevolence of Amy Dunne's attempt to exact punishment for an infidelity, but just a murder committed in an act of rage. Sadly, that is the actual reason so many wives disappear.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Planet earth is blue and there's nothing I can do.

Outer space is such a common setting in cinema that we tend to forget about the realities of space travel. As a reminder, Gravity opens with...

After having seen Gravity, it comes as no surprise that director Alfonso Cuaron wanted to be an astronaut. Gravity is a film that is awe struck with the view of earth from space and of humanity's achievements in space. There are numerous satellites, labs, space stations, alongside trash and debris orbiting the planet and Cuaron places his narrative outside one of the stations in this surprisingly crowded landscape.

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is in the process of completing a repair at the opening of Gravity, when Houston reports the possibility of incoming debris due Russia shooting down a satellite. Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) is the veteran space mechanic assisting Dr. Stone, mostly with banter meant to entertain Houston, when they receive word of the debris and in a mind blowing, apparently single shot 13 minute sequence, space junk showers down on them, breaking off an arm from the station with Dr. Stone attached and Kowalsky shouting for her to detach, sending her hurling, alone into space.

Gravity follows Dr. Ryan Stone as she faces the challenges of survival in a local that is unfathomably uninhabitable. Makes one pause to consider what astronauts cope with on a daily basis, as the more man puts into orbit, the more essentially immortal space debris collects, posing this precise threat to the men and women tasked with our collective dreams of exploring what lies beyond this tiny corner of the universe. And thus, we watch in helpless horror as she is flung far into space and impossibly collects her wits and determination to survive even as she floats further away from the space station, loses contact with Houston, and oxygen is running out.

Fortunately, Kowalsky is still with her. He helps her by leading the way toward the stations that orbit the earth. These beacons of hope at least can provide some oxygen and perhaps radio contact. So Gravity unfolds as a tense thriller of only two astronauts. And it is exceedingly tense and action packed. But also, the film is much more than a beautifully designed, choreographed, and shot space thriller. Much of the film is spent alone with Dr. Stone, her rhythmic breathing providing the soundtrack as we listen to her monologues as she continues talking to Mission Control, because just because she cannot hear them, doesn't mean they cannot hear her. So we listen as her survival appears impossible and she finds the will to continue to find a way back. The resulting lyricism is a tribute of Sandra Bullock's ability to convey these internal struggles. What does she have to go back to? Is it worth fighting for, or should she surrender to basking the this glorious place, floating in the heavens while watching the sun rise over planet earth.

One also cannot help but marvel at the technical achievements of Gravity. Alfonso Cuaron took a rather simple concept that was rife with technical shortcomings. It took several years to figure out how to make this film, but the results are a testament to Cuaron's place among the greatest filmmakers of today. This film is a huge technical achievement, but unlike other films that have announced advancements in filmmaking, Gravity is also a great film.

And Gravity is the first film that I've seen in 3D, that elevates it beyond a gimmick. The 3D effects made the action unfolding on screen look and feel real. No silly gimmicks of objects flying toward the camera, just the impact of what it might be like to be in a rain of space junk. And thankfully, there were a few comic moments, one involved Marvin the Martian complete with scrub brush helmet floating by. But now I can honestly say that after seeing Gravity, I completely endorse seeing this spectacular film in 3D, which is a first.