SONIC HIGHWAYS
The class we all wished we took in college.

written by Jessica Elliott
For the past two months, I’ve helped myself to an extra cup of coffee on Fridays in an effort to keep my sleep-depravity at bay (a direct link to raising a 15-month-old) so I can stay awake to watch the latest episode of Sonic Highways. Even then, I made sure the DVR was set to record (God help me if there are technical issues!) and calmed even further knowing the latest episode would be available on On Demand. Why the sense of urgency? I blame the premiere of the series set in Chicago. At the end of that episode, I knew I was in for a musical education and it was exactly what my Friday nights needed but more importantly, it reinvigorated my love and interest in the musical culture and community which, until now, had exponentially waned - I’m looking at you Taylor Swift.

Sonic Highways follows the Foo Fighters as they visit eight cities across the U.S. with the purpose of showcasing how the community and surroundings influence the creation and recording of an album. At the end of each episode, they perform a song inspired by the interviews, people and history of that city. Each song is written by Dave Grohl and comprises their eighth album, also named Sonic Highways.

 
 
CINEMA RETROSPECTIVE: GRAVITY
One girl's professed love for the great unknown.

written by Jessica Elliott


Just about this time last year, I was sitting in a darkened movie theater waiting for “Gravity” to start. Feelings of excitement, intrigue and inspiration wafted over me as I anxiously hoped the movie would live up to the promise the trailers advertised. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect so I imagined a movie that was extremely artistic in composition and colors because, as my husband pointed out, the masterful Alfonso Cuarón was directing. For 91 minutes, gripping my arm rests was mandatory and blinking was for the weak. I walked out of the movie theater extremely impressed and emotionally spent. Naturally, the blu-ray was bought, immediately watched, and then rewatched. And when it started showing on cable? You better believe I was there front and center. For me, it was the best film I had seen in 2013. The movie fit my own personal criteria of excellence: simple storyline, perfect acting, and superb directing.

A year later, I continue to be reeled in by Gravity’s pull (see what I did there?). It is a layered film of intense emotion and beauty. Let’s talk about Cuarón’s camera movement – that fluidity capturing the weightless sway from Bullock to Clooney to the aircrafts and earth; the graphic quality of each scene and perfect composition; and the guts Cuarón had to fill the entire screen with a black sky peppered with stars and Bullock floating into it – WHAT?! My designer brain always pulses with excitement at the graphical perfection of this scene. Casting Sandra Bullock was a great choice, too. With roles for strong women probably being the most sought after in Hollywood, I firmly believe that Bullock was the only one capable of portraying the vulnerability and determination much needed for Ryan Stone. Plus, there’s relateability to Bullock as a person I am attracted to, allowing me to believe completely in every emotion she relays on screen as Stone. On top of all that, she defies all odds because she’s just fucking smart! She uses her head and figures out how to survive – a trait that most women have when push comes to shove. Thus, the relateability factor goes up tenfold.

This segues into my next point – the emotion of the movie. Stone experiences loss, fear, determination, hope and acceptance in the span of an hour and a half. This movie is a roller coaster but it all happens in a way that feels very natural. Every time I watch this movie, I never feel like I’m being rushed or waiting for a more convincing human emotion. Everything feels legit and that’s also a testament to Bullock’s acting. I can’t leave out Steven Price, either. His score heightened the haunting and nervous feeling that fueled the movie. Perfection.

Here’s the biggest difference I noticed from the first and second viewing to right now – I always tear up towards the end when Stone is on the last leg of her journey home, when it’s basically do or die time. She says, “Either I, make it down there in one piece and I have one hell of a story to tell. Or I burn up in the next ten minutes. Either way whichever way, no harm no foul. ‘Cause either way, it’ll be one hell of a ride. I’m ready.” Whenever she says, “I’m ready” I have to visibly hold back tears. Every. Single. Time. With each viewing of the movie, it gets harder to refrain from crying (and apparently, even if I just type those words, my tear ducts are welling up). After everything Stone goes thru in this movie, for her to accept her fate, whatever that might be, is one of the most courageous things I have ever seen and it’s beautiful. In a weird way, I feel like, “Fuck, if Stone can make it back home after almost dying in space, I can get my act together and [insert trivial goal here].” It sounds silly, I know, but the message of survival and strength is universal and relatable and completely drew me in, hook, line and sinker. This is the biggest reason the movie still holds up a year later. Despite the surroundings, the feelings and turmoil she faces are very much real and ones that many of the viewers face on a daily basis. At the heart, Gravity is about being courageous.

When I told my husband my reaction to the film and how much stronger it gets each time I watch the movie, he told me that I could be reacting to Gravity’s female empowerment. I never thought about it that way. However, if it were Clooney in Bullock’s place, I can’t say it would be as powerful as it is with a female lead. I don’t know many people who would watch this movie in the same way I did or the same level of investment. It’s one of those movies that will refrain from being branded or part of a certain culture or era. I know with the next viewing, I’ll find another genius camera trick, another spoken line in the script that moves me, and another part of the score I didn’t notice before. How often can you say a love for a specific movie grows? Usually, that love turns into appreciation and enters a plateau-like land. But Gravity is unlike those films. It will continue to age beautifully with each passing year.