10/2/15: Midday on Space Exploration at the Movies (and TV)

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Rodricks Space Exploration Collage

Since the early 1950s, as the Cold War truly got under way and the rocket race heated up, the filmmakers of Hollywood – first in film, and then on TV – began to imagine what space exploration might look like. After all, if new telescopes could see far into the galactic heavens and we could launch missiles high into the sky, it hardly seemed far-fetched to predict that we would one day walk on the moon. Though populations world-wide were terrified of atomic bombs and worried about the nuclear arsenals built up by the Soviet Union and United States, it was, in fact, the competition between those two superpowers that motivated their respective governments to put money and intellectual resources into their space programs, hoping to be the first to send a man beyond earth’s orbit. The Soviets reached space first – with Yuri Gagarin – but the Americans were the first to set foot on the moon – with Neil Armstrong. All the while, Hollywood kept making their own cinematic versions of space travel, from Destination Moon (1950) to Forbidden Planet (1956) to the 1960s TV series Lost in Space and Star Trek to Stanley Kubrick’s seminal sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the 1970s, with new special-effects technology, the look of space exploration changed, with films like Star Wars (1977) and Alien (1979), which posited a universe (past and future) where space travel was the norm and ordinary folks took it for granted. Where Star Trek had imagined space as an exciting “final frontier,” Alien held out the possibility that life on other planets might destroy us.

Some movies have tried to focus on the science – rather than the science fiction – of space exploration, among them Apollo 13 (1995), Gravity (2013), and Interstellar (2014) (sort of). Whatever one thinks of any of these films, we can all agree that we have come a long way since French filmmaker Georges Méliès first put space travel on the silver screen in his 1902 short film A Trip to the Moon. And now, on Friday, October 2, 2015, we have a new film, The Martian, from Ridley Scott (director of Alien). Where will it fall on the spectrum of movies about space? Join us on that Friday, at 1pm, on WYPR 88.1 FM, for the Midday with Dan Rodricks show, when Christopher Llewellyn Reed (that’s me) – Chair and Professor, Department of Film/Video, Stevenson University – and  William U’Ren – Assistant Professor, English, Goucher College – will discuss Hollywood’s depiction of space travel, in film and TV. Note that we will only be discussing films that deal with humans traveling into space, and not aliens coming to earth.

Add your voices to the conversation via email (midday@wypr.org) or phone (410-662-8780 locally, or toll-free at 1-866-661-9309). If you can’t listen locally, you can live-stream the podcast here: http://www.wypr.org/listen-live. If you can’t listen live, then check out the podcast later by visiting the show’s site. You can also leave your thoughts on your favorite space-travel films and TV shows in the comment section of this blog.

Enjoy the show! This will actually be the last one that Dan Rodricks will do as host of Midday, as he is moving on to other projects. So join us to say goodbye, at the very least!

Midday on Jurassic Summer: Blockbusters and Indies of Summer 2015

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Rodricks Summer 2015 Poster

We’re back and ready to review the films of the summer blockbuster season – those in theaters, those that have come and might be gone soon, and those about to be released – and make our recommendations of what to see and what to avoid. From big studio offerings like Jurassic World (currently the #1 film of the year) and Inside Out – both in an ongoing box-office battle over the past three weeks – to more independent fare like Love & Mercy, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Infinitely Polar Bear, or the new documentary about the late Amy Winehouse (entitled simply Amy), plus many more, we’re here to offer our take on what the summer has to offer.

Join us on Friday, July 10, at 1pm, on WYPR 88.1 FM, for the Midday with Dan Rodricks show, when Linda DeLibero – Director, Film and Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University – and Christopher Llewellyn Reed (that’s me) – Chair and Professor, Department of Film/Video, Stevenson University – will discuss the hits and the misses of the current season. Add your voices to the conversation via email (midday@wypr.org) or phone (410-662-8780 locally, or toll-free at 1-866-661-9309). If you can’t listen locally, you can live-stream the podcast here: http://www.wypr.org/listen-live. If you can’t listen live, then check out the podcast later by visiting the show’s site. You can also leave your thoughts on summer films in the comment section of this blog.

Enjoy the show!

Midday on “Jaws” at 40: June 26 @ 1pm

[NOTE: Missed the show? You can always listen to the podcast!]

Jaws original poster

On Friday, June 20, 1975, a then little-known director by the name of Steven Spielberg premiered his second theatrical feature, Jaws. Based on author Peter Benchley’s smash debut novel – a best-seller already a year before its adaptation came out – the film was a phenomenal box-office megahit (the first to make more than $100 million) that transformed how movies were marketed and released; indeed, it almost single-handedly invented the modern blockbuster. Beyond that, it was also an excellent action thriller, made under difficult conditions at sea (it was mostly shot on and off the island of Martha’s Vineyard) that could just as easily have sunk both the film and the career of its young helmer. Instead, Spielberg parlayed his critical and commercial triumph into one of the longest and most successful Hollywood careers of all time. He and his good friend George Lucas (who, with Star Wars in 1977, cemented Hollywood’s embrace of blockbuster culture) may have, in 2013, complained about the kinds of films now made by the studios, but with their one-two knockout punch to the movie industry’s “new wave” experiments of the 1970s, they are largely responsible, for better or for worse, for our current era. Still, Jaws remains ever what it was: a terrifically entertaining movie made with tremendous skill and energy, extremely watchable even 40 years after its release.

Join us on Friday, June 26, at 1pm, on WYPR (88.1FM), on the Midday with Dan Rodricks show, when Linda DeLibero – Director, Film and Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University – and Christopher Llewellyn Reed (that’s me) – Chair and Professor, Department of Film/Video, Stevenson University – will discuss, along with our host, Dan Rodricks, our thoughts on Jaws and Spielberg (about whom we did a previous show, back in January, 2013), as well as on the film’s impact on Hollywood and popular culture. What, to you, has been the film’s legacy since it came out in 1975? If you the saw the film in its original run, what did you think of it then, and what do you think of it now? Do you ever, because of the film, think about sharks when you swim in the ocean (I know I do!)? Do you avoid the water completely? Add your voices to the conversation via email (midday@wypr.org) or phone (410-662-8780 locally, or toll-free at 1-866-661-9309). If you can’t listen live, then check out the podcast later by visiting the show’s site. You can also leave your thoughts in the comment section of this blog. Hope you can listen in!