Tag Archives: Science

The Martian Is a Feel-Good Movie that Earns Every Bit of the Feeling

Despite a number of well-crafted elements, the success or failure of The Martian absolutely depended on Matt Damon’s performance in the lead role. It’s true that, in contrast to spiritual predecessors like Gravity and Castaway, the film was not a one-man show, instead featuring a murderer’s row of stellar supporting players. What’s more, its narrative thrills were not limited to its protagonist’s adventures on Mars; The Martian told an equally compelling story of what was happening back home.

But Damon’s Mark Watney, and his lonely trials and tribulations on a desolate planet, were the lifeblood of the film, commanding the lion’s share of its run time and focus. That meant that for much of the movie, Damon alone had to convey his character’s distress, his resolve, his humor, and his humanity, with no one but the camera to talk to. And despite that handicap, he succeeded with flying colors. Few major roles share the degree of difficulty of Damon’s here, where the main character spends much of the film in solitude, with little in the way of major plot developments or action to maintain the energy of the picture, and the performance Damon delivered with that backdrop more than lived up to the challenge.


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Futurama and its Fanbase of Nerds


Futurama is a television show for nerds. Oh sure, its old cushy slot next to Family Guy on Adult Swim may have attracted a loyal cadre of frat boys and absurdist-loving insomniacs, but the heart of the fanbase will always lay with the poindexters and nerdlingers.

That’s why I was taken aback by the glaring scientific inaccuracies in the most recent episode of Futurama entitled “A Farewell to Arms.” For starters, the Planet Express crew chased after a pair of Fry’s lucky (and only) pants, that have been accidentally tethered to a weather balloon. As the trousers and their pursuers passed into the far reaches of space, the balloon popped. But instead of Fry’s pants floating listlessly in the vacuum of space, they tumbled gracefully back to Earth, managing to land a hop, skip, and a jump from where they were launched, entirely unscathed from their trip back through the planet’s atmosphere.

Even worse, the climax of the episode involved Mars passing so close to Earth that people could jump back and forth from one planet to the other, and suffered no ill effects in the process. There was no catastrophic event or gravitational catastrophe from the two large bodies side-swiping each other. Nor was there any issue with the fantastic speed that the red planet would have to be traveling, likely resulting in a collision that would have devastated much of the globe, let alone the denizens of New New York. The entire exercise prompted me to utter a personally oft-used phrase that was originally coined by Futurama itself – “Windmills do not work that way!”


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