It's sort of like a Seaquest, but less so.

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It's sort of like a Seaquest, but less so.

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May 9, 2022Liked by Casey Muratori, Anna Rettberg

Wait is this why I keep hearing “alright, alright, alright!” every time I go into the library?

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May 8, 2022·edited May 8, 2022

I've only checked one of my bookshelves and found no Matthew Mcconaughey there. Based on the consensus of all of us so far that he is nowhere to be seen, he must have found time to listen to Episode One and avoid listener's who may be out looking for him.

While on the topic of Nolan, would you two be open to reviewing Tenet? I attempted watching it, but the Nolan-ometer rating on it was too much for me to bear, and I had to stop after about 10 minutes. The first clip in this video is as far as I got: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnJ-WRoLmVA It's a long movie but please, I'd love to hear you two riff on it

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Thanks, it was great! I watched the movie few times in total, and yes, each time I was confused with the explosion on the frozen planet and with the Easter egg spaceship. Waiting for the next episode.

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May 8, 2022·edited May 8, 2022

Things that seem obvious to me but are not explained:

Farm people are getting sick from dust but no one seals their doors and windows with 19xx technology or wears masks constantly (although the movie is from 2014, not 2022).

People who are trying to address the Earth problem are doing it with expensive and unpopular rocket technology, secretly. Biotechnology to deal with "blight" would be a more straightforward and popular direction, but it's not even mentioned.

On the positive side:

"Love" in the spaceship argument can charitably mean that there are two guys sending good signal, the choice between them is pretty close, but the more authoritative one also ends up having a weak character, and that's something that Ms Brand could've picked up on without being able to explain. They could make it more clear by having her treat him with suspicion upon landing, or at least say "I knew it" when he turned out to be a coward. On the other hand, love indeed often makes actions more reckless, and you never know which is which.

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Great conversation! The launching scene is powerful also because Hans Zimmer alternates between major and minor mode (you get both the excitement and the pain of leaving). He uses chromaticism like Wagner's Tristan and Isolde as well, and the build-up is somewhat similar to Brucker's 7th symphony (the adagio).

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May 7, 2022Liked by Casey Muratori, Anna Rettberg

No Matthew McConaughey behind my book shelf 😔

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May 7, 2022Liked by Casey Muratori

I wasn't able to find anyone else having done the job, so I tried myself to figure what exactly has to happen for the extreme time dilation we see in the movie to occur, and what that implies.

For a black hole, it turns out that a lot of things can be described simply as a function of how far one is from the centre of the black hole, in units of event horizon radii. This is true for orbit velocity, escape velocity and gravitational time dilation.

The movie describes that an hour on the ocean planet is approximately equivalent to 7 years. That is a time dilation factor of approximately 60000, which as far as I understand implies that the planet is located approximately 1/60000 radii above the event horizon. What I read is that a black hole has to be spinning for any stable orbit below 3 radii from the centre to be possible, I haven't found any formula for how much spin is required, so I don't for certain know that this is impossible, but it does seem quite unlikely.

In any case, assuming that this orbit is somehow possible, how do they even get to and off the planet? It is orbiting the black hole at zero-point-nine-nine-something times the speed of light, but the escape velocity is even higher, so coming from the outside they would be arriving with way too much speed for landing on the planet. They would have to somehow ditch a relativistic amount speed, and then somehow gain it all back in order to leave. Even if they had matter annihilation propulsion this maneuver would imply that the majority of the ship weight is spent as fuel here.

Nothing in the movie however suggests that they have anything other than chemical propulsion. The discussions about fuel, the images of thrusters and the 2 year journey from Earth to Saturn all imply that their tech is not wildly beyond modern day rocketry.

The whole talk about going around the black hole in order to stay out of dilation makes no sense. Since the gravitation of the black hole will bend the trajectory of the space ship there is no reasonable path that would take them extremely close to the black hole. The actual options work out to going closer to the black hole requiring more fuel and taking less time, dilation should be a minor factor in any case.

I don't understand how the ocean planet was ever considered a candidate. It is obviously only a matter of time before the orbit decays completely and it is torn apart by the black hole. If the space around the black hole is not completely clean (a property I doubt any black hole has), the planet will regularly collide with other objects at relativistic speeds. A grain of sand effectively becomes a nuke.

How does the frozen cloud-thing planet work? There is supposedly interleaving layers of solid material and atmosphere "all the way down". But for anything planet-sized this would imply that the inner structure is carrying an extreme amount of weight, while being porous. This simply doesn't work, nothing can support that kind of weight without being equally pressured from all sides. The implied structure would collapse.

I fail to see how on the ocean planet there can be water which is almost still when there is this massive tidal effect. We are supposed to believe that a mountainous wave pass every few hours, but apart from that there is no noticeable change in water level, and no significant current, even on this very shallow water?

I'm generally fine with science fiction putting fiction first, but trying so hard to put a solid scientific explanation on a plot device just ends up cringe.

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I completely disagree about the poem after the launch. I both really liked it and felt it adds to Cain's character. Especially when you later hear Mann refer to the poem when leaving Coop. It becomes a reflection of the characters reason for existing, their purpose. The film is ostensibly an embodyment of the poem. I think it helps tie together the start of their journey, the peak of said journey and the conclusion of the journey as being always the light that refuses to go out.

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Answering your first question:

I don't have this problem with Nolan movies and it's not because I don't care where things are et cetera. I think I'm the uncommon case though. I watched Tenet in the cinema when it came out and enjoyed it very much because I thought it was perfectly coherent spacially and temporally. There was however a big trend of people hating the movie, then loving it the second time they watched it because they actually got it this time. Some kept rewatching and kept liking it more because their understanding grew each time.

I think this is probably due actual differences in our brains as people. I really like Nolan's lack of "handholdyness" that I percieve in other films. It works great for me, but I think most people find his style confusing, so you are not alone.

To me the scene on the cold planet makes total sense. The crew flies down using one of the rangers, we get to see the camp from above and afar so we know there is only one facility. They exit the ranger and find Mann in the camp facility. We learn of the robot Kipp while still in the facility and we know that we are still in the facility because Mann is in regular clothes while the others are suited up *and* the visual design of the facility is very different from that of the ranger. We are told that Case is headed down with the rest of the supplies and when he does fly by Cooper and Mann we can see from the speed of the cargo craft and the camera panning that they are already a long way from the base.

To me it makes sense. I love the score. I almost start crying everytime I watch some of the emotional moments of the movie or listen to the score on spotify.

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I agree with pretty much everything you guys said in the podcast, especially regarding the story. Yes, it was pretty bad.

What I did like though was the scientific accuracy of the visual effects. This is the (to my knowledge) first big Hollywood production that really tries to depict space phenomena as they would actually look like. Kip Thorne apparently directly worked with the CGI team to generate the most realistic images for the black hole and space travel. The images were so accurate that they provided him with new insights about light around black holes that resulted in new papers. Also, the accuracy of the depiction of the black hole was confirmed by the 2018 image of the M87* supermassive black hole, so 4 years after the movie came out. I found that really cool.

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Yeah... the love part was bad. That was where I just gave up on the movie because it was as if I could suddenly see the movie trying too hard and failing to be "deep"

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I liked the conflict between the space explorers and the anti-space explorers--the tension between the teacher and Cooper was great. I also liked the philosophical debate about love between Brand and Cooper.

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May 6, 2022Liked by Casey Muratori

Great first episode! A lot of times first episodes can be somewhat clumsy but this was really well done.

As for the movie I feel like you guys almost perfectly captured my own feelings on it. I’d only seen it once before, when it was in theaters, and I originally went in really excited to see a big budget space epic but left fairly disappointed. I knew beforehand that Nolan was a huge fan of Kubrick and I love 2001 so I figured this was our best chance at a modern take on a movie like that. Unfortunately the Nolan-isms got the best of it. I still love the visual design and some of the topics explored and I do find it very watchable but some of its core themes and moments are so hokey that it just kind of ruins the whole thing. The first time I saw it and we got to the tesseract bookshelf scene I was SO disappointed. I was excited to see Nolan’s take on a 2001 style ending where things get trippy and it just ended up being him in a hall of mirrors LITERALLY BEHIND A BOOKSHELF. And to make matters worse he’s explaining everything in excruciating detail. This is a big complaint with Nolan movies, he always has to over explain everything. It’s like he doesn’t trust the audience or even worse he’s so sure that the ideas he’s presenting are interesting or important that he can’t bear the thought of people not realizing exactly what he’s talking about. His two biggest problems for me are always story/dialogue and the need to over explain. Now, this isn’t always true in terms of general scene structure and editing. I also found the ice planet sequence confusing. I had no idea who was where, how many ships there were, or how far apart everyone was. It’s like he has to make sure you understand exactly how the mechanics of a specific thing work but doesn’t really care if you understand the basic geography of where everything is and how it relates to everything else.

All in all I like the movie but the bad parts are just dominant enough to sour me on the whole thing. I was literally watching the second docking sequence and remembering how good it was and then I remembered the 5D bookshelf bouncy house and got pulled out of it. I think you were both right in saying that there are many improvements that could be made to story, dialogue, and structure BUT they also could have simply cut out certain parts and the movie just immediately jumps in quality. I’ll be very interested to hear the 2001 episode since it’s one of my favorite movies and it does all of this so much better.

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I listened to around the half on my morning commute so here’s what I think so far:

First off, love the podcast, it’s always a joy to listen to Casey. You guys have good chemistry and Anna sounds like she’s been podcasting forever, it feels natural and well done. Kudos.

About the movie:

Interstellar is among my all time favorite films, I have a lot of positives to say about it. It is a great art piece that has managed to speak to me on emotional levels that were quite unique. I am biased for it since I love anything space themed, and extra so for the great cinematography, ambience, and music.


The story might not be the strongest but even in its confusion, the emotional weight of the story was impactful to me. In a way, what I contemplated on time and space after the movie was more impactful than the movie itself. I enjoyed the notion of time dilation and thinking about how one can think different about life and the people around them if multiple generations pass within one’s lifespan. There’s a romanticized idea of escapism I like to daydream about often that this movie addresses in its story, which is why I personally like it. Objectively the movie is not the best if I think about it.

Addressing Casey’s question, I absolutely often find Nolan’s movies confusing. I often have to rewind or rewatch the movie several times to get what is happening in the story. This kind of low clarity attempt can be argued for Nolan’s sake to be an artistic choice, deliberately vague, mysterious or whatever. But sometimes it feels like confusing for the sake of confusion. Tennet was, for example, just way too much. In many obvious cases the movie could’ve done a better job at making the story easier to comprehend.

His movies are therefore more of an experience than a story. He often manages to immerse me visually and audibly, the story was never his priority, I feel, nor his strong suit. Which what made his movies inherently niche.

The ice world scenes were confusing for no good artistic reason to be honest.

The bookshelf scene felt indeed like a very weak attempt at visualizing something that is surreal. It felt limited, I often thought “well, okay so he has this 3D space where he can scroll through time at a specific place, what about different places? He’s at this room, can he see the other rooms? Another house? Wh from behind the wall? What’s significant about the bookshelf that THAT is the place to communicate across time? Why can he also communicate from the ceiling on another section?… the questions go on and on.

The scene doesn’t make sense in the setting and logic it was trying to establish, it had no rhyme or reason, as a viewer I had no idea how any of that worked and I was puzzled at how Cooper could know exactly what to do. What even are the “data recorded from beyond the event horizon”

How did he even leave the blackhole? It felt lazy as there wasn’t even an attempt to imagine a sci fi explanation to all of this. And if we’re not supposed to understand it, it doesn’t do well to create any artistic depiction of what these things that we aren’t supposed to understand are. Are we also not supposed to see them or experience them either? There is lots of talk of things that we are supposed to just “get” but no investment in establishing those things for the viewer to appreciate or understand.

I have more to add later when I listen to the rest.


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