Gravity and prayers for those who travel by space

In Eastern Orthodox services, we regularly say prayers for those who travel “by land, by sea and by air.” I have often wondered if that prayer will ever be amended to include those who travel through space. I mean, if the prayer is as ancient as I think it is, then it has already been amended once before, to include those who travel by air, so it could easily be amended again, right?

In any case, I thought of that prayer while watching Gravity the other day — and not just because it’s a fairly realistic movie, set somewhat vaguely in the world of present-day space travel. (The Hubble telescope and the International Space Station are both in operation today, but the space shuttle program was mothballed two years ago — after Gravity had already gone into production — while the Chinese space station won’t be built for another few years at least.)

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Movies that flip their source material on its head

My friend and colleague Steven D. Greydanus tweeted the other day that the new Lone Ranger movie is not just one of those films that doesn’t “get” its source material but, rather, it is made by “people who do understand the source material—and dislike it.” He has since noted that this point is also made by New York Times critic A.O. Scott, who wrote that the film is “an ambitious movie disguised as a popcorn throwaway, nothing less than an attempt to revise, reinvigorate and make fun of not just its source but also nearly every other western ever made.”

This got me wondering about other films that have knowingly inverted their source material, rather than adapted it, per se — i.e., films that have explicitly challenged the themes of their source material. Two examples came to mind immediately.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2004)

harrypotter3The children, they grow so fast. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the tale in which J.K. Rowling’s young orphan wizard becomes a teenager, and the first thing that strikes you about the new movie is how much more mature its protagonists have become, at least on the outside; the boys’ faces are leaner, longer, a bit more rugged, definitely free of baby fat, while it seems Hermione Granger (played by Emma Watson), the one girl of any import, is about to blossom into an adolescent beauty.

This physical maturity is matched by a darker thematic and artistic sensibility. Unlike the first two films, which were directed in a typically clunky, treacly fashion by Chris Columbus, The Prisoner of Azkaban is the work of Alfonso Cuarón, a Mexican whose eclectic portfolio covers everything from the cute-as-a-button kids’ flick A Little Princess to the sexually provocative Y Tu Mama Tambien. Cuarón brings darker colors and bolder, more imaginative visuals to this entry in the series, and for once, it can be said that a Harry Potter film has been made with something resembling a genuine artistic vision.

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