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Particle Fever

By: Addison WyliePFposter

At first, Particle Fever is a tough movie to be enthusiastic about if the evolution of the LHC (the Large Hadron Collider) doesn’t already make you jazzed.

Since the film revolves around those physicists who were involved with the creation of the LHC, Particle Fever could’ve cashed in on the pop culture craze The Big Bang Theory has materialized.  The topic at hand would’ve been taken seriously, but the physicists would’ve been played up for humour.  A wacky instrumental score full of rattles would’ve been set to these intelligent people getting excited about blips and scatter plots.  I’m so glad filmmaker Mark Levinson didn’t go down that alley with his uniquely personable documentary.

The LHC may be the main focus to those educated theorists and experimentalists featured in the doc, but Levinson sees another focal point.  Particle Fever follows a select number of workers, sets the science slightly aside, and represents these physicists as relatable people who have a love for the game.

This directorial manoeuvre doesn’t take their prestigious titles away from them.  It simply retains a connectivity that could’ve been lost if Levinson solely stuck with the complicated facts behind the crafts.

There are bits of humour sprinkled throughout –  mostly from experimentalist Monica Dunford.  She definitely has some quirky qualities to her that can be seen on any episode of HBO’s hit Girls, but her passion for hands-on duties is understandable and the explanations she verbalizes are clear without condescension.

The same can be said about physicist David Kaplan.  At a lecture, Kaplan explains to his crowd that there are two ways of describing their mission to people: one that is broken down so it’s comprehendible to anyone, and one that explains what they’re actually doing with the LHC.  Ironically, both of his explanations are well spoken.  Levinson is then able to use these snippits and take full advantage of them to describe the motives behind the development of a major scientific breakthrough.

The largest compliment I can give the filmmaker is that he’s made an intimidating subject absolutely identifiable and open.  The data describing the LHC is inputed well in his documentary with the use of animations and fluent editing.  What’s even more accessibly grasping is the excitement behind the science.

What’s slightly disappointing, for invested movie goers, takes place within the last leg of Levinson’s doc.  The revelations in Particle Fever, justifiably, grab the attention of those involved with the experiment at hand.  This transfixion also veers the doc’s attention away from coherency and strictly on immediate intricate information.  Levinson’s film is hijacked by people only willing to ramble off procedures and conclusions.  Although we see the eager attentiveness on screen, it’s hard for the average movie goer to tap into.

Levinson’s flick may slowly deteriorate, but that shouldn’t damper the doc too much.  For a film about advanced science to sustain interest for as long as Particle Fever does, qualifies the doc as a moderate success.

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Hawking

December 1, 2013 Leave a comment

By: Addison WylieHawkingPoster

Stephen Hawking has – and is living – a miraculous and very special life.  His work is inspiring other students also looking for a career in science, and his theories have sparked many discussions and have sold many copies of his bestseller A Brief History of Time.

Filmmaker Stephen Finnigan has given Hawking the chance to tell his life story in his own words to audiences with the self-entitled doc Hawking.

Finnigan’s doc is a personable journey through the acclaimed scientist’s boyhood leading up to his world class status.  The accounting has been assembled in a way that’s accessible, doesn’t reek of abundant gratification, and is overall really good and vastly interesting.

Hawking highlights the many achievements of Stephen Hawking’s life (including his impact on pop culture), but doesn’t shy away from those moments showing how binding Hawking’s life has been because of his severe ALS.

The doc shows us a pre-diagnosed young Stephen Hawking living an exciting life in school, where he was known for his quick-witted personality and partying.  His sharpness is what originally labeled him as brilliant.  As stated in the doc, the big decision was whether Hawking would apply his smarts towards making a difference.

After being diagnosed with ALS, Hawking’s motor skills have slowed down with most of his abilities coming to a stop.  Now at parties, he’s spoon fed champagne as people around him mingle.

Although, he’s showing us a more capacitated side of the wheelchair-bound genius, Finnigan never puts his subject in a spot where movie goers are obligated to feel bad for him.  We realize his situation and his inabilities are frustrating, but Finnigan is never asking us to feel sorry for Hawking.  The differences between the past and modern day are shown in a way to emphasize that the times are always a-changing.

The filmmaker has attached smaller digital cameras to Hawking’s wheelchair to give viewers his perspective.  There’s hardly any shakiness from the cameras when the scientist is in motion, and movie goers get a real sense of what life is like when all eyes are on him as well as how the lack of privacy is in full-effect when admirers start taking pictures.

Hawking features many interviews from past students, the mother of his children, and people who collaborated with the mastermind.  In between the interviews, Stephen Hawking guides movie goers through narration.

While I’m not wanting to sound insensitive, the idea of Stephen Hawking narrating a film seems like a tragically bad move.  Hawking, of course, talks with impressive text-to-voice technology.  The risk of betting movie goers will listen and be invested to a computerized voice for 90 minutes is terribly high.

However, with the help of the director and Ben Bowie, the narration works.  Hawking is articulate and a great storyteller.  This is also a big step for a man who has been reserved about sharing information about living with ALS and how it gradually took over.  The script reads as a very proud memoir with no regrets.  It works as both a movie and as catharsis for its subject.

Though its recognized briefly, Finnigan, Bowie, and Hawking take a quantum leap over the scientist’s prior controversies, such as the detailing during the eruptions of religious groups.  Nonetheless, Hawking is a superb documentary that’s very informative.

It’s to note that Finnigan’s film does read as a television special that has somehow found its way into theatres.  But, whether you catch this on the big screen or at home, this is worth seeking out.