David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
In our quest to bring you the best TV reading, sometimes we have to look... backwards. That's why we have Thursday TV Throwback, wherein each week our staff of pop culture enthusiasts will be tasked with bringing back some of the best television clips that have been forgotten by time, space and the general zeitgeist.
This week's theme: '90s Couples We Love!
Television isn't always the best barometer for realistic relationships — and in fact, it's often the exact opposite. And yet we look back on '90s television through such misty eyes, especially when it comes to our favorite made-for-TV relationships. There's the seminal favorite, Boy Meets World's Cory and Topanga. The steamy adult affair between ER's George Clooney and Julianna Margulies. Heck, even the animated love between Doug (of Doug, obvi) and Patti gets our vote. We love them, and they love... well, also them.
Looking for a quick splash of romantic nostalgia? Here's what our staff picked...
Kate Ward: Sam and Clarissa on Clarissa Explains It All
Okay, so they weren't really a couple. But every time Sam climbed the ladder to visit his best gal pal, the room was rife with sexual tension. And yes, I understand I might have to report myself to my neighbors for merely writing that sentence.
Matt Patches: DJ and Steve on Full House
DJ and Steve started dating young — maybe too young? — but they gave hope to all the middle schoolers of the world that perhaps they'd find love too. Then they broke up in the seventh season and crushed America's hearts. They were perfect together! Thankfully, the producers knew that, Steve eventually returning for the series finale to take DJ to prom. All was right in the world once again.
Kelsea Stahler: Felicity and Ben on Felicity
The great thing about Ben and Felicity (besides the fact that it brought Scott Speedman into our lives and made us all want to move to New York) was that some of the greatest beats in their four-year saga were moments that didn’t involve a rooftop kiss in the moonlight or running through the airport. Those things happened too, but it was moments like this one, in which all took was a signature Speedman look and a few choice words to give teenage-me (and let’s be honest, 2012-me) butterflies.
Michelle Lee: Angela and Jordan on My So-Called Life
Maybe part of me rooted for geeky Brian Krakow, but Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano were the perfect doomed high school couple. You just knew that Broody McBrooderton would eventually break her heart — and that then Claire Danes would break our hearts, and we'd love it. And cry into our flannel shirts.
Brian Moylan: Donna and Graduation on Beverly Hills, 90210
90210 had lots of great couples: Brenda and Dylan, Kelly and Brandon, Kelly and Dylan, Brandon and that girl who took drugs, Kelly and that guy who took drugs, Donna and David, Steve Sanders and his mirror, that girl from the Noxema commercial and Dylan. Oh so many great couples, but none was better than Donna Martin and Graduation. May they live happily together for eternity.
Abbey Stone: Lindsay and Nick on Freaks and Geeks
Lindsay and Nick's relationship might not have been perfect (heck, they couldn't even make it through one season), but it was moments like this that made sure you never stopped rooting for them. The tenderness and compassion they so clearly felt for one another is the stuff legendary romances are made of. And the true tragedy of it all is that Freaks and Geeks' untimely cancellation prevented these two crazy kids from realizing their true potential as a couple.
Aly Semigran: Doug and Carol on ER
Ross and Rachel were cute and all, but when it came to '90s TV romances, no one even came close to the smoldering Doug (George Clooney) and Carol (Julianna Margulies). Their chemistry was off the (medical) charts and when they reunite in her last episode, there wasn't a heart that stopped fluttering. (You should probably get that checked out, by the way.)
Marc Snetiker: Cory and Topanga on Boy Meets World
You can't talk about the beloved couples of '90s television without giving due attention to the pair that taught an entire generation about real love. Cory and Topanga's fairy tale relationship spanned seven hilarious and heartbreaking seasons and included marriage proposals, honeymoons and unfortunate middle names. But perhaps most remarkably, as they fell in love with each other, we fell in love with them.
Michael Arbeiter: Doug and Patti on Doug
In the history of American television, no tale of romance has been so sincere, so relatable, so heart-wrenchingly close to home as the unrequited love felt for Patricia Mayonnaise by classmate Douglas Yancy Funnie. Eleven-year-old Doug’s first day in the town of Bluffington brought him through a cataclysm of new experiences: deciphering the Honker Burger’s hieroglyphian menu, dealing with town bully Roger Klotz, facing off with the legendary Nematode. But nothing had as profound an effect on Doug as laying eyes on Patti for the first time. Throughout their time together, Doug endured heartbreak after heartbreak pining for Patti. He was humiliated in front of her at a horse riding field dream, passed up as lab partner in favor of new kid Fentruck, and famously frightened by the prospect of dancing with her at the box social. But in a testament to the unparalleled beauty of true love, Doug never lost the will to carry on. Even when he thought he had no chance with Patti, he upheld his love proudly. Even when he was plagued by a front-and-center zit, was caught red-handed composing a banjo ballad for his beloved, thrust full force into an incredibly awkward movie date — hell, even when he accidentally knocked her dead mom’s house down — Doug never gave up. He embraced his love for Patti, for there was nothing inside of him of which he was prouder. Doug Funnie was a talented artist, a skilled musician, a dedicated dog owner, and a steadfast friend. But above all, he was a lover. A lover of a girl named Patti Mayonnaise.
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