Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Theory of Everything and Foxcatcher

         This Review Is Inspired by Real Events
                        Review by Ken Burke
                                 The Theory of Everything (James Marsh)
A biography of famed physicist Stephen Hawking, based on a book by his ex-wife; it’s more about his humanity and their relationship than his complex cosmology studies.
                                                   Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
Tense drama, based on the true story of famed amateur wrestling stars, Dave and Mark Schultz, and their tragic relationship with “coach” John du Pont of rich-family fame.
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 This week I’ll offer you a combo review of 2 films related, in my opinion, by 3 connections:  (1) They’re both based on first-hand-accounts of actual events, with many of the specific people portrayed still alive to see what’s become of their depictions so that influence may play into the films’ final versions, (2) From what I've learned by reading brief historical reports about their contents, both films compress and rearrange reality a good bit in the service of drama (not unusual at all in based-on-fact-features) so don’t use either one as Cliff Notes for essays on the people who serve as their main characters, and (3) Neither film will help you really understand what’s newsworthy-important about their leads but both are emotionally-effective in getting to why some of these people cared about the others in their stories so deeply—along with some very impactful acting in both that may well lead to Oscar nominations for some members of these casts.  With that in mind, I’ll somewhat stir my comments together but keep them mostly separate, with Spoiler Alerts flashing brightly, because The Theory of Everything is starting its expansion into wider distribution nationwide while Foxcatcher is just beginning its rollout, not coming to many markets until later this year (I was fortunate to see it at a press screening this week, just before it opens in San Francisco on November 21, 2014).  Now, with all that in mind, on with the show!

What Happens: In The Theory of Everything we follow the life of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) from the beginning of his Ph.D. program at Cambridge in 1963 (with all of the men sporting their proto-Beatle haircuts) to an unspecified time toward the present (although he’s presented as a new graduate student in the film, when he actually began his advanced work in 1962, so don’t expect either of the cinematic stories this week to be completely dependable in their chronological accounts because both have been shaped to fit the dramatic needs of their somewhat-fictionalized-scripts; where I know anything of fact vs. docudrama that might be of useful commentary, I’ll toss it in), but we know that we’ve made it at least into the 1990s because of the mentions of his (1988) book, A Brief History of Time, his (1990) separation from first wife Jane (Felicity Jones), and subsequent second marriage (1995) to his nurse, Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake)—at the end of the film he’s shown having an audience with Queen Elizabeth II, but all I know about that is his acceptance of the Companion of Honour distinction from her in 1989 (and reported refusal of a knighthood, possibly at the same time).  This script (by Anthony McCarten) is based somewhat on Jane Wilde Hawking’s 1999 memoir, Travelling (British spelling) to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, so what we get is shown largely from her perspective, therefore the extensive Hawking resumé of macro-physics hypotheses, proofs, and awards is minimized in favor of the emotional bond, then final fragmentation of such between these “star-struck”-lovers who meet at a huge party with Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heat Wave” appropriately playing in the background (although I don’t know how much Jane’s book gets into her ex-husband’s scientific explorations; she may well have a much better idea what he’s talking about most of the time than I do—despite my attempts to fully comprehend what he’s exploring in A Brief History of Time and other presentations of his that I’m aware of—as she’s got a Ph.D. of her own in Romance Languages, specialty in Medieval Spanish Literature [from Cambridge as well, but that’s left vague in the film just as there’s precious little about her private life that I’ve found on the Web except for this article and this one that challenge much of the film's detail—if you’d prefer to get Stephen’s account of his life, he has his own book, My Brief History (2013), which you can access through his official website, among other sources]).

 Within this cinematic framework, though, what we learn is that Stephen’s life just into his graduate studies was given a 2-year-final-sentence when he was diagnosed with motor neuron (neurone in the U.K.) disease (a term related to or used interchangeably with ALS); he and Jane married soon thereafter (1965, with him stating he wanted to make the most of his remaining time pursuing his research, her wanting to share their quickly-established-mutual-love as much as possible); he succeeded in gaining his doctorate (1966) with a theory about the universe’s Big Bang-beginning coming from a black hole’s singularity (if you want to know more about these areas of his research, you might start with the links in the opening paragraph (after the boilerplate reminders) in my review last week of Interstellar; honestly, for all of its perceived shortcomings in the minds of some critics [few of them physics experts], Interstellar offers a lot more detailed, verified cosmology than does The Theory of Everything—I’ll also note that I was stunned to see Hawking gain acceptance of the dissertation based on the originality of chapter 4 after his committee raised what seemed to be notable problems with chs. 1-3; by the time my dissertation committee was finally willing to accept my work I’d cleaned up all of their complaints, even to the style of arrows used in my diagrams); their children (Robert [played by Lottie Hamilton, Rufus Taylor, Oliver Payne, Tom Prior at various ages], Lucy [Delilah Sexton, Raffeilla Chapman, Sophie Perry], and Timothy [Sam Houston, Finlay Wright-Stephens], born between 1967 and 1979) were a source of joy for them but also a burden for Jane as she attempted to juggle motherhood, graduate study, and increasingly more caretaking for Stephen as his physical condition (but not mental acumen) deteriorated, leading her to seek solace in her church choir where she developed a very-interested-but-mostly-platonic-relationship with choir director Jonathan Hellyer Jones (Charlie Cox), who became a strong family friend (with implications that Jane was sharing a tryst in a tent with him when the family was camping in France during an invited ceremony for Stephen, with her husband off at the ceremony suffering a pneumonia attack, requiring the insertion of a tracheal tube that cost him his remaining natural speech ability until it’s replaced with computer-and-synthetic-voice-support); then as Stephen’s fame grows while Jane’s exhaustion increases in parallel he finds more attraction to nurse Elaine (his sexual functions—and apparent related interests—weren’t compromised by his disease like the rest of his body) so the initial-dreamy-relationship is severed, allowing Jane to later marry Jonathan while maintaining friendship with Stephen and custody of their children (he’d eventually divorce Elaine as well, an area not addressed in the film).

 Foxcatcher is also based on actual events which have been juggled a bit for on-screen-dramatic-purposes but does convey the essential conflicts in the lives of the Schultz brothers, Dave (Mark Ruffalo) and Mark (Channing Tatum), from Palo Alto, CA, 2 of the all-time-best amateur wrestlers (no Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Bret Hart, Rattlesnake Steve Austin, The Rock, Brock Lesner, or John Cena antics here; all the on-mat-clashes in this film are pure Greco-Roman: takedowns and control of your opponent are what get you victories rather than submission holds or chair shots done out of the view of the eternally-distracted-referees, as in WWE scripted events).  However, the timelines are a little muddy, even though the script is based on Mark’s journal, with input from him and Dave’s widow (I did warn you about Spoilers, but as with Hawking’s life there’s not much of significance about the events presented in Foxcatcher that aren’t easily available through an Internet search or in the many print publications that originate these films’ contents) throughout the filmmaking process (they were reportedly supportive of and moved by the final result on screen when it premiered last spring at the Cannes Film Festival).  When we first meet the brothers in 1987 we’re quickly made aware that they both won Olympic gold at the 1984 L.A. games but now older-sibling Dave seems to be a coach at Wexler University in Wisconsin (assuming I got that name right at the press screening; using a penlight for notetaking is heavily frowned upon, so no bets are being placed here on my memory—I did look up Wexler but found only this fake, satirical video, made at the Austin School of Film from my hometown in central Texas, although at times Dave coached at Stanford, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Mark is scraping by with $20 speaking appearances at local elementary schools and ramen noodle dinners while both continue to train for the next round of high-level-championship-competitions.  At this point, an unsolicited offer arrives from John E. du Pont (Steve Carell), of Pennsylvania's pharmaceutical-heritage/richest-family-in-America fame, who wants Mark to join his Team Foxcatcher (named for the family estate, implying the du Ponts’ award-winning-traditions of horsemanship which his mother, Jean [Vanessa Redgrave], values much more highly than her wacko-son’s fascination with the low-life-sport of wrestling, in her opinion).  Despite John’s arrogant control of his overworked team (and slim credentials as a coach), he’s impressed with Mark’s physical abilities; likewise, Mark finds in John the sort of nurturing-father-figure that he missed growing up in divorced-parent-circumstances, although he emulates his new-found-“father” too much in adopting his drinking and cocaine habits (he also grows his hair longer, blonding it a bit as well, attempting a sort of Northeastern surfer look, I guess).

 Prior to the upcoming 1987 World Championships in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Dave is brought in as an assistant coach to help guide his brother to gold at those matches and then at the 1988 Olympics at Seoul, Korea (although Dave didn't actually come to Foxcatcher until 1989); Mark cruises through the 1987 competition but is stunned to lose his first match at the 1988 Olympic trials, after which he goes on a furniture-demolition-and-eating-binge in his hotel room, forcing Dave to push him through a body-assaultive-purge-and-exercise-program to get Mark’s weight back down to the legal level, after which he goes on to win his bracket (he also got gold at the 1985 Budapest World Championships, another unmentioned-fact/streamlining-sacrifice in this film’s version of history, just as is the reality that Dave won many more world-class-championships than his brother but that’s not noted either—you get the impression that Dave never won anything after the 1984 Olympics [although he ran the full-medal-gamut while Mark’s were fewer but all gold).  That’s not enough for du Pont, though, who not only wants Mark to take Olympic gold again but also gets himself involved in middle-aged-tournaments (although that happened after the events of this film, not during them as shown) so that he can further claim leadership for his Foxcatcher charges (reminding me of how at times in the past WWE owner Vince McMahon has put himself in the ring so that he can be seen as physically equal to his stable of testosterone [and probably steroid]-fueled employees).  None of this pays off in the  Seoul Olympics, though, as du Pont insists on being in Mark’s corner, only to see him lose, then move away from the Foxcatcher compound upon returning to the States.  Dave stays on, though, trying to build a stable life for his family until one day du Pont shows up at Dave’s living quarters, senselessly shooting him to death in front of his wife, Nancy (Sienna Miller)—an event that occurs in 1996, although the film makes it seem like it’s closer to Mark’s 1998 departure.  That’s about it for the plot, although we learn in closing graphics that Mark now coaches in Oregon while du Pont died in 2010 from illness while in prison for third-degree-murder (he was acknowledged by the courts to have mental illness, although not insanity [an extenuating factor in the charges], but that’s not noted in the film, nor is the fact that Team Foxcatcher at du Pont’s estate wasn’t established until after Mom Jean’s death in 1988 which further throws into confusion what’s depicted in director Miller’s version of these events [this article (may be a slow download) and this one might help straighten out some of the confusion]).  You can tell that du Pont’s at best obsessive, at worst deranged, from what we do see of his fierce command of his wrestlers and casual waving around of firearms, his ego-driven-clashes with his mother (he’s trying to move out of her shadow just as Mark is trying to move out of Dave’s, despite their true sharing of brotherly love), and his chasing of her prize horses out of their stables just after her death—he also had quite a varied career outside the gym, with a Ph.D. in natural science from Villanova U., plus ornithologist work and some publications about birds, as well as interests in philately (stamps), philanthropy, and various sports including the modern pentathlon (all of which is acknowledged in the film in a scene where he tutors Dave on how to introduce him properly at a gala affair).  The actual end of Foxcatcher shows a little bit of Mark reduced to competing in one of the bloodthirsty Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) matches (an event that he won by default by injuring his opponent).

So What? The main purpose of The Theory of Everything (beyond showing how an intense love for another person can sustain someone like Jane whose life must become focused on caregiving more so than her own needs—to the point of daily spoon-feeding of meals and aiding with all necessary bodily functions) seems to be in helping us mere mortals understand how even a man considered by many to be the smartest person on Earth still resembles the rest of us in needing to share a fulfilling life with a loving companion (as well as having sexual cravings that apparently were better fulfilled by Elaine than Jane—at least for awhile), needing to find a sense of purpose in one’s existence (in Stephen’s case, probing the mysteries of the universe in a manner that doesn’t require God as the ultimate answer), and needing to be open to awakening possibilities, even those that challenge previous accomplishments (in the film, Hawking says his Big Bang-from-a-black-hole-singularity-concept was a mistake, as he pursues the idea of a boundless universe, one that doesn’t require a beginning nor end [although that position hasn’t negated the largely-accepted-scientific-acceptance of a Big Bang as the start of the cosmos as we understand it, just as Albert Einstein called his early belief in a cosmological constant that keeps the universe in equilibrium against the crushing force of gravity to be his “biggest blunder,” although current theory now supports such a phenomenon to explain the expansion of our constantly-growing-space-time-field; read this if you really want to know more about this concept, although the details approach Hawking-level-comprehension-requirements, so this version might be more accessible to those of us whose highest intellectual achievement is attempting to write film reviews]).  There’s also a more subtle agenda of supporting Jane as the “wronged spouse” in her marriage to Hawking with her largely-successful-avoidance of Jones’ charms—employing her own “cosmological constant” to resist his gravitational pull—while her husband becomes the one to abandon her, as well as a recurring theme of showing Hawking opening up to the idea of God as his work becomes more complex, a situation desired by religious Jane (and likely helpful in making this film more attractive to those who prefer divine guidance to speculative science for their ultimate answers, especially in a dream-sequence-scene at a public lecture where Stephen has a flash of fantasy about miraculously shedding his disease as he confidently stands up and walks [despite Hawking very recently re-affirming his position as an atheist]).  While you can find countless other movies that delve into “the power of love” (my second passed-on-temptation in this review to break away into a slimly-related-but-unnecessary-popular-song-sideways-move; let me know if this restraint on my part enhances your reading experience or not) that holds people together, even in times of great adversity, The Theory of Everything does help us understand that being uniquely gifted isn’t necessarily an automatic pathway to success, that life will find ways to block even the most astounding opportunities, thereby requiring additional reserves of grim determination (in this case, on the part of both partners in the Hawking marriage) to find satisfaction against horrific challenges (also in this case, helped along by enormous good fortune as Stephen has lived about 50 years longer than medical science [but not God?] has been able to predict).

 Similarly, in Foxcatcher, we see in gruesome detail how success doesn’t come easily just because a person has superb physical talent or massive wealth.  The Schultz brothers possessed enormous ability on the wrestling mat but no amount of training, medals, or admiration from their peers was enough to guarantee a decent living based on a sport that earns neither the income nor the public awareness of other athletic activities that involve balls, pucks, or padded gloves (except in the highly-scripted-domain of pro wrestling, but even there few “superstars” make it to the big paydays, while those who do are chastised as not being real competitors because—while their bodies do suffer constant abuse and their unintended injuries can be quite damaging or even fatal—they’re acknowledged as entertainers working in a low form of soap-opera)Foxcatcher makes very clear the reality that gifted athletes who want to excel in the kinds of sports that are only noticed by the general public every 4 years or so depend on making constant personal sacrifices during their competitive years, as well as on the generosity of someone like John du Pont to provide for their material needs during all of those long months of training.  However, even du Pont in this case is also unfulfilled, despite all of his material advantages, because he’s not able to find enough personal satisfaction in all of the intellectually-related-activities that his wealth allows him to indulge in while he yearns to be one of those gifted sportsmen that he takes under his “tutelage,” even though he has little to share as a coach.  Beyond those abstractions-given-a-face, Foxcatcher is also a very intensely-researched, physically-demanding-acting-challenge (Tatum and Ruffalo trained for months to be able to duplicate the successful moves of the Schultz boys on screen, in order to respect those achievements and to honor grapplers who give so much of their lives to this largely-ignored-sport; Tatum said in the press materials: “This has been the most painful movie I’ve ever done.  I never want to wrestle again.”), but, as a film, one that requires some patience and understanding on the part of the audience because there are few bold dramatic moments here, rather lots of scenes of preparation for matches that are over quickly with some backflip suplexes being the most active of the moves as 2 wrestlers struggle for point-based-dominance.  A more overt dramatic presence in the film, though, is the deteriorating-sanity of du Pont, a self-deluded, psychotic man who demands respect he hasn’t earned, constantly putting a chill on any room that he occupies.  When Foxcatcher premiered at the May 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Bennett was chosen as Best Director, an honor easily appreciated when watching the meticulous manner in which he manages to command our attention even in a story that largely consists of a lot of inter-family-psychological-struggles (biological brothers vs. an imposing pseudo-stepfather), a few brief competitive victory scenes, and the constant wait until the unmotivated-but-cruel-killing of Dave which quickly brings the whole thing to a halt.  Either you’ll appreciate the nuanced performances of the 3 male leads (and the brief spark of icy distain that Redgrave uses to corral Carell in their one direct confrontation or her silent visit and abrupt departure when she goes to his gym to see her son’s obsession) or you’ll feel distanced from a long-ago-tragic-news-story that’s simply been given its surrounding (if rearranged) details. Foxcatcher is very disturbing, so you might just want to walk away from its vicious conflicts.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Just like with most docudramas, you can’t trust either The Theory of Everything or Foxcatcher to teach you fully-reliable-history-lessons, although you can pursue Jane Wilde Hawking’s book (noted above, and compare it to various ones written by her ex-husband—especially the autobiographical My Brief History, also previously noted) and/or Mark Schultz’s 2014 Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother’s Murder, John du Pont’s Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold, as well as writings by people not directly involved in the events depicted in the films under consideration this week to see what insights you can gather into these events from our recent past, even as many of the participants are still alive to continue elaborating upon what these filmic depictions have offered about aspects of their lives (if you wish to find clarity in a research methodology short of buying, then reading, full-length-books though, I wish you well as it took a good many Internet searches for me to verify what was really going on in some of these situations, especially concerning Foxcatcher).  What you can trust, though, are the performances in each of these films, which are already creating Oscar-buzz for Carell and Redmayne in the Best Actor category, although Jones deserves strong consideration for Best Actress, Tatum should definitely be in the mix for Best Supporting Actor (although he probably has more screen time than Carell, but, like Marlon Brando in The Godfather [Francis Ford Coppola, 1972], Carell truly commands every scene he’s in, plus studio strategists will likely try to avoid pitting their own personnel against each other [even though there were 3 of the 5 Best Supporting Actor nominees in 1972 from The Godfather—but none of them won], so I assume Tatum will be touted for Supporting), while the directors and films might be in final considerations in their categories as well.  (Marsh especially makes nice choices in using “distressed” home-movie-type-footage to show major transitions in the Hawkings’ lives—marriage, childbirth, a family outing to the beach accompanied by Jonathan—then at the end of the film he quickly rewinds us through major scenes [with the action in reverse as well, as if Memento (Christopher Nolan [in case I haven’t referenced him enough already with Interstellar], 2000) were taken to its logical extreme] back to the beginning at Cambridge, in the same manner that Stephen said he needed to hypothesize time running backward to understand how the universe came about.)  Carell has to contend with whether that fake nose helps hide his appearance enough to distract easily-generated-audience-associations with his established-comic-persona or whether it’s comic enough in itself to become an unwanted distraction (with that beak, you can see why he’s inadvertently chosen “Eagle” as his nickname); however, nasty nose comments aside, such a prosthetic schnozz didn’t keep Nicole Kidman from her Best Actress Oscar as Virginia Woolf for The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002), so we’ll see how this all plays out in a couple of months (those who’re annoyed by du Pont’s proboscis in the film, though, should be relieved that it’s only the size depicted here; from what I’ve seen of the real guy’s honker it was even larger, although most shots are head-on [try searching "John du Pont photos"] which somewhat minimizes the impact).

 Likewise, Redmayne does a marvelous job of transforming himself into Hawking’s increasing physical deformity without becoming exaggeratedly-pathetic about it, but Academy voters, if they show any sense of memory like I’ve done in watching this mesmerizing performance, might be tempted to compare it to what Daniel Day-Lewis achieved in his Best Actor-Oscar-winning-role in My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (Jim Sheridan, 1989).  There’s no reason why 2 talented thespians can’t be honored for similar triumphs in portraying actual people struggling against their physical impairments, but voters might be swayed by a “been there, done that” attitude, as they might also with the Kidman/Carell nose consideration (I “knows” that sounds a bit silly, but when I look back over some of the yesteryear winners nothing seems to be too silly to be true when those ballots are cast).  As for how I’m swayed on these films, I’m in awe of the lead acting in both of them but not as fully invested in how the stories play out as I should be if I were considering either of these for Best Picture contenders.  In the case of The Theory of Everything, I’m right in line with Metacritic’s 72% positive rather than Rotten Tomatoes 80% (details on both in the links below) and the effusion offered by my local colleagues.  Unlike with how I explained last week that the overall experience of Interstellar or the superb acting of Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013; review in our August 16, 2013 posting) was enough to elevate these films into my 4-star-status (still short of the supreme 5’s, as with The Godfather), I just don’t get that blown away by Redmayne’s very strong performance (which may well be enough to get him Oscar gold this year, although there are many other possible challengers that I’ve yet to see) to bring the whole film up to the heights for me that others are seeing in it.  I accept it as being charming, insightful, and inspiring, but the emphasis on the personal trials of the Hawking family just didn’t hold up enough for me, especially with the “God is in the details” subtheme motivated by this story being told more from Jane’s perspective; maybe that’s a failing on my part for wanting a different film about Stephen Hawking, but I doubt I’ll get another one now so this just doesn’t leave me as resolved as I’d like to be about this man’s motivations and discoveries cinematically-captured (as I was with better understanding 13th Amendment-politics in Lincoln [Steven Spielberg, 2012 ] where I find another case of a lead performance [Day-Lewis again] raising the total experience above any qualms that I might have had with minor aspects of the content).  I realize that the filmmakers were limited in many respects by what rights they had to depictions of events as presented in Jane’s book (rather than anything Stephen might have written), but heart-as-cold-as-a-black-hole-me was constantly hoping for just a bit more than what The Theory of Everything sincerely set out to deliver.
 Similarly in my offerings of restrained praise, with Foxcatcher (illustrated by this photo which is just a bit off—because of the unintended connection of Redgrave’s head to the chandelier above her, conjuring up a slight association with Queen Elizabeth II so that she can get into both of these plots—just as I think the film is slightly off in its impact) I respect the invested effort, I’ve learned a great deal (especially with my background research explorations) about a tragic situation that eluded me back when it was current news, and I have great admiration for the acting achievements that draw such distinctly-complex-personalities-yet-presented-in-subtle-manners for the main roles, but I just came away feeling somewhat removed from what I saw, as if I can appreciate what I’ve experienced, say “Damn, that’s sad for all concerned!,” then move on as if I haven’t really been too invested in it (again, maybe this is more my problem than anything to do with the film as others will perceive it), so in both cases here I’ve got a lot of acceptance with what I see but not enough resonance with it (compared to Interstellar, which could objectively be charged with many more “problems” but for me was overall a more gripping experience, even as that film pales in its inevitable-comparison to clearly 5-star 2001: A Space Odyssey [Stanley Kubrick, 1968]—for that matter, Miller succeeded a lot better for me with Capote [2005], another gruesome situation with inspired acting but one that continued to haunt me long after the screening, as it must have for To Kill a Mockingbird-author Harper Lee because, according to press materials, she noted to Miller that his earlier film was “a demonstration of fiction as a means toward truth” [regarding elements he’d invented about Capote and his research for his 1966 non-fiction-classic, In Cold Blood], which was his intention for Foxcatcher as well, even though it didn’t fully get there for me).  For you, in any of these cases, different results may prevail.  To conclude these (possibly overly) critical comments, I’ll offer my usual Musical Metaphor, this one intended to speak to both The Theory of Everything and Foxcatcher.  I’ve decided to go a bit more allusively-metaphorical rather than content-obvious this week with Carol King’s “Sweet Seasons” (from the 1971 Music album) at (with added lyrics and visuals), especially in its acknowledgement that, just like in these films, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose And most times you choose between the two Wonderin’, wonderin’ if you have made it” (one place the Schultz brothers hoped to have made it was on du Pont’s Foxcatcher estate where they could “watch the seasons runnin’ away,” but for them Team Foxcatcher proved to be no sweet “life in the open, A life in the country,” instead becoming a site of mental and physical horror).  But, despite the darker undertone implied about these very serious, passionately-made films, the song also has an uplift in tone and lyrics which I hope will give you a buoyant bounce until next we meet, likely mulling over much less substance as we explore the latest chapter in diversionary-science-fiction, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 (Francis Lawrence).
If you’d like to know more about The Theory of Everything here are some suggested links: (6:05 comical interview with Stephen Hawking by John Oliver from HBO’s Last Week Tonight)

If you’d like to know more about Foxcatcher here are some suggested links: (what comes up first is the same trailer noted just below; after it plays click just beneath it and more options will open up for you) (short interview with actors Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, and Mark Ruffalo)

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  1. Not much science in The Theory of Everything but a good look at how a brilliant mind can overcome a devastating physical disability to become the Carl Sagan of theoretical physicists. The real news to me was how the first and second wife stood by him through it all including years of spoon feeding and bathing. Says something about the role of intelligence in natural selection. History may tell if any of Hawking's theories hold water; many of his earlier achievements were subsequently dismissed by the scientific community and Hawking himself.

    Nevertheless, very good acting by Eddie Redmayne as Hawking. I also liked the 2004 BBC version with Benedict Cumberbatch simply called Hawking.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks as always for your commentary. I checked Netflix for the 2004 film that you noted but all I found under that title was a 2013 documentary narrated by Hawking so I put that at the top of the queue just to see better what he has to say for himself about his life and work. Ken

  3. Cumberbatch's 2004 version is on an European PAL DVD or by Amazon streaming. However there are copies on youtube starting here.

  4. Hi rj, Thanks for the info. I'll watch this one on YouTube also. Ken