MovieBob - Intermission
I Origins Is Irreducibly Irritating

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 25 Jul 2014 16:00
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NOTE: Interview text transcribed from audio recording, edited for clarity, context and to remove run-on/off-topic digressions.

MOVIEBOB: Do you consider [Another Earth and I Origins] to be science-fiction films?

MIKE CAHILL: Yes. (beat) 100%. In the truest form. Speculative fiction. Using current technology to tell stories about humanity.

MOVIEBOB: Archie Panjabi's character asks [Pitt's character] -- paraphrasing the Dalai Llama (note: In the interview, I misattributed the quote to Gandhi. Cahill, thankfully, corrected my mistake) -- "What would you do if something disproved your scientific beliefs?" As the author of this dialogue, what do you imagine her response would be if his response was: "Science doesn't have beliefs. It has theories, facts, conjectures, formulas...?"

MIKE CAHILL: Well, I mean, it's kind of a shorthand. It's... the scientific method, is... testing things. Things that can be tested and re-tested to get the same result. So to say you believe in science -- that word "science" is just short for the scientific method, really.

MOVIEBOB: The story of the film is of a scientist trying to disprove the irreducible complexity argument cited by Creationists. In the film he appears to be proven incorrect or at least seems proven incorrect in his conjectures about such. Is this an anti-Atheism film?

MIKE CAHILL: (appears surprised by the question, long pause -- about 7 seconds) ...No.


MIKE CAHILL: This is... not an anti-Atheist film. (slaps table) This is a... (pause) agnostic film.

MOVIEBOB: Given that this is a science-fiction film that has a scientist coming up against a spiritual argument and being sort of "countered," a bit, on it...

MIKE CAHILL: Ah! Now I see where you're getting at.

Note: The majority of my questions have been directed to both men, Michael Pitt was largely silent at this point. He was more talkative beforehand, pointing out my video-game themed T-shirt and claiming that they were working on an I Origins game -- I think he was kidding.

MOVIEBOB:, are you looking forward to a point where the film is "slapped around" a bit by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye?

Both men laughing

MIKE CAHILL: If they watch it that'd be very cool -- I like both guys very much. They're popularizers of science. What they do is important.

We briefly slip off-topic to mutually-gush about how great Cosmos was.

MOVIEBOB: This... could possibly sound incendiary, but I mean it in the spirit of discussion: Are you familiar with a trope in criticism of fiction called "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl?"


MOVIEBOB: What would your response be to someone who --

MIKE CAHILL: Characterizes Astrid's character...?

MOVIEBOB: As perhaps a "quintessential" MPDG, yeah.

MIKE CAHILL: Watch the movie again. She actually has a great deal of wisdom. She...

MICHAEL PITT: I'm sorry, what... what is that?

MOVIEBOB: It was coined by Nathan Rabin... (short version: I end up reading the TV Tropes definition of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to Mason Verger. My job is strange.)

MICHAEL PITT: I think what's interesting about this movie -- what I love about Mike Cahill's writing is that... he may be playing with the idea of a character who might be like that on paper. But when you watch... I think, mechanically, actually the wisest things that are said -- the most profound things -- are said by this character. And I would say the scene the viewer should pay attention to is the scene with the worms. She uses his work in the laboratory... maybe [Mike Cahill] can explain it better... as an analogy to her point of view.

MIKE CAHILL: Right, yeah. Exactly.

MICHAEL PITT: What she's talking about is really amazing stuff. In society... That happens, y'know, in society. Intelligence is misguided by people who use big words -- people who are formally educated. And the truth is, what's real... that doesn't have anything to do with intelligence. It can... mask ignorance.

Note: At this point, Cahill asks if I had read Edwin Abbott's Flatland, a satirical novella from 1884. I had not. He recommends it.

MIKE CAHILL: So... yeah, I think Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope is bullshit.

MOVIEBOB: Did you (Pitt) research your character's field of study?

MICHAEL PITT: No, I don't research much. (laugh, he is kidding) No, yeah. I'd have liked to research even more. I'm super fascinated by this stuff.

As it turns out, Pitt studied in a Johns Hopkins facility where Cahill's brother is a scientist to prepare for the part. Around this point, the publicist gives us the wrap-it-up signal.

MOVIEBOB: (to Pitt) I apologize in advance but my [family member] will kill me if I don't ask you this...


MOVIEBOB: Will you be back for another season on Hannibal?

MICHAEL PITT: (Laughing -- I think he thought I was going to ask about something else?) ...why would you apologize for asking that?

MOVIEBOB: Well, it's sometimes considered a faux-pas to ask about an unrelated project and...

MIKE CAHILL: Shouldn't you should be apologizing to me, then? (Laughs)

MICHAEL PITT: I'd love to, I'd love to. We're trying to work it out.

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