The two cows are joined this week by special guest Molly Moltario; together, they embark on an interstellar journey into the bureaucratic maze of academic funding. Join us for a discussion of aliens (where are they?), McConaughey vs. Fichtner (who best?), scrunchies (what do they signify?), our favorite first contact movies, and whether this is Robert Zemeckis’s masterpiece!
It’s an unusual combination of introversion coupled with a desire to not be alone that drives our SETI scientists’ search for extraterrestrial life, most prominently Foster’s character Ellie, who is so lost in the stars that she can’t see the people who love her here at home. Yet, home is also a place of incredible fraught, in this case mostly men who would scoff at Ellie’s ambitious projects, then take credit for her discoveries, and then gaslight her into recanting her experiences. Or, “Another day in the life of the modern woman.”
What makes this Zemeckis’s masterpiece for me is its shatteringly ambivalent ending. Ellie stays true to her ideals and passions, her story a triumph of human intrepidness. Yet, the machinations of the collective are shown again and again to be treacherous and small-minded, and very much in control of the world and people like Ellie. It is, after all, only the blessings of a benevolent and eccentric tech bro that puts Ellie even in a position to continue her efforts. But that’s what I love so much about this movie: somehow, the clash of cynicism and idealism gives way to something deeply moving and seeming-real that resonates profoundly with me as an academic struggling for the breadcrumbs that allow me to continue researching topics no one else seems to care about. // Blobcat