Science and Classics: Breaking the Fourth Wall with Dr. Corell

To start, what’s your favorite movie?

I think Field of Dreams (1989) is my favorite movie, because everyone thinks it’s a baseball movie, and I don’t think it’s a baseball movie. It’s a story about how you never get to meet your parents in their prime; you always get to see your parents when they’re old and they’re no longer cool or anything like that. It’s all about relationships between fathers and sons and I think it’s something you don’t appreciate until your father’s gone.

Still from Field of Dreams (1989)

How many shows/movies do you watch a month?

I watch a lot more TV shows than movies. I have a teenager who plays sports, so the reason my wife and I went to the movies Saturday night was he didn’t have any sports on Saturday , so we could actually go to the movies and go out to dinner. It’s in the opportunities. Over the summer when he was away, we went to a movie almost every week. So it all depends on the situation. We almost as a family  always go a movie on Christmas day. It’s like a family tradition, and it’s been nice because the last couple of years there’s been a movie that my son really wants to go to because there’s been a Star Wars movie at Christmas time each time for the last few years. So during the school year, I wouldn’t say more than one a month, if even that much; during the summer, more. TV is almost all DVR.

How do you allocate your time for TV?

It’s funny, and it depends. Certain shows my wife and I watch together. The one show my whole family watches together is The Big Bang Theory, every Thursday. My wife and I binge-watch Game of Thrones together; we binge-watch House of Cards together. But then my wife has her shows that she likes to watch, and I’m more into the crime dramas: the CSIs, the Law and Orders, the NCISs. My wife is more into offbeat comedies: Bob’s Burgers, The Good Life, and then every once in a while she watches something like Mad Men that I have no interest in. And then she was the one who watched Breaking Bad before I ever watched it, so it depends.

On that note, how scientifically accurate is that show?

Breaking Bad? It was very well done. Here’s the thing, if you go back and watch the original Star Trek series, there’s a lot of mathematical and scientific mistakes. Since that time, most science or scientifically-based shows have had a consultant that tells them whether or not something is possible. You go back to the 70s and one of the biggest gaffes, scientifically, of all time is [when] Luke Skywalker asks Han Solo, “Is the

“Twelve? Twelve what? Porcupines per century?”

Millennium Falcon fast?” and he responds, “Yeah I made this whatever (the Kessel Run) in less than 12 parsecs.” That’s like saying I went from here to New York City in less than 25 miles. It doesn’t make any sense. But to 98, 99.999% of the population that just goes right over their heads because they don’t know what a parsec is; it’s a distance measurement.

How about other movies? Anything else that just nails the scientific accuracy?

Can’t think of one off the top of my head… The Martian (2015) was very well done, because the guy who wrote the book was a physicist, so all of the chemical reactions were well done; all of the gravitational dynamics were well done.

Do you prefer watching movies in the theater or at home?

Unless my wife and I are going out on a date, for most movies, I’m not willing to pay 12 bucks to go sit in a theater — if there’s no reason for it. Like Star Wars, to me, is a movie to be seen on the big screen. A Dog’s Purpose (2017), [which] I saw the previews for, there’s no reason to see that on the big screen. It looks like a good movie, but I’ve got a big enough TV so the allure of the theater is not like back when I had only a 19-inch TV. I really like what they’ve done at the AMC Marketfair where they’ve put in these big comfy seats that recline; they’ve put in reserved seating. For those movies, like the Star Wars movies, I’m willing to pay the extra money to have a reserved seat, to not have to show up 2 hours in advance and stand in line and stuff like that. I’ve gotten  that point in my life where a few dollars for comfort is worthwhile… There was a movie theater my wife and I used to go to way back in the 80s when we lived in Washington DC, simply because it was walking distance from our apartment. It was the cinema and draft house, and they had table service. They never showed first run movies, they were like six months out, and this was way before everything came out on DVD and VCR. But we could walk down the street and it was nice because we could just get a pitcher of beer and we could just walk home and  not have to worry about driving or anything like that.

Valentines is coming up. What’s the perfect date movie?

Insert Singing

So, it’s interesting. They’re turning one of my favorite movies into a Broadway show. That’s Groundhog Day (1993). That to me is the perfect Valentine’s Day movie. And it’s going to be a musical too. But again, that’s where I am: I’m sort of transitioning from where everything I go to see is at the movies; now I’m going to see more stuff in the theatre.

Greatest franchise of all time?

Star Wars, easily. I like Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); I like Back to the Future, but you know, seven movies with an eighth, a spin-off, and now a ninth, I mean how can you argue. I mean, most franchises don’t keep going. You know, Toy Story is a good one, where the sequels are as good or better than the original. The Godfather, one and two were great, three was terrible! But along those lines, let me tell you a funny story: my wife refused to see Back to Future III (1990), because she thought Back to the Future 2 (1989) was a commercial to see Back to the Future 3. She was pissed at the cliffhanger.

Are there any movies where the scientific accuracy was just off the charts?

Well Back to the Future. Anything with time travel. It doesn’t work, because if time travel will ever work, how come nobody’s coming to visit us now? Why has nobody gone back to change history to fix Hitler, you know? I don’t want to get into present day politics, but you know, there’s a new TV series called Timeless, which I like, but you just have to totally suspend disbelief in terms of understanding that it’s just not possible, but it’s an interesting concept for a show. You know, I’m not so bad with going faster than the speed of light in terms of travel, because of the whole idea of warping space. I mean, folding space makes sense. How we do it, I don’t know; how we create a warp, I don’t know. But to go from here to, say, Alpha Centauri, and instead of 50 years, get there in even a day… it’s 5 light years away, but it’s still going to take a long time under conventional means, so you’re going to have to find some way of getting there. I expect we’ll eventually get to that point, but time travel? I just don’t see that happening.

Do you have any favorite actors/actresses/directors?

I like Angela Lansbury; I like Dustin Hoffman, and I like Robert DeNiro.

Can you tell us any recently released movie that you enjoyed?

I liked Rogue One (2016). I was very surprised how they brought back the general and Carrie Fisher, how they superimposed their figures. It seamlessly fit into the whole story arc. So it wasn’t like ‘these people were here, but they’re not here’. They made everything fit; it was a good story. It was nothing spectacular, and it wasn’t bad like the first reboot of Star Wars, I guess you call it Star Wars one, with Jar Jar Binks, and it wasn’t as good as The Force Awakens (2015), but it was pretty good.

This may be random, but are you at all a James Bond Fan?

That Face When A Student Forgets to Active Read

I’m a Sean Connery James Bond fan, and I also like Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. I’m not a fan of the actor who has picked up the character recently, Daniel Craig. I’m an action adventure movie fan. Here’s an example of a movie that I’d never call a great movie but I enjoyed: True Lies (1994). Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis. Good movie. Another one: Independence Day (1996), the original. Not a great movie, but a good, worth-going-to-see-on-the-big-screen one, not a movie to see even on my 55-inch TV — it’s not as good as on the big screen with all the audio and stuff like that. So there are still those big action-adventure movies that I prefer to see on the big screen. I liked Finding Dory (2016) this summer. Finding Dory, you don’t need to see that on the big screen. I also like sports movies, also. Movies that don’t get a lot of acclaim are…what’s the movie where he plays the pitcher, and he’s the teacher at a high school, and he’s got an injured arm? (The Rookie (2002)) There’s another where he’s the pitcher for a team and he’s pitching his last game, and it ends up he pitches a no hitter, but the movie is told in both flashbacks and flash-forwards and about his love story with this other woman (For Love of the Game (1999)). I love Remember the Titans (2000); I love Miracle (2004) of course, as a hockey fan. I love Hoosiers (1986), Rudy (1993) is a great movie, and I used to be a big Notre Dame fan. I used to root for Notre Dame and Penn State, because when I was your age, they were the only teams that didn’t redshirt. I thought it was pretty cool that they were competitive enough…of course today they all redshirt.

What’s a great, classic movie? What’s a movie you would say everyone should see?

Casablanca (1942), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1994) the original, The Godfather (1972), Planet of the Apes (1968) the original, Ben-Hur (1959), True Grit (1969) the original, Gaslight (1944), a great Alfred Hitchcock movie, Jimmy Stewart plays the bad guy.

That’s a turn!

He marries this woman for her money. He tries to get her committed to the insane asylum. One of the ways he tries to drive her crazy is, if you know how a gas ring works, [there’s a] pilot light, and he keeps blowing the pilot light out, and she keeps relighting it, and that’s where the term gaslighting someone comes from. There’s The Birds (1963), there are some great WWII movies, Saving Private Ryan (1998)…

That’s a pretty good list!

Well I am 56 years old. I’ve seen a couple of movies!