I’ve never seen a movie before where I wanted to yell at the screen “It’s called the Coase theorem!”, and furthermore with complete justification.  There is plenty of social science in this film, including insights from Thomas Schelling and the construction and solution of some non-cooperative games, mostly by introducing a more dynamic method of equilibrium selection.  There are homages to Childhood’s End, 2001, Close Encounters, Interstellar, Buddhism, Himalayan Nagas, Eastern Orthodox, the theology of the number 12, and more.  It’s hard to explain without spoiling the plot, but definitely recommended and maybe the best Hollywood movie so far this year.  Nice sonics too.


I too loved this. Found myself especially wanting to discuss the ending, as many interpretations exist. And Max Richter, whose music for The Leftovers I find extraordinary, has another haunting score here.

I thought the ending was pretty clear? She goes on to have the baby exactly as she saw in her future. What other interpretations are there? Curious!

Ok to have spoilers here, I guess. My question concerned the motivation of Louise to not tell Ian that she knew their child was going to die. It obviously (I think) led to their split and paints both characters in potentially negative light, after showing them so positively throughout the movie. Why would she not tell him for years, and then tell him (I assume when the official diagnosis is made?). In one late flash-forward scene Hannah says that her dad doesn't look at her the same way and Louise responds that the dad heard news from her (Louise) and tells her that she has made the "wrong decision." Is the decision referred to regarding having the child, or not telling Ian she knew of the girl's fate? I assume the latter, but this off-screen conflict adds interestingly to the two main characters.

Hope tat makes sense.

Ya, that makes sense.

FWIW I assumed that she actually told him pre-diagnosis as the daughter was still pretty young in that scene compared to the scenes that showed her sick.

My interpretation of her motivation was that she accepted her fate for what it was and decided that all of the joyfull days with her daughter would be worth the pain at the end. As someone with a 16 month old son who is loving being a 1st time father it made me think about whether I would do the same thing. I think that I would though it's hard to say.

"My interpretation of her motivation was that she accepted her fate for what it was and decided that all of the joyfull days with her daughter would be worth the pain at the end."

It's the child that dies. Isn't it a little narcissistic to be making the calculation based on her worth to you? Presumably if the child was a difficult little brat, it wouldn't be worth it? Moral "depth" like this is the type of lazy bourgeois melodrama I'd expect to see feature on the Oprah bookclub.

I got a sense that, as she learns to think like the heptapods, she becomes a determinist. She sees the whole timeline at once, all laid out, and it's not some uncertain future or some branching path.

This seems to be the way the heptapods see. They know what will happen in three thousand years, which would be hard to know if any of the zillions of decisions between now and then could change it.

This is also foreshadowed in the whiteboard "What is your purpose on Earth?" scene, where she points out that maybe the heptapods think of intentionally differently than we do, and maybe they wouldn't understand our "why" questions.

So it's not that she decides to have the kid. It's just that she lives through that moment on the timeline because it's there.

If you want the saddest possibility, she had decided not to tell him but it slipped out in the middle of a huge fight about Hannah's education. He said something like "she'll never get into college..."

The score is by Jóhann Jóhannsson, not by Max Richter (although there’s one piece by him used in the film).

Had you read Ted Chiang's original short story?

If not, you should check out his other work. He's produced quite a spectacular series of short fiction.

I consider Chiang an heir to Heinlein. His best short stories are like Heinlein's best, optimistic, clever twists of "if this goes on", populated by bright but otherwise ordinary people doing the best they can in extraordinary circumstances. No super humans, no fates of empires at stake, just stories about people dealing with the implications of the future.

My one disappointment with film, btw, is that it broke my promise to my wife that there would be no explosions.

I literally thought "Hell Is The Absence of God" could be a great movie after finishing it.

Anyone has any idea how much Chiang would have made off this movie? IIRC he doesn't really make much off his stories, not enough to quit his day job anyway.

I didn't see much in it. Some new age pablum about time being a consequence of the way we use language in the service of some more pablum about us all working together for the greater good. This kind of stuff is so stale by now I wonder how much more of it even comfortable liberals who like to pat themselves on the back for being good thinkers can take.

Man, all that work just to hurt a straw man's feelings...

Seems it's a remake of an earlier film that's a film adaptation of a book. Pass. I rather watch classical chess live, with the Berlin opening.

The Arrival (2016) delivers a must-see experience for fans of thinking person's sci-fi that anchors its heady themes with genuinely affecting emotion and a terrific performance from Amy Adams.

The Arrival (1996) Critics Consensus: Stylish and inventive, The Arrival offers a surprisingly smart spin on the alien invasion genre.

The Arrival (1996) is completely unrelated.

The short story that Arrival (2016) is based on won the Nebula and Sturgeon awards. The short story is heavier on the physics but I was genuinely impressed at how well it translated to the big screen.

Completely unrelated and significantly inferior.

Cowen: "Nice sonics too."

Sailer: “Dialogue … can be a little hard to hear.”

My money is on Sailer: he probably watched the whole thing.

Tyler is also vain enough to pretend his hearing isn't diminishing with age.

You don't have to have the equivalent of 20/20 vision, in hearing, to hear ebonics. Wait, did you say sonics?

Nothing is not Coasean these days, apparently.

That can be negotiated away...

That or Straussian.

What do you get when you cross a Coasean with a Straussian?

TC : " It’s hard to explain without spoiling the plot"
Commenters : Nah........

Read the short written by Ted Chiang. Hopefully "Story of Your Life" shows up in your book pile and maybe "The Lifecycle of Software Objects", "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate", and "Hell is the Absence of God". All great. At the rate you read, Tyler, you could probably finish his entire oeuvre in a couple days, although I wouldn't recommend it.

The available nouns forms would be Eastern OrthodoxY or the Eastern Orthodox Church or Eastern Orthodox Theology but not Eastern Orthodox, which is an adjective.

I may be misinterpreting things, but I think there is a strong connection with Slaughterhouse Five in that the main character in Arrival had become unstuck in time.

I think you are spot on.

I wanted to yell at the screen “It’s called the Coase theorem!” Would you also have yelled out "'Rosebud' is a sled!"?

I wanted to yell "That's not what a Nash equilibrium is about!" while I was watching _A Beautiul Mind_.

Spoiler comments:

I'm calling it "a better version of 'Contact'". I thought it was a very good movie, though I figured out the plot twist pretty quickly.

Though, I'm not sure if this is a non-paradoxical/deterministic time movie. The aliens refer to it as the "weapon". I'm thinking she and the Heptapods are working through possible futures through their current actions. I think there is a choice of possible futures, and the one where her daughter dies is the one where she unites all of mankind and they are able to save the Heptapods in 3000 years.

Tyler's review made me want to see the movie, which I did, as I am fascinated by the Coase theorem: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2129315

But the Coase theorem doesn't really apply here because there are no property rights in language. Instead, I was shouting out: "it's called a positive sum game"

Hollywood would like us Americans to think that we don't have any real enemies. If we just take a year out of our lives to learn ___ language, then ___ people will have nothing but good intentions toward us. Most of us don't have a year, and even if we did... well, I guess you don't know until you try.
(Nice movie overall, but I don't think they added much to Interstellar.)

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