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Einstein's God Model (2016)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

EINSTEIN'S GOD MODEL (2016)

Starring: Aaron Graham, Kirby O'Connell, Kenneth Hughes, Brad Norman, Darryl Warren

Written & Directed By: Philip T. Johnson

The Shot

Einstein’s God Model takes a very old story and makes it new again, with the help of some vacuum tubes and some retro science hero name dropping.  This indie flick punches stronger than its budget, and is well worth the look for anyone who is as immediately intrigued by the title as I was.


The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

LIME GOUDA.

Hmm… interesting.


Pairs Well With...

TEQUILA BLANCO.

Some guy’s god bottle.

“Six more seconds…”

 

When looking through the catalog of feature films being presented at the Phoenix Comicon 2016 Film Festival, exactly one title jumped out at me as a must-see without even having to read the descriptive blurb underneath it.  That title was Einstein’s God Model.  

You’ve got to admit: it’s catchy.

Upon further investigation, it turns out that Einstein’s God Model is a modestly (but not too modestly) budgeted foray into the subject of communicating with the dead that replaces séances and crystal balls with science experiments and a bizarre contraption that allegedly traces its provenance back to a note that Edison wrote to Einstein.

You’ve got to admit: it’s catchy.

Boiled down to its core, it’s about a guy who can’t deal with the fact that his fiancée died.

Amazing how much cooler things get when you add vacuum tubes and quantum physics and start invoking the names of long-dead scientists, ain’t it?  Really; I’m serious.  With Einstein’s God Model, writer/director Philip T. Johnson has taken one of the oldest stories in the book (turn to the chapter called “Orpheus and Eurydice” in your handy copy of “Bullfinch’s Mythology”) and made it interesting again, and despite the limitations of an indie budget, he’s made the attached sci fi trappings look really good.

As a member of the audience, you get to meet those trappings before you meet the story.  Picture a device cobbled together from the “more retro than retro” section of American Science and Surplus, starting with a vacuum tube board, going through what looks like a series of WWII submarine electronics, and ending with a rotary phone that rings when the deceased are feeling chatty.  Now take a test subject and put some headgear on him so he looks like he’s in an electric chair, turn on the juice, and…

And see why you’re going to want to watch the rest of the movie.  Camera, direction, editing: all tight.  Atmosphere: charged.  Visual effects: way better than you were probably expecting from a modest budget indie, but not the overblown flash fest Hollywood would’ve ruined things with.  (Think of the effects as a Goldilocks thing: not too much, not too cheesy; just right.)  Performances: the guy in the chair (Brad Norman) is charismatic and engaging.  Pack it all together in a nutshell, and you’ve got an opening sequence that delivers quality, and a very effective hook.

With those promises made, Einstein’s God Model can move on to the more traditional part of the story without fear of feeling humdrum.  Boy loves girl, girl dies, boy is really depressed; yup, you’ve got it.  But because of that excellent opening sequence, you stick with it, and you’re rewarded for your leap of faith, for it turns out that the device you saw before doesn’t just look cool.  As our depressed boy (who also happens to be an anesthesiologist) eventually discovers, it’s also the centerpiece of an intriguing story from which the film gets its title (and some of its more eyebrow-raising opening credit citations), and the coolness of that thought-provoking story – the details of which I’m not going to spoil for you, though I’m sure you can already put two and two together and guess some basics – is what will see you through to the end.  Sure, some cracks show up along the way – an odd plot item or two and some non-lead performances that are, shall we say, unpolished – but they’re easy enough to let slide. The director keeps control of the crucial stuff, the atmosphere remains solid throughout, and most importantly, when it’s all over, the story of Einstein’s God Model opens a door and never shuts it, leaving the audience with a lot of really interesting things to think about long after the closing credits have rolled.

To me, that’s a major measure of success. 

When all is said and done, Einstein’s God Model lives within a special niche of science fiction movies that not only aren’t made by big Hollywood studios, but probably shouldn’t be.  If some studio suits decided to toss eight figures and the standard politics at this concept, they’d inevitably screw it up.  At least at the indie level, it’s got a chance, and writer/director Philip T. Johnson makes the most he possibly can out of it.

I am therefore completely unsurprised by the fact that it ended up winning the award for Overall Best Picture at the Phoenix Comicon 2016 Film Festival.  Should you get the chance to experience Einstein’s God Model for yourself, I strongly suggest that you take it.  It’s beautiful over there.*

 

* Just do yourself a favor and don’t look up the reality of the Edison and Einstein stuff when you get home.  Preserve the quantum magic.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2016

This movie was screened at the Phoenix Comicon 2016 Film Festival.


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