Love: INCEPTION

July 17, 2010

First a non spoiler review:

INCEPTION may be one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Now, this is just a first reaction mind you, but I saw the midnight show last night and I felt this way the second I walked out of the theater.  I was on an emotional and intellectual high… It has continued all day long.

Important things to know:  I am not a “Nolan Guy.” I very much like THE DARK KNIGHT and found it to be entertaining and interesting. I only like a few parts of BATMAN BEGINS. I thought MEMENTO was rather clever, but not too much else. I thought INSOMNIA was a step backward from there. My favorite Nolan film is actually THE PRESTIGE because it’s a straightforward puzzle that relied on laying actually clues in the groundwork rather than being an nonsensical stupid “twist movie.” I hate the nonsensical twist (unlike the logical twist, which is a wonderful thing when done right) and thankfully Nolan seems to hate the nonsensical twist as well. For this alone I will always appreciate Nolan in some way. But while I embrace the intellectual puzzle-building nature of his work I think he too often slides into unemotional arcs and formalism over content.

So please understand, this is the opinion of someone who is not predisposed to gush.

INCEPTION satisfies on all levels.

First off, it is an enthralling heist film. I honestly cannot remember a movie where I was on the edge of my seat so long let alone the entire last hour and 45 minutes. The tension is immense and every time you think it has to let up, it manages to go deeper down the rabbit hole.  One of the things I loved about the film is that it’s actually pretty straight forward. Everything is perfectly explained so you’re rarely wondering “what’s going on.” (The key is just not to miss anything. If you don’t know what’s going on, you missed something and it’s your fault. I realize this sounds really esoteric, but the entire film takes its time to set up it’s layers and be deliberate… so really there’s no excuse). In this regard, from pure entertainment standpoint, it is one of the best popcorn movies I’ve ever seen.

But it’s not just a popcorn movie is it? Secondly, INCEPTION is incredibly satisfying on an intellectual level and not just in the typical Nolan puzzle sense. There’s honest to god thematics going on here. Ones that aren’t hammered over and over again like THE PRESTIGE and its issues of control, but ones that run the gamut: love, marriage, death, father issues, propagation, and the nature of reality. The film is about the rich textures psychoanalysis. These themes are not window dressing either but somehow the driving force of the film.

You see, INCEPTION manages to use psychoanalysis as actual plot points. How a character feels, their catharsis, their arcs, their emotional states… these are god damn macguffins folks. It’s sounds like it would be obtuse, but it’s so seemless and not clunky. It’s dramatic, emotional, real, and damn suspenseful. I honestly cannot believe that a movie managed to achieve all this.

In a way, Nolan has finally managed to “go emotional.” He has turned the soft-hearted and tender emotions of repression into the engine for one of his brilliant narratives. I said that he always has problems with formalism over content, but what if the formalism is the content? The action of  INCEPTION not only reinforces the arc, it is an arc.

The performances are stellar across the board. Dicaprio delivers his best work to date. I very much like his performance in THE DEPARTED, but that role is mostly a sort of one-dimensional projection of paranoia, angst, and affectation. His role in INCEPTION, meanwhile, is the most rounded and interesting one we’ve gotten from Nolan yet. His character motives are so emotional and what at first seems slightly one note, is revealed to be so textured and beautiful. I couldn’t believe it. Much of this is due to the enchanting and haunting work of Marion Cotiallard who provides such weight and organic tone. She is the absolute crux of his arc. But against her, Dicaprio toes the line between focused and unhinged so beautifully. He really the perfect carrion for the film’s lead character.

The rest of the cast isn’t given the same showcase, but Nolan does a wonderful job of giving them little moments, glimpses even to reveal their characters and motivations.  Joseph Gordon Levitt is fantastic; one of the smoothest badasses we’ve seen on screen in a while. Have we forgotten about making characters like this? Badasses that aren’t “bad” in any sense, but smooth operators who astound us. I’m hoping this film elevates his profile out of the indie scene because he has the potential to be amazing. Especially, because he easily delivers in one of the most thrilling scenes I have ever seen. Ellen Page provides a real emotional anchor for the film by grounding Dicaprio’s character and operating as the audience surrogate in the film’s first half.  Tom Hardy, fresh of his tour de force in BRONSON, gets to shine as the most vivacious and theatrical character of the group (but of course, this is Nolan so never, ever does it even approach anything camp or unrealistic feeling). At this point it seems like I’m just trying to name everyone in the film, but I have to mention Cillian Murphy who does a somewhat thankless job so beautifully. Really, his emotional work and inner turmoil is the engine of the entire film; meaning without his performance, the film doesn’t work. And of course Michael Caine lends his perfect skills of being fatherly Michael Caine.

There have been three times where I have sat down and watched something and realized “In my entire life, I will never ever be able to do something anywhere near as good as this.” It’s depressing in a small way, but largely you’re awed by the work you’ve witnessed.

The first time for me was ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. In someways it feels like the off-beat comedic version of this same film and that Gondry-Kauffman cinematic marriage was the best film of that decade.  The second time for me was THE WIRE, whose depth and novelistic tapestry was the perfect amalgamation of profoundity, characterization, and plotting.

The third time was INCEPTION. The film is a big budget brilliant idea, perfectly executed. I am literally in awe of it.

INCEPTION is a flat out masterpiece.

And now….

Point by Point Spoiler Review:

-The hotel hallway fight scene…. Unreal. My biggest bone to pick with Nolan is he often films his action poorly (his best being the joker’s chase of the armored car). But this was absolutely hands down one of the best filmed action scenes I have ever seen. Nevermind the fact that he has merely pulled back the camera, but the movement is fluid and well-defined, not to mention that the action itself completely totally jaw dropping.

-How badass was Joseph Gordon Levitt in that hotel scene? Just unreal. So freaking good. I can’t stop gushing about it.

-Cillian Murphy’s arc and the moment of “inception” was so spectacularly well done. They way they built the layers falls exactly in line with what we know about psychoanalysis. And it managed to be emotional in a way that I never thought Nolan could be (he certainly had to dress it up though didn’t he?) Brilliant. Goddamn brilliant.

-The entire Marion Cotillard relationship was haunting and the end reveal was so surprisingly cathartic. It’s the kind of reveal that doesn’t make you go “huh!? What!?” but instead makes you go “YES! THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE!” and helps explain the motivations of the movie. Just brilliant.

-Some people see the ending moment as a mind-fuck and tease. I strongly do not agree. On one hand the fact that the fact that the spinning wheel even falters a bit is indication that it is very much real so we can give up on feeling like “none of it mattered it was all fake!” And more importantly it doesn’t matter, Nolan’s deliberate choice to cut is not a tease or a forced withholding, but a brilliant way of telling us to embrace the ambiguity (and not in that shitty didactic LOST way either). And what’s more it’s a brilliant little wink. Want to know why that last layer is “not” real?

Nolan’s acknowledging that INCEPTION isn’t really because it’s a damn movie.

A little meta, but how is that not perfect?


Don’t Like: The Reoccurring Dream Where I Travel Back In Time To My 7th Grade Self

January 26, 2009

People wish they could go back in time, well… all the time.

It’s a neat concept right? You could go back to the dinosaurs! Or, um, go back and beat up that kid who tormented you. Or do… stuff. Well, it’s totally neat right?

Yeah, except that it totally sucks.

I’ve been having a reoccurring dream where I travel back in time to 7th grade. Not so bad one would assume, but instead of “physically” doing so, it’s just my 26 year old mind going back into my 14 year old body.

Do you remember 7th grade? Waking up at 6 am, going to school, being with immature 7th graders, having normal self-esteem issues, studying very basic subjects like PRE-alegbra, and a lot of these subjects you understand on a conceptual level WAYYYY better now, but you’re stuck in 7th grade still having them be presented in cookie cutter terms. Also your music sucks, you look awkward, and you’re not able to try out for the basketball team because you have cancer stitches in your back (and probably wouldn’t have made it anyway). Also you have to read way less good books than you did in 6th grade and will in 8th grade for some reason.

Well, imagine doing it all again.

To tell the truth I actually liked 7th grade, but I was generally a sort of agreeable fellow and I was becoming friends with my bff, so that’s nice. Plus at the time you are so completely unaware of the tedium and relative lack of importance of all that you do, but nonetheless it is that important “character building” stuff that helps make us who we are. But I already am who I’d be so I just wouldn’t have the patience… Especially getting up that early.

So began the difficult process of telling my parents I’m from the future. It is a difficult process, but if there is anyone in the world who will believe you, no matter how ridiculous, it’s your parents. The problem comes with everyone else. How do you convince a school to take you out of classes for something radically advanced? I’d write a heckuva a lot better, but would I show all that calculus I can’t remember? Tell them about large super-collider that was built? Start trying to remember little predictions to prove things for people even though I hardly remember anything date specific? Next year the spice girls become popular! What can you do to convince the world? Do you even try to tell people in the first place? Or do you keep it a secret?

This tangentially brings up the BIG issues in the dream. Imagine knowing the future for the next 12 years or so. What would you do? Do you go out with different people? With your confidence of your mid-twenties do you change your entire demeanor? Do you bet on sports? Does that change the outcome? Do you seek out the person you fall in love with later in life? Do you kill that pedophile who creates the backstreet boys and N’Sync? Does doing so sever the precursor to the neo-alt-rock movement that was pretty awesome? Does doing any of this alter the course of history so that you really WOULDN’T know how live goes after a certain point?

Then there’s the big ones. Do you tell people about 9/11? Morally of course, it’s the right thing, but is it really the right thing? We’re talking about but it’s something that shaped EVERYTHING about our modern society. It’s now modern americana, it’s like if the japanese never attacked pearl harbor. For all it’s horror, it’s something that transforms a national consciousness. What are we like without that? Are we better off?

What do you do?

Amazingly fucked up.

I need some water.


Don’t Like: Asking this question: How many of people out there have been having “Fallout 3” Dreams?

December 29, 2008

Yeah…

Needless to say this has been disturbing.

I normally don’t dream this stuff, but fallout 3 is so visceral and encapsulating I find myself dreaming of the world 2 nights in a row. It’s not that much fun.

What’s even weirder is that I woke up from the fallout 3 dream and got up, took a shower, and went to school.

Only I got to school and had no idea what my first period was… I started asking other people but they had no idea whose class I was in. I was frantic. Then I look down at my watch at 6 hours had passed and it was 1 pm. Not only that, I had no idea what any of my classes were and basically started having a nervous breakdown. I have no idea why I was forgetting everything. It was scary. It was like amnesia. I went to student services to try and explain to them that I thought I was losing my mind and had absolutely no memory of all thses school-related things. As I waited my turn I began trying to help someone else who was there and it started a discussion among the admin  and afflicted students (the whole time I’m freaking out because of my lost memory). Then I say something (I can’t remember what) and this Asian woman starts yelling at me profusely because I apparently misheard her. Then I realized the woman was  Michelle Malkin, the evil one.

Then my alarm goes off.

I realize: I’m not in high school anymore. I’m not even in college… And I have to go to work. I had no idea I was dreaming and totally fell victim to the “dream within a dream” thing. It was freaky as fuck. And were it not for the horror of my fallout 3 dream I probably never would have woken up to the “reality” of my second dream.

… Man, I can’t wait to play more Fallout 3 tonight.


Like: That I had a dream I was in the movie “The Relic” last night

October 24, 2008

Remember this craptasticular movie?

In retrospect it plays pretty awesome nowadays. My favorite being madsen’s detective and his superstitous “bad luck” fears. It was hilarious at the time for my disbelief and even better now.

So I had a dream last night and it was TOTALLY The Relic. I don’t know why. I haven’t thought about the movie in years. But Michael Madsen was there and….

AHAHAHAHA

I just looked up the movie again and realized that wasn’t Michael Madsen at all, but in stead a skinny Tom Sizemore.

Anyshit, Penelope Ann Miller was there too and we were going around the museum and for some reazon it wasn’t even scary. It was just awesome. The monster (wiki identifies as “KATHOGA”) was just running around killing people and I just remember laughing cause it was so lame.

Why? Am I some kind of desensitized jerk?

Nope.

BECAUSE I KNEW I WAS DREAMING THE MOVIE THE RELIC.

Either that or I was dreaming myself watching the movie.

Awesome.


Like: Scottish and Airedale Terriers

May 29, 2008

I’m not really all that experienced with pets. I’ve only technically had 3 cats one year in college, but that was part of a big house. I don’t even really like dogs that much, but I’ve always had a natural disposition to Terriers. The first reason is simple, they look neat. Especially Scottish terriers and airedale terriers with their little beards. I don’t really find stuff “adorable”, but those are fucking adorable. Also, I’m Scottish so there’s the whole “kinsman/heritage” thing going on too. On top of that, I have to like terriers in general cause I’m from Boston and so Boston Terriers are also cool (and from what I hear kind of stoopid dogs). On top of THAT, I went to BU and our mascot was a Boston Terrier. Not that I ever cared about mascots or school spirit but you get my point.

What brings all of this up is that I had a dream the other night that I had a big, beautiful grey Airedale Terrier. His name was Morgan (not a name I like, but was my friend Elliot’s dog’s name growing up). And for some reason I had to bring him into work. People were like “you can’t bring your dog to work!” and I was like “Ha! Watch this” and went on to show how Morgan was the most well-behaved dog in the history of well behaved dogs. He was awesome and a total gentlemen who did whatever I said. Every single person loved him and thought he was the perfect dog…

So I woke up kind of wanting an Airedale Terrier.

This all theoretical of course, but dreams can have a weird power over us…

… this is probably as nebulous or spacey as you’ll ever see me.


Like: The Weird Dream I Had Last Night

April 14, 2008

My dreams are usually pretty non-eventful. Usually some fairly normal event is occurring (like me going to work) and then something random, though theoretically plausible happens (like Annie Liebowitz taking a co-worker’s picture). Those are my usual dreams. They’re lame.

Last night’s was… different.

In my dream, I sat down to watch HBO’s John Adams. The credits began and there was this strange animation happening that confused me.  You see they chose to open this miniseries with the story of a flea… John Adams’s flea to be specific.  This flea was significant because some other bigger insect was reviving the flea to extract the precious nutrients of John Adams and his “patriotic glory”. I couldn’t really make sense why that was the case but teh giant insect was adamant about it, that’s for sure.

Confused by most of this, I decided to check out the competing miniseries that FX had put out called Sam Adams (not a real show). There was no beer, but apparently Sam Adams was a bald eagle for reason. And he liked to fly over highways.

END DREAM.

At this point I started switching