sorry, wrong thread and triple post. 3x the fail.
Kyle, I liked that picture you were posting.
The fact that the film does some nifty things with narrative structure doesn’t mean that it has depth or professes to express anything deeply felt. That said, once again, Inception’s a fun, neat, well-made film, but I’m not sure what its ever-burgeoning fan base gets out of it other than spectacle and, once again, clever storytelling. To me, the film has nothing to say about dreams, the “architecture of the mind,” the sub(un)conscious, etc. Whereas a film like The Prestige has a lot to do with the pratfalls of popular entertainment, I never feel as though Inception’s about creativity, dreams, or even its central character’s dilemma (which, as many have pointed out, bears striking similarities to Scorsese’s Shutter Island…nearly to the point of redundancy). It has a really nice, ambiguous ending. Then again, so does The Usual Suspects, but look at that one’s staying power.
That said, I’d really like it if most summer films resembled this one.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS has staying power?
Among many an audience, yes.
Huh. Once I got the gimmick, the movie evaporated as I watched it. Ho hum.
-Continual and consistent DVD sales and rentals.
-Wide awareness and familiarity
-Shared reference in other pop culture forms (including parody)
-You and I know who Keyser Soze is along with literally millions of people. Even though he never existed.
Ho hum indeed. Years after its release, people still talk about it. I don’t like it much as a movie, you don’t like it much as a movie, doesn’t change the fact that it has staying power.
Yeah, points taken. I was saying it didn’t have staying power with me.
is this the manufactured cult movie thread now
The thing is, more important than criticizing a movie for whatever faults you find in it is understanding how it works for other people, even if you don’t agree. Understanding how movies like Inception engage audiences and pique their interests in its concepts, even if you find the conceptual framework to be lacking, as well as the ways that Nolan plays with narrative structure, allows one to open up dialog with other interested people and bring to attention other different viewpoints that the other audiences may not be aware of. Criticizing a text, unfortunately, is psychologically taken by those who appreciate it as a criticism of their own taste, and turns them off from wanting to explore further your notions of what better, more profound messages and cinema resides out there.
I really don’t care for The Usual Suspects and agree that the gimmick doesn’t really support anything that engages my imagination past the reveal itself (which, in my opinion, was sort of cheaply laid out with the use of that bulletin board). However, its lasting power is precisely why its important in its own way, as a shared cultural text you can use to refer to something many people recognize and relate to, and that can be used as a reference to communicate one’s point (like in this thread) or as a bridge to other topics (like recommendations, et al).
I know this whole “Well it may be weak but it’s better than the usual” argument gets people here really impatient, and I understand that it’s annoying to see a wide group of people geek out over a movie you intellectually find lacking. But I find an amount of significance that made me reappraise my own opinions when it came down to the point that I was criticizing Inception for not being a movie it never was trying to be in the first place. I believe that shows a defect in my reason, not in Inception’s quality.
MovieBob is right. Inception is about laying a framework for a new technology, showing how it works, and then showing how it all goes to hell. The rest is in service to that concept, not vice versa. Audience’s engagement in this movie and it’s wide reception and sales allows the concepts brought forth by it to be discussed by many people both aware and unaware of other explorations into the same themes and questions, and thus allows those with more familiarity with the concept to expand it further to new and interested audiences previously unfamiliar by discussing it themselves or pointing them in the direction of better texts, such as Maya Deren or Luis Bunuel. But complaining that it’s NOT Maya Deren or Luis Bunuel is pointless.
What I’m hoping most is that this movie is increasing sales of Paprika.
Yup, Polaris, it is hard to disagree. I just wish the film hadn’t been such a bore.
if a mainstream film appears to provide the critical framework for a exploration of philosophical concerns it might actually inhibit further exploration.it might even be adopted as a actual text by academics
" it might actually inhibit further exploration"
This I think would be difficult to prove. In which regard, or how?
“it might even be adopted as a actual text by academics”
All things man-made are a text, and open to examination. All things not man-made are physics, and open to scientific inquiry.
Well, for me, something like The Usual Suspects is more of an experiment in point of view, and in how we process information we receive from a narrative, and it relies of Kevin Spacey’s charisma and Chazz Palminteri ability to invest his character with clueless officiousness, rather than trying to dazzle us with its constructedness. The film cons us into making all the assumptions that Dave makes,but it does so not primarily through formalism, but through performance (aside from the two leads, most of the characterizations and performances are, fairly generic and cardboard).
Notes toward an alternative theory of Christopher Nolan:
Anyone else noticed that his films tend to be metaphors for themselves (content doubles narrative forms)?
Following: about a writer who obsessively follows strangers around. The film follows the protag around with the same incomplete knowledge
Memento: Man separated from his past by amnesia, etc. Film separates plot from story, thereby creating an analogous effect for the audience.
Insomnia: external investigation parralled by internal investigation; solving one crime entails concealing another; writer vs. detective; self confronts other as self and self as other.
The Prestige: Magical illusion = cinematic illusion; “illusion” (fiction) vs. “real”
Inception : dream = imagination; process of extraction/process of inception = process of filmmaking
Yes, Nolan took some courses in metafiction in uni. Metatropes about the slipperty nature of narrative lends his films a false sense of gravitas.
Most of his films also appear to resolve around dead women, generally love interests. Cheap narrative device? You betcha. Or maybe he’s got a dead woman fetish the same way Spielberg has mommy issues.
the use of populist films ,in our postmodern times ,to inseminate information, has become the Trojan horse of choice for academics.the democratization of academic discourse
Well, you konw, Liam, IDEAS ARE LIKES VIRUSES…. I feel inseminated by Nolan’s wisdom (even if he himself was inseminated by Richard Dawkins.).
“the use of populist films ,in our postmodern times ,to inseminate information, has become the Trojan horse of choice for academics.the democratization of academic discourse”
You can’t prevent other people for living. The best you can do is learn to live with them and reach out to help in any way you can.
I find intellectual classicisim a worse evil than people searching for ways to enjoy their life.
If you don’t like Inception, that’s your choice, but criticizing it for not being something it’s not isn’t, I feel, useful. I do believe we can work out ways in which it could have been better in terms of what it was doing, that is, flesh out the characters more, spread it out and build the logic a bit better, and that for filmmakers and theorists using its concepts as a launching pad for other ideas can be useful. But criticizing it for not living up to your own arbitrary standards of intellectual rigor is a statement more on you than it is on the movie, a thing that all of us are from time to time guilty of forgetting. I’ve used populist movies to turn people on to what I consider “better cinema” to be many, many, many times. I’ve seen it work in action, and it involves listening to the other person, respecting their opinion, and being patient with them while accepting that they have a different perspective and may just not be interested in what you personally value.
Which is why I take the time and energy to push foward this philosophy.
“it might even be adopted as a actual text by academics” PART 2:
7 pages and 199 posts debating this movie (for whatever reason or opinion or perspective) and counting.
Including the participation of you, LiamAllen.
-Most of his films also appear to resolve around dead women, generally love interests. Cheap narrative device?-
Yeah, David Bordwell suggests that this has become something of an action film convention in order to foster a sort of “male melodrama” within the action plot:
“Another handhold is the convention of the new male melodrama, the husband or boyfriend trying to come to terms with the death of his woman. The simple action movie, from Death Wish to Bad Boys, uses vengeance to ease the man’s torment. The more “serious” plot makes the man responsible in some degree for the woman’s fate. The emotional temperature rises as the male protagonist tries to fight his feelings of guilt, turning it outward to a perpetrator (as in The Prestige) or inward (as in Memento, and Shutter Island). The under-plot of Inception, driven by Ariadne’s curiosity, gradually reveals to us that Cobb gave Mal the fatal idea of dwelling in dreams”
Interesting point, Matt. It’s odd though. Unlike some male melodramas which are predicated on buddy films in which the female loss/absence acts as both a catalyst for action but also a protective seal against the love that dare not speak its name, Nolan’s male protagonists are so amazingly insular that it’s hard to imagine them having relationships with anyone. It’s hard to imagine them having any relationships at all. So, hence, having the key relationship be one of a haunting absence allows Nolan not to be have to worry about his inability to create any real and meaningful human interactions. Even in his heist film predicated on bringing together a motley gang of disparate outsiders, Leo’s character doesn’t have a single meaningful connection with anyone (I guess Nolan tries and fails to create such a bond with Page’s character).
Hell, even the driving point of the plot – Leo’s desire to be reunited with his family – is just pure artifice. If he really wants to see them, why not just send the fuckers abroad?
It’s hard for me to get too excited about these movies anymore. Each time I hear how good one of these films is, I’m inevitably let down. I think Nolan is best when dealing with such existential subjects on a Batman level.
I must say PolarisDiB’s revisited assessment of Inception has impressed me. When the film first came out, he was more concerned with his own personal feelings rather than appreciating the film for what Nolan specifically projected. Now he is essentially taking a post-structuralist stand in observing both sides of the binary and claiming to learn how this film succeeds and fails inside the embodiment of our society.
One criticism that has scared me about Inception is that it is somehow pseudo-intellectual? After seeing the film three times, it is quite clear that Nolan is using basic Freudian and Jungian vocabulary about the sub(un)conscious. It never strives to be more than that because it is essentially a heist film. For some reason, when people criticize art, they tend to bring up two contemporary issues first: modernism and psychoanalysis. I think this is a result of laying out guidelines in order to understand the system and then projecting the self with a distinctive voice.
On a side note, Nolan amused me by starting the film off in limbo. Of course, we do not realize this until the film finishes. However, I believe that Nolan is directly starting up a discussion of concern about hyper reality, which undoubtedly corresponds to much of the film.
-Unlike some male melodramas which are predicated on buddy films in which the female loss/absence acts as both a catalyst for action but also a protective seal against the love that dare not speak its name, Nolan’s male protagonists are so amazingly insular that it’s hard to imagine them having relationships with anyone. It’s hard to imagine them having any relationships at all.-
Yes that’s true, one gets the sense that Nolan’s men can relate to women only via his forms of abstraction, which seems to me to foreground the abstraction even more than it would in, say, a standard revenge “male melodrama.” It’s essentially a way to tiptoe up behind the emotional content of the films that, I guess, men are too macho to confront directly. I guess if Poe can do it, so can Nolan.
I may post a more elaborate evaluation and critique later on, but for now:
I generally enjoyed the film INCEPTION but felt that its attempt to mix big box-office mass appeal and niche-audience artistry created an unholy brew. In short, there was too much “shoot-em-up” for my taste — not because I dislike movie gunplay and violence per se, but because I don’t think it was justified from a thematic or narrative POV. Almost every time people started shooting, I was brought out of the story because I was thinking that all that gunfire was there for the benefit of the least common denominator of the audience and NOT for the more enlightened “auteur” spectators.
That said, the sound recording of those overused gun shots was spectacular. Nolan probably used the same technique pioneered by George Stevens in SHANE and Arthur Penn in BONNIE AND CLYDE: firing the weapon into a barrel. (Of course, that same effect can be achieved these days via digital manipulation!)
More to follow (Maybe).
Posted today on BoingBoing:
@Roger Hayn that shit is funny
When I saw the ending for Inception, one movie kept on popping in my mind: Taxi Driver.
The contexts & circumstances of either film are different but the approach; the idea… seems alike. The circumstances of Travis Bickle are left unknown (it’s not known if he survives or is declared a hero) yet the events leading to the ending are like a lingering hope of how he would want to appear after his ‘heroic’ actions. He picks up his ex-girlfriend. He drops her off to her flat. In the last few seconds, he mayn’t have changed his moral & mental self because he moves his front mirror (with a musical cue made at that moment). Maybe the ending is nothing but a dream…
When I saw Inception, the ending seemed to work on that same effect. Dom Cobb leaves the Boeing 747, meets with his children… life seemingly normal despite the dire circumstances beforehand. Before the movie finishes, there is a shot of his totem. It continues spinning. Like in Taxi Driver, Christopher Nolan uses a visual cue which establishes doubt on whether the ending is a self-induced fantasy or Cobb’s actual reality.
I found the ending forced, somewhat two-dimensional & predictable once I realised the similarity of the endings between Taxi Driver & Inception. Could this be a subtle homage to Taxi Driver?
You’re reaching, John. Really reaching. Vaguely similar in that they are both open-ended, but come on.