Sunday, July 30, 2017

Happy Birthday Christopher Nolan!

Alright, it is July 30th, 2017 which means today is Christopher Nolan's 48th birthday!

I have had a really good time watching and reviewing each of his films and I hope you've enjoyed reading them also.

I think it's safe to say that Christopher Nolan is a gift to cinema and the movie world would be way duller without him.

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I mean, who would have made epic films of space travel and family that you can watch with your friends?

Who would have created such a beautifully filmed movie full of different levels of thought and unpredictability?

Without Nolan, how would we have seen the pledge, turn and prestige of the best superhero yet?

Without Christopher Nolan, who could have brought the actual pledge, turn and prestige of a magic trick onto the big screen in such a brilliant way?

Who could have turned Al Pacino into such a convincing homicide detective and covered his human story to the same level?

Could anyone have hoped to tell a layered story of a man with amnesia in such an appropriately disorienting way?

Is it possible that anyone could have told such a compelling story about a man breaking into other people's houses?

I think not, and for that reason, I am so happy that Christopher Nolan, my favorite director is around to accomplish those tasks for us.

I think I speak for all movie lovers when I thank him for all he's done and wish him a happy birthday!


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Interstellar

For the penultimate post of this Christopher Nolan week, I'm going to link you to my various posts on Interstellar today :)

My original review of Interstellar is here!


My updated review of Interstellar after a couple months here!


And finally, my analysis of the soundtrack of Interstellar is here!



Friday, July 28, 2017

Inception

Alright, alright, alright!

We are so close to the end of Christopher Nolan week!
  1. Dunkirk Trailer Reviews and Expectations/Dunkirk Review
  2. Following (1998)
  3. Memento (2000)
  4. Insomnia (2002)
  5. The Prestige (2006) 
  6. The Dark Knight Trilogy
  7. The Dark Knight Trilogy Pt. II
  8. Inception (2010)
  9. Interstellar (2014)
  10. Happy Birthday and Recap
Today's post is going to be much shorter than the others have been because I've already written a lot about Inception, and the same goes for Interstellar tomorrow.

Both of these films are incredibly innovative, though provoking and well planned out.

You can read my initial Inception review here!

Here are some further videos about Inception I've really loved and recommend.







Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Dark Knight Trilogy (Pt. 2 of 2)

Sadly we should wrap up our discussion about the Dark Knight films if we want to be able to get to all the wonderful Chris Nolan films we have to review by the end of the month.  I'm positive that I will have more to say about the Dark Knight films in the future though, so keep checking into this blog for unscheduled Batman posts!

If you're new to the blog or maybe just came here for Chris Nolan Week, be sure to enter your email in the bar to the right so you can stay up to date on all the posts coming up.  You can unsubscribe at any time and it delivers the posts in nice little emails.

Okeee, yesterday we talked about some themes and connections within The Dark Knight trilogy and Christopher Nolan's other films, so today I want to stay right on top of only his Batman movies and review them purely as films.

Batman Begins


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Batman Begins is my least-loved Batman movie of the three.  That's not really saying much though because I like all three so much.

At the very beginning of this movie there is a lot of action sequences beautifully executed, but since this was my first exposure to Batman and I didn't know that I cared about him at the time, I wasn't super invested in whether or not he was winning.  Also in his Liam Neeson fight sequences I knew that he was going to be fine because how else would the movie go on?

Liam Neeson is one of my favorite actors and I thought he did a great job as Henri Ducard although his weird mustache thing drove me insane.

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Once we were back in Gotham City, I really liked the part where Lucius Fox was introduced and started helping Bruce Wayne collect some bat-gear and pretended that he wasn't catching onto the fact that Bruce intended to become Batman.  

I feel like me saying Michael Caine is a good actor in this movie isn't even appropriate since so many people have said he's never put on a bad performance and is one of the greatest actors--and I guess I agree for whatever my opinion's worth!  He has a sweet old-man persona and is kind of like Bruce Wayne's grandpa.

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I've gotta say, I didn't have any background knowledge about Batman before seeing this so in the flashback scene where his parents are shot, I was completely surprised and caught off guard a bit.  I thought that it was just a scene where his parents I dunno, teach him a lesson about criminals or I don't know what I was thinking.  But then they both just got shot!  It was crazy!

Batman becoming Batman and saying "I'm Batman" was my favorite Batman moment of Batman Begins.  ;)

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The most memorable moment in my mind besides "I'm Batman" was when Batman saw the homeless man Bruce Wayne had given a coat to and goes, "nice coat," before like shooting off into the distance.

Those are the cute little one-liners I think Ben Affleck's Batman keeps trying to do, but you can't force moments like that.

Commissioner Gordon was super awesome and a great actor, particularly when it came to seeing him so confused but kind of intrigued by Batman when he first showed up.

Katie Holmes is really pretty in this movie, but when I look back I do notice that everyone was right; her performance was pretty lackluster.  Luckily she doesn't have much of a role in the movie so it doesn't drag it down but it is pretty disappointing.

Scare Crow wasn't mildly scary in my opinion, and at one point I got really confused about what his plan was and started zoning out.  I hope to go back and re-watch all of this soon so I understand what happened more clearly.

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The Dark Knight


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This is my favorite of the three for sure.

The "cold-open" involves these thieves with clown masks covering their faces as the rob a bank's vault.

I knew the Joker was going to be in this Batman because I haven't been living under a rock and I saw the "calling card" that was left at the end of Batman Begins, but I apparently am the least thoughtful person ever because even though the thieves were actually dressed like clowns and stuff, it did not occur to me that the Joker was one of them!

This introduction where each of the members of the heist turns against one another until it's only the Joker left standing with all the cash is a perfect way to introduce the character; he manipulates people and gets them to think they are acting in their own best interest when really they are shooting themselves in the foot.

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I was really sad to see Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel in this movie.  I don't know why, but I just don't like her.  She's not as pretty as Katie Holmes I guess? 

There are so many favorite scenes in this movie all packed into one!

I liked the boat sequence, again showing the Joker's anarchistic ideas where he believes that all the people will vote to blow each other up.  I really like the optimistic moment for humanity when both boats refuse to blow up the other.  This scene also kind of shows the danger of pure democracy or mob rule--everyone voted pragmatically to blow up the other boat, but there has to be some sort of morality guiding the voting populace otherwise you will descend into the Joker's anarchy. Go humanity in this scene!

The interrogation scene is so intense and Batman beating the Joker around yelling "where's Rachel?" in his Batman voice was super gratifying.  As much as I wanted Rachel to not be in the movie anymore because she was bothering me, I didn't really expect her to actually die!  Especially in only the second movie!

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But at least her death had some ramifications for the rest of the film involving Harvey Dent's transformation, and one of Alfred's uses of "the noble lie" that we talked about yesterday where he doesn't tell Bruce that Rachel had decided to go with Dent instead (horrible decision in my opinion but whatevs...)

It would take me eons to discuss everything in this movie, from the "everybody loses their minds" line to "I believe in Harvey Dent", from the flipping of Two-Face's coin to the bat pod.  As much as I love the Batmobile, the bad pod is so sleek, so awesome, so *bursts into flames from sheer epic-ness overload*

The Dark Knight Rises


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So we finally got rid of Rachel and this movie opens up with Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.  For what it's worth, Anne Hathaway does a great job and she does look very sleek as Catwoman.  I just don't like Catwoman a ton because she's been done so horribly in the past with no traits other than "wow look at that spandex" or something dumb like that.  At least this Catwoman kind of had emotions and a character arc at the end of the movie when she came back to help Batman.

Bane is a great villain because he tries to expand a little more on the Joker's idea of anarchy but Bane does it by returning power back to you "the people".  Well, that's what he says at least, but in reality he advocates complete lack of any governance where prisons are emptied, laws are ignored, and people just go insane.

Wayne is in a really horrible place after the events of The Dark Knight and he has to kind of hit rock bottom and build himself back up by climbing out of the Lazarus pit which both aesthetically and thematically calls to mind the well he fell in.  Why do we fall down?  So we can learn to pick ourselves up.

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So Bruce Wayne re-dons the helm of Batman and with his newfound strength both within and outside, he is able to more or less defeat Bane and his secret-under-cover friend who had ties with Liam Neeson's character and was trying to finish his attempt to destroy Gotham.

So Batman sacrifices himself to take the nuclear bomb out over the ocean as far away from Gotham as possible and let it explode and kill him rather than all of Gotham.  Unfortunately, he claims that his vehicle doesn't have auto-pilot so he has to do it personally.

He spends a lot of time saying goodbye to Catwoman that I feel might have been better used by driving the nuclear bomb as far away as time would allow, but whatever.  Then he reveals his identity to Gordon which was iconic and I like that scene.  At first when he said it, Adam looked at me and was like "do you get it?" and I was like, "um, no?" and then the flashback came and I understood and kicked myself for not recognizing Gordon as that initial police officer in Batman Begins.

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Everyone believes that Batman is dead, but in reality we discover that he had fixed the autopilot and is living it up in this cafe with Catwoman, where he sees Alfred and they acknowledge each other and carry on in a cute way.  I always knew that Bruce Wayne would survive, so I was half-way on the edge of my seat but didn't let myself get too worked up because I was certain he'd be fine...right?

Also you should have seen my face when Joseph Gordon-Levitt was revealed to be Robin.  I just turned my head 90 degrees slowly to stare in the distance and then slowly turned back to the movie.  Look at that crazy slight of hand the movie did there!

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All's well that ends well!

I wonder how the people of Gotham dealt with the fact that Bruce Wayne was gone from Gotham for awhile, then as soon as he returned so did Batman.

Then Batman went on the run for awhile, and Bruce Wayne also stopped interacting with the city in any way.

Then as soon as Batman came back, so did Bruce Wayne.

Then Batman dies and Bruce Wayne also dies with no explanation?  

How have they not caught on!?


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Dark Knight Trilogy (Pt. 1 of 2)

The Dark Knight Trilogy of movies is probably Christopher Nolan's most widely known project.  It consists of three films: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.  Recurring stars include Christian Bale as Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and within individual films, Heath Ledger, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Anne Hathaway, Liam Neeson, Aaron Eckhart and Marion Cotillard all make appearances.

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The first of these films was released in 2005 to skeptical audiences still reeling from the last Batman movie, Batman & Robin which was pretty much universally condemned as horrible.  Batman Begins however had a different take on the much loved character and was far more realistic than any other super hero films had been up to that point, something much appreciated by audiences.  

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The Dark Knight opened in 2008 and the hype for that movie was off the charts.  Following Heath Ledger's tragic death (he played the Joker) before the release of the movie, anticipation grew even hotter.  This film was critically acclaimed as the best super hero movie ever made and spawned countless iconic phrases and looks.

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012) had a tough task following up on the former two movies, particularly The Dark Knight.  Tom Hardy acted as the primary villain, Bane.  Despite several twists and turns, an emotional ending and a dramatic story line, it is generally accepted that, though a great movie in it's own right, The Dark Knight Rises didn't quite live up to it's predecessor.

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Nevertheless, each of these movies are iconic and three of the most popular superhero movies ever.  They dragged DC Comics from the pitiful...pit...they were in at the time and changed the aesthetic of movies in the future.

As much as I would love to talk about each of these films individually, I only have scheduled two days to cover the Dark Knight Trilogy in order to finish Christopher Nolan week by his birthday (July 30th).  For that reason let's discuss some over arching themes and stuff that stretch over all three movies.

First of all, I want to connect all three movies to another movie of Nolan's we have discussed, The Prestige.  

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Curiously, both The Prestige and the Batman movies star Michael Caine and Christian Bale proving that Christopher Nolan regards them as talented actors for one thing.

As Michael Caine's Prestige character explains, there are three parts to any magic act (and therefore, as we discussed, to any movie or story).  Oh, would you look at that!  The Dark Knight Trilogy also happens to have three parts!

The three parts of a trick are:

The Pledge (for instance, showing a regular bird)
The Turn (making the bird disappear)
The Prestige (bringing the bird back!)

Let's match those up to the Batman movies and see if they fit.

Image result for the pledge the turn the prestige

The Pledge: you introduce something to the audience.
Batman Begins: introduces Bruce Wayne as Batman to the audience, explains his backstory, his motivations, his aspirations.

The Turn: you somehow alter something from it's original state to an unexpected state.
The Dark Knight: Harvey Dent is altered from his original state of being a respected member of society into being a two-faced evil guy; because of this, Batman is altered from being a heroic vigilante to being someone the police believe is a murderer and have to chase down.

The Prestige: you bring back the original thing.
The Dark Knight Rises: Batman's innocence is revealed and he is restored to the trusted Batman Gotham had in Batman begins.  Not only that, but later Bruce Wayne returns to normal Wayne-ery when he leaves the Batman persona behind him.

So these movies are pretty similar in structure which I find pretty interesting and it makes sense since the magic tricks used in The Prestige are sort of a metaphor for story telling and film making in general.

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The trilogy also has parallels to other Nolan films.  Like Inception, Memento and Insomnia, these Batman films question the idea of a "noble lie" and the importance of truth.

At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman takes on the responsibility of Harvey Dent's death so that the people of Gotham can believe the "noble lie" that Harvey Dent their hero died a good man and that Batman is actually the bad guy.  He believes that this idealized vision of Harvey Dent will inspire the people of Gotham to carry on in his memory.  

So Batman lies to the people.  And to a certain extent, this works out really well.  This results in the Dent Act which puts away a lot of criminals and keeps Gotham pretty safe.  Is the movie trying to say that lying can be acceptable under certain circumstances?

This idea is brought up in the other movies I mentioned as well.


Image result for inceptionIn Inception, Cobb sort of tricks his wife by incepting an idea into her mind.  This is really manipulative of him, and in the end, it ends up driving his wife away from him and leading to her death.  In this case, the "noble lie" Cobb told his wife back fired and was really bad.  

Also in Inception, it's left ambiguous as to whether or not Cobb made it back to reality.  If he did stay in the dream world just so he could be with his family, isn't that just a lie he is telling himself?  But is that a bad thing?

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In Memento, Leonard constantly lies to himself by leaving false clues about his wife's killer so that when he forgets what he lied about, he will take the clues he left as facts and continue hunting the killer in order to have something to live for.  He lies to himself so he has inspiration to keep going.  Is this a bad thing?  I mean, it results in the death of innocent people so yeah?

Also in Memento, Leonard creates a huge story about this guy named Sammy in order to pretend that Leonard wasn't responsible for his wife's death even though he totally was.  He lies to himself so he won't have to deal with that grief.

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In Insomnia, Al Pacino's character is certain that someone is guilty of a crime, but is frustrated by a jury who can't see it.  He plants evidence in order to convince them of the man's guilt.  Is this okay, since it was sketchy means to attain a good end?  This film sort of does give an answer, and that is "no".  In the end, Al Pacino's character warns Hilary Swank's character "don't lose your way" and prevents her from lying to preserve Al Pacino's reputation.

Again, I'm not sure that Nolan's films intend to give us any clear answers about any of these questions.  One thing is for sure: the Dark Knight Trilogy has a lot in common with other Nolan movies when it comes to structure and themes.  What do you think?  Is the noble lie really noble?  Can you find any more parallels between the Dark Knight Trilogy and the way a magic trick is set up?

Check back in for more Nolan movie goodness!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Prestige

Remember the Christopher Nolan Week line up:
  1. Dunkirk Trailer Reviews and Expectations/Dunkirk Review
  2. Following (1998)
  3. Memento (2000)
  4. Insomnia (2002)
  5. The Prestige (2006) 
  6. The Dark Knight Trilogy
  7. The Dark Knight Trilogy Pt. II
  8. Interstellar (2014)/Inception (2010)
  9. Happy Birthday and Recap
The Prestige is a film by Christopher Nolan and stars Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine.

With a cast like that, you simply know that this film is going to be amazing, right?  I can tell you unequivocally that it's a fantastic movie, available on Netflix, and ready for you to watch.  Don't read this review please if you haven't seen the movie because you will be very sorry if you get spoiled!

Beware!

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After Bale's character accidentally causes the death of Hugh's character's wife, Christian Bale's character, Borden, and Hugh Jackman's character, Angier, who are both magicians, try their hardest to steal each other's tricks and outperform each other.  Their antics grow increasingly violent and bleak as the stakes grow higher and their personal lives grow harder.

The story opens with the last couple scenes of the film which really capture the viewer's interest.  How did all of this come about?  What could possible have happened between these two to cause such a circumstance?  It was an excellent choice to open with this ending and really draws the viewer in.

Michael Caine's character explains the three parts of a magic trick: the pledge, where the magician displays a rather benign and ordinary object or person; the turn, where the magician somehow alters the ordinary; and the prestige, where the magician brings the ordinary back.

The entire movie more or less follows this simple trend and cleverly interweaves the plot with these aspects.

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The beautiful part of this movie is that the entire movie is laid out for you--the twist ending and all!--but you don't notice and choose to ignore the facts that are obviously right in front of you because as Michael Caine's character says, "you're not really looking; you don't want to know."

This is true: when watching movies we've always been trained to suspend our disbelief and ignore things that don't necessarily what we already think is happening.

Imagine being an audience member watching a magic trick on stage.  They notice something flickering behind the curtain and it looks a little out of place, but they look away.  To know what is actually happening behind the curtain will ruin the trick and amazement for them, so they ignore it.  There shouldn't be any flickering--it doesn't fit with what the magician promised.

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Now imagine watching a movie.  You see two shots that don't match up correctly and they have a continuity error.  Instead of looking into this, we've been trained to just say "oh it's just an editing error" or something and you look away because you don't want to ruin your movie experience with this one cut that doesn't fit with what the movie seems to be saying is happening.

Now picture sitting through a two hour movie with...

  1. a character who never says any words and there is no explanation for why this seemingly important character who is Michael Caine's character's parallel never speaks
  2. a wife who can sense a distinct split in personality between her husband and routinely shouts "this isn't you" at him
  3. an opening narration that says "we were two men at the start of a great career"
  4. a magician who dedicates himself to his act by pretending to be something he's not (a cripple) in order to fool his audience whose trick only Borden can figure out for some reason
  5. a man who can't recall what knot he tied inexplicably almost as if he wasn't really there
  6. a recurring trick where a canary is killed and its brother reappears to fool the audience
  7. a seemingly impossible trick where a man transports himself 
  8. a man's wound bleeds later than it is supposed to--almost as if it was a second wound gotten later or something
  9. Michael Caine's character insists that Borden is using a double but no one believes him
  10. a man is hanged but then reappears apparently alive
...and still not catching onto the fact that indeed Borden is a double.  It explains the randomly silent character (Fallon, the other Borden twin), Sarah's clear sense of the days when Borden loves her and when he doesn't (based on which twin she is with), the two men at the start of a great career (the Borden twins), Borden being able to figure out the crippled-magician's trick (because he is similarly dedicated to his trick to the point where it takes up his entire life), Borden not being able to figure out what knot he tied (because the other twin was responsible), the canary which foreshadows the death of one Borden twin while the other Borden reappears, the way that the impossible transporting man trick would be accomplished, the reason that Sarah complains that Borden's wound seems to have reopened (it is the second Borden who has injured himself after the first Borden in order to remain identical), why Michael Caine has been right all along and how Borden reappears after his death.

Do you see how many clues were left throughout this movie?  ALL THE CLUES.

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But like Michael Caine says, you're not really looking.  

This movie shows just how similar movies are to magic tricks.  The film distracts us from the clear hints to the twist right before our eyes with beautiful film making, great acting and super editing just as a magic trick on stage might distract us with flashy lights, a beautiful assistant, flamboyant acting, etc.

This is a masterful way of drawing such a comparison and it's a very impressive movie!

Did you catch on to the twist?  Label your comments spoilery if you're going to have a spoiler in it--this movie has such a wonderful twist I want t make sure it stays a secret for anyone who hasn't seen it!

Just like with Memento, I don't really like the movie poster for The Prestige.  I think this fan-made one is way better!

It reflects the two Borden personalities very subtly by showing both birds, one dead and one alive acting as the prestige.  It also includes the tantalizing tagline: "Are you watching closely?"

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Insomnia

Christopher Nolan Week Part Four: Nolan's 2002 crime thriller starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank.

Of course, today's movie is none other than Insomnia, the story of a L.A. homicide detective (Pacino) who travels to Nightmute, Alaska to investigate a teen girl's death.  While staying in the strange town where the sun never sets, the detective is forced to confront his own demons if he ever wants to be able to get some quality sleep.

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This review necessitates spoilers in order to properly do the story justice, so I'm warning you now.  I will say (as I normally do) that this film was worth the time it took to watch and then some.  It is superbly well made and the acting blew me away.  If you've never seen Insomnia but you like any of the things on the following list, you need to make viewing this film a priority:


  1. Al Pacino
  2. Christopher Nolan
  3. crime
  4. drama
  5. thrillers
  6. Robin Williams
  7. Hilary Swank
  8. Alaska
  9. murder mysteries
  10. personal confrontations
  11. morally ambiguous actions
  12. the philosophy of truth
  13. gray areas of philosophy
  14. sketchy deals
  15. tape recorders
  16. logs
  17. gun terminology
  18. detectives
  19. small towns
  20. paperback crime novels

On to my thoughts!!!


I LOVE SYMBOLISMMMMM!

I don't know if you've caught on to this after two years of lit posts mostly about my love of symbolism, but I really love symbolism in films, literature, TV, EVERYTHING.  

I don't necessarily mind if symbolism takes on an "allegorical" type position (I'm not as strict about it as Tolkien, though I agree that it can be annoying *I'm looking at you, Narnia*).  I, for one, adore finding little hints in movies about themes, like in The Empire Strikes Back how the lighting on Luke's face is split in two during his confrontation with Vader to show that he is fighting an internal battle, 

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or how every time someone is about to get knocked off in The Godfather (Pacinoooooo) an orange is mysteriously involved.

These little "Easter eggs" really excite me because once you sort of crack the code, you can start paying more attention to the lighting or to fruit placement, etc.

Alright I brought Tolkien into this so let me just clarify.  I don't like when everything is symbolic to exactly one thing and once you fit all the pieces together the actual story falls apart and becomes meaningless.  That's why I don't really like the Chronicles of Narnia: once you figure out it's all an analogy for the story of Christianity, the actual tale about lions and witches and stuff becomes completely useless.  It's a little anticlimactic, in my opinion.  But if a story is layered with various hints and motifs like The Godfather, for instance, it becomes very rich and makes me pay more attention.

If any of that seems unclear or like I'm disagreeing with Tolkien or contradicting myself let me know.  I'm typing super fast because I don't want to lose my train of thought and I don't have time to look back at that rambly paragraph I just wrote.

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Okay, how does any of this symbolism love tie in with Insomnia?

Simply the name Insomnia is absolutely perfect.  Pacino as a cop has done some sketchy things in the past, like planting evidence to convince a jury that the guy Pacino thinks did it actually did do it or accidentally (...?) shooting his partner.  He feels guilty about these things deep down and he can't find any peace because of it--he can't sleep.

The setting of the story takes this one step further: the sun never sets in the town of Nightmute, Alaska because it's so far north.  I guess you could say that nighttime is turned off for the summer...it's muted.

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Anyway the sun is always up in Nightmute, making it even harder for Pacino to get rest and he starts freaking out because it's driving him nuts.  You get all kinds of shots and flickers of images throughout the film because just like someone with actual insomnia, things are getting blurry and it's difficult to tell what is real.

The light of the sun represents the real, unadulterated truth which Pacino tries to hide from.  He's not trying to be a bad guy--his intentions were to get a criminal into prison--but he goes about trying to achieve his goals in immoral ways like planting fake evidence.  The ends don't justify the means for Pacino and the truth (like the sunlight) is unrelenting.

Finally at the end of the film as Pacino is dying, Hilary Swank's character reveals that she knows what Pacino did wrong but is willing to hide it in order to preserve Pacino's legacy and she knows that he tried to do what was right.  Pacino stops her from "forgetting" the truth in order to see reality and Pacino's character in a more palatable light.  He tells her not to lose her way and now that he knows Hilary Swank knows what he is done, he begs her to let him finally "rest" and he dies.

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In the end, when the truth is revealed, Pacino's insomnia stops and he can finally rest.

Pacino's inner battle with himself is not the only storyline that uses the sun and insomnia to represent guilt and trying to bury parts of the truth to create a reality you find more tasteful.

Robin Williams' character also did something he's not proud of (though his intentions were way less noble than Pacino's) and he tells Pacino that he once stayed awake for five days (I believe that is the correct number).  We can assume that this prolonged period of being awake is connected to feelings of guilt like Pacino experienced.  Toward the end of the movie Williams tells Pacino that he broke his record, further emphasizing just how guilty Pacino feels and how hard he has worked to evade the truth.

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Pacino talks to the lady who runs the hotel he is staying at, and she tells him that there are two types of people in Nightmute, Alaska: those who were born there, and those that went there to escape something else.  Pacino is there to escape the truth of what he did back in L.A. and what he accidentally did to his partner.  In the end there is no escaping the truth for Pacino however and his secrets are revealed.

I adore, adore, adore, adore, adore the symbolism about truth, guilt, ends vs. means, and justification in this movie.  I really want to re-watch it (but the library needs it's copy back *cries*).

In addition to the really compelling thematic depth and meaning, this film is wonderfully acted.  

I know it's been said a million times, but I had not really noticed how wonderful an actor Al Pacino is until I saw this movie.  In the Godfather movies I was so hopelessly confused about what was happening and who was who that I could never really appreciate his work.  In this movie it's wonderful to see him introduced as a strong investigator at the top of his line of work who is laid low, reduced to hiding things and running away; someone who is tortured with their past and simultaneously willing to reveal the truth in the end.  He is a very sympathetic character--I mean, who doesn't have something they would rather not want to own up to?

Also in a very strange way Pacino reminds me of my late grandma who was 100% Italian and had the same exact nose as Pacino does.  I kept noticing that for some reason.

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Hilary Swank is similarly very good in this movie.  Her character isn't necessarily the deepest or most complex ever, but her role is very important in keeping the audience aware of what's going on.

This is one of Robin Williams' more dramatic roles and he is indeed very creepy and unstable in the movie without being over the top.

So the acting is fantastic, the meaning is fantastic.  

But WAIT, there's more!

This movie has an ingenuous instance of non-linear storytelling.  This isn't Memento for sure, but it does have one scene in particular showed out of order that is masterful. 

At the beginning of the film, you see a man intentionally wiping blood on some clothes in a drawer.  Naturally, you assume that this is the criminal involved in the murder mystery that this movie is about and he must be planting some sort of decoy or something.

Later, at the very end of the movie, you learn that it was actually Al Pacino's character back in L.A. doing what he believed was what he had to do in order to get a criminal in jail despite a skeptical jury.  This incredible move made you really consider if Al Pacino's ends-justify-the-means argument was valid or if he was simply doing something criminal like you probably assumed at the beginning when first watching the shot.

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Okay, acting, meaning, non-linear storytelling, and one more thing.

I'm not a fan of action, but this movie contained high-key the most suspenseful sequence in any movie I have ever seen.

My mouth was actually dropped, I was clutching my seat with white knuckles and leaning forward practically head-to-screen.

Pacino was running across logs on a river to catch Williams and as soon as he started to do it, good-ol'-northern-descended-from-lumberjacks-me said "oh no dear, you don't want to be running on those!

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I have actually be log-rolling once and it is impossible.  It's a technique that lumberjacks used to do where they would ride their logs down rivers to transport them easily.  In order to stay on a log you have to expertly roll on top of it.  If you slide underneath the log, you will be pinned under the water and thousands of tons of lumber will completely prevent you from ever resurfacing.

It's a very dangerous procedure, and it was so hard to do I only attempted for a couple minutes.  It's a game like in the gif below (you try to knock the other person off) but in real life that water would be full of logs and once you slip under you're a gonner.

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When I saw a pretty-old Pacino start running on those logs to catch Williams I knew it was a horrible idea.  I loved the character Pacino was portraying so much that I could barely watch as he scurried about a fourth of the way across the logs and fell under.

He was trying to get above water, but just like I said, the logs went right on top of him and there is no way to move thousand-pound tree trunks from underwater with your bare hands.

I couldn't watch!  

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I didn't know if Pacino would live or die and giving the very abrupt way in which someone I thought would be a main character (Pacino's partner) died, I wasn't ruling out a Pacino death in that scene.

It seemed to stretch on for hours and hours and I couldn't handle it!

I have never been so nervous in a sequence in a movie as I was watching that log scene.

Masterful suspense, supreme acting, perfectly-executed and thought-provoking non-linear storyline, and deep questions raised make Insomnia a wonderfully made film that must be added to everyone's watched list.

Such a great film, one of the best of the crime thriller genre in my opinion and it will live forever in my mind (long after the public library has taken it away from me *a single tear*).


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Memento

Happy Day Two of Christopher Nolan week!

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Today's film is Memento, Christopher Nolan's second feature length film released in 2000.  It stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss and Joe Pantoliano.

Spoilers ahead!

It tells the story of Leonard, a young man with anterograde amnesia which was the result of an injury he got while trying to protect his wife from an attack.

In said attack, Leonard's wife was raped and almost killed and Leonard leaves himself notes on Polaroid photos, around his room and tattoos himself with information he finds relevant to his one mission of tracking down his wife's rapist and who he believes is responsible for his death.

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The movie is told in a non-linear format.  The color sequences are told backward, beginning with the very last shot of the movie and working backwards in time.  The black and white sequences all happen in the correct order and at the last scene of black and white is where the color sequence timeline is supposed to start.

This film's main point, it seems to me, is to throw into question the idea of reality and make you second things that you would normally completely take for granted.  Leonard, with his limited ability to remember what's going on has to rely completely on photos and notes he has taken.  These reliances lead him to actually go astray in some cases.  He, for instance, goes the entire movie trusting that the car parked outside is his own vehicle just because he had it written down on a photo. In the end, he turns out to be completely wrong about that.  He also believes that his wife was killed when she was raped, which also turns out to be wrong (Leonard actually accidentally killed her) but he believes it because his limited information fools him.

The confusing way in which this film is shot makes the audience member feel like they have Leonard's condition where they have to rely on things they really have no way of confirming because they haven't gotten that backstory yet.

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The other part of this movie comes at the very end where Leonard leaves another note telling with false information so that he can use that clue to continue on his crusade to find his wife's "killer" and kill him, even though at that moment he is aware that he actually brought the rapist to justice.  Leonard acknowledges that this is true, but he wants something to keep living for and so he leaves himself false information to purposely fool himself in the future after he forgets that the info is false so he will have something to focus on.

Leonard willfully deceives himself just so he can have something to work toward, and to him continuing on in his wife's memory is more important to him than even the truth.

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I like this movie because rather than offering direct answers to questions like "what is truth?  how important is it?" or "can we trust reality?" the movie just raises them and lets the audience member consider them for themselves.

No answer is readily apparent nor is one crammed down the viewer's throat.  I appreciate that about Christopher Nolan's films--they aren't really movies you can disagree with per se because they aren't movies that are trying to make a moral argument or anything.  They are movies you can have conversations about though and I love how Nolan's films always push audience to think for themselves.

I found this image of a movie poster for Memento made by a fan that I like waaaay more than the actual poster.

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It reflects the broken narrative of the film and the way in which Leonard has to put fragment of his life together to get a bigger picture without being sure of anything.

Have you seen Memento?  What'd you think of it?