“Inception” is truly haunting…
For centuries, mankind has evaluated and discussed what dreams truly mean to the human race. Clichés have been created, bumper stickers followed and suicidal killers come and gone. From “Follow your dreams” to “Go for your dreams,” humanity has gone to extreme measures in order to capture and explain what dreams truly mean. However, with Chris Nolan’s masterpiece “Inception” moviegoers now have the answer to the power dreams have. A dreams power falls somewhere in between two famous quotes “Don’t let your dreams kill you” to Robin Williams famous poem in Dead Poets Society: “Only in their dreams can men be free/ Twas always thus/ And always thus will be.” Essentially, in the movie Inception dreams can destroy us because they are created by a mind that has enormous power over ones soul and we cannot separate dreams from emotions. It is our experiences that shape us, but our mind traps us in the past.
Christopher Nolan is not only the heir to Scorcesse, but he is literally on a “5 movie win streak.” From Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight, Nolan knows how to create characters we care about, and stories that make us think. In nearly all of his movies, the special effects (while excellent) are secondary to excellent acting and story. As Christian Bale said in The Prestige, “It is a man totally devoted to his art.” Inception is without a doubt, the pinnacle of a filmmaker that is continually getting better—and audiences are respecting his work by filling up seats at local theatres. Unlike the clichéd directors (Bay or Buckinheimer spring to mind), Nolan takes his time on projects (it reportedly took Nolan 10 years to write Inception) and fills them with good ideas and structure that enhance the solid special effects. While Avatar had an epic feel to it, the ideas and characters of Inception easily surpass Avatar’s special effects and naturalist worldview. Inception will have you staying up late at night, afraid to go to sleep because someone may be “out there, in your mind.” This is what The Matrix should have been.
The movie Inception follows the story of a man named Cobb, who can infiltrate anyone’s mind and steal ideas, objects, codes, etc—for the right price. Cobb continues to steal and work in the “dream world” because he wants to see his children again, who are in America, a place (land) he cannot enter because of an alleged crime and charges against him. Dicaprio not only has earned my respect as an actor, but he has increasingly gone out of his way to try different roles. While his role in Inception is eerily similar to that of his work in the great Shutter Island, no one can blame him for at least attempting (yet again), to remove himself from his Titanic boy image. And yes, he succeeds handily and with great emotion. He is not just a character, but a man audience members care about because he goes out of his way to do anything he can to get back his children. But here’s the rub: Cobb will not steal something for his next mission; no, in order to be reunited with his children, Cobb must plant an idea (a “virus” his associates claim) in his next victim—the term and title of the movie “inception.” Yes, this movie is ultimately in the genre of a “heist movie.” However, the movie deals with so many fantastic themes that I will try and explain its emotional themes, which has nothing to do with the now clichéd “Reality vs. Dreams” as “The Matrix” has beaten to death: “How do you define real?” Morpheus asks Neo in the Matrix. No, the vital theme of this brilliant movie are our ones emotions and there connections to our lives.
The idea of one’s emotions is not difficult to see in this movie. What makes Cobb’s inability to deal with the emotion he faces– visually symbolized by his late wife—is the fact that she is in nearly every “job” he pulls off. Cobb originally created worlds with his wife, where they lived and played for years. While A.O. Scott criticized Inception, he describes Cobb’s true struggle in his review of the movie: “Cobb, whose life depends on suppressing emotions and memories that he cannot control, is thus a typical Christopher Nolan hero. His air of guilt and sorrow — the sense of unfinished psychic business pushing against his conscious intentions — marks his kinship with Christian Bale’s Batman, with the detective played by Al Pacino in “Insomnia” and with the anguished amnesiac played by Guy Pearce in ‘Memento.’ ” Yet, this is where Scott misses the point. We connect with Cobb because he cannot control the past, i.e. his memories. He cannot control the regret he feels, no matter how many memories he preserves or manipulates, thus making him a tragic figure; all audience viewers have regrets, past failures and suppressed emotions we struggle to control. We struggle, just like Cobb, with moving on in life, of letting our minds deal with things. For all of his bragging, (“I am the best extractor of information”) Cobb cannot outrun his tragic past—that he may or may not be responsible for his wife’s death. No matter how hard we try, memories from the past very rarely leave us; they come to define us and effect those around us. And when something or someone truly close to us dies or is hurt, that memory stays with us…effecting how we react to the future. Thus, this movie’s brilliance: Our dreams cannot save us, because they are the very thing that haunt so many of us. Even when we “deal with them,” there is no guarantee that things will be okay, no validation that things will go back “to the way things were,” a truly haunting message. Yet, it is a message that makes this movie brilliant, unique and haunting.
Roger Ebert writes that “movies today come from the recycling bin: sequels, remakes, franchises. Inception does a difficult thing. It is wholly original, cut from new cloth, and yet structured with action movie basics so it feels like it makes total sense.” Ebert is right, except for one small detail: This movie tries “Inception” on its audience. The movie plants the idea in us that this is in fact Nolan’s masterpiece in a young and growing career, but that we choose daily what we believe is reality—an idea that haunts all of us. Webster’s dictionary defines “inception” as “an event that is a beginning; the first part of a stage of events.” Watch this brilliant film and see the continued “stage of events” that is Christopher Nolan’s breathtaking career.
I have just returned from watching “The Dark Knight” and let me say, it is stunning. And not just in an “action-guy-oriented” way. No, no, no. This movie is stunning in its themes, characters and relisitic grasp of what it takes to survive, let alone stand up against evil. To be frank, Heath Ledger should win an Oscar. His Joker is not only good, but is scary, and in some ways, truly horrific. He is horrific because he not only embodies evil, but is unafraid to share his views with others, which is something that is difficult to discuss. When moviegoers watched “Lord of the Rings” everyone left the theatre amazed at Gollum–Andy Serkis–, but could understand how he had become truly evil: The ring corrupted him. With Ledger’s Joker, there is no such explanation. This man kills because he “wants a new kind of criminal” in society, one that “”I’m gonna give the citizens of Gotham.” He kills because he can, and wants to. Even knowing this, moviegoers must grapple with Batman’s choice to not kill him, as the Joker will continue to kill others. The title, “The Dark Knight” literally says it all. Batman must become societies “darkness” in order to root out all evil.
The movie is also excellent at giving moviegoers numerous Biblical themes. From lying, to the Fall, every moviegoer will leave with clear symbols of Christs’ sacrafice for us–taking our sin upon himself–while knowing that He did not do anything. Batman not only grapples with life’s issues–much like Peter Parker did in Spider Man 2–he knows that his Batman is created in order to preserve the symbol that he created. This is what will become incorruptible, all while he himself is slowly turning into the very evil he has fought against. And yes Corban students, Batman struggles with his very identity, albeit, on a symbolic scale, not individual level.
This is a powerful movie, one that will stay with anyone many days and weeks after the viewing. How? you ask. Two reasons: The symbols and issues the movie shows society, are always with us. The other reason is very simple: Ledger embodies evil as the Joker! His performance is so great that I can think of two evil characters that surpass him: Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter. He is truly stunning.
This movie is not for little kids, as the violence is palpable throughout. However, those who go to see it, are in for a devastating and truly fantastic movie. Drop what you are doing, and go see it NOW!
“Gone Baby Gone”
“I always believed it was the things you don’t choose, that makes you who you are. Your city. Your neighborhood. Your family. People here take pride in these things, like it was something they’d accomplished…This city can be hard. When I was young I asked my priest how you could get to heaven and still protect yourself from all the evil in the world. He told me what God told His children. You are sheep among wolves. Be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves.”
With these words, Casey Affleck not only establishes himself as one of our major actors, but he sums up what will easily be my 2008 Film of the Year in poetic form. He also effectively gives me my favorite opening to a movie. It is as close to art as we will ever find in film, as the words and soundtrack are beautifully wrapped up in a controversial issue—the unfit parent. However, we do not realize how vital this opening is until the very end of the movie.
Casey Affleck, a 31 yr old private detective, literally lives out his own prologue, as his youthful innocence and “serpent street smarts” are constantly conflicting with each other throughout this gem of a movie. Critics are already talking about the meaning of the ending, as it is both sad and devastatingly truthful. There are parents in this world that are not qualified to be parents, but still are. However, are any of us allowed to judge them? And more importantly, what do we do when we witness bad parenting in action, as Lionel and Bee do in this film? While we can’t go around kidnapping kids that we believe are in a rotten home situation, we must find a role, and it is with that sentiment that this movie wrestles.
It is obvious in this movie that Amy Ryan—who should easily win a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a clueless and controversial mother—is in line for “Bad Mother of the Year,” as she constantly mistreats or neglects her 3 year old daughter. However, she is never really “caught” or turned in for her neglect. While she does not do it for attention, there is, nevertheless, a sadness that comes when she realizes her child will be brought back to her, as she deeply believes, that her child would have been better off with someone else, all while she could continue her selfish lifestyle. While that is sad, it is not nearly as devastating as what Casey Affleck goes through.
First, and most importantly, Casey Affleck makes a choice, which ultimately leads to a united family, all while ruining his current relationship. While this may not seem sad, it is the soundtrack, coupled with the opening lines that bring this movie to a haunting close. Affleck “chooses” to take a stand for what is right, which leads to his downfall—his loss of identity, as the opening lines remind us. If he had not chosen to do what was right, he would have a sense of identity, as he himself tells the audience. It is what he has “always believed.” There is no past tense to his sentence, voice or decision.
What was the right decision? I don’t know. I do know that it will be controversial, as both my sister and I are still debating the choice made by Affleck, and we very rarely argue. You’ll have to watch this brilliant movie and make up your own mind. The Bible tells us that the parents are to “train up a child in which he/she should go, so that when they are old, they will not depart from it [Scripture].” However, in this movie, it is difficult to determine who or what is the right thing, as it is wrong to steal, but it is also wrong to leave your 3yr old kid in a close car on a 105 degree day. I’m reminded of my favorite line from BJ Honeycutt from the TV show MASH: “There are some things that are wrong. And they’re always wrong.” This movie effectively throws that statement out the window. Affleck, in standing up for what he believes, loses everything that mattered to him, all while becoming the man he was meant to be. Has he lost his identity or given it to another? Watch and decide for yourself.
As Newsweek wrote, No Country for Old Men is a movie that is “better to be admired than liked.” I wholeheartedly agree. What makes this movie great, is its honesty in regards to violence and lonely silence, which takes up most the movies time. It is most definitely a violent movie, as well as an instant classic. Its Best Picture Oscar is most assuredly deserved, as is all the criticism it has received.
The story, much as it is, revolves around three men, one of which has taken 2 million dollars from a desert drug bust that has gone wrong. This man, Llewlyn, is chased by two other men. Tommy Lee Jones plays the town sheriff, while Javier Bardim plays a stone-cold killer—”the devil incarnate” as Roger Ebert writes. This trinity of actors define the movie, despite the three actors never being in one scene together. In fact, none of the actors are in any of the scenes together, which is what makes this movie all the more amazing. It is the silence that drives these men.
Llewlyn, played by Josh Brolin, is a Texan by birth, and plays one too. He is a man that has served in Vietnam and has recently married and retired. He is easily a symbol for the way things have always been in Texas, as he is never seen without his rifle or shotgun. His beat up truck and ripped jeans are further evidence of his masculinity, as well as the way things used to be in Texas. He has the tools to survive in Texas and its harsh environment precisely because he understands the land and its traditions.
Enter Javier Bardam and his bad haircut and evil demeanor. This man, as evidenced by the first scene, is not from Texas, nor does he know the ways in which things are done. His gigantic shot gun is evidence of this, as it is completely out of place in Texas. However, none of this matters, as he can adapt and kill with ever increasing brutality. Bardam says little, but reveals a lot in his expressions—a truly magnificent acting portrayal. He represents not only evil, but fate as well. He believes in it and relishes it, as evidenced by his conversation with the local grocery clerk, and Woody Harrleson: “That’s your lucky coin. It’s traveled for 22 years to save your life.”
Tommy Lee Jones is the Texas sheriff that must track down these two men, trying against all odds to save one, or capture the other. However, as Jones tells us, he can’t understand the world anymore, although he does believe it has fallen in part due to lack of manners. Jones is very much like Llewlyn in his manners and “old ways.” Much has been discussed as to what or who Jones seems to represent or symbolize in this movie. However, I believe that he represents an old Greek chorus. He reminds us of, or tells us what our conscience should be as moviegoers. He opens and closes the movie with both sadness and despair, which can best be summed up in the old DC Talk song: “What have we become?”
This movie shows what can become of a society if it is not careful with itself. If we ignore manners, we will steal, kill and destroy, all for money. If we ignore the evil that is coming towards us, pretending it cannot destroy even the smallest and most content of communities, we will be destroyed by the very evil we tried to ignore. Tommy Lee Jones sums this premise up with his final statements, which have confused many moviegoers. He says that “I just can’t understand it.” Jones, who is a law man, cannot understand where our society is headed, both in crime as well as “normal” societal functions. Kids ignore their parents, do what they want and lack manners, while evil continues to kill, just because it can. I can’t blame Jones for feeling this way, although it does fulfill Newsweeks claims that the “movie is better to be admired than liked.” Every detail and movie technique is flawless in this movie, creating the epitome of “tour de force.”
“There Will Be Blood” is a movie of both patient art, as well as a worthy successor to Humphrey Bogart’s “Treasure of Sierra Madre.” Both actors, Bogart and Day Lewis, achieve what one critic called “not art, but something beyond pedestrian.” Both men, in different generations, have become so filled with their characters that they become something else entirely: “a legend beyond belief.”
This movie works because Day-Lewis makes it work. His Oscar win is not only justified, but he should be given a future one for his unbelievable ability to literally become Daniel Plainview. As one critic said, “There is Daniel Day-Lewis, and then there is everyone else.” I wholeheartedly agree. No actor living today is as good as Day-Lewis. However, to talk just about the acting would not do the movie justice. So, I will describe the subtle things that make this movie work. First, there is the Biblical ideas/names/themes throughout the movie that make it brilliant (Eli vs. Daniel, Oil vs. Church, Money vs. Religion. Isolation vs. Family). Second, there is almost a constant inverting (twisting in and out or complete reversing) of things that makes this movie absolutely stunning—art that is worthy of our time.
For example, when Day Lewis hauntingly says “I drink your milkshake,” he is not merely boasting of his overtaking of Eli and his property, but his drinking of the very man himself, just as Day Lewis is doing through his astonishing acting ability. Day-Lewis has literally become Daniel Plainview, oil tycoon. His killing of Eli is not merely murder, but a complete stomping out of Eli and the folks/city/religion that he has had to compete with throughout the movie, making his statement all the more brilliant and terrifying. The abrupt ending is very much one of Biblical proportions, as we have one living man sitting next to a corpse. Plainview says to his butler, “Well, it’s finished.” This, of course, is a complete inversion to Genesis, when God is pleased with what he has created. Plainview has murdered, hated, stole and created the business of oil, and he is now finished with the very thing he created, knowing full well that “There will be blood.”
While I believe that “No Country for Old Men” is the better movie, in a technical sense, this one stayed with me a lot longer. It is not nearly as violent, and has an epic feel about it. Numerous times in “No Country for Old Men” I would wonder why a man would go around killing people. However, in this movie, there is purpose: Money and the depths one man will go to have as much of it as he can possibly have. Words cannot do justice to the power that is felt and seen in this movie.