Tag Archives: Christopher Nolan

Tom’s Tuesday Rant — The sole voice of dissent (and/or reason)

By Tom Kapr

 

 

SPOILERS AHEAD!

It can be difficult when you are the one person out of five people on a podcast about movies who thinks a movie isn’t good. Worse still when you’re also the one out of the five who wasn’t present for the conversation. Even worse, when you then have to listen to that conversation and edit it into the podcast we present to our listeners, without bias. (Believe me, the temptation to just chop out opinions that you think are totally wrong is like being cajoled by inner James Earl Jones-ian voices to go over to the Dark Side.)

I was dreading the editing on the Man of Steel segment last week, but strangely, even though those fools gave it a grade of two A’s and two B’s, I spent most of the time thinking, “that’s a fair point.”

The truth is, I found Man of Steel nigh unbearable to watch, but that’s not because it’s a complete failure of a film. Oh, it’s a failure of writing and directing and in some cases acting, but it has its merits. I actually love the direction they took the character. I love that for most of the story, he’s just Clark Kent from Smallville trying to figure out who he is, where he came from, why he’s different, and what he’s meant to do. I love that they show him as a human with frailty, weaknesses, uncertainties. I love that he doesn’t really know how to wield his power. I loved Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent; they were two phenomenal father figures and fully-rounded characters. Amy Adams was fine as Lois Lane, and Henry Cavill was fine as Kal-El.

If only all that had been put into a script that had some sense of pacing and wasn’t full of cringe-inducing dialogue. If only all that had been directed by somebody who knew how to balance the carnage with some sense of respect toward its subject matter. If only all that had been directed by somebody who knows what to do with a camera.

The guys on the podcast think I’m blanketly (is that a word? well, now it is) a Zack Snyder hater. I’m not. Well, I am, but I wasn’t always. I remember when I went to see his re-imagining of Dawn of the Dead. That is one of the best zombie movies ever made. I came out of the theater thinking, where did this Zack Snyder guy come from? This was his first movie, and it was freaking amazing. Then of course his most popular film came along, 300, which I dislike for moral reasons, but not, like the rest of its detractors, for its aesthetic. I even enjoyed Watchmen for the most part, despite having finished the book an hour before going to the theater. But then came along Sucker Punch, a melange of imagery that should have been interesting but was somehow intensely boring, not to mention, again, morally reprehensible.

Still, I was willing to give Snyder another chance with Man of Steel. Especially after I saw the trailer (which is still one of the coolest trailers I’ve ever seen), I was excited to see this movie. Now I see that Snyder is a director who knows how to capture fascinating images (a lot of the shots in this film are surprisingly artistic and beautiful), but not how to bring them together cohesively. Especially the opening 20 minutes and the seemingly never-ending destruction of the finale are little more than tons of CGI being thrown at the audience with no sense of cinematic artistry. The camera zooms in and out seemingly at random. I thought the cinéma vérité style of the trailer was a fascinating stylistic decision for this movie. Now I feel I can only credit that to, maybe, Snyder getting lucky with a few shots, or perhaps cinematographer Amir Mokri, and probably more than a little to whoever edited the trailer. Maybe that person should have edited the movie.

I have a laundry list of complaints: the character of Zod is interesting but I felt didn’t quite have the sense of consistency he should have, even with the great Michael Shannon in the role; Diane Lane seemed to almost be playing Martha Kent for camp, and I usually love Diane Lane (though I hated Must Love Dogs); the movie felt interminably long, especially when it became a constant stream of CGI with no sense of environment; it was way more violent than it needed to be; the Christ-imagery, while inherent to the character, was ham-handed in its delivery; a few scenes were eye-rollingly cliché; the color palette was one of the bleakest I’ve seen outside of a Dogme 95 film; even some of the dialogue scenes were way too CGI-heavy (I’m thinking of Jor-El’s Fortress of Solitude Exposition Extravaganza); and the scene in which Clark watches his second, earthly father die is hopelessly contrived. You mean, Jonathan had to be the one to go back and save the dog from the twister? Sure. It’s in the script. At least Costner delivered.

I feel that they tried to cram too much story into one movie. This is basically the story of Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman and its immediate 1980 sequel mashed into one movie–with, admittedly, a far more interesting Superman at the center. I know Christopher Nolan shepherded this movie through its scripting phase, and I find it interesting that I had this thought completely separate from that knowledge: I wish they had broken this story up into two movies, just like the originals were, and followed more of Dark Knight trilogy arc: the first film, an origin story about a hero who had to go on a journey of self-discovery before he could take his place as protector. There was absolutely no sense of Superman as protector in this film, and that is its gravest trespass. I know he needs to find that in himself first, but the movie never got there, or didn’t care to (I suspect the latter), which is the only real reason I felt a sense of disrespect for the character on the part of the filmmakers. Not because he inadvertently causes almost as much destruction as his enemies or because he makes the decision, the necessary decision, to break Zod’s neck and kill him, but because the storytellers made no effort to give Kal-El a sense of duty to help people who are in danger.

I mean, sure, he saves the planet, but listen, this is the moment when I decided to really hate — not just dislike, but hate — what the filmmakers were doing: Superman saves Lois Lane (yada, yada) and they land in what used to be Metropolis (now a barren wasteland), and they start making out. While thousands are still dying in the rubble around him. Thousands of people that Superman should be able to hear crying for help. Superman stopped the Earth Destroying Device just in time to keep Perry White and two of his reporters from being killed, and the woman (a character who was not established prior to this sequence) says: “He saved us.”

At that point, I whispered loudly enough for the person next to me to hear, “Well, he saved four of you.” And then the film went on to knock down more buildings and kill thousands more people. Look, I know you have to up the ante these days, but you can tell your story without a Transformers-level disregard for humanity.

That scene also contains an exchange between Superman and Lois Lane that is one of the worst pieces of dialogue ever in a movie. Ever.

As I was saying, this level of darkness and destruction might have fit better in a Dark Knight-esque sequel. Like Batman was faced with the formidable Joker, a sequel in which Superman had to face Zod would have paced this character’s and this story’s arc better. He would have already been established as a protector character in the first film, and the second film would have pushed that protector role past Superman’s limit, fighting a force of foes that have him out-manned, out-gunned, and out-classed in every way — every way but being on the side of goodness and compassion.

Forgive me for the rambling nature of this article. This is just my Tuesday rant, after all. I just have so much to say against this movie where others have done little but heap praise on it. Praise that, to a great extent, I understand. There is a lot of good stuff in this film, at least conceptually, and there are even a lot of great scenes. It just wasn’t all put together that well, and Zack Snyder became so focused on showing as much wanton destruction as possible that he lost sight of what was important.

I believe there are good places to go from here with this franchise. I just sincerely hope the next film isn’t directed by Snyder.

Having said all that, be sure to listen to our podcast and also to read this well-written article defending the movie I just trashed.

Oh, by the way: Superman Returns might have a less rich concept of Superman as a character, but it’s still much better filmmaking. Yeah, I said, it’s the better film.

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

Dear Steven: A response to “The Dark Knight: Gravel and Gadgets”

By Nathanael Griffis

[A few days ago Steven wrote an open letter to me in an attempt to denigrate the greatest superhero film ever made. I will now respond to his attempt at an argument.]

 

Dear Steven,

As The Dark Knight Rises approached, I considered the implications. Full disclosure: I anticipate nothing. I don’t prepare for, or experience life, as most people do. I merely let life experience me. What does that mean? This is the question Steven is probably asking himself, and will continue asking. Upon not being able to discover the answer he’ll probably make some silly quip about my hair being too curly, or my eyes too captivating. It’s understandable; I avoid mirrors so I don’t embarrassingly hit on myself in public.

Moving on, Steven brings up some interesting points. You know, like how a teenage girl might point that Twilight is a good movie because a lot of people relate to it. It’s interesting, in that it’s fun to watch a tween pout and try to have an adult conversation, but really they’re just playing around with words. Steven aptly points out that the Joker is a brilliant character, and Heath Ledger’s performance is legendary and transcends acting. After which follows a sentence describing how tomatoes are red.

Next in our journey down Steven’s hair-salon-conversation-level argument, we get “Michael Keaton is the best Batman ever.” This “my Dad is stronger than your Dad” presentation further proves that Steven needs to spend more time considering what he’s writing rather than watching Big Time Rush. He fails to recognize Tim Burton’s own admission that “the whole movie is mainly boring to me. It’s OK, but it was more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie,” a quote made three years after the film. This is a film that pays little heed to the idea of being loyal to the Batman mythology, going so far as to make the Joker the killer of Batman’s parents and Alfred a pushover who allows Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

Michael Keaton may play Batman seriously, but the film, while dark, still has a Burton silliness to it, which is why Keaton is so out of place as Bruce Wayne. Burton doesn’t know what to do with Bruce Wayne. The film seems more eager to get back to the Joker and Batman. Bale and Nolan see Bruce Wayne as a chance to play off another mask. Bruce Wayne becomes another image that the man behind Batman is not. He is forced out of bed to attend parties and throw fundraisers, by Alfred, who’s shockingly a relevant character.

You see, Steven (consider this an internet pat on the head), when Bale seems to switch so quick and put on an air of acting, Christian Bale did exactly what you said he does: acts like Bruce Wayne is acting. The only flaw in your argument is that you forget this is what Bruce Wayne is supposed to be doing; it is something a man who spent time training in the ninjitsu art of deception would be thoroughly capable of.

Now, a kind ideological father would hand you a virtual cookie, which you may delete later under internet options in your favorite browser, IE, and let you continue on your way up the stairs satisfied and happy to know the world is safe with such a mind as mine on the prowl. But, as the puppy I ate for breakfast can attest to, I am not kind, and so we continue. If you need to take a break to cry or punch a pillow I understand, but I don’t empathize since I make pillows punch each other.

As far as the commonly complained about gravel-throated speech of Bale’s Batman, I say, lay off. If you understand the purpose, which is for him to hide his identity, why are you complaining? It simply comes down to a sense of taste. Steven, you simply don’t like it when people talk all deep and manly, but one day your body will start to change and your voice will get deeper, hair might sprout in places you’ve rarely been concerned with, and you’ll start to smell funny. There’s a video you can watch if you’re curious to know more.

Now, gadgets seem to cause you trouble. I understand. You don’t like physical things. You’d prefer a Batman who simply downloads an app that defeats the Joker. What’s he doing with all these silly gadgets? What is a gadget? I know the idea of an ancient weapon like a boomerang frightens someone when they start to consider the possibilities that a well placed projectile can in fact demolish one’s non-physical media. It’s probably a terrifying thing to think that you’re non-physical structures are in fact vulnerable to physical ones. But wait, wouldn’t that mean that they’re physical too? (I’ll wait until you screw your head back on. If you need to wait till they invent digital screws, screws with LED lights in them made to placate your self-inflicted madness, that’s fine as well. All good? Okay.)

You also fail to realize that nowhere in The Dark Knight does Batman use a bat-a-rang; that was Burton and Schumacher’s Batman. Granted, he does use one once in Batman Begins, but that was a different movie. He also never uses a zip-line or a glider. A zip-line is a taught rope between two points that one rides along. The Joker’s thugs use one at the beginning of the film, but you were probably up getting coffee at this time or grooming your pet chihuahua so you missed that. His cape is capable of gliding, but also functions as a fashionable, well, cape. A glider, strictly speaking, is a singular object for a singular purpose. I don’t remember Batman ever renting a glider and dashing off cliffs with his frat buddies, but maybe I was too busy holding my rare exotic bird and missed that. (I’ll let you determine who gets the point for coolest pet, that way the shame will simmer deeper into your psyche.)

You seem to have gotten you’re mythology of Batman confused with Nolan’s pristine revision of the Batman story. Here are the few select tools he uses: his cape, his Batmobile/Batcycle, his grenade launcher, and his fists, which were on loan from Chuck Norris. In a word, you’re wrong.

If this all seems like too much for you Steve, you’ll understand when you’re older.

-Nate

 

P.S. I also found this picture of you.

This is a true, extra-real historical document.

 

 

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The Dark Knight: Gravel and Gadgets

By Steven Moore

[In trying to write an article on The Dark Knight and its flaws, I decided to write it in the form of an open letter to my fellow podcaster, and Rant Pad contributor, Nate Griffis, to finally put down his gleeful exuberance and appalling joy whenever this film is casually mentioned in conversation. It’s a flawed film, and here’s why:]

 

Dear Nate,

In anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises, I’m going to try to explain why The Dark Knight isn’t the flawless masterpiece you think it is, in hopes of tempering some of your enthusiasm for the last installment (as well as my own). I have tried to make this case many times, but you are always too busy writing articles on obscure Korean cinema to listen. I realize that deep down, you probably avoid the obvious flaws in The Dark Knight because you feel guilty about your self-absorbed billionaire playboy lifestyle and 16-pack-a-day cigarette habit. There was also that incident where you accidentally picked me up from work, and your girlfriend got blown up. Whatever the actual reason, you and many other  misguided people seem to think that The Dark Knight is one of the greatest movies ever made.

I must admit up front, The Dark Knight is easily in the top five superhero movies. The problems I have with the film are small flaws that only become more glaring because they detract from Christopher Nolan’s otherwise immaculate look at the hero’s sacrifice in the face of pure evil. In fact, all my problems with the film are directed solely at Nolan’s portrayal of Batman, and Christian Bale’s execution of him as a character. I think we can both agree that Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is not just brilliant, but enlightening. No villain has ever encapsulated evil for evil’s sake like the Joker, and Heath Ledger embodied that sensibility. Often we uphold artists who have died young above their actual accomplishments. I don’t know that Ledger would have gone on to do anything as amazing as this role, but I cannot overstate the quality of his performance in this particular case.

Another admission in the spirit of full disclosure: I believe Michael Keaton to have been the best-cast Batman in the history of the character. If you need a moment to cool down, perhaps punch a pillow, I understand. One of the reasons Keaton was so great, and Christain Bale is not, is that Keaton never seemed at ease in the playboy role. He played Bruce Wayne as someone who doesn’t quite fit into the life he was handed. Keaton doesn’t quite look the part, and his attempts at nonchalance have a brusque edge. Bale is such an amazing actor that he forgets that Bruce Wayne is not also an actor. His switch from narcissistic philanderer to altruistic hero is too polished. It’s as though he has truly become a different person, something a trained actor is accustomed to, but not someone who has spent his life studying martial arts and technology.

 

Well, that's because... you know... I'm Batman.

 

The common complaint against the movie is Bale’s deep gravelly Batman voice. While I find it distracting, I understand the intention. Unfortunately, Nolan has set a high bar for himself, and if I am considering intent instead of story and character while watching the movie, that’s a flaw in the film. I understand how you, Nate, as someone who also uses technology to enhance your voice, might appreciate the time and energy Nolan took to convey an idea with Batman’s voice, but art should never come before entertainment. (Trivia: Nate actually sounds like a 87-year-old woman who has smoked cigars all her life. He alters his voice with filters for the podcast.)

My final complaint about the film is the sheer number of gadgets Batman has available to him at any given moment. Nolan is careful not to have the Deus Ex Machina utility belt, giving us a more gritty, vulnerable look at Batman and Gotham City. The gadget-laden Batman of previous films and television doesn’t fit the new vision of Gotham where the Joker is more than just a supervillian foil. Here he is the personification of a brilliant mind gone off the rails. The face of chaos attacked by a projectile shaped like a bat is weak, if only because it reminds me that this is a comic book movie where things are silly sometimes. Bat-zip lines and gliders feel out of place in this world. A Batman who relies instead on his training and perhaps a few select tools seems a more appropriate Batman for the tone of the world Nolan has built for us.

Again, The Dark Knight is an amazing film, and I’m sure Rises will be equally amazing. But I’m slightly nervous that the trailers seem to display more of the gadgety-ness and not one, but two over-wrought character voices. We’ll see if Nolan is able to make it less conspicuous in the context of this movie. I’m sure you’ll love every minute of it, and I will love about 89.5% of it, which incidentally is also roughly the score I would give X-Men: First Class.

The Dark Knight is an amazing supervillain movie, not an amazing superhero movie. It’s not me, it’s you. I hope we can still be friends.

–Steve

 

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Why I’m worried about “The Dark Knight Rises”

By Tom Kapr

 

Like any good movie nerd, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of The Dark Knight Rises since Batman escaped into hiding during the final scene of The Dark Knight in 2008. That’s four years ago. In this day and age, that’s almost an eternity to wait for the next chapter in whatever epic saga one is currently into. And Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (as it is now known) is the epitome of the modern epic saga. In fact, this is a first for the comic book superhero genre. Bryan Singer is the only other filmmaker to approach this success, in artistic terms, with the first two X-Men movies. Unfortunately, he decided to forgo directing the third one in favor of helming Superman Returns, leaving X-Men 3 in the hands of Brett Ratner. (Wow. I think I actually felt you shudder.)

This actually brings me to my first point in why I’m worried about The Dark Knight Rises. Traditionally, if the first two films in a series are great, the third will tend toward a huge drop-off in quality. This is especially true in the superhero genre. I’ve already mentioned X-Men: The Last Stand, which was frustratingly close to good, but only because it had a handful of great scenes surrounded by some truly dreadful ones. Spider-Man 3 was nowhere near the quality of Sam Raimi’s first two, which is a pity since everyone was really looking forward to Spider-Man fighting his great arch-nemesis Venom. Superman III doesn’t belong in the same category as Superman and Superman II. And when it comes back around to Batman, while I am no fan of the excessively unpleasant Batman Returns, it almost looks like a masterpiece compared to the cartoonish Batman Forever. I’m even going to throw Return of the Jedi into this, because while it will forever be a childhood favorite, if I look at it objectively, it’s not nearly as good as its predecessors.

 

This is actually the LEAST of my problems with JEDI.

 

Hey, Batman Forever is a stupid name for a movie, isn’t it? Superhero movies, and blockbuster sequels in general, tend to generate some stupid movie titles, usually because, rather than just slapping a sequential number on the title, they’re trying to go for something that stands out a little more. I could launch into a long tirade about stupid movie titles, but let’s stick with Batman. While it may not be as dumb as Batman Forever, The Dark Knight Rises is a stupid title. The Dark Knight Returns might have been a more fitting one, but then it would be the same title as Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel, which, while clearly having inspired Nolan’s vision of his trilogy, tells a much different story (involving Two-Face, Green Arrow, Selina Kyle as the madame of an escort service, a metaphorically castrated Superman, a female 13-year-old Robin, and the Joker going so far as to — SPOILER ALERT — chemically annihilate a Boy Scout troop). But hey, Batman Begins is an even worse title, and that was a great movie, so I’m just splitting hairs here.

I think the thing that worries me the most is that this follows The Dark Knight, which is possibly the greatest superhero movie ever made. (I personally think The Avengers beats it, but I have to at least put Dark Knight in a Top 3 of all time with that and X-Men 2.) And while it has some flaws, The Dark Knight isn’t just a phenomenally superior superhero movie — it’s one of the best thrillers ever made, period. It will rival any great crime thriller or psychological thriller you can put up against it. And this is largely due to the presence of the Joker. The Joker, as written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer, and as performed by the late Heath Ledger, is the best depiction of this iconic villain ever put on the screen. Not only is this one of the greatest and most memorable characters in the history of film, I would argue that Heath Ledger gave one of the all-time greatest performances of any genre, ever. That’s a lot of superlatives, I know. But while The Dark Knight is a good movie, it’s really the Joker, more than any other ingredient, that makes it great.

 

 

How can Nolan follow that? This isn’t necessarily a matter of topping oneself, but he has to at least be up to the standard that he himself created. While I can envision Rises being of the same general quality as The Dark Knight, what I can not envision is anything coming anywhere near the performance and the overall presence of Heath Ledger’s Joker. No disrespect to Tom Hardy, an actor I admire, nor to Bane, the formidable villain he portrays in Rises, nor even to the writing and directing talents of Nolan, who’s probably the greatest director of complex epic thrillers of the past decade. But just, how could he possibly live up to his own quality?

 

Then there's this. Whatever this exactly means for Batman, it indicates some degree of tragedy, and it is extremely difficult to make tragedy dramatically satisfying.

 

I guess I just have to hope for the best. And as I said, that is what Nolan is — the best. He has a better track record over his career than any other director I can think of. Memento, The Prestige, and Inception, the underrated Insomnia, and including of course Batman Begins and The Dark Knight – the man has never made anything less than a good movie. And with the exception of his much quieter and more difficult-to-love first film Following, he has never made a film that has been anything less than awe-inspiring.

I have to put my faith in Nolan’s abilities. I know that if I go in expecting another Joker, I’m going to be disappointed, so I have to limit myself to expecting, at least, another engaging villain and another engaging plot. I do have enough faith to know that Nolan will not re-tread what he has already done in the first two films. Every film he makes is its own film, and engages me in unique ways, so that is what I will be expecting from Rises. Take into account the established pillars that are Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine, as well as the considerable talents of Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and what you have is a cast at least as formidable as that of either of the first two films. (If you subtract Heath Ledger, of course.)

 

I also have this to look forward to.

 

At the very least I expect nothing less, but nothing more, from Christian Bale, who I sometimes forget is even in these movies.

Cube: Ripe for a remake

By Steven Moore

Cube came out in 1997, a time when the indie film moviement had started getting its sea legs. Successes like ClerksReservoir Dogs, and Slacker had shown that studios were required for distribution but not filmmaking. Cube, in my memory, was the first independent sci-fi film. With a budget of $250,000, it managed to create a sci-fi thriller unlike anything I had ever seen. I was astounded by it’s Kasfkaesque story, great special effects, and unique style.

After watching it again recently, I realized that I was very young when I watched this. The film has serious problems. The acting is almost uniformly painful, and none of the characters seem to fit their role. Maurice Went, playing Quentin, the alpha male who slowly devolves into a statutory rapist, overplays his part to the point of absurdity. Nicole Boer, playing the college mathematician, seems about as comfortable with math as a theater major can pretend to be. Acting aside, the camera work rarely uses a clean shot, instead preferring extreme angles and closeups. I can almost hear director Vincenzo Natali repeating to himself, “My Professor said to let the camera be the emotion.” The film generally feels like the work of a young filmmaker with inexperienced actors.

What is incredible here, though, is that the movie survives all the amateurish mistakes to deliver a great story that sticks with you long after the movie ends. The notion that at any moment, I could wake up inside this murderous government pork project is horrifying. That alone makes Cube an important entry into the sci-fi canon. In the hands of someone more skilled with a camera and less interested in rape scenes (avoid Natali’s Splice at all costs if inter-species rape isn’t your thing), this movie could have been amazing, without qualification. With today’s special effects, a director who isn’t still paying off his or her student loans, and actors who can carry their role, a Cube remake could be a beautiful thing. I’m looking at you, Christopher Nolan.

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A few thoughts on Leo, Titanic, and middle school

By Nathanael Griffis

It takes me back to think it has been 15 years since Leonardo DiCaprio’s smirking face and unseemly stiff-gel-parted hair graced the big screen in Titanic. So much has changed. I never saw the movie in the theater because, well, there was a scene that involved inappropriate painting, I was told. Also, I was suspiciously certain there was a significant amount of kissing, which I wanted little to do with when I was ten. Yet despite having never seen it in the theater, I knew of the film and I knew of Leo. Oh how I hated his blue eyes and skinny little neck. I honestly don’t know why, but I despised him simply because he was in Titanic, and eventually, to protect my rep, I would brag about not having seen it.

I finally got a chance to watch the film on television, which was an enormous disappointment as a three-hour movie became a five-hour foray that was all the more disappointing for its lack of exposed breasts. I naturally blamed Leo and continued down my confused road of hatred. I begrudgingly enjoyed Catch Me If You Can, but didn’t watch Gangs of New York. Once I graduated high school, though, I realized that maybe I should have given Leo a break. It seemed that he had realized the error of his ways and was doing cool, gritty movies. Remember when your one friend was dating that awful bitch that you told him to dump, but he kept dating her, then they broke up and he came stumbling around and was always buying you pizza to make up for being such a dick? I feel like Leo’s career has been like that.

It’s as if he directly wanted to gain my approval. Like in some bizzaro universe, I was the father Leo never had, and despite all the accolades and praise he’d won for one of the greatest films of all time, I was never satisfied. Since Titanic, he’s made film after film that I love and has become one of my favorite actors. He’s worked with Scorsese, Spielberg, Nolan, Zwick, Scott, and Mendes. He basically could not have picked a more Nate-centric group of directors. Somehow he spoke directly to my heart and apologized for Titanic, how could I not forgive him? So in my forgiveness, after watching his face explode in The Departed, I sat down to watch Titanic during my sophomore year of college. I loved it, and came to realize that I had been simply jealous.

Looking back, I realize that it’s insanely foolish of us to hate teenage heartthrobs out of sheer jealously. What if it was my face that was plastered over every notebook? I’m not nearly as handsome. I didn’t sink down into the icy waters for love. I can’t sketch nearly that good, but I’d be willing to try. It’s taken 15 years, but I’ve come around and am excited to see Titanic in theaters, if only to finally see it on the big screen. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

Leo, if it means anything, I think I speak for all us middle-school haters out there: we forgive you. And I for one will gladly spend $14.50 on a revamped 3D version of your classic if only to thank you for the awesome career you’ve delivered post-Titanic. Here’s to you, Leo. You can sleep soundly now that your bizzaro-world father accepts you and is proud of you.

I love you too, Nate...

Now about this Zac Efron character. I hate that guy…

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Expectations — Following

By Nathanael Griffis

Following is one of those cool-hipster-film-buff-cred movies that if you haven’t seen you drop down a few notches on the cool list. So that’s truly the reason I watched it. Had nothing to do with my love of neo-noir films or that this is Christopher Nolan’s first film. This is all about being popular and getting the cool critics to like me. Quick plot synopsis: Following is a bout a man who likes to follow people, but stumbles into a web of mystery and crime.

Look closely. See what I see? Was Nolan hinting at something?

Hypothesis (Expectations):

The Poster & Trailer: This movie is pretty minimal in its advertising and that’s to be expected with a small budget film from a first-time director. I’m surprised they even have a trailer, to be honest. So we’ve got the new trendy black-and-white, grainy film to make something look raw and old. Not a bad technique, Chris Nolan, but it’s been used a little too much, kind of contrived with a been-done feel to it. Oh wait, this was made in 1998. Okay, you can get a pass. It just seems like such a cliché to make your first film in black-and-white. It’s like you’re trying to prove you’ve seen old movies. There’s just enough in the trailer to intrigue me, but not really excite me.  I like neo-noir films like this, though, and have a lot of respect for Chris Nolan, so that’s a start.

The Critics: It’s got a 7.7 on IMDB and a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. Eerily similar I say. Perhaps this is no coincidence. Either these are accurate ratings or there’s some evil critic mafia controlling the way we rate films. What if Battlefield Earth is actually good, but we could never tell because we’ve been brainwashed? Either way it’s safer to go with this movie being pretty good. Most comments and reviews about this movie compare it to Memento, but the trailer gives me more of a The Man Who Wasn’t There vibe. (How’s that for film-buff cred, huh?)  Most people seem to think it’s good, but not as good as Memento. I’m fascinated by sayings like this, because sometimes they spread like a virus and it becomes the only way to approach a movie. One or two critics’ little blurbs get out and that’s how we view a film. Use the phrase “better than Die Hard“ and it’s hard to look at a film in any respect other than, is it better than Die Hard? I should look into this more.

Sum Up: Well, now I don’t want to look at it like a Memento-esque film. I just want to watch it, but I can’t but be entranced by the idea of seeing a filmmaker at their roots. Watching someone from their start to their continued brilliance and maturity is fun.  I think I’ll get a serpentine plot that probably pulls a few punches and surprises, but all matches up together in the end. I don’t expect to be too confused, because I’m prepared to not have all the answers at first.

This shot might as well have come straight from The Third Man or Double Indemnity.

Results (The Review):

Just to get the obligatory answer out of the way, Memento is better. I know that’s all you all care about anyways. The non-sequential storytelling here feels more like a device to create confusion and make the surprise at the end more impactful. The brilliance of Memento is that the unique timeline makes sense and becomes a part of the story. With Following, it’s a means of keeping us in the dark, so we are constantly guessing at each turn. Ultimately, though, you won’t discover the truth till the end, which is what a good film noir mystery should do. The only caveat I have is that it should also keep you asking questions. It should not frustrate you because you know you won’t be able to discover the answer. Luckily, Following does just that. It parses up various pieces of the timeline and lets it all play out so that once you connect one piece, you wonder where the other pieces belong.

It’s perfectly paced and, to an extent, well shot and lit. I have no problems with the pacing. The way it’s shot is limited to the miniscule budget: $6,000. It shows that Nolan knows what he’s doing as a writer and a director. He didn’t push past what his budget dictated. He made a practical film story for very little and used the tools available to him. The black-and-white look fits well with the small budget, and the focus is the story telling. Nolan’s always done this, even when his films have staggering budgets like The Dark Knight and Inception: the focus is still the story.

After this shot, Alex Haw was never seen again, taking method acting to the extreme.

The only real complaint I have is that the film’s lead actor Jeremy Theobald is a little weak. There are just times he seems overly surprised, like he’s not used to having someone give him good lines to read, or he honestly doesn’t realize what’s happening around him. If the latter is the case, perhaps he was just acting genuinely and should have given his character a little more credit. Alex Haw, surprisingly, never went anywhere after this. Strangely, his character’s name, “Cobb,” would pop up later in Inception, so Nolan clearly likes that name, or is there something else there, hmmmm? It’s a good movie, and at just over an hour, a short watch. It’d be great if you’re a fan of film noir and want to see the beginnings of Chirstopher Nolan.

Analysis:

My expectations this time around served me well. If I had gone into this film expecting something different, maybe a little more action, a little more like Memento, I would have been disappointed. I could see some viewers becoming confused and frustrated with the format. I might have thought it was gimmicky and poorly put together if I hadn’t come in with the proper expectations, but knowing what I was about to watch prepared me to run through the maze. If you expect an unusual film that will challenge you, you can prepare yourself. If this type of film sneaks up on you, you might be more inclined to see it as a boring, cheaply made experiment.

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Classics I Can Live Without

–Steven Moore

Blade Runner is an amazing and important film. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a masterwork of theme and composition. The Godfather: Part II defines the word classic. Yet I don’t really enjoy any of these movies. They mean something to film as an art but not to me as an individual. I can easily put them farther down my list than Zack Snyder’s fun-as-hell remake of Dawn of the Dead or Dreamworks’ endearing Kung Fu Panda.

You meet a girl. She is beautiful, smart, funny, sexy, and, why not, rich. She wants nothing more than to lavish her attention, beauty, and fortune on you. But that spark isn’t there; she just doesn’t hit you where it means something. You don’t actively dislike her; you just forget about her. When people talk about how stunning and perfect she was, you just kind of shrug and stay quiet.

The movie experience is not simply the sum of its parts. If that were the case, Singin’ in the Rain would be a long-since forgotten disaster. If you were to try and look at Singin’ in the Rain as a whole, the movie barely holds together, a hodgepodge of scenes loosely connected by a weak story. Yet there’s something mystical that happens when I watch it. I am watching a movie that rises beyond its material, however flawed, becoming not just entertainment, but a magical experience. Singin’ in the Rain is magical, and I surely can’t say why.

On the podcast we often tease Tom for his love of Citizen Kane. In truth, I think our teasing is more a result of our own uneasiness. We wonder if being uninterested in Citizen Kane is a sign of our own intellectual inadequacies. It’s all very Freudian and probably stems from mother or father issues.

Nonetheless, Citizen Kane is an amazing film. Its contributions to cinematography are immeasurable. All films made today use techniques birthed in the belly of Citizen Kane‘s production. Yet I could live my entire life never sitting down to watch those innovations again and be perfectly okay. I know, in my head, that Citizen Kane is an important piece of cinema, but it doesn’t get me. It doesn’t pull me into another world that I want to stay in, to inhabit for two hours.

Charles Foster Kane reacts to Steve's lack of interest.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomStargateTop GunThe Goonies: these movies are flawed, silly, sometimes just plain bad; but they wrap me in a world that I revel in, and for that I love them. For that I place them high in my canon, films I must watch until I can quote every line. I want to be in their realities again and again until I have my own address.

I’m not sure what that magic formula is. Maybe only Christopher Nolan knows. The recent Indiana Jones film proves that if Spielberg knew, he’s forgotten. Maybe it’s undefinable, like pornography. You know it when you see it. So the next time someone is going on and on about Taxi Driver, you can just say, “Look, it’s not you, it’s me.”