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Peter T Chattaway

Inception (2010)

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Well, Christian, I'm supposed to refrain from posting a review or an opinion of the film until Friday. That's why I'm not responding to your concern yet.

Thanks, Jeffrey. I know the drill. I didn't think commenting on how/if those storylines DO sufficiently intersect constituted a "review," but I realize those lines are blurry. I just wondered if I had missed a glaringly obvious connection. Wouldn't be the first time.

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FWIW, Jeffrey Wells had issues with the sound, too:

And yet the damn sound at the Lincoln Square is pissing me off hugely because the dialogue isn't that crisp or clear -- not the way it'll sound when I'll watch this film on Bluray five or six months hence -- and so I'm cupping my ears half the time despite being only about six or seven rows from the screen. Is it because I'm sitting too close? Are the consonants flying over my head? I can't understand most of Ken Watanabe's dialogue to save my life, and yet every word Michael Caine is speaking comes through clear as a preacher's sermon. . . .

Sounds like the problem isn't limited to the Lincoln Square, then?

Christian wrote:

: I didn't think commenting on how/if those storylines DO sufficiently intersect constituted a "review," but I realize those lines are blurry.

FWIW, the rule of thumb I've always been given is that stating opinions of any sort constitutes a "review" but sharing factual information about a film does not (though of course it's Not A Good Idea to give away major spoilers, etc.).

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Already I've learned something: Zimmer's score bugs people who know about music. It didn't bother me, but I did find myself wondering once or twice if it would bother me if I were more of a music guy.

I haven't heard Zimmer's score in the context of the film. Just on its own. But I'm a firm believer that film music should hold up as works of composition outside of the film. In general, Nolan's scores tend to be either ambient mush or derivative action music drivel. It's not so much that his scores are grating as it is that they're bland. They provide adequate background wallpaper during the film experience, but they're never enthralling, either. Nolan seems unable to truly see music as more than filler, to understand that music can be one of the most powerful cinematic tools at his disposal. I suspect that when I see INCEPTION, I'll be left feeling that the film could play far more powerfully had Nolan sought out someone like John Adams, Jonathan Dove, Osvaldo Golijov, or even Philip Glass.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Well, I hope I didn't spoil the content by mentioning what I did in my earlier post, which recounts some basics about the plot lines of the film.

FWIW, the local agency repping this film has asked if we plan to run our reviews on THURSDAY, because the movie apparently has midnight shows, or something. I take it, then, that's it's OK to discuss the movie as of tomorrow, rather than Friday, but your mileage may vary depending on what you've heard from press reps in your respective cities.

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It's not that Zimmer's score is bad. It's that if someone had told me it was just temp-tracked with music from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and The Prestige, I would have believed them.

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Karina Longworth chimes in on the audibility question:

: It wasn't just that theater--Watanabe's dialogue is unintelligible.

: Actually it's not just him--there were a lot of snatches of exposition that seemed to be muddled in the screening I went to.

Hmmm. I wonder if this, too, is evidence of Nolan's love of Michael Mann films. (Remember how crappy the sound in Public Enemies was?)

Of course, Mann is all about the video these days, whereas Nolan has openly stated his dislike for video (which is one of the reasons why he's resisting 3D), so it's not like Nolan imitates Mann in EVERY department.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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It's not that Zimmer's score is bad. It's that if someone had told me it was just temp-tracked with music from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and The Prestige, I would have believed them.

I even got that vibe from the trailer.

Just printed out my ticket for tomorrow night! Browsing the thoughts and observations posted here have been good for me. Bringing down my expectations from "ridiculously high" to "semi-ridiculously high."

I look forward to the now-brewing conversation! (Maybe, if I stay on top of it, I can track better with this one than I did with the thread for Toy Story 3, which I eventually had to bail on.)

Edited by Foolish Knight

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Foolish Knight wrote:

: I even got that vibe from the trailer.

That's interesting, because the music in the trailers wasn't written by Zimmer.

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Wow, Reed goes Oldboy on Inception. Anyway, what nursing home did they pull him out of to write that review? He is super-old, can't see the fingers in front of his face. He's stuck in yesteryear, he's like the Armond White for grandpas.

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So I went digging through a couple of reviews, and I gladly quote Dana Stevens, who writes:

The problem is that the emotional stakes are consistently too low for the viewer to engage with the story. It's never clear why we should care about the relationship between Murphy and his dying father, played by Pete Postlethwaite—their characters enter the story too late, and are too hastily sketched, to amount to anything more than types.

But in case you're thinking that I'm only quoting critics with whom I agree (I'd never! :) ), Stevens goes on to say that DiCaprio's relationship with his wife is even more problematic. I don't think so.

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It's not that Zimmer's score is bad. It's that if someone had told me it was just temp-tracked with music from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and The Prestige, I would have believed them.

I'll go as far as to say Zimmer's score is bad. And the scores for BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT, and THE PRESTIGE are rubbish, too.

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It's odd, but I'm just not looking forward to this. I think the problem is that Nolan seems to me to be somewhat of a "cold" filmmaker. It isn't that I haven't liked any of his films, it is just that I haven't found any of them emotionally engaging.* Movies as puzzles (very evident in Memento and The Prestige) just don't capture my interest; maybe it's because I don't really like puzzles in any form. Of course I haven't seen the movie, so it could be that I would end up liking it, but even the enthusiastic reviews have tended to describe how intricate but emotionally reserved it is, which tends to kill rather than elicit my interest.

* I would have to make a sort-of exception for Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, who I thought one of the greatest screen villains I've seen, but horror isn't really the kind of emotion I'm talking about here.

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bowen wrote:

: It isn't that I haven't liked any of his films, it is just that I haven't found any of them emotionally engaging.*

FWIW, I find this film more engaging than The Prestige but not quite as engaging as Batman Begins or Memento (though it shares a recurring flashback motif with those films) or even The Dark Knight (which didn't really grab me emotionally until its very final scenes -- but at least it grabbed me in the end, which Inception doesn't do). (I don't know where I'd put Following or Insomnia on the Chris Nolan spectrum; it's been too long since I've seen them.)

BTW, count me among those who don't understand why so many people are calling this movie hard to follow. It isn't. It's actually very linear, with the exception of one obvious flashforward at the very very beginning, and I didn't have any trouble following it at all. I did wonder about one possible plot hole at the very end, but my wife and I came up with a number of possible explanations for it on the ride home.

Oh, and I love, love, love the way this film uses "the kick". Brought back lots of dreams I've had -- or rather, the ending of them.

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Quick question (he says) re: the very last shot.

Does anyone here buy it as a statement on the underlying reality of this whole film? Or is it just a gag, a la the ending to Total Recall?

Yes, yes, the fact that Leo is having such movie-ish experiences -- a thought that had occurred to me before Marion spelled it out -- would seem to suggest that everything we see is part of the dreamworld. So too, perhaps, would the way Leo breezes through the airport so easily at the end. (Was he expecting to be greeted by Michael Caine when he left Australia in the first place? Or, given that the flight is so long, was there time to call Michael Caine before the plane landed?)

Glenn Kenny hinted at this nothing-is-real reading in the original version (since edited) of his blog post on this film, in which he suggested that Inception was basically kind of like Shutter Island, except that the off-screen Chris Nolan performs the same function for Leo in this film that the on-screen Ben Kingsley performed for Leo in the other film.

But, I dunno, that just seems kind of cheap to me. Movies aren't real -- duh. So of COURSE the events of this film won't feel like "reality" if we think about them too hard -- that's because this is a MOVIE. But more importantly, perhaps, I wonder how such an interpretation would square with the fact that substantial portions of this film are not shown from Leo's perspective whatsoever. Aren't dreams, as imagined here, supposed to revolve around the person who is doing the dreaming?

Ah, but perhaps it is only the final 10 or 15 minutes that are unreal in this sense. Perhaps Leo never comes out of his own subconscious; perhaps he is still lost in there with Saito. His encounter with the old Saito does bookend the rest of the action, after all. And the cut from the old Saito's room to the plane with everybody alive and alert IS rather abrupt -- shouldn't there have been more of a transition, there, if Saito really DID wake up and take Leo back into the real world with him through all those other dream layers?

Or maybe the old Saito is just a projection of Leo's subconscious. Hmmm.

FWIW, this is not the potential plot hole I referred to in my previous post. I was thinking of something else, there. Although, now that I think of it, the potential plot-hole-ish-ness there could be yet another indication that the last 10-15 minutes, at least, are unreal.

Also, there was one point where I found myself thinking that the movie was hinting at a major twist, but then the film never went on to do anything with it. (I refer to the fact that we are told that no one can touch someone else's totem, and then, just a few scenes later, Leo says his totem, i.e. the spinning top, used to belong to his wife -- which begs the question of what his totem was back when his wife was using the spinning top -- but hey, it's possible he didn't touch the spinning top until after his wife had died, in which case there'd be no problem, right?) Anyway. It seemed to me that the film wasn't quite as twisty as some people had been making it out to be. So now I wonder if I lean towards the interpretation I discuss in the "spoilered" section above simply to justify the suspicion that the movie was TRYING to be twistier than it seemed.

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: It isn't that I haven't liked any of his films, it is just that I haven't found any of them emotionally engaging.*

FWIW, I find this film more engaging than The Prestige but not quite as engaging as Batman Begins or Memento (though it shares a recurring flashback motif with those films) or even The Dark Knight (which didn't really grab me emotionally until its very final scenes -- but at least it grabbed me in the end, which Inception doesn't do). (I don't know where I'd put Following or Insomnia on the Chris Nolan spectrum; it's been too long since I've seen them.)

FWIW, while the film may not be emotional, it is significantly, and affectingly, about emotions. It doesn't necessarily make us feel the characters' emotions, but their emotions matter a great deal, and we're meant to think about them, and that can have emotional impact in its own right, if you internalize it.

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FWIW, while the film may not be emotional, it is significantly, and affectingly, about emotions. It doesn't necessarily make us feel the characters' emotions, but their emotions matter a great deal, and we're meant to think about them, and that can have emotional impact in its own right, if you internalize it.

That's kind of funny, although I don't think you intended to make me laugh. :)

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It's not that Zimmer's score is bad. It's that if someone had told me it was just temp-tracked with music from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and The Prestige, I would have believed them.

I'll go as far as to say Zimmer's score is bad. And the scores for BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT, and THE PRESTIGE are rubbish, too.

Hey, did those other scores feature Zimmer collaborating with Johnny Marr of The Smiths? Apparently this one does. :)

I don't know what's more surreal, Johnny Marr scoring a Hollywood blockbuster, or this photo, which surfaced last week:

moz.jpg

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SDG wrote:

: It doesn't necessarily make us feel the characters' emotions, but their emotions matter a great deal, and we're meant to think about them, and that can have emotional impact in its own right, if you internalize it.

Um, sure, but it's the movie's job, not mine, to plant that seed, if you will. ;)

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: It doesn't necessarily make us feel the characters' emotions, but their emotions matter a great deal, and we're meant to think about them, and that can have emotional impact in its own right, if you internalize it.

Um, sure, but it's the movie's job, not mine, to plant that seed, if you will. ;)

Heh. I agree, and I meant my comments to suggest that the movie does sow the seed. Your soil may vary. :D

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A.O. Scott:

The accomplishments of Inception are mainly technical, which is faint praise only if you insist on expecting something more from commercial entertainment. That audiences do -- and should -- expect more is partly, I suspect, what has inspired some of the feverish early notices hailing Inception as a masterpiece, just as the desire for a certifiably great superhero movie led to the wild overrating of The Dark Knight. In both cases Mr. Nolan's virtuosity as a conjurer of brilliant scenes and stunning set pieces, along with his ability to invest grandeur and novelty into conventional themes, have fostered the illusion that he is some kind of visionary.
Edited by Overstreet

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A.O. Scott:

In both cases Mr. Nolan's virtuosity as a conjurer of brilliant scenes and stunning set pieces, along with his ability to invest grandeur and novelty into conventional themes, have fostered the illusion that he is some kind of visionary.

How exactly is "virtuosity as a conjurer of brilliant scenes and stunning set pieces" and "ability to invest grandeur and novelty into conventional themes" different from being "some kind of visionary"?

If someone applied the above semi-accolades to the Orson Welles of Citizen Kane or the John Ford of Stagecoach, how adequate or inadequate a description would that be?

Edited by SDG

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Makes the "groupthink" intolerance of criticism toward Pixar's films seem even more mysterious. :)

Edited by Overstreet

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Overstreet wrote:

: Makes the "groupthink" intolerance of criticism toward Pixar's films seem even more mysterious. :)

Why? Groupthink is groupthink, whether it's Pixar-based or Nolan-based.

In any case, I do find myself thinking that if I were still assigning star ratings to films, I'd have a hard time giving this one more than 3 out of 4, but oh! what pressure I'd feel to go higher.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Wells rounds up a few items which argue that Warner Brothers may have inadvertently stoked the fires of backlash by allowing the fanboy crowd to run their reviews early. I mean, even the A.O. Scott piece above makes a point of commenting on other commentaries, in addition to commenting on the film itself.

Oh, and yes, there are those who think Citizen Kane wasn't much more than an exercise in technique, either.

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There seems to be a real fear of overpraise running through this last batch of reviews.

This film will be nominated for an Oscar whether it is good or bad or in-between, no matter the message, no matter the moral -- especially now that the noms are up to ten. It will be a make-up call for The Dark Knight. The critics already know that, but the only thing that could stop it at this point is a huge backlash, which simply won't happen. Nolan is the summer director you actually want releasing films in the summer. I hate to admit it, I loved Following and Memento, but if someone is going to make these kinds of films I am glad it is him. And I'm still PO'd about the snub two years ago, especially with the amount of money the film made and the story and themes itself compared to what would have been its competition.

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