August 10th, 2010 / 12:46 am
Film

Inception in 3 Seconds

[via @Idea Shower, typo notwithstanding]

[I remember an interview somewhere with Quentin Tarantino where he dismantled Nolan’s Memento in one question: if he can’t remember anything, how does he remember he has a memory problem?]

[While I’m at it: A.D. Jameson’s 17 Ways of Criticizing Inception is slick.]

Tags: ,

124 Comments

  1. A D Jameson

      I like that reading.

  2. Ed

      You’re right — criticizing something doesn’t preclude enjoying it. And it’s not like there aren’t valid criticisms of the film (the dialogue in this film ain’t great). It’s just that a lot of the criticism of the film seems like nitpicking, nitpicking that is just a reflex to the hype the movie has been getting.

      A lot of the criticisms on your list aren’t real criticisms. One of the items on the list is just an attack on Nolan and Memento. Another one is just, hey, here is a list of what I think are better movies (some decent movies on the list though). A lot of them are essentially the same — there’s too much exposition, we get it. Even though I’m not sure how you would get rid of the exposition without making the film completely baffling and incoherent. Or what exactly what would be added to an already very long film if you dramatized extra scenes carrying the information in the dialogue.

      Item 15 is terrible — what do random jackasses fist pumping have to do with the movie? Must I like all overrated crap because I liked Inception? Also, clearly, the anonymous dudes getting blown up are projections, so these are not even real deaths IN THE MOVIE. The characters in the film aren’t thoughtless murderers like in most action films. Do you get morally outraged by watching someone play a videogame?

  3. A D Jameson

      I won your comment.

  4. A D Jameson

      Criticizing something doesn’t preclude enjoying it (and I wish people wouldn’t think that). Even if I had loved Inception, I think all my complaints would still be valid. (I liked the Matrix movies, but I could run up a list of criticisms there, too.)

      I didn’t enjoy Inception, to be sure, but I’ve loved dozens of other dumb Hollywood flicks. (At Big Other I’m known as the guy who enjoys, and often defends, the Harry Potter books and movies. Although they, too, are evil in their own ways. And Dungeons and Dragons remains one of my favorite Hollywood movies of the 2000s—the only recent “summer blockbuster” that I own on DVD. It’s so bad, it’s deliriously delicious: “Just like a thief—always taking things that don’t belong to you!”)

      Add this criticism to my list, then: Inception is bad even as dumb entertainment. (Blake, that picture utterly nails it.) I wish that it weren’t. Like everyone else, I went in *wanting* to like it. It’s no fun to want to hate a film.

  5. A D Jameson

      The problem, though, is that one isn’t limited to the shit coming out of Hollywood these days. Movies are more accessible than ever. One could spend the next ten years watching nothing but 1930s romantic comedies (there are hundreds of them, and more and more are released on DVD every year—and companies like Netflix are all too happy to mail them to you).

      New movies need to compete with all of cinematic history. So, sure, Inception is better than, I don’t know, The Other Guys (which I haven’t seen yet). And I’d rather eat shit than nuclear waste, but I still don’t choose to eat shit.

  6. A D Jameson

      I like that reading.

  7. A D Jameson

      Well, there really was too much exposition; it’s pretty overwheming. As for how to dramatize things, it’s not my job to make the movie for Nolan. (Here’s my advice: cut most of it, because most of it is stupid and unnecessary. And then learn how to shoot something other than a shallow-focus single.)

      As for standing up to Persona, Hiroshima, etc., I earnestly believe that good action films can be every bit as good as arty foreign dramas. I just taught The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and North By Northwest (1959), and I’d claim that each one of those is every bit as artistic as anything by Bergman or Resnais. Different, yes, but excellent. (I was just yesterday defending Die Hard to some friends as a rather sophisticated piece of filmmaking.) Did you notice that my list of superior films also includes Charade, Point Blank, Blade Runner, The Game, Fight Club, The Matrix, Oldboy…? (I should have included Face/Off, which I think is one of the best US films of the 1990s.)

      Inception is a really, really, really lousy action film. It’s also a lousy heist film. So what is it? (Answer: lousy!)

      It cracks me up that some people here think I’m down on genre films; I adore them (you just don’t know me). Think for yourself before you defend Inception with cliches like, “Calm down, it’s just a dumb summer action movie.” That’s an argument Hollywood has taught you, so they can excuse selling you garbage. Demand excellence everywhere, even from your fluff.

  8. jereme

      this is an awesome comment.

  9. A D Jameson

      Hi Ed,

      My main interest is in identifying structural and cultural deficiencies in Inception, en route to a larger argument that Nolan fails to exhibit much skill as a filmmaker/artist. I think that rather fair, since so many are so in love with the guy. (I agree with you that my criticism something of a reflex to the film’s popularity. That’s what criticism *always* is: a response to a work in light of how the rest of the culture perceives it. Having seen the film praised excessively, I want to contribute something different to the conversation. And, indeed, it seems as though more and more negative voices are being raised against the film as time goes on.)

      Sorry if I wrote too much about the exposition for your tastes, but you must agree it’s relentless. I tried to identify different aspects of it each time, and still discussed it in I think 3 or 4 of the arguments (1, 2, 6? And 6 is really about something else.) 7 touches on this, but my real criticism there is the hamfisted, mechanical way in which Nolan writes characters (e.g., Ariadne barely exists as a character, she’s just a walking plot device–and not even thinly disguised). (One of the things I can’t stand in Nolan is how he so shamelessly and inelegantly employs cinematic devices. I don’t mind the device at all!)

      re: Item 15, what I’m attacking here is the film’s wanton, casual violence. It astonishes me how much excessive violence has become even unnoticeable in Hollywood films–audiences really have become desensitized to gross amounts of violence and casual slaughter. (I was talking with some friends, and none of them consider Inception violent. That astonishes me.) What I’m trying to do in this criticism is to draw attention to how violent the film is. Whether that bothers you or not is up to you; it bothers me (and I wish people would discuss it).

      I don’t see how it matters whether the people killed are “projections.” Even if they were “real people,” it would all still be simulated violence performed by actors. Images of violence are images of violence. (If anything, making them “just projections” is even more callous–like when kids TV shows make all the enemies robots, so the violence isn’t “real.”)

      Thanks for the comments! Cheers, A D

  10. A D Jameson

      P.S. I’m a huge Bond fan, always have been. Spy thrillers are among my favorite books/films. And that skiing scene was a lousy homage. (Nolan, your homework is to watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service fifty times!)

      I have to say, though, that I’ve always preferred the Len Deighton books/adaptations to Bond. Billion Dollar Brain is one of my favorite movies of all time. There’s just something about that Michael Cane…

  11. Ed

      You’re right — criticizing something doesn’t preclude enjoying it. And it’s not like there aren’t valid criticisms of the film (the dialogue in this film ain’t great). It’s just that a lot of the criticism of the film seems like nitpicking, nitpicking that is just a reflex to the hype the movie has been getting.

      A lot of the criticisms on your list aren’t real criticisms. One of the items on the list is just an attack on Nolan and Memento. Another one is just, hey, here is a list of what I think are better movies (some decent movies on the list though). A lot of them are essentially the same — there’s too much exposition, we get it. Even though I’m not sure how you would get rid of the exposition without making the film completely baffling and incoherent. Or what exactly what would be added to an already very long film if you dramatized extra scenes carrying the information in the dialogue.

      Item 15 is terrible — what do random jackasses fist pumping have to do with the movie? Must I like all overrated crap because I liked Inception? Also, clearly, the anonymous dudes getting blown up are projections, so these are not even real deaths IN THE MOVIE. The characters in the film aren’t thoughtless murderers like in most action films. Do you get morally outraged by watching someone play a videogame?

  12. A D Jameson

      Well, there really was too much exposition; it’s pretty overwheming. As for how to dramatize things, it’s not my job to make the movie for Nolan. (Here’s my advice: cut most of it, because most of it is stupid and unnecessary. And then learn how to shoot something other than a shallow-focus single.)

      As for standing up to Persona, Hiroshima, etc., I earnestly believe that good action films can be every bit as good as arty foreign dramas. I just taught The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and North By Northwest (1959), and I’d claim that each one of those is every bit as artistic as anything by Bergman or Resnais. Different, yes, but excellent. (I was just yesterday defending Die Hard to some friends as a rather sophisticated piece of filmmaking.) Did you notice that my list of superior films also includes Charade, Point Blank, Blade Runner, The Game, Fight Club, The Matrix, Oldboy…? (I should have included Face/Off, which I think is one of the best US films of the 1990s.)

      Inception is a really, really, really lousy action film. It’s also a lousy heist film. So what is it? (Answer: lousy!)

      It cracks me up that some people here think I’m down on genre films; I adore them (you just don’t know me). Think for yourself before you defend Inception with cliches like, “Calm down, it’s just a dumb summer action movie.” That’s an argument Hollywood has taught you, so they can excuse selling you garbage. Demand excellence everywhere, even from your fluff.

  13. jereme

      this is an awesome comment.

  14. A D Jameson

      Hi Ed,

      My main interest is in identifying structural and cultural deficiencies in Inception, en route to a larger argument that Nolan fails to exhibit much skill as a filmmaker/artist. I think that rather fair, since so many are so in love with the guy. (I agree with you that my criticism something of a reflex to the film’s popularity. That’s what criticism *always* is: a response to a work in light of how the rest of the culture perceives it. Having seen the film praised excessively, I want to contribute something different to the conversation. And, indeed, it seems as though more and more negative voices are being raised against the film as time goes on.)

      Sorry if I wrote too much about the exposition for your tastes, but you must agree it’s relentless. I tried to identify different aspects of it each time, and still discussed it in I think 3 or 4 of the arguments (1, 2, 6? And 6 is really about something else.) 7 touches on this, but my real criticism there is the hamfisted, mechanical way in which Nolan writes characters (e.g., Ariadne barely exists as a character, she’s just a walking plot device–and not even thinly disguised). (One of the things I can’t stand in Nolan is how he so shamelessly and inelegantly employs cinematic devices. I don’t mind the device at all!)

      re: Item 15, what I’m attacking here is the film’s wanton, casual violence. It astonishes me how much excessive violence has become even unnoticeable in Hollywood films–audiences really have become desensitized to gross amounts of violence and casual slaughter. (I was talking with some friends, and none of them consider Inception violent. That astonishes me.) What I’m trying to do in this criticism is to draw attention to how violent the film is. Whether that bothers you or not is up to you; it bothers me (and I wish people would discuss it).

      I don’t see how it matters whether the people killed are “projections.” Even if they were “real people,” it would all still be simulated violence performed by actors. Images of violence are images of violence. (If anything, making them “just projections” is even more callous–like when kids TV shows make all the enemies robots, so the violence isn’t “real.”)

      Thanks for the comments! Cheers, A D

  15. A D Jameson

      P.S. I’m a huge Bond fan, always have been. Spy thrillers are among my favorite books/films. And that skiing scene was a lousy homage. (Nolan, your homework is to watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service fifty times!)

      I have to say, though, that I’ve always preferred the Len Deighton books/adaptations to Bond. Billion Dollar Brain is one of my favorite movies of all time. There’s just something about that Michael Cane…

  16. Jurgen

      Billion Dollar Brain added to Netflix queue, thx!

  17. Jurgen

      Billion Dollar Brain added to Netflix queue, thx!

  18. Lincoln

      “I vastly preferred Avatar, which knew exactly what it was and had none of Inception’s plot, concept, exposition, pacing, and directing problems”

      I don’t want to rehash the Avatar debate, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Avatar was rife with plot, pacing and directing problems…not to mention dialogue and acting problems that made it boarderline unwatchable (I’d say fully unwatchable outside of the novelty 3D theater experience.

      The real bottom line for this kind of thing is what sticks with you? I can’t remember anything interesting from Avatar. Not a single scene felt original or interesting…. except the white tree things all floating down on the main character. That was corny, but it was a mildly unique shot.

      I’ll have to give it some time, but I bet more bits of inception will stick with me than Avatar.

  19. Lincoln

      “I vastly preferred Avatar, which knew exactly what it was and had none of Inception’s plot, concept, exposition, pacing, and directing problems”

      I don’t want to rehash the Avatar debate, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Avatar was rife with plot, pacing and directing problems…not to mention dialogue and acting problems that made it boarderline unwatchable (I’d say fully unwatchable outside of the novelty 3D theater experience.

      The real bottom line for this kind of thing is what sticks with you? I can’t remember anything interesting from Avatar. Not a single scene felt original or interesting…. except the white tree things all floating down on the main character. That was corny, but it was a mildly unique shot.

      I’ll have to give it some time, but I bet more bits of inception will stick with me than Avatar.

  20. Books About The Culture Diaries Books About

      […] already infamous BEE vs. Ramona Koval interview slash stand-off. End up not deciding anything. See Inception in 3 seconds and am underwhelmed, but enjoy the final frame. Find my favourite thing on the internet for the […]

  21. Art as Device, and Device (When it Works) as Miracle « BIG OTHER

      […] In my post on Inception, I criticized Nolan for his inelegant use of screenwriting devices, like his endless reliance on (often irrelevant) exposition. Some took objection to this. (See the comment thread here, also.) […]

  22. susan m. baker

      Seems like there are a lot of frustrated filmmakers here on this stream…Nolan at least tries to give us original stories…and I don’t know – isn’t one of the rules of watching a film anywhere/anytime the suspension of disbelief – it is after all…a movie…a story told on celluloid, not actually happening in real life – call me old fashioned but I like a good story – if its a bit challenging all the better…and the real story here is that Nolan is actually making movies…not just talking about it.

  23. susan m. baker

      Seems like there are a lot of frustrated filmmakers here on this stream…Nolan at least tries to give us original stories…and I don’t know – isn’t one of the rules of watching a film anywhere/anytime the suspension of disbelief – it is after all…a movie…a story told on celluloid, not actually happening in real life – call me old fashioned but I like a good story – if its a bit challenging all the better…and the real story here is that Nolan is actually making movies…not just talking about it.

  24. anon

      In “Memento”, he can remember things before the accident, but after he lost his short-term memory. Not all of his memory, but his short-term memory after the accident. I think it’s spelled out, specifically, that he can remember things before the accident.