This Is a Blog: Explained List: Hockey Pants

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Explained List: Hockey Pants

 #6 - Tenet

Is this movie good? Honestly, no. Not really. Or at all. Have I already watched it 3 times in the year it came out? Yes. I firmly believe in collaborative filmmaking, and as such, I usually don’t enjoy movies made by a writer/director. There needs to be another voice in the room to prevent an artist from getting lost too far up their own ass. For years, this was clearly his brother Jonathan, who always made sure the insanity was rooted in character and emotion. Tenet is plain silliness that thinks it’s really serious and deep. But damn if I’m not along for the ride. That Tallinn car chase is so involved it takes multiple viewings to fully grasp, which is totally fine if the plan is to just put it on in the background and half pay attention to it. I think the thing I love the most about this movie is that I can make fun of it on every level, like absolutely rip it to shreds, and still enjoy the hell out of it.

#5 - Batman Begins

Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster Batman was for a long time one of my favorite movies. I’ve seen it so many times. Nolan’s Batman is so good, it rendered BatKeaton kind of unwatchable for me. It skates a line the DCEU has been trying to follow since it came out, of taking the subject matter seriously without making an overly serious movie. The cast Nolan was able to assemble is up there with the Godfather (I’m not comparing the movies in quality, just the caliber of actors). This movie as a whole should have won Best Supporting Actor. And Christian Bale pulls of a Bruce Wayne unlike any other by playing three distinctive characters: gravely voiced Batman, clueless playboy Bruce, and the real person behind those two masks. While not the best of Nolan’s Batmen, this movie marked a clear turning point in Hollywood’s current dominant genre.

#4 - Memento

Ah, time, Nolan’s oldest, dearest, and bestest friend. More than any of his other movies, this one shows the importance of editing. The special edition DVD lets you watch this in chronological order, and let me tell you, it DOES NOT work. A movie has to work scene by scene and it has to work as a building narrative. Just like Insomnia as a whole captures the feeling of not being able to sleep, Memento captures the feeling of not being able to remember. It carefully gives you only exactly the amount of information Lenny has at any given moment. Just like Dunkirk, it presents a pretty straight forward story (confused guy kills an innocent man) and bends it into the most dramatic form possible. Another nugget I got from the special edition chronological cut is seeing that open shot in forward time, and you can see a subtle difference in how Guy Pierce shots and tosses away the gun. I think that little difference in how to stage a scene to be played in reverse was the spark that eventually led to Tenet.

#3 - The Prestige

Nolan makes movies about moviemaking. That has been said a thousand times. The Prestige is so much about that that he tells you over and over again that this movie about magic is itself a magic trick, and no matter how many times he tells you you’re being fooled, and told that you want to be fooled, he still fools you. I loved magic as a kid, and this movie absolutely nails why we love magic so much. Too often when someone smarter than you tries to overexplain something, it takes the joy out of it. Nolan can somehow explain the joy of magic, and make the deconstruction fun. Layered on top of all that, is a story about two really fucked up dudes ruining their own lives and each other’s by trying to out-fucked-up each other. This came out the same time as The Illusionist, another movie about a magician, and at the time I liked that one more. But the more I re-watch The Prestige, the more engrossed I am by it. Magicians guard their secrets with their lives, and this is a trick that manages to work better once you pull back the curtain.

#2 - The Dark Knight

It’s the best super hero movie ever made. It just is. You take out the costumes, and it’s also one of the best crime movies ever made and one of the best action movies ever made. It’s about the nature of good and evil, from how it manifests in our leaders to how we treat our fellow man. I’m putting myself to sleep. Jesus Christ. He flips over a fucking truck. And Heath Ledger’s Joker will never be topped. And also somehow has something to say. It’s a rare super hero movie with depth. It’s a rare sequel that outdoes its predecessor. And it does it all with its main character speaking through a ridiculous cheesy gravely voice.

#1 - Inception

There are two types of Nolan viewers.

(A) People who think he’s a soulless filmmaker, who puts form over function, who can’t find a three dimensional female character with two hands and a flashlight, and who makes unnecessarily complex films that aren’t as smart as he clearly thinks they are.

(B) People who think he’s a soulless filmmaker, who puts form over function, who can’t find a three dimensional female character with two hands and a flashlight, and who makes unnecessarily complex films that aren’t as smart as he clearly thinks they are.. and love him anyway.

Nowhere is this on display more than Inception. If you go into this movie expecting an exploration on the meaning of dreams, you’ll be disappointed. It’s not an artistic statement about the human mind, it’s a heist film. All the stuff about the subconscious is just window dressing for a thrilling ride watching a bunch of misfits commit a complex crime. It’s set-piece on top of set piece and I can watch it over and over again. He doesn’t even try to give his women agency, burdening them with fake ass names you almost never find in the real world: Mal (literally just French for bad) and Ariadne (because Hestia, Demeter, or Xanthe would have been too absurd). 

I could watch and have watched this soulless Mensa-themed amusement park ride over and over, and it’s not because I think liking it makes me smarter, but because it’s a smart movie that lets me just be dumb. There are scenes and concepts in here that I’ve never seen in another movie, and it still manages to be fun. What gets me the most is something I probably only notice as an editor. The movie goes out of its way to tell you that each dream layer gives our heroes MORE time, which just sucks all the tension out of a movie. But as the layers get more and more convoluted, they just keep cutting back to the van falling off the bridge. I remember seeing that in the theatre, and it was maybe the most clever piece of editing I’ve ever seen. It’s a simple reminder, without hitting you over the head, that you don’t have hours to complete the heist, you only have until the van hits the water. Like the great lover of magic he is, Nolan gives you this subtle reminder while you’re distracted by a virtuoso zero-gravity hallway fight. Think about it, Ariadne, this movie is maximum Nolan, whether you like it or not.

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