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Inception (#110 of 22)

The Films of Christopher Nolan Ranked

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The Films of Christopher Nolan Ranked
The Films of Christopher Nolan Ranked

There’s an engimatic quality to the role of Christopher Nolan in the current filmmaking landscape, and one that stands apart from the fact that his films so often court ambiguity with explicit intent. From the Russian-nesting-doll antics of Inception to the magicians-as-filmmakers commentary of The Prestige, Nolan’s ambition within the realm of big-budget, broad audience spectacle is comparable to the likes of few. Among those, James Cameron comes to mind, and now Nolan joins the Avatar director with his own film about interplanetary travel, the logical next step for a filmmaker so concerned with world-building, literal and otherwise. Looking back at his work thus far, what emerges—apart from his obsession with identity, reality, community, and obsession itself—is an artist who, heedless of his own shortcomings, is intent on challenging himself, a quality that salvages and even inverts a great many of his otherwise pedestrian choices. One suspects that this is an artist still in his pupa stage, and one is also fearful that the near-unanimous praise heaped upon his work since his breakout hit, Memento, will only serve to keep him there. To wit, his latest film, Dunkirk, employs the kind of chronology-bending antics that epitomize Memento and Inception. Rob Humanick
 

Box Office Rap Gravity and the Art-House Blockbuster

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Box Office Rap: Gravity and the Art-House Blockbuster
Box Office Rap: Gravity and the Art-House Blockbuster

When Contagion opened in IMAX theaters on September 9, 2011, only a handful of films had previously been offered in that large-scale presentation that weren’t either part of a franchise, an original film with hopes of becoming a franchise, a work based on another text, or a prominent remake a la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. From 2002 to September 2011, a total of 77 wide release films made their way to IMAX screens. Of these, and excluding animated and concert films, only three films (Eagle Eye, Inception, and Sanctum) opened over that nine-year span that didn’t fit the above qualifications. Certainly, these anomalous entries can be explained by their potential box-office appeal, but only Inception had directorial (let’s say auteur) pedigree, which is where my interest lies. We shall call such films art-house blockbusters (AHB), in accordance with our established definition.

Poster Lab: Trance

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Poster Lab: <em>Trance</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Trance</em>

A seemingly unapologetic genre vehicle, Trance looks like Danny Boyle’s first film since Sunshine that won’t become awards bait. Instead, the sci-fi thriller shows goals of stylistic crowd-pleasing, to which Boyle is surely no stranger. An art-world tale sprinkled with hypnotherapy themes, Trance gets artfully literal with its initial UK one-sheet, which comes in three character variations.

The leading image, featuring lead star James McAvoy, warns that his art-auctioneer not “be a hero,” which of course promises plenty of derring-do. The other two, which lay the same design over the faces of Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassell, offer taglines pertaining to personal security (i.e. “Do You Feel Safe?”). The evidence, including the film’s trailer, suggests a flick that blends The Thomas Crown Affair with Inception, following a man involved with art theft as folks try to retrieve memories from his brain.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

I can identify two elements common to the films that ended up on this list. They are either about feminine suffering and/or about the impossibility of language to ever quite translate feeling. The criteria which I came up with for this impossible, unfair, and incredibly fun assignment involved remembering the films that led me to think “This is one of the best films ever made” at the time I first saw them, and which, upon a re-screening, several years later, remained just as remarkable—perhaps for different reasons. Also part of the criteria was my (failed) attempt at not repeating directors, and making a conscious effort to go against a cinematic “affirmative action” that would try to represent different periods of time, countries, and genres. It’s also mind-boggling to notice how half of the list includes films made in the mid 1970s. But the list escapes traditional logic. It’s the warping, re-signifying logic of affect and memory that architected this list, which turns out to be nothing short of this cinephile’s symptom.

Critical Distance: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

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Critical Distance: <em>Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol</em>
Critical Distance: <em>Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol</em>

As commercial cinema goes, animation and live action are seen as divergent modes of filmmaking sharing the mutual goal of aesthetic cohesiveness; they only achieve it by different means. While Avatar and The Adventures of Tintin achieve a melding of live-action and animation techniques, other examples suggest that the sensibilities of animation and live action are more disparate and incompatible. If the static shots and deadened rhythms of the big-budget fantasy films John Carter and the first two Chronicles of Narnia entries are any indication, the qualities of animation may not so easily translate to live action. These films were directed by animation veterans—Andrew Stanton and Andrew Adamson, respectively—whose authorial voices evaporated under the conditions of live-action filmmaking.

Oscar 2011 Composite Winner Predictions

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Oscar 2011 Composite Winner Predictions
Oscar 2011 Composite Winner Predictions

Below is a complete list of our predicted winners at the 2011 Academy Awards.

Picture: The King’s Speech
Directing: Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Actor in a Supporting Role: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Actress in a Supporting Role: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Original Screenplay: The King’s Speech
Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network
Foreign Language Film: Incendies
Documentary Feature: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3
Documentary Short: Poster Girl
Animated Short: The Gruffalo
Live Action Short: Wish 143
Film Editing: The Social Network
Art Direction: The King’s Speech
Cinematography: True Grit
Costume Design: The King’s Speech
Makeup: The Wolfman
Score: The King’s Speech
Song: “I See the Light,” Tangled
Sound Editing: Inception
Sound Mixing: Inception
Visual Effects: Inception

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Picture

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Picture

The ascendance of the stuttering king and Oscar’s perceived instantaneous regression into the mottled pastures of White Elephant Cinema (how quickly we forget The Reader) has rendered some of our most reliable barometers speechless. Suddenly, the movie no one wanted to pay attention to became the movie all your friends and relatives who see two movies a year have seen and just know is the best picture of the year. What can one say in the face of that? Even dependable crank Armond White, who had been working himself up a pretty good head of anti-Social Network steam leading up to an Ingracious Basterd-worthy final snit as MC of the New York Film Critics Circle awards, has been more or less reticent in the wake of The King’s Speech’s dozen proofs in support of the theory that dusty linens, not bloody tourniquets and certainly not hackers’ grease-stained pizza boxes, are the fabric that holds Oscar together. And why shouldn’t he remain mum? There’s no one this year to disabuse of the notion that Oscars actually matter.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

Conventional wisdom says that one film wins both sound awards only about half the time. Which means betting on double ups makes only a little more sense than betting on a Picture-Director split. Since nearly everyone this year is doing just that, we feel a little safer presuming that Christopher Nolan’s moody, pretentious apparatus is the frontrunner for both Best Sound Editing as well as Best Sound Mixing. Do we wish a musical had somehow found its way into the mix here to make our job easier, even one as nontraditional as, say, the fluttering Black Swan? You bet your ears, especially since it’s difficult to tell when exactly voters will clean out theirs and back superior, if less showy, mixes like those accompanying The Social Network and True Grit. They heard beyond the sound and fury last year when they awarded The Hurt Locker, but were deaf to the positively terrifying environment of No Country for Old Men. Which goes to show that the only barometer less reliable than worrying about what’s going on over in Best Sound Editing is to consider the dynamics guiding Best Picture. Not that that’s going to stop us, especially not this year when we’re looking at maybe the biggest sweep since Peter Jackson’s hobbits stormed the Kodak. When Ed and I were comparing notes the other day to see just how many awards we had The King’s Speech penciled in for wins, we realized the projected tally had ballooned to eight. We weren’t including this category in that count because, well, aside from its reasonably impressive simulations of early microphone technology, the movie’s focus is on the sounds that don’t happen than those that do. Still, Harvey Weinstein turned The English Patient’s dozen nominations into nine Oscars, and the ninth…was in this category. Consider us nervous.

Will Win: Inception

Could Win: The King’s Speech

Should Win: The Social Network

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

In the five years since this category, which was previous known as Best Sound Effects, was bumped up from three to five nominations, it has matched up with the Best Sound Mixing slate for four out of those five slots every year. Except this year. Only Inception and, somewhat more puzzlingly, True Grit managed nominations in both fields this year. Which either goes to show the ever-widening quality gulf between the sort of effects-laden blockbusters that get cited here and the more nuanced work that earns nominations in the other category. Yeah, yeah, Salt, which got nominated for Sound Mixing, is a dozen times worse—and noisier—than any movie nominated here this year. No one said the patterns were infallible. Especially not this year, in our confusing, post-The Hurt Locker era.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Visual Effects

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Visual Effects
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Visual Effects

A category that seems almost too easy to call. Some said that Alice in Wonderland’s visual effects were more like human-rights offenses, that Iron Man 2’s visual F/X team phoned it in after the first film, and that Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear didn’t need to take a swim in Hereafter’s impressive tsunami. And though Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was strongly reviewed, is there anyone who expects the film to break the franchise’s always-a-bridesmaid status at the Oscars so far? Yeah, for its Paris-bending-back-on-itself and zero-gravity scenes alone, Inception shows off the sort of iconic craftsmanship that usually takes this prize in a walk. I gather Inception is so far ahead of the pack that the only thing that can prevent it from winning is a write-in nomination for The King’s Speech or the world finally waking up from this horrible nightmare where the Christopher Nolan film actually exists.

Will Win: Inception

Could Win: Alice in Wonderland

Should Win: Inception