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Bit more on Inception

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I’ve taken a lot of interesting flak [thanks Donald!] for my non-review of Inception, but before addressing it, I want to address Anderson’s comment at my old haunt:

People who think Inception was “a royal piece of smoldering crap” haven’t seen enough genuinely bad movies, and really should never leave the safety of The Criterion Collection.

I’m inclined to agree: if someone judges it to be worse than anything Michael Bay’s ever directed, they deserve their time in latte-sipping purgatory. As someone who strongly disliked the film, I can safely say that I didn’t think it an inferior film to Transformers. But to even head in that direction completely misses the point. I wasn’t judging the film as a film, a summer film, or a summer blockbuster film, but as a piece of Christopher Nolan’s body of work. The scale doesn’t slide from Bay to early Coppola; it’s internal to Nolan’s oeuvre, and as I’m not a critic who needs to concern himself with guiding the wallets of moviegoers, I’m free to discuss or be disgusted by Inception at will. Put differently: had I been unfamiliar with Nolan’s previous ventures, in all likelihood I would have enjoyed this film.

But the obverse of that statement is that because I’m intimately familiar with his earlier work, I’m incapable of enjoying the film. I can appreciate its technical virtuosity and plot machinations, but this is old hat for Nolan. He’s already filmed a movie in reverse, so the fact that he can film one up didn’t rivet me. I found it predictable and disappointing, not kin to the Transformers franchise. I walked out for the same reason I stop fiddling with a Rubik’s Cube once I’ve solved it: the joy of a puzzle comes from the puzzling through it. Without any strong connection to any of its characters, Inception felt like a puzzle.

Now, my friend Adam Roberts contends that my inability to sympathize with any of the characters is the result of my living a barren, childless existence. Adam beefs:

Almost up to the last scene I was ready to come out of the cinema snarky, geared to join the the Nolan-ripe-for-a-backlash mob. Then with only a minute to go, the two kids turned and looked at the camera. I felt as if somebody had sheathed a sword in my chest. I felt genuinely, suddenly, unexpectedly, very moved. In part I think this is because Nolan prepped the scene with just enough, but not too many, earlier shots of the kids playing with their backs to us, and exiting camera right without turning to look at us. And in part it has to do with the peculiarly cinematic emotional entanglement of the scene: because I wanted the kids to look at me, but at the same time I kind-of dreaded the kids turning to look at me … The one thing which cinema can’t traduce, because it is the horizon of all cinematic possibility. The look. And the selective withholding that look in order to make the look, when it finally happens, worth something at the end.

Perhaps if I had children, that moment would be filled with dread instead of indicative of lazy scripting; but because I don’t have children, those shots felt manipulative, as if Nolan realized he’d failed to develop Cobb organically and needed to find some cheap way to create immediate sympathy. I confess that I wish I’d seen the film Adam had instead of the one I did—if only because I’m a Jew in Southern California and had to pay $32 to see the damn thing—but it seemed to me I spent three hours waiting for a conclusion I knew was inevitable after the first, and that I’d been mistreated in this way by a director I prize for his willingness to embrace nonsense in the midst of tightly structured films.

The Joker’s orchestration of the murder of Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight is emblematic. There’s no way a plan that relies so heavily on incident and accident can be planned, but that’s precisely the point: the Joker succeeds so long as his plan remains an unfathomable flux of a mess, and the second the Batman can make sense of it, the film resorts to dogs and fisticuffs. But the nonsensical core of his plotting in that film only throws into relief the problem with scripting a straight film about dreams: he could have played to his strengths, but instead spent three hours courting his weaknesses.

Passing over the fact that the film delves into and through the dreams of five contemporary males and is rated PG-13; that it failed to conform the very rules established via tedious exposition; that Nolan chose to name the woman who designed the labyrinths with all the subtlety of a doctrinaire Freudian; passing over all of that, the absence of an uncanny, doctrinally Freudian or otherwise, in a film about nested dreams is a substantial flaw generally, but even more so with Nolan at its helm. Nolan is a director willing to embrace the absurd in an otherwise realistic film like The Prestige, but when confronted with an opportunity to do so more fully in Inception, decided that the recesses of the human mind function in a manner orderly enough to con. Even someone as hostile to psychoanalytic theory as I am doubts that communal dreams can be scaled like mountains.

In short, all the problems with the film Adam documents still exist even if the children finally establish an eyeline match with their father. I’m not claiming that moment can’t be moving, only that for me, it felt inevitable and unearned.

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  • Beavis

    I don’t share your level of respect for Nolan’s earlier work, so I wasn’t surprised to be underwhelmed by Inception. For my child-less Jewish money, DiCaprio’s relationship with his kids in Shutter Island is much, much more moving than the schematic business here. Shutter Island is a ridiculous, even campy movie, but the scene where he comes home to find what’s happened with wife and kids packs a real wallop.

    • SEK

      Haven’t seen it, so I stuck my fingers in my ears/eyes and yelled/blinded-myself-while-yelling “LA LA LA LA LA!”

    • Anderson

      Whereas my response to Shutter Island was almost exactly like the haters’ response to Inception: two hours plus to pull the rug out and go “ha, tricked ya!”

      The fate of the kids was indeed horrible, but anyone can be horrible. (On information and belief, The Road features a baby roasting on a spit.)

      Possibly the problem was the suddenness of the reveal. I thought Inception did a good job of doling out the facts to build up to why Dom is so obsessed (and why the “real world” itself may be a product of that obsession).

      (And the Dachau scenes? Why were those even in the movie?)

      • Beavis

        I will concede that the inclusion of Dachau in the movie did not work at all. A terrible on Scorsese’s part for both aesthetic and, i think, moral reasons.

        I won’t get more into the matter of the kids because of SEK’s spoiler worries, but I will say this: I thought that the rug-pulling was obviously telegraphed just from the TV ads for Shutter Island, so I just enjoyed the giddily ludicrous trappings of the movie (“It’s a mental asylum.” “Yeah, for the criminally insane!”) and because I had been treating the movie lightly, the emotional payoff at the end moved me much more than expected.

        • Beavis

          uh, “terrible decision on Scorsese’s part,” that is.

        • Anderson

          Well, I don’t begrudge your liking it; I hadn’t seen any ads (caught the flick on DVD), so I watched it pretty much cold, except for a vague recollection that A.O. Scott thought the whole movie was pointless. Kinda agreed with that after seeing it.

  • The Judge

    Nolan is a director willing to embrace the absurd in an otherwise realistic film like The Prestige, but when confronted with an opportunity to do so more fully in Inception, decided that the recesses of the human mind function in a manner orderly enough to con.

    By that argument, shouldn’t the fact that his dreaming/subconscious worlds are that orderly be considered absurd since it runs counter to expectations?

    • SEK

      In a technical sense that’s utterly at odds with what happens when our heads hit the pillow … yes. But logic can result in the smack of inauthentic experience, and I think this is one of those cases.

      • I’m not sure what you mean by “at odds”. For me, I had no problem with the dreams in “Inception” because most dreams are mundane: you are about to take a test for which you aren’t ready, you broke something and have to make up for it, you are back at your old job, etc. At least that’s how mine are.

        As for the orderliness of the human mind making it easy to con, I got the opposite impression: remember, they couldn’t just plant an idea in there like a flag on a new continent because the target’s mind would see through it in a second. So they had to burrow down deep and plant a seed of an idea and hope for the best.

        • JC Pen

          I agree Oscar. I personally don’t understand the demand for the dreams in the film to be more “unreal”. Remember this is still also a heist film. The dreams were there to serve a purpose – provide a setting for the implantation of an idea in someones head. Fighting dinosaurs on the other side of the galaxy doesn’t really fit well into a, say, Oceans 11 environment.

          Personally I much like the fact that Nolan didn’t walk down the road towards films like The Fall (great but flawed), The Matrix (I liked it despite its ugly children) or The Cell (Ugh yuk!).

          Maybe the requirement that it also be a heist film is what ruins it for some. I have heard the complaint that the film can’t decide what it is. A sci-fi thriller, character drama or heist film? But this is only a problem if the film sacrifices being good at one of these things for being mediocre at all of them (that broad brush I mentioned earlier). Inception takes all of those components and, I feel, does all of them quite well.

          • Anderson

            Both correct. Plus, the dreams had to make enough sense for the MOVIE to make sense.

            The dreams were *created* by guys trying to achieve real-world ends. So they couldn’t be too wacky, with everyone turning into everyone else, utter change of plot/continuity, etc. How would Dom et al. get their scam done?

            The MOVIE was *created* by guys trying to achieve real-world ends. So they couldn’t be too wacky, with everyone turning into everyone else, utter change of plot/continuity, etc. How would Nolan et al. sell any tickets?

            … Would SEK have enjoyed the movie more if, instead of “Directed by Christopher Nolan,” it had said “A Spike Lee Joint”?

            • SEK

              … Would SEK have enjoyed the movie more if, instead of “Directed by Christopher Nolan,” it had said “A Spike Lee Joint”?

              As I wrote in the post, most likely.

  • News Nag

    The orderliness of the dreams/worlds in itself didn’t have be a copout, but Nolan allowed it to be that way, allowed it to be enough, even all there is. The eye contact was indeed a shortcut that didn’t work and was supposed to retroactively replace the void left by the undeveloped human plot line. Maybe he’s actually too two-dimensionally oriented to really make a film that works on more dimensions without a now-predictable ‘twist”. Maybe he’s more like a creative checkers player without the savvy to make a successful transition to chess.

    • Anderson

      the undeveloped human plot line

      What does this mean? Was DiCaprio supposed to fuck Page?

  • El Cid

    I thought Inception was great. Sort of like if grownups did “The Matrix”.

    • Beavis

      I don’t think there is a single moment in Inception that is as memorable or distinctive as a single Keanu “whoa.” And I don’t even LIKE The Matrix.

  • gil mann

    Needed more Snakeman.

    • Anonymous

      Why, Billy Ray? Why?

  • agorabum

    Shouldn’t the dreamworld be orderly if there is an Architect?
    It’s not a person’s true dream. It’s a dream that an awake and thinking human has plotted out and created.

    Plus the dream rules laid out already noted that the more you changed them, the more dreamlike it became, the more the target’s subconscious tried to attack you.

    • SEK

      Not if she could change it at her whim, which she could … until it mattered.

      • Draker

        They covered this “plot hole” in the movie. The further down the levels you go, the more unstable the dream-world becomes. So she could not change it at her whim once the heist had started otherwise it would collapse. This on top of all the projections trying to kill you.

        Exposition can sometimes be annoying, but it also sometimes has a point. Less checking how much your wife is fidgeting and more paying attention maybe.

        • SEK

          Less checking how much your wife is fidgeting and more paying attention maybe.

          If the choice is between being a better husband and being a better critic, well …

          • Draker

            That’s fair enough. Wouldn’t want you tossed out on the street. Though you would probably have more time to disembowel Chris Nolan films. FTW.

            • SEK

              Though you would probably have more time to disembowel Chris Nolan films. FTW.

              Only this one! The rest, except maybe Insomnia, stand tall in my book mind.

  • JC Pen

    I don’t have kids and I was quite moved by the scene with his kids at the end. Then again, I also have a very troubled relationship with my father, so I was almost a quivering wreck after the scene in the vault.

    I’m sorry but when you said you could only enjoy this film if you had not seen Nolan’s other work, you lost me. How you can’t simply appraise a film on its own merits is baffling, especially for someone of your astuteness?

    “Naww man, OK Computer is terrible. You know what’s a masterpiece though – Kid A.”

    • SEK

      It’s the burden of expectations, honestly. I’ve spent the majority of my career tracing the development of literary talent from one book to the next, so I tend to think of artistry in evolutionary terms … or like that proverbial shark, you know, keep swimming or die. (Think Joyce from Dubliners to Stephen Hero to Portrait to Ulysses to the Wake.) I recognize that this is a character flaw, but I can’t help myself: I want and expect talented folks to push themselves, not simply rope some new cast into a previously aligned formation.

      Put it this way: the reason Firefly was a revelation wasn’t because it was an ensemble cast being directed by Whedon Inc. in the expert way Whedon Inc. does. The revelation was that Whedon Inc. recognized that it couldn’t rely on previously established dynamics to drive its new series, so what the audience received was an entirely new interpersonal dynamic that worked. Whedon Inc. played to and built on its strengths, whereas Nolan et al. hitched its horse to the same pole, at the same pub, in the same place, etc.

      I think, though, my admission that were I able to judge this film on its own merits, I’d likely have thought differently, is worth some salt. The problem, to my mind, is that most people don’t think of Nolan like they do Woody Allen. In the case of Allen, everyone automatically judges his latest works in light of the early, funny ones. (That is, after all, the point of Stardust Memories.) But treat another director like that!? You’re a latte-sipping etc. etc. etc.

    • SEK

      Also, OK Computer blows Kid A out of the water. Bit embarrassed to link to this twice here in a day, but who’s gonna stop me? So, yes, OK Computer wins for many, many reasons. The content of that link not being the least of them.

      • JC Pen

        Some people just don’t connect emotionally with others (or characters) as some other people do. It’s what makes us all individuals, so I’ll give ’em that.

        I guess the skill as a director is to be broad enough in your strokes so as to appeal on an emotional level to as many people as possible. But like someone said earlier, sometimes by trying to please everyone you please no one. This is a trap many directors fall into.

        To those who already know the tropes of Sci-fi convention (and who live in their Comic Book worlds no doubt) it is boring. To the rest of us it is not. But Nolan has found the sweet spot of broad appeal without alienating the base. There will always be the fundies though who revolt and demand purity.

        • JC Pen

          Sorry, that was a response to Oscar.

          I agree completely that OK Computer blows Kid A out of the water. This conversation just reminds me of another I recently had with a very enthusiastic “Post-Goth” as he called himself.

          Someone asked his opinion of In Rainbows and OK Computer, the latter of which everyone agreed was magnificent. He said he hated it because it did not compare with Kid A which was a true presentation of the evolution of Radiohead as ground-breaking artists, or some other pablum like that. He could not say OK Computer was bad, just not as good as Kid A, so was therefore forever banished in his mind. This, despite the fact that OK Computer preceeds Kid A. I wish I’d remembered that at the time. Still had a great chuckle though.

          And no, he was not drinking a latte. I think he was drinking Guinness.

    • I, too, thought Cobb’s story was moving, and was touched a great deal by the son’s catharsis. So I just don’t get it when people say there was no emotional substance to any of the characters.

  • HP

    I’ve not seen Inception (not sure I will), but Nolan’s description of the final scene could easily be a description of the final scene in Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve aka Reazione a catena). Not that Nolan would be the first mainstream director to shamelessly steal from Bava (del Toro has freely confessed to this many times), if indeed that’s what happened.

  • politicalfootball

    the absence of an uncanny, doctrinally Freudian or otherwise, in a film about nested dreams is a substantial flaw generally

    I entirely agree with this. The dream-setting was entirely wasted. I am still waiting for someone to do The Matrix right. (Although I thought The Matrix was pretty good.)

    This regarding Woody Allen, I disagree with:

    In the case of Allen, everyone automatically judges his latest works in light of the early, funny ones. (That is, after all, the point of Stardust Memories.) But treat another director like that!?

    But it’s a mistake to treat Allen that way. In fact, Stardust Memories – which was rather poorly reviewed, if I recall correctly – was a potent argument against judging Allen that way.

    I was maximally primed to appreciate the story line with the kids in Inception. My two kids – a boy and a girl – are about the same age, and are out of town for a month, and I miss them bitterly. So I actually was moved by that plotline – but gosh, even with that, it was silly and superficial, and while I didn’t find the movie as predictable as others did, I absolutely knew we’d be seeing the kids’ faces at the end of the movie.

  • politicalfootball

    Not that Nolan would be the first mainstream director to shamelessly steal from Bava (del Toro has freely confessed to this many times), if indeed that’s what happened.

    Woody Allen also dealt with this phenomenon perfectly in Stardust Memories. And goddammit, that movie is so unjustly ignored that I can’t even seem to Google that bit of dialog, but it went something like this:

    Woody Allen’s character (a director) has a collaborator played by Tony Roberts who is asked whether a particular scene was an homage to a Vincent Price movie. Roberts’ response: “No, we stole that outright.”

    • SEK

      Probably no surprise, but it’s actually my favorite Allen film … or at least up there with Manhattan and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

      • Yeah, the problem with the typical narrative about Allen is that his best film was made during the first Bush administration.

  • alone in the dark

    The faces of the children didn’t pierce me because I too figured out that we would have to see them. The only way it would have been a surprise was if they had turned and we saw that they had skulls for faces. I also thought the very last shot was a cheat. Keep that top spinnin’ or let it fall, boyo; making it wobble a couple of times is just being a chicken.

    It seems that Nolan is in danger of entering Shyamalan territory. He’s so convinced of his own brilliance (and has accrued enough influence) that no one’s editing anymore.

    FWIW, I was entertained (of course, I paid $4.00 at a matinee, so….) and appreciated much of the film-making skill on display. I found the acting solid enough that the holes in the screenplay sort of washed over me and I enjoyed it as a caper film. The idea that it has any real intellectual heft or emotional resonance, well, the movie has a heart of horsefeathers.

    Still, I like it better than Juno, the last movie that everyone assured me was fantastic. I had an allergic hate-reaction to that sucker.

    Hmmm, maybe I just don’t like Ellen Page. No, that’s impossible. She’s so cute.

    • Job

      The top must fall or keep spinning? Why does everyone need everything spelled out for them?

      Secondly, Shyamalan has only made one “great” film, and it was his first. His subsequent abuses in a steady progression of greater and greater ineptitude have made people question why they liked him in the first place.

      Nolan has no such problem. Amongst his more mediocre or less profitable efforts he has also made a number of ridiculously successful films – both in the box-office and critically.

      Shayamalan’s stock has steadily declined. Nolan’s has (not as steadily) increased. It would take a few flops to ruin that. There is no comparison.

      • alone in the dark

        The top must fall or keep spinning? Why does everyone need everything spelled out for them?

        How is that “spelling out?” If you make a film that is supposedly a deep exploration of the nature of reality using the conceit of dreams as a metaphor, then you need a stronger resolution than “Might be real, might not.” That is, to use SEK’s phrase, pot-logic.

        Shyamalan made money with Signs, The Village, and The Last Airbender. I only wish he were falling off the edge of the box-office earth.

        Nolan has made eight films. Throwing around generalizations like “a number of” when there is such a small sample is misleading. About half have made money (a lot of money in the aggregate, yes) and about half have been critically praised. 50% is a very, very good batting average.

        I also said he is “in danger.” He hasn’t made anything as execrable as Lady in the Water and, fwiw, I don’t think he ever will. His grasp of film technique is too strong. He can, however, become convinced that his every idea is golden, which is at the root of Shyamalan’s folly.

        • wengler

          Yeah, except the movie was primarily about using someone’s subconscious dreamland to implant an idea that they would implement in a waking state. The nature of whether they are awake or dreaming was much more important to Cobb’s personal demons regarding his wife, and the whole danger of using this tool in the first place. External world skepticism is an acceptable topic for movies I watch. I guess for other people not so much. That’s fine but it’s like calling people who like metaphysics idiots because epistemology is where it’s at.

          I’m not usually too concerned with a director’s name, but please don’t compare Nolan to M. Night. M Night’s movies are some of the worst things to come out in the last 10 years. I don’t understand why he keeps getting money to make movies.

        • Job

          You may need a stronger resolution, I do not.

          Your facts on Shyamalan’s career are noted. He is still finished though as a “serious” director. If his numbers look good on Avatar to the suits he can be relegated to Gore Verbinski status. That is, reliable money maker. Maybe.

          But your comments on Nolan falling to his own hubris could apply to any successful director. He may well be “in danger”, but if you had three successful billion dollar enterprises you’d be in danger of believing your own excrement smells like roses too.

          I’ll wait till he makes a flop thank you.

      • The top must fall or keep spinning? Why does everyone need everything spelled out for them?

        It was spelled out. The top just doesn’t enter into it.

        It doesn’t matter whether the top fell or not. Cobb’s totem is unreliable, because it’s not his. Remember the paranoia between Arthur and Adriawhatever about touching each other’s tokens? Paranoia that Cobb reinforced?

        Where is Cobb’s actual token? Locked away somewhere.

  • wengler

    I don’t know you personally, but I’m pretty sure you walked out primarily because your wife already did.

    The fact that you didn’t see the entire film really makes your review all the less interesting because you can only talk about structure and themes. Plot does count and the two dramatic climaxes were quite good, and the denouement was short and very good with the question of whether Cobb had arrived outside the dreaming world referenced but delightfully unresolved.

    If you paid 16 bucks per person for a film I’m guessing it was IMAX. You walked out of an IMAX film? Next time leave the wife at home.

    • SEK

      I don’t know you personally, but I’m pretty sure you walked out primarily because your wife already did.

      I thank you for that vote of humanity, however …

      The fact that you didn’t see the entire film …

      The Pirate Bay exists, and my compunctions wilt when I pay that much to see a film.

    • SEK

      Also, dude:

      Next time leave the wife at home.

      Not cool. It just so happens that my wife bests me by fifteen languages and is a score more proficient in musical instruments than I am, so leaving the smarter and more talented half of the couple at home to watch a Nolan film seems a wee bit off, if we have any faith in Nolan … which I do, or I wouldn’t be devoting a chapter of my book to him.

      • wengler

        OK then don’t go to movies that you’ll walk out of. You’re wasting your time. And why torrent a movie that you paid to watch in a theater that you subsequently walked out of, especially if you are devoting a chapter of a book you are writing to the director of said movie?

      • Mike D.

        Whoa, in two posts threads you just get around to that? Shouldn’t we expect that you’re in the middle of writing a book chapter about him to massively influence how you review any Nolan film? You must by definition be bringing all kinds of baggage to the experience that regular moviegoers aren’t. It also seems weird you’d walk out given that. I mean, just on simple research grounds.

        • SEK

          It also seems weird you’d walk out given that. I mean, just on simple research grounds.

          I have anger issues? No, but seriously, I thought it wasn’t a secret that I was writing about Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in Seeing Rhetoric. The book’s based on this course, and I devote a good deal of time to those films. Actually, you’re correct: I shouldn’t assume everyone knows what’s in my book just because my head’s in it so often. It’s the peril of being engulfed and on a deadline.

          • SEK

            (That was, in fact, an earnest apology. Sometimes I have tonal difficulties.)

            • Mike D.

              No apology necessary – I’m sure most of your readers were indeed aware. I’ve been regretfully away from this blog lately. And you were right in your first post that since you’re more the academic type (or whatever the reason is as you see it), you’re not the type of critic needing to worry about how your writing will influence folks’ decisions about where to put their scarce entertainment dollar. And it also shows self-awareness that you realized your habit of focusing on works’ places in their creators’ oeuvre doesn’t quite the typical mainstream movie-goer’s mental order when taking their seat and putting the half-gallon of Pepsi in its arm-holder. Though I’d say certainly the average schlub likely engages in more idle comparisons of that kind – just not as their main approach to assessing the experience. So my remarking on the book chapter wasn’t to say there was some breach of trust as a reviewer – because your owning up to that particular proclivity was a sufficient disclaimer. It was just more like I had thought, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting. I can see making the intra-oeuvre comparisons, I do that too, but not necessarily dwelling on them as the main focus of my assessment. I wonder what that’s about? Just cultural studies thing?’ And then with the book chapter thing it was like, ‘Oh, okay.’

  • wiley

    At the end of “Memento” I thought the moral of the story was that the main character was a victim of his own deep-ities. After watching “Inception”, I think it may be Nolan who has that curse. Both movies were entertaining enough, but I have yet to see anyone who claimed that “Inception” was a brilliant masterpiece and that anyone who didn’t agree was just too stupid to get it expound on any deep meaning of the film. Plenty of arguments on the meaning of pieces of the film, but what about the whole? What was brilliant and groundbreaking about the movie as a whole?

    • SEK

      One very trustworthy, difficult-to-disagree-with word: Ebert. He thinks it stands next to Dark City, which it doesn’t. (But he’s correct about Dark City.)

  • hv

    “The scale doesn’t slide from Bay to early Coppola; it’s internal to Nolan’s oeuvre”

    “I’d been mistreated in this way by a director I prize for his willingness to embrace nonsense in the midst of tightly structured films.”

    “if we have any faith in Nolan … which I do, or I wouldn’t be devoting a chapter of my book to him”

    Ok, now do we get to call shenanigans on the (pseudo)self-effacing pretense to being “Comic Book Guy”? Seriously? Do you really need someone to point out that Comic Book Guy might not talk like that?

    • SEK

      It’s not pseudo-self-effacing in the least … at least not so long as you have to walk down the same halls I do. I am, vis-a-vis my department and profession, the “Comic Book Guy.” I may have written a dissertation, but my interest in visual rhetoric instead of, say, postcolonial feminist theory means I’m on the outs with most of the folks I interact with.

  • Alan in SF

    Did anyone think “Insomnia” was a cheat, too? Pacino “acted” like he had insomnia but his character didn’t seem to have any of the symptoms one would expect from sleep-deprivation — disorientation, nodding off, forgetfulness, etc. Just a guy with bags under his eyes.

  • SEK

    And boy, do I troll my own posts or what?

    • Anonymous

      One tiny point to add to that:

      http://www.google.com.au/dictionary?langpair=en|en&q=flack&hl=en&aq=f

    • SEK

      Also, funny that the conservative family-type person always resorts to profanity when he writes about me. I’m not saying anything … but yeah, I’m saying something. Noting it, at least.

      P.S. If you’re gonna call someone my “critic” because I don’t have kids, you may want to actually click on that link. I’m not saying he’s one of my best friends, only that he probably thinks he is. (And correctly.)

      • hv

        SEK, did you run over AmericanEocon’s dog or something?

        The funniest thing to me about the hack-job is I haven’t noticed any items critiquing the grammar of right wingers. Maybe AmEo wanted to add just another layer of double standards to his blog?

        Isn’t there some biblical quote about worrying about the motes in the eye of another and ignoring the sentence fragments in the eye of Palin? I really don’t think AmEo is going to go to heaven at this rate…

        • hv

          I hate to bump my own reply, but the trouble with items on grammar is you have to REALLY look over your own post carefully.

          AmericanEocon wrote (on his blog):
          “…although they aren’t stuffy Ph.D.s who write half-baked movie reviews on films on which they’ve walked out on.”

          I am pretty sure that at least ONE of the THREE times the word “on” appears in that sentence is wrong.

    • Anderson

      “American Power Blog”?

      What a pitiful cry for, I dunno, pity I guess.

  • Anonymous

    Ah never mind. Maybe it actually is a typo. Terrible stuff, really.

    • SEK

      It was a typo. It’s not as if I’ve ever taught Dispatches or anything … or admitted, in public, that I sometimes out words.*

      *Donald, that would be a joke, and on myself, so you don’t get to retell it without looking like a tool.

      • …you don’t get to retell it without looking like a tool.

        One gets the impression that AmNeo doesn’t get to do much of anything without looking like a tool. (I mean, a(nother) whole post attacking a person based on what is pretty clearly a typo/verbal brainfart–particularly one so common that some dictionaries are listing it as a variant spelling of the word? Please… These things happen sometimes, even to tools like Donald Douglas. Nothing to get all that excited about… …unless that’s all you’ve got, of course.)

        A faux pas, sure, but it’s not as though you deserve to be disemvoweled for it, or anything…

  • DA

    I’ve found the backlash against Inception a bit lame. The twist at the end was predictable? Sure, everyone saw it coming from twenty minutes in, but that’s because it was entirely appropriate in a movie about dreams. Furthermore, if the twist was more obvious than those in The Prestige or Memento, the movie was also less reliant on it; you could cut off the cliffhanger and little would change except you’d feel cheated out of your feeling of cleverness for figuring it out early. There’s really not much else riding on it.

    Everyone also complains about the characters and I don’t really get it. I was genuinely invested in two of them, Cobb and Fischer. The rest weren’t too compelling, but two well-drawn characters coming to terms with a tortured past was enough to me. I’ll grant you that it would have been nice to have a female character with some depth (the dream Mal, obviously, was flat by design, but still flat). I was also waiting for the other characters to react more forcefully to being deliberately stranded by Cobb.

    Then everyone complains that the dream world was too orderly and logical. That’s fine as far as it goes; if, for some reason, you wanted an accurate portrayal of dreaming, you’d be disappointed. If you were fine with the dream setting being used as an excuse for really cool sequences and as a means of characters to come to terms with their pasts and relationships, it wouldn’t be a bother.

    I suppose what I’m saying is, I can understand the “missed opportunity” angle – he could have tried to do more with it, sure – but evaluated on its own terms I thought it was a fine film.

  • From SEK’s comments at my place:

    “For the rest of us, we aim to teach.”

    I question how well “the rest” of you do that, Scotty. Posing as a great teacher is hardly evidence of great teaching. And some of are more modest, in any case.

    • Looking over this thread, I think we’ll have to add “witty repartee” to the list that includes “pro-vitory,” and “tactical elan” in Donald’s self-description. In fact, why not make a habit of calling him Donald “calls his enemies skankwads” Douglas?

  • OK, “pro-vitory” is a typo, but if I thought I could get away with it, I’d say it was a pun on “pro-Vitter,” since I’m sure Donald appreciates the tactical elan of the junior Senator from Louisiana.

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