Your mind is the scene of the crime.

Your eyes may be open but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re awake.

All that glitters isn’t necessarily gold, not all travelers are lost, and that stuff underneath your feet isn’t necessarily Earth. When the sky’s the limit (and possibly not even then), when you can do and create anything, you’re still grounded by your own rules. Your own sense of understanding of ideas and concepts. Theft and violation are painfully easy, but inspiration is hard. Just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there. Things can only appear strange to you sometimes when you’re told that perhaps that’s what you should be looking for. Sometimes it’s hard to fall, or to feel like you’re falling, when there is no gravity.

This is my simple, rudimentary thoughts on Christopher Nolan’s Inception in three and a half points.

1. Every time I go to see a good movie in a movie theater, one that both excites and intrigues and involves me in some regard, be it superficial or something deeper, more substantial, it’s like a dream, isn’t it? We love the idea of dreams because they’re the perfect metaphor for… anything. Anything you desire.

And more so, we love our stories, and we love comparing movies to dreams.

Film logic just has to captivate you for the time that you’re watching it, to keep you floating in a suspension of (dis)belief, and then the movie ends, the credits roll, and you crawl out of the cave of the cinema. If you’re going to see the matinee, then the sun outside is harsh, and cruel. Your senses are heightened to extraordinary degrees. Every step feels more epic, the angle of objects seems more profound. You just experienced something amazing and you’re taking a little bit of it with you, and by contrast, you feel like you’re leaving a little of yourself behind, but you move on from it because you feel touched, activated, feeling pretty amazing yourself. You move with your own soundtrack blaring, your mind working overtime and recovering from the shock of excitement.

Waking up from an intense, weighty dream can inspire you and invigorate you, especially if for even just half a second, you think you’re waking and walking into another dream, even more stupendous, and of your own design.

2. Comparing things to video games infuriates me. But mostly it’s the people doing the comparing that bother me because, honestly, the idea of comparing things, especially movies, and certain modes of reality, to the idea of a “video game” interests me. I’m by no means a gamer, but the idea, and it’s possibilities, excites me.

Video games are like dreams in a certain regard, aren’t they? At times you’re completely powerful, in control of everything in your surroundings and yourself, and then, with little to no warning, you’re absolutely powerless and everything is completely out of control. The shit hits the fan, then the fan explodes, and somebody gets their head cut off.

Inception feels like a video game. It’s a cerebral maze of ideas, working on a multiple of levels, dabbling exquisitely in both terms of narrative, time structures, visual metaphors, and big ideas and memes (and sorry, everybody, I know the word is beyond detested, but the concept of it, the virus of the idea that spreads and can’t be killed is both thrilling and terrifying).

The other day Benjie Light and I were talking about things that we want to do in our lives, stupid things that we want to imitate from the movies/books/pop culture stories that we’ve ingested and loved over the years, and my big three things were 1) solve a mystery, preferably a locked room murder mystery, 2) plan and execute a (hopefully successful) heist, and 3) diffuse a bomb with mere seconds left on the clock. Commander Light also understandably suggested “car chase” as a scenario that would be nice to throw in the mix, and he’s right, but I’d toss that into the heist paradigm.

My point: I would love to play the video game based on Inception. The one that has a story that works brilliantly and ambitiously and only gets strange when a stranger suggests to you that something seems strange. And then you explore the depths of that strangeness. You have fist fights in rolling hallways, watch cities rise up to meet you, get attacked by angry mobs and the spectre of your Oscar-winning French hottie wife, fire guns, blow shit up, both run and chase after faceless nefarious goons, and deliver mind blowing bits of exposition while looking incredibly GQ.

Also, I’ll say this: Inception had a certain frame of mind to it that I feel like The Matrix could’ve really benefited from having had ten years ago.

It’s a video game that would excite you on a variety of levels, both on the superficial and the deeper, the more intellectual. A cerebral workout. An existential knife fight. The only thing that would make it better than the movie, though, would be that it was presumably interactive.

2 1/2. The thing I’ve noticed about Nolan’s films is that they’re all plot. They’re far from indulgent and long and dense and they move fast, leaving very little time for fireworks that are purely character building. In that sense, he’s the exact opposite of P.T. Anderson, who’s films are all character, and sometimes those characters move in a certain direction that takes them from a starting point to a stopping point. But in the exercises of narrative, Nolan manages to paint shades of characters, both skeletal sketches, like Cillian Murphy’s character in Inception, and those with the driving illusion of more depth, like Dicaprio’s in this film.

And grounded. So grounded. Nolan’s films are fantastical creatures of oneiric energy that are dreamed up by inhabitants of the real world. As scholarly influenced as they are, even their madness, and his, is grounded, and logical. His Gotham City and battle gear clad vigilantes are both out of this world and something that could play on the 5 o’cock news in this world.

Nolan doesn’t speak in a language of dragons and flying carpets and talking animals and liquid robots that morph in physics-defying feats of light and spectacle. His characters live in dreamlands based on urban mazes and high speed travel and real world concern and drabness. And they dream/create with the tools that their worlds give them.

Half of movies is glamor and glitz and show and all preconceived notions. And Nolan is good about using that, especially in his casting. Michael Caine can walk into just about any scene in a movie now and seem like the wise, but slightly jaded mentor who knows that you’re about to go down a pretty dark, fairly shitty path, but still supports your decision and has a few nuggets of sage wisdom for you. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a certain level of cool attached to himself, either earned or not earned. Ellen Page perfectly fits into the category of smart newbie who’s still learning the ropes and is beginning a journey, despite her probably immense and amazing knowledge of all things Cisco. Ken Watanabe always carries a certain sinister edge with him, though perhaps that’s just an occidental thing. And Leonardo Dicaprio has perfectly aligned himself with a certain archetype, that of the little boy grown up into a man, hardened with anger and guilt, and we’ve accepted him as the protagonist cipher who will either work through his issues or ultimately be destroyed by them.

My only complaint about the actual production/composition of this film is the level of soundtrack on display at all times. I really liked Hans Zimmer’s score to the film, so much so that I went and bought the soundtrack immediately after the movie concluded, which was a surreal experience all of it’s own since I saw the film at the theater in the mall which was a weird labyrinth to wander through as I was re-composing myself into reality after exiting the movie. Maybe it was just a bad mix at that theater, but the score seemed to be too loud at certain points, competing with the actors and their dialogue, sometimes defeating them a little, which is a shame because as I said, with Nolan’s movies, nothing is wasted, not a single shot, not a single glance or expression, and especially not a single word or sentence.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the kind of movie that Counterforce has been waiting for all of it’s short life (2+ years now).

SPOILERS, from here.

Apropos of nothing, here’s an idea that you should carry with you into viewing this movie: “just as movies are metaphorical dreams, maybe dreams are metaphorical movies.” Well said. Inception can be just another popcorn action heist movie for you if you want (especially in 2010, the year we make contact with heist movies like The Losers, The A-Team, and Takers), or it can be something more. Or both.

Benjamin Light put forth a desire that I’ll repeat here: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page should do more movies together. They’re the brightest of the hip young things in the world of thespians with cred these days, yes?

That said, amazingly, James Franco was close to getting Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role originally. And Nolan’s original desire was to cast Evan Rachel Wood in the role of the architect, and then it floated towards Emily Blunt, Rachel McAdams, and even Emma Roberts before Ellen Page was cast. That’s just fascinating. And so bizarre.

3. I haven’t repeated the plot of Inception here and I’m not going to. Go look it up. Then watch the movie. Then watch it again. Here’s a spoiler though: Inception ends just like Shutter Island, after a fashion.

There’s a college course or at least a long conversation for armchair cineaists and philosophers in movies like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Mulholland Drive, and Synecdoche, New York, and Inception belongs in the mix with them. Movies are all dream logic, especially more so in the last few years. At a certain point, a 1/3 or 2/3 of the way through movies with a certain “out there” kind of story, we start to look for the seams and loose threads of the eventual reveal that “it was all a dream.” Especially in Synechdoche, New York. By the end of that film, you’re pretty sure that at some point you’ve crossed over into a dream world, but the question is simply: Where? At least Mulholland Drive is a little more straight forward about that, at least, for the filmgoer with is both actively looking for and completely open to massive weird download of logic and strange visuals and strong, penetrating emotions the film requires you to take in.

Shutter Island almost belongs in that same thread of films, and somewhat suffered because of it. Read any two reviews of that film and at least one will say some variation of “I could guess the ending of this movie long before the finish line and you know why? Because I’ve seen movies before.” So little shocks us these days, and we’re somewhat let down by twist endings now just because they’re expected. We set an extra place at the dinner table for them. Identity was a fine, harmless movie, but after about 25 minutes into it, you were pretty sure that a crime was being committed against you and the culprit was going to be a writer with a flashy, showing idea about tricking your expectations.

And once you start to look for those tricks, you feel like a trick that’s been turned. You open your eyes, you see the money on the dresser.

At least Inception is up front and honest about all of this, with it’s simple and confounding tagline: “Your mind is the scene of the crime.”

from here.

To mix metaphors even more: I think one of the many problems with the modern take on “twist endings” and “it was all a dream” logic in the cinema is that your goals as a viewer and participant get too confused. Are you looking for the map or are you looking for where the map leads you. X is supposed to mark the spot, but it’s tough to translate that when you’re X in that equation.

And, slowly but surely, twist endings are becoming the new “Hollywood ending.” Once upon a time and through the woods and only in a dream can you live happily ever after.

The thing that saves Inception and Shutter Island‘s endings is that they fall down to the user. You’re required to make a certain level of decisions, to feel something, and decide what you believed just happened. You have to be both actively involved, and also open and ready to receive, you have to “get it,” and in return, the film lets you pick a path to go down. It was all dream. Or it wasn’t. The main character remembers everything. Or doesn’t. Something happened here. Or maybe it was there. Maybe it was earlier. Or later. This is a review. It isn’t.

Actually, it isn’t. Just my immediate reactions, of a sort, having just walked out of the movie something like two hours ago (it’s roughly 5 PM as I write this). Such a strange experience watching the end credits rolling for that movie. Like I was walking out of a half remembered dream of sorts, standing on a widening chasm between a narrative flashing on the walls of my unconscious/subconscious mind and the harsh light of day in the real world. Which works dually for this movie as well: An artsy movie full of deep ideas, or at least ideas that can feel deep, but done in a slick, expensively executed mainstream way. As if Michael Mann had remade 8 1/2.

The theater I was in was virtually empty, the two other people there with me more invisible than usual, and it was so strange to feel that as I walked out of the shared dream that is the cinema that way. Dreamspace faded away, light entered the room, the real world was knocking on the door, and I felt more alone than usual. It was a scary but important feeling, my brain decided as it’s gears grinded and took delight in processing what it just took in, but even still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the movie was over and now it was time to go back to sleep.


The surface of the Earth.

Last week we were five years in the future of our dreams and being attacked by the alien elderly from our nightmares, and this week we’re ten years into the future, humans are drilling into the ground, drilling deeper into the planet than anyone has ever drilled before, but little do they know that someone or something else is under there, and that something or someone is drilling up…

And that’s this week’s episode of Doctor Who, “The Hungry Earth,” which is the first part of a two parter.

The episode itself was solid, as everything this series has been, but with not too much in the ways of frills and thrills. We’re in Wales (again, of course), and Amy’s got a good reason to be in short skirts (again, of course). “Something for the dads” in the audience, they call it. It’s an episode that has a concept that fills Moffat’s proclamation that each episode’s premise should make a good feature film, of course, but it just feels… lacking, in a way. Somewhat rushed, perhaps. Not complete, basically. Personally, I blame this all on Torchwood‘s Chris Chibnall, and I’d suggest that you do the same.

The cast is solid enough, especially Meera Syal, who was fantastic fun in Moffat’s brilliant Jekyll, but who is just kind of there here. There’s a lot of ideas bouncing around, so hopefully she’ll get a little more play in part two, which looks a vastly more interesting, but at least she got to take a ride in the TARDIS this week. Technically, I think that means that she’s a bit of a companion, right?

As for the Silurians, I don’t know much about them other than what I read in other people’s reviews, but they’re an intriguing concept for a “villain” of a species. Seemingly they’re not considered all that “classic” by old school Doctor Who standards, but they certainly seem to be more exciting than the fucking Sontarans, right? Unless you’re the type to find Mr. Potato Head just terrifying. Who wouldn’t want to see homo reptilia transformed into femme fatales?  The prosthetics there are certainly impressive, as they usually are, and the captive Alaya’s assurance that not only will there be a war, but that it’ll start with her death in captivity at the hands of the human apes was fascinating and intriguing. And her “I know which one of you will kill me” was incredibly chilling. I want to start saying shit like that just to freak people out. I’m assuming that’s why Jesus said it, you know, just to fuck with people’s minds.

from here, What if Doctor Who were a Disney movie?

Two things. The first: Is it me or does it seem like Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor spends quite a bit of his time asking and pleading for people to trust him? Is that because he feels so young (and looks it too, certainly) and feels that people don’t take him seriously? It’s an interesting character flat, possibly, especially when you stack it up alongside David Tenant’s Tenth Doctor’s constant need to tell everyone he met that he was sorry, so sorry.

The second: Amy and Rory in the future come to see themselves landing in the past with the Doctor and wave? That seems interesting, but only in the sense that it has to be a terrific red herring, right?

Especially since, and this is just my theory, mind you, but I think that something bad is going to happen to Rory next week. There seems like there’s quite a bit happening in part two and I wouldn’t surprised if Rory gets lost in the mix. Perhaps fatally. At least until the two part (“The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang”) finale.

from here.

What do you think? And I feel like the lack of Amy Pond in this episode was really felt, so it’s easier to examine Rory on his own. Do you like Rory, regardless of his lack of chemistry with Amy or not, and want him to stick around or would you rather he fell off the surface of the Earth?

Oh, and this is a bit spoiled from being in so many trailers, but is still brilliant dialogue…

Little kid: “Are you afraid of monsters?”

The Doctor: “No, they’re afraid of me.”

It’s similar to the line the Doctor says to the young Madama De Pompadour in “The Girl In The Fireplace,” but that’s okay because it still just works, you know?

Oh, and I should add: Loved the spooky graveyard stuff, but thought it was wasted terribly. And I really liked that last image.

Above is a nice tease of a picture, featuring Richard Curtis (who writes the Van Gogh episode this series), Steven Moffat, and Neil Gaiman, who is holding up the finished script for his episode next series. Notice how he is of course keeping the episode title obscured, but it was originally “The House Of Nothing,” which features nicely into old Gaiman mystique. You can also find Gaiman writing about Ray Bradbury, and meanwhile,

I’ll still be crossing my fingers at the idea of Phillip Pullman writing an episode next series. Or maybe Warren Ellis. I’d love to see his take on the Doctor, who would most likely go around shouting at his companions for being stupid, ordering them to get him some tea, and then bonking things and people over the head with a cricket bat. But that sounds genius to me.

Next time: Can the Doctor prevent a war between the original inhabitants of the planet of the Earth and the current occupants, and can he also find Amy Pond, that little kid’s dad, and that little kid as well?

The fat lady sings, then gets liposuction.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like we’re on the verge of something in our culture. Or, at least, our pop culture. Things are ending, clearing themselves out, making way for new things. Maybe it has something to do with this being “The Year We Make Contact,” I don’t know, but I’m really starting to feel this faint fin de siècle vapor hanging overhead as the old shocks give up the ghost and fade away. Speaking of which…

Last night was the end of Nip/Tuck.

This amazed me, that it was finally ending, and the ending was an understated one. It coasted I think on the characters’ long journey to here and now, was light on the crazy trashy drama, but ultimately didn’t touch me nearly as much as the ending of The Shield, the FX network’s other big show (since I’ve only seen maybe an episode and a half of Damages) that I used to watch.

Why? Partly because Nip/Tuck probably felt like it ended a year or two ago.

The last real episode I saw before last night’s was the one where Christian and Liz come back from their honeymoon, Christian no longer has breast cancer, and cuts Liz loose. Sean is suddenly dating Rose McGowan out of nowhere. Julia was still fucking around, Kimber was still doing whatever, and Matt… Jesus. Fucking Matt had dropped out of medical school to become a mime and start robbing people. And I thought, “You know what? Fuck this.”

This show used to soar in it’s depths of ethereal trashiness and that lurid hard on of the glamorous nasty just felt forced and medicated. The high was probably the Carver storyline.

But I do have some love for the Sanaa Lathan season (just as I have massive love for Sanaa Lathan). Or any of the other seasons with the countless other over the top dirty sexy fun storylines that we’ve accepted.

And the Famke Janssen season as well.

…who returned last night for the swan song. And maybe it’s a make up thing or just how Janssen has aged, but this time I really felt her character in that she looked quite, uh, tranny-like (?) to me. But she was still fantastic in her role, waxing poetic about not being a monster, but being a victim of society that craves adoration. And then there’s the pathetic Matt whom can only offer adoration to someone and nothing else.

And perhaps it should have. I think trash can always be sustained, but you can’t just keep hooking it up to an IV of dayglo filth and call it a fountain of youth, like this show. You need substance. Or, in the case of the continuing narrative of Nip/Tuck, you desperately need substance and something tangible or more to say about the evils of our society that’s so very much obsessed with looks. And when you shine a light on all of our dark places, there needs to be something there to see.

And Nip/Tuck hasn’t had that for a while. And then… it didn’t.

It’s a show that’s changed so many times, putting itself through facelift after facelift, giving you a dazzling and rapid succession of new status quos to swallow harshly. And what it really needed was some mental surgery. Beauty fades, age gracefully, and know when it’s time to go.

But perhaps there was something in there, not just about the facades we worship, or the exploitation of youth (or a depiction of one of the most continuously fucked up family dynamics on TV ever), but something crueler and more interesting: a study of severely flawed masculinity.

Could you call the ongoing saga of Doctors Christian Troy and Sean McNamara anything else? All the women that have passed through their lives, that they’ve traded like briefly interesting toys and mirrors, it’s all come back to them and how devastatingly uncomfortable they were in their own skin.

Was Nip/Tuck the end result of a truly American journey that was started in Mad Men?

Whatever. This is half a post. I just have nothing to say. It’s like this show turned upon itself, much like Christian did to Sean, and said, “Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.” And the answer?