Monday, December 20, 2010

Nolan



          Batman 3 secrets revealed!

          Ha!  I’m not lying but that was the cheapest way to intro/get clicks for my new blog post on the new-great: Christopher Jonathan James Nolan.


          Brit of Irish descent, dual citizen of both the US and UK (his wife is American), and – like the Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie has never gone to film school (“I guess my whole experience has been just to make films.”), Christopher Nolan has recently risen to the very forefront of Hollywood’s big-shot filmmakers.

          But not overnight.  The acclaimed Dark Knight director began filming action figures on an 8mm as a kid and graduated to training videos and docu-film before shooting for film festivals, pun intended.


          On his first Indie film, Following: “We've got a pretty serious claim on being the cheapest film ever made.”  I’ve never seen it or heard about it until now.


          Apparently it made enough commotion to get Guy Pearce, Joe Patalano, and The Matrix’s mysteriously beautiful Carrie-Anne Moss in on Memento, an Oscar winner for script (written by Guy Ritchie), Nolan’s mesmerizing psycho-thriller that messes with story order and script up until the very end.  It’s quite interesting and at times exciting, but just the tip of the Nolan iceberg.


          Insomnia, casting the powerful duo of Al Pacino and Robin Williams, alongside Million Dollar Baby-baby Hillary Swank, was as gloomy as its Alaskan setting and almost as wonderful.  Besides some photographic charm and acting prowess, the title is a misnomer.


          According to IMDb, Nolan had penned a Howard Hughes bio starring Jim Carrey (he called it “one of the best things I’ve ever written”); but when word came around that another Scorsese/DiCaprio film on the same topic was about to blow, the script was canned.  Too bad maybe (Aviator was great though); soon after the director went to work on a new Batman film.  The rest is history.


          Begins was the flashiest, grittiest, coolest, most realistic superhero flic to date, setting a whole new standard for the comic-to-realism genre.  Many people instantly liked it because it was unpredicted and would make us expect so much more from superhero flics in the future.

          That and Batman is the greatest (fiction) superhero of all time.  Says Nolan:


          Batman is the one that can most clearly be taken seriously. He's not from another planet, or filled with radioactive gunk. I mean, Superman is essentially a god, but Batman is more like Hercules: he's a human being, very flawed, and bridges the divide.

         

          He’s the one boys dream of being: if you were incredibly rich, ripped like hell, and had about every black belt and ounce of luck.  If only.

          Batman Begins also showcased Nolan’s dislike of CGI, another reason it doesn’t appear as fake as the rest.


          I think there's a vague sense out there that movies are becoming more and more unreal, I know I've felt it. The demand we put on ourselves was to be as spectacular as possible, but not depend on computer graphics to do it.



          It was an attempt to be like his heroes Stanley Kubrick (whose Clockwork anti-hero is interestingly akin to Nolan's Joker) and Ridley Scott (Ford/Crowe hero thing): to create a world within the world so real and separate without leaning on plastic CGI effects.


          The Prestige was his first “between Batmans” films: captivating like Memento but now with millions more dollars behind him from Hollywood.  Some of his best cinematography yet, with gripping drama, but as a whole giving in too much to his tragic flaw: being overly complicated and, in the end, philosophically impossible save for a very far-fetched theological anomaly (bi-location).  Something I could chew, but not swallow (the film).  Like The Matrix and sequels, it blew so many people’s minds they just sat back and added it to their Facebook fav lists and drooled on.  Disagree with me.


          Along came The Dark Knight and everyone was a Nolan fan!  As I always say (and now it’s like a broken record), “Didn’t like it as a movie ‘cause it was overly complicated, but the Ledger/Nolan Joker was the best bad guy in film I’ve ever seen!”


          Not to mention the girl got worse (had mixed feelings when she died, gosh – that sounded so bad!), I dislike Aaron Eckhart in everything but Thank You For Smoking, and so much story potential was un-used.  Most of the bit characters ended up corrupt before you could ask what happened in the first place.  And then it was over.  And Heath Ledger was dead and deserved every bit of that Oscar.    And the whole world wished Hollywood came with “How Not to Screw Your Life” courses with the fame and fortune.  Damn.


          Inception – the second (and last?) between B-man films – is the best film of 2010!  I think.  The Social Network is definitely up there but if Incept doesn’t sweep some serious Oscars it’ll be a robbery.  Nolan definitely overcame his typical “complicated” flaw by organizing the action into distinct time-layers, creating a plot-thickener device never before seen, employing the many dream-related human experiences that make the effects hit home.


          I can’t say enough good things about this movie!  Besides the striking resemblance Christopher Nolan has to Leonardo DiCaprio (or vice versa), the acting is superb (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, breaking out from his Angels in the Outfield with the to-die-for (500) Days of Summer; Michael Caine in signature excellence; Juno’s Ellen Page is back (yeah!); and DiCaprio, of course, in what might get him thee Oscar); it’s the perfect blend of action/adventure, sci-fi, and drama (love the dead-wife, got to see my kids again motive: wow!); and it’s just (not) plain movie passion.  (It’s not plain, it is passion; that’s what that parenthesis means.)


          There are two kinds of movies in this world: those made with film chemistry (a self-invented phrase not to be confused with actors working well together) where exec’s add big budget actors to big budget script and big budget (overfunded) crew to get, well – shit; and then there are the movies made with passion (i.e. Braveheart) that no matter who or what’s behind them (usually great stuff though, at least script if not director and actors) are full of a passionate punch comparable to the excruciating “umf!” an Olympic athlete gives to beat the opponents by a hair-margin after a lifetime of brutal training.  That is passion; a rare feat in cinema, tragically.


          I almost cried at the end of Inception, at the dramatic climax, and when DiCaprio’s character, well, I can’t spoil it for the losers among you who didn’t go see it when all your friends told you to.  I never buy DVDs but this could be buy material (Christmas…).  Scratch that; Blue-Ray – it’s the new Viagra, as far as movies go (if you have the tech).


          From a guy who doesn’t like CGI, Inception was well handled in that regard.  I bet he kept it down to a minimum, and producers weren’t peeing their pants with the old school spech-eff costs because of the visions of record breaking Dark Knight dollar signs dancing in their heads.



          What’s next?  A new take on Superman (thank God!), in addition to the third and last installment of the Nolan Batman series entitled The Dark Knight Rises (or It's About Time!), 2012.  (Yeah right, they’ll pull him into #4 if they get as much cash as Dark Knight.)  Good luck finding a bad guy near as good as Ledger.  Rumors of Johnny Depp as the Riddler.  It had better be good!


          Nolan’s status is crossing the proverbial directors’ bridge as we speak.  After Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg’s films were still pre-credited as “From the Maker of Jaws and RotLA,” until of course Shindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and pretty much everything else he’s done made his stand-alone name the power piece for any film.

          I think we can expect the same from Nolan.


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