On July 5th, David Poland wrote a piece on his blog that bore the typically, for Poland, breathless headline "The Inception of Rage". What it had to do with was, see, Poland hasn't seen Inception yet. He could have gone to a screening the previous Friday, but he chose, instead, to kick it with some friends, because unlike some people he has his priorities in order. Which I'd say is fair enough, but the trouble begins when he talks about all the critics who did go to that screening, and the wave of very positive reactions to Inception began rolling in. Poland describes his reaction to that positivity, and the ensuing rage-filled battle that was waged on Twitter, like so:
I tweeted... "I'm sure that Inception will be THE studio movie for adults this summer... but when everyone starts drooling like this, I get nervous."
And thus, the anger began.
I don't know what it is about critics and film writers who are now critics because every fucking person who ever had an opinion about a movie is now a critic, a misnomer that includes professional journalists who have not developed the rhetorical skills to process much more than "yea" or "nay." (And believe me, plenty of veteran crix want to hang that same weight around my neck.) Thinner skin than Larry King's literal skin.
I'm not prejudging. I'm not setting up a backlash. I'm not making a personal attack or attacks.
It's really simple. When EVERYONE agrees... that which they agree on is almost always suspect. It's true of EVERYONE being negative or positive.
What Poland implies this is all about is the moronic fury that crept into any discussion of The Dark Knight two years ago. It's absolutely true that certain fans of that movie, when faced with a dissenting opinion, went plain bugfuck, hurling insults and even making threats, in various comments threads around the web. But what that in turn led to was the perception that everyone who liked the movie was the same kind of repressed fanboy, and that, by extension, nobody could be trusted who expressed enthusiasm for Nolan's Inception.
Poland later writes:
And when i read a handful of reviews and they were written with florid language that would, as Mel Brooks might write, outdo a $20 whore, my alarm bell went off a bit. As I wrote in one of my own tweets, "I would love EVERYONE to be right... EVERYONE almost never is."
But we'll see how I feel when I see the film.
That last line is mighty big of him. But my goodness. He'd love everyone to be right, but everyone almost never is? Meaning what? That he will decide, finally, the true quality of Inception? So everyone, go ahead and read those positive reviews, but don't make too much of them, because Poland hasn't spoken yet. (And if you think that is a self-serving quote from Poland, check out what he has to say in the comments section. If they weren't out of this post's focus, I'd quote from them liberally. Suffice it to say, he's quite sure that he's the one good cop in a bad town.)
Skepticism is a highly prized attitude these days, and its opposite, enthusiasm, is just as highly maligned. If you're really looking forward to a certain film, and even if you've seen it and really like it, then something might be off with you -- so the reasoning seems to be. And Christopher Nolan, and his admirers (of which, Gentle Reader, I am one!) is the current whipping boy for this attitude. Never mind the glowing reviews of The Dark Knight from the likes of Manohla Dargis and Andrew Sarris -- only nerds could really like that movie. It's a nice movie, it's a fun time, but anyone taking it seriously simply does not understand movies (or, perhaps, le cinema). Also never mind that out of six films -- not counting Inception -- only two of Nolan's films could realistically be categorized as action films, because, I've learned, the most damning, and, apparently, really the only sayable statement one can make about Nolan is that he can't direct action.
The point of all this defensive rambling, I suppose, is that the backlash against Inception has apparently started already, with record speed: before anybody except a handful of critics have even been able to see the thing. And according to Poland, because they all liked it with varying degrees of enthusiasm, it's probably not that good. Not bad, Poland is quick to point out -- he expects to like it! He even said so! It's just that a large number of positive reviews means the movie he thinks he's going to like will probably be bad. But only a little bit bad. But still bad. And I guess my question is: why Nolan? Why is a guy who, at least as often as not, tries to bring his own original concepts to the screen, and who, for a summer tentpole guy, is pretty bracingly dark (I mean, The Prestige?? Come on!), and, in just a broad sense, has a unique sensibility that is basically otherwise completely absent from big-budget spectacle movies, hitting this kind of critical brick wall?
Not that he's feeling any kind of pinch. He's rich, he gets to make the kinds of movies he wants to make, and it's hardly as though respect for his work is entirely absent. But as a fan myself, I will admit that I do not like the attitude that now flows through any discussion of his movies, the one that implies that Nolan and Michael Bay might as well swap faces for a year, and by the way that Avatar was something else, wasn't it?
Yes, I expect to like Inception. Or, rather, I very much hope to. And for that, I humbly beg your forgiveness.
The Collection Project Film of the Day:
The other thing that struck me about Memento – and what follows should prove to you that, like David Poland, I practically ooze integrity – was that I was finally able to pin down what bugs me about the film. The premise – a story of a man with no short-term memory hunting the man who murdered his wife, told (and this part is actually incidental to my point) in reverse – is practically begging to be picked apart, and what most people have settled on is “How is this guy able to remember his own condition?” In other words, if he has no short-term memory, how is he able – absent of any medical care, or any friends or family to remind him – to remember that he has no short-term memory? This, however, never bothered me. Leonard’s ability to recall the past memory (a false one, as it turns out, but still) of a man he dealt with through his job, who had a similar condition, paired with the obsessive notes (and tattoos) about his investigation, solved that problem well enough for me. No, my problem (which does tie into the above) is with his attitude. Every time Leonard’s brain restarts, all he has to do his look at himself in the mirror, read the tattoos, check his notes, and his back on the trail. Realistically, since he can’t make new memories, shouldn’t he look in the mirror, think “What the fuck??”, and sit on the bed while his brain tries to process what the hell is going on? The tattoo about the other short-term memory patient probably wouldn’t even be noticed half the time (it’s sort of small), because he’d be too overwhelmed by everything else thundering through his brain. And this consciousness reboot is supposed to happen every twenty minutes or so. How is he supposed to regroup in enough time to figure out what’s going on, what he’s doing, and still make it to the diner in time to meet Carrie Ann Moss?
So that’s my beef with Memento. I’m still carrying water for Christopher (Chris?), however.