Tag Archives: Chris Nolan

10 Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away

Andrew’s Fistful of Moments blogathon stumped me at first. He has challenged us to name some movie scenes and moments that took our breath away. I have seen a lot of movies and have had many kinds of emotional reactions but here are 10 that come to mind almost immediately. The rest of this post will be filled with spoilers so read on at your own risk.

jurassic park

Jurassic Park- (1993) I think this is where I started to love movies. I was 11. I’d like to think I would know if a Tyrannosaurus was getting close but Steven Spielberg was generous enough to give us a hint: a close-up of a puddle in the mud as the ground shakes. Despite lacking the gift of stealth, this dinosaur scared the shit out of me. It was the first time I remember being stressed at a movie and liking how it felt. My mom told me later that I was literally on the edge of my seat throughout the last half of the movie.

Face/Off- (1997)  I was 16. I’ve been excited about movie my whole life but this was the first time I ever thought about how they were made and the first time I became a fan of a director. The face offwhole movie worked for me but the scene that did it was a mostly slow-motion shootout with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” playing on a young boy’s headphones. The ironic use of the song, the lighting, the cinematography of Nicolas Cage flying through the air firing two automatic weapons. Nobody but nobody could film mayhem like John Woo did. It was violent but nice.

American Beauty- (1999) I was 18 and couldn’t believe what I was watching. “And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea wamerican beautyhat I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry, you will”. Cue an Elliott Smith cover of The Beatles’ Because. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie where somebody doesn’t join in reciting along with Kevin Spacey’s final monologue. It’s usually me that chimes in but not always.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)- I wasn’t born yet. When I was just finishing high school though I it's a wonderful lifewent through a mad rush of trying to catch up on all the classics that I had missed out on account of not existing yet. It’s a Wonderful Life may to this day still be my sentimental favourite. George Bailey really did have a wonderful life and he finally comes to appreciate it on Christmas Eve, stumbling home through the snow yelling “Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!”. I watch it every Christmas and start crying every time at some point in the last five minutes. If I’ve managed to stay strong though the part that gets me is “Attaboy, Clarence”.

The Sixth Sense (1999)-  Someone had already ruined the ending for me but my favourite part sixth senseisn’t the twist anyway. Haley Joel Osment has seen dead people all along but finally comes clean to his mom at the end while stuck in traffic.At first, she’s furious with him for wasting her time with such a story but she’s won over by his intimate knowledge of her conversation’s with her mother’s grave. “She said you asked her a question and the answer is: ‘Every day’. What did you ask her?” Toni Collette cries as she struggles to say “I asked if I made her proud” and I always cry along with her. Her performance is far better than the film’s notoriously hammy writer-director deserved.

one flew over the cookoo's nestOne Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest- (1975)- Billy (Brad Dourif) is so pleased with himself about last night’s partying that he can finally stand up to Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and isn’t even stuttering anymore. He resists her attempts to burst his bubble until she hits a nerve. “What would your mother have to say about this?”. And the stutter’s back. Nurse Ratched makes me so mad.

Vertigo- (1958)- I spent a long time trying to get Kim Nvertigoovak’s scream in the final scene out of my head and I will not go through it again. I’ve rewatched the movie several times but stop it before the end.

wall-eWall-E- (2008) Three words: “Computer: Define “dancing”.

Memento- (2000) My friends and I watched it on DVD and enjoyed the experience so much we kept pausing it so we could work together trying to piece the whole thing together. Then comes the ending. We had never considered that maybe our trusted mementonarrator was lying to us and to himself. How many lies have I cleverly planted in my own memory and how many lies have we left behind in our writings for future generations to believe. Christopher Nolan’s best film.

eternal sunshine of the spotless mindEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- (2004) After spending so much time reliving painful and ugly moments between Clementine and Joel, I was quite disarmament when we stumbled upon a beautiful and tender one. It seems to catch Joel off guard too as he finds himself pleading with the guys erasing his memory to just let him keep this one. Now I often call this my favourite movie but the first time I saw it, I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. This scene is the exact moment where I realized I was loving it.

Grapes of Wrath- (1940)  This is probably my favourite book adaptation of all time. It’s made grapes of wrath 2of so many tragic and hopeful moments, most of them almost directly from the novel. Director John Ford knew better than to mess with Steinbeck. If I had to pick just one scene,it would be the Joad family piling into a truck leaving the only hope they know after Ma Joad burns the family souvenirs they didn’t have room for.

 

Black and white films since 1970

TMPTime for more Thursday Movie Picks! All the Assholes have assembled Avengers-style to talk about their favourite black and white films made post-1970

Luc

Full disclosure. I hate black and white movies, especially if they were shot past 1917 when Technicolor was invented. Why would anyone want to even go that route? I find it distracting and somewhat pretentious (The Artist comes to mind), I recognize that this is my own personal bias and you may completely disagree with me. That’s fine. That being said, if I was forced to pick some of my favorites, I would have to start with Kevin Smith’s Clerks.

A true cult classic that any obsessive movie goer has surely seen more than once. There’s so clerks1many things to like about this movie! It was shot in black in white in order to save money. This might be the only acceptable reason to shoot in black & white. It’s much cheaper to make a movie this way since lighting issues are non-existent. Post production colour temperature problems? None. Lighting problems? Nope. There’s many advantages to shooting in black & white, but aesthetics is not one of them, in my opinion.

I also admire Kevin Smith’s ambition as a filmmaker. The story goes like this, Kevin smith, who wanted nothing more than to shoot his first feature length, decided to max out his 30,000$ credit card and gave himself 21 days to accomplish this incredibly inspiring goal. How can you not support and admire this feat?

In regards to the movie itself, I find the writing absolutely brilliant, not much actually happens throughout the 122 minutes of conversations about movies, hockey, women, and blowjobs. Now that I think about it, it’s quite amazing that with a cast of friends and family members (hired to save money), this movie did so well.. It grossed over 3 million dollars, was critically acclaimed and really launched Jay & Silent Bob’s career.

This film is about the mundane, daily struggles of an apathetic convenience store clerk (Dante), who seems to have no real direction in life, and his best friend, Randal, a video store clerk, who’s in a similar predicament. Did I mention that Dante and Randall love hockey? Well, they love it so much that their sole purpose throughout the movie is to figure out how they can ditch work in order to play a quick game of pick up hockey on the rooftop of the convenience store and yes, I am talking about two grown men. We also get to meet two great characters, Jay and Silent Bob. Two pot smoking friends who sell marijuana, shoplift and give golden advice on women and relationships.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you might want to get out from under your rock and get on it! Seriously. Sean seconds this nomination and adds that it’s a movie he could really relate to at the age of 18 (and maybe still). “I remember always having similar conversations with my friends to those in the movie, just ridiculous things we threw at each other that led to hours of stupid discussions.”

Back to Luc. My second pick is no other than Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (might sincity03actually be my #1) but the movie was shot in 1948 and all the assholes agreed to choose movies post 1970, I’ll have to go with Frank Miller’s Sin City. I’m not sure this counts as a typical black and white film, considering that some scenes have bright red, yellow and green, but as I said before, I find it somewhat difficult to choose my “favorite” black and white movie since I generally don’t appreciate them. I love the themes that are explored in this movie: crime, corruption, loyalty. The graphics are also pretty stellar. I’ve never actually seen anything quite like it and if you’re familiar with Frank Miller’s graphic novels, you will surely recognize the artistry from beginning to end.

My third favourite black & white movie would have to be Good Night, and Good Luck, directed by no other than George Clooney. Frankly, I can’t remember all that much about the movie other than it being politically driven. You might say “dude, you write for a movie review site, can’t you at least take a couple of hours to watch the damn movie?” And the simplest answer is no. No, I can’t, it’s in black and white.

Matt

The pickings of great black and white movies aren’t as slim as Luc would have you believe. I don’t love black and white movies, I just don’t give a shit. If the filmmakers are telling a good story in an interesting way, I don’t care if it’s in black or white.

In fact, there’s lots of good reasons besides saving money to shoot in black and white. Actually, I would be tempted to argue that saving money is the worst reason. The Artist was a silent film about silent films so Michel Hazanavicius shot in the style of the classics he loved. Martin Scorsese wanted to avoid making a gratuitously bloody boxing movie so he shot Raging Bull in black and white to soften the blow.

Black and white films can feel timeless. Last year’s Ida didn’t feel like a new movie to me. It felt like a classic that had been around for years that I am only now just getting to see. Conversely, Schindler’s List doesn’t look nearly as dated as other films released in 1993.

Good Night, and Good Luck- I hate to say anything against George Clooney but, as a director, good-night-and-good-luck-original1he’s never really come close to living up to the promise he showed in one of the best movies of 2005. To refresh Luc’s memory, it tells the story of news anchor Edward R. Morrow and his fearless coverage of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch-hunt. I don’t know if it needed to be in black and white but, because it recreates live television featuring real footage of McCarthy that would have originally been presented that way, it seems appropriate. It takes a smarter and less dramatic approach than most films that are based on real events and definitely a must-see.

schindlerslistSchindler’s List- Steven Spielberg’s 1993 passion project hasn’t seemed to age a day. I rewatched it for the fifth or sixth time yesterday and couldn’t help feeling that everyone involved from cast to crew to extras shared his passion. It’s a beautiful film from start to finish, with even the controversially sentimentality working for me. I feel a heart-wrenching sadness every time I watch it unlike anything else I’ve experienced at the movies and, when it’s over, I feel almost cleaned out.

Sin City- Robert Rodriguez’s 2005 film is almost a panel-for-panel adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novels. The comics were black and white (mostly) so the film had to be too. It works mostly thanks to Miller, whose writing ranges from as pulpy as it gets to almost poetic. “When it comes to reassuring a traumatized 19 year-old, I’m about as expert as a palsy victim doing brain surgery with a pipe wrench” is my personal favourite. Moments like that are almost enough to make me forgive last year’s disappointing sequel.

Jay

I like wondering  why directors choose to shoot in black or white – what are they trying to tell me paper_moonby presenting their movie in this way? One of Sean’s picks, Paper Moon (Sean says: it’s fun to see Tatum O’Neal as a little grifter, with her real life father helping out while thinking he’s in charge) is a great example of a careful choice. Set in the depression era, the black and white adds an evocative nostalgia factor. As Matt might point out, it’s a movie that refuses to age because it was purposely dated when released. It means to take you back to a “simpler” time, and then make you question what exactly was so simple about people trying so hard not to starve. Cinematographer Lazlo Kovacs uses black and white to great advantage, with a deep focus that keeps everything razor-sharp.

Pleasantville, in my opinion, uses black and white very wisely. It doesn’t just demarcate “old” pleasantville3422and “new” but comes to symbolize enlightenment. Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon play teenaged siblings who get thrown into a 1950s sitcom, again, the “simpler” times that turn out to be not-so-simple. Although everything is superficially pleasant in grayscale, the two rapidly come to miss the highs and lows of life back home. As they influence the sitcom’s residents to challenge their notions and beliefs, the characters are engulfed in colour. They are set ablaze with their newfound edification but some are ashamed of their obvious (colourful) sophistication and seek to cover it up. Now the black and white is a symbol of repression and shame.

Sean chose Frankenweenie as his third and final film. It’s an animated and touching story of a boy scientist and his resurrected dog that’s sweeter than it has any right to be. Director Tim Burton has said “I find black and white very beautiful. It gives a real sense of emotion. I was FRANKENWEENIEreally excited about seeing this in black and white because there’s a depth to it that I love. It’s not right for every project but when you take the colour out of something, sometimes you start looking at other things, such as textures and characters. I was very happy that the studio [Disney] went along with the idea. If they’d wanted it in colour, I wouldn’t have done it.”

I’m happy to report that this week’s theme made me seek out movies I hadn’t seen before. I following_stills_04watched Chris Nolan’s first feature-length film, Following, and enjoyed trying to pick out early hints of his trademarks. Why did he shoot in black and white? Perhaps to enhance the stylistic look of a film noir, but also, I suspect, like Kevin Smith, because he was shooting on a tight budget. Clerks was big-budget compared to Nolan’s six grand and he made the choice to get the biggest bang for his buck.

Denis Villeneuve, on the other hand, seemed to be more in camp Scorsese. He directed a Canadian film called Polytechnique that’s about the Montreal Massacre – the day a gunman polytechniquedecided to target women and killed 14 of them while they were in school, dismissing their male classmates while voicing his hatred of feminism. It’s a bloody day in Canadian history but Villeneuve seemed to want to minimize the impact of the blood, allowing the audience to think about the killing spree in perhaps a slightly more abstract way. The film rises above the tragedy and is quite cool in its presentation, some might even call it dispassionate.

Joss Whedon made a Shakespeare adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing shot in black and white – maybe to highlight the sexiness that’s supposed to be in the movie, or to make the comedy’s dark side come alive, maybe to help mask and mistake California for Italy, and maybe it’s because it’s as far as he could possibly get from his simultaneous project, The Avengers.

The hardest movie you’ll ever watch is almost certainly Man Bites Dog. A mockumentary that man_bites_dog6shadows a serial killer who engages in increasingly graphic crime, you can’t look away but you’ll want to. It’s hard to swallow but carries an important message. It was shot in gritty black and white, a tip of the hat to cinema verite style, which is falsely considered more objective. In this case, the medium is just as stark as the message.

 

We look forward to hearing all of your picks – be sure to let us know your favourite black and white in the comments!

p.s. You might want to check out last week’s theme, father-son movies.

 

 

Following

Everyone has to start somewhere, and for genius director Christopher Nolan, that movie was Following.

Shot in stark, black and white 16mm stock, Nolan sets the stage for a modern film noir Film_638w_Following_original(postnoir?). Bill, between jobs, starts following people in the street. He starts out innocuously, restrained by a code of strict rules, but then begins to take risks when a well-groomed man piques his interest. This man, Cobb, confronts him, and soon the two partner up in Cobb’s break-ins. The burglaries are interesting because Cobb seems more interested in learning about and fucking with the lives of his victims than with stealing their stuff. Bill is seduced by this mysterious and glamorous lifestyle and is soon acting without his mentor. This of course leads him down an even more dangerous path of crime. The movie ends abruptly, I felt (I had to check of maybe it was a two-parter), after a quick 70 minutes.

Do you see a lot of Chris Nolan in this film? Initially I thought no. I’m used to his big, cinematic scapes, whereas this movie has a lot of very tight, close shots. But the story is told out of polaroidmomentosequence, keeping us off balance, reminding us that we don’t know as much as we think we do – and that non-linear kind of story-telling is, as you know, very Nolan. To attempt this on a first feature, with no budget, took a whole heap of faith. It marked him as a director with a lot of imagination and a meticulousness for details – both of which helped qualify him for his astonishing follow-up, Momento.

He shot Following just on weekends because his actors and crew all had full-time jobs. He used film conservatively to keep costs down and usually only managed to capture about 15 minutes a Batman-Writers-Chistopher-Nolan-Best-Movieday. At that rate, it took them a year to film on a no-budget of just $6000. Nolan wrote, directed and filmed his baby, and helped to edit it too. His friends gave up their apartments for locations and his Mum made sandwiches for the cast and crew. This is obviously not his great oeuvre but it does show a confident young man and tonnes of promise. A tidy little movie that still manages to include a cross, a double cross, a tripe cross – maybe this film isn’t quite so far off the Nolan mark as I first thought. The characters are brooding and enigmatic. The look of the film achieves something atmospheric despite the absence of movie lighting. And the over-arching theme of obsession? That’s pretty familiar Nolan territory.

So I suppose we can watch this decent little indie flick and see hints of coming greatness. inceptionCertainly it’s a step in the direction of darkness – and Mr. Nolan is known not just for reviving the Batman franchise but for injecting the whole superhero industry with a trend toward darker reboots. He can be demanding of his audience and he can infuriatingly reward us with an ambiguous ending – but isn’t that just the Nolan charm?

 

What’s your favourite Chris Nolan?

 

Interstellar

I didn’t understand all of Interstellar and it wasn’t my fault.

intChristopher Nolan was so impressed with composer Hans Zimmer’s slightly over-bearing score for Batman Begins that the two have been practically inseparable ever since (with the exception of The Prestige). Zimmer’s work on Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy (usually) compliment Nolan’s story and images nicely, adding drama and suspense in all the right places. The only trouble is, when Nolan cranks the volume up to 11 and the music really starts to swell, it can be nearly impossible to make out some of the dialogue. It doesn’t help that the director loves to have his actors mumble and whisper their lines (sometimes even from behind a Bane mask).

This is even truer of Interstellar, with the roar of space shuttles and pickup trucks, dust storms, and Zimmer’s score render the dialogue completely inaudible in several places. What’s worse is this is not a movie where you can really afford to miss anything. Nolan packs as much information, theorizing, and heart-to-hearts as he possibly can into Interstellar’s nearly three-hour running time and missing even a minute is missing a lot. So, SPEAK UP, will you, Coop? And turn the music down.

As a fan of Christopher Nolan since Memento, I had been looking forward to this movie for months so I was a little disappointed when it got off to what I thought was a bit of a rough start. Matthew McConaughey, who’s been on a surprisingly long winning streak lately, plays Coop, a corn farmer who should have been an astronaut and almost got to be one once. But we don’t need astronauts anymore.

We spent so much money and resources on the space race and arms race that we have run out of food. This is an interesting vision of the not-so-distant future but we are brought up to speed on what’s been going on in some uncharacteristically (for Nolan) clumsily written scenes. Coop soon discovers that he has been “chosen” to lead a team through a wormhole into another solar system to find another planet for us to live (and ruin). Nolan rushes through all of this with plot conveniences, clumsy exposition, and lazy writing, as if he’s as eager as we are to just move this story into outer space as fast as possible.

The film really gets off the ground once the shuttle takes off. The images of space travel are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie and decisions these characters will have to make are sure to make for passionate discussions during the ride home from the theater. What significance do we as a species have in an infinite universe? What does it mean to “save the human race?”. Should we follow scientific data or our heart when deciding how close we want to live to a black hole?

Nolan’s always been very good at this, even when making superhero movies. The questions he raises about human nature have made for some of the best post-movie discussions I’ve ever had. This is no surprise. What surprised me most about Interstellar were the scenes of Coop receiving transmissions from his children who are still stuck on Earth, surprisingly moving from a filmmaker who usually prefers to mess with your head than aim for the heart.

In Interstellar, Christopher Nolan gets the chance to show us new aspects of his talent that are pleasant surprises. I still think he’s at his best when he raises troubling questions about the monster inside all of us and I am not sure how I feel about this new Look to the Heavens and Love Conquers All side of him. But whether or not its director has gone soft on us, Interstellar is well worth watching.

 

 

This asshole not enough for you? Read Jay’s review over here.

Interstellar

Chris Nolan is a closet softie, and a not-so-secret fan of the happy ending, and has now twice been given the opportunity to kill of Anne Hathaway and not taken it. Spoiler Alert! Catwoman lives!

I recently sat in the very packed IMAX theatre at SilverCity for three hours that didn’t quite feel as long as they were because Nolan packs a lot in his punch and there wasn’t much I would cut. Even from the vague trailers, you knew going in this was going to be an epic story.

Confession: I came out of the movie very frustrated with a certain paradox that the audience is just supposed to accept because some space cowboy told us so. It felt like lazy story-telling to me.

And also: this is a cold movie. You’re going to want to bring a sweater.

Back to the story. We are presented with a very dusty, dirty future where the only viable crop left is corn (sidebar: as someone who grew up among the rows of corn in a small town named after it, this feels to me less like the future and more like hell). McConaughey is a not-too-happy-about-it farmer when he stumbles upon an underground bunker containing not only NASA, but mankind’s only hope for survival, aka, a secret mission to outerspace! And even though just moments ago this mission was going full steam ahead without him because he didn’t even know it existed, his help becomes so necessary that, with the burden of extinction on his shoulders, he leaves his motherless children behind (in the grouchy old hands of John Lithgow) and takes off for the stars in a search for a suitable planet to call home.

Then this film becomes about difficult choices. They’ve got to be made. And so characters constantly wonder aloud – to whom do we owe the most, our children, our species, ourselves? Oh man. So hard. And as my lovely sister pointed out, in case you missed an important decision being pondered, the music swells in all the right places, and very probably, someone will begin dramatically reciting a Dylan Thomas poem though they will miss its point and use it in all the wrong contexts. But they’re scientists, goddammit, not artists. Scientists who miss glaringly obvious data for convenient plot twists, but still.

interstellar

And the film is also about time. Not just time-is-running-out, though it is that too – the people on earth will not survive beyond existing generations. They are starving and suffocating. It’s about this “relativity” concept, how time runs differently out there, and just one ditzy-damsel-Anne Hathaway moment can cost McConaughey a decade with his kids. Those are maybe the most real moments of the film, when he’s just a father grappling with time’s passage, the agony of a sacrifice bigger than he ever knew or understood.

So yes. I had problems with how Nolan explains away the essential question of the film. He sets up something vague yet plausible but then ruins it with ego and pathos. I hated the basic premise of let’s throw away this earth and find another to rape and pillage. At times the film is downright bad (the “love transcends all” theme seems forced and childish and simplistic, and the ending is a little too Hollywood for my taste – Nolan, I expected better), but it’s also quite quite good in others. Visually stunning for sure. Haunting. Beautiful. Lonely in the right ways. And contains many nuggets of interest that are sure to be water-cooler talk for the rest of the month at least. Warts and all, it’s worth the watch.