Posts tagged ‘Christopher Nolan’

December 28, 2010

Amendments to “Inception” and “Coen Bros.” Posts


My Previous Coen Bros. Post

Inception Part II

I got a chance to see Barton Fink and Blood Simple – the other two Coen Bros. movies that I conveniently left out of my post on their canon.  Barton Fink, in my opinion, is a film that you, like I did til last week, can skip.  It was a decent movie, relatively speaking, but by far the worst work of the Coens.  However, as it also turned out to be the case with True Grit (I Told Ya So), Barton Fink too falls within the observation I made about the Coens’ running theme of the consequences of excessive desire.  In this film, the title character seeks to have commercial and financial success as a writer while maintaining artistic integrity.  With that set up, the Coens state their gripe with Hollywood and the idea of selling out through the film.  Again, not a bad film, but this has been said quite a few different ways in quite a few different places.  With Blood Simple, the Coens’ first feature-length work and breakout release, all four major characters suffer from overzealous want.  Ray wants a married woman, Abby.  Abby wants Ray, but is married to Marty.  Marty wants Abby to continue to be his trophy wife.  And the P.I. wants money for a job he is unwilling to do.  With multiple Macbeth allusions, madness ensues.  This is a must see.

A couple of things have been brought to my attention about the Inception posts.  The biggest one being that Miles is, in fact, Mal’s father, not Cobb’s.  The plot synopsis on IMDB.com says as much, though I don’t know how that is made terribly evident in the film itself.  It is also strange considering that seemingly everyone in the film thinks it was Cobb’s fault that Mal “committed suicide.”  Yet his father-in-law would not, even after Cobb flees?  My feelings on the film working better as a miniseries are still maintained.  However, I’ll say that some tweaking to the new story lines in the early episodes that I presented is due.  Perhaps Miles becomes acquainted with Cobb in the military and takes a liking to the boy; there’s something innocent and pure about him.  Then, obviously, this makes way for Cobb’s relationship with Mal.  The other oversight in my posts was that Yusuf was a new addition to Cobb’s network.  Still, the point I was trying to make was that over the course of the 13 episode miniseries, the audience would have a chance to have greater sympathy towards all the characters, thus building tension and excitement as the plot progresses.  If Yusuf were introduced earlier, then this would hold up for his character, along with Eames, Arthur, and the like.

December 21, 2010

“Inception” X 13 = Quality + Quantity (Final Installment)


***Be sure to have read Part III of this post***

Episode 12: “Security Breach”

One of the most important plot points of Inception is almost completely glossed over by Nolan.  When the team finally infiltrates Fischer’s dream, they are met with resistance.  Why?  Cobb explains in their hideout that Fischer had undergone “training” to protect his mind.  And Arthur had failed to uncover that fact.  This sets up the violence that persists throughout the rest of the film, yet its genesis was relegated to about three lines of dialogue.

In this chapter of the miniseries, the much anticipated abduction of Fischer’s mind will begin.  Tension is built as they all board the plane separately.  The sedative is added to Fischer’s drink (If they bought off the first class stewardess, then why did Leo have to poison the drink?).  Fischer and the team fall asleep.  Then, BOOM.  Halfway through the episode, Fischer’s mind security shows up.  The team is woefully unprepared.  The audience is stunned and has some serious doubts as to whether or not they can actually pull Inception off.  Little-to-no mention of infiltration defense has occurred in this miniseries since Episode 3.  To bring this back into the viewer’s mind at this point in the story would be an enormous shock.

This episode ends with Cobb’s team trying to get out of their hideout as they are surrounded by Fischer’s defense.

Episode 13: “Home”

See the last hour of the film.

********

Now, imagine the impact it would have on you, the viewer of Inception: The Miniseries if you saw that top wiggle a bit, but still precariously spinning, on Cobb’s dining room table, and the screen cuts to black…

You watched 13 hours that was prolonged over 13 weeks of your life (That’s a trimester!).  The discussions you had with your friends and family about how original the story was, how incredible the visuals were, how unparalleled in the history of television it had been to watch the best American writer/director bring his talents to the small screen, and have the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levett, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Tom Berenger, and Cillian Murphy, established stars and actors, show up at different points in the show, not all at once in the first episode…Then…credits…

The response in the media and society would make the finale of The Sopranos seem like the finale of M*A*S*H*.

The discussion as to whether or not Cobb actually made it back to his real home or a home somewhere in limbo would be relentless.  It would be inescapable.  Fights would break out over it in Lower East Side taverns.  Television critics would have filler for weeks.  Both Jesus and Elvis would return and immediately subscribe to Netflix in anticipation of the DVD release.

None of this happened because Christopher Nolan and Hollywood decided to make this a summer blockbuster…a damn good one, but not an all-time great that would have radically changed the possibilities and expectations of film making.  After all, Inception is only number 40 on the all-time list.  Toy Story 3 is number 9.

December 19, 2010

“Inception” X 13 = Quality + Quantity (Part III)


***Be sure to have read Part II of this post***

Episode 8: “I Am Truly A Lone Traveler”

Cobb decides to flee the country, his children left behind to be raised by his mother.  Due to his international reputation, he has little trouble finding work and safe havens, while avoiding excommunication.  Cobb does some work with Yusuf (Amendment), Nash, Eames, and Arthur, stretching their common talents to new, unspeakable lengths.  Here, the origins of the subtle antagonism between the two latter names, which is a point of some humor in the film version, is shown.

There are pockets of action as Cobb avoids authorities and the team explores a dream or two.  However, the pertinent section of this portion of the series is the struggle Cobb obviously experiences in dealing with the guilt over the loss of Mal.  To combat this, Cobb builds dreams out of memories.  Audience members can stir, finding much irony in this; though we like to see Cobb and Mal together again, Cobb’s actions can easily be seen as counterproductive (especially regarding his work with Arthur), even torturous, as Ariadne notes in the movie.  He also takes to using Mal’s token top.

This episode ends with the true inciting incident of the film: Cobb’s meeting of Saito.

Episode 9: “The Coming of Athena”

Something about Saito separates him from other potential clients in the eyes of Cobb.  Though risky, Cobb is desperate enough to earn copious amounts of money and find some way to regain the company of his children, that he goes through with the prospect of doing business with the stoic Asian.  He sneaks in phone calls to his children and visits with Mal in dreamland.

Viewers see Cobb’s audition with Saito, along with Nash and Arthur, that opened the film.  However, here this will play out over the entire episode.  We can see them arranging the meeting, researching Saito, organizing the use of the train cabin, and preparing for the dream extraction.

This episode will conclude with that scene from the film on the runway when Saito asks Cobb, “How would you like to go home?”

Episode 10: “Puzzle Pieces”

Beginning with Cobb’s meeting with Miles in his French university classroom, this episode will better convey the process Cobb goes through in assembling his team.  Arthur is along for the ride of course, but his reluctance to continue working with Cobb can be much more developed here.  Perhaps instead of having Cobb spend so much time explaining all of the background information on the dream exploration (and having all of that annoying fucking music, scored by the usually exceptional Hans Zimmer, stricken from the scenes), Arthur can interact with Ariadne instead, pointing out Cobb’s flaws, and forming a bond between them as he admires Ariadne’s incredible talent.  This can be surrounded by Cobb, all at once, trying to lure in Eames to work with him and that “stick in the mud,” Arthur, recruiting Yusuf again, and battling his inner demons.  Saito shows up to let them know that he will be personally overseeing his investment at work.

Episode 11: “Let’s Go to Work”

Saito begins to outline exactly what he is hoping to gain from this process.  There is much discussion as to whether or not Inception is actually possible.  Cobb, of course, insists it can be done, but has been withholding the reason as to how he knows this is the case.  Instead, he convinces the team by beginning the outline of a plan that will take them further into Robert Fischer’s dreams than the team is used to or comfortable with.

Throughout the episode, despite the questions regarding the reasonable expectations of the task at hand, the team functions as a well-oiled machine, driven by the challenge of accomplishing something in this field that has never been knowingly done before.  They come closer together.  The audience gets closer to them.

In the “middle portion” of Inception that I mentioned earlier, a lot of the dialogue is quick; the scenes and settings shift back and forth hastily.  This problem with pacing would be corrected here.  Everything that the audience needs to know about this ability and technology would already have been established in earlier episodes.  The characters’ traits would be much better exposed, creating more vested emotion in them from the viewers.  The audience can see them all pitching in.  Eames perfects his impression of Peter Browning.  Arthur performs research on Robert Fischer and his relationship with the dying father.  Saito buys the airline that will fly them all to Los Angeles.  Ariadne builds the dreams.  Yusuf creates the sedative.  Yes, all of this is shown in the film, but a more elaborate presentation would not allow the interactions between the characters and the information that they have to contribute to seem forced and hastily contrived.  Plus, this would all build tension for the final two episodes.

***Part IV***

December 17, 2010

“Inception” X 13 = Quality + Quantity (Part II)


***Be sure to have read Part I of this post***

Episode 4: “Rediscovery”

If one has ever followed cable network shows or a miniseries, they know that there’s usually an episode or two where the action and tension take a backseat to story buildup.  That’s not to say that these chapters are clunkers, by any means, because it gives the writers a real chance to shine as they further develop their characters and set up later explosions in the plot.  With the action having been relatively non-stop since the show’s inception, this buys the creators of Inception: The Miniseries some time to introduce a new protagonist into the fold.

A teen-aged Cobb, who is virtually father-less, is struggling with finding his place in the world.  Of course he is incredibly bright, but nearly failing out of high school.  Now home-bound, Miles establishes a new relationship with his boy as he begins tutelage of Cobb on the art of dream designing and exploration (Amendment).  The visuals will really carry this episode, as the brilliantly creative mind of a young, green Cobb creates impossible worlds in the mind of Miles.  This impresses Miles.  He recognizes his son has discovered a niche and hopes Cobb will profit from his incredible talent, while at the same time exercising restraint in considering the use of it, established by a good, moral character.

Episode 5: “The Business of Love”

A more mature, but still roguish Cobb has begun work as a freelance Extractor.  It is revealed that he was in the military for some years, receiving training, and because of his stature as the son of Miles, he gains a reputation among the ranks as perhaps the top dream designer, advising some heads, while benefiting from a bit of preferential treatment as well.  Though never directly involved with the armed forces’ use and exploitation of the ability, because of his father’s past experience, he is aware that the military has been engaged in an unknown war for years that has no boundaries, has not recognized any borders, and has created unspeakable tension between nations, despite there being little actual bloodshed.  It has been a war of dream espionage.

As Cobb weaves his way through this elite community, avoiding military conflict, while networking (Here we are introduced to the likes of Arthur, Eames, Nash, and Yusuf. Characters), he meets the love of his life: Mal.  An incredible love affair ensues, followed by a quick walk down the aisle.  One of the reasons for Mal’s infatuation with Cobb is his uncanny ability to build dreams.  They have children of their own.  They create together.  They fall even deeper in love, but take it too far.  They reach limbo.

Episode 6: “Inception”

We are beginning to catch up to what is actually shown in the film now.  A tremendous chunk of the movie, about one-third of it, I’d say, after Saito’s first exit, struggles mightily with pacing.  To many viewers, the exposition seemed too long, as I mentioned before.

The fact is, this portion of the film is too short.  Nolan attempts to shoehorn too much background information into a a nice, neat, easily-digestible 2 hours and 28 minutes.  Sure he has to do this so that much of the film makes sense, but the audience is tasked with sitting through scene after scene of explanation and forced dialogue that simply moves the plot along, compromising character development.  These parts lack any tension, thus creating some boredom for the audience.  Viewers have to understand very key concepts that are aplenty, which makes these segments seem very convoluted.  Furthermore, Ariadne’s character is primarily in this film to give Cobb and Arthur a reason to explain all this shit to the audience.

The stretching out of Inception over the course of 13 hours will allow for viewers to get to know and sympathize with Mal, who was once described by Arthur as genuinely “lovely” to Ariadne, and give writers a chance to better validate the presence of Ariadne as perhaps the best designer of dreams ever known (Miles spoke of this potential to Cobb early in the film).  This would create more of a connection between audience and characters.  The impact of Mal’s “suicide” will be felt with greater weight and the fate of Ariadne will be increasingly considered as the show gets closer to the climax in Robert Fischer’s dream.

“Inception” will exhibit Mal becoming too enthralled with the idea of living in a dream world.  At first, things will be incredible.  Their world: magical.  Mal even comes up with the idea of the “totem.”  Cobb and her will be happy; however, Cobb will grow weary of being around mere projections of Mal and their children.  He had heard rumblings of inception being possible during his peak networking days.  Cobb makes the fateful choice of experimenting with inception on his own wife to, in his mind, rescue her from constantly living in a dream.

Episode 7: “Loss”

At the close of the previous installment, Cobb plants the “simple” idea into Mal’s mind, “Our world is not real.”  The beginning of this episode will be most intense with the two of them “waiting for a train.”  The audience is relieved when Cobb’s plan of suicide-by-train tracks appears to have worked.  They are back with their children, back to reality.  Soon though, Mal grows distant.  Having to earn a living, Cobb travels the world, picking up lucrative work at the expense of spending time with his young children and his fragile wife.  He begins to realize that Mal is stuck on the concept that the family is still living in a dream world.

We witness the apparent “real” suicide of Mal as it happens, as opposed to a throw-in flashback.  We see the funeral.  And we watch as the authorities begin to investigate Cobb, leading to yet another cliff-hanger: Cobb having to decide whether or not to flee the country as he watches James and Phillipa play in their backyard.

***Part III***

December 13, 2010

“Inception” X 13 = Quality + Quantity (Part I)


This past summer was “The Summer of Inception.”  Sure, Toy Story 3 was the big draw in terms of dollars, but few (especially in circles of people that I care to concern myself with) were out at dive, hipster bars, sipping pints of LaGunitas, and having long, exhaustive conversations about whether or not Andy will ever play with Woody and Buzz again.  No, we were talking about if Leo was in limbo, man.  For all of those discussions on that pretty triumphant effort by the brilliantly gifted Christopher Nolan and how “great,” “deep,” and “innovative” that film was (and, oh, that visceral reaction to the ending), there was always the need to point out, and rightfully so, that parts of it were rather long-winded.

I find myself oft-frustrated with Hollywood these days.  Here you have arguably the best American writer/director, a top-notch, big-name, gifted actor, a fantastic up-and-comer in support, a female, not two years removed from an Academy Award, an all-time great in a minor role, some very talented unknowns, and the freshest face on the Boulevard, all in tow to create a film-telling of what is one of the most original stories in recent memory, and they botch it.  They condense an epic into a short story, all in the name of making money.  And they did plenty of that (Inception is #40 on the all-time list. Box Office).

Instead of going after the mega bucks, I contend, my steadfast followers, that Inception would have been a finer work of art if it had been redrawn as a 13-part cable television miniseries event.  This would have had an incredibly positive impact on the pacing of the story, optimized the use and integrity of the characters, and built a tension towards the climax that would have rivaled anything in the history of television.  No shit.

Episode 1: “Backstory”

Nolan took a lot of liberties in the film and (rather successfully, actually) banked on the idea that viewers would just accept the abilities of these people from around the globe to invade the dreams of others as plausible because it was only known to a select, usually wealthy, few.  He may too have thought of simply setting the movie, say, ten more years into the future as a cop-out.  I like the idea that all of this mind-infiltration could be going on right now because it subtly creates anxiety in the audience; however, it never sat well with me that there was not a crumb of explanation in the film as to how this power or technology could be possible.

Episode one of the miniseries could clear that up immediately.  In the film, Arthur, in speaking to Ariadne, mentions how it was the military, presumably the American brand, that developed this skill and implemented training to soldiers so that they could “shoot and stab and strangle each other and then just wake up.”  Set episode one in any given year that would have Cobb’s father, Miles, be significantly younger.  This is imperative because it was Miles who taught his son the art form, thus making the discovery at least a generation or two old.  Have a scientist figure out through experimentation, maybe even accidentally, how to dream storm.  Just so this edition of the show isn’t a complete snooze, have him see someone’s really fucked up dream.  Soon thereafter, he realizes that he can actually “design” another’s dream, thus making exploring the landscape much more enjoyable.  Perhaps this scientist finds that dream invasion can in fact be a helpful tool in enhancing the psyche of a “patient.”  Dreams fascinate all of us.  This should be enough, of course, if only tastefully done, to draw in viewers.  Have this chapter close with the military provoking the discoverer into instructing their doctors on this new ability for their own, corrupt means.

Episode 2: “Fine-Tuning”

Here viewers witness the perfection and expansion of the skill.  The technology becomes more elaborate and advanced, what with all the military (er…tax payer) funding being thrown in its direction.  Perhaps it is a young, aspiring human biologist and mathematician, Miles (er…Victor Frankenstein?), who develops the method for “Extraction.”

Remember at the beginning of the film, it was Extraction that was really Cobb and Arthur’s area of expertise.  Smartly, Nolan grabs the viewer’s attention by opening the movie with an action-packed sequence where the boys attempt to extract a thought from Saito’s mind as an audition for employment.  Nolan knew that one thing that would create mass-appeal would be high-octane, tense clashes in dreamworlds.  Imagine 13 episodes of this shit!

In that scene, Cobb and Arthur knew what they were doing.  In this episode, tension would be created with ease by having soldiers (like the astronauts of the ’60s) enter the dreams of others, while trying to extract an idea without knowing exactly what they’re doing.

Eventually, of course, they would succeed and be that much closer to mastery of this talent.  But, how about a cliff-hanger to ensure viewership through episode three?  How about right at the end, the military abducts a powerful enemy from, well…pick a fucking country from the other side of the world.  Just when the soldiers get into the mind of this diplomat, they are met with resistance, revealing that someone else has not only discovered this technology, but have found ways to defend against invaders!

Episode 3: “All Out War”

Now you have The Cold War, but in dreams.  This 60-minute installment picks up where the last left off.  Since unexpected violence of this sort has never erupted in dreams before for the U.S. soldiers, it can go on for a while.  The scientists have yet to develop the idea of the “kick.”  In the dream, after lengthy conflict, one of the soldiers is wounded, but doesn’t wake up.  Much panic ensues until one of them is finally killed by the dream security of the foreigner.  Upon reentering consciousness, he tells Miles what has happened.  Frantically, Miles tries to wake all the boys up.  He shakes them.  He slaps them.  Finally, the young soldier who perished in the dream, grabs a janitor’s bucket, filled with gray water, and chucks it onto one of his comrades.  He so vigorously wakes up, that he knocks over the private next to him.  The discovery of the kick.

Of course the diplomat must be killed, which enrages Miles.  He asks for an honorary discharge.  After this is awarded, the episode closes with Miles beginning the teaching of his newest pupil: his son.

***Part II***