A tragic love story, a metaphor for storytelling, an interesting depiction of the human subconscious, an exploration of how illusory and fatal ideas can be and how it may lead to self-deception; Inception is a film that encapsulates all of these elements.
What was meant to be the keys to his wife's liberation, ended up being the cause to her suicide. The very idea that caused her to question her reality, the idea that was meant to awaken her, was the very idea that caused her to end her own life. This is the tragedy in the love story between Cobb and Mal. It isn't that his wife died, but that Cobb was the reason for her death. In this way, in the severity of the punishment he endures, it is v It is this guilt, this utter heartbreak, and this longing for those whom he loves that dominates his life.
It's no secret that Inception is a metaphor for storytelling, or more specifically, film. Films function very similar to dreams; we become immersed in the world presented to us, we forgo questioning the reality of it when we jump from location to location, we accept all information, despite it at times, being completely illogical, and . In this movie, Nolan shows us these similarities, mostly through the films surrogate: Ariadne.
Through Inception, Nolan also grants us insight into how he approaches his storytelling. When Cobb and his team ponder about how to properly perform inception, it is actually Nolan revealing how he attempts inception on his audience. The stages or levels in the last inception job are how he, not only brakes down his films into acts, but how his acts affect the viewer. "On the top level, we open up his relationship with his father. Say, 'I will not follow in my father's footsteps'. Then, the next level down, we feed him 'I will create something for myself'. Then, by the time we hit the bottom level, we bring out the big guns: Cobb: My father doesn't want me to be him." In essence, we are Fischer, we go into a film with our own preconceived notions, and by the end, changed in terms of world or self perception.
The film has an interesting depiction of the subconscious as they populate the world of dreams. Cobb's subconscious in particular, more specifically, Mal, shows how our past traumas can come to haunt us if we allow it to, and sometimes without our consent.
Bottle Rocket (1996):
How I would love to live in a world where prison doesn't break you, where your friends agree to participate in your wacky adventures, where there seems to be no tension, fear, or gruesome violence, even in an armed robbery. A world where camaraderie and tenacity triumph all. It doesn't exist in our world and it might not exist outside of the circle of Dignan, but it's in his world that it does exist. An introduction not to utopian society but a utopian mindset. Granted he does have major faults(i.e. his temper), but it's a pleasure to follow him in his adventures for an hour and 45 minutes.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected) (2017):
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place" How true this statement has been in my personal life, and Baumbach beautifully and comically captures the essence of this apparent truth in his film. When conversing, I have found very often that both parties are using communication as a bonding or competitive tactic, rather than truly absorbing the information provided, and properly reacting to it. When sharing an experience, a related topic or experience is brought up. When sharing an opinion, a counterargument is formulated where the purpose seems to be to convert the other into your ideologies/beliefs; or conversely, an annoying sequence of over-agreement syndrome takes place. Another form of bad communication that frequently occurs is when something quite personal and emotionally charged is shared, but the other party changes topic, not because they wish to avoid the subject, but more likely because they grew bored of what was being said, their mind wandered, and here we find ourselves. How sad it is that we, the only entities in world, possibly the universe, that can communicate complexly, struggle to convey, and equally, struggle to understand one another. How easy it is to classify someone in such simple, binary terms, simply from first impressions where communication was poorly constructed. how upsetting it is that someone who should know you, or vice versa, doesn't because of an inability to communicate. And how tragic it continues to be that the one tool that can unite us, seems to be the very thing that divides us.
Brokeback Mountain (2005):
The beautiful cinematography, the incredible acting, the touching story, but what really makes this film fantastic is the incredible tragedy that lies at the heart of the film. It isn't conflicting life choices, distance, or any other common obstacles that prevent them from a happy life together, but rather it is the stigma, and in this film world, the hatred against homosexuality, the idea that it is an antonym of masculinity, and this fear of exposure that prevents them from a life together. They instead settle for secret flings until, Jack is sadly murdered and Ennis is sadly staring at the life that could've been.
It is this powerful ending that really gut-punches me with the emotion of impossibly unfulfilled longing for what could've been as I'm forced to empathize with Ennis. In a world that forces its expectations on you, it's tempting to conform, but sometimes an act of defiance is what might be the line between a content life of conformity to one of happiness, or at least a better road in that pursuit to happiness. Ennis was unable, justifiably so, to live a life of societal defiance, but it robbed him of the potential happiness he could've had with Jack.
Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2010):
This film affected me quite drastically. A socially distant or timid teenage boy finds a similar group of misfits, or as they call themselves, "wallflowers." These wallflowers are essentially social outcasts for one reason or another, but it is this collective feeling of being rejects that strengthens their bond. If you ever felt different or even slightly persecuted for being so, then this film evokes a positively overwhelming feeling of empathy for these wallflowers. It is this empathy that also evokes heightened emotions when they fail, when they succeed, when they feel, and when they act. I was once a wallflower but never found a community when I was. In a way, Perks Of Being A Wallflower serves as a fantasy as I live out my past desire for community through Charlie and his friends.
Call Me By Your Name (2017):
Godfather I & II (1972) & (1974):
The Place Beyond The Pines (2013):
Hell Or High Water (2016):
The score and the immersive experience due to the appearance of a single take; these are the elements that make this film really one of the greatest films ever produced. Alone these elements are good, but together they make for incredible cinema. It is the appearance of a single take that invites us on a journey with the protagonist; on this journey we lose the same friends, we share in the fatigue, we share in the fear of the unknown, but it is the score that heightens these emotions and allows that beautiful catharsis at the end of the film.
All The President's Men (1976):
Blue Valentine (2010):
La Haine (1995):
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007):
Reality never seems to live up to the legend. In the beginning, Robert Ford idolized the James brothers. That idolization, however, turned into disappointment, annoyance, and eventually, fear.
But it didn't seem like Bob was the only one disappointed with reality. Jesse James himself seemed to be chasing that very legend, that very perception of himself that didn't exist, and probably never did.
It seems like this film revolved around myth and reality. Even Robert, when he killed Jesse, stated that he expected applause, but instead he received scorn. Such a sad and tragic ending for a kid who sought to reach fame, but instead received infamy. He had little time to learn from his mistakes, to learn that expectations are not always aligned with reality. Such a sad and tragic ending for Jesse; a man so obsessed with his own image that he thinks he needs his reputation sustained for his own safety. It's this degradation of the mythos that leads him to kill his partners, thinking that everyone is turning on him.
La La Land (2016):
A journey toward self actualization or a journey toward traditional love; which would you choose? This is the question that was forced upon the protagonists, Sebastian and Mia.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013):
As an aspiring filmmaker I wholeheartedly empathize with Llewyn Davis' struggle to find success. Llewyn is a folk singer dealing with a multitude of issues: He has to pay for an abortion for a woman he impregnated, he is couch surfing due to financial woes, he lost a neighbor's cat, he lost his partner to death, but most crucially, he can't find an audience or any hope of success for a passion he once had. It is a fear of mine to work so diligently to find success in that which I love, just for that work to eventually feel in vain as my love morphs into something I just pursue simply because I've been pursuing it for so long and haven't considered an alternative. Even as we arrive at what seems to be the conclusion, he is rejected by a music manager. At the point of the story where one normally expect/delivers a happy ending, Llewyn is denied one. Just like many of us might be denied in reality, it depicts a possible journey we might also unfortunately find ourselves roaming.
Hostiles Scene In this scene, Tommy seems to be expressing the disappointment and grief we sometimes feel when looking back at the atrocities carried out by our nation. His apology to the chief feels like a sincere apology from a nation for all its past wrongs. We begin the film with an established antagonist, or group of antagonist, the Comanche natives. Yet we empathize with the protagonist, Capt. Blocker who has a distaste, and at times hatred, for natives in general. I empathize and understand his view; in war it is only natural to take actions personally. However it is the eventual mutual contentment and earned respect that separates this film from other films I've seen that establish a clear protagonist and antagonist. Where else do you see both parties come to a mutual understanding and respect for one another? And it is the hidden allegory that is the reason I added this film to my list.
I am an American in 2020 and, at the moment, we live in. such a divisive time. A time of political party affiliation and an equal hatred and misunderstanding of the other side, a culture slowly brewing a covert culture of racism and bigotry even though it is the very boogieman we are attempting to destroy, and all of it seems to to stem from the past injustices of certain races. I share in the sympathy of the cause but not with the solutions presented. In hostiles, Capt Blocker who HATED Chief Yellow Hawk and his associates, just as we, at the very least, hate certain individuals who think differently and despise anyone closely, and at times tremendously loosely, associated with said individuals. However, Blocker comes to respect, understand, and befriend the Chief, after all the trials and tribulations they put each other through.
Westerns are usually a. commentary on our nation in one form or another and Hostiles is no different. It is a simultaneously commentary on America now and America's entire existence. As seen in the scene where Tommy apologizes to the Chief; it can be interpreted as a nation apologizes for its injustices; on the blacks, on the natives, on the Japanese, and now the Mexicans. However, the Capt. and the Chief's relationship can be interpreted as America now and what America could be; a nation of division and a nation of unintentionally produced hatred, but it can become a nation of understanding and unity.
Midnight In Paris (2011):
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004):
Romantic relationships can take you to both, Nirvana, and Dante's 7th circle of hell. They can be the cause of your euphoria, or the reason for your misery. They can be simultaneously the best thing that's ever happened to you, and the worst. A rollercoaster of emotions and expectations. They'll eventually find things they don't like about you, and you'll "get bored and feel trapped." Yet, regardless, of all the emotional hardships we know we'll face, we venture on anyway. It is both an act of insanity and valor. Like a warrior who knows death is probable, the most pessimistic, cautious, and intelligent among us choose this potentially beautiful union with another, despite the equally horrible consequences that may come from giving another all of yourself. A possible exaggeration, I'm aware, a Schopenhauerian pessimist like I see it no other way. But one must admit that a union between two separate, independent, ever-growing, ever-changing individuals who are, possibly, evolutionarily prone to disappointment and boredom of one another is the definition of insanity.
It is this attractive insanity that is uniquely expressed in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. It seems evident to me that we, despite knowing the possible emotional hardships that a relationship might bring, decide to embark in one regardless. Joel and Clem not only have the awareness that we share, but also are completely aware of how one another might, or actually WILL, eventually feel about one another. Yet, despite this knowledge both have aquired, they decide to embark in this temporal journey with one another.
It is Joel's, "okay" that was the most profound line in the entire film. It is a sentiment that I share as well. A sentiment which states that despite the knowledge of what might, or in their case, will-come, what is our alternative? Despite what single women exclaim on Valentine's Day, is it truly better to be alone? Isolation promises certainty against betrayal, but there is also a metaphorical ceiling of potential euphoria. Boredom is inevitable in or out of a relationship, but is it not better to share this boredom, this life-induced collective misery, this general disappointment with another? As a man who is in a relationship myself, you know my answers; only time will tell if I'll ever change my mind.
Shawshank Redemption (1994):
"Get busy living, or get busy dying." One thing that makes Shawshank such a great film is how it inspires, the poetry spewed by Red, but most of all, it's the camaraderie built over just a couple of hours. I not only see friendships formed, but I feel as if I've formed some of my own, or at least, I grew to really care about these characters. I feel Red's pain when Andy leaves, I cry when Brooks kills himself, I cry again when Red and Andy reunite. It is a strong bond between me and these men.
It's Such A Beautiful Day (2012):
What began as such a comical take on the everyday happenstances we find ourselves in, developed into a dark reflection on our unfortunate mortality.
Ghost Story (2017):
A simple enough story: man dies, leaving his lover behind, he continues existing as a ghost, confined to the house he lived in and experiences time in rapid succession. Yet such a simple story leaves such a profound emotional effect. How is this achieved? I make the assumption it is done with its use of time. I think that anytime we experience time in a manner much faster than we're accustomed to, it grants us the perspective of an omnipresent observer; this perspective, I'll speak for myself, always puts my own life into perspective, it reminds me of the finality of my time, and how small and unimportant I truly am in the scope of all things. I think this is why the beginning of UP has a similarly profound effect on so many people. We are seeing the life of a fictional cartoon couple, yet the profundity lies in the relatable life presented in montage where in a few minutes we witness decades.
Ghost Story also contains very little dialogue, which I think also contributes to the profundity of it in a manner I am not quite able to articulate at the moment. Maybe it allows us, like art critics staring at a painting, to interpret it ourselves, which, at times, can be way more enlightening than anything an artist can evoke purposefully or forcefully.
Synecdoche, New York (2008):
An existential nightmare that, as a perfectionist, I also find myself in. Synecdoche is about an artist's struggle to create a perfect masterpiece, only to die in the ruins of it. I share in this fear of unfinished creation when taking on any artistic endeavor I'm passionate about. This fear prevents me from ever finishing any art I begin. The tragedy lies in the personal fact that there exists no remedy for this problem. No matter how I decide to proceed, I will always be sacrificing my full artistic potential. On the one hand, I will never finish anything, and on the other, I will always create something I know I could've done better with. I will remain in this state of dissatisfaction and this is the hellish existence of a perfectionist. It is this struggle that Kaufman so brilliantly expresses in this film.
However, Synecdoche is way more than just a story of artistic creation, or lack thereof. It is about loneliness, relationships, love, the daily mundane routine, loss, and the whole of life as we perceive it; loneliness amidst relationships, routine producing existential crises, and the unfortunate inevitable reality of loss over time; loss of loved ones, loss of opportunities, loss of hope and innocence, and loss of time. Caden attempts to create a synecdoche of life, but in his struggle, Kaufman achieves it.