Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Christopher Nolan and the Rewind Factor

I hated the movie Memento. I had to watch it, of course, because it was intelligentsia du jour back in those days. A movie should only require one viewing in order to "get it." To do otherwise is to cheat the viewer and is a sign of self-indulgent storytelling.

I merely disliked Inception, but of course couldn't confess it in a public forum because everybody either loves it or pretends to love it, because who wants to be that one dummy who doesn't "get it"? My take was, "Well, if it's a dream within a dream within a dream, why should I bother keeping track of which layer of dream we're in, because dreams aren't real?" It had cool visuals, but on a story level, I thought it was a real mess. For a mind-twisting story where reality itself was in doubt, I thought Shutter Island was far superior (Incidentally, Leonardo diCaprio is becoming one of my favorite actors, something I never dreamed I'd admit.)

When my Amazon editor contacted me about getting the rights to Liquid Fear, he said the plot had "a Christopher Nolan feel." I was horrified! In the novel, I had deliberately planted deception and unreliable narrators, and I knew it was risky. I knew I would immediately lose a certain slice of the book audience. But I wanted to do something challenging and reward those who like risks. DiCaprio is taking risks with his career, taking roles as an unpleasant and unlikable character (The Departed!) when he could have stayed the cuddly Titanic heartthrob--that's why I like him now. I would rather have taken risks than dole out disposable entertainment and sell lots of books.

I saw Nolan's first full-length film Following, a more stripped-down version of his twisting storytelling style, with a little of his signature nihilism. It's probably my favorite, although we watched The Dark Knight last night, and it only had a few "Huh, what's happening and/or whose side are they on?" moments.

The guy gives me a headache. But I keep coming back for more. And he's influencing a lot of storytellers. (I started Liquid Fear in 2006 so I am pretty sure Christopher Nolan didn't influence me. Yet.) I suppose there are worse things to be than the Christopher Nolan of psychological thrillers.

Time for me to revisit Memento and see if I'm any smarter these days.

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18 comments:

Sharon said...

I've been a closet diCaprio fan for a long time even though I never saw Titanic (wasn't interested in seeing all those people die) and I haven't seen Inception. My favorite was Catch Me if you Can and he did a modern telling of Romeo and Juliet. I feel better now that I have shared...;)

author Scott Nicholson said...

Thanks, Sharon, we all have our secret guilty pleasures.

SBJones said...

Interesting. When I outlined my time travel trilogy I went well out of my way to inject a reason for people to go back and re-read the series (see the movie more than once to get it).

There are very very few books that I have gone back and read more than once. Like a movie, or good video game, I wanted it to have 'replay value.'

author Scott Nicholson said...

SB, I think we're asking a lot to expect someone to re-read a book, simply because it's eight hours instead of two. I used to reread books, with years in between readings, but now I'm an old geezer and I just don't want to spend the time--I'd rather encounter something new.

That said, my Amazon editor was great at tightening up Liquid Fear and Chronic Fear, to make sure the reader could stay in the loop.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I disliked Inception too. I thought it was stunning and beautiful, but why should I care about any of the characters if they're all constructs.

Chryse said...

From the Nicholson readers I've met, they either LOVE your work or they HATE your work. Same thing seems true with Nolan's work--I love his work. Maybe that had something to do with the comparison? Well, that and your book does require at least some brainpower...like Nolan's movies. Liquid Fear has a much more Slaughterhouse Five feel to me though. More like 12 Monkeys as far as movies go, if I'm remembering the movie right.

@Charlie aren't all characters (and people, really) constructs? *Scratching head*. I wasn't crazy about Inception either, but it had some interesting ideas.

jonathanmoeller said...

Dark Knight and Inception are two of my favorite movies.

In fact, I liked Inception so much that it accomplished the impossible: I liked a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio in it!

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I knew someone would call me out on that. Yes, all characters are a construct, but what Inception did was to call them constructs within the contructed world. It's the same issue when a writer ends a story with "It was only a dream." He is saying that, even within his make believe world, these characters never existed, non of the actions took place, nothing happened.

Neal Hock said...

Yes, it could be worse. You could be compared to Michael Bay.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Charlie, yeah, I have the same problem with all virtual reality movies--may as well be watching someone play a video game.

Chryse, yes, I tend to polarize, but over time the lovers stick and the haters vanish! Yeah, 12 Monkeys is a decent comparison!

Jonathan, I have Memento in the Netflix queue and will probably hit Inception again soon. Did you see Shutter Island? I thought Leo was really good in it (at times I forgot he was Leo).

Neal, I wouldn't mind being Michael bay for a year or so, then live the rest of my life in pampered luxury doing risky things!

Neal Hock said...

Have you read Shutter Island? I agree, Leo was great in it and was, in my opinion, the perfect actor for the role. The story itself is a spot-on adaptation of Lehane's book.

Rabid Fox said...

I rewatched Memento this summer and still thought it was a great movie. As far as Inception goes, I liked it a fair bit, but concede there was more frosting than cake with that summer treat. The Dark Knight is also very cool.

Like Neal says, better than getting a Michael Bay comparison. Yikes.

Andrew Van Wey said...

I enjoyed INCEPTION up until Layer 3, aka, the Call of Duty Snowmobile level. I could really have done without 20 minutes of some arctic assault on a mental snow fortress. It felt spliced in. I still think The Dark Knight was far better and quite enjoyed Memento.

Personally, I don't mind movies that operate within constructed realities so long as the constructed realities have real world consequences for failure. Death or insanity or such.

I liked the movie Shutter Island but felt the book was head and shoulders above it, and made much more sense than the movie, which is important given it's conclusion. Plus Dennis Lehane writes amazing dialogue. The scene between Teddy and the Warden in the book is...just wow.

If you want to be confused, watch PRIMER or EXISTENZ. Both are very interesting but among the most difficult movies to follow I've ever seen.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I loved PRIMER! I watched it twice and had to draw myself a diagram, but finally figured it all out. Great movie.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Haven't read Shutter Island, Neal, though I do like Dennis Lehane a lot.

Gef, I need to rewatch all these!

Hnn Andrew thanks for the recommendations! I will look for them. But only if Charlie sends me his diagram.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I think my wife threw it away. She wasn't nearly as impressed with my achievement as I was.

Jon Olson said...

I agree with you on DiCaprio -- he's gotten good! I share your dislike of too much "trickery," but did like Memento. To each his own.

Neal Hock said...

I just found out that one of my favorite movies was directed by Nolan: The Prestige (2006).

-Neal