Archive for October, 2010

Mulholland Drive & Inception

Sunday, October 31st, 2010—Film

Mulholland Drive (France/USA 2001, Drama/Mystery/Thriller), Writer/Director: David Lynch

Inception (USA/UK 2010, Action/Mystery/Sci-Fi/Thriller), Writer/Director: Christopher Nolan

A friend of mine loves borrowing movies from the library, and she often asks what I think of films I haven’t seen in years. Recently, she wanted to know about Mulholland Drive, and I found myself comparing it to a summer blockbuster that I hadn’t felt compelled to write about. Until now, that is.

When I saw Inception a few months ago, I was disappointed. I expected more from the mind behind 2000’s Memento, particularly when I learned that Inception was 10 years in the making. The film is about a team of professional dream weavers led by Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) that specializes in invading people’s dreams. The crew is hired to steal—and ultimately plant—memories, thoughts and ideas. It’s a fantastic premise, but the story itself wound up being surprisingly banal.

The biggest reason I didn’t write about Inception before now is that I read a review in The New York Times that summed up what I would have said, and then some. It’s a fascinating read, which you can find here if you’re interested. In a nutshell, I completely agree that Inception was engaging enough for the duration, but didn’t leave a lasting impression. And although the story has great potential, the plot—and particularly the content of the dreams themselves—is bland and pedestrian.

Mulholland Drive brought Inception to mind because I think Lynch’s film offers so much of what Inception is missing. Both films delve into the world of dreams and the subconscious, and teeter over the dividing line between fantasy and reality. Mulholland Drive follows Betty/Diane (Naomi Watts) through a mind-bending series of convoluted, often trippy events as she strives to turn some of her fantasies into reality (or is it the other way around) in her quests to become a Hollywood actress, find love and solve a dark mystery. Yes, the film can be confusing. But it takes chances, and has a depth and visceral quality that Inception barely begins to touch on.

Lynch did an incredibly artful job of weaving together a person’s dreams and reality, their conscious and subconscious wishes. It’s rich and layered, and always chooses symbolism over the obvious. One of the film’s most stunning scenes is when Betty and her lover Rita (Laura Harring) take in Rebekah Del Rio’s amazing Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s Crying. The performance is so moving that it leaves the women in tears, as it does me nearly every time. Even if you don’t understand the words literally—or the reason the women are being serenaded—the feeling and heart behind it are undeniable.

Mulholland Drive shows the kind of innovation and creativity that Inception should have had. Lynch took artistic risks with his film, and the end result is complex and profound, and appropriately confusing given its subject matter. Inception plays it safe, and for that reason it falls short in my book. Yes, part of my disappointment in Inception stems from the high expectations Nolan has set for me. But considering that the film explores such fascinating topics as constructing and invading people’s dreams, I see Inception as a missed opportunity.

Mulholland Drive, much more than Inception, leaves you wondering what’s real and what isn’t. And unlike Inception, Mulholland Drive has had a lasting effect on me. It plays like one of those dreams you can’t get out of your head, even years later. Inception, on the other hand, is more like one of those dreams you barely remember you had.

The Herald – Winnipeg Free Press interviews WonderBoys

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010—News

One of Winnipeg’s community papers wrote an article on Wonderpress that features quotes from the three boys who inspired it. Click here to read the article.

The Social Network

Monday, October 4th, 2010—Film

The Social Network (USA 2010, Drama/History), Writer: Aaron Sorkin; Director: David Fincher

When I saw the trailer for The Social Network, I was immediately impressed. It was obvious that the movie was a slick production and that the lead performance by Jesse Eisenberg was a knockout. But then one of the characters mentioned “Facebook” and I thought, “How is that going to work?”

Here’s how: By pairing an incredibly visual veteran director with a screenwriter who has an uncanny knack for brilliant, rapid-fire dialogue, and equipping them both with a phenomenal cast (with one distraction, but I’ll expand on that later). Not to mention a haunting and evocative soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Director David Fincher (Se7en, The Game, Fight Club) and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, TV’s The West Wing) did an outstanding job with The Social Network. They managed to tell the story of Facebook’s genesis in a way that’s both emotionally profound and stylistically sophisticated. The pair makes programming and depositions fascinating—even fun—through razor-sharp dialogue that features countless hilarious one-liners, and inventive direction/editing that continually references the social network Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) simultaneously tries to hack into and snub his nose at.

The movie recounts the creation of Facebook and the associated lawsuits brought against Zuckerberg. Eisenberg is spot-on as the bitter, socially inept young genius; I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get an Academy Award nomination for his work here. In fact, almost the entire cast is pitch perfect—including Andrew Garfield as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and Rooney Mara as Zuckerberg’s very short-term girlfriend Erica Albright (both of whom seem poised for stardom with upcoming lead roles in Spiderman 3D and Hollywood’s take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, respectively).

As I mentioned earlier, there was one anomaly in the cast: Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker. It isn’t that he’s terrible in the movie; it’s just that the other actors are playing in another league. To me, Timberlake was the only weak link in an otherwise flawless cast. (Mind you, my youngest sister, who saw The Social Network with me, didn’t mind him; she “loved that it was JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE playing such a skeez.”)

That got me thinking. While the credits rolled, I started to wonder how much of The Social Network was accurate, how much of the heartbreaking love story with Erica was manufactured to serve as tidy bookends to the movie. A quick search on Google reveals that the real-life Zuckerberg is engaged to a woman he met in his sophomore year at Harvard. He wouldn’t have been lamenting the loss of another woman when Facebook launched. In fact, the film isn’t based directly on Zuckerberg’s story; it’s based on Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal.

But I realized it didn’t matter whether or not The Social Network was historically accurate, because it’s still true to life. Justin Timberlake, with his superstar lore that extends to Britney Spears in her glory days, represents who the fictionalized Zuckerberg wants to be, how he wishes he were seen. It becomes very easy to imagine how Zuckerberg could be seduced by someone like Parker. Seen in that light, I can understand why Timberlake was cast. Regardless of his performance, his stardom feeds into the representation of Parker as a beacon and a powerful influence in Zuckerberg’s life.

Just as Timberlake’s spin on Parker lends greater credibility to the character, so does the filmmakers’ take on Facebook bring added relevance and significance to the story. The Social Network is a representation of how one person’s loneliness and isolation could inspire him to create the world’s biggest social network out of vengeance. Whether or not the film really tells Mark Zuckerberg’s story, it’s still the very real story of what can happen when someone is ostracized and pushed too far.

As portrayed by Eisenberg, Zuckerberg is a profoundly gifted young man who is probably too smart for his own good. His keen insights into facts and figures are diametrically opposed to his understanding of human emotion and relationships. He’s desperate to connect, but seems to be doing everything in his power to push others away and make that connection impossible. Here’s a man capable of creating a brilliant means of enabling “connection,” but incapable of creating a framework in which he can love and be loved.

The Social Network is an unmitigated hit on all fronts. It’s fast, engaging and hard-hitting. It’s also incredibly timely, poignant and sad. It represents a fabulous collaboration in which all the parts are on the money and add up to much more than their sum.

Now, having watched the film, I can say that its trailer is one of the most apt I’ve ever seen. It’s an excellent snapshot of what The Social Network really is, starting with the, well, creepy rendition of Radiohead’s Creep that beautifully captures the sadness at the film’s core. In the end, both the trailer and the film leave us with this final thought: “I don’t belong here.” Does anyone?

And now, to post this on Facebook…

Winnipeg Free Press plugs Zootopia

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010—News

The Winnipeg Free Press gave a little plug to Wonderpress and particularly to Zootopia, which begins at the city’s Zoo and is now available. Click here to read the article.