Interview, Inception, Interstellar & Battle for the Planet of the Hobbits vs. Indiana Jones and the Lost Art of Practical Effects

I saw the new Hobbit film a few days after I had watched ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, an exceptionally vivid contrast that was like watching ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes‘ alongside ‘The Wizard of Oz’; it was clear that 34 years of developments in film technology didn’t make for better movies. It’s not that I’m saying that I didn’t enjoy it or that ‘Hobbit 3: Battle of the Five Armies’ is a bad film, it’s just not one that anyone will care much about 34 years from now.

I just finished watching ‘The Interview’; it was stupid, gross, and had some pretty funny moments. At first it felt like Rogen and Franco were just doing an extended riff on ‘Stripes’ without thinking very deeply, which is why it was funny (the opening bit with Eminem won me over instantly). However, like their two clowns in the film who find themselves in way over their heads, by making a film that is explicitly about the assassination of an actual psychotic megalomaniac Rogen and Franco dove headlong into very deep water. Now that I have seen the film, I understand why they chose to not make their dictator fictional as the point of the film would have been dulled; American pop culture does get into and is avidly sought out by the citizens of North Korea which gives this sack of dick jokes a little extra weight. Still, the problem with the film is that ultimately there is nothing very funny about a nation that serves as a gulag for 25 millions slaves of a demented god-king; the happy ending the movie grants itself is not only unearned but childishly insistent that this bag of dick jokes is heavy enough to make a difference.

Last night I watched ‘Inception’ for the first time and loved it; I don’t know how I missed it when it came out. Nolan is adept at making the viewer experience what the protagonist is and ‘Inception’ does this as beautifully as ‘Memento’ did, but with a larger budget. It captured the urgent disorientation of the most epic dreams without resorting to cliche’. The only other film that captures dreams as effectively in my experience is Kurosawa’s ‘Dreams’ from 1990. I look forward to watching it again in a few weeks; this seems to be a film that rewards with repeated viewings.

Likewise, if ‘Interstellar’ is still playing in theaters when you read this, go and see it. Nolan and I are about the same age and I suppose that we have some of the same basic experiences when it comes to film for I could see the film as a response to Kubrick’s 2001 and the moonage daydreams of our youth; this isn’t to say that the film is an homage, though there are certainly homages to 2001 such as the robots that resemble little black monoliths and have simulated AI’s that are reminiscent of HAL. as a young child in the early ’70s I was raised with the expectation that my adulthood would be spent exploring the solar system and that sense of nostalgia for a space age that died before it really began is how the film begins. The places the film goes are fascinating and visually stunning with an emotionally resonant story that made both of us weepy when we watched it. Nolan only uses CGI as a last resort and is dedicated to practical effects which gives his films a weight that most other contemporary films lack. I may see this one in the theater again before the week is out.


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