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Last Active 12-19-19 2:55 pm
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09.09.19 FILM: tectac's Christopher Nolan, Ranke08.28.19 FILM: tectac's Coen Brothers, Ranked
08.19.19 FILM: tectac's Krzysztof Kieslowski, Ra08.12.19 FILM: tectac's Paul Thomas Anderson, Ra
08.06.19 FILM: tectac's David Lynch, Ranked08.01.19 FILM: tectac's Wes Anderson, Ranked
07.30.19 FILM: tectac's Stanley Kubrick, Ranked07.27.19 FILM: tectac's Quentin Tarantino, Ranke
07.25.19 FILM: tectac's Top 100 Favorite Films o 07.10.19 MUSIC: tectac's Top 100 Radiohead Track
06.30.17 FILM: tec's Top 30 Movies of the 21st C 07.18.16 MUSIC: tectac's Top 25 Brand New Songs
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FILM: tectac's Christopher Nolan, Ranked

Not a personal favorite of mine (was asked to rank his films, and I always try my best to deliver), but I'd be foolish to try and deny his prowess for creating fan-favorite, entertaining blockbusters. (His recently allotted budgets and online film ratings speak for themselves.) I do think he has the potential to craft genuinely incredible films, but his propensity to reach and please the widest audience possible is slightly counterproductive to his most brilliant instincts. That's just my opinion, of course, and even with all my complaints, his films are almost always superficially entertaining, and the craftsmanship is naturally exquisite.
10Kate Bush
The Dreaming


The name of the game here is "more." More explosions, more octane, more cheesy one-liners, more storyline derivations, more supporting characters, more threats, more incoherent action sequences, more plot holes, and more runtime. It's THE DARK KNIGHT in grievous excess, essentially, and what we're left with is an unwieldy, half-baked, incoherent mess of a film. It's pointless to pick apart the credibility of a comic book film, I guess, but even within the context of this superhero-laden world, stuff like e.g. Blake recognizing Bruce because of "a look on his face," yet others who work near him *daily* still have no idea that he's Batman. Nolan's delivery of exposition tends to be a recurring weak spot, and it's mind-numbingly off the charts here. Half the film's dialogue is bearing the load of explaining this cumbersome yarn of a story, the other half is dedicated to writhing, corny one-liners. Key takeaway: More is not always better!
9Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago

>> INSOMNIA (2002)

Advisory for people who even remotely enjoy this film: Do yourself a favor and watch Skjoldbjærg's 1997 original (with Stellan Skarsgard). It's not a particularly great film, but it's leagues better than this completely unnecessary Americanized remake. I find this one problematic for the fact that Nolan feels compelled to explain every little thing, as though even a small dash of moral ambiguity would somehow derail the whole film. Logical nebulousness is exactly what a story like this *needs*. Biggest mistake is that Nolan tries to construct an ostensible motive for the "accidental" murder (intra-departmental politicking) and, in the process, degausses the stark dubiety; apparently that lack of direct explanation or thought process is what I find most interesting. (Also, the annexed gunfight at the end is incredibly lame and spatially incompetent.) I do like the lead actor temperament swap (cf. Pacino's hot head to Skarsgard's listlessness), but not much else.
8Fire! Orchestra

>> INCEPTION (2010)

Hard to think of another film that's simultaneously this good and this bad: I'm constantly shocked at how this throngs together its most masterful elements alongside so many bone-headed ones. Dazzling ideas (heavily cribbed from PAPRIKA), and the methods by which those ideas unravel are wonderful uses of Nolan's cinematic toolkit. But it's all too much. There's too much going on, and at 148 minutes, not enough time to properly flesh out any of the ideas beyond superficial mind-trickery. The sorest spots lay in the "dialogue," which is at least 75% exposition because Nolan has trouble trusting his audiences to figure things out for themselves. Never mind the fact that everyone here aside from Cobb is hardly a "character," merely a cog invented solely to churn Nolan's dream-inside-a-dream machine. But, alas, the conceit is so exceptionally realized that it's exciting enough just watching this "idea" take shape, even in the absence of actual human beings. I'm torn.
7Sweet Trip
Velocity : Design : Comfort


A decent superhero film, full stop. Not bad by any means, but I'm constantly in awe at the ubiquitous praise heaped upon this fine-but-hardly-earthshattering movie. (Further aggravating is the dichotomy it's created between its most ardent supporters and detractors: The incessant haters are almost as annoying as the hardcore fanboys at this point.) Like its predecessor RISES, it's a narrative mess (though to a lesser degree) that boasts too many "big, poignant ideas" in too short a time, bolstered by great visuals, a few standout scenes, and one excellent performance. Ledger is fantastic, yes, but his performance alone is not enough to spackle the cracks of everyone else's mediocrity. (Especially Gyllenhaal and Bale.) Fight scenes are largely incomprehensible, Dent's arc is *way* too rushed, narrative strands are needlessly bungled, and, as I mentioned before, it's not even arguing about "logic" here. Solidly entertaining despite its many flaws.
6Have a Nice Life

>> DUNKIRK (2017)

Nolan's propensity for fucking with time does him no favors in this case; didn't fully grasp the necessity of three separate and variably elapsing timelines when I first saw this. Upon second viewing, I confirmed that it indeed serves no purpose but to add a layer of obfuscation to something that didn't need it. (In fact, it actually reveals one character's fate ahead of time, undercutting the suspense later on.) All for what? So we can be blown away when the filaments finally converge at one precise moment? Wow, neat. But Nolan's focus on this superfluous plot construction clearly distracted him from creating anything else compelling: Sure, the visuals are nice and the sound design is lovely (Hans Zimmer needs to calm the fuck down, though), but the instant I left the theater, the film evaporated from my mind. Engrossing in-the-moment, but sorely forgettable in retrospect. It didn't necessarily need "characters," but even the generalized action is kinda lame.
5The National
Trouble Will Find Me


Admittedly not a "comic book film guy," so there's no coincidence that my favorite film in Nolan's Batman trilogy is the one where the titular superhero doesn't even appear until the one-hour mark. Case in point for why I almost always prefer "origin stories" to subsequent endeavors: There's an actual story worth caring about! To my mind, Bruce Wayne is far more interesting a person than Batman, and his struggles with wealth, status, and Rachel excite me in ways that Batman's beef with Scarecrow and his microwave emitter ever could. (This is why Raimi's SPIDER-MAN is my favorite comic book film of all time: It's essentially an awkward teenage rom-com with a few, intersecting superhero elements.) I also think this is clearly the most coherent and well-conceived film in the series, and though it lacks an epic central performance (a la Ledger or Hardy), it remains the most consistently engaging from start to finish. Nolan should've passed the baton after this.
4The Angels of Light
How I Loved You

>> FOLLOWING (1998)

Clocking in at a breezy 70 minutes, this is assuredly Nolan's most efficient effort, showcasing at once his capabilities as a writer and director when not encumbered by the necessity of having to spoon-feed his viewers with every last little piece of information. (This is where I make my case that fame has been detrimental to Nolan's career as an "interesting" filmmaker, somewhat strong-arming him to conform to accessibility in a way that hampers ingenuity and potential.) A good precursor to MEMENTO, and further proof that financial limitations often lead to intangible creative genius - had this film been made today and given a "modern" Nolan budget, there's no doubt in my mind that it would be infinitely less interesting, unnecessarily bloated, and packed to the gills with gratuitous elucidation. Not to mention all the showy camera tricks and whatnot. Simple, but potent in all the right ways.
3Brian Eno
Another Green World


Yet again, the largest culprit of my chagrin is the dialogue, which is far too eager to hold my hand cautiously at every possible juncture; at some point, it feels like Nolan is directly insulting our collective intelligence, doesn't it? Not wanting your audience to be frustrated is one thing, dick-slapping their face with a direct play-by-play of what's happening is entirely another, and robs us of the joy of piecing things together ourselves. All that said, the story is so damn compelling that I find myself able to overlook the script's weaker aspects. Not sure a book on the same subject wouldn't be preferable, but Nolan makes a convincing argument otherwise, with several stunning visual sequences that would rank high among the most aesthetically impressive sci-fi scenes since Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Surprisingly emotional, too: A reminder that time is thief that cannot be stopped.
2David Bowie
The Next Day

>> THE PRESTIGE (2006)

A film that needs to be seen twice: Once to formally have the rug swept out from under you, and again to pinpoint all of the hidden-in-plain-sight foreshadowing that you inevitably missed. Pretty brilliant in the way it directly exemplifies the films thesis of a "magic trick," the same way that Angier gets bamboozled by Borden's simplicity. "It's too obvious," but that's precisely the point. The ingrained science fiction elements feel a bit hokey - purely employed for the sake of convenience in service to the story's big reveal - especially when laid against the 1890's London backdrop. And I've found that any viewings past the second are likely to have diminishing returns. But that initial and sophomoric experience are well worth your time, and submitting to the 'magic' of letting yourself get fooled has never been so revelatory. (I do wish I could replace almost the entire cast, though, except for maybe Bowie and Caine.)
The Seer

>> MEMENTO (2000)

To my mind, Nolan's (only) truly great movie, and the closest he's come to composing a cinematic masterpiece before succumbing to a—in my opinion—comparatively flaccid style of filmmaking. Let's get this straight: This is *completely* a gimmick. No buts about it. But, in truth, it's gimmickery at its finest, because it's not just empty showmanship: It serves a crucial, two-fold purpose. It puts us directly in Leonard's shoes, inflicting a sort of anterograde amnesia on the viewer through its backward-traversing timeline, but it also directly exemplifies the device by which Leonard is capable of knowingly fueling his self-delusion as a complex coping mechanism for his guilt and grief. That idea alone is fascinating, and the way the narrative mirrors Leonard's psyche is ingenious.
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