Tag Archives: Movie Reviews

Inception: Reliving the Dream

16 Sep

Inception Poster
Inception

The husband and I went to see Inception just before it got bumped off its long and successful two week run at Chandigarh movie theatres.  We went for an 11 o’clock show and were amazed to find that the hall was chock-a-block full of discerning gabrus and mutiars who had chosen Christopher Nolan’s Chuang Tzu butterfly moment over their standard fare of Hello Darling, Lafangey Parindey and Ik Kudi Punjab Di.

Chuang Tzu Dreaming of a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of Chuang Tzu
Chuang Tzu Dreaming of a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of Chuang Tzu

We settled in for some spectacular visuals and a big tub of caramelized popcorn which the husband held on to like it was our baby, or rather, his baby. We were not altogether disappointed , that is a fact. Rotten Tomatoes describes Inception as “Smart, innovative, and thrilling- that rare summer blockbuster that succeeds viscerally as well as intellectually.” But I think it’s better described as M.C. Escher on crack.

M.C. Escher's Relativity
M.C. Escher’s Relativity

I say this firstly because Inception explores the idea of a man (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb) who makes a living by stealing information from peoples’ minds through their dreams. And secondly, because this particular exercise of dream theft apparently entails the creation of complex dream architecture, i.e., the only way to infiltrate a person’s deep subconscious is to create a dream within a dream with a dream, ad nauseam..really.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s rag-tag bunch of dream bandits  (Joseph Gordon-Levitt,Ellen Page, Dileep Rao, Tom Hardy) get ready to perpetrate the act of “Inception”- or planting an idea so deep into a person’s subconscious that the dreamer would never cotton on to the fact that the idea wasn’t his or her own to begin with. For this, they have to create different dreams within dreams, or Escher-like “levels”- in order to successfully infiltrate demi-antagonist Cillian Murphy’s mind- and plant the idea of Murphy disintegrating his father’s vast business empire. For this they are funded by Ken Watanabe, Murphy’s corporate rival. Into all of this is thrown Marion Cotillard’s character, Mal, who as Cobb’s dead wife persists in haunting his dreams, and sabotaging his plans throughout the film.

When you try to weave such an intricate web, as with Inception, there are bound to be a few loose threads just waiting to be unraveled. And so as a peremptory measure, Christopher Nolan has cunningly peppered his current cinematic magnum opus with so many shock and awe CG stunt visuals, that the audience is momentarily too dumbfounded to find those loose threads, let alone unravel them.

But as a serial lucid dreamer, I must say, that I sat there looking at Christopher Nolan’s colossal dream world folding into itself, at  a world freezing at mid-explosion, at mirrors becoming bridges and archways, at dreams goons turning violently on  anything that disturbs the REM mind, at Joseph Gordon Levitt using a clever M.C. Escher stairway ploy to kill a dream goon, and I thought, “Hmm, I’ think I’ve dreamt better…”

Which brings me to the real reason of writing this post-My dreams. Also your dreams, his dreams, her dreams, their dreams, our dreams. Like I said earlier, I’m a lucid dreamer. That means that my dreams are as real to me as a sense of entitlement is to say, to a small town princeling, or Paris Hilton, or Cadillac the dog.

Here’s a good example of lucid dreaming:  It is said that Giuseppe Tartini, an Italian composer and violinist, dreamed that the Devil appeared to him and asked to be his servant. In his dream, the Devil played a beautiful sonata that enraptured Tartini. When the composer awoke he immediately jotted down the sonata, desperately trying to recapture what he had heard in the dream. Despite the sonata being successful with his audiences, Tartini lamented that the piece was still far from what he had heard in his dream. According to some sources, Tartini said that what he had written was- “So inferior to what I had heard, that if I could have subsisted on other means, I would have broken my violin and abandoned music forever.”

I believe that our dreams far surpass anything that we can imagine in waking life. And compared to real dreams, Christopher Nolan’s stunning visuals are just contrived quixotic landscapes -with deflated objects derived from weird lurid constructivism,  and then pumped full of CG goodness, like a Twinkie is pumped full of some moist, glossy filling- leaving everyone just a little bit nauseous.

What I want to say is that in my opinion, Inception might be a breakthrough as far as the imagination goes, but not as far as dreams go. Our dreams far outstrip our imagination, and that is why we wake up with a sense of astonishment and wonder every time we remember our dreams. Our dreams are better than movies, and most definitely better than movies about dreams. So next time you have a lucid dream, don’t sell it short, see how awesome your  own dreamscape is (or isn’t),compared to what’s already out there.

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Staying Alive: An Ode To John Travolta’s 1970’s “Tooeii”

19 Feb

Movie Review: John Travolta in Staying Alive

This month the TV’s been showing a lot of John Travolta dancing movies like Grease, Saturday Night Fever and Staying Alive. I was channel surfing last night when a flash of red leotards arrested my attention.  I was startled to find that the God’s magnum opus butt I was staring at belonged to none other than John Travolta doing some really bad modern dance sequences. Staying Alive starts where Saturday Night Fever left off with Tony Manero struttin’ his stuff on Broadway hoping to catch his big break.

Finola Hughes in Staying Alive

Tony is now a professional dance instructor in Manhattan who has a chance to get a part in the hottest new Broadway musical out there- “Satan’s Alley”. He is torn between his best friend-with-benefits who looks a hell of a lot like Jennifer Paige (remember that song “it’s just a little crush…”) and this buck-toothed British chick whose name I just found out is Finola Hughes. But to her credit, she really is truly graceful in the dance sequences, so is friend- with-benefits.

I thought that Sylvester Stallone was a strange choice for director, I mean he doesn’t exactly come across as someone with a lot of balletic expertise. Yes, balletic, it’s a word, look it up. Anyway, the movie has a lot of the same charm as it’s disco driven predecessor, with lots of headbands, shiny red lipstick, feathery bangs and parti-colored leotards and legwarmers.  It’s lovely to watch Tony in tight jeans and a short leather jacket loping along rain drenched New York streets, with the movie’s tacky but award-winning soundtrack, which consists mostly of songs by the Bee Gees and some by Frank Stallone, Sly’s brother. Staying Alive picks up six years after where Saturday Night left off, with Tony Monero (John Travolta) a down on his luck dance instructor trying to to make it big on Broadway.

Finola Hughes and John Travolta

Tony, being the lovable sleazebag that he is, treats his too forgiving kind-of-girlfriend Jackie (If this movie were made now, she would be his “It’s Complicated” on Facebook), like crap. Jackie is in the chorus of a big Broadway show, where Tony runs into our buck-toothed British beauty who is wearing the world’s supply of shiny red lipstick.  True to his slutty self, Tony sleeps with Laura, tells her he thinks she’s awesome, to which Laura blithely replies that she’s quite done, thank you. At which point,Tony, after giving Laura lots of gaalis,  goes back to his ever faithful Jackie, who frankly could teach the Indian naari a thing or two about being a door mat.

Satan's Alley, Check Out that Extra!

The most deliciously  bad, absolutely tackiest part of the film is the horrendously funny play “Satan’s Alley”, in which all three pivotal characters  dance. Bright lights, lots of fake smoke and the ugliest pseudo S&M costumes worn by all the extras. No complaints about Tony’s outfit though, you really have to appreciate all the training he did with Sly Stallone for that body.

The movie was a commercial success, raking in about 65 million in the box office, and the soundtrack was nominated for one Golden Globe and a whole bunch of Grammys. Critics felt however that Staying Alive lacked the earthiness and organic characters of Saturday Night Fever.

I loved Staying Alive for its terrible clothes, its wooden but strangely  still interesting characters and the lovely New York scenes. And of course, John Travolta’s 1970’s bum in tight jeans strutting all over the place.

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