Saturday, July 24, 2010

Life Imitates Art Questioning Life


I caught Inception this week. I'm a big fan of Chris Nolan, as well as movies that attempt to question the nature of reality, so I had high hopes. I'm pleased to say that it was all I hoped for, and more. Quite possibly, one of the best movies of the genre made. And, because of events that have transpired in my professional and personal life recently, all the more resonant.

Don't worry, no reviews or spoilers here, but at its essence, the movie asks the question: what if life as we experience it, was no more real than a dream? This is rich territory, and usually is explored in sci-fi as "alternate realities" and the like, and it's my favorite genre. In movies, there are some great examples:
  • The Matrix, which, until Inception, was the reigning champ. Disguised by black leather outfits, incredible slo-mo gunplay, and kung-fu, this movie was a thinly veiled retelling of Buddhist philosophy, in the form of a sci-fi action adventure. And it still kicks ass.
  • The Thirteenth Floor, a more ham-handed version of The Matrix, but forgiven for it's 1930's Los Angeles scenes and film noir quality.
There are others that have taken a lighter look, such as Time Bandits and Groundhog Day, but all successfully explore the question of what is the nature of reality vs. simulated reality, and Inception does it better than any I've seen. What makes it truly amazing is that only a director like Christopher Nolan could have made it. Imagine the pitch: "It's a heist movie, but it takes place in dreams....wait, it's a thriller told in non-continuous storyline...no, wait, it's an intellectual exploration of consciousness, played out in cities across the globe, filmed in IMAX...no..." In essence, Inception, like Nolan's previous masterpiece, Memento (which he also wrote and directed, like Inception), defies summarization, and is truly an exploration of the fact that we define reality by perception; what if that perception was altered?

I saw some of the frustration of this in the marketing of this film. The trailers emphasized three things: Christopher Nolan ("the man who brought you The Dark Knight"), Leonardo DiCaprio, and some stunning absurdist visuals. No story (at least not the one in the film), no emphasis on the vast cast (Ken Watanabe! Cillian Murphy! Tom Berenger!). In fact, the ads were so vague, I was going to pass on it until the blogger word of mouth started to utter the magic words:"I haven't felt like this after a movie since I saw The Matrix."

Many of you know I'm a big comic book fan, as well as a Chris Nolan fan. Batman Begins is one of the truly perfect movies, in my opinion, for the comic book genre. So when The Dark Knight, it's sequel (and many say successor), came out, I took it in, in full IMAX beauty. And I was left...somewhat empty. It wasn't that The Dark Knight wasn't a good movie; it was. It just wasn't any where near as defining and original as Batman Begins. And I did not blame Chris Nolan; I felt he assembled an amazingly talented cast and crew, but the subject matter was holding him back. Feeling the procedural elements of the script, watching Wally Pfister's stunning photography against Chicago's and Hong Kong's skylines, and feeling the weight of good actors, all being held back by the subject. I found myself wishing the same team could be re-assembled and deployed on a truly original piece, to see each of them put their own talents to full use. And that's what happened with Inception: the same team came together, with many of the same cast, and truly captured lightning in a bottle again.

So, now we come to the personal relevance. This week, I will be attempting to follow Mr. Nolan's example, and will be joining a team of talented pros, many of whom I have worked with together before, to attempt to capture lightning in a bottle again. I have poured my heart, soul, emotion, money, sweat and tears into the company I helped found for the last 6 years, and I'm delighted that it's become so successful. I am looking forward to doing it all again, with a group of folks I have great respect for, in a market that is seemingly crowded and hot, but we have a chance to make a unique mark upon. 

6 years ago, two people whom I had worked with before sat down with me and asked if I would saddle up again, and I did, and have not regretted a moment of it. Thanks to the hard work and ideas we brought, almost 50 people make their livings, dozens of companies bring a unique benefit to their customers, and literally millions of consumers are touched by what we do. 6 years later, two people who I worked with before sat down with me and asked if I would saddle up again, and I have just said yes. I can't tell you how excited I am for the ride, and, thanks to my experience and the trust in the team, I'll make that my new reality. 

3 comments:

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ocean said...

You better have watched 'Equilibrium' or we can't be friends any more.