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Best Picture Buzz: The Academy Goes to Inception, the Summer Blockbuster!

Inception: The Summer Blockbuster

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Other Nominated Categories: Art Direction, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Original Screenplay

*Disclaimer: There are no spoilers. Just a biased account of how awesome Christopher Nolan truly is.

If there’s anything I love about this new 10 nominations rule, it’s the diversity of films represented from various genres. We’ve got indies, true stories, animation, horror (how else could I categorize Black Swan, honestly?), and even a science fiction nom.

And this year’s Avatar goes to Inception. But unlike Avatar, Inception is what I like to call sophisticated sci-fi. It twists a tangled web that truly leaves the audience guessing how the film will end, even after the film has technically, well, ended. In contrast from Winter’s Bone where the vagueness was underappreciated on my part, I have to say that the ending of Inception is nothing less than brilliant. “It would represent a failure of the film to communicate something,” director/writer/producer Christopher Nolan says of the film’s final scene. “But it’s not a mistake. I put that cut there at the end, imposing an ambiguity from outside the film. That always felt [like] the right ending to me.”

But Inception is more than your run-of-the-mill “it was all a dream” movie. The film follows Dominic Cobb (DiCaprio), a thief, spy, father and husband. He and his partner in crime Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) act on behalf of clients to enter a person’s subconscious by architecting dreams in order to extract valuable and damaging information. During the opening mission, Cobb and Arthur are working to withdraw intelligence from Mr. Saito (Watanabe) when Cobb’s dead wife Mal (Cotillard) enters the dream and sabotages the mission. Mr. Saito, realizing he is in a dream state, does not reveal the desired information. Instead, he hires Cobb to perform a different kind of operation: insert an idea into the subconscious mind of Robert Fischer (Murphy) to break up his dying father’s corporate empire once it’s inherited. In return, Mr. Saito promises to use his influence to clear Cobb of the murder charges he faces for his wife’s death and return home to his children.

And that’s only the beginning. I’ll spare you the full synopsis and just tell you to rent (nay, BUY!) the movie instead. Trust me, you’ll want to watch it more than once. But don’t be hesitant, it’s not as confusing as it may seem. You’ll just need to pay attention.

Aside from its highly involved plot, let’s address the rumor that the idea behind Inception was “stolen” from an Uncle Scrooge McDuck comic called The Dream of a Lifetime. Although I’ve read the comic (you can catch it here if you’d like), and it does resemble the plot of Inception in certain aspects, it would be mighty harsh to make Nolan out as a thief. On top of that, the comic was published in 2002. Nolan already had an 80-page draft of his screenplay in 2001 when he began shopping it around to big time distributors such as Warner Bros. Nolan also says he had the idea when he was a mere 16 years old. As I was reading the comic, I kept thinking of the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which also questions the idea of the dreamscape: using a “mind device” to literally remove memories from a person’s mind. The idea of the subconscious mind’s effect on dreaming is not new. Freud comes to mind, but because I’m not a psychology major, I’ll simply have to take my roommate’s word on this one.

However, I do know a thing or two about Christopher Nolan. I know that time and time again, he is praised for his directorial skills but has no nomination in this year’s Best Director category. He wrote, produced and directed one of the highest grossing films of the year only to get snubbed by the Academy. In my opinion, he is much more deserving than some of the others nominated in the category (cough cough Coen brothers, cough cough David Fincher). Unfortunately, the box office loves Nolan, and this might very well be what caused the snub. He isn’t completely lacking in nominations, however, because his name is attached to the Best Picture category as producer and Best Original Screenplay as writer. I don’t think Inception will win Best Picture, but Nolan does stand a chance in Best Original Screenplay. We shall see.

While blockbuster status may hurt its chance at winning the highest award at the Oscars this year, Inception has a foreign value that other films would kill for. In fact, 64.5 percent of its revenue came from the foreign market. This is partially attributed to the culturally diverse casting ensemble. The casting director deserves major kudos for assembling a group of actors that are well liked and famed worldwide. So, here’s to you, John Papsidera!

Bottom Line: Christopher Nolan is incredible, and the plot is not that confusing. But, if you do have trouble understanding, there’s no shame in watching the film more than once. In fact, I encourage it.


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