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August 12, 2010

NYT Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Fuckin' stoked. Movie Review - 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' - Michael Cera in an Adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley Novels - NYTimes.com
... To say that “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is the best video game movie ever may sound like absurdly faint praise, though I have high hopes for “Tron: Legacy.” Most films that try to exploit the popularity of gaming mimic the look and mood of state-of-the-art first-person games, rather than the cruder, more cartoony ones evoked here. But Mr. Wright’s deeper ingenuity (and Mr. O’Malley’s) is to collapse the distance between gamer and avatar not by throwing the player into the world of the game, but rather by bringing it to him. (If you want to reverse this process there is now a Scott Pilgrim video game.) As a result, the line between fantasy and reality is not so much blurred as erased, because the filmmakers create an entirely coherent, perpetually surprising universe that builds on Mr. O’Malley’s bold and unpretentious graphic style without slavishly duplicating it. ... The fights are as much like musical numbers as standard action sequences, and they give Mr. Wright the chance to expand the kinetic visual wit that made his earlier genre spoofs — “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”— such crazy fun. There is plenty of that in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” — fast cuts, off-kilter puns, sight gags and sound effects in such profusion that you may want to see it again as soon as its over. But underneath is a disarming sincerity and a remarkable willingness to acknowledge ambivalence, self-doubt, hurt feelings and all the other complications of youth. At the end, the movie comes home to the well-known territory of the coming-of-age story, with an account of lessons learned and conflicts resolved. But you’ll swear you’ve never seen anything like it before.

July 30, 2010

A more interesting way to read Inception

Mightygodking.com -- My Inception No-Prize
Interestingly, the scenes without him all feature Ellen Page, whose character is oddly underdeveloped and inconsistent considering how prominent she is. She’s set up heavily (Cobb remarks on how she’s a natural at manipulating dreams), has a heavily symbolic name (Ariadne) and gets a number of scenes without payoffs (for example the scene where she makes her totem, the chess piece.) But in the actual action of the movie she’s not very important, being mostly a vehicle for exposition — the “new guy” that other characters can explain things to, as well as the person who ferrets out Cobb’s backstory. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that there’s another character who plays a similar role — Saito, the one played by Ken Watanabe — and at first glance, at least, the movie would be stronger if he had the role to himself: he has an emotional investment in learning the rules of the game and understanding the plan (since he wants it to succeed) and there’s tension added if he learns about Cobb’s issues with his wife (since he has the power to reunite Cobb with his children), while Ariadne is both uninvested and undermotivated. In fact, her motivation changes several times throughout the movie: at first it’s just professional interest, then a desire to protect the other team members, and then finally (for no clear reason) she’s determined to complete the mission even at the risk of her and Cobb’s lives. So here’s my attempt at a No-Prize: none of these things are mistakes. The whole movie that we see is a dream, but Cobb isn’t the only real person in it: Ariadne is there too (and maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt, what the hell.) She has inserted herself into Cobb’s dream because he is still stuck in limbo from his experience with his wife — when he experienced her “dying” that was her waking up, but he’s still asleep. The mission is actually to rescue him; like the fake mission explained to Cillian Murphy in the hotel room, it’s a fiction designed to make him rescue himself. That’s why she plays coy at first — the trick of getting the dreamer to do the work for you — then draws out his emotional issues, and in the end is determined to complete the mission at all cost. It also explains her name: Ariadne, after all, was the one who got Theseus out of the labyrinth. But why was she so determined? Because Cobb has been dreaming longer than he realizes — ten years or more — which explains another motif with no apparent payoff, the hiding of his children’s faces throughout the movie. Ariadne is his daughter.