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Inception: A random collection of afterthoughts about the movie

Slowpoke accusations be excused, I finally got to watch Inception on the big screen last night.

It was so utterly brilliant and mind-bending. Half of my mind is currently inaccessible, pondering and de-constructing the whole movie in my background of my subconscious; a huge problem at work. But then again, this always happens to me whenever I finish a story so brilliant and cathartic at the same time. It’s exactly the same state-of-mind I was stuck in when I first finished Evangelion*1 (up to EoE).

Inception is one of those rare productions that not only is brilliantly layered and steeped with imagery, it also manages to touch out to something innately in my soul.

An example is the time-dilation effect in the movie is something that I experience daily, as a master of catnapping. I always wake up feeling as if I’ve just experienced a period of time a few times much longer than the real duration of my naps, and I daresay many will find that similar. Inception using that as a central plot device really resonated with me.

The overriding consensus about Inception is that it is a movie about filmmaking, and it’s something I highly agree on. But one of the best views about it that I subscribe to now after watching states the whole movie is basically a dream and there isn’t a ‘solid’ reality grounding it, which is basically as meta as fuck as you can get.

This brings me to a book I believe that really should be read in accompaniment to watching Inception; The Stories of Ibis. The idea of layered “realities”*2 that is shared between both works offers a really interesting complementary view between each other, yet it is amazingly contrasting in origins. More importantly, while “inception” is the device driving the plot in the eponymous movie, Stories of Ibis ends with the inception of an idea; both works masterfully using the concept as a cathartic device.

Ah, but enough of the literary-wannabe comparisons. That is the problem I have with my own string-of-consciousness writing. The really appealing part of Inception is just how it captures my imaginations so easily, leaving me changed yet still feeling essentially same apart from the feeling I’ve had a new dimension opened up to me. A new angle and view that feels it has been a part of myself for a long time, but only just noticed it was there.

Inception is utterly brilliant, smart and left a parasite of an idea and worldview in my mind; staying rooted in my mind and making it’s indelible excellence in it. It is an example of works that transcend boundaries; of media, enviroments and even plot holes. The fact that the ending is kept ambiguous*3 is icing on the cake.

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1One of the interesting similarities I noticed with Inception and Evangelion is the concept of a whitespace – a Limbo – that is the depths of our subconscious and can be molded and shaped by the characters themselves. It’s also interesting to note that whenever characters in Inception dive down to Limbo, they end up on a shoreline, which instantly recalls to me the memories of EoE’s enigmatic ending. Not actually a surprising similarity but Christopher Nolan uses it in a more utilitarian manner than Anno did, although Anno’s creations arguably had a more grounded reality compared to Inception, relatively speaking.

2Forgive the liberal usage of “reality” here, but in a sense, the ideas are relatively similar between both works. The dreams in Inception are the mind’s subconscious constructs, while in Ibis the Layers are also similar excepting that it is created by the AI’s own self-conscious programmings based on their learning experiences. I really should finish that Ibis article languishing in my Drafts folder for a month or two, by now.

3I believe that the top eventually stopped spinning. I must add that the totem idea was severely underutilized in Inception.

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20th Century Boys Live Action I and II

I finally took time to watch the live action 20th Century Boys movies. Man, those movies really are damn long, clocking at 2 hours plus each.

So… well. How were they? Pretty good actually considering the amount of source material they had to work with. I’ve already finished reading the whole manga so I’m aware that a lot of stuff was cut out to fit in to the confines of a movie but the production team kept the intensity and the psychological mindfuck of the story well enough. In fact, I would say they did a great job condensing it, it feels more coherent in the movie than the manga.

Also the climax scenes were very well done, such as the explosion in the end of the first movie to destroy the robot and the funeral ceremony in the second movie. They weren’t kidding when wiki said that this was one of the biggest projects of the Japanese movie industry. Looking at all the extras in the crowd scenes of the second movie as well as the international news reports really makes you go “oh wow”.

On the negative side of things, character development was sacrificed, most notably in the second movie, but the important points were kept well enough for me to like it.

Overall, the first two movies are a pretty good adaptation of the manga, despite some drawbacks such as the sheer length and the missing character development. Too bad movies like this won’t be coming to Malaysia. Can’t wait for the final part of the trilogy to come out too.

P.S. Takako Tokiwa looks too ‘cool’ to be Yukiji :P.

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Up is touchingly good.

Y’know, if Pixar continues with this, I might really need to stop going to the cinemas to watch their movies because crying in public is kinda embarrassing.

But yeah, I just watched Up and this is the second Pixar movie since The Incredibles that I am really liking. Last year’s WALL-E was a tour-de-force in raising awareness of environmental issues and really giving a good addition to the really small sci-fi animation movie genre. Up really continues the Pixar ball rolling and tells of a touching tale without being too sappy yet in a very much escapist fantasy manner. Really, it’s not everyday you see a whole house floating on balloons.

The part I really like about the movie is the first fifteen minutes with the long exposition of Carl’s life from his childhood to marrying his wife, Ellie and their trials and tribulations ending with her untimely death. It expertly grounds the movie in the reality and gives Carl a much more human side to him as we get to know from the start of the movie of why he becomes a ‘grumpy old man’. It also serves to really connect the audience instantly to Carl and makes them more forgiving for the actions he takes later on.

The rest of the movie then goes on to the present ‘grumpy’ Carl and the introduction to Russell, the active, slighly overweight but enthusiastic Wilderness Explorer. Russell’s character provides a very good foil to the wizened and cynical Carl with his energy, which can seem to be annoying in the beginning. But despite that, Russell’s intentions are all well-meant which is a realistic, albeit slightly over-optimistic view of kids nowadays, made even more poignant when framed against the revelation later on that Russell only just wants to see his father, who is divorced already, again.

The main antagonist of the movie is Charles Muntz, Carl’s childhood hero, and it’s where some of the realism of the movie escapes. It’s quite hard to believe that there’s a 92 year old man surviving in the jungles of South America for 70 years, even more so when its shown that he’s managed to train a whole army of dogs that do everything for him, from cooking to piloting fighter planes. Undeniably, it does provide a level of excitement to the movie with the battles between our heroes and his dogs.

I guess I won’t spoil it anymore for readers who haven’t watched it yet, but suffice to say, this a movie well-worth your ticket price. Definite shoo-in for best animated feature of the year.

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