As I post here occasionally, I write screenplays in my spare time.
To date, there have been two original screenplays I wish I could have conceived of and written. The first is Charlie Kaufman's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." The second is "Inception," currently out in theaters.
I stress the word "original" because there are obviously a lot of great movies out there, but these days most of them are based on other source material -- comic books, novels, TV shows and remakes or sequels of other movies.
On the drama side, there's very little that's truly original (unlike comedies).
Even more rare are movies that are so intelligent as to challenge the viewer. These days, Hollywood tends to dumb things down on TV or in the theaters. That's why it's so refreshing when a movie like "Inception" comes out.
I'll keep the review spoiler-free, limiting myself to things that came out in the movie's publicity. It centers around a thief, Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) who can enter someone's dreams and steal their ideas and plans. Cobb is offered a job that, if successful, will allow him to return to his family. Only, he and his team aren't stealing information -- they're planting it.
What follows is a brilliant trip into the human psyche. It's part heist movie, part thriller, part film noir and part psychological journey, perfectly conceived and executed by writer-director Christopher Nolan.
Not giving anything away, but the film's ambiguous finale raises the right sort of questions in the viewer's mind.
It's really a movie that needs to be viewed twice. The first time, most viewers are struggling just to keep up with the dizzying notions Nolan lays out. Watching it a second time, you understand those notions and can look for subtle clues in words and actions that flew under the radar the first time.
I saw "Inception" for the second time yesterday, and I viewed it from a completely different perspective. The film offers challenging concepts of what is real and what isn't, and the second time around, I looked at it with the opposite perspective that I had the first time. The result? Two completely different films, with equal amounts of enjoyment.
That "Inception" came from Nolan's mind is no surprise, given that he's delivered movies such as "Memento," "The Prestige" and "Batman Begins/The Dark Knight," establishing himself as arguably the most interesting filmmaker currently working.
"Inception" is also the perfect example of using dazzling visuals (even evoking the artwork of M.C. Escher) to further the story along, rather than the current zeitgeist of filmmakers such as James Cameron and George Lucas, who seem to come up with stories only to see what shots they can come up with through ever-expanding technology.
While most of the critical and public reviews have been overwhelmingly positive to "Inception," there has been some critical backlash as well as a segment that simply doesn't get it. Fair enough, I say. All art is subjective.
Unfortunately, "Inception" is an exception when it comes to Hollywood these days -- it's hard to make a movie so complex when the studios often appeal to the lowest common denominator. And it's not the sort of movie that just anyone could have sold or gotten made. It took Nolan himself making (at the time) the No. 2 highest grossing movie in "The Dark Knight" that gave him the cache to get "Inception" made.
That's great for Nolan, but it doesn't offer much hope to the rest of us would-be scribes.
If you want to post your thoughts about "Inception," please keep them spoiler free.
MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Here are wax on about movies, but there is some new TV on as well.
"The Bachelorette" (ABC, 8 p.m.) wraps up its season as they do a wrap-up featuring all the dumped guys. Fox has new episodes of "Lie To Me" and "The Good Guys."
On cable, ABC Family has new episodes of "Secret Life of an American Teenager" and "Huge" from 8-10 p.m., while TNT shows "The Closer" and "Rizzoli & Isles" from 9-11 p.m.
Finally, BBC America airs the "lost" episodes of "Top Gear" at 9 p.m., followed by a new "James May's Toy Stories" at 10 p.m., featuring a 10-mile model railroad. I think this show has been one of the most enjoyable of the summer.