- GEEK SNOBBERY OR MOVIE BUFF SNOBBERY?
- The big news is that Star Wars is going Blu next year, but as I expected, only the Special Edition versions will be represented in the new format. George Lucas has confirmed this, saying that it would just cost too much money to restore the original versions. That's fine, I can save MY money and stick with my laserdiscs (much easier to do now that I've gotten the early '97 CLV issues thanks to ehowton!); they may not look that great anymore, but the sound mix is much superior to that muddled 2004 mess¹ and they're the versions of the movies I grew up watching, which are the versions I want to watch.
- It was with great relief that I found Inception to be free of most of the problems that I felt marred The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan's new film is decidedly unpretentious, content to deliver thought-provoking entertainment rather than bludgeoning the viewer with its oppressive importance. The movie gets intense but never loses a sense of fun, and if some elements of the plot are a bit predictable, they are executed with such panache that they can be easily forgiven.
The film is complex but not confusing, relatively careful about playing by the rules it lays out at the beginning. Nolan's forté, as demonstrated in Memento and Insomnia, is his ability to put the viewer into an abstract, altered mental state. The dream world he presents here is slightly different from the one that we enter in when we slumber; architects "build" a reality for a dream to occur in, so some of the whims of the subconscious are somewhat muted. Instead, the subconscious manifests through the projections of people within the dream.
The film is, ultimately, a heist picture with an ingenious science-fiction twist, and it delivers the goods both as a caper movie, with intense and often innovative action, and as a nice bit of "what if?" The globe-and-dreamscape-hopping script keeps events moving at a brisk clip; the characterization is in a very convenient shorthand (which is actually quite consistent with the crime genre) and the film stays moderately true to its internal logic, making it very satisfying. It is also wholly original; while there are familiar elements, their integration is completely unique and Nolan needs to be recognized for having created something so very different.
Many people who have seen the film mentioned Hans Zimmer's slightly overbearing score to me, often in connection with my musical accompaniment to Jenga. There certainly are some choice selections for Jenga in Inception, but the score as a whole didn't really impress me terribly much. While I think in most cases, comparisons of this film to The Matrix don't bear up under much scrutiny, I can't help thinking that a more adventurous composer could have come up with something a bit deeper and more interesting, as Don Davis did in his complex, intelligent yet emotionally effective scores for that trilogy that reflect the on-screen action, the inner lives of the characters (such as they are) and the concept of layered realities. Perhaps subsequent viewings of the film will reveal more layers to the music, but all I really got out of it the first time was "faster" and "slower."
EDIT: At the recommendation of glenniebun, I checked out the soundtrack album and found there was a lot more going on with the score than I had initially thought (see the comments below for details). In fact, I'm pretty surprised at how much I like the album.
- La-La Land's release of Batman allowed me to revisit this seminal score for me. This was a tape cassette I would listen to over and over again, later a favored CD. It made most of its impression on me in that form rather than in the film, which I was never floored by. The expanded score is so full of interesting bits and pieces that it adds more of a sense of fun to the proceedings, and several of the film mixes were much more aggressive (most notably the main titles). There are also more quieter, introspective moments that add a gravitas to some of the larger pieces. The trade-off is, of course, that the sound is not consistent.
When ripping the La-La Land discs, I was reticent to jettison one of my all-time favorite albums, so I included the remaster of the album version as well. After listening to the complete score the other day, I put on the original album, which I must admit I haven't listened to in its entirety in some time. I've always said that the original score album of Batman was a very good representation of the score. I still stand by that. I will also say that, having heard the complete score, that original score album of Batman was actually masterfully assembled. Both presentations have their merits; the complete score has more variety but the original score album is more consistent in tone, sequencing and sound quality.
I've picked up Janet K. Halfyard's book Danny Elfman's Batman: A Film Score Guide. It makes a great companion piece to the new set (and deals head-on with the controversies surrounding the authorship of the score, which La-La Land's notes seem to avoid), and gets very in-depth about the score, how it is structured and how it works in the movie. I'm very glad that I only got this after I got La-La Land's discs, otherwise this book might have been somewhat frustrating in its descriptions of previously unreleased cues.
THE BAT IN THE FLAT
- The music suffers in particular, and John Williams' scores are and always have been about 67⅝% of the entertainment value of these movies for me.