Archive | May, 2011

Shutter Island vs. Inception

15 May

This entry is only intended to be read by those of you who have seen both Shutter Island (2010) and Inception (2010). I wouldn’t want to spoil one or the other for you, but if you have read this far then I have probably already ruined it for you since I am comparing the two because they are so freaking similar.

DiCaprio as Cobb in Shutter Island

Ok, so maybe I am overreacting a bit. Shutter Island is about Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall investigating the disappearance of

...as "Teddy Daniels" in Shutter Island

a patient from a high security mental hospital for the criminally insane; Inception is about collaborative dreaming within dreams. And while I haven’t yet looked up on the interwebs anyone else’s opinion about the matter, does it not strike anyone else as odd how much Leonardo DiCaprio’s characters in both of these movies resemble one another? And unlike some movies that are similar yet span time and even genre, these two movies have the same main character and came out in the same year.

with Mal

So let’s get down to brass tacks, ladies and gentlemen…DiCaprio’s character in both movies is a mentally and emotionally unstable man. He is intelligent, but troubled because of the loss of the love of his life (Michelle Williams as Dolores [1. meaning pains in Spanish by the way] in Shutter Island and Marion Cotillard as Mal [2. meaning bad in Spanish, evil in French, fyi]  in Inception).  And these aren’t lost loves simply because they left him and broke his heart, but they both died in unconventional and haunting ways, leaving DiCaprio’s character(s) to lament and mourn through unhealthy and other-dimensional ways. Hallucinatory dream-like states reunite DiCaprio with his dead wives, and you feel sad along with him.

with Dolores

In the films you get little hints that he should not be visiting these women in the depths of his mind, but you initially don’t see what the harm is, he is just grieving as would be expected. Towards the end of the films, however, it is revealed that these women were crazy, and in one way or another (whether directly or indirectly) had a hand in their own demise. What is more, DiCaprio’s characters themselves also play a role in the death of these women, thus twisting the knife in the broken-hearted torment of his loss.

I have to say that I prefer Inception to Shutter Island, and despite my annoyance with the similarity of these main characters, I still rather like both movies for what they are. I can’t quite put my finger on what draws me to Inception more other than a.) I saw it first, b.) I love dream-things, c.) I saw it at a time that really gave the movie special meaning to me based on life events and d.) (I know this is a cinephile sin) but I am not exactly in love with Scorcese’s work. I know I shouldn’t generalize what makes a movie “masculine” or “feminine,”- and in general I don’t believe I prefer one “gender-genre” to the other- but I think Scorcese’s is just too masculine, rough and grizzled. Inception seems to me more artistic, delicate and lyrical. It doesn’t set out to scare the viewer as Shutter Island does.

Have you seen both? Let me know what you think.


Battle in Heaven (Batalla en el cielo) (2005)

15 May

Marcos is a quiet, obese and somewhat bumbling chauffeur for a Mexican general and his daughter, Ana. Ana is a rebellious dready rich girl who works as a prostitute just for the fun of it. Marcos has an unhealthy attraction for Ana, and does anything and everything for her. Because of his feelings for Ana, he eventually admits his dark secret to her: not only have he and his wife kidnapped a child, but it has also died in the process. The motives behind the kidnapping and the reason of death is not clear. But what becomes increasingly clear throughout the movie is that Marcos is losing his mind.

At 98 minutes, I thought the movie flew by a little too quickly. Although because the dialogue was relatively sparse, if it was made longer, perhaps not a lot of new information would have been presented. There is a lot of nudity, so if that’s a problem for you you best steer clear. Most of it is full-frontal Marcos standing awkwardly and naked. A lot of it felt gratuitous, but maybe there was a deeper meaning behind all of it that was lost on me.

Being as short as the movie was, I didn’t feel a connection with the characters, and didn’t care too much what became of them. Although the dramatic occurrences and weird sex things caught my attention and kept my interest, everything felt forced to me. I often lose myself in films. I cry easily at the misfortunes that befall characters, I sympathize with them when under normal real-life circumstances I would not, and I try to immerse myself in the film. With Batalla en el cielo, however, I was perpetually aware of the fact that I was watching a movie, that I was watching actors act in a deadpan manner. I hate to grade this movie because I think that maybe I missed something, yet I don’t really wish to watch it again. Not yet at least.

Take it or leave it, folks. If you have seen it, I would love to hear your opinion about it.

The Elephant Man

3 May

A recent trip allowed me to spend some quality time with a caring community that restored my faith in humanity. I had just experienced a week full of love, sharing and kindness that left me with the feeling that people aren’t just not-all-that-bad, but that we are all connected through love and all of our actions affect one another and we are capable of making great things happen, of changing the world, through this love. Why am I sharing this with you? Because then I saw David Lynch’s The Elephant Man for the first time, and it led me to think, “man…people are shit.”

Luckily, I have since shaken off the feeling of disappointment in humanity. However, the feelings of sadness associated with this movie will be with me for a while. This film is based upon the story of Joseph Merrick (John in the film), known as the Elephant Man, whose deformed appearance led him to be a freakshow attraction in England in the mid- to late-1800’s.

In the film, Merrick begins as the main attraction in a little sideshow with an abusive alcoholic “owner.” Due to repeated abuse, he is hospitalized, and Dr. Frederick Treves takes a particular interest not only in Merrick’s physical deformities, but his mental capabilities as well. While at first Merrick appears to be mute, it turns out that he is actually eloquent and intelligent. He becomes more of a revered celebrity than a sideshow attraction as high society takes an interest in this brilliant man who is at the same time so physically abnormal.

The true sadness in this film lies in the fact that Merrick comes to feel truly accepted and loved, only to be cast back down again into a pit of misery. Although a sad film, it is beautiful in a way that only David Lynch could have been responsible for. The themes are both timeless, yet modern, and the fact that it takes place in the 1800s and is shot in a way to make it look older really adds to the bizarre feeling that the movie gives you.

I believe that I am behind the times in getting to this movie, but better late than never. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s your turn now.