Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Inception (spoiler)

Is it all a dream? Is most of it a dream but bits are real. Which level is Mal on and which is Cobb?

The truth is absolutely any variation is possible for any viewer. The entire system of gaging whether you are within a dream or within reality is based on using the totems and there is no support to the belief of what the totems prove. Mal was the intuitor that decided the totem does one thing for the owner in a dream and another in reality, but if Mal was wrong, then there is no knowing which time you are in a dream and in which you are not. Like when people believed that the Sun went around the Earth because of some basic intuitions on information presented a certain way, Mal may have been lacking some extra information about the totem. The totem and its unique nature may been something in reality but in a dream is has no physicality, the laws of physics do not necessarily work in the dream just because the dreamer knows what his totem should do or not do. What if the deciding factor is what happens to the totem in a dream is not the totem but the dreamer needing the totem to reflect one desperate belief or another? Not necessarily what is best for your mind, what on the surface what might be the thing that would make you happy. Like Vanilla Sky and it's original source, it may be that any number of psychological imperatives could into play, including a need to punish yourself, or some horrible deepseated urge that the individual cannot face. Hypothetically, Cobb may feel what he did to his wife is so terrible he never ever wants to get back to a happy life, get back to his family. Even more tenuously hypothetical, Cobb may be a man who hated being a father, was unsatisfied with being tied to a family, to stability and security, he may need to pretend he desperately wants to get back since it would allow his conscious mind to believe he is a good man, good father, but in reality his subconscious is happy to keep believing he is in reality and trying to get back to his family, as opposed to in a dream, in some level of limbo and his family seperation is entirely constructed in a very complicated way. If such a hidden complexity existed, then it would be perfectly possible that after the ending (specifically Cobb being reunited with his children) Cobb's unseen future would be filled with a stream of intricately engineered obstacles to family togetherness, his subconscious constantly creating new ways he could be seperated from them in his dream world, perceiving himself consciously as feeling anguish at the seperation but deeper, feeling relief and comfort. And any number of variables of motivation therein. Hypothetically.

Catfish or Talhotblond (here be a few spoilers)

Since this is my first review and its way longer than I meant it to be I thought I'd add a summary for those put off by woffle - I thought Catfish was shit in one way and Talhotblond in another way. If the films are both documentaries then Talhotblond is a much better documentary. Also, the following is about ethics. If you don't care about ethics don't read.

Right, to the blah.

About a week ago I watched Catfish, one of the many fascinated by the trailer and intrigued regarding precisely what happened when the filmmakers' reached Megan's house. When the movie finished I was fascinated, brain boggled, mesmerised enough to want to get straight on the net and research some of the things I found crazy odd, crazy interesting, mind warped. I was awestruck by the revelation about the family and the performance of the woman. What a brave, shockingly self aware delusionist she was. So insightful, so strong to accept what she had been doing and admit it, eloquently, perceptively, pushing aside the fact that a mind capable of doing what she had done is not typically a mind that resigns itself to capitulation, to erasing the fantasy and returning to reality, moving from one extreme perception to another just because some boys had arrived on her doorstop and asked her to let them document her fantasy being suddenly and jarringly punctured.  

Knowing that I was watching the film after it had been out a while, I assumed there would be an abundance of post film release information now available about the main players, such as how Angela's  art website was doing, and what the fallout of the media spotlight was. Other than my thoughts on Angela I was fascinated with the way the production of this documentary was presented, and many of the ethical issues therein. When I started the googling I was hoping to find that Angela was doing well, perhaps getting enough professional help that she hadn't received an unreasonable level of negative feedback, or had been protected from it enough to focus on returning to a healthy mind, and I was hoping to find out lots of qualitative details about the production to show that nothing unethical happened.

Why I hoped it was true, a proper documentary: Angela was fascinating and made me think and feel very profound things, turning a banal film relying on intrigue and superficiality into a tender study of psychological issues beyond someone's control, but owned by someone trying to be strong even in the face of that. Most of us find it hard to own up to how we are messed up with even the most innocuous things, but to do it when you are clearly facing up to being mentally unhealthy without prior agreement to step up and do this, and in an arena that may incur the judgement of millions of faceless haters is entering a new definition of confession. I found her fascinating, I invested a lot of energy into empathising and admiring her, and I had done so believing that this was all real, I didn't want that type of energy to be wasted on a fiction.

On the other hand, why I hope it was all bollocks: The academically inclined critic within kept thinking several things were not consistent with how typically they would play out in reality, if all relevent groups and bodies were taken into account. Firstly, it felt serendipitous that an innocent bit of documenting of something as currently commonplace as a relationship started on facebook could turn into such an unusual gem. It also seemed oddly convenient that the sort of personalities who would think that documenting a relationship started on facebook (to me not thinking that such a thing is not unique enough to stand out says unimaginative, short sighted, superficially minded people) would then suddenly show themselves at the end to actually be the sort of people who could handle the events of the end with insight, dignity, non judgemental tenderness and emotionally intelligent empathy. Next you have the presentation that all of the filming was not preplanned, that they really discovered the story as and when they were faced with it. If that was the case then everyone processed the revelations and adjusted super quick to facing the truth super fast. The filmmakers' processed what they learned and adapted to treating the family delicately pretty sharpish, Angela adapted to having to dump any hope of continuing her fantasy fast, and then to letting these people into her home and explaining her motivations, her flaws, her needs, as well as agreeing to have the filmmaker' reveal the privacy of her home, her family. According to the narrative there was no stages of denial or attempts at psychological self protection or preservation, she just adapted within days to exposing herself to having a spotlight placed on her, revealing her private life to not her close friends, not her neighbours or local health professionals but to anyone anywhere who was to watch the film in the future. Then you have the twins. As presented in the film, they were not mentally capable of agreeing personally to having their privacy invaded, but they have guardians in their father and step mother, so they would decide right? I'm personally against filming anyone who cannot for themselves sanction how they are presented; it can be murky in many scenarios, so in many cases I might think it's fine. Such as when parents agree on behalf of their children with full disclosure of what their children will be involved. Here however, it isn't made clear whether the father knew how they would ultimately be depicted, and the extent to which Angela could be said to have the right perception to make the best decision about showing the real twins is undefined. Given that showing the twins isn't even necessary, you could just talk about them and relate it to how it affects Angela and her daily life. These were the main things making me hope this was a very well designed fiction to capture peoples' attention but leave them pondering the socially and psychologically vulnerable, those with hardship in their lives that may need social support, but instead only get attention when they do something nutty. If it was real I had to wonder why the legal departments of the distributing companies had not highlighted that if any of the family suffered any genuine harm, by other people or by themselves given the liklihood that Angela's fragile mind might become more fragile under negative scrutiny, then the shit might hit the fan for the companies for instigating the media attention by being responsible for it's distribution. If in actuality it was fake I could believe that the reason that no-one worried about legal brown fans was because everyone in it is an actor, mentally stable and prepared for negative views but being secure, ready to take on the implications of performing this act. This applies also to the twins, who I could believe were not mentally incapable of making decisions for themselves at all but simply very capable of performing their parts exceedingly well. There were many other inconsistency details I wanted to find out but those were the main ones.

Find these details I did not. Inconsistancy continued on ta net. Some of these new inconsistancies led to the following:

I are not believe this ere film is real. The marketing campaign, and the campaign alone, was brilliant. Angela was amazing, in either scenario; if she is an actress I hope they don't hide her behind the guise of the character for long, she deserves to get a lot of work. The film though, is shit. 

At one point in my web trawl I saw some references to the filmmakers saying that they were not responsible for the marketing campaign and would not have inferred that the film was some sort of thriller or horror if they had been able to control it. Apparently they added as a reasoning that the reality was they are lowly filmmakers and cannot control what the behemoth hollywood companies decide to do (not verbatim). This part just made me think they had revealed too much of their hidden motivations with that comment, since it was said with no hint that exploring a smaller company in order to keep control over all aspects of the film was considered, sacrificing a big awareness of the film but a huge broad audience.  As if getting a big company to ensure a lot of attention was more important that maintaining integrity at any cost. But that is by the by right now, what I was actually leading into is that, if they had no control over the fantastic marketing, and they had initially intended to market the film actually presenting what kind of film it was to the public, and if they played no part in Angela's screentime, then they are poor filmmakers with no defining engenity of their own. 

If the film content is real then that would make these guys the luckiest bastards ever to be filmmakers. They document all sorts of boring shit, stuff so unexceptional as to highlight if anything their lack of imagination, they start stalking some girl with barely logical reasoning behind it, and then they find enough of a crazy reality behind the relationship to make the previous scene of trespassing on someone's land (someone who had every right to not want to physically see the person on her land that she flirts with online, that is, if Megan had been real) seem validated given that they were discovering what most people would label a nutter. If you sat through the movie knowing that the ending is not going to fill some sensationalist of adrenaline hole, if the viewer was not constantly enthralled by the web of intrigue playing within their own mind, exploring every possibility available to them, then the relationship scenes would be one thing. Boring. And worse, if this were real it would make the filmmakers the sort of small minded insensitive people who have no perspective that they are not the right people to assess whether they know enough about mental health to know if what they are filming could damage someone. Equally their decision to pad out the movie with so much focus on how Nev perceived the relationship and the arc of that perception shows ineptitude. The interesting part is Angela, and this new world that the filmmakers enter by entering her world. If they wanted to make a quality documentary then do just that, research everything you've discovered, shoot more of the end, what happened afterwards, the impact on the family, and the neighbourhood, the implications of this deceptions for everyone and summarise the supposedly innocent, casual way this relationship was started. A Capturing the Friedmans this is not.

If this film is half real and half fake, then the extent to which the filmmakers were clever and savvy in creating audience involvement through a sense of immediacy will depend upon which bits were fake and which were real.

If this is fake, then the filmmakers were pretty clever in knowing that making the audience think they were following a story of casual documentation that turned into web of reevaluated causality keeps them on tenterhooks. Allowing the viewer to see that they are very much like Nev. He didn't predict what would be the reality, and most viewers wouldn't either. We are involved with identifying with him and mirror his intrigue and engaged like him in trying to figure out how accurate his guess will be. By the time we reach the end we are attentive and extremely involved in what Angela is going to explain about herself.

Here is the main way the truthfulness of Talhotblond lets itself down. That and the fact that the production values are weak and the filmmakers have not been very imaginative in varying the visuals to keep the viewer interested. Unfortunate the disclosure straight away that this tragic story is about a death due to people misleading other people on the internet, specifying which character dies has the unfortunate effect of keeping the audience passive and disengaged for a large portion of the film. You become reengaged towards the end when a final reveal is made about Jessica. Like Catfish, the reveal reminds the viewer that many times you will discover that the truth can be miles away from how you interpret them if many of our traditional ways to proof that what we believe is correct are not in place.

Because intrigue plays such a big part in viewer involvement, and intrigue plays a larger role in Catfish, Catfish will receive more interest than Talhotblond. If the makers of Talhotblond had decided to design the narrative not as a fairly disclosed documentary but as a reconstruction, with immediacy from the perspective of Brian and his perspectives of both Tom and Jessi then Talhotblond would have the same attention as Catfish, giving that the powerfully involving narrative would draw the intrigued masses to it. However they chose to make a credible documentary with care and faithfullness and it is unfortunately too faithfully past tense to attract the broad audience Catfish does.

Returning to Catfish, and the idea that is is an elaborate fiction, if the filmmakers did this just in order to get the best release, the most public interest, just to get the most profit, then I'm disappointed. It shows a lack of insight into all the possibilities. I infer here to the possibility of doing a Snuff and claiming this whole thing was meant to hold a mirror up to society. One thing the Catfish release has highlighted is not about the film at all, but about the fans and haters online (you may include myself if you wish). Most people have argued about why it is real or why it is fake, to such an extent many seem to only care about whether they can proof that their perception and ability to interpret interpersonal relationships in many forms is so much better than most other peoples. The point should really be accepting that there are so many variables affecting peoples behaviour, so many motivations and circumstances that can change the meaning of a situation that each person should take as much care as possible to protect themselves reasonably, that if this happened to them if wasn't for lack of personal caution. Or, the point should be that fascination with exposing people to public ridicule and scrutiny has gone to far. When Snuff came out there was infamously months of people going to see the film just to be able to argue firsthand as to whether the film is real or fake, horribly amoral, illegal, horrifying and dangerous, or stupid, badly made and an insult intelligence. Months after this the filmmakers apparently came out and admitted it was fake, admitted no one died, the actress was hidden from the public to make it seem real. And then they added sanctimoniously that the behaviour of viewers highlighted their hypocricy, that if people were really horrified a snuff industry could exist they should not watch it because watching is funding, watching is fueling the belief by the 'snuff industry' that a paying audience exists is true, and being a horrified, offended audience doesn't change that fact.

The same can be said for Catfish. If the makers came out at some point and claimed that they were just trying to highlight the treatment of vulnerable people, the acceptance among viewership that judging others with professional assessment is always fine, of the validity that each person should be cautious regardless of how solid perception seems to be, and being careless with our individual safety is becoming epidemic for very irrational reasons born of out of its commonplace acceptability of the web, then that would be clever. But at the moment it looks like, if Catfish is fake it only designed as it is because the makers did not have enough confidence in it to believe it would engage the many even knowing it is fake; they obviously didn't think they had a Paranormal Activity on their hands.

Or it's real, and truth really is stranger than fiction.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The beginning of the end of the beginning of the end of the beginning of the end of the beginning?

So, here's me starting a blog. yippee. This blog is mostly about movies, thoughts and musings about other people's, maybe goals and progress of our own, the occasional list and any interesting news we like, if we hear any news, we're not very hip n cool, finger on the pulsesque. Anyways, thats this blog - it was going to be a diary of progress of film projects as well, but hey, I'm not tech savvy, in fact Im tech lazy; I like how this one looks, then I find out making several pages into blogs requires reading and fiddling I lost interest, and I've no interest in building a nicer looking one in Wordpress or something. We might build something for the trials and tribulations of life and art blah blah in Moonfruit.

A blog by a movie fan about whatever movie stuff I can be bothered with? I know, I'm so late to the boat the boat is on another continent, but this would be me trying to stop just yelling at the boy at home after watching some film, and instead saving him the grief of pretending to listen and instead say it on that fabulously forgiving universe that is the internet.

So this is me, Hels, haranging the world of the web to care what I think. Sometimes Ant might come on and say what he thinks about films but most likely he's going to be too busy making them to care.

These won't be reviews as reviews should be. If I did that I would just feel like I'm trying to compete with Ebert, and really, who is going to win with that. This is going to be a place for my random thoughts, feelings and rotating obsessions about other peoples' filums, sometimes the new ones but mostly anything currently peeking my interest or old favourites I feel like yacking about. I wanted to do something different from a lot of what's out there, and one thing that seemed different was to not even pretend my 'reviews' are fair, balanced, well considered with a mind towards the needs of a broad sectrum of viewers, and comprehensively reflective every aspect of the filmmaking that led to the final product. Plenty of people seem to believe their reviews reference what made the film good or bad, and that they are comprehensively covering all aspects of the film in question, when in reality they seem to just say that they liked or didn't and often focus on one specific bit of the film they thought made the film or broke it. So I can't do much worse by honestly saying just what I thought, how I felt and why I thought and felt that way. Secondly, in my opinion it seems to be quite popular to write longish reviews for each and every film, covering at least three paragraphs, precisely in order to be (or attempt to be) balanced and comprehensive. I thought it might be different to spend a lot of time not doing this; when I google a film for 'reviews' often what's going on in my head is I'm thinking of seeing a film but there is mixed reviews from paid reviewers, and I can't get a clear idea why there are mixed reviews or who is right because a lot of the reviewers in question will be people who I think are always wrong, yet they might be agreeing with a reviewer I usually agree with. Like the Guardian's Bradshaw will express the same sentiments as Roger Ebert, then I'm stuck. I might in this case go looking for other views and everyone homogenously saying the same thing, in the same three to four paragraphs, and really who wants to read ten or twenty sets of three to four paragraphs when you just want an idea whether its up your street or not. Same goes all the more for when you're googling a film to see if your opinion of the film as a whole is right or if you've gone batshit bananas. And thirdly, a lot of people might say something interesting, but only about one aspect of the film, yet often they will only get to this after doing the usual, the de rigueur - summarising the story and the major plot points or motivation and development. This is great for a film that isn't popular, or so indie many people reading it on your blog may indeed be hearing about the film for the first time, or a film of some yesteryear that no one seems to talk about anymore. But inception? X-men 2? Titanic???  If a film is new or so goddamn wellknown you would have to (HAVE TO!) be an alien come down yesterday to, you know, do a Third Rock from Sun in order to not know the premise, I will not write one, I might just blah about one thing I thought was really eyecatching.

So, there's me explaining. Wasn't that fun?
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