Road To The Oscars: ‘Inception’

Thursday, January 13 by

Inception was easily one of the most talked about movies of 2010, thanks to its mind-bending visual effects and an ending that left many viewers scratching their heads like a scabies-afflicted hobo with a flea nest in his dreadlocks.  However if Oscar winners were decided by water cooler chatter alone, Two Girls, One Cup would’v taken home Best Picture of 2007 (and frankly it’s a crime that it didn’t).  So this week we’ll be rolling up our sleeves – hoping no one takes notice of our track marks – and sorting out Inception’s Oscar chances using good ol’ fashioned objective analysis (meaning my half-assed, ill-formed opinions).

If Christopher Nolan’s goal was merely to get Oscar nominations, there are certainly worse casting choices than Leonardo DiCaprio.  Ever since the baby-faced actor drove James Cameron’s billion dollar behemoth Titanic into the Oscar iceberg there have been a plethora of noms for nearly every film he’s done, including Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed and Blood Diamond. Personally I don’t get the appeal.  While I enjoyed his performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (a film possessing off-the-charts retard strength) and can admit he was certainly lovely in his younger years, these days Leo’s looking like an alcohol-bloated manfant (half man, half infant) and his performances are stiffer than my bathing suit area when the new issue of Tiger Beat arrives.  Be that as it may, audiences seem to love him and even though his acting in Inception was — as usual — less than riveting, he does lend the film an air of credibility that would’ve been sorely lacking had Nolan cast, say… Shia LaBarf.

However even as a fan of the film, I must admit that time has not been kind to Inception.  A recent Blu-ray viewing was like finding an old videotape of myself having sex: Everything that seemed sexy and innovative at the time now borders on embarrassing (and illegal).  Now that the hype cloud has cleared and the DVD screeners have arrived, I believe Academy voters will likewise see Inception for what it is: A slick, well-directed but ultimately flawed genre film.

Part of the problem is the ambitious nature of Inception. Here Nolan has created his own world, with an encyclopedia’s worth of rules to go along with it. But so much of the film is bogged down by trying to establish these oft confusing and occasionally nonsensical rules that it plays like an overly expositional videogame cut-scene with the audience left to pine in vain for an X button to mash so they can skip ahead to the zero-gravity fight scene. This is especially apparent on repeat viewings. Once you know the rules, a good chunk of the film is pointless.  Further, while the world Nolan created initially seems brilliant, once you start paying attention it unravel faster than a shirt bought from Urban Outfitters. It’s as if Nolan is a power mad Dungeon Master in a game of Advanced Dungeon & Dragons, making up the quest as he goes along regardless of whether or not it makes any sense (and yes, as that Dungeons & Dragons metaphor indicates, I was a virgin until my late twenties). Sure these rules serve the film, but the logic behind them is tenuous at best.

“Five minutes of real time equals an hour of dream time.” Really?  Why? Because that way we can do a bunch of cool over-cranked slo-mo shots, that’s why. “The mind automatically fills a vault with information it wants to protect.” How interesting, Sigmund Freud… why is that? Because that way we can break into a bunch of cool ice fortresses and shit. “True inspiration’s impossible to fake.” It is? How odd… is there some sort of reason for that? Yeah, because otherwise we WOULDN’T HAVE A FUCKIN’ MOVIE, WOULD WE?

Truth be told, Inception is just a metaphysical heist flick, like Ocean’s 11 as written by Carl Jung and directed by The Wachowski brother sister siblings. It’s visually amazing, but doesn’t have much to offer in the way of substance — and Academy voters do love their substance (almost as much as they love their substances). In fact Inception scores so low in our Best Picture tracking categories that it’s pointless to even rank them. It isn’t uplifting or socially relevant and there aren’t any retardeds to be found.  However Inception’s greatest strength lies in an as-of-yet unranked category, namely…

DICAPRIOSITY (5/5): It would behoove us to not consider Inception’s Oscar chances based on the presence of Leo alone.  True, his back catalog includes only two actual Best Picture winners (namely Titanic and The Departed) but the fact that DiCaprio films have scored so many award season nods should not be ignored. There’s a reason Oscar-hungry Martin Scorsese made DiCaprio his latest go-to leading man and it’s not because he’s as good an actor as Robert DeNiro.

EPICOSITY (5/5): Say what you will about the plot, Inception’s sure got a pretty mouth. It makes sweet love to your eyeballs and explodes creamy Technicolor all over your brain.  It’s a visual orgasm of digital effects, vast seaside landscapes, crumbling dream cities and more slow motion than a Rocco Siffredi money shot highlight reel. Even the color correction is brilliant; did you notice all the dream levels had their own color palate? I bet Michael Bay slapped a hooker to death in a jealous rage after watching Inception, then tore off in his Murcielago blasting Use Your Illusion 2 all the way home where he cried into his dream pillow until drifting off to sleep.

TOTAL POWER RANKING (2): With ten slots to fill, it won’t be a surprise if Inception gets a sympathy nomination, but it’s a long shot to take Best Picture. Inception seems more suited to win Best Director.  After Dark Knight’s Oscar snub, I’m sure Christopher Nolan will take what he can get.

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