I decided on a new segment for the blog, which basically allows me to wax lyrically about all the people in Hollywood I like. Go with it, OK? First up is Christopher Nolan, and really I should of titled it “Director, Producer and Writer Profile: Christopher Nolan” because this guy is a freaking superstar overachiever. Seriously, can you imagine who was his best friend in film school? It’d be like being Ron Weasley, except he probably didn’t get to end up screwing Emma Watson.
Moving on. Christopher Nolan was born in London on the 30th of July, 1970; where he was raised by his English dad and his American mum. Which meant he got to spend his days between London and Chicago; two awesome yet freaking cold and windy cities. He went to university at University College London (UCL), where he was the president of the film society from 1992-1994, despite the fact that he graduated in 1993. He met his future wife (who he married in 1997), Emma Thomas, there, and since then they’ve had four children together, and started their own producing company, Syncopy Films.
Now, onwards and upwards for the movie section:
Nolan’s first feature film, which I admit I have not seen (bad film-goer *slaps wrist*), was done with a three thousand pound budget. Read: artsy, cheap, yet freaking awesome (I assume, considering it kinda kick-started his career into motion…almost as though it was starting a set in motion…sorry, couldn’t resist). The story follows a young, aspiring writer who takes to following random people on the London streets, as he continually struggles to come up with a story. As in other films to come in his career, Nolan used a non-linear storyline to tell Following, which he filmed on black-and-white 16mm stock. Nolan tried to film the feature with as little money as possible, so scenes were often heavily rehearsed before filming took place. The film stars actors Jeremy Theobald and Lucy Russell.
And so the confusing, twisty film style of Nolan begins to take shape. Momento, starring Australian actor Guy Pearce, follows the story of Leonard Shelby, a man who has anterograde amnesia, so basically he can’t store new memories. The film consists of two sequences; half the scenes are shot in black-and-white and these are shown chronologically, while the other half consists of colour sequences that are shown in reverse order. The two sequences ‘meet’ at the end of the film, producing one common story.
Confused yet? That’s cool, most people still seemed to enjoy it with a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a $40 million box office taking, and an Academy Award nomination for both Best Original Screenplay and Film Editing.
Insomnia, which stars Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank, is one of the few Nolan films that weren’t something brand new (we’ll get to Batman don’t worry), as it’s actually a remake of a Norwegian film. Saying that, trust Nolan to re-do some obscure European film when he decides to re-make something.
Two Los Angeles detectives are sent to an Alaskan town (where the sun conveniently doesn’t set) to investigate the murder of a local teen. Things quickly turn to shit though when one of the detectives ends up shooting the other (whoops) and is then plagued constantly by the guilt of it…and what’s worse, due to the constant daylight, he develops…insomnia. Duh. Duh. Duh.
Haven’t seen this one either (sorry), but apparently a whole bunch of people did, as it managed to take in $114 million at the box office.
Now THIS film I remember watching. I also remember being really ridiculously confused for the majority of the film, but that could of been because I was 17. Also, I was probably checking out Hugh Jackman. The Prestige also stars Christian Bale and Michael Caine, who consequently went on to star in the Batman Trilogy together; with Michael Caine also appearing in one of Nolan’s later films, Inception.
The Prestige follows two competing magicians in the 19th century, as they try to one up each other with different tricks, which ends up spiraling out of control as they try to out-do each other. Throw in Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie playing Nikola Tesla, and a twin brother and a whole bunch of dead clones and you have the plot line.
Sorry if I ruined it for you, but trust me, it’s nice to have a heads-up with this one.
Like in his previous films, the storyline is non-linear, but it also has the extra factor of using meta-fiction. The Prestige was released a year after Batman Begins (which we will get to) and it starts to show how Nolan is developing as both a director, but more importantly, as a screenwriter. Which shows in a later film he wrote, directed and produced.
When Inception came out, I found out it went for about 2 and a half hours. So I didn’t see it. I have a short attention span, and cinema seats can be really uncomfortable, and people don’t like it when you talk…anyway, so I only saw this film recently. I think I had had about half a dozen friends threaten to beat me up so I did it. Watched Inception that is, not get beaten to a pulp.
After watching it, I kinda got the point. Inception, which stars Leonardo Di Caprio and Ellen Page amongst others (killer cast, I must say), follows a group of people who have the ability to incept dreams…where they can either find and steal ideas, or even better…plant ideas into that person’s mind. Basically, a really tricky version of mind-control, that allows Nolan to use a shit load of special effects.
So what was so good about this film? In short, it was something different. In the past 5 or so years we’ve come across some amazing films, yet so many of them have been re-makes, sequels, novel adaptations,or ‘based on a true story’. It’s hard to come across a story that is original but also freaking cool. Can you imagine using people’s dreams for your own gain? Can you imagine a world where you can’t determine what is real and what is dreaming, and more importantly, not caring? Gah.
Plus, since it was directed by Nolan, who by this stage had a fair amount of weight behind his name, Inception had a pretty massive budget of $160…which meant, a helluva lot of special effects. Not to mention the heavy-weight cast, that also includes Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard…all of who went on to act in The Dark Knight Rises.
And it ended up pleasing both critics and film-goers; the film grossed over $800 million, and it went on to win Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Cinematography, as well as nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Art Director.
THE BATMAN TRILOGY:
The first of three films, to set up a legendary, and much anticipated trilogy (let’s be honest, the Batman movies before Nolan put his touch on them were awful), Batman Begins tells the story of how Batman became, well, Batman. We follow Bruce Wayne be trained by the League of Shadows, and return to Gotham city where he has to stop Scarecrow (the previously mentioned Cillian Murphy) from infecting the entire city with fear.
Out of the three film, this is clearly the inferior of them. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it is a set up for things to come. Plus, we get to see Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman act in the same movie together…seriously, does it get much better than that?
The Dark Knight-2009:
The infamous one. The Heath Ledger film. The film that made him go insane, take too many pills, and sadly end his life many, many years too early. Yep, that’s the kinda reputation The Dark Knight had as it was being released. And you know what?
It. Didn’t. Matter. At. All.
This film grossed over a billion dollars, and Ledger’s hands-down phenomenal performance caused movie-goers jaws to drop. Including yours truly. His ability to play a character who is so far over the edge, yet so evil, was dead-on. Also, I would like to thank Ledger’s performance of The Joker, which was so terrifying, that it justified to the general public why I found clowns so terrifying. NOW DO YOU SEE WHY?
The other aspect of this film that’s a stand out was the psychological storyline that The Joker put the residents of Gotham City through. What would you do? Would you kill one innocent (although, annoying) man to save a hospital full of the sick? Would you kill a boat full of people on the chance that they might kill you? These are the questions that are raised in The Dark Knight, which helps the film to stick in your mind long after it finishes.
The Dark Knight Rises-2012:
The finale. The big one. The film that was 7 years in the making. Sorta. And, dare I say it, the best film of the trilogy. Yes. I went there. As I’ve given more detail in a previous post, for me this is the best film because it encapsulates everything that’s good about Nolan as a film maker.
He uses a killer cast, full of actors that he’s used previously. Tom Hardy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Marion Cotillard. Anne Hathaway. And the heavy weights; Michael Caine. Morgan Freeman. Christian Bale.
He has the money to back up his love of special effects: it had a budget of $250 million. So we got to see special effects at its best; a personal favourite was watching the football field collapse in slow motion. Chilling almost, wasn’t it?
The storyline. While it had its moments of sheer ridiculousness (broke my back recently, it’s all good, let’s just make this impossible jump almost no one else can achieve), it was also spot-on from a political and social perspective. Social anarchy to achieve social and welfare equality? It makes you wonder whether or not it’s possible, doesn’t it?
So there you have it. The Best of the Best. Which of Christopher Nolan’s films are you a fan of? Do you think he peaked in his career? Do you like his devotion to his favourite actors? Let me know in the comments!