Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second was recently invited to partake in the annual Oscars event over at the Large Association of Movie Blogs. This is the piece we produced, looking at Inception being nominated for Best Picture. We used it as an opportunity to discuss the concept of Blockbusters as nominees in general, a regular occurance since the Academy last year deemed ten movies worthy of nomination instead of the traditional five.
Ambition ruled the day when it came to originally registering my interest in the LAMB Devours The Oscars project. Blue Valentine was the film that got my vote, with a view to write on that when the film was nominated for Best Picture. Alas, that wasn’t to be, yet “ambition ruling the day” would perhaps be an apt description of the film that I did end up looking at.
As far as spectacle, ambition and masterful storytelling on a massive scale goes, Inception really is quite something. Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight was originally mooted to be a quieter affair, a punctuation point between bat-flicks, yet with Inception the filmmaker once again surprised audiences by turning out his most ambitious work to date, and one that truly reinvigorated the concept of blockbuster spectacle cinema.
While the exposition may be heavy at times, Nolan never patronises his audience in the manner that one would expect of this type of film, nor did he contradict or hinder his vision in return for the quick sell. Action figures and merchandise didn’t precede the $200 million film, nor did a spoiler laden promotional campaign, instead, Warner left a talented filmmaker to his own devices and he produced an exciting work that was a) original, and b) drew the crowds in.
As a construction Inception is a genuinely impressive piece of cinema. First we have the performances, with not so much as a damp squib from any one of the fairly large ensemble cast. Hans Zimmer’s score is genuinely fascinating, his use of the slowed down Edith Piaf track Non, je ne Regrette Rien to form the films already-iconic refrain truly astonishing. Complimenting Wally Pfister’s sublime cinematography we have the special effects, largely practical or in-camera, and never overly reliant on intrusive technology or gimmicks. Shunning 3D, Nolan chose to utilise older filmic techniques, such as 65mm photography, painstakingly selecting the right format for the right moment in the film (in total using seven different types of film and cameras), all in aid of building spectacle. And yet there is heart. Has Leonardo DiCaprio ever shown as much emotion in a moment of film as he does in the scene in which the “reality” of his wife’s fate is made clear? Has anyone ever wanted a spinning top to stop turning quite as much as the one that dictates DiCaprio’s Cobb’s outcome at the end of the film?
When discussing Inception’s place within the academy awards its difficult not to bring up the places where it wasn’t nominated. Cries of “snub” etcetera filled the digital highways on Tuesday after afternoon in the wake of the announcements, with many a commentator furious at a lack of director and acting nominations for the film. Rabid fanboys have all but ruined the ability to write thoughtfully on Inception, lest thee be declared “one of them”. While I’m not about to get in to the argument about who should have been praised for what, the sheer absurdity of how much one gets caught up in the silliness of awards ceremonies are never made more apparent when it is the big commercial hits of the year at the centre of the discussion. Last year it was James Cameron’s Avatar that rode the storm of fanboy anxiety, it somehow deemed worthy of Best Picture by default because it was the most successful film of the year at the box office. In 2009 it was Nolan’s first “snub”, when The Dark Knight left barely a mark on the Academy, in spite of breaking a billion at the ticket booth. Three years running, and yet people are still outraged at a lack of “respect” for the year’s breakthrough blockbuster. The Academy Awards, rightly or wrongly, do not celebrate this particular kind of cinema. It’s really not worth getting angry about.