17
May
08

A Memento for your thoughts

Memento. Mindfuck of a plot twist front to back, headache, black and white, not-quite-noir but sort of, celebration of the tattoo industry, film. Or so it would paint itself. And according to The Internet Movie Databaseit’s also the 27th best movie of all time (currently) – a pretty lofty pedestal. It sits nestled between North By Northwest and Sunset Blvd, two films that have been universally lauded for decades. I know I’ve seen both of these, films but I can’t recall either. For the sake of blogeristic integrity, maybe I should re watchthem, take notes, and get the key ideas tattooed on my pectorals. Theoretically, one is supposed to do their homework. But I’m comfortable withcribbing this. For better or for worse, I nearly always am. Still, I’m, at the very least, 99% confident that my following assessment of Memento’s place amongst the legends, nay, the TITANS OF CINEMA is accurate. Statements that follow should henceforth be considered canonical.

Before that though, a little something about numbers, and charts and all those great things we nerds obsess over like Britney Spear’s lyric sheets.

Obviously, something’s very out of wack about rating systems these days. While I realize everything is ultimately partially subjective, we’re veering towards lawless averages here. “The Average” has been completely devalued is no longer a function in relation to mean. We, as a culture, have apparently evolved to  a popular mode where the following occurs. Nine stoned teenagers give “The Crow” a perfect 10 out of 10 score. One curmudgeon like me scores it a 5 (or perhaps a 6 if we *really* analyze the cinematography or set design). And somewhere in Oklahoma a retarded midget uses pig shit to scrawl a big, backwards 1 on a Wal-Mart circular, drops it in the mailbox addressed to “Santa C/O The North Pole”. He then locks in his vote by posting a series of spam comments in some online message forums declaring the return of Adolf Hitler. Somehow the midget and I cancel each other out (if I had a nickel…) and dreams of nine kids in G-Unit jerseys are fulfilled.

Weirdly, I was just reading a new-to-the-market computer game review magazine my father had given me, and they went into a similiarspiel as way of editorial introduction. The premise: “Everything else you’ve read about Halo 2 is wrong! Get ready for hard hitting PC gaming journalism. All of you with something to hide beware – This is will be our Watergate!” Also, they want to publish semi-scholarly articles on the gaming industry in their pages. Using this approach, they hope to return legitimacy to their beloved art form: the computer game review periodical. Ultimately this magazine will fail. The editor and staff will end up pulling out their hair, burning down their houses and slitting their wrists in their bathtubs before knocking their purposely plugged-in laptops into the water. Somewhere a toaster oven and hair dryer will unite, mourn their obselecence, have a brief fling in Paris, sire an illigitimate electric nose trimmer, name him Luc. They will then enter into a suicide pact, down a mixture of overproofed ryed and sleeping pills, and watch the ships on the Seine one last time.

I blame all of this on a major shift to non-competitive rule making in Little League, the spread of The Internet, and Womens’ right to vote. Only the last of these was a partial joke. The rest have magnified the ugliest facets of Democracy and shoved them down my throat. By “my” I mean “We, the intellectual elite”.

Honestly, this is just all piss and vinegar. Sure, Memento was ok but it was not, by any stretch of the IQ=90 imagination an 8.6 out of 10. There is no way it is legitimately in any half-serious film aficionado’s top 100 list.  Let alone #27. Odds are, I could personally find 27 Santo movies that are more awesome. Honestly, would you want to be stranded on a desert island with only Memento, a portable generator, a plasma screen, a region free DVD player with XviD support, some Bose speakers, and a Harmony universal remote to control it all? I might.

I’m sure the less discerning viewer mostly salivates over the “unique” plot structure. You know, the reversal of steps that forces the chiseled protagonist to strip to the waist, bronze up, and ink a series of instructions to himself lest he forget he needs to avenge his wife’s murder. (I will gloss over the impossibility of a man handsome enough to be a leading man settling for a diabetic wife. You have to suspend disbelief somewhere. It is essential when watching film).

OK, that’s fair enough. It was clever, but under scrutiny not *that* clever. Going backwards in time, step by step, is fine and all, but the linearity of the reverse plotting is opaquely traditional when you look at it. The plot itself progresses from point A to B like that thing we all love, “reality”, does. It just does so in little chunks that are put out of place. Not even out of place in a honestly baffling way, like trying to remember your childhood when drunk at Christmas. Just out of place in a novelty way, like “grr, where are my car keys!?”. Ultimately, this premise, the modernistic creation of ones own reality through rearranging ones memory, doesn’ t hold up. In the end, it is revealed as nothing more then superficial plot device. The wife’s dead, drug dealers are dicks, and in Hollywood anti-heros are always grim, badasses with scars, stubble and chips on their shoulders. Everything and everybody gets “solved” with guns. A man has a hard enough time trying to figure out “reality” alone in the car of a drug dealer he just killed, without having to recite cliched lines of dialogue someone wrote for him. Through all of this, the protagonist is a tattooed bouncing ball we follow, reciting the words: “Why is this rated so high? Why is this rated so high?”

Still, I don’t think it’s on the contrary I gave the film a 7/10 score. To me that’s a bit above average, like the OK looking girl surrounded by fat friends at an Irish wake. The acting was serviceable. Again, like the OK looking girl….

Guy Pearce is the lean, pointy haired good guy gone bad boy killer, Joe Pantoliano the goofy, amiable but nefarious glimmer of possible hope who never pans out, and Carrie-Anne Moss the one-sided, snake venomed, transparent diner-trash set piece. And they all played their rolls as the director undoubtedly asked of them. Problem is, characters in Tide commercials have established more pathos with me.

So yeah, long rant. I can’t say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this taut little mystery. But as mysteries go, I’ve seen better. It’s a good film, and obviously well worth a watch. It was midnight. I had a comfortable beach chair to sit in, a bag of chips, and a tall glass of water. There wasn’t much else going on at the time… Like that OK looking girl I was talking about earlier.

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1 Response to “A Memento for your thoughts”


  1. May 17, 2008 at 7:11 am

    I liked Memento too! LOL!!!!1

    Maybe this is more your style, though:


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