It Must be Great to be Christopher Nolan…
It must be great to be Christopher Nolan. Besides the obvious, money and success, it has become incredibly apparent that he is able to love, sympathize and identify equally with all of his fellow man, regardless of having a close personal relationship with them or not knowing them from a hole in the wall.
“Spiritual enlightenment,” as the kids call it, and Nolan must be one of the few filmmakers in possession of such Zen, as it has evidently absolved him of the very first prerequisites of basic storytelling: Define your protagonist, and by “define,” we understand this to mean: Develop. Engage. Make me give a shit about this person for some reason beyond just our co-membership in the same species on Earth.
Instead, Nolan bravely spits in the face of conventional artistic parameters, as well as his moviegoers, by presuming we all share with him this same internal experience of existential oneness and love for all, thereby depriving us ego-ridden mortals of even the smallest sliver of window into what makes his characters uniquely human or relatable to us, the common man. Surely at Nolan’s elevated frequency it’s become challenging for him to portray the mere common man. After all, what are our creative characters if not expressions of our different dimensions of self, which would make even his background extras practically omniscient empaths who needn’t be bothered with the worldly tangibles of someone in order to root for or against them. For Nolan knows there is no real “for” or “against” in life. None of this is real, none of us are separate from one another, and God help your pathetic little brain if you dare view one of his masterpieces sans such awareness. I admittedly did so last night, and promised my date afterwards that I’ll never make the same mistake again, lest of course I should achieve such inner evolution between now and the release of Christopher’s (not Chris!) next piece of art. Or should I say “anti-art,” “non-art,” or “post-modern art from an irrelevant past and present of complete presence?” Gosh, Nolan, you mad genius.
Another quality consistent with Christopher’s Buddha-like mindfulness is the environmental consideration he so obviously takes, thoughtfully sparing so many trees, as each of his screenplays (especially that of Dunkirk) couldn’t be greater than 20 pages long. Nolan knows that the majority of human communication is non-verbal, a lesson we can only wish had been learned earlier by the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, and who knows how good The Godfather could have been.
While the more generic likes of Oliver Stone in Platoon and Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan felt compelled to convey to us some story arc in order to earn their climax, some outward expression of soldiers’ internal journey to garner emotional investment, Nolan has transcended such menial obligation, instead wowing us with his outside-the-box decisions, enlightening us (only to each of our own individual capacities) in Dunkirk with the fantastical concept that there are multiple perspectives to any one situation.
Of course this has been done in films before, but never before spanning the entire Goddamn film concurrent with two hours straight of suspenseful music, no doubt inserted to remind us inferiors that we should remain on the edge of our seats the entire time, which is sort of like requesting a single two-hour orgasm: physiologically impossible. Nolan achieves the impossible.
I honestly have no idea what Dunkirk was about, but more importantly, don’t give a shit. Some kind of battle, even a very famous one that I could google and lend myself a bit more credibility by sounding like not such an ignoramus, but unlike Christopher Nolan fans I imagine, I’ve never equated intelligence with awareness of historical facts — or any facts for that matter.
I know there was some kinda fight at sea and some guys died, some good, some bad, although neither side was ever clearly defined (so Meta), and in the end it seemed like the guys we were maybe supposed to be rooting for were kinda rescued and we were supposed to be fuckin’ happy and shit. I dunno.
However unintelligent the previous paragraph reads as a film synopsis does not compare to how I feel about Christopher Nolan, and everything he’s done (since Memento).
I liked Memento. I felt it actually obeyed the rules of storytelling, ironically and in spite of its inverse chronology. There was someone we were made to care about, the stakes ebbed and flowed, and although there was at times ambivalence about the characters and what exactly was happening, it was ambivalence with integrity within the world that Nolan created. Since then what I would diagnose as laziness and ignorance would surely be defended by Nolan-ists as depth or profundity, as the “filmmaker” tackles challenging existential themes, but in the process neglects to tell a (human) story. Two guys behind my date and I on the way out would disagree, as we were unfortunately in ear’s shot of one of their reviews:
“It just had so many layers.”
Ugh! I felt like I was in a sophomore NYU film class. “Layers?!” Are you fucking kidding me? How about the first layer of making me give a fuck about any of these assholes in the first place?
It made me think of the Seinfeld episode where George and Jerry were pitching their “show about nothing” to the NBC executives and George wouldn’t budge on the theme. “No, nothing happens, nothing!” he insisted.
“Well then why am I watching it?” inquired the executive.
“Because it’s on TV,” George said. (Who could’ve guessed what foresight he had!)
The executive responded: “Not yet.”
It’s as if Christopher Nolan fans care just because “it’s on TV.” It’s a “Nolan,” thus deserving of our keen mental focus in attempting to dissect wtf is happening here. I guess in their defense, at some point a “Nolan” had to be initially defined, which means some people must just not need… people in order to care.
Is that possible? Of course I’m biased but I don’t believe it is. Instead my suspicion is a level of pretentiousness, which they are utterly unaware of and allows them to find pleasure in pure sequential mind fucks, wholly void of emotionality, which in my opinion is always a red flag for unintelligent art.
Nolan is the wordy underground rapper who uses tons of six syllable words and just tons of words in his songs, but offers us no rhythm or melody by which to enjoy them. He claims to be more intelligent, thus more entitled than the likes of Biggie or Mobb Deep, but forgets the most important part of music: to make a good song! He’s the poet whose poems can only make sense in some abstract way in his own head, which then if you can’t decipher gets you labeled as “stupid.” He’s the pseudo-guru who speaks in cliché riddles that gives all of his dogmatic followers something to nod their heads and smile at each other about in class, but zero practical tools to take with them into the world. He’s not the worst filmmaker of all time, because for that title one would have to make films. Instead, Nolan hatches together practical montages that play out almost like a literal dream, tipping the scale from clever subtlety into utter bullshit, in the process mentally masturbating over some profound concept in lieu of putting forth the effort to date said concept, talk to the concept, care about it and then fuck it the way it’s deserving of. He is the fuckboy of modern cinema, and like all fuckboys, has earned plenty of success, believers, followers of his bullshit until the proverbial next morning when we finally wake up.
Every once in a while an artist comes along whose work is so potent that it can accurately inform us of how we feel about him/her, which is really how groupies come about (which should make us less judgmental of their character). I don’t just hate Nolan’s work. I hate him. And not because he’s “so polarizing” and must at least be commended for having moved me so dramatically in one direction, but instead for the complete failure to do so. He represents all that is wrong with the creative world, much like Trump represents all that is wrong with the socio-political one. I suppose it stands to reason that they reign concurrently, respectively. Vomit.
Originally published at davidfostercomedyblog.com.