TWO GUYS SITTING AROUND EMAILING EACH OTHER ABOUT INCEPTION

Faithful readers of the Lost-era Spectacularry will well remember EJ Feddes, he of the erudite mien and scapel-like deftness of pen. Having traded a bunch of emails with the lad, I felt confident enough after having seen Inception to send him a missive unto the ether and tell him he’d probably love it, too:

From: ejfeddes
Subject: Quick Inception Thoughts
Date: July 17, 2010 8:55:08 PM PDT
To: larry

You’re right – I loved it.
 
Now, I’ve avoided all discussion, so I have no idea what the general consensus is. And I only just got home from the theater, so this is just my immediate gut reaction. The end of the movie was a dream, because everything we saw was a dream. We only know that the top only tips over in the real world because Cobb told us so. For the most part, the dreams followed real-world rules until somebody decided that they didn’t anymore. Cobb is just separating what he acknowledges as dreams from the dream that he treats as real – it’s his way of drawing a distinction to keep the illusion alive. 
 
Remember, the first time we see what is treated as the real world for the duration, they’re all on a train. Cobb threw trains into dreams whenever he got half a chance. And the bit about how, in dreams, the dreamer is never aware of how they got to wherever they are? When the heck did everybody get to Sydney to board the flight?  (And how great is it that we have somebody transporting their father’s body on a Sydney-to-LA flight? There’s no way that was a coincidence.) And the existence of Ellen Page’s character? She’s created by Cobb so that he can re-emphasize the rules of dream creation and ensure that he keeps the “real world” humming along the way he’s supposed to. And if I’m right, that either means that Mal was right, or she doesn’t have any real-world existence.
 
I might completely change my mind once I have time to think about it, but that’s just my instant reaction. Also, I loved it so much that I am no longer mad at Christopher Nolan for spending time making a movie that does not involve Batman.

From: larry
Subject: Re: Quick Inception Thoughts
Date: July 17, 2010 9:37:31 PM PDT
To: ejfeddes

I’m glad you liked Inception; I didn’t have any Nolan/DiCaprio biases going in; I just thought, from the trailers, that this thing would ring my chimes. And, of course, it did, and I figured you’d hear the tune, too, when I told the missus it was like “the best episode of Mission: Impossible by way of the best episode of Lost with a Hollywood budget.” No kidding, she said, “What’s your Lost friend think of it?” which she meant you but can’t keep anyone’s name straight. It’s cool; she doesn’t mean anything by it. She’s actually an assassin for the Mossad and keeps being married to me as her cover and doesn’t always keep everything together, so, hmmm. Whaddaya gonna do? I love her and she loves me and if she can’t remember all the Captains of the Enterprise in order of commission, well, that’s just one I’m going to take for the team.

The way I looked at the top is the “totem rules” thing. They made a big deal of everyone not touching each others’ totems; that that was their link to the real world. You can’t touch my loaded die; you can’t touch my lathed brass chess piece, etc. But Cobb spun Mal’s top in the Limbo Level, and it didn’t fall because she was still there and connected to it. She’d locked her totem away and he Ocean 11‘d it, and it kept spinning. That, at least shows the audience you can touch someone else’s totem, and nothing happens but connection to the dream state. And since they were already in it, well, like they say in fencing when there’s a simultaneous touch: Nothing Done. A difference that makes no difference is no difference.

So, I’ve only seen it once, and I’m agreeing with you, right now: I think the whole thing was a dream. The top starts to wobble at the end, because that’s Mal’s totem; not his. Fall or not it doesn’t matter, because dream or not it’s going to fall because she’s not there anymore and it’s not his to spin. Now, me; I’m a big ol’ sap and I’d like to think it’s a happy ending, but I’m going to have to see it a couple of more times to be sure of what I think, because boy if they didn’t give you both ways.

Deckard isn’t a replicant, though.

I think if you buy the one bit about the dream narrative as an audience member, the entire narrative is suspect, QED. All of Risky Business is in Tom Cruise’s head as he rakes leaves. Ferris Bueller is a Tyler Durden-esque construct because Cameron loves Skye. Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Luke’s father… from a particular point of view. But if the next Nolan Batman isn’t about Gordon being the good guy and with Batman as the “villain,” I shall be quite cross.

From: ejfeddes
Subject: Re: Quick Inception Thoughts
Date: July 18, 2010 8:20:22 AM PDT
To: larry

I hadn’t thought about the top actually being Mal’s totem, but I really should have. (Did we see where the top came from in the real world? Or the “real world”, as it were. Did we see it come into Cobb’s possession? I have to make a list of questions and then see it again.) Interesting that all the totems we see are game pieces, too. (emphasis mine) Maybe indicative of Cobb’s need to create rules for the dream state in order to separate his reality-dream from the dream-dreams. (And nobody else ever acknowledges or references their totem after they’re introduced.) I also didn’t immediately make the connection that Mal is Latin for “evil” until I saw the credits, because I spelled it as “Moll” in my head. Not sure what to do with that just yet, but I’ll be thinking about it for a while. 
 
As for the next Batman movie, I want to see somebody step up to fill Batman’s position as Gotham’s protector, only he’s weak an corruptible. So the villified Batman fights the beloved new hero for the soul of Gotham, with Jim Gordon caught between them. Make the new hero Dick “Nightwing” Grayson, and you’ve got yourself a movie. And maybe throw in the Penguin as a bridge between Gotham’s established mob scene and the oncoming wave of freak crime.
 
I have to get to work on some spunkybean projects before I just straight-up start writing Batman fan-fiction.

From: larry
Subject: Re: Quick Inception Thoughts
Date: July 27, 2010 10:08:37 AM PDT
To: ejfeddes

Just got back from SDCC, and I got to talking about this film with Steven Grant at San Diego and he blew my mind with this one: there’s only one scene of “reality” at the end, and that’s the one with Cobb and his kids. That the “inception” idea of the title is not the idea planted into the Cillian Murphy character, but that of Michael Caine (who [we’re told] first invented the process of dream invasion) implanting the idea in Cobb that after all his guilt and trauma and whatnot,it’s OK to go home.

(Steven Grant’s superlative rumination is duly enshrined here and I urge you to go read it thusly.)

From: ejfeddes
Subject: Re: Quick Inception Thoughts
Date: July 27, 2010 4:07:35 PM PDT
To: larry

Wow. I never would have gotten there on my own, but I love that. That is beautiful. And it turns the whole movie from self-deception to an act of kindness, and that makes me very happy indeed. 

From: larry
Subject: Re: Quick Inception Thoughts
Date: July 27, 2010 4:16:03 PM PDT
To: ejfeddes

I know; that’s exactly how I felt about it. I would never have seen that on my own, but it makes me happy to think that’s what happened. Do you mind if I link all our previous emails together to do a new Spectacularry called TWO GUYS SITTING AROUND EMAILING ABOUT INCEPTION with Steven’s bit as a coda?

From: ejfeddes
Subject: Re: Quick Inception Thoughts
Date: July 27, 2010 4:35:33 PM PDT
To: larry

Feel free to use anything I said about Inception for Spectacularry purposes.  You can even edit it to make it sound like I have a funny accent, if you like.

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4Comments

Mark 11 August 2010

Perhaps after having my brain fried from the Lost finale,.. I went in and subsquently, left Inception, wanting to believe all was as advertised. It wasn’t long after that I found myself, unwillingly, pondering the deeper meaning of what I had just seen. I guess turning off that part of my brain, was just a dream. AAAAHHH.

What frustrated me the most, with the movie, was it’s lack of explanations. Who was this company seeking Cobb and his team? How did the dream technology work? Why was Cobb’s limbo the only limbo? I know this may seem as a Cobb-out, but, in the dream, the whys and hows don’t really matter. It just is. Having the entire movie be a dream, required no need for explanations, just fun. So.. I’m cool wit it.

One of the more interesting theories i’ve read is that the movie is an allegory for the creative process of making a movie. Each member of the team represented different aspects of the process, (The money man, the writer, the producer) all of them trying to convince the audience (Fischer) that everything is legit and believable. Cobb (Nolan) creates different worlds, but always includes elements of himself in whatever he creates. I can see that. Thats why all my short stories include whiskey and swimmies.

Larry Young 11 August 2010

Yeah, after PLANET OF THE CAPES, I can see how a writer would want to make sense of his industry through fiction. Honestly, that’s the only way how.

Steve Higgins 11 August 2010

They talked about the “allegory for creativity” in an EW. The point they raised, which I really liked, is how in the film they state that it’s easier to steal ideas out of the minds of others (say, like, adapting an existing comic book property) than it is to plant a new idea and make it stick (say, like, crafting an original story about dreams and loss and reality).

I think that analogy is cool, but also flawed in that the role of the “dreamer” isn’t consistent. If the “dreamer” is the filmgoing audience, I think it’s more that it’s easier for a filmmaker to take something that filmgoers are already familiar with and run with it than get them to think about something new. SO to get them to think about something new, you have to wrap it up in something familiar and make it seem like they came up with the idea themselves.

In other words, let’s all pretend this deep philosophical exploration about the nature of how much what reality is, even in our WAKING lives, is defined by what we convince ourselves it is… is actually an action/heist summer blockbuster.

Larry Young 11 August 2010

I could poop on that EW article just by noting that all the men are wearing striped shirts, indicating they are in a prison of their own making.

The role of the “dreamer” isn’t consistent because there is only one reality; that of the one with the kids at the end who are wearing different clothes and are played by different actors than earlier on. As always, Michael Caine is the answer.

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