I was just listening to the Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode movie podcast from last Friday. It’s usually entertaining and Dr. Kermode went to my old school (along with Jason Isaacs). Only it wasn’t Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode. It was their Summer stand-ins. I don’t mind Boyd and Floyd so much, but I find Colin Paterson a bit grating.
So they were talking about movie double bills and people wrote in with their memorable double bills including one unusual pairing of The Elephant Man and Dumbo that was put together for a festival or something.
Back in the 1970s, you could often find two movies playing together for the price of one. I’m pretty sure I saw a double bill of The Spy Who Loved Me (still my favourite Bond movie–so good it’s got Mrs Ringo in it!) and The Pink Panther Strikes Again which must have been a fun afternoon.
Perhaps more bizarrely I was taken by our live-in nanny to a double bill of The Amazing Spider-Man, with Friedrich von Trapp as Peter Parker, coupled with the movie of the song You Light Up My Life starring Frenchy out of Grease (I and II). The nanny wanted to see You Light Up My Life. I wanted to see The Amazing Spider-Man. Ultimately we both left the cinema a little disappointed with our life choices.
Later in life you could put together your own double bills. You just needed the time and the pocket money. In 1983 I had too much of both. I made arrangements with two different sets of friends and spent the day at the cinema watching Superman III and Return Of The Jedi.
The best thing you can say about Superman III is that it isn’t Quest For Peace. Return Of The Jedi starts off promisingly enough with Slave Leia and the whole desert rescue sequence and Boba Fett and hilariously blind Han, but it ends up with a bunch of Ewoks taking on Imperial Stormtroopers and winning. It had taken three years to prove I was right about Luke and Leia being siblings, but I still left the cinema after that marathon day feeling mildly disappointed.
In the Summer of 2000, I was in Toronto on a business trip. Everything wrapped up early on the last day and I had a whole evening to myself before an early morning flight. I went to the Famous Players multiplex and checked in. I saw two films that night in June 2000. Memento. And then Shrek.
An unconventional double bill, certainly, but two fine films nevertheless. I was impressed by Memento. It was satisfyingly complicated. A story told backwards by an unreliable narrator. I don’t like to use the C-word when it comes to movies, but Memento was ‘Clever’. It was a movie that respected the intelligence of its audience. It expected you to keep up and wasn’t afraid of running. As a supple and strong cinemathlete at the peak of my filmic fitness, I enjoyed the workout.
Shrek was another kind of happiness. Since that night, I must have watched Shrek a dozen times on DVD with my kids (“Play da movie, ja, playyy”). The movie taps into so many shared comforts like nursery rhymes and fairy tales. And how funny we all remember Eddie Murphy being but how little we want to see him actually acting.
And now it’s 2010. Last week my wife and I went to see Inception. That’s a clever word for a movie. Same number of syllables as Memento (one less than Insomnia). It doesn’t actually mean anything, at least, within the logic of the movie, it doesn’t mean anything. They could have called the movie Jibberyjub.
Vanity Fair defined the concept like this:
Inception is the act of invading someone’s dreams for the sole purpose of planting an idea. It is the opposite of extraction, which is the process by which one gathers important information from the subject’s subconscious. Inception is thought by some to be impossible because the inceptee’s mind has an uncanny ability to trace the planted idea back to the person who planted it. For example, if someone tells you “Don’t think about elephants,” you may think of elephants, but this fails as inception because the originator—the person who ordered you not to think about elephants—can be traced as the source too easily.
Now just read that back and every time it says ‘Inception’, read ‘Jibberyjub’. It makes exactly the same amount of sense.
Inception is flim flam. Just when it gets too thinky, they blow something up (my wife’s observation, not mine). Every time it gets too explodey they hit you with more dream-logic-philosophication.
Inception is a mash-up movie. Inception is its own double bill. Or, in the language of the movie, it’s a bill within a bill.
It’s Memento and The Spy Who Loved Me.
It’s Eyes Wide Shut and Force 10 From Navarone.
It’s Vanilla Sky and Heat.
It’s a sci-fi heist film. It’s a thoughtful caper flick. It’s an action-packed mindfrak movie.
Heck, it’s not even The Matrix.