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Memento (2001)

Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.

— Leonard Shelby

It has been a while since I have seen the film that put Christopher Nolan’s name out front and center, the #29 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Memento. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and  Film Editing. The strange thing is that the story is based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story, Memento Mori. Personally, I don’t like movies that go backwards through the narrative. There is something tragically simple about this movie that make me forget about my past grievances with this way of storytelling.

I don’t know how to approach this review without spoiling the ending, which is in the beginning of the movie. Hmm… Be forewarned. A man who has short-term memory loss, Leonard (Guy Pearce) had just shot a cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) in head. He takes a Polaroid for a little reminder that the person that he thinks raped and murdered his wife (Jorja Fox) and lost him with his memories will be documented.

As you know the narrative is backward to retrace the events that lead to Teddy’s demise. The puzzle is slowly being put together. Leonard has an arm full of Polaroids. All of the clues to find the killer has been either in the Polaroids or have been tattooed on his body as a reminder of his ultimate goal of revenge.

Was Teddy telling the truth? Because a person named “John G.” was the person that was there that night his life changes. Teddy is not his real name. Leonard realizes this from Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who Leonard befriends while he is investigating. Is she working for him or against him? He cannot trust anybody unless it was written on the back of the Polaroids.

He tries to remember Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a former case of his when he was an insurance investigator. He thought that Sammy was faking his condition which it is exactly like his. Everything that Sammy remembers before the accident, he knows. He has trouble building new memories like Leonard. His wife (Harriet Sansom Harris) thinks at she could do something to trigger his memories, but nothing happens.

Leonard has to deal with betrayal, manipulation, murder, drugs, and theft all for the ultimate goal of solving his wife’s murder.

The movie is carefully thought out about what happens next. I thought the flashbacks in black and white broke up the movie in a good way to see how Leonard knows certain things and not others. This is probably the best performance of Guy Pearce’s career. I thought that the ending was different from what I remember. It blows my mind that the movie about memories and not making new ones could make me questions how the ending or beginning was.

But I did have some questions about certain elements of the movies that didn’t make any sense to me. What happened to the drug money? How did Leonard get those items that belonged to his wife? I cannot think of how that happened. I went over the movie again.

Judgment: I know that Nolan is capable of making movies outside of the Batman franchise that could still be good.

Rating: 9/10

Frozen River (2008)

I heard about Courtney Hunt’s debut film, Frozen River from a couple of people from my Oscar Watchers group. It was a great recommendation from them. This movie has been nominated for 7 Independent Spirit Awards. It is so deserved. I hope that Melissa Leo, Misty Upham and Courtney Hunt’s script get nominated for Oscars. I am serious about that.

This film was also recommended from Metacritic with a score of 82.

The movie takes place a couple of days before Christmas in a desolate New York township where Ray (Melissa Leo) is in danger of having her furniture and her mobile home being reprocessed when her gambling husband skips out of her. She tries to find her hunter green Dodge Spirit. She finds it at a bingo hall where her husband frequents.

A young Mohawk woman, Lila (Misty Upham) takes the car to her small trailer in the middle of the woods. Ray threatens Lila to get the car back to her. Lila propositions Ray to earn easy money for her family’s dream double wide trailer to smuggle illegal immigrants from the Mohawk territory in Quebec across the frozen St. Lawrence River to New York.

This film is wonderful. It’s not predictable with the way that it was going. It was very organic. It touched on how people could do illegal things in order to survive. It’s like the question, would it be right to steal a loaf in order to feed your family? That is the dilemma that faces both Ray and Lila as mothers trying to support their families.

This movie affected my so much to that I want to say to people see this movie. I implore you. Catch it online, at your local indie theater, on DVD. Any capacity.

My rating: ***** stars.

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