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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

Buried (2010)

I’m buried in a box. I’m buried in a box!

— Paul Conroy

Buried was one of my most anticipated movies of 2010. I never got the chance to see in theaters, because it was so hard to find it. When I saw it on the shelf, I had to picked it up. I thought the concept of one man onscreen for a 90 minutes movie sounded interesting to me especially if its Ryan Reynolds. The movie is enjoyable but it’s not 127 Hours.

Iraq, 2006. A CRT contractor, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up in complete blackness. Paul realizes that he is bound and gagged. He manage to get himself free. He pulls out a Zippo lighter to shed light on that he is in a wooden crate. He tries to break the crate open, but he realizes that it is buried underground in the middle of the desert.

Paul hears a cell phone vibrating near him. He picks it up, but the script is in Arabic. He misses the call. He dials 911 and tries to explain to the operator (Kali Rocha) about what happened to him. He was taking kitchen supplies to a community in Baqubah when his convoy was ambushed by insurgents. The rest of the contractors were killed and he is the lone survivor. The operator cannot help, because 911 is US service. No use for the Middle East.

Paul frantically calls his family, but they don’t pick up. Then, he tries his wife, Linda’s (Samantha Mathis) cell. Straight to voicemail. He gets the number to the FBI from 411 and explains his dire situation, but he is constantly being transferred to different people. He finally gets in touch with Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson) that works with the program to help people in Paul’s situation.

There is the problem of him being in the box. Paul calls the missed call and it is from his captor, Jabir (José Luis García Pérez) who thinks that Paul is a soldier. Paul thinks that Jabir is a terrorists. They both have misconceptions of each other. His captor wants to see him suffer and holds another fellow CRT member, Pamela Lutti (Ivana Miño) captive. He has two hours to get 5 million dollars or he will be buried alive. With only a cell phone with half of battery power left, a Zippo, a pencil, a faulty flashlight and a pair of glow sticks, he doesn’t have that much time left.

I thought that it was an interesting concept of all the action happening in a confined space like a makeshift coffin. I felt there was something not right about the way the action went. How could Paul be buried underneath the ground and constantly breathing hard, screaming, yelling? The oxygen would have run out fast by halfway through the movie. There was a moment in the movie where I said, “What the fuck?” The movie lost me for a bit.

Judgment: It was a nice experiment that needs a few tweaks.

Rating: 7.5/10

Groundhog Day (1993)

Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.

— Phil

I always wanted to see # 157 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Groundhog Day, but I never got the chance to watch until a couple of days ago. I thought maybe this film would help me, because I feel like I am stuck in the same day repeatedly. I try to change the outcome, but it’s always the same. Besides, the great character actor Stephen Tobolowsky talked about some memories of the movie on his podcast, The Tobolowsky Files. I had a duty to watch it.

A jaded Pittsburgh weatherman, Phil Conners (Bill Murray) is sent once again to Punxsutawney for the fourth year in a row to cover the Groundhog Day festivities. He goes on the trip with his new producer, the bubbly Rita (Andie MacDowell) and the cameraman, Larry (Chris Elliott).

Rita wants to talk more about the preparation that goes into watching a groundhog being plucked out of a stump to look at its shadow. Phil is not interested in doing that, because he wants to do bigger and better things than cover a silly festival.

His day starts with him waking up at 6 am to go downstairs to have his coffee where he run into the Man in the Hallway (Ken Hudson Campbell) who wants to talk about the upcoming festival. The owner of the bed and breakfast that he is staying in, Mrs. Lancaster (Angela Paton) asks him if he wants to stay the night. He declines. He want to leave immediately after his segment.

An old classmate of Phil’s runs into him on the street, Ned Reyerson (Tobolowsky). He doesn’t remember him. Ned rambles on about their past run ins until Phil tries to make a swift exit and steps in a puddle. Phil goes to the festival to see that Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, which means six more weeks of winter.

Phil wants to leave, but a huge snowstorm blows into the area. He said that it would hit another place. The only way out of the town is closed. Phil thinks that his day cannot get any worse. He tries to shower with cold water and goes to sleep.

Waking up the next day, Phil feels a strong sense of déjà vu. He thinks that the town is trying to play a trick on him, but it seems like it’s no trick. He begins to freak out and taking out his frustrations on the people that he already met. He remember what happened before, but everybody else doesn’t. He is wondering why is he reliving the same day. He tries to change the scenario, but it doesn’t help.

People have told me to change the ways that you do things, you could change your outlook. It’s so hard to do that when you have hit rock bottom and there is no way out. I should take some lessons from the movie and input it into my life. Try to work life in different configurations to see what works and what doesn’t.

Judgment: It’s an essential movie for people who want to have existential questions.

Rating: 8/10

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