Sunday, July 25, 2010

Second time around

We finally got to see Inception tonight. And while I thought it was awe-inspiring and endlessly stimulating, that thought is inevitably already a response to other thoughts about the movie that have been debated in the media, in critical circles and in the chatter of social networking. The lash, the backlash, and the backlash to the backlash were all underway before the movie even opened, and it's impossible to experience it without all those layers. Appropriate, in a way, for a movie that is constantly asking you to figure out how many looking glasses you have gone through.

I've been mildly tormented recently by acquaintances mentioning on Facebook and Twitter that they saw some fantastic movie or other and were underwhelmed (or worse, are on a mission to expose its fantasticness as a massive fraud perpetrated on them by the cultural establishment). Sometimes I wish I could just fast-forward people into the future so they could see these great movies for the second time. The first time, we're too burdened by the reason we're watching them in the first place -- because everybody says they're great. We may have some idea what quality of greatness we expect to say, or we may have a vague impression of the genre or type of movie our taste buds were set for. And what people often mean by greatness is that it can't be contained in the usual boxes we have prepared for the experience. It's not until the second time, when the artifact can emerge from the background of all that surrounds it in the ordinary course of moving through popular culture, that we are startled by how far it stands above or how much it stands alone.

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