Some years ago, I took a screenwriters’ workshop with Robert McKee, the author of STORY, an award-winning screenwriter himself, and famous for his workshops. The workshops started out in Los Angeles and were attended by not only screenwriters but actors, such as Julia Roberts.

At our workshop in San Francisco, “The English Patient” and “Memento” had been recently released and McKee spent an entire session in trashing those popular films. (In other sessions, we also analyzed “Chinatown” and, in particular, “Casablanca”, both of which McKee loves.)

He pointed out the logical flaws in “The English Patient” and when we went to “Memento”—McKee said incredulously, “You like that movie?”

I love all four movies and so did many of the participants in the workshop.

McKee thumped his chest with his fist and said, “I felt nothing.”

Fast forward to 2021. We, my husband Tom and I, decided to have a Christopher Nolan Movie Night, upon the release of “Tenet”, a time travel film, or living-backwards-in-time film.

I’m an expert at time travel and living-backwards in time. I extensively researched Summer of Love and The Gilded Age (both republished in ebook and print formats by Bast Books) and, a story, “Illyria, My Love” (republished in my second story collection, ODDITIES: 22 Stories, also by Bast Books).

So I was really looking forward to “Tenet”. The word “tenet” is the first word in Summer of Love, which leads with “Tenets of the Grandmother Principle”.

Nolan’s style, right from the start, is to set up a complex plot—sometimes overly complex—and cast the film with an ensemble of characters who move through the subplots. Nolan intercuts the subplots faster and faster leading toward the climax.

This intercutting style makes some subplots increasing incomprehensible but, more than that, makes the characters cardboard and unsympathetic.

Tenet” starts with a super-charged, anxiety-producing, super-violent opening and slows from there. The film introduces the idea of “inverted entropy” and proposes people in the future want to destroy the past.

THIS IS NONSENSE. If future people destroyed the past, they wouldn’t exist in the first place to do the deed. That is elementary time-travel science. So right away, I totally disagree with Nolan’s premise.

The film scrolls with subplot after subplot (you can check the details of the plot on Wikipedia—I’m not going to reprise it here) with increasingly unsympathetic characters.

Curiously, for such a long film, the plot and subplots run out of steam in the last half an hour. A few less bombs exploding backwards in time and bit more plot would have been in order.

I was disappointed in “Tenet”. The international Box Office didn’t do well, not earning out the $200 million budget, even considering the Plague.

Only recommended for hardcore C. Nolan fans and hardcore science fiction fans.

Next up, “Inception.” We saw the film when it was first released and I remember liking it very much. The premise is interesting—“extractors” perform corporate espionage using technology to infiltrate their targets’ subconscious and extract information through a shared dream world.

This resembles my concept of “telelinking” into a “telespace” in my first novel “Arachne”, the second novel “Cyberweb”, and the upcoming third and final novel, “Spyder.” Like in Nolan’s film—before the film—you need technical equipment to achieve the mind-meld.

So the premise “Inception” is relatable and the concept of dreaming is common to everyone. There are two sympathetic subplots—the extractor’s wife’s suicide due to the illusion of shared dreaming and the son’s bedside watch over his dying industrialist father. Also, the extractor’s alienation from his children, which gets resolved.

Then Nolan sends an increasingly unsympathetic ensemble cast off into subplot after subplot, intercutting the subplots faster and faster until the film becomes wearisome. (Again, you can check the full film synopsis on Wikipedia.)

I liked “Inception” less than the first time.

Recommended for C. Nolan fans and fans of interesting ideas.

Finally, “Memento”. We saw the film also when it first released. Chris Nolan’s brother wrote the screenplay, C. Nolan directed it, the film was made for a cool $5 million. No special effects, just story.

As usual, there is a complicated plot—two subplots, actually, one going forward in time, the second backward in time. There is crime and mystery going back and forth. (Once again, you can read the synopsis of the film on Wikipedia.)

I’d disagree with Robert McKee on this one—there is a very relatable premise—due to an accident, a man can’t remember more than the ten previous minutes of his life. This plays into everyone’s fear of dementia.

That the camera stays for the two intersecting subplots on the main character, played by a Guy Pearce in a personable, nuanced, humorous performance, makes this film very enjoyable—if a little confusing at times.

Of all three C. Nolan films reviewed above, this is the best.

Recommended for anyone who likes a complex cerebral film.

So there you have it, my friends. Enjoy your movie night!

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