The Victor Garber-looking prosecutor is Jason Clarke – he ruins Oppenheimer’s career in 1954, sent by Atomic Energy Commissioner Robert Downey Jr, whose own career is then ruined by Oppenheimer-loyal scientists in a cabinet non-confirmation hearing in 1959.

Florence Pugh is here to have a steamy affair with Oppy, and Emily Blunt plays the steaming mad wife. General Matt Damon helps link to Nolan’s other film involving black holes. This inverts Interstellar by placing its avant-science imagery over the early backstory segments and saving the real-world tedium for the final hour – an extraordinarily talky movie. I’d willingly watch it again, but if I can spare three hours for Cillian Murphy movies, I might just watch Red Eye twice.

My notes include things like “Ives leads red team splinter group to recover algorithm,” which didn’t even make sense at the time, so I’m skipping the attempted plot summary of this cinematic Sator square. Branagh is an arms dealer helping execute attacks from the future, smuggling in reverse-kinetic objects and backwards-moving people. His abused wife is Debicki, the helpless woman only concerned for her child’s safety while the real men do all the work. Those men are serious spy-dude Washington and his chill buddy Pattinson. Bits of exposition via Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, and Martin Donovan! I took some advice and just watched the hell out of this (with subtitles) without insisting that it make any sense – though I guessed early on that anyone half-glimpsed in the first half of the movie would turn out to be our reversed heroes in the second half – and had a good time. It never stops talking utter nonsense for 150 minutes, and none of the action scenes were as impressive as expected. Michael Sicinski on Patreon: “But then again, I’ve never seen a building un-blow-up on the top, only to re-blow-up on the bottom. That was cool.”

After watching Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, I thought I’d make my own Fury Road reunion and watch Tom Hardy in Dunkirk. Of course I would’ve loved to see it in 70mm and/or imax, but an all-day road trip was out of the question. Alamo preshow was all Nolan stuff, video essays on commonalities in his previous films and interview segments mixed with 1940’s newsreels and trailers.

Three stories happening on three intersecting timelines – it’s a very simple war story with a complicated structure… if you missed the opening title cards, you could miss the structural games altogether.

In the three segments: (1) Kenneth Branagh commands a horde of soldiers stranded on the beach at Dunkirk, (2) Tom Hardy is a fighter pilot tailing enemy planes, and (3) a civilian boat comes to help the trapped soldiers and picks up shellshocked, panicky Cillian Murphy along the way. The ground and air segments are mostly notable for action, leaving the sea segment to carry the emotional aspect – Mark Rylance as the civilian captain, Tom Glynn-Carney his son, and Barry Keoghan the local boy who meets an unfortunate demise. Fionn Whitehead as Tommy, the lead grunt in the ground segment, is considered the film’s lead, but didn’t make as much of an impact as the sea fellows to me – maybe next time. Also: the line of helmets on the beach a nice Prestige callback.

The first roundup of misc shorts since the last one.

Tome of the Unknown: Harvest Melody (2013, Patrick McHale)

Wirt and Greg are heading somewhere, manage to get a ride with pumpkin-man John Crops to vegetable city, where they accidentally unleash the fury of the crows. Would play as a deleted scene from Over The Garden Wall if not for bluebird Beatrice’s different voice and some more cartoonish facial expressions. I’m guessing with the Harvest Melody subtitle that he’d planned to make more standalone shorts like this, but then they made the full series.

The Umbrella Man (2011, Errol Morris)

A web mini-doc on a single detail of the Zapruder film: a single man with an umbrella on the cloudless day Kennedy was shot. Interview with JFK assassination expert Tink Thompson, who sets up the mystery, then explains it was discovered that the man was making an obscure visual protest against a policy by JFK’s father.

Demon in the Freezer (2016, Errol Morris)

“Why is it so important to make the monkeys sick?”

The argument over preserved samples of smallpox virus – whether they should be kept, and for what purpose? Floated: vaccines and biological warfare with the Russians. I don’t know a whole lot about smallpox but it sounds horrible.

Dog (2002, Suzie Templeton)

A sick/dying/dead dog, a father, a boy, a murder, a patch of either blood or mold upon a wall, and the most disturbing stop-motion I’ve seen this side of Robert Morgan.

Oskar Kulicke and the Pacifist (1952, Kurt Weiler)

I loved The Apple, so watched some more puppet shorts by Weiler. Bricklayer Oskar endures the whining of a pansy pacifist then sets him straight, asking how the pacifist will like it when he’s conscripted after a U.S. invasion. No, pacifism is dumb and learning proper use of arms is essential, Oskar concludes.

The U.S. military elite:

Heinrich The Dysfunctional: A German Elegy (1965, Kurt Weiler)

Surprising to watch this right after the other, since it’s about a failed German invasion of Poland in 1472 due to misfortune and royal idiocy. King of Libnitz attacks Cracow in order to obtain liquor and a young bride. After recruiting a traitorous young goat farmer, the king makes it to the enemy castle, only to be pissed on by the local kids and sent home on a manure cart, all his cannons destroyed. “The fatal flaw of the heroic German character: thirst trumps wisdom.”

Last-minute reprieve for the goat farmer:

Ceremonial welcome:

Nörgel & Söhne (1968-70, Kurt Weiler)

Three-part story of how the nomadic Nörgel clan developed tools and farming, then trade, then currency. Character-based stop-motion with some fun material tricks with liquids, animals and the heavens. Nörgel becomes more of a brutal slavemaster the closer he gets to modern capitalism, and in the end he retires and reads Marx’s Das Capital (historical chronology is shifty in these movies) and regrets the awful thing he’s done.

Barter calculations:

Street of Crocodiles (1986, Quays)

Live-action man spits into the machinery, activating it, and releases stop-motion man who creeps into a dusty world of pulleys and screws populated by hollow-headed dolls. Wonderful string music. I still don’t know what it all means, been meaning to get the Bruno Schulz book forever now, but it’s all so dusty and textural and mesmerizing in its mysterious movements.

Quay (2015, Christopher Nolan)

Eight-minute trip to the Quays’ workshop featuring some Street of Crocodiles puppets and commentary on their methods. I suppose splashing Nolan’s name across the blu-ray package was meant to get new people interested in their work, kinda like “JJ Abrams presents Phantasm: Remastered“. I hope it’s working.

Esperalia (1983, Jerzy Kalina)

A guy goes slow-mo crawling through the forest overlaid by patterns and rotoscope lines, seeing visions and phantoms, with an increasingly disturbed soundtrack.

The Public Voice (1988 Lejf Marcussen)

Magnifying glass reveals the blueprints beneath paintings, the lines behind the lines behind the lines. Slow zooms in and out as patterns and figures slowly prove to be details within other works, a visual art history folded into itself. I didn’t recognize most of the work, but there’s some Dali and Bosch in there.

Probably my favorite Christopher Nolan movie. I have no urge to revisit Memento anytime soon, so I guess The Prestige would be my second favorite – I think that makes me a weird Nolan fan, since most are bonkers for Inception and the Batman movies. Anyway this was a very personal but still very epic time/space/dimension-travelling movie about keeping families together and saving all of humanity, a way-too-ambitious premise that was actually pulled off.

Pilot-turned-farmer Matthew McConaughey leaves his kids with Grandpa Lithgow since Matt’s the only maverick who can pilot NASA’s secret spaceship (hey you can’t make a movie this ambitious without leaning on a few time-saving cliches) through a wormhole to find a habitable planet, alongside Anne Hathaway (daughter of NASA head Michael Caine), David Gyasi (Cloud Atlas), Wes Bentley and two awesome robots. First landing is on the giant-waves planet, where Bentley dies, then on to the frozen-wasteland planet where crazy Matt Damon kills Gyasi, then into a black hole where McConaughey sends interdimensional coded messages to his daughter (who grew up to be Jessica Chastain, dating former scientist Topher Grace and fighting with stubborn older brother Casey Affleck), then is picked up, still the same age as when he left, by the human-exodus spaceship containing his dying, elderly daughter (now Ellen Burstyn).

I would’ve liked to see the 70mm super-imax version, but settled for at least going to the dumb local theater and not waiting for blu-ray.

Nolan is going for auteur status, taking his mega-budget action comic Batman movies and his multi-layered reality-questioning Memento and making a mega-budget multi-layered action comic reality-questioning super-movie. Seems to have paid off for him – this is in the IMDB top ten at the moment, barely above his own The Dark Knight.

We’ll miss you, Pete Postlethwaite

I should have known Inception wouldn’t be as awesomely complex as I’ve heard it is. It’s not my love for Alain Resnais that makes me feel like a condescending art film snob, it’s breezing through a movie like this one, which the whole world thought was so confusing. I was never in doubt as to what was happening, or which level of dream/reality our heroes were haunting, and thought the ending, while somewhat emotionally satisfying, was the most obvious one possible. Does that make me an asshole?

Why does this shot look so familiar?

Anyway, it’s a fun action dream flick with bang-on performances by Leo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, good support by Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard and Ken Watanabe, and some overqualified actors wasted in minor roles.

Okay, okay, billions of rabid fans, you win. It’s a good movie, and Heath Ledger is great in it. He plays insane like no one else, and when he walks out of the hospital in a nurse’s uniform stabbing at his remote control prompting a cliched huge explosion while he casually keeps walking, it’s one of the awesomest things at the movies all year. But… top-selling film of all time and #1 on IMDB or not, I still find it the third-best Batman movie. Full of episodic cliffhangers (maybe as tribute to the comic books?), which is the only way in which it reminded me of Fantomas. Batman/Wayne, as a character, is almost absent, replaced by gadgets and friends and a dead girlfriend (Maggie G.) whom he mourns for all of four seconds before going on to kill two-face and take the blame for two-face’s crimes himself, so the sucker public will go on believing in Harvey Dent, the district attorney who almost cleaned up this town before going insane and killing a buncha people. Some role model. Now Batty is on the run from Commissioner (finally) Gordon and I think Morgan Freeman quit his gadget-man job and neither of us can remember if the Joker died (which is a bad sign – nobody forgets how Nicholson’s Joker ended up – and while I’m in these parentheses, the soundtrack was no Batdance neither) and the Hong Kong financier is dead (burned alive on a pile of money = irony) and I guess the mob is in control of Gotham again, just with less money.

Batman has banding issues:

I dunno, might have to see again sometime when expectations are gone. I spent a lot of the runtime complaining about stuff, either in my head or directly to Katy.

Watchmen trailer looks cool, anyway.

The duel of the dueling-magician movies! Unexpectedly, The Illusionist won.

Prestige is pretty solid, though… a flashy angst-ridden story of magician one-up-manship. Huge Ackman and Christian Batman-Bale are magicians assistants when Bale ties the wrong knot and Huge’s wife drowns during the escape-from-water-tank routine. They go their own ways, but keep sabotaging each other. Huge messes with one of Bale’s trick causing Bale to lose a couple fingers. Bale messes with the guy Huge hires as his double for the teleport routine, gets Huge’s audience to go watch Bale’s own teleport routine which is even better, because Bale is using his secret identical twin brother as his double.

How’d Bale do that? Huge sees Nikola Tesla (a mustachioed David Bowie) to find out. Bowie makes him a crazy device… a Huge Ackman Duplication Machine!! Huge steps into the machine and wammo, one Huge falls through a trap door and dies in the water tank, and the other Huge gets zapped into the balcony where he takes a big bow. Christian Batman-Bale tries to get to the bottom of this and is discovered with one dead Ackman and sentenced to death. Oh and doesn’t his wife kill herself? I think maybe the surviving twin kills Huge at the end, too, but it doesn’t matter.

Stylish, cool looking movie, fun trickery and all that. Acting is all good, too. Both movies had a big trick ending, but this one seems to live for its tricks and torture its characters. Illusionist had a great happy ending, and nice slowly-developing story. That’s the one I’d want to see again, not this bizarre-world flash-fest.