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This week:


Filthy says:
"Fucking weird and clever."

I've got a review of Memento in here somewhere, but I hope you don't mind me venting a little bit first.

Fucking Dipshit Suzanne. If there's a worse boss, I'm sure I'll work for him next. Dipshit Suzanne decided her Oscar party was a big success, despite the fact that she's still pissed about someone stealing her potpourri teddy bear "Pickles" from the "powder room." Jesus, the dumbass cries about her missing Pickles almost every day. But, the stupid knick-knack isn't stolen, it's hidden. Next time, if Dipshit Suzanne doesn't want to lose a family heirloom as valued as Pickles she should hide it, or make sure there's toilet paper in the john before she serves those nasty cheese burritos. Hell, if I gave a fuck about Suzanne, maybe I'd send her an anonymous note telling her to look for Pickles in the cupboard under the sink. He's a little crusty and not smelling so pretty, but he's not missing.

I hate Dipshit Suzanne, and not just because I got a boner that time she was wiggling in my lap. I hate her because she's too fucking lazy to alphabetize the movies at First American. You want Notorious? It's right there, next to Big Daddy in the "Action" section. You want Frances the Talking Mule? Of course it's in the "Classics" section, beside four Frances sequels, and next to Big Trouble in Little China. She loves movies about as much as I love splinters up my urethra.

And I hate Dispshit Suzanne for holding a mandatory company picnic in Hoskinson Park. It was a potluck, Dipshit Suzanne brought some diarrhea-looking casserole with corn flakes in it, Catherine brought this green potato salad, Mario brought baked beans, and Teresa made her "world-famous" pigs in blankets. I was assigned to bring plastic forks and paper plates. Fuck that. The one way to survive was with a case of malt liquor (well, 21 bottles by the time I got there). Dipshit Suzanne was pissed. Oh, beer! Can't you follow simple directions? Your inconsiderateness is ruining our picnic! Can't you have a good time without it? You're just like my second ex-husband. This tastes kind of good. Oh, I'm feeling lightheaded. Come here, let me sit in your lap. What's that in your pants, hmmm?

Dipshit Suzanne. I hope she's still passed out under the oak tree.

Okay, so I've been sort of procrastinating in writing my review of Memento, and that's because I'm having a hard time figuring out what to make of it. Is it good? Yeah, it's good, but it didn't do much for me. It's a case of admiring something for being done real well, but still not giving a shit. Like when the harelip showed us all the stitches in her abdomen after she fell in the Tavern's ladies' room. The doctor did a swell job patching up the grainy, loose skin of her belly, but I didn't need to see it.

Guy Pearce is an insurance investigator whose wife is raped and murdered and he is beaten so badly he loses his short-term memory. The last thing he remembers clearly is his wife's death, and he vows to hunt down the killer. Because he has no short-term memory, he keeps track by tattooing clues on his body, taking photos of the people he meets, and writing down what he knows about them on the back. See, he won't even remember them the next time he sees them. A mysterious character named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) might or might not be helping him. All Pearce knows is not to trust his lies. Carrie Ann-Moss is also either helping or hurting him, but he doesn't know, since he has n idea if what they are telling him now matches up with what they told him before.

Memento is a noir told backward. The first scene is the end of the story, and you know who Pearce kills. The rest of the story rewinds to the beginning, revealing the details of how and why Pearce killed the person he did. You see the end of story strands, red herrings and fights, before the beginning. It's supposed to give the viewer the same disorientation as Pearce has with his memory loss.

And fuck if it isn't disorienting. Writer/director Christopher Nolan wants to keep you in the dark, looking forward for clues and motives, not backward. The viewer has to remember what you just saw and put what you're seeing before it in your mind. Throughout most of the movie, it's like you woke up in a booth at the It'll Do Lounge, it's eight in the morning, and you can't remember how you got here. I'm sure we all know what that's like.

But, it's a gimmick. A great gimmick, sure, but nothing more than a gimmick to keep you confused. While it does a good job of keeping the audience in the dark, it also strips us of the desire to care. But that's what kind of movie this is, the kind where the delight is in saying "Oh, I get it now," but in nothing else. Because, in its fervent effort to confound you, it does a shitty job developing the characters or their motives. They are simplistic puppets driven by the story, not vice-versa. In fact, they frequently act illogically because if they didn't the whole house of cards would collapse. At the end of the movie, I was impressed by the style, but felt completely unmoved and slightly annoyed at how manipulative it was. It was impressive like a contortionist is. At first, you marvel and say how the fuck do they twist themselves up like that? After more reflection, the question is why the fuck do they twist themselves up like this?

In the meantime, there are some brilliant scenes. Pearce get caught in a chase and can't remember whether he is doing the chasing or being chased. That is, until he gets shot at. A motel manager charges him for two rooms because he'll willingly pay every time he comes down to the lobby. And throughout the story, he must navigate between those who understand his memory problem and help, and those who take advantage by spinning a new story every time they see him.

But, because the characters are all so single-minded, there's not much left to marvel at beyond the loopy structure. The ending falls flat because it doesn't really matter. It's arbitrary and convenient, just another twist in a story where Nolan has carte blanche to jerk and twist more than an epileptic at a Pokemon movie.

The cast is good, but less than great. Pantoliano stands out as the only character not speaking in a cool monotone. Pearce is a bit too low-key. He never extends beyond a range of hip that's narrower than the Fonz's. And Moss continues to be a very mediocre actress who can pout and who finds herself in the right place at the right time.

The story's setting is a mythic, sun-bleached Los Angeles that is never actually called Los Angeles. It's an almalgam of empty warehouses, outdated coffee shops and dirty motels that would make Raymond Chandler proud. I assume this is done as a modest tribute to Chandler. If it's not, it's a damn cheap ripoff.

Three Fingers for Memento. It's worth seeing for you movie nuts. But, if you're right now trying to figure out where First American Video is so you can rent our Talking Mule movies, go see some shit like Just Visiting instead.

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