Now Playing: Stephanie Zacharek's Video Review of Inception

sz_inception_video_review_225.jpgSo you might have heard Movieline's chief film critic Stephanie Zacharek had some problems with Inception. Along with a few other pans heard round the world (literally), the review has provoked more than a little discussion among fans of Christopher Nolan -- and that discussion will only advance this weekend as the film opens in theaters. With that in mind, let's talk!

And: Let's keep it civil! It's just a movie, people.

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Comments

  • In reading SZ's reviews over the years, I have noticed a very strong tendency to disagree with mainstream, dislike many movies, and generally cause mayhem. I am not entirely sure I take her as seriously as I once did, sensing that this rancor she generates is somewhat self-promotional. But I don't know her, so who's to say. In the final analysis, the question is usefulness, not wit. There are movies that all critics find inexplicable in their appeal and a critic needs to find something explicable to say about them. But when that's most of what you do, maybe you need to take a long vacation.

  • Chris says:

    You mean, as opposed to praising masterpieces like 17 again and Daddy Day Care? - scroll through her RT links and Salon backlog for the latter..

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  • JT says:

    Stephanie, What is it about Christopher Nolan that you don't like? From my recollection, you also graded The Dark Knight with a low score (a D+) in Entertainment Weekly (just like this movie). Like Inception, that movie was a knockout. However, because this is America, you're entitled to your views--nothing like boasting about Howard the Duck and slamming Nolan's finely made new classics that make you think for a change. I'm sure you also despised the ending and how the interpretation of Leonardo's character was left up the the viewer, right?
    Now I'd like to give your work a grade: an " F ", for you don't know a classic if it rear-ended you at a stop sign. I guess all the chick movies and gay comedies deserve your praise! Way to go, Howard the Duck, and Freddie Got Fingered. Go to the Optomitrist and get your eyes checked, then send me the bill.

  • Trace says:

    She gave 17 Again and Daddy Day Care a 50/100 on Metacritic. Explain to me how those qualify as "masterpieces".

  • Trace says:

    "Stephanie, What is it about Christopher Nolan that you don't like?"
    How many times is she going to explain that he can't direct action well and can't tell a visual story and stuffs every throwaway piece of dialogue with a sense of self-importance? How many times?
    "From my recollection, you also graded The Dark Knight with a low score (a D+) in Entertainment Weekly (just like this movie). "
    EW's critic's grade is grossly inaccurate. Does 50/100 sound like a D+ to you?
    "However, because this is America, you're entitled to your views--nothing like boasting about Howard the Duck and slamming Nolan's finely made new classics that make you think for a change."
    Howard the Duck is way better than Inception on almost every front. Nolan's LOL-worthy hack jobs don't make us think-all his ideas ceased to be fascinating or relevant about 500 years ago.
    "I'm sure you also despised the ending and how the interpretation of Leonardo's character was left up the the viewer, right?"
    It was entirely predictable and pandered to audiences who wanted a trick ending from a director known for trick endings, so that they could pass Inception off as clever when it's really just stupid.
    Also, most of us who thought Inception was garbage could care less about Leo's character, because he's such a retard.
    "Now I'd like to give your work a grade: an " F ", for you don't know a classic if it rear-ended you at a stop sign."
    That means virtually nothing coming from a guy who calls Nolan movies "classics".

  • Chris says:

    Try reading the fucking reviews, Trace, instead of mindlessly kissing Stephie's ass. She didn't give a "50" score on Metacritic, since those scores are not assigned by the critics themselves. It is Metacritic itself that assigns the numbers. The actual reviews are absurdly positive appraisals of pieces of shit. But that kind of shit is right up idiotic Stephie's alley.

  • Chris says:

    "How many times is she going to explain that he can't direct action well and can't tell a visual story and stuffs every throwaway piece of dialogue with a sense of self-importance? How many times?"
    And how many times does it have to be explained to you, Trace, that the same thing can be said of the Matrix trilogy? Why is the one lousy but the other some kind of holy grail? And how come Brian DePalma (for example) is allowed to be as self-indulgent and self-important as he wants to be in his mise-en-scene and still earns fawning treatment from Stephie?
    And don't come back with me that DePalma is a great artist, because that's precisely what Stephanie fails to establish. Merely asserting over and over again that something is true or false doesn't go far enough. When it comes to actually mustering real evidence for her judgments, Stephanie usually fails miserably - or doesn't even try.
    Your constant ass-kissing of Stephanie is pathetic and embarrassing. You refuse to admit that her picks and pans are nothing but personal caprice, and are basically the same as a person who loves Italian food - so praises every single Italian eatery they go to - and who hates Chinese food - so trashes every single Chinese restaurant they go to. Yeah, that lead to incidental and accidental truths, for surely some of the Chinese places really will be as bad as she says, and some of the Italian places really will turn out to be good. But it's an accident. Stephanie favors a certain tone and certain ingredients in her movies, and every single movie that contains those ingredients will get a thumbs-up from her, and every single one that lacks them a thumbs-down. The most important thing to her is that she has to feel like a hipster.
    Insofar as you give her a free pass for her capriciousness, you embarrass yourself and have become just as much of a cultie of Stephie as Stephie is of the late Pauline Kael.

  • JT says:

    BRAVO Chris! You hit the nail (or Trace) right on the head! (And, no, I'm not being sarcastic). Way to go, my man.

  • Trace says:

    "And how many times does it have to be explained to you, Trace, that the same thing can be said of the Matrix trilogy?"
    Good Lord! Did you SERIOUSLY just regurgitate a point that I already refuted long ago?!!!
    You did. But I'm happy to regurgitate the rebuttal. Keep in mind, though, that the extent of Steph's approval of The Matrix 1 extends to one phrase in a review for Speed Racer. She has virtually NOTHING to say about the sequels unless you know something I don't.
    And to be fair, unless you have actually SEEN both The Matrix and Inception, this probably won't register for you.
    "The thing is, only in your LOL-worthy mind is that paragraph easily transferable! The only thing The Matrix (forget the dismal sequels, which in fact DO share an unfortunate amount of similarites) has in common with Inception is alternate realities. And that's where the comparisons end. The Matrix gets all the "mindbending" crap out of the way in the first act, and proceeds to bring it into action thriller territory. Nothing is a real twist ending. Inception, on the other hand, is designed so that EVERY plot point is designed as a shocking twist (to where it ends up contraditing the movie's plot logic). The Matrix's action scenes are also vastly different. Where the Wachowskis rely on extended shots and slo-mo cameras to show you EXACTLY what's happening and who's firing the shots, Inception makes no such effort to show you any sort of logistics. And of course, The Matrix is far more subtle in introducing its artistic themes of faith. The movie never contradicts itself to make a point.
    And the Wachowski's trick endings (when they had them) were never cloying like Nolan's. They had no effect on the plot. Did it matter whether Racer X was Speed's brother? Not really."
    "Why is the one lousy but the other some kind of holy grail?"
    I do enjoy how you put words in her mouth. She didn't call it a holy grail. There's no indication in anything she writes that she enjoyed it as anything more than simple action movie.
    "And how come Brian DePalma (for example) is allowed to be as self-indulgent and self-important as he wants to be in his mise-en-scene and still earns fawning treatment from Stephie?"
    The two DePalma films I've seen (Snake Eyes and Mission Impossible) carry neither self-indulgence nor self-importance.
    "Merely asserting over and over again that something is true or false doesn't go far enough. "
    Yet that's precisely what you do. You insist-with NO evidence whatsoever-that what she says about Inception could just as easily be said for The Matrix. My refutation comes from actually seeing both movies and observing them. Your premise, on the other hand, comes from ignoring all the obvious differences that come from actually paying attention to the movies. What gives? Why would you ignore all the obvious differences that the two have just so you can build a case against Steph?
    If you don't like my refutation, then prove that The Matrix is in any way like Inception. I dare you.
    "Your constant ass-kissing of Stephanie is pathetic and embarrassing."
    Yeah? You see me putting up "STEPH UR SO AWSUM" on every one of her posts?
    I'm hardly ass-kissing. I'm merely pointing out the illogicality and double standards that exist in most of the dissenting posts.
    "You refuse to admit that her picks and pans are nothing but personal caprice, and are basically the same as a person..."
    Pathetic and embarrasing would be regurgitating the same wrong arguments and metaphors you posted up top as if I hadn't read them.
    And I'm not going to say that she isn't human-obviously she favors some movies over others-but everything she observes is there to be observed. She rarely strains to pick or pan a movie based on some frivolous detail.
    "The most important thing to her is that she has to feel like a hipster."
    "Hipster" does NOT mean "hating everything". If she WERE a hipster, she would probably PRAISE overstylzed movies with nerdy actors rather than pan them. And she would probably LOVE Nolan and pan movies like 17 again rather than praise them. And her complaint that Speed Racer's campy dialogue is aimed at hipsters couldn't contradict your point more.
    "Insofar as you give her a free pass for her capriciousness, you embarrass yourself and have become just as much of a cultie of Stephie as Stephie is of the late Pauline Kael. "
    So I'm a fan. Sue me. That doesn't make you right.

  • Chris says:

    "And the Wachowski's trick endings (when they had them) were never cloying like Nolan's. They had no effect on the plot. Did it matter whether Racer X was Speed's brother? Not really."
    But these details are still there in both sets of films. Trick endings and twists and mind-bender visuals (are we in the Matrix? are we in the real world? where does reality end and the matrix being? red pill or blue pill? etc.) *of a very similar sort* are present in both. To say *"The only thing The Matrix (forget the dismal sequels, which in fact DO share an unfortunate amount of similarites) has in common with Inception is alternate realities. And that's where the comparisons end."* is bullshit, and dishonest, for without the "alternate realities" element, nobody would've been interested in those movies. Try to remove the mindbender/alternative reality dimension and you have no movie left that anyone would be interested in enough to make them hits. Nolan and the Warchawskis are hit filmmakers for remarkably similar reasons. And no, the "fact" - if it is a fact - that Warshawskis direct action sequences better is not enough to justify kissing their ass.
    Try stripping that alternate/dream reality dimension from the movies, and then point to something memorable about them. You can't. Because then you have no movie left. It isn't like the MacGuffin in a Hitchcock film, or Rosebud in *Citizen Kane*, which really are just triggers. The mind-twisting is essential to *The Matrix* and there'd be no movie left without it. There would be no characters and no themes.
    *If you don't like my refutation, then prove that The Matrix is in any way like Inception. I dare you.*
    I just did. You even admit they are the same - you only try to separate the first movie out from the sequels, so you can set it up as different, but you already admitted you find the sequels extremely similar. Well, guess what? The sequels didn't come out of nowhere. They are sequels to - guess what? - an original film, *The Matrix*, from which they derive (and then expand upon and exaggerate) the very elements you yourself acknowledge bear a strong resemblance to Nolan's film.
    Even if one concedes what you're saying, all you're saying is that the original *Matrix* is better than its shitty sequels and Nolan's film. But even if one concedes this, it's still occupying the same ballpark. All you're saying is the original film hits a home run, whereas the sequels and *Inception* only get to second or third base. But in addition to failing to establish this, even if you and Stephanie *did* convincingly establish this, it's still largely a meaningless distinction.
    For they all belong to the same family of films. It's like saying *Return of the Jedi* is a great, great movie while the three *Star Wars* prequels/sequels Lucas returned to make are all shit. The problem with this stance is that, in fact, *Jedi* already contains many of the defects and shortcomings people complained about in the prequels. Even if *Jedi* is better, it's not so much better that going into raptures and ecstasies over it is justified, while dismissing the prequels as pure garbage is fair. My objection is not that Stephanie praises *Salt* (for example) and dispraises *Inception*, it's that the former is a total ecstatic, exhilarated rave while the latter is a total demolition job. Yet the only elements from *Salt* she describes in any detail and precision are total paint-by-numbers cliches. If the goal is to demonstrate the high caliber of the former, she fails miserably.
    For her review of *Salt* to be a success, she would have to demonstrate its quality through showing how it was something other than a bunch of cliches (used a thousand times before in movies) strung together. This she fails utterly to do. Moreover, I guessed what she would see about the movie just from seeing the poster with Angelina. I took one look at it and guessed with close to a hundred percent accuracy what Zacharek would write. I was almost entirely correct about every single detail of her review. You know you've become a totally predictable, robotic, pre-programmed joke of a critic when....

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