Riddle me this. Why is it that a musical group's earliest stuff is always its best? Sure, it's often true of authors, painters, and significant others as well, but it's the most glaringly obvious with bands. When they're young and hungry, they make gonads-grabbing, mind-melting music, but as they get older - regardless of how famous they get - they're shit almost always turns to, well, shit. Call it the Unified Theory of Inevitable Mediocrity.
One director whose career is a textbook illustration of that theory is Christopher "Robin" Nolan. He broke big back in 2000 with his very first feature, Memento, which subverted and succeeded so well that it became part of the pop culture lexicon. The sucking slope got pretty slippery after that. Sure, Batman Begins wasn't bad, and its sequel, The Dark Knight was pretty darn good (thanks mostly to Ledger's Joker), but The Dark Knight Rises had me saying, "Holy ass sandwich, Batman!" Then Inception failed to come close to the mental and visceral fireworks of his debut.
From there, the inevitable fall, and faster than most. If Interstellar were a dude, I'd pick a fight with it in the parking lot of the dive bar it was hanging out in ironically. Nolan jumped the shark more mightily than the Fonz with that sci-fi wankfest. After redeeming himself somewhat with the by-the-numbers Dunkirk, Nolan's obsession with puzzleboxing finally buggered him . . . and his audience . . . four ways from February with Tenet, a movie that is crazy fucking bad no matter what your idiot film school friend says.
Memento, though, holds up, even two-plus decades later. Unspooling (mostly) in reverse, it's a detective story told by the most unreliable narrator since you had to explain the cheap perfume and stripper glitter all over you to your girl after you were "working late." Leonard (Guy "Hawkeye" Pearce) has a weird type of amnesia that basically keeps him from making new memories. So his whole world kind of reboots every 15 minutes or so. You know, except when the plot needs it not to.
Leonard is committed to finding and killing his wife's murderer, so he tattoos himself with important clues and questions and does his best Philip Marlowe impression. Who can he trust? Will he get justice? Is the story you're watching even the one you think it is?
Enjoy the rise, because the fall's enough to break your heart.
April 28, 2023