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“Christopher Nolan: A Critical Study of the Films” Available for Pre-Order

I am thrilled to announce my new book, Christopher Nolan: A Critical Study of the Films. I announced it at the end of The 250 episode covering Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige.

I’ve been working on this for more than a year at this point, and am very excited to be able to share. The idea is to present a broad and accessible examination of the iconic director’s first ten films, looking at his work, his craft and his recurring thematic occupations. The goal is to illuminate one of the defining directors of the twenty-first century, a film-maker who has shaped the medium as we understand it today by combining deeply personal narratives with old-fashioned crowd-pleasing storytelling.

The book is currently scheduled for release late in the year, but you can pre-order it now from various online retailers. It’s a book that I’ve worked very hard on, and one that I am very proud of. If you can support it, whether by pre-ordering it or asking your local library to stock it or even just by sharing word about it online, it would mean a great deal to me.

It’s the second book that I’ve written with McFarland Press, who also published my last book Opening the X-Files, which took a look at the work of Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen on the era-defining series The X-Files and other related projects. They’ve been incredibly supportive of my work, and were a wonderful collaborator once again. Anyway, thanks again for your time, and I’ll hopefully have some more Nolan-related content on here leading up to the release.

If you want to support the book by pre-ordering it, here are the links to the places where you can purchase it at present:

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92. The Prestige (#49)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode thrown in.

This time, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige.

On the cusp of the twentieth century, an obsession brews between two magicians. Alfred Borden and Robert Angier compete to surpass one another on the London stage; lives will be lost, illusions will be shattered, and reality itself might fray along the edges.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 49th best movie of all-time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Vanishing Point (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Vanishing Point continues the “remix” formula that we’ve come to expect from the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise. In particular, Vanishing Point is a rather heady Star Trek: The Next Generation cocktail. It has shades of Remember Me, Realm of Fear, The Next Phase and even The Inner Light – with a healthy dose of Brannon Braga’s questions about the nature of reality. All of these elements blend together to form Vanishing Point, an episode that feels overly familiar and rote despite an intriguing set-up.

It is a shame that it doesn’t work better. Vanishing Point brings us back to the idea that Archer and his crew are pioneers in space exploration. The teaser reminds us that the crew of the Enterprise still don’t take the transporter for granted – that it is still something of a mystery to them, despite the audience’s familiarity with the device. Vanishing Point feels like the first time that Enterprise has emphasised this sense of novelty and inexperience since the first season.

Reflections...

Reflections…

However, the episode feels like something of a disappointment. The entire story turns out to be a gimmick and a twist. There is nothing wrong with this sort of storytelling. After all, the franchise has played these sorts of games before. Indeed, some of Braga’s best scripts – Frame of Mind and Projections come to mind – touch on similar ideas with similar twists. The problem with Vanishing Point is that these twists seem a bit too loose or too disconnected to properly resonate.

Vanishing Point feels like the rough sketch of a good episode doodled quickly on the back of a napkin, a collection of connective clauses all designed to keep the story ticking for forty-five minutes before ending on a fairly stock twist. There is a great deal of potential here, but Vanishing Point never quite delivers on it.

Trip Tucker: Space Tourist...

Trip Tucker: Space Tourist…

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My Top 50 Movies of the Decade…

Alright here it is, my top fifty films of the decade. I’ve decided to stop complaining about Donal Clarke’s list in the Irish Times and just let rip myself. There’s more than a few crazy choices down there, but – after a week in the works – I’m happy with it. I doubt that a lot of other people will be.

Like the Oscars, but... you know, better...

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Non-Review Review: The Prestige

Last week we caught The Prestige on Network 2. It’s a breath-taking movie that tends to get lost among 2006’s other magic-themed outings (Scoop and The Illusionist). A well-crafted magical treat, I think that the film might be Nolan’s most well-crafted to date. And – a little to my surprise, I must admit – my girlfriend enjoyed it as well.

"Are you watching closely?"

"Are you watching closely?"

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Will Inception land Christopher Nolan an Oscar Nomination (or Two)?

I loved Christopher Nolan before The Dark Knight made it cool to do so. My love affair dates back to the relative indie Momento, the backwards-staged thriller in which a wronged insurance salesman attempts to find out who killed his wife, but is blocked by his inability to form memories. So, our hero makes studious notes and tattoos himself with all the pertinent information before he forgets it. A hokey premise to be sure, but it worked. The film went on to receive a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Nolan and his brother. This is, despite critically-praised hit after critically-praised hit, Nolan’s only Oscar nomination.

There was a lot of Oscar buzz around The Dark Knight, with commentators suggesting that even if the genre film was locked out of the Best Picture category Nolan would be guarunteed a nod as Best Director. He’d made a geek property the biggest summer blockbuster ever, proved that Imax was a viable filming method and assembled a cast full of folks that Hollywood loved (Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman). He’d delivered one of those rare pop cultre masterpieces. Alas, it was not to be. He couldn’t even get a nomination in the Best Adapted Screenplay, despite the most concise distilling of seventy-years’ worth of comic book history on to celluloid.

I’m not bitter, and had expected the snub – though I had anticipated Darren Aaronoski or Clint Eastwood to take the fabled fifth spot.

Nolan films Batman to the max... the (i)Max...

Nolan films Batman to the max... the (i)Max...

Anyway, Oscar prognosticators, clearly not allured by the whallop-crash-bang movies flooding into cinemas at the moment, have already started looking at next year’s awards. There are are all the usual suspects – Clint Eastwood’s untitled-as-of-yet Mandela biopic starring Morgan Freeman, Daniel Day-Lewis in a musical based on Fellini’s 8 1/2 (creatively titled “Nine”), and Martin Scorcese’s Shutter Island with Leonardo diCaprio and former Watchman Jackie Earle Haley. Ever one to follow fads, I’ll be taking a closer look at these in the coming days.

I’m going to one-up these tea-leaf-readers and ask whether Christopher Nolan’s next film might earn him that coveted (but deserved) director’s nomination. The movie won’t be released until 2010, so it’ll be February 2011 before we know for sure (sooner based on advanced word and actually seeing the film – but that’d take the fun out of this), but let’s have a bit of fun with this. If I get it right, I’m a box office guru. If I get it wrong, well, there was no way I could reasonably get it right, right?

We don’t know much about Inception except that it’s loosely science-fiction – it takes place within “the architecture of the mind”. That bodes badly for a Best Picture Nomination, but doesn’t rule out a nomination in the Director category, not least of which for an established director. Look at Peter Weir (The Truman Show) or Stanly Kubrick (2001). So, not as solid gold as a Nelson Mandela biopic or a damned holocaust film, but not a dealbreaker.

Guy Pearce, Used Car Salesman

Guy Pearce, Used Car Salesman

The cast is pretty solid. Leonardo diCaprio and Ellen Page have received Oscar nominations, but never won. This will mark Michael Caine’s fourth consecutive film with Nolan. And there’s some pretty solid support there from Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has always been a respectable performer, if not a box office giant – though he is filling in from the increasingly-taken-seriously James Franco) and Cillian Murphy (who has yet to give a performance for an American audience that establishes him as a bona fides actor – The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Breakfast on Pluto, 28 Days Later and Intermission were all Irish or English films). So, a very respectable cast, if not quite Oscar-laiden. There’s also the release date to be considered – based on filming news and the guestimated scheduling of other films (read: Warner Brothers will want Batman 3 for Summer 2011), fate would seem to point to an early 2010 release date. Which is good for those of us dying to see it, but bad for the film’s Oscar chances.

And now the moment of truth. My best guess: no Best Picture nomination, no Best Director nomination, possibly a Screenplay nomination. The film will be out of Hollywood’s very short-term memory come the 2010/2011 awards season. It’s that simple. Over the past few years, every Best Picture nominee has been released in the last three months of the year. This has led to a ridiulous glut of awardsfare over a ridiculously cramped period, but as long as it continues to happen, the powers that be will continue to take it for granted. And as long as the powers that be take it for granted, the longer studios will continue to release in that narrow window. It’s a viscious cycle.

Besides, edgy films in underappreciated genres tend to have better luck in the writing categories (both winning and acheiving nominations).I readily admit that I might be getting ahead of myself here – it’s quite possible that the film may suck, but I doubt it. Besides, it’s just as likely that Daniel Day-Lewis’ next film could be a dud or that Clint Eastwood could forgt how to direct drama. Nolan’s record (Momento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight) stands to him, and at least gives him the benefit of the doubt. I’m looking forward to the film as one of the highlights of 2010.

Well, that was fun. Now I don’t feel so bad speculating about the 2010 Oscar ceremony!