Recently this summer Inception was heaped with constant acclaim about it being a “smart” blockbuster and fans saying it was a “thinking man’s” movie. I’m curious about what this exactly means though. Inception isn’t a particularly “smart” movie in the since that it leaves any questions that are particularly interesting or any questions at all. Like most Christopher Nolan movies, the audience is beaten to death in the head with exposition upon exposition. Now I’m well aware that fans of the movie can assuage this fault by saying it’s necessary or what have you. However, I’m not making an argument about whether it was or wasn’t necessary or about Inception exclusively. The issue of course is what makes a movie smart. The only question that you’re left with in the movie is in the cliffhanger ending. I’m not anti-cliffhanger ending, but I wouldn’t say a movie is smart because it has it. The manner comes down to which party in the discussion is better at rhetoric or can point out the most convincing information presented in the movie to decide what was what. That’s not particularly interesting to me.
So the conversation must go back to what makes a movie smart. I would say the same reason I deem a person smart. It’s not being able to recite whatever great thinkers that have existed all throughout time at the drop of the time. Nor is it the ability to do something consistent or competently. I believe a smart movie is one that either presents an idea in a through and unique fashion or one that just breathes open and honest intellectual curiosity. John Cassavettes is someone I say was a smart director because while his movies didn’t tackle grand philosophical or scientific (as most movies that are deemed smart are Sci-Fi movies) in his movies, there is a love for the percularities in human life throughout all of his movies. And because he was able to not to simply understand this but portray it in a way that the audience could feel and think is why everything hits in such a profound way. Or another favorite of mine is Waking Life, which could be accurately described as “Intro Into Philosophy: The Movie”. I do believe that misses the point of the movie. Because even though it can be very verbose or abstract, when it takes you on your journey ever story and conversation had doesn’t seem contrived in the slightest. Every character in the film feels open and honest about their beliefs, even if everything they say isn’t fully worked out to themselves. Wonderful movie of ideas, even if they’ve all been presented before.