189. Memento

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Movie: Memento

Release Date: March 16, 2001

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano.

Tag Lines: “Some memories are best forgotten.”

Relevance: Once in awhile a movie comes along that is so original and mind-blowing it shakes the core idea of what film as an art form can do. ‘Memento’ was one such film. It was a small independent feature that introduced me and most of the world to Christopher Nolan. Mr. Nolan is one of my favorite filmmakers on the planet and has produced, written and directed some of the best films in the last twenty years. With that said, ‘Memento’ is his only film on my list of most influential movies of all time, but it is his greatest achievement thus far.

As soon as it was released in theaters, it generated a lot of industry buzz and became the movie that everyone “needed to see.” As mentioned above, it was a small independent film, costing just under ten million dollars to make. Its theatrical release was strategically limited. It was a movie that was on my radar right from the get go, but unfortunately where I worked and lived at the time, I was unable to see it. It eventually grossed nearly forty million dollars worldwide at the box office, but I had to wait for its home media release to see exactly what everybody was talking about. And that is what I did.

The movie was released for rental as well as VHS and DVD purchase on September 4, 2001. I remember this because I worked at a record and movie store at the time and it was a well sought after title. I also remember it because it was the movie I had rented the week of the September 11 attacks that year. On September 10, I stopped at a Hollywood Video on my way home from work and was lucky enough to grab a copy. I had been trying to do so the entire week beforehand. I watched it that night and was completely entranced.

This thought provoking thriller’s unique narrative structure, that some might now see as gimmicky, was completely fresh and enticing at the time. It was one of those movies that while you are watching it, you are thinking, “what the hell am I watching” as well as being completely entertained. After it ended, the movie reverberated in my head for the entire night and consumed my dreams. My plan was to keep the movie and watch it again the following night. But like a lot of people in the world, plans for September 11, 2001 changed due to its tragic events.

I was scheduled to work nine to six that blue skied, sunny Tuesday, but only made it to about three in the afternoon as a shocked nation closed down for reflection. Being in a store without a television, I was only told via radio and the few customers that were out that day about the horror that was happening in New York City and Washington D.C. Still without seeing those terrible images for myself, I knew I probably wasn’t going to be watching ‘Memento’ again that night. And I was right. As soon as I got home my eyes were glued to the news of the day.

The following day I took the rented VHS tape (I didn’t have a DVD player yet) and returned it to the rental store before heading to work. Since I knew how much I loved the movie and because I was still in a depression about the state of the world, I treated myself that day and bought my own VHS copy for myself. I watched and re-watched the film many times over the following months. Its themes of grief and perception were a perfect remedy for where my head was at during that time.

I eventually bought the DVD of ‘Memento’ as soon as I got a DVD player later that year. As if that wasn’t enough, I bought the limited edition DVD when that became available. I was obsessed with the film. For me, it is a movie that only gets better and better the more times that I watched it. Over the years, that has been quite a lot.

Today’s Thoughts: “We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are.”

‘Memento’ is by far one of the greatest movies made within the last twenty years and I was super excited to watch it again today. My husband actually sat down to watch it with me this morning, but he only made it to the DVD menu page. “What the fuck are you watching?” And then he was gone. In his defense, if you own the limited edition, you know that the menus do kind of mess with your head. So like most movies, I watched this alone.

It was just as fresh and engaging as it was nineteen years ago. Even though I knew the outcome and where the “color and black and white” stories merged, there were still times where I was thinking, “Wait. What?” It’s just that kind of movie. And I loved it again. Christopher Nolan is such a brilliant director and the cast, led by the phenomenal performance by Guy Pearce, is remarkable. Mr. Pearce is thoroughly convincing and astounding as a man with anterograde amnesia. The ensemble around him including Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Stephen Tobolowsky and Harriet Sansom Harris are all stellar as well. Mr Tobolowsky and Ms. Harris give such wonderful performances, especially Ms. Harris. She has one particular heartbreaking moment that is just incredible to watch. Brava!

I know many film fans will be upset that this is the one and only Christopher Nolan film as part of this project. All I can say is make your own list. Of course I have enjoyed all of his films, but for me, this is his crowning achievement so far. I am sure he still has more treasures up his sleeve and I hope that one of them finally gives him the Academy Award that he so deserves. Until then, watch ‘Memento’ and enjoy its originality and savor the fact that you are watching cinematic excellence.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Dody Dorn (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Christopher Nolan (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association For Best Screenplay, Christopher Nolan (winner), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Christopher Nolan (nomination), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Director, Christopher Nolan (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, Christopher Nolan (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female, Carrie-Anne Moss (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography, Wally Pfister (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay, Christopher Nolan (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Film Registry (2017), New York Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay, Christopher Nolan (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Tubi, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, DVD Availability.

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