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Tagline: Some Memories Are Best Forgotten


Pizza: Big Mama's and Papa's


Most movies like this are 100% pretentious, out-hipping other movies to the point where they out-hip themselves. But MEMENTO never for a second comes across that way. Nope. It's invisibly hip. Okay, I've gone on long enough. Let me end by saying this; if you're going to watch MEMENTO, strap in and don't let go, because you're in for one of the best movie rides of your life.

Before I finish, there's one more cool thing about MEMENTO I'd like to tell you about, one that RMCer Dawn spotted. It's at the very end of the B & W/Jenkis story, when he is sitting in a chair in the home, happily oblivious. Someone walks between him and the camera, and for a split second (and I really mean split), Jenkis is replaced by Leonard. Yep, there's Lenny, sitting in the chair. Nicely done, Dawn and Christopher! But it also makes me wonder...what else have I missed?




MEMENTO is filled with irony ("I always thought that the pleasure of reading a book was not to know what happens next.") and comedy (when he gets ripped off by clerk Burt who tells him "Always get a receipt," Leonard responds with "That's good advice. I'll have to write that down."). Also, Pantoliano's delivery on just about every line will just make you laugh. My favorite scene, well, I can't give it away, but it has to do with Natalie sitting in the car, after she hid the pencils. Wow! But even if you've seen this movie, would you remember that scene now, Alanis? That's because there are so many details in MEMENTO that we can't possibly pick up on it all in just one sitting. I watched this movie three times this week and am still noticing things, which just makes this movie better with each viewing. Fortunately, we have a movie to watch back, which raises the question; Why didn't Leonard buy a camcorder instead of taking Polaroids? That seems a bit archaic. In fact, mere months after MEMENTO was released Polaroid filed Chapter 11. And with the digital age, haven't we already become a MEMENTO culture? How many of us have taken pictures of numbered/lettered columns in parking structures to remember where we parked?

Outside Hotel

Guy Pearce gives a stunning performance as the ever-determined Leonard, whose last retrievable memory is of his wife being murdered. Every stroke, every nuance, every tic Pearce does seems right on the money, down to the way he writes on the Polaroids (he makes an E with a top line first, then attaches an L, then finishes it by adding the middle stroke...which is probably the way Pearce writes, though who's to say?). Steven Tobolowsky, normally a comic character actor (remember his turn in GROUNDHOG DAY..."Phil!!"...another movie whose segments repeat as the protagonist tries to figure out what's going on) throws in a heartbreaking performance as does his movie-wife played by Harriet Sansom Harris.


Nolan directed the remake of INSOMNIA starring Robin Williams and Hilary Swank as well as the new wave of holy BATMAN movies (BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT and the upcoming DARK KNIGHT RISES) that seemingly everyone but me went batty over. But it's MEMENTO that will, according to my tattoos, be the best movie he'll ever make. No Riddler will ever create a puzzle this exquisite. MEMENTO is a writer/director's tour de force. Also check out his first movie called FOLLOWING. It's a 70 minute (does that make it a movie?) outing that is absolutely wonderful and a great stepping stone for MEMENTO. Trust me.

(Okay, it's time for me to play with time now. I just watched MEMENTO again, this time in chronological order. Less confusing? Wrong! It's the same jigsaw puzzle, but with different pieces. Amazing. )

Director Christopher Nolan slathers the film in neo-noir, exemplified in moments like when Leonard gets knocked out; as the blood seeps out of his skull the camera moves away from his head to a frame filled with the mosaic pattern of the bathroom floor (mosaic is a great image for this movie). And as Nolan juggles all these slippery balls, he covers the movie with quick inserts like the turning of a desk phone or the tossing of sunglasses on a table, jarring us, sometimes subliminally (yet another great word for this movie). The script (from a story by Nolan's brother Jonathan) demands that each scene is as important as the one before (err, after), which is good news for actors, as it's nearly impossible to wind up on the cutting room floor. Nolan's eye is sharp, and telling the story backwards isn't simply a gag for us to enjoy, it puts us inside Leonard's skin. And if you think the plot doesn't matter, think again. And again. And again. This story is great even if it were told chronologically, as I'm about to put to the test, as the 2002 "limited edition" DVD has a way to watch it so. That's the secret as to why MEMENTO is so momentous. It's not a gimmick movie. It's a clever movie that has a gimmick.


While this retro-plot continues, a whole other story is being played out, shot in black and white. These sequences, alternating with the color ones, go forward in time and introduce us to Sammy Jenkis (Steven Tobolowsky). We learn about Sammy from Leonard himself as he is talking on the phone (but to whom?). Sammy also suffered from anterograde amnesia, and Leonard was the insurance investigator assigned to his case, making Leonard fully aware of his own condition. It's this subplot (hmm, I suppose it's more of an anecdote) of Sammy's that provides the heartwarming and devastating arc of the movie, which is a terrific contrast to Leonard's psychotropic journey.


Not easily, that's how! Imagine waking up in a room, not knowing where, or who you're waking up next to (well, maybe you can relate to that). Imagine opening a closet door to find a man bound and bloodied, only to learn it was you who did the binding and bloodying (well, maybe you can relate to that, too). Imagine not being able to trust people who want to help you because the only proof you have is them saying they want to help you. And this happens to you every time you stop thinking about what you're thinking about. Additionally, you must constantly deal with the loss of your wife and this wicked, hellbent revenge you can't shake.

First up: Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), Leonard's obnoxious friend (though Leonard can't remember him) who is helping him find John G., the man who killed his wife. Then there's the fiery Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) who has also suffered the loss of a loved one (both miss feeling the warmth of the bed next to them when their mate leaves for the bathroom). Hotel clerk Burt (Mark Boone Junior), who decides to rip Leonard off by renting him two rooms, knowing he won't remember. And just who is this Dodd guy, and why is Leonard chasing him? Or is Dodd chasing Leonard? Can one of these people be setting Leonard up? Two of them? All of them? Hell, with his freak show condition, it could very well be none of them. How will Leonard untangle this knotty adventure?

Teddy (Joe Pantoliano)


As Leonard tries to unravel every riddle, he meets some not-so-usual suspects; all noir-y, all suspicious:

Guy Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a man with anterograde amnesia, which means his long term is fine but his short term memory is gone. That's why he pushes instead of pulls on a door that he's gone through before (Ted Baxter did that too, but he was just stupid), or puts on a shirt that isn't his, and bangs his arm against a wall when he awakens (whenever he awakens, it's in a strange room, no matter how many times he's been there before).
He can't make new memories, so in order to remember things, Leonard either takes Polaroids and scribbles notes on them, or tattoos info directly onto his body to make them permanent (a bit of a stretch, but way cool). Why so extreme for a guy with memory loss? Well, because someone clocked him when he tried to stop them from raping and murdering his wife. Now, he is attempting to piece it all together one short-term fragment after (or before?) another. So after each segment, we jump cut to what led us there (which happened previously, yet we see it after). That said, MEMENTO opens with the end of the story; Leonard killing a guy named Teddy, who he believes to be the culprit. And since we know how it ends, the journey itself becomes the real mystery. MEMENTO is a howdoeshefindoutwhodunit?


Before I even begin this write-up about MEMENTO, let's make sure we're on the same page here. MEMENTO is not that mint with the goofy 80s ads (The Freshmaker!). Nope, MEMENTO (or as its known in Canada, "Mémento") is a 113 minute jigsaw puzzle that uses tattoos and Polaroids as its pieces. And because this murder/revenge tale is told backwards (reverse increments, actually), while part is told in forward motion, it just makes it even more smart and fun. If you're confused watching this movie (or reading the previous sentence), you're not alone. With MEMENTO (2000), it's not only okay to be confused, it's required. It's a good kind of lost. No, it's a great kind of lost.


Good Eating Habits Screen Shot
These are two ephemeral short films from 1951 and 1963. The first, GOOD EATING HABITS, is a cautionary tale about not eating slowly and chewing thoroughly, even if it's bacon with toast slathered with butter. You see, Father, Mother, Carol and Bill are having supper (I want to call it supper from now on, instead of dinner. It just sounds so much cooler.). But Bill's not hungry. Why, he can't even have fun playing with his train set before going to bed. Yep. Bill has a stomach ache. Why? Well, like MEMENTO, we'll have to go back and find out. If you want to find out why Bill has a stomach ache: http://tinyurl.com/3dfbthz

Visit To Santa
A VISIT TO SANTA (presented by Clem Williams, whoever he is) is about Dick and Ann, who wonder if Santa got their letter. He did, for there he is reading the letter up in the North Pole! And who could have guessed that the North Pole would look so much like a 60s living room!

Santa, a horrible actor, and his elf, even worse, decide it's okay for Dick and Ann to visit him. So the elf kidnaps the kids and takes them to the North Pole. Click HERE to see this film and its amazing pre-ILM North Pole effects.

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