Streaming Quick Picks: Christopher Nolan & Matthew McConaughey
This week, with Interstellar as our Madfilm Meetup, we here at the Madison Film Forum are giving you two artists for the price of one.
We’ll start out with Christopher Nolan, a filmmaker who has made nine features whose epic nature (since Batman Begins, anyway) and attention to craft have made him an unmistakable force in contemporary Hollywood cinema. Particularly with his “Dark Knight Trilogy,” The Prestige, and Inception, Nolan delivers films that are known for intensity in tone, tight scripting (some might say overscripting), and a penchant for thematics revolving around notions of justice as balance.
For my part, I find Nolan an increasingly fascinating filmmaker in terms of the critical response to his films. Before they are released, announcements surrounding the films are always met with a fair amount of skepticism, especially when it comes to casting. Christian Bale as Batman? Heath Ledger as the Joker? Matthew McConaughey as an engineer AND an astronaut? Over the course of his career, he has proven worthy of trust in his decision-making on that score (let’s hope he’s right on that last example too). After the films are released, however, particularly if they get the kind of acclaim that The Dark Knight and Inception did, there is an inevitable critical backlash that the films face, particularly with respect to plotting problems as a response to films that are, as I mentioned, almost too tightly plotted. I think it’s fair to say, however, that there are few Hollywood filmmakers striving to make the kind of popular epics that Nolan has produced, and he earns those long run times with each new cinematic adventure. The sum of each film is always greater than its parts (most strong, a few not as much), and I inevitably walk away from his films feeling like I have seen something new, something special—even that last third of Inception, which owes much to the criminally under-seen James Bond classic On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
As much as he is known for his blockbusters, I would urge you not to deprive yourselves of his smaller, quieter works. No doubt, most of our readers have seen Memento, which put Nolan on the map, but those of you who haven’t seen Insomnia or The Prestige should do so post haste. Nolan’s remake of Insomnia has intrigued me for years as a sort of philosophical template for the types of concerns that appear in the Batman films, opting for a narrative revolving around justice instead of the 1997 original’s narrative of chance. As for The Prestige, suffice to say that if you haven’t seen it, you are missing one of the most perfectly crafted films of any genre in the past 15 years. These, along with all of Nolan’s films, are readily available via Netflix, Vudu, and (predominantly) Amazon, as well as via disc from our friends at Four Star Video Co-op and the Madison Public Library.
Nolan is also renowned for his love of movies shot on and projected on film. Proof of this will be in theaters tomorrow as Nolan treats us to another epic in Interstellar. Theaters that can project the film in 35mm, 70mm, or 70mm IMAX will start showing it two days before all other theaters. We here in Madison are lucky that Sundance Cinemas will be projecting the film in 35mm, an increasingly rare treat with the prevalence of digital projection. We hope you’ll join us for this week’s Madfilm Meetup screening of Interstellar at Sundance Cinemas tomorrow night (Tuesday, November 4) at 8:00 PM, and we hope you’ll tell us what you think of Christopher Nolan’s films, as well as those of Matthew McConaughey below, in the comments section.
And then we turn to the star of Interstellar. Whether you think he’s bonkers when he speaks in front of others, or if you are like a friend of mine and convinced that the resurgence of the word “douchebag” in the popular lexicon directly coincides with his late-90’s/early-00’s rise in Hollywood, one thing is certain: the last three years have been great for Matthew McConaughey. Early on, I was never particularly impressed with his onscreen talent. He was to me solely a celebrity, until one morning in 2011, when he apparently decided that he was going to start ACTING. And after the entertaining bravado of The Lincoln Lawyer, his quietly profound turn in Mud, and his heartbreakingly excellent (and Oscar winning) performance in Dallas Buyers Club, we remain in the midst of a full-blown “McConaughssance.” Credit where credit is due, folks; even if the occasional film hasn’t been good (I’m looking at you, Killer Joe), his work since 2011 has been worth watching for his performance alone if nothing else. We feature those films below. If you aren’t convinced and want proof, or if you want to revisit some of these recent performances, there is only one thing left for me to say:
Alright alright alriiiiight.