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Posted at 11:25 AM ET, 07/16/2010

The critics who dared not to like 'Inception'

By Sarah Anne Hughes

Posted by Sarah Anne Hughes

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Inception"

While Jen may be preparing for Christopher Nolan’s new mind-bender “Inception” to be the "Avatar" of next year's awards-season, some critics aren’t rolling out the red carpet for the film.

Yes, the majority of reviews have been positive. On Rotten Tomatoes community, “Inception” currently has an 84-percent approval rating; Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday, among others, gave the movie a glowing review. But wait! Take out the reviewers who don't write for your more standard mainstream outlets and reduce the field to the so-called "Top Critics" and the rating drops to 73 percent.

So who are these detractors and what exactly is their problem? Here’s a few of the critics whose minds remain decidedly unblown by "Inception."

David Edelstein, New York Magazine

Respected film critic David Edelstein is one of the stronger detractors of the film. “I truly have no idea what so many people are raving about,” he writes. He says the grim script only contains two fresh ideas: Nolan’s premise that you can have a dream inside a dream inside a dream, and the concept of Marion Cotillard as Leonardo DiCaprio's wife and "Freudian monster femme." Other than that, Edelstein doesn't see what the big deal is.

"It lacks the nimbleness of Spielberg’s “Minority Report” or the Jungian-carnival bravado of Joseph Ruben’s “Dreamscape” or the eerily clean lines and stylized black-suited baddies of “The Matrix” -- or, for that matter, the off-kilter intensity of Nolan’s own “Insomnia.” The attackers in “Inception” are anonymous, the tone flat and impersonal. Nolan is too literal-minded, too caught up in ticktock logistics, to make a great, untethered dream movie."

Andrew O’Hehir for Salon

Salon's review, Andrew O’Hehir doesn’t slam the film outright, but claims filmgoers should lower their expectations if they want to enjoy the film:

"For the most part "Inception" is a handsome, clever and grindingly self-serious boy-movie, shorn of imagination, libido, spirituality or emotional depth. Nolan establishes a fascinating world, loaded with trapdoors, symbols and hidden secrets, and then squanders the opportunity on an overpriced "Twilight Zone" episode."

And while Jen and the good people at New York Magazine's Vulture blog think many visual and technical honors will go to the film during award season, O’Hehir is less impressed by the effects:

“While Nolan's images are visually impressive and powered by state-of-the-art digital effects and accomplished stunt work, they're always ordered and organized with anal precision. They don't look or feel anything like dreams. (Or, at least, not like my dreams.) They look instead like mediocre action films from the '90s… "Inception" may have been directed by Christopher Nolan, but Nolan's dreams are apparently directed by Michael Bay.”

Ouch. Low blow Mr. O'Hehir.

Armond White for New York Press

Known for his negative, often incendiary reviews, the constantly contrarian Armond White of course had nothing nice to say about “Inception.” After calling Nolan a “con-artist” for fooling studios into giving him piles of money, White compares the plot to video game Grand Theft Auto. In the most confusing way possible, he, like many other critics, points out the "Matrix"/Stanley Kubrick/David Fincher similarites:

“Nolanoids have been faithfully awaiting a vision, and in these crystal-clear (fake) annihilation scenes, Nolan out-Finchers Fincher and seeks Kubrickian misanthropy — but there’s a simple-minded sappiness at the heart of this cynical vision. If anything, the time and consciousness tricks stolen from The Matrix make Nolan a bastard Wachowski brother, not a son of Kubrick. Despite its big budget (what Manny Farber would call a white elephant movie), Inception is full of second-rate aesthetics, yet when shoddy aesthetics become the new standard, it’s sufficient to up-end the art of cinema.”

Overall, it seems the detractors find the film too uptight to be a dream movie, too unoriginal for all the hype. I haven’t been fortunate enough to see “Inception” yet, so I can’t weigh in. But if any of you out there have seen the film, tell us which side of the “Inception” fence you sit on in the comments section.

Sarah Anne Hughes lends a helping hand with another Celebritology contribution.

By Sarah Anne Hughes  | July 16, 2010; 11:25 AM ET
Categories:  Movies, Pop Culture  | Tags:  Movies  
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My husband and I saw the film last night. It was exciting, complex, beautiful and well acted, yet it still had a heart and presented the characters as three dimensional for the most part. The violence as in many dreams, was not bloody but scary and stylized. Not a boring moment in the movie and also a showed respect for the audience by having characters describe some of the complexities in a way that didn't talk down to the audience. We didn't have time to sit there thinking, This is Kubreckian, this is whomever...My measure of a great ripping yarn is that I couldn't remember taking a breath during the last half hour. And we're still discussing the ending today. It, dreamlike, was ambiguous and unsettling. We loved it. Go see it.

Posted by: susanwhiteaker | July 17, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was fantastic. Would definitely recommend it.

Posted by: bms46and2 | July 19, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

It's like a magic show, guys! Of course you're being duped. Of course it's simple-minded, mediocre, too literal, and 'overpriced'.
Personally, I'm a magic lover. So I think this movie is fairly a good 'show'.

But if you don't like magic shows (i.e: Copperfield, Blaine, etc) then maybe you won't like this movie.
I bet Edelstein, O'Hehir and White don't like Copperfield or Blaine much either. :)

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