Inception is about creativity

It shouldn't matter to you whether the top stops spinning, because it doesn't matter to Cobb. [The Awl]


  1. (spoiler alert, sort of)

    The argument seems to be that the various failures of internal consistency in the movie are evidence that the the director was subtlety signaling that the film is actually one long dream sequence.

    But it feels at least equally likely to me that those failures were due to good old fashioned sloppy film making.

  2. Is there something akin to Poe’s Law, stating that sloppy craft and genius art can not be told apart?

  3. That’s what I tried to say to my brother immediately after the movie. He argued that if Cobb really had kids it mattered to his kids whether or not they ever get their Dad back.

    The above works if Cobb is the only character you care about, if you’re willing to be satisfied with his happiness to the exclusion of everything else, if you’re willing to agree that he is the only real thing in the world, then that explanation works. But if you have inferred a whole real world around Cobb, if the kids still exist and aren’t entirely constructed, then it matters to those kids.

  4. No, only the comments have been spoilerish.

    The post itself is absolutely correct.

    Even if he is still in a dream, he’s happy in that dream now, instead of constantly on the run, etc.

    If it’s sloppy filmmaking, and you know it’s sloppy filmmaking, then that doesn’t matter either. If you see a camera crew in the reflection of a glass door as it closes do you start to question whether the world the characters inhabit is real to them? No, it’s just sloppy filmmaking and you ignore the evidence of a camera crew in that world so that you can continue to enjoy the story.

    Maybe it does matter to the real kids whether they actually get their dad back or not, but the kids are not the subject of the story. Do you care what happened to the flight attendant on the plane? She played an incredibly important role. Without her nothing in the film could have been accomplished.

  5. I’m glad I’ve just come home from seeing this, that post is a tad spoilery.

    OK, yes I know it was fairly obvious, because that’s the nature of these kinds of stories, but still ;-P

  6. “How do you translate a business strategy into an emotion?

    LOL, what a bad line. I recall roaring out in the theater, “Advertising, dumbass!” The only bad part of what was an incredibly deft, manipulative, enthralling film.

  7. Maria Bustillos’ assessment of the film reminds me of the way Salvador Dali would go to see a mediocre western and afterwards explain how the film was actually about all sorts of things that the filmmakers had obviously never intended. Comparing INCEPTION to 8.5 is ridiculous, if only because 8.5 is an overtly self-analytical and nostalgic film (and a masterpiece)and INCEPTION is a standard-issue thriller set in dreams (and a mess).

  8. Honestly speaking I read the whole spinning at the end bit as being a rather obvious “fuck you” to the audience. It had already been established that (at the very least that end/home coming sequence) things might just be a dream through far subtler methods. So the top didn’t really add all that much. But its a nice trick to get the audience all amped up just to disappoint.

  9. Cob gives reasons to his wife for wanting to return to reality. The way his character is presented, the audience is led to believe these reasons are honest and genuine.

    Cob also explains to the dream-image of his wife that he can tell she is a lesser copy of the real thing.

    We are left to conclude that, if he is still dreaming, Cob will notice that his children are not real and, once again, will try to find his way back to the real world.

    Therefore, even if Cob’s happiness is the only thing that we care about in the movie, we will still want the top to stop spinning so that Cob’s continued happiness is guaranteed. After all, hope for the future is the strongest positive emotion that can be evoked by a movie and positive emotions are more powerful than negative ones, according to the characters.

  10. Two monks were arguing about a top spinning on the table. One said, “The top will fall.” The other said, “The top will keep spinning.” They argued back and forth but could not agree.

    Anonymous said, “Gentlemen! It is not the top that falls; it is not the top that remains spinning; it is only your mind that falls or spins.”

    The two monks were struck with awe.

    * * *INCEPTION* * *

  11. Just a casual glance of reviews shows general positive response to this movie. I avoided reading the content of the reviews until after I saw the movie Monday night. A friend of ours hated it, although he likes sci-fi and fantasy (notably, DARK CITY). It definitely had holes, but really, what movie narrative doesn’t?

    Rex Reed tore this a new one. He emphatically states in his review how he thinks Nolan is a hack and repeats his contempt for his Batman movies and even Memento (!). Wow.

    You know what’s genius about the movie? I’ll probably go see it again. I suspect many people who like the film will also.


    The van hanging in the air was great. Screw you, RR.

  12. If we’re wandered into the world of spoiler happiness, then the fact that the top wobbles means that it is destined to fall. It cannot (without someone changing the laws of physics) return to the perfect spinning state it once occupied.

    However, from a filmic perspective, I found the ending to be incredibly frustrating. If we assume that tiny wobble was just there to plant doubt in the audience’s mind, rather than a conclusive, physics based answer, then in my mind this is bad screenwriting. I love an open-ended film (which way will they go next, will they get the gold out of the van…), but one which doesn’t have the balls to decide what was real about what we have already seen feels lazy. Even the master of the mind- erm… mess, Mr Lynch, gives us enough at the end of Mulholland Drive to unravel the pieces. The ending of Inception (which I really did enjoy), just felt like a screenwriter unable to commit, looking for a way to ensure that people continued to discuss his film. The ending to Following was much more satisfying, at least for me.

    Damn it feels good to get that out of my system!

    1. “The fact that the top wobbles means that it is destined to fall. It cannot (without someone changing the laws of physics) return to the perfect spinning state it once occupied.”

      Did you forget the part where they were fighting on the walls and ceiling, and then gravity stopped working?

      Also, I’d question what other people have said about this reading of the film reflecting ignorance about its inconsistencies. It doesn’t change the things that were internally inconsistent, but it does add a very interesting angle to much of the otherwise a quite strange dialogue, and for that it has merit.

  13. My bro and I saw the top start to wobble as Cobb headed outside to see the kids. I’m under the impression that the top spins perfectly while in a dream. Therefor, the wobble signaled it was not a dream.

  14. Why should the top falling down matter. It could fall down even in a dream.

    My reasoning here is that the spinning top idea was Mal’s rule, not Dom’s, and since Dom destroyed Mal in his subconscious that her rule about the top might not go with his.

    So it’s entirely possible that even if the top falls, it’s a dream.

  15. To the armchair film makers of the world: we all know that the ‘it was all just a dream’ endings in movies are generally cop-outs. That being said, I would take movies as imaginative and visual as Inception any day over the majority of insultingly formulaic movies that are released.

  16. Hehe, you’ve all been incepted!

    I don’t think the ambiguous ending is a cop-out at all, but that Nolan specifically wanted us (the audience) to continue discussing the possible interpretations afterwards. So yes, the movie itself is an exercise in inception, as movies in general are. Nolan, like Cobb, knows all the tricks to manipulate us, and the final shot is just one more trick to keep us guessing. Narrative closure is for me not a pre-requisite of a ‘good film’ (see pretty much everything Lynch has ever touched). Emotional resolve is, however, while keeping in mind that keeping the audience hanging, or guessing, can be a very clear and intended goal of any narrative. If you, like Nolan, can create an intriguing narrative that sets up and follows up on certain ideas and end it with a bang/twist/exclamation mark/question mark/dot-dot-dot or whatever ending emotionally fits that which preceded it, you’ve got my ass in the theater any day.

    All Nolan’s films are constructions, made around an idea and everything else seems to be subject to the presentation and exploration of that idea. If you don’t have a problem with that, I don’t see how any open ending could be a bad thing.. :)

  17. Wait a minute… Rex Reed is still reviewing films?
    I had no idea!

    He was clueless in the ’70s, and apparently he’s clueless still. I remember seeing him on “Merv” and thinking “Does this guy have a brain?”

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