Foreplay: Memento (2000)
This high-concept thriller about a man who cannot trust his senses made director Christopher Nolan’s reputation as the millennium’s new Kubrick. The jigsaw puzzle plot starts with Guy Pearce’s inability to store new memories or make sense of his old ones. He tries to solve the mystery of his wife’s murder—and the peculiar tattoos that cover his body. Inked with clues, his very being is marked-up as a desecration against standards of human values and conventional storytelling. Nolan settles for being unsettling even when he solves Pearce’s mystery and this unsatisfying storytelling practice ushered in the era of Hollywood nihilism. Movies and humanity would never be the same again.
Press Play: This is Spinal Tap (1984)
This rock and roll satire about a British Heavy Metal band is the work of comics—Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner who all wrote and starred. Its sarcasm is more like Guest’s other semi-improvisational sit-coms (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) than Reiner’s other sappy Hollywood movies (Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally) so take Reiner’s directorial credit as lightly as the band’s inane cock-rock lyrics. (Credit must have been decided over a poker game.) The film’s mockery of music takes backseat to mocking it’s documentary pretense, giving birth to the concept of The Mockumentary. Movie storytelling would never be the same again. Next up in this untrustworthy media vaudeville: Michael Moore.
Playtime: Crossfire Hurricane (2012)
This is a 50th-anniversary retrospective on The Rolling Stones, the musical act formerly billed as “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”—until Hip-Hop changed the game. Director Brett Morgen goes for real innovation by using archival footage and overlaying it with his recent interviews on the soundtrack. This makes pop history both vintage and vital. The title comes from “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” the surly, locomotive biography of a bad boy who won’t be tied down—a figure who personifies these ever-aging bad-boy rivals of Beatles. What you already know about them (and what you don’t know) gets enlivened by concert and recording footage and simply thrilling to their undeniably infectious creativity. Pop stardom would rarely be so sensational again.