My Top 5: Mind Puzzling Movies

Hollywood studios are generally not known for being adventuresome in the selection of movies they produce.

Action movie? Just add a buxom babe and a muscular male, a few car chases and mucho explosions, a threat of some kind and voilà! Another Michael Bay movie is born.

Romantic comedy? Insert a beautiful but ditzy couple constantly fighting and/or misunderstanding each other to create inane conflicts that all get resolved in a saccharin infused ending and there you have it. Another successful “It girl” vehicle.

Sequels? Hey, if something works, recycle it ad nauseum and see how much money you can squeeze out of that stone. And if the franchise looses it’s fizz, just wait a few years and reboot.

Don’t get me wrong. I crave fluff as much as the next person and some of my all time favorite films don’t pretend to pander to a pretentious audience of arty snobs. But sometimes, my mind hungers for something with more meat on its bones. When this happens, I tend to seek out movies that have complex and challenging narratives; movies that may warrant multiple viewings, as well as listening to the director’s commentary track and searching the Internet for clues in order to fully grasp and appreciate their complexity.

With that in mind, I invite you to watch My Top 5 Mind Puzzling Movies. But be warned that your head could explode.

5. 2001 A Space Odyssey I remember watching this Stanley Kubrick gem at the ripe old age of 12, thinking I was getting a movie filled with cool spaceships, weird aliens and loud space battles, much like Star Wars. Instead, I got a head full of questions, the first of which was : “Why did I watch this pile of cr*p?!”. Needless to say, I now have a few more years under my belt and am now able to fully appreciate it’s greatness. To fully grasp the final trippy sequence, I highly recommend reading Arthur C. Clarke’s novel. It helps, trust me.

4. Jacob’s Ladder It’s been a while since I’ve seen this mind-bending tale of a Vietnam veteran’s journey to … (that would be telling). All I remember is being confused throughout the film. And although the ending is not ambiguous, I still wasn’t clear about everything that had preceded it. This is definitely a movie that warrants seeking out the screenwriter’s and director’s inspirations and references for this story. I especially found the FAQs sections of the IMDb’s entry for this film helpful. But watch it once cold before heading into spoiler territory.

3. Memento All hail Christopher Nolan! (the man can do no wrong in my book). What gets most first-time viewers disoriented is the fact that the film is told in chapters, the first one being the ending and the last being the beginning. So each new segment reveals the events that preceded the last, slowly giving us clues to Leonard Shelby’s motivations. And did I mention that this main protagonist has lost the capacity to form new memories and that he consequently relies on notes and tattoos to remember? I can’t recall now. Let me check my notes.

2. Donnie Darko If your are still scratching your head after multiple viewings, don’t worry, you are not alone. I gave up trying to make sense of what I was seeing by simply watching the movie. I had to seek out references on the web and even watched the director’s cut with commentaries on (Kevin Smith rules!) to get all the nuances of the plot. Eventually, all was made clear, but I could never have understood it without the Cliff Notes. All that being said, don’t be put off by the baffling storyline. This movie is a marvel and truly deserves it’s cult status.

1. Primer It’s no surprise that my first two selections are centered around the theme of time travel. When done right, I find stories of this genre highly entertaining. Mind you, they also make for very challenging and sometimes frustrating storylines. Case in point, this indie cult film written and directed by Shane Carruth for a mere 7 000$! This convoluted story is rendered even more complex due to the fact that its creator, an engineer with a degree in mathematics, decided not to dumb down the physics involved in this time travel puzzler. A must see for all science fiction lovers.

P.S. In order to fully appreciate my selections for this list, I recommend that your first viewing be unspoiled by information found on the web or on the disc. Then, search the title of the film on Wikipedia and IMDd, where you will find enlightening facts about the mind puzzling movie you just watched. Finally, with that knowledge in mind, watch it once more, just to confirm that you’re still baffled.

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