movie – inception

Movie: Inception

I spent a little over a week trying to avoid spoilers for this movie, and was glad I did. This is a movie that has been greatly hyped, and has done well at the box office. It’s a thinking person’s action movie. In my experience, it’s worth paying attention as you watch it, and do what you can to avoid needing to go to the bathroom during the screening.

If you like any of Chris Nolan’s other work (eg Memento, The Prestige, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), and enjoyed the action of The Matrix, and the thoughtfulness of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, then you know enough, and it’s time to go and watch the film without reading any further.

This is the rare opportunity to see a film that doesn’t disappoint.

Here are a few thoughts from other people to read after you’ve seen the movie: I managed to avoid most of these before watching it, and enjoyed the movie more for it.

Inception trailer (apple site)
Prequel Comic Book from the official Inception Website.
One take on the real meaning of inception
khoi vinh on inception
Jeremy Keith on the timelessness of inception
Local (Sydney) writer John Lampard on Inception
Video review of Mark Kermode on Inception (part 1) and Mark Kermode on Inception (part 2).
Matt Hodge, who sat next to me at the IMAX, on Inception
Roger Ebert’s review of Inception
Map of the various dreams in the movie (thanks, Chan).

A few issues I had with the movie (minor spoilers ahead):
Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks a lot like Heath Ledger – distractingly so: this broke the spell of the movie for me on a few occasions. I wasn’t a fan of the casting of Ellen Page (Juno) amongst a company of older actors – I know it was a student-prodigy role, but she didn’t seem to fit in properly with the rest of the group. Michael Caine was fantastic, as ever, but barely has any screen time.

There were a few scenes that seemed to drag a little bit – it seemed to get a little lost in the attack on the snow fortress – it was hard to tell who was who, and why they were taking a slow approach to their destination.

That aside, I thought it was a near perfect film: – the emotional arc was rewarding, the relationships between characters were compelling, and the plot was complex enough to give a sense of satisfaction from following it. Not sure yet if I’m going to watch it a second time at the cinema, but I would recommend seeing the biggest screen you can.

the future of brochures?

At lunch today I was chatting with some people who work in a similar organisation to mine, but in a different part of the world. The conversation turned to our lack of conviction around these electronic replacements for brochures – you probably know the ones: here’s a sample (warning: auto-play promotional video on the page), but you could equally look at the PDF itself, or a service like scribd.’

What all of these have in common is their underlying acceptance that the printed book metaphor is the best way to present information online. There is a lot of tradition underlying this. The codex replaced the scroll as the pre-eminent form of written document over a few centuries, starting around 1700 years ago, and it really hasn’t had much competition.

Even with the latest “must-have” technology around smartphones and tablets (I won’t insult your intelligence by tying this to a particular brand of technology just for the sake of being trendy here), the latest thing that we’re trying to do is to provide books in an electronic device.

Sure, the solution that some people have – the way they want to break the book metaphor – is to use some kind of hypertext. Split the book into tiny, hyperlinked pieces, and let people navigate around by hyperlinks within the text, or through some kind of index (still the book metaphor) or table of contents (book metaphor), or search engine.

Have you ever tried to find a substantial reference work via a search engine? The website you’re using to search likely knows a great deal about you, and does its best to tweak the results to be something that you’ll be interested in seeing, but the pages it sends you to are still – for the most part – one size fits all. No attempt is made to customise the content to your own interests and needs.

The devices that we’re using to consume content (computers, tablets, smart-phones, dedicated reading devices) are capable of so much more than we ever take advantage of. We choose – for the most part – to use them to consume content that would have looked much the same some 1500 years ago: is this really an advance?

As I continue working with large amounts of information, and we still seek to present it in book or booklet form, I’m going to be thinking about how we might re-structure the information to take better advantage of the technology, so that my users get (as much as possible) what they want.

old spice revisited – viral, but not social?

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the Old Spice commercials of earlier in the year. If you’ve been paying attention to the buzz around social media this week (st eutychus, Gavin Heaton, and mumbrella part one and mumbrella part two, mamamia), you will have noticed that Old Spice were making additional videos in response to tweets.

To try and keep up with everything that’s been written about the campaign would be a mammoth effort. There’s a fast company interview, mashable stats, marketing sherpa’s take on things, snarkmarket’s take, NetRegistry’s take and then you could just start searching twitter and blogs for more.

Two parodies that emerged I’d like to point out: the first was one for an American College Library parody of Old Spice ad (900,000 views at time of posting).

The second is a local one – World Vision Australia’s Tim Costello (13,000 views at time of posting).

Lots of people are calling this the best use of social media for marketing yet, and there’s some merit in thinking this way: it’s certainly been a brilliantly-targeted series of videos, and they’ve succeeded in refreshing the image of a product that had its main appeal in older generations. In the articles linked above, you’ll find the goal of the campaign – to make people go to the stores, and smell Old Spice to see if it’s something for them.

No-one seems to be pointing out, though, that this isn’t quite a social campaign. Yes, it’s using social channels to build buzz around a product, and even to build a relationship between consumers and the advertising character that the company has created. But where is the lasting connection with people? What this campaign appears to be doing is tapping into the “viral” side of the content creation, but not doing much around community building or generating a lasting relationship with the brand.

if your social strategy is linked into creating cool content so that your followers can benefit from the halo effect of sharing the latest cool content, then your relationship with those followers will last only as long as you can keep up the content generation. The missing piece for me in this campaign is the third act: how do you keep the engagement going after the initial excitement around the campaign has worn off?

Worse yet, if you’ve tried talking to anyone outside the “social media echo chamber” about the campaign: have they heard of it? When you explain it, do they just roll their eyes, or do they see some value there? Granted, here in Australia, as kristy points out you can’t even buy the product, so knowledge of the campaign is limited to its appearance on ABC TV show the Gruen Transfer.

Lastly, as we see in the World Vision video above, if you want to derive traffic by jumping on the coat-tails of a meme, you need to put your ad with great haste. Every day that someone waits in making the next Old Spice parody ad is a day closer to obscurity for the parody.

Did I miss anything noteworthy in this summary? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

DVD: Fantastic Mr Fox

DVD: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Having loved The Life Aquatic and the Royal Tenenbaums in years gone by, I was interested to see what Wes Anderson was going to do with a kids story. In part this is another vehicle for George Clooney to deliver clever lines with his legendary voice.

At its best, there are some touching family moments, and some minor “character-has-self-insight” scenes. Although the dialogue would go over the head of a child audience, there’s enough going on on-screen that they’d be able to enjoy it.

It didn’t meet my high expectations, but was easier to watch than where the wild things are.

DVD: Shutter Island

DVD: Shutter Island

Director Martin Scorsese has created a lot of interesting films over the year, but i’ve mainly seen only his gangster stories thus far. Reading Matt’s review made me feel like this divergence into the horror genre would be worth a look. It didn’t hurt that it owed a certain amount to the ideas contained in last year’s reading project “And then there were none” (an Agatha Christie story set on an island).

If you’ve heard anything about the movie, you’ll know there’s a twist in it. I found that knowing this meant that I spent a lot of time – especially in the opening – watching the film painfully closely. I’m not about to give anything away about the twist itself, but I found that watching it carefully didn’t help me at all.

It’s a good movie: Scorsese is great at his craft, and it’s certainly intriguing enough to hold the viewer’s interest. The twist notwithstanding, I thought the ending was a good fit for the film overall.

DVD: Up in the Air

DVD: Up in the Air

I’d been looking forward to seeing this one after its impressive trailer – witty, some good lines from Clooney and others, and a theme – the travel-obsessed loner – that appeals to a nagging inner voice that I have on occasion.

Unfortunately, it’s not as funny as the trailer would suggest: there’s some adult content in the mix, but mostly, it’s a straight drama with some funny moments. I really enjoyed its take on the recession and the issues it raised around sudden unemployment. The ending was a little ambiguous, but I think in a good way.

DVD: Moon

DVD: Moon (2009)

Directed and written by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, this is a science fiction movie made on a small ($5M) budget. The best part about this film is the plot: the less you know about it, the more you’ll enjoy it.

If you’re a fan at all of the epic science-fiction movies of the 1970s, this is a great, nostalgic trip: the sets are a great flash-back to the days of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even Alien.

Kevin Spacey does an amazing job voicing the robot “Gerty”, while Sam Rockwell does some great permutations on his role as the astronaut who has been alone on the dark side of the moon for almost three years.

Genre-wise, you would probably call Moon a psychological drama – it’s a movie where I spent most of my time wondering what was going on. With the ending, I had a sense that they tweaked it with the closing voiceovers, and that perhaps it didn’t match the director’s original vision.

Moon on Metacritic: 67% Moon on Rotten Tomatoes: 89%.

Buy Moon at Amazon

See the opening titles.

follow-up to superbowl old spice commercial

I don’t often embed videos in this blog: life is short, and you can waste a lot of time watching video online. It would be a shame to overlook this one, though. You’ve probably seen the original (superbowl) Old Spice video currently at around 11 million views).

Update (2-Jul-10): the original ad won a Cannes Lion award. Thanks, @jetswain.

Today I finally watched the follow-up. There’s also a facebook page and youtube channel for the series of ads.

Why does this series of ads work so well? It creates a sense of wonder (how did they do that), has a playful attitude, and keeps mentioning the product. It’s made, I think, to be shared with other people.