5. Memento (2000)
If you call yourself a film buff but haven’t seen Memento, go ahead and strangle yourself with your computer’s power chord. If you’re not a film buff, here’s all you need to know about this movie for me to persuade you to watch it: it’s about a guy who is looking for his wife’s murderer. The catch? During the same event in which his wife was murdered, he suffered a blow to the head that disabled him from developing any new short-term memories, so he relies on writing down (and tattooing on himself) every thought or piece of evidence that could potentially help lead him to the killer. And um, oh yeah—the scenes are shown in reverse-sequence.
Why is it #5 on this prestigious list? Throw out the fact that it was directed by Christopher Nolan (aka "Neo"…and don’t worry, we’re not through with him yet). Throw out the great acting trio of Guy Pierce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano. Throw out the sheer entertainment of watching a movie where you already know the ending but are more interested in how we got there. Throw all of that out, and what’s left is a film that still shines because of the original way of conveying its theme: reality vs. perception. You see, because Leonard (the main character) can’t form new memories, all he has to work with is the information he records as he goes along. He has to trust himself. For him, reality only exists to the extent that he writes it down—otherwise it’s like it never happened to him. Because Leonard’s acquaintances know this about him, they manipulate his reality to their own selfish advantage. But that’s not it: Leonard also manipulates his own reality to his advantage, which is the genius aspect of this movie.
I don’t want to dig too deep into this discussion, first because it’s not a literature class, and second, because I’m too dumb. But I will say this: unlike Leonard, we don’t have trouble forming new memories, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t manipulate our own realities to our advantage. Have you ever told a lie to yourself and others so often that you actually forgot what the truth was? Do you have a tendency to hear only what you want to hear? We love to agree with “facts” that support our viewpoint, no matter whether they are true or false, and we love to disagree with “facts” that don’t support our viewpoint, whether true or false. Sometimes, our reality is only what we want it to be.
In a way, like Leonard, we all have short-term memory loss.
-Oh, and while we’re at it, the 5 most mind-bending movies of the decade:
1. Mulholland Drive
2. Primer (I implore anyone to figure this movie out after 1 viewing)
3. Synechdoche, New York
5. Donnie Darko