Recently, there was scuttlebutt over a viral clip of a Peloton instructor who began ripping the movie TENET, directed by Christopher Nolan, to shreds. The full expletive-laden clip can be seen below:
Legend has it that Nolan was one of the first to receive the criticism while working out on his own Peloton. He then shared the anecdote during the New York Critics Film Circle, where he was awarded the best director prize. The story made the rounds in the movie media circuit, but when it reached me, a deeper, larger, and darker truth emerged.
Despite living in a culture where communication moves at the speed of light, those privileged creators among us seem to be living in a tighter bubble than ever. Was Nolan “surprised” that people like Jenn Sherman, the Peloton lady in question, hated that movie and couldn’t figure anything out? Or, on the other hand, was he proud that he made a movie that was an unwatchable mess?
As someone with an honorable PhD in film and who loves brain busters as much as the next puzzle-obsessed dork, I sampled TENET once with incredible excitement, only to leave angry and hurt. How could my hero, Christopher Nolan, the savior of Batman and God’s gift to modern cinema-goers, make a movie that made no sense and, frankly, didn’t want to? A movie whose dialogue is muddled by literal background noise (a.k.a., garbage)? A movie whose main character is literally named “The Protagonist” and has all the personality of a wet towel?
In short, it was a waste of time and money. It only seems safe now to criticize our modern cinema god-king, Christopher Nolan, who appears to be a shoo-in for best director at the Oscars in the year of our Lord 2024.
Now, I don’t want to harp on him too much. Maybe there are reasons for such a talented director to act out. Was he hitting the bottle too much during lockdown? Was he aching to get back to his glory days of college and make an art film? Or did he, ahem, “want to watch the world burn”?
Who knows? I still love him, though. I mean, don’t we all? Of all the modern directors who aren’t literal geriatrics, he seems to be the only one under 60 who can get away with making original films that aren’t tied to comic books or some legacy brand. Also, he is a champion of traditional film and a lover of cinema down to his bones. He’s also an actor’s director and puts butts in seats.
And hell, I remember when he was just a young director making waves on the Independent Film Channel (IFC), which still actually showed independent films. I know his story, because in some ways, it is my own. Except, you know, without the billion-dollar movies and the loving adulation of complete strangers.
Yes, I still love Christopher Nolan. Perhaps I always will. But Mr. Nolan, for the love of God, get your act together. The world needs more entertainment and quality cinema, not out-of-touch craftsmen high on their own supply.