While I don’t like to brag, I consider myself a bit of a cinephile. I make a point of filling my free time with viewings of Oscar-winners from both then and now, and engage in other activities to broaden my understanding of film, like reading the criticism of Pauline Kael and viewing Master Classes featuring directors the likes of Werner Herzog.
So it takes a little something to sneak one past me, cinematically speaking. But, through the years, a few movies have. So I’ve come to you, dear readers, to hopefully get some answers regarding three movies that still, in some way, confuse me to this day.
Audiences in 2000 fell in love with Christopher Nolan’s neo-noir masterpiece, and I was no exception. The tale of Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator suffering retrograde amnesia, in a quest to find his wife’s murderer, dazzled us with its stylish looks and dual timelines.
But there’s one question that the film never answers and, quite frankly, I have yet to see asked elsewhere: Why does Teddy, played by Joe Pantoliano, have hair?
Perhaps I should elaborate: Mr. Pantoliano, the actor, is bald. We can see as much watching his portrayal of Cypher in the seminal blockbuster The Matrix. But in Memento, Mr. Pantoliano’s Teddy has a full head of hair. I checked the dates of the films to see if perhaps Memento was filmed before The Matrix and Joe went bald in the interim, but Memento was indeed filmed afterward.
All of this means that Teddy’s hair is, as best I can tell, a hallucination on the part of Leonard, added in via CGI in post-production. But why? What significance to the narrative does that have? And what other characters is Leonard imagining with hair, or different haircuts, or beards? I’ve wracked my brain over this one for years.
In 2001, Richard Kelly dropped a cinematic bombshell by the name of Donnie Darko, a perception-melting exploration through time and space featuring a young Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie, a teen haunted by a being wearing a monstrous rabbit costume prophesying the end of the world. Through the course of the film, Donnie slowly pieces together why he’s been cursed with this Casandra-like gift and how he can avert world-ending disaster.
But there’s one question Donnie never does answer: Why didn’t the film just use the original, Tears For Fears version “Mad World”?
Instead, Richard Kelly ops to use a cover of the song by Gary Jules, which features prominently in the film. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine cover. But Tears For Fears really doesn’t get the respect they deserve. And Kelly could have done something about that. When Dennis Miller Live opened with “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” each week, it was the original, not a cover. Maybe Mr. Kelly could explain his selection process in a future behind-the-scenes recording, because I’m not the only one left completely baffled by this decision: Every one of my fellow owners of Shout: The Very Best of Tears for Fears is, as well.
Clint Eastwood directed another masterpiece in 2004 with Million Dollar Baby, the story of an aspiring boxer played by Hilary Swank, who won an Oscar for her role. Eastwood plays, an aged, cantankerous trainer named Frankie Dunn whom, after much pestering from Swank’s Maggie Fitzgerald, agrees to train her, eventually helping her all the way to a title match in Las Vegas with a million dollar purse.
Here’s the rub: The movie is titled Million Dollar Baby, but the purse in question, after taxes and cuts paid to promoters, trainers, agents etc., would be worth a few hundred thousand dollars, at maximum. Meaning Maggie, in order to be the titular Million Dollar Baby, had to have an even higher-paying, more exciting fight for two or even three million dollars lined up, too. Why didn’t Eastwood choose to show us this second, more exciting fight, instead? Or even allude to it whatsoever in the film? A curious decision, to say the least.
You can tweet any answers you may have to these my way or to The Prompt. Again, given my expertise in film, I’m doubtful any of you will have grasped something I have not. But maybe dumb luck will go my way and I’ll get to the bottom of one or more of these modern-day mysteries.