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Lost Memories: Our 10 favorite amnesia movies

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Movies have dealt with the issues of memory and, specifically, amnesia since as far back as the 1932 Greta Garbo-starring As You Desire Me (and possibly even farther). Lost memories have become a go-to movie trope over the past few decades, with varying levels of success, and with the latest film to tackle the issue (the Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams vehicle The Vow) hitting theaters this weekend, we thought it might be a good time to round up some of the coolest amnesia movies we’ve ever seen. Write them down before you forget them!


“Memento” (2000)

Remember way back before the year 2000 when no one really knew who Christopher Nolan was? I certainly do. Then this little film called “Memento,” starring Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss, premiered in September at the Venice International Film Festival to vast critical praise and it began to pick up steam as it rolled out to a wider audience. Before we knew it, “Memento” rode its non-linear structure, fantastic performances, and little sticky notes all the way to box office success and Academy Award nominations for Original Screenplay and Film Editing. The Nolan the world would come to know for his brilliant reinvention of the Batman series and for the genius mind-bending film Inception was born.

The thing that makes “Memento” such incredibly compelling cinema, aside from those fantastic performances and the aforementioned non-linear structure, is its ingenious use of a very unique brand of amnesia. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) has anterograde amnesia, which means he can’t store any new memories. He spends the entire film jotting down new information on sticky notes (so he can actually keep track of his life without the assistance of a properly functioning memory) while he tries to put together the pieces of his own personal mystery. It’s an interesting take on the amnesia trope and a hell of a film that showed everyone the kind of talent that Christopher Nolan would soon be known for worldwide.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch9Y-fcGlKs


“The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996)

Three years before Renny Harlin started genetically engineering Mako sharks to eat Samuel L. Jackson, he chose the actor to star alongside Geena Davis in one of the great amnesia movies of our time – “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” Written by the great Shane Black (“The Monster Squad,” “Lethal Weapon”), “The Long Kiss Goodnight” tells the story of Samantha Caine (Geena Davis), a mother and teacher in Pennsylvania who was found, washed up on a New Jersey beach, pregnant, injured, and suffering from complete amnesia. (Think Snooki in about three more years). After searching for the next eight years or so, Caine finally discovers that she’s actually Charly Baltimore, an assassin for the CIA. She finally starts recovering some of those memories, turns all badass, hangs out with Samuel L. Jackson and kicks ass all over the place. It’s maybe the most feel-good case of amnesia on this list. Either way, it makes for some great cinema in what has become a classic of the amnesia film subgenre and the action film genre.


“Total Recall” (1990)

Nearly ten years after Arnold Schwarzenegger hit the big time by playing Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, the actor was still one of Hollywood’s hottest tickets. Wrapped around the 1990 release of “Total Recall,” Schwarzenegger would star in hits like “Predator,” “Twins,” “Kindergarten Cop,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and “True Lies.” That’s a hell of a resume. Teaming up with director Paul Verhoeven (“RoboCop,” “Basic Instinct”) brought Ahhhhnold on the set of one of the weirdest amnesia films of all time – the sci-fi actioner “Total Recall.” Schwarzenegger stars as Doug Quaid, a construction worker who is really a secret agent that eventually ends up having to travel to Mars to figure out who he really is and why his memory was erased. He’s good. He’s bad. He’s a creepy killing machine from Mars. He becomes the first person (or thing) in a movie to tear off Michael Ironside’s arms. It’s a role only the Governator could love and one that he’ll likely never forget (even if his character would).


“Dark City” (1998)

Between 1994’s The Crow and 1998’s Dark City Alex Proyas seemed poised to be the next director to take Hollywood by storm with his dark, gothic neo-noir vision and technical prowess. Then he made I, Robot in 2004 and Knowing in 2009 and all the good will he earned with his early work went down the drain. We’re hoping he returns to form in 2013 with Paradise Lost but, regardless, we can always appreciate the amazing amnesia-centric film he crafted in Dark City. Sporting an all-star cast of Rufus Sewell, Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, and William Hurt, Dark City starts with John Murdoch (Sewell) waking up in a hotel bathtub with a bad case of amnesia. He’s soon accused of murder and spends much of the film trying to clear his name by learning his true identity, all while on the run from both the police and the “Strangers.” And that’s just what’s going on right on the surface of this intelligent, creepy neo-noir sci-fi film. If you’ve never seen it, grab a copy of the Director’s Cut and consider yourself in for a real treat.


“The Bourne Trilogy” (2002-2007)

The 2002 debut of Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity marked the beginning of what would eventually become one of action film’s greatest franchises. Starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, an amnesiac who spends three films trying to discover his true identity, and loosely based on Robert Ludlum’s novels, the film made a ton of money at the box office and turned Damon into a veritable action hero. Paul Greengrass picked up where Liman left off with The Bourne Supremacy in 2004 and The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007. Each film ratcheted up the realistic action that the series would become known for, gave Bourne a bit more information to process about his identity, and upped the ante for what action spy films could do without the extensive use of CGI. All three films revolve around Bourne’s amnesia and handle it in a way that’s both inventive and exciting. The only thing I’d like to forget about this series is the fact that Universal is likely moving forward on another Bourne film without Matt Damon.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.