Frank's Faves: Movie dreams

Frank's Faves: Movie dreams

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one ... " — John Lennon

I've always been a dreamer. I know this because I generally remember them, at least for a while after I wake up.

In fact, from what I've read on the subject, I'm what experts call a "lucid dreamer," meaning that I'm frequently aware, while asleep, that I am dreaming and so can control the story, the characters and even the environment of my dream right up until it slips through my fluttering eyelids and I wake up.

Like many folks, I also have a few recurring dreams that I've had variations on countless times since I was young. Some, unfortunately, don't happen nearly as often as they used to, such as the one in which I discover I'm able to fly — not Superman-style, nor even birdlike — but more like levitating or gliding (in fact, it's really quite simple; you can't imagine how frustrating it is to wake up and not be able to still do it).

I had one of my more annoying and persistent (and therefore more frequent) recurring dreams a few days ago. This one actually has evolved over the years as I've gotten better at recognizing it early on and built up some resistance to it. It's the one I've had ever since graduating from college almost two-thirds of my life ago now — the one in which I find myself back at NIU, searching the Stevenson North residence towers for my old dorm room and realizing I've forgotten a final paper or project for a class I've somehow managed to skip for the entire semester and now can't remember where it meets.

Except now that I can also realize fairly soon thereafter that I'm not in school anymore and haven't been for a long time, so I CAN'T have any final paper or project due, the dream has evolved to more currently familiar circumstances: my present employ, where it is, in fact, a feature story or even a Faves column that I've neglected to begin and, naturally, is due first thing in the morning.

For obvious reasons, this one is, as yet, harder to shake off than the old college one. If only I could work my old gliding skills into this one ...

Ah, well. It doesn't take lucid-dreaming skills to be aware also that there are few conversational topics more likely to make a listener's eyes glaze over than someone recounting their own dreams. And yet, it's something we all have in common. We all dream; we just don't all remember them.

Dreams, in fact, have a remarkable résumé. Dreams have inspired some of humanity's greatest creations — from Elias Howe's sewing machine to Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" to the haunting tune of Paul McCartney's "Yesterday." At their most amazing, they have even proven prophetic, such as those reported by Julius Caesar's wife before his untimely demise or Illinois' own Abraham Lincoln, who dreamed of a presidential assassination three days before his own.

Dreams are said to be of two kinds: authentic (reflecting actual memories or experiences) or illusory (depicting impossible, incongruent or bizarre happenings). I suppose that's the case in movies, too, although most often they seem to be of two other kinds: deceptive (effectively fooling the viewer into believing something is happening that isn't really) or foreshadowing (revealing a character's hidden state of mind or threat of imminent danger).

There are others, of course, (Federico Fellini's films, for example, are a category of cinematic dreams all to themselves), but you can dream those up for yourself. As for me, it's second star to the right and straight on till morning for these faves I call:


— "Carrie" (1976). I don't know if director Brian DePalma was the first to do it, but his twist dream sequence at the end of the first film adaptation of a Stephen King novel definitely started a trend in horror flicks. The "gotcha" moment when Sissy Spacek's bloody hand bursts from Carrie's grave and grabs hold of Amy Irving made whole theater audiences jump out of their seats in unison. Thanks to a great many more movies that followed this example, that's a lot harder to do these days.

— "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984). Sure, it became a tired trope of this slasher franchise (nine films so far, counting the 2010 reboot) that evil razor-gloved Freddy Krueger torments and eviscerates his victims in their dreams while they sleep. But the premise was wicked scary at the beginning (don't go to sleep, kiddies, you will die before you wake!), my favorite sequence being when a young, as-yet-unknown Johnny Depp gets sucked into his bed and then regurgitated from it in a geyser of blood. OK, gross, but memorable, ya gotta admit.

— "The Wizard of Oz" (1939). I doubt I could spoil this classic for too many readers by pointing out that, yup, the whole Technicolor portion of this musical fantasy is Dorothy's dream, induced by a twister-inflicted bump on the head. But my favorite scene is actually still in black-and-white, when a timelessly wicked-looking cyclone picks up Dorothy's house, with her in it, and gives her the ride of her life — which is also clearly part of her dream, considering the hallucinatory sights she sees out her window while airborne. Cow! Waving granny! Men rowing boat! Witch!

— "The Big Lebowski" (1998). Few of us who have seen this movie can ever again hear Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's "Just Dropped In" without envisioning Jeff Bridges cutting a rug with Julianne Moore (in Viking garb) in the famous "Gutterballs" dream sequence, induced by a drugged White Russian. Did the Coen brothers have a deeper allegorical meaning behind all the blatantly sexual imagery? Nah, probably not. But it's still possibly the coolest movie dream ever.

— "Inception" (2010). Then, again, seeing an urban landscape fold up on itself is hard to top visually. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a professional thief who steals information by infiltrating the dreams of others. While writer-director Christopher Nolan's eye-popping, mind-bending sci-fi thriller is all about dreams, the one that most matters is the final one, as viewers are left up in the air as to whether it ever ends. The key to this famous open-ended twist is a spinning top that DiCaprio walks away from before the viewer gets to see whether or not it stops spinning — the idea being that if it topples over, he is awake, and if it keeps spinning, he is dreaming. There's nothing more simultaneously stimulating and infuriating than a storyteller who makes you figure out the outcome for yourself.

BONUS FIVE: "Terminator 2": Judgment Day" (1991); "Dumbo" (1940); "Dreamscape" (1984); "Brazil" (1984); and Buster Keaton's "Sherlock Jr." (1924).

Topics (2):Film, Television