…and the quest to see everything

Archive for April, 2010

May-December Series: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


(Post-trial. ph. secret)

Mikael Blomkvist, a well meaning but scandal ridden journalist and Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) a young hacker with dyed black hair find themselves working on a forty year old cold case about the missing niece of an industrial magnate. Well, the journalist was there first until he realized the young girl was hacking into his laptop and decides to get her help. The missing girl’s other relatives, who ironically are the suspects of this familial crime and have Nazi pasts to boot, are a bit alarmed by this collaboration because the newspapers got a whiff of them and decides to call the girl “his whore.” Is their apprehension legitimate?

Well, they did sleep together.

It’s not as disappointing of a plot turn as it sounds. She comes on to him and it’s obvious that she’s looking for something more physical, but the movie doesn’t portray that clumsily. The shame that the Vangers try to attach to this relationship isn’t floating around it neither. They’re both cautious to fall in love and he thinks it a bit unfair that she’s so closed up and distant. It’s a bit one sided in that he looks at her with admiration and she has to muscle up to solve the case and save his life. But they’re taking their relationship one step at a time, and that seems very mature. The relationship feels unprofessional but not creepy, since she’s just as much as an adult as he is.

(Post-coital)

I’ll talk about Lisbeth the character and performance, that I was forewarned that Noomi Rapace looks nothing like the girl she plays made me concentrate on detaching the facade of ‘Lisbeth’ while watching the movie. That her face looks cheekbone-y and angular unlike the soft faces of most women in Hollywood. That she’s allowed to be an adult especially when meeting Henrik Vanger’s lawyer, and she exceeds expectations in this part. There’s just something about her mannerisms, her black clothing, her gait, the she smokes to escape tense situations. Everyone’s excited about Lisbeth because she’s not passive like many Hollywood female characters. But when I watch her I feel like I’m seeing another archetype instead of a full, nuanced character.

(Kool Thing)

And I could have done away with one of the rape scenes. And done away with “fuck,” “evil motherfucker” and other ub-subtleties. And I’m not sure if people on probation in Sweden are that defenceless against their parole officers. And I don’t like the direction of the denouement of the movie. And I don’t like how the movie portrays certain sexual acts as punishment. And why is Clarice doing research while Crawford is with the killer? That’s not how it works although I respect the spin.

I also have issues with the trailer of the film, or at least the version that I’ve seen. It barely lets us in on any dialogue. Why hide the fact that the movie’s in Swedish?


May-December Series: Greenberg


(ph. OutNow)

(The heading’s pretty self-explanatory.)

The first few minutes of “Greenberg” play like a lost Hal Ashby, watching Florence (Greta Gerwig) walking with a dog. It isn’t said if she’s a born Angeleno or if she moved from somewhere else. She straddles the line between smart and ditzy, having the same, almost drowsy voice that girls in their mid-20’s have. She’d be a full ditz if she didn’t have the indie girl look. She has a decent nightlife and sometimes has gigs in bars, crooning about the prairies. I live in Canada and I’m up to here with prairie shit and I didn’t know white girls sang about the prairies down there too.

Then Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) comes in to house sit and dog sit for her brother and the mood of the film changes into a portrayal of one bad date into another between Florence and Roger. “Do you remember they played Albert Hammond when it’s raining.” “You like old stuff?” For some frustrating reason she still comes back to him despite warnings from her best friend, who knows from Florence that he’s been in a mental institution, saying “If you see him again, I’ll stop talking to you.” Most of us would say the same thing.

For a while the movie veers into unwatchable territory. Some people have to be prepared for this kind of movie. I wasn’t – this is my first Baumbach. But at the same time, there’s an integrity in showing Roger mistreating people and accusing people of parental issues and people having awkward conversations and having really awkward sex.

The romance between Florence and Roger isn’t cookie cutter at all and it delivers a message that there’s probably no right person for anyone. Metaphorically, the two of them are different pieces of the puzzle. One thing they have in common except for their disfranchisement, which we don’t often remember because they clash so much. But in finding each other, they have to make it work.

There’s also honesty in the multitude of voices in this movie. There’s Florence, there’s Roger’s acerbic humour, there’s Roger’s college age niece and her friend calling other girls sluts. All of these portraits are brutal but not denigrating. When these voices clash, it could be excruciating but it’s, again, honest enough not to have the distance to make those characters hilarious – we empathize with them instead of being entertained by them. Most of the time we’re stuck with Roger’s, but despite how infuriating his personality could be, he is right about a few things and right about calling them out. His best friend (Rhys Ifans) shouldn’t go back to his marriage to a racist woman, it is annoying when people treat public spaces as their living rooms, and what is up with Florence’s ironic Girls Gone Wild story?

P.s. Saw this at the Varsity. I had to change seats because some old guy kept dropping sunflower seed shells on the floor, people kept their iPhones on to navigate through the dark theatre for their friends. Two fratboys in white T’s kept whispering to each other (I couldn’t hear him but a guy with a girlfriend yelled at them at one point), and finally walked out telling everyone in the theatre that the movie was fucking boring (they may have a point, but they didn’t stay ’till the end). These fuckers should have been filtered out after the second week but there they are at week 5. It’s both strange and comforting that Ben Stiller + Artsy movie join forces together and are still standing after a month. But again, apparently not everyone’s cup of tea.

P.s. Speaking of not everyone’s cup of tea, here’s a review from my friend’s friend, Julien.


Incoherent Grace Kelly post


(ph. doctormacro)

Two weeks ago my friend Matt and I were in the greatest monthly movie event when I geared the conversation towards the new Vanity Fair cover with Grace Kelly. Didn’t know she was a Kennedy. He talked about about his absolute disgust at Laura Jacobs‘ article and its insistence of her purity. He said that if she stayed in Hollywood she would have been a sex symbol and not the upstanding demure lady that she groomed herself as. Then we talked about princesses, in which he decided to take a breather and talk about the real world for a while.

My childhood understanding of Grace Kelly was Princess Grace. My young adult understanding of her is the insulting “quitters don’t win” out of frustration. Most importantly are the more recent revelation of her romantic proclivities. But there’s nothing wrong about that because there’s a place in our hearts for girls like that. She was just the beauty that could get away with anything.

I always marveled at the domesticated image of woman of the 1950’s, because the stars of that time, Grace Kelly and half of her competition – Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor sans “Giant” – didn’t look like women who made your eggs and toast. That’s also ironic knowing how Grace Kelly ends up.

(ph German Marie Claire via mojopin via tFS)

And again, the insistence that she was a 50’s girl, which I’m staring to question as a fallacy given her many incarnations in other actresses – Vivien Leigh, Catherine Deneuve, Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow. True, most of those women have odder roles and didn’t take on the same airs as she did. But if you pay attention to her lines in her movies, written to deconstruct her ladylike image. We should also remember that societal constraints also prevented her from playing the titular character in “Marnie.” Who knows what risks she world have taken?

I look at the picture above and the Vanity Fair cover and the picture where she comes out of a pool and I see Helmut Newton moreso than the New Look.

My mind goes all over the place too while I’m thinking about Grace Kelly. It’s true that for every statuesque blonde there are five actresses who are more petite looking and more aloof than her. But I keep trying to place her at any time in film history and insisting that she could have happened anytime.


Image: My Fellow Americans


(ph. Warner)


Plugs: “Cities of Refuge,” Empire Magazine, etc.


(ph fantasticfiction)

Fuck. So I’m gonna try to be like Oprah and tell 36 of you what book to buy. “Cities of Refuge” is the new novel by Michael “Papa” Helm and it just came out in Canada and I think England last week. It’s about a young female security guard for the ROM gets sexually assaulted, and that event adds to her colourful life as well as the lives of those around her. It’s been highly praised already. My broke ass actually bought the book and there’s something factual yet psychological about his tone, so far. It’s also very urban, multicultural story and he makes us walk with the characters in the spaces they go through and think about the city like they do.

Helm is also gonna be a part of the Harbourfront Reading Series and he goes on Wednesday. He taught me Creative Writing in UofT until he defected to the enemy at York. He’s cute, he kinda sounds like Johnny Cash, go buy his book and see him read it.

(watermarked)

Lars, who I was in the Creative Writing class with (here’s his un-updated blog by the way), also linked me to Empire’s List of 40 Great Actor and Director Partnerships. It’s a very dry list and there are a few glaring omissions (Allen and Farrow), but at least the website didn’t turn it into a fucking slide show. Also, I’m gonna buy this magazine. My friends will know that I barely buy movie magazines because I can access the same information on the net, as well as other reasons that I’ll probably never get to.

Also, The Playlist via London Times gives us the first look at Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre. I’m really excited about this because Michael Fassbender plays Rochester, the same role played by Orson Welles and Ciaran Hinds. I also didn’t know whether or not Mia Wasikowska is British or American (she’s Australian), and hopefully giving her Jane Eyre will give her something more to chew on than her role as Alice early this year.

Lastly, today’s gonna be really busy. I saw three movies last night, all strangely about May-December romances.


The Secret in their Eyes


(Sequence in their Eyes ph. SPC)

I’m taking everyone I know to see this movie.

The movie, portraying Argentine detective Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) trying to write a novel about a rape-murder case he’s had a twenty-five year obsession with, could have been a “baffling masterpiece” if I left it alone. But like every great film, I can’t, and it becomes more cohesive the more I think of it.

The movie, comfortably jumping from 1974 to 2000, has everything. Class conscious banter. The Hitchcockian theme wherein a man acting out on his impulses reminds another of his repressed desires and romances. A portrayal of human stupidity by Esposito and his partner Sandoval, whom, despite its intentions, prove that they’re neither cunning nor untouchable as they think. All of that in a slow marinade that is neither sleepy nor frustrating.

Then it has a climax like the seamless, much talked about chase scene in a full capacity soccer stadium.

(I Spy)

The second half is, forgive me, a series of what-the-fucks. It’s one of those movies that can end in so many places, with slow dramatic volleys from one possible scenario to its exact opposite. One of those possible endings transports us to the year 2000, when both Esposito and his love interest, Irene Menendez Hastings, are older. She examines the novel and becomes dissatisfied where and how the rough draft ends, her way of encouraging him to find real answers and truths that both the characters and the audience deserve. This second half isn’t jolting but is nonetheless disturbing. Saying ‘that was the most fucking up thing I’ve ever seen’ was a gauge learned to judge great movies in high school viewership, and it’s still just as effective. The real ending that the characters and audience do deserve took a lot of buildup, and it’s believable and nonetheless human made by a director who can make great films.

The movie’s about how people treat each other, how people punish each other, a desire for vindication. It’s about a new cinematic language to articulate an idealism that hasn’t vanished in the personal nor national level, although it’s easy for that ideal to slip away.

(Wut)

Now that’s done, I’ll reintroduce Nathaniel R’s discovery of Natalie Portman’s three block rule, a rule that the Cumberland audience is notorious for breaking. And it’s funnier when middle-aged bourgeois feys break this rule.

“I thought the movie was so horrible.”

“Have you read the New Yorker review? I think you’re alone in this.”

“Just everything was set up. The female judge just happens to have her shirt a bit open when the suspect was there. And the elevator…”

“That’s like every other movie. It wasn’t as bad as the movie yesterday.” (Please don’t tell me these idiots didn’t see J.Lo)

“And the judge closing the case just like that.”

“Well, you don’t know what the Argentinian (ARGENTINE!) justice system was like. And it was the 70’s. It was a dictatorship.”

And so forth. I’m pretty sure I’m a loser for forestalking them (walking in front of the person you’re actually following). I just thought the dialogue was gold.


Goodfellas


(Contrition ph. Warner)

Apparently this movie’s about guilt. The best thing I could come up with was that the characters weren’t as annoying as my first impression of them was and that it wasn’t really that feminist and that there’s so much. Food. In this movie.

P.s. Fuck it.

Half of Scorsese movies are a Sisyphean project towards empathy, but he strikes gold in analyzing Henry (Ray Liotta) and Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco). In a scene, Karen tells Henry that she flushed $50,000 worth of cocaine because of the police presence near their house, he is exasperated by knowing that their lavish lives become hollowed out. They repeat the same rationales for or against throwing out said cocaine for a few lines. At one point, I really thought this scene is gonna end like the last time. If I have to remind you, he hits her, she flails to the floor like a Guy Bourdin model (thus giving me ambiguous feelings about that, Marty), he storms out, the huge argument further fractures the relationship.

Now back to this scene. Instead of another assault, she apologizes, he doesn’t say but implies that she could have been right about making said cocaine disappear. Tour de force character writing/directing/acting come together as he goes into fetal position by instinct. He doesn’t have to think about being vulnerable, it’s surprisingly a part of his nature. She joins him, bellowing another “SORRY!” They become a lump of black and white bodies and as cheesy as it sounds, become one. Her lamentation articulates his the anguish that most Scorsese men can’t verbally produce.

This movie has a lot of flaws, specifically around Karen’s characterization. I can’t still understand how he attracted her. Passivity is under the guise of being observant and pragmatic, materialism under the guise of female desire. But there’s this appreciation or realization that gangsters will always have mistakes because they’re illegitimate by nature. And that the characters seem in a better light under a second view. And the food.