Seminal Television: Jesse Eisenberg’s Hair
Other than Rainn Wilson, I thought that the Jesse Eisenberg SNL last weekend was funny. I’ll make a concession, SNL is ‘rarely funny,’ but it’s a better showcase of talent for the host. Why just nail one role when you can nail eight? Anne Hathaway does a mean Katie Holmes, Jon Hamm cries weird.
The show made Eisenberg finally get out of the Jewfro, hoodie and breakneck Woody Allen-esque speech thing he’s been doing for the past two movies and make him speak and look differently. Hipster, check. Guido, check. Also, I declare that his hair should stay like the picture above forever. Super yum.
Janet (Imelda Staunton) is a depressed older woman suffering from insomnia and wants to get prescribed pills. When advised by a hospital’s psychiatrist Jerri (Ruth Sheen) to think about having more sessions with the latter, she say she does. She won’t even try to deceive Jerri and pretend that she’s found the solutions to her problems and she’s fine but instead she’s a closed clam.
Covering a year in its characters’ lives, Another Year, delves on Pavolvian traits and their effect on relationships and friendships. The wall Janet puts up against Jerri is an easiest way to end a relationship, but writer/director Mike Leigh‘s shows us the exact opposite of Janet with Mary (Lesley Manville). We first meet Mary as Jerri walks through her workplace, their work relationship seemingly harmless and normal, not too many attachments. She invites Jerri to a drink, and we finally get to see the real Mary. We’ll see, as she talks about saving up to buy a car, making everything about her. She opens up and brings up her life history after three glasses of white wine and start picking fights with Jerri’s husband Tom (Jim Boradbent) about his supposed hypocrisies in his environmental stance. How can the couple stay in a decade old friendship with someone they’re practically babysitting?
Mary brings up a fear within the audience that we might be Mary, the unfortunate outsider. She abuses her friendship with the couple without returning the favour by bringing a glass of wine and not finishing it, or asking ‘How are you’ back, or invite the couple up to her apartment even if it doesn’t compare to a house. Despite differences, Mary and Janet feel ashamed about themselves, which stop them from creating healthy relationships. Janet closes doors while Mary intrudes upon others so her friends doesn’t have to enter her space. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is her hostility towards the innocent Katie (Karina Fernandez), the couple’s future daughter-in-law. At the same time the couple then brings up a conundrum on how to become a good friend, as Leigh doesn’t show us alternatives other than being a non-burden and being a ‘nuisance’ as Jerri finally says about Mary.
I’m probably the only person who isn’t 100% sold on Manville’s performance, whose nervous ticks and hand gestures invade her own close-ups. Broadbent and Sheen’s roles aren’t showy, but their soft-sell condescension chills and might be missed by characters as daft or unintentionally insensitive as Mary. The last scene saves both Manville and Mary, experiencing the same problems, and the audience finally gets on her side. Her car problems do suck and yes, Katie is kind of annoying. Her problems are heavier, as her friends become unreachable.
Background – Passes for Casino Jack came with the package I bought at TIFF. I skipped it for Modra, a Canadian film with hip reviews and hipper people giving out flyers for it. I felt bad about missing Casino Jack since director George Hickenlooper‘s untimely death. My intuition failed, choosing a movie that came to theatres four days before this one, thinking this had better distribution chances. I’m watching Casino Jack in January instead of The Mechanic, ditching a friend in the process :(. I’m a Metacritic slave I so might never see The Mechanic.
On Casino Jack. I have faint recollections of people belonging to the footnotes of history, and the film’s subject, Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey), is supposedly a monstrous figure. Instead we get an ex-movie producer quoting movies a lot, with delusions of grandeur and a warped perception of competitive capitalism. The film’s first scene shows him claiming, in front of a mirror, that he works hard so that his family doesn’t have to walk or ride the subway, juxtaposed by him getting stuck in traffic with his daughter, hearing bad news from his partner Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), hiding from FBI for frauding left and right. Affluence doesn’t mean convenience, especially if your means are illegitimate.
Jack tries to convince us that he’s in the right while the film tries to convince us that he’s either deluded or caught up. He says that his job, lobbying helps congressmen to decide the laws for America. The film knows that it’s audience is smart enough to know that if congressmen wanted to write effective laws, they’d visit their constituents. Almost every character tainted hands in this fictional yet probably accurate portrayal of Washington. Jack uses his laundered money to build restaurants or Jewish schools, our devil’s advocate. We see the embarrassment of riches that he and these usurpers dip themselves into, the trinkets they need to feel accomplished, taking down enemies without knowing the consequences.
Nothing interesting visually in this film. Most of the camera work hides, for example, the blue sky, photoshopping the CN Tower between or behind those condos in ‘Florida’ that I’ve been in, hiding Senator ‘John McCain’ between those Manchurian Candidate-esque TV screens. There’s Spacey transforming himself into Jack in the photos of him, his skin droopier. There are also low angle shots of Jack as he’s being fired and/or interrogated.
Spacey’s never convinced me as a lead actor, and it takes a while for Pepper to settle within a suit-and-tie role, but they’re wonderful to watch in quieter scenes. They’re also a great part of an ensemble, illuminating a script full of pas de deux between characters. Michael’s girlfriend is played by Rachelle Lefevre, making memorable entrances and exits, doing wordplay as efficiently as the men, the film’s Cressida. Adam Kidan is played by Jon Lovitz, complementing the film through ccomic timing. These four are worth a matinée, including Jack’s description of Imelda Marcos, the strangest one I’ve heard.
Canada’s Top Ten: Incendies
Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal) leaves a will to her fraternal twin children. She gives each of them a letter, one for their father and another for their half-brother and tells her children to give those family members the corresponding letters. Her son Simon (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) hates his mother and doesn’t want to follow the will’s instructions, while daughter Jeanne (Maxim Gaudette) is dutiful enough to do her part.
The film, essentially, would cross-cut between the siblings’ and their mother in her youth, both stories paralleling in the same, storied homeland. Thankfully the boring first five to ten minutes end with a gunshot killing the Christian Nawal’s Muslim refugee boyfriend Wahab. This act of violence gripped my attention for the rest of the film. They try to kill her too but her grandmother intercedes. Finding out that she’s pregnant, her grandmother takes her in to seclude her until delivery. She is then told to leave for a bigger town.
Azabal’s a regular player in films about the Middle East that get some recognition outside that region. The foreign-educated, rational Palestinian who has a quick relationship with a terrorist in Paradise Now. The guarded sister to the Iranian woman being romanced by Leonardo di Caprio in Body of Lies. She does some of the same things here as she would on those two movies, crossing borders, argue ideas, live through political conflict. The most popular image of the film, her face brushed with blood, fires burning behind her, suggest many things but subtle. Yes, the film has its decrescendos but the film still embodies the insanity of war within one woman. As she puts on different hats while trying to survive within the war-torn area, she convinces both as victim and victimizer. We’re thankful that she’s getting a vehicle in the form of this movie.
As this film fits well with Azabal’s characters it does the same with Denis Villeneuve’s other film Polytechnique, as both concern violence against women. The clean cinematography in the earlier film reflects the Canadian scenes in Incendies, while it’s more textural in the Middle Eastern scenes, the latter reflecting the violence in that area.
Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s play, the film is far away from a ‘theatre film,’ making me curious to compare the two versions. The Greek tragedy elements, especially with the shocking revelations, still resonates within this adaptation.
The Illusionist 2010
The audience can feel the paper where The Illusionist is animated, but on other moments, its colours and shades has its own energy. The film’s usual colour scheme consist of shades of brown, from the titular illusionist Tatischeff’s raincoat to the brownstone streets of the cities where he moves around to do his work. Paris, London, a Scottish town, and Glasgow, where the second half of the film is set. Smoke and cloud travel through the screen weightless like in Miyazaki’s animated films. My favourite part of the film’s aesthetics is when the bluish nights are interrupted by the yellow city lights gleaming from Glasgow’s boulevards. Sylvain Chomet’s film gives us what Impressionist or German painters would have delivered if they knew how to fly. I guess the lines are too fine and colours too full to evade those influences.
Tatischeff and this film becomes a symbol of the uphill climb involved in preserving tradition. His Parisian audience is apathetic towards his tricks. It seems like he isn’t the perfect guy for the stage neither, his head being caught on the curtains. In London, an audience of two, the only ones left after a pre-Beatles band finishes their set. He also has to contend with drunks in parties where he performs. The drunk does give him a card of a pub is Scotland, a long travel through land and water until the fog seamlessly clears, seemingly greeting the man who’s small compared to the mountains. Here they laugh and clap at his jokes, but the crowd, with their pints of beer, look like they’ll cheer on anything. Tatischeff, who seems to have no other job skills, is thankful enough for this full venue.
The llusionist is adapted from the last, unfilmed script from French auteur Jacques Tati, and this film is then technically my second Tati. Instead of a relationship between an older yet childlike man playing innocently with children, this film deals with a surrogate parental relationship between an older man and an ungrateful adolescent girl growing up, finding their way from the small town to Glasgow. Both face the world’s volatility in the late fifties, her moving within the urban, fashionable world and him coping like the other struggling vaudeville acts living in the same hotel. This film differs from my first Tati, Mon Oncle, with this film’s grownup sensibilities. The material even feels sad to have grown up. It’s depressing enough not to make me love the movie, but I respect how it boldly faces this reality nonetheless.
I saw this film in theatres, with a small, weeknight crowd of a handful of post-hipster couples, appreciative of the film’s nostalgia. The film ends with the city lights all slowly turning off, but I know there are people who will hold on to the film and its old-time charms. 4/5
Les Innocents (Adult Film)
An open letter to the province of Quebec.
I channel surfed my way into a film called Les Innocents, which turned out to be Bertolucci‘s The Dreamers. Having seen it before, the French dubbing makes hasn’t changed how this film is a cineaste quiz that, unlike Tarantino films, gives the audience the answers with delight. It is a love letter to cinema after all, and that this second time watching it, I’m getting and remembering more right answers. One of these days I hope to match the trio’s film knowledge, winking at each other’s references after going to the movie theatre. Also, how it has Eva Green‘s character Isabelle instead asking ‘quel film’ and for that matter, that this film introduces us to Eva Green and we still thank it for that. That there is no way Eva Green isn’t or doesn’t speak French. How Michael Pitt‘s body makes me not wanna eat anything. How I will always want to visit Paris because of how they visually capture the city’s energy and anger. How I still vie for and romanticize revolution and that I still think of the joy of watching Michael Pitt’s Matthew as he dresses up like James Dean, walking the streets of Paris, and thinking to myself ‘That’s a real cinema lover,’ and not those snobs polluting universities today. How I wanna run through the Louvre with two people I love in a fraternal way, because I’ve accepted the possibility that no other gay guy loves movies. All because of this movie.
This was my first Bertolucci, a director I know now through his portrayals of flapper girls, threesomes and the dangers of fascism and communism.
And the nudity, which you guys are probably used to more than we are. I don’t remember much nudity – I’d remember such things. Well, aside from Isabelle dressing up as Venus de Milo – real cineastes are well rounded people who know art. Or Isabelle finding her picture on Mathew’s crotch, but not the crotch itself. Or the three young people discovered by Isabelle and Theo’s (Louis Garrel) parents, the former naked and sleeping peacefully like angels. But there’s more. Isabelle Matthew have sex on the kitchen floor while protests are happening outside, As both Matthew and Theo find out that Isabelle loses her virginity that night, Matthew and Isabelle kiss, her blood on Matthew’s hands and on both their faces. When she finds out about her parents discovery, she dresses up and tries to kill herself, but is stopped when something breaks their windows. Here, like in any Bertolucci film, sex and politics clash as they take on their most primal, animalistic and violent forms.
Enough of my pontificating. First. No scaring by putting it on the TV Guide listings as an adult NC-17 film. Although yes, it made me feel cool to finally have seen an NC-17 film.
Second. We English Canadians are generous enough to use subtitles when we put movies with your language and other language on the big or small screen. Do the same, please. During the commercials, you guys renamed that horrific Leighton Meester movie ‘Le Coloc’ and dub it in French! I don’t care if you’re trying to preserve your culture by Frenching everything, we in English Canada do that by watching hockey or something. I know it’s ridiculous if I’m trying to play with my rules on your channels, or that I’m complaining about characters in Paris speaking French. That I’m complaining even if the actors themselves did the dubbing. That I’m complaining about the dubbing of a minor masterpiece and a piece of crap instead of the apparent dubbing of the Marx Brothers. None of this dubbing crap. I’m actually one of those people who wanna remember the conversations between the sex scenes.
Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor
Hazy childhood movie memory – Pu Yi goes from child emperor (Richard Vuu) to teenager (Tao Wu), either doing group martial arts warm-ups or military warm-ups with the Communists within the Forbidden City. That’s probably not how the movie actually goes.
My first film class showed Visions of Light, where it talks about this film’s use of symbolism through colour. Red means tradition and authoritarianism. Yellow, apparently is transition but I think it’s actually marks discovery. I haven’t seen Visions in a long time. I remember Pu Yi’s tutor Reginald Johnston’s (Peter O’Toole) bike being yellow. Lastly, green, and thus all the cool colours – even brown, strangely enough – means change, abdication, moving away from Pu Yi’s (John Lone) Imperial past. The words ‘open the door’ are often said with hostility in this film. This is the first movie I remember to use blue as a feminine colour, worn by women in the Forbidden City, or blue lighting/screen to depict an escape where the women are in focus and in their most troubled and precarious. Or white for loneliness. Great cinematography from Vittorio Storaro, Bertolucci’s longtime collaborator.
I’ve tweeted that a big chunk of The Last Emperor is the Asian Conformist, which is reductive, yes. Bertolucci’s about style and morally cold-hearted characters, a combination he masters here. The film is essentially political, as it publicly calls out authoritarianism’s hypocrisies. I suppose knowing that Pu Yi wasn’t that nice of a person makes the film more morally complex. It makes an emperor’s story relatable because it’s about any individual’s growth from unwanted independence to confusion to selfishness to adult self blame to resignation. Lone performs this rollercoaster of an arc beautifully, like playing hide and seek with the character’s moral ambiguities, changing depending on the man’s place in life. Other great performances include O’Toole’s enunciation, Maggie Han as Easter Jewel and Ric Young as an interrogator, the latter two camping it up without distracting from the film’s even tone.
Riso Amaro, or Bitter Rice
Francesca (Doris Dowling) and Silvana (Silvana Mangano, Dino de Laurentis’ then wife) are rivals. The former is an illegal and the latter is more conventionally beautiful, supposedly naive and has a union contract. Silvana, in working an Italian convent’s rice fields – What? Those exist? – will face moral ambiguities and questions, mostly about a rival that becomes her friend once in a while.
Silvana asks Francesca about working for a rich family and for hotels. See, they’re two of a handful of woman Nonetheless, she gets fired for stealing jewellery that she provides for her sleaze of a boyfriend Walter (Vittorio Gassmann) and now she’s in this dump. Silvana is jealous that Francesca actually experienced what it’s like to serve and see riches, Francesca disagrees and is jealous of Silvana’s innocence. There are no flashbacks in this section of the film.
How very Neorealist, I suppose, of the film, to show the bitter realities of its present and not dwell on the fantasies of its glorious past. The film doesn’t idealize Italy, Silvana’s boyfriend Marco (Raf Vallone) thinking about moving to South America, even if Silvana mentions North America as a suitable place to move as well. Later on, Walter talks about jail and house crises, the most obvious political commentary in the film. Otherwise, it’s all about these four characters, trying to survive either legitimately or otherwise.
The only evidence of glamour and richness in the film is the said heavy diamond necklace that Francesca supposedly steals, causing a public scandal. It goes through a change of hands from Francesca to Silvana,the latter showing it off to remind the former of her crime. The revelation that the necklace is a fake is a metaphor but not a heavy-handed one.
I’m not sure if I can call these women tough or overdependent, I suppose they’re a bit of both. They’ll work even if it’s raining. It’s not like they’re secluded from the world by working inside a convent neither, receiving love letters from their men who for some reason know where they are. They sometimes escape from the convent and dance. Some mention finding bushes to be alone on.
The film ends, and tell one of my friends that it wasn’t so bad. He disagrees and tells me it’s a lesser Neorealist film, and the fact that it mixes the gangster and the melodrama within the style makes it a less pure example of the genre, even if it did popularize it outside Italian markets. And don’t worry about me, I have a litany of complaints about this movie as well. Like why does the poor Silvana, and sometimes Francesca, have nice, form-fitting clean clothes and hair, everyone else looking crappier and frizzier? Why are these women leaning over so beautifully as they’re supposedly working hard to plant rice in these fields? Why does everyone’s singing voices sound the same? Why is sexy jazz music playing in sad or rapey moments? Why do guys force their mouths on the women’s mouths? Why do the bad guys always have to dress like pre-Godard antiheroes?
There are great moments of filmmaking here like the dance scene, always cutting back and forth from wide shots of the dance and close-ups of the necklace, keeping it as tense as possible. Or shot contershots when Walter looks a bigger man than he should be.
The acting’s not perfect neither, but there’s something commendable about the four leads. Dowling, despite telling the sexiest abortion story in this history of cinema, has moments in a more psychologically complex character than she normally would have gotten in her Hollywood years. Or more complex than Blue Dahlia, anyway. Vallone can make a clichéd move like wipe-clapping his wrists after knocking a man out seem like an instinct. And Gassman’s campy, an adjective I refuse to give as a compliment.
The best actor here is Mangano. There has always been something vulnerable about Silvana, going after Francesca and turning the workers against her like David fighting a giant. Or going insane after finding out about a coworker’s miscarriage. Finding out that she’s been lied to, that all her fantasies about getting out rich have been squashed. She realizes so many things in the last few scenes of the film that she turns catatonic. It’s probably one of the greatest cries I’ve seen an actress do, Mangano shaking to the bone. She’s the reason the dated film stands out.
20:10: The imitators edition
I stole this idea from Nathaniel Rogers. These are screen caps of the twentieth minute and tenth second of movies, many of which I can’t really expand on as he eloquently does. But really, this is posted because My VLC shuffle played The Kids are All Right and Shutter Island, which are already taken. [ETA; Also, I have not and will not put the names of the movies where these screen capscome from, for guessing reasons]
A rival painter observes, praises master yet talking behind the protagonist’s back.
“Excusez moi, numero two!” “HEY!”
“What happened?” “Oh, you didn’t hear…”
It’s not high school anymore. Friends dirty dancing in public…
He feels the pains of ‘adult sizing’ in a self-aware amusement park.
“…children, heaven bless them, they will look up to me and mind me…”
Los Angeles, night-time. The vandals rise and fall.
Traffic. No dialogue, obviously.
“Yeah, well, where is he? How come he takes a lousy stinkin’ job?”
At 3AM, a careless nursemaid tells the truth to a budding actor.
No Strings Attached
So the new Natalie Portman film No Strings Attached, her first outing after her probably Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan, is facing mediocre reviews. ‘It’s predictable!’ ‘All romantic comedies are predictable!’ ‘You’re a terrible person, Paolo!’ Ah, shut up. Yes, I concede that the movie gets crappier the more I think about it. For example, to my future children reading this – if you don’t cry or show emotion at my husband/your father’s ‘stupid thing’ of a funeral, but you cry for a guy, I will disown you. Nonetheless, I will give this movie a bone or four.
The cheerleaders in Adam’s (Ashton Kutcher) “High School Musical” esque show actually did high kicks. Like real cheerleader stuff. I can’t remember if they did stunts or flipping though.
There was a total of one realistic sex scene. I agree with Ebert that the multiple lead-ups to Adam and Emma’s (Natalie Portman) first consummation was pathetically ‘code era,’ and that their hair never fully get messy, but when they got there…Oh God, talking about realism in sex scenes in ‘film criticism’ is harder than anything else I’ve ever had to write. The aggression and the connection and hand-held camera capturing a long take and Emma’s (Portman) head practically buried in those pillows. Also, is that Kutcher with a normal person’s body? Congratulations to him. I imagine any other actor working out to the hilt if he was cast in this movie.
Natalie Portman’s relationships with male characters in her other movies aren’t necessarily romantic, and you can’t even say that about older, more respected actresses. She allows herself to be coupled in this film, and I’m one voice who believes that Kutcher and Portman make a decent onscreen couple. Also, her calling Joy and Lisa (Vedette Lim) ‘pumpkins’ is classic.
There’s also one scene with Adam and Lucy (Lake Bell) who bump heads while trying to kiss. I can’t remember the last time I saw that.
The supporting characters. They’re really letting Abby Elliott as Joy nail a Drew Barrymore impersonation? When the trailer was out around Christmastime (someone correct me on this), I thought that the movie was built around Adam’s line ‘You fight like a hipster.’ The film now seems like a free-for-all for the comediennes and actresses with or without comedy films under their belt. We probably have Portman to thank for the girl power, whose project includes producing female stoner movies and has Executive Producer credits to this film. Mindy Kaling’s trash talking humour, her character Shira telling Emma that she’s going to avoid her for being so depressing. We have Greta Gerwig successfully convincing us that her character Patrice is more sexually desirable than the then awkward Emma at one point in their lives. Other actresses include Talia Balsam, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell (playing neurotic middle management) and Olivia Lovibond, the latter two’s comedic talent were probably aided by the fact that this movie is my introductions to them.
There’s also Kevin Kline, playing ‘Great Scott’ Alvin or Adam’sfamous TV star dad, who almost steals the show through both the physical and delivery aspects of the comedy. 3/5.
Somewhere is an interesting look at movie star Johnny’s Marco’s (Stephen Dorff) busy schedule. He’s promoting his latest movie while being the target of snide remarks from his costar (Michelle Monaghan), getting a make and make-up for his next role as an older man, going to Milan where he’s revered and where we learn that his CV includes Pacino and Streep films. With the good comes the bad, breaking his arm at the Cheateau Marmont while wasting his money renting a hotel room there, his many exploits, looking like crap – impractical yet fabulous taste in footwear aside – and not even dressing properly at press conferences and photo shoots. In other words, looking at an actor’s precarious career and lifestyle.
It’s interesting to see Cleo (Elle Fanning) behave towards his Johnny. She gets visitation rights with him during weekends, he doesn’t know that she has been ice skating for three years (although that could be mom’s fault), she has to tell him what “Twilight” is, he sneaks girls into his hotel suite in Milan even if she’s sleeping in the suite’s bedroom. Later on, in a teary scene, we discover that Cleo’s mom is going away and the latter hasn’t revealed when she’s coming back. Her parental situation and upbringing is just as precarious as Johnny’s career, thus the film’s title, Somewhere.
Let’s go back to Milan scene, shall we, as it develops to the morning after Johnny’s tryst with the Italian woman. The woman tries to open up to Cleo, asking her questions about boyfriends and telling Cleo stories about her young love with a scooter. Johnny finally joins the two on a breakfast table, Cleo darting looks of anger towards her father. That one moment is the angriest she gets because she doesn’t seem to harbour ill will against him for the rest of the movie. Well, he does hang out with her a lot. The film also makes it seem that despite the lack of time normally spent between the two, they don’t seem the need to reacquaint each other of their new activities. They communicate instead through playing Guitar Hero or playing tea-time at the bottom of the Marmont swimming pool, the two then having an esoteric language to themselves. Her treatment of him is a mature decision for an 11-year-old to make.
The film brags cameos from actors like Louis Garrel and Benicio del Toro, but I’m more interested in the models. Erin Wasson, Angela Lindvall, Maryna Linchuk, Meghan Collison, Jessica Miller (who?) Nicole Trunfio (the brunette woman with the red biniki staying below his Marmont suite). I couldn’t recognize them until looking at iMDb, and it’s sad that I haven’t been connected to the fashion model world.
This is getting…somewhere. The first half of the film especially shows writer/director Sofia Coppola channel the male gaze through Johnny in his (spatial) relationship with these women. There are exceptions to the gaze and gender divide, when Johnny watches a documentary about Gandhi without feeling a slight tinge of empathy towards the great man. Nonetheless, he lights up like a little boy when he watches the twin strippers’ second number (I didn’t know the Foo Fighters and Amerie were stripping music. I also didn’t know that Coppola’s taste in music got more populist/terrible and I do like Amerie). He ignores the three models with black couture gowns, the models then like ghosts in the Marmont hallway. Someone ‘sexy’ pops by now and then while Cleo’s around and we as an audience is anxious that he’ll be seduced away from his daughter’s attention. He watches Cleo’s ice skate routine as an obligation, but marvels at her classic, fragile beauty when she comes out in the gown for the Italian awards event.
Watching him enact the male gaze is interesting since he is an actor, and his job description means people looking at him. He worries when the gaze is shifted back towards him, asking his daughter to watch out for black SUV’s – she tells him that there are lots of those cars in LA, which is weird because as an actor, he’s supposed to know those things. At a party, a younger actor asks him for advice while only half of the girls there give him any attention. He goes on stage in Milan for the awards event but is quickly pushed out to make way for a dance number led by the Italian girlfriend.
Somewhere is like watching someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the spotlight, which come to think of it, is a recurring theme in Sofia Coppola’s films. Bill Murray’s character in Lost in Translation, Kirsten Dunst’s titular Marie Antoinette and Johnny are similar in this respect, where the gaze goes both ways between protagonist in a distinct civilization and said civilization’s distant and hostile habitants.
Hostile, however, seems to strong of a word to associate with Sofia Coppola’s slow pace and minimalist narration. The characters, even with Cleo’s warm influence, still feel cold and distant. It also feels laughable, because of the film’s content, that Somewhere‘s getting comparisons to other auteurs. The themes aren’t deep enough or are engendered too literally in the film, but I’ll feel obtuse if I ignored these themes since they take a bit to ferment and talk about. 3/5.
I saw this film at the Varsity, where two of the films are sold out for the later screening times and for the 7 PM screening times, all the movies were sold out with the exception of The King’s Speech. And shut up, I liked The King’s Speech.
The news about Jonathan Franzen was picked up locally – he and his new novel “Freedom” had moved around for a book tour with a stop at Toronto two months earlier and meant everything to the city now – because of his appearances at the IFOA. According to very flattering reviews in the city’s alternative weeklies, Franzen made an epic splash tackling both the professional and private lives of the fictional Berglund family whose story spanned from St. Paul to Washington. While the blogger was wallowing with self-pity because of being unable to pay for tickets to see someone who was practically a living literary genius, the blogger contended with reading the 500 plus page tome by himself months later, and realized that the first thing he was thinking about was who would play the characters in a movie version which MAKES HIM A PRIME SUSPECT RIGHT? Then again, a film version would be in the spirit of the ambition in this book, and regardless the parts that were in Joey’s perspective, which is practically Franzen channeling Bret Easton Ellis, and even if certain plot points are revealed twice, the book can compel and break the hearts of the readers each time.
The blogger kept thinking about what it would have been like if this movie was set in the late 1980’s with a cast like Danner-Redford-Goldblum, or Kristine Sutherland (Buffy’s mom)-Kline-Goldblum, or a mid 1950’s cast consisting of Taylor-Hudson-Dean. But what is done is done. The blogger will give a set of names that also depends on which director the movie version would make the film, and how ambitious and cool-headed this director is.
JESSICA BERGLUND. Walter and Patty’s intelligent, ethically sound older daughter. She’s daddy’s girl but their relationship isn’t as poisonous as Patty and her brother Joey’s.
My choice. Emma Roberts. It’s weird casting a younger actor who’s only more than ten years younger than the actors playing his parents. The only thing I’ve seen her in is the trailer for It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Hope my instincts aren’t off.
CONNIE MONAGHAN. The girl next door to the Monaghans. She’s an outsider from the neighborhood and Joey’s girlfriend.
My choice. Kristen Stewart. This girl’s probably going to be too cool for school after On the Road is released or when, by lucky stars, she gets the role of Kate for the new East of Eden. But as much as I liked her in The Runaways, when you read about a character that’s feral and sexual and has no ideas of her own, who else could I have thought of?
LALITHA. The young woman of Indian descent who has two passions – anti-overpopulation and her boss, Walter Berglund.
My choice Freida Pinto. The book describes Lalitha as having round features like Aishwarya Rai, who isn’t on the age range as the character. There’s a calming sense to her performance in Slumdog Millionaire, and the sexual element is obviously in there as well.
JOEY BERGLUND. The wonder boy who’s rebelling from his parents through sexual relations with Connie Monaghan and through Republicanism.
My choice. Anton Yelchin. This’ll be a jump from Yelchin, whose foray into science fiction films make him seem benevolent and dorky. But young minds can absorb. Plus he can still pretend to be in high school, depending on what the film wants him to be. The only questions are how he’s going to look with blonde hair and a little beer weight?
RICHARD KATZ. Truncated from the hardcover’s leaflet thingy, he’s an outre rocker and Walter Berglund’s best friend and rival. But what is he still doing in the picture?
My choice: Unknown This is a cop-out, but every source material has a role that’s hard to cast. It’s better for a casting director to scour the earth and find someone out of a thousand people other than saying Depp or Bale or Leo. Colin Farrell might do if he looked the part.
WALTER BERGLUND. As a nature lover, working for Big Coal becomes the career move that gets him in the New York Times. Has Freudian rivalry issues with his best friend, his son, his father and brothers.
My choice: Paul Rudd. Ageless Paul Rudd. We need someone sincere to open up to Patty as he talks about how mean her best friend Eliza is Sure he hasn’t done drama since The Object of My Affection, but you can’t lose that kind of training. His comic side might help reduce tensions in many scenes while arguing with Joey or his wife Patty and will help him while thinking about overpopulation statistics and going ballistic on a pill-addled speech that goes viral, pre-Youtube days. Thinking about Paul Rudd made me realize what a funny character Walter is.
PATTY BERGLUND nee EMERSON. The basketball star turned perfect housewife to bored, drinking housewife who wallows in self-pity and writes her autobiography for therapy.
My choice: Michelle Monaghan. ‘I’m 34. I’m a baby,’ Monaghan says in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang five and a half years ago. Although she looks more mature in Somewhere, the blogger is sure she can still fit in as a young blonde girl in a college basketball team and eventually transform herself into an older Washington housewife. She has the hardness in her voice to nail ‘Did Walter ever tell you I slashed Blake’s snow tires?’ and humour and goodwill to bring Patty to our sympathies.
The Ice Storm
Mikey Carver (Elijah Wood) fools around in his basement with Wendy Hood (Christina Ricci), but he hears footsteps approaching. Like young people, they expected to be told that this behaviour isn’t correct, as her father Ben (Kevin Kline) does publicly. We the audience have expectations too, that punishment follows sin, and the sinners will all be drowning in tears in the end of every exposure of wrongdoing. But what if the punishers, in this case the parents, take part in the same kind of behaviour? That sort of is the problem here in New Canaan, Connecticut in 1973.
I also just realized days after watching this that the characters also like punishing each other. Although punishment isn’t their prime motives nor they have fully decided to do this for the 48 hours that the film portrays. Mikey’s mom Janey (Sigourney Weaver), irritated by her workaholic husband, has an affair with Ben, which is how the latter fortunately finds the two kids fooling around in the Carver basement. Ben’s wife Elena (Joan Allen) slowly finds out about this affair, and forcibly joins her and Ben to a ‘key party’ – where the husbands put their keys in a bowl and the wives pick a key, their husband’s or not. Yes, some of those actions are vengeful, but their unreliable spouses adds to these characters’ loneliness.
Period object time – The Jesus Christ Superstar poster on the train from New York City to New Canaan, the fashions and pastor’s hair as we hear Harry Nilsson in the background, the action figure of the American soldier whose genitals the Viet Cong has stolen, Ben’s son (Tobey Maguire) reading the Fantastic Four (?). Your turn.
Is this Kevin Kline’s movie? Joan Allen and the others steal the movie from him but the water-bed is his.
Ang Lee likes nature, from the torrential rain in the countryside hills in Sense and Sensibility to the bamboo trees in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Here in this film we see Ben leave Janey’s postmodern house to his own by walking through some nicely arranged wooded areas that start from her backyard. When Ben busts Wendy, they share the same route and he gives her advice. The area’s multi-purpose, where Janey’s younger son blows up his toys for God knows why, sexual repression or aggression? Lee chooses to adapt a film with a suburban setting, since it’s where man meets nature and both compromise, nature is where humans hide. The only person who can’t really reconnect is Elena, who follows Wendy’s example by biking through the off-roads of the suburbs. She deviates by shoplifting in the pharmacy like her daughter and gets caught, making a big scene.
The film’s title The Ice Storm is also a natural phenomenon, a thing greeted with warning by the weather specialists on TV, making it difficult for cars and trains to go around, an indirect challenge to the characters. Mikey sees it another way, enjoying the harshness and the beauty it produces. For a while his loneliness, as well as the other characters, isn’t as bad. The storm gives us a tragic end, and we can see those factors as something only God would inflict on the film’s characters. It doesn’t feel like anything will change, and no, I’m not saying key parties will still happen in this town. The film actually makes us feel like this tragedy is as bombastic as other directors might convey through their possible versions of the film. Lee’s tone is constant, solid and makes us feel as if the dysfunctional Hood family will be together after the event.
Dukes of Hazzard
This is the only movie I’ve seen in LA back in 2005. Mark McGrath was in the audience, or I assumed he was unless he was smart enough to watch something else. Don’t denigrate this movie too much, however. The film adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard has the misfortune of the cast being too manicured to look believable Southern ‘yokels’ as the cast of the TV series would have looked like three years ago. It’s also the first and only movie I’ll probably watch with Jessica Simpson, here the iconic Daisy Duke and she’s actually passable in here, as well as the two leads Johnny Knoxville and Sean William Scott.
Read some more. The film’s also made and set in 2005, and although America’s pretty divided then, the movie’s premise that again, Southern ‘yokels’ can also be environmentalists, actually work here. The Dukes’ enemy is a famous race car driver from Hazzard County, Georgia, who’s kept his accent yet is indifferent the county’s environmental ruin. He’s not an elitist, and that someone is trying to destroy his home and relegate the words ‘shit hole’ to it kind of hurts, actually. This film instead goes back to earlier Southern attitudes of loving their land and sticking through it in either its best or worst. And Southerners who have no qualms on pretending to be Japanese?
Speaking of America’s (re)division is the contentious rebel flag on the roof of the Duke mobile, or whatever they call it. The brothers go to Atlanta to find the results of the soil sample tests, they meet a traffic jam, people heckle them for not being in the 21st century. There are different kinds of Americans who still use the rebel flag, those who know what it means now and uses it to hurt others and those who stick to the flag for its past and are oblivious and/or indifferent to what it means now. I don’t know what it says about me that I’m not fully outraged for the second set of reasons.
Talking about this movie is probably a bad place to bring up the discussion above, and probably the worst to bring up what I’m discussing in the next paragraph. As a tacky gag to show how different and insular the Dukes of Hazzard are to the rest of the world, they reach a university Atlanta and get information about Japan and Australia wrong. They mess with the labs, get coal on their face and end up in a predominantly black neighborhood. Why did the two girls at the back seats they nothing? Is it because for some reason they’re dumb even if they’re going to college? I have this weird fascination with blackface and yellow face and yeah, it’s wrong and I don’t know why on both counts neither. The black people in the neighborhood have been brought up through generations and have their own spins to their culture, and these two white boys show up like that and think they can get away with it? The same goes with the theatrical tradition that is alive today – I’m looking at you, Angelina Jolie! This movie doesn’t answer my questions in all, even if for two seconds I thought it did.
Also, I slightly dislike Burt Reynolds.
After this movie and Mamma Mia, I’m thinking of having a guilty pleasure tag. I’m not cruel nor hypocritical enough to call this movie bad.
The Theatre: Duel of Ages
A teacher of mine in the Philippines had a story when they went to the provinces, one of the tribal areas, when one of the tourists ‘lost’ a pair of expensive sneakers. An old tribesman accuses a younger tribesman of stealing said sneakers, the two then having to settle this question of honour themselves. Everyone thought the younger man would win due to physical advantage, but when the ‘bolos’ were thrown, the older man actually hit the younger man in the arm. The younger man’s property was checked and there the sneakers were.
I remember this story while I was watching “Duel of Ages,” a show from True Edge Productions. “Duel of Ages” is a series of nine duels that portray the evolution of the mostly illegal practice from medieval France to the Wild West to the revisionist history of duels as depicted in silent cinema. There’s also a scene about the dying Samurai class, a Samurai training his son that is the most human in the show full of comic relief, tension and crisp, well choreographed fights. And as unprofessional as this sounds, I think I got a new crush from one of the duelists.
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
The last three movies I’ve seen of director Martin Scorsese have been male-centric and gun crazy that it’s a relief to see his earlier woman’s picture Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore on TV. Housewife Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn), with her son Tommy (Alfred Lutter) at her side, drives towards Monterey after her husband’s death. Again, I didn’t see it all in the beginning, but I think I tuned in at the right time.
Alice has a conversation with Tommy during a meal, goes to work as a singer on a piano bar and is courted by Ben (Harvey Keitel) a guy with a ridiculous white cowboy costume. Their conversation pretty much was a marker for me in the film, with its energetic humour. In the rest of the film, we see and hear Alice – smart, jaded yet funny – talk to the other characters. Along with Ben there are other characters as we meet them. Her outgoing nature towards the other characters make for the appearance of good writing. Or good writing, complemented by Scorsese’s vision for characters. The film adds Scorsesean characteristic on women, who repress their actions but not while speaking their minds.
Alice imagines her son being ‘bored out of his mind,’ and there he is, watching an old colour movie where a man makes a woman’s costume more scandalous, makes her sing, but she sings gladly. Eventually he’ll get bad friends (Jodie Foster) and get into trouble. Two possible readings of the scene and Tommy’s story line. First and the most obvious one, he’s imagining his mother going through the same thing, as the movie he’s watching is cheapening both women’s common ordeal. Alice would later tell her next boyfriend David (Kris Kristofferson) about Lana Turner, showing how movies influence these characters’ perceptions. The second, this scene is the manifestation of familial conditions of the time. Not just with single moms but with the looming recession two years after this film is released, mothers both single and married have to go back in the workplace and children are left alone in their homes. Scorsese, however, is mature enough not to blame neither mother nor child for this.
The only reason why I hesitated to call on the film’s excellent writing is because of how one of the next scenes play out. Surprisingly, Ben’s wife comes knocking at Alice’s door. There’s an emotional scene found in most melodramas, mixed not so distractingly with Scorsese using handheld, only to be sandbagged by Ben banging on Alice’s motel room door. I really thought Keitel would stay against type in the film, and I expected the same with Scorsese as well. It ended up becoming like a milder version of that scene in Raging Bull. However, I accept what happens in the story, especially since we’re observing Alice’s reaction to Ben showing his evil side. She looks like she’s been there before, but she’s shell shocked and defeated, unable to defy Ben. Nonetheless, she knows what to do.
Her pit stop at Tucson – hopefully not as backwoods-y as Scorsese portrays it – takes up half of the film’s running time, escalating the tension between her and Tommy. A main reason I like this film is her rapport with him, possibly echoed within the passive aggressive banter of Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment almost a decade later. Plus Alice knows how to play with her child, sometimes gets too mean and shortsighted towards him, yet she never seems childlike with him. They’re each other’s best friends, they share each other’s dreams and allow each other’s indulgences. With their runaway budget, she gets to buy dresses, he gets to have guitar lessons.
This film also breaks the cardinal rule of ‘All child actors before Haley Joel Osment are terrible.’ There are exceptions to this rule, but we’ll talk about that later, as well as showing how well Scorsese works with younger actors. Lutter puts flesh, blood and preteen intelligence to Tommy, questioning his mother’s decisions as per situations when families become ‘unconventional.’ He’s also a test to both her mother and to David. David, despite the nice working farmer’s smile, has hit him unlike Ben but Alice never gets comfortable with Ben enough for him to get to know the previous boyfriend. David fails a test but is right on a few things about a Tommy and Alice.
Alice in Tucson also exposes a duality within her, cowering slightly when Tommy swears in front of David or when Flo (Diane Ladd) uses her in the latter’s routine. She’s a woman with one foot off the edge of respectability, in a way denying that she’s in denial about her ‘maniac’ boyfriends, low paying jobs, serving locals better food than what she’s recently cooked for her own son. Unlike say, a Blanche duBois who relates being ladylike with fragility, and choosing that over truth, Alice is tougher. She’ll shed her exterior if that means having to survive and having to keep her relationships together. Yes, I know that Gena Rowlands must have had a better performance than this on A Woman Under the Influence – I haven’t seen it yet – but Burstyn as Alice is a work of being and balance, a performance about decisions on a mental level instead of a physical one.
What follows, as Chuck Klosterman would say, in the consummation of a relationship – offscreen – but that presents problems of its own. Alice has already made sacrifices on her first marriage and worry about the compromises she’ll make on this relationship. Nonetheless, she’s happy. Tommy’s happy. They understand each other and are more mature in the end.
So I missed the first 20 minutes of this. Sophie Sheridan (Amada Seyfried) invites three of her potential fathers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard, who are more shirtless than the women in this film will ever be) to the Greek island resort that she and her mother runs. She does so because it’s her wedding soon and she wants to know which one is the real father. Her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) doesn’t know about all of this. We wouldn’t suspect sluttiness from someone wearing overalls.
Oh hai Sky, Dominic Cooper having the most ‘decent’ character here for his CV. Also hai Julie Walters, who gets blindsided by bad lighting when she’s with her co-stars. Thankfully she gets a song of her own that’s also an ABBA favourite and does her best to sell it, just like some of the other supporting cast do. Also Skarsgard in his most all-American.
Seyfried here can handle the comic aspects of this film as with her earlier films. She talks over and under other characters so naturally and sometimes behaves as if she’s surprised by her own words. She and Meryl match both in the emotional levels, rapport and blonde hair. This movie makes the case for her being the best Meryl Streep’s daughter figure in film, the spot held by Lindsay Lohan’s underrated performance in A Prairie Home Companion, but thankfully Seyfried’s whining here still makes Lohan the victor. Speaking of mother-daughter, Michelle Pfeiffer was considered to play Donna, both Seyfried and Pfeiffer having those wide captivating eyes. Before I get depressed.
Oh no, the depression won’t stop, that despite the film does remind me of the licentiousness of the disco group in a time when they seemed tame compared to punk bands, ABBA’s music going well with the women reflecting on their former ways. As well as those ways haunting them when Donna realizes what the former has done. Streep’s vocals and interpretation are the best in this cast, making the lyrics lighter instead of growling them or evoking too much emotion from them. There’s also literal transition between the characters speaking and singing, which I very much appreciate.
Nonetheless they’re still butchering ABBA. And I can’t believe I’m actually putting ABBA on a pedestal by writing that sentence. It’s either Donna Sheridan and her friends (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) sounding like karaoke that comes up short. There’s also Seyfried being pop autotuned, and I’m not even blaming her for that. I actually like her rendition of “I Have a Dream,” a song I know because Westlife covered it. The seventies flair just isn’t always there, only coming up in songs sung by the chorus group. There’s an ABBA song once every five minutes, reminding us of the cast’s imperfect renditions. Of course, the adapted musical tradition of the songs being used in a montage. There’s also me hating the sight of men in swimsuits for the first time because they’re in flippers and singing another song. Why is Brosnan the lead male cast member? He has great chemistry with Streep, both cancelling each other out, but did they have to give him the most songs? I also don’t mind his voice, but it’s not like he can pay me to listen to him sing again. Also, why is Seyfried wearing a peasant skirt? I know it’s a resort but that trend is three years too old!
For someone dipping her foot into film, director Phyllida Lloyd jumps her camera from one place to another, going against theatrical staging/POV’s. Which I appreciate actually, even if I’m a snob when it comes to letting adapted musicals/plays on film staying as stage-y and with a meditative pace as many musicals and/or plays are. She use the scenes well and making it, I guess, cinematic in its spaciousness. She also makes everything happens so snappily, portraying what seems like a two-day time frame.
I also like the Aegean blue used in the mise-en-scene and costumes. They even use the blue in the shot in Donna’s bedroom, in both cases feminizing a normally masculine colour. The few times the film noticeably breaks from the colour palette happen in the film’s third act is when Donna wears a pink scarf with her blue dress, as she’s pouring her heart out to Brosnan’s character. The second time will be the yellows and browns leading to the wedding scene. I don’t know what those colours mean.
Nonetheless everything and the Chekovian crack on the floor, I forgive this movie for all its transgressions.
Enter the Void
The festival talk about Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void, sometimes accompanied by stills of women stripping, made me think it was gonna be like his earlier effort Irreversible but with glow sticks. The trailer shows us Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) reminding his promise to his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) that they’ll stay together forever, and he tries to stick to that promise despite his unplanned journey into the afterlife.
Yes, the film lived up to the first assumptions. I verbally reacted to the gunshot that kills Oscar in a bathroom of a Tokyo dive. Because seriously, who threatens the police with a gun he doesn’t have? There is also a car crash that kills their parents while both younger Oscar and Linda are in the back seat. Other moments in the film, especially the unconventionally disturbing sexual encounters, are arguably violent by definition, but Noe softens the blow for those other moments. In comparison I guess.
We’re seeing this through Oscar’s perspective, with the camera’s distracting pans and tilts, blinks, or when neon-coloured fractals as he trips out. After his death, the camera follows the back of his head, it neither blinks and the digital resolution is blurrier. It’s sad that we barely see the protagonist’s face that’s too handsome and youthful to belong to a character doing hard drugs. I’m even suspecting that the drugs in the plot is just an excuse to level with the neophyte actor’s lack of talent. Brown’s acting is so comatose it’s a relief to see the other characters instead. The actress who plays little Linda (Emily Alyn Lind) is a better actor. de la Huerta gives a great performance but is marred by the camera blurring her or zooming away.
I saw this film someone. We took time before starting the conversation. She then talked about the incestuous ‘undertones’ between the siblings, bringing us to my second set of assumptions, that instead of traumatizing me and tripping me out, that it was gonna be about an emotional bond between the siblings. That Noe grew as an auteur, showing us two great characters together. The accident sets off a series of events, depicted in a non-linear fashion, that separate the two but they eventually meet as sexually charged young adults. Their relationship isn’t the only one seen under a Freudian lens – experiencing the afterlife, Oscar remembers every woman he’s been with and compare them to either his mother or sister. Which I guess is an interesting perspective but it doesn’t pan out well on film. It even felt perverse and unnecessary to me.
With the good and the bad, it also presents an contrarian perspective on reincarnation. The psychedelic gimmick of the film, a feat in itself, isn’t even worth the content.
Good evening, San Diego. I’m Veronica Whoreningstone, Tits McGee is on vacation!
God forbid, however, if she say something bad about Ron Burgundy’s (Will Ferrell) hair. Yes, it’s ok to feel comfortable or to just point out the sexism within the jokes because the script wouldn’t be made if it wasn’t as a satire the sexism in the TV journalism industry in the 1970’s. There’s Whoreningstone, I mean Veronica (Christina Applegate) as well as Applegate herself, both having to think on their toes. I keep hearing Jennifer Aniston’s voice on Naomi Watts’ body. As I said earlier though, Applegate has the intelligence and something else. She really fits this film’s modified version of the 1970’s and her diction helps a lot with that. Of course there’s the steely blonde blue eyed-ness, allowing herself to be cold and ruthless when need be. I can’t wait for her and her co-star Will Ferrell reunite for Hall Pass this year.
Anchorman is a more masculine and funnier version of 200 Cigarettes, having a surprising all-star cast that includes cameos of people already famous (Chris Parnell, Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller, Danny Trejo, Vince Vaughn, Fred Willard, Owen Wilson) and those who will be famous in less than a decade (Jon Hamm, Seth Rogen).
I like this shot, but even here in this little moment of beauty, director Adam McKay adds something hilarious. Why aren’t the other citizens of San Diego attacking him, though? Shh, don’t question it. Just laugh, because I am.
Although this post is coming out today, this actually was the first movie I saw in the New Year. Don’t hate.
Performances I learned about
What I actually found in common with the ‘best’ performances I’ve seen in movies since my earlier, iffier list in July is that these actors who play their characters as either scary or scared. I thought that was gonna make my list repetitive but it’s a pretty general conflict within a character anyway. Also, as much I loved a few performances released this year, this list mainly focus on my self-education (Although I didn’t major nor specialize, I took film classes in college, I’m not one of those) about films from the beginning of ever (but really 1947) up to the past year, for which I make a space to include an FYC or two for performances this year. again, I also wanna be a contrarian and ‘instructive’ – the more obscure and diverse a performance is, the better.
Stellan Skarsgard, Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier, 1996)
The film complements Emily Watson’s well-praised debut performance as Bess McNeil with Skarsgard, who makes the pest performance of a ‘crippld’ man since Jimmy Stewart. He finds the balance of sincerity and good intention despite the manipulative nature of what he says, and this the centre of the misogyny that other bloggers have accused von Trier about in this film. Thing is, he airs his requests to Bess with neither overt meanness nor longing. His disability is also reflected before and after it literally sets him in the film’s plot. Let me explain. Skarsgard’s performance makes his character, Jan Nyman, very jaded and justly so. He treats the Bess’ Calvinist enclave with disgust but as an outsider, is aware that he cannot change it, letting everyone else do the moralizing. He tries to give Bess the redemption he deserves and doesn’t oversell it, showing us his awareness of the reality of his loss.
Liv Ullman, Autumn Sonata (Ingmar Bergman, 1978)
It’s a hard task stealing the show from Ingrid Bergman, and we almost think it wouldn’t happen with the woman’s piano skills. Eventually this film becomes Ullman’s, playing Bergman’s daughter. I thought she was in her twenties when she took on this role, and her braids and glasses might have had something to do with that. But Ullmann in her forties captures the youthful vulnerability of someone well, half her age. A character who hasn’t learned how to be an adult because of her mother’s tampering and image of superiority. What follows is an unforgettable primal scream, revealing that anything a mother can do to love her child might be engendering the opposite message. The film ends with her trying to get her mother back, but in just as repetitive as she’s learned. Never had a peace-offering been so poisonous, as Ullmann carefully hides a rage that we can still see.
Ryan Reynolds, Buried (Rodrigo Cortes, 2010)
The success of this film has been partly attributed to Reynolds’ comic timing, which yes, adds a flexibility to the role in a horror/thriller film. Other critics have also talked about how he conveys Paul Conroy’s lack of intelligence, but lack of sunlight and mobility, I can assume, with take away 1 or 61 of anyone’s IQ points. However, he also exhibits a physicality, a difficult attribute to convey in a claustrophobic film.We follow his every little move, like trying to get a signal from a Blackberry set in Arabic or working flashlights. He also bring is the emotional heft the film needs, outstandingly connecting with the offscreen characters. And yes, I admit, a reason Reynolds is on this list is because he renders the best reading of the sentence ‘You stupid fucking cunt!’ in the history of cinema.
Any Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck, 2007)
Supporting actress schmupporting actress – Amy Ryan takes the reins in this movie. Ryan’s character is faced by many hurdles, the missing daughter who probably hasn’t been fed by her captors (really the latter is fine), the good cops and the bad cops who are convinced she’s involved in the crime despite her unbreakable shell. She’s also intelligent enough to add levels of moral judgment about her character, saying things that she believes is right but making the words clear enough to question her. She gets the ending she wants and becomes a scary form of human being impervious to change even in times of almost complete disaster. I try my best not to be one of those bloggers who have grievances when it comes to the choices the Academy makes, and who am I to judge Tilda Swinton’s performance that I’ve yet to see. Nonetheless, Team Amy.
Catherine Deneuve, Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)
Blankness hasn’t been this scary in a woman or in any character until this film arrived. We might also wanna thank Polanski in this aspect of her performance, but she looks capably fashionable even as she’s as we say mentally breaking through the seams. That and the raving beauty is humble enough to look plain in comparison the her sister (Yvonne Furneaux). Not only do we see the rabbit head inside her purse and the unkept conditions of her and her sister’s apartment after the latter’s vacation do the vacuous stares make sense. Her bravery’s also commendable as she takes on the dream rape scenes, as she approaches them not with tears but with defenselessness and startled reactions, conveying how her character struggles against her body. She portrays a young woman with grievances against societal pressures about her sister’s boyfriend and her own oblivious boyfriend, but sadly didn’t learn how to scream out.
Deborah Kerr, Black Narcissus (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947)
I considered it a personal achievement to have finished watching the film the past year, since Deborah Kerr as Sister Clodagh puts heart in what could be a cold, detached and stern female protagonist in Black Narcissus. Powell and Pressburger are known for their magical Technicolor visuals in their films, but the most delightful image it has is watching Kerr light up when she reminisces, romanticizing the decaying past that she was happy and content with. There’s also a bit of pain in her eyes as the film transforms her from context a to b, with the knowledge that her life in the British Isles won’t be the same. She’s not, however, necessarily a helpless young female, as she considers herself a mother and leader to the other nuns in the Indian mission, specifically looking out for Sister Ruth, sincerely caring about hers and everyone else’s health. And she’s got a little sense of humour as well, brought on by Mr. Dean.
Tatsuya Nakadai, Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa, 1980)
Hey look, another double role! But really the titular Kagemusha gets invaded by his alter ego, Shingen Takeda, the medieval Japanese war lord whose life is surprisingly more precarious than the lower class man who’s supposed to impersonate him. Nakadai evinces the haunted feeling of being followed by the ghost – only appearing once in a dream – of a supposedly great man, who’s also chagrined by the warlord’s son. He somehow convinces us of a closer connection between the two disparate characters, of the integrity that has to be preserved in the old ways that oppress Kagemusha. When the thief becomes the warlord, he doesn’t put a dumb show. He even shows warmth while bonding with the warlord’s grandson. The actor perfectly captures the composed, arrogant ways of a noble man and the dishevelled thief who he was in the film’s beginning and end.
Joan Allen, The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, 1997)
Ang Lee’s more subtle than other directors who have made films about the suburbs. It is then a gift to have Joan Allen’s as Elena in his film to keep the trajectory from quietness to histrionics more interesting, like the different movements of mood within a real person within two days’ time. To a pastor, she talks about her daughter Wendy’s (Christina Ricci) freedom with such adult control. Her performance has many great moments, like the what-the-eff moment when she smells a different ‘aftershave’ from Elena’s husband Ben (Kevin Kline) as she tries hard to calm herself and the absolute fury as she throws her husband’s car keys to Allison Janney, vindictively including themselves to a ‘key party’ – look it up, kids. This movie reintroduced and made me love someone revered as ‘the greatest American actress after Meryl.’
Johnny Depp, Before Night Falls (Julian Schnabel, 2000)
When you start talking about a film, writing ‘Remember when Johnny Depp was still good?’ It’s totally ok to do that. Anyway, Depp, obviously a superstar by the early 90’s, in this film is given not one but two supporting roles as Bon Bon and Lieutenant Victor, and arguably Victor is two roles in itself, the compassionate stud of Reinaldo Arenas’ (Javier Bardem) fantasy and the homophobic oppressor in the film’s reality. The two bit parts are symbolic of the opinion of homosexuality in Cuba – either as a counter-revolutionary sore or an underground movement to be preserved. Depp uses subservience and camp, and embracing his characters as mirror images of the conflict within Arenas himself as well as the latter’s conflicts against authority. I also couldn’t recognize who Bon Bon was until I took a good look at her for 13 seconds, a feat in itself for an actor who’s in costume for more than half his career.
Christian Bale , Laurel Canyon (Lisa Cholodenko, 2002)
I’m probably the only monstrous human beings who see flaws within Christian Bale’s acting, the way he gets angry and yells like a hound and all. He does that here in this movie too, mind you. It’s refreshing nonetheless, that he spends 99% of the film being his most ordinary. That, however, doesn’t mean he’s not interesting as we watch him effortlessly confess his desires to make love to his coworker/extramarital love interest with sadness and other emotions and nuances I can’t put into words. He approaches lust and therefore sin with such gentleness and no violence, creating a character contemplating the sorrow of limitations. One of the film’s plots cover his character temporarily staying with his music producer of a mother (Frances McDormand) and her rocker boyfriend-of-the-year (Alessandro Nivola), giving us the impression that he’s always had to be the adult in whatever household he’s in, and it consistently shows.
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Micthell, 2010)
I’ve already talked about how Nicole Kidman as Becca Corbett does everything in this film except dance and stab. I also remember about her performance is that she could have brought down her character’s meanness, and in a way she does. What she offers is a defence mechanism and even a wry intelligence to the conventional ways of sorrow, and instead her Becca is looking for an alternative, learning how to suffer and cope on her own, allowing herself to feel other emotions to heal. Like when she goes back to Manhattan and try to get her job back at Sotheby’s, even if we just see her we sense how big she feels with the city and with the happiness she’s had and missed. Or allowing herself to be close to Jason Willette (Miles Teller), treating him so close like a son or nephew, letting us feel the waters she’s treading.
Harry Potter and the Deathly…
Oh hai, Mrs. Dursley (Fiona Shaw), staying in the car and not waving goodbye to her movie nephew Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe)! Oh hai, in this second to British acting royalty hanging on to this adventure for one more installment.
Since I already talked about the casting I might as well talk about how they performed. The good guys (Order?) are better actors than the bad guys (Death Eaters?). Maybe it’s because the Death Eaters are played by familiar faces from whom I expect more. Bellatrix (Helena Bohnam-Carter) and Voldemort (Raph Fiennes) behave so animalistically, like the snake crawling in the room, ending up in the wrong side of camp. Bellatrix is probably the most prominent Malfoy featured in this movie, since father (Jason Isaacs) and son (Tom Felton) only have a line or two, and that’s the conundrum of the rest of the supporting cast in their good or evil side. There are countless other actors listed on the iMDb page who didn’t even make an appearance in the movie.
The cameos for the good side include Neville Longbottom, telling the Death-Eaters who hijacked Hogwarts Express that he isn’t on the train. There’s Ron’s (Rupert Grint) mom (Julie Walters). Apparently we have to wait till July to hear her say the best line J.K. Rowling’s ever written. Brendan Gleeson also has a character here, except that he’s awesome – which is really code for I’m not tired of him yet. There’s nothing remarkable from the two male leads. But while hiding from Voldemort (Fiennes) and his fellow Death-Eaters, Emma Watson’s Hermione revisits her memories of urban and rural Britain without overdoing it. She’s just as busy freaking out over Harry’s safety, roaming the British countryside that’s better lit than it is in other movies. This backdrop also serves as the hiding places for the Horcruxes that they have to find and destroy before Voldemort finds them.
The big three also fight while they’re roaming the country, naturally as friends. It’s the most intense, ad hominem fight that they’ve ever participated on, but they’re gonna kiss and make up. As Ron says in one of the scenes in the beginning, the battle between Harry and Voldemort is bigger than just those two characters. The subtle script didn’t elaborate, thankfully. Harry is on the good side but, through the complex nature of his relationships with his friends, he isn’t virtue’s consummate symbol.
Norman Wilner called the film confident, explaining, like others who have written about the film, how it delves into the dark subject instead of looking into how quirky their magical world is. And the literally moving portraits that are the staple of the Hogwarts world and earlier films, but Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Harry are targets of these magical photographs. Dumbledore has to hide, closing some doors. While Harry, targeted under a new Ministry of Magic where Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) rules, is looking weary in a picture showing him as Public Enemy number one. There’s something sinister about magic now, or what it’s become.
Instead of the singular outlook that the earlier films have produced, this adaptation of Deathly Hallows tells the story through four lens at the most. There’s CGI-heavy artifice to show the spacious magical world, close-ups that feel handheld when the main characters are being emotional – the most memorable example is when Harry and Hermione do a little dance, darker shades showing flashbacks and a glossier cinematography when the three kids are chased into the forest. The transitions among these four aren’t jarring but they are distracting.
I’m the last person to see this movie, buying my ticket at the Carlton. Being almost late, I sat at the back, having to listen to the rickety projector that sounded like birds chirping. That fit well with the rural scenes. There was also a homeless drunk guy, who started banging his bags on the floor and yelling incoherently at the screen. The audience was relieved when he left.
Moments of 2010 movie fashion
The first look I’m gonna be talking about comes from my first movie in 2010, Martin Scorsese‘ Shutter Island. Yes, there’s Teddy Daniels’ (Leonardo di Caprio) wife (Michelle Williams) in yellow, but among many things we wonder why Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) has a better suit than Teddy, his supposed superior. Then Chuck stands there, his fake benevolence makes him seem sinister, and he reveals to Teddy and to the audience a pulpy ending we don’t want.
There’s also the literally punk ethos generations later. There’s gonna be another movie on this list that covers the same time period, the style The Runaways being the more stereotypical if you have to compare the two. But say, younger Cherie Curie (Dakota Fanning) taking style cues from David Bowie makes us all reminisce even if we’ve never been there.
It’s been known that Tilda Swinton can do anything, including wearing Jil Sander dresses and not look like a clueless model wearing a box. I am Love focuses on Emma Recchi’s (Swinton) facade of womanhood, or how lovers try to hide and find each other through cities and nature. And when Emma puts up her hair in a bun, it reminds me of Madeleine Elster. Emma Recchi (Swinton) is allowed little bits of freedom, but is she willing to risk it all?
Now we move on to chunky sweaters! Such as the staple in Never Let Me Go. The youth from Hailsham and the other special schools get to wear browns and greys while the people they watch on television are more wild and colourful. But I actually like this, since it shows the Armaniesque minimalism that was just as prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s. If you look Cher in Moonstruck, both films take the same approach in costume.
I’ll probably get hanged if I didn’t talk about Rodarte’s textural touches in Black Swan‘s costumes both onstage and off, the outer layers that ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) have to put on and peel off. I also like the scarves that both Nina and alternate Lilly (Mila Kunis) wear. Why are they dressing alike? What they wear outside reminds us that their season starts in winter, when hibernation (repression) is something that Nina can either adapt or rebel against.
One of the most painful cinematic experiences I’ve ever had is also one of my first in the newly erected Bell Lightbox. Fortunately, there’s the little moments of fashion in L.A. Zombie, and it helped that I knew that they were created by Bernard Wilhelm, one of the designers whose whole collections I wanna buy when I get rich enough. That and they’re worn by one fo the sexiest men to ever live, Francios Sagat. I hate this movie partly because of Catholic guilt. Are you happy I admitted that?
This year was the year of the blue dress, like the Balenciaga inspired ones in Attenberg and Amy Ryan’s ill-fitting yet fabulous dress in Jack Goes Boating, but the one that knocks it out of the park is Miriam’s (Rosamund Pike) in Barney’s Version. To be able to catch the eye of a just married man like the anti-hero Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) and come out like an angel doesn’t always have something to do with what’s inside a person.
Hey look, another hot guy in a suit. The titular hero of Carlos (Edgar Ramirez) audaciously wears white or light coloured suits while motorcycling through the streets of Beirut and other cities in the Middle East. He is smooth, a conundrum, presenting himself as a terrorist while looking like he’s spending money on a Saturday night. The film will also show him in Speedos and his birthday suit if that’s your thing.
There’s young Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) in a movie that might be the only one in this list to get an Oscar nomination for Best Costume, True Grit. Mattie chooses subtlety and fit, unlike the wild colours of the Ann Sheridan types or loose-fitting sloppiness of the men. She is the daughter of Frank Ross, a man of manageable wealth and assets. Although she dresses more ‘manly’ when she goes into Indian territory to find her dad’s murdered Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).
Rosamund Pike reappears in this last entry but for another movie where her talent is better used – made in Dagenham. The red Biba dress that Sally Hawkins’ character is originally her characters’ anyway. The dress reminds me of how Britain had power in the garment industry before the Central Saint Martin school came along. And even female politicians will talk to each other about clothes. Make of that what you will.
A contrarian’s 2010 movie couples
Five of the movie couples here will appear ad nauseam in my other lists. I’m really worried and sorry about that, being derivative and all. I just have a compulsion to make these lists. Then in like, three days, I’ll tell you what I really think of the new Harry Potter movie. Not on this list.
Noah Baumbach creates two characters so real and on the surface, kinda boring. Florence and Greenberg (Greta Gerwig and Ben Stiller) are half a generation apart, and they come to blows sometimes with that. Florence sometimes talks and acts with irony that she doesn’t make a good impression on Greenberg. He’s an impulsive slacker but he blows his lid when her immature side pops up. Nonetheless they’re there for each other in times of need, belonging in Noah Baumbach’s world of under-dramatic characters. Thankfully, they don’t need speeches to reconcile neither!
The hero of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Michael Cera) and his heart eventually sets itself for the almost unattainable Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but I really thought Scott and Knives (Ellen Wong) could have worked it out. They’d go to the arcade or Sonic Boom and it doesn’t even feel like she’s dragging him. Then peer pressure kicks in, understandably because it isn’t cool for a twenty year old to date high school girls. They end their relationship with Knives complementing Scott’s hair, a perfect Annie Hall ending. They can be good friends after all.
The obligatory LGBT couple could have either been Cherie and Joan, Eames and Arthur (I can see you write the gay fan fiction now, LJ) or the ployamorous relationships in Heartbeats or FUBAR, but it goes to Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) from the Kids are All Right. Marriage is hard, as Jules says. Despite some flaws in the film, writer/director Lisa Cholodenko creates people, not symbolic entities, who have their own quirks and desires. Sleeping under a big comforter, ridiculous in LA standards, you can feel them snuggle in. Please adopt me!
They’re on this list because I felt really bad omitting Rabbit Hole on my top ten – the ‘revelation scene’ was kinda weird – but Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) make for a great couple. Yes, most of the film equally captures Becca’s relationship with her family, and Howie’s questionable friendships, but underneath that grief, anger and resentment is repressed passion and a will to reintroduce themselves into the Yonkers community where they normally belong. They help each other move on despite of the tragedy that kills the other marriages in the movie.
Representing puppy love are Lina and Leco from Modra, where the first time actors improvise their way into Lina’s titular home town in Slovakia. Instead of barraging each other with questions, they walk around the bucolic town. Leco jumps on top of Lina at least once. They find out the nice and not so nice things about them. Will this summer decide if they’re gonna stay together, even if the town elders bet that they will? This is showing at the Lightbox as the better parts of the apparently stupid best Canadian movie list. This movie’s so cool and obscure, it doesn’t have an IMDb page!
Some of you might think that the least conflicted part of Easy A is Olive (Emma Stone) getting swept off her feet by a Prince Woodchuck (Penn Badgely), which is true. So we’ll go for the bets parents ever (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci), and I remind myself that they were part of the me generation, as the mother intimately reveals, which is why they can give such great advice for their own daughter coming to terms with her sexuality. Again, Clarkson and Tucci have such great chemistry and humour, making jokes when they’re actually worried about their children’s well-being.
Here comes another odd, unattractive couple from another indie movie. It’s mean, I know. Jack and Connie (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan) in Jack Goes Boating decide to embark on love despite of cynicism they receive from their married friends. They’re learning the physical taps of love, not lust, as Connie tells him to overpower her without sound like she’s over-directing. In the end, while Fleet Foxes’ pastoral folk music is playing strangely on a New York City backdrop, the only thing more fitting is to see these two put their arms on each other’s shoulders.
I’d be sadistic enough if I put Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) on this list with either of his first two wives (Rachelle LeFevre and Minnie Driver), but author Mordecai Richler is sadistic enough to let Barney meet his third wife Miriam (Rosamund Pike) in his first wedding. In Barney’s Version, he tries to work it out with this Myrna Loy-esque image of perfection they try to work it out and do for almost twenty years, then he cheats on her. He tries to win her back, prankster that he is, by giving her new husband (Bruce Greenwood) a heart attack. But they’ve remained good friends.
‘You’re used to getting women drunk, aren’t you?’ Carlos and Madga (Edgar Ramirez and Nora von Waldstatten) are the definition of the sexy couple. In their first meeting, both test each other and that goes for the rest of their relationship when they have children and both have to go on terrorist missions. Nonetheless, they get on each other’s nerves, she does everything for him while he calls her a ‘petit bourgeoisie’ to his mistress. Like most of the women in the miniseries, she’s attracted to the man who makes things explode, but she can’t love the man who loves himself.
The reason this list even exists is because of Micky Ward and Charlene (Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams) from The Fighter. From their first date you can hear the rhythm of their banter already, might as well sounding like a couple twice their age. Micky admits later that they’re going in a nice part of town to hide, but only will he show this uptown side of his with a girl he really trusts. Director David O. Russell helps create that picture, showing Micky’s new support system as both, with little good reputation under their names, try something new and something with a great payoff.
These movies sucked
Lists like this for me happens in accident, or two years later when the movie comes up on TV and say ‘Hey, that was crap.’ I trust critics. If I read a terrible review, it means I won’t pay 12 bucks for it. There are exceptions. Seven or so of these were movies selected by film festivals in either 2009 or 2010. Making fun of festival movies is like kicking a dead dog, but sometimes I have no choice. Sorry for the grumpiness.
Alice in Wonderland
Les Amours Imaginaires
Enter the Void