Violent Rich People: Sexy Beast
I was passively watching Sexy Beast the weekend when I had Hot Docs going on and had a lot of backlog, but why not? This movie’s reputation will always be Gandhi Gone Wild, even though Ben Kingsley hasn’t been Gandhi in awhile. He character Don Logan eventually disappears between Spain and Heathrow turns heads in his gangster circle. As the movie’s odd thumb, not perfecting the working class in a ‘tacky suit’ (gangster class?) accent but he makes us pay attention when he puts belligerent on top of belligerent, gauging the right kind of distance between him and the camera and letting his bellows do the job. He brings the ‘David Mamet screenplay’ comparison to fruition, even though it’s reductive and only covers a certain portion of the latter playwright’s work in the 1990’s.
Being the odd link – being too strong might do that, you know – the movie surprisingly loses its energy without him. It all becomes just Ray Winstone‘s character Gal moping, even though he looks too tan, nouveau riche and dare I say attractive to do so. He gets flashbacks about his involvement in Don’s disappearance. In theory both actors are interchangeable for either character, but of course Kingsley has star power and Winstone’s bad boys can be boorish, toothy and one-dimensional for him to carry. It’s all for the relative best.
And again, despite of Kingsley contributing his energy and marquee billing, Winstone’s Gal fights for his right to control the movie’s tone. He’s not necessarily bored with the affluent life, stylistically shown within the movie, yet he and most of his colleagues too old to glamourize it. They’re simply comfortable with it. You can see it by the way he and most of the people interact with each other as opposed to connecting more with their spaces. I suppose that’s what class really means – indifference and being blase about the shiny objects and treasures while knowing that one has earned it.
I also can’t make certain of what I think of the ending, subverting previous expectations – which is probably Gal’s too – that it of it being a movie that belongs within a nihilistic genre. It’s equal parts lounge-y and angry, guilt being the final leg in the movie’s tonal triumvirate. He’s afraid that the gangster honour code would haunt him. Although one positive thing I can say about it is that it breaks the cycle of violence and revenge, which is something most these characters have wanted to do when they’ve reached a certain point. And Don never gets to that point, which is telling of how he ends up.
Scenes: John Singleton’s Shaft
The titular John Shaft’s (Samuel L. Jackson) and his sidekick Carmen Vasquez (Vanessa Williams) being tough and all that.
Search ‘cluster fuck’ in the dictionary and you will find John Singleton’s ‘re-imagination’ of the 70’s classic Shaft. The movie tries to deliver an all-star cast into a violent pool of bullets, beatings and stabbings. Ryan G. Helms was just talking about this. This is especially true around the movie’s sixty-five minute mark with a scene portraying Shaft’s botched rescue of mysterious star witness Diane Palmieri (Toni Collette). She lives in a pier, for some reason. Anyway, I also love how she’s wearing a leather jacket at home, coincidentally well-prepared for any time like now when she has to escape. When she does, all she does is react to the violence around her, as anyone else in the same situation would.
The swift close up zoom on her is reminiscent of the 70’s camera work and aesthetic. We the audience also get the earlier decade’s vibe from the amentioned leather jackets and the music but it feels as if the movie just tacks on these motifs. Calling this movie Shaft sort of elevates this movie. Without the title it would look like a directionless action/crime movie that came a year too late.
“Yo get the BROAD in the fucking car in!” Ok, Busta Rhymes as Rasaan, a second generation Trinidadian or an American with Trini affectations. You’re such a worry wort.
Hey look! There’s also Peoples Hernandez played by Geoffrey Wright. In both the actor’s incarnations as the gangster and the nerd, he will always be the poor man’s Laurence Fishburne. But only Wright had the body and the audacity to pull off a white outfit like that, with histrionic wailing and self-stabbing, reacting to his brother’s accidental and instant death.
“It’s fucked,” Dan Hedaya weighs in with unintentional hilarity. The most exciting four minutes of those people’s lives, thirty seconds of which is Diane and Shaft crossing a street.
And the thing is Christian Bale isn’t even in this scene. He is in others where his character deals with Peoples and his drugs and a memorable one that stuck out when I was younger. The one in the beginning taking place in a lounge/restaurant, playing Walter Wade Jr., a pompous, rich yet crass character that a younger James Marsden would have played. He throws remarks across the room to where Trey Howard (Mekhi Phifer) is sitting, his racism seeming both out of the decade’s context yet timeless, like many tensions between groups of people in any fictional world. Blame the third world child of my past for that skewed perspective.
When Shaft enters the crime scene, he sees blood on Diane’s chin. She doesn’t talk because she seems like she’s also hiding things on her own.
- Non-Review Review: Shaft (2000) (them0vieblog.com)
Guilty Pleasure: Love’s Labour’s Lost
We’re on Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost, a Stanley Donen and Martin Scorsese presented Miramax production! It’s one of Shakespeare’s comedies that I haven’t read yet, is about the King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) asking three men in his court, Berowne (Branagh), Longaville (Matthew Lilliard) and Dumaine (Adrian Lester) to embrace three years of study and shunning love. Unfortunately, Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her ladies-in-waiting including Katherine (Emily Mortimer) and Rosaline (Natahsa McElhone, her Streepian looks having such promise a decade ago) visit their kingdom. Because of the oath the women have to stay in a tent outside the palace gates outside but that doesn’t stop the men from peeking.
Pardon the blasphemy, but listening to the men harmonize to Irving Berlin classics like “Cheek to Cheek” is an equal alternative to Fred Astaire’s seminal version. The movie’s 1930’s setting also allows Branagh and crew to go all out with the musical numbers, the set pieces, the one-time cabaret-style sexuality, the ridiculous newsreels about mobilization and the war. The colourful cinematography and the costumes are a great treat for actors like Mortimer – who would go de-glam in their future roles.
It’s also about actors who shouldn’t be hanging out together. Branagh, Mortimer and McElhone are fine together, his soliloquies here are better than in his own adaptation of Hamlet. Branagh wants to make things interesting, casting 90’s teen movie regulars Lilliard and Silverstone. Lilliard is awesome in SLC Punk, his American delivery of the Bard’s lines can’t be as distracting as Keanu’s. Silverstone, however, might never rub the glee off her even when she’s playing middle-American mommy roles, but that’s what she’s here for, to offer sunshine and girliness fitting to a movie about romance. If you’ve ever read or heard me call Silverstone a ‘Shakespearean actor,’ it’s because of this movie. I don’t know whether Nivola or Lester fits in more with the Brits or the Americans. And hey, this movie is probably the only Shakespearean adaptation where miscegenation is no. Big. Deal.
Nationality and race is no boundary to make it seem like everyone was happy making this movie, despite its overshot ambitions. Oh and veterans like Timothy Spall as the lustful Armando, Nathan Lane as the King’s clown Costard and Geraldine McEwan as the tutor Holofernia are in this too, camping it up singing and dancing with the rest of the cast. This isn’t just any movie, this is a PARTY!
The idea of revisiting Cameron Crowe‘s Almost Famous, like revisiting films I’ve seen in my childhood and adolescence, seems like an anxious and difficult one. My taste in movies have changed. Besides, this movie spends its reputation being the two words before a punchline about Kate Hudson‘s wasted career. It also seems like the movie’s opening song is cruel foresight to Jason Lee in the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Where is Fairuza Balk and her mixture of sharp and round features and her dated Got spunk, the comic relief, one of the four band-aids or anti-muses distracting 15-year-old William Miller (Patrick Fugit) from writing his Rolling Stones cover about the fictional band Stillwater, one of the misfits reassuring William’s mother Elanie (Frances McDormand) that she properly raised her son? I want to live in a world where Fairuza Balk is more famous than Zooey Deschanel. And where is Fugit?
The film features people I recognize when I first saw this in 2001-ish, actors who didn’t make a great impression then but do now or other actors who made an impression but whose names I didn’t know. But I’m naturally fascinated by those I couldn’t have known then. The outwardly anxious band manager is Noah Taylor, who also plays the inwardly anxious father in Submarine. Ben Fong-Torres’ (Terry Chen) right hand man is Rainn Wilson. One of the characters I don’t vividly remember Lester Bangs is, the actor who played him (Philip Seymour Hoffman), nor the way he mourns after post-Altamira rock music where everyone just wants to be cool. The 1973 I knew is the year after “American Pie” and the year before punk. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were the bands everyone listened to and still do today. This movie and Dazed and Confused might make a decent double bill, tackling and deconstructing the cynicism prevalent in the 1970’s. I also remember watching this when I was thirteen or fourteen, when William goes to his first Black Sabbath concert, watching the crowd of cool kids, and I was thinking that that was the last time that kids of all races listened to the same music. I obviously know that I’m wrong about that now.
But while races are united under the music, the film also shows how rock relegates unfair gender roles. How does William fit into all of this? Does that he has a male with a tape recorder mean that he’s above these ‘groupies? He equally idolizes Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) like they do. But Russell isn’t just a figure for William’s idolatry, as the film makes room for him to doubt William’s innocence – which the band only does – as well as confide in him, telling him to just make the band look cool. He in a way embodies a human who’s ambivalent about rock’s inherent contradictions without confusing the audience or breaking William’s soul. Meanwhile, some regard Hudson’s Penny Lane as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl avant la lettre but the airplane scene shows how the men neglected what she wanted from them. Yes, she does help men fences between William and Russell, but the last thing she does is treat herself.
Elaine is obviously the exact opposite of these ‘band-aids,’ being a stricter character, the natural yin to rock ‘n’ roll’s yang. I didn’t remember hearing what her possibly logical arguments have been about rock except that she objected to it. That makes her the film’s frumpy-faced villain, whose phone conversations with her son reinforce her conservative anxieties, the one referred to as a ‘handful’ by a desk clerk (Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet). Rewatching made me see her as someone knowledgeable and therefore forging a new and flawed path in new parenting. But in her methods, such as partly homeschooling William, she won’t be right all the time. When she corrects a man for painting the word Xmas – X is Greek so be quiet! Despite her strong reservations about the new music, she’s more liberal than I remember, letting her daughter Anita (Zooey Deschanel) be an independent 18-year-old woman and allowing William to tour with the band instead of the latter two run away. These prodigal children’s eventual return and her understanding of them – as well as Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) – seem more organic instead of looking like a hurried third act finish.
The film is definitely not fast paced, letting its magical moments grow without meditating about them. The film is like walking down a dirty, seedy, big city main street and understandably calling it vibrant. Despite the subject, it’s innocent without being insipid. The film ends with Doris, Stillwater’s tour bus, riding out into the sepia tone sunlight, reminding us that we’re watching a happy nostalgia.
- Daily Dialogue — May 12, 2011 (gointothestory.com)
Best Shot Redux: Memento
This post is part of Nathaniel’s Hit me with your best shot series.
That’s fortunate since this season of the series requires me to rewatch movies that I’ve either seen before, or like Memento, four times. Twice, when the movie had its run on Showcase in Canada, when it still showed turn of the twenty-first century American independent film that began a new chapter of my love for cinema, unlike the less challenging cable programming and box office movies it shows today. The third time in Cinema and Modernity class, part of the Film Noir section, the first time I saw the beginning of the movie – or is it the end?
ph. Newmarket/Summit/Columbia TriStar/Alliance
Where was I? Rewatching any film means noticing things that I haven’t before. The first series of shots I’m going to talk about are what I thought my best shots were going to be. The bullet casing, animating itself through the film’s first scene playing in reverse, reminding me of Cobb’s totem in Inception. I started looking for other images here that reminded me of the other Nolan films. The birds in Natalie’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) room are less glamorous versions of the birds in The Prestige. Lenny’s (Guy Pearce) fire like the one that burned Bruce Wayne’s house down in Batman Begins. I’ll go for a stretch for The Dark Knight and talk about how both hero and villain mutilate their bodies and how both have unknown pasts.
But all roads lead to Inception, the connection between that magnum opus of a movie and this one are stronger than with Nolan’s other films. Like Cobb, the film shows Lenny remembering his wife through second long shots of her, the objects she used, of the things broken when she was attacked. Instead of the vivid feel of Mal’s flashbacks, Lenny’s wife’s seem fleeting and poetic, like how the only army wife in Malick’s The Thin Red Line is depicted. It’s also strange watching Jorja Fox be the prototype to Marion Cotillard, or is Cotillard Fox’s photocopy?
Second. The elusive Natalie, going from ordinarily shady character to foul-mouthed villain to everything in between. The audience sees minor characters like her through Lenny’s eyes and encounters. She’s the exception to the rule. Lenny leaves Natalie’s bedroom, leaving her three seconds to herself, making me wonder about the film’s subjectivity, or if subjectivity is what Nolan is aiming for. She touches Lenny’s side of the bed. Who is she yearning for, Lenny or Jimmy, her drug-dealing boyfriend that Lenny has killed? Is she finding a kindred spirit with her boyfriend’s murderer, since they both have lost loves? Falling in love with him and falling into the trap that she has originally set out for him? The film repeats this moment but instead Lenny acts it out, his reactions to the half-empty bed in his motel room feel less genuine.
I tried avoiding the ‘beautiful woman’ shot I’m always tempted to use, but I couldn’t resist with Carrie-Anne Moss here. What kind of performances she would have given if she wasn’t relegated to being Trinity from the Matrix trilogy? She makes my favourite shot of the film. Also, a few bloggers, including me at one point, have accused Nolan of writing terrible female roles, but it takes him three seconds to turn a seemingly bipolar femme fatale into a nuanced, complex character. And he really likes his brunettes. Whether you think that’s enough is up to you.
Third. In which Nolan gives us the film’s twist, making me wonder why I haven’t noticed this in earlier viewings, or if Nolan just hid this well. And do you have any idea how difficult it was for me to get this screen cap? Ten minutes, seven times. Sammy Jankis (Sephen Tobolowsky) turns into Lenny. I am proud of this shot.
‘Cameron Diaz is born in 1972. Her father is Cuban and her mother is part Cherokee. Her Cherokee heritage is the reason we’re showing her movies here at APTN.’ So says the voice-over. Here she’s paired with Pete (Owen Wilson), because the film would rather pay for martial arts training than pay for the more expensive Wilson brother.
This should be bad movie territory, and of course it’s not perfect. It’s also an excuse to advertise Nokia, and break said Nokia. The film also has a lot of different espionage scenarios that it might as well be written by the manatees who write Family Guy, which isn’t that bad of a thing here. I saw it for the first time was when I was twelve. The film also makes room for comedy that I can still laugh at today. I don’t know where comedy is placed in McG‘s priorities, so I’ll give the cast credit for that. Fact! Lucy Liu was the fifth choice to play Alex. Other actresses slotted to play Alex were Julia Roberts and Jada Pinkett-Smith, who have their own humour. Other actresses Angelina Jolie and Thandie Newton can wear skimpy leather office wear. But I can only see Liu balance sexy, campy and funny, both dominating and empowering the Red Star engineers. Of course, the film needs someone who can bring funny as much as Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Bill Murray, who have a steady hand in comedy work.
And who can turn down Bill Murray who in the film look like he’s almost improvising? ‘May I have some ice water please?’ He then does some pretend crying, talks to a bird, plays catch with a wall, put antenna in his head, makes fun of Cher. Hilarious.
‘Bitch’ is used in the film at a time when, I imagine, it would sting as bad as the c-word did last year. The word is mostly directed to the angels. The frumpy woman at Red Star says it to Alex, Natalie (Diaz) says it to Eric Knox’s associate Vivian Wood. But when a guy says it to Natalie, he gets punished for it. To our delight.
Fact! Although this is the movie that helped Barrymore into a marriage with Tom Green, this movie put her in the arms of another man. Sam Rockwell and her play doomed couple Eric Knox and Dylan. This won’t be the last time Rockwell’s character would hide something from Barrymore’s. They’ll also be paired up two years later in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Their careers have gone on different paths, but someone pair these two people again, in a more serious movie this time.
The sequence is also one of director McG’s Wachowski Brothers references in the action part of the film, Knox shooting Dylan bullet time style and all. Dylan would later do air kicks, destroying four guys at the same time. Dylan is the shorter and more voluptuous of the girls, the others look like ballerinas while they’re fighting. But she throws more punches that the audience can feel.
The Chad (Tom Green) is great. Where is the Chad? I still think he’s funny and it’s weird to see this film showing him as a relic of the past. Well, as long as he isn’t doing damage to movies today. He’s Canadian? Dammit I was looking forward to hating him!
The film also has a well-rounded soundtrack that covered my bipolar music tastes spanning a decade, from Prodigy to Heart. And of course, to the disco music that is the only clear reference to the TV show in which the movie is based. The final act doesn’t show what Charlie looks like but where Charlie lives. I imagined him to be more of an office guy than some old coot with a Hawaiian shirt on a beach house. Strange. Anyway, Hope you had fun as much as I did.
- Casting the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ Reboot (tvsquad.com)
Female Characters – Crouching Tiger, Hidden…
I’ve seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in parts before, watching Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) and Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) sharing tea together and talking about their repressed feelings. Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi)reminiscing about her lost years in the desert. They make me feel like I’m watching a story from Regency period in England as it is a story taking place probably in third century China. But then this movie has fights in them so I know what kind of movie I’m watching. These characters have already made an impression on me before finally seeing the film in entirety, in layman’s terms, knowing what they’re already like.
So I don’t know what it is seeing Shu Lien skip towards the common room to greet Li that strikes me, her feelings emanating through her face and posture. I’m not even sure if this image from the film perfectly captures a young lover within someone supposedly more mature and controlled, because she goes back to being more formal within a split second. I’m comparing this introduction to Shu Lien’s character with the way the film introduces Jen, a demure aristocrat in disguise. Shu Lien’s introduction, however, is a revelation. I use that word even if it doesn’t feel like the rest of her character is lying to herself. She isn’t, she’s just disallowing herself that bit of freedom other thinks she deserve.
There are other women in disguise – like Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-Pei), who trained Jen masquerading as the latter’s governess and a policeman’s daughter calling herself a circus performer while trying to find Fox, Jen hiding her own talent from Fox and from the rest of the world. The social strata calls for the female characters to go into these disguises, at the same time this game of pretend allows them to act out freedom and aggression. When other characters, male and female, allow them some defiance, they take on the chance. An example would be the scene when the daughter tells an inspector of her certain belief that a murderer is living under Governor Yu’s household, letting her father’s blood on her shoulder seen by Sir Te.
In a way, this story is just about these two leading women as it is about the Green Destiny. One wants what the other has. There’s also some delicious passive aggressiveness between them specifically from Shu Lien’s part. She tells Jen that she’s happy for Jen’s engagement, temporarily killing the latter’s fantasies of becoming a warrior. She also invites Jen and her mother in guise of an engagement party to test the latter, giving her faint praise after damnation. Jen of course gives the results Shu Lien expects, and does so either because of carelessness, vanity or both. The differences between them are constant until the end, when one goes one direction and the other chooses drastically different. One presumably moves on despite of the death around her, while the other can no longer accept happiness because of the past.
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: No 9 (guardian.co.uk)
Before Night Falls
Cut it, Javi. You’ve had bad hair for a role before.
Before Night Falls is playing at the Cinematheque at 9:30 tonight. Come because I probably on vacation and can’t.
Best Shot: Bring it On
I was a cheerleader in my first year in University. Because of that, this movie is seminal viewing. I actually know the cheer in the beginning of the movie five years before I saw it in its entirety. I’d try to recite or cheer it but I’d just go on a loop. I was thinking about skipping this movie, featured in Nathaniel Rogers’ Best Shot series, but as a former cheerleader, that would be treasonous.
Bring it On‘s hero, Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) has a lot on her hands. Captaining a 5-time regional cheerleading champion that isn’t as united as they once were, a boyfriend in college, another love interest (Shakespearean actor Jesse Bradford), having to constantly court love interest’s sister/gymnast turned neophyte cheerleader Missy (Eliza Dushku). Knowing that her predecessor Big Red stole the earlier routines, she hires a crazy-ass choreographer to teach them a new, non-stolen routine. Or so she thought.
I had to re-watch and look within the movie to see close-ups of the hands. I don’t know why it’s the first image that comes to mind when someone discusses the movie, but there they are.
There’s Kurosawa, Bette Davis evil. But watching this and watching the Toros do the same routine made me uncomfortable. I couldn’t even listen to it. I’m one of those movie watchers that used to go to the bathroom when there’s a scene when a character gets embarrassed. That reaction, my friends, can only be caused by pure evil in cinema.
Image that are probably better than this one will be posted later today/tomorrow if no one posts them.
In the Mood for Love
Wong Kar-Wai’s In The Mood For Love is on at the Harbrourfront at 9 tonight as part of Longo’s Free Flicks about food. Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) is a writer and asks Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) to act out roles about fictional love affairs. If you’re able to scroll down and see a review, that’s because I wasn’t able to see the movie for a second time. I still can’t resist telling you how Maggie Cheung’s performance is what makes it a classic. Nonetheless, see you there!
Robin Wood – Code inconnu: Récit incomplet…
The Robin Wood retrospective offered a film by my second favourite director, Michael Haneke. He directs like a painter. In “Code inconnu,” Anne’s (Juliette Binoche) boyfriend’s teenage brother Jean throws food wrapping at a beggar named Maria (Luminata Gheorgiu), angering Amadou, a young bystander.
Wood said of the first eight minutes of the film as “among the most astonishing instances of virtuosity in the entire history of mise-en-scène.” It’s not showy, and subtlety must be part of the criteria for a great long take. Haneke makes the conversations as the star instead of his own camerawork, and the events in the background are unmistakably authentic. The scene shows the experience of new Paris like any other city, with unrelated events and shops strung together in a street. When something happens like a confrontation between two teenagers, it feels more like a steady fire than an explosion.
This film uses Binoche in her best capabilities, and it’s a sadness as a latent actress lover that I haven’t had a chance to watch all of her films, especially the ones in French. That said, I’m ambivalent about Anne. She’s an inconsistent actress – she delivers one of the intentionally worst readings of Shakespeare on film – she’s passionate about the people in her life, and she’s probably racist. I do have a few problems with her character. Why does she have the worst wardrobe in Paris? Why would she be grumpy to a boyfriend that hot? Why wouldn’t she complain about her neighbours?
The same questions arise with the other characters. Why is Jean unhappy about both the city and the country? Why does Maria go back to Paris after being deported, as the film shows how happy she is in Romania? Why is Amadou so nice all of a sudden? And does Anne’s boyfriend Georges realize how creepy it is to take people’s pictures on the subway?
The man who introduced the film also said that the film encapsulates the capitalist lifestyle that continuously exploits. Another way of looking at the film is that terrible things happen to four people and more terrible things happen to them while they go on their separate ways. It doesn’t stop. It’s an onslaught on anomie and cruelty coming from strangers, yet they’re not more angry as they should.
This film’s one of the greatest movie about cities, perfectly capturing the meanness and cadence of urban streets. It shows multiculturalism as tense yet not in an aggressive way. It lets people meet and meet again in different places and circumstances, and one seeing another like a different person than before. And it shows people being alone in a densely populated area. This is also surprisingly one of Haneke’s most accessible films, neither sprawl-y nor thesis-y like his other, more acclaimed films. Also, if you’re a fan on colour blind casting or acting, this movie might be for you. The names Luminata Gheorgiu and Maurice Benichou – the latter merely has a bit part, but I care not – are now in my mind. I hope so will be yours when you watch this.
And I will never forget that ending.
Requiem for a Dream
My first encounter with this movie was in my college years. I thought it unwatchable, seeing all those slouchy junkies dancing and reveling in intoxication, wanting neither pause nor redemption. It’s something, at that time, that touched a dark, personal part of me from which I wanted to distance myself, so I had to change the channel. But this is the kind of movie you get if you wanted realism, and there’s a demand for that.
The time that I finally saw this movie was a televised edited version, and no, I didn’t get to see more of Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) naked with his girlfriend. Nor did I see what Marion (Jennifer Connelly) did with that dildo, and though I have the full version with me I don’t plan on seeing that scene.
And that relentless soundtrack. I’m pretty sure there’s only one or two-minute intervals of dialogue or silence between pieces of powerful music. Ironically enough, I’m sure that a track called ‘Marion Barfs’ (under other names in the soundtrack) is now being used to promote televised sporting events.
I do find the rapid cuts and extreme close-ups and split screens gratuitous in other examples. It almost was here. The shots of eyeballs and syringes bored you until another season/act comes and we find the characters deeper into a more interesting section of the rabbit hole. Also, my pet peeve that there are windows with no views here too, noting that this is still cheaper, independent film making despite of its achievements in other areas. But the characters and tragedy, reaching their inevitable ends, are effective enough to overshadow the flaws.
I cheated on a Sidney Lumet double bill to watch this. Had I seen this in its entirety a few years ago, I would have dismissed it as a jewel of turn of the twenty-first century film making like “American History X.” And “Requiem” is still that – I never thought to call a movie made ten years ago would be slightly dated. Last Saturday I was ready, and in doing so I treat it neither with love nor hate but respect.
I’ve always seen movies where Jennifer Connelly was the damsel in quasi-distress (“Little Children,”). I know that there are movies where she plays the unconventional reincarnation of the femme fatale (“House of Sand and Fog”). In this movie she refreshingly plays both. There’s also Nick’s argument that Jennifer Connelly did subtler and thus better work than the Oscar nominated Ellen Burstyn, which I respect and kinda agree with. Nonetheless, Darren Aronofsky works his players like athletes.
This movie is the middle ground between Aronofsky’s grit and trashy (“The Wrestler”) and the fantasy (“The Fountain”). So far, it’s the movie that best embodies what the rest of his work is like, although his best is yet to come.
This movie can also arguably be the gateway to the boyish Kubrickian surrealism that embodies the movies of the past decade (Mexican New Wave etc.). But then “Memento” apparently came out three weeks before this movie. Apples and oranges. I haven’t seen “Memento” in so long so I can’t choose which one’s my favourite.
Lastly, cannot wait for Black Swan.
It’s interesting to see Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta Jones) go from bourgeois California wife to tough negotiator facing drug dealers.The best part about that scene was when Obregon (Benjamin Bratt) tells her they don’t have a deal and she looks defenseless, apologizing for wasting his time. Obergon, seeing her in this state, reconsiders, giving Helena the room for her demands and to make a quip about Obregon’s coke. Watching the tables turned by a woman whose life changed because of a secret is one of the great nuances to this complex film. Although at the risk of sounding like a feminazi or anything, if it was Helena’s husband who found out that she peddled drugs, he would leave her without hesitation.
The roles do get reversed in the same movie in Robert Wakefield’s story (Michael Douglas). Through movie magic, his daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) swiftly falls from honour student to crack addict, because for some reason rich people drugs aren’t good enough for her. She’s the victim and although this submissive slant is why Robert is helping her, the male is still staying through the female’s troubles. He is her father after all. As his duty, he helps her to one rehab centre after another, even if she runs away. Again, I wonder how Robert deals with a son who gets hooked because of his girlfriend. That would be like the forties, and that sounds interesting enough for a movie for me.
Aside from the US good, Mexico bad, and the blinding monochromatic cinematography, the film’s portrayal of the unique personal effect of drugs is good enough to revisit. This is like what would happen if Kieslowski and Scorsese collaborated on a movie. I kept whining that this movie needs to air on TV more, and here it is, and I hope I run into it again a few years from now if I can find something new. And I kinda wanna see the miniseries, both of them.
We will also find similar narratives in Soderbergh’s new film “Contagion,” and I wonder how Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow’s relationship gets written. When I found out that Gwyneth Paltrow will play one of the first persons infected with a strange disease, I thought shit, Fishsticks got the meaty role. I wonder what that says about me.
Let it be Known
Let it be known that I can’t fucking stand Kate Hudson. I took this picture in Goodwill, where I also glimpsed and did not buy the first All Saints album. But hey, if you want THAT, I’ll give it to you.
And yes, I do find myself at Goodwill at times. But I’ve never been abandoned there.
My Favourite Supporting Actors in a Post of their Own
I’m a little copycat, got a problem with that?
The Best Supporting Winners for the past three years have been villains (same thing with the ladies) for some reason. Otherwise, they make up a surprisingly satisfying list (Alan Arkin, Heath Ledger, Christoph Waltz), but I wanna be a devil’s advocate and create my alternate universe where:
2000: Johnny Depp, Before Night Falls. Snubbed. Directed by Julian Schnabel.
2002: Jude Law, Road to Perdition. Snubbed. Directed by Sam Mendes. Paul Newman got nominated for the same movie/category, as you all probably know.
2005: William Hurt, A History of Violence. Nominated. Directed by David Cronenberg. “Bro-hiem,” if I spelled that correctly.
2006: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children. Nominated. Directed by Todd Field. The funny thing is is that when you put hair on him, he looks and acts normally!
2007: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men. Won. Directed by Joel Coen. It’s not the same Anton in the book, but he gave exactly what the Coens wanted.
2008: Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road. Directed by Sam Mendes. Fact! At the Oscar ceremony he was introduced/speeched by Christopher Walken.
2009: Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds. Won. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. He told you what to do and you followed. Unless you’re Aldo Raine, of course.
And I took Michel Shannon over Heath Ledger than having to put Woody Harrelson over Christoph Waltz. The former seemed easier to defend because I really liked Michael Shannon’s performance. He commanded the room the same way just like the others nominated in his category. RDJ would have won in 2008 if Heath didn’t.
While we’re at it
Nathaniel R from The Film Experience listed his take on his best Oscar grade performances of the decade. I’ll be a bad student and not fully understand the assignment, but my list:
2000: Maggie Chung – In The Mood For Love. Snubbed
2001: Naomi Watts – Mulholland Drive. Snubbed
2002: Meryl Streep – The Hours. In wrong category. She’s here by default because I haven’t seen far From Heaven or Adaptation in entirety.
2003: Nicole Kidman – Dogville. Snubbed.
2004: Uma Thurman – Kill Bill 2. Snubbed.
2005: Maria Bello – A History of Violence. Snubbed.
2006: Kate Winslet – Little Children. Nominated.
2007. Marion Cotilliard – La Mome.
2008. Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married. Nominated.
2009. Abbie Cornish – Bright Star. Snubbed.
I can’t decide between Winslet and Watts right now. Winslet’s first scene in Little Children just breaks your heart and she keeps you in the ups and downs of that movie, but Watts’ performance is a classic that I end up missing her when the credits roll. My favourite actress who actually won, well there’s only one.
And while we’re at it, an incomplete list of Best Supporting Actresses if I had 3000 votes at my disposal.
2001. Helen Mirren – Gosford Park. Nominated.
2004. Natalie Portman – Closer. Nominated.
2007. Kelly Macdonald – No Country for Old Men. Snubbed.
2008. Viola Davis – Doubt. Nominated.
2009. Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the…. Won.
My Winner: Natalie Portman by a millimeter. Visceral, sexy, cool, she can hold her own with her co-stars.
Shortlist for the guys:
2000: Javier Bardem – Before Night Falls. Nominated.
2004: Gael Garcia Bernal – Bad Education. Snubbed.
2004: Joseph Gordon Levitt – Mysterious Skin. Snubbed.
2005: Viggo Mortensen- A History of Violence. Snubbed.
2007: Brad Pitt – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Snubbed
2008: Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler. Nominated.
2009: Colin Firth – A Single Man. Nominated.
My winner for the who: Bernal did a lot with the range of things he had to do. I guess Daniel Day Lewis winning in 2007 is great but Brad Pitt’s performance wins a place for me.