…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Ewan McGregor

Haywire


Channing Tatum brings the first great quotable of 2012. As privately contracted secret agent Aaron in Haywire, he says “I’m hungover…and you’re really starting to cut on my vacation time so can we go,” being straightforward about the state of mind that he says he’s in.

In short he’s there to propose that his former colleague Mallory Tate (Gina Carano) to surrender herself. That’s a contrast from the flashbacks – she narrates the events to some bloke name Scott (Michael Angarano) – they seemed to get along like a perfect couple. He looks good for someone who might talk with his mouth full, she sounds like a robot trying to hug me after my father died.

They’re assigned on a rescue mission in Barcelona and cross professional boundaries when they finish the job. Days and oceans later, they kick each other’s butts, letting us know that this isn’t a love story. It’s one of professional betrayal, as each man in the field tries to kill her while she uses her training for self-defence.

Steven Soderbergh here employs the same drained digital color schemes as he did in Contagion. I forgive directors who ‘improve’ on themselves but he’s more ubiquitous, inadvertently letting his audience see him as derivative of himself. Two years might make us look at four movies conflated into a phase instead of each one being able to stand up on their own.

The choreography of the fight scenes are also noticeable. Punch, unfurl, weapon, punch, kick, wall, unfurl, repeat, choke hold, death (I actually don’t mind how he films fight scenes, as wide shots and no sound make limbs do all the good work).

Despite of Soderbergh holding on to a list of obsessions, a few end up working. If Contagion felt like the angel of death with a coach ticket, Haywire finds the B-spy action (sub)genre perfect for cinematic globe-trotting. A chase scene in Barcelona is exhilarating partly because we’re going through strange city streets.

The action also brings out the sadist within all of us, the audience with whom I watched the film laughing when Carano injures her sparring partner. Soderbergh as usual finds humour within confrontations between professionals.

Haywire also plays around with the feminine action hero. Unlike others, it lets Carano – a MMA fighter in her movie debut – be a lover, eye candy or the cool-headed avenger. She softens up during  dialogue or when she’s with her father (Bill Paxton) but becomes intimidating when she needs to.

The other male actors including Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor – I love his bunny-like grin as he asks Paul (Fassbender) if ‘the divorce is final’ – and Antonio Banderas, who plays a philanderer, eventually cower under her fists. Just the way we like her. 3.5/5


Moulin Rouge! nine years later


ph. 20th Century Fox

The only handheld moment I remember from Moulin Rouge, as Christian (Ewan McGregor) sneaks away with Satine (Nicole Kidman), cuckolding the Duke even if the latter if a few feet away. Naughty!

This movie’s whimsy and surrealism in covering late 20th century pop songs in contrast with Paris almost a century ago is a precedent to Ryan Murphy’s surreal abomination known as “Glee.” I understand people who don’t like this movie, as Michael koresky called it ‘porno garbage‘ in context of a review of the Hardwicke-Seyfried Red Riding Hood movie. I admit, I sometimes hate parts of this movie too. Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent – he won an Oscar in the same year for Iris. I haven’t seen that, but I’m sure he should have won for this movie instead.) singing ‘Like a Virgin,’ or a ‘Roxanne’ in tango. In the end of the day, it didn’t matter whether the cast had the perfect voice, since they were auto-tuned just like pop stars and TV musical stars after them. But their gilded backgrounds help us dive into the film’s craziness, and as Christian belts out lyrics like ‘we can be lovers’ or ‘we can be heroes’ with an innocent enthusiasm and Satine, like us, can’t help but sing along.

I also believe this movie is created to venerate Kidman’s face, especially since this is her at her prime. Possibly the last time she’ll look immortal. Her emotions when Satine denies her affection for Christian, only to sing his loving words to him later. It’s really difficult to stamp any role of hers to be her best, giving something different here as she does with the naturalism of Grace in Dogville or the sincere upper-class pathos of Becca Corbett in Rabbit Hole. The first word that comes to mind is seduction, when Satine gets our attention by singing the words straight and looking directly at the camera with her big eyes. She doesn’t, however, shy away from the histrionic side of attracting men like Christian and the Duke, with high-pitched whispers for comic effect. Or when her game stops and has to tell Christian the truth, tearing up when necessary.

Also, when I was watching this, her face only has colour three times, when she’s adjusting her make-up, on top of the elephant singing along with Christian or when she’s trying to ward him off. She tells Christian that the Duke has given her everything, and anyone would have taken her word for it unless it’s someone as resilient as Christian. The rest of the time, the blue light makes her seem like an unreachable Parisian geisha, her wintry beauty under the evening blue light already foreshadows her tragedy.

This part seems like I’m over thinking this movie, but there’s also something interesting about her showstopper of a number, ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’ a song she sings in two versions. During both times, she’s practically dressed in diamonds, shining as they hug her body. I’m not sure what director Baz Luhrmann’s intentions are, but using the song inadvertently puts Satine with Marilyn Monroe, the rest of the characters depend on the woman’s intelligence but none of them point that quality out. They both commit to their fictional selves. Their health and career are vulnerable and precarious, their broken hearts hindering them from moving on.

Let me now talk about the multicultural references in this movie include Switzerland, India and Spain (or arguably Argentina). I’m still figuring out the fictional turn of the century Parisian’s fascination with what’s outside them, letting pieces of the world in through Expos and caged zoo exhibits and, in the case of this film, cabaret shows. And the ‘legitimate theatre’ of the last act. The film also dedicates some time to show Christian, Harold, Lautrec (John Leguziamo) and the rest of the crew making sets and backdrops, rehearsing intricately elaborate dance numbers, looking just as fabulous as the finished product.

There are also some intermissions, when the bearded Christian is alone, when the titular Moulin Rouge is barren, its red curtains no longer blushing like a youthful face. The fictional world of the Moulin Rouge at its peak is still vivid and magical even if once in a while, we remember that it all has ended.


FYC: Star Wars II Invented Emo


StarWars2(ph. OutNow)

It’s verboten to start any blog entry or any film criticism, major or minor, with the words “I’m drunk,” but imbibing Labatt’s is where I got the idea for this story. Of course, there’s the guy who helped me with said ideas whom I eventually made out with, and yes, tonight I made out with someone who likes Star Wars. Don’t worry, he was cute. And fuck you, it’s my blog, I can talk about my romantic exploits here.

Anyway, he pretty much defended the newer Star Wars. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them. He said that the vehement criticism of the newer Star Wars attacked specifically Anakin as a character. From what I remember from the criticism, it’s that at least Han Solo and Princess Leia fit the rebellious, pissed off cool of the cusp of the 70’s. Anakin was just a whiny emo bitch.

Well wasn’t that the (male) narrative of the past decade?

StarWars2(Mary flanked by Jesus and Vanilla Ice)

I’m not gonna say that Lucas was ahead of the curve in regards to the emo thing. If I give him that much credit 29 of you will stone me to death. What I’m gonna give him credit for is that he was at least honest about this type of male youth. Anakin had a sense of entitlement, and that made him an asshole. He wasn’t like “Michael Cera is just misunderstood, and he wears band shirts and hoodies, and he’ll get Kat Dennings in the end.” No. It is this entitlement that he and I suppose other men in this era have acquired that lead to their own destruction as well as the genocidal destruction of those around them.

Yes, Christensen couldn’t carry “Jumper,” but he straddled the line between boy and destroyer so well. I’ve also yet to see the dual values like this within the same character. And it’d be a bitch to cast that role with the crop of young actors we have today.

As with a lot of flawed movies especially of the past decade, female characters are like hollow vessels in the new Star Wars. You’re a former elected monarch and senator, Amidala, what are you doing with this bozo?

StarWars2

Also, “Star Wars II” came out in 2002. The first “Spiderman” about the eponymous young man figuring out his special abilities came out the same year, starring Tobey Maguire instead of someone hulkier. But in the music front, that’s the same time that Dashboard Confessionals and other emo bands came into ubiquity. “Star Wars III” came out in 2005, this time having film parallels with “Hotel Rwanda,” “Cache” and “Syriana” in the race war side, as well as “Brick” and “L’Enfant” in the generational subject.

Yes, watching a white boy whine that other white people and green people are bringing him down is fucking annoying, You’d probably read articles in Esquire now and then pleading to stop this emo thing. But Anakin as a representative of his generation is still a good point to consider.

And yes, I’m still drunk.


The Ghost Writer


(ph. OutNow)

Can I just say that Roman Polanski is a weird guy. After all these years, he’s kept his absurdist humour from “Rosemary’s Baby” alive within his new effort, “The Ghost Writer.” Little idiosyncrasies like a bulky security guard following bitter ex-politician’s wife Ruth Lang (Olivia Williams) and her husband’s ghost writer (Ewan McGregor), Ruth’s husband ex-Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) highly anticipated best-selling 600 plus page memoir that begins with a mind numbing multi-generational family history, half of what Amelia Bly (Kim Catrall) says. A lot of the movie was weird enough to twist my face a hundred times. The Ghost putting himself into his situation makes him just like every other man and woman in Polanski films who get themselves into inescapable situations.

“The Ghost Writer,” while convoluted, is still a text that deserves erudition. Typical of Polanski’s movies, technology, transportation and social institutions both help and hinder the main character and is well incorporated with Polanksi’s unique humour. The film opens with an empty car found in a ferry and later showing a body washed ashore, the ferry being a good way to trap oneself to death. The Ghostwriter’s predecessor’s manuscript and USB key has been locked in some advanced security system, getting injured when he tries to break into it. He uses Google to find links about a conspiracy his boss is a part of. Instead of an SUV, he rides a bike to investigate the death of the Ghost’s predecessor, only for the bike to have a rough start in his boss’s gravel path. He eventually uses a GPS equipped BMW (this movie is product placement heavy, by the way) whose instructions unexpectedly lead him to another secretive co-conspirator, Professor Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson).

The characters in Polanski’s former movies, however, have this need to hang to dear life. The ones in “The Ghost Writer” doesn’t. Sure, the Ghost finds out Lang’s secrets, therefore putting his life in danger. I can’t pinpoint yet why the urgency in the other movies is absent in this one. Maybe the secret was too big, especially since there were too many people involved in it. Maybe that the Ghost got himself into his situation was because of money, making him unsympathetic. Still not sure.

Nevermind that I saw this at the AMC, but there’s also this glossy digital look to the film, especially at the seaside motel scene, where the red lighting was just so stylized. Must have had to do with the constructed sets since he can’t access the real thing.

I don’t want to talk about the humour again, but it’s what makes me treasure the movie after the fact even if I didn’t fully enjoy it while I was watching it. I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t feel like I stayed in the playground too long. Just like Polanski.

P.s. It’s been floating around forever that Polanski’s gonna direct God of Carnage. I read the play a while ago. The play has a part when a woman pukes. Of course Polanski’s gonna direct.