90’s Showdown: The Contenders 2
Yesterday I talked about this spin-off’s beginning (keep voting on Andrew’s page you guys!), and I promised more performances so here they are.
Kirsten Dunst in Dick (1999): Dick has two leads – Michelle Williams using her doe-eyed delivery with a comic flair that she barely shows, and Kirsten Dunst in her prolonged Torrance Chapman phase. Dunst is so thorough in her sunniness, her delivery of dick jokes quick, matter-of-fact yet hilarious. She also exposes the ridiculousness of the movie’s conceit in unabashedly girly but cunning ways. And if you don’t believe me, the movie is available on YouTube, you guys!
Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love (1998): Despite recommending expensive shit on her website, we should still honour Paltrow for being one of the few contemporary American actresses who can play British. That can’t be said enough. She also conveys a Renaissance styled warmth – her curly blond locks helping very much to bring this forth – both during her post-coital mornings with a fictional William Shakespeare, telling a man that she knows every word of Juliet and playing multiple levels of the role she was meant to play.
Marie Gignac in Tectonic Plates (1992): To conjure up Gignac’s is admittedly trolly. I serendipitously watched it, yet to confirm or deny that she’s a worthy entry on this list is something you can’t even do through illegal torrents. And trust me, I checked! You have to go a library in Canada to know if I’m not fucking with you. It’s the kind of entry on a list that makes its reader seek out instead of sleepwalkingly confirm what you think you already know, an entry that makes this list personal. And yes, if you get to watch her, the wig she wears to show herself in her college years is kind of ridiculous. But it eventually…grew on me and helped with suspending disbelief. Her performance is meditative, making sense with the movie’s title. That like tectonic plates, her life, whether portrayed in the black cube of a studio or the colourful world of Venice, is full of loss that takes time to heal and sublimate. I’ll also never forget her surprising youthful smile in her character’s older years, where all the pieces of her life come together.
Patricia Arquette in True Romance (1993): I probably don’t hate the concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl so much because I see versions of her in creative and sometimes gritty films. Arquette in True Romance is a great example, her bubbliness making even racism palatable. She also makes one half of a great movie couple who should always be together until the end.
Sigourney Weaver in Alien: Resurrection (1997): is one of the most divisive sequels ever, and there’s Weaver’s basketball game among other ridiculous set pieces within the space ship, but she probably works the hardest here more than in any of the Alien franchise movies, having to be compassionate with the alien race to whom she once was deathly afraid.
Gong Li in Raise the Red Lantern (1991): She conveys eroticism through the foot massages she receives, her own adult moment. But Li’s character in Raise the Red Lantern is forever a child, her seemingly Western petulance and moodiness, brought forth by oppression and competition from both the men and women within her archaic household, is endlessly fascinating. This has other levels of performance I have yet to discover.
Angelina Jolie in Girl: Interrupted (1999): There are three Angelina Jolies, one is the enemy of the gossip reading bachelorettes who will staunchly be on Team Jennifer. The second is the one with the impenetrable gaze, the grown-up Jolie dressed up by Vogue for red carpets, occasionally appearing in glamorous yet terrible movies. The third one lunged at the screen like a feral child in Girl Interrupted, the one we miss. The one who knows the word attack and uses it to her advantage, who knows the dangerous side of liberation from experience.
Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Rewatching Eyes Wide Shut I will now remember that scene when Kidman is wearing glasses sitting with the actor playing her child, looking at Tom Cruise, smiling while he remembers her sexual dream. It’s not necessarily her acting chops that bring the message of her character’s insidious deviant deception across but Kidman is a great collaborator here. She oscillates between vulnerable girly girl and bourgeois wife at a time in her career when she could.
Tomorrow: Many for the price of six.
Ghibli: “Laputa” and “Spirited Away”
It’s difficult for my mind to stray while watching Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, especially the bombastic sound work in Tenko no Shiro Laputa (the English title is Castle in the Sky. Laputa is an unfortunate title if you know a bit of Spanish but we’ll use it for brevity’s sake). I’ll never forget the dimensional feeling of the air crafts. But as the characters started to sink in I realized that I grew up with anime, especially ones that portrayed ‘Western’ narratives. This cross-cultural storytelling is interesting in the visual sense. I know the young arms catching Sheeta from the air, starting their puppy love – are just plain slabs of white meat between penciled borders but somehow I felt the characters’ sinewy qualities on-screen. I also like its accuracy, capturing how the European build is more muscular, dense and square shaped although that’s probably just my ignorance talking.
Also, older women such as Mama are booby but not in a sexual way. Speaking of which, the sexuality in Laputa is a bit disturbing, as Mama’s crew are metres away from preying on Sheeta although they do blurt out the subtext that the innocent-looking Sheeta might grow up to be a good witch like Mama. But it’s not just about the human characters, the robots and the plot also showing how Miyazaki influences Brad Bird and Chris Miller. Puss in Boots also has the same plot and imaginative spirit but the latter tucks in and lets out. Think about it.
Spirited Away begins with a family uneventfully moving into the smaller suburbs, makes a detour to what looks like an abandoned amusement park and turns into a ‘introduction to work and adulthood and its pitfalls’ metaphor. It also shows more slender Asian bodies in Chihiro and the other cynical bath house servants she joins. It’s a more Japanese narrative but that doesn’t mean that European visual tropes are completely absent. Chichiro’s father has the same stocky European build before he and his wife eat the amusement park food – where are the guests? – and magically turn themselves into pigs. The Mama lookalike of a matriarch, Yubaba, and her overgrown baby almost turn the exception into the rule, as well as the visitors of Yubaba’s resort for the gods, spirits and monsters, most of them looking like characters from Where the Wild Things Are. I’m not saying that Miyazaki relies too heavily on Western influences as he also includes river dragon gods into the mix and actually makes these characters, whatever they look like, into his own.
I’m also probably in the minority that likes the simple structure and the complex characters in Laputa although I do admire the consistent menace of Spirited Away‘s matriarch. I also like Laputa‘s three different visual textures while depicting the landscapes. Spirited Away, however, also marks a digitized aesthetic, especially in depicting objects and characters moving through vegetation. What does make the latter film special, in an Berlin Film Festival and Academy-award winning way, is its unrelenting and inexhaustible imagination, introducing more fantastical creatures and mises-en-scene like the hand lamp greeting them after a trip on a train that crosses an ocean, coming just after me thinking that Miyazaki must have run out of them.
Spirited Away has two screenings at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, on April 1st at 7:00 PM and April 7th at 1:00 PM. You can also catch Laputa one last time on April 7th at 6:30 PM.
Because of Breaking the Waves, every time I hear Lars von Trier‘s name I remember this Bowie song. Let’s play it, shall we?
Her’s my write-up of Lars’ new movie Melancholia at Yourkloset. Within this movie I can see Lars’ earlier work, like the wedding in Breaking the Waves, the mob mentality in Dogville and the depression in Antichrist. It operates like a contest – whoever has the most complex and human approach to depression wins. There’s Justine (Kirsten Dunst), a disastrous bride and a vessel of depression who somehow marvels and is relieved that a planet, also called Melancholia, dangerously approaches to evaporate the Earth. She’s the one most of my friends can relate to either because of personal reason. Or because of Dunst, arguably giving her best performance within a career unfolding just as me and my friends were growing up. There’s also her brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland), the most blindly optimistic character who steadfastly holds on to a rational belief system.
Justine is sympathetic enough but I wouldn’t pick her or John as someone I can relate to. That honour belongs to Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). She’s the one who’s probably read all the books about psychological health and help and thinks that she’s sent on this earth to help her sister even if the latter doesn’t want to be helped. The one worried with real problems, the maternal instinct to both coddle and abscond her sister when she thinks she needs to do so.
She’s also the false image of normalcy that I assume many people with depression learn to act out, that layer vulnerable to anxieties outside and underneath. So which character here do you relate to the most?
Drop Dead Gorgeous
I’ve seen some movies and fewer great ones in the past week but the word love is for Drop Dead Gorgeous. I don’t even know why because most critics think that it doesn’t deserve that word. It forces us to believe that the overdeveloped Denise Richards is the same age as the film’s star Kirsten Dunst. The equally overdeveloped Amy Adams makes her début here too and, as a cheerleader, is playing a personally relatable character, if you catch my drift. It also seems humiliating to watch Will Sasso‘s character be repeatedly called a ‘retard.’ That Amber Atkins’ (Dunst) tap dance number wasn’t as electrifying as it was the first time I saw it. And her ascent to the national beauty pageant is just as suspicious as Rebecca ‘Becky’ Ann Lehman’s (Richards) win at the town-wide level, the latter competition of course rigged by Becky’s mother Gladys (Kirstie Alley). Of course Amber’s innocent but even the good girl never deserves the ‘great’ level that she achieves.
But it’s still enjoyable to watch Dunst in her signature glee, making every movie of hers watchable. But her Amber also has a mean streak towards Becky and ever her own idol Diane Sawyer so she won’t seem insipid. Or Alley, at the time relegated to supporting work for the Olsen twins, comes with her venomous performance and over-the-top accent that of course, the rest of the female-dominated cast has. Tony winning talent like Allison Janney and Ellen Barkin also howl their way into the film, being featured in a movie that doesn’t deserve them, only to prove that they can go to the extreme without seeming smug. And this film was part of my ‘indie’ upbringing, one of those movies playing on cable in the early 2000’s. Richly nihilistic, mean-spirited, campy and excessive, it’s confident and defiant in its badness.
- Song of the Day: Paul Oakenfold (featuring Brittany Murphy) – Faster Kill Pussycat (canaussiegirl.wordpress.com)
Best Shot Redux: Bring It On
The follow-up posts are just a product of my indecisiveness. As Torrance (Kirsten Dunst) says in her pep talk, ‘we have to learn and discover new types of dance.’ Form merges with content, as one of the film’s positive points is its snapshots of greatness, alluding to art house directors. Really.
Bring It On, written and directed by Jane Campion. Posted by cheapseats and theonewithmjd.
Bring It On – Roman Orgy, written by Gore Vidal and directed by Federico Fellini. Posted by season days – el fanatico.
We’ll also look at the unsung heroes, like Torrance’s (Kirsten Dunst) love interest (Jesse Bradford). Glenn Dunks
And this guy, who’s probably a real cheerleader.
- Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Bring It On (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
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 between watching movies from the Wright Stuff series and watching Scott Pilgrim, I watched another hipster romance movie – Marie Antoinette. Before I get to the meat of this post, I just wanna say that I have to discuss the traces of what I have read or heard about the woman whose life this movie is depicting, and how true this movie is to the life of said murdered queen – if I used the word executed it means she deserved it, which she partly didn’t. Some people believe that the dead are fair game, but then we’re talking about one of the most slandered women in history, so every time Coppola or the film trips, we deduct a point.
I remember the pre-blogging glory days of trying to defend this movie while calling out the royalists who trolled the Marie Antoinette forum on iMDb. That was where I read someone who compared the movie to a series of paintings. And probably where I read someone mistake Marie Antoinette’s (Kirsten Dunst) alleged Swedish boy toy Count Axel von Fersen (Jamie Dornan) as Napoleon. And/or make a comparison between Madame du Barry (Asia Argento) as a Disney evil queen – she did NOT look like that nor act like she was depicted in the film, by the way. There are other directors who make a collage of pop culture references in their work. Those anonymous readings, however, show that Coppola isn’t able to mold those separate images and/or incorporate them into what should be a believable and seamless biopic. I don’t fully believe that it would have been a better decision to invent her own images of these people instead recycling old/different/inaccurate ones, but I’d imagine there’s some who watched this movie who would choose the former over the latter.The movie has always felt like ‘This is what I imagine her life to be,’ which has driven a lot of history nuts crazy.
Need to remind you guys that Coppola’s direction of the character Marie Antoinette evoked Paris Hilton. And being inundated by that comparison by the media, oh my God. Which leads us to Coppola’s apparent aim of turning Marie Antoinette’s story as a satire of the nepotism – biting the hand – and decadence of the government and celebrity culture of Bush-era US. Which is great, but why can’t Marie Antoinette simply be Marie Antoinette?
What is different between 18th century Versailles and 21st century America is the treatment of children’s sexuality. Adults both blue and red-blooded obsessed over Marie Antoinette as a sexual being. It’s tragic how her mother, Maria Theresa (Marianne Faithful) has fought for and keep the crown of the Holy Roman Empire as a woman and became the most powerful woman in Europe after Catherine the Great, only for her daughter to be trampled so easily. Coppola gets it right in this movie by actually showing the ‘people of France’s’ real problem with Marie Antoinette – that it dragged on before she was able to produce an heir. And how full the operating room was when Marie gave birth to, unfortunately, Therese. Also consider the hypocrisy of spying on adolescents’ bedroom action and the Christian notion of not talking about sex and not teaching the poor couple how to have sex.
Marie eventually becomes corrupted by this oversexualized society, having knowledge of her grandfather-in-law King Louis XIV’s (Rip Torn) affair with Du Barry. Marie then derides this fake aristocrat. In Coppola’s film, she unknowingly she becomes just like Du Barry, carrying out her own affair with the Swede.
Today, a 14 year old’s responsibility is his or her homework and some household chore. Marie, turning 14 when she did, has had a quick transition between childhood and adulthood, just like that insufficient carriage ride to the French border. At least two years into adulthood in that day’s standards, she has a responsibility that reminds her that she is still a second class citizen under Salic law. No wonder, as Coppola shows in the film, Marie regresses.
Flaw – The scene when Marie walks with Austrian Ambassador Mercy (Steve Coogan) and Therese in the gardens. The Princess du Lamballe (Mary Nighy) runs to the three and informs them of the Austrian Empress’s death. How did the Austrian ambassador not know that first?
In Roger Ebert‘s review of this film, his second point called Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette as ‘pitch-perfect casting.’ It’s not Interview with a Vampire, or to compare it to the other performances that year, she’s no Penelope Cruz. It’s wonderful watching Dunst’s face react to her husband King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) wolf down his food, or how her face reaches us through that infamous zoom out, saying a lot while standing still. Having to go across the palace to a private room where she could cry or fawn – a measured release of emotion from one place to another. Worn down after the deaths in her family. Her poised diplomatic voice as she talks to her husband’s cabinet and even to her own brother, the Holy Roman Emperor (Danny Huston). As some blog I used to read has said in defense of her performance, Dunst was obedient to Coppola’s vision.