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Posts tagged “lists

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.’

ph. http://www.flickr.com/photos/blairwitch/

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.


Moments of 2010 movie fashion


The first look I’m gonna be talking about comes from my first movie in 2010, Martin ScorseseShutter 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.

Shutter Island

Green Zone

Chloe

Is It Just Me?

Alice in Wonderland

Late Autumn


L.A. Zombie

Passion Play

Les Amours Imaginaires

Enter the Void


Top Ten Films of 2010


I’m not even properly doing this list, while just writing about the first ten awesome films off the top of my head. [ETA: Because of distribution randomness, movies like The Conspirator won’t come out so I can’t really make a proper list until April this year. Nonetheless, here I am.]

I wanna commend the naturalism of Noah Baumbach‘s latest film Greenberg. I’m not sure if I can really call this mumblecore because I feel the emotions are just as explosive as it would in a typical drama. The characters of this film underact their deliveries of empty threats and misunderstandings, but they have to come back together eventually.

It wasn’t until now that I realized that I am Love echoes Hitchcock in portraying quiet eroticism, obsession and guilt within the elegant trophy wife Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton). The editing is snappy yet buttery from, for example, close-ups of nature scenes to close-ups of Emma’s body perfectly captures the impressionistic waves of her emotions.

The obligatory animated film spot goes to How to Train Your Dragon, again, with its rousing music score that helps portray the fantasy within Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) as he befriends a slick dragon. It’s interesting to see an animated film convey such human intimacy and freedom, its modest ambitions captivating its audiences.

A tidbit in this month’s GQ described Inception as a heist version of an Alain Resnais film, and my love for this film makes sense by reading that. The film’s intricate structure messes with your head without seeming deranged. It’s an enveloping experience combining narrative, visuals and sound. Most importantly, it’s got style.

Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a marvelous achievement in editing that translates the comic book into film. I really felt like I was flipping through the book itself. The eye-popping graphics are also lovely, making the film an esoteric experience, going hand in hand with Scott Pilgrim’s (Michael Cera)’s energy level, kicking ass.

I’ve referred to the influences that Meek’s Cutoff, illuminating its audiences with colour while presenting the Oregon Trail’s dangers in quietness. Director Kelly Reichardt shows how much she’s mastered the art of composition, where every skirted, persevering woman or tree or rock looks like artwork. I can’t wait to get the film’s DVD to screencap it.

As I’ve said in my review of this film, I’ve given mercy fives but the one movie that truly blew me away this TIFF is Confessions, which, as I’ve said earlier, is a mixture of elegy and revenge as a genre. It also exposes a society where children do the unthinkable. people don’t stop learning but don’t evolve as mature human beings neither.

Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone takes us with the tough Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) go head to head with her enemies who just happen to be on her extended family, like her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) and the matriarch (Dale Dickey). Despite the survivalist and drug-addled reputation it may give, this haunting tale put the Ozarks on the map.

I probably like The King’s Speech mostly for the quotes. Does anyone else think that the future King George VI’s (Colin Firth) words as adorable? Obviously the story about him and his unlikely mirror, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), both of whom show their inadequacies and hurdles. People who call this ‘Oscar bait’ are amateurs.

Another Oscar bait ‘guilty pleasure’ is The Fighter, a movie capturing the rustic, rupturing cadence of a working class family in Lowell Massachusets as they stick to their own mythologies through boxer and comeback hero Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg). This movie has a male protagonist surrounded by strong women and is the definition of the ensemble cast.


Badass females of 2010


Hey, it’s a trend! Besides, I promised Norman Wilner over Twitter to make a bazillion stupid lists for 2010 before they stop being cool. This was the dumbest, most shallow and most sexist idea I could come up with, second to ‘Greatest uses of the word ‘fuck’ and other curses in movies in 2010.’ Not that he’ll remember any of this. Anyway, all the women are listed by when the first time I saw them on-screen. All women also get the January Jones/Betty Draper Award nomination for the most violent female character in 2010. You decide the winner.

Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), for redefining vengeance and investigating those who hate women. May your shoes be filled well.

Jenny the Great White Buffalo (Lyndsy Fonseca) stabs Adam (John Cusack) with a plastic fork. That’s what he gets for telling a girl she’s fat.

Mal (Marion Cotilliard), who shoots and stabs you in your subconscious.

Knives Chau, the toughest Canadian. Don’t mess with us Asians, especially actress Ellen Wong with a breakthrough performance.

Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) who, after being dethroned as the prima ballerina, stabs herself in the face screaming ‘I’m perfect!’ ‘I’m perfect!’ ‘I’m perfect!’

Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain), a Mossad Agent sparring with her partners, trying to find the Surgeon of Birkenau (Jasper Christensen).

Abby, in this remake, with a soulful protrayal by young Chloe Moretz, still hungry for her daily subsistence.

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who will tell you that you’re employed by her and she will capture and kill Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).

Charlene (Amy Adams), who will rip your hair out if you call her a skank. You’re crazy.

Bellatrix (Helena Bonham-Carter), who makes Hermione (Emma Watson) scream for her oblviated parents.

Now Sally, go play.


While We’re At It


Long story long, while looking for reviews of Andrei Rublev on Google, I read the one from a blog called Precious Bodily Fluids. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, yes, my blog name’s still weirder. His blog post on the film is the second or third entry on Google by the way, whoo hoo.

Anyway, while he writes about he movie he also mentions six other epic films. Lists suck, but that doesn’t stop me from making them. Gone with the Wind, Seven Samurai, Ben-Hur 1959, The Leopard, The Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket, The Thin Red Line. And yes, it’s mostly a boy’s club. Just for when you were wondering.