Just saying that Lawless reminds me of “Xena the Warrior Princess” and Paul Gross although yes, the new title is tone-setting and concise. The Wettest County, the movie’s previous title sounds like something bucolic.
I first got wind of this new title change from The Playlist, who also posted a photo and general information about the movie’s casting, implying that Jessica Chastain will no longer share the screen with Take Shelter star, Michael Shannon. The movie is set in Franklin County, Virginia during the Great Depression and centres around three moonshining brothers played by Tom Hardy, Shia Labeouf and Jason Clarke, providing great man candy for viewers like us. Also starring in the movie are Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Dane DeHaan, the latter of whom you might know from Chronicle (still haven’t seen it, unfortunately) but I know from the period-indie foreign drama Amigo. I’m also hoping that Chastain’s role is enough to get her an Oscar nomination. Lawless’ release date is on August the 31st which means it will definitely not première at the Toronto International Film Festival, but any sign of a decent movie before fall is good enough for me.
I really need to start Entertainment Weekly more.
Did you know that I’ve seen three Michael Fassbender movies in the same room? Jane Eyre – my poorly written review here – is playing now at the Varsity 8, possibly the biggest screening room in Toronto (if you don’t count the repertory and TIFF theatres). I also saw Hunger and Inglorious Basterds at the same screening room. That’s one hell of a coincidence.
This post exists because Anthony Oliveira retweeted A.L. Day’s mini review: ‘Jane Eyre: solid “meh.” tried to be Austen; suffered for it. go gothic or go home.’
Then I thought about the difficulties of perfecting Gothic literature into cinema in the age of colour, the grainy textures of the walls of a grand old house pale in comparison against the shadows of black and white films?
Gothic cinema to me are movies released in the 1940’s or 50’s. Rebecca, Hamlet, The Secret Garden, but those movies are also called ‘noirs,’ referring either to genre or style. I looked up Gothic cinema on Google but the films that the pages listed belong to more genres – German Expressionism, Hammer horror, giallo and new Spanish cinema. Maybe ‘Gothic’ is too big and elastic of a bracket to have ever been considered a genre in the first place?
Anthony actually brought up Shutter Island as Gothic film’s ‘truest recent inheritor,’ which makes sense since the film checks off things on the list, scary men, haunted architecture, jagged rocks, insanity, damsels in distress. The film’s sensory overload, with the blaring bass of the soundtrack to the white screen flashbacks, also matches the descriptive prose of the Bronte sisters and Byron.
Jane Eyre has a slightly faster pace and is more plot-centred than the impressionistic feel of Emma Thompson’s Austen adaptations. The visuals are Campion-esque. I looked for Gothic references through the artwork featured in the film. The pictures within books that the young Jane (Amelia Clarkson) reads are minuscule, mature Jane’s (Mia Wasikowska) drawings more ethereal than ghostly, the paintings in Rochester’s (Fassbender) walls are French academy. I’m sure he has a Goya or a late Rembrandt tucked behind the walls somewhere, like ‘Grace Poole.’
The film has harsh close-ups under candlelight, foggy moors with barren trees, claustrophobic dark rooms and hallways but those images together don’t a Gothic movie make. I blame Dario Marianelli‘s score, its violins playing at a slightly slower pace than the faster piano footsteps in Atonement, although I’m not saying that those scores aren’t great.
Shutter Island embraces its campy insanity, as Anthony said it’s more Poe than Romantic. Fukunaga and crew, however, didn’t want Jane Eyre to associate too closely with genre, hoping it would bring the film some quality (it succeeds in doing so). I’m also hesitant in Gothic cinema’s campy tendencies, especially in its manifestations in Hammer or giallo. Is it scary if I’m laughing at the cheesy organ music? The visuals might be seen as gags if they veered closer into genre film, and Fukunaga then seems to tone it down.
Rochester should also be scary, my father’s girlfriend distinctively calling him a monster. But Fassbender gives the character heart, talking about horrific things with concern instead of disgust. Sally Hawkins‘ Mrs. Reed also seems more misguided than fiercely cruel. These sympathetic villains outweigh the abuses of Mrs. Reed’s son John, the Lowell headmaster and the force behind the terrors within Rochester’s home. One is underage, another is insane, all are bit parts. The movie decides to absolve those characters’ sins despite their actions. The wise forgiveness of an adult governs this film instead of the fears of a biased, oppressed child.
But in the end, do I care if Jane Eyre didn’t meet nor revive a genre’s expectations? Not yet, still swooning.
The trailer for The Kids are All Right shows Manohla Dargis calling it a ‘near note-perfect portrait of a modern family,’ in a way that it shows complex implications to the words ‘biological’ and ‘parent,’ there are clashes, affairs, dinners with people who are having affairs, cathartic speeches of redemption. It’s a typical formula if not for the slow pacing, the script, tick-y acting from the major players and the hand-held cam close-ups in group scenes, all giving the impression of a balance between improvisation and direct delivery.
Basically, two teenagers from lesbian parents look for the sperm donor, and whatever ensues, ensues.
Annette Bening as Nic is the best in show without trying. I’ve only seen her in crazy parts (American Beauty, Running With Scissors). Other reviews have tried to sell her as the stable one in the relationship, and she is that. She can also be ‘not my real self,’ be acidic, be the embarrassing drunk one, be the one who has to deal with the headaches just like a parent. Her first line at the first dinner conversation about Jules’ (Julianne Moore) truck makes the audience follow her more. Her calm reaction to a shocking revelation proves that Bening’s performance becomes the greatest one within greatest performances.
I’m ambivalent about Laser (Josh Hutcherson) as a character. It was his idea to contact their sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo). A little selling point for the movie and his character that he might or might not be ‘too close to his loser friend Clay,’ that subplot being really hilarious. He also doesn’t know how to talk to Paul, being directly hostile about Paul’s opinions about little things, this approach somehow different from his sister, college age Joni (Mia Wasikowska) just smiling at him. Despite of those things, I don’t feel like I got to know the guy. He must have had female friends, unless that’s what ticked off Nice and Jules. I think Laser just fades into the background after the scene with the talk.
O hai, HaySpayTu. Tanya (Yaya da Costa) is a bit Earth Mother Archetype to me, just like a grown-up version of the real Yaya da Costa we know.
And hai, Peggy’s lesbian wooer (Zosia Mamet) from “Mad Men!”
I also wanna talk about the Susan G. Cole critiques to this movie. A) Mark Ruffalo doesn’t even act like a stoner in this movie and the last time he did that was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I think he actually does his best to defend his character – a lesser actor would have just laid there and portray Paul as the dirt bag that he is on the script. B) Bisexuality exists. I’ll concede that the film uses a Degrassi: TNG storyline, and that she’s not alone in thinking that the Jules and Paul thins is BS, but a plausibly realistic one. But then I’m not a lesbian so I don’t know how strong their fortitude is against Mark Ruffalo. Mine isn’t.
Now that that’s all out, time to download the rest of the soundtrack!
Fuck. So I’m gonna try to be like Oprah and tell 36 of you what book to buy. “Cities of Refuge” is the new novel by Michael “Papa” Helm and it just came out in Canada and I think England last week. It’s about a young female security guard for the ROM gets sexually assaulted, and that event adds to her colourful life as well as the lives of those around her. It’s been highly praised already. My broke ass actually bought the book and there’s something factual yet psychological about his tone, so far. It’s also very urban, multicultural story and he makes us walk with the characters in the spaces they go through and think about the city like they do.
Helm is also gonna be a part of the Harbourfront Reading Series and he goes on Wednesday. He taught me Creative Writing in UofT until he defected to the enemy at York. He’s cute, he kinda sounds like Johnny Cash, go buy his book and see him read it.
Lars, who I was in the Creative Writing class with (here’s his un-updated blog by the way), also linked me to Empire’s List of 40 Great Actor and Director Partnerships. It’s a very dry list and there are a few glaring omissions (Allen and Farrow), but at least the website didn’t turn it into a fucking slide show. Also, I’m gonna buy this magazine. My friends will know that I barely buy movie magazines because I can access the same information on the net, as well as other reasons that I’ll probably never get to.
Also, The Playlist via London Times gives us the first look at Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre. I’m really excited about this because Michael Fassbender plays Rochester, the same role played by Orson Welles and Ciaran Hinds. I also didn’t know whether or not Mia Wasikowska is British or American (she’s Australian), and hopefully giving her Jane Eyre will give her something more to chew on than her role as Alice early this year.
Lastly, today’s gonna be really busy. I saw three movies last night, all strangely about May-December romances.
My English teacher in high school pretty much said that you can write a unifying topic about any two texts. I’ve used that spirit in this blog, and it’s been useful while watching both “The Young Victoria, out on DVD last Tuesday, and “Alice in Wonderland.” My focus is not on how good they are. “Young Victoria” is passable and “Alice in Wonderland” sucks donkey. I thought at first that the Queen Mother documentary and my kooky mind was the only thing both movies had in common but boy was I wrong.
On the surface, both movies are about girl power. My basic knowledge of the titular “Young Victoria” was her older self, she was the most powerful woman in the world but is crippled by mourning her husband’s death. What the film shows is a girl (Emily Blunt) who, like many renowned rulers, have no or have lost her siblings and cousins. It also shows her fighting off her stepfather Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) who wants her to sign her regency away to him in what could have been her deathbed. It’s a typical female royal narrative about having to deal with the men who try to influence her, the movie thankfully incorporating treaties and negotiations and letter writing culture that Royal history was full of. Nonetheless, the men break down either through her own strength or through fortunate circumstances. She forges political partnerships with men like William IV (Jim Broadbent), Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) and her husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend, our generation’s Omar Sharif).
Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” goes through the same things as Queen Victoria. She’s the daughter of a businessman who’s imaginative as he is – he wants to venture into other continents, she dreams of fantasy lands. Growing up (Mia Wasikowska, groomed as a pallid Gwyneth Paltrow), her mother and sister thinks of her good enough to marry into blue blooded English snots. If she even thinks about not marrying the aristocratic Hamish, her peers remind her of the delusional old maid Aunt Imogen. She storms out of her engagement party not defiantly but to chase a rabbit she can only see, hence out of a compulsion to regress into her childhood dreams. Going into the rabbit hole she falls on hard surfaces, gets scratched up by huge animals and gain the courage to meet her destiny and kill the Jabberwock.
The most interesting parts for me for both films were the last acts, since the emancipation of one results into the slavery of many.* We feel her empowerment when she snips at Prime Minister Peel about her ladies-in-waiting, but a bit uncomfortable when she has a shouting match with her husband about her ladies-in-waiting. Sure, both sides have their faults, but she asserts herself to him many times that she’s her Queen and he can only leave a room when he’s dismissed. They kiss and make up, and the title cards in the end show that Victoria births nine children who will rule the crowns of Britain, Germany, Russia, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Serbia, Greece and they forgot Denmark. Ironically, at least half of those monarchies still stand.
In “Alice in Wonderland” Alice stays true to her father’s mercantile leanings but now uses aristocratic influence to do something profitable. She refuses Hamish’s hand in marriage but has a business proposition in store for his father, Lord Ascot. Her father and Lord Ascot’s business has posts in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, but she presents the opportunity to tap into China and its products. Ambition wins him over, and she gets her ships. In a way China becomes her wonderland – they do have tea after all. And as we historically know, China really loved every minute of that.
We can’t, however, show our disdain towards womanhood for heralding English political and economic imperialism, since men just have a hand in shaping both characters. “Young Victoria” implies that Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, takes credit for making many crowns in Europe bear the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Victoria and Albert can be either lying to themselves or actually have made an honest, loving relationship out of a marriage strategized by those above her. “Alice in Wonderland” has a bit sinister – some may call it honest – portrayal of a man behind the great woman. Alice maybe seen as her father’s daughter. Lord Ascot notices the look in her eyes that eerily reminds him of her father, but goes ahead and follows her whims anyway. Both women are figureheads in both an active or passive definition still makes me uncomfortable for a few seconds.
*I know that I’m treading murky waters here, and I’m blaming my red-eye working habits and thumping headache/sinuses if I get un-PC).