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.
Juno, its eponymous hero and the actress who plays her, Ellen Page, probably have slightly maligned reputations by now. The movie and character would be seen as aloof and jokey despite of her pregnancy, and the actress almost got typecast as the leading star of the indie pack. My ‘job’ is to tell you the readers that there’s much more to the film. I caught this movie four minutes in, and Juno’s in real distress, convincingly telling her best friend (Olivia Thirlby) on the other side of the hamburger phone that she’s a ‘suicide case,’ revealing her situation. But yes, she does deliver on the humour, so relax. It’s eight minutes in and she’s already covered pop culture references and ironic ebonics, and sells her lines efficiently. She understand exactly what she’s experiencing, by this part of the movie anyway. And there’s her and the movie’s conundrum during unexpected pregnancies – the slightly depoliticized choices of keep, adopt and abort. When she chooses to give up her child for adoption, she has to deal with the new characters as well as ones already in her life.
And no, the characters in Juno don’t all talk alike, with their different rages of old, conservative – both gentrified and not – Americana and new, snarky Americana. Even bit parts have their own ticks, just like every human being in a fictional universe like this one we live in. A lone pro-life protester who shouts that all babies want to get ‘bornd,’ or a goth, sexually active receptionist.
Speaking of quirky, there’s a bit of focus on the characters’ material possessions and moments of privacy. I already mentioned the hamburger phone. There’s the discarded living room set, the picture of prince Charles in Juno’s cheerleader best friend Leah’s room, love interest Paulie Bleeker’s (Michael Cera) maroon and yellow outfit combination while he’s putting deodorant between his thighs. While we’re at Paulie’s shorts, by the way, let me just say that yes, cinematographer Eric Steelberg isn’t Wally Pfister nor Roger Deakins, but correct me if I’m wrong, he did bring the most eye-popping movie in an otherwise sepia tone year. Brenda’s (Allison Janney) obsession with dogs, adopting prospective Mark Loring’s guitar. Again, my fascination with these objects root from my boring decor. Mark’s wife Vanessa’s (Jennifer Garner) contradiction of bourgeois chrysanthemums and Alice in Chains tee are given the same light of individuality as the possessions of the working class characters on the other exit on the highway.
Yes, Bleeker’s a nerdy jock anti-stereotype and Leah encourages her best friend’s new sexuality yet still cool enough to join a rock band. However, the movie has clichés. Product placements. Juno’s short body trying to walk opposite everyone else’s direction. Juno’s stepmom Brenda warning of something that’s gonna happen and being right. Speaking of which, I would like to congratulate the internet for not ruining the movie.
Despite her wit, thank God she isn’t always the smartest person in the film, where the adults also show her things that are as she says ‘beyond her maturity level.’ She has her flaws. She crosses the line with the people in her life, using the word ‘gay’ – Leah does too. Page is nonetheless amazing in this, giving more than expected for the role. There’s something even in the way Juno runs up the stairs to the bathroom that shows how inventive and physical she is in a role that’s more script-based. If there is a flaw to her performance, it’s her voice that usually isn’t this nasal. She also ends most of her snarky lines with a lower tone, reminding me of how a younger Jorja Fox would speak.
And who says the women’s picture is dead? Diablo Cody sprinkles her script with well-written female characters. As Leah, Thirlby supports her and moves furniture for her. She also does the best readings of the word ‘pants’ and ‘I know, right’ in the history of cinema. Vanessa’s slightly frosty demeanour ventures for need to have a child with sane amounts of caution. Janney plays Brenda as a sap with a Kristen Wiig outfit yet knows how to eviscerate anyone like she does in “The West Wing” in probably the film’s best scene. All three equally convince the audience that they’re the best parts of this movie in their moments onscreen.
The male supporting cast does wonders in this film too. J.K. Simmons as Juno’s dad Mac reinvents himself as the balanced, supportive parental cool from whom she gets her sense of humour from. Bateman as Mark Loring tries his best both to support his wife’s wishes to adopt while holding on to the youthfulness that Juno’s sparked within him. Cera knows how to convey anxiety only through his eyes – his face doesn’t move but it doesn’t need to. And despite seeing her at her worst, Cera’s Bleeker gives her the moment of tenderness when she needs it.
The trailers on the DVD include 27 Dresses who co-stars Jonathan from “30 Rock,” The Savages which I should have seen instead of Sweeney Todd and a digital copy promotion thing that ties-in with promoting Live Free and Die Hard.
Scott Pilgrim: A Bibliography
Un Chien Andalou (1927) – Starting in one place and ending in another.
Looney Tunes (1930-1969) – Pointed out by Brad Brevet. Fight captions, as well as Scott leaving through the window.
A Star is Born ’37 – Lights on a cityscape far-ish away ?
The Lady Eve (1941) – Barbara Stanwyck reveals her many – fictional – exes to her new husband on public transportation. In the original graphic novel, Ramona does this on the Yonge-Finch subway train. Ha!
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – Goofball bursts through painted backdrop. Also, love triangle between histrionic and ‘intellectual.’
The Searchers (1956) – Roxy Richter is Scar and Michael Cera is John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter in the same person?
Vertigo (1958) – John’s Ferren’s thin white whirlpool. [ETA: Also, zoom in dolly out when Scott and Lucas Lee run to each other and fight.]
Pillow Talk (1959) – Split screen, especially in phone conversations.
Richard Lester‘s films (1964 – ) Jason Anderson interviewed Edgar Wright who talked about four critics who compared the movie to Lester’s films.
Eraserhead (1977) – The white screen.
Hausu (1977) – Asian schoolgirls, one of whom is named Kung Fu, and thus, kicks ass.
Star Wars (1977) – I can’t believe it took me days to realize the swords. Fucking duh!
The Last Waltz (1978) – Sex Bob Omb plays empty room. Also, Young Neil looks like a young Neil Young.
[ETA] Hair (1979) Medium (?) close-up of Knives Chau’s (Ellen Wong) image panning from right to left just like the Asian girl singing ‘Walking in Space.’
Phantom of the Paradise (1980) – Evil rock band contract deals. Final fight scene in rock venue where, SPOILER, both men technically die.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1989) – Scott apparently modeled between Ferris and the other guy.
“Seinfeld” (1990) – I didn’t know Jerry was gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Poison (1991) – A gay guy and a straight in sleeping in the same bed?
Riki-Oh (1991) – Hero fights hunks first before fighting skinny Asian dudes. What the fuck is up with that?
Dracula ’92 – Enemy evaporates at will?
The Big Lebowski (1998) Dream sequence portraying altitude and doors and love.
Rushmore (1998) – Dweeb in a love triangle between white girl and Asian.
American Beauty (1999) – But instead of roses, there’s a shower of hearts.
Fight Club (1999) – Protagonist fights many enemies and eventually has a fight with SPOILER himself.
High Fidelity (2000) – Pretentious CD store with rude customer service – the Sonic Boom people are nice, by the way – and movie about exes and the one true love.
Romeo Must Die (2000) – Guy uses girl to fight other girl, or the other way around.
ETA: Harry Potter (film series) (2001-2011) – Scott’s sister says ‘It’s been over a year since you got dumped by “she who will not be named.”‘
Gerry (2002) – Hazy desert scene. Dead white boy.
Phone Booth (2002) – By the way, there is no phone booth like that in Bloor and Bathurst.
“Arrested Development” (2003) – Apparently Michael Cera and the lesbian ex dated in a string of episodes.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) – Animation interludes depicting violent childhood. Also, fight between velvety voiced white girl and shout-y Asian. [ETA: Scott fighting Lucas Lee’s stunt doubles remind me of the Crazy 88.]
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) – Pirates are in this year!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Dweeb hooks up with girl who changes her hair colour a lot.
Shaun of the Dead (2004) – MegaScott kinda looks like Zombie Ed.
The Fantastic Four (2005) – Chris Evans. Good actor.
The Last Winter (2006) – CGI air animals? We’ve probably seen this before.
Superman (2006) – The unrecognizable Brandon Routh.
[ETA] Juno (2007) – Michael Cera probably loses his movie virginity for the first time here.
Let the Right One In (2008) – The snow and swings. Also, ovaries > balls.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – Jason Schwartzman kinda plays a superhero ?
Up in the Air (2009) – Anna Kendrick reuses her archetypal role as the younger but sane one.
Chloe (2010) – Movie about Toronto, awesome architecture, creepy phone calls.
Armond White is correct, okay? There are tons of movie references. If I wanna over-read these references, most of the recognizable are from movies made in the past decade, which means that these movies are worth referring to. Despite my pessimism, new movies aren’t so bad after all.
Yes, it underperformed at the box office, probably because of apprehensions, as Peter Martin points out, that the references do target the ‘video game generation.’ The first reference I pointed out is from 1927. I don’t know if that helps ‘people over 30’ to be herded into the theatres, but if I could see a relationship to pop culture before video games, hopefully someone else will.
- Michael Cera tries 2 revive his career by making a viral video with Tony Danza (hipsterrunoff.com)
FYC: Star Wars II Invented Emo
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?
(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?
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.