2011: My Week With Marilyn
Oy, this movie’s a mess. If I see another burnt light bulb again and go insane, it’s because of Simon Curtis’ My Week With Marilyn. The iconic Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) from the second she lands on England to work in the troubled set of The Prince and the Showgirl with (Michelle Williams), Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Dame Sibyl Thorndike (Dame Judi Dench), those light bulbs help to capture her image and aim to symbolize the fanfare around her but only shows how badly edited the movie is. Speaking of aesthetics, the cinematography is decidedly British, dulling the bright colors of 1956 movie making but it looks occasionally dewy and romantic.
I watched it expecting to experience the shadows that walked the hallways of those British studios in 1956. Marilyn, her arm cradled by her Method acting teacher Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker) while third assistant director Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) watches from behind. But neither Williams, Branagh, nor Julia Ormond who plays Vivien Leigh, capture these old essences, although it’s understandably hard for them to do so knowing how famous those characters still are. These actors’ voices are a bit deep for the characters they play and yes, I do want mimicry.
Let’s talk about Marilyn Monroe, the alter ego to Norma Jean Mortensen, the ineffable within the already ineffable. The closest that the latter is documented is in Monroe’s performance in The Misfits. Marilyn is the person on camera while Norma seems to be more of a blank slate. Williams portrays ‘Marilyn’ because she might be accused of playing herself if she fully tune out from emulating Monroe’s on-screen persona. It’s a kind of shorthand. But even in her attempts the poster for Prince has more chemistry that Williams and her co-stars. And despite getting Marilyn’s comic timing right, there’s too little in her performance that warrants the other characters’ praise of her. Her performance also has its share of multiple personalities, talking in Marilyn’s well-known whisper-y voice then dropping it in the next sentence.
There are moments where this bipolarity works. They’re filming an easy scene yet Marilyn fumbles lines. When Larry yells ‘Cut!’ she hides behind the door, sweat filling her brows. But when they do another take, she glows from afar. These transitions happen in seconds, Williams showing Marilyn’s professionalism. Then Larry tells her to ‘be sexy,’ making her eyes and lips quiver like Monroe’s, breaking down. In a way, Williams is micro-acting here, stretching and moving her body express both the sorrow and the joy. Leaning her head forward as Marilyn nervously tries to get another line right, or a hand gesture while spending alone time with Colin. If it’s not the real Marilyn, it’s the studied performance of a mid-century lady who finds her life’s mission to seduce either in person or on-screen. In a way she can represent the 21st century infantile ego, someone who’s been comforted into thinking that she can take her own time for the sake of professionalism. Someone who is addicted to constant praise and yet is never satisfied by it. We’re seeing this woman’s insecurities, putting her in a situation where she’s placed to work to be her best for these issues to come out, as an actress who’ll never know how great she is.
Hat Trick Girls
Doing this post on a whim. Much more actresses have one or two great movies a year, but due to realizing that the great Claudia Cardinale has been in three great movies in 1963, I decided to do some time-wasting and find out which other women have had the same luck.
Yes, I’ll admit that I’ve only seen Cardinale and Williams’ full list while the rest are below because I’ve seen one or two of each actress’ movies. Many of the women on the list are also here because of their supporting roles. It’s hard to carry a great film. Can you imagine trying to do the same for three?
Also, I know nothing about the silent era but I’m sure that I’ll eventually learn that the likes of Lillian Gish and Janet Gaynor have hat tricks under their CV’s, the latter winning the first Best Actress Oscar for three performances. It’s also harder to get names of actresses and movies belonging to world cinema. If I could only double myself and extend the hours of a day.
And yes, Williams is here because as much as I hate parts of Shutter Island, I know a lot of you love it. Although I’m sure her 2011 is looking better than her 2010. Here goes the list.
Olivia de Haviland – 1939 – (Gone with the Wind, Dodge City, The Private Lives of Elizabeth of Essex)
Barbara Stanwyck – 1941 – (The Lady Eve, Meet John Doe, Ball of Fire)
Grace Kelly – 1954 – (Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, The Country Girl)
Claudia Cardinale – 1963 – (8 1/2, The Leopard, The Pink Panther)
Faye Dunaway – 1974 – (Chinatown, The Towering Inferno, Four Musketeers)
Minnie Driver – 1997 (Princess Mononoke, Good Will Hunting, Grosse Pointe Blank)
Patricia Clarkson – 2003 (Dogville, The Station Agent, All the Real Girls)
Michelle Williams – 2010 – (Shutter Island, Blue Valentine, Meek’s Cutoff)
A factor in making this list involved representing each decade, one actress per decade to be more frank. I chose de Haviland over Bette Davis’s movies in the same year, Kelly over Marilyn Monroe‘s 1953 (it hurt me to do that), Driver over Kirsten Dunst (Driver might be disqualified since her involvement in Mononoke only came through 1998/1999, when Miramax released the film stateside, but Dunst 1999 films are guilty pleasures that I can’t admit to the public yet) or Clarkson over Maggie Gyllenhaal’s 2002. Besides, this post is a picture overload already, as is most of my posts in this blog.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s no actress in the list that has an 80’s hat trick. Great roles and movie seemed spread out generously among the Meryl Streep generation and the Brat Pack girls.
Lastly, I’ll make a list for the boys and the directors, or make hat trick lists for consecutive years or movies, but only if you ask nicely. Or better yet, if you could do the rest 😛
- Princess Mononoke – Japanese Anime (8thumbsup.wordpress.com)
TIFF: Meek’s Cutoff
Set in 1845 and based on a real man who helped people cross the Oregon trail, the images of Kelly Reichardt‘s new effort Meek’s Cutoff leaves its audiences breathless. Meek (Bruce Greenwood) and three families cross a river, where the blues and yellows of this riverside scene contrast so beautifully, the first of many visual contrasts within the film like as the bright costumes and the night and day scenes. Each actress, actor and prop is meticulously placed within the film’s full screen format. The 1.35:1 aspect ratio, an interesting choice for Reichardt, emphasize the vertical lines and shapes lost in most wide-screen films today, the latter only emphasizing the landscape and horizontal divisions within the picture plane.
We also have, in this first sequence, Thomas (Paul Dano) carving the word ‘lost’ on a rock, outlining the uncertainties of the frontier, the families becoming withered, pessimistic and doubtful of their guide. Then Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams) finds an ‘Indian’ – she’s at first tries to shoot him but eventually becomes his ally and advocate in the group, thinking that the elegiac figure can help the group better than Meek can.
The movie sometimes doesn’t engage its audience, with its commitment to show the arid silences between wagon treks. However, the images and the subtle performances from a cast that includes Zoe Kazan, Will Patton and a firm Christian played by Shirley Henderson make watching this a memorable experience. 5/5, but I was balancing out the 2’s and 3’s I was seeing.
Late Thoughts: “Shutter Island”
Riku Writes his second post on “Shutter Island.” This may or may not be a good response to both posts. Unlike him, I haven’t read the book and I should. I’m just gonna talk about elements in this movie that I liked and disliked. I saw it through a free promotional screening through CINSSU the day before it came out, and it’ll take a lot of convincing for me to actually pay towatch it again.
That the second Rachel Solando (Patricia Clarkson) never really gets explained in Scorsese’s movie, and don’t you dare take that away from me. That shot of Teddy Daniels’ (Leonardo di Caprio) face while he’s drugged and dreaming, white as lightning. That Dolores (Michelle Williams) looks beautiful even though she wears the same fucking yellow dress. That Ted Levine. That the score crept into my spine and I don’t care if I heard it before. That sometimes I think the star rating system is bullshit for putting “interesting failure” below “flawed first feature by an up and coming autuer.” That Elias Koteas incites both my lust and wanting to build a time machine to see a young Robert de Niro, even if he intended to scare me.
That if Quentin Tarantino made the same movie, people would have fawned over it. That it would still have had Oscar nominations if it was released last year, and now that opportunity is gone.
That infuriating, clichéd high angle shot when he finds out that his children are dead. That not even Martin Scorsese can come up with a good ending to a horror movie, because when was the last time you saw that? That Scorsese and/or Lehane didn’t really need to incorporate the Holocaust into this movie. That the premise of the story was unconvincing. That Teddy Daniels’ arc from contempt against the insane to sympathizing with them was, again, unconvincing. That you knew the ending to this movie by just watching the trailer. That even by knowing the ending, would it still be worth it just for the ride? That seriously, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino knows how to use the n-word in a movie better than you do, and that’s shameful in so many ways, and if you use that word again, I will cut you.
p.s. NicksFlickPicks writes a more articulate version of most of the stuff I say above.