…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Natalie Portman

Seminal Video: The Evolution of…


…’Movie’ Dance! Michael Mirasol posted this on his Twitter feed.

1. I want to learn to Bande A Part dance because it looks fun and not difficult.

2. I can talk about the video’s omissions all hour, but the biggest is Mao’s Last Dancer, which features Chinese folk, ballet and contemporary.

4. I’d rather the montage also show Nina’s killer pirouettes or something from the fourth act of “Swan Lake.” And reminiscing from my cheerleader days, I tried doing some arabesques and toe touches. I sucked and I didn’t suck.

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Daughter: Leon The Professional


Luc Besson‘s Leon: The Professional is part of the ‘wave’ of crime movies from the mid-to-late 90’s that I’m hesitant to (re)visit because of its violent fan boy reputation. Though it’s respectably well-shot in the beginning, especially in its first cleaning – or assassination – scene perpetrated by its quick eponymous hero (Jean Reno). Although he’s a physically trained man in his forties, he’s also meek, childlike and his self-imposed isolation – in New York City nonetheless – doesn’t help in ironing out his quirks. And you know he’s lonely because there’s nondiagetic European accordion music in the background trying to get empathy out of the audience, exposing how dated and uneven this film’s tone could be.

Next door to Leon’s apartment is Mathilda (Natalie Portman, living with an abusive family situation. Buying groceries for herself and volunteering to buy Leon’s two quarts of milk, she arrives too late for her family’s massacre by the corrupt DEA officer Stansfield (campy Gary Oldman). The street-smart girl ignores the thugs bringing the bloodshed walks forward to Leon’s apartment, persistently asking to be let in while ringing the doorbell and crying. Leon finally relents, white light shining on her face, bringing the film’s first redeemable moment. This is one of the moments in the film that remind us of the way her face strongly evinces emotion in her future movies as an adult. She’s also intense when she attacks her violent or sexual lines with determination, smoothness and an uncanny maturity.

After opening the door for her, Mathilda gives Leon an ultimatum to let her live with him teach her how to clean, threatening him with her alternative – death in the hands of Stansfield. But in a way, entering his apartment is equally an ultimatum for her, feeling a nix of Freudian resentment towards her new father figure and his closed-up, workaholic, machine-like nature. Fortunately, she elbows her own version of childhood naiveté, allocating some well-needed play-time in their routine. They squirt each other with water or impersonating pop-culture icons, finally makes us understand that this movie is like what would happen if Jacques Tati directed an action film. And then the guns go satisfying blazing.


No Strings Attached


So the new Natalie Portman film No Strings Attached, her first outing after her probably Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan, is facing mediocre reviews. ‘It’s predictable!’ ‘All romantic comedies are predictable!’ ‘You’re a terrible person, Paolo!’ Ah, shut up. Yes, I concede that the movie gets crappier the more I think about it. For example, to my future children reading this – if you don’t cry or show emotion at my husband/your father’s ‘stupid thing’ of a funeral, but you cry for a guy, I will disown you. Nonetheless, I will give this movie a bone or four.

The cheerleaders in Adam’s (Ashton Kutcher) “High School Musical” esque show actually did high kicks. Like real cheerleader stuff. I can’t remember if they did stunts or flipping though.

There was a total of one realistic sex scene. I agree with Ebert that the multiple lead-ups to Adam and Emma’s (Natalie Portman) first consummation was pathetically ‘code era,’ and that their hair never fully get messy, but when they got there…Oh God, talking about realism in sex scenes in ‘film criticism’ is harder than anything else I’ve ever had to write. The aggression and the connection and hand-held camera capturing a long take and Emma’s (Portman) head practically buried in those pillows. Also, is that Kutcher with a normal person’s body? Congratulations to him. I imagine any other actor working out to the hilt if he was cast in this movie.

Natalie Portman’s relationships with male characters in her other movies aren’t necessarily romantic, and you can’t even say that about older, more respected actresses. She allows herself to be coupled in this film, and I’m one voice who believes that Kutcher and Portman make a decent onscreen couple. Also, her calling Joy and Lisa (Vedette Lim) ‘pumpkins’ is classic.

There’s also one scene with Adam and Lucy (Lake Bell) who bump heads while trying to kiss. I can’t remember the last time I saw that.

The supporting characters. They’re really letting Abby Elliott as Joy nail a Drew Barrymore impersonation? When the trailer was out around Christmastime (someone correct me on this), I thought that the movie was built around Adam’s line ‘You fight like a hipster.’ The film now seems like a free-for-all for the comediennes and actresses with or without comedy films under their belt. We probably have Portman to thank for the girl power, whose project includes producing female stoner movies and has Executive Producer credits to this film. Mindy Kaling’s trash talking humour, her character Shira telling Emma that she’s going to avoid her for being so depressing. We have Greta Gerwig successfully convincing us that her character Patrice is more sexually desirable than the then awkward Emma at one point in their lives. Other actresses include Talia Balsam, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell (playing neurotic middle management) and Olivia Lovibond, the latter two’s comedic talent were probably aided by the fact that this movie is my introductions to them.

There’s also Kevin Kline, playing ‘Great Scott’ Alvin or Adam’sfamous TV star dad, who almost steals the show through both the physical and delivery aspects of the comedy. 3/5.


I just tried to do…


…the Nina (Natalie Portman)  stretch. Not gonna happen. If there’s any reason for Portman to win an Oscar, it’s this.

ph. Fox Searchlight

[ETA on January 2011. The image above was one of the ‘linkouts’ of the day. I remember reading from the American Cinematographer how Libatique there were a lot of mirror shots, and that digital cameras hide themselves well, post or without post. I keep changing my mind about this movie, the technical aspects of it make me appreciate it more. Where’s the camera? p.s. I’m not really looking for the camera.]


TIFF: Black Swan


Black Swan fits director Darren Aronofksy’s other work, with an obsession with the body and performance, close-ups of Nina’s (Natalie Portman) feet and ballet flats being warmed up. There’s CGI, grainy digital photography, and uncompromising close-ups of her face. Like other Aronofsky’s protagonists, she embraces quick success without anticipating her antagonists, like rival Lily (Mila Kunis), choreographer Thomas (Vincent Cassel) Nina’s mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), and all the voices in her head.

ph. TIFF

The actresses also do great work here. Portman interestingly interprets her character as a virginal girl without confidence, panting at every step, obeying Aronofsky’s pendulum swing vision of her character. It’s probably the first time I’ve seen Portman attack cruelty in its basic form, scratching and clawing away at herself, as if a demon is possessing her. Kunis is smooth and elastic as she dances and seduces everyone, deserving the Marcello Mastroianni award she got this past week.

The inconsistent characters, are my big complaint. I don’t mean the other dancers’ double pronged admiration and bitchitude, from what I heard normally directed to women from women. I’m talking about malleable Nina, mentally unready to become Swan Queen, despite having a ‘flash’ of it in her. Or how the ‘prick’ Thomas still has his job. We are perceiving them through Nina’s warped state of mind, but I’m not sure if that’s justifiable enough. The film’s ending feels invigorating, but still, 3/5.

p.s. Just realized that the douche-y blonde guy from Hot Tub Time Machine is one of Nina’s dancing partners.


FYC: Star Wars II Invented Emo


StarWars2(ph. OutNow)

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?

StarWars2(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?

StarWars2

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.

And yes, I’m still drunk.