Here are other 2012 movies I reviewed for Entertainment Maven.
Richard Gere puts his ass on the line in Arbitrage. Just let the self0importance of that title sink in. It has two ridiculous (sub)-plots. the first one involves Gere’s character cheating on his wife, played by Susan Sarandon. I don’t care if he’s diddling some French model playing a French artist, you just don’t cheat of Susan Sarandon. The second ridiculous plot point is their dumb son, but I actually got a kick out of that. I only sympathize with half of the rich characters I watch and this is one of the many cases where I wouldn’t mind if they died in a fire. The cast is aces however, including Brit Marling as the smart daughter who unfolds Gere’s lies and Tim Roth who has the same goals as I do if I was in the movie.
The Raven is one of two movies where a de-glam John Cusack partners himself with a beautiful damsel in distress with questionable taste in men. The damsel is Alice Eve, who got unjustly lambasted for her apparently lacklustre performance in Men in Black 3D. It’s hard keeping up with three great actors, even if it is a 3D blockbuster. This time around, Alice Eve was just lovely.
Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On is a movie that reminds me that like Thure Lindhart’s character, I’m accidentally hilarious when I’m trying too hard to be sexy. And that yes, I am sleeping with too many men who smoke crystal meth without having partaken in the drug myself. I already have insomnia to make me seem slurry and haggard, I’m not taking an illegal substance to speed up those processes. But just like the protagonist, it’s hard to just stay away. The gay world is a world of rejected human beings and we don’t want to inflict that on people we love. We also don’t choose the people we love, anyway.
I also watched the random movie at a few of Toronto’s many local film festivals. For the Planet in Focus film festival, screening movies that bring attention to our environmental problems, I saw two movies, Dead Ducks and Keep in Rolling, that both tackle oil consumption.The former is about how the Alberta oil sands are killing ducks from both sides of the border while the latter is about the outrageous car culture in Europe. I seriously thought that only North America and Asia had this problem.
For the imagiNATIVE Film Festival I mostly saw short films, like Alexus Young’s anecdotal Where We Were Not, a poetic animated movie about the director experiencing police brutality in the Prairies. The festival’s Witching Hour Shorts program, the closest thing I got to TAD this year, featured many genres like science fiction and horror, my favourite one being The 6th World. The thing about these small, local film festivals is that the urban elite are the only people who catch these obscure titles. Thankfully The 6th World is in some specialty internet channel or something.
Oh and I also watched new shit like Life of Pi And I kinda don’t feel like spending money now so movies will all be enjoyed in my bedroom.
As I’ve said before, Andrew’s 90’s Showdown was a baby that was meticulously conceived and prepared by its multiple fathers. We sent a list – I tried rigging the polls by sending in as many obscure performances as possible, as any douche-y movie lover should. But alas, that didn’t work.
Then we compared each other’s lists from where we had to rank names. I was tired when I got to the actors so I ranked them – they were easier enough. The women, whom I dived into first, were a more daunting task for me so I wrote down if I liked or disliked their performances. I have no idea if this is a scientific method or not – maybe I get juiced up or tired by the time I got to certain parts of the list. The exercise helped me judge as soberly as possible, hoping Andrew despite some of my choices not making it. But instead of letting those words rot in a word file somewhere only to be deleted, I’m posting what I wrote and polished it as much as I can.
But before we get to that here’s Andreas’ own list. His is better, but I’ll still post mine even though I’ve made lists like this before. This will be in series form because I don’t want to tl;dr you, as much as I resent the latter concept. And I can give you three days worth of material for a day’s ‘work.’ Starting from the performances I can only write now but in short form. Sadface.
Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic (1997): She can emit sexuality from behind Sandra Bullock’s puffy wholesomeness. She could do it. Are you going to be worried about The Paperboy now?
Meryl Streep in Music of the Heart (1999): A performance list without Meryl? A list with Meryl but with this instead of Madison? Affirmative action? Her performance here proves that she can step on kittens and get away with it.
Mina Mohammad Khani in Ayneh (1997): Iran needs a star system. We can start with the cast of A Separation then any actress Jafar Panahi has worked with.
Claire Danes in Romeo + Juliet (1996): Probably the weakest of the cast, yelling just as much as DiCaprio, but she brings Angela Chase’s self-awareness here. She’s also given us the greatest rendition of the ‘What’s in a name’ soliloquy. Besides, she’s better than Norma Shearer – Disclaimer: I like Shearer but not as a Juliet.
Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures (1994): She has one of the best cries in Hollywood but if this performance was included the bracket would have had too much of her.
Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 (1991): Really? No one backed me up on this? Is this world coming to an end?
Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions (1999): As devilish as she can be. More effective than Glenn Close if I dare say again.
And here are performances that I got to talk more lengthily about.
Natalie Portman in Leon and Beautiful Girls (1994 and 1996): I’m no going to pretend that I’m her biggest fan now. She got away with stuff that Chloe Moretz is being punished for. But still, her early performances showed potential. As Mathilda she tells a hotel receptionist that she’s Leon’s (Jean Reno) lover. As Marty she makes a deal with an older neighbour without making herself look too seductive. That control of showing maturity at such a young age is always surprising.
Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking (1995): Sarandon’s Sister Helen Prejean is an altruistically calming influence to a film dominated by Sean Penn’s energy. She absorbs information about Matthew Poncelet (Penn), her rebuttals acknowledging his prejudices as alien concepts without condemning him. She’s therefore the audience stand in, not judging Matthew even though we could be. She figured in a low place in my earlier lists, having not seen this movie since high school but expressing so much in one line brought her higher.
Catherine Keener in Living in Oblivion (1995): Her character, Nicole embodies of different ways to deal with sadness and wrathful misandry, whether she tolerates Chad Palomino (James LeGros) or joyfully eviscerates him. On the opposite side of that spectrum is Keener dressed as a bride, a metaphor fitting for indie perfection, an appointment that does seem unusual yet fully convincing if you think about it.
More tomorrow, starting with someone who undoes a cover-up.
I actually won passes to Go Speed Racer Go! at a CINSSU Free Friday Film screening but I was in college and busy and lazy so I didn’t. Norman Wilner of NOW Magazine has talked trash about this movie for at least a week now, but judging from the trailer, and as a gay man, the art direction in Speed Racer doesn’t offend me. Yet.
Speed Racer is playing at the Toronto Underground Cinema at 7 at night as part of the Andrew Parker’s Defending the Indefensible series. Proceeds go to charity.
I first saw Thelma and Louise in its entirety on AMC. Rape scenes should make the most of us uncomfortable, but what makes this one so unsettling is how its choereographed and lit. Medium close-up of Thelma (Geena Davis), medium close-up of salivating skeevy rapist Harlan, close-up of Thelma’s bum, close-up of feet as the two go on an unconsented paso doble, all of them back-lit. The third thing on the list got to my nerves because we’re watching the light fabric of her dress caressing her body, if you know what I mean. I haven’t watched the channel in a long time, but it has a glare-y finish than other channels, this scene is bright and for that matter the desert scenes are more arid. The second time I watched this was in CTV, and this time there’s less lighting in that scene and I notice the lighthing elsewhere.
Oh, and that Thelma’s body is depicted in the same objectified way when she makes love to a hitchhiker JD (Brad Pitt). Both men exploit her. I’m not sure how aware director Ridley Scott is of the similarities between the two scenes.
Jonathan Rosenbaum talked about the unpredictable verve that Davis and Susan Sarandon being in their nuanced performances, which matches the film’s electric unpredictability. The average shot length of the film is slightly more than six seconds and we can actually hear the dialogue, so the film is THAT set up. But the film produces a documentary tone with the cars and trucks along the road, like when the titular Thelma and Louise (Sarandon) make a pit stop while escaping the crime scene. On the interstate, their conversations with JD get interrupted by the trucks honking while they’re passing by.
Speaking of their first pit stop, there’s a lot of abject in this movie. Salivating men, vomit, the women’s faces bloodied or with stained make-up or dirty since they haven’t had a proper shower in forever, Thelma’s husband stepping on his pizza. Which also reminds me of their two transformations. One, that Thelma goes from being the one who has to hand over the money and dependence to Louise to being the gun-brandishing store robber. Two, that they came from dress-and-headscarf wearing Southern belles to women you’ve avoid if you happen to walk in to a Lynrd Skynrd concert, not that the latter is a bad thing, mind you.
I also noticed while screen capping the movie that the characters spend a lot of time talking on the phone, the women mostly talking to men (Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen). Unfortunately the women don’t hang up on time.