The Cabin in the Woods
Edited from its original form. This was intended to be my observations of the movie’s first few scenes with some criticism here and there.
Reviews of The Cabin in the Woods have been generally positive, although there have been voices of dissent here and there. Whichever side of the fence they’re on, they don’t write about its plot except for a basic premise. There were the few I’ve read and the many that have advertised themselves as spoiler-free. I’ll do my best for this to not be that kind of post even though I’m the last person ever to see it. But nonetheless, let’s get this party started.
It starts with two women in their college dorm, the scene continuing with one character introduction after another. Jules (Anna Hutchison), recently changing her hair and personality, tells Dana (Kristen Connolly) to ditch her Soviet economics books and get into a weekend getaway mode. Jules’ also takes her boyfriend Curt with a C (Chris Hemsworth), a guy who dresses like jock who’s actually a smart sociology major. Out of this triumvirate, only Hemsworth can pull of the dialogue’s wit. Hemsworth is also able to recommend what books Dana should be reading while sounding like he knows what he’s talking about.
Hutchison and Connolly, however, seem to be too deadpan – Drew Goddard‘s blase direction doesn’t always help with this neither. But those two are interestingly cast, Hutchison’s face and demeanour seemingly too mature, her gaze too penetrating to really be the dumb blond persona that Jules has taken on for the weekend. Just as intended. Connolly is more fresh-faced so we’ll know that she’s last girl, whether she lives or not.
Anyway, apparently they’re the only people awake on campus despite it being a sunny spring day, or that they’re the last people to leave on their breaks. Curt offers his cousin’s cabin for the weekend getaway place and Jules asks him to invite his friend Holden (Jesse Williams of Grey’s Anatomy fame) so that Dana doesn’t feel left out. Marty (Fran Kranz), who looks like he’s going to act like a gargoyle for the rest of the movie, usurps into this otherwise picture perfect group and before they venture out into the titular cabin.
The journey towards the rural hideout is already filled with dread (why do young people in movies still go out in the woods to party even though we all know that most of them are going to die?). Being unable to find it on a GPS, they make a stop at a gas station and its attendant, Mordecai (Tim de Zarn), appears through a perfunctory shock cut. He calls Jules a whore, and a fight between the group and Mordecai almost break out, but they decide to leave him and have their fun as planned. As they drive their Winnebago through a tunnel a CGI bird flies in the sky, only to be stopped and killed by an invisible electric grid, reminding us that there are another set of characters in this story.
The movie actually begins with a mundane shot of a coffee vending machine that two white coats Sitterson (Oscar nominated Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Studio 60’s Bradley Whitford) use. Joined by the pencil-pushing Lin (Amy Acker), she worries about the day’s operation, although Sitterson smugly reassures her that they haven’t had a glitch since ’98. The two men leave her stranded, driving out with their cart within a large – public or private? – facility whose operation involves the characters who are cabin bound. We don’t know why they’re doing this or why they choose those kids. The same clunkiness permeate here as well, shot too close and lit too dirtily than I would expect in a scene featuring workplace humour. It also seems like the actors on this side work Whedon’s dialogue better throughout the movie…just like Curt does….and it is his cousin’s cabin. Despite of the imperfections here, Whedon and Goddard do start dropping pieces of the puzzle this early on.
It has the usual setup of young people discovering things hidden beyond the borders of civilization or revealing a character’s family secret. But what I like is that these characters challenge each other, the ones in the facility wondering, just like we do, how these kids will slip into which mess. The characters in the cabin, however, test each other on whether they’ll advance on each other sexually or be more modest towards each other like Dana and Holden does.
The movie is enigmatic and works its way into being character based but it didn’t really win me over until two of the characters find their way to fight back. When a certain scene happens the sounds of it make me feel like Whedon and Goddard had smiles on their faces while writing and making it. But that defining moment, coming in so late, and the movie’s hype itself, makes me cautious on whether to embrace it. Either way, the movie’s second hour makes the rest more bonkers and fun. 4/5
- The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2011) (faircomments.wordpress.com)
2011: We Need to Talk About…
I’m wishing that We Need to Talk About Kevin, the movie based on the Lionel Shriver bestseller, came out on DVD already so I can share with you the film’s first two images. The first one is of a translucent white curtain slowly being blown by the air. The second of an inevitably erotic nature, of muscle squashing together tightly, painted red by tomatoes and tomato juice, those bodies ion the streets that we see from the air in the Tomatina festival in Spain, one of its participants being our protagonist Eva Katchadourian (Tilda Swinton). Seeing these I inevitably compare this work of Lynne Ramsay’s to artist-turned director Steve McQueen’s, both seemingly having the same meditative pace and construction. The movie doesn’t live up to those expectations although we get a few visual treats – Eva hiding behind carefully stacked Campbell Soup cans, jagged ones of meeting her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly), her troublesome six-year-old son Kevin (Jasper Newell) making her office room wallpapered by maps into a ‘special’ Jackson Pollock of a mess – to clarify I’m not a Pollock hater but I would equally freak out if my kid dripped and shot paint all over the walls – and countless ones where mother and son (the teenaged version played by Ezra Miller) awkwardly share opposite sides of the same uncomfortable space. Eva, and sometimes Kevin, live in middle American kitsch suburbia, these poppy images drowned under fluorescent blandness. These images satisfy, the rest of the compositions mixing the elfin Swinton with middle American motifs, an unlikely pair that we get used to.
But I keep going back to the first two images, the second set pushed to the back burner as the happiest moment of Eva’s life while the first is the gateway and culmination of her worst. The movie’s intertwining plot lines mostly show us that her worst moments continue. Her new, shabbier house is often vandalized, surrounded by distant neighbours, their suspicious children and the occasional Jehovah’s Witness missionary, oblivious to her eternal damnation. But the movie also return to her relative misery as a wife/mother of two in a rich neighbourhood, their house funded by her best-selling travel books. She’s the town’s pariah, having to apply for a lowly travel agent job while her skeletal face gets clocked by another housewife after her job interview. We find out why the townspeople hate her so much as she has to, out of obligation, visit him in jail. When her family was intact, there seemed to be an alliance between Kevin and Franklin while Eva asks for the sympathy of her daughter, which he gets. But in her present situation, mother and son are stuck together.
Despite the images, this adaptation, as a medium, can’t help but be more one-sided than I imagine the novel to be. We the audience see Kevin as a baby alone with Eva – she takes his stroller to a construction site to drown out his incessant cries as opposed to, you know, feeding him or changing him or whatever actual good mothers should do. Then he magically stops crying when daddy comes home. She even tells him that she would be in France if he wasn’t born, these impulsive words heard by the disapproving Franklin. Speaking of changing, six-year-old Kevin is seen wearing diapers, and eventually we discover that she has to accidentally injure him in order for him to be potty trained. Until this section of the movie Eva seems like a passive character but even with punitive action she can’t discipline the boy or make him be nice to her. There is an exception when, after the hospital visit, she reads “Robin Hood” to her child, only realizing that hell take up an archery obsession that eventually drives her crazy. As the torture continues to his teenage years, Kevin giving her the cut eye to let her know that something would be amiss in the house for which he’s responsible. There’s also a sequence of her as she takes teenage Kevin for a golf and dinner date, when he combats her every attempt of small talk, Miller delivering each line with vehemence as Swinton is exquisite even while reacting. But I keep replaying the dialogue in that sequence in my head, since there are possibilities that his words aren’t that mean, that he’s just holding up a mirror to her hypocrisies and performed motherly warmth.
There’s also this unnecessary nihilism to the movie, especially with introducing Eva’s daughter. The movie, especially with its flashbacks and forwards, makes us wait for what he does that puts him in jail and for why her daughter has to wear an eye patch and the way the movie develops makes us feel that these events will be obscenely portrayed. This also makes me curious about how parents of juvenile criminals in reality are treated because it can’t be as bad and extreme as this. It is about the labourious plastering of how Kevin affects Eva. I’m not necessarily asking for a sugar-coating of the grisly subject it’s as if Ramsay and those involved in this movie are making it more difficult to reach these characters’ and environment’s humanity.
Best Shot: Snow White and…
Walt Disney and crew’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, this week’s featured movie in Nathaniel’s Best Shot series, doesn’t really suggest images to me but acceleration. There’s this slowness to their movements but there’s this jolt of urgency to them as the movie progresses. The characters are also the only solid blocks of colour, the opposite of their Medieval-styled ornate surroundings. Here are some of my favourite shots.
Ok, this image is more of a static and and I didn’t even feel like including this because it feels like I’m just repeating my Black Narcissus best shot. Springtime is for lovers and Disney’s version puts us smack dab in the middle of the story as opposed to taking us to Snow White’s parents, etc. I know you know the story but the original Grimm Brothers’ tale is about Snow White’s growth as a domestic and sexual being, as well as the Evil Queen being Snow White’s mother and the Prince being the father, if I haven’t ruined your childhood yet. Anyway, this shot reminds me of the movie’s operatic structure, this tenor complementing Snow White’s coloratura. There’s also the Medieval costume’s drapery being very creamy throughout the film, influencing how we see these characters’ movement and posture. He’s not as effete as most of the Disney princes but those shoes look like they can walk on water.
Just like her suitor’s footwear, Snow White represents the daintiness of womanhood that earlier literature – and 1937 counts as ‘early’ – propagates, going through the woods and surviving while wearing pumps. She glides on surfaces instead of touching them like normal humans. She finds refuge from her homicidal (step)mother in the most hopeful of places. However it’s strange how these strangers can carve wood for their houses but find no time to dust heir house. Digging all day is not an excuse. It’s also more infuriating that her ragged state while shining the Queen’s Palace’s front steps is framed as slavery but cleaning for a bunch of dudes is totally ok. But we’ll give her brownie points for venturing into the cottage on her own and leveraging her lodgings and influencing the dwarfs’ eating habits. But that still feels codependent.
But can I really begrudge such people, even if they scare me more now than I did when I was a child? The dwarfs, by the way, probably start the tradition of fairy tale creatures as surrogate husbands, later prototypes of which include the original “Peter Pan.” This shot is my best shot simply because it will begin my quest to decide which dwarf is which. Doc, Dopey and Grumpy are the most constant characters so they’re the easiest to tell but to know the others I had to look into their eyes, which is nearly impossible if they’re moving too fast and freaking out while they’re imagining a monster sleeping in their beds. Thank God I eventually used the pause button. Also, this shot is one of the few examples that show how these characters have no bones in their bodies. They’re swift yet also graceful.
And finally the shot of the Queen. This scene is the Wicked Stepmother’s Lady MacBeth moment, having to take away her own femininity to make herself do the evil deeds that she believes must be done. The hoarseness within the voice actress becomes externalized, her slim figure becoming more brittle. This also baffles me after this recent rewatch because she is getting herself ugly to defeat the young woman more beautiful than her. Eventually she poisons the princess, their only onscreen encounter which is surprisingly not hostile.
Bad-ish Movie: Project X
A dirty-mouthed, homophobic high school kid named Costa talks directly to the video cam in front of him about the titular Project X, when he’s throwing what he hopes is ‘the best house party ever’ for his introverted, lanky friend Thomas Kob (Thomas Mann).
The camera, held by a conspicuous goth, follows both kids as well as every character he comes across, like Thomas’ parents who, going out-of-town, are confident that no house party will happen because he’s a ‘loser.’ But the turn of events are going to prove these adults wrong, because as the kids do their alcohol shopping they learn that Miles Teller is going too.
For some reason youths will go to any party before asking who is organizing or who it’s for, which I actually like because these children, celebrating and illegally drinking together, are less clique-y than my generation ever was. There are one or two kids, including the goth and the Thomas and Costa’s overweight and more awkward friend J.B., who are outcasts but they’re still allowed in.
When they actually see the celebrant, they stop the Muzak blaring from state of the art speakers – the great soundtrack includes Animal Collective, which, thank you – sing him the birthday song. It’s that one decrescendo after a series of well choreographed scenes going off in different parts of the block. It’s the right amount of organized chaos.
And when the music goes back on, we see people having a lot of crass fun and even if I watched this during a sober-timed matinée, I couldn’t help but root for the kid and the booze fest around him. It’s nice to see him transform from a ‘nobody’ to someone to cheats on his childhood sweetheart with some new bimbo. But in any circumstances, the movie’s music and the smoke and drug haze makes its audiences join in on the fun. Nobody wants to be a party pooper.
But the Todd Phillips and Joel Silver produced and Nima Nourizadeh directed party comedy begins in crass-ness and ends there with a riot breaking out. There’s just too much misinformation about collective outbursts for me that the movie’s association of the act with the ‘fight for your right to party’ generation seems condescending, vapid and vulgar. It’s ends up saying that kids haven’t evolved or have no thinking, as if all we or the young ones do is riot, destroy and have tantrums when we don’t get what we want. 1.5/5
- Todd Phillips PROJECT X Still Rocking The Joint With Second Full Trailer! (thepeoplesmovies.com)
Bergman’s The Virgin Spring
The Virgin Spring seems to ask: Why are teenage girls perpetually dumber that we expect them? Tore (Max von Sydow) sends his daughter Karin (Brigitta Pettersson) out on a simple errand but within her little pilgrimage she does things that common sense would tell the audience not to do.
Why would she go into a dark forest without hesitation or go on without her escort? Why would she let herself get distracted by suspicious looking men?
This movie seems different from Ingmar Bergman‘s later, more excellent films because of its straightforward approach towards storytelling, but he comes up with a great formula nonetheless. He compartmentalizes every part of the narrative, the script firing off one section or character evenly.
And I know that Hollywood rules don’t apply to him but I also somehow applaud his decision to show a graphic sexual assault but not a murder. In 1960.
It has a straightforward enough of a message but we can also dig for the complexities within this cautionary tale. We can say that this movie exposes the arbitrary and cruel nature of violence, as she’s taken away without warning.
Instead of saying ‘bad things happen to people,’ we can say that God punishes a girl for her lack of judgment, innocence, gullibility, altruism and obliviousness.
They aren’t necessarily vices but I assume that contemporary audience’s eyes see her qualities as flaws working against her survival. We’re not looking at her merely as a victim because a victim is a blank slate and she is not.
And as much as it is about Karin it’s also equally about the people around her, and through them Bergman finds room for complex character studies within this simple movie. An example is Karin’s more beautiful yet pregnant escort Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom).
In the earlier part of their journey they argue about Karin dancing with the father of Ingeri’s child, being doubtful of anyone’s purity. She leaves Karin for a while, making a pit stop at a cabin and then running away to follow Karin from a distance.
Ingeri inadvertently watches as Simon and his cohorts assault her. Keeping her pregnancy in mind, she also behaves as if constantly troubled, and being a constant survivor doesn’t help her guilt and powerlessness.
There’s also Tore and his reactions towards the news of her daughter’s violent murder. As luck would have it, Karin’s murderers would ask to lodge in his home. He avenges her but his act doesn’t satisfy him.
The titular spring appears where her body is found, a sign of her family’s redemption. But since the movie has gotten to the point in depicting Tore’s part of the story, it shows a family with one less child, a community broken from a future that could have been.
- My 15 Favourite Moments in Ingmar Bergman Movies (via Southern Vision) (manonmona.wordpress.com)
TIFF Hangover: Fish Tank.
Sleep deprivation in 2009 would probably have made me wonder ‘What is this HORSE doing in Fish Tank?!’ But the day before this year’s festival’s kickoff might be the perfect time to watch this to prepare for Michael Fassbender and Andrea Arnold‘s new works. This movie also has the funniest one liners and might be the only Criterion that features a Cassie song.
Nick wrote that Katie Jarvis should have been nominated for an Oscar, which my friends doubted because she was playing ‘herself’ here. I’ll never know what ‘herself’ is, but it’s probably the only time I’ll see an actress convey emotion even when her back is towards the camera. Her performance, the imagery and even the horse adds to its novelistic feel.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Films with cartoon-y aesthetics are gaining more acceptability with the cult success of Scott Pilgrim, but movies have tried to venture on that road twenty years ago. I’ve already written about Riki-Oh but now I’m here to talk about a more Hollywood and less bloody version, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The film includes a rat character – coming with an almost offensive Japanese accent – that I don’t remember in the cartoon’s I’ve seen as a child. This character is a gateway to the film’s origin story that includes his younger self as a small rat puppet doing karate moves, teaching his martial art skills to the turtles’ miniature versions and jumping on a guy’s face and this is already the greatest movie ever made.
Elias Koteas, a younger version of Robert de Niro and the rich man’s Christopher Meloni, is also in the movie, at a time when the world and Hollywood wasn’t so nice to him. How this man can be sexy and be able to pull off long, 90’s grungy long hair is beyond my feeble understanding. He and a love interest of a news reporter join the teenage ninja turtles in a retreat in the love interest’s farm-house for some meditation, for some reason. They’re freshening up before saving the rat from a Darth Vader lookalike of a samurai, ninjas and their ridiculously antisocial minions (Hey look! Teenagers with cutoff faded jeans playing pool!). Cue the slapstick martial arts standoffs that take place in the film’s New York mise-en-scene.
Seminal Television: SYTYCD Canada
This makes me want to watch contemporary dance performances more. Mia Michaels is a goddess and a genius. And if anyone can find the video of season 2’s top 4 girls dancing to Dr. Feelgood and choreographed by Sean Cheesman, that would be greatly appreciated. Not the British version, that one sucked.
In praise of Mirren and Coughlan
You might know her as The Queen or as Supt. Jane Tennison whoever but I will always remember Helen Mirren in the first movie I’ve seen her in, playing the title role in Teaching Mrs. Tingle. She’s the stereotypical teacher from hell, 90’s bowl cut, angry American accent and all.
Some film geeks might herald 1999 as a banner year but it was also a part of that decade, seeing the release of many teen movies. We have the headlining adult in this film but where do we get the young stars to get my attention? Why television, of course! At the time Katie Holmes, also coming out with Disturbing Behavior, was then one of successful “Dawson’s Creek” alums. There was also “7th Heaven’s” Barry Watson.
But let me present you Marisa Coughlan. While Leigh Ann Watson (Holmes) and Luke Churner (Watson) are ‘going to school or home so they won’t look suspicious,’ they assign Jo Lynn Jordan (Coughlan) to Tingle watch. So ‘aspiring actress’ Jo reenacts famous scenes from classic movies, passing the time. At one point she has to pretend to be Tingle when the married Coach Wenchell (Jeffrey Tambor) comes over, Jo sounding more like Isabella Rosselini instead of Mirren. She has to wear Tingle’s clothes and perfume, coming too vulnerable and close to the dark side.
I find one scene interesting, when Tingle finally makes Jo into believing that Leigh and Luke are having an affair behind her back and Jo readily believing anything she has to say. For argument’s purposes, Jo is being a bad actress in front of Tingle, saying the words ‘You’re lying’ so insipidly but the latter can’t see it. I don’t know how intentional this is on Coughlan’s part, or that writer-director Kevin Williamson can’t transition from one part of the scene to another, but I’ll call this subversion. Points for Miss Coughlan.
- Jarv’s Birthday Series: Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) (moonwolves.wordpress.com)
Lost and Delirious
In any film set in high school, the kids would be reading a text that the teacher would interpret blandly while an exceptional child muses on how that old text surprisingly has meaning in his or her young life. But in Lost and Delirious we have a teacher who exclaims the word LOVE! to sum up William Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra,” so giddy about the word even if it destroys those characters. I feel bad for her students and their parents, the latter working hard only to have wasted their money on such cheap erudition. ‘What if the movie is about characters who are oblivious on how love’s damages on those who feel it?’ No, I don’t think the film or its director Lea Pool is conscious enough of this disconnect.
Unfortunately someone’s rabbit ears have tunes into this Literature teacher, who for some reason only wants to teach her kids Shakespeare without mixing it up with texts from other forms and eras. Anyway, these rabbit ears belong to Paulie (Piper Perabo), the strong-willed rebellious orphan who is also one of half of a homosexual relationship between her and her roommate and Victoria or ‘Torrie’ (Jessica Pare). Torrie eventually breaks off the relationship and chooses a young man from the all male private school next door, sending Paulie in a downward spiral that’s veering into clichéd territory. When the new girl and third roommate Mary (Mischa Barton) tries to tell Paulie that Torrie’s not a ‘lesbian,’ she says ‘I’m not a lesbian. I’m Paulie in love with Torrie and Torrie is in love with me!’ renouncing the label and still believes that their young love is beyond gender. And most of us have been there, straight or gay, having to deal with the difficulty of rejection and she’s not carrying that burden well, knowing her family situation or lack thereof.
There are also moments of brilliance with these performances, when Perabo expressing herself as that troubled child, the words struggling from her mouth like it would with other young people. Pare as Torrie in the scene with the teary-eyed confession to Mary, telling the latter that her conservative family’s rejection might be more painful than leaving Torrie. Barton as Mary jogging with her awkward hands, receptive to the insular yet eye-opening private school world in which her father and stepmother have thrust her in. Graham Greene being more than the clichéd First Nations mystic, his character, a gardener, is a guy who flubs jokes and is a good father figure to Mary. But then the last scenes come and Torrie wears a suit like gay girls in movies do and pretends she’s Hamlet, making us feel ambivalent about tragedies we’ve seen too many times before.
- Ten Things You Didnt Know About Piper Perabo (socyberty.com)
Indefensible: The Butterfly Effect
Ashton Kutcher was once ‘Ashton Christopher,’ model. If you’re rich or in your first month of getting your Rogers Digital cable box, you’re not feeding starving children in Africa and instead watching old footage of ‘Christopher’ in Fashion Television Channel. You’d be watching a Donna Karan fashion show or something in the 90’s wrap up, they interview Janice Dickinson, then ‘Christopher,’ who just walked the show. Best Week Ever alleges that he and Josh Duhamel are the inspiration for Derek and Hansel. Dan Savage also takes credit for discovering him and introducing him to America, and with the former’s stroke of luck, he decides that he’s the soothsayer of future hot famous men and picks Trent Ford, whom you’ve never heard of and will never hear about again. Maybe it’s the foresight, but there’s a glimmer in ‘Christopher’s’ eye and this weird mouth thing that seems like he’s wanting to burst out from this image of the preppy, well composed young man into becoming the turn of the 21st century goofball. A few years later, he decides to show America that he is a serious actor as well with his star vehicle The Butterfly Effect, a critical failure, a relatively box office success, cult favourite. Cue Demi Moore, Twitter, “Two and a Half Men.”
I’ve only seen the first twenty minutes of it. Kutcher is almost absent and looks like ass, Eric Stoltz is terrible, the child counselor from Freddy Got Fingered is in it, shout outs to Dumb and Dumber and Se7en, I will never have children. Tonight at 7PM at the Toronto Underground Cinema, Criticize This’ Andrew Parker is showing The Butterfly effect as part of his Defending the Indefensible Series. Adam Nayman and Norman Wilner will be discussing the (de)merits of the film. And of course, the series continues because when you pay to watch these potentially terrible movies, you’re donating to charity. This month’s charity, appropriately enough, is the Red Door, sheltering women and children fleeing from domestic abuse.
- Movie star Ashton Kutcher training Jiu-Jitsu in Rio (suyanbjj.wordpress.com)
Harry Potter and the Deathly…
Oh hai, Mrs. Dursley (Fiona Shaw), staying in the car and not waving goodbye to her movie nephew Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe)! Oh hai, in this second to British acting royalty hanging on to this adventure for one more installment.
Since I already talked about the casting I might as well talk about how they performed. The good guys (Order?) are better actors than the bad guys (Death Eaters?). Maybe it’s because the Death Eaters are played by familiar faces from whom I expect more. Bellatrix (Helena Bohnam-Carter) and Voldemort (Raph Fiennes) behave so animalistically, like the snake crawling in the room, ending up in the wrong side of camp. Bellatrix is probably the most prominent Malfoy featured in this movie, since father (Jason Isaacs) and son (Tom Felton) only have a line or two, and that’s the conundrum of the rest of the supporting cast in their good or evil side. There are countless other actors listed on the iMDb page who didn’t even make an appearance in the movie.
The cameos for the good side include Neville Longbottom, telling the Death-Eaters who hijacked Hogwarts Express that he isn’t on the train. There’s Ron’s (Rupert Grint) mom (Julie Walters). Apparently we have to wait till July to hear her say the best line J.K. Rowling’s ever written. Brendan Gleeson also has a character here, except that he’s awesome – which is really code for I’m not tired of him yet. There’s nothing remarkable from the two male leads. But while hiding from Voldemort (Fiennes) and his fellow Death-Eaters, Emma Watson’s Hermione revisits her memories of urban and rural Britain without overdoing it. She’s just as busy freaking out over Harry’s safety, roaming the British countryside that’s better lit than it is in other movies. This backdrop also serves as the hiding places for the Horcruxes that they have to find and destroy before Voldemort finds them.
The big three also fight while they’re roaming the country, naturally as friends. It’s the most intense, ad hominem fight that they’ve ever participated on, but they’re gonna kiss and make up. As Ron says in one of the scenes in the beginning, the battle between Harry and Voldemort is bigger than just those two characters. The subtle script didn’t elaborate, thankfully. Harry is on the good side but, through the complex nature of his relationships with his friends, he isn’t virtue’s consummate symbol.
Norman Wilner called the film confident, explaining, like others who have written about the film, how it delves into the dark subject instead of looking into how quirky their magical world is. And the literally moving portraits that are the staple of the Hogwarts world and earlier films, but Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Harry are targets of these magical photographs. Dumbledore has to hide, closing some doors. While Harry, targeted under a new Ministry of Magic where Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) rules, is looking weary in a picture showing him as Public Enemy number one. There’s something sinister about magic now, or what it’s become.
Instead of the singular outlook that the earlier films have produced, this adaptation of Deathly Hallows tells the story through four lens at the most. There’s CGI-heavy artifice to show the spacious magical world, close-ups that feel handheld when the main characters are being emotional – the most memorable example is when Harry and Hermione do a little dance, darker shades showing flashbacks and a glossier cinematography when the three kids are chased into the forest. The transitions among these four aren’t jarring but they are distracting.
I’m the last person to see this movie, buying my ticket at the Carlton. Being almost late, I sat at the back, having to listen to the rickety projector that sounded like birds chirping. That fit well with the rural scenes. There was also a homeless drunk guy, who started banging his bags on the floor and yelling incoherently at the screen. The audience was relieved when he left.
Moments of 2010 movie fashion
The first look I’m gonna be talking about comes from my first movie in 2010, Martin Scorsese‘ Shutter Island. Yes, there’s Teddy Daniels’ (Leonardo di Caprio) wife (Michelle Williams) in yellow, but among many things we wonder why Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) has a better suit than Teddy, his supposed superior. Then Chuck stands there, his fake benevolence makes him seem sinister, and he reveals to Teddy and to the audience a pulpy ending we don’t want.
There’s also the literally punk ethos generations later. There’s gonna be another movie on this list that covers the same time period, the style The Runaways being the more stereotypical if you have to compare the two. But say, younger Cherie Curie (Dakota Fanning) taking style cues from David Bowie makes us all reminisce even if we’ve never been there.
It’s been known that Tilda Swinton can do anything, including wearing Jil Sander dresses and not look like a clueless model wearing a box. I am Love focuses on Emma Recchi’s (Swinton) facade of womanhood, or how lovers try to hide and find each other through cities and nature. And when Emma puts up her hair in a bun, it reminds me of Madeleine Elster. Emma Recchi (Swinton) is allowed little bits of freedom, but is she willing to risk it all?
Now we move on to chunky sweaters! Such as the staple in Never Let Me Go. The youth from Hailsham and the other special schools get to wear browns and greys while the people they watch on television are more wild and colourful. But I actually like this, since it shows the Armaniesque minimalism that was just as prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s. If you look Cher in Moonstruck, both films take the same approach in costume.
I’ll probably get hanged if I didn’t talk about Rodarte’s textural touches in Black Swan‘s costumes both onstage and off, the outer layers that ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) have to put on and peel off. I also like the scarves that both Nina and alternate Lilly (Mila Kunis) wear. Why are they dressing alike? What they wear outside reminds us that their season starts in winter, when hibernation (repression) is something that Nina can either adapt or rebel against.
One of the most painful cinematic experiences I’ve ever had is also one of my first in the newly erected Bell Lightbox. Fortunately, there’s the little moments of fashion in L.A. Zombie, and it helped that I knew that they were created by Bernard Wilhelm, one of the designers whose whole collections I wanna buy when I get rich enough. That and they’re worn by one fo the sexiest men to ever live, Francios Sagat. I hate this movie partly because of Catholic guilt. Are you happy I admitted that?
This year was the year of the blue dress, like the Balenciaga inspired ones in Attenberg and Amy Ryan’s ill-fitting yet fabulous dress in Jack Goes Boating, but the one that knocks it out of the park is Miriam’s (Rosamund Pike) in Barney’s Version. To be able to catch the eye of a just married man like the anti-hero Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) and come out like an angel doesn’t always have something to do with what’s inside a person.
Hey look, another hot guy in a suit. The titular hero of Carlos (Edgar Ramirez) audaciously wears white or light coloured suits while motorcycling through the streets of Beirut and other cities in the Middle East. He is smooth, a conundrum, presenting himself as a terrorist while looking like he’s spending money on a Saturday night. The film will also show him in Speedos and his birthday suit if that’s your thing.
There’s young Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) in a movie that might be the only one in this list to get an Oscar nomination for Best Costume, True Grit. Mattie chooses subtlety and fit, unlike the wild colours of the Ann Sheridan types or loose-fitting sloppiness of the men. She is the daughter of Frank Ross, a man of manageable wealth and assets. Although she dresses more ‘manly’ when she goes into Indian territory to find her dad’s murdered Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).
Rosamund Pike reappears in this last entry but for another movie where her talent is better used – made in Dagenham. The red Biba dress that Sally Hawkins’ character is originally her characters’ anyway. The dress reminds me of how Britain had power in the garment industry before the Central Saint Martin school came along. And even female politicians will talk to each other about clothes. Make of that what you will.
Jafar Panahi: The Mirror
Mina (Mina Mohammed-Khani), a little Persian girl with a broken arm, isn’t one of the school girls running across the pedestrians, on their way home. She’s left alone, waiting for her pregnant mother in front of her school gate. The Mirror doesn’t tell us how long she’s been waiting, the child’s anxiety of being left alone in a city warps her and the audience’s understanding of time. She clings on to an unknown woman’s black burqa to cross a street without stop lights. She tries to use a payphone and succeeds by having to climb the phone booth’s sides. This is just the first of her challenges, and when she goes out further into the city to go back home, the film proves how inhospitable Tehran could be especially to a second class citizen like her.
Then, while riding a bus, a man off-screen tells Mina to stop looking at the camera, making Mina react and yell that she doesn’t wanna act anymore, leaves the set, and crosses through Tehran to go home. She eventually runs into an old woman who was an extra in the film, telling the latter that she didn’t like her character, that she doesn’t like the crying because her classmates might think she’s too whiny. She doesn’t like the arm cast making her look clumsy. She doesn’t want being cast as a first grader. The camera then follows her as she asks for directions home, while trucks occasionally blocking our view of her.
In a way, Mina’s escape from the film set is her disavowal of limiting third world stereotypes. Her critiques of the crying, the arm cast and her youth are symbols of a supposedly debilitated Iran. It’s like Margo Channing fighting with Lloyd Richards. Of course, I still think this is all planned out, remembering that I did hear the director’s off-camera voice as the first break from the original storyline. The rest of the film can thus be seen as a set of disavowals and unintentional acknowledgments. The camera following her, latently to make sure she’s safely home, feels like a safety net to acknowledge that a person might not really be safe. Mina’s no longer acting but she’s performing independence. You can hear her voice through the mike attached to her body, but she might be far away, She no longer wants to be an actress, but she’s nonetheless a part of Iranian cinema.
- Iranian film maker goes on trial, rejects charges (omg.yahoo.com)
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.
That’s an image from a good, colourful montage, close-ups of objects that the partygoers in Waiting… use to party. Or a more condoning montage than that in Requiem for a Dream. They’re just as colourful as the decorations and wallpaper in the restaurant where all these partygoers all work.
There’s two major story arcs. The first is with Monty (Ryan Reynolds), the restaurant’s token studs, who has to train a younger kid named Mitch (John Francis Daley). He lets Mitch in on a game where the men show each other their genitals and call the loser a fag, which surprisingly isn’t offensive. He also shows Mitch different types of customers, women who love male waiter and will give them good tips, pervert frat boys and a bitchy lady (that’s the character’s name on the credits) who has a Pavlovian masochism to keep going to a restaurant with ‘terrible food.’ How small is this town? Typically, the movie almost made me not wanna eat in a restaurant, with all the terrible things they do to the food. But the crew’s gonna be there all day and night so that’s a Pyrrhic victory.
The second is Dean (Justin Long), a guy who had all the good grades in high school but is a member of the lost generation and hasn’t finished his diploma or degree yet. His mother tells him about Chett Miller, another guy he has gone to high school who has finished a degree in electrical engineering, and Dean’s still working his job as a waiter. And I can so relate to this stuff. This new ruins Dean’s day – this is the unique way he’s emasculated even if every other guy in the restaurant get emasculated if he hasn’t been already. There’s good news. Manager Dan (David Koechner) offers him to become an assistant manager – with that he’s ambivalent about. But then Chett Miller is Chekov’s gun within a movie that portrays a 24 hour span and will show everything that can happen to someone in a dead-end job.
The film has an impressive supporting cast that includes Dane Cook, Anna Faris and Wendie Malick who are typecast but their work is subtle for a sexually explicit script. The actors who play waiters are typically good-looking, Anna Faris’ ironically named Serena having to wear trashy blue eyeliner so that the audience can distinguish her as Amy’s (Kaitlin Doubleday) spunkier version. In general I call it redeemable and good enough for a ‘bad’ movie night.
- Take Three: Anna Faris (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
Halloween Post: Let Me In
In Let Me In, director Matt Reeves blatantly uses the original Swedish Let The Right One In as a starting point, but Rear Window references come within this film as well. The first references is Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) spying on his neighbors in his apartment complex with a telescope. The telescope scene reminds me of how many blue irises the film features. He spies on adults more sexually capable than he is – a good-looking, moody couple and a man lifting weights in his apartment. It’s strange them when Owen notices that the new neighbor, Abby (Chloe Moretz) and her father (Richard Jenkins) have their windows boarded up. The second reference is when Abby’s father pops up from a backseat of a car, attacking a young man while the train passes by. Lights from the train or the tracks flash and the screen turns red as an old man attacks. With the exception of these red flashes, blue and white dominate the film, but even those colours come off as somehow warmer in this film than the original. We’ll have Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser to thank for all of those.
Michael Giacchino created the film’s score, but it sounds more like Hans Zimmer. Owen’s mother is barely visible in the film. I guessed Ali Larter, but I got slightly mad when I found out that she is played by the talented Cara Buono.
The film exposes the source material’s themes without spoon-feeding it to the audience. Smit-McPhee’s Owen is more sickly compared to the twinky in the original, and Moretz’ Abby is more gross yet slightly more emotional than Lina Leandersson’s Elin. The tone of their interactions are more varied and have an arc, Owen’s voice creaking a bit when he tries to talk to the new girl, both of them as awkward as kids in their situation would be. This awkwardness is heightened by Abby, of course, being a vampire. They’re more combative, both crossing the lines of their friendship, daring each other, testing each other’s humanity and compassion, finding out whether one would help the other. We’ll have Reeves and the actors to thank for that as well.
And to tell me how to dress for my party is Karen (Amanda Seyfried).
‘On Wednesdays, we wear pink!’
‘Like, if I was wearing sweatpants right now, I’d be sitting with the art freaks.’ Of course, Karen, I never wear sweatpants outside the house. I have dignity.
But seriously, I say those lines ALL. THE TIME.
Welcome to family friendly Ojai, California, where the sun always shines on the auburn hair of a snarky girl named Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) who everyone suddenly thinks is a trollope. Director Will Gluck and screenwriter Bert V. Royal know that Easy A is telling a story told before, and with sharper scripts. The film is full of references of cellphone culture and slightly grainy webcams and grainier clips of John Hughes films and a homosexual rendering of Huckleberry Finn’s interracial friendship. Speaking of old, hallowed American narratives, Olive is our Hester Prynne, a fictional character whose archaic treatment disgusts her English teacher (Thomas Haden Church) but we and the teenagers know that a woman’s purity – or appearance of purity – is still placed on high regard.
This film has the best gags I’ve seen in a while, like one involving a Natasha Bedingfield song and another one about Olive adopted brother. However, it’s crueller than your average teen flick. Stone’s husky voice still sounds more mature, which slightly takes off the willing suspension of disbelief. And I spent the first act of the film wishing I saw her with her parents (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci) simply because her comic chemistry with them is that good. Stone also has believable rapport with supporting characters like her enemy Marianne (Amanda Bynes) who surprises us with her vulnerability, Brandon (Dan Byrd) who’s confused about his sexuality, a guidance counselor who doesn’t listen to her (Lisa Kudrow) and Woodchuck Todd (Penn Badgely) who balances good looks with wearing goofy costumes. A silver lining on being ostracized is an assumed altruism that she adapts like Hester and that the other characters secretly relate to her when they’re down.
Despite a few hurdles, Stone owns this movie. Her world is one with bullying, obsession on teenage sexuality and where teenagers can frighteningly perform that sexuality as Olive does because of peer pressure. Olive tells her webcam viewers that books and movies can’t put across ‘how shitty it feels to be an outcast.’ Yet she makes us know how it feels. The film doesn’t judge her. Yes, I can’t help but feel slightly old while watching the movie, but for the first time in a while, I watched a teen movie that has enough spark and humour and didn’t make me feel like a parent.
- Marshall Fine: HuffPost Review: Easy A (huffingtonpost.com)
Review: The Social Network
The portrayal of Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in the Aaron Sorkin–David Fincher production of The Social Network, is either that of a loser or someone cooler than everyone around him gives him credit for. I still don’t know which side I’m on. Let the debate begin.
The film begins with an unromantic date between Mark and ‘Erica Albright’ (Rooney Mara), where Mark prattles on about the final clubs, which ‘lead to a better life.’ Their words are speedy my now. Erica starting a sentence with ‘From a woman’s perspective,’ a phrase that from my experience a woman might only say when she gets cornered in a conversation by a group with at least two men in it. The date ends badly since Erica has no sense of humour about going to BU, but in fairness, he didn’t talk about her alma mater with a light joke neither.
Mark then goes to his dorm room, goes on livejournal and implies something about Erica’s last name being Anglicized from ‘Albrecht,’ an implication that short-sighted people resort to in hurting times. That won’t be the last time he makes a ‘Hitler youth‘ implication. God knows I would have done worse. Eisenberg narrates Zuckerberg’s lj with dignity, which is difficult since we’re talking about lj here. He also creates Facemash.com. As well as being proud of having better productivity while drunk and forgetting that drinking Beck’s while making a sexist website, like most things you do drunk, have heavy consequences. He gets called out by the ad board, gives them a telling off that doesn’t make the board sympathize with him in any way and gets an academic probation.
What ensues is the body of the film – two separate lawsuits against Mark from the Winklevi (Arnie Hammer and Josh Pence) and from his co-founder and former CFO, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). The three wear suits, are mannered, respectful. Mark, sporting hoodies or uncomfortable dress shirts, pays no deference to the legal process and tries to interrupt the testimonies with snide comments. However, the binaries between the plaintiffs and Mark are hazier than that.
The first scene with Erica shows Mark’s clear stance on the final clubs, but he gets less vocal about them as the time line of the film progresses. He does voice his resentment to the Winklevi by rebutting that he was only allowed in the Porcellian house’s bike room, but that speaks more of the twins’ lack of hospitality that it does his wish for inclusion.
Mark drags both the Winklevi Eduardo down, both having to expose their insecurities of exclusion and daddy issues and thinking he’s going through the same. He tells Eduardo that ‘he wasn’t gonna get in anyway,’ and from personal experience, nerds can be hurtful towards normal people. His remarks get a stranger reaction, as Eduardo starts looking for Mark’s approval, routinely updating him about his final club, the Phoenix. When their partnership really sours, Eduardo freezes the $19000 account to get Mark’s attention. Again, Mark has said zip to confirm that his reasons for betraying the three boys is partly because of his exclusion and their inclusion. What happened? Does having a billion dollars make Mark indifferent to these clubs? Did he grow up? Or are the three still right about him, feeling the same resentment that they’ve carried for years?
The film also makes Mark resort to proud begging, never having neither to plead nor apologize to anyone he’s ever hurt. In trying to appease Eduardo after the account freezing business, Mark tells him that he would love for Eduardo to come down to Palo Alto and resume his work as the website’s CFO. This proud begging specifically applies to his treatment of Erica after his harsh words to her in a bar. He never has the chance to apologize about her or to any of his new enemies, really. Neither does he, thankfully, have an Erica shrine to moon over – he has her Facebook page for that. Instead he asks to get food with her, a private conversation, a friend request. Usually for the latter, when bad break-ups are involved, a friend request follows a message for the other person. Yes, he incessantly clicks refresh instead checking it later like the rest of us cool kids might do. I might sound like I’m over-reading but justifying what others see as an obsession, but it’s as if she has to add him first before she gets to hear what he has to say. Or his friend request is a way to meet her face to face, hopefully. It’s both childish and fair at the same time.
The Social Network isn’t the movie of a generation. Thankfully the movie wasn’t like two Judge Mathis episodes. And sure, the characters here are the most layered ones I’ve seen this year. Its rendition of some ideas, like how to introduce an idea to the public, are greatly done. Yet the film limits itself. It also allows no room for believable emotional eruptions nor awakenings and comes off as cold and distant, and this is from a guy who likes ‘subtle.’ The pacing is off, like a symphony that darts you with violins, only letting us rest when the rain comes. Sorkin needs to slow down once in a while. The women, although some have argued as a stand-in for the audience, have the best lines but also the least dimensions. It doesn’t have the same visual punch as a classic film it’s been compared to, Citizen Kane. Despite of those things, we have Mark, a boy who covets, a performance and character that many more will write about.
- Mark Zuckerberg gets portrayed as a joyless dweeb in The Social Network. (slate.com)
- A story that’s hard not to like (washingtonpost.com)
Save the Last Dance
I first saw this movie on a plane, and not just a plane but on my plane coming to Canada. Save the Last Dance helped shaped my young naive mythology and imagination of this continent and high school. I ate the movie up, I ate the soundtrack up (featuring Method Man and Redman, Fredro Starr, Pharoahe Monch, Pink). When the cool kids in Grade 9 were talking about when they were talking about fake ID’s, this is what they were talking about. But unlike the kids who went to my high school the cast of this film, mostly in their thirties, won’t have a hard time getting into some grubby club that don’t look like the Le Deux copycats in our entertainment districts here. Yes, Fredro Starr, if you threw me to the walls of my high school washroom, I’d just make fun of you for being in high school at 34. So I was a bit elated when this movie came on TV less than a week ago.
I’m trailing. As you know, this movie is about Sara (Shakespearean actor Julia Stiles), who has to move to Chicago and give up ballet because of her mother’s death, insipid enough to wear little hair clips, deny that she accidentally calls Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) an know-it-all asshole in front of his sister Chenille (Kerry Washington) and say ‘Noo’ when Chenille asks her if she likes him. She gets this sibling duo as her Uncle Toms, teaching her the ropes in a cutthroat urban high school milieu, that the correct word for ‘cool’ is ‘slammin,’ that dance is her passion and the way for a white girl in the country to connect with a predominantly black populous. What does she give them in return? She buys Kerry Washington‘s character a rum and coke, no ice, and she gives Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) her body. He’s thirty years old, Julia, don’t ‘git’ with him.
Hey look, it’s that guy from “Oz.” Everyone else from that show got another show, like “Dexter,” “30 Rock,” “The Wire” but nothing for him. Another casting note is Nikki (Bianca Lawson) who also plays Kendra the Vampayar Slayer, my favourite slayer. That girl fights like girls in my high school used to fight.
A little part of me wishes she was more famous, if her acting and everyone else’s acting for that matter weren’t so bad. There was also a DJ named Snooki, a male character. So I changed the channel.
- Take Three: Kerry Washington (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
Cher tries to set up people in couples and boxes, but Clueless subverts assigned stereotypes, the most obvious one being that ‘clueless’ newcomer Tai (Brittany Murphy) is sluttier and bitchier than she looks. There’s more.
Dionne is not Mammy. Dionne (Stacey Dash), is a true Beverly Hills girl with mood swings, which is why I love her. If writer-director Amy Heckerling was a worse writer, Dionne would only serve as life support to Cher. Dionne has juicy scenes like crying in the bathroom in a party when she finds out that Murray (Donald Faison) – who isn’t threatening because he wears braces – shaved his head, or slightly betraying Cher by huddling around Tai (Brittany Murphy), or freaking out on the freeway. I especially love how the film sets up the latter scene. Her line reading of ‘What if he was really tired?’ is both deadpan and camp, both levels played well together. Dionne and Cher talk like that throughout the film, like a Whit Stilman film where all the character wear pink. And the deadpan aspect of the line readings prepare you for the hilarity that’s gonna ensue. Also, she is older than Paul Rudd. Speaking of minorities,
I couldn’t tell if Christian was gay neither. The Jason Priestley lookalike’s pleated pants and old man abs made it more difficult, if you must know. And yes, the film deceives us when Christian acts a bit combative towards Mel (Dan Hedaya), while gay boys successfully befriend parents. Although ‘hagsville,’ Tony Curtis RIP and ‘Aww, honey, you baked’ should have rung alarm bells. Which brings me to why I didn’t wanna bury this section as a third item. I’m a Filipino gay man in my twenties who writes about film instead of a white straight male critic over 40, and for some reason, I feel more personally about characters who fall in whatever bracket I share him or her with. That’s something I don’t see too blatantly in 40-year-old straight white men, or at least their character critiques are more general. I think. In layman’s terms, I kept comparing Christian to myself, or who I was when I was the same age as he is. Can someone back me up on this? Christian dances with another guy in that party, something I would never try to do unless I was in a predominantly gay area. But then he’s a classical film lover and a bit of a ‘art fag,’ written by a woman, based on a source material from the Regency period. Christian makes me curious about what ‘gay guys’ have been like in 1995 or the early 1800’s. And how could Murray have known and not Cher nor Dionne? Don’t women have better gaydars than straight men. Or maybe Cher and Dionne just don’t.
If you pay attention to the film, you’ll know how it might end. I also really like this scene/shot/movie because of the generational divide, Josh (Paul Rudd) looking at Cher with such reverence while Mel’s being stern towards Christian. And Josh is aware of this generational divide, telling Mel not to let Cher go out looking like ‘that.’ Josh is in between, the bridge between Cher and Mel, old enough to know better, young enough to know that Cher isn’t so vacuous as others might think. Although he distractingly sounds a bit like Christopher Walken in one of the last scenes. Also, did anyone see this movie and think ‘Josh is gonna be ubiquitous,’ because I didn’t.
Cher isn’t always perky, but some of you might have known this already. Yes, her arguments about violence in the media is considerable, but her knowledge of ‘Haitians,’ jazz and art criticism needs work. If any of my professors heard ‘Monet’ defined like that, they would pop a blood vessel. She drops the Beverly Hills accent once in a while, which surprisingly makes both inflated and deflated Cher more convincing. And is that a Kollwitz sculpture behind her? I imagine her being a philanthropist, if she’s not misled.
New York Tristate in the house. Timothy Findley who first talked to me about the New York exodus to California in the early days of cinema. Apparently Tai and Mel has kept that tradition alive, their accents representing as prominently as the California accent.
Ooh, I wonder if they have that in my size. If this movie’s setting is 2010, she wouldn’t need to ask that question because she’d be a size 0. Or maybe not being size 0 makes her better than the average airhead.
Starbucks? That existed before the 1999 Seattle riots?
The world goes on despite of Cher. So this is the third movie I’ve seen this year about the Bosnian War, although I’ve seen Clueless before. The Bosnia reference also shows how 90’s it is, a great addition to other 90’s references like Ren and Stimpy, Radiohead, Alaia. Also, is that a flower-pot? How much did Mel let her decorate in the house? Cher’s very girl for a girl raised by a single parent. This movie is about Cher becoming more well-rounded. It also helps that she has people like Josh around her, correcting her without being condescending. And Christian ‘educating’ her about film and art. And Mel who’s an art collector himself. And Miss Geist (Twink Caplan).
I also watched the television series, where Caplan, Dash and Faison among others took the roles they had in the film, but you knew that already.
Also, Scott Rudin prouced this movie. Respect. Silverstone and Heckerling, also the director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, are reuniting to make Vamps, about vampires on the prowl in the city a la “Sex and the City.” I’m worried.
- Scenes We Love: Clueless (cinematical.com)
Les Amours Imaginaires
Xavier Dolan‘s Les Amours Imaginaires, or Heartbeats is about Francis (Dolan) and Maria Callas lookalike Marie. While writing the previous sentence, I just realized why Dolan named his character ‘Francis.’ Marie, however, is the kind of girl who asks ‘Do you think of movie stars when you make love.’ [ETA: Nobody thinks about movie stars during 90 seconds of lovemaking, stop asking. If you find someone who does think of movie stars while making love, shank them. Sex is like a conversation, you think about yourself and the person in front of you. Nobody’s ADD is that bad. Just because movie stars arouse you and sex arouses you doesn’t mean. Worst syllogism ever. And you know what, Angelina Jolie thinks about movie stars while lovemaking because she’s in a civil union with one. I call a fatwa on this question.] Anyway, these socially awkward young adults find a hot Adonis-like guy in their social circle. The latter’s name is Nicolas, seducer yet seemingly wholesome. By including him in Francis and Marie’s friendship, he should be the third wheel, but he manages to make them feel like said third wheel. Francis changes his description of his ideal to fit Nicolas, and tells this in front of another lover. That this is Francis’s first ‘is he gay’ guy makes me wonder how he never went through this in high school. Or buys Nicolas a plain-looking $500 ‘tangerine’ sweater for a birthday present after knowing him for two months, which oh brother. [ETA: I’ll punch my child in the mouth if he ever makes an expensive mistake like this, which tells a lot about how I was raised.]
Nicolas talks about holding a 91 hours a week seismograph job that he looks too twinky to handle, kisses both Francis and Marie in the cheek, kisses a girl’s hand the first time he meets her. Everyone’s nerdy best friend will tell you that this guy’s bad news, but no such character exists in the film. The nerdy best friend within us keeps thinking of the other times when we got rejected and hoping we weren’t this shattered at 20 or 21. Marie does notice something fishy about him in his drunken birthday party but does nothing about it.
An hour or so after watching the film I realize that Nicolas as a character is deliberately posited with a mysterious, impressionistic sheen in trying to make him more complex and less villainous. He’s the ‘other’ compared to the needy kids that dominate the film. He charms and runs. This cycle might say more about his character than anything Francis thankfully didn’t narrate about him. Making him mysterious, however, doesn’t make him any more sympathetic.
There are also interviews of three Montreal hipsters. Girl 1 will live a life of rejection because her patrician nose and glasses come with a perma-scowl. Boy talks about Kinsey. Girl 2 thinks it’s cute that her beau is 39 minutes late for everything. We come back to these people two more times into the film.
So that’s a total of four bitter girls and boy out of six characters keeping a torch for an undeserved love. The film shows both broken hearts and trying to hide the broken hearts underneath a ‘cool’ exterior – the latter done way awkwardly, by the way. There is interestingly more focus on the former, the interior these characters, than the latter. It’s also mean to negate characters’ hurt feelings. But that Dolan’s worldview suggest that 67% of us are sensitive puppy dogs inside, or that if this state of mind is more accurate than we’d like to admit, or that these people aren’t shown doing other things to distract themselves and have little or no intention to move on. They look like they have had lives before this guy has come along. And where are their parents?
- Quebec filmmaker is ready for his close up (thestar.com)
Meryl Streep’s Tough Love
It’s Roberta Guaspari’s (Meryl Streep) second day at her new job at an East Harlem alternative elementary school teaching violin. Her class is half as large as it has been the first day. They’re still rambunctious with the exception of Naim, who actually pays attention to her. She notices her competition, DeSean, talking about basketball, when she asks him a question on that day’s lesson, about the parts of the violin’s bow. He feigns indifference in not knowing then she replies ‘Yes you were [here], buy you weren’t paying attention. Do you want people to think you’re stupid.’ She turns to her star student, saying ‘Tell him, Naim.’
As the expression goes, her words with the kids are like a confident tightrope walk, and as expected she doesn’t come off as any hurtful. Neither does she look like the naif who miraculously comes up with a quick rebuttal to hurl on the person she’s talking to. Well, she does raise a few alarms from a parent, but that gets ironed out by the urban ‘stop snitching’ code.
The movie also typically shows the difficulties in running and staying in a class related to the arts. The children have to be whipped out of their ADD, which all but one of them apparently have. They have to regard the class as if no other exists. And Roberta deals with her own marital issues and its effects on her own children, having to let them ride a plane on their own on Christmas.
Also cast and crew notes: Directed by horror director Wes Craven, trying something new. Aidan Quinn plays Roberta’s boyfriend. Gloria Estefan plays a teacher/parent who also sang the film’s theme song. The grown-up version of Roberta’s kids are Abe from Mad Men and Kieran Culkin. Don’t pretend you don’t know who that is.