Sunday, 23 January 2011

Black Swan

You may or may not have read my post detailing my favourite moments in films portraying the big bad world of Ballet. Either way, the post was in connection with the then upcoming release of Black Swan, when I was still brimming with hope that team Aronofsky might fulfil all my expectations from a "Ballet thriller". And I am pleased to announce that mostly, he did.

The film is impeccably paced, and the effects are breathtaking. The psychologically loaded dance scenes at the height of the drama live up to the impossibly high standards set by Powell and Pressburger all the way back in 1948 with The Red Shoes. Portman does a decent job at looking like a dancer, even if it did mean she had to undergo torturous bouts of weight-loss in order to do so, and although she is by no means innocent of overplaying the role, generally her performance of Nina Sayers is credible and engaging. The use of key parts of Tchaikovsky's music towards the end of the film in the dressing room as we witness the final unravelling of Sayers' psyche works wonderfully, if not a little obviously screaming the "message" at the audience. And if all that wasn't enough, Mila Kunis is the sexiest woman ever to don a pair of pointe shoes. Two words: holy suspenders.

Yes, the film is riddled with ballet industry clichés (bulimia and bloody toes? Well I never), but then again, just because they're spoken about a lot, doesn't make them any the less accurate. I was a little disappointed to see that the choreography of the ballet had been drastically changed by choreographer, co-star and Portman's baby-daddy Benjamin Millepied, but then I have never seen Swan Lake performed by a company other than the Royal, English National or Kirov, all who use variations on the traditional version which most would be familiar with. The dance of the cygnets is a particular audience favourite which was almost butchered beyond recognition. Portman was also nowhere near as exciting to watch in the dance scenes as Moira Shearer, for obvious reasons, sure, but I can't help agreeing somewhat with the lovely Tamara Rojo who took particular issue in a recent Guardian article with the decision not to use an actual dancer for the role. Edward Watson also mumbled his agreement, and who am I to disagree with a ginger, straight, ballet dancer?

Oddly, though, the one moment in the film which I found most difficult to swallow, was the standing ovation Sayers receives after her dance of the black swan. Not even at performances of the Bolshoi or Kirov, where the choreography is designed for rapturous applause to be given every time the men jump and the women pirouette, would you find a standing ovation between scenes. But then, realism is hard to judge when Portman has suddenly sprouted a pair of black wings during the coda. So that's my grievances silenced.

Over all, the film is a stunning psychological assault of a film, with an admirable lead performance, and some great support given from Cassel, Ryder and Kunis, that will make any girl who has previously known the dizzying thrills of landing a pirouette perfectly,or the excitement of fitting her first pointe shoes, tear up.

Monday, 3 January 2011


Last night, after drunkenly embarrassing myself on Facebook through offers to pay people to be my friends in order to not be bored anymore (post now deleted, before you all try and look for the evidence. And no, nobody took me up on the offer) I decided I would go and see Love and Other Drugs, a film which has apparently divided critics (it has a 50% Tomatometer - you don't get more divided than that, surely?) with a certain Heathers enthusiast reprimanding my decision to book tickets and even describing the film as "unbearably shit". It was therefore with some trepidation that I sat down, now a little more sober, and prepared myself for the GyllenWay/HathaHaal experience. Half an hour in, and my sister and I were sharing a confused glance. And not in a "how the hell could Josh Gad seriously be believed to be related to Jake Gyllenhaal" way, but in a "are we stupid for thinking this isn't shit?" way. A very niche form of confused glance indeed. Was I still more inebriated than I had previously thought? Was I reacting to some form of perfect bottom overload? Or was the film in fact, fairly fucking decent? Let's examine the facts.

- Both Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway provide solid, convincing and wholly charismatic performances.
- HathaHaal are naked a lot. This can only be a good thing.
- The script genuinely sparkles with near genius in places. In other places, sure it's nothing special, but it's nonetheless of a far higher calibre than your run of the mill Katherine Heigl/Jennifer Aniston featuring Rom Com. Not least because there are several LOL funny moments. I laughed only a couple of times less than I did during The Social Network and Catfish. I don't believe I have ever genuinely laughed at a single word Katherine Heigl or Gerard Butler have uttered. Not even in a "you're fucking retarded" kind of situation.
- You might actually give a shit what happens to both of the leads.
- Josh Gad is amazing.
- Hank Azaria has at long last been given a role which is entirely un-shit and un-involving a lispy, foreign accent.

Unfortunately, I suppose I had better also examine these facts:
- There is some seriously dodgy editing at play, most noticeable during HathaHaal's first coffee "date". The editing was so bad here in fact, my hands actually curled into fists and I had to stop myself from making an uncomfortable kicked-cat noise.
- The last 10 minutes of the film are nauseatingly eye rolling inducing. I think I actually preferred the end to P.S. I Love You. Shut up, yes I've watched it.
- Although refreshingly managing to avoid the tedium of every other Rom Com in many ways, we are still presented with the age old cliché that the only type of woman in the world capable of curing a playa of his playa-ness is to be stunningly beautiful, possess the best pair of natural breasts he will ever know, be willing to provide spur of the moment blow-jobs in a nonchalant fashion (the art of the nonchalant blow job is particularly difficult to achieve), have some A-game cutting, witty repartee up your sleeve while also maintaining an infrequently apparent level of vulnerability, best achieved in this instance through a degenerative disease. Got it?

Despite the flaws as listed above, I think a far fairer Tomatometer rating would be around the 75% mark. At least I think so. All this struggling through the Highs and Lows of the film has left my mind in a collapsed heap.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

In Celebration of watching Wall-E for the first time

Everyone else has already posted this, but it's worth the copy-cating.

Happy New Year everyone. January is a month full of films I've been excited to see for a long time (well, 3 and 1 re-watch anyway) so I promise you can expect some actual blogging activity post Feb 11th.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Adjustment Bureau

Who knew Emily Blunt could dance?

So glad to see ballet is making a "comeback". However, we have to wait until 4th March for this beaut. Downer.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Never Let Me Go

One of the good things about currently being located in New Orleans - besides the fact the weather is glorious (temperature is in the high 20s-mid 30s every day), the people are amazing, the food is delicious, I've finally begun to understand the rules of American Football and am happily following the mid-term election coverage - is that two films I have been eagerly awaiting and would not have otherwise had access to until post-January in the UK are already out here. The first of which, is Never Let Me Go.

You may remember me harping on about how excited I was for its release some time ago when it was announced as the opening night film for London Film Festival. I waited and waited for my invite to the Gala to arrive, and you know what? Apparently having worked for an independent film PR boutique agency for a couple of months by the time the festival rolls around doesn't qualify you to get an invite to rub shoulders with the industry's finest. I was surprised too. So instead I seethed with jealousy as members of the inner sanctum tweeted about their evenings and Film 2010 cut live to a very drunk threesome of Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield, all giggling as much as I would be if even found in the same room as them. I shall now put in 12 months' solid work into tracking down Sandra Hebron, making her my best friend, in order that I might be invited next year. In fact fuck it, by next year I'll be presenting Film 2011. You can count on it.

But back to the film. Yesterday afternoon, while the poor people who are housing me (my family) were all at work, and the weather was lingering somewhere between "I'm going to kill you with heat" and "I'm about to storm all over the place" I dipped into a very nice cinema just on the fringes of the French Quarter to benefit from the Air-Con and Andrew Garfield's face. The film is certainly not for those seeking an action-filled, laughter inducing couple of hours. If you're looking for heart-wrenching performances from two of Britain's finest talents (Carey Mulligan and Andrew "the future" Garfield) and one Britain's sort of OK acting talents (Keira) however, then Never Let Me Go is more than just the ticket. All the more, you will never see as brilliant casting as you will when you compare the difference between the actors who excellently play Kathy, Ruth and Tommy whilst still at Hailsham, and Carey, Keira and Andrew respectively.

Hopefully that will give you some idea. In all honesty I didn't love the film as much as I entered the cinema hoping to. Andrew is simply perfect, it has to be said, and there is some very moving material to be found, but something was missing. Oh wait that's it - Keira's personality. Though she does make some very convincing cat-being-drowned noises during her "love" scenes with Garfield. Geddit? Cause Garfield is a cat? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Great. To be fair to her, Ruth's character is not one the audience is supposed to have warm feelings towards, and it must be very difficult to be on screen with Carey who is essentially everything that Keira has always wanted to be. Soz KK.

A special mention should also go to Charlotte Rampling who once again manages to play Charlotte Rampling in dazzling form. Bravo.

I guess I'd give this 3.5/5 but it is certainly worth seeing for Andrew alone.

Monday, 11 October 2010


The Social Network is the penultimate film of 2010 which I was actually desperately eager to see. Yes there have been other good releases recently (to be talked about in an upcoming post) and I'm sure there will be others post-HP 7 Part 1, but none which will have me impatiently counting down the days until they are unleashed upon me. Until January that is.

Remember how much I gushed about Inception? I'm sorry Nolan, but Fincher has just trumped you in "the setting the standard for filmmaking" award of the year. Where Inception is visually amazing, The Social Network manages to enthral, shock and tickle without a single action sequence (unless you count the zip-wire from the chimney lol-athon), plot-twist or visual effect exhibition. In truth, that's not quite fair - the seamless creation of the Winklewoss twins is the best faking of twins since Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap. And I'm not even sure if that was even any good - I haven't watched that particular treat in many a year, now - but I do know that once you find out the Winklevii (as dubbed by Eissenberg's Zuckerberg in t'film) are played by two unrelated actors thanks to the help of some clever digitalising of one of the twin's faces - you will nearly spend the entire film just looking out for that. And you won't be able to tell. I promise.

The real star of the film, as everyone will tell you, is Andrew Garfield. His performance is impeccable and honestly, if he continues to be as faultless as he has proven thus far, the film industry may well get a little bit boring when every other actor retires in a slump of depression at the thought of never being as talented as this fine specimen is. But even then, as the virtuoso of diversity, he'll do a pretty bang-up job of replacing literally everybody.

Has anybody else noticed my fondness for bold statements?

I shall leave you with the best trailer of the year along with the promise that if Andrew Garfield does not get given an Oscar very soon I will do something decidedly stupid - the terms of which you can decide for yourself.

Saturday, 2 October 2010


I am more than just a fan of Tarantino. I pretty much worship that shark-faced guy. I will defend everything he's ever had even the smallest involvement with until the day I die. You don't like his segment in Four Rooms? Don't care. Not a fan of Death Proof? Not interested. Everything he's ever breathed on (which I suppose includes my older half-sister who drunkenly chatted him up and was eventually stood up by him for a date...yes I casually just threw down that anecdote) is perfection to me. But the films he's created (excluding True Romance etc.) would not be known for their stylised finesse if it wasn't for a true genius in the form of Sally Menke. Everything you've ever admired about a Tarantino film, bar the soundtracks and scripts and Oscar winning performances, was down to Menke. QT, like many of the greatest directors, is well known for his repeated collaborations with members of the film industry; but it is to his collaboration with Sally his films owe the most.

I really don't know what it's going to be like to watch any of Tarantino's future projects without her editing expertise. Not only should we mourn the loss of an industry queen, but also, potentially, the death of Tarantino films. I'm really not ready to let go of my obsession, so here's hoping he can prove me wrong.