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Showing posts from 2010

Black Swan

I waited to blog about Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan after discovering that there were a couple of other ballet themed films that I had not yet seen and wanted to be well versed before tackling this project. Having a personal interest in ballet and more then casual acquaintance with that world, it seemed that any attempt at criticism should come from a place that is well versed on the cinematic history of ballet in cinema.

But on further reflection, there is no reason to look to dance cinema before a discussion of Black Swan. Despite it being about a young dancer, Nina (Natalie Portman) getting the lead role in Swan Lake. Her attention to perfection and reticent character makes her an obvious choice for dancing the White Swan, but the lead in Swan Lake must also perform her seductive twin, the Black Swan, which is an uphill battle for the virginal Nina. Knowing that Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis trained with the New York City Ballet for a year in preparation for this part, one wo…

Araki's New Queer Cinema

People come to the cinema with very different motivations. For some, a movie is pure escapism. Some are looking for intellectual stimulation, or maybe to get caught up in an emotional experience. The reason I keep returning to the theater is to catch brief glimpses of my personal realities on screen. In college, I went to nearly every movie with a gay character or a queer subplot. I was searching desperately for a glimpse of the future I wanted for myself, before I even had a fully formed notion of my adult identity. I only knew that the path that most people take in life was not the road I was traveling. I always knew that I wouldn't be a wife, a home-maker, a mother... And it was through my worshiping at the alter of the cinematograph that I occasionally glimpsed images of alternative lives.

In all of this searching, there is one filmmaker that I feel a strong kinship with, Gregg Araki. I had read of Araki and his cinema long before I had seen or even heard a plot outline for a…

127 Hours

Everyone knows the story. Aron Ralston was hiking when he is pinned by a falling boulder and cut off his own arm to escape. But how would one make a film about an ordeal that everyone already knows how it ends? This story poses some serious challenges for a feature length film as it is asking an audience to be trapped in a canyon with Ralston as he ponders his predicament, for 5 days, until he finally decides to cut his way free. One could decide to approach it as a horror film, using the viewer's dread and claustrophobia to build to the final gruesome scenes when cutting occurs. It could also explore the territory of so many other man versus nature films, and use Ralston's days of isolation for internal exploration. So it was a bit of a surprise that filmmaker, Danny Boyle, decided to conquer this project as his films are about as far from interspective as it gets and it is hard to imagine him attracted to a project that puts it's sole character beneath a rock for i…

Horror Fail!

So the horror movie challenge is totally off the rails now. The movies seem to be drifting further away from horror all of the time. I'm mostly just chasing my own interests, which often lead to oddities that can easily be classified as horror, but I'm not feeling well and have become too weak to resist the charms of Tom Hardy and Gael Garcia Bernal. Actually traditional horror films hold very little interest, but I greatly enjoy psychological horror and thrillers so I couldn't stay away from Dot the I once it was described as an erotic thriller. Erotic + Gael Garcia Bernal + Tom Hardy + flamenco dancing; oh my.

Well, it was romantic and a little twisted and a bit sexy, but sadly, not horrific and mildly disappointing. And I don't care! The love triangle that develops at the first of Dot the I is hot and when the triangle is revealed to be a fraud, created as part of an emotional snuff film that Carmen has unknowingly found herself at the center of, the film suff…

Delving into 1970s horror

I had planned on going a little further back into the history of cinema, but this group of films are all from the 1970s.

Patrick is an Australian movie that was prominently featured in the Ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood. In my effort to watch all of the films referenced in Kill Bill, vol. 1, I had overlooked Patrick. It was stunning to see just how much the hospital scenes had borrowed from this rather obscure film. But in actuality, while one can see echos of KBv1, Patrick is a very different film.

Patrick opens with him electrocuting his mother, i.e. toaster + bathtub. After this opening, the rest of the film is centered on Kathy, the nurse who cares for Patrick. He has been in a coma since the accident and stares straight ahead. She is told he is brain dead, but becomes convinced that he is communicating with her using telekinesis. While this is far from the best piece of horror cinema I've seen, it is a fascinating one. And Patrick is a bit unsettling, the …

Jigoku or The Sinner's of Hell

From Blogger
The horror movie challenge has been derailed, but this isn't really a surprise. I often don't have the time to watch one movie/day and the weekends have been rather busy lately. Now I have several work related meetings to prep for that I anticipate with further dip into my free time. Gone are those days when I had very little to do at my day job and no friends to spend time with when not at work and I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm surprised at the number of movies I have managed to see by day 14.

Jigoku (1960) was a little slow and completely dumbfounding, but as illustrated in the above still, it looked amazing. Having just been to Never Let Me Go, a film that director Romanek admits to basing the look on classic Japanese cinema, I was pleasantly surprised to have stumbled upon another film shot in a similar perspective that that used by Ozu. These early Japanese films are shot from a low angle and I hadn't picked up on that, but then it became …

Never Let Me Go

From Blogger

Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, Never Let Me Go, is among the most emotionally powerful books I've ever read. Never Let Me Go is set in a boarding school, where the children are special. As they are being instructed to create art and take care of their bodies, they are told only the bare minimum about life, especially their purpose in life. Unlike regular people, the children at Hailsham have a very specific purpose. Their future is determined for them and set in stone, but the children don't really understand what this means.

In the novel, this premise is slowly revealed only with the discoveries of three friends, Kathy H, Tommy, and Ruth as they grow up in this unusual world. Never Let Me Go is science fiction, but not at it's emotional core. The heart of the story in within Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth and is in fact the most epically tragic love story I have ever read. Knowing that the soul of this story isn't about the alternate present day reality of the …

The American

Sometimes, it is almost as if American culture is so distasteful and alienating that sometimes, I dream of exodus. As I spend an inordinate amount of time alone, it is easy to forget just how at odds my own point of view is with the culture as a whole, but occassionally, something happens which makes it difficult to ignore. Major elections are the biggest reminder of just how divergent my values are, but occasionally a memorial day screening of a George Clooney movie does the trick.



I went to The American knowing little about the film, other than it was directed by Anton Corbijn who made the stunningly stark and beautiful Ian Curtis biopic, Control. I was immediately struck by the quiet of the picture. The opening scene perfectly set the tone for the following acts, with Jack (Clooney) walking with a lover in a perfectly silent, snow covered landscape, until violence suddenly erupts, leaving Clooney's character alone to travel to a place to lay low. This quiet continues throu…

Horror?

From Blogger
I apparently have no clue what a horror movie is. Or at least, when the challenge rolls around and I take the leap and attempt to watch 31 horror movies, I suddenly feel as if I have no idea what that means. There are times when it is obvious that a movie is horror; Friday the 13th, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Once I dive into the challenge, I begin to question whether the movies I'm seeing really count.

This year, I've seen Buried, Carrie, Clean, Shaven, Nosferatu (1922), Scanners, Sisters, and I sell the Dead. Nate protested Sisters, saying DePalma's movie about a pair of disturbed Siamese twins isn't a horror movie. And he has a point, but how is one supposed to choose movies without having seen them before to really know whether they are horror? Especially since I'm only using the challenge to catch up on movies that I should see because they are classics and to re-watch a few others that need to be revisited. But picking the movies …

3 days and three movies in

Day 3, of the October Horror Movie Challenge and already, it's time to change strategies. Apparently, when I pick a horror movie, I can REALLY pick them. I think it is safe to say that if we keep going, Nate and I will have PTSD by the end of the week.

So far the tally is 3 films, 2 first viewings.

We started today with Carrie (1976), which we both had seen previously, but not for many years. I hadn't remembered the lascivious male gaze or the overt misogyny. But this might be the elements that gives the film a surprisingly authentic depiction of High school experience. there were plenty of times when I would have loved to have gotten rid of the entire school in a giant ball of fire.

But the movie that neither of us had seen before was Clean, Shaven. This film caught my attention three years ago, when I attempted to complete the challenge, but never managed to get my hands on it during October. So I rented it this October and between it and Buried, I don't think Nate …

The Social Network

Don't you hate it when a film really says something and makes you want to talk about it, but you never can find just the right words to do so. A month ago, I saw The Social Network at an advance screening and have been thinking about just how brilliant the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of facebook is done. I knew that I needed to see the film again in order to really collect my thoughts, since it was severely underlit and the pace was so quick that it was difficult to reconstruct the sequence of events after.

But now that The Social Network has opened, the professionals have been busily writing amazing things. I think Jim Emerson has succeeded in seeing the same film I did in the same way. I totally saw that The Social Network is a film about class and privilege in college as well as a character study of someone who is ultimately unlikable. And I gravitate toward these prickly people.

Jim Emerson: The Social Network: Communicating in code

It's that time again

I've only attempted the October Horror Movie Challenge once and didn't quite complete it. I believe I came in at 29 films, with most of them being new to me and all of them were feature films. I'm already off to a late start, since Friday, I had planned to see Buried after work which just didn't work out, due to long work day and nasty headaches.

But on day 2, I finally went to my first horror movie of October. There were some questions as to whether Buried is horror. According to IMDB.com, it is not, but I couldn't imagine that any movie that is set in a coffin already buried in the earth wouldn't qualify for the October challenge. So, I drug Nate out to Buried today, when he actually was in the mood for a romantic comedy.

And I'm pleased I did. I was very curious about how this movie could even be made, but it worked and was quite an intense study of fear and claustrophobia. Buried was a very dark movie as the camera never strays from the interior of…

Even the orchestra is beautiful

Last week was nightmarish. Really. There were in-laws living in my livingroom, gluten poisoning, and to top things off, a work project that was completely overwhelming, that I never did really get a handle on. But there were a few bright spots. One was on Wednesday night, after the departure of the unwelcome futon crashers, we popped in the newest NetFlix arrival, Cabaret.


I have no recollection as to how Cabaret found it's way on our queue, but I have no control over what comes our way from NetFlix, other than making suggestions of titles to add. I know that we have a few hundred movies lined up and that they were randomized, but I never seem to know what is coming next and why we decided on the titles that arrive. But as I'll watch anything once, I don't mind this arrangement.

My knowledge of Cabaret was limited. I knew it was a musical and a play, and I knew it was a big Oscar winning film. I didn't remember that it was the movie that swept the Academy Awards

Inception: Dreaming a dream within a dream

From BloggerAfter seeing a film, I turn to film critics to aid in my mental digestion of what I've seen, as immediately after I am often at a loss as to what I really thought. Instead of concrete, coherent thoughts on a film, I instead experience an emotion, but this may or may not have anything to do with the experience of the film, but instead may have more to do with my own baggage that I brought to the cinema that day. So I ruminate, read what others thought and finally I am able to put into words what value I found in the film.

Saturday morning was spent reading the critics that I get the most value from their writings to aid in this process. I visited Roger Ebert, the New York Times' film critics, and my favorite place for fascinating discussion on film criticism, Jim Emerson's Scanners blog. There what I read has left me stunned and considering how much what we expect to see when we go to the theater impacts the critique of the film. Don't get me wrong; I…

My attempt at Filmspotting's Top 5 List

I just finished listening to Filmspotting podcast, episode #296, and I've been inspired to begin a small project. My concept of great cinema has changed now that I live in a place with so many choices. When I lived in Anchorage, I primarily saw movies at the local Art House, Capri Cinema. Rand, being an out gay man, tended to show a lot of GLBT cinema as well as the better known independent/art house films. The years I lived in Columbia, I watched more mainstream film and really, just about everything that came to town that sounded at all interesting. But in Seattle, the choices are overwhelming by comparison. Sometimes I'll see a classic film, or a film with a lot of buzz, and there are a lot of foreign language films, because of the wide variety of cinema I have access to, I am now a very devoted fan of Asian cinema. The filmmakers in Hong Kong, Korea, China, Japan, Thailand are incredible. And this isn't at all limited to the genre films that have made Asian film…

Shutter Island

From BloggerFor probably the first time, I was very excited about a Scorsese film. I have been left cold by nearly every film I've seen of his, either due to subject matters that I just cannot bring myself to care about or I'm generally unimpressed by the film. There are exceptions of course as Gangs of New York was flawed but very powerful and The Last Temptation of Christ is a masterpiece, but despite a blip here and there over the years, Scorsese generally makes films that don't speak to me.

Well, with Shutter Island he had me. I have a weak spot for psychological thrillers set in historical asylums. I gravitate towards these films, and when they work, they quickly find their places among my favorites. I found myself comparing the trailers for Shutter Island with Brad Anderson's Session 9 and the detective films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa (i.e. Cure, Retribution). Silly me assumed that Martin Scorsese was influenced by the amazing atmosphere of the Japanese detective t…

What I learened from Johnny To last night

I've been a long time fan of action cinema. I became hooked on the martial arts movies of the 1980s, when Sho Kosugi was making a serious of ninja movies. The result of this discovery of movies like Enter the Ninja, Pray for Death, and the hilarious Nine Deaths of the Ninja was finding the martail arts section of my local video store. There I rented dozens of Hong Kong movies that were poorly dubbed, but occasionally contained the most amazing fight sequences I'd ever seen. I felt elated watching these movies and probably contributed to my own enthusiasm for ballet and I even took some tai kwon do at that time.

Sadly American action cinema probably has never been as well crafted as it is in Hong Kong. This isn't due to lack of great fight choreography, since many of the best have been imported from Hong Kong, but simply due to inadequacies in filmmaking. This has never been so apparent as it was last night when watching Breaking News (2004) by Johnny To. The opening…