Saturday, February 19, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I did not like Black Swan at first, but now that I’ve thought about it for a little while, I think I can respect it. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but I do appreciate the fact that there are many different theories and interpretations for it. I enjoyed some of the creepy thrills, and Natalie Portman’s good performance. The parts I didn’t enjoy as much were some of the less subtle touches that were used.
Natalie Portman played her character very well. She captured the timid, eggshell spirit of her character Nina naturally. She made you feel very uncomfortable and upset by the various forces that she felt were harassing and abusing her in her life. Mila Kunis also did an effective job playing Nina’s potential rival.
I liked some of the creepy, subtle touches in the film, like the eyes in a painting moving, or the reflections that were half a second too slow. They really made you wonder whether you imagined them or not, and made you question your own judgment, just as Nina would be doing. The club scene was handled very well also. The strobe lights made it impossible to tell Portman from Kunis, which I’m sure was intentional. I also noticed the “black swan” version of Nina appeared very quickly in a few shots. Effects like these have been done in many movies, notably Shutter Island earlier this year, but I’m always a sucker for scary shots that are barely noticeable, and require a second or third viewing to catch.
The fact that these scenes were handled so well made it more disappointing when the less subtle aspects of the film appeared. It bothered me how obvious the outfits represented the good and evil personalities, or the “white” and “black“ swans. Portman wore white in the beginning, and as she began her transformation her clothes grew gradually darker, ending in black. And her rival, played by Mila Kunis, wore black the entire time. I didn’t think this was necessary. Everyone in the audience knows Nina is spiraling downward. We didn’t need her to put on a black shirt to inform us that she’s switching into evil mode now.
While I was not a huge fan of Black Swan, I like the fact that if you go onto the message boards of imdb.com, everyone has a different theory about the film. About what was real, who was being manipulated, and what the ending meant. Movies like this are great for discussion. I’d just personally rather discuss Mulholland Dr., or Barton Fink, which have all the interpretations, without the obviousness.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Buried is a tough film to review. It doesn’t seem fair to judge it on the same plane as other movies. The film is about a man named Paul Conroy who gets buried alive in a coffin. The entire film, from beginning to end, takes place inside the coffin with Paul.
Now you see why it is so difficult to review. To be honest, the only way I would have really hated this movie is if they had left the box, whether it was to show a flashback, or show what’s happening on the surface. To its credit, Buried never does this. All 90 minutes of this movie are spent in the cramped, claustrophobic space.
When you look at it that way, Buried is an incredible achievement on many levels, including screenwriting, direction, and acting. The film effectively keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire duration, even though when you think about it, it really is just watching a guy talk on a phone for an hour and a half.
Unlike 127 Hours, another recent “trapped” film, Buried is more focused on the plot, rather than the psychological aspect of such a predicament. It is a thriller, taut with suspense. It keeps you guessing all the way through. Who put Paul there? Who is lying? What is going on in the outside world? It is obviously influenced by Hitchcock’s thrillers, and while it never reaches the heights of his classics, it is a noble effort, which should be applauded for its originality and daringness.
Ryan Reynolds turns in a fine performance. Not earth shattering in any way, but he does a very nice job considering the restrictions put on him. His call home to his mother is especially tender. This sad moment was when Reynolds really shined his brightest.
Rodrigo Cortes, the director, finds new and creative ways to film the box all the way through the movie, whether it is panning from Conroy’s feet to his head, or slowly zooming away, showing a black abyss on either side of the coffin.
I’ve heard many complaints from friends about the technical faults in the film; such as the lighter Conroy uses should have sucked up all his oxygen quickly. These quibbles are impossible to avoid with “trapped” films, and whether they are true or not, the movie succeeded in convincing me to suspend my belief, which is all that matters to me.
My biggest problem with Buried was the ending. I won’t spoil anything, but I feel it was a particularly weak finale, that inspired more of a “huh?” response, than the “whoa….” It was looking for.
All in all, Buried serves as an interesting experiment in filmmaking that succeeds on most levels, but disappoints in the last five minutes.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
I saw The Social Network when it first came out in October, and wasn’t sure what to think of it. It was good; there was no question about that. But I felt it dragged in the middle, and there were some unnecessary scenes.
I recently watched it again this past Wednesday with some friends in my dorm. It had obviously grown on me. I picked up on subtleties and lines I hadn’t noticed before. The “unnecessary” scenes revealed themselves to be crucial.
Today I watched it for the third time with my family. I have become convinced this deserves to, and should win the Oscar for Best Picture.
The brilliance of The Social Network is that there are no bad guys. The characters make mistakes, and they act in morally questionable ways at times, but every single one of them is relatable. You know where they are coming from, and you understand the emotions that drive their actions, whether it is jealousy, competitiveness, the need to belong, or anything.
Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg rings true through every frame of the movie. His boredom whenever anyone else speaks, his mile a minute, unable to focus mind, and his cockiness that masks his desperate need for human connection all combine to create one of the truest, most fascinating characters to grace the screen this year. Also terrific are Andrew Garfield as the betrayed, hurt, ex-best friend, and Armie Hammer, playing both of the proper, enraged Winklevoss twins. In fact, I could rave about each member of the cast, but I’ll just sum it up by saying this is a perfectly acted film.
Aaron Sorkin’s script is brilliant in that it is completely unique with its rapid fire, endlessly layered dialogue. You can discover new complexities in it with each subsequent viewing. It seamlessly blends humor with heart breaking drama, and constantly feels authentic. The dialogue reels the audience in from the very start with the unforgettable opening scene in the coffee house.
The Social Network is a wonderful film, filled with once in a lifetime performances, ingenious dialogue, and a story at once both modern, and timeless.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Boy, did Tron: Legacy suck. It was this year’s equivalent of Avatar, being that the only positive thing I can say about it is it was kind of cool to look at. But if you’re hoping for relatable characters, interesting dialogue, or anything resembling a story, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Garrett Hedlund stars as Garrett Hedlund, son of that guy from the equally boring original film, Tron. Hedlund doesn’t do a lot of acting, per se, but he does spend a lot of time looking at the camera going “Aren’t I cute? Yes, yes I am.” Jeff Bridges appears to have fun reprising his character, but having fun and being interesting onscreen are two very different things. Olivia Wilde is fun to look at, so that falls under my one positive thing. Oh, the movie also features a baffling cameo by the great Cillian Murphy for all of about 30 seconds in the beginning, before he disappears for the remainder of the film. I guess this is to hint at a possible sequel, but all it really does is make me wish I were watching a movie with more Cillian Murphy and less boring Windows screensaver action.
The script manages to squeeze in every clichéd, overused, action movie line known to man, including, but not limited to: “This isn’t happening!”, “This can’t be good”, and the classic “Now THAT is a big door.”
It’s tough to complain about “plot holes” in a movie like this, because theoretically the movie would have to have a plot in the first place in order to contain holes, but I’ll still mention some of my favorite moments. At one point in the film, Jeff Bridges is seen reprogramming an evil guard, and then bonking him on the head to turn the guard into his own personal servant. This seems like it’d be a handy trick to teach his son who’s been running around fighting these guards for days. Another interesting note is the fact that despite the portal planting Hedlund in the middle of the virtual city, Hedlund must travel hundreds of miles outside the city to exit said portal. And of course, the realization that at the end (SPOILER) Jeff Bridges is God and can knock over badguys with a seismic foot stomp. Magic might have been useful earlier in the movie. But what do I know.