Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Go Black Swan

I finally got to Black Swan Sunday night. It's a masterpiece.

I can't take the Oscars seriously, but I do admit to watching with a mixture of anticipation, horror, anger and disgust. So it was nice to see a film as edgy as Swan get a Best Picture nomination, and a total of five--even if it is sure to lose the big one, but get one for Natalie Portman instead.

It's definitely the best film I've seen in a few years.

It was also kind of a relief. The first Darren Aronofsky film I saw was Requiem for a Dream, and I mostly loved that, but . . . it was a little much. Brilliant guy, but it got a bit ridiculous. And beyond hard to watch. Almost impossible to bear.

The Wrestler was also pretty sadistic. It was a rough time emotionally for me, after finishing my book, and I almost had to leave.

Swan was intense for sure, and I guess "hard to watch" at times, but not like the others, and with way more payoff, all the way through.

I don't think it should be read 100 percent literally. I liked the literal part, but I liked more about how it captured the struggle of creating art--how it can feel. It felt like ten years of my life played out in two hours.

And it inspired me to write again.

On other Oscar fronts,
I haven't seen all the films, but this is definitely the best I have. The Social Network was pretty electric, but not like Swan. I also have trouble forgiving them making so much shit up. God, I hate that. I really think true-life films that play fast and loose with the truth should be denied awards. It's the only way to stop them. (Because the filmmakers care about the awards.)

Now I'm wondering how fair that is to hold that against David Fincher. But nominating Aaron Sorkin was a crime. Most choices are a matter of taste. That was the one immoral choice.

I was very surprised and sad to see Mila Kunis passed over for Black Swan. She was damn good.

And sad to see Ryan Gosling nixed for Blue Valentine. I have not seen it, so can't comment on that--I've just loved his work in everything I've seen so far, especially the amazing Half Nelson, and he could use the recognition with the public. But his co-star, Michelle Williams, got one, and I have loved her since Brokeback Mountain. I really need to see Valentine.

(More on snubs here. Full nominees list here.)

I probably won't see The King's Speech, but I'll be rooting against it. I am so tired of "royalty" being held up as heroes. (Quotes, because their existence is imaginary--and ludicrous in this age.) It amazes me how human beings are so willing and eager to put others above themselves, especially for some fantasy like "noble" blood. When will we get past that?

It's hard to know what to make of Christopher Nolan. His fan base is furious that he was passed over again, for directing Inception. Memento was extraordinary, but I have not forgiven him for the cinematic abomination of The Dark Knight. I need to rent Inception and see whether he's redeemed himself.

127 Hours is still on my to-see list, so I can't have an opinion on Danny Boyle getting left off the director's list, but I've loved his work, too, especially Millions and Trainspotting. Very talented guy.

And what a delight to see my stablemate at Twelve Books stablemate Sebastian Junger, nominated his first time directing for Best Documentary for Restrepo (along with his partner, Tim Hetherington). It's nice to see an author branch out artistically, and get recognized, too. National Geographic Channel is going to re-air it next month.

So much still to see.


Oh, I forgot one big one. I liked The Fighter a lot, though probably not in a league with the others. It was definitely Hard To Watch. Probably unnecessarily so.

I disagree with all the hype for Christian Bale. I found his hyper-mannered performance hyper distracting. And annoying. Yes, it seemed to match the real guy during the closing credits, but this was not a documentary. Reproducing the mannerisms of the person--if not a significant historical figure--doesn't seem like the heart of what I want an actor to do to make a great film.

I'm a huge Amy Adams fan, and think she should have won bigtime for Junebug, I'm a bit perplexed by what was so good about her performance in the film. I actually thought Marky Mark did a nice job anchoring it. I wouldn't give him an award, but nice job. They all did a good job, but I would not have put them on an awards list. 


  1. Don't think of THE KING'S SPEECH as royalty being held up as heroes. Think of it as them being brought down a peg and rendered little more than human after all.

    I'm no fan of the concept of royalty either. I don't pretend to be a political scientist so I can't imagine why the whole outdated concept of a royal family hasn't long since been jettisoned by the whole of Britain. I keep waiting for Parliament to say, "You know, we've had a bit of a think, Chuck, and after Liz kicks it, we're turning Buckingham Palace into a museum dedicated to a quaint time when we didn't know any better. So basically, you and your family will be stripped of any "titles" you may have and you'll just be like everyone else."

    Seems the logical thing to do. On the other hand, I know many Brits who drop everything to watch the Queen's address at Christmas, who think that even though the monarchy hasn't mattered for decades, losing it would be like abandoning tea and scones. What would Britain be without a monarchy (even an ineffectual one)? I say it's time to find out. But I'm not British. And I think too many Brits disagree.

    That aside, KING'S SPEECH is still a well-made film. Rooting against it seems petty and mean-spirited, like people who hate books without having read them. The Oscars aren't awards for Best Achievement in Trying to Save an Antiquated System with Some of the Worst Human Rights Atrocities on Record. It's about filmmaking. I've hated a number of "best pictures" because I didn't like the story or the message but I could recognize the art of making the film. Skip KING'S SPEECH if the idea offends you but badmouthing it because you resent a perceived premise doesn't seem like your style.

  2. I'm curious as to why you thought The Dark Night was a "cinematic abomination."

  3. Matt, I'll see if I can find one of my posts on Dark Knight. Where to start.

    Anonymous, I said openly that I have not seen the film, so I can't say how well it worked. But I have been suckered into a slew of royalist films in my life, so I know my odds. And with a limited amount of time, I don't intend to invest it in this.

    While I can't have an opinion on the film, I can root for/against anything I like. I fully expect that the team was very competent in how they went about it, but I'm still disgusted by the the way they present it in their ads, and what the whole gist of the film seems to be about. So I'll happily root against.

    And it may be your idea of petty, but the concept of royalty to me is far bigger than any one film, so I think you're the one with your priorities reversed.

    if I see the film, I may change

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  5. They keep the British royalty around for the sweet, sweet tourism $$, I think. It's their Space Needle.

    The King's Speech was more enjoyable than I'd expected. Very Oscary, maybe just a touch on the formulaic side, but a good film overall.

  6. I couldn't agree more that Amy Adams was robbed when she didn't get the Oscar for Junebug. I also really liked her in The Fighter however I thought Melissa Leo was fantastic. I'm going to have to disagree on Christian Bale. I think they should just go ahead and hand him the Oscar now. He was that good.

  7. Miss Demon, I think you're going to get your wish on Christian. He's a heavy favorite.

  8. FYI, I just read this review of Black Swan which I think captures a lot of the magic of it:


    I found it via Roger Ebert, who sent this tweet: @ebertchicago: Nice. My Far-Flung Correspondent Grace Wang goes big time in the Spectator and prepares the Brits for "Black Swan."

  9. Caroline in BaltimoreJanuary 26, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    Finally, someone else who disliked The Dark Knight. That movie is so convoluted and confusing. I get the impression that Heath Ledger's death has made people revere the movie more than it deserves.

    I couldn't agree more about Amy Adams. I love her. I saw Black Swan and liked it too--very weird, but I did like it. Haven't seen The King's Speech and not sure I will.

  10. My choice is The King’s Speech has some of the best costumes, sets and acting you’ll ever see.The movie is worth seeing. The quality's brilliant on this site: http://www.torrentoff.com

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