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Archive for January, 2011

The First Week.

I have survived, somehow, the first week of classes.  It helped a little that I only had to deal with four of my classes, rather than the full complement of five, but I still get the feeling that my trials are (as they do each semester) only just beginning. (more…)

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Oscar Nominations.

As you are probably well aware, the Oscar nominations were announced yesterday.

I of course have Thoughts on the matter, though they aren’t likely to be coherent and I may or may not lapse into nerdrage at some points. You have been warned. (more…)

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Note: These reviews are probably going to borrow a lot from the “quick thoughts” reviews  I did of each one shortly after seeing them.  So if some of this looks familiar… it probably is.

The King’s Speech

Set against the backdrop of the approaching World War II, The King’s Speech tells the story of how Prince Albert of England (soon to be King George VI) works to overcome his debilitating stammer with the highly unconventional Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue.  What sounds like a fairly conventional film becomes an enchanting and compelling piece of cinema in the hands of this movie’s excellent cast and talented screenwriter.

One of the reasons I think this film is a success is because of the way its script (by David Seidler) clearly strives against many of the conventions so commonly ascribed to this sort of story.  This might have merely been a decently made but otherwise melodramatic “inspirational” film, but Seidler pulls it above that, turning it into a very solid tale about one man’s struggle with his inner demons and the world’s expectations of him.  While it is in many other ways very conventional (it seems to be tailor-made Oscar Bait when one considers its various elements together), it still manages to rise above those conventions and stick in one’s mind as a well-constructed and compelling piece of cinema.  It is largely thanks to its dramatic elements that it sticks in such a way, but one of the things that really struck me about this film was the extraordinarily high number of funny moments peppered throughout.  It is this levity that keeps the film from falling into melodrama, and it is certainly one of the film’s strengths.

The superb cast is another reason why this film succeeds.  Colin Firth gives one hell of a performance as Prince Albert/George VI; all those acting awards he’s collected thus far are well-deserved.  He manages to fill Bertie with a desperate passion to be heard and a nervous fear not only of his stammer but also, in a way, of his own capabilities.  Of course, the other members of the case are equally good: Geoffrey Rush is delightful as speech therapist Lionel Logue, and Helena Bonham Carter’s no-nonsense Princess Elizabeth serves as a reminder to the world that she can do much more than crazy, over-the-top characters.

The King’s Speech is nothing short of an excellent film.  It is somewhat “conventional”, but I would go so far to say that it is more remarkable for those conventions that it subverts and avoids than the ones that it fulfills.  It’s well-worth checking out.

5/5

Black Swan

Black Swan is a strange film.  It is a psychological thriller that is also a coming of age story, set against the backdrop of a ballet studio.  Nina Sayers is a talented dancer who manages to land the dual lead role in her company’s production of Swan Lake.  She is more than capable of performing the innocent White Swan, but she is forced to get in touch with her darker, more sensual side if she is to perform the Black Swan, the White Swan’s counterpart.

Something that immediately struck me about Black Swan was the way almost every element of the film worked together to create a very particular atmosphere.  The cinematography evokes not only the fear of things unseen but also a constant sense of subjectivity.  There are, for example, a number of tracking shots that show only the back of Nina’s head as she walks; we do not get to see her face, but mostly only what she herself sees.  The sound likewise works in the same way, sometimes pairing a single sound with different images or actions to again create a strange sense of subjectivity.  Indeed, the whole story seems to thrive on subjectivity, and in the end one feels the need to rewatch the whole film, if only to make sense of what was real and what was merely imagined.  I think this itself speaks to the effectiveness of the film as a whole, as well as the success of Darren Aronofsky’s direction.

Of course, another reason why Black Swan is such an effective film is because of Natalie Portman’s amazingly intense performance as Nina.  She captures perfectly the girlish innocence of Nina, and she makes Nina’s growing paranoia (and possibly insanity) believable and harrowing.  You can tell just by watching the film that she put everything into her performance, and I am at this point fairly certain that she will be winning the Best Actress Oscar in a couple of months.

Black Swan is an intense experience, well-made and well-performed, and for all its strangeness very much worth seeing.

5/5

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Live from College!

(It’s Saturday night?)

(Which it in fact is.  Fancy that.  Anyway.)

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Dentist Appointments.

I had originally planned to give you all a double-feature review of both The King’s Speech and Black Swan, but then my day got busy, as my days tend to do.  For the most part it got busy with wandering about the Internet, as I am wont to do, but it also got busy because I had a dentist appointment this afternoon. (more…)

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So I saw Black Swan tonight.  As I have mentioned before, I was really prepared to be thoroughly freaked out by the whole thing, particularly given the strange trailers for the film and the overall buzz surrounding it.

To tell the truth, I didn’t think it was nearly as freaky as advertised, but, all the same, it was pretty damn freaky, particularly the last half-hour or so.  That said, I still enjoyed it immensely (if “enjoyed” is the right word).  The way the film was shot and put together both visually and aurally worked excellently for the type of story being told, and the ambiguity that haunts the story itself is entirely appropriate.  The movie couldn’t have worked any other way, and I must applaud director Darren Aronofsky and the cast and crew for a job extremely well done.

I think Black Swan is, rather like The Social Network and The King’s Speech, one of the best films to come out of 2010.  All the excited buzz for the film is deserved.  It is a bit of a dark horse choice to win Best Picture, and it will probably go away empty handed.  The Social Network and The King’s Speech are both far more traditional choices (one more so than the other), but I will say again that just because someone (whether it’s a lone blogger like myself or AMPAS) says one film is “better” than some others doesn’t mean that the other films aren’t also good.  Best Picture is really nothing more but an arbitrary (though prestigious) label, and it certainly shouldn’t dissuade anyone from watching a “losing” film (or even the winning film).

 

In other news, the packing madness has begun, and I think I’m going to run out of boxes.  Oh dear.

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I was originally going to write up a post talking a bit about the Golden Globes (which were last night) and who won what and why I think The Social Network deserved to win in all the categories it won in, because apparently there are some people who don’t like it and I can’t really figure out why and I really should just not worry about that, but anyway.  I was going to do that, but then I thought about it some more and I realized that this blog is starting to turn into all-movies-all-the-time or something like that, which wasn’t my original intention for it.  (In fact, it seems like this blog by a writer who is also a movie lover seems to be turning into a blog by a movie lover who is maybe also a writer, if she ever actually talked about writing to anyone ever, which she doesn’t.)

So I’m not going to be talking about the Globes, though I thought they were okay for the most part and everyone who should have won, won, hurray.

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