Image Of The Day 01/28/11

Way before Leonardo Dicaprio's Cobb had his totem in Inception and was questioning what was dream and what wasn't, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner had also used a small object to puzzle audiences and make them ask questions about what had just happened. Was Harrison Ford's character a robot? 28 years later we are still asking ourselves that same question and I bet that will likely be the same thing for Christopher Nolan's flawed but fascinating movie. I am not part of the camp that thinks Blade Runner is a great movie but it is one with images that resonate deeply in our heads. Its cult status is just that. A film that has been somewhat overrated all these years but still provokes fascinating debate in its premise and plot twists. The special effects might be spectacular for a film from 1982 but don't necessarily give us a high that is needed for a Sci-Fi classic, in other words it hasn't aged well ditto the bad 80's hair and clothes which portrays Los Angeles in 2019 in not just a social turmoil but fashion turmoil also.

If anything, the film is best seen as a layered but not quite fascinating portrait of a hell bound futuristic society. A society in which machines are just as much human as -say- humans. The replicants are so close to a sheer clone from us that they need to get tested by an expert to verify their fake-ness. Harrisson Ford's Deckard is put into that situation on the audience. Is he one of us? or is he one of them? to question our hero throughout the film director asks us to put aside our preconceived notions of what a male movie hero should be like. There are instances and there are clues but they all contradict one another in our reasoning's as to whom this man actually is. I'm sure the storyboard of Blade Runner was much more interesting that the final product. It's a movie that encompasses layer after layer but yet feels cold and isolated from its viewer.

For my money Steven Spielberg's Minority Report comes closest to what Scott probably wanted to do both visually and narratively with his film. Spielberg managed to make the best out of a Philip K Dick story by implementing his gift of storytelling and taking advantage of the advancement in Hollywood technology at his display. It isn't just Spielberg's film that will age better than Scott's film. Alfonso Cuarron's Children Of Men has been called our generation's Blade Runner. A masterpiece of visual storytelling, Cuarron's now classic film is a reminder that great Science Fiction still exists out there. It is interesting to see how the film has been gaining more recognition since its quiet release in December of 2006.


The Way Back (PG-13) ★★★

Peter Weir has taken a thin script and brought some much needed life to it with his direction in The Way Back. The visuals are staggering as Weir transports us into the true life journey of a bunch of prison camp escapees in Siberia. Their goal is to get to India, where communism does not reign and their right to live does. It's a movie that might have faltered in other hands but Weir invests heart and soul. I was really struck by the performances, which include an Impressive Collin Farrel as an escapee with violent tendencies and Ed Harris as the only Yankee of the bunch, a man who's old age does not defeat the courage he has to make it out alive. In essence The Way Back is as epic as any film out there. Its 130 minute running time can sometimes be real mountainous to sustain but it is in its overall feel and ambitiousness that it truly hits the mark. You come out of the film drained but knowing you had an experience.

Blue Valentine (R) ★★½

You won't find many better performances out there than those of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine. They play a married couple that have reached the final straw and are inching closer and closer to a divorce but like all marriages, it was once was a happy and beautiful thing. Through flashbacks we are taken back once upon a time, when these two lovers first met and felt an excitement that is missing in the present. Williams is astonishing and only furthers the case that there are many actresses that can equal her talent at the moment ditto Gosling who's just sublime. While the perforances area thing of beauty the movie is not perfect. Some of the stuff presented here hits hard whereas other scenes feel trite and obvious. As much as I wanted to love this movie, it doesn't say anything new about relationships. Think of last year's 500 Days Of Summer but much more serious and much less fun.

Black vs White in "Black Swan"

Black Swan (R) ★★★½

"I got a little homework assignment for you. Go home and touch yourself. Live a little." Thomas Leroy
That simple advice is uttered to Natalie Portman's Nina near the beginning of Black Swan. No truer words are spoken in the movie, which has many themes including that of sexual liberation. Nina is sheltered sexually. Her mother doesn't let her get out of the house at night and even when masturbating, Nina turns around only to see her mother sleeping right at the corner of her own room. It's a scene that shows just how imprisoned she's been in her life and how sexually timid the girl really is. At one point Nina is asked by her perv Ballet instructor if she's a virgin, she answers no but we know she's lying.
I don't know why it took me so long to write about Black Swan. I mean, it has been close to 4 weeks since I've seen it, yet its images still linger in my head and its finale absolutely took my breath away. I guess it could be cause it sometimes takes time to write about a great film. You need time for the words to come out to describe what you saw, in this case I was left speechless at the work of art I had just seen. I was in a dream like state upon leaving the theatre, it was as if I had finally seen the movie I had been waiting for all along in 2010. The movie that reminded me why I loved cinema so damn much. So much has been said of Portman's performance as Nina, which is incredible, and much has also been said of Darren Aronofsky's brilliant, visionary direction ditto Matthew Libatique masterful camera work which deserves all the possible praise in the world.

There is greatness in the Black Swan. I love the way Aronofsky splits his movie's first half into high camp only to transform it into horror in its second half. I love the intense expressions on Nathalie Portman's face as she struggles to master her art, I love the way the film knows it is influenced by high camp yet despite that fact becomes truly great as it goes along, I love the obvious influences to Cronenberg, Lynch and even Powell, I love the way Aronofsky means to fuck with his audience's head and does so brilliantly but most of all I love Black Swan for the sheer fact that it is a great movie in what has been very bad year for cinema. Oh, has it ever been a bad year (more on that when I publish my Ten Best Movies Of 2010 next week)

An interesting thing happens half way through the picture. Our Nina is at a bar and takes a spiked cocktail with acid that turns the film and the said ballerina into a complete schizoid nightmare. The change of pace the film takes -what's real? what isn't?- is triggered by Nina taking the drink and losing sight of her own reality. Schizophrenia is an illness that doesn't necessarily get triggered by anything but who's symptoms usually come out at their fullest extent when combined with a psychedelic drug. From that point on we are in Nina head, as it is shaken and woken up by the drug. The schizophrenia that has only been hinted at so far into the picture comes out and confuses the audience and Nina with a Lynchian dream-like state. Is what were watching real? or have we been put into Nina's walking nightmare?

Aronosfsky has made me believe again in the power of art and what it can achieve in its structures and ideas. As far as I'm concerned he has just made an awesome double feature alongside his 2008 masterpiece The Wrestler, both films are about artists that take the plunge into the deep darkness of their art. They are driven by perfection, yet are flawed in their execution. Whether it is ballet or wrestling, what Aronofsky is showing us are artists that bleed for their trade and physically pummel themselves until there is nothing left in them but the weight of triumphant death. We're lucky to have a movie such as this one out there to show us just how good movies can be, there can only be one word to describe it; Magic.

An Image 1/11/11 "Young, dumb and full of cum"

An image from Kathryn Bigelow's much talked about, testosterone charged, guy flick Point Break. A movie with enough campiness to last a lifetime yet with enough energy to put to shame most of today's -and yesterday's- action thrillers. I'm not thinking of the overtly climatic finale but a chase sequence that last more that 12 minutes near the film's mid section and a real talent for editing and shot selection in said actions sequence(s). Suffice to say it might not be a great movie but it's sort of a mini classic in the genre and surely an indicator of how talented Bigelow is, even with a script as overstuffed as this one. Don't forget she made The Hurt Locker 18 years later.

"True Grit" & my FIRST opinion

I adore the Coen Brothers. They are right up there with the very best of American filmmaking. Which is of course why I found True Grit (★★½ ) a true disappointment. Then again films by these incredibly talented brothers sometimes take more than one viewing to fully digest, which means you could take this review and read it with a grain of salt. In their retelling of the Charles Portis Novel of the same name -already filmed as a John Wayne vehicle in 1969- the brothers come up short by their standards. Don't get me wrong, this is a film that has many highs in its conventionality but I felt there was something missing. The raw dark satire that had infused many of their best films from No Country For Old Men to last year's top ten beaut A Serious Man is missing, replaced by a Wonderful World Of Disney vibe that sadly sticks during the film's entire duration. Jeff Bridges takes over the John Wayne role as Rooster Cogburn, a bad ass alcoholic deputy Marshall that is convinced by a 14 year old girl (Hallie Steinfeld) to find her father's killer. Bridges shines and Steinfeld is twice as good in a role that might just lead to a fruitful career for her. High praise should also go to Matt Damon, who follows the duo in their journey, looking for the same man but for different reasons. It's the Coen's the disappoint, maybe it's because we expect them to churn out great movies every year or maybe it's because we would never associate conventionality in their flmmography, sadly, True Grit falls in that category but I can't say I didn't like it.

"Somewhere" to nowhere

Somewhere (R) ★★

With Somewhere, Director Sofia Coppola goes back to the winning formula that made Lost In Translation such a triumph for her. The silent angst in this film is almost palpable as Steven Dorff's Johnny, a big Hollywood actor, wanders around the halls of well known celebrity hotel Chateau Marmont. Johnny's daughter is abandoned by her mother for an undetermined period of time, which means he has to take care of her until she leaves for camp in a few weeks. The daughter is played by Elle Fanning, in a way only the Fanning family can play a role; mature and totally realistic. I wasn't completely won over by the film's sombre, almost uneventful mood. There are stretches where not much happens, even though Coppola does it on purpose for her audience to get to know her main character a little better. Coppola wants us to look inside the tortured, loner soul of Johnny and see a man that has all the money in the world but is as lonely and messed up as anybody around him. The women Johnny gets in the film are plentiful but it's not like he has to work hard to get them, they jump at him at almost every second and he can't help but go for these beauties.

Although the film is an examination of a -somewhat- interesting man, it can at times feel empty and completely devoid of inspiration- which is a real shame considering the talent involved here and the potential for a solid movie. This is not a solid movie, it is instead an interesting one. Interesting because of the kind of unpredictability Coppola lays upon us from first frame to last, even though I wouldn't say it is satisfying, especially given the way the film ends in an almost hysterically ambiguous yet all too self important way, did you get that? Dorff does the best he can with his character and delivers a performance that does resonate with the audience and Coppola's use of color, lighting and cinematography definitely shows her talent but at the end of the day Somewhere is middle tier Coppola and falls into the lost and rapidly contagious trap of being as empty and lost as its main protagonist. It made me wonder why its Johnny was so depressed to begin with, celebrity angst is something I don't think many of us could identify with.