A Film’s “Intent” and “Valid” Film Criticism

I‘m not a film critic. Yes, I write some reviews and have a weekly show in which I sit around and bullshit with my friends about newly released film. In that sense sure, I guess I am a critic. But in that sense isn’t everyone a critic of any form of art or experience they have that they talk about? What I mean is that I’m not paid for what I do. It’s not a career (obviously). I didn’t go to film school and I don’t have a degree in journalism or broadcasting. I’m just a dude with an opinion in which the 21st century allows me to share that opinion with the masses.

So I think it’s time to address something that’s been bugging me for quite some time; an accusation that has been tossed around on our Cinecast (and others) far too often (of which I admit I am equally guilty). This notion that you’re “reviewing the movie not for what it is but what you wanted it to be.” I think that statement can careen down a real slippery slope and in most cases (not all) is totally invalid. Can’t you throw that accusation at anyone for just about any criticism of any movie? Our recent discussion of Rango has spurred these thoughts.

If someone were to say they didn’t like Speed Racer because the dialogue is terrible, I don’t think it’s fair to say, “well that’s just not what the movie was aiming for.” Well maybe not, but that doesn’t mean it’s an invalid criticism. The dialogue is pretty terrible in that movie. It’s hackneyed, elementary and corny. Sure it may be reminiscent of the original animated television show and sure that may be what the producers intended but that doesn’t mean someone has to like it or that it couldn’t have been done better. I personally happen to like Speed Racer quite a bit but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who walks out of the screening and says, “man I just don’t think I could’ve taken one more second of Susan Sarandon’s one dimensional character and her campy acting!” That’s an absolutely fair comment to make.

So yes, that person wanted that movie to be something different. In essence, any review out there that is negative of something is essentially saying just that isn’t it? If the film had done something just a little bit different it might be more positive looking in that particular “critic’s” viewpoint.
Would you like to know more…?

The Other Woman: Natalie Portman

Portman’s other film at TIFF last fall didn’t play to critics and fans as well as her current, Oscar contending project, Black Swan received. In fact apparently it was received rather negatively. “Love And Other Impossible Pursuits,” now being released to North American audiences as The Other Woman will already be upon us within the next few days. Personally, I hadn’t even heard of the film – maybe overshadowed by its Aronofsky directed older brother – but now it looks like the studio plans to latch on to the popularity of Black Swan and get this thing in theaters now while the buzz is still blazing.

Directed by Don Roos (”The Opposite Of Sex,” “Happy Endings”), the film revolves around Portman’s character who steals a man from his wife and then must bond with her new stepson while dealing with the loss of her own child. It looks like pretty heavy handed melo-drama but in this camp that isn’t always a deal breaker. In fact it’s quite often a selling point. It looks clear (from the trailer below) that Portman will continue her streak of awesome performances; co-starring with Lisa Kudrow, Lauren Ambrose and Scott Cohen.

We’re getting the film via on demand next week (Jan. 1) and then a theatrical distribution begins on February 4th. I don’t know, Portman alone is enough to get me to watch and I tend to enjoy gawking at others’ misery. So I may get my trusty ol’ PS3 downloading this asap. Is this your kind of thing? Will critics warm to it? Check out the trailer under the seats and sound off…

Would you like to know more…?

Friday One Sheet: Crack’d Swan

I think this poster captures the spirit of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (which is expanding out to many more cities this weekend, our review is here.) An air-brushed to perfection Natalie Portman with a huge crack splintering the side of her face. The broken porcelain design was also used for Sean Ellis’ The Broken, but here, it seems a worthy stealing of the concept, because the striving for perfection and the cracks and fissures that form along the way is really part and parcel for the film.

Review: Black Swan

 

“I kill myself for you people every night!” so the unspoken cry of the stage actor, or in this case the professional Ballerina, goes. Darren Aronofsky continues his examination of the psyches of performers, started with The Wrester but comes at it from the opposite direction to his previous picture age- and experience-wise. Black Swan charts the anxieties and temptations of a young ballerina, Nina (Natalie Portman,) as she gets her shot at the big-time in a production of “Swan Lake.” Nina has just been picked by legendary Ballet director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel, oddly restrained) to replace his aging muse (Winona Ryder) and take the central dual role of the Swan Queen in his ‘visceral’ production of the most famous (or overdone) ballet. Nina is young enough that she is still living at home with her mother, amongst her pink stuffies and white laced bedspreads. She is a perfectionist, but not yet an artist, naïve and a career surrogate for her mother who only made it so far in the dance world in her day before having children. It is nice to see Barbara Hershey in this film, but I wish she had a little more to do. That applies to pretty much the entire cast with the exception of Portman. Aronofsky keeps the camera on her face when things are happening to her, but also favours that ‘behind the head’ technique used frequently in The Wrestler. There is something about the technique that undercuts the film. It worked for the sad optimism of Randy The Ram, but for the acute performance anxiety and burbling internal pressures of Nina, the more aggressive techniques he used in pi and Requiem for a Dream may have better served things. As it stands, there is something about Black Swan that feels muted. For the high melodrama of the story and the cliché feel of many of the scenes, not the least of which that ‘there is always someone younger and hungrier to replace the lead,’ ‘it’s lonely at the top,’ etc. a little more bombast may have helped things along. This certainly is not a character study as the characters are all in total subservience to the metamorphosis (physical, psychological) angle of the story.
Would you like to know more…?

“No Strings Attached” Trailer

Like it or not, this has the potential to kill any chance of Portman being recognized for her work in Black Swan. I suppose a case could be made for Evolution, but otherwise it seems Reitman hasn’t really done anything worthy or 90 minutes of your time since Ghostbusters in 1984. So I’m not sure why I’m surprised; but this is lame – on so many levels.

 

 

Stunning Set of International Black Swan Posters

Darren Aronofsky’s dark ballerina tale Black Swan has been getting rave reviews on its initial festival screenings (review), which should put it in good stead for its December 1st theatrical release, not to mention prime buzz position in this year’s Oscar season. And today we find new international posters for the film that are among the most stunning artwork I’ve seen in recent years – all sharp edges and bright reds, blacks and whites, giving a good idea of the jagged and intense experience that the film promises. They look straight out of Russian propaganda or European art deco design, and as if I wasn’t already stoked enough to see the film, now I’m exactly 4x more excited.

The other three posters are tucked under the seats.

Hat tip Screenrant.

Would you like to know more…?

TIFF Review: Black Swan

 

 

“I kill myself for you people every night!” so the unspoken cry of the stage actor, or in this case the professional Ballerina, goes. Darren Aronofsky continues to examination of the psyches of performers, but comes at it from the opposite direction of from his previous picture, The Wrester. Here he charts the anxieties and temptations of a young ballerina, Nina (Natalie Portman,) as she gets her shot at the big-time in a production of “Swan Lake.” Nina has just been picked by legendary Ballet director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel, subdued and restrained) to replace his aging muse (Winona Ryder) and take the central dual role of the Swan Queen in his ‘visceral and real’ production of the most famous (or overdone) of ballet. Nina is young enough that she is still living at home with her mother, amongst her pink stuffies and white laced bedspreads. She is a perfectionist, but not yet an artist, naïve and a career surrogate for her mother who only made it so far in the dance world in her day before having children. It is nice to see Barbara Hershey in this film, but I wish she had a little more to do. That applies to pretty much the entire cast with the exception of Portman. Aronofsky keeps the camera on her face when things are happening to her, but also favours that ‘behind the head’ technique used frequently in The Wrestler. Something about that technique that takes some of the visceral out of the picture. It worked for the sad optimism of Randy The Ram, for the acute performance anxiety and burbling internal pressures of Nina, the more aggressive techniques he used in pi and Requiem for a Dream may have better served things. As it stands, there is something about Black Swan that feels muted. For the high melodrama of the story and the cliché feel of many of the scenes, not the least of which that ‘there is always someone younger and hungrier to replace the lead,’ ‘it’s lonely at the top,’ etc a little more bombast may have helped things along. This certainly is not a character study as the characters are all in total subservience to the metamorphosis angle of the story.
Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: Black Swan

After much speculation and curiosity regarding Darren Aronofsky’s latest, we finally get a substantial peek by way of its first trailer, which hit the Apple site yesterday. And boy, does it give you a fair bit to chew on. It seems as though Aronofsky is plunging back into the mental breakdown territory that poked through in the later half of Requiem for a Dream, with more than a little of The Red Shoes thrown in. Plus, on top of the Portman-Kunis rivalry that (I’m guessing) makes up the bulk of the movie, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Vincent Cassel does in this flick. I’m certainly intrigued, and it looks like Black Swan may very well make Aronofsky five for five.

Check out the trailer at Apple here, then leave your thoughts below!