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5 minutes: "Concrete" is so obviously code for "cocaine."

10 minutes: This kid actor is a bit much, they really need to get him off and put Ruth Wilson on.

15 minutes: Oh Christ not Andrew Scott.

22 minutes: Wait, he's actually talking about concrete.

27 minutes: These calls are coming pretty fast but I can't really see how they can maintain the tension. In Phonebooth at least a dude was shooting at Colin Farrell.

34 minutes: he's gonna have to crash or something to give this an actual endpoint.

40 minutes: Look at him chugging cough medicine. that's how it'll happen.


53 minutes: Scott's loyalty and ordinariness is really quite sweet.

62 minutes: has he been driving the speed limit this whole time????

65 minutes: there is literally no other substance on earth more appropriate to this man's personality than concrete. He's if like Mr Stevens out of Remains of the Day got to keep all of Sonny Wortzik's promises about taking care of everything.

70 minutes: I think....the dude...just has...a cold...

76 minutes: I'm just so happy about the way this thing with Scott and Hardy ended I want to die.

83 minutes: how is it possible that Tom Hardy listening to his kid's voicemail about a football game is the climax of the movie and it works.

Camerawork too floaty and dependent on reflections, fuzzy lights. Editing too excitable. But a marvel of structure and screenwriting and performance and what the DoP misses in lighting the world he makes up for in his subtle and non-subtle lighting of Hardy's face. The play between minor victories and major roadblocks is impressive and involving. Viewer expectations are managed perfectly. And it is so rare for stories to rely wholly on the tensions of decency and competence; for a plot to hinge on a person's personality and identity and not be a revenge or crusade flick. For that reason alone it's worth a look.
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We went west, camping. This was the second time. The first time we went east, down the Great Ocean Road, up into the highlands, out into the hay plains. We were in the middle of breaking up. She was very sad, and I was very remote.

This time was a couple of years later. We were back together. She was still sad; or sad again. Newly, desperately sad, starting after we'd made the plans. She didn't want to go. I drove us out of town with a decided optimism as firm-set and grasped-at as the road.

Our first night was in Port Augusta, only three and a half hours from home. We had forgotten how to raise a tent. There was no grass, just hard red rocky dirt. We argued, frustrated and feeling foolish, bending the tent pegs, groundsheet flapping. It was the windiest night in years, they said. The sky was black.

We had brought a laptop and paid extra for power, because not to have access to some of our rituals and routines of comfort would have been a dealbreaker, but in the end she didn't want to watch anything. The tent was rattling and it was cold. Her brain was too loud. She put her headphones on. It was still early. I thought that tomorrow she would ask to go home.

I put on Bill Cunningham New York with an optimism shading more into the desperate and foreboding. After a few minutes, she took off her headphones, and I started it again.

She likes gentle people. She likes people who endure, and smile, and be themselves, and have love to spare. People who care for others, who are creative in a way that doesn't register to her as pretentious. Anyone over the age of seventy-five melts her. She swooned for Bill Cunningham.

Bill Cunningham revolutionised celebrity photography and fashion photography, sharp and focussed as a laser when it came to capturing how the people of New York wore and lived their clothes. He was an eccentric who lived with eccentrics, if by eccentric you mean someone who does not follow the typical patterns and aesthetics of modern life. He had no partner. He was a mystery even to colleagues and friends who had known him for decades. He was small, and by the time of the documentary gaining a geriatric bend and weariness and medical regime, but he was still quick-witted and surprisingly agile when his photography called for it. He wore the same clothes every day. He rode his bicycle (make that bicycles: they had been stolen by the dozens) everywhere he needed to go. He had a boyhood and a past he didn't like to talk about. He didn't like to talk about himself, or even really his driving purpose in life. He wanted to hold the camera, and point it out, towards the thousands of people he saw daily, in the offices of the New York Times, in the ballroom parties and galas of the elite, in the crowds on the street.

In Bill Cunningham New York he is obviously uncomfortable being inside the frame instead of outside of it, except for those times when he forgets himself in his work, running out into the road to capture a pattern or shape or texture as it strolls past. But he smiles and jokes and puts up with the reversal, maintaining scepticism that he himself and his approach to his calling could be of interest, could speak as loudly about humanity as the photographs he took.

He thought himself boring, and he wasn't interested in boring people, people who wore the right clothes the right way, the most expensive dress. He was interested in people who were being themselves, who brought their personality to bear on their material lives, whose eyes could transform the ordinary, who appeared to show us that just being alive and being creatively yourself was the first and most fundamental step.

This was, of course, a quaint and terrifically endearing blind spot. We were both in love with him by the five-minute-mark, blown far away from the wind and the worry and the sadness. I've always been grateful to him for that. It turned out to be a good holiday.

Last month, we happened to watch the documentary Iris, about another New York fashion eccentric Iris Apfel, also up there in age. Bill appeared, inevitably, in this documentary too; and so afterwards we rewatched Bill Cunningham New York (realising at that point that Iris Apfel also featured in this film), and were gladdened and warmed by his quick quiet spirit all over again.

He passed away yesterday at the age of 87.

"Who will we dress for now?" ask the fashionistas and moguls of New York: being snapped by Bill at a party was never guaranteed or to be taken for granted, and to impress him was often the goal. He did not want to sit in the front rows of the fashion shows, preferring to hear the unguarded chatter of those relegated to the back. His days mostly were spent in the streets, looking for people, for art.

To have an eye that judges without being judgemental; to be gentle; to be honest; to be loyal; to be unimpressed by status; to work hard; to know truthfully one's own talent, and passion, and to pursue it with a firm hand but no overriding ego; to refuse money for money's sake; to be alive to the world; to have a sense of history; to value the unconventional; to know there is difficulty and sorrow and still search for beauty; to be generous with smiles and genuine with praise. In Bill Cunningham New York he seems to touch the lives of everyone in the city, just by being there to witness them. It's a sorrow to lose a person like that.

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Meek's Cutoff (dir. Kelly Reichardt) isn't too interested in telling you what's happened, what's happening, or what's going to happen. We join a group of pilgrims as they are already, under the advice of their guide Meek, too committed to a "shortcut" to the promised land in the west to turn back. Water drops lower in the barrels. Wagon axles break. Tensions rise. They keep walking. Meek keeps boasting. There is no certainty that they are not heading directly towards their ends.

And then halfway through they find, perhaps, a new guide to fresh water, perhaps, who may, perhaps, know more than Mr Meek, on account of being a local. Or he may also, perhaps, be leading them to their doom, on account of being tied up, held at gunpoint, and called a heathen; and also being subject to the continual violent expansion of settlers across the west.

Well, they don't know who to trust, and neither do we. But they've gone too far, and they gotta move in some direction. Call it optimism, exhaustion, instinct, luck, prejudice, foolishness. Faith. Not blind faith but an aware and alive faith with active investment in the absence of certainty, the ineluctable gap between the knowable and the unknowable, the impossibility of resolution. It is all too clear that it could all be for naught; and at the end waits death, or at least 100 minutes of wasted time.

As pilgrims, they may be quite used to the problem and effort of faith. They pick a man and a direction, and keep walking.

In wide unbroken shots they trudge through the desert and dry hills, skirts fluttering, guiding cattle, looking sad. There is a very strange and unconvincing hollowness to the endless amounts of doing and being that are done and been onscreen. The actors are obviously enduring something unfun, but they all of them except Rod Rondeaux (who creates mystery with ease and precision) and Will Paxton (whose stoic patience and inherent goodness are almost too much) appear to be playacting.

Michelle Williams as Emily is the main moral and intellectual ground upon which the problem of not-knowing plays out. Her round face, with its perfectly-manicured eyebrows and natural troubled pout, is all wrong for this thin harsh story. She is very carefully dirty. Her wide eyes fix on objects and people without appearing to process thoughts about them. Her best moment (for my money the most exciting and characterful moment in the movie) is simply her shooting and laboriously reloading a rifle -- loading shot, packing wadding, loading gunpowder -- that plays out for a full minute. Williams has obviously practiced and repracticed this action, and the urgency of the moment comes through in the familiarity and smoothness of her motions.

For some reason, walking and gesturing does not appear to be as familiar to these actors as shooting a 150-year-old gun or shaping a new axle out of a tree trunk. Bruce Greenwood as Meek is swamped by a ridiculous beard and fringed jacket and, denied any revealing closeups, appears to have forgotten how to move convincingly in long shot, awkward in his clothes. Costumes are important. One of the great pleasures of Westerns is watching actors use their hats to mess with their sightlines (Brokeback Mountain is an aria sung in hat-brims) and the three women in Meek's Cutoff are gifted with deep bonnets that function like horse blinkers, literally tunnelling their vision forwards; but nobody seems to realise how crucial this is thematically or practically.

With her aversion to closeups and her use of the 4:3 ratio Reichardt works almost as hard as her actors to keep us at a distance. The naturalism of Blauvelt's photography and the length of the shots encourage observation, looking at. She makes the labour visible, and withholds the emotion.

This cripples these actors, who are required to domesticate and naturalise the stark difference of time and place through repetitive doing; to give the film's mysteries a purpose, to live us into the struggle and effort of faith. And sure, you can hinge a movie's structure on the question of faith, but you gotta do the rest yourself. Faith will give you a direction but it will not do the walking for you. And it is in the doing -- which is the entirety of the action onscreen: walking, kneading bread dough, watching, walking, patting donkeys, running, gathering wood, knitting, walking -- where Meek's Cutoff cannot connect, cannot turn concrete action into the stuff that makes the faith meaningful.
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Harvey is a nice light little movie, imperfectly made, with a major piece of miscasting (Sanderson) and some directorial stiffness (although Koster certainly succeeds where the '72 version fails). What it does have is Jimmy Stewart giving a wonderful performance in a very tricky role that blends melancholy and happiness so sweetly and unassumingly that even though the ending is a happy one I was left with a great mixed feeling of joy and sorrow.

Happy-Go-Lucky is the only other movie right now that I can think of that attempts something like Harvey -- a protagonist who is unceasingly cheery and NICE, at beginning and end of film -- but even H-G-L contains internal character conflict and unhappiness -- a journey. Elwood, in contrast, does not do the one thing that a protagonist is SUPPOSED to do, which is, change. He does not change at all. He is the catalyst for change in other peoples' lives, and he would be a very curious, tipsy void at the centre of the film if it were not for Jimmy Stewart.

Without an arc to play, Stewart instead plays to a reveal -- not the "Harvey is real" thing and certainly not the holy fool morality of the end, but the reveal in his centerpiece monologue outside of Charlie's bar, to Sanderson and Kelly, of his meeting with Harvey. Because we're way ahead of the other characters when it comes to wanting Elwood to stay Elwood and not be psychoanalysed or medicated into mundanity, to lose the thing that made him special, we're vested in seeing his "delusion" as something sweet and essentially harmless.

But in this monologue Stewart -- without ever ONCE tipping his hand, or playing to any melancholy -- reveals the depth of Elwood's potential sorrow, the emptiness and meaninglessness that is held at bay by Harvey, and the active choice he makes to be pleasant over smart (read: cynical or beholden to social pressure). He used to be able to dance; he doesn't dance any more, but he does make friends, and he does go out into the world.

I used to know a whole lot of dances. The, uh, flea hop, and--and the, what's the -- the black bottom, the varsity drag. I don't know, I just don't seem to have any time any more. I have so many things to do.

What is it you do, Mr Dowd?

Oh, Harvey and I sit in the bars, and have a drink or two, and play the jukebox. And soon the faces of all the other people, they turn toward mine, and they smile. And they're saying, we don't know your name, mister, but you're a very nice fella. Harvey and I warm ourselves on all these golden moments.

Who would he be if he couldn't warm himself on these moments?

And it's this that sits under the rest of the film, and makes us love him so tremendously, when he's giving Dr Chumley such good advice, when he's at risk of being medicated, when it looks like Harvey might stay behind. You only want good things to happen to him -- not because he's so so pleasant, but because his pleasantness is a choice, and because his life was not so so pleasant, once, and the beauty in his soul and the generosity and forgiveness he brings to the world deserves return in kind.

What Stewart brings to this performance is the knowledge not simply that joy and sorrow exist on a continuum, and that we can't know the one without having known the other; but that a pure and perfect, lived-in joy is often tinged with sorrow, or grief. When I think of my loved ones -- when I turn inside and try to capture without thought the feeling they invoke in me, the love I feel is tinged with a kind of pain. That mixed feeling, that joy tinged with melancholy that makes the joy shine brighter, is what Stewart is playing, and is what I felt seeing him shamble through the gates, over the rise and into the sunset.
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I was just gonna present these without comment but I'll never get over how well-made this movie is. Tremors (1990, dir. Ron Underwood, DOP. Alexander Gruszynski) is sharp and funny, and introduces absolutely everything you need to know about its premise and characters within ten minutes. It never moves at anything less than a cracking pace. Fred Ward has some golden broad comic beats to go with his crunchy broad face and Kevin Bacon, who is introduced taking a piss and pulling his undies out of his arse, sells the hell out of every second of his moments of alarm and victory.

The script by Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson is a study in narrative economy: every secondary character introduction speaks volumes and every gag is an organic set-up for something of narrative significance later -- who's got the lighter, who wins rock-paper-scissors, Bacon taking it personally that McIntyre's not a green-eyed blonde with perfect breasts. It's very easy to enjoy this one on its own terms -- no need for the irony and distance that a lot of cult classics might require.

It's also WAY prettier than it has any goddamn right to be. These are not the kind of visuals you expect out of a creature-feature comedy from the exact group of people who brought you Short Circuit. These are Western shots; romance shots; comedy shots. They bring it scope and intimacy and humour.

It knows how to use scenery and it knows how to use faces and it knows how to place people in the screen -- Underwood is so good at framing in this movie. In the standoff in Perfection he often keeps one beroofed character in the background while another character is working in the foreground; the screen is alive with action and tension but it's never distracting. He keeps dirt (sorry, Pleistocene alluvials) in just about every shot, and dust is caked on windows, shirts, is always puffing up around people or dangerously in the distance. The sets are all practical, allowing shots through windows, all built in that extraordinary valley, with mountains looming in the background, at first trapping them, and then offering safety.

So just about every shot, apart from being gorgeous, carries multiple strands of narrative, character, and spatial information; and Underwood never misses a chance to use the camera for a visual gag either -- Bacon's burst of hair as he hangs upside down -- the reveal of Burt and Heather's gun wall -- pull back from a closeup of an object over Bacon's and Ward's shoulders to reveal how far they have to go to get to it -- Bacon running almost offscreen and screaming I GOT A GODDAMN PLAN over his shoulder like a madman.

Here are some of my favourite shots:

Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room didn't you you bastard! )
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Walkabout is gorgeous and interesting and brought us David Gulpilil, so there are a lot of things to like about it.

One of those things is its very noticeable and visible editing and this post is gonna be mainly pictures, because half the point is to let the images speak for themselves.

But a few notes.

Manifestos have been written over whether editing is the true essence of film, and what the point of editing is, and what it actually does. Most editing is as unobtrusive as possible, because what it's doing linking the events of each shots and if it draws attention to itself it's overriding the narrative. The rules have been around since the birth of modern cinema: Don't break the 180. Preserve spatial relationships. Don't insert random shots. Cut from establishing shot to medium to close. When cutting dialogue keep faces at the same distance from the camera. Don't use still images. Don't use obvious fades or transitions. Essentially, use classic continuity technique to deliver easy familiar rhythms that help the viewers follow the action.

This clip from The Holy Grail, for instance, keeps the focus on the jokes and is mainly organised around where people are in relation to each other. The few abrupt edits are to highlight Arthur's magnificent contribution to the scientific method and to hit on the thump of the support being knocked out.

In contrast, a lot of the editing in Walkabout calls attention to itself, and in doing so, calls attention to shot choices and the relationships between shots. In linking two shots or images (let's put sound aside for now) editing is basically the conjunctive tissue of a movie, the ands, buts, sos, fors and so on, dictating what kind of relationship two statements have. Are these two shots in sequence because of movement, action, space, character, idea, theme, mood, or something else?

But images have different ambiguities to the written word, especially when they follow in sequence. The kind of relationship two shots have can often be up for grabs, especially when someone is cutting on theme, image, and mood, instead of narrative continuity. It is the gap between two shots that produces the meaning.

There's not a whole lot of action in Walkabout. There's barely any cause and effect -- the father's murderous decision is choppy and meaningless. It has a listless, dreamy feel. Cutting on image and theme and mood, as Nicholas Roeg (dir, DOP) and Antony Gibbs (editor) often do, subsumes standard narrative to the force of story, of myth. This kind of editing really exploits the mystery and power of images.

It has some very definite points to make about people's relationships to each other, and to the land, and frankly can be a little didactic. Some of its arguments may be obvious in the below, where I've picked some cuts that interest me and given the images immediately on either side. But there's also a hell of a lot of suggestion, of ambivalence, multiplicity, potential.

And of course, it's difficult to convey in still images. Much of the power of Walkabout is in the cumulative effect of rapidly-cut similar and dissimilar images, where spectres from other parts of the movie or other portions of the land or other ideas erupt into the action on screen. These are not always cuts to the character's mind's eye or point of view. These are cuts into imagination itself. Pictures and ideas colliding seemingly of their own volition. Walkabout is so compelling when it allows images to dream together.

like a million images don't look at this on your phone I warned you )
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I wish I had more time this week to talk about Dog Day Afternoon, one of my favourite movies and surely one of the great American movies of the 70s, as self-contained as The Godfather is sprawling. It starts with the classic piano beat of Amoreena, a quick shot of Sonny's car tucked in in between dogs and billboards pointing out that for all of the police and drama, today's events are just one moment in the hustle and bustle of New York life, and will be just as quickly forgotten.

I wish I had time to talk more about the amazing sound design. Jesus Christ that awful telephone ring that drills down into your brain like a jackhammer; the clicks and clacks of ordely banking that are disrupted when Sonny makes his move; the pock of tennis balls through the opening tune; the chopper blades and engine that drown out the radio chatter; the hoarse cry of Attica man!; the retort of a shot that sends people screaming and fleeing; the obliterating scream of a jet engine.

I wish I had time to talk about how important queerness is to the plot without being some kind of prop for it, or the portrayal of the media, the greatness of every supporting character from Chris Sarandon and Penelope Allen right on down to the pizza delivery guy, or a thousand other things, including how prettily framed Pacino is in this movie, at the height of his wide-eyed beauty.

I wish I had time to rhapsodise about how precise and efficient and helpful Lumet's direction is, how it lays out the bank and its surrounds for us with clarity and hilarity. This skill seems to be essentially forgotten these days, but Lumet's direction in the bank is a marvel. The bank is a well-organised space that so perfectly set in our mind that a recent episode of Bob's Burgers, of all things, was able to recreate it, triggering instant recognition.

We never go big in the bank. The camera always sits at a natural height. The second we go outside it's all overheads and helicopters, all those barriers and the people that seep through them like molasses, those guns that can only with great effort be reholstered. Oh, the irony of that overkill because you know the smallness of what's going on inside -- two people are falling apart, sure, and that's a big deal, but the situation is so tiny.

Speaking of falling apart --
you got it man )

Check out more entries in the series here.
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This entry is my first go participating in Nathaniel R's Hit Me With Your Best Shot series, and I'm sorry you guys, I think I am going to go overboard because there are so many things I want to say about this amazing movie.

Somehow I never knew Singin' in the Rain was a comedy. The first time I watched it I started out at half attention, mostly missing the homage/parody of the movie star arrivals, as well as some great hammy acting by Kelly, who spends so much of the movie throwing his giant vaudville smile out there. I missed the way he strides in, tooth-first, setting Don up as 99% performance; that bitchin strut is a definite contender for Best Gif.

Then it went and punched me in the face with a great series of gags, contrasting image with voiceover:

Our parents' society friends; rigorous musical training at the conservatory of fine arts; the finest symphonic halls; sunny California.

I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. Instant love. But it's all about the voiceover and the dancing. Can't Best Shot that. Can't even Best Gif that.

Always dignity. )


Apr. 28th, 2012 10:23 pm
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my primary take away from The Avengers is being impressed. Impressed at the quickness and cleverness of the extremely efficient script: Avengers would not have been the a hardest movie of the last year to write, but it would have been one of the hardest to write well, and it is written very well. Star Trek, the other recent ensemble-of-icons adaptation/reborquel, did a great job introducing characters with flair and giving everyone a hell yeah moment, with humour. Avengers does all this, but think of everything else it has to manage. It needs to generate equalities and equivalencies in status and power between 4 superheroes, some of whose set-up films were seen less than others, some of whom have less obvious roles and purposes in the oncoming conflict than others. It needs to (did it? I don't know Hawkeye and Black Widow from Adam but I assume they're important to the comics) incorporate two lesser, more human powers, who had seconds of honestly forgettable screentime in previous films, as major characters who can carry arcs. It needs to locate a strong organisational pivot around a character, Nick Fury, who has the built-in pull of an eyepatched SLJ, but who was really just previously just some guy that you saw if you were also interested in reading copyright and humane society disclaimers. The only place it really struggled structurally I'll put under the spoiler cut along with more general discussion.

Joss threw in a couple of neat camera tricks, mostly playing with reflections, which is not really thematically relevant but oh well, but mostly kept things pretty neutral, generally avoiding the standard chaos of present-day blockbuster action. Certainly other action directors could learn from the gorgeous Serenityesque floating shot that tracked the action of the major players in the climactic confrontation. Beautiful clarity!

I loved the way it moved the pieces around on the board, often delaying maximum superhero deployment. Robert Downey Jr was always genius casting for Iron Man, but imagine how distracting, how completely beamed-in-from-another-movie, that scenery-chewing, dominating, obnoxious charisma could have been. Instead they turned it into a plot point! In fact, a character arc! Instead of trying to force these characters together they split them off into interesting pairs, giving just about everyone at least two major relationships.

slightly spoilery for characterisation, minor plot points )

Mostly though, very impressed, with its visual and verbal wit, its care and efficiency, its devotion to examining interpersonal and group relationships, and its cameo appearance of Enver Gjokaj. Never change Joss.

Oscars 2011

Mar. 6th, 2011 12:17 pm
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What a boring Oscars that was. However, possibly the first Oscars I had a legitimate stake in as I had seen all the BP nominees and Have Opinions on them.

Said opinions being rather pedestrian so here instead is a ranking.

1. Black Swan
2. Toy Story 3 - another film with an astoundingly stellar last half hour
3. Winter's Bone
4. The Social Network - So well put together, and so cold. And such an AWFUL last line.
5/6. The Kids Are All Right - the least epic of all the crop of darlings, with some mighty fine actressin' (and actorin') that makes these very personal crises compelling.
5/6. The Fighter - made me care about boxing. Unlike The King's Speech, can harness performance to a story engine that feels like it actually has stakes.
7. True Grit - even lesser Cohens makes for awesome funtimes but in the wake of Deadwood an ornery mumbled western doesn't feel as unique an achievement as their other work.
8. 127 Hours - Franco is game (unlike at the Oscars - BURN NOTICE!) but Boyle is such an insincere mess.

and then way beyond the black stump....

9. The King's Speech - warm milk in the form of a movie; enjoyable in the moment, pointless and nap-inducing after the fact. Firth is great, but he ought to have won last year's A Single Man. Who else could have projected such organic, minimalist feeling into Tom Ford's gorgeous, glossy, rigid frames? No-one. Who else could have played a stuttering dude who sits in front of mouldy wallpaper? Any British actor. Hooper's directing win is ridiculous in the face of the skill it must have taken to turn what is largely three long conversations and a bunch of typing into a driven, exciting movie (The Social Network).

Okay so I did have opinions.

Black Swan

Jan. 25th, 2011 01:32 am
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I take back what I said about Black Swan being old-school Hollywood camp. The excess is there, yes, the big female performances, the heavy-handed symbolism, the archetypes -- stage mother, aging actress, temptress, seducer/abuser.

But it's too interior a film to be camp in that sense. These figures are not unruly women, they're categories filtered through a mind under increasing strain. Watching it again I see how completely Nina's psychotic break overwhelms and dictates the movie. Cracks appear early, before the pressure really starts to mount. The paintings move the first time you see them. Her shadow haunts her in the subway (embodied and reflected) before she even hears they'll be doing Swan Lake.

cut for length and spoilers )
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well last year was meant to be a year of writing, but I have never been able to get into the habit when it actually means something; I need to learn how to hold myself accountable but how do you hold yourself to account when you find yourself so boring?

The two times I managed to post with any vigour were attempts to understand the frustrating mess of disappointments that is Inception and purge the overwhelming push-pull of Broderskab's narrative conceit and dense sensuality. Beginning with Live Free or Twihard, I also had a series of enjoyable conversations over in the threads of the AV Club Supernatural reviews.

Nevertheless I must, I must write! I must watch and think and read and think and write in proportion or else I will get kicked out of uni, and then the dear knows what I will do.

2010 ended up being about movies. I saw more non-English language movies than I usually do, I checked out some of the classics, and I had a bit of a fitful nostalgic trip down Disney lane (Pocahontas is skeevier than I remembered even though Miss P herself remains the hottest of all the Disney girls, and Sleeping Beauty even more perfect than I remembered). It turns out I can recite and sing the entirety of Robin Hood along with the movie. Hey, if this academia gig don't work out, maybe I can take that on the road!

Of all the movies I saw for the first time this year there were quite a few that stick in the memory.

movies, yo )

Thus ceaseth the opinions. FOR NOW! Hopefully.
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So Brotherhood (Brodeskab) you guys, I don't even know where to start with this movie.

I could start with the heartwarming scene where the two attractive white guys bond over the creation of awful, just simply vile racist Neo-Nazi propaganda and proceed to distribute it with the sweet, guitar-accompanied abandon that sees young lovers in other movies frolicking in autumnal drifts.

I could start by comparing it to Brokeback Mountain and Einaym Pkuhot, two other recent, stunningly acted movies about the intense homoeroticism of a repressive, masculinist culture.

Or I could start with David Dencik.

Let me start with David Dencik. )

Man, I am so glad to purge my thoughts on this, I haven't been able to think about anything else for a whole day now.
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All Christopher Nolan's movies are about about reality, self-deception and our shadow-selves. Some of them are pretty great: Memento was just about a perfect movie, lean and purposeful with a conceit that doesn't feel like the joke's on you. As the years have passed his stuff has become more bloated, substituted thought and meaning for glossy cleverness. The more I think about The Dark Knight the more I resent how thin that patina of philosophical depth was, how little that movie had to offer on the nature of myth (which wouldn't be a problem except that's what the thing claims to be about).

I read as little about Inception as I could but I couldn't help seeing the effusive praise. I got pretty excited, and here are a whole bunch of words about how that excitement was justified. Just kidding! I need to try to break down the ways this movie failed because this thing could have been, and should have been, so much better.

Spoilers! )