Day: December 17, 2010

The Death Of Two Swans

Swan Lake is story so overdone in ballet that it has all but lost its effectiveness as a story, which is unfortunate as the story is quite good. It tells of a young princess (the white swan/swan queen) who falls in love with a prince, but is turned into a swan and only love can break the spell. Then enters the black swan, her evil twin sister, who steals the prince from her. This is all a straightforward fairy tale so far. However, Swan Lake is true to life rather than fairy-tale, as the black swan is successful in stealing her sister’s love, and so the swan queen kills herself in the final act. It is a quite powerful tale, and understandably overdone in exactly the same way. Darren Aronofsky, however, does not exactly follow the norm.

Anyone who has seen a true Aronofsky film (Pi, Requiem For A Dream) knows to expect a certain level of discordant insanity. However, in those two films, both early works, a certain level of finish is lacking from the final product, like a fine piece of silk with a slight stain leftover from before it was dyed. Aronofsky is older now, and having built a reputation, has garnered the ability to use more talented, or at least well known, names to fill the roles in his movies. Thus enters Natalie Portman. Sometime criticized as being playing to the Academy a bit much, no one can honestly refute her talent, regardless of role choice. She’s done enough contrasting roles to etch herself into film history, going back as far as Leon: The Professional. In Black Swan, she, in an Oscar-worthy performance, truly embodied both the roles of the White and Black Swans, eventually killing herself just to reach perfection, showing that one cannot reach perfection without selfless sacrifice. Fearing for both her life on the stage and her true life, she becomes consumed with the idea that Lily (Mila Kunis) is trying to strip her of everything she has worked for.

Aronofsky has a certain uncanny ability to take scenes that might otherwise be perverse and turn them into impressive expressions. He uses a striking combination of the senses to produce a near perfect effect. He’s demonstrated this in each of his movies, with for example, in Requiem For A Dream, the mother’s insanity and hospitalization coupled with her son’s loss of his arm from heroin addiction and his girlfriend’s self-destruction from heroin addiction. In Black Swan, he plays on the latent sexuality and seduction from the original Swan Lake, pushing it into the forefront with an extended sequence of Nina, the swan queen, (Natalie Portman) attempting to find her inner Black Swan through “self-gratification”, ultimately leading up to her embracement of her inner lust through Lily, the black swan, in an intensely erotic scene between the two in Nina’s bedroom the night before their first stage rehearsal.

In this film, Aronofsky too the raw power of his older work and combined it with finesse, fitting for a tale about the exact same struggle. I’m weary to give this an A+, but I really want to, so I’ll just let it straddle the line.

A(+)

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Tron Legacy is Nerd Porn. No Question.

I spent time with friends and vodka the other day watching Tron, in preparation for its sequel almost 30 years in the making. I must admit, I was worried for a second when I sat down and saw the first good 5 minutes in 2D.

But, something weird happened, something I would have never expected. We had a deep  character in a Tron movie. What’s next? Dogs and cats living together? Anyway…

The sequel to the 1982 visual masterpiece brings us to modern-day. Flynn’s son is reckless… but smart. Like his Dad was. Main shareholder in his Dad’s company. But he just doesn’t really give a shit. He’s had kind of a tough life. But it all changes when Allan gets a page which in the end sends Flynn’s son to the grid. There, he almost meets his death… then his father and a new friend.

That’s just about as much of the plot I want to give away. It may sound simplistic, but once you add Daft Punk’s score and some of the GREATEST 3-D I’ve ever seen, you have a true winner.

This movie needs IMAX 3-D. It was filmed with just that in mind. Like it should be… none of that post conversion bullshit. What it leaves you with is a bright, eye-popping world that doesn’t suspend belief but makes you feel like you’re on the grid yourself.

It’s 3-D done right. Congrats.

There’s been a lot of talk about the running time (2 hours, 2 minutes) being too long. I actually think it’s a little too short. Unlike most movies, this one takes quite a bit of thought to truly understand. The religious overtones and the complex morality tale will be over some people’s heads (just go to Rotten Tomatoes and read some reviews.) But when it all comes down to it. If you walk out of this movie at LEAST not talking about how beautiful it was, you’re not using your eyes and I could use an extra pair. Give them to me.

The acting… well, it was better than Tron 1 I’ll give it that. But you have to remember, they’re in a computer. Don’t expect Oscar style performances here. Jeff Bridges is great in both his roles (I had no problem with his face transfer on Clu 2.0) Olivia Wilde is hot as hell, and Garrett Hedlund fits in well as Flynn’s son Sam. Everyone has a certain swagger that characters were missing back in the 80’s. But I’m going to try to stop comparing the two.

When all’s said and done and I walked out of the movie at about 2:45 this morning, it sparked a long conversation with my friends the whole ride home about the true meaning of the movie. I love it when movies do that. I think we all do.

See it. See it in IMAX. Fuck Avatar. This is the greatest 3-D movie to date. James Cameron can suck it.

A+