Since the early 1800s, a common Canadian narrative device is to have an American trickster on the loose in Canada. This is seen to reflect a general sense of unease or national paranoia about the “invisible fence” between our borders, or, the extent to which American influence permeates or threatens our ‘collective conscious.’
Blaine Allan, in “Canada’s Sweethearts or Our American Cousins” takes this notion one step further and suggests that after the 1970s, there was a shift in English-Canadian film towards a more pseudo-Hollywood narrative. The characteristics of “radical inadequacy” that we once recognized in our own protagonists, were now being “displaced onto carpetbaggers from the United States” in the form of the “solitary outlaw” (71). Like Bill Miner from Philip Borsos’ The Grey Fox, Butch Walker rolls into Canada from California in his shiny red Cadillac and instantly becomes “Canada’s sweetheart.”
Somebody get Chris Nolan on the phone: I have a new Inception-inspired screenplay idea. We could call it “The Twitter Movie” and get David Fincher to direct.
I currently live in Edinburgh, Scotland. That’s almost as far away from Hollywood, California you can get. And with no TV, slow internetz, and a live start time of 1:30am GMT, it was doubtful that I would be able to find anywhere to watch the 2011 Academy Awards.
But as a media blogger and future Master of Film Studies student, it is rather unacceptable to miss the Oscars, wouldn’t you agree?
So, armed with two live blogs, a red carpet live stream, my facebook news feed, trusty-rusty twitter home page, and a 7pm catnap, I arose groggily at 12:30am, semi-prepared for a night of live tweeting. After spending an hour frustratedly waiting on a slow buffering and stuttery live red carpet feed (where I did more hits of the “refresh page” button than James Franco did of his pre-show bong…), I settled into bed, laptop open, ready to observe the Oscars for the very first time via tweets, updates, and online commentary.
I had the craziest dream last night about a girl who has turned into a swan, but her prince falls for the wrong girl… and she kills herself.
Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010): a hauntingly beautiful ballet thriller that highlights Natalie Portman (Nina Sayers) in the performance of a lifetime. The opening duet leaves you breathless: the camerawork is fluid yet disorienting as it dances around Nina; the grainy texture of the film itself hinting at the twisted grittiness of this ballet world. The film deals with self-mutilation, disordered eating, and the psychological turmoil that is inextricably bound up with the pursuit of perfection.
It was director Aronofsky’s idea to make this film, with its focus on the pressures of a troubled ballerina (and obsessive understudy), as a sort of high-art companion piece to the tacky world of pro-wrestling he created in 2008’s The Wrestler. However, where Mickey Rourke’s underrated comeback performance leaves everything out in the ring, the devastation and psychological exhaustion of Nina in Black Swan is obstructed and diminished by the film’s overreliance on shock tactics and “pop-out” horror to create audience discomfort. I would like to have seen a slightly more complex plot, with Mila Kunis (Lily) playing a more prominent role in the ballet’s “reality” rather than mainly a nightmarish fragment of Nina’s psychosis.
Black Swan is over the top, too pretentious for Aronofsky, and maybe even overrated. But it is also stunningly beautiful and one of the most unique and thrilling films you will see this year. While the story is strikingly one-dimensional, it is also refreshingly simplistic, using the Black vs. White swan motif effectively (almost exhaustively). The art direction is fantastic and the ballet performance scenes in particular are truly spectacular. Portman should have no problem picking up an Oscar for her role.
The Good: The fashion. My favs had to be Carrie’s J’adore Diore vintage tee and Samantha’s red bowie-esque karaoke suit. Another pro, Miranda was featured a lot more in this film, and in particular, the “take-a-sip” scene between Miranda and Charlotte was my favourite moment of the film.
The Bad: There wasn’t enough emphasis on the quintessential fifth character of the series: New York City. Also, there were stale jokes aplenty (Lawrence of my Labia?) and way too many unnecessary plot points (e.g. the lost passport).
The Ugly: Lots of Western preachyness about how the Middle East “should” be. The polar distinction the girls make between the “old middle east” and the “new middle east” is embarassingly orientalist. Especially cringe-worthy moments include when Carrie bluntly remarks, “the veil freaks me out. it’s like they don’t have a voice,” and when a stressed-out Samantha throws up the middle-finger at the local men while yelling “fuck you!” repeatedly. Yikes.
1. Red Rover is the most painful/dangerous game ever. I can’t believe I used to play…
2. A young Christina Ricci plays an epic tomboy version of Rosie O’Donnell's character. She tapes her boobs because they keep getting bigger. Awesome.
3. That scene where Roberta dove off the tree branch into the lake and pretended to drown gave me nightmares as a kid. I’m glad she got punched by the chubby do-gooder.
4. I wish there was more time spent with the adult characters. I mean, come on, who doesn’t need a little more Demi Moore wearing a chocolate pantsuit and Harry Potter spectacle sunglasses in their life?
5. Why the overwhelming emphasis on witchcraft? Strange.
6. Brendan Fraser plays an ex-military hitchhiker, with an earring. ‘Nuff said.
It’s actually funny. With the talents of Leslie Mann, Matthew Perry, Thomas Lennon, Melora Hardin, a cameo by Margaret Cho and a genuinely humourous Zac Efron, you’ll find yourself at the very least chuckling your way through.
Zac Efron. In his first “real” movie after his High School Musical fame, Efron proves he is a surprisingly talented actor and embodies a unique comedic flair playing the role of Matthew Perry’s younger self. And whether he’s rocking Ed Hardy, a leather jacket and avis, or a 1980s basketball uniform, there’s no denying that this dude is easy on the eyes.
There’s plenty of nerd humour. Ned is a quintessential dork whose landspeeder bed is sure to get a laugh out of any sci-fi fan or gamer. So don’t worry, there’s enough geek in this film for all of us.
Basketball themed movies are kick-ass. And we get to see Efron rock a few crazy tricks that he must have honed since his HSM days.
The music and end-credits sequence. While used sparingly, the soundtrack features some killer “high-school” jams like Bust A Move, Naive, and Danger Zone. The end-credits are structured like a high school yearbook, displaying nostalgic photos of the cast and crew from their own senior years (including a must-see Efron as a gap toothed tween).
The Beef: The storyline, dominated by a whiny Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie, was less a raw depiction of the impact the all-girl group had on rock history than an uninspiring documentation of Currie’s involvement in the band.
The High: The music and costumes were kick-ass. Coked-out Kristen Stewart was strikingly dynamic as Joan Jett, considering the minute role she was given.
Random: The love scene between Currie and Jett was boring and awkward: cross-cutting between extreme close-ups of eyes does not a sex scene make.
The Verdict: For a director known her grungy music videos, it strikes me odd that The Runaways is such tame representation of the cut-throat world of 1970s rock. With poor direction and lackluster writing by Sigismondi, what this film really needs is a healthy overdose of all-in, balls-out rock n’ fuckin roll.
1. Kathryn Bigelow - Her 2010 Oscar win for Best Director not only made history, but inspired female filmmakers all over the world to aim for the top. Plus, she’s also a talented painter, and that’s just seriously cool. Credits: The Hurt Locker, Point Break, Near Dark.
2. Catherine Hardwicke - Starting out as a production designer, Hardwicke went on to break the record for the biggest box office opening ever for a female director with the 2008 blockbuster, Twilight. Her first venture into directing was with her award-winning film, Thirteen, which she co-wrote with actress Nikki Reed. Hardwicke literally proves that women can rake in the big bucks. Credits: Twilight, Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen.
3. Jane Campion - Originally hailing from New Zealand, the award-winning Campion was the second of only four women in history to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar. She is the proud owner of two Palme d’Or awards from Cannes, one for her short film Peel and the other for the influential 1993 film, The Piano. She is specifically noted for her astonishing talent as a sound designer. Credits: Bright Star, In the Cut, The Portrait of a Lady, The Piano.
4. Maya Deren - The one who started it all. Maya Deren is considered to be one of the most influential figures in Women’s Cinema and American avant-garde filmmaking. Her 1943 experimental film, Meshes of the Afternoon, which she co-directed with her husband, revolutionized new American cinema and was influential to countless other films including David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Inland Empire.
5. Drew Barrymore - A newcomer to the scene, child-star Drew Barrymore made her directing debut in 2009 with the coming of age roller derby flick, Whip It. During the summer of 2009, she was being considered by Summit Entertainment to direct the third installment of the Twilight Saga, Eclipse, however the job went to more experienced horror director, David Slade. Hopefully we will see more of Barrymore behind the camera after her underground success with Whip It.
6. Sofia Coppola - The third female ever to be nominated for the Best Directing Oscar, Coppola is also known as the youngest female to ever be nominated for the prestigious award at age thirty-two. Getting her start in acting by starring in her father’s (Francis Ford Coppola) films, she is famous for her multiple talents as director, producer, screenwriter, actress, and model. Credits: Marie Antoinette, Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides.