Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

The "you're invited" feel for Lars von Trier's Melancholia is a stroke of pure genius. How can you refuse watching Kiki Dunst, la Gainsbourg and others suffer as the end of the world approaches? How?

Friday, April 29, 2011

While I Meditate at the Airport...

...head over to PopMatters and read my review for a couple Mikio Naruse movies.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Start Spreading the News...

As of today the blog will enter a short hiatus (it's not as if I've written much lately anyway...) as I will be in my favorite city on Earth, pretending I'm Holly Golightly.
If all goes well I might take in a few movies (Jane Eyre, The Arbor, Meek's Cutoff, Scream 4 and The Beaver I'm looking at you...) and review them.
If not, it's probably because I imploded from the fabulousness exuded by the amazing Kylie Minogue in her concert (main reason of my trip!).
Either way I might break this promise and blog anyway. NYC always inspires me...

What will you all be doing during my absence?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Style Sunday.

As part of her book tour, the gorgeous Gwyneth Paltrow wore this stunning Rachel Roy dress. The buttery yellow is truly mouthwatering and her simple makeup and hair give her a very accessible look. As if she truly wanted to teach you how to cook!
The Camilla Skovgaard structural heels are magnificent too, especially the chocolatey tone and sexiness of the peep toe.

After her Dolce mess at the Oscars I'm thrilled to see Scarlett Johansson is once again showing her best assets. This simple Roland Mouret dress and nude color heels are the epitome of spring style: effortlessly sexy.

My god this woman is so cool!
Nobody but Helen Mirren (and maybe Gwen Stefani and Sarah Jessica Parker) could make a Dolce & Gabbana leopard print dress look this fierce when paired with a leather jacket!
Her hair and sexy clutch make you think she rode to this red carpet in her vintage Harley too.

Which of these is your fave look?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

While Watching "When a Woman Ascends the Stairs"...

...I had to wonder if everyone in movies from 1960 was getting laid?
Think Psycho, The Apartment, BUtterfield 8, Breathless, L'aventura...

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

Color me unimpressed with both the trailer and poster for The Help. Supposedly this is some sort of Oscar vehicle for the lovely Emma Stone but it simply looks like an average made for TV movie or late 80's drama a la Driving Miss Daisy.
The cast looks terrific (am I the only one who thinks Bryce Dallas Howard is seriously underrated?) but still, meh?
The poster continues the path of serious meh-ness featuring its leading ladies in positions to represent segregation. Emma Stone's cute look is priceless, the rest not so much.

A poster like this could make me go see ANY movie it was advertising. Gotta love the Saul Bass nod, the classy and classic tagline and even if I don't know who anyone in the cast is, I'm excited about this one!

Excited about Blame? How would you help The Help?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"You're supposed to be funny!"

I've often wondered why do Charlie Chaplin's films get ranked so high in all-time-best comedy lists, when they are such inherently sad movies.

The Circus is of course no exception. Even if it features some of the little Tramp's most iconic comedic sequences, at its center it's nothing but a melancholy look at the passing of time and the death of illusion.

After having seen Water for Elephants, which inarguably borrows some of its central topics from the Chaplin classic, it's clear that the circus lends itself for some harrowing drama. But none of it makes any sense if you ignore the Felliniesque (or did he borrow from Chaplin?) idea that this is a land of as much joy as sorrow.

In Chaplin's film, beyond the central doomed love story, we see the relentless way with which time detaches itself from the things it no longer needs. When Chaplin made this movie, sound was being implemented in commercial cinema for the first time.
While Chaplin refused to use for years, the film is filled with nods to how he felt this would kill cinema stars.

One of the first ways in which this is represented is when the vicious circus owner/film producer (Al Ernest Garcia) pushes his leading lady/stepdaughter (Merna Kennedy).
She lands on a prop and destroys it. The prop in question is a huge paper star (read, death of the silent movie star) which then reveals a large ring reminiscent of the irises Chaplin was so fond of.
With the advent of sound films, these irises became less common given that elements could be highlighted through dialog and sound effects.

When the Tramp meets the girl, he falls for her (of course) and throughout the movie he tries hard to help her keep her job.
However notices of doom surround him everywhere. See how, to the right there is an ominous picture of a girl swallowing a sword. To the left we have her as she is and in the center the Tramp wonders where does he stand in this world.
Will he become a victim or will he evolve and adjust to this universe that demands things he can't provide them, will he too become a sword swallower?

The death of stars becomes more obvious as the various shows in the circus begin to fail. This leads us to my favorite shot in the movie:

In it, we see the Tramp leaving the circus behind (after a noble, tearful finale). In this shot, the iris returns once more to represent the antithesis of the first shot with the shattered star.
We see how Chaplin gives his back to the world and goes on his own, keeping his pride and affirming that he would continue to do as he wished in cinema.
Seen in retrospect, this moment would count as one of the most iconic in silent cinema but it also contains something more personal and visceral.
The Tramp has just had his heart broken by the industry, Chaplin was feeling the same and pride or no pride, he still had a lonesome road ahead.

This post is part of Nat's "Hit Me With your Best Shot" series.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Click here to go read my review for Water for Elephants.
Then come back and let's talk about the circus!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Oh Mother.

The best thing about watching Mildred Pierce was of course Kate Winslet. Who cares if her affectedness at first resembled Olivia de Havilland doing a Joan Crawford impression? By the second hour of the miniseries she had made this woman her own.
I read somewhere that Winslet had a perfect face for suffering (she also has a perfect face for sex/love scenes but that's for another day...) and as each minute of the series went by, I couldn't help but wholeheartedly agree with this thought.
Of course, I love Kate and I resented how much the actresses who played Veda Pierce made her suffer (Evan Rachel Wood I see you...) but Kate is such a dignified sufferer!
With that in mind, I give you my favorite ten "Mildred is in pain" moments. She truly should be eligible for martyrdom.

10. Mildred remembers her dead child (and in retrospect probably wishes she'd been alive and Veda gone for good)

9. Mildred discovers Veda is a ho.

8. Mildred discovers Veda hates her (for the umpteenth time! Sister truly has some sort of ADD when it comes to her demonic daughter)

7. Mildred discovers she's always chasing rainbows.

Speaking of which, did anyone else think that Evan Rachel Wood would make the perfect actress for whenever they make a biopic of Florence + the Machine?

6. Mildred rekindles with Veda. I loved how the hair department changed Kate's do and aged her effortlessly with a little more hair here and there. I don't think I've seen such flawless makeup and costume design in any movie in a very long time.

5. Mildred finds out why Veda loves Monty so much (this reaction scene alone should give Winslet the Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG this year).

I easily could've done a top ten featuring all the evil stares Veda gives Mildred, but I honestly have never hated a character more than I do her. The very idea of what she represents makes me want to call Wood's character from True Blood so she will kidnap Veda and turn her into her eternal slave.

4. Mildred finds her voice by going all Ursula on Veda's ass. If you haven't seen it I won't spoil it.
Yet again, if you haven't seen it, what the hell are you waiting for?

3. "To hell with her".
'Nuff said.

2. This was inarguably my favorite shot in the entire miniseries. For starters I had no idea Todd Haynes shot such great sex scenes. Most of his films are so asexual, even Velvet Goldmine's extravagant orgies and Poison's homoeroticism feel too much like Jarman-esque aesthetic experiments done for the sake of art. The love scenes between Mildred and Monty though are astonishingly hot!
This list is about Mildred suffering and you might be wondering what the hell does this have to do with any pain. Well, I'll pull out the snob card and resort to Hermann Hesse, who in one of my favorite books said that, and I'm paraphrasing, the facial expressions achieved during orgasm are only similar to those made by someone on the instants before their death.
In this particular scene, Mildred's surrender to Monty's voraciousness kills her. She never goes back from this moment and everything spirals down for her. I love how Haynes and DP Ed Lachman shot this, so it seems that the two people have become one. This notion that Mildred can only beat Monty if she owns him (and therefore he becomes just a body whose head has been swallowed by her vagina) gives the whole series a fascinating subtext about the evolution and mishaps of feminism in the face of a mostly male world.
Isn't the whole point of the series that Mildred fails as a woman because she can not fulfill her role of mother and wife?

1. Winslet is magical in this scene where she listens to Veda's singing for the very first time. everything about her face is perfection and even if she borrows the hand gestures from the "Meryl Streep School of Gasping", she is extremely moving.
How she manages to display fear, tenderness, resentment, love and joy at the same time? Who knows. This scene makes a case for why Winslet is one of the finest actresses of all time.

What were your thoughts on Mildred Pierce? Do you think Winslet is the real deal?

Style Sunday.

As you may have heard, or not, Gwyneth Paltrow wrote a cookbook yes, Oscar winners eat too.
Anyway my beloved Gwyn has spent the entire week promoting her book all over the US and in the process has sported some of her best looks ever.
Let's start with this simply stunning Vionnet (this house does no wrong I tell you!) which highlights Paltrow's luscious legs and gives her a nice summer meets classy vibe.

She's stunning in this Alexander Wang sheath and asymmetrical dress. Gwyn wore this during one of the wet New York mornings they had last week and truly she made the sun come out. Doesn't she look amazingly fresh and bright?

Will you be buying Gwyn's book?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

I've decided that there's just no way this movie will suck. The book is fantastic (an instant favorite in my all time list) and well, you know how I feel about Anne Hathaway.
The marketing campaign so far has been flawless, even if this is just a variation from the first poster, what a variation!
The instantly iconic image of Anne and Jim Sturgess embracing is now decomposed and made out of Polaroid snapshots, one for each year that the movie covers.
Just, wow, I'm already sobbing a bit thinking of the final product.

People, read the book!

Friday, April 15, 2011

She's After Me!

"After Beth, do you need another controversy?"
- Nina (Natalie Portman) to Thomas (Vincent Cassel) in Black Swan.

Remember Sarah Lane? The lady who keeps messing with Natalie Portman's "dancing" in Black Swan?
Well, she's back! Not satisfied with Darren Aronofsky's recount of the dance shots Portman did (he said 111/128) Lane had the film's editor, Andy Weisblum, do another count of long shot scenes in which you see Nina's full body, not just Portman's gorgeous face.
Weisblum confirms that in fact out of those full body shots, almost 70% are Sarah, but wait, why is she doing this again?

According her she doesn't want "the fame, the recognition or anything" yet she keeps on making a big deal and blabbing on and on about her important part in the role to whoever lends an ear. the truth is that anyone in their right mind knows that Portman didn't become a ballerina in less than two years, it's just impossible! Even if out there, there might be a potential movie from the makers of The Blind Side that might try to prove me wrong.

Lane was interviewed by ABC News where she went on and on and on and on and on... (read full interview here)

The one thing that remains clear to me about this whole thing is that,

I also have been thinking what would happen if ALL people who inspire characters, went on to seek recognition for their influence and the ungratefulness of the actors?

Oh Meryl Streep, you'd be in deep shit...

Holocaust Survivors would demand she endured Auschwitz before making Sophie's Choice.
Catholic school survivors would send her to a convent before she even dared take on her role in Proof.
She'd have to be Anna Wintour's intern before taking on The Devil Wears Prada.
She'd have to be exposed to radioactivity for Silkwood, have an affair with a photographer for Bridges of Madison County and well, die for Death Becomes Her.
Isn't it ridiculous that some people have forgotten that actors, act? I'm buying Portman as a psycho ballerina and if not even the documentary in the Blu-ray lessened the impact of her performance, this lady keeps losing her time...

Got any more examples of actors that would have to redo their filmography to please Ms. Lane?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sucker Punch *

Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone
Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac
Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

You know how some people lament the state of the environment and then you see them throw their garbage on the sidewalk? Zack Snyder would be one of them.
His Sucker Punch is a pseudo-feminist allegory filtered by the mind and eyes of a horny geek who thinks that women's liberation fantasies are dressed, or rather undressed, in the same clothes that men demand they wear in society.
The film is filled with sleek setpieces, Amsterdam sex shop costumes and an esthetically interesting design which more than please its audience are meant to polish the director's own knob.
Sucker Punch is Snyder's first fully original screenplay and you can detect all his influences in the way he references Tarantino, anime, rock music, westerns and video games. The story follows Babydoll (Browning) a troubled teenager who's institutionalized by her evil stepfather after she accidentally kills her sister.
The film opens with an almost silent sequence in which Babydoll tries to save her sister, here Snyder proves he has a keen eye for creating suspense and scenes that recall comic books; but he still hasn't learned a single thing about subtleties and he scores this Dickensian opening with an emo cover of The Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).
At the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane, Babydoll realizes her stepfather has paid an evil orderly (Isaac) to have her lobotomized within five days.
On the day of her lobotomy, seconds before the orbitoclast hits her body, Babydoll withdraws into a world of her own inside her mind. Here she's an orphan who has been taken to a burlesque/brothel where she is to be sold to a mysterious man called "the High Roller" within the next few days.
In the brothel Babydoll befriends fellow dancers Sweet Pea (Cornish), Rocket (Malone), Blondie (Hudgens) and Amber (Chung) and devises a plan for all of them to escape before the High Roller arrives. In order to escape they have to collect five items and each time they are about to do so, the film turns once again into subfilm in which the characters travel to different worlds.
When they need to collect a lighter, the fantasy turns into a proto-medieval adventure complete with Lord of the Rings' like orcs and vintage aeroplanes.
With all these layers of different universes within other universes, the film soon feels like Inception done for emo girls having their first acid trip. Curiously that might be precisely what Snyder wanted audiences to feel.
Throughout the film he seems to be completely unaware that what he delivers with utmost excitement as a version of "girl power" is nothing but false empathy from his side.
The worrisome thing about Sucker Punch is that Snyder at all times seems to be convinced that he is indeed telling a story about women becoming free. The fantasy sequences are filled with male villains as if to acknowledge the fact that all female troubles are caused by men. Yet this can be questioned because the villains in said sequences are usually deformed versions of men, whether they be zombie like creatures, robots or demonic samurai, none are really "human".
None of these sequences contains a female villain, except for one where a mother dragon attacks the girls only after they hurt her male offspring. Is Snyder saying that women only turn against other women when there's a male figure in the middle?
What the director fails to see at all times, is that his attempts at saving women from men are being done by himself: a man who obviously thinks of women like we expect heterosexual men to.
These heroines don't even have real names, who needs them when they have such badass nicknames huh? Yet the issue is that Snyder gives them innocent sounding aliases that barely cover the fact that Blondie could've easily been called Big Tits and Rocket, well, let's not even go there...
Every time the movie attempts to say something important about misogyny, it just manages to become even more abusive and offensive towards women. However it's not entirely easy to condemn the film because doing so would be to give in towards generalizations about the way we think women think.
It would be easy to say that no woman in her right mind would try to save herself from a rapist by wearing outfits used by Japanese prostitutes. But what if they do? At least one or two might feel identified with this strange fantasy, right?
Hopefully not but Snyder might get away easily using such hypotheses like that in order to point out that gender inequality is owed to both genders equally.
If women are objectified by men, should they attempt to repel this by creating new versions of femininity that don't click with the status quo? Or should they lure them with their own sexual fantasies and like the praying mantis just chop their heads off when they come to close?
All of the female characters in Sucker Punch are constantly being threatened by murderers or rapists who use their weapons and genitalia to subjugate them and keep them imprisoned for as long as they see fit.
More than this disturbing aura of threat, what comes obvious at some point is that the film is truly a door into the director's head and we see how his ideas come to light through the most seemingly inconspicuous moments. For example, we are informed by this movie that women who leave their families instantly become whores and they will only find salvation after atoning for their sins at strip clubs.
Funny to think that the figure Snyder chooses as their guardian angel is a multipurpose old guy played by Scott Glenn in full David Carradine from Kill Bill mode. What Snyder lacks, that Tarantino more than makes up for, is a completely surreal vision of femininity.
While Uma Thurman's "Bride" chopped bodies and severed heads to get her daughter back, she was never really objectified sexually, yet Browning's Babydoll plans every move in battle as if they were exclusively meant to highlight her breasts or vagina.
Sucker Punch feels like a school paper on feminism done by a stoned teenager who fell asleep playing Final Fantasy and wrote the first thing he came up with in the morning.
Even more interesting is to see Snyder's own takes on his perception of the modern female psyche, apparently he thinks that women's periods make them feel like they're in a Bjork video, that their professional fantasies are choreographed by Britney Spears and that their biggest dream is to get rid of urbanity and go back to the country.
Funniest thing in the whole movie? The lobotomist is played by matinee idol John Hamm, giving Snyder the last completely envious of the quarterback, pathetically dorky laugh.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Beauty and the Skeptic.

My favorite thing about Beauty and the Beast has always been how it easily it exchanges the main qualities of its leading characters.

From its opening where we see tinted glass windows as beautiful ways to represent ugliness and emotional chaos (as a child this picture of the fairy queen scared me more than the beast...) to its eventual, if a bit facile, notion that the real beast was Gaston all the time, the film is perhaps a bit too complex for children.

But to be honest, my favorite shot in the film has more beauty than ugliness (I'll get to the point soon I promise) and in fact it's not even a shot per se...
It's this entire crane shot, which always leaves me in awe for its technical mastery and timelessness. Here we see Belle and the Beast dancing the title song by way of a porcelain Angela Lansbury.

As an adult I can't help but be swept away by the sheer romance of this moment, yet usually as the following split second occurs I'm reminded of my childhood fears...

These usually had a lot to do with religious imagery (try growing up in a Catholic household where your father's grandmother had a bizarre aquarium filled with statues of saints and other icons) I'm even more freaked out when the seemingly adorable cherubs, move and point at the innocent dancers below!
Of course I kid a bit, this scene doesn't really scare me anymore but now more than ever it brings up slightly bizarre streams of consciousness moments that make me wonder what would actual angels think of a demon like mammal courting a young woman without a chaperon, or why is Belle's eventual love for Beast enough to justify the evil he committed before he met her?
Perhaps I'm not making much of a point after all but I always find it beautiful to realize how the films you discovered during your childhood manage to grow old with you.

This post has been part of Nat's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

I find both Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams to be some of the most overrated figures in contemporary cinema. However something has fascinated me about this poster for Meek's Cutoff. Despite its True Grit by way of hipsters vibe there is something almost primal in its simple design.

Now, is this creepy or what?

Would you hang these on your walls?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Unknown *

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones
Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella, Bruno Ganz

Unknown has all the makings for a campy, exciting, popcorn thriller; there's amnesia, femme fatales, exotically frigid locations, female cab drivers and Bruno Ganz as a kooky Stasi agent.
However, it fails to deliver cheesy, or any other kind, of thrills because it takes itself too seriously.
Liam Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, a renowned scientist who goes to Berlin with his wife (Jones) to attend a biotechnology summit. After a mishap at the airport and an accident that sends him to the hospital he wakes up to realize nobody knows who he is and worse than that, somebody else seems to have stolen his life.
His wife is still in Berlin with her own version of Dr. Harris (Quinn) and neither of them have any recollection of who this man who claims to be the "real Dr. Harris" can be.
Devastated he teams up with the cab driver (Kruger) who remembers him and sets out to discover the mystery behind these strange events.
Shot with almost too much precision by Collet-Serra, the film becomes a self important attempt at delivering a serious thriller. Yet it seems that the director is completely unaware that the screenplay includes secret plots to assassinate royals and Nazi inspired conspiracy theories.
Not that you can't combine both and make them into something superb (right?) but the director's take and the story never seem to be on the same page.
Neeson sulks beautifully of course and his rugged, worried face makes once again for an unlikely perfect action hero. You can't help but feel that he would be more at home in a Hitchcockian throwback, instead of this chaos.
His scenes with Jones have a specially seductive, almost tragic tone. As he remembers life with his wife, you see traces of Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, with Jones being the ultimate ice queen.
However the director cheapens this mood by making the flashbacks be recollections of shower sex and muffled moaning against a glass door...
Because Neeson is so reliably good, even his worst scenes have a certain serenity to them. The whole cast however seems to be playing out different movies. Kruger looks completely uninterested, Langella is reliably creepy and Ganz gives the movie just the right tone of cheesiness needed for audiences to relax.
The action sequences are over indulgent, sloppy and filled with plot holes. Sure, this may be a surreal plot, but even fantasy should be grounded on a version of the truth.
Unknown's main problem is that it never figures out what kind of movie it wants to be.