Tag Archives: Black Swan

Black Swan (2011)

27 Jan

Darren Aronofsky doesn’t pigeonhole himself: though he works rigidly within the realms of drama, he’s tackled all sorts of subjects from drug abuse to time travel. Now with his latest Oscar-nominated film he’s taking on the world of ballet. And turning it into a psychological horror.

Black Swan is the story of sweet momma’s girl Nina (Natalie Portman) who strives for perfection in her ballet. When she is surprisingly cast as the Swan Queen in a new production of Swan Lake, her inability to inhabit the role of the wicked Black Swan leads her down the road to insanity, where she believes that fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) is trying to steal her role and she begins to descend into madness.

There were a few things I didn’t actually ike about this movie: first was Natalie Portman who, despite being tipped to pick up the Best Actress Oscar, was completely insipid as Nina and I didn’t feel for her at all. Now, you could say this is because Nina is supposed to be a wimp anyway but there was something about the fact that she continually had a small, weak voice, kept apologizing all the time and spent much of the movie with her face chiselled in either shock, horror or depression that was really annoying: how could anyone actually empathise with this girl? Lily was a much more believable person in that she actually seemed to have a personality that extended beyond being timid.

Secondly, the final third was a bit bogged down in melodrama: while the first hour or so of the film works its way through why Nina might be going a bit crazy and builds up character, the last third consists of little more than the actual performance itself and Nina running around in a panic because she’s seeing things and grappling with her mum because she’s actual concerned for her daughter’s wellbeing – typical, eh? Things get a bit too fast paced to the point where you just want Aronofsky to tone it all down a little – it didn’t quite sit right with the slow build-up and tension that preceded it.

Still, the cinematography is wonderful, especially in the dance sequences (both during the performances and in the training for the roles) and Aronofsky’s camerawork does well to try and get you to be part of Nina’s life by following her around and tracing her steps impeccably. This is the strongest point of the film, which is a shame because you kind of expect a little more from it (what with the hype and all). This doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable and there are the obligatory shocks (even though you can see them coming a mile off). The atmosphere of tension is also sustained throughout, helped by the pulsating sounds and creepy noises that accompany Nina’s voyage into the unknown.

Verdict: Good, even though the main character is completely annoying (trust me, by the end you wish she’d just toughened up instead of moaning all the time). Excellent camera and cinematography make this film instead of the acting, but it’s still worth watching for some of the beautiful imagery and dance sequences.

7 OUT OF 10

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Oscars: The Madness of a 10-Film Shortlist

26 Jan

Last year was the first time we saw more than 5 films nominated in one category, the coveted award of Best Picture. It was a farce: there have only been a couple of occasions where the winner of Best Picture and Best Director have been for two different films, and extending the list outwards to appease some people who believe that blockbusters have their place in serious awards ceremonies. Which is often rubbish.

Still, this year has included Christopher Nolan’s brain-warping puzzler of a thriller Inception so surely this means Blockbusters are getting good? Well, yeah – but only if people like Nolan do them, don’t patronise an audience and show some actual originality in their work. Avatar should never have been on the shortlist last year and James Cameron shouldn’t have been in the Best Director category – there was nothing to direct thanks to the “miracle” of motion-capture and the movie was basically a soulless Dances With Blue Wolves against evil American overlords, with a subtext so obvious it might as well have been a brick with the words “Save the Planet” scrawled on it pounding you in the face. Luckily, Inception doesn’t tick any of those terrible boxes.

It does, however, suffer from the curse of the Best Director award: now it’s easier to sift the classic from the average as one comparison between the Best Picture and Best Director categories tells you who’s really in the running.

There’ll be a showdown between The King’s Speech and The Social Network (which pretty much already has the Best Original Soundtrack award in the bag). But no Nolan – so there you go, Inception won’t win anything but maybe some more minor awards. Poor Nolan. When will he get his moment in the spotlight?

So there you have it: what’s the point in having 10 films on the shortlist when you know five of them don’t stand a chance? It’s simply mind-boggling and like the Academy are just putting things in there are as cheap ways of saying “we’re not snobs” – so that’ll be the token Blockbuster and the token animation then. Nice one, panel. That’s one rant over. Now to the other categories….

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