Monday, January 3, 2011


Now that I am allowed to leave the house (for short periods and under strict supervision since I can't drive yet), I have finally gotten out for two movies in two days plus a church service. Naturally, I chose two light-hearted films guaranteed to lift my spirits. The first was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One, the first half of the last of the fabulously successful series based on the novels. Given its 2:35 length, Hallows stuffs itself with numerous chases across the English countryside, either in the dark or in the rain, face-offs with numerous agents of his arch enemy Voldemort, and jealous spats between buddies Ron and Harry over Hermoine. Not evenly paced, Hallows still conjures some cinematic magic under the direction of David Yates. One inventive addition is an animated sequence told by an old crone. The images are similar to Indonesian shadow puppets and tell the fable of three brother knights who attempt to cheat death but lose their lives in the process. Another surprising moment comes when Ron accuses Harry of stealing Hermoine's affections. This is the best acting that Rupert Grint has done. As he looks at Harry and Hermoine, he imagines them first in each others arms, and then nude in a hot embrace. The entire sequence is surreal and strong enough to violent action from Ron. Like the pessimistic close of The Empire Strikes Back, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows ends with Voldemort ascendant in his power and the young trio looking helpless. See you in May, guys and gals.

If you are planning to see Darren Aronofsky's new psycho-thriller Black Swan, here are several warnings.

1. Lots of blood letting from various sources: feet, back, fingers, abdomen, etc, and all from the luminous but not too healthy Natalie Portman.

2. A mad mother from Hell, played deliciously by Barbara Hershey, who makes Snow White's stepmother look like Mother Hubbard and echoes all those Freudian/Greek references I thought were so cool in college.

3. If you love sadism, masochism, and self-torture plus frenzied camera work and every bone breaking in full volume, this is the movie for you.


It is, but it's not the sweet kind seen in 1979's beautiful soap The Turning Point. There's no Baryshnikov and in a Romeo and Juliet pas de deux that dissolves into a torrid love scene all in blue lighting. It's closer to The Red Shoes, the frenzied, overly colorized tale of a ballerina who dies because she can't choose between art and love. Black Swan bases its plot on the classic ballet about a girl who is turned into a white swan, falls for a prince, loses him to a black swan, and kills herself. Natalie Portman plays the ill-fated ballerina with amazing vulnerability and ferocity alike. As her ambition, her mother, her wakening sex drive, and the pressure of being the lead ballerina crush her, she begins to see and hear things. Thing is we as an audience have little idea what is real and what isn't, and it leaves us in an emotional dither. Now back to the list of caveats. Actually, if you can take them, they make this movie work. Not since Psycho,
has a movie affected me as viscerally as this one. As the concluding scenes detailing opening night cascade upon us, we cannot escape nor do we want to. This movie has been accused of being over the top. And it certainly is. But it is often pure cinema, the kind that Hitchcock would have applauded.

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