Friday, October 28, 2011

ScarJo gets under my skin...

Lord in heaven knows, I really want Scarlett Johansson to get an Oscar nomination.  This is not because I find her to be the hottest woman on the planet (but I do), but simply because she is far too talented to be regarded as a mere sex-kitten.  I think that her overall sex appeal has overridden her massive talent, and she has settled over the past few years to take up roles that play too heavily on her presence and less on her skill.  Remember back in 2003 when she blew the world away in two very uniquely separate performances.  I do.  In fact, I gave her joint Fisti wins that year, since choosing between the two performances was too difficult.  Since then she has delivered some very interesting performances.  She became Woody Allen’s new muse for a spell, turning in a seductively engaging turn in ‘Match Point’, geeking it up to comedic perfection in ‘Scoop’ (she should have been at least Globe nominated for that) and then slinking into a cheeky, somewhat na├»ve performance in ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’.  Despite the Universal consensus that Cruz and Hall were superior, I’ve always felt that Johansson was that film’s key player.  Yes, she has had her fair share of thankless roles in forgettable films, and she is exploited passionately by the industry, but this girl is too amazing to go much longer without an Oscar nomination.  Word that she aced her ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ audition and failed to get the part because of her sex appeal is depressing to me since the idea of ScarJo in that role working with THAT man (Fincher) would have sent me into a frenzy (a good one). 

And then there is word of ‘Under the Skin’ (adapted from the Michel Faber novel), a collaboration with Brian Glazer (finally, another movie) about an alien who seduces young men in order to abduct them and bring them back to her home planet, so she can eat them.  This totally has a ‘Species’ feeling to it (alien seduction element) but then again, this is Brian Glazer and his previous two films (Sexy Beast and Birth) were both extremely impressive and showed true signs of ‘auteur in the making’ so I’m really anxious for this.

Could this be the role that gets Scarlett that Oscar nomination that has eluded her all these years?  She was once considered the next big thing, and many people who witnessed her rise in 03 were convinced that she would at least have a nomination by this point.  This certainly does NOT sound like Oscar fare, but Natalie Portman just won the Oscar for playing a psychotic lesbian ballerina, so stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Behold; the Death-Star!

‘Melancholia’ is a film that is going to be extremely divisive.  Not everyone is going to appreciate this, and yet there are going to be some that laud this as one of the finest films ever made.  I can certainly see its flaws, and yet there is this underlying captivating atmosphere that I can’t help but wholly appreciate. 

‘Melancholia’ is a unique and engrossing experience that is less what it seems and more what you’d come to expect from an auteur as controversial as Lars von Trier.

The opening montage of cataclysmic destruction plays out like a Vogue editorial shoot captured in slow motion.  It seems almost anticlimactic to show us the end before the beginning, and while I understand that this cinematic trick (or gimmick) is initially rather off-putting and presumes to fail the overall purpose of the film somewhat by showing us the cause of concern before we truly understand the concern building in the key characters, it works in a way that I can’t quite explain.  I personally was rather upset with the sequence upon watching it, but as the film tied itself together I found myself calling it to mind with awe for I saw how the pieces of that puzzle came together in an unexpected way.

And, one cannot forsake its beauty.

And then the actual film starts, which is broken into two sections.

The first part of ‘Melancholia’ focuses on Justine, the bride.  Her lavish wedding begins with promise.  Her ‘filthy rich’ brother-in-law has paid for the spectacle to take place at his gigantic home, complete with a butler, an 18 hole golf course and a slew of guest rooms (with baths, not showers).  The joyous couple show up late, thanks to an oversized limo and some narrowly curved roads, and then all joy seems to evaporate as Justine’s intense depression sets in and begins to erode her happiness.  Everyone around her fails to understand her condition, even though most of them try (especially her groom and her sister).  Justine seems bewitched by a red star she seems looming overhead; a star that goes unseen by the others.  This star sets a strange precedent for the remains of the evening as Justine’s behavior becomes more reclusive and catatonic almost.

Bridges are burned, relationships are broken all hope is lost.

The second half switches focus to Claire, the elder sister.  While Justine is certainly suffering from depression, Claire begins to delve into paranoia as the impending collision with the mysterious planet Melancholia grows closer and closer.  They don’t ever say how much time as elapsed since the wedding, where that ‘star’ first reared its head, but Justine is still sulking in misery and the agitation she caused on that ‘blessed day’ obviously still lingers.

“It tastes like ashes.”

With only five days left before Melancholia is supposed to ‘pass’ Earth, Claire and Justine begin to come to terms with the inevitabilities of their futures.

At the core of ‘Melancholia’ is a sharply constructed look at mental instability and the effect it has on our own personal survival.  Justine’s character is of particular interest because her depression, which is initially assumed to stem from the planet traveling towards Earth, is almost eased by the foreknowledge that the end is coming.  She possesses a unique bond with the planet, a connection (as seen by her nude moon-bathing) that helps ease her dissention since she is obviously of the accord that life on Earth is corrupted; infected with an evil that, even in its most unintuitive form is still prevalent and contaminating. 

For her, eradication is a way out of a life she cannot support.

From a technical standpoint, ‘Melancholia’ is something special.  The imagery is stunning.  Lars von Trier has a great track record of using a film’s cinematography to eclipse the viewer and sustain his themes.  ‘Antichrist’ was a film that suffered in conception and yet it was sustained to a degree thanks to the beautiful and captivating way in which it was shot (not to mention Gainsbourg’s phenomenal performance).  Here, the night sky is illuminated by cascading stars and eerily shifted cloud structures.  Even the murky yet polished way in which the close-ups are rendered is astonishing to watch.  I was really taken by the nostalgic score, one that embodied the same sound and atmosphere as the classic apocalyptic and science fiction films.  The drama is there, bolded with each swell in the music.

Performance-wise, the film belongs to Kirsten Dunst.  She is remarkable here.  This is a truly restrained and intimate performance, no real showboating or dramatics involved.  Instead, Dunst takes a far more realistic look at depression by holding it all in.  Sure, she has her crying fits and breakdowns, but she internalizes so much.  I’m so happy for her Cannes win, especially since Oscar will most likely look the other way (they like their actresses to SHOW their pain), but I completely concur with many who say this is quite possibly her finest work.  She has been one of my favorite actresses for years, and I am so thrilled to see her making some intriguing and rewarding film choices (she should have won the Oscar last year for her tremendous work in ‘All Good Things’).  I also was wholly impressed with Kiefer Sutherland, who dwelled in the skin of his character, adding little touches that made him feel complete as opposed to a mere prop (unlike the younger Skarsgard, who just proved uninteresting).  Kiefer portrays an odd warmth, paternal and yet elusively selfish.  You can see his colors changing as the film progresses, and his many shades, while never blatant or wholly exposed, haunt long after he’s left the screen.

In the end, ‘Melancholia’ is probably the strangest ‘apocalyptic’ film you’ll ever see, and while it contains certain flaws, those flaws are swallowed and digested by the films ravenous pluses.  The pacing is extraordinary (don’t listen to the naysayers claiming this film drags, for it most certainly does not) for it allows the impending dread to set it slowly, meticulously, calculated and yet entirely natural so that you feel yourself letting go as you watch Justine and Claire prepare themselves for the afterlife.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oct. Oscar Prediction Updates!

Finally...I've compiled my thoughts on the race ATM.  I'm going to post my predictions for all categories except the docs/shorts and songs since I don't think there is a handle on those categories yet.  Since I did some guess work in Foreign Film I guess I should have done the same in Doc. at least, but I didn't.

Oh well.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Romances, Old Flames and RUSSELL CROWE!!!

So, I’m in the middle of watching ‘White Palace’ right now and I’m totally in love with Susan Sarandon.  What else is new.  God, I’ve been in love with her for years.  Seriously, was there a better actress (or at least more consistent actress) in the 90’s?  She was brilliant in everything she touched.  She still is, but she really needs a really great film again, something that could remind the world of her magic.  She needs another ‘Thelma & Louise’, but that kind of magic only strikes once in a lifetime.


Anyways, I heard some interesting news this morning.  Apparently the rumor mill is swarming the new ‘it couple’.  Scarlett Johansson, my personal Hollywood crush, is ‘allegedly’ dating Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Now, I am normally not happy when an actress I’m smitten with is dating someone because, well, her ‘availableness’ and my wishful thinking clash, but I’m really thrilled about this.  I love both of them.  They are so talented and adorable and I think they would make a well matched couple.  Major step up from that talentless ‘body’ she was married to.  I hope this rumor is true.  The most exciting thing is that their names are not compatible for a cutesy nickname so we might not have to deal with something like that.

But then again…the work may have already been done considering that Scarlett’s condensed nickname, ScarJo, would work.

Onto other things, I rebooted my Facebook page the other day and say this update from Russell Crowe’s Twitter page (because I’m obsessed enough to follow his Twitter) that said that Anne Hathaway was confirmed for Tom Hooper’s big screen adaptation of ‘Les Miserables’ and I must admit that I am THRILLED.  Hathaway is so talented and SHE CAN SING and so I’m really glad that they are actually casting talented ‘singer/actors’ for this film and not just big names with no voices and praying that the Box Office saves the reputation of the film.  Of course, I can’t get through talking about this project without mentioning that RUSSELL CROWE IS IN THIS…duh.  The role, of Inspector Javert is a plum role for him and the prospect of him being up for a fourth Oscar nomination is just too much for me to bare. 

I love him!

Despite what I think about Hooper, and it’s true that my hatred for him doesn’t stem from his mediocre talents but more from the fact that he won that Oscar over David Fincher, and that really wasn’t his fault; right?  Anyways, he did do a ‘good’ job with ‘The King’s Speech’, and this cast is shaping up REALLY WELL, so I’m excited for what this is going to become.

Oh, and I’m thinking about cramming in ‘Melancholia’ today considering that I just saw that I could stream it on Amazon and I’ve been dying to see it.  I mean, von Trier is a god and Kirsten Dunst is one of the greatest actresses of her generation (she needs more credit for the string of amazing perfs she’s pulled out since the early 90’s) and, while I kind of hated ‘Antichrist’, I’ve heard some great things about this film, and we all know that von Trier works as well with actresses as Daldry does!

Emily Watson
Nicole Kidman
Charlotte Gainsbourg

Yeah, I rest my case.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Random Tuesday...

I honestly need to post here more.  I just wrapped up my 2004 Fisti Awards and posted them on the Awards Page so check them out and feel free to comment there as well!  Let's see...I've recently become obsessed with Michael Fassbender, have been scarfing down a slew of Elizabeth Taylor movies and am anxiously awaiting the awards season to start so I can find my frontrunner (PLEASE LET IT BE CAREY MULLIGAN) and pimp the hell out of them.

Yeah...I'll post more later.