Monday, January 10, 2011

Black Swan = eating crow

Here's where I poo-poo another Oscar-buzz worthy movie. If you'd like to read my scathing review of last year's Best Picture Oscar winner, click here

About a week before Christmas, my boyfriend and I went to see Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky's take on some seriously psycho ballerina shit. It got rave reviews and I was totally stoked to go see it, especially since Aronofsky also directed one of my all-time favorite movies, Requiem for a Dream.

In a surprisingly packed movie theatre, we settled into our seats and prepared to be blown away by Aronofsky's latest cinematic creation and the brilliant performances we were promised were contained therein. 

My first clue that things were not going to go as planned occurred about two minutes into the movie when I noticed that it must have been shot with the ironically-named "Steadicam", à la Blair Witch Project. Tight, shaky shots. Unfortunately, watching a movie that's filmed in this way makes me nauseous - it's like motion sickness.

It then dawned on me that I would have to sit there, trying to repress the urge to toss my cookies, for the duration of the movie. This did not bode well. So, I tried to make myself as comfortable as I could, still thinking I would see cinematic greatness unfold.

After a long two hours battling low-grade nausea, the movie was over. It wasn't a completely horrid film but it left me feeling disappointed, like something was missing. "Meh" is the most appropriate word I can think of to convey the emotion this movie evoked in me.

Sure, the performances were solid. Natalie Portman did a great job portraying an uptight ballerina spiraling out of control when awarded the lead role in Swan Lake. It just goes to show: be careful what you wish for, you just might lose your marbles when you get it. 

Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel also deliver, respectively, as a laid-back ballet dancer parachuting in from California and a hard-ass, perverted ballet choreographer. Barbara Hershey ramps up the creep factor as an overbearing ex-ballet dancer "mommy dearest" type opposite Portman's character. Even Winona Ryder has a small yet memorable role as the ousted prima ballerina and former object of Vincent Cassel's affections. 

However, the weakness of this film lies in its failure to rise above classic stereotypes of how to make great art and be a great artist. There is general, if perhaps unspoken, consensus that to be a truly great artist, one must be completely mad, a belief strongly upheld in Black Swan. Only in the absence of sanity can truly staggering heights of artistic genius be attained.

If that's the case, I may as well retire my proverbial pen right this instant and give up my aspirations of becoming a great playwright. I'm way too f*cking normal. 

Vincent Cassel's character can almost be pardoned for a sexual assault on his prima ballerina in the name of making her a better dancer. This is also a lame stereotype. Yes, a director should try to extract the very best work out of his/her performers but most certainly not by being abusive and manipulative. 

Also, the much touted girl-on-girl make-out scene between Natalie and Mila felt superfluous and didn't, in any way, advance the storyline. It was a predictable end to a predictable scene of ballerinas gone wild in NYC.

All in all, a disappointment - a celebration of sorts of humanity's deepest and darkest neuroses, all in the name of ephemeral, aesthetic perfection.

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