January 31, 2011

Review: "BLACK SWAN"

Nina is a dedicated ballet dancer, who dreams of being the star of her company.  Her chance comes when she is unexpectedly offered the role of the Swan Queen in "Swan Lake".  The part demands that one dancer play two diametrically opposed characters: the White Swan, and the Black Swan.  Beautiful and frigid, Nina plays the White Swan with conviction, but struggles with the baser nature of the Black.  Fearful of losing the role to another dancer, Nina begins to delve into the depths of her own darkness.

In spite of being a film maker, it takes a lot for me to go to the cinema.  The film has to excite me, or else create so much hype that I go out of curiosity.  "Black Swan" falls into the latter category, and so my (very low) expectations were exceeded.

It was good, I was riveted.  The film is based on Jungian psychological concepts of projection and repression:  Nina (Portman), the product of an overbearing and unfulfilled mother, sees darkness everywhere in the world because she refuses to see it within herself.  If you're not into Jung, Aronofsky keeps your attention by using every shock tactic there is.  Horror sound effects, mutilation, lesbian sex scenes:  this film has it all.  Riveting, like I said.  Until about half way through when it all started to get a bit much.  Aronofsky isn't exactly known for his subtly: but did he really have to make Portman start looking like the monster from "Jeepers Creepers"?  I came out of the cinema feeling like I was on drugs and someone had just hit me in the face.

Nonetheless, I do think it's a film worth seeing on the big screen.  It's visually beautiful, and Portman (who I've never been a fan of) gives an incredible performance, on par with any of the Hollywood greats.  Give that lady the Oscar - she deserves it.

January 20, 2011


"If you haven’t seen this, you don’t like documentaries."  - Ben Steinbauer (Film maker)

The remark above was all it took for me to finally watch "Spellbound" - a documentary about the American National Spelling Bee.

Eight teenagers hoping to win the Spelling Bee trophy are followed from their hometowns to Washington D.C.  Here, they compete to spell their way to victory, glory, and the American Dream.

Trophies and competition are practically synonymous with American culture, and for the competitors, the Spelling Bee represents a first step towards a successful life.  Most of them come from immigrant families, and express a strong desire to make something of themselves.  And where else is this possible but America: land of the free (as we're continually reminded), and country where anyone can excel with hard work?

Apart from the blatant flag-waving, "Spellbound" is an interesting slice of life.  It opens a door into an adorably geeky world, and shows the successes and failures of young teenagers in quest of their dream. Some you root for, some you pity (particually the ones with the over zealous parents), and some you cringe at.*

Despite being a little too long, the journey is entertaing, and you're keen to see who wins.  A feel-good film (particularly if you're American).



*And some should not even be featured in the film - like the boy who blatantly has Aspergers!

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