Posts Tagged ‘Natalie Portman’

Media Update 5/31/18

May 31, 2018


Black Swan

When I was in high school, (and before that) I had a good friend named Arthur who was definitely my source for a lot of the weird yet interesting stuff that I was exposed to. Being exposed to weird stuff definitely shaped my pop culture tastes along the way. One of the things he introduced me to was a fairly obscure movie simply called Pi. I was immediately fascinated and repulsed by director Aronovsky’s uncomfortable surreal narrative. He is a master of using surreal and frightening imagery to convey exactly the right psychological symbolism for his narratives. Like Pi, this movie was about one person slowly succumbing to stress and the power of their own mind. It is also about female repression, female oppression, sexuality, the sacrifice of the artist, and the demands of society among other themes. Natalie Portman is such a great actress in this movie. She often feels less like a person and more like an elemental force of emotion springing to life. Briefly living inside her character’s head was a frightening and uncomfortable place to be. Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, and Vincent Cassel do a great job delivering some really interesting antagonists. Mila Kunis plays a small but very important part as only she could. The movie is unrelenting and I felt tense but exhilarated the whole way through. I definitely recommend it but be prepared for a weird and dark ride.


Brazil

I love Terry Gilliam. My first exposure to Monty Python was reading scripts with my friend Arthur on a school camping trip. Sadly, reading the scripts did not convey the crazy artwork and animation that came from the mind of Gilliam. When he struck out on his own, he proved he was brilliant at all sorts of things. He was a great writer and director who fought hard to champion creative freedom, sometimes at his own expense. I had long heard of his first solo film, Brazil, but I never got a chance to watch it until now. I know because it was Gilliam that it would be weird and I was not disappointed. The movie is a comedy about a dystopian future where bureaucracy has gotten fully out of control. This future is quite surreal and ridiculous which actually makes it all the scarier. The star of the movie is Jonathan Pryce who is great as the intelligent yet awkward everyman who gets wrapped up in chaos. There is also a great funny performance by Sir Ian Holm who is great at being meekly funny. Fellow Python alum Michael Palin gets to play a lovable psychopath. There are also great cameos from Robert DeNiro, Jim Broadbent, and Bob Hoskins. After watching two dark and emotional movies, it was nice to watch a comedy. Although, it is kind of a dark comedy. The movie is a crazy adventure and it was fun from start to finish. I definitely recommend it as well.


Mulholland Drive

I am not the biggest fan of David Lynch films. To be fair, his films and his TV show Twin Peaks are intentionally hard to follow and full of a lot of symbolism. I also think he is often making it up as he goes along. Such was the case for this movie which was intended to be a television pilot for a spinoff of Twin Peaks but it was instead made into a feature film so he wrote the ending at that point. Often called his most logical film, it is still pretty hard to grasp for me. At a certain point with Lynch’s work, I feel that one must just sit back and relax and watch without trying to figure things out. I kept asking “what does that mean?” but for most of it, it probably did not matter. The main point of the film, in my opinion, is to convey emotion. The performances, especially the one by Naomi Watts, are particularly haunting. Most of the movie has a dreamlike quality until there is a climax where we are snapped out of the dream. It is disorienting but also pretty interesting to watch. I think I would probably be able to follow the film a little more if it could hold my attention better. A lot of the time nothing exciting is happening so I start getting complacent for when the really crazy stuff starts. What I could glean from the movie is the clash between dreams/reality, innocence/guilt, memory, and the perils of the Hollywood system. It is a love note to Hollywood and also a warning about Hollywood as it is definitely a movie about duality. I recommend it but be ready to be confused as even film critics and historians cannot agree on what the movie means.

Music of the Week:

Geoff Muldaur – Brazil

TWRP – Synthesize Her

Maddie and Tae – Friends Don’t

Yello – The Race

Mars Argo – Using You

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Things Get Weird”
– I finished watching The Pinkertons
– I watched more of Season 3 of Better Call Saul
– I watched more Glitter Force Doki Doki Season 1
– I watched more Gurren Lagann
– I watched more Barry Kramer and GTLive on YouTube
– This week’s theme could have been “Weird Directors I Like”

Léon: The Professional

April 14, 2016

Alright, how about we talk about the elephant in the room before we get into the nitty gritty here? They say that holding things in is not healthy and besides, not talking about the big issue will distract from the rest of the review. You will be waiting for it and I will be holding it back and you will be skimming everything that comes before it. You are skimming right now, aren’t you? Of course, I am talking about the famous line delivery of “Everyone!” by Gary Oldman. I have seen it mocked over and over in various spotlights of bad or silly line deliveries. The clip is pretty funny but it is just one facet of this movie. You should not judge this movie based on that one fact as I tried my best not to. Wait, did you think I was talking about the controversial part that Natalie Portman played? We’ll talk about that in a bit.

The movie is directed by Luc Besson, a french director that I have come to appreciate greatly even though he earned me as a fan back in 1997. That is the year that The Fifth Element came out which was a movie I absolutely adored and I have seen it several times over. Besson also did Run Lola Run which is an action cult classic movie that I also enjoyed. I have not yet seen all of Besson’s stuff but it is actually one of my goals. His understanding of action scenes is right up there with Woo, Tarantino and may of the great stunt spectacular directors. There is also a lot of touching human emotion in what I have seen of his work.

A lot of the action parts of the movie are silly in all the best ways. Leon is a ruthless killer who is almost supernatural in skill. He is a very cool customer in high contrast to Jean Reno’s other appearances in movies widely released in the United States. I mean, it’s a far cry from what you may have seen in 1998’s Godzilla. He is a badass killer but he has an interesting sense of humor that you might not catch if you were in the wrong mood. And yet, there’s a side to him that still embraces humanity and yearns for a little happiness. He’s a secret goofball. This actually plays really well and the character is very balanced. The way his character works is crucial to the three-part formula of this movie.

Natalie Portman is an interesting little creature in this movie. She is playing an eleven-year-old who is full of deep-seated ennui before the movie starts. She is an abused girl who feels neglected by life but not the maudlin little Dickens character you might expect. There is an intense sadness in her that is often hidden behind anger and a slight sense of humor. When the movie starts she is starving for attention but, like the Roald Dahl character of the same name, she is largely ignored by her family. There is some critical response to her character’s relationship with the older Leon but I don’t see a problem. She forms a unique bond with Leon but it’s more like friendship and family than anything untoward. The bond is intimate and there are certainly some iffy moments but reading anything else into it is kind of insulting.

Gary Oldman is a national treasure in this movie. Of course, which nation is up for grabs since this is ostensibly a French film. His character is insanity. I thought that Heath Ledger had captured insanity with the Joker. As good as that performance was, Oldman is so much better. He is barely contained insanity that could lash out at anybody around him which includes the thugs who work for him. His character is a joy to watch but you end up worried about what he will do next. He is a great villain in that he absolutely believes the horrible things he does are the right thing to do. While the clip below may seem over the top (and it is) it does grow organically from the monster Norman Stansfield is.

The soundtrack is absolutely a delight to listen to while watching the movie but Besson always has well-composed soundtracks. It is listed as a crime thriller but I think that is a misnomer even though I see those elements in it too. The movie shifts genres as it rolls along which makes it a great watch. Still, it is a hard movie to classify. Go check it out for yourself, I definitely recommend it.


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