Tag Archives: black swan

Slashers and Statues: Horror at the Oscars

By Andreas

It’s time for me to pontificate about horror movies and the Oscars. As such, let me lay out a couple basic propositions:

1) In their ongoing attempt to reward quality filmmaking, the Oscars have infamously preferred a certain type—namely, “prestige” pictures that can seem to advance film as an art form while catering to (and flattering the intelligence of) a broad audience. Serious and “ambitious” dramas, by and large, trump their less overtly dignified brethren in Oscar’s eyes.

2) Meanwhile, “horror movies” have been ghettoized by mainstream film critics and moral authorities, who deride them as anti-prestigious, cheap, morally/artistically suspect, etc. It’s a process that’s slowly being reversed, but old habits die really hard.

The end result, as a cursory glance over Oscar history will tell you, is that horror movies are almost never recognized by the Academy. To expand on that, let me hazard another proposition:

3) Because of these biases, horror masterpieces are constantly ignored by the Oscars in favor of absolutely inferior movies that look safe and award-worthy.

None of this is especially revolutionary thinking. In fact, genre bigotry like this is widely accepted as one of the Academy’s major weaknesses. But I do think there’s plenty more to be learned by closely examining that “almost never.” When does the Academy embrace horror? The short answer is “Roughly once a decade.” The long answer is “It depends on what you consider horror.” Let me explain by going chronologically…

Read a near-comprehensive history of horror at the Oscars after the jump.

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Link Dump: #28

One of my favorite parts about the fun-but-forgettable Go, aside from the guts and raw energy of Sarah Polley, was this kitty. Look at it! It’s so cute and it’s terrifyingly telepathic! This is why you don’t pop tons of Ecstasy. Because that’s when cats start messing with you. In other news, the Internet has been happening for the past two weeks. Here’s the best of it:

  • I love my minimal movie posters, and these Stanley Kubrick pictogram posters are both well-made and dryly funny. (Also, spoiler warning on Full Metal Jacket!)
  • This Total Film article about inserting Doc Brown into every other time travel movie is pretty hilarious, and very British.
  • Pajiba has a list of “The 50 Most Expensive Movies of All Time,” with their budgets and grosses listed, plus some fun/informative trivia.
  • Badass Digest inducts Pauline Kael into its “Badass Hall of Fame,” which is a very appropriate place for her. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Ms. Kael is a personal hero of mine, and the piece is thoughtfully written; give it a quick read!
  • The two things I never get tired of, Black Swan and Rebecca Black’s memetastic “Friday,” have finally been combined into one horrifying/funny video. (Huge spoiler alert for Black Swan.)
  • Few directors are as eloquent or congenial as David Cronenberg, and interviews with him are always a pleasure to read. This Q&A from Macleans.ca is no exception, as he dishes out yummy details about A Dangerous Method. (SO EXCITED!!)
  • Jonathan Coe in The Guardian digs into the hazards of the literary adaptation, with special emphasis on Barney’s Version and John Huston’s The Dead.
  • The YouTube channel MisterSharp has a series of hilarious pseudo-educational videos, including “The Bizarre World of the Bisexual,” which made me laugh out loud several times and is highly worth a view.
  • For The New Yorker, Tad Friend talks about the comic genius of Anna Faris, a woman we love around these parts. (This is also probably the most praise you’ll ever hear for The House Bunny.)

We had some weeeeeird search terms! I like the rhyming and biological inaccuracy of “zit on my clit,” and of course I adore the utterly inexplicable “george w bush sex in bed.” I was kind of creeped out, not gonna lie, by “female dead hand,” but the best two were definitely “молчание ягнят,” which is Russian for Silence of the Lambs (yay international readers!) and “i dont know why they dont explodes.” I don’t know why either. Maybe someday we’ll all find out.

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Oscar Grouching ’10: Inception and Black Swan

The Oscars are almost almost here, and I’ve promised Ashley that I’ll shut up about them soon. But there’s so much I haven’t been able to talk about! So I’m going to make a last-ditch effort to address some of my lingering nominee-related thoughts.

First of all: Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which I discussed in an initial, wildly enthusiastic review and in my year-end wrap-up. My opinion of it has fluctuated over the past 6-7 months, and I recently revisited it to write a “Mix Tape” article for The Film Experience about the film’s use of Édith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” A few points stood out to me: first and most frustratingly, the film totally wastes a fantastic ensemble. Ellen Page and JG-L act as Cobb’s glorified assistants (and bounce exposition off of each other), while Cillian Murphy is a quirky, talented actor trapped in a bland nothing role.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting, meanwhile, leaves a lot to be desired since he’s supposed to be the film’s lead and emotional linchpin. He has two modes here—pedagogic and brooding—and neither is especially enthralling. Only Cotillard, Watanabe, and Hardy do anything much of interest, and even they are hampered by the film’s structure and dialogue. It’s emphatically not an actor’s movie. However, it is an art design and special effects wet dream, and redeemed by its moments of sheer visual spectacle. It also builds a creative, streamlined world out of old clichés and pieces of cultural detritus. Given this last attribute, I could imagine Inception 2 going in some cool directions.

For now, though, all we’ve got is Inception 1, which is occasionally awesome and fun, but nonetheless has plot holes big enough to drive a train through in the middle of its raison d’etre, the über-complicated shared dreaming technology. But I’m still excited for The Dark Knight Rises and whatever else Nolan wants to make; maybe we’ll get another Ledger-as-Joker-caliber performance out of his movies again. In the meantime, Inception certainly deserves a technical award or two. We’ll find out tonight!

It’s hard to separate the good and bad of Black Swan (see my initial review), and I think that’s just how Darren Aronofsky likes it. Is it gorgeous, intense, and sensual, unlike almost every other Best Picture nominee? Hell yes. Is it adolescent, prurient, trashy, and obsessed with Natalie Portman’s oh-so-romantic masochism for her art? Also hell yes. It’s an icky, atmospheric horror movie that would make a great double feature with Perfect Blue; it’s also comparatively simple-minded about sex and female performance, steeped as it is in hoary melodramatic tropes. (After all, it is an unofficial remake of everything from 42nd Street to Showgirls.)

To be frank, though, I love all the women in this. Portman (this year’s almost-certain Best Actress) is the film’s center which cannot hold, the diva around whom Ryder, Kunis, and Hershey orbit, and each one of them still gets a few juicy moments in the limelight. In the end, though, it’s all about Nina’s manic, transformative dance to the death. In that final scene, you either applaud Aronofsky’s gall, you ask “What the fuck is going on?!”, or both. To conclude, I’ve got a few fascinating and informative Black Swan-related links:

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Link Dump: #21

You may know the adorable duo above as Figaro the cat and Cleo the fish from Disney’s Pinocchio (1940). However, did you realize that they also co-starred in the 8-minute “Figaro and Cleo,” which may well be the cutest piece of short animation in existence anywhere? Seriously: at the end, Figaro and Cleo kiss. It’s that cute.

In non-cuteness-related news, we realize blog updates have been rather sparse lately, and for that we apologize. That’s going to change for real starting next week. Can you trust us? Or is this just a twisted reader/blogger relationship filled with one set of lies after another? Let’s hope it’s the first one. Reviews of movies and sex toys will be back in full force starting very, very soon. In the meantime, LINKS!

In terms of search terms, someone was looking for “tom waits porn” (Ashley and I strongly approve), while another searcher wanted to know the “award for the best looking vagina.” Along similar lines, “where to get pussy in hennepin county?” (My joking answer: visit the Humane Society!) And of course, “radiator rape.” That just speaks for itself.

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Link Dump: #18

See? Even the unnamed couple from Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) loved kitties. They probably also loved links to cool things on the Internet, too… or at least they would’ve, if they were alive today. Anyway, here are those links:

  • Letters of Note has some cool documentation of Kubrick’s attempts to make his Napeoleon movie in the late ’60s, including his invitation to the semi-retired Audrey Hepburn to have her play Josephine.
  • If you’re like me (or, you know, not a fundamentalist psycho), you probably hate Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. Here’s a documentary about them and their Lady Gaga-hating ways, as well as an article about an Arizona law banning them from protesting funerals after last week’s shootings.
  • What’s better than Criterion-style covers for new releases by a Criterion cover designer? Nothing. They’re just beautiful. Especially Toy Story 3 and Black Swan.
  • Shakesville has a well-written piece on the media’s treatment of work discrimination complaints.
  • The Advocate has an article on the gayest cities in America… and #1? Minneapolis! Yay, Twin Cities pride.
  • Vulture has the worst movies of 2010 – but really, Black Swan‘s on there? Vocal minority or not, that’s a stretch, especially in a year that saw Yogi Bear and Devil.
  • Holy fuck, there’s a plant that eats rats?!

Alas, we’re short on good search terms this week, but here are two vagina-centric ones: “niece wet cunt,” which I hope was a misspelling of “nice wet cunt,” because the other option is just kind of gross and weird, and “stolen pussy comics.” I’m not sure if that refers to comics about stolen pussy, or pussy comics that were stolen. Either way… weird.

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Link Dump: #16

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Even though it reinforces the stereotype that only evil people love cats, we’re celebrating with a picture of the two villains (and their adorable white kitty) from the musical remake of Hairspray (2007). Now, time for the last Link Dump of the year:

And finally, to usher out 2010, we have a bunch of totally ridiculous search terms like “a girl uses a laser gun to cut her pussy out.” Eww. On the classier side, there’s “stylish masterbating to classical music” and “multifarious pussy.” (Somebody has a thesaurus!) Uh-oh, “you found my rape dungeon”! That’s… not wholesome. And lastly, some Arabic for you! Translated loosely as “Bossi Sex Video,” “سكس بوسى فيديو.” I don’t know how to say this in Arabic, but happy new year! We’ll be back with more amazing, sexy blogging content in 2011.

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Hell is Other Ballerinas

I finally saw Black Swan, and so did Ashley, right before the big holiday weekend. She had a lot to say about it, including the fact that Mila Kunis was really sexy. I thought that Winona Ryder didn’t get enough screen time. (It’s bullshit: she’s still a fantastic actress, but now every online story about her has to include the word “shoplift” somewhere [that was nine years ago, people], and she has to play a jealous ballet has-been with a mangled leg.) Both Kunis and Ryder, however, have to play second fiddle to the all-enveloping psychoses of Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), the perfectionist who’s going to play the Swan Queen in her ballet company’s production of Swan Lake – that is, if her hallucinations don’t kill her first.

It’s certainly something new. It starts out with the same painful realism as Darren Aronofsky’s previous film, The Wrestler (2008), following its heroine back and forth from practices with sleazy ballet director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) to the apartment she shares with her beloved smother mother (Barbara Hershey), a woman who cares just a little too much about her “sweet girl.” But as she keeps itching that rash on her back, and as she keeps suspecting that Lily (Kunis) is trying to steal her spotlight, Nina snaps and starts losing it. Black Swan turns into a record of her persecution fantasies, her “lezzy wet dream,” her imagined murders and suicides, and every other psychological dysfunction Aronofsky can cram into two hours.

Portman is incredible as she plays multiple sides of the same self-destructive diva, and Black Swan beautifully mixes observational details about her life and relationships with free-flowing visual sensuality; Aronofsky is clearly enamored with the look of blood against flesh, feathers, and tutus. However, as the film retreats into Nina’s head, it does wrong by its supporting cast, who become mere accessories to her madness – especially Cassel, who – although he excels at it – has little to do but stand around being lecherous and unethical. At least Kunis gets several scenes to steal, as does Hershey, who creepily channels Piper Laurie in Carrie.

But like Polanski’s Repulsion, from which it steals a few cues, this is a one-woman psychodrama about one hell of a crack-up. It’s never clear whether Black Swan‘s surreal visions – which also delve deeply into Cronenberg’s The Fly – will end up amounting to much, or if the lesson is just that art is madness, obsession leads to death, etc., etc., but it’s a gorgeous, brutal trip while it lasts, with some juicy insights about the fruits of sexual repression. You could say it’s All About Eve (or, more appropriately, Showgirls) in the ballet world – but with Nina as both Eve and Margo, a duality that culminates in a disturbing, amazingly weird reinterpretation of Tchaikovsky. With, as always, several pillows worth of feathers and buckets of blood.

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