Tag Archives: todd haynes

Viewing Diary 2016 #1

Gone to Earth (1950), directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

In the hands of most artists, this would play as stale melodrama. Its romantic triangle would succumb to moral binaries. But P&P were not most artists, and in their long joint career, they rarely left a binary intact. Nature vs. civilization, paganism vs. Christian orthodoxy, woman vs. man: the rapturous visual storytelling in Gone to Earth complicates every single one of these seeming dichotomies. The developments in Hazel’s magical life are not weighted strictly toward “good” or “bad.” Instead, they’re built up out of hills, trees, tightening two shots, passion-twisted faces, and a palette of Technicolor excess.

In this film’s cosmology, heaven and hell are not abstract destinations but immediately within reach, and Jennifer Jones plays Hazel as a girl-turned-woman who’s too aware of their proximity for her own good. The knowledge is in her voice, iffy accent or no. It’s in the squiggly cursive handwriting on the farewell note she leaves her husband: “I am a bad girl.” And it’s in the shot that gazes up at her in her yellow dress from deep within the Chekhov’s abyss before rotating to watch a stick plummet deeper still into the darkness. Powell and Pressburger knead a wealth of unspoken implications into an image of a simple Shropshire well.

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Kate WINS a lot

By Andreas

Could Kate Winslet get any more awesome in 2011? Like, I know she was already awesome, but come on

  • First, she stars in Mildred Pierce, a project that brings five more glorious hours of Todd Haynes into the world and is more or less the TV/movie event of the year. (In my insular cultural universe, that is.)
  • Second, she joins fellow actresses Rachel Weisz and Emma Thompson in pledging never to undergo plastic surgery. Quoth Winslet: “I will never give in.”
  • Third, she saves Richard Branson’s mother from a house fire. You can’t make this up.
  • After all this, she still has time to co-star in Roman Polanski’s new movie Carnage, which looks bound to be darkly hilarious—plus she gets some of the trailer’s choicest moments. Oh, and she’s part of Contagion‘s ensemble, too.

I’m usually not one to gush over celebrities; in fact, fuck celebrities. But Kate Winslet’s recent activities have proven her an exceptionally brave woman, whether facing down the forces of nature or the Hollywood status quo. Here’s to you, Kate. Never stop being awesome.

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Link Dump: #12

As you may have noticed, Pussy Goes Grrr has been lying dormant for the past full week. A lot of complicated factors led to this, but they can all be boiled down to one word: academics. Both Ashley and I are full-time college students, which means (as you can imagine) that we’re both busy as hell. Right now is especially bad, as I’m cruising through finals week and struggling to help publish a collaborative graphic novella. That said, we should be back to full speed ahead as early as next Tuesday. In the meantime, feel free to browse our back catalog for old, fun posts, and wish me luck on this 12-page paper about Divine in Pink Flamingos. [Special fun fact: we currently have 666 comments! Spooky!]

  • Watch/hear A.O. Scott talk about American Psycho, a movie that just keeps getting better and better. [Also, I share Scott’s initials. I doubt, however, whether this will help me get employment at the NYT.]
  • From the “Spelling the Downfall of Humanity” file: some models choose to not shave their legs. GASP!
  • Here’s a long, detailed piece on Joseph Cornell’s classic avant-garde short film Rose Cornell.
  • David Thomson has a movie quiz for you – and it’s not an easy one. However, you could win a copy of his Biographical Dictionary of Film. I got 20 of them off the top of my head; can you beat that?
  • Via Jezebel, I saw this video from the NOH8 campaign. It’s powerful and speaks truth to power. Go them!
  • Paul Brunick of Slant writes about Todd Haynes’ Poison in the context of the AIDS crisis. (This is a seriously good essay.)
  • Courtesy of The Huffington Post, here’s a video called “10 centuries in 5 minutes” that shows Europe’s fluctuating borders over the past 1,000 years.
  • And here, from Gawker, is “60 Years of Television’s Most Memorable Catch Phrases in 146 Seconds“!
  • Criterion’s releasing a high-quality DVD of The Night of the Hunter, and the LA Times helps us celebrate with this second look at the movie! (Here’s hoping we get tons of extra featurettes with Charles Laughton interviews.)
  • Film blogger extraordinaire David Cairns of Shadowplay is inaugurating a “Late Show” blogathon devoted to directors’ late or last films, set for this December 14-20! Everybody should participate; I know I will, since the options are endless!
  • True Classics has a neat essay on one of my perennial favorites, Mildred Pierce. It’s always worth reading about Joan Crawford.

For search terms, we haven’t had a whole lot in the way of weird-as-fuck outliers lately, but here’s a sampling: one person looked for the ultra-superlative phrase “extremingly fucking.” You hear that? EXTREMINGLY. Someone else searched for the ever-popular “mother sucks cocks” – presumably in relation to the Exorcist quote “Your mother sucks cocks in hell, Karras…”, but possibly in relation to some incest fantasies. Finally, another intrepid searcher offers up this solid advice: “dont shave your daughters pussy.” Well-put.

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Why I Love Julianne Moore

It’s just an unavoidable fact about me: I love Julianne Moore. Love, love, love, in all the ways that a cinephile can love a movie star. (Except for the creepy, obsessive, and bad ones. Not those.) She’s just one of my favorite living actresses. Why is that? you may ask. Well, hypothetical reader, you are right to ask. Because I’ve prepared an itemized list of reasons for you. First of all: she’s a redhead. (Ashley is also a redhead. This is not a coincidence.) Second and mostly of all: she’s an incredible actress.

[Image via three frames]

Moore gives such intense, nuanced performances – in so many movies, she’s the one who sticks with you. Her actions and delivery burrow under your skin and stay inside you, surfacing in your mind when you least expect it. Just look at her in Safe (1995), one of her many collaborations with director Todd Haynes. She’s Carol, a superficial California wife and mother, obsessing over the color of her new couch and whether or not it matches the rest of her interior decoration. Then, one day, her body starts fighting her. Amidst spontaneous asphyxiation (see above), nose bleeds, coughing, and more, she’s jerked out of her once-comfortable life.

Safe is a brilliant mix of caustic satire, AIDS metaphor, melodrama, and horror. It’s got a great supporting cast, including Xander Berkeley (he of Candyman) who, in one haunting scene, has totally unemotional sex with Carol at the end of a long day. But at its core is Julianne Fucking Moore and her tender, pathetic vulnerability. She’s like a struggling animal, unsure of what her body’s doing to her, eager to just get on with her life and resume her former complacency. You know the old chestnut “you have to be smart to play dumb”? Julianne Moore is smart. She was also a crucial part of Haynes’ postmodern genre revisionism in Far from Heaven (2002), and to a lesser degree in his Bob Dylan super-biography I’m Not There (2007).

Or look at her in Magnolia (1999), where she’s acting in the service of a very different kind postmodern playfulness – that of director Paul Thomas Anderson. (She also played the aptronymous Amber Waves in his porn epic Boogie Nights [1997].) In one of Magnolia‘s many storylines, she’s Linda, the drug-addicted wife of a dying TV producer played by Jason Robards, and calling her “a wreck” is a massive understatement. She ‘s wracked with guilt and quasi-suicidal desperation, and she inflicts her emotional histrionics on everyone around her – from a nurse (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to her husband’s lawyer (Nashville‘s Michael Murphy).

Like Safe‘s Carol, Linda is extremely vulnerable, but she’s also defensive. She may be plagued with self-loathing, but she doesn’t put with shit from anyone else. In a film packed with great, hot-to-the-touch performances – like a bathetic William H. Macy – Moore is a stand-out because, despite being a complete psychological mess, she retains an intimidating quality of refinement. Even when the screenplay gets a little too cutesy or pat, Moore’s performance sprawls, sneers, sobs, and threatens to collapse. In the most grandiose moments, she still feels naturalistic; this makes her the perfect cornerstone for PTA’s ensembles.

No matter what the quality or genre of the film, she brings that je ne sais Moore, that unquantifiable essence. I haven’t seen some of her more mainstream roles, like Hannibal or Next, but I’m sure they’re all the richer for her presence. And take an already rich film, like Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006), pictured above, or the Coen Bros.’ wacky neo-noir The Big Lebowski (1998), where she plays the title character’s daughter, a sperm-hunting artist.

In both of those films, she’s a minor character who’s romantically linked to the protagonist. But she doesn’t feel minor; instead, she seems to exist on a higher, more mysterious plane than Clive Owen’s bureaucratic everyman or Jeff Bridges’ stoner private eye. As she is in real life, her characters in those films, Julian and Maude, are politically engaged. They’re fully aware of what’s going on, and they can manipulate their situations to get what they want. Thanks largely to Moore’s acting, they’re not plot devices, but rather self-motivated women. So Julianne Moore’s versatile, too: she functions equally well in lead and character parts.

All of this leads me to Moore’s most recent role: as a laid-back lesbian wife and mother whose family is unpredictably changing in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right (2010). I seriously enjoyed this movie; it literally made me laugh and cry, sometimes in rapid succession. I was so deeply invested in the characters’ relationships, and it’s because the main cast – Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and especially Annette Bening – make their shared histories, as well as the repercussions of their tenuous biological links, believable.

It’s not a big or sensational movie. Nobody’s going to die or get arrested. The worst that can happen is a series of broken hearts, which in this case is really the scariest threat of all. The film’s screenplay also deals with difficult, controversial questions of sexual fluidity. It may not always be quite successful or accurate, but Moore’s performance as Jules personalizes these issues, as they have direct consequences on the dynamics of her marriage.

In an early scene, teenage son Laser asks his moms why they watch “gay man porn.” Jules hazards an explanation: “Well, sweetie, human sexuality is complicated. And sometimes, people’s desires can be… counterintuitive…” Without being too edgy or too bland, The Kids Are All Right takes on the human drama that results from those counterintuitive complications – and by extension, the confusing and inexplicable behavior that defines families. It’s a powerful, poignant movie. And, if the stars are right, maybe Julianne Moore will win that Best Actress Oscar she so deserves. Either way, I’m grateful to her for years of beautiful acting.

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