As with Irreversible, Noé's visual style correlates well with the allure of the various vices in the film, the mystery and danger of being out of control. What's special about Noe's implementation of this is that it's also frightening and intimidating, as if he's beying us to even challenge this mode of generating mood and suspense. It's formidable. "Enter the Void" is a more intrusive, confined entity in the way that its trippy opening credits induce seizure, in the way that he uses point-of-view to place us inside Oscar without us being able to fully realise outsiders' perceptions of him. For stretches of his living moments he's faceless, much like the inevitable way in which his death will be consigned to phatic conversation on the street.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
That's not to say "Four Lions" is perfect, with a bit of a silly, repetitive approach to comedy that wears thin after a while. There are some delicious In the Loop-style quips, which offer snippets of British life ("Let's bomb Boots..." is a particular highlight), but they don't really hit home the frustrations of these four men. "Four Lions" does, however, hit home some of its own frustrations about 21st-century representations of Nationalism, and, for that, must be commended.
There are now only ten winners of the Best Picture Oscar that I haven't seen
(See image below.)
|From top left: Wings (1927-28), The Broadway Melody (1928-29), Cavalcade (1933), Hamlet (1948), Gigi (1958), In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Deer Hunter (1978), Gandhi (1982), Out of Africa (1985), Braveheart (1995)|
Not many of these instill fervent anticipation, but I'm probably most looking forward to Norman Jewison's "In the Heat of the Night". The final three of those winners look daunting, but particularly Mel Gibson's "Braveheart", which I've seen about ten minutes of and could. not. stand.
If anybody has any suggestions as to which I should leave until last, I'd be happy to hear.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Claudette Colbert in "Private Worlds"
Lost the 1935 Best Actress Oscar to Bette Davis in "Dangerous"
Even if Claudette Colbert couldn't quite emulate Bette Davis, Greer Garson, and Irene Dunne in gaining Default Nominee status in the Thirties and Forties, she managed to win an Oscar before all of them. Just two months prior to the release of Gregory La Cava's "Private Worlds" Colbert was picking up the 1934 Best Actress Oscar for It Happened One Night, and she was clearly in the mind of the Academy when they doubled the number of nominees from three to six in 1935. "Private Worlds" represents a huge departure from Frank Capra's romantic comedy to more ethical, issue-driven dilemna, set in a psychiatric hospital under upheaval from new boss Charles Boyer.
If the "worlds" referenced in the title are a very vague way of suggesting that everybody has skeletons in their closets, the result isn't quite so juicy. La Cava spends the first twenty-five minutes of the film establishing that Colbert's Jane is a paladin of humanist know-how, solving any problems that she encounters and maintaining her composure at the testiest of times. Colbert's grace can often serve her well, and her soft expressions suggest a maternal, knowing affection that always helps to see her inside of the character. It's a weapon that's effective in her final nominated-performance in David O. Selznick's Since You Went Away, where it moulds nicely into the maternal instinct of her wartime housewife. In "Private Worlds", however, Colbert's radiating comfort can tend to align itself with Jane's insipid lack of fault, and it feels as if she's too plainly bringing out the inarguable competencies of the character.
Colbert recognises that Jane's passivity generates as much tension and conflict within the hospital as it does calmness, and there's an aloof charm about her that suggests a 'Private World' underneath that immovable exterior. The film tends to lampoon tidbits of backstory onto Jane, as when Colbert is forced to divulge a story of a former lover killed in the war, and in its constant liberal placement of her in so ethically strong a position. It's somewhat of a stretch for us to really care about failed romances and workplace prejudice. Colbert herself is adept at generating empathy, and she deals with the martinet tendencies of the script supremely, proffering a learned, studious faux-ambivalence to Jane's outlook and how she copes with internal politics and confrontation. Does she secretly court attention? Is the hospital's hierarchy really none of her concern? Colbert implants more greys into our perception of Jane than initially promised, and carries the film through its dourest periods of nonchalance.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Nevertheless, Stone works wonders in collating Olive’s sassy façade with the quirky, confessional twist to her character – a sort of “Olive Explains It All”, with much cooler parents, and a less annoying little brother. She completely takes hold of the film without resorting to hyperactivity to engage, pulling you so firmly within her perspective to the extent where her humility becomes attuned to a view of Olive as an underdog, even though she never really becomes one. Stone is miraculous in dealing with the latter stages of her arc, especially when reacting to a promising suitor handing her a $200 gift card at the end of their date, with the hope that she will sleep with him. She channels popular depictions of the downfall of the good-time girl by launching into a tearful, neurotic breakdown, becoming her creation for a short while, however far-fetched that seemed from the outset.
The niggling doubt about Olive is that Stone plays her with such a knowing sense of superior intellect that you wonder why she cares so much about what her “peers” think, or if she does, then why she gets herself into situations that will inevitably lead to severely damaging her reputation. For the most part, Olive is so aware of how the different personalities around her work; from Marianne’s fickle sense of worth, to Rhiannon’s need for inclusion, to school shrink Mrs. Griffith’s self-concerted attitude towards therapy, that it’s somewhat of a stretch to paint her as someone that can dig themselves into this big of a hole. For all of the apparent intelligence of Lindsay Lohan’s Cady in “Mean Girls”, one can believe her attention-seeking a little more than you can Olive’s, whose cultural idols lean more towards Lillian Gish than Britney Spears.
The film’s gripes about how Facebook etc. are quelling the creativity of the population don’t prevent Olive from using a similar interface to amend the wrongs of her tattered credibility. She presents the scenario of the film through close-up confession, which definitely introduces energy and anticipation, but when this turns out to be part of the resolution to the narrative, it leaves you a little wanting. If Bert V. Royal’s script is a canny instigator of disruption, it can’t quite carry early promise through to a concrete enough final act, tying up every loose end available in all of three sanitised minutes.
At the very least, “Easy A” is one of the more genuine attempts to access the conflicting messages society often projects about when to have sex and how much of it to have, and there are no great political compromises in that regard. What’s unconvincing is the huge gulf in maturity between the two factions of characters, and a lack of middle-ground characters to anchor and richen what the film struggles to say without Miss Stone. It’s difficult to gauge whether the “A” in “Easy A” most constitutes Adult, Adulteress, or plain-old Attainment. One thing that is for sure is that its formidable starlet is the only component of the film that comes close to achieving top marks.