Posts Tagged ‘ natalie portman ’

Jackie (2016)

Jackie was brilliant. Philosophical and bold in ways I wasn’t expecting, painting these iconic figures of American history as massively flawed and petty, and, ultimately, victims of their own power and self-created image.

The writing and perspective are just incredible, and some scenes are damn shocking in their frankness. It’s not a historical piece so much as a desperate, angry, violent diatribe against the passing of time and the inevitability of death. And that’s just one possible interpretation.

jackie-movie

This film is one of those rare pieces of cinema that’s truly greater than the sum of its parts, which, given how dismissed it’s been compared to fluff like La La Land and Get Out, and even Moonlight in a way, suggests it went over the heads of many who watched it. Or maybe it just hasn’t been seen by enough of them. Or maybe I’m just crazy and seeing things in it that aren’t actually there.

Regardless, it’s a masterpiece. Watch it.

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Heat (1995) – 4/5

Slick and well crafted, though too long by about an hour and partially driven by a strange performance from Al Pacino who really ought to have played things straight here, the film is nonetheless a pretty good crime thriller full of tough, arrogant SOBs shooting big guns at one another in public and blowing stuff up or otherwise engaging in high stakes displays of masculinity. Yeah!

It’s a good crime thriller overall, but the first hour or so really should have been cut, or at the very least shortened. The film works best in the latter half when all the stupid emotional relationship nonsense is finally put on the back-burner and Pacino and Robert De Niro’s characters start facing off directly. None of that schmaltzy crap is nearly as interesting or unique as the conflict between the two principal characters, and it all ultimately ends up hurting the movie as a result, especially all the stuff with Natalie Portman, god.

Still, once it gets going, the film is entertaining. Sure, it feels shallow at times, and Pacino’s performance is weird, but the action scenes are cool, De Niro is fun to watch, and the movie shows a certain degree of technical craftsmanship that you don’t see done as well very often. Worth a watch, just not as great as I had been led to believe.

Black Swan (2010) – 4/5

A creepy, demented thriller that explores some pretty dark erotic themes for a mainstream film, though it’s not quite as abstract or mysterious as it should be given its style and point of view. And what a silly, predictable ending. Assuming it was all “real,” that is.

This film is ultimately about sexual repression.

**SPOILERS**

Portman’s character is very childish at the beginning, her life consisting of little more than sharing an apartment with her very controlling mother and surrounding herself with dolls and stuffed animals and speaking baby talk and the like. It’s also implied that she’s never had any kind of emotional relationship with anyone, let alone sexual. Sure, she says she has, but why should we believe her?

Her mother has allowed her to stay in this childish bubble because of her desire to continue living the life of a ballerina through her daughter. She wants Portman to stay a child forever, to fulfill the dreams she had to give up after having her, hence the paintings of Portman that litter her room. The paintings are moments frozen in time, and in them, her daughter will never age.

Portman’s character, as a result, has never had a chance to mature sexually, which becomes a problem for her when she’s given the role of the Lead Swan, a role that requires her to portray both the innocent, child like White Swan, and the mature, sexually aggressive Black Swan.

Hence her ease in dancing the White Swan, but her difficulty with the Black Swan. Portman does a great job with this, especially at the end during the insane transformation scene where she literally becomes the Black Swan. Her getting the Lead Swan role forces her to confront a lifetime of sexual repression, and she does so with success, but it drives her insane in the process. Mila Kunis’ character is simply a catalyst for the change; she is the element Portman needs to make the transition from White to Black.

It could also be argued that the film is a very loose metaphor for the maturation of female sexuality; the natural transition from childhood to adulthood that all girls must make to become women. Portman starts as the White Swan, sweet and innocent and fearful of the world, but slowly matures into the fearless, dominant, sexually aggressive Black Swan of adulthood. And the ending is simply the death of her childhood, as represented by the death of the White Swan.

**END SPOILERS**

It works on many levels, and there’s more to it but I’m going to stop there; the film’s story is rife with symbolism and depth you don’t often see in a mainstream film. Unfortunately, though I understand the necessity to have it end the way it did, it just didn’t work logically, unless it was all in her head, and even then, it’s a bit of a cop-out.

Also, the film could have been a lot more abstract than it was. It’s a bit too clean, too easily comprehensible, which usually isn’t a bad thing, but in this case, it feels purposely dumbed down to avoid confusion. Confusion isn’t always a bad thing, though. Having to piece elements of a story together over time, or not fully understanding certain aspects at all and just leaving them be, adds a sense of mystery and re-playability that I don’t mind having in a film.

Still, it’s a pretty good, tense movie full of disturbing scenes, and Winona Ryder of all people. I had no idea she was even in this film before ¬†going into it. Oh, and some pretty interesting sex scenes involving two very attractive women. How can you go wrong? Worth watching.