Black Swan and True Grit reviews

Staycation day 2 = movie marathon day. Saw 2 (as in “I saw two” not the horrific horror films) excellent flicks, Black Swan and True Grit. Had hoped to squeeze in The King’s Speech, but no such luck today. Hopefully soon. Spoiler free reactions to the two that I did see below.

Started the day off with Black Swan. In retrospect, I should have realized that a 40 year old solo guy sitting in the back row and wearing a unabomber style hoodie at a movie described as a “wicked pyscho-sexual thriller” would draw some suspicious looks, but I didn’t think about it at the time. Live and learn. Always fun to draw dark stares that are normally reserved for old men in trench coats outside of elementary schools. Anyway, I was there first and foremost as an Aronofsky fan, but will freely admit that if  anybody was going purely for the Natalie Portman-Mila Kunis scenes, they didn’t leave disappointed. (NICE – wait, did I say that out loud? Nevermind.)

Natalie Portman is fantastic throughout, giving the role of Nina the right amounts of fragility and desperation that keep the “slow descent into madness” storyline from lapsing into cliche. Aronofsky keeps the camera focused tightly on Portman throughout the movie, which allows the audience to share Nina’s own claustrophobia. It’s dark, intense, and just trippy enough to give this allegory real depth. Well worth your time and money. A-

Number 2 on the docket today was the Cohen Brothers remake of True Grit. I had mixed feelings going into this movie since even though I’m a huge Cohen fan, I really didn’t care much for the original. My tastes in Westerns leans toward the “anti-hero” westerns made by Sergio Leone and John Ford, not the traditional “good will triumph in the end” template embodied by John Wayne. Even though Rooster Cogburn was probably as close as Wayne came to playing against type, his, for lack of a better word “John Wayne-ness” gives all of his roles a predictably and familiarity that makes me tune out.

Once again I felt like I was in the world’s easiest Where’s Waldo puzzle, except this time it was because I was the youngest in the audience by a good 30 years. Note to any seasoned citizen movie goers out there: pipe down during the movie! If you feel the need to check your voicemail (with the volume set to Spinal Tap-esque 11), yammer to each other in what you think is a low whisper when you are really speaking at a decibel level normally only reached by jet engines, and crinkle your jumbo sized popcorn bag struggling to reach that last soft piece or corn that won’t fracture your dentures, please step outside, because, believe it or not, some of us can hear normally and are interested in what’s being said onscreen. Thanks a lot. (And remember that I love and respect all of you despite that ageist rant.)

The Cohen’s remake plays surprisingly close to original, but the substitution of Jeff Bridges for Wayne as Cogburn makes a world of difference. You never get a real sense in the original that Wayne’s Cogburn will do anything other than see things through to the end. Bridge’s brings out enough of the scoundrel in Cogburn to bring him more in line with the type of morally ambiguous western “hero” portrayed by Clint Eastwood in Leone’s Dollars Trilogy rather than the archetype John Wayne character. The Cohen’s script highlights more of the humor in the movie as well, but I’ve always been biased to the way that the Cohen’s write dialogue, so maybe I’m not giving the original enough credit on that count. Another one well worth your time and money, if you can hear over all of the old codgers in the theater wondering where John Wayne is. (Again, kidding! Love you all, greatest generation and all that.) B+



Posted on January 12, 2011, in Movies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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