Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Venice: Black Swan Haunting

I've been freaking out about Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan ever since the day the trailer debuted and it's not healthy. I mean what if the trailer is better than the movie? Lord knows that's happened before. Since I don't want to know any plot details, I'm avoiding reviews like the plague (even from people I love) since you can trust virtually no one to be spoiler free these days. Even when they are, you end up knowing too much and having too many voices in your head before you see a film. But I haven't been able to help looking at various Venice born tweets.

Mostly though I've watched the trailer too many times and fear that there's no way that I can last another three months until the release without the movie becoming too familiar before a first viewing. Oh cruel world!

Take the following image for an example.

Now, sure, the first time through you're all "OMG, Natalie Portman is masturbating!" but the sixteenth time through don't tell me that you weren't, like, "That bedroom is possessed! And not by hormones."

Now the IMDB claims that the production design / art direction team is Thérèse DePrez (The Reader) David Stein (Eternal Sunshine) and Tora Peterson (After.Life) but that's only half the story. I suspect they were merely the chanting disciples at the Rosemary's Baby style f***-fest between Frank, freed from his Donnie Darko wormhole, and Mariah Carey somewhere betwixt her Butterfly and Charm Bracelet LPs. This room is their devil child. And it is sick.

Don't even try to count the number of stuffed animal species and the sheer volume of girlish ghastliness from every surface; the cow in a tutu is the least of the evil spirits.

I don't mean to frighten you.

As a mental tonic, here's Natalie Portman's untroubled gorgeousity on her first day in Venice. And why should she be troubled. She's already earning sensational reviews.

As any Oscar pundit worth their weight knows, that doesn't necessarily mean Oscar will be doing pliés with her come 2011. People always equate great reviews with Oscar nominations but the equation is not half that simple. For one thing there are usually dozens upon dozens upon dozens of people who win great reviews in a year. These things just SEEM like they equate months before the actual awards season gets underway. Plus, AMPAS has trouble with movies that people refer to as "deranged" or "visionary" or "on acid". They just do.

We're optimistic about the movie -- but Oscar less so. Still, you never know. Aronofsky's career momentum from The Wrestler (2008) could definitely help. So... stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

.625 batting average, my friend. Little Children is amazing. And A serious man is better the second time around). Nonetheless, 2009 was the year of the great trailer (Lovely Bones).

And I don't know if the link works but here's Natalie Portman speculated to take critics awards for Toronto and elsewhere.

Jesse M said...

I love that tweet you posted at the top. It's similar to my thoughts on the THR review of the movie, which tries to tell me it's bad, but then repeatedly describes things that are either explicitly good about it, or that just sound amazing from the description. You may not want to read the review, which is cool, but if you do, you'll find a very interesting exercise in self-denial: "I can't stop talking about the awesome stuff in this terrible movie!"

James T said...

I don't know what you were going for but now I can't help imagining Mariah in Portman's place on the bed. And instead of the rabbit with the lifted ears, there is Mo'Nique with a sad look: Whatsyou doin' theh sistah?

I'm predicting the film will come here in Januray or February so I'm going to suffer A LOT for the next 4 or more months!

Murtada said...

It looks like Portman nom is almost locked. Based on the buzz until today who do you think can win Portmn or Bening, who is still the front runner in my opinion.

Andrew R. said...

I don't know about Nat getting a nom.

Aronofsky's even numbered films (Requiem, Wrestler) are better than his odd ones (Pi, Fountain). Black Swan is an odd one.

Plus, the even ones get acting nominations for their leads and they deserve to win, but they don't.

Or is this too mathematical? I still want to see it, since I've loved every Aronofsky film.

As for those trailers you cited...Nine and Single Man, yes, since both sucked. Serious Man, no, it was awesome. Little Children-I liked it, but is it as good as its trailer?

ferdi said...

I've watched Black Swan this morning at the Venice Film Festival, and it is a really amazing nightmare with an extraordinary performance by Nathalie Portman (but also the rest of the cast is fuckingly briliant: Hershey, Kunis, Cassell and Ryder). If there is any justice in the world Portman should win the Coppa Volpi as best actress at the Festival and should get an oscar nomination. It's a great star-turn, devastating and frightening. The best Aronofsky movie since Requiem for a dream (and i love all his movies, except The Fountain).

ferdi said...

The reaction of the italian press is cold... No one here seems in love with this movie. I think they are all crazy, stupid and blind: everyone is talking about the lesbo scene between Portman and Kunis or the scene where Portman masturbates herself. But... come on!!! Black Swan is much more than this! I think is the best movie of the year by far with Shutter Island (ok Nat, I'm sorry, I know you dislike it... but I found it a true masterpiece).

Anonymous said...

I'd been readying myself for disappointment after that beautiful trailer but all I can say now is ... hells yeah!

Almost makes me wish they'd given it bad reviews. How am I supposed to wait three more months NOW? I could start growing feathers! :-D

Eric Melin said...

You have put your finger on my eternal struggle: Fight the urge to see the trailer because they always give way too much away and fight the urge to read reviews because 1. I don't want to be biased before I've seen it and started processing it for myself and 2. so many critics give away WAY TOO MUCH plot in their lazy summary section.

I am right there with you in my excitement for this film and will hereby divert my eyes from anything that says "Black Swan" until the moment I sit down in the theater. My faith in Aronofsky to deliver challenging material is uncharacteristically strong. Now if I can only avoid the hype machine so it doesn't suffer from way-too-high "Up in the Air"-type expectations.


eric -- it's so difficult these days. and the movie studios aren't helping. I always think of spider-man 3 as the perfect example. I felt like i had seen a good half of the movie before seeing it they released so many clips and trailers and stills and whatnot.

i love the thrill of discovery in a movie theater and it's that's on the the verge of extinction.

bad mofo -- well SOME bad reviews are out there apparently. But I'm ignoring the good and bad.

ferdi -- shouldn't we wait until more movies are seen before we declare Portman the deserving winner ;) ?

Walter L. Hollmann said...

That Mariah Carey comparison makes me crinkle my nose in distress. When I think Mariah, I think of my sister who absolutely worshiped the chanteuse back in the 90s and always seemed to bathe in this floral perfume that stung the nostrils. Strange, the smell of that perfume and Mariah singing, "Sweet, Sweet Fantasy Baby" are forever connected, and now I won't be able to look at that still w/o thinking of that.

In other words, Nat, thanks for making me think of my sister when I *should* be concentrating on what Natalie Portman's doing. For shame.

Anonymous said...

@Nat -- True, but even those reviews only seem to point out what's good about the film in a backhanded, self-righteous sort of way. That whole "Red Shoes on acid" bit and so on...

BTW, I don't know how you do it but I totally agree: too much is given away nowadays. You're a stronger man than I, that's for sure. ;)

Taylor said...

While the role will surely suit Natalie to perfection, she would have to pull out a Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind level revelation to knock the Bening from my top spot.

Janelle said...

Bening is still the frontrunner, AMPAS is not going for this film at all I don't think. Portman may get a nomination, but she's definitely not winning (however Rourke, Tomei, and Burstyn will all understand and sympathize with her lol).

Anonymous said...

I don't even know if she will get a nom. Some people say that it is too odd for AMPAS taste even if her performance is good. My anticipation has really shot down. People are complimenting it, but are calling it odd or weird. I really hope this isn't Splice pt.2 where it falls apart in the third act.

BTW, I loved Shutter Island also.

Arkaan said...

The Fountain is Aronofsky's best film. And I'm a little startled to be thinking that.

The Red Shoes on acid? Hells yes, I'm there.

OtherRobert said...

ferdi, the problem is Black Swan is a horror/thriller and critics aren't supposed to like those. It doesn't seem to fall into the aesthetics of a modern Italian horror/thriller either, so that's two strikes against it.

I'm still predicting major traction problems for this film. Horror content and a masturbation scene? How many desperate women fighting against some unstoppable force brought on by their own determination to do something have been nominated? Now how many were nominated for that in a horror movie? It's rare in the former and I'm not sure it's happened in the latter. Maybe you could fanwank Bette Davis as Baby Jane to fit the concept, but it's a stretch.


Otherrobert -- i actually don't think critics have issues with horror/thriller genre. That's more of an oscar and talking head entertainment journalist problem.

I find that a lot of critics are really fascinated by horror films. In fact, this shocked me so much when I started reading more film criticism that i had to rethink my whole feeling about the genre. I'm still not a horror fan but i do have more respect for the genre than i once had given that there's so much strong criticism out there about horror films.

Ryan said...

Dear lord she looks beautiful in those Venice pictures. She's a star.

StudyCool said...

Aronofsky is genius and I will watch every film he makes for the rest of his career...

Exerience so far:
Pi -- I am too stupid.
Requiem -- I will never watch this film again because it is too disturbing. But in a really good way!
Fountain -- METAPHYSICAL! In all seriousness it was beautiful.
Wrestler -- Thoroughly loved this one. Thoroughly!

Anyway... he is brilliant. I am all in.

Mr. Good said...

Nataly 4 Ever!!!

Leigh said...

I think that she will surely get a nomination. Even if they dont normally go for Horror, Portman is a young actress who has worked with many great actors/directors that should contribute to a nomination.

Off topic, i really think if Bening wins its going to be a career win becuase IMO her performance wasnt winning form. It really annoys me when someone wins just cos they havent won

my bsoier said...

Natalie is a star.

She'll take the Volpi Cup. You'll see. Even if critics were mixed about the movie, they all agree that Portman is SENSATIONAL.

aclp said...

She's the most beautiful star of her generation. Look at her flawless and perfectly symmetrical as that of a greek sculpture!

Kyle said...

I didn't care for Requiem when I finally saw it...I just thought it was too heavy-handed and over the top...and frankly, way unrealistic in a few places for something that people hold to be so "gritty and real"..but perhaps that's just an issue with the source material.

On the other hand, I love love love The Wrestler (best movie of 2008 for me) and The Fountain (just about brings me to tears), so what do I know?

adam k. said...

I honestly don't really see Bening winning. She just didn't dominate the film at all... I don't think she was much better than Moore. I think they will both be nommed and neither will win. If she does take it, it'll be a career reward/Swank rematch thing.

Then again, I don't know if I see Portman winning either. Generally Aronofsky's films earn noms for their leads, but are too dark to manage actual wins. And this one seems darker than ever. But Portman is a huge star who's never won, and who's relatively non=controversial. It kind of qualifies as a princess deglamming. I do think she'd top my list of possibles for now.

What a strong year, though. I could already form a nominee slate I could feel GREAT about:

Fanning (okay, I haven't seen much yet)

And most of the films, including Portman's, haven't even come out yet. Banner year for actresses.

Jones said...

@Leigh: well... tell that to Meryl...

@Adam: I must say I had a completely different experience in regards to Bening. I felt she was the one who carried the movie with her restrained/unravelling neurosis. Her character and portrayal lingered in my mind longtime after having watched the film.

Between Black Swan's trailer and the reviews, it's an agony to wait till December. And then until January or Feb when they announce oscar noms. With these expectations, I hope Portman gets in.

Anonymous said...

I just saw this film at Telluride, and let me tell you it stays with you. You leave the theatre feeling throttled.... the intensity alone from the camera work to the score to the acting jolts you from your seat.

And Barbara Hershey is TERRIFYING, and amazing in every way. Especially when you sit back and evaluate the mother-daughter dynamic. Where's this lady's oscar traction?