Natalie Portman IS the Black Swan

Black Swan (2010) by Darren Aronofsky

When I watched V for Vendetta late last year I was quite amazed at how good Natalie Portman was in it. Not because she was good but how good. I was never a fan of hers but I always regarded her as a talented actress. Well, V for Vendetta convinced me that there was more than talent but Black Swan

Every now and then (but probably not that often) you watch a performance by an actress that just blows you away. Even an hour after leaving the theater you feel drugged and dazed and confused. Such a performance I saw in Black Swan by Natalie Portman. It was amazing, it was catching, it was sad and heart-wrenching, stunning, and, yes, sexy.

I’m still over-whelmed to tell the truth. From the first moment Natalie Portman appeared on screen she was like a force I could not look away from. And it was not just her. The female cast seemed to take their cues from her and showed amazing performances. Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, they were all brilliant. But Natalie Portman was breathtaking.

You might wonder if I did not think Vincent Cassel was good as well but honestly I did not even see him. Maybe that is because I think women are the better actors per se, or maybe I just ignore men per se, I don’t know but this movie was made by the women in it not by Vincent Cassel.

And I also don’t want to talk about the story because I would have to unearth some of the raw clichés that inhabit the movie and the fact that it bows to heteronormative standards in the end. And I don’t want to do that. It would make me cherish the movie less and nothing should lessen the joy, the enjoyment, the amusement, the horror I felt watching this movie. It was truly a pleasure.

And if you ask me what it’s about I’d say: A woman who admires another woman, wants to be like her, wants to be her, wants to be with her. Not necessarily in that order and you are never sure which woman is which and what the others have to do with it… it’s complicated and gripping and frightening.

It is almost comical how glad I am these days to see Winona Ryder again. I could almost imagine watching The Dilemma. Almost.

Well, the Oscars are coming up and, of course, there was no way around Natalie Portman and her performance and I hope everyone in the Academy will vote for her. I bow to Ms. Portman.

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Star Trek – on DVD

Star Trek (2009) by J.J. Abrams

I am just watching “Star Trek” on dvd (as in right now). This one:

Here’s a few thoughts: George “Pretty Boy” Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) was so cute, they should have made him the baby. I mean, which straight woman would not want to hold him and cuddle him, and blow cutesy nicknames into his ear?

He is way cuter than the little boy who highjacked that car and drove it over the canyon, that was way over the top and I don’t know… the boy does not have a real James T. Kirk feel to it. Maybe it is just me, but I remember a little of the original series and though I mainly like Shatner now as the deliberately off-puting in a wanna-be macho kindaway, but still teddy-beary Danny Crane I think, that the two characters were not that far apart from each other… the too blond boy did not have that feel and what is it with men and their cars, anyway?

And that Vulcan day-care facility… that’s how I imagine a good kindergarten! It’s perfekt. I always loved Spock, he’s got just the right amount of drama in him to be gay.

And then the trouble begins… They have Kirk (Chris Pine) pick up Ohura in a bar? Really? You think that they could have come up with something better than heteronormative standards of our life. For the future, I would have liked something like: “Captain Kirk this is Communication Officer Ohura. She is not only the most qualified person for this job she is obviously even more qualified to do your job…” Something like that?

Nevertheless, I love Ohura (Zoe Saldana)…

… then again, I always loved Ohura (Nichelle Nichols):

Of course, if I keep up with this minutely rant of emotions about the movie to share I will probably not get through it today – not that I have to. Hmmm… Oh, did I mention that seeing Kirk being beaten into pulp was kinda satisfying? That pick up line was just too cheap for a classy woman like Ohura, friend.

Okay, did y’all have a Top Gun-flashback with Kirk on that spacebike he rides? I did, and did he actually DUI? Anywho, I wonder about one thing: why does a hero who looks like a hero also has to be an asshole? I know guys who look like ken dolls and they are not complete doushbags, so why does every American hero (and I mean this in the academic realm of Americanism and hero-ship) have to pull a Wyatt F. Earp when entering the scene? I mean, his name is James T. Kirk, we already know he is the hero. He has proven it for years back in the sixties. Don’t be such a stereotype, Tiberius! And I wonder if maybe he isn’t too pretty…

I am always happy to see familiar faces and, of course, I already knew that Karl Urban was going to be Bones (he may not be a looker like Emily Deschanel but he sure is a welcome sight). Who Urban? Him…

Didn’t think you would get away without the Xena-reference, did you? Nope, not on my watch. He played not only Cupid, but three other characters on Xena: Warrior Princess: Mael, Julius Caesar and some Barbarian and I think he’s a great actor. And then he is a Kiwi, which makes him already the coolest guy on the set.

Who designed those ugly cadett uniforms? Urgh.

Y’know, I watch Navy CIS sometimes, when I am really bored and there is absolutely nothing else on (as in each and every Sunday evening) and there is this one character that gets on my nerves so much if I were the other members of Gibbs’ team I would have shot him ten times over every time he opens his mouth (y’all know who I mean: Tony). Kirk is just about as annoying and incompetent as that dude, and I am wondering – after 35 minutes and 37 seconds of this movie – why am I doing this to myself? Is it just nostalgia? Must be…

It’s the Enterprise, all shiny and new… whoa!

Yeah, happy now. I have a question, though (yeah another, no, I can never shut up when watching a movie, I keep talking to myself inside my head and since you are here now, you have to endure it as I always have): why does the new starfleet vessel only have newbies on board? I mean, I know, why, so that everybody we remember from the original series is there and we can cherish the memory even if the actors we see are so not the people we remember they still bear their names and a little of their attitude. But if we were to imagine that an Enterprise existed and it was going on its first mission to safe Vulcan, wouldn’t the world be happier to know, there are actually people on board of that gazillion dollar thing that knew what they were doing and did not have to be told everything by Spock (Zachary Quinto)? Just a thought…

Now that was it with new and shiny, Sulu (John Cho) made a dent in it… see what I mean?

And we have a winner! You remember red shirts? Well, this one is wearing a red spacesuit (kirk wears a black one and Sulu a golden one), and a cute Irish accent. The ethnic implication put aside, I think we should tell him that he  was doomed the moment he put on that red suit and went on a mission with two of the lead characters…

As Chekov (Anton Yelchin) put it: “Olsen is gone, sir.” Wearing red is not for pussys…

What drops faster: a feather or a hoof? Both drop at the same speed (at least in a vacuum or in a physics classroom). Who drops faster: Sulu or Kirk? Obviously, Kirk does. I mean this was improbable when James Bond did it (back in the days when it was Pierce Brosnan) and it still is not more likely just because Kirk does it. I’m not buying and I do know next to nothing about physics.

Now, do you want to talk about the condition of starfleet parachutes? No, me either. But I guess you don’t need a parachute if you got Chekov.

Okay, I won’t discuss the fact that Spock’s people live inside a rock (or maybe that is their idea of a church and unlogically they don’t fear that huge stone figures could fall onto their heads). But I haven’t said anything about Spock’s mother yet or rather the actress who plays her and that was negligent of me: Winona Ryder. I like her, I’ve always liked her, I will probably always like her. She is so talented and she sometimes plays these wonderfully geeky roles that make me believe that she is a science fiction fan and that is awesome, dude!

Damn it, we just lost the star of the movie. What are we gonna do now?! That’s the look on the other actors’ faces anyhow.

So Vulcan is dead and one may wonder about the logic that is in preserving the elders (who obviously are not able to have children) and let the other six billion vulcans die… Spock says in a log-entry that about 10.000 have survived, though. Hopefully they are more fertile than the elders.

Hmmm, and then something strage happens: Ohura is kissing Spock… No, give yourself a minute to let that sink in. I have to as well. Hmmm… It’s weird but kinda sexy, I guess. I’m just imagining Leonard Nemoy and Nichelle Nichols doing it. In fact, it’s hilarious. Well done, moviemakers! I couldn’t find a picture of it, unfortunately, and this computer won’t let me make screencaps so you will have to live without a visual. But I now, for the first time, have the feeling that it’s worth watching for it’s own sake.

So now we get the story behind all that’s been going on and I just realize that I haven’t told you anything about the plot. Shame on me. Well, Romulus was obviously destroyed in the future and a Romulanian (is that the right name for his people) lost his pregnant wife while starfleet did nothing to help – especially Spock. So he killed the wrong Kirk first, then he destroyed Vulcan and now he wants to destroy all Starfleet planets starting with Earth. Now that’s what I would call revenge… Maybe he is kinda overachieving… I don’t know.

And then they go all Back to the Future on us. Not that I don’t understand: Nero (the bad guy, Eric Bana) has travelled back in time to take revenge and destroyed the ship of Kirk’s daddy and thereby he changed the time continuum and created an alternate reality… so much for the techno babble but I like that everybody puts their five cents of wisdom in the pot.

(I don’t know who the guy in the red shirt is but just imagine him in blue and having pointy ears and you have Spock. Okay, sorry, that is Scotty [Simon Pegg]…)

Hahahahahahahahahahhahah…. oh god, Spock actually did with Kirk what we dreamed Janeway would do with all the incompetend men on her ship: open a door and throw him out. Hahahahahah… that is soooo good! Man, I’m gonna watch this again, it’s hilarious!!! I hope you’ve got a working compass, Kirk…

Even without a compass he finds: Spock (Leonard Nemoy). Okay, it’s getting a little weird. But keep on, I’m intrigued now. Though… coincidence, really people? And it’s Romulan, I am so sorry.

Kirk just asked if he is supposed to emotionally compromise Spock. I wonder how he would have accomplished to do that. Hello, subtext, you seem to be alive and well. Classy, that one.

So then Spock (the younger) and Kirk have a lovers quarrel and Spock almost kills Kirk but for his father. Or in other words, we are heading for the showdown now that Kirk will be instated as Captain. Things seem to work out. The story really is not that innovative and I haven’t even seen every Star Trek movie.

There’s a strange feeling that I have that they put in Ohura as Spock’s love interest so that the subtext would not emerge full force… that’s a little childish, don’t you think? I mean, Kirk and Spock are meant to be. They even met – as unlikable as that seems – on a foreign planet Kirk was just abandoned at while Spock (the elder) was put there to witness the destruction of Vulcan. They are, yes, soulmates (Melissa Etheridge’s I’ve loved you before goes well with the concept, you should play it now).

I guess we have to practice beaming a lot, people.

Scott almost destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge. That is so not cool, moviemakers. DON’T DO THAT!

Oh man, and now we have Kirk cowboy. Do we really need every single hero genre in this one, or is it just that the phasers are kind of cutesy and the Romulan weapon looks like a colt? Are we down to comparing equipment again? Sigh.

Kabooom, Kaboom, Kaboom… and Kirk still almost drove his ship into a black whole… nice to see that he is still just a pretty face.

And because he broke everything and every rule and some of them twice he is made captain. I guess, logic is a foreign concept outside Vulcan. Whatever…

Well, this was it, folks. It was strange, it was some fun, we laughed, we did not cry but still… if we are asked to watch it again, we will politely decline.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009) by Rebecca Miller

I should say that I pretty much only wanted to watch it because Julianne Moore once again plays a lesbian. Yes, I am that easy but it is Julianne Moore after all. Then again, I was always looking forward to watching a movie with Winona Ryder again, I kinda missed her. And then there are beautiful (and talented) actresses like Robin Wright Penn, Maria Bello, and Blake Lively. So, all good, right?

Not really. I mean, this is a good movie, surprisingly good. I cannot say that I am a big fan of books with pink covers and strange lettering and titles like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood or anything by Celia Aherne (I just browsed amazon, and did you know there was an actual title for this kind of literature: chick lit!… ). The Private Lives of Pippa Lee fills the description perfectly, still it had an intriguing trailer and I was willing to watch it just for the female cast and Alan Arkin (no, not Keanu Reeves… I usually pretend he is not there and it is so easy with someone who has so little talent).

The movie was entertaining, there was a lot of giggling in the audience and some laughing and some of that was from me, I am not ashamed to say. Robin Wright Penn just showed amazing talent to present a woman who is not really that interesting because she mostly gave up herself to live for her husband. In flashbacks she tells the story of her younger self who was smothered by her mother (Maria Bello) who was addicted to pills and suffering from bouts of depression. After Pippa ran away from home she got under the “evil influence” of her aunt’s lover  Kat (Julianna Moore) and posed for SM-pictures for her. When her aunt finds out Pippa continues her career without Kat but pretty much on the same nod. She does drugs and loses two years of her life just being reckless and promiscuous and not very likeable – even in her own opinion.

Then she meets Herb Lee (Alan Arkin), who is 30 years her senior, and starts an affair with the married man. When he finally tells his wife (Monica Bellucci) of the affair she shoots herself. Pippa and Herb never again talk about her, though she tries to. Twenty years later, the kids are all grown-up, Herb is retiring after three heart-attacks, Pippa finds out that Herb, whom she lived for the last 20 years, is cheating on her with a younger friend. But instead of being devastated she feels elated and wants to leave him. But he has another seizure and dies. Pippa is free to begin a new chapter in her life – and starts it by running away with the neighbors’ half-wit son (Keanu Reeves).

Let me tell you, the acting was brillant. The story was not as dramatic as it seems but had a lot of funny moments and shock moments (as when Monica Bellucci shoots herself..). I still have a few problems with the whole thing… why does one of the two lesbians in the movie has to seduce a minor girl to pose for porn? Why does Pippa Lee – finally free of the burden of a twenty-something-year long marriage – starts her new life with a new man? Instead of enjoying herself for a change? (Yeah, I know, the whole relationship to the “half-baked” neighbor is portrayed as if he is all about her and her pleasure now but gosh… why is it so hard to imagine that a woman just wants to be by herself for some time?) Why does the daughter hate her father suddenly when she always wanted his attention and his attention only and slighted her mother at every occasion? (Yeah, I know this can be explained by Freud but I am not listening to that crap anymore!)

So, on the whole I enjoyed the movie a lot but those questions bother me. I also know that the tropes behind those questions feel necessary to a filmmaker but they make me furious. I am also curious about the question of why does Julianne Moore enjoy to portray sexual egomaniacs so much? I don’t know but she looked rediculously hot without make-up, without bra and the special lesbian do…