Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Mark Heyman, John J. McLaughlin and Andres Heinz based on a story by Andres Heinz
(number 312)

I first saw this movie with Bryn and Sophie at the Embassy in Wellington. We all got beers to drink in the movie, and I remember Bryn being so tense during it that he kept leaving to buy more beers from the bar, and that after the movie finished we all went to another bar, shared a jug or two and discussed the movie. I haven’t watched it again since then and I’ve half been putting it off, but watching it again now I feel this incredible love for it.

My family was a bit of a ballet family because my sister had so much passion, has so much passion for the dance. I did ballet for one year and I didn’t love it. My sister did it for years and years, passing exams and being in shows. I remember going to see her perform in the Nutcracker ballet. Although I didn’t love to do ballet, I have always loved to watch it. Some of my sick day go to movies are things like Centre Stage and First Position, where I get to watch ballet bodies move. Black Swan is a fantastically dark movie, but it does still have the gorgeous bodies in motion and the attention to dance.

Basically I ❤ prepping ballet shoes, feet dancing shots, class sequences.

What makes this movie the most uncomfortable to me? The body horror aspects, with the blood and the things coming out of her skin, and the relationship Nina and Erica share. The stage mother taken to a horrifyingly controlling level, touching Nina’s body and of course, the surprise reveal in the bedroom. That’s like… everyone’s worst nightmare right? To have your incredibly intimate moment witnessed. Even if she was asleep… that’ll jerk you out of the moment. Holy crap the cringe. Especially as it happens so fast after the clipping of the nails when you just know Erica’s going to cut Nina.

Oh hey, baby Sebastian Stan being all drunk and cute.

Here’s a thing: Nina is pretty clearly a repressed lesbian. She’s had boyfriends, but she says there was no one special. She makes out with Thomas, even seems into it when he touches her, but as soon as she gets drunk she moves towards Lily, rubbing her cheek on her and more or less going in for a kiss. When she finally gets off, it’s imagining that Lily is going down on her. I remember the lesbian love scene being a huge thing at the time, and it is pretty awesome to see, but it sucks that it’s all hallucinations and madness rather than a thing that happened. You could pretty easily say that Nina’s obsession with perfection in part stems from her need to hide this part of herself, even from herself. She does also imagine herself as her lover, and her double goes to smother her at the end of the love scene so you can pretty easily say that there’s a few other issues going on there too.

Does it make me love the people? I'm not sure it's possible to get this close psychologically to a vulnerable and broken character without loving them. You can absolutely understand how the stresses on her are seated, how the pressure she builds within herself seems justified to her. The pursuit of artistic perfection and how that damages a person. I do love Lily as well, because Mila Kunis is so charismatic and natural to watch on screen.

Bechdel test: Yes, Erica and Nina speak in the first post prologue sequence, about food, about the future for Nina, about Nina's body. This is a film made with a lot of amazing women and very much centred around Nina.

Best line:

Thomas Leroy: In four years I’ve watched you dance, I’ve seen you get obsessed, getting each and every move right but I've never seen you lose yourself.

State of Mind: I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this movie on the rewatch. Knowing what was about to happen certainly helped, the shock factor was reduced, and it was easier to differentiate between which bits were happening and which were hallucinations. Being right there on stage with Nina is an exhilerating experience, and I think I’ll definitely be watching this movie again. It wasn’t as hard as I remember it being. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis are completely excellent in this movie, it’s genius to watch.

Watched movie count

Radio Days (1987)

Radio Days
Written and directed by Woody Allen
(number 313)

I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a Woody Allen before. I’m very into this one, it’s hilarious, full of great music and very funny jokes. I know Allen is pretty problematic, but I think that’s hidden in a period piece. Instead you can just soak in the lush period costumes, settings and music and ignore the other stuff.

I watched this with Ellen, which was a nice nostalgia fest in itself from when we used to flat together and watch movies off this list. It’s a funny little film, more of a collection of stories rather than one over arcing plot. It stars baby Seth Green and a huge bundle of actors which had us constantly checking the imdb page to work out where we knew them from. The voice of Marge Simpson plays the mother! I mean. So many familiar faces.

The way the stories are set up I found myself thinking of memories associated to each song. Such as thinking of how lovely Amy Adams and Lee Pace sing ‘If I didn’t love you’ in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, or Mairzy Doats reminds me of Twin Peaks and of course John Barrowman performing Night and Day in De-Lovely. The overwhelming sense of nostalgia encompassed me, I really hadn’t expected that.

Does it make me love the people? Yes! It starts with little baby Seth Green and then every one in the family is adorable and then Sally the cigarette girl and yeah. It’s a movie all about how loveable perfectly ordinary people are, with all their silliness and flaws and squabbles. One of my favourite moments was the sister dancing and lip synching to a Carmen Miranda song and the uncle and father wandering in, grins on their faces. You can kind of imagine they’re about to make fun of her, instead they join in on the ‘ai yi yi’ back up singers and join in with her. It was so sweet, a family moment that felt so true.

Bechdel test: Yes, Bea talks to Ruthie who talks to Tess. Lots of lovely named women characters and they talk to each other all the time, sometimes about men and sometimes about each other and sometimes about the war or the radio.

Best line:

Sally: who is Pearl Harbour?

Tess: Boy, what a world… it could be so wonderful, if it wasn’t for certain people.

State of Mind: The end felt a little anticlimactic but overall I very much enjoyed it, sharp, witty script, brilliantly acted by tonnes of named actors. As I said the sets, costumes and music are all gorgeous, sumptuous and not a stitch out of place. Ellen was put out that they named the baby Ellen and then we never got to see the baby… But I was pleased overall. I liked this film and will happily watch it again. In fact I feel like I need to because the dialogue comes so quick, the stories move so quickly I’m sure I’ve missed stuff.

Watched movie count

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Midnight Cowboy
Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by Waldo Salt based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy
(number 316)

A super classic song opens this film, one that I had no idea was from a movie. Everybody’s talkin’. Have a listen…

Here’s another film I sat down to watch knowing nothing about. Not even who’s in it, but here it turns out to be a movie starring Dustin Hoffman. Got a lot of those in this list as it happens. I’m not sure I’m a Hoffman fan.

The lovemaking sequence has a gorgeous montage of various images off tv culminating with a jackpot of cowgirls, yeah. Perfect.

It’s a funny kind of story, on the surface it’s a story about two grifters sticking together to make it in NYC. But I think it’s a gay love story about two men so messed up and broken they can’t admit they’re gay. Certainly there’s lots of hints of that being what’s going on. Generally the story is about two men who aren’t as smart as they think they are trying to be Hustlers in big bad New York city. They fall on each other for support. Joe is a bumpkin with a nasty past (nasty things were done to him and the mentally disabled girl he loved), Rico is sharper, but his weakness is his body – chronic illness and no immune system to speak of.

Reading a little more into the background of the movie I see that the filmmaker of this was gay, so there’s not any doubt in my mind now that this is a low key gay love story. We do get some gay love scenes but they’re generally Joe not particularly wanting to pursue them and there’s often violence after each one. It’s very much of its time: to tell a gay love story would have been problematic, so he had to show all the various possible (negative) reactions. To show that generally it is/was looked down on, done in dark places or by people who were very afraid of being found out.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, Joe more then Rico. Although once I realised that this is the origin of the naming of Rizzo the Rat from muppets I liked him a bit better. I just don’t love Dustin Hoffman’s voice, I find it annoying. His slow decline in health felt inevitable but didn’t move me perhaps as much as it was meant to.

Bechdel test: No. There are a number of named women in the movie, but they talk to the men. There’s women interacting with each other at the Warhol-esque party but none of them are named.

Best line:

Rico: Here I am, goin’ to Florida, my leg hurts, my butt hurts, my chest hurts, my face hurts, and like that ain’t enough, I gotta pee all over myself.
[Joe laughs]
Rico: That’s funny? I’m fallin’ apart here!
Joe: It’s just – Know what happened? You just took a little rest stop that wasn’t on the schedule!

State of Mind: It’s pretty bleak, I really want to watch something nice and cheerful now. It’s nice to have what is more or less a gay story in the list, but it’s a pity that it’s a tropey one where one of them dies, faggot is tossed about as an insult multiple times and most of the gay people are shown to be unsavoury or brutalised. I have very mixed emotions is what I’m saying, and I’m unsure about watching it again, even if it had a great soundtrack.

Watched movie count

Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria
Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Daria Nicolodi and Dario Argento
(number 321)

I know Suspiria is a horror and that it’s a bit on the splattery side and that it’s talked about in Juno. Is it the one they watch? and someone’s writhing while being impaled? I can’t remember. But it is about a ballet school, so I expect some pretty dancing before the horror sets in.

The music immediately sets the scene. It’s that kind of unsettling tinkly stuff that I have come to associate with horror movies. This movie is older than I am, I guess horror movies in the 70s all used this kind of tinkly spooky stuff? The human whispery screaming/singing over it is called back to in American Horror Story: Coven to excellent effect. It’s impossible not to talk about the soundscape as it’s one of the main characters in the film. It heightens the tension incredibly.

What a fantastic set front the ballet school frontage is, just… stunningly red and candy house and gorgeous. All the interiors are batshit crazy patterns and bright colours as well. I can see why this movie is a classic just from a sound and visual design standpoint. It’s really well done. It’s deeply uncomfortable to watch because of these, but as the same tricks are used again and again it becomes a little dull. Like, there is something to be said for building up to the deafening discordant music and flashing red lights, rather than using them all every time something weird happens.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, I love Suzy and Sarah, but I don’t know. They seem very typical horror movie heroines. There’s not really a whole lot of depth in the writing or character development or evolution.

Bechdel test: Pat has lots of conversation with her friend but her friend doesn’t seem to be named, so it doesn’t pass in the first 15 minutes but after the death of Pat it passes over and over. Suzy talks to Sarah, Olga, Miss Tanner, Madame Blanc. There’s lots of named women characters talking throughout the rest of the film.

Best line:
Suzy: but what does it mean? to be a witch.
Dr Mandel: well, as a believer in the material world and psychiatrist to boot I believe that the current spread of belief in witchcraft and the occult is part of… mental illness. Bad luck isn’t brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds.

State of Mind: It must have been a tonne of fun to film this. The set, costume, sound designers all went bats. And then getting to destroy it all in the end with exploding props and wind machines and fire. I can see the appeal. As a watch it’s not very pleasant. And I don’t just mean because it’s a horror, the soundtrack started to give me a headache, and the sound monitoring was so low different, low for the dialogue and super high for the frights, it just felt kind of annoying and stressful. Storywise there’s very little surprises for those familiar with horror stories, plenty of gore, gross out stuff and some animals in peril. I don’t think I’ll be watching it again, but I’d be happy to have a couple of stills from it framed on a white wall.

Watched movie count

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Battleship Potemkin
Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein
Written by Nina Agadzhanova
(number 322)

Well. Isn’t this a cheery subject for a film? A Soviet film retelling the mutiny on a battleship and the ensuing rioting and police massacre that followed? Yeah, just the kind of thing I want to sit back and relax in front of. Good lord. You can hardly blame the men for not wanting to eat maggoty meat…

Ah yes, just read a little bit more about this and of course it’s a pro-revolution propaganda film. That makes sense, and speaks to it’s cultural and historical significance. Perhaps it’s watching this almost one hundred years later but it’s all kind of on the nose message wise. For example, the drawn out sequence of the baby in peril – like, we get it. The bad guys shoot at the woman protecting a baby, we don’t need to see it’s pram rolling down the stairs over five minutes.

What is impressive about this movie is the co-ordination of the extras. The huge amount of people moving through the streets of Odessa, the complete synchronisation of the cossacks and the way they move together. The scenes on the ship were also very complex, so I’m sure hard to manage and direct as well. All on location and basically no special effects, although the ghosty shapes hanging from the yardarm. It’s well made, it’s beautiful, but overall I didn’t enjoy how violent it is.

Does it make me love the people? I mean, I cared about Grigory, but then he died. So, I’d say no.

Bechdel test: no

Best line:
Woman Protestor: Mothers and brothers! Let there not be differences or hostility among us!

State of Mind: Yeah, I’m not gonna watch this again. It’s impressive and rough and awful. Hey, at least it was short!

Watched movie count

Rebecca (1940)

Rebecca
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Robert E. Sherwood Joan Harrison and based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier
(number 326)

I had wondered if I’d watched this movie previously. In my mid-twenties I tried to get through as many Hitchcock films as possible, hiring them for free from the library I worked out. But I mustn’t have got to this one as it’s all totally new. A delightful Gothic horror of a romance starring one of Hitchcock’s blondes which if this movie was remade now I think Taylor Swift would be the best match for.

I feel like I could count the number of Laurence Olivier films I’ve seen on one hand and wouldn’t even need to use my thumb. And I think the others are off this list! He is very dashing in the 30s – 40s way.

This is a gripping story, it makes me want to read the book. It’s a lush Gothic mystery and very much put me in the mind of Beauty and the Beast with Belle in the enchanted castle, and also Bluebeard’s Bride for the ghost of the women who came before. I haven’t played the game of Bluebeard’s Bride but from what Anna told me the servants were out to get the bride in a similar way to this movie.

It really is compelling – spooky, mysterious and at times very funny.

Does it make me love the people? You do feel for Mrs de Winter, isolated as a fish out of water in a strange land. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t go for the breakfast buffet though. I’d never pass up a breakfast buffet. But seriously, you really feel for her while all the madness happens around her. Mrs Danvers in particular…

Bechdel test: I thought it did straight away but it’s tricksy. Joan Fontaine’s character is not named until she marries Maxim de Winter, and then she becomes Mrs de Winter. She talks to Edith and Mrs Danvers. I’d say it’s a pass as the naming is deliberate to serve the story and the obsession everyone has with Rebecca. (It’s also in the novel, she’s got no christian name.) She also talks to Beatrice on several occasions.

Best line:
Maxim: I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.

Beatrice: Oh, but you can’t go by me. I can tell by your clothes you don’t give a hoot how you look.

Maxim (king of emo): Happiness is something I know nothing about.

State of Mind: Blown away. It was a long movie but it didn’t feel it, so many twists and turns and characters who were compelling and played to perfection by classic actors. Loved it and will definitely watch it again, and am now planning to read the book even. In fact I keep thinking about it, and I’ve also been having a nightmare or two about wandering through a fancy and empty house all alone. I really want to watch it again with Anna.

Watched movie count

Baby quilt for old friends

Flashback craft… Sadly the only photo I seem to have of this one is it incomplete… but you get the idea 🙂

12483391_10153724379261877_1773782921_n

I’ve known the mama of this baby since third form, so… 1993. I met the papa in university (around the 1999 – 2000 area) and I introduced them. When I heard they were expecting a baby I thought back to the sorts of colours I remember her liking and went from there.

The pattern is made up of pinwheel, double square and double pinwheel blocks, because apparently I was feeling the doubles. Particularly fond of the Where the Wild Things Are and expressive cat fabrics I used in the border. The back is made up of Very Hungry Caterpillar fabrics.