If it's crap ... We'll tell you
My number three movie of 2010 is --- Wait, hold on one second. Almost forgot about something.
Before I get all prim-and-proper critic mode about what film of last year deserves to be held in high regard, there is one other work of art that I feel should be appreciated for its creativity, originality and the unadulterated amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into making it. Among other bodily fluids to be sure. Ladies and gentleman, of course I am talking about “Jackass 3D.”
The hideous acts of mutilation in “Saw 7?” Kid stuff. The self-amputation scene in “127 Hours?” Powerfully visceral, but too short to leave a huge impression. No, what we have here in “Jackass 3D” is a film that will doubtlessly have its audience cringing or wanting to look the other way for a good eighty-percent of its length. And yet, you still stare up at the silver screen with a bizarre sense of fascination to counterbalance the disgust. What makes it even more impressive (if that is the correct word) is that it is all real footage. I give props to Knoxville and the gang for having the guts and consciences to endure all of these stunts and still be able to walk out feeling accomplished. With lots of big-scale ideas and creatively twisted stunts and likely the best use of 3D technology since “Avatar,” I had an absolute blast watching “Jackass 3D.”
We now return to Salty The Beast’s number three movie of 2010 already in progress:
3. BLACK SWAN
With my introduction about “Jackass 3D,” I probably already deterred the art-house crowd that will back me up in saying that “Black Swan” is one of the best movies of last year. But even so, Darren Aronofsky’s harrowing tale about reaching perfection is gripping, erratic and really quite frightening when you put it all into perspective. It is the kind of movie whose subject matter is so dark and disheartening that it is just as tough to continue gazing upon with morbid absorption as it is to turn away from. Kind of like one big trainwreck going on in the mind of the protagonist.
Natalie Portman gives a performance that had better win her an Academy Award as Nina Sayers, a flourishing young ballerina whose big chance in the spotlight is put into question by a competing dancer Lily (Mila Kunis). Whereas Nina has a perfectionist approach to her routine that initially wins her the double role of the Swan Queen, dancing comes as an easy natural talent for Lily. Her cool and confident nature encompasses everything Nina is missing for the role of the Black Swan.
The rest of the film follows Nina’s descent into madness as the stress begins to accumulate. Her mother’s (Barbara Hershey) desire for her to attain the dancing career she never had, along with the ballet director’s (Vincent Cassel) insistence that she lose herself in the role all add up to her self destruction. And where Aronofsky excels is in the way that he presents her mental illness onscreen. In a way, he makes the audience feel as vulnerable as Nina by presenting her perception of the world around her onscreen and implicating the audience in that world.
All of the larger character roles are perfectly cast. As I said before, Portman deserves to WIN an Academy Award for her work. But also, Mila Kunis does some nice acting as Lily, Barbara Hershey is convincingly overprotective and overbearing, and Vincent Cassel pulls off an electrically charismatic performance himself. Even Winona Ryder shows up for a few brief moments as the former lead dancer whom Nina replaced.
Frightening, dramatic and even shockingly real at times (sometimes all three at once), “Black Swan” is a thoughtfully and artfully directed piece that is as entertaining as it is continually thought provoking. With strong parallels and allusions to the Swan Lake play, there is always something new and interesting to discover in this film. Just do not walk in expecting a nice, inspiring story about somebody who succeeds, because this ain’t it. After all, this IS the same director that did “Requiem For A Dream” and “The Wrestler.”