Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Film

5 - 1

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA


cover art

Winter’s Bone

Director: Debra Granik
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Garret Dillahunt, Dale Dickey, Shelley Waggener

5


Winter’s Bone


In a just world Winter’s Bone would be a frontrunner rather than a dark horse for the Oscars. Debra Granik’s film is a taut thriller about a young woman’s search for her father, a journey which assumes almost mythical dimensions as she ventures deeper and deeper into a menacing world of drug dealers and enforcers. At the same time Winter’s Bone captures the strength and resilience of Ozarks culture, incorporating many local people in the cast and taking great care to get the details right. Add in a stunning lead performance by Jennifer Lawrence, a host of strong supporting performances by, among others, John Hawkes and Dale Dickey, cinematography by Michael McDonough and music by Marideth Sisco and you’ve got a film which makes an indelible impression on the viewer. If that’s not a criterion for Best Picture, I don’t know what is. Sarah Boslaugh


 

 



cover art

Black Swan

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder

4


Black Swan


The almost-improbable quintet of Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman and Winona Ryder work like a finely-tuned muscle and are a pure thrill to watch in director Darren Aronofsky’s dark, visionary Black Swan. Right off the bat, with a magic dream sequence, the energy is unpredictable, dangerous. Within moments, several tricky themes are introduced: Nina’s infantilization by her Sphinx-like mother, Erica (Hershey), narcissism, sexuality, ageism, competition. Perfection. Women’s relationships to other women. The most interesting theme to me was how one sees oneself, both in the mirror and metaphorically. Looking and being looked at, your every move being scrutinized is something that ballerina Nina (Portman) must learn to live with in the cutthroat world of professional ballet. In the film, she sees – and hates—herself and her doppelganger shadow self who peers threateningly at her from inside the mirror.  Anton Walbrook-esque ballet director Thomas Leroy (Cassel) is deciding which of his ladies will replace the former prima ballerina Beth (a delicious Winona Ryder) as the Swan Queen and has his eye on Nina, but is unsure if she is free enough to transform into the ravenous Black Swan. Will the role go to the virginal pipsqueak Nina or her smoldering rival Lilly (Kunis)? Aronofsky ups his game with Black Swan, with a firm command over the construction of the film and all of its elements. The director offers up a literate, emotionally-complex, and fascinating visual objet d’art that is intoxicating to simply sit back and watch, but also one that is almost even more exciting to deconstruct, debate, and interpret. Matt Mazur


 

 



cover art

The King’s Speech

Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Geoffrey Rush, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle

3


The King’s Speech


As entertaining as it is, as well made and proportioned as it is, The King’s Speech can’t help but suffer from some of the same source issues as many it its period piece pathway. Unlike The Queen, which carried a kind of deconstructionist post-modern demeanor to its narrative, we get the same old structures here, moviemaking mannerisms that launched a dozen Merchant Ivory epics. We can feel the implied weight of what’s going on here, how the characters’ struggles could actually lead to the end of the British empire as we know it. Even during an ironic moment when a newsreel of Hitler catches the royal eye, there is still a stateliness that the rest of The King’s Speech is eager to overcome. When it does, it’s magnificent. When it doesn’t, we still enjoy the voyeuristic nature of the premise. In the end, however, when our royal lead learns to control his voice—and indirectly, his future reign—we are sold. The results speak for a beautiful, resonate masterwork.  Bill Gibron


 

 



cover art

True Grit

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper, Josh Brolin

2


True Grit


With a solid sense of humor and an eloquent way with words, True Grit is a joy on many levels. it’s adventurous and fun, yet isn’t afraid to deal in the deadliest aspects of its travails. The Coens continue to press the boundaries of art in entertainment, carving out a unique niche in cinema that, as of now, is yet to be matched. These men are marvels, looking at each new project as a chance to hone and expand their ample skill set. While no one would deny their ability to handle something like True Grit, what the Coens ultimately do with it is a revelation. Not only do they rip it from the well-earned celebrity attached to its formidable former star, they make us forget John Wayne all together. And when you consider the size of said legend, that’s quite an accomplishment. Bill Gibron


 

 



cover art

The Social Network

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Rooney Mara, Rashida Jones, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella

1


The Social Network


David Fincher’s foreboding dramatization of Facebook’s inception and expansion darkly suggests that the internet “revolution” has not nurtured the good in our souls, but only amplified our most primal driving impulses. The Social Network’s thesis is that Facebook has not really made us more than we were, but made us more of what we are: striving, grasping beasts fighting for the limited space available to us and, just maybe, a few inches more. Fincher expertly shoots Aaron Sorkin’s script of endless talkative wit as an ominous thriller, and lead actor Jesse Eisenberg plays the recently-minted Time Man of the Year Mark Zuckerberg as an obsessive, sharp-tongued misanthrope who gets to where he does not in spite of his anti-social tendencies but, indeed, specifically because of them. This is an arresting film that taps into not only the culture of the moment but also, more potently, the black energy inherent to the human character. Ross Langager


 
Related Articles
14 Jul 2014
As with much art, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes signposts situations we'd otherwise ignore or try to avoid, provides insights, and provokes questions. This film, like all great art, is alive, vital, and transcendent.
11 Jul 2014
Matt Reeves’ sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a tight, bleak, and dramatically lopsided tragedy wrapped inside a pummeling summer crowd-pleaser.
By Piers Marchant
11 Jul 2014
Polanski's movies tend to be even-handed in their treatment of the sexes, at least in that both male and female characters can be conniving and power-mad.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
PopMatters' LUCY Giveaway! in PopMatters's Hangs on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.