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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

September Movie Reviews

Best Movie I Saw in September: Black Swan (2010)

This film was captivating and visually stunning. It was also terrifying. Sure the concept’s been done before: writer/musician/artist/actor goes to the brink of madness and obsession for their craft, but it still felt fresh, edgy and dark. That’s an accomplishment in itself.

I was thinking about why I found it so scary. There were some intentional bumps in the night and deliberate camera angles to generate scares, but it was mostly a psychological terror. That’s even scarier.

It occurred to me that watching a dark side emerge is instinctively horrifying because there’s a small ember of conscience that we’re all vulnerable. Anyone striving to be the best will have to walk a fine line between dedication and obsession, devotion and madness.

Some tread it well, usually those grounded elsewhere. But those are probably the ones who are very good at something, not the best. Can you truly be the best without falling into obsession with your craft? Without delving into insanity to some extent? I don’t know the answer to that. History’s common theme of the big names and madness must mean something.

I think even though most of us strive for accomplishment, we’re not truly dedicated to the pursuit of being the best at one particular goal. And that’s a good thing. We need people to be the best and advance our society, even if slightly crazy. But for our world to function, most of us need to stay well-rounded, and yes, sane. That means striving to be good at a lot, but not insane about anything.

And that’s why Black Swan was so disturbing and so beautiful.

Worst Movie I Saw in the Month of September: You Again (2010)

This actually wasn’t a terrible movie, but made the list because of lost potential to be a good one. The premise is interesting and relatable. Who doesn’t have someone from their high school days they’d rather not see again. Ever. If you don’t have one of those people, you probably are one of those people.

Toss that premise with Kristen Bell and it should work. I love Kristen Bell. If you’ve never watched Veronica Mars, rent Season 1 now. You won’t be disappointed.

The problem I had was the way they squandered the premise. A better movie would be Bell’s character meeting a truly reformed bully from her past. Joanna (Odette Annable – who is unbelievably beautiful by the way), should have been legitimately sweet, regretful, and striving to make amends. In that movie a paranoid Marni (Kristen Bell) keeps reading into each situation the duplicitous nature of each well-intentioned gesture only to learn in the end that people can change.

Instead, we were given several reasons to believe Joanna hadn’t changed and was just as cruel as ever. Automatically the jokes became less funny. It killed the obligatory “change of heart scene” at the conclusion. Nothing even remotely rang true or seemed cathartic in any way.

The other major problem I had was the moms’ past feuds. Even after a few flashbacks, it wasn’t clear to me whether Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) had reason to hate Romana (Sigourney Weaver) or the other way around until the final flashback that rehashed the whole story. It made the tension between both women awkward because we couldn’t identify the aggressor and the victim. Whose motives do we question? Who do we root for to be vindicated?

This could have been a good movie. It wasn’t.

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