Our Favorite Performances of 2011

1. Kirsten DunstMelancholia– In Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic new film, Dunst creates one of cinema’s most fully realized portraits of numbing depression.  In all of her performances, Dunst has shown a skill sometimes greater than the films she is in.  Here, she takes the role of Justine, a woman who self-destructs on her wedding night and takes shelter with her sister as the planet Melancholia goes on a collision course with Earth.  Key Scene: In the deepest part of her depression, Justine even needs help getting down to the dinner table.  Her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) made meatloaf, her favorite dish.  When Justine tastes it, her face crumbles, and she says it tastes like ash.  That’s all that will be left of the planet in a couple days, and she can’t wait.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Never on Sunday

Never on Sunday

Directed by: Jules Dassin
Written by: Jules Dassin
Starring: Melina Mercouri, Jules Dassin and Giorgos Foundas

Once a winner at Cannes, the Oscars and countless Greek award ceremonies and festivals, the 1960 Greek film Never on Sunday cleverly bypassed censorship and introduced a bridge between America and the mysterious culture of the Greek people.

Never on Sunday focuses on Ilya, a, dare I say it… whore. Though this prostitute is far different from the American portrayal of sex-for-money broken, diseased women. Ilya is beautiful, radiant, loved and respected by all the men, sailors and other prostitutes in her seaside town. She doesn’t name prices; she picks them along with her men. Shouldn’t she get to pick her clientele? She is the embodiment of the highlights of Greek culture. Her world is filled with adventure, sexual liberation, dance, music, drinking and the company of generous, hard working Greek men who adore her. Continue reading

ARCHIVE REVIEW: Monster

Monster
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Written by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, and Annie Corley

You don’t have to say someone’s name to show who they are.  Some of the best biopics, most notably this one and Todd Hayne’s I’m Not There, never acknowledge the subject’s name until the very end.  On IMDB, Charlize Theron is cast simply as Aileen, not Aileen Wuornos.

Monster is proof of a lot of things, most notably that there really isn’t much to a name when you think about it.  Selby (Christina Ricci) simply calls her new lover Lee, an affectionate name in comparison to what most other people call her.

Street walker, hooker, prostitute- whatever you want to call her job, it defines her more heavily than anything in the sordid past that led her to it.  Monster starts out grabbing for your heartstrings, as Aileen narrates a look at her troubled childhood with a musing about being discovered like Marilyn Monroe.  In the enhanced colors of this dreamy flashback, we cut abruptly to her as an adult in the 80’s, sitting under a highway overpass as it pours rain.  In this movie, there are happy moments, and there is life.

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Oscar Acting Up Close: Quite a bit Country, not enough Rock ‘N Roll

Image courtesy of Alt. Film Guide

As it stands now, it looks like the four winners for for acting Oscars this weekend will be Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Christoph Waltz, and Mo’Nique.  One washed-up country singer, one modern country belle, one Jew Hunter, and one mom from Hell- see any similarities?

The acting categories usually go to four very distinct roles from very different styles of acting.  Not so this year.

If you were to look at the supporting categories this year, you’d see that.  Waltz gives his tour de force in four languages layered with charm and menace, while Mo’Nique gives hers in one language, amps up the menace, takes away charm, and adds insanity.   Different styles of acting?  Yes.  But, both of these roles are antagonists.

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