Archive for the ‘Twinkly at the movies’ Category

Sitting at my friend’s house–beautiful, full of windows–looking out onto the snow-covered conservation land behind the house, the railroad tracks. We’re going into our 3rd evening without electricity, but they’ve got full power here (hence my ability to post). Some people have wood stoves, some have propane fireplaces, some have natural gas to cook on. We’ve got none of it, but Hubby pulled out the camping stove and we’ve got 3 small propane canisters. The stores are sold out for now. We’ve still got phone service because my land line is not cordless. No internet. We’ve got water, which is nice. Some friends haven’t got water. It could be until the end of the week until we have electricity. The temp went down to about 20 last night and the house is still chilly. There’s a line down under some huge pine branches at the edge of our property. Can’t communicate with my 78-year old mom who’s only 8 miles away because her phone lines are down and she doesn’t have a mobile. She wouldn’t be able to charge it eventually anyway.

It’s not terrifying to be without power, but annoying, depressing and this adult’s idea of scary enough on Halloween. The town has postponed trick-or-treating until next Sunday, thus dashing children’s hopes of candy, but also leaving parents more time to help out with costume details.

The first I’d ever heard Nina Simone was in the opening credits of the movie “Shallow Grave” (at least I think it’s in the opening credits. I have a vivid memory of it). I’d heard of her, but didn’t know a thing. I thought it was a man singing due to her deep voice. I mean, deep, people, not just her vocal range, but the quality of the emotion.

I’ve been falling in love with her ever since. Shallow Grave is not a horror flick, but it is a GREAT thriller and an extremely well-made movie. Highly recommended and could work well for Halloween night (not for kids). Directed by Danny Boyle, it predates Trainspotting, The Beach, and 28 Days Later (Slumdog, too, but let’s not go there).

Anyway, here she is, singing the Halloween-appropriate I Put A Spell On You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (sung by the man himself in Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise”):

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Today, the music is courtesy of Camille Saint-Saens from “The Carnival of Animals,” the piece called “The Aquarium.”

Since I went to see “Tree of Life” last night, I was thinking about other Malick flicks. The movie was sold out, so we ventured on to “Midnight in Paris.” Nothing sums up my feelings for that movie quite like this review.

“Days of Heaven” is one of my favorite movies, but that’s really an understatement. Hence, I insert a quickie review of mine from a few years ago:

This is in my top ten of all time. A masterpiece from the golden era of American cinema. Allegorically, the story of the clash of agriculture with the coming industrial revolution. None better than the ethereally beautiful narrator played by Linda Manz and the only Richard Gere movie that’s worth a damn. Haunting soundtrack and haunting images. Unmatched cinematography. A time passed that we’ll never see again, both in cinema and in America. This should be required viewing for all. I did have a friend who thought it was too slow and that, well, nothing happened. Go figure.

Now please witness one of the most striking opening sequences in movie-dom and a perfect marriage of music and image.

(Sadly (and ironically since this is Music Monday) both the first and last few notes of the piece are cut off in this clip).

When I watch this, I feel like I’m seeing something I’m not meant to see–it’s all mystery, a secret. The turn of the boy’s head as he lights a cigarette; the smiling but calm children looking up from play. They can see through me. I am unnecessary, superfluous. I am the passer-by; they are permanent. Voyeur.

I recognize a couple of the images–the one of the man with the socket wrench is Margaret Bourke-White. I am sure I’ve seen the man jumping across the 2 rocky cliffs outside of these opening credits, but not sure where. That ice palace stuck with me from first time I saw the film; again, haunting is the word that comes to mind. I looked all over the internet and while I can’t be sure, I think it’s the Ice Palace from the Montreal Winter Carnival, circa 1884. Frozen in time.

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I’ve already gushed about this on Facebook, but I’ll repeat:

This was a fantastic movie and it is where my gratitude goes today. I suppose I can be silly and say thanks to the bees. Thanks, bees. Thanks filmmakers, thanks women, thanks men, thanks beekeepers, thanks organic farmers, thanks to those who refuse to use pesticides on anything whatsoever, thanks to brave, stouthearted folks who are willing to defy the odds and understand complexity and interdependence.

Wow, Thankful Thursday just began to feel suspiciously like a rant in reverse. Sorry. I really did love the movie and it really made me happy. I am blessed, too, to live in Western, MA, the “Happy Valley,” next door to “Paradise City,” first state to legalize same-sex marriage, some of the most fertile soil in the US along the Connecticut River, and home to many small, organic farms, fruits, vegetables, and livestock included. Raw milk, local honey, local maple syrup, local eggs from my neighbor. HUZZAH!

Happy that my kids learn beekeeping at their school. A new calf was born 3 weeks ago to Heatherbell. He has a white heart on his forehead. It reminds me of the Cat Stevens’ song “Boy with the Moon and Star on his Head.” Remember that one, flower children?

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Ah, me. I hoped to post a music/video combo today. With all of the pain in the world right now, Japan and Libya, and even our own bubbling turmoils from Guantanamo to Wall Street to Wisconsin, I thought it would be nice to tip my hat to an admirable human trait–our ability to create Beauty.

Did you see the Tarsem movie “The Fall?” The opening sequence is an eight-and-a-half minute, black-and-white, slow-motion scene set to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, 2nd movement. It ranks as one of the most stunning things I’ve seen on film and it literally took my breath away (unlike most Americans one encounters in interviews, I do know what literally means).

I saw the clip of the opening sequence of “The Fall” about 3 months ago on youtube, but is has since been pulled; therefore, dear ones, I cannot post it.

On another note, did anyone else feel sluggish yesterday? Were your children dragging ass on their way to school this morning? Tired in your marrow rather than filled with new sap running up and down the length of your limbs? I know for me it was the absurd time change (a not-so-admirable human creation).

Spring. Waking up. The Fall.

There is only one solution until I can make my coffee-blended.

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All right, ladies.  I loved “The Black Swan” enough to risk making it into our first Girls’ Night Out destination.  This post is dedicated to the 5 of you who accompanied me last Saturday night.

I first saw “The Black Swan” by myself at the Mega-Death-Plex-16 down in Ft. Myers, Florida in December. You’re never really alone at the Mega Plex, but let’s just say I was unaccompanied.

I had only seen 2 of Aronofsky’s films before “Swan.” I liked “The Wrestler,” though I thought it had a lot of faults, especially the Hollywood-style treatment of the relationship between the father and daughter.  I liked Mickey Rourke and I liked Marisa Tomei, but to be honest, I don’t remember too much about the movie.

The rest of this post is filled with reveals about each of the following movies, so you are now on a continuous SPOILER ALERT.

What about “The Fountain?” I hated it. I can’t think of an elegant way to say that the acting was really, really bad.  Maybe if Aronofsky hadn’t cast his wife and Wolverine in the main roles, I wouldn’t have been laughing at what was supposed to be the grave story of centuries-old soul mates, the story of a love so strong it could overcome Time (well, it almost overcame time).  The theme started out promisingly and I loved the visuals of the domed, golden sky, and Queen Isabel’s chamber and the tree, oh, I mean The Tree. But, alas, I found myself laughing at the mushy, misguided plot.  The movie dragged to the point that I kept putting it on pause and going to the kitchen to grab snacks and water and then pausing it again to get more snacks and more water. I didn’t care beans about the characters. I even wanted her to die, you know, just to get it over with. Even the sumptuous costumes of Queen Isabel couldn’t redeem the silly New Age and Pro-Enviro leanings of the story.

Based on the trailer for “Swan,” I feared I would hate it, too. It looked so cheesy and predictable and once again, at risk of being completely overblown.

Well, “Black Swan” is cheesy, predictable, and overblown, but it all worked for me.

First, we have seen each of these characters before and we have seen the underlying themes done to death. What makes “The Black Swan” different?  The film tells its version of the fairy tale that is the center of  the ballet “Swan Lake,” and proceeds to twist it around and show us what would happen if such a fairy tale came true in the human realm. The film takes the cliché of artistic drive by the throat and gives us something violently, and even humorously, new. It is at times, or maybe entirely, over-the-top.

For example, when Nina, the protagonist, walks into the bathroom in the ballet studio and sees the word “WHORE” written in red lipstick, I laughed. This could have been a scene from an after-school special on the detrimental effects of bullying (she does kill herself in the end after all). But Nina is not in high school and these are not teenagers. This is a professional ballet company and should give us some indication that the filmmaker is going rogue and rogue-r with all of the arch, overused motifs.

The cake that Mommy brings home to share with Nina: OH MY GOD! Was that the most amazingly beautiful pink and green with silver nonpareils only-in-New-York cake you have ever seen? But when Mommy threatens to throw it out, I laughed.

Before we exited to the lobby after the movie, I knew my gal pals didn’t really take to the film, especially due to the fact that some of them were audibly gasping and visibly cringing at each new manifestation of gratuitous horror that Aronofsky provided. Some of the statements I heard afterward, in regards to our heroine, Nina, were “she was mentally ill” and “she was a cutter.” I understand these sentiments, but I think that, ultimately, they miss the point.  If we take the movie as true and see Nina as a real woman living in New York and struggling to become the lead ballerina in “Swan Lake,” the movie doesn’t really work because Nina is both cliché and archetype.

If Nina were simply to realize that her hallucinations and scratching could be remedied by seeing a therapist; if she and her mother were to attend a mother-daughter therapy group and begin to talk about their problems; if Thomas examined his motives and checked his chauvinism at the door to attain a less dysfunctional and more affirming method of teaching ballet to young women, this would be a different movie.  It wouldn’t be offensive and it could star Julia Roberts. In that version, Nina would be satisfied to dance the Black Swan once, call it quits and join a bulimia/anorexia recovery group. Now that would be a triumph!

One question that came up after the movie was whether or not a ballerina would be able to dance the 3rd and 4th acts of “Swan Lake” with a piece of shattered mirror wedged into her gut. Well, Nina did exactly that and it killed her (thus fulfilling the fairy-tale narrative). So the answer is both yes and no.

Color and lighting are strong elements in “Swan:” clichéd, kitschy, and done to the hilt. From the white pillowcase and its black Florentine scroll that cradles Nina’s waking head in the opening sequence to the first scene between Nina and Mommy, when Nina stares down at her pink grapefruit for breakfast and says “so pretty,” color is used to identify each of the main characters (Nina is pink and white, Mommy green and black, Thomas gray, black, and white, and Lily, black) and to underscore archetype. Nina’s counter colors to her pink and white, as she completes the transformation from Child/Virgin/White Swan into Bitch/Whore/Black Swan are red (as in blood and lipstick) and black.

Mirrors are another repeated motif. They are used sometimes for their horror effect and sometimes to the point of silliness, but in Aronofsky’s hands, they work, screams, laughs, and all. I particularly liked the giant, multi-faceted  mirror in Nina and Mommy’s apartment.

The more realistic pieces of the movie worked for me, too. The dancing and music, the knowledge that in order to dance ballet professionally, one must put one’s body through pains and tortures, even beyond what most athletes subject themselves to, the subjugation of womanhood in ballet for emaciated, pre-pubescent body lines, the sexism and misogyny, and the beauty of all of the principle characters. I haven’t mentioned that the acting was brilliant, with perhaps Barbara Hershey and Vincent Cassel outshining even Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, no small feat, that. I used to strongly dislike Natalie Portman (“Closer” and “Cold Mountain” are two glaring examples of her lack of skill), but she has won me over.

So that’s why I loved “The Black Swan.” I loved the horror elements. I loved all that it stole from so many movies that went before. I loved the use of color, mirrors, and lighting, the darkly lit interiors and crammed spaces. I loved the realism. I loved the acting. I loved the pop-psychology, sexually-repressed girl- run-amok business of it. I loved that it was over-the-top and made me laugh at things that are supposed to be sacred.

So who’s free this coming Saturday night? We could see a double feature: First, we’ll rewatch “Black Swan” and then we’ll move on to “Eat, Pray, Love.” Are you in or out?

With love, Twinkly

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