I love this time of year for movies. In the run up to awards season all the big guns start getting released. Yes we've already had the pleasure of Inception and The Social Network (not seen and on the LoveFilm list/seen and loved, respectively) and the superb Toy Story 3, but January is the time when the front runners get their time to shine on the silver screens for us to see what all the Hollywood noise has been about.
Last night I went to see Black Swan. I was looking forward to it because I loved the idea of a thriller set in the gruelling world of professional ballet. The pain they put on their bodies, the pressure of a cutthroat profession, the beautiful dancing and costumes and stories they tell. OH THE MELODRAMA! Surely this would be right up my alley?
First things first - props to Natalie Portman, holy crap, she puts the method in method acting. I read somewhere she lost 20 pounds to play the role of Nina and trained as a ballet dancer for a year before filming started and boy did it show. It was an intense and believable performance of a young woman carrying the burden of prima ballerina. Loved Winona's brief appearance as the cast-aside hasbeen fallen star of the New York ballet (especially in that scene - at the risk of getting too spoilery - I haven't been able to go near a nail file since), and Mila Kunis was a welcome laid-back rebellious foil to Portmans uptight lead, and it was nice to see her not in comedy mode. And she can also do lesbian sex scenes too, so you know, there's something for everyone.
Mirrors were used in nearly every scene to convey the split personality themes, and the use of black and white and dark and light with flashes of (literally) blood red to punctuate key moments in Nina's descent into madness were the right aesthetics to set the mood. If anything I felt the soundtrack borrowed too much from the book of cheesy old-skool horror (scary moment = LOUD CHORDS!), but I can forgive that, as the storyline was so gripping (butt-clenchingly so) and the cinematography so gothicly gorgeous.
The other Big Movie That Everyone Is Talking About is The King's Speech. I went to see this a couple of weeks ago and loved loved loved it.
I've never been Colin Firth's biggest fan. I mean don't get me wrong, he's not on the hate list (see: Tom Cruise, Nic Cage, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley - and that's just for starters) but he never really struck me as a stand out actor. I was never part of the whole Mr Darcy wet shirt brigade, thought he was alright in Bridget Jones, pretty inoffensive in Mamma Mia (although nothing was more offensive in that than Pierce Brosnan's singing, but that's a whole other story). But then along came a A Single Man and I saw him in a whole new light. Well, a whole new different kind of role to be precise.
This guy can act. And he's proven it all over again in The King's Speech. I've never suffered from a stammer but I've heard from people that have that its the most suffocating, frustrating feeling. Firth really portrays the lifelong struggle of a pretty ordinary guy, with a loving wife and doting daughters, suffering but muddling through with an almost dibilitating afflication, when fate deals him a cruel blow. For this ordinary guy just so happens to be a member of the Royal Family, and is forced to take on one of the most public roles of all - the King of England - against one of the most turbulent political times of recent history. The country is on the brink of war, his brother has abdicated, and the world needs to see England has a strong confident ruler.
Firth brings out the frustration, the fear and the tragedy of this poor man and his situation. But also demonstrates the inner strength in the character. It is a heartbreakingly real performance and had me laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time. Helena Bonham-Carter is, as always, fantastic as his loyal and forthright wife, our dear old Queen Mum, and Geoffery Rush is also excellent as the antipodean voice coach who, after initially getting off on the wrong foot, went on to become Bertie's lifelong friend and confidante.
I really hope The King's Speech does well this awards season and flies the flag for Brit cinema this year. Roll on the Oscars on Feb 27.