Black Swan

The Black Swan – Director: Darren Aronofsky

OK, I’ll start by saying movies regarding ballerinas are not my thing, by a long shot.  But this sounded strange enough to be appealing, and it is by the director of “Pi” and “Requiem For A Dream”, so off to see it I went.

Natalie Portman plays an aspiring ballet star, Nina, who is seemingly more concerned with being technically perfect than showing much emotion.    She lives with her mother (as played by Barbara Hershey), and while her mother is supportive, she is also rather overprotective.  And that’s an understatement.  Apparently mom was an aspiring ballet star herself, until she found herself pregnant with Nina, after which her career was over.

Vincent Cassell plays Thomas, who is putting on a new production of “Swan Lake”.  He wants his star to play both the role of The White Swan and The Black Swan, and Nina is in the running for the roles, but he thinks she’s too passive and nice to pull it off.   Enter a sort of “punk” ballerina, Lily (played by Mila Kunis), from San Francisco.   She’s got tattoos, she likes to party, and she’s also in the running for the role.   Nina finally gets the kick in the tutu she needs to prove she’s not the sheltered little girl she appears to be and lands the role.

Nina does, however, seem to be experiencing some issues.   At first, the viewer probably thinks that what they’re seeing is really happening, but as the film goes along, doubt begins to creep in, and one realizes that Nina seems to be losing her mind.    And the film gets to the point where the viewer does not know what’s real and what’s imagined.   Did she murder a rival?   Is she really losing pieces of her skin?    No doubt you won’t question whether she’s really suffering from an outbreak of pin feathers, because by then you’ll have realized that she is stark-raving looney-tunes.

What is not imagined though, is that Nina does manage to give the performance of her life, but she has managed to also do something to herself that may have made it her last performance, and at that point the film is over so things are left unresolved.

I did not know where the film was headed for a while, but at some point it began to get rather strange, and while the subject matter is not normally anything I’d be interested in, I have to say this was a very intriguing film once it got going, and it’s definitely odd enough to be appealing.   At this point in time, it’s still playing in theaters, so don’t throw it in your Netflix queue just yet.

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Lars and the Real Girl

You will not find a more compassionate movie involving a sex doll.

Lars Lindstrom is a quiet, introverted, polite, likeable loner, who lives in the garage of his family home. As the movie unfolds you find out that Lars suffered from a traumatic childhood, which has led him into his shell. Lars’ situation is brought to a head as his brother and sister-in-law are expecting.

To deal with his situation, Lars decides to buy a Love Doll and treat her as his real life girlfriend, Bianca. This is where the story starts to warm your heart as the whole town, led by the always spectacular Patricia Clarkson (see the Station Agent for one of her best performances) as the town doc/psychologist rally to support Lars.

In addition to Clarkson’s performance, Ryan Gosling shows he isn’t just a hunk as he delivers a stunning performance as Lars. Kelli Garner also shines as the ‘Real Girl’.

We laughed and felt good about humanity as were are reminded of what is important in life.

Enjoy

Bill

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes)

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes) – Director: Nacho Vigalondo

 “Timecrimes” is a Spanish film where a seemingly ordinary, middle-aged man, has his life turned upside down one day while sitting in his back garden.  But as you watch the film, you have to wonder if where it begins is really the beginning, because there seems to be a few things that you won’t realize until later.

 So, as I said, Hector is sitting in the back garden, after having returned home from a shopping trip and taken a nap.    He’s received a rather odd telephone call where the caller hung up and has rung the number back and gotten a strange answering machine… but no matter, that’s forgotten for the moment as he sits in the garden and spots a naked woman in the woods.   Now, his wife has said she will go to the store to get something for dinner, and after she leaves, Hector wanders into the woods in search of this woman, only to find that she seems to be unconscious now, or worse.   As he reaches for her to see if she’s OK, he’s stabbed in the arm by a man with a bandage over his face, and flees into the woods away from him, eventually reaching a chain-link fence, which he tries to climb (but knocks over) and the he finds himself at a sort of house, where he breaks a window trying to get in.   Once inside he’s guided to a silo by a man he manages to raise on a two-way radio, and all the while the man with the bandaged face is in pursuit.  Once Hector is inside the silo, the man tells him to hide in this odd receptacle, and when he emerges…..

 Well, let’s just say that the man failed to tell Hector that he has entered a time machine.  And he’s now back earlier in the day, looking at his own house with binoculars, and seeing himself going about the chores he had gone about earlier.    Of course, he’s a bit alarmed.

 As the film goes on, it seems as though there are not only two Hectors, there are three, and he may well have had a part in the initial experiment (or accident) himself, but either does not remember or realize it.

 There are various scenarios that are played out from multiple perspectives, and there are realizations that the pursuer and the pursued are perhaps one and the same person,  only in different incarnations, just to give your poor tired brain something to try to think about.    Of course, Hector thinks that if he can just get rid of the other Hectors, that all will be well, but by that time you’ll long have given up on trying to figure out who the original one is, and that is, if you could ever be sure to begin with.   And Hector has been warned that confronting his other “selves” is dangerous.   But since things are a bit out of control already, what does he have to lose?

 For all its complications and twists, this is actually rather a simple film.   Only 4 cast members, not really a lot of special effects, and fairly simple sets.    It’s the actual story that will blow your mind in this.  The film is also not without humor, as Hector is a bit accident-prone,  and that may also be a hint as to how this all got started in the first place, but that isn’t ever revealed.     I will say that this is not a film where you can be multi-tasking while you watch.  You have to pay close attention, and even then, you may still be a bit lost, but stick with it, it’s a mind-f*** of a film.

  There is a US remake due next year (2011),  but don’t wait for that, see this one instead.   And, it IS in Spanish, but you can also watched it dubbed in English.

Hukkle

Hukkle – Director Gyorgy Palfi – 2002 (Hungary)

Somewhere between a nature film and a murder mystery, lies “Hukkle”, the debut film of Gyorgy Palfi (Taxidermia).    The film follows the residents of a small Hungarian village, both human and non-human, and begins with an extreme close-up of a snake moving around in the rocks above the village, before the camera takes us in to “meet” the residents. 

We have an old man with constant hiccups, content to sit on a decrepit bench outside his cottage and watch the world go by.    We have a shepherdess (with a Walkman) and her flock of sheep.   We have a man and his pig (we are treated to an extreme close up of its testicles for a time) as they travel around the village to impregnate sows.  And,  we have what appears to be some kind of family gathering, although something rather odd happens there and  the viewer is never quite sure what was intended.   

We are also treated to a mole in its tunnel, as it blindly finds an earthworm and snags it, moments before it’s killed by an old woman with a hoe, who throws it over a fence where its eaten by a dog.    We watch a frog as it paddles along only to be snagged by a fish, and that’s moments before the fish is hooked and reeled in, but not before we notice that there’s a dead body at the bottom of the pond.     A threshing machine comes in to work the grain fields and as it moves along we see,  hidden from view of the driver, a deer hidden deep in the grain…..and it seems the director then focuses on the truck into which the grain is being blown,  kind of teasing us….will deer suddenly be part of the mix?    Also at one point it appears there’s an earthquake rattling the entire town but it’s an extremely low flying jet that is rather shocking to see in this setting.

But let’s move back to the family gathering.    Someone has obviously died, but was it natural causes?   Something that the old woman preparing the dinner does is rather suspicious, and when putting out leftovers for pets afterward one is stricken, but it’s doubtful THAT was her intent.   

And there is a policeman who seems to be carrying on an investigation, and he seems to have come across something that puzzles him, but what is it? 

There is virtually no dialog in this film.   What little there is consists of background conversations  which are not key to what‘s going on.   And what IS going on?  Hard to say,  really.    “Hukkle” is rather a playful film, but it also has an underlying sinister theme and I don’t know if repeated viewings would make it any clearer as to what may have happened.   At any rate, it is a very interesting film, quite entertaining and not just a little weird.    And “Hukkle” (the title) does not actually mean anything,  it is an onomotopoeia for a hiccup.

Sam

Wild Man of the Navidad

Wild Man of the Navidad – director(s) Duane Graves, Justin Meeks (2008)

Let’s drag things out of the art house and into the woods for a bit.   If you’re of a certain age (as Bill and I are), then before cable and video and all that, there were just plain late-night cheesy horror films.   And if you  ever watched those, no doubt at some point or another, you’ve seen some kind of Bigfoot film, like “Legend of Boggy Creek” or something along those lines.   I’m no closet supermarket tabloid fan, but I will admit that I have a soft spot in my heart (or maybe my head), for these types of films.   I was very interested in seeing “Wild Man of the Navidad” when I heard about it, but I wasn’t really expecting it to be as GOOD as it is.

This film is a dead-on, loving re-creation of these “Bigfoot” type films, but it also slyly drags in a few themes that no one could have gotten away with back in the 70’s.

The film takes place in and around the town of “Sublime”, Texas.  Most of the cast are non-actors, and the look and the feel of rural Texas in the early 70’s is nearly perfect.   The main character, Dale, is played by co-director Justin Meeks.  Dale is a man who has just lost his job, and who lives outside of town on a remote ranch.  His wife is disabled, and he has a caretaker, Mario, a Mexican who helps around the house (and goes through the wife’s panty drawer when hubby isn’t home, not to mention occasionally taking advantage of the wife, too).   There is SOMETHING OUT THERE in the woods and thickets around the ranch, and it’s been there for years.   Every evening Dale and Mario put out offerings for the creature, or creatures, since there seems to be more than one, and for years, that has kept things stable. 

But now, financially strapped, Dale has resorted to opening part of his ranch to hunters, because it is hunting season.   And Dale know that this is not really a good idea, as does Mario, because once the hunters show up, they may have the opportunity to bag a few things here and there, or they may well become the hunted.  And of course, if you’ve ever seen these kind of films before, you of course know what the outcome will be.

I can say that while watching this I never had any sense (and you can take that however you like) that this was a modern film.    The directors certainly have the look and the feel of an early 70’s film down to a tee.   There are a few themes that go beyond the 70’s type film though, like references to a potent local moonshine that’s lowering the IQ’s (if that’s possible) of the local population; the aforementioned panty-sniffing Mexican caretaker, and even a bit of unrealistic gore, all of which were noticeably absent in “the real thing”.  There’s also a bit of dark humor thrown in too, which works pretty well.

So, not a film for everyone, but certainly one for those who aren’t afraid to indulge themselves in “guilty pleasures”.   I don’t feel the least bit guilty for enjoying this, but I may feel just a LITTLE guilty for telling others about it.   Nah….go see it and enjoy.

Taxidermia

TAXIDERMIA – director György Pálfi, 2006 (Hungary)

Director Gyorgy Palfi seems to take the road traveled by Jeunet and Caro (“Delicatessen”) in this bizarre Hungarian film that mixes whimsical themes with those far more grotesque.    “Taxidermia” covers three generations of one family over a period of many years, beginning, apparently, in a time after World War 2 and up to the present.

The film begins with post-WW2 life on a remote farm, as Orderly Morosgoványi and his commanding officer are taking care of the officer’s wife and two daughters.  Morosgoványi is rather left out of everything except to serve and protect though, so he seeks solace in his fantasies, all of which involve sex with his commanding officer’s wife and daughters, but any outlet is fine for him.    Morosgoványi does give a fine demonstration why one should never expose themselves to a chicken, too.  After one of Morosgoványi’s favorite charges is slaughtered for the meat (a pig), his fantasies hit an all time high (or low) and his miserable life is brought to an abrupt end.

Shortly after though, the commanding officer’s wife gives birth to a baby, Kalman, who grows up to be a championship “speed eater”, entering into plenty of disgusting contests with plenty of disgusting entrees, and once, during a competition, he spots the woman of his dreams, Gizi, who is also rather “plus-size” and shares his love of these competitions.  This all takes place under communist rule so there are also plenty of young school children singing anthems, waving banners and doing strange little presentations with balloons.  

Kalman and Gizi do get married, and continue to enter competitions, although Gizi has been warned to take it easy due to the fact that she’s pregnant, but she doesn’t pay heed and eventually gives birth to a rather undersized baby, who grows up scrawny and undernourished, and who is rather an embarrassment to his parents.

Young Lajoska grows up and enters the taxidermy trade.  By then his mother has left his father.  Kalman is rather depressed, to say the least, because “speed eating” is no longer a recognized sporting event and he has rather let himself go, looking a bit like Jabba the Hutt.   To keep his spirits up, he’s begun training massive housecats to eat only margarine, with the hope that he can create some new kind of competition.  But Kalman is not the only one who is depressed, and when one of the cats escapes its cage and demonstrates that cats do like to eat things other than margarine, Lajoska stages an elaborate finish to the film my preserving his father’s massive body and then creating a perverse work of art using himself.  This is, without a doubt, the most difficult part of this film to squirm though.

This is NOT a film for those with weak stomachs.  It’s full of pitch-black humor and grotesque imagery.   The eating contests are full of scenes that are not just messy, but if you think the eaters digest what they’ve just gorged on, you’d be absolutely wrong.  But despite all this, the film manages to also mix in strange art-house type beauty and whimsical themes too.   A very odd mixture, indeed, and probably very difficult to achieve.   But what this means is, this film would be for adventurous types and not for mainstream film lovers.   But I guess that would be what makes this a feelm.  Now available in the US for the first time (released in 2006).

Sam

Hump Fest

Before reading any further, I must bring to your attention a warning that I posted when I started Feelms. I will be posting about movies that touch on a very broad range of subjects, many of which will offend a lot of people. If you are concerned about being offended, now is your chance to go to your favorites menu option and surf away from the land of weirdness that makes up the following post.

Still with me? Pervert! (and that includes you Princess Snow Pea!)

Hump Fest 5, was an incredibly fun, although sometimes disturbing, collection of short amateur porn films. The premise is that some very rough guidelines are put out there like max length of film (5 mins) and some bonus points were awarded if the film makers used particular props or shot at specified locales. Some of the props this time included Mormon underwear, a pink slip and some local food called Applets and Cutlets. The locales were located in both Seattle and Portland as the Rose City was invited to submit their own contributions as well. After watching all of the entries that made the final cut, all of the viewing audience was asked to vote on the sexiest and the funniest.

The films started off on a hilarious note as three naked people (two ladies and one guy) performed a very nicely choreographed dance to a Beyonce tune. The guy had a great attitude and had the crowd howling! I was wondering before the show, just how porn the films would be. The first one wasn’t that hardcore, more just funny naked dancing people. Film two pretty much let you know this was a hardcore porn film festival as a young guy from Portland was documented doing his Johnny Appleseed imitation, only it wasn’t Apple seed he was leaving everywhere as he tried to pleasure himself as many times as possible in a 24 hour period.

From there it was just a hilarious, sexy, disturbing romp through just about every variation of sex acts you could imagine. Some of the highlights for me were the Larry King interview, Saran Wrap 50s spot, Beyond Gay and the Opening Dance film.

This just in! The voting results have been published and all four of the films I mentioned before made it into the awards. Funniest – 1st: Beyond Gay, 2nd: How to Please Your Man (the Larry King interview), 3rd: Dance Belt     Sexiest – 1st: The Modern Housewife (Saran Wrap), 2nd: Cyclust, 3rd: Trolley Tryst.

Like I said when I started Feelms. There may be things I enjoy watching that I wouldn’t be able to recommend to many people and Hump Fest certainly fits that category very well.

Bill