1) Requiem For A Dream (2000) – Ellen Burstyn is phenomenal (she was nominated for an Oscar in this role as Sara Goldfarb) in this film that centers on addiction and spiraling delusion of four linked characters played by Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans. I’ve said it before: though it’s labeled a drama it’s actually one of the better horror films released in the last decade, and I remember Aronofsky himself saying it was a roller coaster ride that crashes into a brick wall — like that was most moviegoers' idea of fun! Burstyn’s palsied declaration, “I’m going to be on television,” with the refrigerator coming after her is indelible stuff. Each character ends up in the fetal position.
With Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky has now directed the requisite number of films (five) that he can be mentioned peripherally among the likes of his most major influences—David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski and (I could swear) the Beelzebub himself. Here is a look how I’d rank the Aronofsky canon, and why you might want to check out these darkly existential films.
Well, it's finally Awards Season, and three of our most fervent Oscar fans have major opinions about who will be nominated, who should be nominated, and who desperately needs a hair cut before the big day! Read on for Oscar Nomination Predictions from Amoeba employees and admitted Oscar nerds Sally, Brad and Jackie.
Sally: Like last year, this year's hosts are somewhat controversial: Anne Hathaway and James Franco. What do you two think -- how will they do? I am not sure what to think, but I am guessing there will be some musical numbers involved! It'll be interesting for sure, and I'm all for the Academy skewing young. After his Golden Globes hosting/razzing, I am sure the Academy is breathing a sigh of relief they didn't pick Ricky Gervais!
Brad: I love both James Franco and Anne Hathaway so I am pretty excited. It sure is much different then the years of Steve Martin or Billy Crystal. It was very common for them to have 2 or 3 hosts in the 50's & 70's. I am excited they are going back to that format. There really is nobody like Bob Hope or Billy Crystal that can really do what they did, and Franco and Hathaway are not comics so it will be interesting, but they are funny. It will be interesting to see how they play off each other and how it all works out. I do love Ricky Gervais but he was a bit too mean for an awards show. It is ok to make fun of Tom Cruise but you shouldn't make fun of Johnny Depp & Angelina Jolie. But everything he said [while hosting the Golden Globes] was basically true! It was a bit ridiculous to have The Tourist nominated as best comedy! I am hoping for a Freaks and Geeks reunion on stage at the Oscars. I would love to see Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, & Busy Phillips all on stage!
Jackie: I’m a fan of the two-host arrangement, and prefer they be of the opposite sex. Did you know last year’s ceremony was supposed to be Tina Fey with Steve Martin? Anne Hathaway & James Franco—I feel they’re respected actors who don’t take themselves too seriously. I don’t expect them to improvise, so the Oscar show writers better have some great stuff.
Sally: Tina Fey would be such a great hostess for the show. Maybe they will get her to do it eventually. What 10 films do you guys think will be nominated for Best Picture for sure? I am guessing Black Swan, Social Network, King's Speech, The Kids Are Alright, The Fighter, Inception, Toy Story 3, maybe Somewhere? What else am I forgetting?
Brad: Yes, I think all the Golden Globe nominated dramas will get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture for sure. Those would be Social Network, Black Swan, King's Speech, Inception, & The Fighter. And I think those would probably be the 5 if there were still only 5. Although I can't imagine they wouldn't nominate True Grit. That would probably take the spot of The Fighter if there were only 5. So I think 3 of the last 5 will be True Grit, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, for sure. The others I am not so sure about. I would like to see Blue Valentine and Winter's Bone included in the 10. But I am betting it will be The Town & 127 Hours, unless Rabbit Hole and Ghost Writer somehow sneak in there!
Jackie: Here are my predictions:
(7)The King’s Speech
(8)The Social Network
(9)Toy Story 3
Another Year or Barney’s Version could be replaced by any of these: The Town, Winter’s Bone, The Kids Are All Right, Rabbit Hole, or The Way Back.
Sally: Now that we've had a year of having 10 films nominated for Best Picture, what do you guys think about it? Is it a move for the better?
Brad: I think it is a move for the better. I loved that movies like District 9 & Serious Man got to be in the Best Picture race last year. It is interesting that there is no movie like The Blindside that will probably be in the 10 -- no movie for everyone to complain about! Unless something like The Tourist or Burlesque sneaks in there. But that won't happen. I think it probably helps with the ratings and it might help some smaller movies get some more exposure. It would be great for Blue Valentine or Rabbit Hole and Winter's Bone or Animal Kingdom to get in to the group of 10 and get some more exposure.
Jackie: I am still a fan of the ten-nominee system. It’s a boost for all--film box office & telecast ratings. I say, keep it going!
Imagine an alien archeologist in the future trying to understand human culture through our only remaining documents, existentialist literature from the 20th century. This alien might not laugh at Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan.
I have not seen Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, but did see Tom Hooper's The King's Speech thanks to a free screening. The latter makes King George VI relatable to us commoners by showing the difficulty he had in public speaking (a requisite of kings) due to his stuttering. Being a monarch on the dole isn't as easy as it looks, the film says. Coppola suggested in her last film, Marie Antoinette, that royalty might even like the same indy rock bands as the hoi polloi if given the chance. Poor Marie didn't get that chance; her crippling privilege led to an early beheading. King George couldn't retreat into the background and go face the Nazis on the battlefield. Instead, he had to endure years of speech therapy in order to give a speech to all the boys who were to face death against the Axis. My inner class conflict has trouble finding this story inspirational, but I, along with all the middle aged women who read classic literature, can't deny the charm of Colin Firth. As an example of creative writing's write what you know, Somewhere is about privileged Hollywood types contemplating their up-and-out existence at the Chateau Marmont. Stephen Dorff plays the kind of guy who spends a lot of money on looking dirty and hip. There are a lot of his type in Hollywood, and now they have a movie about their plight. Dorff's not as dreamy as Firth, but has better abs.
That poster kind of says it all, a bleached blonde white queen, i.e., cheap and phony. It's interesting that when a film version of some dark fable comes up, Tim Burton springs to mind. Of course, he had to be the one to direct this film, I heard many people say. Yet, he only fucks them up: Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd. Sure, he's got a unique design sense, but he's an unimaginative storyteller, turning everything into the most rudimentary action plot. The best he could do with the headless horseman is to treat him as a supervillain. Alice in Wonderland shoehorns Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings into Lewis Carroll's world. Instead of mindgames with perverse creatures, Alice is a warrior who's brought back to Wonderland to face off against the tyranny of the Red Queen and to slay the Jabberwocky. That sounds like a well-worn joke about producer interference from The Player, but it's not.
Peter Bogdanovich likes to retell this bit where, in response to a comment he made about Greta Garbo only making two great films, Orson Welles said, "you only need one." It helps to keep that in mind when watching Martin Scorsese's films of the past 20 years. For example, Shutter Island.
The Black Swan may be my favorite film of the year. Themes of pressure, perfectionism, claustrophobia, and the horror and madness that come along with the distortion that occurs when all three are applied to the brain at the same time are explored here in a fabulous performance by Natalie Portman along with Mila Kunis. And Winona Ryder's Beth is scary as hell!
Here's the trailer: