Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winners of Sundance 2011 movie festival announced

Winners have been announced, and here is a short list of some of the lucky filmmakers:

The Grand Jury Dramatic Prize went to "Like Crazy" by Drake Doremus. The film tackles a long-distance young love story between an American and a Brit. Actors include Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence.

The Grand Jury Prize for US documentary film was given to "How to Die in Oregon", by Peter D. Richardson. Documentary deals with euthanasia in Oregon, where it has been legal since 1994.

US dramatic directing award was given to "Martha Marcy May Marlene" by Sean Durkin. Traumatized woman flees a religious cult and tried to rebuild her life.

Directing award for US documentary was awarded to Jon Foy for " Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles". Foy´s documentary describes an urban mystery when a man pieces together the meaning of hundreds of cryptic messages that have appeared on city streets across America. Foy was particularly happy about his win, since according to his own words he was working as a cleaner a few weeks back. Talk about a lottery ticket!

The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic went to "Happy, Happy" by Anne Sewitsky. Norwegian film tells the story of a sex-starved housewife, who tries to control herself when a new neighbour moves in.

The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary was given to "Hell and back again", directed by Danfung Dennis. Story of modern warfare in Afghanistan told through the eyes of a Marine soldier.

Special Jury Award for acting went to Felicity Jones from "Like Crazy". 

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award was awarded to Sam Levinson, from "Another Happy Day".
 A pair of wild siblings go to a chaotic family wedding.

Hmm, this makes me think "Like Crazy" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene" may be the ones to watch out for.

What women may, or may not want (for Valentine´s day)

That dreadful time is approaching again. Pressure to buy blood diamonds,  child labor chocolates, teddybears from China, plants and other trinkets just to prove (s)he matters. Because we are living in a material world and we are material girls(and boys). Oh, the stories I could tell of past Valentine´s days gone crazy weird.
But let´s not get into that.

Remember  guys, the measure of love  has been set. Namely by this fellow, who actually built a 400-square-foot closet for her wife into the guest bedroom. Modeled after Carrie Bradshaw´s walk-in-closet in the movie "Sex and the city". The cost? A mere $175 000. Spare change, right?

Money and material aside, what is it that women want? Let´s get some semiprofessional help into the picture.
Meet Dr.Love, or as otherwise known, Jay Herrod. The man may seem like a peculiar oddball, but some of the lines may hit the right note. Sort of. My favorite is number 5: all women have a set pattern. Figure it out and a man may  figure her out. After these golden tips no woman is safe from surrendering to the hunt.

And if all else fails, remember guys (and gals): Wine is fine but whiskey´s quicker.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I´ve been careless with a Delicate Man"

While waiting for some new material from our fabulous miss Fiona Apple, let´s see some of her older classics. "Criminal" from her 1996 album "Tidal" is considered by many to be her greatest, and did receive a Grammy-award. (While accepting the award, she gave her famous "don´t model yourself after what we say" -speech)
The music video, directed by Mark Romanek, was controversial, and raised concerns over exploiting Apple. Although she was 19-years-old at the time, she looked years younger, to the point where the music video was judged borderline child pornography. The whole early image of Fiona Apple teased the public with "a malnourished, depressed Lolita" -denotations, with or without her blessing.

The video starts with Apple taking a picture of "us", making us the voyeur of her actions. She knows she is being watched, and thus takes the control of the gaze from us. The space is dim and dark, and the lighting gives an impression of a flashlight being forcefully focused into something morally ambiguous escaping harsh judgment. We should not be watching this, yet we want to. The stuffed animals and beer bottles move into the images and so does a scantily dressed Apple. The scene being played out looks disturbing, yet Apple never gives away the control.  Half-clothed, laid out bodies next to Fiona appear just before she sings "I´ve been a bad, bad girl". The other people remain faceless, plain body parts which are used by the main subject. The idea of an orgy is played with, presented to us as a night gone awry, and the seemingly under-age girl is looking for redemption for her actions. The sin being here is her desires, and hiding in the closet cannot erase sexuality. Apple moves to kitchen tables and begins to undress. By now it is clear that we are not watching a woman, but a "child-woman" still maturing. In her thin and fragile frame she appears uncomfortable, vulnerable and awkward.

The images of a sports car seem at first out of place, until we see Apple trapped and half-naked in the backseat of the car. Someone is taking pictures and video of her, making her an object. She is shown enjoying herself being filmed, yet her body movements suggest there is something more sinister going on. The forbidden sexuality is hidden in closets, bedrooms, showers, bath tubs, pools and cars- yet made visible to the voyeur inside of us, watching her. While she sings " I´ve got to make a play, to make my lover stay, so what would an angel say, the devil wants to know" she admits her guilt and deception for the first time. The final images of the floating dish detergent are an all-too obvious metaphor to be discussed and the video ends with Apple lying on top of sleeping men while turning her gaze away from us, ashamed. Although the lyrics of the song "Criminal" suggest Fiona is on control of the sexual situations laid out for the audience, the visual imagery of the video imply otherwise.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Next year´s Oscar-movies?

Oscar-nominations for this year have been announced. The list was pretty much what was to be expected, on the basis of the Golden Globes. But I´m not interested in that now. Personally I am already looking at next year, and eying future possible hits. Here is a list of movies that catched the industry´s attention so far at this year at Sundance movie festival. More to come as the festival progresses!

"The Future" by Miranda July tells the tale of awkward people in love and an adopted cat. Music by the legendary Jon Brion. The plot outline does not promise much, but festival-goers seem to love this quirky and strange movie.

"Salvation Boulevard" by George Ratliff. The cast is full of star names: Jennifer Connolly, Pierce Brosnan, Marisa Tomei, Ed Harris, Greg Kinear. This is a comedy/thriller about a born-again Christian escaping from the fundamentalist members of his mega-church. The storyline seems very promising and current, considering the state of religion in North America these days.

"Martha Marcy May Marlene" , film directed by T. Sean Durkin has gained a lot of buzz mainly because of the lead performance by Elizabeth Olsen (yes, the sister of those cape-dressing twins). Olsen plays a young girl trying to rebuild her life after fleeing from a religious cult. Another great topic of the times.

Another appealing movie about religion. If Sarah Palin and the tea-party have done anything, is putting this topic of God back into our radar. "The Ledge" by Mathew Chapman deals with an atheist arguing and then fighting with a conservative Christian. Homophobia is also present. Liv Tyler and Patrick Wilson star in this film.

And the stream of religious topics wont´t end! What on earth is going on over here! (I blame it on Fox News, the source of reliable and unbiased public information) This time it is "The Red State" by Kevin Smith, and it is horror. A group of teens come in contact with mid-western religious fanatics, and all hell gets loose. The movie has not gained as much buzz as Smith´s crafty idea to self-promote and self-distribute the movie with a 12-city roadshow tour. He plans to utilize his 1.7 million Twitter followers, rent theaters and charge premium ticket prizes in order to pay back his financiers before the official October release date. Hmm.

Think this theme is done and used for this year´s Sundance? Think again. Vera Farmiga stars in and directs "Higher Ground", where a woman struggles with her faith after spending 20 years with a cult. Farmiga has gotten praise for her directorial debut and she is sure to be watched in the future.

"Margin Call" by J.C. Chandor was the most anticipated movie on this year´s Sundance. This piece has an impressive cast  with names such as Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, Mary McDonnell and Jeremy Irons, along others. "Margin Call" retells the story of the early stages of the 2008 financial meltdown over a 24-hour period in an investment bank. So far the reviews for this movie have been mixed. The first scene is supposedly brilliant, but the rest of the movie lacks the promise. It is safe to say that between now and October 2011 (which is the official release date) anything could happen. Films are known to be even re-edited after the initial pre-screenings at the festival circuit. People might also have high expectations for this touchy topic and how to handle it. Director Chandor has decided to approach this theme with a heavily dialogue-filled angle, which might not please the audiences or turn out to be commercially lucrative.

Even Al Pacino cannot make it a success every time. "The Son of No One" starring Pacino, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta and Juliette Binoche was reportedly so weak, that the screening on Monday resulted in "an exodus" of people all though the screening. Hardly anyone (who was left) applauded afterwards.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Killer-Barbie on the Loose

I´m not quite sure what boys do with those toy soldiers, when playing with them as a kid, but I do remember vividly those elaborate stories and backgrounds we girls built for Barbies. Bold and the Beautiful has nothing to offer in comparison to little girls when it comes to soap opera plot lines. The set ups, the dresses, the shoes, the hair... In fact, I think I do have some female friends who still own their Barbie-dolls and display them like antique on their book shelfs. (Mine were given away behind my back- I know, I´m full of bitterness.
So traumatic.)

While the tales were always full of females, there was only one or two males in the game. Barbie-dolls were much more desired to get from the shop than the boring Ken-dolls. So inevitably, the plays turned into strange depictions of a "Land of Amazons" where the few guys ended up assisting the female queens. Poor fellows.
Here are some interesting images by Mariel Clayton, showing Barbie as a sort of "female Dexter", giving her very best in serial killing to the wobbly Ken. Scenes are disturbing, hope you don´t lose your sleep over it!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy hugging Day!

Yes, it is the annual hugging day, what ever that means. So give your fellow citizen a hug! Give yourself a hug!

Don´t go to extremes, through. Like this unknown woman over at Vancouver. A man was peacefully sleeping in his bed, when he woke up to the sight of a naked strange woman climbing to his bed. A friendly neighbour.(This is slightly more than borrowing a cup of sugar. Or offering a cup of yours.) Now, some of you men (and women) might be thrilled about this. I understand that. Usually one has to get out of the house to find company. This man should be happy, he is drawing in the skirts even when asleep. Quite the ladies´ man, or what?

Poor fellow. He called the cops. Apparently the woman was intoxicated and passed out. Some men just can´t handle this. When the going gets serious, the weak leave the court.

"Looking for identification in a purse lying amid the pile of her clothes beside the bed, they determined she lived in the same building, but on another floor."

She must have been mortified after waking up from her alcohol-induced haze.

Or... There is no explanation how she was able to fit her key into the lock of another apartment. Or how she was able to get undressed and in to the unfamiliar bed in that state. A lot of coordination is needed for that kind of functioning. Maybe there is more to the story?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

First shots: Edgar Allan Poe -the movie

Here are the first shots from the upcoming psychological thriller (my favorite kind) "The Raven". 
The film entails the story of the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), one of the first adapters of the detective-fiction  genre, brilliant poet and master of Gothic romance. His life was also one of macabre horror stories: he married his 13-year- old cousin, suffered alcoholism and mental illness. Oh, the writers. One has to live the life to write about it? Is it old-fashioned to say that out loud?

John Cusack is playing the title role. Interesting choice. Can´t wait to see the end result, though. He took these pictures on the set, in Serbia.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

"The Black Swan" and the Paradox of duality

"The Black Swan" by Darren Aronofsky is an intense melodramatic  psychological thriller, describing the arduous world of ballet, where nothing is ever good enough- perfection is an agreed, yet coveted illusion.

The movie centers around a soft-spoken ballerina Nina(played by Natalie Portman) working in a fictitious New York ballet company, where she has pursued her dream of a lead role for years. Despite being 28, she looks and lives the part of a child, living with her  over-bearing mother in a cell-like cramped apartment. She sleeps in a little girl´s pink “princess room” full of stuffed animals and a music box by her bed, playing Tchaikovsky´sSwan Lake”

Ballet is a world of unthinkable self-discipline: years of rigorous exercises and sacrifices amidst constant criticism and fears of physical injuries ending it all in a second. Training takes precedence over everything else and normal life outside of the art form is neglected. The hard work is constantly emphasized for the film´s audience: the crackled sounds of the feet, heavy breathing, sweat and tears are showed and heard in excessive detail.  Nina´s life is  and has been about ballet- there is little room for her own wishes, as she is aiming for what her mother failed to accomplish after getting pregnant with her- being a star ballerina.

The ballet company´s authoritarian art director Thomas (played by the magnificent Vincent Cassel) announces the season´s new project: “Swan Lake” with a new raw edge, “visceral and real”. Thomas treats the dancers as amusing chess pieces; he carelessly tosses aside the older prima ballerina Beth (Winona Ryder) for some new blood to bring in audience. It is obvious that he has slept with Beth, and the ease he exercises in touching and harassing the young dancers suggests that his position of power has corrupted him of guilt.

When Lily (Mila Kunis), a new dancer from San Francisco, arrives to the company, Nina becomes fascinated by her. Lily is everything Nina is not:  bold, loud, experienced in life and unapologetic. Nina fears her, covets her strength and fantasizes about her. At times the sexual fantasies suggest she might be homosexual. Impresario Thomas suggests she should dance more like Lily; not with just technique but with a feeling. Nina can master the “White Swan” but not the “Black Swan” of the story. Otherwise the star role would be automatically hers. This presents a dilemma: how to remain in her comfortable virginal role of a child imposed by her mother, yet please the demands of the art (Thomas)?

Tchaikovsky’s “The Swan Lake” originates from Russian folk tales and depicts the story of a princess (Odette) turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer. By day, she is a swan and nighttime she morphs back into a beautiful woman. Only true love can rescue her from turning permanently into swan form. Young prince Siegfried catches a glimpse of the princess and immediately falls in love. Later the sorcerer tricks him, however, by presenting his own evil daughter Odile  to the prince, and as Odile resembles strikingly Odette, the prince falls for her. Later he realizes his mistake, but it is too late, he is forced to marry the evil Odile. Heartbroken Odette jumps into the lake.

Nina is determined and dedicated to her craft, and therefore begins to pursue “the darker side” her director is asking her to show in dancing. She plays and experiments with drugs, alcohol and flirting while on a night out with Lily. While Thomas tries to force himself on her, she bits him. Surprised, Thomas gives her the main role of the “Swan Lake”. Everything is not well, though. The pressure to change and emerge from her safe cocoon of a “childwoman” result in evil twins and doppelgängers in the mirrors, subways, paintings and shadows.  As Nina strives for perfection in her dancing, her mental stability (if there ever was any) begins to falter.

While striving for perfection and disciplining her body, Nina is constantly aware and scared of the limits. Wounds, rashes and blood scare her, the example of Beth, former prima ballerina replaced for being old becomes a source of horror in her visions. After a lifetime dedicated for the pursuit of perfection in ballet, nothing is left for Beth, and she attempts suicide. The sight of Beth on a hospital bed immobile and badly injured is horrific- an open wound, an abjection which must be denied.

The incestuous relationship Nina shares with her mother does not leave room for adulthood or emerging sexuality. Her virginal and fragile self begins to pave way for the “Black Swan”, an aggressive and sensual woman which threatens the status quo. Signs of self-harm are visible and audible from the start. Nina vomits, cuts and scratches herself.  Aronofsky does not make the metamorphosis seem easy, as it never is. Some of the cuts on her body seem to emerge on their own and disappear. It is a metonymy of the cut that goes deeper, within her mind. It cannot be erased or concealed, at least not for long.

As the opening night approaches, the pressure to master her role as the “Swan queen” intensifies. The fears of replacement grow, evil mirror twin torments Nina and Thomas turns into something else than a plain art director. He becomes the Father, who calls her “her little princess”; the same words her mother has used of her. The quest for perfection and control of dual roles, both as “White swan” and “ Black Swan” weigh on her sanity. As Nina finally succeeds to drive the Mother out of her space(room) and reclaim her independence, she has a vision of her legs breaking under her. The traumatic experience carries on to the stage, as she hallucinates stabbing her evil twin/Lily. The removal of the Other is impossible without hurting the First. At the end of the show, she realizes having hurt herself, and the bleeding wound becomes visible to everyone.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bitesize Pops : "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro"

After my latest grim posting, I figured it is time to lift up the mood. For now.
I have lately been getting into Hunter S. Thompson´s collected writings. My oh my, the man was a serious loose cannon. Constantly in trouble, intoxicated and high whenever and wherever. Kind of like the character of "Hank Moody" in the Showtime series "Californication". The new season? Not convinced, not yet.
It takes a lot to please my taste. So here we go.

Japanese scientists have a party, get drunk, spill the drinks -and by accident find out that the partymix-booze also induces superconductivity. Cheers!

Contrary to popular gossip, Facebook is not shutting down on March 15. Although it would be interesting to see how people would react -yes,  I am looking at you, Face-a-holics. Still eagerly waiting to see what happens with the "alternative" facebooks, such as Diaspora.

Music influences our brain the same way as cocaine. But it has to be our favorite tunes. I knew this. Try as I may, German schlagers won´t do it for me. Even in the dark. Apparently the dopamine level increases (while listening to music) varied from 6-21 % depending on the test subject. Which proves that some of us can get more high than others. Wonderful.

Google co-founder Larry Page buys a $45  million dollar super-yacht, to join his fighter jet. "The adventure boat" can carry a helicopter, but fits only 10 guests. So now you know where to go if he invites your over.

In need of a new hangout? Gaius Baltar´s former  crib is free for taking. Beautiful scenery, ocean front views, 4000 sq.ft., large wrap-around balconies with hot tub. Yes people, that tub. Near Whistler in British Columbia. The rent is only $4350 CAD, which is reduced from the original 4800. Hmm, no takers for this amazing opportunity to live like the man himself? I am suspecting that the beautiful blonde robot does not come with the house, though. Don´t know who Gaius is/was? Then this post is not for you.

In case you have not heard yet, The History Channel killed the highly anticipated eight-part miniseries "The Kennedys". It has been shopped around, but nobody touches it. Why? Because it is the Kennedys, and here is the story on how the family persuaded the network to bury the already filmed product. Great eyeopener for those in the dark on how power works. Even though the family does not have a member in the elective office anymore, after Patrick J. Kennedy, they still have influence. Interestingly it was the women of the family behind the pulling of the plug, as it is the men of that clan who make up all the dirty laundry. Need not go into detail, I think we all know.

PJ Harvey is releasing new stuff on February 25th. I know a lot people still regard her early recording, "Rid of Me" from 1993 the best . I still prefer "Stories from the city, stories from the sea" (2000).

Courtney Love´s erratic, strange, absurd yet entertaining Twitter feed is no more. As I commented on earlier, her bizarre pictures in states of various undress and levels of intoxication have charmed us for quite some time now, but it appears an unfortunate case of a lawsuit stopped this train from moving. Rest in peace, CourtneyLoveuk.

Trent Reznor is responsible for the score of the upcoming American remake on "The Girl with the dragon tattoo". My interest level for this unholy cooking shot up immediately; I suppose I have shared my opinions on that earlier. I do hope it is better that what he did with "The Social Network". Well, there is always The Downward Spiral, which I love.

For last, let´s see some images from that up-for-grabs house over at Vancouver:


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who kills our birds?

It began last month in Arkansas, with dead birds and fish. Over 3000 dead or dying birds were dropping from the skies all over celebrating people in the town of Beebe (echoing Babel) at new year´s eve. The experience must have resembled that of "The Birds" (1963), except the birds are not angry anymore. Not over the chemicals and toxins being dumped to the nature in masses, not for the fireworks being shot to the air for our brief entertainment. Maybe they are just plain giving up. This is no game of "Angry birds". And other animals are following in line. How about a map?

The deaths were ruled as natural, as were the following mass animal deaths around the world. The latest is from Italy, yesterday 700 turtle doves were found dead. And thousands of fish washed up on Chicago´s harbor.
Theories are abundant, everything from alien conspiracy, secret government tests and North Korean new toxic weapons to plain pollution. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one, all things being equal.

And this time science is blaming the abnormally cold weather. Oh, and some of the birds just plain ate too much. Holiday snacking gone crazy. (How dare they. Show some restraint.) No apocalypse this time, nothing to see here, go home folks (and shop, as the former president Bush would say. And did say).

Let´s see another map. Interactive! See it here. It needs some updating, feel free to add.

The whole thing eerily reminds me of pheasant hunting. Dead birds are raining down all around you, and your company is only concerned over the next tea break (with a little whiskey on the side). It is natural. Therefore we do not see anything absurd. This time we are not literally pulling the trigger on the shotgun. Or are we?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Real Life Superheroes part II :Phoenix Jones

The costumed vigilantes are on a roll. Since mentioning their good deeds the last time, the masked protectors have garnered steadily growing media attention for their visionary pursuits. After all, somebody has to do something, right?

This time the man in action is no other than Mr. Phoenix Jones, whom I mentioned earlier. Jones dresses in a golden outfit, wears a bullet-proof vest and carries a taser gun and pepper spray. He has been stabbed a few times, so he knows to protect himself. No showy form of transportation though- he has a female assistant driving him to the scene of action. Naturally, the man has to concentrate. This is no Sunday strolling in the park by the ice cream stand. Currently Jones protects the streets of Lynnwood, Washington -if you are interested in trying to catch him at work. He can also be contacted via Rain City Superhero Movement. 

Here he explains how he prevented a recent car theft. Fellows, anytime you want to give an interview, just let me know.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Overcoming Writer´s Block and John Cage

It´s a familiar feeling. Staring at the blank page, trying to come up with words that would make sense. Sing for me -and hopefully for others, as well. Here is an actual published paper by Dennis Upper: "The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of ´Writer´s Block`". The paper´s contents, from 1974, sum up the condition quite nice and neat.

Yes, that´s all folks. Nothing else to see. I assume "the block" got a strong hold on Dennis Upper, who succumbed to the beast. Just in case you missed a critical part of the paper, please read it again, in detail, over here. Reviewer A has very poignant marks on this writing. "Clearly it is the most concise manuscript I have ever seen -yet it contains sufficient detail to allow other investigators to replicate Dr. Upper´s failure."

This piece of scientific work (in all seriousness) reminds me of  "4´33"  by John Cage. If you have not experienced it in person, I highly recommend. Beats  Richard Wagner´s Siegfried, for sure. (Anyone been able to listen to it from beginning to end?)

As an experimental composer, John Cage (1912-1992) was interested in creating a soundworld out of various noises and "coincidences" around us in a modern urban society. In his time, he was either marked as a   talentless fool or a genius. This controversy marks his most famous work, "4´33". Cage used silence in his other works, as well, but never to this extent. Silence, however, is never just plain silence. Watch how the audience slowly becomes aware of being part of the performance themselves. They try to stay still and quiet -but of course there is no such thing. Even the conductor cannot hide behind his baton.Who is the object to be looked at?


Monday, January 3, 2011

You Got a Reaction

Happy new year everyone! Mine started with a minor car crash, hope yours is sliding out a bit better.
Here´s an oldie but a goodie to start 2011 with. White Stripes and Blue Orchid.
And I so want those shoes. The white heels. I can already picture myself wearing those while cleaning the floor. (And let´s leave the story at that. )

Floria Sigismondi makes beautiful imagery in her videos, but darned it, the woman has a fetish over impossible shoes on ladies. I guess we all have our kinks.