The Movie Scab Reviews: "Black Swan."
"The scab you're picking at is called execution."
--American film producer Scott Rudin.
Monkey Boy says, "Ack! Ack! Me want to go back to Blue Phillip's review of Black Swan. Ack! Ack!"
Black Swan makes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 look like best picture of the year--I say this because I thought the Harry Potter movie just might be the worst movie of 2010. To my surprise, and dismay, that is not the case. There's an even worse film: Black Swan. It takes itself so seriously--“We're making Art here, people!”--that I wished I was watching ballet and not this movie. I hate ballet and this movie made me want to watch ballet.
Now, at least with ballet you know you're watching something that lots of people around the world take seriously because it’s considered “serious art.” You may disagree with those people, as I do (I hate ballet), but still, ballet has tons of credibility behind its serious arty pretension because it’s been around for a long time (a lot longer than the movies) and it takes years and years of serious training to become a serious ballet dancer--got to respect that. A movie about ballet is not serious art. A movie about ballet is a movie, an entertainment about serious art, and by and large most people around the world, including serious people who love ballet and call it serious art, know movies about ballet are movies about ballet and not serious art or, come to think of it, the cure for cancer. Again, I hate ballet, but the thing that drove me crazy was: Black Swan made me want to watch ballet!
Ballet would have been more entertaining, fun, and original than this meat cleaver to the face—thirty seconds into the opening credits and it is clear that Natalie Portman’s character is madder than a hatter. There the guesswork ends. The meat cleaver spits your face in two with the truth. But does director Aronofsky stop there? Nope. He dumps subtlety (of any kind) because he wants us to be so sure that Portman is madder than a hatter, and so he meat cleavers us in the face over and over, and over: “She’s madder than a hatter! It’s all in her head! Get it?” What I found most shocking about this movie is that everything in it is so obvious. It made me wonder if Darren Aronfosky believes the mythology about his “serious art-house” movies: “We’re making Art here, people, and we're curing cancer!”
There isn't an original moment in this predictable, so-called “disturbing” movie—disturbing? It's disturbing that Black Swan is so bad it made me want to watch ballet! That’s disturbing!
To make matters worse, there isn’t a likeable character in the film. Now, there’s nothing in filmmaking 101 that says you have to have likeable characters in your movie. There are plenty of successful movies with unlikable protagonists and characters. The problem with Black Swan is that every character is a stereotype and every one of them is repugnant. (When Barbara Hershey came in as the “evil ballet stage mother,” I thought I was watching bad satire and laughed out loud.) Talk about feeling cheated: I’d wasted money, life, time and energy watching this golden calf to mediocrity, and to make matters worse there is no redemptive moment for any of the repugnant people at the end! Not one of them. Not that it mattered. Not that I cared. At that point I was, like, well, I can’t stand these people. I can’t stand spending time with these people. They’re mean-spirited, selfish and crazy, Aronofsky hasn’t made me care a darn about any of them, and because of the obvious meat cleavers to the face I know what’s going to happen at the end.
It isn’t my fault that I felt this way. It’s Darren Aronofsky’s fault.
Black Swan made me think of another worst movie of 2010, an un-comedy called Due Date. That film had no likeable, redeemable characters in it either. At the end of Due Date the two main characters were as unlikable as there were when it started--unchanged--and since the audience couldn’t sympathize with or root for or care for either one of them, since the audience couldn’t connect in an emotional way that mattered or meant something worthwhile, the movie fell flat and fails at the end, a comedic disaster. Well, Black Swan makes Due Date look like the smartest movie comedy made since Duck Soup, and that’s saying something.
When the end did come was I surprised, shocked, horrified, confused, sad? No! I just wanted to get out of the theatre and see some ballet!
And this brings me to, at long last, Natalie Portman’s “brave” acting job: Brave because she lets a hot chick go down on her and then she shows us her orgasm face. Wow, that takes some talent. (Porno stars do it all the time, but they’re professionals so they make it look easy.) Halle Berry did the same thing in Monsters Ball, and she did it better, longer and with Billy Bob Thornton—now that’s what I call brave—and at least Halle showed some boob! All we get in Black Swan is Portman’s worried orgasm face. Of course, she’ll be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress (because she was so brave—“We’re making Art here, people, curing cancer and bringing peace to the world!”), the same thing the Academy did for Halle, but Hollywood has a tradition of rewarding actresses who show us their orgasm faces in movies. Put a famous actress in a movie where a guy or girl goes down on her and she shows us her orgasm face and you can be sure she’ll receive a nomination. Most of the time, they don’t do that for the men. (Sean Penn got the Academy Award for best actor, but he didn’t do an orgasm face or go down on a guy in Milk, so that doesn’t count.) It’s usually reserved for the ladies. Hollywood’s orgasm face double-standard, like this typical Hollywood movie: A steaming heap of hubristic crap.
My rating: Six Irish Car Bombs with a Mind Eraser shooter, and a ticket to the ballet.