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Eclipse: Look, it's the Fight'n'Bite Hit-Squad!

Film & TvPosted by Stein Ove Lien Fri, July 02, 2010 13:07:24

In The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the soulless vampire and the shirtless werewolf team up to take them evil-doers down.

Last time we left Forks, Washington, a small town with more vegetation than you will ever see, the most famous dead man since Michael Jackson had just proposed to a woman who is roughly 90 years his junior. That man is Edward Cullen, a lean, mean Shakespeare-qouting machine with all the liveliness of someone who just celebrated his 100th birthday. Coincidentially, Edward did; he’s a healthy 109 years old, but that hasn’t stopped him from hitting on the the new sweet sixteen of Forks, Bella Swan, by hitting a car. It’s akward, as is everything in this universe. In this third installment of Stephenie Meyer’s insanely popular book series, we follow the young one and the very old one as they struggle with the same things they struggled with last time. Also, there is Jacob Black (whose birth name, contrary to popular belief, does not actually include neither “Team” nor “FTW”, I’m told) the sympathetic youngster who morphed from long-haired, good-natured gay best friend into hot-blooded, quick-witted macho man in the course of the last movie, New Moon. In that very long and ill-paced movie Mr. Black discovered that he is a werewolf, which led to dreary, heavy-handed soul-searching on beaches and jumping from cliffs, and, famously, to a lot of un-dressing of upper bodies. After Cullens modest proposal Jacob and Bella has stopped the talking and upped the non-talking, until loveable Father of Bella, Charlie, insists that she needs to spend more time with other people than the aforementioned thespian from another century. Then action starts.

For more bantering and a glimpse of backstory, check out the New Moon review here.

Eclipse essentially follows every plotline from the former movies, and adds a hell of a lot of fighting: You are excused if you remember zero of the reason why Bella still is being haunted by the redheaded she-pire Victoria, because neither do I. I think has got beef with our heroine because Edward killed her lover at the end of the first film. Still alive and kicking too, is the strange tribal fight between Edwards vampires and Jakes werewolves, based on some semi-religious old culture clash involving quite a lot of bad feelings. And let’s not forget the Volturi’s, my dear! They, being the upper class watchdogs of the vampire world, are back on track, committed to checking out whether the Cullen clan has sinned against the unwritten rules of vampire etiquette by being friendly to a human being (mostly Bella) without subsequently sucking all of the blood out of her. All this is further elaborated upon in Eclipse, plus a few, new plot twists. Most notably, Seattle has seen a rapid increase in street violence and murder, which we know are due to the unexpected rise of a new class of rookie vampires, egged on by Victoria. This unruly bunch of blood-sucking newbies is, we are told by boring, very scary Cullen brother Jasper (who looks younger than Edward, but has outlived him by a margin of hundreds of years), has not yet learned to tame the bloodlust, and is therefore a giant threat to Bella and the rest of the gang. Stupid set up notwithstanding, this opens up some interesting plot possibilities, as it involves the one thing that the soulless vampire and the shirtless werewolf agrees on; the importance of Bella being safe. In vintage unconvincing manner, the two fighting clans, with backing from elder statesmen and longtime hatemongers Sam (W) and Carlisle (V), set up truce for the sole purpose of saving one person whose not even part of the conflict in any meaningful way. Jake, fresh off from declaring his love for Bella for the 27th time, and Edward, fresh off trying to con said girl into marrying yet again, team up to bring that band of wacko vampire-emos down! Yeah!

We’ll leave the rest up to you to find out.

I find Eclipse to be a far better movie than New Moon in surprisingly many ways. In my review of the former, I said New Moon was “great fun”. After seeing the next chapter, I know realize it really wasn’t, it was just entertainingly grandiose. Eclipse on its part has done wise moves on most of the more horrendous choice from the last outing, including stepping up the speed considerably. That suits the more action-packed plot fine, as it creates room for the formerly dreaded emotional sit-downs to be something else than too long sleeping pills between the extensive fight scenes. As the one out of maybe three guys who have seen Eclipse on the opening day, I am still not sold on the fighting sequences. The CGI effects are cool but showy and the energy is well built up, but I still can’t get my head around what is happening. Can these soulless things die? Do the wolfpack (that’s Jacob and a dozen other sparsely clad teenagers when shifted into all-out werewolf-mode) do more harm than good? And why, why is it that every vampire-like creature in Edward Cullens way seems to evaporate and die simply by being shoved gently away? Young Cullen himself needs some heavy beating to go down, but the rookies hit the ground and die in an instant, almost every time. Damned thing, that rigged game.

But rest assured, you uneased fan of horrible acting and mental vacations, not everything has changed. This is still reliably Twilighty, my friend. Lautner, now ready to take a commanding role on screen, does so by out-Pattinsoning Robert Pattinson almost from the start. In New Moon, especially Pattinson’s acting was mind numbingly bad. It still is, but with Lautner at center stage, it’s no longer “special”, since they are both there to provide the badness. And boy, they do. This is layed out in deliciously, probably unconsciously funny detail in a short scene in which Kristen Stewart’s Bella smacks Lautner’s Jacob over his forehead after an event thou shalt be spared for. Reaction? Miss Swan’s hand is literally broken, evidently because He Who Has No Shirt is so strong that trying to harm him has the same effect as to try to break a plank with your bare hands. The clever irony is all to fitting to overlook, of course (you could arrange the words “fit” and “look” in a slightly different way to create yet another, wholly valid segue into finally understanding why troves of 11 year olds and gay men keep coming to these events, but never mind): What a wooden performance. Hah!

Save for all the insulting lack of real acting, there’s no reason at all not to enjoy this one. It’s a pre-packaged thrill for me, you and everyone you know, so long as everyone you know are female and very young. Or if they simply like looking at pretty people, listening to cool musical brands lending their credibility to a pleasurable detail, or want some of that kicking or biting with their popcorn. Then we all go our merry way, and forget all about it. Time well spent, indeed, but now let’s get down to business and solve some real problems, shall we? Oh, wait.

OK. I finally get it. Team Edward vs Team Jacob is shaping up to be the defining either-you-are-with-us-or-you-are-against-us-question of this summer, troubling everyone from likely Supreme Court judges to the everyone you know-crowd. And it’s even woven in to the film’s actual plot with elegance and ease, with that already oft-quoted, double-edged “Let’s face it – I’m hotter than you”-pun! Then let’s just agree: Edward Cullen is whiny, pale and boring. I’m with Wolfie.

Now I plan to re-join real life.



The Twilight Saga: Eclipse premiered June 30

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Stolthet og fordom

Film & TvPosted by Stein Ove Lien Sun, March 28, 2010 22:24:42

Har fiksjonen tatt rotta på virkeligheten?

Denne uken startet TV2 Zebra sendingene fra den niende (!) sesongen av Simon Cowells monsterpopulære American Idol. I Norge, hvor vi for lengst har blitt vant til å betrakte sangkonkurransen som distinkt 2000-talls, kan det virke merkelig at Idol i det hele tatt fortsatt eksisterer, men i USA er dette fortsatt a big fucking deal, for å sitere landets visepresident. Det amerikanske TV-markedet er ikke lenger nok det kuleste bordet i kantinen, nemlig; over absolutt hele linjen rapporterer de store selskapene (ABC, NBC, CBS og Fox, samt den hensyknende liksom-kanalen CW) om seerflukt og idetørke. For bare fem år siden leverte Desperate Housewives, House, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy og flere andre opp mot og over 20 millioner seere hver uke, men nå er det kun Jerry Bruckheimers CSI-franchise og seinblomstreren NCIS som holder fortet. Og helt øverst i fortet, der står American Idol. Fortsatt. Ved siden av Superbowl-finalen er talentshowet ubestridt som USAs eneste virkelig nasjonale samlingspunkt i fjernsynet. Etter ni år.

Nevnte Cowell fortjener en hel del av kreden, selvsagt. Ikke bare er det han og den notoriske pengemaskinen Simon Fuller som i sin tid revitaliserte syngespillet i britisk fjernsyn, før de tok fesjået over dammen. Det er også Cowell som, sammen med den karismatiske, kortvokste studioverten Ryan Seacrest, har stått som garantisten for seriens uimotståelige miks av nakne, kommersielle ambisjoner, legitimt talent og følelsesporno. Showets dynamikk var urokkelig i årevis: Seacrest og den bløthjertede dommer Paula Abdul skaffet sympati for syngende ungdom X, mens Cowells britiske arroganse sørget for å bryte ned samme på direkten. Cowell ble Fienden – deltakeren og de godmodige sjelene i programledertemaet ble folkefronten mot kynismen. Alle ble glade. Cowell ble dessuten latterlig rik.

Så rik, skulle det vise seg, at han til sist ble større enn showet selv. Cowell har de siste årene sydd sammen sine arbeidsdager slik at han kan kombinere dommerjobbenIdol med samme funksjon på velkjente X Factor i Storbritannia, og i sommer kunngjorde han at hans tid på Idol snart er forbi. Tiden har kommet for å flytte X Factor til amerikanske skjermer neste høst, og den niende sesongen blir dermed Cowells siste. Som så mye annet mannen har gjort, var det et PR-messig vådeskudd av ren genialitet – det sørget for at den Store Amerikanske Samtalen gjennom den tidlige høsten var nødt til å handle om hva som nå ville skje med programmet og mannen. Det har skjedd før: Da Abdul forlot Idol under nøye orkestrerte kontroverser i fjor sommer, var lønsjbordsnakken knyttet til hennes eventuelle erstatter i ukevis. Det er bedre reklame enn noe annet, selvfølgelig, og det var ikke så nøye at det nyeste tilskuddet, Kara DioGuardi, ikke fungerte særlig godt i sin første sesong. Lærdommen er tatt, og denne sesongen er USAs nest hyggeligste lesbiske talkshowprogramleder, Ellen DeGeneres, plassert som stolfyll ved siden av Cowell, DioGuardio, Randy Jackson og verdens mest prangende Coca Cola-glass. For virkelig å drepe sitronen før all saften er ute ble stjerner som Victoria Beckham, Missy Elliott og Joe Jonas hanket inn som bisittere under de innledende audition-rundene, før Ellen inntok podiet. Resultat: De beste åpningstallene på mange år.

Lytt: Kim Masters og Greg Gelfand om hvordan Idol produseres

American Idol
er selvfølgelig ikke sterkere enn stjernene det produserer, uansett hvor sterkt Cowell-faktoren står. Konseptet har levert noen stående eksempler for ettertiden i flere land, men det begynner å bli en stund siden (se Nilsen, Kurt; Young, Will; Clarkson, Kelly). Noen skaper seg en karriere basert på personlighet eller andre styrker heller enn Idol-statusen (Lambert, Adam, Hudson, Jennifer), andre blir eksklusivt amerikanske døgnfluefenomener (se nesten alle finalister, for eksempel Archuleta, David; Allen, Kris). Og, som vi så smertelig vet – ikke alle takler presset ved å få for mye oppmerksomhet over natten (se Rybak, Alexander; Bratland, Erlend; Boyle, Susan). Mye sutrete og uinteressant er skrevet om hvordan talentshowene har endret måten stjerner skapes på, og hvor lite som skal til, hvis man altså ser bort fra selvtillit, stå-på-vilje, talent, hardt arbeid, sterk psyke, fokus, gode venner, musikalitet, sjarme, utholdenhet, sangstemme, personlighet, flaks og…ja, nettopp. Men det er sant at veien til stjernene ikke nødvendigvis går via skolebenken eller den tradisjonelle utdannelsen lenger. Nettopp derfor er to av det siste årets fremste ungdomsfrierier, kult-TV-serien Glee og fjorårets nyinnspilling av Alan Parkers dansefilm Fame, interessante. De viser veien tilbake til den tradisjonelle berømmelsen, mens de blir omfavnet av barn som ikke er vant til å ferdes i dette terrenget.

Lytt: Jay Brannan om Idol-samfunnet

Fame er basert på Alan Parkers kompromissløse musikkfilm fra 1980, en musikal med sangnumre så kjente at generasjoner av skoleungdom senere har fått sitt eget forhold til den, særlig gjennom tusenvis av amatøroppsetninger i grendalag og storbyer over hele Vesten. 2009-versjonen, som gikk på norske kinoer sist sommer, holder seg tilsynelatende nokså strengt til originalmaterialet: Vi følger en gjeng unge, søkende artistspirer på New York City High School of Performing Arts, som alle drømmer om Broadway, Hollywood eller en distribusjonskanal. Som i 1980-versjonen er filmen strengt oppdelt etter hvert av de fire skoleårene, og meningen er at vi skal varmes og imponeres av kidsas harde arbeid og aldri hvilende omsorg & broderskap. Det skjer rett nok aldri – til det er Kevin Tancharoens nyversjon altfor sjablongaktig og aldri, aldri engasjerende – men i den grad Fame overhodet fungerer i oppdatert utgave, er det forbløffende nok som hyllest til den samme arbeidsetikken som story og skuespill ellers gjør bruk av hele verktøykassen for å undergrave. Musikalen er et vitnesbyrd om at kunst og kultur fortsatt kan være viktig også for dem som driver med det, i en tid hvor vi normalt kun tenker på den slags som moro som eksisterer for oss, publikum. Det er poenger som trenger å formuleres på film, men Tancharoens film mislykkes på nesten alle plan i forhold til Parkers originalverk. Viktigst er det selvsagt at musikken er hjerteskjærende grufull – veien fra Irene Caras (senere sett som røff, dansende sveiserinne i Flashdance) Oscar-vinnende versjon av tittelmelodien til nåtidens retningsløse katastrofe er vanskeligere å svelge enn at alle skarpe kanter er skåret vekk. Fame ved 80-årenes ankomst fokuserte på rasespørsmål, fattigdom, ensomhet, homofili og motkultur. 2009? En eneste, overbeskyttende far. Den vibrerende sosiale kritikken er anemisk og feig, eventuelt ikke-eksisterende, antagelig til Parkers grenseløse irritasjon. Likevel har Fame tjent ålreit med penger, og utover høsten har filmens forsiktige gjenintroduksjon av kunstneren som kunstner fått solid drahjelp fra det mest humanistiske stykke TV-fiksjon du har sett på ganske lenge.

Alan Parker om Fame og resten av karrieren

Fox’ massivt suksessfulle storsatsning Glee har gjort mer for de kunstneriske fagenes virketrang og statusoppgradering enn noe annet kulturfenomen, i hvertfall i årsklassene som har vokst fra High School Musical. Attitude har kalt det The gayest television show ever; (som redaksjonen i det britiske magasinet må vite er en løgn enn så lenge de er fullt klar over at BBCs andre sesong av oppvekstdramaet Beautiful People lever og har det bra, men glem det for øyeblikket) Vanity Fairs Brett Berk omtaler det som like High School Musical, but even gayer; Guardian velger seg bildet like a great big scoop of television-flavoured ice cream (with sprinkles). Kort fortalt er Glee historien om den frustrerte spansklæreren som finner ny livsgnist ved å overta skolekoret, og ved tilfeldigheter ender opp med å blande den triste gjengen av sosiale misfits man kan forvente av en slik lavstatus-gruppe (her er det nok å velge blant for
hver eneste lille utgruppe i det amerikanske high school-miljøet; den
afroamerikanske jenta, rullestolbrukeren, den motebevisste fjærpennen
alle vet er homo, alle slags innvandrerminoriteter) sammen med
fotballspillere, duskedamer og andre som normalt er vant til å spille
på et helt annet nivå på den sosiale rangstigen. Scenen er altså satt
for grundige leksjoner om muligheter, ambisjoner og medmenneskelighet. Den lettbeinte blandingen av lun komikk, tydelig dramatisk struktur og kløktig bruk av nytt og gammelt materiale fra Den Store Amerikanske Sangboken har sikret en umåtelig bred appell, også i grupper man kanskje ikke hadde regnet med at skulle kaste seg på, all den feminine buzzen tatt i betraktning.

Brett Berk om hvor Glee bør gå nå

Der Fame i dag altså dytter de sosiale problemer unna parketten ved alle ledige høve, er de unge sangspirenes personlige utfordringer helt plassert på første rad i Glee. Noen klare berøringspunkter finnes likevel, og de kolliderer tilsynelatende med den stjerne-ethos som kommer til syne i glossy produksjoner som Cowells American Idol. Ta en av Glees konflikter som eksempel: Den spedbygde sopranen Kurt, som sliter med å få omgivelsene og familien til å akseptere at han er homofil, havner i en personlig kamp med den ambisiøse, selverklærte superstjernen om retten til å fremføre den sentimentale musikalsvisken Defying Gravity i en forestilling. Striden deler vannene i kormiljøet etter vennskapsbånd, og for å begrave stridsøksen arrangerer klubbens lærer Will Schuester en diva-off – en direkte konkurranse der de to sangerne skal kjempe om retten til solonummeret ved å fremføre låten for gruppen. Episoden, og nummeret, understreker elementer som ofte er synlige også i Idol – ambisjoner, ønsket om å stå alene i rampelyset, gjerne understøttet av sukkersøte bak-scenen-reportasjer med programvert Seacrest – men serien legger til seg et sympatisk blikk som går litt forbi sjablongene talentkonkurranse-formen normalt har på Idol. Der ”virkelighetens” utøvere blir blendet av sjansen til Gjennombrudd, drives de fiksjonaliserte deltakerne av en lyst til å bevise sitt eget verd og en sjanse til å vise omverdenen at de kan takle oppgaven. Til slutt gir Kurt Rachel oppdraget når han, med overlegg, sprekker i siste strofe, fordi hun har overbevist ham om at det betyr mer for henne. På veien for Kurt utfordret sin egen plass i korgjengen, og oppnår for første gang full oppbakning fra sin arbeiderklassefar, som i løpet av episoden går fra unnvikende aksept for sønnens fritidsaktiviteter og nyvunne identitetsmessige selvsikkerhet til å kjempe side om side med ham. Alle vinner, men ikke fordi de får stjernestatusen; de vinner fordi prosessen med å forme et personlig og kunsnerisk uttrykk gjør at de lærer mer om seg selv og Verden.

På samme, i blant litt klamme vis, understrekes også den skvisen som en gruppe som et kor eller en skoleklasse alltid er i. For selv om elevene i Fame er venner og støttespillere, og ungene i Glee club beskytter hverandre mot trakassering og mobbing, kan de ikke skygge unna at ikke alle kan lykkes. I Fame understrekes dette ved at en av elevene plutselig, i sitt fjerde skoleår, får beskjed om at han ikke har det som skal til (og påfølgende uten særlig motivasjon eller glød prøver å ta sitt eget liv); i Glee er rivaliseringen om oppmerksomheten ofte tydelig mellom divaen Rachel og Aretha Franklin-pastisjen Mercedes. Men uansett bindes de porøse ungdommene sammen av felles, ytre fiender – skeptiske foreldre som nekter for at en karriere innen kulturen er trygg nok eller god nok for deres barn i Fame, den sarkastiske og nedbrytende cheerleader-jernkvinnen Sue Sylvester i Glee, eller basketballpappaen som nekter sin spretne, syngende sønn å bli musikalstjerne fordi det ikke svarer til kjønns- eller karrieresynet hans i High School Musical, for den saks skyld. Det binder de unge håpefulle i et fellesskap mot en vegg av skepsis og misforståtte intensjoner, som er sterkere enn det oppstyltede skjebnedramaet av selvbekreftelse som Idol og andre talentkonkurranser kan tilby når produsentene har funnet deltakere som er helt fremme i danseskoene.

I kampen mellom og mot stolthet og fordommer som knytter seg til musikk og dans som legitime kulturuttrykk for unge mennesker med eksponeringsvilje og skapertrang, fungerer alle våre tre eksempler som beviser på at man ikke nødvendigvis trenger å bortforklare det lenger. At en serie som Glee, en prime time-musikal på en nettverkskanal, i det hele tatt kan lages, viser at sjangeren er på vei til en fullstendig rehabilitering, i andrebølgen etter HSM og Mamma Mia!. Det kan vise seg å være viktigere for den amerikanske TV-hverdagen enn at X Factor kommer til New York.
American Idol vises på TV2 Zebra tirsdager klokken 20:00
Glee vises på TV2 Zebra lørdager klokken 20:00
Fame (2009) ble sluppet på DVD i Norge 17. februar
Fame (1980) finnes på DVD

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Why The 'Mad Men' Crowd Should Stand Up For 'A Single Man'

Film & TvPosted by Jørgen Lien Thu, March 11, 2010 01:50:46

In an ideal world, every new movie could be consumed in a vacuum. It’s what I love about film festivals. There, I have the chance to watch movies without having read anything about them beforehand; no reviews, no box-office reports, maybe not even a list of movies the lead has been in previously. But most movie experiences aren’t like that. In the real world, I had read scores of reviews about Tom Ford’s A Single Man before I ever got the chance to see it myself, and as much as I didn’t want to, they influenced how I approached the movie.

Here’s what I had learned: Even from reviewers who generally liked it, A Single Man, about George Falconer (Colin Firth) who, mourning his lover Jim (Matthew Goode), comtemplates suicide, was met with a specific strain of criticism. Many critics basically accused it of trying to divert attention from its emotional core by painting a almost pedantically precise and visually stunning portait of life in the American middle class in the early 1960s. At the very least, it was accused of letting such visual artistry getting in the way of the broader story. Other people may be able to completely ignore such criticism when watching a movie, but I’m not. If anything, it speaks to what a great movie A Single Man is, that it still found it to be absolutely excellent.

In a way, I would have hoped that these critics hadn’t known the director of the movie when they reviewed it.* I get a sense that, perhaps without even thinking about it, they somehow set out looking for signs that Tom Ford, Man of Aesthetics, was imposing himself on the movie. For another first-time director, this may have been hailed as a surprisingly original visual style and proof that he has a good grasp of how to make the aesthetics reinforce a movie’s message, but for many critics, here it’s a sign of the exact opposite. It’s like they want to ask if he only knows how to make movies the Tom Ford way without acknowledging that they are in fact criticizing something that they might have hailed if it had not originated from his particualr vision. Tom Ford is not imitating anything or anyone, he’s creating something new out of our previous perceptions of how the 1960s is supposed to look.

And even if the movie hadn’t worked emotionally or narratively (which it does), such a criticism risks reducing some of the absolutely riveting performances in this movie. Colin Firth, one of the most versatile male actor in current British cinema, paints a truly gripping portrait of the grief-stricken George. In one of the directorial choices most often commented on, and not seldomly criticized, Ford shifts seamlessly between several color filters, to change the mood and perception of a particular scene. Retrospective scenes with George and his lover, and also between George and a student (Nicholas Hoult) who takes a particular interest in him, are pratically glowing with color and life, but if the conversation takes a different turn they may just as quickly return to the default style of grainy blandness. Leaving aside that this in my opinion actually adds more, not less, depth to these scenes, they would not have worked had it not been for Firth’s immediate presence. When we are able to read a subtext into these scenes that some may find a little to transparent (like George’s lecture about fear of minorities and how it’s impossible to know who people really are; playing off our knowledge that he’s gay), it’s because the acting is so fine-tuned that we don’t even really notice that it’s there.

This whole discussion reminds of the critical reception for Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road (2008), another underrated movie written off by many critics as an emotionally cold dissection of 1950s style. It’s OK if you guys think both of these movies lack emotional depth, although I disagree fervently. But why do I get the sense that it’s the aesthetics themselves that are the problem? I don’t know, of course, but I wouldn’t be very surprised if the critics who are criticizing A Single Man and Revolutionary Road do not at the same time relish the visual virtuosity of Mad Men (a show I like very much). Again, it comes down to a question of whether you think Tom Ford connects the emotional dots or not, but why have I yet to see a passionate defense of A Single Man on Mad Men grounds? Is this really such a cheap comparison?

In an illuminating recent opinion piece for Attitude, Mark Smith argued that Tom Ford and the production company on purpose had undersold the extent to which A Single Man is a gay story, and this may in part explain why some people have found the emotional core of the story hard to grasp. This movie is a lot of things, but I agree with Mark that more than anything it’s story about how a man is denied the the right to mourn a loved one in the same publicly accepted way that is afforded to straight people. Without losing sight of Colin Firth’s indispensable contribution to making these scenes work, two scenes in particular stand out for me. The first is a scene early in the film, in which George receives a phone call from Jim’s cousin, telling him that Jim has been killed in a car accident. We watch as George struggle to stay composed as he takes in the horrifying news, but when he is, essence, told that Jim’s family doesn’t want him there at the funeral (‘It’s just for family,’ the cousin intones), George is at the breaking point.

The second scene is between George and his life-long friend and once-girlfriend Charley (the always mesmerizing Julianne Moore). Charley, a fun-loving but self-centered woman who lives and breathes nostalgia, asks George if he ever thinks about what could have been between the two of them, “having a real relationship and kids”. When George, almost stunned, asks what she meant by that, Charley rubs it in even further by suggesting that his relationship with Jim was “really just a substitute for something else”. Even if Charley didn’t mean anything by (and judging from the way the tension is resolved, I believe she didn’t), it’s a painful scene, because it again underlines how George’s feelings are considered out of the ordinary and thus not really worthy. It further drives home Smith’s point, that to take the gay angle out of A Single Man not only is to ignore a central plot line, but also to drain it of much of its emotional power.

To play down the gay thing also means playing down the relationship between George and Kenny, the young student whose interest represent one of the few bright spots in George’s life. Having seen the movie three times, but never having read the novel, I’m still not sure whether Kenny is straight, gay or something else, but George’s sense that Kenny can see through him is what drives their relationship. Kenny is played intelligently by Nicholas Hoult (it took me a few minutes to get used to him speaking with an American accent, though), and all the little signals and the things left unsaid between them brings real ambiguity and unpredictability to the story. Kenny’s beauty is almost intimidating to George, a man so deeply grief-stricken that he, until Kenny comes along, seems to cling more to the idea of suicide than to a reluctant will to survive (as seen in a scene where George plans to shoot himself, only to find the position too uncomfortable to go through with it). That said, although Hoult is certainly beautiful enough to fit right in with the overall gorgeousness of the movie as a whole, it never feels like he’s some sort of accessory. Even if Ford’s intentions in casting him had not run deeper than that, his performance is lively enough to transcend it by a mile.

Unfortunately, the Oscar Academy seemed to agree with the critics. I suspect that Colin Firth was a runner-up for Best Actor, but the movie wasn’t even nominated in the Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress or Best Original Score categories. I’m not sure if it was Tom Ford or critics who ended up standing in the way of A Single Man, but if you ask my whether I think the experiment with ten Best Picture nominees was a success, I’d be tempted to say no, because it was not nominated. That’s how good it is.


* Many critics make Ford’s background in design an explicit point in their reviews.

Stephanie Zacharek, Salon: “[A]side from what some of the actors bring to it, “A Single Man” is less a finished, fleshed-out movie than it is a mood board, one of those collages of images and colors that designers sometimes use to help define and fine-tune the vibe they’re going after in their creative ventures.”

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “[Ford] hasn’t fully learned how to work inside the moving image plane, a space in which people and objects must be dynamically engaged rather than prettily arranged, as they occasionally are here. And at times his taste seems too impeccable, art-directed for a maximum sale, as in a black-and-white flashback that brings to mind a perfume advertisement.”

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: “The directorial debut of designer Tom Ford is art-directed within an inch of its life (…)”

Anthony Lane, The New Yorker: “Who’s in charge here, for heaven’s sake—a fashion designer? Well, yes, for “A Single Man” is the first feature to be directed by Tom Ford. (…) The film is slowed by its own beauty (…)”

Scott Foundas, The Village Voice: “Too much is never enough for fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford, whose debut feature flaunts its capital-A Artiness the way some Napoleonic gym rats flaunt their overdeveloped musculature. (…) [He has an] affection for art direction over actual direction, and for extravagant surfaces over the lower depths of meaning and emotion.”

Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer: [A]dapted from the Christopher Isherwood novel by fashion designer-turned-director Tom Ford, (…) A Single Man is too beautiful by half.”

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OSCAR LIVE: Følg snakken nå

Film & TvPosted by Stein Ove Lien Mon, March 08, 2010 01:27:57
Kollektivets skribenter livechatter om Oscarfesjået live gjennom hele natten her!

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OSCAR LIVE: De som sluknet

Film & TvPosted by Stein Ove Lien Mon, March 08, 2010 00:40:05
Dette årets Oscar-utdeling er av langt de fleste ansett som nokså kjedelig - ikke fordi de nominerte er dårligere eller kjedeligere enn ellers, men fordi det meste virker nokså avgjort på forhånd. Du finner få som mener noe annet enn at Jeff Bridges vil vinne mannlige hovedrolle for Crazy Heart, Mon'ique har hatt den ene hånden på kvinnelig birolle (Precious) i lang tid, og Inglorious Basterds-skuespilleren Christoph Waltz har fått så mange priser gjennom den laange prisseremonisesongen at hans birolle-Oscar også virker greit. Godt nok er det noe usikkerhet knyttet til om Avatar eller The Hurt Locker stikker av med hovedprisen, og Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) og Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) har delt søsterlig på godene gjennom vinteren, men det meste virker likevel lukket og låst. Da sitter seeren og fantasten igjen med to alternativer:

1. Å handikappe de som ikke nådde opp.
Tidlig i løpet, før noen hadde sett den, var forventningene store til Rob Marshalls første seriøse Oscar-forsøk siden den uventede hiten Chicago. Hans Nine kunne skilte med et nesten parodisk sterkt skuespillerfelt, sett med Oscar-øyne: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Spohia Lauren og Marion Cottilard hadde alle vunnet Oscar-statuetter tidligere, og med sin Fellini-pastisj, storslagne musikalfølelse og starpower var den regnet som noe å, vel, regne med. Synd da, at traileren var elendig, filmen nesten like dårlig og kritikermottagelsen laber. Resultatet: Penelope Cruz eneste relevante nominasjon, for birolle. Clint Eastwoods tungnemme Invictus led samme skjebne, på tross av Oscar-vennlig tema (rasepolitikk, Mandela, sport) og karakterskuespillere akademiet liker (Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon). Tom Fords estetisk utsøkte A Single Man var lenge ryktet å få en av de ti plassene i beste film-kategorien, men sprikende presseomtale gjorde at Colin Firths hovedrolleprestasjon blir eneste tunge nominasjon (hadde det ikke vært for Jeff Bridges, kunne han fort vunnet, mener New York Magazines Mark Harris). Og Peter Jacksons Alle Mine Kjære, selvsagt: Tidligere Oscar-belønnet regissør, stemningsfullt drama og fine skuespillere til tross - filmen ble sendt inn i obskuriteten av kritikerne. At Peter Jackson, Rob Marshall og Selveste Clint Eastwood blir vraket - og selskapet valgte å vente med Martin Scorseses Shutter Island til etter at nominasjonsfristen gikk ut - gjør at navnene som mangler er nesten like interessante som dem som finnes med.

2. Har du ikke noe å se opp for - sørg for å ha noe å se
Oscar-showet produseres dette året av Adam Shankman, koreografen som blant annet regisserte sjarmbomben Hairspray. Hans Twitterkonto har glødet med entusiastisk informasjon i oppløpet mot kvelden, og selv om prisene ikke ser ut til å by på de store overraskelsene, har han gjort sitt beste for å holde interessen oppe. Etter devisen om at man må sørge for å ha noe spennende å se på hvis man ikke har noe spennende å se etter har han invitert Twilight-stjernene Taylor Lautner og Kirsten Stewart til å dele ut priser, det blir 69 dansere på scenen i avslutningsnummeret, og Meryl Streep skal synge. Da får det bare være at Sascha Baron-Cohen neppe får lov til å gjøre narr av Avatar fordi James Cameron ikke har humor.

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Meet the Worst Harry Potteragon Hommage Ever

Film & TvPosted by Stein Ove Lien Tue, February 16, 2010 17:02:21

About one hour into Chris Columbus’ new teen adventure franchise in-the-failing Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, one of Mr. Jackson’s side-kicks desperately utters the phrase “Man, this is bad”.

I’d appreciated the heads up in the opening credits, numbskull.

Almost every review thus far has pointed out all of the way too obvious overlaps between the new Percy Jackson movie and those about British wiz kid Harry Potter – and not only due to the fact that the two first installments, before the maturing of both Potter and the series, were in fact directed by Columbus. In short, they’re both based on adventure novels for kids, they both have young men with scrawny black hair as their protagonists, Potter and Jackson both start out as clueless school kids with absent fathers, before realizing nothing is what it looks like, and that they both in fact have the weight of the world on their young shoulders. Cue training camp, laser quick learning of ropes & ultimate challenge between good and evil in company of new friends, (1 smart and 1 goofy, respectively).

Quick, silly recap: Percy Jackson has ADHD and dyslexia, hates school and has only one friend (with crutches, at that). His well-meaning mom keeps clinging to her abusive, sexist beer-monger excuse of a boyfriend, so there’s war at home, as well. Things change when Percy’s class take a field trip to a museum of Greek history, where Percy in a flash of understanding suddenly knows how to read the Greek alphabet. His sub teacher watches idly by as Percy gets this revelation, and starts the maddening story rollout strategy; she, who is originally some sort of strange, evil monster, tries to kill Percy and demands that he deliver back the lightning bolt she accuses him of having stolen from Zeus (who we, although not our young friend, already know is in fact is Percy’s uncle, because of an exquisitely bad prologue where human incarnations of Brothers and Old Dogs Zeus and Poseidon whisper gravely about war of the worlds unless said bolt is recaptured by evil sibling Hades. Then they theatrically burn a hole in a building for no apparent reason). Percy has of course done no such thing, but shows an impressive lack of ability to ask tough questions when under pressure. Therefore he is still the prime suspect of the great crime even after he throws his monster teacher out of a window. This forces Friend with Crutches to up the ante (and storytelling speed), and he teams up with wheelchaired Pierce Brosnan to take Percy to a training camp for sons and daughters of Gods (Demigods), the Pottery-named Half-Blood Camp. Oh, and Hades kills his mom along the way. Within minutes, miserable school kid Jackson becomes the hero of the day after winning a stupid 300-like war game with help from charismatic, Danish-looking teamster Luke and battling it out with capable sword-slinger Annabeth, the queen of Demigod campus. Then he gets bored, weeps of lack of parental care, leaves good sense and common wisdom behind and goes on a nonsensical field trip all across the US of A with Crutches and Queen to settle the torch mess with Zeus. Stupidity ensues.

If you don’t understand a living thing from the set up, I don’t blame you – you are probably better off not caring. That’s why I didn’t include other tidbits of information, like the fact that Crutches, when in Half-Blood Land, walks around on goats legs. Or that the Tepid Three are looking for green pearls to transport them closer to their goal, the Olympos. Or that Mrs. Jackson is not really dead, only used as bait by Hades to get Percy to man up for the challenge. Or… Whatever. You don’t need any more information – I’ve seen the whole thing play out, and even I don’t really get it. Worse, much worse: the Gruesome Threesome doesn’t seem to know, either. Hence Percy’s lack of curiosity for why he, of all people, is a Demigod, and why he, of all people, has to pick the fights no one else wants. When the masterplan behind the war-provoking is revealed, the logic behind is so bad you’ll be crying. Percy’s reaction? You’d think the question “why?” would pop up, right? Nah. Try something like “Um. Well, OK.” A kid with such a grueling lack of intellectual nosiness doesn’t deserve his luck.

Not everything is horrible with Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, although most, even the title, certainly is. The acting is decent. Logan Lerman, an object of love and adoration ever since his star role as leading Bobby MacCallister in 2004s short-lived but wonderful teen drama Jack & Bobby, deserves a long life on the big screen. He has shown considerable comedic skills in films like Meet Bill (2007) and several home grown YouTube-shorts with Bobby pal Dean Collins, but it breaks my heart to think that this was meant to be his big break. I still hope it is, I beg for young Logan to reject an offer to do an eventual sequel. In Percy Jackson he is easily capable, but misplaced. Just don’t do it. The other youngsters do bland performances, except for Brandon T. Jackson, who plays the comic relief character Grover (Crutches) with all of the subtlety of Marlon Wayans impersonating Eddie Murphy impersonating his role as Donkey in Shrek as a human being. Very few people go to a kids flick with monsters and lightning bolts expecting to see subtlety, but please. At least Steve Coogan does a brilliant caricature of Hades as a worn-out heavyrocker from the 70s, with usual British wit.

That isn’t an especially clever twist on the bad-guy routine, though. Just think about it. Eragon had Robert Carlyle as the cunning Brit mad-man, Potter obviously has had plenty of them, and even the otherwise unimpressive Twilight: New Moon casted a deliciously campy Michael Sheen as the mean Pope. Why can’t we have a cruel American to stir it up for once? I blame George W. Bush. After W’s disastrous tenure in the White House, even the movie-wathing American kid has tired of seeing their countrymen as villains. It sort of makes sense. But it’s not interesting any more.

Rick Riordan, the author behind the Percy Jackson books, has churned out at least six or seven installments of the series. That means the way is paved for a lots of full length adventures, if the movie performs well enough at the box office. That is a truly disturbing thought. In the meantime, leading man Lerman has mused loudly about his wish to be the new Spiderman, after Tobey Maguire declined to do another Peter Parker movie. A reasonable wish, I might add. If Logan Lerman decides to give the superhero thing another spin, it would suit him to play a character that at least cares enough to wonder why he should bother with the whole saving the world-business. If that results in The Lightning Thief being the stand alone-failure of this Harry Potteragon-franchise, it would do him –and us- a world of good. That’s worth caring about.



Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief premiered in Norway February 12

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