The story of an ambitious ballerina, her ballet company, with devilish supernatural elements? Sounds like Aronofsky's been watching The Red Shoes. Not that I'm complaining--if there can be more than one Star Trek movie, I don't see anything wrong with more than one psychological/supernatural expressionistic ballet movie. Though Natalie Portman isn't quite as natural an actress as Moira Shearer and not as good a dancer. I've only seen two of Aronofsky's films--I liked Pi, but I thought Requiem for a Dream was an embarrassing after school special. I've heard mixed things about The Fountain and generally positive things about The Wrestler, so I think I can still give Black Swan a try. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis making out should be worth something at least--and I suspect one of the big surprises will be that Kunis turns out to deliver a far greater performance than Portman.
Last night I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which I liked, though not as enthusiastically as most people, partly due merely to my own tastes, I think. The only other Edgar Wright movie I've seen is Shaun of the Dead and to me, Shaun of the Dead is to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Ghostbusters is to Stripes. One film succeeds by investing in a fantasy version of reality, while the other intentionally undermines a version of something real for comedic purposes. For me, Ghostbusters and Shaun of the Dead are superior by having worlds where the main characters are bound by certain rules, where you really feel like they're endangered by the ghosts or zombies, while I guess other people might prefer Scott Pilgrim and Stripes for throwing the rules out the window, when there are even rules to begin with, so that something outrageous can happen, either a small group of goofy guys taking out a military base, in the case of Stripes, or video game-like action sequences, in the case of Scott Pilgrim, which aren't even bound by the rules of any particular video game.
The thing is, video games are more effective for me when it seems critical to achieve my goal--where hard and fast obstacles, or difficult to pin down enemies, threaten to prevent me from getting to the end of the level if I can't outwit or outmanoeuvre them. Video games use a number of tools to communicate this experience to your brain--abstract ideas like points and flashing graphics, things not necessarily organic to the action and environment simulated by the game. Scott Pilgrim introduces these things into a movie where sometimes they work for comedic purposes--as when we see a "pee meter" deplete while Scott is urinating--or serve as a pointless distraction, as when each of the Evil Exes give Scott a seemingly arbitrary amount of points when killed and turn into coins.
The fight scenes feature the sort of hyper, unrealistic choreography typical of movies trying to emulate video game action, though it's rarely done as self-consciously as it is in Scott Pilgrim. But, for me, it has the same effect of dissolving tension. It's true, in Street Fighter 2, hitting someone doesn't appear to cause injury beyond the adjustments to the life meter and movement isn't effected by environment and objects in it except in a few, very specific cases. But underneath the aesthetic, the player is aware of how close each fighter is to K.O., how effective certain manoeuvres are, how much power is in certain attacks. In a movie like Scott Pilgrim, the audience has no grasp of how critical things are at any time in a fight because it's all of the video game's superficial aesthetics without the fundamental game element.
One could argue this is appropriate as the fights in Scott Pilgrim are meant to be a sort of metaphor for Scott overcoming his girlfriend's issues and becoming more intimate with her. On a theoretical level, I can imagine this sort of story being about a validation for the modern young person, his impressive video game skills actually made relevant instead of just making him potentially endearing. But these fights have too little to do with the subtext--the exes are too hastily defined, and they reveal little about Scott's girlfriend, Romona, except causing her to observe that she used to be a bitch. So without any underlying stakes to the fights themselves, the comedy of them being like video games in an otherwise realistic world being fleeting, and the fact that they have little subtext, made them feel like a waste of time to me.
The comic book inspired stuff--the panelling of the image and the written sound effects on the screen--sometimes worked for me and sometimes didn't. The panelling I thought was fine--it's certainly not something new, as it worked great in Ang Lee's Hulk, though ultimately splitting up the screen is a technique decades old. The written sound effects may be good for a few chuckles, but end up really just being redundant.
There are things I liked. The almost psychic texting relationship between Scott's sister and his roommate was pretty funny. Contemplating Michael Cera for such an unprecedented long period of time led me to wonder what kind of hormones got into his food while he was growing up, and I wondered if Cera epitomises the new man, in a way. Men are generally more feminine than they used to be, but Cera with his slight frame, enormous eyes, wide hips, and voice that sounded strikingly similar to Mary Elizabeth Winstead's is like a tiny Finnish woman. In a hundred years, I wonder if Joel Grey is going to look butch.
Twitter Sonnet #173
The eyeball of truth is the grape of lies.
Skull spaghetti is a rum spectacle.
Disney dungeons grant unlimited tries.
Denim scrapes the beholder's tentacle.
Paper water wishes for a cold pen.
Brief animation parses a bright dream.
Drill Sergeant Chapman told Pertwee to win.
Tom sees space escape through his tin can's seam.
Drunk counterfeit pianos cannot hide.
Gentle graffiti kisses biplane's wake.
Coasters accept the sweat tea won't abide.
Beverages bleed on film into one take.
A game's ink coats jagged, broken, plastic.
Desert makes the hadouken acoustic.