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Digital Divide: April 2011

| March 30, 2011 | 1 Comment

Just as spring hits the Midwest, perhaps the most talked about film of 2010 hits the Blu-ray shelves: Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan (Fox Searchlight).

Sure, the film garnered massive critical acclaim and generated enough buzz to light up Cincinnati, but I found myself holding a distinctly minority opinion. While I did find it completely worthwhile, I didn’t think that it deserved nearly the accolades it was receiving.

A second look at it on Blu-ray really didn’t do anything to change that view.

The film’s success falls squarely on the shoulders of Aronofsky, as he took what could have been a standard soap about the New York City Ballet and sprinkled on a healthy dose of All About Eve, while piling on the existential dread to create a surreal take on the pressures of fame.

Natalie Portman (who won the Best Actress Oscar) plays Nina, a dancer tapped to play the roles of both the black and white swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. From the get-go, the pressure gets to her, as she perceives everyone to be in a plot against her, and descends into dreams of self-immolation. Granted, she doesn’t go off the rails as quickly as Nicholson in The Shining, but it’s a pretty close second.

Compounding the tension is Ballet Director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) and his do-almost-anything approach to getting the most out of Nina, and Lily (Mila Kunis), the dancer who may or may not have designs on Nina’s place in the company.

In general, the cast does a wonderful job, although Portman’s performance isn’t nearly as subtle or nuanced as an award-winning turn should be.

The Blu-ray features a three-part behind-the-scenes look at the filming, interviews with Portman and Aronofsky, as well as cast profiles and segments on the costume and production design.

For all the back-and-forth Black Swan generated, you would think it would be a love-it-or-hate-it situation. However I found it was easy to respect and enjoy the final product, though in the end it just left me a little indifferent.

Warner Bros.

After a stellar run of providing searing commentary on everything from the sports world (Million Dollar Baby), war (Flags Of Our Fathers), and race relations (Gran Torino), Clint Eastwood tries to take a peek at the afterlife in Hereafter.

Unfortunately, it looks like the streak is over, as Hereafter proves to be one of the most disjointed and least satisfying efforts of Eastwood’s directorial career.

Although the film’s publicity portrays it as a Matt Damon film, it is in actuality three separate storylines woven together. Of course, they all converge in the end, but by the time we get there, the ending seems thrown together, and it’s just resolution to roll the credits.

The first of the three storylines begins with an eye-popping and, in light of the recent events in Japan, absolutely chilling effects sequence centering on French journalist Marie (Cécile De France) getting caught in a tsunami and spending a few minutes clinically dead. Then it’s on to London, where young Marcus’ twin brother is killed and he sets off looking for answers. Then there’s Damon’s character, a psychic retired from the business due to the mental exhaustion caused by knowing everything about everyone he touches.

It’s all pretty heady stuff, but the script and performances aren’t really up to the task.

Blu-ray features include nine “focus points” that cover various aspects of the film, and an Eastwood retrospective.

Also Available . . . The Tourist (Columbia) proves that just because you have two top-tier big-screen draws, doesn’t mean you’re gonna get a great film out of them. Sure, it may have seemed like a good idea at the time to put Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie together for a tale of international intrigue, but at one point it also seemed like a good idea for the White Sox to sign Albert “Not Joey, Mutha Effa!” Belle. The two have absolutely no chemistry , and the plot twist at the end is visible miles ahead of time. Skip it.

–Timothy Hiatt

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Category: Columns, Digital Divide, Monthly

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