Tuesday, February 22, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Black Swan

Black Swan
Number of Nominations: 5
Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Natalie Portman), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
Availability in US: In Theatres (Click for Showtimes)
Trailer: Click for Trailer
As I was exiting the theatre last December after seeing Black Swan I overheard an excited 20-something saying to his girlfriend, "If you had told me we were seeing a scary movie about ballet, I wouldn't have believed you." I think this sums up the film pretty well actually. Black Swan follows professional ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) who, after getting the lead in her company's production of "Swan Lake," slowly begins to lose her mind as she immerses herself in the character of the evil black swan Odile. Meanwhile she becomes paranoid that her rival Lily (Mila Kunis) is trying to steal her role and her moment in the spotlight.

I've been a Natalie Portman fan for a long time, and I've forgiven her for the mediocre performances and bad film choices, and loved her in movies like Garden State, but this is, without doubt, the best performance she's ever given. Much like Angelina Jolie's character in Girl, Interrupted, we witness Nina experiencing a psychotic break. The audience won't know from one minute to the next which scenes are real and which are invented in Nina's delusional brain. Portman gets everything right, from the graceful ballet moments, to the steamy—and much talked about— lesbian sex scene with Lily, to the film's more violent moments. Her performance is so engaging that it keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.

The film itself is both beautifully imagined and flawlessly executed, much like the ballet it portrays. Darren Aronofsky displays the same obsession for perfection in his filmmaking as Nina shows in her ballet. Everything we see on the screen is intentional, from the camera angles to the timing of the scenes. Of course the vision is Aronofsky's, but it is realized through the Oscar-nominated film editing and cinematography. The film is as beautiful to watch as the ballet it portrays.

Natalie Portman is as close as you can get to a lock for Best Actress, and we could see Black Swan upset and win in cinematography, but the film is a little too weird for the older Academy voters and probably doesn't have a chance at Best Picture or Best Director.
Grade: A+

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