A Project from Yesteryear

While I'm not usually a procrastinator, sometimes I decide to pick up old projects and complete things I should have done ages ago. Recently, I just finished up editing a trailer for my senior thesis film, "Among Wolves." That's right...my senior thesis film. I graduated in 2009 and it's 2011. Granted, a trailer for a 20 minute-ish film isn't necessary, but I had always intended to cut a trailer for this film. This is mostly because I love editing.

I did struggle with this trailer. One reason is because the film is a tough movie to explain in a short amount of time. There's also hardly any dialogue in the movie, so most everything is inferred through visuals. Trailers don't have to communicate the whole story, but if a trailer is effective, it will at least communicate a tone and generate interest in learning more about the story. For the hell of it, I thought I'd post it and get your thoughts.

Just for fun, I also thought I'd share some of the horror connections with you all. The film's lead, Frank, is played by David Alan Graf, who also played one of the teachers in Deadgirl. Erin McCarthy, who plays Frank's wife, was also in The Quick and the Undead and The Flesh Keeper. Kuma, the dog, was in An American Crime. The last connection involves one of the actresses who auditioned for a role. She was Daeg Faerch's mother (young Michael from Zombie's Halloween). He actually came to the audition with her. I was tempted to cast simply for the horror connection, but I went with the person that was the best for the role.


The Taint (2010): Hipsters Gone Wild

By now, you may have heard that this film is offensive and disgusting. Despite these descriptors, you may have also heard fellow bloggers hail the film as a schlocky ode to Troma cinema. All of these comments are true, but it's a tough film to jump on the bandwagon with.

Phil O'Ginny suddenly discovers that the men of the world have become increasingly violent and savagely sexual towards women. He eventually realizes that this has occurred as a result of a tainted water supply that transforms men into misogynists. B-Movie plot aside, the purpose of The Taint appears to be a satirical look at dangerous attitudes towards women. Of course, it may take a while before this thought ever crosses your mind when actually watching the film. 

You need not watch 10 minutes of the film to realize what you're getting into. Excessive nudity (particularly for males), hyperbolic violence, exaggeratedly bad performances, and random jump cuts all spell the workings of low-brow, highly offensive entertainment. 

In between all of the usual tropes of intentionally making a bad movie, there are moments of originality and genuine humor in The Taint. I found that the funniest moments were those that had nothing to do with the sex or potty humor. After all, unique characters, ironic situations, and poignantly executed commentary are the stuff of true comedy. The Taint does posses many of these features, but I found myself constantly distracted by the overused penis jokes. 

Is The Taint a feminist piece cleverly disguised as a bunch of juvenile jokes? Or is it a bunch of juvenile jokes cleverly disguised as a feminist piece? You be the judge. If the point of this film was to show the ridiculousness of a culture absorbed in violence against women, I don’t believe that this is the most effective way of communicating such a message. Holding far too long on shots of men aggressively ejaculating on a woman’s face, while she screams in terror, is probably not the best method of encouraging respect for females. I do get that it’s supposed to be over-the-top, but it’s not using exaggeration to prove a point, but to disgust.

Pink is the new black, and penises are the new breasts in The Taint. With marks of hipster spirit all over it, I was digging the synthesized music and I chuckled at some sardonic moments. I was also impressed with the sheer amount of gore (squashed heads) – racking up a body count this large is no easy task for low-budget filmmakers. For the most part, the kills and money shots are all pulled off well. I’d love to see directors Drew Buldoc and Dan Nelson tackle something completely different, as the filmmakers clearly know how to deliver a uniquely entertaining viewing experience.

If exploitation as opposed to subtlety is your thing, then go for it. Just don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.


Black Swan: A More Pointless, Female Version of The Wrestler

A lot of people may think I'm entirely off-base with this review. First, they may think this because I didn't like the film. Second, they may think that my comparison to The Wrestler is inaccurate. Third, they may think that I'm failing to understand the subtext of a metaphorical film. Read on to find out for yourself.

Black Swan is quite similar to Darren Aronofsky's previous Oscar bait, The Wrestler. Both films are about self-destructive performers who can't help but push themselves to the edge in seek of something intangible - perfection, a fleeting taste of the limelight, meaning behind their work, catharsis. What's the difference? The Wrestler is about a guy that everybody knows, the person struggling with drug or alcohol addictions, who means well but can't get it right. Black Swan, on the other hand, is not grounded in realism with characters we're sadly familiar with. Instead, the young female lead is just plain crazy. Black Swan is a horror film after all, while The Wrester is straight drama.

Oh, the stressful life of a dancer who lives with her mom and has no real responsibilities.

There's nothing subtle or incredibly unique about Aronofsky's story. In fact, early buzz around the internets claimed that the film was a remake of the classic Japanese anime, Perfect Blue. Indeed, Arononfsky did purchase the rights to Perfect Blue so that he could recreate the bathtub scream that is now famous in Requiem for a Dream. Now that I've seen both films, I would never call Black Swan a remake, but they are definitely very similar stories. Nina, a dedicated ballet dancer, strives to obtain a sought after role that embodies both the White Swan and Black Swan in "Swan Lake." Slowly, Nina's innocence is devolved as she becomes more and more like the Black Swan character. This dissent is one of paranoia, psychosexuality, and self-inflicted violence. But I'm sure you already know that. 

Black Swan Reviews
I get this strange feeling that I have an alter-ego following me around.

My biggest issue with Black Swan is the sheer pointlessness of it all. What message was being communicated by this film? Why create yet another evil twin doppleganger story? We've all seen Fight Club, so we know the drill. Only, Black Swan doesn't try to hide the duality, nor does it offer anything subtle about the psychology of Nina's character. Everything is laid out in the open. Every scene is in your face. It's like watching a 10th grade literature class's explanation of symbolism. So Nina plays a part where she has to be the White Swan and Black Swan, but the Black Swan character is hard for her to dance because she is so sweet and innocent. But wait, as she becomes more violent and sexual in her real life, she is able to fully embrace the darker role. Given the complexity of Aronofsky's previous films, I was immensely disappointed by the elementary story.

If the plot had been more complex and Nina's transition been more subtle, I probably would have enjoyed the movie more. Perhaps if there were more mystery behind the story, it would have also helped. I would have liked to see some suspicion over whether or not Nina was being manipulated or whether or not someone was trying to steal her role. I find that when the audience is secretly allowed into the paranoid fantasy, a film becomes so much more impacting. Instead, Black Swan is so literal and obvious it in its symbolism that it hurts. While some moments were certainly cringe worthy, many of the CGI swan bits had me laughing. And I wasn't the only one in the theatre that found it to be silly.

On the plus side, Natalie Portman's performance is stellar. I can't think of anyone else that deserves an Oscar more. Granted, I haven't seen every single dramatic indie film that came out in 2010, but Portman is perfect in this film. All other actors were great, with the exceptions of Winona Ryder and Mila Kunis. Neither of them were bad, but I would have liked to see some other actors in their roles. I do not envy any performer who had to go toe to toe with Portman in this film.

If only she had the munchies, then we could rule craziness out of the diagnosis here.

Additionally, the sound design was fantastic. In Aronofsky tradition, sound and music play a large role in the film and they work splendidly. In some scenes, sound tells more of the story than anything else. It's only when the sound design is transformed into bold visuals that the film becomes less interesting. I did not care for the visual style of the film. Sure, the costume design and makeup were great, but the cinematography was too similar to The Wrestler. It just didn't fit the world of the film, nor did the cinematography devolve to match Nina's descent. It starts off in a loose, handheld (oh so intentionally indie) style and hardly wavers from that design. I would have liked to see a graceful, poetic camera slowly downgraded to a raw, gritty, shaky camera.

At the end of the day, I didn't get anything from Black Swan. There's nothing new here - not even stylistically. Although, I appear to be in the minority with this opinion. So tell me why I'm wrong...or agree with me to make me feel better.