Tag Archives: Winona Ryder

Black Swan (2010) Review

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Black Swan

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence, sex scenes & content that may disturb
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers/The Swan Queen
Mila Kunis as Lily/The Black Swan
Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy/The Gentleman
Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers/The Queen
Winona Ryder as Elizabeth “Beth” MacIntyre/The Dying Swan
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina whose passion for the dance rules every facet of her life. When the company’s artistic director decides to replace his prima ballerina for their opening production of “Swan Lake,” Nina is his first choice. She has competition in newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis) however. While Nina is perfect for the role of the White Swan, Lily personifies the Black Swan. As rivalry between the two dancers transforms into a twisted friendship, Nina’s dark side begins to emerge.

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I liked Black Swan when I first saw it, and it definitely got all the acclaim that it deserved. I’ve already watched most of director Darren Aronofsky’s work (with the exception of The Fountain), but I wanted to have another look at some of his movies, and so I started my rewatches with Black Swan and got even more out of it this time. Aronofsky’s direction was really great and as usual Natalie Portman is fantastic.

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I won’t go into too much depth about the plot in case you still haven’t gotten around to seeing the movie yet. Darren Aronofksy really keeps this movie tight at an hour and 50 minutes long, it keeps the pace up pretty quickly and on a second viewing I really noticed it. It starts out as a movie about what an artist would do for art, and it is that throughout, but it also turns into a psychological thriller. It really goes crazy in the third act to say the least, and when the film needs to go horror, it really goes there. Looking at the plot from beginning to end, it’s so perfectly crafted and well put together.

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Everyone in the cast was outstanding, however this is really Natalie Portman’s show, giving a career best performance here. Her character’s whole thing is that as how she is now, she’s perfect for the role of the White Swan but in order to perfectly perform The Swan Queen, needs to delve deeper into darker territory to portray the Black Swan as well. Her descent and change were very convincing, and Portman works well. Her performance is essentially what drives the whole movie, as great as Aronofsky’s direction is here, Black Swan wouldn’t have worked without Portman’s excellently performance. Mila Kunis gives probably her best performance yet as a seemingly rival to Natalie Portman who seems to work as the Black Swan, which would compel Portman towards a different side. Vincent Cassel is also really great as the director of the ballet, who also pushes Portman further towards becoming more of the Black Swan. Definitely one of Cassel’s most standout performances. Barbara Hershey was also good as Portman’s obsessive mother, adding even more strangeness and uneasiness to the whole movie. Winona Ryder is in here in a smaller role as the previous Swan Queen before Portman, but she still really worked in her few scenes.

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Darren Aronofsky’s direction of Black Swan is excellent. I know it should go without saying but the actual ballet portions of the movie are showcased, choregraphed and displayed on screen very well. When it comes to the psychological horror side (especially towards the latter section of the movie), it’s effectively creeping and unnerving. The limited sections of crazy visual effects still hold up really well 9 years later. The score by Clint Mansell really works (which is to be expected of him at this point), very haunting yet beautiful, much like the whole movie.

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Black Swan is Darren Aronofsky’s best film yet, and considering some of the movies that he’s made, that’s saying a lot. His direction was great, really portraying a descent into madness well, with great acting, especially from Natalie Portman who gives an extraordinary performance here. Definitely one of the best films of 2010 and the 2010s, and worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

The Age of Innocence (1993) Review

Time: 139 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer
Michelle Pfeiffer as Ellen Olenska
Winona Ryder as May Welland
Director: Martin Scorsese

Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a lawyer who is happily engaged to May (Winona Ryder). His life however turns upside down when he meets and falls in love with May’s scandalous cousin, Ellen (Michelle Pfeiffer).

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I’d been meaning to watch The Age of Innocence for some time, it seemed like it would be something interesting. Sure, it had Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder, but what was interesting to me was Martin Scorsese directing this, a period piece of all things. Not to slam period pieces, and he has occasionally tried different things (New York, New York and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore for instance) but I didn’t know what to expect from him with this. I actually liked it a lot more than I thought, and it really deserves a lot more love than its been receiving.

The Age of Innocence quite a long movie at under 2 hours and 20 minutes, I will admit that I started off watching the movie not really fully invested but it grew on me as it progressed. I think part of my initial problem was the fact that a bunch of information is being thrown at you through narration early on and there’s a lot that you have to know, but after everything was established and set up, I was on board with the movie through to the end. The screenplay from both Martin Scorsese and Jay Cocks was really great, you wouldn’t normally think of Scorsese as the right person to take on a story about an upper class affair scandal period piece drama, but he actually fits in very well. The Age of Innocence remains one of his most effectively passionate and emotional films, he’s actually called this his most violent movie, and even though there isn’t a drop of blood, he’s correct. As someone who doesn’t usually watch period pieces (not that I dislike them or anything), I was quite invested in what went on. The ending is also perfect for the film, couldn’t think of a better way to end it.

The talented cast did very well in their roles. Daniel Day-Lewis is really good as per usual, I wouldn’t consider this to be one of his all time best performances, but he’s nonetheless great. Michelle Pfeiffer gives one of the best performances of her career, and Winona Ryder also gives a great and complex performance. There are also some minor supporting performances from the likes of Richard E. Grant and Jonathan Pryce, who don’t leave as strong of an impression but are good enough in their brief roles.

Martin Scorsese did a very good at adapting his directional style to one that works for a period piece, and his work here is once again nothing less than fantastic. It’s a stunning movie, very well shot and edited. Scorsese really captured the time period excellently, and showed off the great production designs, locations and the costumes well. If there’s one aspect of the direction I wasn’t loving, it was all the narration. As time went on, I grew into it, but I remember being put off early on when there was a bunch of exposition and explaining done over voice over. A lot of it was explaining all the characters and while I get that it’s partly necessary with so many characters, it went a little overboard. After everything was established though, I thought the narration was used at the right level.

The Age of Innocence might not be among my favourite of Scorsese’s films, but there’s a lot here to be loved. His direction was outstanding, after the first 30 minutes or so I was invested in this story and the lead characters well enough, and the performances (mainly from Day-Lewis, Pfeiffer and Ryder) are all really great. I’d strongly recommend at least giving it a chance. The more I think about The Age of Innocence, the more I think I’m going to love it the next time I watch it again.