No Strings Attached is a really weird movie. It's predicated on a dated and well-answered question -- Can two people have sex without falling love? (Yes, they can. All adults know this, except for the ones who made this movie, apparently) -- while attempting to be aggressively modern, yet clinging steadfastly to 1950s morality at the very same time. It has some of the worst, most clichéd rom-com dialogue I have ever had the displeasure of listening to, while also delivering some of the biggest laughs I've experienced in a while. It stars one of the hottest actors of the moment (Natalie Portman), alongside one of the most irrelevant (Ashton Kutcher), and its screenplay manages to be both topical and passé simultaneously. I have seen worse movies than No Strings Attached, but rarely do I see things this schizophrenic.
In preparation for this Sunday's Golden Globes extravaganza, I finally got around to watching Black Swan a few nights ago. And while I was struck by how engrossing and visually stunning the movie is, I was also struck by how much it reminded me of another fine film about the plight of dancers: 2000's Center Stage, starring Zoe Saldana and Peter Gallagher. It may sound crazy, but really, it's a lot like Center Stage, if Center Stage grew up and then battled hardcore mental illness. Don't believe me? I've put forth the thematic similarities below. (Warning: Contains spoilers.)
When Darren Aronofsky was announced as the director of the next Wolverine movie, it was a bit of a shock, considering that the man was not known for his high-octane action pieces, and the last installment had exploding helicopters. But between the nightmare world of Requiem for a Dream, the sci-fi epicness of The Fountain and the physical pain and loneliness depicted in The Wrestler, I had confidence that the man would deliver the best Wolverine film -- maybe even X-Men film -- to date. And after seeing Black Swan, with its hallucinatory psychodrama, I am 100% sold, because I came out of the movie wanting to see more comic-book adventures of Natalie Portman's split-personality character. Maybe if I were a ballet fan, I might have wanted to see more of the ballet itself, but I guess it says a lot about me that I'd rather watch her fight Batman.
Being a big name star may mean that you get to be in all of the most "Oscar-buzzed" movies, but it also means that there is just no longer a place for you in those smaller movies about subtle emotions that once defined your career. Eventually, no matter how good of a performance you deliver, just being you makes it impossible for anyone to embrace you. In a post-Inception/post-Black Swan world Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman both give pitch perfect performances, but Hesher still suffers because of them.
It looks as though a few Hollywood types are about to step out of their comfort zones and into genres not normally associated with them. Get your head out of the gutter, dude, I meant horror movies. Rumor has it that Natalie Portman and her production company Handsome Charlie Films are teaming up with The Pineapple Express and Superbad director David Gordon Green for a remake of the 1977 horror classic Suspiria.
In the movie Brothers, Natalie Portman is faced with a tough choice -- Jake Gyllenhaal or Tobey Maguire? Maguire plays her husband, a soldier who is believed killed in the war in the Middle East, and Gyllenhaal plays Maguire's brother, who comforts his sibling's wife and daughters. Gyllenhaal and Portman fall in love -- naturally, because, look at them -- but when Maguire is discovered alive, he returns home and finds that his family has moved on without him. Portman has kids with Maguire, and Maguire may have a little bit of post-traumatic something-something going on, which makes the decision a lot more complicated than a simple one-or-the-other choice, but seeing the two in romantic competition with each other got us thinking: Who would we choose, given the choice between all of the characters each actor has played? We paired up logical competitors from Tobey's and Jake's resumes and called out their pros and cons for a romantic, cinematic battle for the ages.
Who wins in a fight to the death between Lindsay Lohan and Keira Knightley? Natalie Portman, that's who.
OK, maybe it wasn't really a fight to the death in the literal sense. Lohan and Knightley had just previously been reported to be figuratively duking it out for the role of Catherine Earnshaw in the newest version of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. In the end, it's Portman who gets to fall in love with her dark, mysterious, and vindictive stepbrother, Heathcliff out on the English moors.
Did they mean to hire Portman, though? She's a fine actress, and will no doubt pull off the role. There's no problem there. But with Knightley in the running, did they just mistake one for the other? If so, it wouldn't be the first time. Portman's Cathy could probably stand to have a decoy. One for going off to marry mild-mannered Edgar and haunt the windows at Thrushcross Grange while the other one goes traipsing off with Heathcliff for some brooding, forbidden love. Let Portman and Knightley fight that one out to see who plays which role. No one would be any the wiser! Except maybe the accounting department that has to cut checks for an additional top-billed actor.
Really, though, Wuthering Heightshas been told and retold so many times that it might be interesting (hopefully) to see what director John Maybury plans to bring to this latest version. At least there's no sign so far that this will be a hip-hop musical or an MTV original movie, like the most recently retelling of the Bronte classic.
Movie Trivia: Merle Oberon, who starred in what for many is the definitive version with Laurence Olivier, played Anne Boleyn previous to playing Cathy. Portman also played Anne in The Other Boleyn Girl.
Bronte: Fresh from London via the Hollywood Reporter comes news of Natalie Portman's departure from Wuthering Heights. As mentioned last month in the Moviefile, Portman had been tapped for the role of Cathy Earnshaw in John Maybury's adaptation of Emily Bronte's brooding novel of love, revenge, and having the hots for your stepbrother. No reason was given for her splitting from the film, but according to the news, Portman's sudden exit left "financiers, sellers and producers" in a bit of a pickle this close to the Festival de Cannes, where the movie was supposed to be sold. Coincidentally, Portman is on the Feature Film Jury at the Festival, so they're bound to run into each other now and then. Awkward! But Maybury is saying that the English role should go to an Englishwoman, so maybe they did mean to hire Keira Knightley in the first place, after all.