Natalie Portman

I wouldn’t have even commented on this story but since it seems to be making the rounds on Twitter, and a few of you have written in, I figure why not. Okay so apparently some are “upset” that the news has come to light that Natalie Portman only did about 5% of the dancing in Black Swan. I guess my question is, did anyone think she did more than that? To me it was obvious when there was a body double because she danced like an actual ballerina. I was surprised Portman did as well as she did do in the scenes where she had to dance. Only a fool would have substituted Portman’s abilities for that of a real dancer. She’s supposed to be the top ballerina in the dance company. Dancers start training when they’re like 4 or 5. They’re like gymnasts. Their muscles form around their bones and it alters their physique entirely.

Portman did really well considering she only had one year to train. She trained hard. She ate nothing. In some of the scenes, this is quite evident – her muscles DO show themselves throughout the film. But when she has to dance, I’m sorry, the movie would have been a total load if they’d used Portman for most of it. You can’t fake ballet. If you could train for a year and be that good surely it wouldn’t have the same prestige.

Fox Searchlight and Portman have both claimed she did most of the dancing featured in the film. But this careful phrasing. The film is mostly about closeups on her face, her shoulders — they freeze frame on a pose — she occasionally has to do a turn or something. But to me, it was obvious when it was her and when it was the double. That’s all I’m saying. I don’t think anyone is trying to say that she did the more complicated stuff – just that they chose to use the footage of Portman when given the choice. If she could do it, they used it, in other words.

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On Twitter, both Anne Thompson and Kris Tapley have been talking about the possibility for an Annette Bening upset over Natalie Portman on Oscar night. ¬†It’s really been down to these two actresses since the start of Oscar season. ¬†It will be interesting to see how Oscars 2011 go down – they’ll either be the most predictable Oscars ever or the least predictable. ¬†Will there be winners that come out of nowhere, like Adrien Brody did the year The Pianist almost swept the Oscars? ¬†Everyone had been heavily focused on the two favorites – Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York and Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. ¬†Looking back on it now, it seems like Brody would have won based on the performance alone. ¬†As someone who championed his performance like crazy back then — and The Pianist, I might add (I was ridiculed then as I’m ridiculed now for being an advocate) — it was one of the highs of the time I’ve spent covering the race.

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In each of the five films nominated for Best Director by the Directors Guild yesterday, overcoming an obstacle to become a winner drives the main characters. Micky needs to rid himself of his brother’s shadow and his own lack of self worth, Nina needs to rid herself of her repressed, infantilized vision of herself to become a perfect dancer. Cobb needs to overcome the guilt he feels in planting the idea in his wife’s head that the dream was the reality. And finally, George VI needed to overcome his fears of being King, of speaking publicly, of rising to the occasion and ruling a country at war.
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It’s Oscar season. We know this because we look outside and we see that “it’s raining.” But we also know because the New York Times critics, in addition to their already wonderful Oscar coverage by the Carpetbagger, are rolling out their Oscar series. Perfect timing since SAG’s final ballots are mailed out to membership today. First up, AO Scott dissecting the brilliant Black Swan herself, Natalie Portman:

Is “Black Swan” a realistic portrayal of life in a ballet company? Probably not. Is it an overheated, wildly melodramatic rendering of an artist’s struggle? Without a doubt. And to scold the director, Darren Aronofsky, for what he doesn’t get about dancers or how he looks at women is almost deliberately to miss the point. This is, at bottom, a horror movie. It gathers psychological implications from its chosen milieu and makes them literal, giving flesh to wild metaphors of female sexuality and aesthetic risk.

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Tom O’Neil and Pete Hammond dish it up about Best Actress, wondering if Nicole Kidman might not come in and steal the Oscar away from Natalie Portman or Annette Bening (of Jennifer Lawrence, for that matter). Every day it feels like one or the other will win. First it was Bening, then it was Portman, then Portman got pregnant and then it was Bening, and now it’s Kidman, but then no one really cares about Portman’s pregnancy so maybe it’s Portman? Or maybe it’s Bening because of the popularity of The Kids Are All Right and her being overdue. She’s a heroic character, etc. Anyway, take it away Pete and Tom:

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It always happens every year a unique film like Black Swan starts hitting the mainstream. There is bound to be some sort of freak out as people see the film that is creating such a stir. There is never any guarantee that it will be a movie they respond to. I’m thinking of Christmas time cinema going. While I no longer believe this idea that the Academy voters are either too conventional, too infantile or too old to “get” great filmmaking, I do understand that there are a good many who will be freaked out by Black Swan nonetheless.

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Beck’s “We Are Sex Bob-Omb!” from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World took home the Best Original Song prize at the Houston Film Critics Awards today. In more expected news, The Social Network continued its winning ways with trophies for Picture, Director, Actor and Screenplay. Inception picked up two awards, Cinematography and Original Score.

Best Picture – The Social Network

Best Director – David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Actor – Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Best Actress – Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Best Supporting Actor – Christian Bale, The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress – Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Best Screenplay – Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Best Documentary – Restrepo

Best Foreign Film – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Best Animated Film – Toy Story 3

Best Cinematography – Wally Pfister, Inception

Best Original Score – Hans Zimmer, Inception

Best Original Song – “We Are Sex Bob-Omb!”, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (music and lyrics by Beck)

Worst Picture – Jonah Hex

Humanitarian of the Year – George Clooney

Lifetime Achievement Award – Sissy Spacek

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While the men characters are doing things like cutting off their arms to survive, creating a social networking revolution, learning to give speeches and becoming king of England while doing so, winning boxing matches, robbing banks and getting the girl – the women are coming apart. Many of them, anyway. There are a few strong oaks in the mix – Ree from Winter’s Bone and Nic from The Kids Are All Right (note that these are both written and directed by women). The stronger female leads, where the women are kicking ass and taking names, don’t seem to be featured as prominently as the crazy ones – Naomi Watts in Fair Game, Hilary Swank in Conviction. This year, we like them shaking and crazy.

Herewith, the top five craziest female characters in the Oscar race:

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As predicted yesterday, Black Swan met and easily exceeded it opening weekend box office estimates to set a new record for Fox Searchlight films in limited release. IndieWire has the hard numbers:

Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” had a massive limited debut this weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the film Рa psychological thriller about a ballerina (Natalie Portman) competing for the lead role in “Swan Lake” Рgrossed a stunning $1,394,265 from just 18 theaters. That made for a $77,459 per-theater-average, which is a new record for distributor Fox Searchlight, topping the likes of “Juno,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Sideways” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” all of which debuted on much fewer screens.

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black swan reviews

Terrific to see women critics embracing Black Swan. After the cut, a few men who don’t get off on it to same degree.

The New York Times’ Manola Dargis sees everything in Black Swan that the National Board of Review missed:

Played by Natalie Portman in a smashing, bruising, wholly committed performance, the young dancer, Nina, looks more like a child than a woman, her flesh as undernourished as her mind…. It‚Äôs easy to read ‚ÄúBlack Swan‚Äù as a gloss on the artistic pursuit of the ideal. But take another look, and you see that Mr. Aronofsky is simultaneously telling that story straight, playing with the suffering-artist stereotype and having his nasty way with Nina, burdening her with trippy psychodrama and letting her run wild in a sexcapade that will soon be in heavy rotation on the Web… Together they create the solid foundation of truth that makes the slow-creeping hallucinatory flights of fantasy all the more jolting and powerful… ‚ÄúBlack Swan‚Äù is visceral and real even while it‚Äôs one delirious, phantasmagoric freakout.

USA Today, Claudia Puig

To induce a state of dread and mesmerize with beauty is a rare, paradoxical achievement… Like the most macabre nightmares, Black Swan plunges headlong into the dark side. Writer/director Darren Aronofsky fashions a terrifying tale that juxtaposes the grace of a dance film against a twisted horror backdrop. At the center of this dreamlike story is Natalie Portman’s exquisite performance of a troubled ballerina who evolves from timid to seriously unhinged.

New York Daily News, Elizabeth Weitzman

Aronofsky and his three screenwriters walk a thin line throughout, skirting overwrought melodrama without actually falling in. That’s a near-impossible task, requiring considerable skill from everyone involved. Portman, who does most of her own dancing, rises to the occasion with unexpected depth… It’s Aronofsky, though, who deserves the final bow. He has always boasted a unique vision, but as any dancer can attest, it takes years of hard work and discipline to corral talent into art.

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The Daily Beast calls this a list of the “10 Steamiest Lesbian Sex Scenes” but most of them are merely humid and partly dewy. For a stark contrast with true sizzle on film, make your own mental list of the 10 Steamiest Straight Sex Scenes (and please share so we can compare notes).

  1. Black Swan: Natalie Portman & Mila Kunis
  2. Wild Things: Denise Richards & Neve Campbell
  3. The Kids Are All Right: Julianne Moore & Annette Bening
  4. Higher Learning: Jennifer Connelly & Kristy Swanson
  5. Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Scarlett Johansson & Penélope Cruz
  6. Mulholland Drive: Naomi Watts & Laura Harring
  7. The Runaways: Kristen Stewart & Dakota Fanning
  8. Bound: Gina Gershon & Jennifer Tilly
  9. Gia: Angelina Jolie & Elizabeth Mitchell
  10. The Hunger: Susan Sarandon & Catherine Deneuve

Almost amusing to see The Kids Are All Right at the top of the steamy heap, except that it’s such a sad commentary that anyone would think the wry comical couplings in that film are the least bit sultry.

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Charlie Rose talks to Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofsky about Black Swan. NOTE: There are a couple of comments in plain sight on the Charlie Rose site that constitute blunt spoilers, so don’t even go there if you don’t want to know anything.

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Thanks to Fox Searchlight for access to this exclusive first look at their official Black Swan profile for Natalie Portman.

poised (poizd) adj.

  1. Assured; composed.
  2. Steady in readiness.

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“Transcendent.”
[Note: between 2:45 – 3:00 Natalie says something that might be considered a spoiler — though it’s nothing you couldn’t guess from watching trailer. Just thought I’d mention that though. It does seem like Portman and Aronofsky are both handling the issue of spoilers casually — because they know the movie doesn’t depend on tricks or twists.]

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lesleymanville

My Oscar Poker partner, Jeff Wells, is worried that Lesley Manville won’t make the cut if they run her as Best Actress. He thinks she has a better chance of getting in in the Supporting Actress category. It probably isn’t going to matter what bloggers think about it – if the AMPAS wants her in lead, they will nominate her in lead. Although we keep talking up actresses, here is how I envision a scenario with Manville in:

Natalie Portman
Annette Bening
Jennifer Lawrence
Nicole Kidman
Lesley Manville

And then, you’d go:
Michelle Williams (all of this NC-17 business is great for her, actually, publicity-wise)
Naomi Watts
Julianne Moore
Sally Hawkins

The bottom line is that there IS room for Manville in the lead actress race simply because they will make room. Hers is, without question, one of the best of the year. She plays a character who is coming apart but was only barely there to begin with. Completely self-centered, unrealistic and neurotic, Manville’s portrayal could have slipped into caricature. But somehow, she keeps it grounded. The truth is, you can’t take your eyes off her. So, though it’s appreciated, I don’t see the need for a “Save Lesley Manville” campaign.

Natalie Portman and Colin Firth have been announced as winners of the Desert Palm Achievement Awards for Acting by the Palm Springs Film Festival. They will join previously announced honorees Javier Bardem, Jennifer Lawrence and Carey Mulligan. The Festival runs Jan. 6-17.

“We are honoring two of the finest actors to grace the screen, both of whom deliver Oscar-quality performances in their most recent films,” said Palm Springs International Film Festival chairman Harold Matzner. “Colin Firth brings a regal versatility to each of his roles, but his portrayal of King George VI in his latest film, The King’s Speech, is extraordinary. Natalie Portman, who started dancing at age four and acting at age 11, tests the full range of her significant talent with a powerhouse performance as the obsessed ballerina in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.”

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