Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"It's not about right. Not about wrong. It’s about power."

POPCORN: Welcome to North Country 8/10

The airwaves have been inundated with thesps, critics, and anchors talking about North Country. I couldn’t resist seeing my darling Charlize on screen and made the trek on Sunday.

North Country follows a fictionalized account of the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit set to coincide with the Clarence Thomas – Anita Hill senate hearings.

While the film is being marketed at this generation’s Norma Rae… I found that misleading and generic as the film turned out to be more about empowering men than women.

Yes, Charlize was fabulous and easily deserves another Oscar nomination, but not necessarily the win. Yes, Frances McDormond deserves another nomination, and maybe another win.

SIDENOTE – How wonderful it was to hear Mrs. Coen don that iconic Minnesota accent once more.

It’s true that EVERYONE involved in this film gave powerful performances, but the key is in the male characters.

This film is about masculine power, the character of man, and the psychological effects of physical weakness in our society. According to the film’s “message,” sexual harassment stems from the same socio-psychological place as racism: Insecure working class white man. Granted the lesson of sexism is filtered down in company policy from the very top, but it’s tolerated and exploited by the working class miners of northern Minnesota who could easily reject the ideals if they felt empowered against the wealth and the proverbial man.

Speaking of empowerment, it’s not the bravery of the women that struck me about this film, but the men. Josie Aimes’ (Theron) father is by far the most complex character of the film. The performance delivered by character actor Richard Jenkins is the most outstanding and poignant part of the film.

Coming from a working class family, I know these men. I’ve seen them everyday of my life, at least for first 18 years. I’ve seen Sean Bean’s character in my husband, and Jenkin’s in my own father and grandfather. And yes, I went to high school with many a Bobby Sharp. Josie Aimes is so similar to my mother that at points I felt sick.

(FYI - I just went through a legal battle with my mother and the corporate people at her former place of employment.)

While there are moments of the film sprinkled in cliché, make no mistake… this is no chick flick.
Make a trek through North Country and come back a man.

SIDENOTE: As a woman, there are certain scene which made my skin crawl with emotional filth, showers are probably required after viewing.

POPCORN: A Lesson on A History of Violence 9/10

First let me say, that my first (male) child will be named David. Why? Because of my father, David Lynch, David Fincher, and this man… David Cronenberg.

Since we’re on the topic of violent white men today, let’s waste no time in getting into A History of Violence.

The film follows a small town family man, Tom Stall, as he is plagued by the recent appearance of a Philadelphia mobster, which may or may not be from his past. What would you do to protect your family, to protect your way of life?

Viggo Mortensen disappears in the part he was born to play, Tom Stall. After watching every single second of every extra feature on every extended edition of Lord of the Rings, I became a bit crept out by Mortensen’s soft spoken nature and esoteric love of his craft. This is by far his best work and hard to beat in future projects.

Maria Bello - who proved last year she’s more than a sassy bartender (Coyote Ugly), she can be a sassy cocktail waitress too (The Cooler) – tackles the role of Tom’s wife with provocative force. Supporting actress nomination please!

Ashton Holmes, who portrayed their teenage son, also delivered a stellar debut as teenager caught between words and action.

SIDENOTE: I’m not getting into how creepily Amish William Hurt looked with that beard.

Outside these key performance the direction is the power of the film. The script was good with brilliant structure, but adequate dialogue. This isn’t a film about words though; it’s about action. So, in a way only he can, Cronenberg takes us back inside our own Ids as he graphically put forth an essay on sex and violence set against Middle America. The film does not make any attempt to gloss, slick, or use animation to dull the impact of violence as in Kill Bill or Sin City. Instead, the director makes every effort to show the ramification of violent actions… be they a shotgun to the back, a bullet to the face, the face of man whose nose was just shoved back into his skull, etc. Cronenberg also uses sex juxtaposed against the violence to which you can draw your own opinions.

This not a classic Cronenberg film (Videodrome, Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers, eXistenZ, Crash, The Fly, etc.) in that he did not direct from his own script. If you looking for the bio-tech themes often explored in his auteur work, you’ll be disappointed by the lack of “twist” Violence has to offer. Thematic issues aside, it its Mr. Cronenberg in the raw and one of his best efforts. 98 minutes of your life is worth this film.

P.S. Do you recognize this post's title quote? What's it from?


At 12:39 PM, Blogger Darren said...

Jenkins is indeed an awesome character actor: Flirting With Disaster, anyone?

Regarding your comment on the violence in AHOV, I'm going to respectfully disagree. I think the violence IS meant to be in a Kill Bill/Sin City way in that it's meant to be strictly movie violence. We're meant to laugh at it, be disgusted by it, realize it's over the top, and to some extent, turned on. Maria Bello's character is almost like the ambassador of the audience in how she handles things: she denies it, trusts Tom, then experiences mixed emotions, and in that scene on the stairs is aroused by him. She plays it all so well and that's why I LOVE her.

There's so much lying in the subtext and the film should hold up well on repeated viewings.

I'm off to North Country now....

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Mitchell - Crumrine said...

I saw HOV more as One False Move/In the Bedroom... While the action itself is perfectly choreographed, it's the result that I found raw and real. We never see close ups like that in action films where the same stunts are performed more frequently. I completely understand what you're saying though. Both of these films have so much subtext that they'd be perfect to write a term paper on. :0)


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