Review: Melancholia (2011)


I saw Melancholia twice in theaters. The first time I saw the movie was at an artsy theater in Indianapolis. The audience was quiet, focused, and alert, absorbing all of the subtle and profound emotions portrayed by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

The second time was at a theater in a college town. The audience was loud, talkative, and arrogant. And they were definitely more intoxicated than the Indianapolis audience, which is weird because the artsy theater offered alcohol (and the university had a supposedly dry campus). Though, to be fair, I don’t blame the college students. If I was sporting a 1.5 GPA because of a moderate Call of Duty addiction and was going to see a movie about the slow demise of our planet, I’d probably drink too.

What intrigued me, however, was how the different audiences impacted my perception of the movie.


Before diving into that ocean of gaudy introspective self-praise, though, I need to explain a little about Melancholia. Lars von Trier‘s 2011 film is a beautiful juxtaposition of the emotional and mental struggles of two sisters and a newly discovered planet that likes to invade Earth’s personal space. Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, a personification of depression and doom. For the first half of the film, the audience watches Justine destroy her wedding bit by excruciating bit. The second half of the film follows Claire, Justine’s sister, as she tries to juggle Justine’s emotional state, a creepily quiet child, Jack Bauer, and a new planet that may end all life.

So when the booze-filled audience burped their laughs, I was surprised. Depression and interplanetary tango is not exactly comedic gold. But, in some ways, it worked. Melancholia offers a dark look at life on the edge (in more than one way), and sometimes mild laughter is a good way to deal with impending doom. Also, if good movies aren’t your preference and you get bored while watching this wonderful film, it’s sort of fun to imagine Spider-Man swooping in to save Kirsten. Or Kiefer Sutherland yelling at someone.

“Life is only on Earth. And not for long,” says Justine with tired eyes.

“Like Hell it is!” growls Jack Bauer, cocking his gun and running toward the sunset.

Lars von Trier: Director

Lars von Trier: Writer

Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Kiefer Sutherland: Stars

Big B’s Oscar Picks and Predictions (with some offal artwork)

Best Actress

Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”

Best Supporting Actress

Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”

Honorable Mention: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”

Best Actor

Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”

Honorable Mention: James Franco, “127 Hours”

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, “The Fighter”

Honorable Mention: John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”

Best Picture

“The King’s Speech”

Best Director

Should win: Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”

Will win: David Fincher, “The Social Network”

Best Animated Film

“Toy Story 3”

Best Art Direction

Should win: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”

Will win: “Alice in Wonderland”

Best Cinematography

Should win: “Black Swan”

Will win: “True Grit” Continue reading

Review: The King’s Speech (2010)

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter (movie photo via

Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech (2010) is a delightfully inspirational and intriguing movie about stuttering, family issues, and the endearing relationship between King George VI of England and Lionel Logue. But the quality of the film is obvious. The King’s Speech received twelve Oscar nominations, seven Golden Globe nominations, four Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, and thirteen nominations from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. The King’s Speech speaks for itself.

To add more praises for The King’s Speech to the Internet would be a waste of virtual space. So, instead, I’d like to talk about Timothy Spall. Timothy Spall‘s performance in The King’s Speech as Winston Churchill has received some criticism. Some call it Tom Hooper’s only mistake. Others consider Spall to be a poor representation of Churchill. The Guardian calls Spall a “woefully thin pastiche,” and USA Today writes, “The only weak link is Timothy Spall, miscast as Winston Churchill. It’s not clear who Spall is playing, but it doesn’t appear to be Churchill.” For those who haven’t seen The King’s Speech, here is a clip featuring Timothy Spall as Churchill.

Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill (photo via

I disagree with the criticism of Timothy Spall’s performance. So, to counter such criticism, I offer three arguments:

1) Churchill was an intriguing character. His cigar poses are awesome. His drunken episodes are legendary. And some of his first words as Prime Minister to the British House of Commons were “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Also, Churchill’s interests were as broad as his chin. He enjoyed painting and writing, and he even received the 1952 Nobel Prize in Literature. So, when critics say that Timothy Spall’s version of Churchill didn’t match the rest of the picture, they didn’t consider that perhaps that’s because Timothy Spall believes that Winston Churchill’s awesome qualities didn’t match the rest of twentieth-century Europe.


2) Who else? Some critics believe strongly that Timothy Spall was a poor choice, but I have yet to hear any feasible alternatives. Winston Churchill, though awesome, provides a unique challenge to directors who like to create semi-accurate physical portrayals of historical figures. To understand my point, consider, for a moment, some possible alternatives. Frank Langella: This lanky Churchill would be too similar to Langella’s portrayal of Nixon, and, while it may be interesting, a Nixon-infused Churchill is not what The King’s Speech needs. Alec Baldwin: Intriguing but ultimately wrong; this emotionless Churchill lacks the raw manliness of the real man. Martin Sheen: This Churchill doesn’t sound like Churchill. Bill Nighy: This Churchill has the sound and the attitude but not the look. Geoffrey Rush: Already in The King’s Speech. My conclusion is this: Timothy Spall may not be the right Churchill, but he is certainly the best.

3) Love for Peter Pettigrew. Timothy Spall has devoutly played Wormtail in every Harry Potter movie from Prisoner of Azkaban to Deathly Hallows: Part 1. That alone should earn him our love and respect.

So, The King’s Speech is a wonderful movie with well-written dialogue, excellent directing, and one stunning Winston Churchill.

Review: Newsies (1992)

Newsies via

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like if Batman and the President of the United States from Independence Day sang a song together?

Or, have you ever wondered what it’d be like if the cast of High School Musical found themselves in the late 19th century with nothing more than a pack of newspapers, some cigarettes, and hearts of gold?

Or, have you ever wondered how news traveled before the Internet?

Newsies, a film starring Bill Pullman and a young Christian Bale (among others) and directed by the guy who brought you all three High School Musical films, will tickle your inspiration and dazzle your dance shoes. When the cost of selling newspapers goes up, a ragtag group of newsboys go on strike. And, in a display of true patriotism, they voice their social concerns in the form of song and dance.

But their jazz hands quickly turn to brass knuckles when the authorities and Joseph Pulitzer come after them. In some fight scenes reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin movies, the newsies struggle for their independence (day).

Though there are a number of storylines running throughout the movie (a love plot, a bromance plot, a New Mexico plot, and a teen rebellion plot), and though any of those storylines could have led the audience to the victorious finale, I choose to believe that the newsies were led to victory by only two things: dancing and Gov. Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, had Gov. Roosevelt showed up earlier, the newsboys wouldn’t have had to practice parkour all around New York, and Crutchy wouldn’t have had a run-in with the fuzz.

But, Roosevelt didn’t. And the newsies did.

It all worked out in the end though. The guy gets the girl, the newsies get a better price for the papers, and the citizens of New York finally get to know what the heck is going on in the world.