So Black Swan’s a Ballet film for chicks, right? Wrong.


And by the way, is this not the best film poster in years?

Black Swan is the most visceral cinematic experience I’ve had since maybe Raging Bull.  So, it’s about ballet?  So what.  Ballet is merely the structure on which this tragedy about mental breakdown, maybe schizophrenia is played out.

Using the metaphor of black and white (the swans) to portray, good and evil, right and wrong, strength and weakness director Darren Aranofski paints a picture of what’s going on in the head of Natalie Portman as she gradually falls apart under the pressure of preparing to dance Swan Lake; with a backdrop of a doubtful choreographer, an ambitious understudy, a jealous mother and a fallen Prima ballerina; all exerting pressure of one sort or another on the poor little virgin that is Portman.

Portman delivers a tour de force (Oscar certainty) performance as she wrestles with the devils in her mind and tries to prove all the doubters wrong.  It’s a remarkable performance in so many ways, so vulnerable (which could just have been fey) and yet so strong.  Surely the Academy can look no further.

But the real star of the show – notwithstanding powerhouse performances from Barbara Hershey (wonderful as the mother), Winona Ryder in a Mommie Dearest descent into her own madness, Vincent Cassel (as the unforgiving choreographer and philanderer) and Mila Kunis as the threat from the Corps de Ballet – is director Darren Aronofsky.  My God, another huge contender for Academy recognition.  His direction of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler was eye opening, but this moves him onto yet another level.  He is garnering a reputation for bringing mental instability to the screen in a way that is eye opening and shocking.

And that’s another thing about this move, it’s a quite thrilling shockfest.  There’s a bunch of “gotcha” moments that have you ducking for cover (quite a few shreiks were let out in our relatively small audience) as he makes the most of the ability to confuse and wrongfoot his audience.

And then there’s the sex.  I’ll not go into detail here, but it is a central motif of the film (starting from the premise that Portman is a 24 year old virgin) and is certainly worthy of debate, but I don’t want to spoil it for you here.

All I’ll say is that sitting next to my 16 year old daughter as it played out made for a degree of discomfort!

All in all this is a truly outstanding piece of film-making.  In Darren Aronofsky we have one of America’s next great directors really cementing his claims for greatness and Natalie Portman never has, and never will, have a part this great again.

Go see.

Do NOT wait for the DVD, it will not be the same.

What is it about Colin Calderwood?


After defeat to Motherwell yesterday this very odd man said…

“There are aspects of the game I enjoyed. Problems are there to be solved so that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”

On Tuesday night after Hibs went out to a team two leagues below the odd bod Calderwood commented…

“We had so many good opportunities, the goalkeeper’s had a number of good saves, we’ve had efforts cleared from the line and I think they defended their goal excellently.

He has so far won 2 out of 15 games.

Being, at best, an armchair fan I have not seen him in action but I am told he stands impassively, hands in pockets, barely involving himself in games and certainly not leaping about like the madman Yogi Hughes had become.

It all just seems like he’s going through the motions.

Remarkably he claims to be “really enjoying it” at Easter Road.

Inevitably, the fans’ ire tends to turn to the manager or the Chairman in these sorts of situation.  And Rod Petrie’s extended honeymoon is certainly looking to be over at this moment in time.

The sale of Stokes and Bamba appears to be hitting home now and our lack of action in the transfer market is becoming notable.  I’m a great admirer of what Petrie has acheived at Easter Road but it feels like he has made an extraordinarily bad appointment in Colin Calderwood and his earlier reputation for canniness is in danger of becoming one for penny pinching (for which I am told he has a strong internal reputation.)

Lastly, of course, there’s the team itself; some say it is a shadow of its former self, one of the worst to have played for Hibs in many years (if not ever), but I saw Zemamma, Miller, Riordan, Wotherspoon, Murray, Stack and McBride (all in the squad yesterday) play Dundee Utd on 3rd October 2009 and destroy them before drawing 1 -1.

At that point the table looked like this…

A month later it looked even better…

And even by mid January Hibs (with this team) were in touch with the top, so my contention is not that it is the players themselves that are poor but the way in which they are applying themselves.

It feels to me that there is a cancer somewhere in Easter Road that is permeating the team and turning good players into bad.  Yogi lost them, and Calderwood has never had them bar one freak night against Rangers.

It needs sorted, and quick.

Swearing


I am indebted to my friend Phil Adams for making me think about this subject, of which my regular readers will know I am very fond.  This morning he wrote a brilliant and highly amusing post on his excellent blog, Sawdust.  It’s about an issue that makes my blood boil.  The lame-assed censorship of swearing, in the media.

Take this example from last month’s Times (One of the worst offenders as it happens)…

“Student rioters were incensed as they charged on Whitehall.  Said one, ‘the f***ing coalition are a bunch of c***s.’ ”

OK, I actually made that up but it’s a typical sentence you might read any day in any quality newspaper; except the Guardian who would have literally reported the quote.

Do they think we are complete idiots, that we can’t work out what letters the asterisks replace.

In his post Adams beautifully argues that this is in fact a form of reverse psychology, it’s a stopper, because it actually brings MORE attention to the swearword.  You re-read it, maybe even saying “fucking” out loud and if you’re a reader of the Daily Mail or Express you might even write in outrage to the editor.

Why not paraphrase the quote or leave it out altogether if swearing is such a challenge to your sensitivities?

And while I’m on it why does the Sun think it’s OK to show a picture of a topless girl next to a paragraph (headline even)  that reads “It’s all a load of b*ll*cks.”?  Which is most offensive to the greater number of people?   I mean, Jesus Christ, Rodney and Dell Boy said bollocks repeatedly on prime time TV for years, so I’m pretty sure it’s not even a swear word.  OK it’s a step up from my Grandmother’s old favourite: Ruddy.   But I have seen Bollocks b*ll*cked up  many times in the red tops.

This is one of my all time favourite poems which elucidates my point to perfection.

This was the moment that changed the history of swearing on TV.  I mean it’s hilarious.  The juxtaposition of posh old Bill Grundy and the trying oh so hard Sex Pistols…

It’s all captured beautifully in this book I received for Christmas.  I read it whenever I sit on the sh*tter.

For those of you with a nervous disposition the title of the book isn

Let’s return to the Guardian; where others write *rse (I kid you not) or trail Tarantino’s movie as Inglorious B******’s the Guardian will happily go for the full  Bhuna.  No one is afraid of the swearie police at the  Guardian and that’s one of the reasons I love it so.  Don’t like it?  Don’t buy it.  Just like you are, or aren’t, reading this post this far.

So, that’s that off my chest.  I can go and make the f****g breakfast now.