Sunday, February 7, 2016

2010: Natalie Portman for Black Swan

Natalie Portman plays a dedicated but timid ballerina who is given the highly coveted lead role in "Swan Lake" only to find her sanity unraveling.

I know I've called several movies "weird" on this blog, but Black Swan is definitely the weirdest yet. I finished it late last night, and went to bed wondering if anything was real. It's intensely bizarre and profoundly disturbing. I don't think I'll be able to watch it again any time soon. But I did think that Natalie Portman's performance was excellent.

There seems to be some debate about how much of the dancing she actually did, which moderately affects how impressive her performance is. If, as some claim, she did as much as 80% of her own dancing, it's ridiculously impressive, but if it was mostly her body double with her face edited in, as others claim, then somewhat less so. But regardless, the non-dancing part of the performance was superb. Portman really gets inside her character's head, which cannot have been easy considering how unstable she is. She also undergoes a significant transformation from meek, guarded, technically focused and suffering from slight impulse control issues to confident and in touch with her feelings but also completely psychotic. Neither of those would be easy to portray on its own, but the fact that she manages to nail both while still convincing us that they're the same person proves that she's an incredibly talented actress. She may or may not also be a talented ballerina, but the acting part is undeniable.

I also have to mention Mila Kunis. She, too, gives an incredible performance, providing a sharp contrast to Portman. Kunis isn't in that much of the movie, but I don't think it would have worked without her. Portman's very good the rest of the time, but it's her scenes with Kunis that really allow us to understand her character fully. I don't know if this means Portman's performance is less worthy of recognition, since some of her character is only revealed through Kunis, or more worthy because it demonstrates her ability to play off other actors. Either way, it's worth mentioning. The main thing to take away from all this is the movie is super weird and I'm not sure I liked it, but I did really appreciate the performances, particularly from Portman and Kunis.

This was Portman's second Oscar nomination, the first being for her supporting role in 2004's Closer. This is her most recent nomination, but it wasn't that long ago, and she's still pretty young, so she'll almost certainly receive more nominations in the future.

Next: Meryl Streep FINALLY gets another Oscar, 29 years and 12 nominations after her previous win

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