Encapsulated Cinema: Rare Exports, Merantau, and Black Swan


People don’t believe me when I say that “Black Swan” is an awful motion picture. Out of all of the movies I’ve seen over the course of 2010, it’s easily the most disappointing. In order to give people perspective on what, exactly, I look for in a film, I’ve included two mini-reviews for a pair of flicks that have thoroughly and completely impressed yours truly. Maybe then you’ll understand why “Black Swan” didn’t settle well with me. Enjoy!

Rare Exports
Director Jalmari Helander’s Christmas-related horror outing has been on my cinematic radar for a while now, and my expectations were admittedly extremely high. Fortunately for me, this exceptionally entertaining tale of a murderous Santa Claus wreaking havoc in the Korvatunturi mountains delivered the goods in every way imaginable. The picture, which finds a young boy and his father attempting to wrangle the aforementioned holiday icon before his diabolical deeds can reach beyond their borders, strongly reminded me of a gorier, scarier version of Fred Dekker’s “The Monster Squad”. That, of course, is an extremely strong compliment. And while everyone in the flick does an incredible job of making this decidedly silly concept seem plausible, it’s young star Onni Tommila who shines the brightest. Add to that a few last-minute twists, a handful of gory surprises, and an ending that explains the picture’s unusual title and you’ve got a movie that has cemented its place in my holiday viewing schedule for years to come.

Emotionally-charged martial arts flicks are the bee’s knees, particularly if said motion picture comes packaged with several hearty slices of well-choreographed fights. Gareth Evans’ Indonesian kung fu outing “Merantau” certainly ranks with the best of them, stuffing as much action-oriented madness into this violent coming-of-age saga as humanly possible. Specifically, the film chronicles the adventures of a young man named Yuda, who is venturing out into the cruel world for the very first time. Not surprisingly, he soon finds himself locking horns with members of the local sex trade, a seedy bunch of individuals who are ill-prepared to handle our hero’s efficient and fluid brand of ass-kickery. Although the first half-hour may lead you to believe that you’re actually watching a touching family drama, the film soon picks up the pace, and before you know it, you’re knee-deep in broken bones and bloody concussions. And while the picture’s downbeat finale is somewhat disappointing, it actually suits the story very well. Impressive work.

Black Swan
Before putting together my Top 10 list for the year that was 2010, I decided to take in a screening of Darren Aronofsky’s latest effort “Black Swan”, a film which has received a lot of critical praise as of late. Truth be told, I simply cannot understand why. The film — a fetid yawner about a homely ballerina who loses her pretty little mind preparing for a performance of “Swan Lake” — is one of the most boring and woefully anti-climatic tales I’ve had to sit through all year. Not only is the picture predictable and hideously paced, lead bulimic Natalie Portman has all the sexuality of a pair of soiled penny loafers. What we have here, essentially, is a glossy and frequently pretentious adaptation of Nicholas Hytner’s 2000 teenage drama “Center Stage”, complete with built-in mommy issues and a goofy “hot for teacher” subplot. As devoted followers of all things Aronofsky, I am deeply disappointed. To be fair, every great director stumbles at some point in their career, so I’ll simply consider “Black Swan” to be the talented filmmaker’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and move on. Don’t believe the hype. At all.

Author: Todd Rigney

Todd was raised on a steady diet of Hollywood blockbusters, late-night Cinemax programming, and USA’s “Up All Night,” which may explain why his taste in movies is more than a little questionable. When he isn’t providing news and reviews for Beyond Hollywood, he can be found lounging lazily on his couch, perched in front of his television, or dwelling in places where direct sunlight can be easily avoided. He's happily married, in his 30's, and totally badass. If you'd like to reach Todd, you can follow him on Twitter or send him email/scoops to todd (at) beyondhollywood.com.
  • robert

    no matter what I have to say RE4 was the most dissapointing mainly because i was hyped up to see it(you probably werent hyped to see black swan) and it might have been a chick-flick i dont know i wont see it. BUT SERIUOUSLY COME ON MAN you of all people should know a bad movie, RE4 was 96 min long and if you take out slow mos about 9 minutes long(thats being generous)then there is bad acting, wierd make up styles and the lack of explanation (like how she survived th plane crash at the beginning and got away from the all mighty god whesker) im not trying to be a dick or anything like that but from youve described black swan as a B movie that got in a few theaters and probably didnt make half what RE4 made. i wouldve figured if anything you would pick a movie that people actually cared about, not a movie that nobody wants to see.

  • Waywardlife

    I think you may be mildly retarded. One thing for sure don’t quit your day job to pursue a career in writing. And what ever you do, don’t show anyone that script you’ve been working on!

  • Nekrobomb Jones

    I knew this wasn’t James. No taste.

  • Ann

    Black Swan was a totally over-hyped film. I found it boring and confusing…trying to be something but was not much of anything. Natalie way too thin, even for a dancer. At least a ballerina has well defined muscles.

  • Ann

    Black Swan was a totally over-hyped film. I found it boring and confusing…trying to be something but was not much of anything. Natalie way too thin, even for a dancer. At least a ballerina has well defined muscles.

  • Midori

    Wow!! You know nothing about film, if you can say Black Swan was a disappointment. It’s not like Center Stage the only thing in common is that they both feature ballet. You really missed the deeper meaning of the film. It was visually amazing and the story-line isn’t complicated. You clearly don’t appreciate and understand the performing arts which is why you missed the message. The film deserves all the hype it has received and I urge everyone to go out and see it! Aronofsky has succeeded again.

    To Ann – Her character was meant to that thin and I’ve seen plenty of ballet dancers who are that thin and some even thinner!

  • ATodisco

    I would give “the Black Swan” a 6.5 of 10. It was not all bad, but it could have been oh so much better. First of all, it’s a little like a horror film with all the blood, etc. Second of all, Natalie Portman’s character, Nina, was acting weird from the very beginning. She looked about 35-38 years old (probably because of being so thin), yet was incredibly timid and sheltered. That just doesn’t fit a prima ballerina with all the training, self-discipline and competition required to be successful that position. Not to mention the youth factor! And I think the lesbian sex was a real crowd draw.
    I keep reading that Nina’s character became evil, but that was not the impression I received. She seemed to be schizophrenic, experiencing hallucinations, distortions of reality and other strange behavior. Actually, that would have been a better story…if she had developed mental illness due to the stress. Still, I think she would have had periods of normalcy, which Nina never seemed to experience. I could not get really bonded to her character.
    ‘Black Swan’ is somewhat entertaining, but is not an award category film in my opinion. I thought “The Wrestler” was a first class film, with well rounded appealing characters in spite of their human flaws. Like you said, every director has his stumble and this may well be Aronofsky’s.

  • Ck198806

    I’m not a movie critic but I am very picky about what I see. Black Swan was a great movie besides the fact it was obvious that Portman was much older than her character. I thought she did really well with the timidity and the climactic breakthrough of the black swan during the final performance. She was simply consumed in her work, which is the extreme side of any performing arts. I would definitely not say she ever became evil and the black swan isn’t supposed to be. It’s what Tomas said all the time during the film, it’s about letting go; and being consumed.

  • Frnimay

    i am not even going to see it…the story is taken from a book that has nothing to do about ballet persay..take a look at wikapedia. and portman is tooo thin…take a look at a real ballet dancer…thin but very muscled. and no one with her obivious emotional and mental problems would ever get as far in a ballet career as the character is supposed to have achieved..it takes great strength of character and dedication to become a high ranked ballerina

    • georgeglooby

      what wikapedia are you looking at.
      The basic idea for the film started when he hired screenwriters to rework a screenplay called The Understudy, which was about off-Broadway actors and explored the notion of being haunted by a double
      not a book.
      Both actors and ballet dancers have understudies.
      if you actually saw the film you would see that her emotional and mental problems
      were a result of the pressure and did not necessarily manifest themselves before.
      also, the film is a complex, modern retelling of Swan Lake.
      Criticizing a film with out even seeing it is just stupid.

  • Kosmicgirl

    Would someone please tell me what the heck this movie was really about? It was not a bad movie, however I left completely confused about what was real and what was a figment of a mentally diseased mind. Was the mother really as bad as shown, or was some of what we saw just the manifestation of a mental breakdown?