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Scott RobertsBlack Swan
by on Dec 13, 2010 at 5:04:11 pm

Well, this easily shot into my top 5 of the year! Everything about Black Swan is done masterfully. It looks beautiful, it sounds beautiful, yet it left a very uneasy feeling in my stomach. But since that was the desired effect, I mean that in a good way. Everything about it hit me the right way. I read that Aronofsky's biggest influences on the film were early Roman Polanski films, and it definitely fits that bill. It's marketed as a psychological thriller, and it is, but I would go as far as to call it borderline horror. I'm definitely planning on seeing it again before the end of the month.

And they made it for something like $17 million! That IS a lot of money, but not for a major film production with lavish set designs and some cool, well-placed special effects. I read a news blurb about it that the budget was so slim that halfway through shooting the film Natalie Portman had to choose between having a trailer, and having an on-set medic! (she chose the medic, by the way)

But I will be very disappointed if this does not get the Academy Award for Cinematography, basically the entire movie I was blown away at how they shot it. It's one of those films where you can tell someone put a ton of thought into every single frame.

I also expect Natalie Portman to take home the Best Actress Oscar, I've never seen her this good before, and she was pretty incredible. You can tell she was very dedicated to this film, and it shows in a big way. Not to get into another Star Wars thing, but I always notice the ineptitude of Episodes 1-3 so much more when I see an actor/actress from the prequels give a brilliant performance in something else...

Anyway, definitely check out Black Swan at some point in your life.

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Tim WilsonRe: Black Swan
by on Dec 13, 2010 at 5:40:40 pm

Black Swan won a record 12 nominations in this year's Critic's Choice awards.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Black Swan
by on Dec 13, 2010 at 5:58:25 pm

If this movie makes money, it won't be because of the quality of the photography or script or performances, though that is all there - but because of the salacious marketing in the pop culture media of it's erotic sub-plot between the two female co-stars. Much like nobody rented "The Darjeeling Limited", except to see the short that came with it, where Portman showed some skin. When the general word gets out in the moviegoing public that you don't really "see anything" (You "See" "more" in "Requiem for a Dream"), the critical success will continue, but the commercial success will likely fall rapidly a week or so after opening. That's just the crass nature fo the general American moviegoing audience. I'll make you a bet; that the movie with Gillenhall and Hathaway's skin scene in it will eventually out-gross Black Swan, by quite a margin.

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Scott RobertsRe: Black Swan
by on Dec 13, 2010 at 6:21:27 pm

Did you see the movie? Because the erotic sub-plot with the two ladies actually goes pretty far, haha! There's no nudity, but it is definitely something you wouldn't want to watch while sitting next to your parents. And it's not really pointless or anything either, it moves the story along.

I GUARANTEE Black Swan will not make a lot of money at the box office. Much like you couldn't get most of America into an actual ballet, you won't be able to get them into a movie about ballet. Even if said ballet movie is a suspense film about a ballerina mutating into a swan...! But hey, Hurt Locker didn't make that much money either. Mass crowds will always opt for romantic comedy over mutating ballerina. Unless people are willing to spend their free time going to the movie theater every weekend like I do, people will definitely pick and choose, and 9 times out of 10 they will go for the safe, fuzzy blockbuster over the art film. That's not to discredit blockbusters, I get plenty of enjoyment out of them many times a year, but I'm just saying Black Swan is better than any blockbuster I've seen this year.

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Tim WilsonRe: Black Swan
by on Dec 13, 2010 at 8:56:08 pm

Black Swan also named one of AFI's best 10 American movies (they list alphabetically), and Natalie was named Best Actress by the Boston critics.

I think the salacious thing is WAY overrated. This isn't the 70s, and Black Swan ain't Porky's. To tell you the truth, this is the first time I've heard about that aspect - most of what I've seen has been around Aronofsky's work, and that's as it should be for my money.

re: Love and Other Drugs, it opened an abysmal #6, FAR below expectation, and has so far grossed only $29 million in 2458 theaters. With a production budget of $30m, probably that much again for the release, and plenty to be made in the ancillaries, nobody's losing their job after its 19 days on the street...but strictly for US BO, a grounder into a double play. The drooling mobs were not lined up at the door.

(BTW, I'm a BIG fan of both actors. Just not this movie.)

For perspective, Hurt Locker finished up with $16.4m US (but HUGE money overseas: total of $48m worldwide), with 535 theaters as its widest release. With a production budget of $15m, this is a bigger winner.

Aronofsky's biggest release to date was The Wrestler, $28m..on a production budget of SIX million. That's nearly 5x on domestic BO alone, in 775 theaters at its peak - by far the biggest winner of the lot to date, by a long shot.

So more than tripling the production budget for his next picture, no problem, even in these troubled times. Each of his movies has made more than the one before - a LOT more. I wouldn't be even a little surprised to find it grossing much higher - high 30s? - than The Wrestler. I doubt higher grosses than LAOD, but I don't think it's going to be shockingly far off.

It's also going to trend like art-ish indies - UP after release. The Wrestler did 8.8% of its business opening weekend, Hurt Locker did less than 1%. Compare this to a typical mainstream release - drop-offs of 50% are common.

Again, my bet is on Black Swan for a marathon.

As far as profit goes, I think Black Swan is going to blow past Love and Other Drugs.

Every time I think about how much I hated those fake Star Wars movies, I remember this instead. Even bleeped, it's not exactly SFW, so I haven't embedded the link. Still highly recommended for a look at the "real" Natalie. I love this video and watch it now and again to cheer myself up.

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Scott RobertsRe: Black Swan
by on Dec 13, 2010 at 10:48:40 pm

I love The Wrestler, one of my favorite films of 2008, and Aronofsky is almost 100% good in my book (The Fountain...? I want to like it... but I don't...), and I wish he would make more money in the box office, if only for the fact that would mean more people would see his films.

But I was just looking over the domestic gross of 2008 films, and while The Wrestler did amazing from a cost-to-profit standpoint (going from $6 million to make to $26 million brought in), it's definitely not something I would consider a financially successful film in the big picture. It ranked #105 on the 2008 list of box office money.

BUT if you happen to look at #32 on the list, Beverly Hills Chihuahua brought in a cool $92 million... So box office numbers don't really mean much from a meaningful standpoint. Small films will continue to be ignored, bad films will continue to be watched, and comic book properties/sequels/animated films (9 of the top 10) will continue to make boatloads of cash. (Of course this last paragraph I wrote here is FULL of exceptions... Slumdog Millionaire anyone? $15 million budget, $141 million domestic gross)

2008 Box Office:

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Tim WilsonRe: Black Swan
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 3:19:44 pm

[Scott Roberts] "BUT if you happen to look at #32 on the list, Beverly Hills Chihuahua brought in a cool $92 million."

It was a family movie with huge upside in the ancillaries, and did 31% of its total gross on opening weekend, in over 3000 theaters.
With a budget of $20 million, it did 5:1 domestic and 7:1 worldwide. Those are Darren Aronofsky ratios!

Historically anyway. With a budget of $19 million this time, I can't imagine any exec on the planet thinking that Black Swan is going to pull in $100 million. I also don't think they're ultimately worried about that. For all that we paint them as craven and cynical and all about the money, all of the ones I've met (admittedly not a ton...but more than a few) really love movies. I think it makes them proud to invest in a movie like Black Swan - it'll make more than it cost (nobody likes a loser, including Aronofsky) and it's GOOD.

Two great Aronofsky quotes:

There's always been a lot of pressure and tension on the line. If Pi (1998) didn't work out, I have no idea what my career would be. I don't think I would have gotten another shot at it. If Requiem for a Dream (2000) didn't work out, they would have called me a "one-hit wonder with a sophomore slump."


My worst fear is making a film that people don't think is a good ride.

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Tim WilsonRe: Black Swan
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 3:31:02 pm

Also, Golden Globe noms just announced: Black Swan, Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Darren Aronofsky all named.

Not that it has anything to do with the quality of a movie, but I love grosses and awards season. Kinda like the difference between baseball stats and watching the games. It's the most fun when you pay attention to both, which is why it's one of most characteristic traits of the hardcore fan.

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Scott RobertsRe: Black Swan
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 3:43:15 pm

Yeah that is pretty awesome, I'm surprised at the Mila Kunis nomination! I liked her in Black Swan a lot, but I wasn't expecting awards recognition for it. I also imagine Social Network probably winning the big prize at most ceremonies, but if Inception starts to get regarded as simply a special effects picture, it could move Black Swan into the #2 position. I would be happy if Social Network or Inception won best picture, liked both off those movies a lot, but it would be so cool if Black Swan won.

But then there's that King's Speech movie that I have relatively no interest in seeing. It seems like every year there is that one unappealing movie to me that gets nominated for best picture because it's critically acclaimed, but forgettable in the long run. The Queen, Frost/Nixon, Atonement, Seabiscuit, now the King's Speech. I mean good for them, but I personally feel like they are hogging a spot for a better movie. Maybe if the Academy wants to market to younger audiences like they claim they always want to do, they will lose the boring movies like these and just nominate a long shot film geared at 18-35 audiences. They kind of did that last year with District 9, but they had the 10 nominee thing going on (which I sort of like).

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Scott RobertsRe: Black Swan
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 4:13:43 pm

On another note, I also just noticed that all 5 leading dramatic actress nominations are from smaller films, that's pretty great. But, oh wait, they have nominated Johnny Depp twice in the same category, for two terrible films... I guess there is balance in the world...

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Scott RobertsSound of Black Swan
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 5:17:34 pm

Here's a nice little featurette on the sound design of Black Swan. But I'm not sure you should watch it if you haven't seen the film yet.

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Malcolm MatuskyRe: Sound of Black Swan
by on Jan 14, 2011 at 4:39:22 am

I saw the film this evening, on a HUGE screen, quite impressed how well the super 16 & 7D/1D held up through the post process. Actually quite amazing, the film stocks have never been better, ironic that they are now obsolete in the face of 2k/4k/6k digital cameras arriving quickly on the scene.

I can see where the size and weight of the 16mm camera was a big advantage for the hand held work used extensively in the film's dance sequences. Will the Red Epic be as easy to use hand held? It looks small enough, but what about all the accessories? The Arri SR series had the best form factor of any camera I ever used, if a high quality digital camera can replicate that it will be extremely useful. Though the small camcorders of today (non shoulder mounted) are light weight, having the eyepiece on the back makes it quite unsteady, my $0.02


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Carlton RahmaniRe: Black Swan
by on Mar 10, 2011 at 7:52:44 am

Am I the only person in the world who didn't like this movie? I went to it with HIGH expectations--coming from some dance background myself as well--and the only reason I didn't walk out due to boredom was because my girlfriend kept hoping that something would actually happen. It never did--not really. And she regretted staying as well.
Nah. . .I think people have been duped. I haven't seen the Wrestler, but everything else I've seen of Arronofsky's (and I don't care if I can't spell his name right) just kind of reeks of a guy who knows just a little bit about something, then adds all sorts of artsy/feely crap along the way.
To say it was 'shot beautifully' isn't enough for me. In fact, I think that's one of the biggest, more pretentious copouts I've ever heard. "Oh. . .it's so beautiful!!"
Man, it's a dull, flat palette with the same series of events played over and over again by characters who are nothing but one-dimensional stereotypes.
I mean, if someone could provide for me a reason why this film is actually GOOD, I'll hear it. . .other than that, save the rest for Skinemax.

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Mike CohenRe: Black Swan
by on Mar 10, 2011 at 2:51:44 pm

If Mila Kunis was not in the movie and it didn't have the erotic subplot, would it have been as popular? Certainly fewer boyfriends and husbands would have consented to seeing this on date night!

Seriously, I think Natalie did a good job portraying someone spiraling out of control. Still, I can't help but picture Senator Amidala when she talks. And did anyone notice the resemblance of this:
to this:

I'll have to watch this on blu-ray to really check out the cinematography and sound design. Which reminds me, need to finally get a blu-ray player. Rumor has it my moratorium may finally be about to end:

The subway scenes were shot on a 7d - that's cool.

I have not seen too many Aronovsky films - Requiem for a Dream a long time ago, and that could be it. Will have to update my Facebook queue. No that sounds weird. Netflix it is!

Mike Cohen

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Scott RobertsRe: Black Swan
by on Mar 10, 2011 at 4:33:15 pm

Well, first off, you're not alone, I've heard plenty of criticism against Black Swan. From your argument of it being boring and uneventful, to others calling it a "lesbian Fight Club". I happen to disagree, but a film's ability to hold one's attention is based more on the person watching it. For example, I love There Will Be Blood, but other people (like Mark from this forum) would probably rather gouge their eyes out than endure it.

I'm not trying to label you as someone who likes a certain style of film, but Black Swan WAS an art-house film, and I imagine if you didn't like it for the reasons you stated above, you likely don't like many art-house films? Also based on your thoughts, your use of the word artsy, and your thoughts on the previous work of Aronofsky, I take it you kind of wanted to dislike the film even before you saw it? I don't hold anything against you for doing that if that's what you did, I have the same level of pre-disapproval for Tyler Perry movies. And other people (not saying this is you, not putting words in your mouth, I just know people like this) tend to dislike a film because its popular and everyone else likes it. I initially did that with Donnie Darko, then I gave it a second chance, and now I only think it's mediocre as opposed to crappy.

Some reasons Black Swan is good:

1. It is beautiful. I didn't mean for it to come across as if that was the only reason I thought it was good from my original post, yes, that would have been something of a copout. But the fact of the matter is the way a film is shot is a major factor, and I thought Black Swan was shot pretty masterfully.

2. It's suspenseful. I know a big criticism of any of these kind of psychological films is that people tend to hate it when they can't figure out whether anything is real or not, and it's frustrating storytelling. Some find it lazy. Again, it's all subjective, but to say nothing happened in Black Swan is a bit of an unnecessary jab. If it's because technically nothing did actually happen, because it was in Nina's mind, then nothing happened in American Psycho or Fight Club either. You want a beloved movie where nothing actually happens? Lost in Translation. Compare the two.

3. I thought the theme of losing your mind trying to achieve perfection was great. And they did a good job making it entertaining, at least to me. I mean, the whole struggle of her psychologically turning into the role she is trying to perfect is the whole theme of the film. If you didn't like that aspect, then yes, I could see why you wouldn't like it.

4. Atmosphere. I could care less about ballet to be honest, but seeing sort of the seedy New York underbelly atmosphere in contrast with the high society characters was a fantastic touch. There was a level of grime across the whole film that I wouldn't associate with something like ballet, and it helped create the maddening tone I enjoyed.

5. Acting. Portman was obviously good, it's hard to deny that, but even the side characters were good at what they did. One criminally underrated performance was that of Vincent Cassel, as the dance instructor.

I don't know, I'm going to stop now because my fingers are starting to bleed from typing out all this internet rage! Just kidding, but yeah, I personally think it's not a good movie, but a great one. Especially amidst the sea of crap that gets mass released in theaters. Black Swan vs. something like Drive Angry 3D, wow, if I may paraphrase a line from Pulp Fiction, "Watching Black Swan and watching Drive Angry 3D ain't even the same f'n thing. It ain't even the same ballpark. It ain't the same ballpark, it ain't the same league, it ain't even the same f'in sport. Look, Drive Angry 3D don't mean s***."

I understand if you found it boring, and you have the right to feel that way. Some people can listen to NPR everyday on the radio, but it makes me want to drive my car off a bridge. Back to work!

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Stephen SmithRe: Black Swan
by on Mar 10, 2011 at 6:11:34 pm


Some people can listen to NPR everyday on the radio, but it makes me want to drive my car off a bridge.

Hey Scott, leave me out of this. :-)
See my post on the movie Big:

Stephen Smith
Utah Video Productions

Check out my Motion Training DVD

Check out my Motion Tutorials

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