Against The Hype

movies, criticism and their pleasures

Archive for March, 2011

My Best Shot: A Streetcar Named Desire

March 23, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: Full Essays

I’ve tried. I swear I’ve tried. But after numerous repeated viewings, I still look upon Vivien Leigh’s Blache DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and wonder what gains the feisty, ever resourceful Scarlett O’Hara thinks she’ll get out of posturing so self-consciously and pitching her voice around the range of a twittery coo. It’s a testament to Leigh’s legendary performance as that other Southern belle in Gone with the Wind that it haunts this role too. Yet Leigh is so much more stiffly heightened here, even while keeping within a similar vein of theatricality, that we can’t quite say she’s approaching Blanche as an aged, more destitute remainder of who Scarlett once was either (though now that I would’ve liked to see).


Nolan’s Best Shot: Memento

March 16, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: Capsuled Thoughts

These days, director Christopher Nolan is justifiably esteemed for risking his blockbusters on such nominally cerebral material as InceptionThe Dark Knight, and The Prestige. But for me, Nolan’s breakout success Memento—today celebrating the tenth anniversary of its release—is still the movie that best corrals his recurring strengths and weaknesses into one taut package. I’d go further to advise fans and skeptics alike to catch the chronological-order cut of the movie (available on the Limited Edition DVD), which shores up how duly the movie’s meticulous construction serves its high-concept premise, its reliance on copious exposition and its motivating dead lovers—all tropes that have since dogged Nolan’s work, often for the worse.

But more than that, the chronological-order cut also offers a crucial look at how editing can utterly change our conception of an actor’s craft, and a writer-director’s rounded compassion. The above shot, my pick for Nathaniel Roger’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot series, offers the gist of my elations and problems with Memento. I’ve heard somewhere that, coming off the back of The Matrix‘s success (my review), Carrie-Anne Moss’ signing on to Memento was what led to the project being green-lit. Funny that we haven’t seen much of her since, while the two movies that remain her most prominent cultural legacies are still going strong a decade later. And they both reduce her to token plot points! That’s irony for you.