Posted Jan 29, 2011 in Cool Shit | 0 Comments

FYC: Blue Valentine

The nominees for the Academy Awards were released last Tuesday as scheduled. Despite seeing  most of the films, I’m not good at predicting who will win. I often look at the Oscars, instead, to compare the real winners to the winners in my head.

Supporting actor and actress: Christian Bale and Mila Kunis.

Sub rate: .500.

Foreign film: I haven’t seen Dogtooth yet, but I’m willing to betray my country for it. Edgy choices for the shortlist by the way, Academy.

Sound mixing and other technical awards? Fuhggetaboutit.

Best director? Definitely Derek Cianfrance for Blue Valentine, who is unfortunately snubbed by the Academy, possibly for being a newcomer. I missed Blue Valentine while writing my best-of-lists for my daily blog. Much of the praise of the film focuses on the realism of the consummation and disintegration of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) love, but Cianfrance adds more magic to the narrative, fusing different elements together. There’s the digital cinematography, adding some sort of light and nostalgia to the flashbacks of before and during the couple’s meeting. Or the colours, the frosty blues and the passionate reds in the lighting or on the characters’ costumes, subtly symbolic of what the characters feel. There’s also the music, provided by Grizzly Bear’s earlier stuff, used to mark Dean seeing nature for the first time in years, or the band’s indie-folksy electric guitar when the young couple finally meet at a retirement home. The film, especially its flashbacks, feels like watching a grainy, more contemporary version of a Sirkian film, and I have yet to meet someone who has seen the movie and not fallen in love with it. The realism adds to the romance and even, as some critics have said before, makes us wanna root for the doomed couple.

There’s also the way he directs both the leads in different stages of their characters’ lives. To take time off from their daughter and to forget about their troubles, Dean and Cindy book time in a specialty motel and the room that they get is the Future Room. She asks him about him wanting to do something in life, while he argues that he’s content with his place in it. In this scene she looks both like a femme fatale and a harbinger of truth, the Future Room symbolic of what’s wrong with them. There’s also multiple levels of understanding and misunderstanding here. They’re not at the same level of ambition anymore, yet they don’t wanna hurt each other.

He also uses the Kubrickian method of letting the actors improvise, adamantly pushing each others buttons. The November/December issue of Creative Screenwriting magazine reveals how both actors’ determination in a scene in the Brooklyn Bridge, when Dean’s trying to make Cindy open up and tell what’s wrong. Not only till Dean is almost jumping off the bridge does Cindy decide to tell him that she’s pregnant.

Credit is, nonetheless, due for the actors. Though Gosling was snubbed by the academy, we can at least give thanks that they didn’t overlook Williams. Who wouldn’t fall in love with Gosling’s Dean, the most hopelessly romantic and blindly optimistic character in recent film history? Finding the right words to charm anyone, even if we as the audience know that this well-meaning ex-Floridian guy is bad news. He sits with Cindy and tells her about visiting her grandmother and we laugh and we don’t think he’s a creep. Gosling works with the direction and the mood of the film’s flashback scenes, with energy to run around the city streets. Just like Cindy, we wanna be in that ride with him, running around the sidewalks, making out in cabs like high school kids.

Williams’ Cindy is more of a double sided coin. She’s the happiest college girl doing ‘research’ on a wheelchair, trying to find out possibly if her grandmother’s gonna be comfortable sitting on the thing, or maybe get kissed by her ex-boyfriend Bobby Ontario (Mike Vogel) on it. She finds joy in her daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka), dressing her and letting her play on her father’s front lawn. Cindy also marks realism to the film, especially with her frankness in living through her sexual history and intimate moments with and after Bobby and Dean. As a wife, mother and career woman, she wants her husband to have the same success that she’s trying to have. Cindy handles criticism about being too mature, or about preparing breakfast, or not shutting the gate that accidentally lets their dog Megan out on the neighborhood. But she fights back when needed.

This is the only film that made me cry, especially during their last, tearful argument about being a product of a broken home. It’s a movie that captures and elicits genuine reactions. I came out of the theater smiling that I’ve experienced them within two hours.

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