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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

entry arrow3:07 AM | Dead Stars

The race for the 87th Academy Awards has essentially started with all the online punditry abuzz with each new screening -- and as usual, I want to do my annual unflagging attempt to seeing all possible films in contention, even before the official nominations come on January. This blog series aims to chronicle this effort.

On occasion, I find the films of David Cronenberg appealing -- if one especially finds appealing the dreadful feel of the dentist's waiting room with the door to the anteroom half-open, enough for the shrill metallic sound of the drill bit to fill the air. But there you go: sometimes we find uneasy entertainment in the things that discomfort us. In the early years of Cronenberg's filmography, when he was remaking the landscape of what we all came to know as the cinema of body horror, he was at the top of his game, and we lapped up his perversions, subtle or unsubtle, from Videodrome to The Fly to Dead Ringers to eXistenZ to Crash -- all these a celebration of that blurry divide slash boundaries slash violations of flesh and slicing metal slash technology. (The word "slash" is intentional.) Most of these are horror movies about individuals with gaping wounds within them, exacerbated by technology. There has since been, I've noticed, some change of pace since The History of Violence. Cronenberg's scalpel violations now seems to become a metaphor for how people relate to each other -- or to be more precise, how we find ways to cut with cold surgical precision the bonds that tie us. We see that in Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method, and Cosmopolis. His latest, Maps to the Stars, is only the most recent in his attempt to explore this theme -- and perhaps the returns are diminishing. I like the film, but it doesn't have the poetry of The History of Violence or the intelligence of A Dangerous Method. It feels too much like a film intent only on shocking, but with cheap results masquerading as profundity. The story of a troubled girl with burned arms (played by Mia Wasikowska) who comes to Hollywood to find work as personal assistant to a Hollywood star already past her prime (played to hysterical and cruel perfection by Julianne Moore), only to find herself scratching deep below the surface of Tinseltown's glamour and lights to reveal hidden perversions and secrets, it doesn't feel like the expose or satire to Hollywood excess that it seems to want us to think it is. Hollywood seems to be just a convenient excuse of a setting to just wallow in an uninspired narrative about people doing evil things to other people. Cronenberg has made better films than this. This one feels like a derivative of a D-grade Brett Easton Ellis novel. But please give Julianne Moore that Oscar. She wrings unbelievable greatness from her role, although even that doesn't save this film from sinking.


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