Black Swan

Alternate Title: Sexual Abuse in Three Acts
2010 Nominee

This is a movie where at the end, you turn to the person next to you and demand, “What the fuck did I just see?” Spoiler Alert: They won’t have any idea either. If you watch it alone, you’re going to call three of your friends and coerce them to watch it so that someone can maybe explain to you what was happening.

Black Swan starts with a ballerina who’s already screwed because she’s a ballerina. They operate in a culture of starvation and competition until they inevitably retire early and don’t know what else to do. It’s not really living, but constant work, the way a lot of high caliber artists function. It’s stressful and has dire consequences for Nina Sayers (Portman).

Nina’s mother (Barbara Hershey, playing a total creep) is a former ballerina who is suspiciously close with her grown daughter. By that I mean she sexually abused her and if you don’t believe me, Google search it and you’ll realize that’s part of what’s going on in this total acid trip of a motion picture.

Anyway, Nina gets the lead in Swan Lake, a story about a white swan who falls in love with a prince, but then this evil swan (the black one) tricks the prince and the white swan is grief-stricken and commits suicide. Forgive me if I have the details wrong, but the only description I’ve gotten of Swan Lake is from this movie and after what I discovered about Nina’s mom, I’m terrified to Google anything else related to it.

Nina’s director (Vincent Cassel) tries to extract her “black swan” by basically molesting her during rehearsal and giving her masturbatory “homework assignments.” His justification is that he only sees the docile white swan when he watches her dance and none of the seductress of the black swan.
As if this whole thing wasn’t creepy enough.

Meanwhile, Nina is freaking out because a fellow dancer, Lily (Kunis) appears to have the sexual prowess of the black swan down pact. She worries that Lily is trying to steal her place in the performance, especially after Lily drugs Nina’s drink in an effort to get her to relax. The drug of choice? Ecstasy.

As everyone and her mom tries to fuck her (literally), Nina slowly loses her grip on reality. This coalesces with Nina believing that she’s turning into a swan. The film is twisted in its storytelling, with you as the viewer wondering – just like Nina – whether the events are real or just an extremely vivid waking nightmare.

Black Swan is an foreboding look at the world of dancing and the trauma that comes from abusive relationships. It’s a great conversation piece for anyone who’s confused about this absolutely confusing movie.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Black Swan was nominated for Best Picture in 2010, but did the Academy get it right?

Room

Alternate Title: Oh the Places We Might Go if We Ever Get Out of Here
2015 Nominee

You might have no room left in your body for emotion after watching this. From the get-go, you are just like Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and your world is almost as small as his, except that you’re watching a movie and you know that room is not all there is to it.

Jack turns five and on this momentous birthday, Ma (Brie Larson, the best part of the show United States of Tara) decides to tell Jack that their Sunday visitor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) kidnapped Ma when she was 17. Ma reveals that her name is Joy and that their home, room, is not the universe. In fact, Ma explains that lots of things Jack sees on TV are actually real things and that Ma and Jack have to escape.
Although five, Jack is unprepared for the shock of this news. It takes a little time, but he eventually warms up to the story Ma has told him and agrees to try and help them get out of room.

Everyone knows the heart-stopping stories of young women who have been snatched away, only to return home years later. Few people consider the trauma and heartbreak endured by these women for years – even after the events. It’s not something the media focuses on when the stories are supposed to be about triumph and survival.
The fact is that survival is such a powerful word because it carries with it struggle and sacrifice. Survival implies overcoming a harrowing force. Room paints this picture, but from the innocent viewpoint of a five year-old boy who doesn’t understand the overwhelming danger and beauty of the whole wide world.
Room is a unique take on a haunting story everyone has heard because no one has ever heard it quite like this.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Room was nominated for Best Picture in 2015, but did the Academy get it right?