Monday, February 8, 2010

I was the steam when hot meets cold...

Tom Kalin is not a director who shies away from controversial subjects. What I like about his films, in fact, is his ability to pull social taboos out into the light and examine them without deliberately trying to be provocative. Perhaps the best example of this is his 2007 feature, Savage Grace.

Savage Grace is, like Swoon, based on a real-life murder case. This one involves the Baekeland family, hiers to the Bakelite plastics fortune. The film chronicles the relationships between Brooks Baekeland, his wife Barbara Daly Baekeland, and their only child, Antony Baekeland, from Tony's infancy through Barbara's death at the hands of her son. A major theme of the film is the rumored incestuous relationship between Barbara and Tony, alleged to be the catalyst that led Tony to kill his mother.

One of the many remarkable things about this film is the way it was shot. As he proved in Swoon, Kalin does period films very thoroughly, shooting each segment as it would have been shot in the time period in which it was set. The progression from a stable camera and classical Hollywood-style invisible editing in the 1940s and 50s to the handheld camera and more adventurous style in the 60s subtly helps to orient the viewer each time the narrative jumps ahead, while making the transition feel seamless by immediately calling to mind the decade that is now being portrayed.

Of course, what many would consider the most remarkable thing about this film is its subject matter. Incest is among the gravest taboos in modern society, foremost on the unwritten list of "Thou Shalt Nots" that governs what topics are addressed in the mainstream media. It's easy to assume that anyone who would make a movie about it is purely looking to capitalize on shock value, but after viewing Savage Grace I can say that this doesn't seem to be the case here. In fact, Kalin seems to take great pains in order to avoid shocking the audience -- anymore than absolutely necessary, that is, because the Baekeland case is shocking in and of itself. Rather than exploiting his characters, Kalin explores them as human beings, flaws and all, and presents a respectful picture of what can go wrong in the human mind that would lead to such tragic events.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I'm king of the world...

You can really tell it's awards season, can't you? Grammys, Oscars, Razzies, blog awards... Yes, that's right, there's another one of those going around already, and this one was graciously presented to me by Sally. It's the Over The Top award, and the rules are as follows:

Link back to the person who tagged you, answer the following questions with one word only (I may have fudged this one a bit), and then link to a few other blogs that are also Over the Top.

1. Where is your phone? desk
2. Your hair? blonde
3. Your Mother? lovely
4. Your Father? witty
5. Your favorite food? chocolate
6. Your dream last night? hazy
7. Your favorite drink? white Russian
8. Your dream/goal? professional student
9. What room are you in? bedroom
10. Your hobby? blogging
11. Your fear? needles
(12. is missing)
13. Where were you last night? Grammy-watching party
14. Something that you’re not? musical
15. Muffins? delicious
16. Wish list item? iTouch
17. Where did you grow up? Jersey
18. Last thing you did? shower
19. What are you wearing? PJs
20. Your TV? fuzzy
21. Your pets? dog
22. Friends? wonderful
23. Your life? excellent
24. Your mood? sleepy
25. Missing someone? old friends
26. Vehicle? ancient
27. Something you’re not wearing? socks
28. Your favorite store? Kohl's
29. Your Favorite color? blue
30. When was the last time you laughed? 10:58
31. The last time you cried? unimportant
32. Your best friend? hilarious
33. One place that I go to over and over? Philly
34. Facebook? Twitter
35. Favorite place to eat? Subway

Here are some other Over The Top blogs I think you'll all enjoy:

Bygone Brilliance
Hollywood Dreamland
Movie Viewing Girl
Skeins Of Thought
Some Parade