(Dec 17, 2010) KCUR Arts Reporter Steve Walker gives us our art, foreign, and documentary film viewing assignments.
Danny Boyle said he wanted to make an action movie about a man that can't move, and he has brilliantly succeeded. James Franco sheds most of his off-screen kookiness and gives a spectacular performance as Aron Ralston, the young man who had to amputate his own arm after getting pinned by a boulder while hiking alone in the desert.
The build-up to his own surgery brims with tension and, yes, the scene in question is as gruesome as you can imagine. But when the second his arm is free, you'll want to stand up and cheer his ingenuity and resilience. As a survivor story, it makes "Castaway" look like an after school special.
The true story of Boston boxer Mickey Ward is a punch to the solar plexus, thanks to fierce performances from Christian Bale as his drug-addled brother and Melissa Leo as their over-protective mother. Though director David O. Russell embraces all the clich?s of the boxing movie, he does so with his own style and vigor, frequently employing hand-held camera to put the Ward family right in our face. Though it's not in the class of "Raging Bull," it's very good.
Darren Aronofsky explores a New York City ballet company's production of "Swan Lake" by peeking inside the tortured personality of its lead dancer, played with grit and gumption by Natalie Portman. One can debate whether the movie is a statement about how all artists suffer for their art or a portrait of an individual dancer's psychotic break but there's no arguing that it all plays out like an opiate-induced fever dream.