Movie Reviews: Black Swan and The Tourist

Movie – Black Swan

Director: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream)

Writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John McLaughlin

Starring: Natalie Portman (The Professional, Garden State, The Other Boleyn Girl), Mila Kunis (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Book of Eli, Date Night), Vincent Cassel (Ocean’s Twelve, Eastern Promises), and Barbara Hershey (Hoosiers, Falling Down, Hannah and Her Sisters)

Theater – Cinemark Movies 12 – Ames, Iowa

Companion – Jesse and Nader

Food – Mongolian Buffet

Intellectual Honesty

I didn’t bring a ton to the table. I’ve liked Natalie Portman as an actress since The Professional, but unfortunately she slummed for awhile by making those dreadful Star Wars movies. I think she is overrated as a beauty, but I think that happens to all actresses that come to the public’s attention at a young age or is in some type of science fiction/fantasy nerd film franchise. The double whammy for Portman. So when people tell me they want to see Black Swan just because Natalie Portman is hot (Willy), I don’t get it. I think Darren Aronfsky is kind of hit and miss, but more hit. The Wrestler and Requiem for a Dream are fantastic. The Fountain is not.


For some reason I have a prejudice against Mila Kunis. I’m not really sure why when I think about it. She is an integral part of Family Guy and Robot Chicken. Two of the greatest shows ever. She did stink it up something fierce in Book of Eli though, but I finally recently watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall and she is definitely very watchable in this movie.

Ever since I saw the first trailer for this movie I’ve thought it looked somewhat inane. However, because of the tremendous reviews and the imminent Best Picture nomination, I knew I would have to go see it. It is better after all to make preparations for the Oscar Party early rather than trying to scramble to find the nominees later.

Synopsis from IMDB

Nina (Portman) is a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica (Hershey) who exerts a suffocating control over her. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side – a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.


I should start by saying that I’m pretty sure that the working title of this film was Masturbationfest 2010! There are 4 masturbation scenes in this movie, but one of them is cleverly disguised as a lesbian sex scene. During Natalie Portman’s first masturbation scene a thought crossed my mind. All of the Star Wars fans that came to see this movie because Natalie Portman is hot, probably looked at the screen and thought, “Wait, something is backwards here.” Although surely unintentional, it is the kind of meta-joke that I can appreciate.

I have already written that I consider Portman to be overrated as a beauty, but in this movie she is so grossly thin that there are times that she is hard to look at. During her 2nd masturbation scene, I thought, “All things considered, I’d really rather watch her eat a sandwich.”

I don’t want to dwell on the masturbation, but one of my first thoughts while I watched this movie was, the reason this movie is so highly regarded by the critics is because of all the masturbation.

It has been a long held theory of mine that film critics, not to sound Puritanical, overrate movies that contain sexual deviance. I’m not saying that masturbation is sexual deviance. I’m not saying lesbian sex is sexual deviance. I’m not saying that staring at Portman on the subway and masturbating is sexual deviance, okay maybe I am saying that one is sexual deviance, but if there is a hint of sexual deviance then film critics are all over it like a dog in heat.

There is no other way for me to explain why movies like The Piano or The Crying Game are so highly regarded. There is no other way to explain the one and only movie that Roger Ebert ever wrote.

When I left the theater, my initial gut response was that I had seen the most overrated movie of 2010. This was not without reason, with about 25 minutes to go the movie had become so insipid that I was ready for it to be over. However, when it ended, the ending was so great that it kind of saved the rest of the movie for me.

That isn’t to say that the ending was a surprise. If you paid attention to Portman’s character’s relationship with her mom, I think you could figure out the ending. One of the truths of filmmaking is that you can have problems in the 1st and 2nd act, but if you wow them in the 3rd, that is all that matters.

Truth is that if this movie would have ended in any other way, I would have considered it one of the worst movies of the year. Since it ended the way that it did, it is eking into my Top 10.

What do I mean by eking? Since I’ve left the theater, I have continued to think about this movie. The more I think about it, the more I like it. The performances are great, with the exception of Winona Ryder who seems hopelessly out of place in the world of ballet. Portman and Hershey are particularly great. As is Cassel. Kunis is very serviceable.

The visual effects are stunning and the music is fantastic.

So I sit here and I think on this movie…

3.5/5 Caramels

Buy on DVD
I think I might, but I might not.

2010 Ranking
I’m going to place it barely in my Top Ten for now.

Bonus Information
This is easily the most enigmatic movie of the year for me. There is a chance that I will see this movie again this weekend with Jill. If I do, I will revisit this review briefly.

Movie – The Tourist

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others)

Writer: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, and Julian Fellowes

Starring: Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd, Edward Scissorhands, Pirates of the Caribbean) and Angeline Jolie (Changeling, Salt, Wanted)

Theater – Century 20 Jordan Creek – West Des Moines, Iowa

Companion – Sara

Food – BangBang Mongolian Grill

Intellectual Honesty

I really like Johnny Depp. Even when he is in absolutely terrible movies (Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) he is still worth watching.


I can’t stand Angeline Jolie. Other than Girl, Interrupted; I don’t think that she has been in anything worth watching. Remember what I said about being an overrated beauty and Natalie Portman. That is Angeline Jolie times 10. That is a conservative estimate.

Synopsis from IMDB

Elise (Angelina Jolie) sits next to an American tourist, Frank (Johnny Depp), on a train going to Venice. She has chosen him as a decoy, making believe that he is her lover who is wanted for police. Not only will they need to evade the police, but also the mobster whose money her lover stole.


There isn’t much to say about this movie. It isn’t really worth much of a review. I think the best way to describe it is North by Northwest for stupid people.

The surprise ending of this movie you can see almost as soon as the credits start to roll. The opening credits.

There isn’t much action. What action there is, is boring. The love story is terribly contrived. For this being a love story, there seems to be a decided lack of chemistry between Depp and Jolie. The secondary characters seem like caricatures rather than fully fleshed out characters.

Looking for a positive. Venice is beautifully photographed. I would recommend this film to the Venice Tourism Board, but to nobody else.

1.5/5 Caramels

Buy on DVD

Nope. Don’t even think I would watch it again on basic cable.

2010 Ranking
One of the worst of the year.

Bonus Information

BangBang is AWESOME! It has replaced HuHot as my favorite Mongolian Grill. There wasn’t many people in the theater, but there was a May-December couple there. Only I think it was more like a February-December couple. I thought it was a grandpa and his teenage granddaughter, until they left the theater holding hands. I don’t want to sound like a Puritan (again), but gross!

3 thoughts on “Movie Reviews: Black Swan and The Tourist”

  1. Several notes:

    1. BangBang is an interesting name for a restaurant.

    2. I think you should keep a widget on your toolbar with your current Top 10 rankings for the year. It would help. 🙂

    3. Like, a reverse Harold and Maude? That’s really icky.

  2. 1. And a very good restaurant. As a bonus, they also have a queso bar.

    2. That is a great idea. Now I haven’t seen all of the good movies of 2010, but here is the current Top 10:

    1. The Social Network
    2. Inception
    3. Hereafter
    4. The Fighter
    5. How to Train Your Dragon
    6. Winter’s Bone
    7. Black Swan
    8. True Grit
    9. Toy Story 3
    10. The Town

    Here is the list of films I think have the chance to crack and/or shatter the Top 10 that I have yet to see or missed:

    1. Tamara Drewe
    2. The King’s Speech
    3. 127 Hours (I’m absolutely sick I never saw this movie.)
    4. Never Let Me Go
    5. Get Low
    6. Made in Dagenham
    7. Somewhere
    8. Biutiful
    9. Waiting for Superman (Also sick about missing this one, although I caught the similar The Lottery.)

    3. Indeed, gross.

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