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movies 127 Hours ★★★★★


y guess is that James Franco will snag a Best Actor nomination for his magnetic, multidimensional performance in Danny Boyle’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. What I can tell you with certainty is that no screen performer demonstrated more jaw-dropping range in the past year. Let’s forgive him his involvement with the misguided Eat Pray Love. He’s more than earned the pardon by convincingly playing, in the same season, Allen Ginsberg — in the overlooked obscenity-trial drama Howl, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman — and real-life rock climber, adventurer and charismatic goofball Aron Ralston, who had his own reasons to howl when he found himself trapped in a Utah crevasse on a hike in April 2003. Yup, this is the guy who spent five days with his right arm pinned by a dislodged boulder and eventually realized there was no way both he and the limb were going to make it out of there in one piece. The obvious challenge: How does a director alchemize so static a predicament into a freewheeling, breathlessly kinetic triumph of cinema? Well, for

starters, it helps if you’re Danny Boyle, and you’ve got the visionary chops that produced stylistic milestones such as Slumdog, Sunshine, 28 Days Later and Trainspotting. Employing an often rapid-fire mix of split screens, flashbacks, dreams, fantasy sequences, hallucinations and pans across the strikingly beautiful — almost lunar — canyon terrain shot at various film speeds, Boyle conjures the illusion of constant movement. He’s aided by his brilliant use of music. It’s not every big-screen saga of life and death that finds places of honor for works as diverse as the infectious 1977 punk ditty “Ça Plane Pour Moi” and the theme from “Scooby-Doo.” And, of course, there’s the amazing tale of survival that unfolds in real time. The early stages of Ralston’s ordeal are mesmerizing owing to the very fact of his immobility. Rather than panicking, he lays out everything he’s brought on the rock surface before him like an accountant organizing his desktop. He has a little water and food, various lengths of rope, assorted climbing hardware, a camcorder and a cheap multipurpose tool with a small, dull blade. Ingeniously, Ralston devises a sort of har-





Burlesque ★★★


ovie critics are annoying, aren’t we? All you want to know is whether a film is worth your $9, and we spend 600 words dropping allusions to the cinematic canon and generally trying to show how clever we are. But when we see a movie, critics are having gut reactions, just like you. Laughing. Eye rolling. Vomiting. And usually we have the sense to know whether our gut reactions coincide with those of the film’s target audience or radically diverge from them. If this is a film we personally wouldn’t pay to see, chances are we won’t react like the average person who would. But Burlesque is a confusing case, because cowriter-director Steve Antin (brother of Robin Antin of Pussycat Dolls fame) seems to be aiming at two distinct demographics. One consists of every 12- to 18-year-old who can’t get enough of Bring It On, “Glee” and “Dancing With the Stars.” The other is the cult following of Showgirls and early John Waters — which includes many a graying critic. Does the film satisfy either audience? First, a synopsis sans spoilers. Christina Aguilera plays a towheaded orphan from the Iowa cornfields who’s chomping at the bit to fulfill dreams of show-biz stardom. She brings her relentless pep to L.A., where

James Franco stars in the latest from director Danny Boyle, a film that gives a whole new meaning to yelling “Cut!”

ness to sit in. He turns the camera on himself. At first, he intends simply to identify himself to whoever may find his remains and ask them to deliver the videotape to his parents. As dehydration and starvation kick in, however, so do the fantasy sequences. The most inventive one has our protagonist hosting a talk show (complete with audience track) in which he interviews himself and admits he was too cocky to tell anyone where he was going. “Oops.” Of course, everything leads up to the Scene. Some audience members have fainted during it, according to published accounts. Others have lost their lunch. All I’ll say about it is this: I was surprised to find that the real gag-reflex moments involved sound rather than the sight of sawed flesh. There’s the

snapping of bone to allow the knife its path. There’s a sound you have never heard before but will recognize instantly. How does it feel to sever a nerve? No one can put it in words, but Boyle has devised a sonic vocabulary every viewer will understand. It’s a virtuoso feat of moviemaking. 127 Hours tells a story that’s more than simply inspirational. It’s surreal. When Ralston hosted his fantasy broadcast back in 2003, what were the odds that, just a few years hence, he would find himself on a real-life movie set in the capacity of technical adviser, playing that tape to Franco and reenacting his ordeal in the very spot where it took place? If that’s not a Hollywood ending, I don’t know what is. RICK KISONAK


she finds Cher presiding over a plush neoburlesque club whose dancers are too busy popping, locking, bumping and grinding to do anything but lip-synch. Like Debbie Reynolds ushering in the sound era in Singin’ in the Rain, Aguilera changes that with the power of her prodigious voice. (See what I did with the allusion?) She also gets caught between two boys with square jaws and ripped abs — one with eyeliner (Cam Gigandet) and one with a platinum card (Eric Dane). You can write the rest from here. Does Burlesque hit its targets? If you come for plenty of glam, glittery numbers, and Cher and Christina belting to the back row, you won’t be disappointed. But if you come hoping to see Aguilera catfight with Kristen Bell (as a snippy headliner) the way Elizabeth Berkley sparred with Gina Gershon in Showgirls, you’ll feel cheated. Except for a few decent lines (most of them uttered by wardrobe master Stanley Tucci), the bitch-alicious dialogue is missing. Burlesque is corny, for sure, but it’s too calculated and self-aware to be sincerely silly, and it’s too commercial to hit high camp notes on purpose. It’s shiny and good-natured about its own fakeness, like a Disney Channel production. And now, my gut reaction: How the hell did “burlesque” and “Disney Channel” end

Aguilera does her best Fosse dancer impersonation in Antin’s musical.

up in the same paragraph? This movie features three original songs with the word “burlesque” in the title, and that’s two or three too many. In what sort of world does the seamy, underground entertainment of Cabaret become an all-ages theme-park attraction? Like Moulin Rouge! turning Belle Epoque decadence into Hollywood musical fluff (but less creatively), Burlesque makes burlesque almost wholesome. Just as every little girl in the ’80s yearned to be a Solid Gold dancer or the heroine of

Flashdance, and every little girl in the ’90s wanted to be a Fly Girl or Jennifer Grey, so every little girl who manages to see Burlesque (probably on the sly, since it’s still PG13 and rife with sexy lingerie) will want to vamp like Aguilera. More power to them. But, fellow adult lovers of lurid costuming and general operatic insanity, this is not a movie for your $9. It is way too level headed. Wait a few weeks and see Black Swan. MARGOT HARRISON

Seven Days, December 1, 2010  

Vermont’s Dance Scene Takes a Big Leap; DJ Craig Celebrates 20 Years; Hipsters Congregate in New Church; Wylie Garcia Addresses…the Dress

Seven Days, December 1, 2010  

Vermont’s Dance Scene Takes a Big Leap; DJ Craig Celebrates 20 Years; Hipsters Congregate in New Church; Wylie Garcia Addresses…the Dress