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November 27, 2007

Natalie vs. Jennifer

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Natalie Portman certainly doesn't seem to enjoy being a movie star, does she?

Well, the feeling is semi-mutual, if that makes any sense. The only film that I've ever really enjoyed watching Natalie in was the 1996 "Beautiful Girls." 15 at the time, she upstaged everyone else in the cast with her childlike transparency, eagerness, and impulsiveness. Since then, though ... As pretty and chic as Natalie has become, and as intelligent and worthy as she apparently is as a person, as an onscreen presence she has also grown more and more self-protective. She radiates nothing, at least nothing that my antennae can pick up. So I'm unable to follow her career with any interest.

I tend to slot Portman in the same category as Jennifer Connelly. Like Natalie, Jennifer comes across as a bright, pretty co-ed type -- a dull good girl, attractive but remote, even wooden. But with Connelly the intelligence and the earnestness are accompanied by a spilling-over physical lushness, as well as by some appealing waywardness; both of these qualities keep me looking forward to her next performance. While most of Jennifer's films are a drag, every now and then she'll sign on to play the vamp or the bad girl, and she'll do her (admittedly clunky) best to put over the hot moments and the shock scenes. Vavavoom! In "Requiem for a Dream" Connelly gives a performance that's not only terrific (it's maybe her only terrific performance) but genuinely edgy.

Where Portman is like a bright girl happy to intern for an anti-famine group, Connelly is like an employee of the same nonprofit, but one who on the weekend enjoys getting drunk and indulging in some sexy misbehavior. Why not have a little fun with life as it is, and with the gifts God has given you? If I'm to be stuck in the company of intelligent good girls, I'll choose to spend my time in the company of the one who has at least a streak of mischief in her.



posted by Michael at November 27, 2007


What is it with white women and non-profits anyways?

It's never been anything that's remotely on the career radar for Asian men, but since I like to date white women, I keep meeting women who end up saying "so then I'm going to go to grad school, and hopefully work for a non-profit".

Is there some appeal to being thirty and broke that my poor, dark-skinned self cannot understand?

Posted by: secret asian man on November 27, 2007 2:33 PM

I read the opening line of the linked article:

"[Portman is] a Harvard educated, eco-minded, rights campaigning, non-leather-wearing vegetarian who also happens to be an Oscar-nominated actress ... Natalie Portman is much, much more than just a pretty face."

In other words, she's the usual, predictable nothing, playing out the boring stance stamped on every humanities graduate from a PC college.

This reminds me of all the films entered into festivals, which are declared to be daring, transgressive, groundbreaking, etc.

In other words, the films are the usual, predictable leftist claptrap.

Only one thing would be daring and groundbreaking in the arts... a traditional, religious viewpoint espousing the merits of capitalism and the virtues of the American middle class.

I worked for seven years in the midst of a fag/fag hag dominated media shop in Manhattan. Every day I was regaled with lectures about the incredible revolutionary insight and daring of my co-workers. In reality, it was Cartman and the boys from South Park enforcing a conformity beyond the belief of some square from Nebraska.

I am barely interested in movies. Nothing is happening there. Well, a lot of very bad things are happening there.

In Woodstock, we are blessed with the Tinker St. Theater, a tiny converted church that plays "independent" films. Translated: The theater screens a weekly leftist propaganda film featuring the inevitable martyred something or other. Always, there is a martyr.

The movie industry, particularly its independent, intellectual branch is completely played out. There is nothing there. I'd rather watch Police Academy 3. The intellectual, hip left is completely bankrupt, sexless and emptied out.

What it is with white women, to put it simply, is that they are commiting suicide. They are too sainted to dirty their hands, have babies or serve anybody.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 27, 2007 3:20 PM

I haven't seen enough Natalie Portman to comment, but I don't quite understand your anti-Connelly stance. I thought she was terrific in House of Sand and Fog, which I also thought was overall a very good film. I haven't seen "Requiem for a Dream," but now I'll put in on my Netflix list.

Posted by: Judith Sears on November 27, 2007 5:17 PM

Natalie was also terrific in 'The Professional', where she played a barely pubescent girl whose family is wiped out by corrupt cops, who wins the love and protection of the world's greatest hitman, nearly kills the President of the USA, performs a deeply disturbing belly-rubbing grinderoo while telling the hitman she's in love with him, and all the while absolutely conveys the innocence and pathos of the 13 year old girl she is.

And yet...she has changed. I saw her interviewed on 'The Actor's Studio' and I'm forced to agree with S Thomas--nothing special at all.

I've heard she was good in 'Closer', though. Anybody seen that? Why do I think Michael has?

Posted by: PatrickH on November 27, 2007 6:14 PM

Natalie Portman. Hmm. Wasn't she in Star Wars, part MCCXLIV ... or something like that? The film that finally, totally, weaned me from the series. She wore that odd, segmented lipstick pattern, didn't she? If that was her (and lazy me, I'm not going to bother checking imdb), she was about as appealing as a week-old Reuben sandwich. Methinks she ought to return to Hah-vuhd and get indoctrinated further; her cause collecting seems more promising than her acting career, if my one brush with her was any guide.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on November 27, 2007 6:20 PM

"Only one thing would be daring and groundbreaking in the arts... a traditional, religious viewpoint espousing the merits of capitalism and the virtues of the American middle class."

Dude that would not only be monstrously transgressive, it would probably make money as well, which is apparently not something desirable in supposedly serious Hollywood films these days. One character would have to be the brother in law of the leading lady -- a sergeant in the Marines, who is presented as a decent and honest and brave person. That would be so freako weird and daring that the DVDs would have to be shipped in a blank brown wrapper, and it would literally cause cardiac arrest in the film-reviewing clerisy.

Still, the actual reality of the massive US middle class is terra incognita and contains limitless drama and pathos and, yes, carnality. Why does no one have the COURAGE to investigate this mysterious realm (I live in it, and it is pretty interesting) and make ART out of it?

Will no one break this taboo? Will no one show the American middle class as other than loathesome? Will no one ├ępater le bourgeois in the good old fashioned style?

No guts, no glory.

(If this film were made, I promise to buy one ticket.)

Posted by: Lexington Green on November 27, 2007 6:50 PM

Portman looks more and more like a 14 year old boy. And yeah, she's boring as hell on screen. Connelly, on the other hand, is almost always interesting and also is extremely hot in a cold way.

As for movies espousing middle-class values, head on down to the cineplex and take your pick. Now, arty movies that espouse middle-class values, that may be harder to come by, but then artistic bents are frowned upon in these virtual parts.

ST, you live in Woodstock!? You should mention that more often in your comments.

Posted by: JV on November 27, 2007 10:04 PM

I agree with your comments. I personally feel that looks wise, Natalie is not in Jennifer's league. JC is in that realm of almost untouchable beauty. How many women do you see walking around that look like her? While Natalie is much more plain, average pretty. She's just as pretty as any chick on any college campus. Plus boring as you've said...her performances in the Star Wars movies, if you can call them that, were the most wooden and atrocious I've ever seen...I can hardly stand to watch them because she's so terrible. I just find her to have no charisma. Yet JC has that charisma, even though she can also be wooden at times...I definitely think we're on the same page with this.

Posted by: TTT on November 28, 2007 1:05 AM

"[Portman is] a Harvard educated, eco-minded, rights campaigning, non-leather-wearing vegetarian who also happens to be an Oscar-nominated actress ... Natalie Portman is much, much more than just a pretty face."

I'm sure Portman is a lovely girl and it's nice that she went to Harvard and has all the fashionable hobbies. Celebrities are people too, albeit ones with lots of leisure and money. But this is my idea of a woman who really is more than just a pretty face:

She's in her late 20s or early 30s, has two children and wants a third one once her and her husband's financial situation takes a turn for the better. She works an evening shift to help out and takes community college classes in accounting. She laughs easily and has a pretty face with unmistakeably intelligent eyes. She loves her hair long, and has a killer bod.

Much better than Natalie Portman ;-)

Posted by: PA on November 28, 2007 9:22 AM

The mother lode for Connelly fans: "The Hot Spot". All the lush physicality you could want.

Posted by: ricardo on November 28, 2007 12:40 PM

Jennifer Connelly definitely has her charms (NSFW, duh).

Posted by: Peter on November 28, 2007 1:41 PM

Recently I read an article by a woman who was inspired by an interview she heard with John Cage who defined music as being anything he listened to as music. She began to experiment with this sort of active listening. She then expanded this to the visual by sometimes observing the world around her with the same mindset as she uses when watching a movie. It is in this spirit that I can now read a Shouting Thomas comment as I might a script of comedy material being considered by a Bob Goldthwait like stand up performer.

Virtually all mainstream television and movies reflect " a traditional ... viewpoint espousing the merits of capitalism and the virtues of the American middle class." They tiptoe ever so carefully around religion because they fear alienating some part of their potential public.

In mainstream movies, the most realistic depictions of this traditional normality tend to be in the dreaded "chick flick" genre. Action adventure offers more a caricature version of these ideals, (think Bruce Willis films).

From Forrest Gump to The Incredibles, from Waitress to Sleepless in Seattle, there are countless movies that have as their foundation traditional virtues.

As for Nat vs. Jen, I'd say they both are young enough to deserve another ten years or so before making any serious pronouncements about their acting abilities or lack thereof. As for whether one finds one more enticing as eye candy is always a very personal decision ... for me it is Ms. Connolly.

Posted by: Chris White on November 28, 2007 5:36 PM

PatrickH has a great point: "Natalie was also terrific in 'The Professional.'"

She was. It's quite striking to compare her performance there with her more recent ones.

I can't fault her for Star Wars, though. Lucas was able to make Samuel Jackson boring to listen to, and that's a feat.

Posted by: JewishAtheist on November 29, 2007 11:08 AM

Chris, I think that what the commenters here were saying was that they would love to see some movie that actively celebrated Traditional, Middle Class values and life.

That is very different than something that has a "foundation" of "traditional virtues."

Also, I was surprised to hear you say that virtually all movies espouse "the merits of capitalism".

I am hard-pressed to think of one.

Actually, here is a list of the biggest opening weekends by movies in North America:
Spider-Man 3 (2007) ($151,116,516)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) ($135,634,554)
Shrek the Third (2007) ($121,629,270)
Spider-Man (2002) ($114,844,116)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) ($114,732,820)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) ($108,435,841)
Shrek 2 (2004) ($108,037,878)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) ($102,750,665)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) ($102,335,066)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) ($93,687,367)
The Matrix Reloaded (2003) ($91,774,413)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) ($90,294,621)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) ($88,357,488)
Spider-Man 2 (2004) ($88,156,227)
X2 (2003) ($85,558,731)
The Passion of the Christ (2004) ($83,848,082)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) ($80,027,814)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) ($77,108,414)
The Da Vinci Code (2006) ($77,073,388)
The Simpsons Movie (2007) ($74,036,787)

I don't see one that espouses the merits of Capitalism.

Maybe I am missing something.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on November 29, 2007 12:03 PM

Those are all action movies save for The Simpsons. Action movies don't espouse anything and why should they? They're pure entertainment.

Interestingly, while political views in The Simpsons generally lean left (although all sides get lambasted), the main message of the series and the movies is....the importance of family. A nuclear (in both senses of the word) family, at that. Yes, even us commie pinkos value family over everything else.

Posted by: JV on November 29, 2007 6:08 PM

With the possible exception of The Matrix series and, with a very odd mindset, the Pirates series, all of these films deal with capitalism as the unquestioned positive norm. The rating system itself has entirely to do with capital flow, not any other attributes. I guess a careful analysis of The Passion of the Christ might lead one to examine what Jesus had to say that might serve as a critique of capitalism and thus be considered anti-capitalist, but I think that is really a stretch.

Posted by: Chris White on November 30, 2007 10:23 AM

CW, as soon as posted my comment, I thought of the same thing, that the very existence of the highest grossing movie list is as good a reaffirmation of capitalism as there is.

Posted by: JV on November 30, 2007 12:13 PM

Again, I am really surprised to hear that.

As far as I can tell, the few Capital enterprises in Spider-man are quite destructive (the Military contractor, the lying Newspaper), Star-Wars (the areas of free trade in Lucas's Universe are always disgusting and treacherous).

A boat-load has been written on the Anti-Capitalist Rowling and the Harry Potter series (look here for a quick recap Wiki).

Same for the Matrix brothers.

Now, I can not say that anything about X-Men is neccesarily Anti-Capitalist, but it is not Pro-Capitalist either.

Anyway, those are some thoughts.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on December 1, 2007 7:00 PM

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