Song of the Day: You Know My Name from Casino Royale (by Chris Cornell)


So, I’m at home flipping channels when I saw that Casino Royale was about to start on one channel I kept going back to. Inspiration hit like a JSOW from high above and I decided to pick this Bond reboot’s title theme as the latest “Song of the Day”.

“You Know My Name” is the latest song of the day and one played and sung by one of my favorite rock vocalists ever in Chris Cornell. Anyone who has even listened to 90’s hard rock and alternative rock has to know who Chris Cornell is. He’s the longtime frontman for the alternative rock band Suoundgarden and then later on for the supergroup Audioslave. With “You Know My Name” he has joined a very exclusive club of Bond film intro singers. Not to mention an even more rarefied group of male singers who have sung the intro songs to Bond films. I could only remember and name three who have and they were Tom Jones doing the one for Thunderball, Paul McCartney for Live And Let Die and the Euro band Duran Duran for A View To A Kill.

Cornell sings the hell out of this song and I like the fact that the song’s title doesn’t match the film’s. “You Know My Name” sounds better than “Casino Royale” and the lyrics, as written by Chris Cornell (w/ some minor help from film composer David Arnold), really matches the grittier and more aggressive personality of the film and it’s main character of James Bond. I will say that this song is definitely better than most of the Pierce Brosnan Bond film intro songs which ranged from the great one sung by Shirley Manson and her band Garbage for the forgetful The World Is Not Enough right up to the very awful one by Madonna for Die Another Day.

The official music video created for the song also does a great job of paralleling the job of James Bond as a spy and Cornell as a rock star as being similar in some ways. Just one listen to this song and it’ll be stuck in one’s head for the rest of the day.

You Know My Name

If you take a life do you know what you’ll give?
Odds are, you won’t like what it is
When the storm arrives, would you be seen with me?
By the merciless eyes of deceit?

I’ve seen angels fall from blinding heights
But you yourself are nothing so divine
Just next in line

Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you
The odds will betray you
And I will replace you
You can’t deny the prize it may never fulfill you
It longs to kill you
Are you willing to die?

The coldest blood runs through my veins
You know my name

If you come inside things will not be the same
When you return to the night
And if you think you’ve won
You never saw me change
The game that we all been playing

I’ve seen diamonds cut through harder men
Than you yourself
But if you must pretend
You may meet your end

Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you
The odds will betray you
And I will replace you
You can’t deny the prize it may never fulfill you
It longs to kill you
Are you willing to die?

The coldest blood runs through my veins

Try to hide your hand
Forget how to feel
Forget how to feel

Life is gone with just a spin of the wheel
Spin of the wheel

Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you
The odds will betray you
And I will replace you
You can’t deny the prize it may never fulfill you
It longs to kill you
Are you willing to die?

The coldest blood runs through my veins
You know my name
You know my name
You know my name
You know my name
You know my name
You know my name
You know my name

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Catherine: Trailer (PS3/Xbox360)


Atlus is one Japanese video game company who seem to have gained quite the rabid and dedicated fan following despite never having released a game that sold in the millions of units. They’re titles are considered by gamers as being very “Japanese”. This is probably why those in the US and Europe who love their games also happen to be major fans of anime, manga and many other Japanese pop culture.

One game being developed  and published by Atlus that was announced sometime in 2010 was the puzzle-platformer/action adventure game Catherine. Right from the get-go Atlus fans were clamoring for more info on the game and when it would be localized for a North American and European release. When the game was just weeks away from it’s Japanese release date news came down from Atlus themselves that there was no plans at the moment to release the game outside of Japan.

To say that Atlus fans were heartbroken would be an understatement. While they could still import the game that would mean higher price due to import shipping fees.

Fortunately, this stance suddenly changed and on March 1st of 2011 the company announced that they were officially releasing the game for North America and with a release date of July 26, 2011. This news was greeted with joy by Atlus fans and some grumblings from those who shelled out the extra cash to import the game.

Catherine is a game that one might call one with “adult” themes and subject matter. It because of this that some call it quite “Japanese” since they’re more willing to release games that are adult in nature without resorting to violence as the foundation. While the game is not one of those eroge titles (erotic game) it is one that should definitely be bought and played only by those who are old enough to buy M-Rated titles.

The game will follow the similar Japanese release pattern and come out with different covers for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. The game is still set for a July 26, 2011 release.

Hanna (Trailer)


Every year there’s always a film which seems to get little to no buzz leading up to it’s release date. One such film which seems to be sneaking up on the filmgoing public is a little action thriller called Hanna from British filmmaker Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement) about a young girl (Saoirse Ronan) being trained by her father (Eric Bana) into some sort of assassin in the frozen wilderness of Finland. The film also stars Cate Blanchett in a role that some of her fans may not be used to. A morally ambiguous role which may or may not make her into the villain of the film.

Outside of the people who cover the film industry year in and year out this film has bypassed the radar of most film fans and are only starting to hear about it. From some of the advance reports being mentioned about Hanna, filmgoers may have something to look forward to when it finally comes out in a little over a week. Hanna has been getting some positive talk of being one of the best, if not the best, film of the year to date. Those are some pretty bold statements, but even if the film only manages to live up to half of the talk about it the last week or so then it’s going to be a film that will entertain and one that may just get strong word of mouth to get more people to watch it.

One thing which may interest some people about this film is who will be in charge of scoring it. The film’s score will be handled by the electronica duo The Chemical Brothers.

Hanna is set for an April 8, 2011 release date.

Song of the Day: The Golden Path (performed by the Chemical Brothers and Wayne Coyne)


There’s no big story behind why I have selected this particular song for Song of the Day, beyond the fact that I love the Chemical Brothers and this song — The Golden Path — always brings me a certain amount of peace.  If nothing else, you must see the Chemical Brothers live at least once before you die.

Review: Sucker Punch (dir. by Zack Snyder)


There have always been films through the years which will garner extreme reactions from its audiences. These reactions will always take two sides on the film. People who see these films will either love them or they will hate them. There is to be little to no middle ground reaction when it comes to these films. In 2009, we had James Cameron’s epic scifi Avatar which had two sets of fans. Those who loved it to the point that it transcended simple fandom into something these people thought as important. Then there were the vocal minority who absolutely hated the film. Whether both fans were right in their opinions was (and continues) to be irrelevent. All that mattered to these people was that they’re right and the other side was wrong.

2011 is entering it’s second season and a film finally arrived which seem to have elicited the same sort of reaction from people who have seen it. Sure, there’s some who saw it merely as entertainment and left it at that, but there’s a growing rift between those who loved the film and those who hated it. The film which seem to have caused this is the action-fantasy film Sucker Punch.

To say that Zack Snyder’s latest visual extravaganza would create discussion amongst filmgoers would be an undertstatement. Sucker Punch has arrived to much genre fandom fanfare. This was a film that seemed to take genres from all corners like scifi, fantasy, anime and manga and mashed them all up into something new and serving it up to the legion of fans who love those very things. Zack Snyder has made his reputation as a filmmaker as a visual artist. His entire filmography from the Dawn of the Dead remake all the way up to his adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic novel Watchmen have all been very strong visually. His grasp of narrative structure continues to grow and improve but it’s always been his handling of dialogue which has tripped him up.

Sucker Punch is a tale within a tale about a young woman we come to know as Baby Doll (played with an almost angelic quality by Emily Browning). The film opens up with the curtain rising on a theater stage and we soon become witness to a dialogue-free opening sequence of the events which transpired to bring Baby Doll to the Lennox House mental institution. This entire opening sequence is a great example of Snyder as a master of creating a montage of striking visuals sans dialogue with only music to break the silence. It helped that the music chosen to accompany this scene was a haunting rendition by Emily Browning herself of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)”. Just like in Watchmen‘s own intro title sequence, Snyder was able to convey the beginnings of the story without the need for dialogue and do it so well that we as an audience understand fully all that’s transpiring on the screen.

Once this prologue ends we move onto the main setting of the film where Baby Doll gets put into the care of the Lennox House’s resident boogeyman in the form of Blue as played with slimy charm and panache by one Oscar Isaac (last scene chewing up the English countryside in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood). The audience sees what Baby Doll sees as Blue gives her the tour of the facilities which finally ends at the “Theater” where all the female patients act out their problems and fears through the guidance and help of Doctor Gorski (played by the lovely and return Snyder performer, Carla Gugino).

The first 15 minutes of this film was pretty much a basic set-up of what Snyder will use as his blueprint for the rest of the film. All the different levels of fantasy Baby Doll will imagine and inhabit throughout the film is rooted deeply in this initial sequence of events which begins the film. The clues as to who the story is truely about could be found in this intro if one was paying attention to the film instead of being distracted and mesmerized by the visuals Snyder crafts to start the film. While it won’t become apparent until the reveal at the climactic events of the film. Once all are the cards were revealed, so to speak, the beginning of the film begins to make sense. From the curtain rising, the silent film-like scene to begin and the narration to open things up, all those give a hint to what the answer to the question the film’s narrative really asks: “Is what we’re seeing truly real or is it all just fantasy?”

Sucker Punch becomes a sort of a trip down the rabbit hole a la Alice In Wonderland once the film establishes Baby Doll’s predicament upon arriving at the Lennox House (she’s to be lobotomized in 5 days). The film moves from the gray and depressing confines of the Lennox House to the fantasy world centered on a burlesque establishment where Baby Doll is an orphan sold by a decadent priest (the form her stepfather takes in this fantasy) to Blue, the proprietor of this house of ill repute where orphaned young women become burlesque dancers and worst to the clientele. It is in this place we meet the rest of the gang Baby Doll will befriend to help her try to escape the place and thus avoif the “High Roller” who will come to collect her in 5 days.

The film shares something similar with Christopher Nolan’s Inception in that both films deal with different levels of reality or fantasy (depends on how one sees the different worlds shown in both films). Where Nolan’s ideas seem more rooted in what he would consider as more grounded to reality as much as possible Snyder goes the other way and takes the leashes off of Baby Doll’s imagination. This third level Baby Doll goes to as she begins her dance to distract the men of the burlesque house is her mind unfettered and where she’s not helpless but has power not just to protect herself but do so better than the men who inhabit this fantasy world of steampunk zombie soldiers, orcs, dragons, alien robot machines and many other scifi and fantasy tropes which define geek culture through the decades.

If there’s one reason to watch this film it would be just to bear witness to Snyder letting his imagination as a visual filmmaker take over. Some people may not like this and want a strong, structured narrative to balance out the visuals. I, too, would’ve liked to have seen something stronger in terms of story and plot, but there are just instances when the visuals are so striking and wildly imaginative that one just marvels at the scenes unfolding on the screen. If any, Snyder as a visual artist helps prop up the weakness in the story. Snyder would’ve served this film better if he went even further and turned Sucker Punch into an avant-garde silent film of the digital age. That beginning in the film just unfolded so strongly despite no dialogue that the rest of the film could’ve been done in the same manner and be the better for it.

Which brings me to what was the film’s near fatal flaw. A flaw that many of the film’s detractors have taken as the rallying cry to denounce the film as horrible and Snyder as a hack. The interesting thing is that these same people were also the ones who had been praising of Snyder prior to this film. Even those who begrudgingly gave Snyder his props for having some semblance of talent because of the very handling of the visuals that he has now have become much more vocal about how they always knew Snyder was never that good.

I would say that Snyder is not the second coming of Ridley Scott as some of his supporters have anointed him or is he a hack filmmaker who is all flash and no substance. I think he’s somewhere in the middle and still finding his true voice as a filmmaker. I’ve always seen Snyder as being weak when it comes to handling the slower scenes of dialogue and most visual filmmakers tend to be the same when starting out. The dialogue seem to get in the way of what they really want to do and tell the story through striking visual sequences. They’re like painters who don’t need words to convey the emotions they wish to convey. Sucker Punch I believe suffered from Snyder trying to combine his strength on the visual side of the equation with his handling of story through the dialogue which he still hasn’t mastered. If someone else had written, or at the very least, fixed and strengthened the script, I do believe that the film wouldn’t be getting so ripped and trounced by those who had been so excited to seeing one of Snyder’s personal projects.

The performances by the cast ranged from good to just being there. There really wasn’t anyone in particular who performed badly. Everyone from Emily Browning to Oscar Isaac all the way to Abbie Cornish did well enough with the material they were given. Oscar Isaac as both Blue in the insane asylum and as the pimp in the burlesque house did particularly well playing up the fun role of the villain in Baby Doll’s different levels of reality/fantasy. Of the ladies in the film I must point out the performance of Jena Malone and Abbie Cornish as sisters in the second level. While we only get a glimpse of Cornish’s Sweet Pea character in the Lennox House, once in the burlesque setting she becomes the anchor by which the rest of the women in the cast held onto. Jena Malone as the younger sister Rocket who still dreamed hopes of escape was a nice complement to Sweet Pea.

So, we have a film in Sucker Punch which seem to have strength on one side of the filmmaking equation and a major weakness on another. This is the kind of film that I would, in the past, have dismissed as another attempt by Hollywood to pander to the geek crowd with its mash-up of different scifi and fantasy imagery. But this time around I actually enjoyed the film both in a visual sense and how Snyder was able to play with the audience’s personal observations about the themes his film is trying to explore. It’s these very themes which have split audiences into two camps. While the gender politics and stereotypes people have brought up in discussing this film have made for some lively debate I refrain from adding my views on it in this review. I think I’m not well-qualified to debate such discussions.

For me, Sucker Punch succeeds more than it fails because Snyder didn’t play it safe with how he wanted to make his film. He was able to tell the film’s story through the different visual styles for each world the cast played in and did it quite well. While most of the time I wouldn’t give a film a pass for a weak narrative and average dialogue with this film I felt like the experience one gets from experiencing the visual canvas Snyder continued to paint with from beginning to end was enough to balance out the negative. It’s really a film that one must experience for themselves and make their decision on that experience instead of listening to other’s opinions (both good and bad) about the film. One may end up hating the film like some, but then again they may end up like me and forgive Snyder for trying to reach for the sun and failing to do so, but at least tried to with panache instead of playing it safe.

Film Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (dir. by Michel Gondry)


Last week, I started a poll to determine which film I should watch on Sunday and review on Monday.  Well, a lot of votes were cast and you, the readers of Through The Shattered Lens, proved to me once again that you are the greatest readers ever by picking one of my favorite films of all time.  From 2004, it’s the Charlie Kaufman-scripted, Michel Gondry-directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The plot plays out like something from a Philip K. Dick story.  I don’t want to reveal too much because I don’t want to ruin the film for anyone who hasn’t seen this film.  Eternal Sunshine is one of those rare films that carries with it the joy of discovery.  Depressed Joel (played by Jim Carrey) discovers that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has hired Lacuna Inc. to totally erase all memories of him from her mind.  Embittered, Joel decides to go through the same process.  The Lacuna technicians (Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo) comes to Joel’s apartment in the middle of the night and start the process of erasing his memories of Clementine.  However, as Joel is losing his past, he realizes that he doesn’t want to lose his time with Clementine.  Hence, Joel finds himself running through his rapidly fading memories of Clementine, trying to save at least some scrap of her memory from being erased.  Meanwhile, as Joel fights to save his identity, Ruffalo entertains himself by inviting his girlfriend (Kirsten Dunst) over to Joel’s apartment while Elijah Wood sneaks off so he can meet his new girlfriend — who is none other than Clementine.

The genius of this Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay is that it takes an idea that seems very much “out there” and uses it to explore emotions that we’ve all felt.  Who doesn’t have someone that they wish they could wipe from their mind?  Me, I wish I could forget the exchange student from Keele University who broke up with me via e-mail.  I’d love to obliterate all memory of the frat boy who told me I was “white trash” or the former love of my life who managed to break my nose and my heart with just one movement of his hand.  We all have those people in our lives and what we forget is that by wiping out all the bad memories, we lose all the good ones as well.  Yes, Paul Walsh may have made me cry with his e-mail but, for two months before that, he held me while I cried and I can’t remember what I was crying about but I do remember feeling like I had never been held like that before.  And Dane may have hurt me terribly but now, every time I doubt myself, I simply remember that I’ve already survived the worst that could happen.  As for that frat boy who called me “white trash” — well, fuck him.  Yeah, there’s really no downside to erasing him from my mind.  In fact, I’ve already started because, to be honest, I can’t remember his name for the life of me.

Ironically enough considering the title, there’s very little sunshine to be found in this film.  Not only is every scene drenched in melancholy but, quite literally, director Michel Gondry appears to have exclusively filmed on overcast days.  For such a deliriously romantic film — one that celebrates the idea of enduring love — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is almost totally told in tones of gray and darkness.  In fact, as I watched the film last night, I was struck by the fact that often times, the only color in the film was provided by the Clementine’s ever-changing hair.  (Interestingly enough, Joel mentions Clementine’s hair as one of the things that he especially wants to forget about her.)  That the film works as both a dark comedy and a love story despite the grim images is a testament to the talents of both screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry.  (On the basis of the director’s later films — the latest being the enjoyable but shallow Green Hornet — I kind of suspect that Kaufman perhaps deserves a little bit more credit that Gondry.)

I think it’s also a testament to the talents of the film’s cast, all of whom gel into a perfect ensemble and allow the audience to believe in the film no matter how odd the film’s events may seem.  As I watched them last night, I found myself thinking about how much I truly love to watch good acting.  As long as a film has one or two good performance, it can be out-of-focus, choppily edited, and an hour or two too long.  By the same token, I find nothing more offensive than a million-dollar film full of expensive technology and boring performances. (Hello, Avatar.  How are you, Battle L.A?)  When I find a film, like Eternal Sunshine, that is actually both well-made and well-acted, I’m pretty much in love.

As the two lovers, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet have a very surprising and very real chemistry together.  Watching them, you believed in their love and then you just as strongly believed in their hate.  This is one of those odd love stories where you not only believed that the two of them would actually get together but you also completely understood how and why Joel eventually drove Clementine away.  Carrey makes Joel’s depression believable without allowing it to get tedious or repetitive while Kate Winslet — well, where to begin?  Kate Winslet is probably one of the best actresses ever and this is one of her best performances.  I’ve always had a bit of a girlcrush on Winslet — there’s an honesty to her performances that few other actresses can match.  When she’s onscreen, the audience is with her.  She never puts up the whole “film star” barrier and, as a result, she inhabits her characters completely and brings them to life with both their strengths and their flaws.  And Clementine has got her share of flaws.  (I remember that when my mom saw this movie, she absolutely hated Clementine and the ever-changing color of her hair.)  Winslet doesn’t shy away from making Clementine human and, as a result, I think she elevated everyone else in the film as well.

As good as Carrey and Winslet are, the supporting roles are well-played as well and, as in all great movies, they give the impression of a world that existed before the movie started and one that will continue after the end credits.  I especially loved the performances of the Lacuna Staff, from Tom Wilkinson’s bland yet intimidating doctor to the creepy geekiness of Elijah Wood.  Mark Ruffalo and Kisten Dunst have a few great scenes where they’re partying the night away in Joel’s apartment while Joel’s memory is slowly erased.  The sight of a very hairy Ruffalo and a very giggly Dunst dancing in their matching panties pretty much epitomizes “geek love” for me.  I know that some people have complained that the scenes with Ruffalo and Dunst seemed out-of-place when compared to the ones between Carrey and Winslet but actually, I love the chemistry between Ruffalo and Dunst.  Even playing one of the nerdiest characters ever, Mark Ruffalo is still hot.  As for Dunst, she’s basically playing the same character that she always plays.  (As my friend Jeff recently put it, “Kirsten Dunst In Her Underwear” is as much of a film genre as drama, comedy, and science fiction.)  But I’ve always thought that she’s a likable enough actress (plus, by going red for Spiderman, she also indirectly helped this redhead’s social life) and she actually provides a nice (if surprising) moral center for Eternal Sunshine.

(Also, I’ll admit right now that if my boyfriend had a job that allowed him to hang out into a different stranger’s apartment every night, I’d probably sneak over and dance around in my underwear as well.)

It took me a while and a handful of viewings to really appreciate Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  When I first saw it, I thought it was a strange film.  I liked it but I never expected that it would become one of my favorite movies.  However, with each viewing, I find myself relating to and loving this film just a little bit more.  So, thank you to everyone who voted in my poll and who gave me a chance to fall in love with this film all over again.

Love ya. 🙂

Lisa Marie Takes A Sucker Punch (dir. by Zack Snyder)


Last Friday, I went and saw Zack Snyder’s new film Sucker Punch with my sister Erin and a group of our friends.  Sucker Punch was a film that I had been looking forward to seeing for a while and not even all of the scathingly negative reviews that I read before leaving for the theater could dampen my enthusiasm.  Somehow, I knew I would love this film (despite the fact that Zack Snyder is, usually, one of my least favorite directors).  And you know what?  I did love it.

The plot has been criticized for being both overly complicated and not being complicated enough and I actually think that a case can be made for either one of those complaints.  The film opens in the 1950s.  Teenage Babydoll (Emily Browning) is sent to a mental asylum by her evil father.  Her father has made a deal with an orderly named Blue (Oscar Isaac) to have Babydoll lobotomized. (By the way, this was actually a pretty common thing back in the 50s.  I shudder to think what would have been done to me if I had been born five decades earlier.)  As Babydoll waits for her lobotomy (scheduled to occur at the end of her first week as a patient), she is subjected to the therapy of Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino) who plays music and encourages her (all female) patients to find peace by controlling their fantasies.

Suddenly, we’re in a fantasy (just who exactly is having the fantasy is one of the film’s mysteries that’s never really explained but is actually kinda fun to debate).  In the fantasy, the insane asylum is actually a brothel/dance hall that is owned by Blue.  Gorski is a choreographer.  The patients are now all lingerie-clad dancers/prostitutes.  Babydoll is the latest girl to be put into service in the brothel and she is being held over for “the High Roller” who is expected to show up in five days.

(The fact that the movie explicitly compares forced lobotomy to rape is one of the many interesting facts that the majority of negative reviews have chosen to ignore.)

Babydoll soon discovers that 1) she’s such a good dancer that when she does dance, men can only watch in stunned silence and 2) whenever she does dance, she finds herself transported into a fantasy world where, along with getting advice from the Wise Old Man (Scott Glenn), she also battles (and defeats) everything from giant Samurai to dead Nazis who have been reanimated by “steam power” to a dragon.  These battle scenes, as odd as they are, are actually pretty exciting.  Say what you will, Snyder knows how to direct a battle scene and Browning and the rest of the almost entirely female cast all seem to be having a blast getting to do the type of things that usually, only boys are allowed to do.

Anyway, as a result of her fantasies, Babydoll comes up with a plan to escape the brothel.  She quickly recruits four other girls into her plan — Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), the free-spirited (and really, really cool) Rocket (Jena Malone) and finally Rocket’s older sister, the world-weary Sweatpea (Abbie Cornish).  In order to escape, they need to steal four different items.  While Babydoll distracts their captors by dancing (and therefore going into one of her battle fantasies), the others steal whatever is needed.  And everything works out just fine.  Until it doesn’t….

Sucker Punch is a glorious mess of a movie and, perhaps because I’m a glorious mess myself, I loved it.  In fact, it’s probably my favorite film of 2011 so far.  In this regard, I know I’m going against the majority but so what?  Throughout history, if one thing has always been consistent, it is that the majority sucks.  Yes, Sucker Punch is a deeply flawed film that runs on for at least half-an-hour too long.  And yes, I think it can be argued quite convincingly that this film is ultimately a happy accident, a film that’s strength comes not from directorial design but instead as the result of a few random elements that resonate in the subconscious.  But no matter — happy accident or not, I loved Sucker Punch and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Hmmm...that's a familiar pose.

Let’s start with a few obvious points.  As even those who hate this film seem to be admitting, it’s visually stunning.  The battle scenes are kinetic and exciting, the film’s over-the-top production design (a mix of German Expressionism, 50s film noir, Bob Fosse choreography and old Zack Snyder films) is always a blast to look at, and the soundtrack kicks ass.  Like other films in the so-called “Girls with Guns” genre, Sucker Punch allows its actresses to be something other than just scenery or helpless damsels. 

Interestingly enough, for a film that takes place mostly in the world of fantasy, there’s no attempt to really make this film’s version of “reality” come across as anything other than an elaborate fantasy as well.  The film’s opening scenes are played out in slow-motion and the film’s asylum (which, like most movie asylums, appears to have been borrowed from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is so gray that the film might as well be in black-and-white.  Blue and Babydoll’s father hold a melodramatic conference while standing directly behind Babydoll, their three heads filling the screen like flashes of manic paranoia.  As such, the film — at times — becomes a fantasy taking place in a fantasy taking place in a fantasy.  It takes a while for the viewer to get used to this and, at times, it can seem like there’s really nothing to give the film any sort of grounding.  However, for me, the opening sequences are not meant to be “real” as much as they serve as a reflection for the way that the real world can imprison anyone but women in particular.  As women, we know what its like to look up and suddenly realize that our entire world has somehow become gray and cold without our knowledge.  Throughout history, when everything else has been taken away from us, fantasy has been our escape and salvation, our imagination being the one of those precious things that our fathers, our husbands, and our bosses would never be able to deny us.

One problem I did have with the film is that, for all the talk about how Babydoll’s dancing is essential to the escape plan, we never actually see her dance.  Instead, we see Browning start to sway a little, her eyes cast down and then suddenly, we’re transported into a fantasy involving zombie Nazis or giant samurai.  Once this fantasy mission has been completed, we’re suddenly back in the brothel where we see Babydoll ending her dance while her audience applauds. 

To a large extent, I actually agree with Snyder’s approach here because I know, for me much as with the characters in this film, dance always presented an escape from the grayness of being.  When I was dancing, I was literally living a fantasy and this seems to be the case with Babydoll as well.  However, from simply a cinematic point of view, the constant talk of the importance of Babydoll’s dance leads the audience to naturally expect that they’ll get to see at least a little bit of the dance in question.  When you don’t, it’s hard not to feel as if you’ve been teased.  (I have to admit, as well, that all this dance talk got my competitive streak going as well.  As I whispered to Erin, “They should see me dance.”  “It’s a movie, Lisa Marie, not a challenge.” Erin replied.)  Snyder, as a director, certainly probably has a strong enough visual sense that he could have found a way to make any dance that Emily Browning came up with look impressive and other worldly.

Oscar Isaac

As Arleigh has pointed out on both twitter and this site, Zack Snyder is a director who concentrates almost all of his effort on producing memorable visuals.  That’s how he tells his stories and gets the whatever response he wants from his audience.  Characters and dialogue are often kept simple so that they don’t get in the way of his visuals.  Typically, I hate films like this and I’m hardly a fan of Snyder’s previous work.  However, it didn’t bother me so much here, perhaps because I could relate to the overall theme of feeling trapped and needing an escape.  (More on that later.)  As with previous Snyder films, the performances here are mostly in service of the visuals.  The actors don’t so much perform as much as they just pose against the stunning backdrops.  As such, Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung don’t really get much of a chance to make an individual impression.  Playing sisters, Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone don’t have a lot to work with but they both are strong enough personalities that they manage to bring some life to their characters beyond simply serving as figures on a landscape. 

(I should also mention — and Arleigh had the same reaction — that Cornish and Malone and their character’s relationship reminded me a lot of my relationship with my older sister, Erin — especially all the times that Rocket attempted to keep things fun and interesting just to be told, by Sweetpea, that she wasn’t being boring enough.  I definitely related to that.  Erin, for her part, says that she related to all the scenes where Sweatpea nearly got killed “because her bratty, little sister did something stupid that made absolutely no sense.”)

Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone (or Erin and Lisa) In Sucker Punch

I also have to mention Oscar Isaac and Carla Gugino, both of whom seem to understand just how far they can go with their characters without descending to the level of camp.  Gugino — after this film, Sin City , and Watchmen — has got to be the Queen of digital filmmaking.  She’s also the closest thing that American film has to an old school femme fatale right now.  As well, as I told Erin as we watched the film, I can only hope that my tits look that good when I’m 60 years old.  And speaking of looking good, Oscar Isaac certainly does look good here.  Even when he has dark circles under his eyes and sports a glowering scowl, I would still throw Isaac on the ground and lick his face.  Plus, he and Gugino contribute a great performance of Love Is The Drug which plays over the end credits. 

Finally, Scott Glenn — looking a lot like the late David Carradine — plays the “Wise Old Man” who pops up as a father figure of sorts in Babydoll’s fantasies.  Glenn does okay with his role though I wish his character had been a bit more clear.  To be honest, simply from the point of view of empowerment, I kinda wish his character had been known as the “Wise Woman” and had been played by Cate Blanchett.

One huge issue that seems to be coming up a lot when people talk about Sucker Punch is the issue of “empowerment.”  Does this film, which indulges in a massive schoolgirl fetish even while portraying girls kicking ass, empower or degrade women?  Well, first off, I would suggest that the question itself is an inappropriate one because to argue that a film is either “empowering” or “degrading” and nothing else is basically the same as arguing that all women are going to have the exact same response to what they see regardless of their own life experiences or personal outlook.  Quite frankly, because of some of my own personal experiences, I find the infamous, much-maligned 1970s rape/revenge film I Spit On Your Grave to be very empowering and I’m not alone in that regard.  At the same time, I also know many very intelligent, very strong women who would consider that film to be anything other than empowering.  It’s simply a matter of perspective.

I think the same can be said about Sucker Punch.  To me, Sucker Punch was a very empowering film and, honestly, that’s the main reason that I loved it even with its flaws.  First off, I think that any film in which women are allowed to do something other than stand around and panic until they’re rescued by a man, is going to be empowering because, far too often, we are taught that waiting for the right man to arrive is the only option available to us.  As well, the main theme of Sucker Punch was the theme of escape, whether that escape was physical or mental.  While I won’t presume to speak for all women, I can say that for many of us, escape is the usually the root of all fantasy and, at least to some extent, the ultimate goal.  As I watched Sucker Punch on Friday night, it seemed to me that, for far too many of us, life is a series of prisons and asylums in which the walls are constructed out of the harsh judgments of patriarchal society.  We allow ourselves to become trapped by the need to be a mother or a wife or a nurturer or a seductress or a whatever it is that society says a good woman has to be on any given day.  The women in Sucker Punch are imprisoned because they’ve gone against the expectations of society and now, whether being lobotomized or sacrificing their bodies in the fantasy brothel, they are allowing their role and personality to be defined by men.  Therefore, when Babydoll and her crew fight for their freedom, we can relate to them because that’s what we have to do every day of our lives.

My Dream Is Yours

But, the argument goes, how this be considered to be empowering when all the female images in the film are so hyper-sexualized?  And it’s true that even when the film is supposed to be portraying reality, the camera does linger over the bodies of the actresses.  In the brothel sequences, the film often looks like an outtake for some anime-inspired Victoria’s Secret fashion show.  (Seriously, this film has a major lingerie fetish but you know what?  So do I.  Lingerie is fashion poetry and when I’m wearing something pretty, I feel like a poem.)  Finally, there’s the image of Babydoll fighting her enemies and dodging explosions while flashing her underwear to the viewer.  Many have argued that this is a degrading image, that it encourages male viewers to leer and to ogle.

Well, the fact of the matter is that this film was directed by a man and often times it is obvious that we’re watching the action through a male gaze.  But, so what?  Just as I believe that women should not be ashamed of their sexuality, I don’t see why men should be expected not to look.  (Looking is not the problem.  It’s the assumption that the right to look also gives one the right to judge.)  And ultimately, I would argue, that being sexy is empowering because society, with its fucked up view of human sexuality in general, is so quick to tell us that the ideal woman is unaware of her sexuality or, at the very least, she should either hide it behind a facade of demure humility or else flaunt it to such an extent as to suggest that it’s all actually a sign of some deeper neurosis.  What is rarely given as an option is the idea that we might want to show off a little just as a matter of pride.  Men are applauded for showing off their muscles yet we are still expected to blush if we show a little cleavage.  Being sexy is not degrading.  What’s degrading are the conditions that society has attempted to impose on the right to be sexy.  To me, it’s very empowering to see strong, independent women standing up for themselves and looking good while doing it. 

Sexual Empowerment

And therefore, for me, Sucker Punch was a very empowering film.  It’s entirely possible that this empowerment could be the result of a happy accident and that Snyder had no idea he was actually making a film that celebrated third wave feminism.  In fact, I’m sure that’s probably the case. 

Even with as much as I enjoyed Sucker Punch, I’m still not really sold on Zack Snyder as a director  When his films work, they almost work despite his directorial flourishes than because of them.  The slow-mo action thingee was kinda fun at first but now, everyone’s doing it and it’s hard to see why it was so exciting in the first place.  Add to that, whenever I hear his name mentioned, I think about the Zach was on both seasons of Paradise Hotel and who, at one point, did this priceless drunken monologue about how he was apparently descended from lawyers.  Seriously, he was such a tool.  Well, why take my word for it?  Here’s a clip of Zach that I found on YouTube…

But anyway, what about Zack Snyder?  As I’ve mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of people right now who are gleefully hating on Sucker Punch in general and Zack Snyder in specific.  What’s really odd is, to judge from twitter, a lot of these haters are people who previously loved Snyder’s more male-centric films.  Which just goes to show what I’ve always said — men suck.  Well, that and nothing breeds contempt quicker than success.  The fact of the matter is that it was time, in the eyes many, for Snyder to take a fall.  Personally, I think Zack Snyder could be a truly noteworthy director but his style — the slow-mo action and all that — is running the risk of becoming less a storytelling tool and more of a nervous tic.

In many ways, Sucker Punch is a happy accident, a film that works despite itself.  I think that’s probably why so many male filmgoers are having such a negative reaction to it — in order to surrender to a happy accident, one has to surrender the illusion of control and men aren’t exactly good at that.  (Of course, neither are most women but seriously, at least we’ll admit to being lost.  I mean, goddamn, guys — if you don’t know where you are, you’re lost.  Just deal with it.)  I expect to have a lot of people disagree with me concerning my opinion of this film and I expect those same people will probably use Sucker Punch as some sort of code word for a “bad” or “disappointing” film from now until whenever David Fincher releases his Girl with The Dragon Tattoo remake.  But I think, as time goes on, Sucker Punch will probably be one of the few Zack Snyder films to truly become a cult film.  300 will be forgotten but Sucker Punch will remain.