The Wrestler

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Postby Sabin » Tue Feb 17, 2009 5:42 pm

"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Feb 10, 2009 11:46 am

OscarGuy wrote:I wonder, Tee, if your nostalgia colored your opinion in the wrong direction. Perhaps you weren't watching with his old style directly in mind. If you look at his despondence, his self-destruction and his endearing moments, perhaps it's just a world-weary version of the Rourke you remember. I would think it might add some poignancy to his performance, having seen what he used to be and see what he has become and to, perhaps, think of his character in The Wrestler as the degradation of what he once was. It's almost him playing himself in the film, having careened out of control and destroyed everything that was good and going well for him in his life.

Except I didn't feel I was watching Rourke through the perspective of what he used to be -- it was what Bruce Willis used to be.

Don't get me wrong: this would have been the best performance of Bruce Willis' career. But to me that's not as high a bar as the best perfomance of Mickey Rourke's career.

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Postby OscarGuy » Tue Feb 10, 2009 11:31 am

I wonder, Tee, if your nostalgia colored your opinion in the wrong direction. Perhaps you weren't watching with his old style directly in mind. If you look at his despondence, his self-destruction and his endearing moments, perhaps it's just a world-weary version of the Rourke you remember. I would think it might add some poignancy to his performance, having seen what he used to be and see what he has become and to, perhaps, think of his character in The Wrestler as the degradation of what he once was. It's almost him playing himself in the film, having careened out of control and destroyed everything that was good and going well for him in his life.



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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Feb 10, 2009 11:02 am

I've been wondering why I haven't responded to Rourke's work on the level so many, here and elsewhere, have. I liked the performance well enough, but it didn't give me any tingle (to go all Chris Matthews on you). And this is disappointing, because I really WANTED to love the performance. I thought Rourke was a tremendous presence back in the early 80s; by me, his Diner performance would have topped all those nominated for supporting actor in '82. He had a very special, sweet quality; I genuinely thought he had the potential to reach the Hoffman/Nicholson/Pacino level of male star of the era. I'd have been wildly pleased to think he had, even after all this time, got to that place even once. But I didn't feel it.

And finally, over the last day, or so, I came to understand why: he's not, for me, the same actor. I realized this partly by seeing a shot from Diner, remembering how delicate his features were, how soft his touch was even with the general crudeness about him. And then the matter was clarified by the incongruity of hearing him speak at BAFTA Sunday. I realized, as I was listening, that I wasn't hearing Boogie -- I was hearing John McClane, the Bruce Willis persona. The Rourke out there today, for me, recalls Willis' blustery macho far more than the sensitive characters he seemed ready to play in the 80s. Not entirely -- Rourke is still a better actor, overall. And not that simply being Bruce Willis would be a bad thing: I think Willis is a perfectly good actor. He's just not as good as Rourke might have been, nor as good -- as rich -- as what I'd been hoping to find in The Wrestler. So that's the source of my disappointment...why I'll be rooting for Penn without question, despite great nostalgic feelings for the Rourke of old.

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Postby Movielover » Sun Feb 01, 2009 2:55 am

flipp525 wrote:I'm surprised that "Little Person" from Synecdoche, New York didn't make the cut. Talk about a song that has narrative context, occurs in the body of the film (not the credits) AND is actually quite good. I still haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire, but I find it hard to believe that either of its nominated songs achieved (and exceeded) such a triumvurate of qualifications.

Makes me long for the days of "Let the River Run" from Working Girl.

Were people happy about the Working Girl win?

As far as I can remember, the song has nothing to do with the movie.... is this what you are referring to here?

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Postby Movielover » Sun Feb 01, 2009 2:51 am

Saw the film last night and Rourke's work is pretty stunning. I really felt for him when he showed up late to get his daughter. Yes, he should have been more responsible... but only the audience saw how terrible he felt about his actions and how he would have done it differently if he could have. The daughter is not privy to what we are and that makes the sequence painful.

I had the same reaction to Rourke's character as I had when I saw Samuel Barnett's performance in The History Boys on B'way - to jump in and say, "I'll be your friend... I'll love you." I really found myself liking Randy's personality and how he reacts with people. He has great people skills - he handles himself in the supermarket really terrifically trying to make the best of a sucky situation (until the fight, I know).

We all make mistakes and we all deserve second chances - why shouldn't he?

Also, his dealing with Tomei's character was incredibly full of complex emotional stuff. He wants the compassion and the companionship (and why not with a beautiful woman like Tomei to boot). His love for his daughter is palpable. He suspects she is a lesbian but doesn't even bring it up to her or ask her about it - he treats the situation with rich tenderness. He doesn't not ask about her lesbian-ness because he's afraid of the truth - he avoids it because he senses she'll be uncomfortable talking about it and doesn't want to do that to her. So instead he tells her how much he loves her. He's afraid of the rejection of the green jacket, so he buys the peacoat as well. He's so human... full of mistakes.

I want to jump into the screen and be his best friend.

The one thing in the movie that I didn't quite get is how the daughter is able to support herself in that house. She must be 22 or so and she is still in school so what money can she possibly be earning to have this house?

Also, what are we to assume happens at the end of the movie? Has he decided to commit suicide... not wanting to die alone so he kills himself in the ring? Does he not plan to kill himself but die anyway? Or does he live and it was a just a plain old fade-to-black?

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Postby Bog » Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:40 am

I haven't really spoken about the film, other than a reference in comparing Sabin's rating of this to my rating of Gran Torino. I find it just as middle of the road as any other I've seen. It goes out of its way to be unoriginal in my opinion.

I have two main issues (at least at the moment) being that there is literally no subtext of this meteoric fall he's gone through when the film begins. True, they also don't totally explain his status at the "top" other than magazines and newspaper clippings. Is he Hulk Hogan? monetarily more successful now maybe than even then...is he Macho Man or Ric Flair? they've just retired and I'm quite certain are doing just fine financially. Mickey Rourke is younger than all of them, and Randy the Ram seems to be the "good" guy in the wrestling he is still participating in, which seems to be a positive....yet here we are in the present time give or take and he's living in a van/trailer and struggling to get shifts as a stockboy. Yet he's still wrestling every chance he gets at full-bore. Something doesn't add up to me, and it has a lot to do with real living and breathing people on this earth contradicting the entire premise of the script.

With that being said, I found him to be a likeable enough guy. Everyone says Marisa Tomei played the stripper with the heart of gold...I feel it can be argued this is also the role Mickey Rourke portrays only as a wrestler. Until of course it comes time to get a daughter in his life. Bring on the coke and sluts with firemen fetish...just in the knick of time.

Haha, as I'm writing this I think I'm becoming more and more aggravated with the film. I'll disagree with the Mickey Rourke synopsis by Tee. I'm so incredibly torn between Penn and Rourke, I really just cannot decide which I want to be awarded an Oscar for these performances. I'll liken it to the comment I've made about wishing No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood could have been this year.

Finally, who the hell are these punks (likely my age) that don't want Marisa Tomei to give them a lapdance?? ugh, all so damn cliche...

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Postby Eric » Fri Jan 30, 2009 6:24 pm

Mister Tee wrote:Okay, someone has to be the negative outlier, and I volunteer.

Hey, I voted The Wrestler in the most overrated movie poll.

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Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jan 30, 2009 5:27 pm

Okay, someone has to be the negative outlier, and I volunteer.

I found the movie pretty dreary. I decided long ago, after too many bad play-readings, that nothing bored me more than stories about losers losing -- especially losers-who-once-had-more-in-life. Add to that that wrestling, cheap strip bars and overcast New Jersey are among the things I find most depressing in life, and you have a film not likely to push my buttons unless the achievement is something truly special.

I think Aronofsky has talent, but his choice of stories has always left me cold. Requiem for a Dream had tremendous film-making flash, but the content was a 2-hour version of the teacher on South Park saying "Drugs...are bad" -- it was like watching a piano virtuoso doing all he could to enliven Chopsticks. The Fountain was a ludicrous story with, again, alot of visual flair -- the kind of fiasco to which I thought anyone with talent was entitled. But now, with The Wrestler, I'm starting to think Aronofksy simply has lousy taste in scripts, and he needs to be held responsible for the dramatic shortcomings of his work.

A lot of you seem to be saying, "It wasn't much of a story but..." I can't get past that flaw, which may just just mean my opinion of the story is even lower than yours. I think the whole two hours is cliches strung in a row. The situations are hoary enough -- broken-down wrestler with health problems forced to take a straight job, stripper with a heart, estranged child -- but the rhythm of every strand of the narrative is also hopelessly predictable: initial degradation (beatings in the ring, Tomei resistant, daughter angry), interim of hope (the job's not horrible, Tomei responds, the daughter melts inside half an hour), then everything collapses at once (irritaing customers, Tomei's tirade, daughter's fury). The blow-up at the deli counter encapsulates just about everything I disliked here -- both because of the ludicrously overdrawn customer and the way she so perfectly fit the "life going to shit" motif. Aronofsky wasn't much help here, either -- the close-ups of the slicer were a banal tip-off to where the scene was going. Oh, and did I mention the reference to Passion of the Christ couldn't have been more heavy-handed?

Aronofksy's directing on the whole is a lot better than Siegel's script, but not in the eye-catching way of Requiem or even Pi. Yes, he captures some moments that feel lifelike, but given the falseness of the story, all that amounts to is washing garbage.

I do concur that the performances are good, though neither of the two nominees seems so outstanding that I'd root for them. I'd be extremely surprised now if Rourke were to defeat Penn, previous win by Penn notwithstanding. Academy members are just likely to far prefer Milk on the whole, and transfer their affection to the lead actor.

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Postby Heksagon » Fri Jan 30, 2009 11:38 am

I saw the film. I think it's fairly good, but there are too many weak scenes in it, and after the first one-third, the story loses tension. My biggest complaint is that the relationship between Rourke's character and her daughter or Tomei's character didn't seem to work too well. Although Tomei acts well, frankly the film is better when Rourke is on the screen alone. I also liked the way the wresting scenes were directed; They're shot from the wrestlers' point of view, and for once, they weren't edited with a chainsaw.

Between 7,5 and 8 / 10

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Postby Okri » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:21 pm

flipp525 wrote:I'm surprised that "Little Person" from Synecdoche, New York didn't make the cut. Talk about a song that has narrative context, occurs in the body of the film (not the credits) AND is actually quite good. I still haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire, but I find it hard to believe that either of its nominated songs achieved (and exceeded) such a triumvurate of qualifications.

Makes me long for the days of "Let the River Run" from Working Girl.

Well, I think both Slumdog songs do, with the qualification that "Jai Ho" is a splashy production number edited in with the credits.

"Down to Earth" is a credits song as well. But those credits are very picturesque.

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Postby Sabin » Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:27 pm

I would agree with you about "Little Person". It forwards the narrative thematically twice and then over credits. Producing an anthem for this twisted film isn't easy but it does the job perfectly. I would have loved to see it nominated but the absence of "The Wrestler" perplexes me so that I have to agree with Wes. It must be that title credits songs no longer have a place with the Academy.
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Postby flipp525 » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:34 pm

I'm surprised that "Little Person" from Synecdoche, New York didn't make the cut. Talk about a song that has narrative context, occurs in the body of the film (not the credits) AND is actually quite good. I still haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire, but I find it hard to believe that either of its nominated songs achieved (and exceeded) such a triumvurate of qualifications.

Makes me long for the days of "Let the River Run" from Working Girl.




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Postby OscarGuy » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:28 pm

I'm almost positive that the bizarre nature of the nominations in recent years points to the "viewing songs in context" rule. Closing credits songs, with no visual connection don't appeal to these voters even if the music is a part of the whole and fits directly.

The question is, how many people actually SAW The Wrestler before hearing the song? The problem with their system is that there probably weren't many, which means the words and the music probably meant little to them despite fitting the film and acting as a nice CODA to it.

I think that each song should be accompanied by several pieces of documentation from the composer and the director listing the reasons for the song, the inspirations, how it ties into the film dramatically and why the positioning of the song was important. Just watching a song in the context of a scene does not give the voter enough of an idea of the integral nature of the song to the film and thus they go for more exuberant and visually stimulating songs get nominations.
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Postby The Original BJ » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:15 pm

What's especially weird to me is that I could come up with at least five songs pretty easily that I think were nomination-worthy this year -- and that's just based on songs I remember from films I've seen (i.e. not sitting through clips of 49 eligible songs).

And so in a better-than-usual year for songs, I can't fathom why the music branch would vote for less nominees, particularly when people like Springsteen, Eastwood, and/or Jon Brion (among others) could have easily filled up two more spots.


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