Sunday, December 12, 2010


I like Katherine Monk.
A former colleague and fellow flick critic, Ms. Monk was always an ebullient and affable presence as we sat through (me often yawning) the preview of yet another innocuous Hollywood... ummm... (how shall I put it, delicately?)... pile of shit.
But later, when it came time to put notes and quotes (scrawled in the gloomy dimness of a near empty theatre) into words, Ms. Monk sometimes stumbled as she tried to put one word in front of another.
I’ve written some clunkers myself under deadline but nothing that should set a good desk editor’s hair on fire.
Case in point: Ms. Monk’s review (in both the Vancouver Sun and Province ) of the new Natalie Portman vehicle, Black Swan, is a classic example of someone attempting to write above themselves.
Either that, or she was channeling Gene Shalit.
While she awards Black Swan a generous A-minus, Ms. Monk performs an ungraceful pas de deux with readers that left me (as they say in the film blurb business) “breathless.”
Like a dog lapping up toilet water, I enjoy a scintillating simile as much as most. But Ms. Monk fell as flat as my fallen arches with this description of a ballet dancer’s foot.
“Have you seen a dancer’s feet [Well, no actually]? They’re such a microcosm of physical trauma, they conjure images of a Civil War battlefield.”
Oh really. A Civil War battlefield. Those must be some big honkin’ feet. Not to mention what I imagine to be cannonballs between the toes, as well as Union and Confederate corpses hidden beneath the heels.
But wait, kids, there’s more.
We’ll skip over the say-what? phrase “binary of beauty” and the malapropism in the description of the director’s daring turn as he “manipulates the elements to exacerbate the edge.”
How you worsen or degrade an “edge” seems more suited to a blacksmith than a film director. She may have been thinking of “enhancing.” But let’s not quibble.
Let’s take our dulled blade and cut to the chase (I also like mixed metaphors) when Ms. Monk compares the director’s deft touch with the “manly dexterity of a patriarch before the family turkey.”
Yes, he must be a manly man, even though he wields an exacerbated edge.
But Black Swan is no turkey. It’s “the kind of movie that will reawaken your love of cinema."
(Sorry, was I snoring?)
Mercifully, Ms. Monk did not close with the retch-inducing Hollywood cliche “a triumph of the human spirit.” although she may have been sorely (as sore as Gettysburg) tempted when she closed with “A complete triumph in every regard.”
Now that’s a binary beauty of a phrase born to be a blurb.

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