Admittedly, this isn’t exactly a critique of Black Swan per se, but can we burn the Regal Union Square Stadium 14 movie theater in New York to the ground? That place is such a disaster. Every time that I go to see a movie there, I am just like, whoops, this is a nightmare, NEVER FORGET. And then somehow I ALWAYS FORGET. They should sell shot glasses in Chinatown with the Regal Union Square Stadium 14 getting hit by an airplane so that when I drink I can remember never to see a movie there again. Look, I’m sorry to go on and on about this, but that place has bed bugs. And if it doesn’t have bed bugs, it should be burned to the ground just in case. CDC-style. You can take out all of Union Square as far as I’m concerned. Be on the safe side. There are a lot of wonderful things about New York City, but being incapable of finding a seat at a movie that costs $13 when you show up half an hour early seems kind of inhuman. Admittedly, this was not quite as bad as when we showed up to Avatar TWO HOURS EARLY and were AT THE BACK OF THE LINE, but still. I’ve had it. I went to see Black Swan with a friend of mine, and we could not sit together, but not only that, we both had to sit in miserable seats in the very frontest section of the theater. Like, those are the seats reserved for steerage class in the movie Titanic. Someone’s playing a bouzouki and everyone pretends like they aren’t getting bitten by rats when in reality they are getting straight eaten up by those rats. I know it’s a couple of weeks early, but this weekend I started working on my New Year’s resolution to never go see a movie at the Regal Union Square Stadium 14 ever again, and I really think this year it’s going to stick!

Anyway, Black Swan. Pretty good!

Black Swan is basically All About Eve told in reverse order for a 3D world on the brink of Apocalypse. (I mean, look.) It’s about the ravages of fame, and the self-destructive nature of desire, and the all-consuming exploitative nature of art. It’s a movie about the psycho-sexual nightmare of being a woman. And it’s about growing feathers out of your back and being really bad at clipping your nails. Natalie Portman plays Nina, an up-and-coming young ballerina at Lincoln Center who lives with her HORRORSHOW of a stage mom and wants nothing more than the lead role in the upcoming production of Swan Lake now that Beth (Winona Ryder) is retiring. At first, it doesn’t seem like she’s going to get the part, but then she does get the part, so that was easy enough. But now that she has the part, the part is killing her! For one thing, it’s making her feet DISGUSTING. If there is anything that I learned from Black Swan it is that you must NEVER remove a pair of Capezios. They’re on there for a reason.

But in addition to her feet and also a rash on her shoulder and also hangnails, it’s messing with her mind. (And perhaps these physical problems are just extensions of her emotional problems, have you ever considered THAT?) She’s having hallucinations and panic sweats and is racked with crippling self-doubt and paranoid delusions. There’s a new girl in the company, Lily, played by Mila Kunis, who keeps trying to befriend her, but once they do become friends–and boy oh boy, when Natalie Portman makes a new friend, she REALLY MAKES A NEW FRIEND (fucking)–it becomes increasingly clear that Mila Kunis is trying to destroy Natalie Portman. Or is she? IT’S VERY HARD TO TELL. ALSO WHAT WAS THAT LOUD NOISE JUST NOW. Meanwhile, the ballet director Vincent Cassel is a real jerk! (Good movie criticism sentence.)

It’s also basically Fight Club for girls. But, like, if Fight Club was a fucking nightmare. “I want you to creep me out as hard as you can.” Having not read any reviews of this movie prior to watching it, I did not realize it was so scary. Yikes! I mean, there aren’t any monsters in it, or any floppy sack masks, but it was still pretty spooky stuff. We’re clearly dealing with a Classic Unreliable Narrator here, which means not only that we can never be sure of how true her paranoiac delusions about Mila Kunis et al actually are, but it’s kind of unclear whether Mila Kunis even exists. I mean, she does, I guess, but does she? She does. BUT DOES SHE?!

Perhaps the biggest “problem” with Black Swan, and it’s not necessarily a problem, depending on what your expectations are when it comes to popular entertainment, but it’s certainly a question, which is what is Natalie Portman’s endgame here? What do we, as an audience, hope for her? Because she’s pretty fucking unbearable. She’s cold, entirely self-absorbed, repressed, rude, small in a mean way, lashes out constantly, feels entitled to her “fame,” and is obsessively focused on achieving “perfection.” Kind of a gross combo. I guess not everyone feels this way. Certainly near the end of the film when she makes the necessary sacrifices in order to become a star some people in the theater cheered. But again, that theater is the worst. But if you think about it, perhaps this is the whole point of the movie: that it’s in intractable and unwinnable war to engage in with one’s self in the first place. If Nina “wins,” she becomes a (more) horrible person. If she “fails,” she becomes an irreparably broken person. It’s called a quagmire, look it up.

Also: the ending, you have to admit if you have seen it, and/or you will have to admit when you see it, is a little bit ON THE NOSE.

Black Swan is definitely one of those college movies that I’m more happy to have seen than to have watched, if that distinction makes sense. Like, it’s a “good” movie but at no point during it was I like “oh fun, I am enjoying myself.” I was just like, “are they done with the fingernails yet? Will someone please tell me when they’re done with the fingernails? Just have a bed bug bite me on my eyeball so I know.”


Comments (119)
  1. Must resist the impulse to read. Doesn’t open until the 22nd here.

    Resist Bill…. Resist.

  2. Like, it’s a “good” movie but at no point during it was I like “oh fun, I am enjoying myself.”

    I have no words for this.

  3. Not going to read this until I see the movie, but answer one question for me, plese:
    What should I bring with me, my wife, or a travel-sized bottle of lotion?

  4. I read “panic sweats” and totally thought

  5. The first guy I made out with was a ballerina. He was pretty gay. I know this has nothing to do with anything, it’s just my go to story when someone brings up ballet. So yeah.

    • If this movie is any indication, ballerinas seem to err on the side of fucking gorgeous, so…congratulations!

        • “Umm… hey guys. I’m going to need some alone time for the next five minutes. Actually, make it ten.” — Quentin Tarantino

          • Hahaha as soon as I read the line about the feet, Tarantino was the first thing that came to mind. Now, no judgment or anything, but the foot fetish thing is something I really, really don’t understand. At all. What’s the variable that allows gross feet to equal boner? My algebra teacher tells me there’s something missing here.


        • Prediction on Darren Aronofsky’s next film: Requiem for a Dream (drugs lead to death)–>The Fountain (death is inevitable)—>The Wrestler (wrestling for a living inevitably screws your body over)—>Black Swan (dancing for a living makes your toenails fall off and also makes you go batshit crazy)—> “The Last Mile” (Cross Country makes your toenails fall off too)

      • He was… ok. Good, not great, B+. Not nearly as good as my current boyfriend (Hey sweetie!).

  6. Gabe, there’s only one thing I can say about that first paragraph. You mad.

  7. “So this is basically The Wrestler, with ballerinas.” – Gabe

    • I don’t remember Mickey Rourke masturbating in a bath tub, I mean maybe he did and I just blocked it out with images of Marissa Tomei

    • Also, ART IS HARD makes me think of this

      • Once, I was driving to a Fleet Foxes show (I think? Maybe it wasn’t Fleet Foxes. But it was definitely a show.) and while stopped at a red light, Tim Kasher walked and stood next to us on the sidewalk. The girl with me rolled down the window and shouted “Tim Kasher!” and he looked around for a second and then saw her. And neither me or her knew what to say, so we both gave him a thumbs up and he involuntarily looked at us like we were absolutely stupid, but, to his credit, gave the thumbs up right back and then the light turned green.

        Probably a lot like “Black Swan” if you think about it? Hang on, what are we talking about here?

        • Whoa, look at this fucking hipster!

          I KID! I kid because I am jealous.

        • Don’t worry Huck. Years ago, a couple of friends and I met Jimmy from Jimmy Eat World. When we commented on how our one friend could be his stand in (because they were totally twins!), he was like “Yeah, I don’t see it.” What a dick. In conclusion, music is nice and the Black Swan gives me a stomach ache.

  8. i’ve been pretty pleased with a recent resolution to only see big movies at the battery park regal. pro tip!

    • Insider’s guide to NY – Battery Park is THE BEST (of the worst, b/c movie theaters in NY are terrible and overpriced.)

      • I was just going make the same suggestion. Which means that too many people are starting to figure out that Battery Park is awesome….well…I guess the three of us have to fight to the death….thats the only reasonably way to work this out

    • pitted, the first rule of the BP Regal is not to talk about the BP Regal (sorry for bringing up “Fight Club”). But seriously, guy: Leave some of the pro tips for the pros!

  9. Here’s the secret about all movie theaters in NYC, they are all the worst. To wit:

    AMC Lowes 19th St: Hey you know what’s not a good idea, build a movie theater below ground next to an active subway track so that every 5 minutes (who am I kidding, it’s the MTA, every 25 minutes) a goddamn subway train rumbles through your movies.

    Pavillion, Park Slope: Half the theaters have a stream of water running through them (God I hope it’s water) and 93% of the seats are broken. (Bonus: the seats that do work have a substance all over them that I can only describe as “Month old barf from a hungover candy apple.”

    Angelika: Same problem as the AMC Lowes 19th St, but it’s full of NYU students

    Any movie theater between 34th St and 60th St: Tourists

    • Damn those tourists.

    • Does it smell like hot dogs? I swear 90% of the large movie theaters here in Chicago smell like hot dogs.

    • I’ve had pretty good luck at the AMC on 34th, I saw Social Network on the opening weekend and got there after the show had started but still got great seats, then again I was technically a tourist.

    • Why would you go to the movies in NYC as a tourist? This seems the height of ridiculousness to me. It’s NEW YORK CITY!

      Then again, I’ve never been there…but isn’t it supposed to be awesome and you know, full of stuff to do?

    • Is it weird that I really like the Forum? I went to a Kazan retrospective last time I was in town and it was fantastic. But when I told my friends that I liked the theatre, they laughed knowingly at me. What gives, New York?

    • Why the fuck do tourists go to the movies while they’re in NYC? They have movie theaters in their towns. Shouldn’t they be at FAO Schwartz or the Olive Garden in Times Square or outside Total Request Live? (that’s still a thing, right?)

  10. +1 for the Union Square theater. Also on my list is the Regal on Court St in Brooklyn. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to go to any major movie theater on a Saturday night anymore. You might as well just pay $13 to listen to a bunch of teenagers talk and text for an hour and a half. And now I’m showing my age…

    • Gah! I forgot about the Regal on Court St. Terrible people go there, plus half of the movie theaters feel like they were built on the summit of Mt. Everest.

    • Speaking of kids in theaters, my friend almost got into a fist fight with a college student over a seat during a midnight showing of Harry Potter. At one point college girl sat on my friend’s lap and refused it get up.

      That has sworn me off midnight showing of movies based on CHILDREN’S books especially near a large college campus.

  11. I loved that this movie was kind of trashy. I’ve read it compared to a 1970s-style horror film, like Rosemary’s Baby, as well as the “art house Showgirls” (sorry I don’t have sources right now :( ) and I think both are accurate descriptions… in a really wonderful way.

    But can I just say this movie was gross at times? Because it was! I had to peek through my fingers at numerous moments, and I would say that I’m not overly squeamish typically.

    Also, don’t ever go to that Union Square theater. No. No. No. I hope you’ve learned your lesson.

    • I agree, there were many times I was like no do not want to see you pull a nail out of your back Natalie Portman

  12. Word is Natalie Portman could get an Oscar for this performance. Here’s a shot of her hard at work rehearsing:


  13. All I think of when I see Mila Kunis is That 70′s Show.

    More like That’s Your 70′s Show, right guys? #gumcoms

  14. My roommate went to see Black Swan at Union Square Regal last night. That’s just two degrees of Gabe separation!

    I didn’t go because I know Union Square Regal sucks — duh.

  15. “this was not quite as bad as when we showed up to Avatar TWO HOURS EARLY and were AT THE BACK OF THE LINE”

    It doesn’t matter when you show up – you’ll always be at the back of the line.

  16. Also is Gabe Reviews The Movies a new feature? Country Strong is coming out soon, just saying

  17. This movie did not look good to me from the fist trailer. Full disclosure though, I shut off The Fountain in the first 10 minutes of it after I saw bald Hugh Jackman floating in a space bubble. What the fuck was that about?

    • Have to say, agreed on both points.

    • Are you gearing up for Aaronofsky’s and Jackman’s NEXT collaboration- The Wolverine! (I am dead serious, of course). The screenplay is being written by Christopher McQuarrie of The Usual Suspects and Way of The Gun fame.

      I dare say I am allowing myself expectations for this film. I imagine smash cut shots of Wolverine’s daily habits, the camera following him from behind as he walks into various dojos to fight samurai (it takes place in Japan), and of course, Wolverine pees himself. So yes, I am allowing myself some expectations.

      • To be fair, he’s always been upfront about his desire to do a big-budget tentpole. Furthermore, if it’s a huge success, can you imagine what he’ll be able to do with that newfound clout? Say what you will about Inception, but you know that nothing even resembling it could get through the studio system, especially with that budget. I’m also hugely excited to see what an exciting visionary auteur would do with a worn-out comic-book character. Though I still wish he would have gone ahead with Robocop.

        • That One, Maybe you’ve mistaken my sentiments, but I’m not poking fun at The Wolverine or Aaronofsky’s involvement with it. I am genuinely allowing myself a rationed amount of reserved, careful anticipation. I like Aaronofsky quite a bit, as do I like McQuarrie. And I got into comics in ’91 with X-Men and immediately latched onto Wolverine (although I could care less about him now. I read a select few superhero titles these days). I am hoping that they are able to make a relatively problem-free film with little meddling by the studio. I am actually hoping Wolverine will be the only mutant in the film as he runs around Japan, but I know that probably won’t happen. But I hope it does.

          Anyway, I am on board for it and I am hoping it is good.

  18. Yeah, Gabe, the Union Square Regal totally sucks ass, dude! I remember that crappy theater when I was in grad school at NYU. I used to sometimes go see movies by myself between classes at the various theaters in that vicinity.

    “If there is anything that I learned from Black Swan it is that you must NEVER remove a pair of Capezios.” Frickin’ LOL! I grew up (hating) dancing ballet in the LA Ballet Co. as a kid and the Capezio shop in Hollywood used to be the ONLY place to buy dance-wear/ballet shoes in ALL of LA County during the ’80s. ”

    Yo, “ART IS HARD!”

  19. I had to go see it at the Union Square cinema, too, b/c I missed the showing at the theater by Lincoln Center. The fact that the marquee lights are out is just creepy and gross. Also creepy and (kind of) gross? Black Swan! I kept looking at my hands for the rest of the night, expecting to see them bleeding. Glad I saw the movie, though.

  20. i am never going to see this movie, because i am a tiny frightened baby who had nightmares that strangers on the street were going to punch me after i saw the movie fight club. thats not even what happens in that movie. shouldn’t i be afraid im going to punch myself, or that my roommate is a figment of my imagination?

    anyway its a shame im going to miss out on natalie portman getting the ol’ don draper from mila kunis. maybe someone will make an animated gif.

    • other fight club nightmares that would make more sense:
      having to sleep with helena bonham carter
      joining a stupid cult
      having to listen to someone’s opinions on chuck palahniuk, which is a waking nightmare i had to live through called “college”

  21. For a few various reasons, I totally own a few pairs of Capezios dance tights. I’m now super happy I got that brand or else I may not have gotten that foot joke

  22. Gabe, if you want a good theater experience in a big city, move to San Francisco where you can watch movies at the Metreon, which has RECLINABLE FUCKING SEATS. I had a similar problem when i went to go see this, showed up early but still had trouble finding seats, so my friend and I also had to sit up front. But when you can lean back in your chair farther than I have ever leaned back in a movie theater, it is not that bad.

    Also: this movie was so intense. I had knots in my stomach for the entire 20 minute drive home. Like Gabe, I hadn’t read any reviews so I totes wasn’t expecting it. I had to watch several episodes of Parks and Rec to cleanse myself.

  23. Black Swan’s nightmare spiral : nothing a bite of sandwich couldn’t have prevented.

  24. I remember when they were casting Natalie Portman’s foot double! The call only mentioned that they were looking for ballerinas on pointe, not that they were specifically looking for nightmare feet from hell. But I guess the two are synonymous. /balletgum

  25. What gets me, as someone who WASN’T a fan of this movie, is that many of the reasons people give for why they loved it are exactly the reasons why I didn’t like it.

    However, I did think Kunis did an actual good job in this movie. Huh?

    Also, Gabe, re: your description of Portman’s character – SPOT ON. I couldn’t fucking stand her after maybe twenty minutes, and I still had the rest of the movie to go.

    • I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I heard an interview with the director on NPR last Friday, and apparently we are NOT supposed to like the self-involved Portman character, so if you hated her, then perhaps she did a good acting job?

      • OK, so we were supposed to spend 2 hours with a shrill, annoying shrew? Because that doesn’t sound like an enjoyable time to me.

        If I wanted to do that, I’d stay home with the wife, right, guys? Right?

        I’m kidding: my wife is a lovely woman.

        • Lol. Well, did you have an “enjoyable time” watching Requiem for a Dream? Requiem was a well-made film, but NOT enjoyable. I remember seeing it with an old dancer best friend of mine many years ago, and we both left the theater with total migraines afterward. For reals. Despite the headache, I remember also feeling totally blown away by the sound design and lighting…. the sound design was especially fucking epic with how they perfectly synced it with the heroin montages.

  26. I went to the Union Square theater to see this – got there 30 mins early, almost had to sit in the same seats as Gabe, then saw the BALCONY behind me, ran around trying to find it, finally did and had the BEST seats in the HOUSE!

    SECRET BALCONY! Don’t give up!

    • Aaaugh, somebody forgot the First Rule of Union Square Secret Balcony is you don’t talk about Union Square Secret Balcony! The greatest trick smart moviegoers ever pulled was convincing the world the secret balcony doesn’t exist, etc.

      • Ahem. I took several deep breaths and calmed down, because I can be an adult about this, and the monsters will APPRECIATE Secret Balcony the way others will not. But nobody make a Facebook fan page or tell the rest of the internet or anything — that would induce several reality show clip GIFs-worth of rage and lament.

  27. I saw this at the Metreon in San Francisco, which based on your description is the west coast twin of the Regal Union Square 14. Grown adults, who had paid and been admitted into an R rated film, stood in the aisle by the exit and shined a flashlight into the eyes of, presumably, their friend who was sitting directly in front of me, so be consequence they were shining the flashlight directly into my eyes. That being said, the fellow sitting next to me gasped literally every time a character cut his or her fingernails, so when Natalie Portman cut all of her fingernails, I really wanted to suggest to him to save it up for one big gasp right around the tenth finger.

  28. Dustin Hoffman’s best movie is “Hook”.

  29. “Look, I’m sorry to go on and on about this, but that place has bed bugs”

    We know >:)
    -The Cinema Bosses

  30. Saw it last night. Went in expecting a thriller but HOLY HELL. “Winona Ryder stabbing herself in the face repeatedly” GAH.

    I liked this movie, curious to see how it holds up to multiple viewings. It did a great job of feeling like I was watching an actual nightmare. Portman was fantastic, probably her best performance. Wasn’t expecting it to go SO FAR into the surreality, but I like that they did. The use of original music with the Swan Lake score was pretty inspired.

  31. The Metreon is so much nicer than the Regal Union Sq. Aside from all Gabe mentioned, the Regal is actually rat-ridden. As in, I go there to see a movie, and as a plus I see at least one rat running in the aisle every time. Thanks, $13.50 plus fandango fees!

  32. There is not enough talk about how hot Vincent Cassel is.

  33. I was looking forward to watching Black Swan this weekend. I was going to catch a Friday matinee since I didn’t have to work and would have just got paid. Like a kid looking at the presents under the tree before going to bed on Christmas Eve, I went to a Fandango with a heart full of anticipation on Thursday night only to enter my zip code and find out that it was not playing in Las Vegas this weekend. I was crushed and now I have to spend a week avoiding spoilers on the internet and hope that it comes to Vegas quicker than 127 Hours did. It really sucked when that movie was spoiled for me.

    James Franco cuts his arm off and gets free.

  34. I have to say movie theaters is one area where LA has you soundly beat. Instead of seeing Black Swan at the nightmare factory that is the Union Square 14, I saw it at the Arclight which is the best theater of all the theaters. Here’s how it went. I bought my ticket online and got $1 off (so it cost $12.50), then I showed up about 10 minutes before the movie started because I had a reserved assigned seat, I got a free soda because every 3-4 movies you go to you earn enough points for a free soda, I went in and sat in my high-backed reclining assigned seat, got a brief introduction to the film from the usher (who stayed in the theater for the first 10-15 minutes to make sure the sound and picture quality was good), and then leaned back and enjoyed the movie. Sounds a lot better than your experience. Yes sometimes this set-up can be annoying on weekends with popular movies if you don’t reserve in advance, but otherwise its amazing.

    • Yeah, but you live in LA. Barf.

      • Touche, but let me have my movie theaters god dammit! It’s the one good thing we have! To be perfectly honest though, I don’t know why an Arclight style theater hasn’t opened in NYC. I mean they could charge through the nose and people would go because NYC movie theaters are the most godawful garbage dumps in the entire universe. They aren’t even romantically awful, they are just awful. Pre-reserved assigned seats are the future and the future is now! (at least in LA).

        ALSO, when you finally make it into the theater they are the most ass tiny screens I have ever seen. I have seen home theaters bigger than the screens at that arthouse theater by Lincoln Center (I saw Persepolis there and was sitting in like the second row and it still felt tiny). I understand that space is a premium in NYC, but come on!

    • LA theaters are the best, especially arclight. TRUTH. Also, how good is arclight’s freshly made carmel corn? Answer: so good. Go to bed NYC, say hey to bugs for me.

  35. I just saw this movie. Pretty lame. Lots of “psyche” out moments that had me laughing AT the movie as well as all the gross out moments. Laughing at the slght gore but also laughing at the stupid audiences lame reaction like they’ve never seen a movie before. Anyway if you thought fight club sixth sense and other movies had a weak lazy psyche out conceit that is too boring to even think about then you’ll hate this. At least Natalie Portman is easy on the eyes so there’s that

  36. Steve Winwood’s favorite movie: Blue Lagoon

  37. Regal Union Square Stadium 14 is the WORST. I was there to see Black Swan last Saturday and got there 20 minutes early. More like 2 hours too late. I practically had to stand in the back. What a joke.

  38. I agree completely:
    Check out similar blog review on Louise On The Left:
    Movie Update: Black Swan Is A Mother’s Worst Nightmare.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.