Thursday, November 24, 2011

What I Saw: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One

What I Saw:   The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One

I must begin my review with three admissions: First, seeing a Twilight movie has become something of a Thanksgiving tradition for me, and I’m always struck by the colonial implications of the pale white bloodsuckers encroaching upon Quileute land. Second, I am an unapologetic member of Team Jacob, and since statistically fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, I think that Bella would have been smarter to marry the hottie with the great abs first, and save the guy who doesn’t age for her second time around. And third, I love watching the guys get all upset as the women break their monopoly on this genre.

Let’s be honest: The makeup and visual effects in this film aren’t really any worse than we see in any number of male-centered vampire and werewolf films. The dialogue isn’t any more ridiculous than what we see in a typical action movie. And even Taylor Lautner’s much ballyhooed shirtlessness can’t begin to compare to the skimpy outfits and topless nudity we’ve seen on women over the years. So why is it so threatening to have one franchise where testosterone isn’t the solution to every problem?

I’m not going to try to argue that the Twilight series is somehow a paragon of feminism. My point is simply that the film looks at issues of romance, marriage, pregnancy and abortion as common experiences and trusts its audience to fill in the gaps with their own emotions and projections, just as the guys’ films do for the oh-so-important values of sports, cars and war. Indeed, this context even extends to the battle scenes, where the struggles are for protection, rather than the ego-driven masculine fantasy of saving the whole world.

Breaking Dawn Part One lives up to expectations. I have to admire a franchise where the marriage comes in the middle, rather than the end of the series. In addition to providing an opportunity for cameo appearances from the lesser known characters in Bella’s life, the wedding scene features beautiful dresses and an art design sequence that perfectly mirrors the mix of emotions. The exotic honeymoon plays nicely as well, revealing the nervousness and anticipation of one’s first time that contrasts quite sharply with the immature conquest mentality presented in boy’s movies. But the heart of the film is during the pregnancy, as Bella, Edward, Jacob and their families negotiate the changing loyalties and affections that come with new life. And while the division of the final installment into two parts is clearly a money grab (just as it is for Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Matrix and any number of superhero sequels), the execution of the final scene makes it feel like a natural break in the story by harkening back to the horror genre that inspired the characters and building suspense for the final episode.

Oscar Chances:

Best Song: Bruno Mars for “It Will Rain” (currently ranked 20)
Best Song: Christina Perri for “A Thousand Years” (currently unranked, but at the suggestion of a reader it may appear in my next rankings)
Makeup (currently ranked 33 for the multiple transformations of Bella Swan)

My Lamb Score: 3 out of 5 Lambs
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Read more of my reviews HERE.
As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!


  1. Well, atleast you realized none of the actors would EVER be nominated.

  2. I liked the movie a lot, I definelty would give it nomination for amazing cinematography.

  3. @Anonymous, Indeed, I tried to give this film a fair shake instead of dismissing it as so many other bloggers do just because it's written more for the girls than the guys. But I agree it's not the type of film that wins acting awards. Song and makeup are remote possibilities though, as these branches are sometimes more inclusive.

    @Sati, There are indeed some beautiful nature shots, as well as the wedding scene(s) which use the camera and the art direction quite well. Plus, Guillermo Navarro is a former winner for Pan's Labyrinth, so I'm thinking that he might get some consideration for the finale (Part Two).

  4. Hey, I think A Thousand Years should get a nomination for Best Original Song. Also Sister Rosetta by The Noisettes, Turning Page by Sleeping At Last and Flightless Bird, American Mouth have a great chance too, to get a nomination I mean. (Songs from New Moon and Eclipse have been shortlisted for the award, and the Twilight and Eclipse soundtracks earned Grammy nominations.)

    Also the cinematography and the art direction were really great. (C'mon, Look at the cinematography in the birth scene) I think the cinematography has a fair chance of getting a nod.

    Last thing, you said, "But I agree it's not the type of film that wins acting awards." I don't see why. Kristen Stewart's performance was critically acclaimed in that in that one (Ex. Ebert praised her performance). You should have a look at the reviews (although some of the critics disliked the story too much that they forgot to comment on anything other than the screenplay). It really has a chance to even be considered.

  5. Thanks Anonymous! I'm with you on the songs, as they have indeed made the lists in past years, which is why I always try to include them. I had the Bruno Mars in my list as a placeholder of sorts, and will check out the other ones you mentioned too.

    The challenge with the other categories is that the Academy has such specific types of things that they usually look for, and there are so many other films this year that fit those "Oscar bait" criteria. For actresses, they like biopics, independent films, or huge blockbuster hits from really famous people like Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts. And for Art Direction and Cinematography, you either have to be a best picture nominee or create a whole world like Alice In Wonderland or Sherlock Holmes. So while I praised the art in the wedding scene for example, they don't usually reward individual scenes like that.

    Thanks again for checking out my blog!

  6. The makeup looks really, really bad.

  7. I wanted to see this last weekend. Then reason got to me. I'm not paying money for this. Now I'm surprised that you somewhat liked it but I will wait for the DVD to get my unintentional laughs :)

  8. do you feel the custom made wedding dress could at least get shortlisted for best costume?

  9. @Colin, The makeup is supposed to make her look bad! I mean, she's being eaten alive from the inside out or something. I thouhgt it was convincing for what it's supposed to be.

    @Castor, It's become somewhat of a tradition for me, and I'm able to enjoy it for what it is.

    @Anonymous, The Costume Designers Guild Awards have separate categories for Contemporary, Period and Fantasy films, so it's always possible that the dresses might get a nomination there. But for the Oscars, they almost always go with the period pieces or the fantasy films, and usually for movies that are more elaborate or that have large numbers of costume changes. And they may face a larger problem: Michael Wilkinson is the costume designer for the film, but the dress is by Carolina Herrera. So the designers branch would have to like both the dress and several other elements, which makes it feel really unlikely to me.