The Movie Club

My Flowchart Explains the Trashy Greatness of Black Swan
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 3 2011 2:48 PM

The Movie Club


Hello, Movie Clubbers!

I was hard at work on my thoughtful defense of Black Swan when I was struck down by a 24-hour bug that confined me to bed all New Year's Day. Reportedly, I wandered into my front yard wearing pajamas, and also I managed to watch five minutes of the Rose Bowl, but mostly I was afflicted by feverish nightmares of Barbara Hershey, shattered mirrors, and the terrifying Texas Christian mascot SuperFrog. Talk about a mind-fuck!

Then I woke up and found that A.O. Scott—my dark swan?!—said all the stuff I was gonna say, except better. So I'll just follow Dana's instructions and draw you a flowchart.


So what did I think of Black Swan? I thought it was a fucking piece of trash, and I totally loved it. I use trash here, as distinct from camp, which I think Dennis is right to conclude the movie has only a glancing relationship with. Trash is usually used pejoratively, but in light of my delighted response to Black Swan—and other examples of wonderful recent trash, like Inglourious Basterds, Enter the Void, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy—it's come to mean something different to me.

The best trash gleefully appropriates any and all tropes—camp tropes, horror tropes, Expressionism, first-person shooters, long Chris Rock routines—and combines it with top-drawer talent and inspiration as a way of bashing high and low together to generate sparks. And it's the sparks that matter, for while a movie as elegant as I Am Love, as ambitious as Carlos, or as tonally consistent as Toy Story 3 still can wow me, there's a real charge to undergoing the kind of sensation that Black Swan put me through: the feeling that the movie's going off the rails, and I'm happily going with it.

What do y'all think? Is it time for some aspirational cultural critic to write "Notes on 'Trash' " for whatever this era's equivalent of the Partisan Review is? (Urban Dictionary?) Karina, given that I still haven't even seen the actual movie that came out this year about people, like, humping trash, perhaps I should cede the stage to you. I'd love to hear more from you about your No. 1 movie, and also about your "Number 11"—James Brooks' How Do You Know, a movie liked by me and you and nobody we know.

May SuperFrogs haunt your dreams,

Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.



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