Somewhere

December 20, 2010

 

**Originally published on Passionforcinema.com**


 

I have got a feeling that Somewhere, the latest offering from the uber talented Sofia Coppola, is going to get misjudged and underrated by many. The movie is yet to get a proper release in the US and other major locations, and whatever initial response it’s  getting from the few festival circles gives me a bad feeling. I could be wrong, but one thing is sure, Somewhere is not for everybody (I take too much pleasure in saying that!). And the few who is going to enjoy it, is going to enjoy it immensely. I was lucky enough to watch a screening of Somewhere at IFFK 2010. I remained doubtful for the first 40 minutes, liked it by the end and by the next day morning I was irreversibly in love with the movie.

 

The movie opens with this shot of a Ferrari speeding through an empty endless track. The car does lap after lap and finally stops in front of us (right about when we starts feeling a little weary about the scene). Johnny Marco (Played by Stephen Dorff) steps out of the car and stands there in the middle of nowhere. Right then the titles reads: ‘Somewhere’. The all-out brilliance of the movie is adequately reflected in this opening sequence. The monotony, the emptiness and everything that is going to be discussed ahead in the movie is essentially incorporated into this one astounding scene.  From there on Coppola takes us to travel closely with the life of this hot shot Hollywood actor Johnny Marco. From the suite of one luxury hotel to another (the movie has been pictured at several landmark Hollywood hotels like The Chateau Marmont, The Four Seasons etc.), we are painstakingly taken through the routines of the life of a superstar. Johnny’s life is brimming with the superabundance of all kind of luxuries, stuff you would never consider to be meaningless or insignificant, probably until you’ve got them in superabundance like our superstar here. We plunge right into the middle of this high living emptiness, and leave comprehending the emptiness for what it is. Coppola surely has got this upper hand when it is about filming the monotony in lives and we have seen that before. Like always, she lets her meticulously prepared visuals do the talking. All the humor, all the sarcasm and commentary is contained in her visuals and there is hardly much dialogues. So as we watch Johnny struggling hard to fit in with the invariability of his world, we’re also subtly made to observe and comment on the contradictions of a privileged celebrity lifestyle. Director takes her time in developing the mood for the film, perhaps time enough to scare off the non believers, but once she sets her pieces together, it’s all poetic.

Johnny, as we’ve already said, is kind of a loner. He doesn’t have too many intimate personal relationships. He drifts around in a party, being full of himself, caring for nobody else. He is separated with his wife and lives alone. Well, there is this one friend (Sammy) who occasionally shows up, there are his agents and other professionals and there are those groupies and hot chicks who comes and goes but never stays (there is also the twin pole dancers). The only exception to all these is Cleo, Johnny’s 11 year old daughter. Cleo is a smart, charming and instantly loveable character who seamlessly craves a spot for herself wherever you put her. She occasionally comes to her father’s place (no one place, per say) and spends a day or two with him. The father-daughter relationship is essentially one of the best things about the movie. It doesn’t get any more real than this. There are no ‘baby I love you so much-daddy I love you so much’ dialogues or moments. The bond is there and every viewer can feel it or even connect with it. Apparently, Sofia Coppola modeled this relationship (and the whole movie, for that matter) mostly around her own relationship with her father. So the authenticity can be tracked to that. The story is essentially about this delicate but important transition taking place in this relationships and how it affects the two characters.

Somewhere doesn’t have many dramatic moments in it. It’s only as dramatic as one normal day in your life. Our hero drives around in his Ferrari, lies in his hotel bedroom and smokes a lot of cigarettes for most part of the movie. There is nothing happening. It is going to be easily misunderstood as a boring and empty work. Well, maybe it does appear empty. But isn’t that the point? The humor like always is top-notch. The music is stirring. And the characters (Only two of them, actually) are all very well developed- they are complete. Coppola allows us to move in with these two characters, silently watch their lives, silently observe the small changes and final at the moment of an emotional breakdown we can’t help but feel for them. Subtle, but genius.

Stephen Dorff has come up with an exceptional performance. He is just perfect playing Johnny Marco and it is such a treat to watch him float around doing nothing. Same goes for Elle Fanning, who also manages to come up with a remarkable performance. She makes Cleo such a good reason for anybody to embark on a path of change.Somewhere is truly an amazing movie. It’s the kind that grows on you. I would like to consider it as a brilliant sequel to Lost in Translation. The craft of Sofia Coppola is absolutely evident in this work and it is amusing as always. But I would refrain from recommending this movie to anyone. Like I said, it may not be for everyone. But hey, who cares?

 

Original article at PassionforCinema.


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Inception: The Definitive Movie Experience of Our Times?

July 26, 2010

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**Originally published on Passionforcinema.com**

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Coming out of the theater after watching Inception for the second time, I was practically terrified at the scope of the idea that Christopher Nolan has put across, or shall I say, the idea he has incepted on his viewers, through his latest work. In fact it felt a little too comfortable for me the first time around. Sure I thought it was mind blowing. I even had enough reasons to consider it as one of Nolan’s best ever. But then, there was this ecstatic little man in me who thought he had got it all. Who thought he had deciphered Nolan’s script, which apparently has been constructed carefully over a period of 10 long years or so. Right now, I’m just happy that this little man was all wrong!

Read the rest of the post at PFC


Raavan. Ram. And Mani Ratnam.

June 24, 2010

In Mani Ratnam’s 1991 classic ‘Thalapathi’ (staring Rajinikanth and Mammootty) we see the man effortlessly adapting the epic tale of Karna from Mahabharata into a modern masterpiece, which is both reverential to the original classic and at the same time, independent in its own ways.  Karna is undoubtedly one of the most loved and worshipped characters from Mahabharata. When Karna became Mani Ratnam’s Surya in Thalapathi, we didn’t get an unembellished word by word adaptation of Mahabharatha. The movie, as I have said, had its own independent existence. (The end of the movie was made truthful to the epic, and Karna dies at the end, but then it got changed because no one, absolutely no one, wanted to see Rajinikanth dying. But that’s another story! )

Unlike with Thalapathi, in the case of Raavan we see a more literal adaptation of the Ramayana. We have the jumping man to represent Hanuman, we have the Polygraph test for the Agnipareeksha, we have a Surpanakha nose grabbing scene, we have a fat Kumbakarna, and we have everything, absolutely everything as in the Ramayana. Too literal, you say? Huh. Before jumping on to such half baked conclusions, think why? Why would Mani Ratnam bring in such loud and blown up references in his version of Ramayana? It never occurred to you that there could be a reason?

Here, Mani Ratnam has retold Ramayana exactly like you’ve known it. Just like the Mariyadhapurushotham Ram, Dev is a duty bound cop who fights against the evil to his last breath.  He respects his duty above all his personal relationships (even his wife). The perfect cop, if you will! And Beera is the evil local terroriser, who kills people at will (the policemen, for instance), possibly involved in a lot of ‘asura’ deeds which are not shown in the movie, but which should’ve clearly happened, for the cops can’t be behind him without a reason. But our director has masterfully arranged his movie, giving emphasis to the Ram/goodness in Raavan (mostly that) and the Raavan/evil in the Ram. A small but a genius twist of perspective! From the outermost layer, in the movie, Beera is the good guy and Dev is the bad guy. But that’s definitely not the end of story.

What the 54 year old Mani Ratnam does here is nothing short of challenging the mighty Ramayana-one of the most respected and worshipped epics of Indian Mythology (Or at least its popular renditions).  The ultimate purpose of the movie is to bring out that dash of goodness in Raavan (please note, not in Beera, but in the classic asura character ‘Raavan’!) and the evil in the God like Ram and thus to suggest the futility of the concepts of good/evil etc. Where Surya (from Thalapathi) works as a derivative of Karna, the representation of Beera as Raavan is much more aspiring. Beera is that part of Raavan we have ignored. Or probably that part of Raavan we were never told of. And in that sense, Raavan is not just a movie based on Ramayana, but rather a movie about Ramayana!

This ambitious angle would have never worked without the movie following the epic so literally like it has done. If ‘Raavan’ was a movie about a thief and a cop with subtle references towards Ramayana thrown here and there, then in no way would have it been able to affect our perception of the original epic characters.  Now that is why the movie is made the way it is. And that’s why Mani Rtanam is a Genius.

Hope I did make that one point clear enough. This, I think, is one neglected bit about the movie that can make a whole lot of difference on how people judge it.

Moving on now, the movie is definitely not free of flaws. The major flaw being with the casting section of the movie (Which is more prominent in the Hindi version).  Abhishek Bachchan could do only very little justice to the most demanding character of his career. It definitely feels like he tried real hard. But at the end of the day, I believe, acting is more of an inborn talent more than anything else. That’s not saying AB is low on that talent. I still see him as one of the better actors around. But this bloody role was simply asking too much from him. Vikram in Tamil has notably done better as Veera but that too was not really perfect for me. As an actor, I find Vikram a little too loud. Which is mostly an okay thing down south!  Also, within that one limitation, Vikram is a very good actor. Here, probably his style of acting has helped him much. Now Vikram as Dev in Hindi didn’t come up to Prthiviraj’s Dev in Tamil. It must be because of the language, but in Hindi, there seemed a little bit of a disconnection bit the body language and the dialogues of Dev.  Aishwarya Rai Bachchan looked gorgeous and reminded a lot of us about Iruvar. But except for that, ash was terribly miscast. The rest of the supporting cast did okay. The Tamil actors (Like Prabhu) seemed a little better than their Hindi counterparts, though. Priyamani, was probably the best casting decision that has happened with this movie. She was wonderful in both the versions. Also there are a few other technical glitches here and there, but nothing too bothering, IMO.

And the technical side of the movie has received much praise everywhere. The cinematography is sensational, not just for the use of  graphics (the dragonfly and such fancy stuffs) or the lush green forests, but for the deeply emotional close up frames that dominates throughout the movie.  Also you can find interesting textures in most of the frames, sometimes it is the rain, some other time it’s just some white dust particles in the air. Editing is top notch too. I don’t know why Big B has said this, but for me the movie is so full of inventive editing (Or maybe I know why he said that!). Sound editing is also very sharp and brilliant. The art direction, the costumes (white and black contrast in Beera/Dev costumes) are all some of the best we have seen over the years. The movie upholds a certain mood from the beginning and all these factors contributes to the mood quiet amazingly. All these and the breathtaking Background score from ARR. I could never understand why so many of you found it uninspiring but I for one, found it to be nearly as good as Rang Da Basandi’s score. And BTW, the quality of the songs in the album are an entirely different case!

So, that’s about it. Huh, and like in most of the other Mani Ratnam movies this one is also loaded with its share of political subtexts like Maoism and the like. Also there was an obvious Veerapan reference in Veera. But those are just subtexts. Added bonus with any Mani Ratanam movie, if you will! So, Raavan is not Mani Ratanam’s best movie ever (Iruvar, forever!).  But it’s certainly one of his most ambitious attempts.  And it deserves a lot better than remarks like ‘Mani ke Aag’ and all that. Please.

Also I would like to add this one final thing, I saw Raavan two times (the Hindi and the Tamil versions). And I wasn’t bored. Not a single bit.

P.S: One weak/confusing link with the direct adaptation of Ramayana is in the Killing of the Vibhishana character. Actual Ram never kills Vibhishana instead takes him on his side.  But Ram, later during the war, kills Meganath, the undefeatable son of Raavan, cheating him with the help of Vibhishana. Maybe that was the story angle interpreted there.

P.S.S: I would personally recommend the Tamil Version.


The Year End Movie Babble – Best Movies of 2009!

December 26, 2009

2009 has been a fabulous year for movies. I personally have had the opportunity to watch an insane number of good movies throughout the year. And then there was last week’s International Film Festival of Kerala. One week of movies and movies only. It just had been a great year. So here is list of movies that really mattered to me this year!

Inglourious Basterds

THE numero one movie! Inglourious Basterds was simply one of the finest, coolest, greatest cinematic experience of my whole life. Yes, that’s right and yes of course I ‘am a huge Tarantino fan. QT gets you really close to his original classic ‘Pulp Fiction’, in terms of sheer excitement and entertainment. Basterds has got every single Tarantino flavor in the righteous proportion, that it can be fairly asserted as the Quentin Tarantino epic! The movie manages to retain the very unique personality of its genre, namely the Tarantino genre, even while it ambitiously experiments with a new kind of richness in the story and narrative etc. which is essential for an epic. Like always, the characters are all etched out with extreme care and love and their interactions with each other had never been so seamlessly comprehensive. The trademark stuffs like the tension build up and the long blasting dialogues (impressively multi lingual, this time) are all chillingly top notch! It’s just fun to watch how the Tarantino universe sets up itself, chapter by chapter, as an alternative to the history book stories. Just fun, unadulterated, one-of-a-kind fun that hardly existed before Tarantino! So in short, Quentin Tarantino reconstructs the war movie genre and so many other related sub genres (WW2, Dirty dozen, female vengeance etc) into a new kind of violent-sarcastic-vengeful- cultish-homage paying- movie loving-fearless-unique-bad ass experience that baffles us all the way with its cleverness. Tarantino is a fucking genius.  And then there is Christopher Waltz, Melanie Laurent and Brad Pitt. Whoa-fucking-whoa! The SS Landa character by Waltz is easily one of the best Tarantino characters ever. So is Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine.  So is Melanie Laurent’s Shosanna Dreyfus and so is everybody else’s! Damn it. Plus there is the breath taking visuals from Robert Richardson and the killer OST. Arggh..I could never stop writing about this one…

P.S: I had previously written a 3 page (incomplete) review on Inglourious Basterds for the blog, but gave up on it later for different reasons. It was getting too big and it was getting out of my hands. There are a lot more aspects about the movie that I would like to write about, including the flaws in it. But maybe another time!

Antichrist

The best thing that had happened to me at the iffk– ‘Anti Christ’! Went in without knowing what to expect, and came out horrified, puzzled and shaken to my core! I was haunted by the utter extremeness and have been, ever since, wondering about the purpose of a movie like Antichrist. The sheer pain this film endures on the viewers is just incredible. Lars Von Trier gets you to suffer abundantly and communicates with you while you’re in this pain.  The movie crosses all the boundaries and pushes through all the envelops with its visual language and thus attains a kind of unholy purity and originality in its narrative. Set up in an almost invincible atmosphere of horror, Antichrist speaks audaciously about evil and crime and redemption, keeping a strong misogynistic attitude. Most of the visuals are so brilliantly composed that you could think over and over about their meaning (like for example, the final scene where Willem Dafoe is coming down the hill… Whoa!). 90% of the visuals still stay with me afresh! With its clever re-interpretation of the Adam & Eve scenario, the movie leaves more than enough room for uninterrupted train of thoughts. On one side it is heavily pessimistic and dark and on another level it’s extremely contemporary and thought provoking. That is the genius of good art and the purpose of Antichrist, I believe, can’t be any different from that of any other great art work.

Unbelievably intense and brave involvement from the part of the two lead actors- Williem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg is the other thing that makes this movie very important.

Avatar

I don’t need to speak a lot about this one. Much has been written and spoken already. So I do believe Avatar is this one definitive cinematic experience of our decade. Never have been a director seemed so much in control with the realization of his visuals or with what he wanted to say or with an enormous budget like in the case of Avatar. 3D and every other advancement in technology have been brilliantly integrated to provide the ultimate immersive experience to the viewers. The awe-inspiring amount of detailing done at every level is simply…err…awe-inspiring! I would have certainly appreciated a bit more originality with its story line and characters and the dialogues, but if Cameron chooses audacity and accessibility over complexity for his epic blockbuster, I can totally understand it. And right now, I ‘am impatiently waiting to watch it again in 3D in full glory. I believe every movie lover should watch this one again and again just to savor the greatness and reach of the medium called cinema!

Hurt Locker

Hurt Locker is as engaging as any other great war film could be and at the same time it also maintains a totally different and unique style of its own. The greatest goodness about Hurt Locker is its nerve-racking kind of tension and suspense build up that would virtually take us viewers, to the distant war field and its conflicts. Kathryn Bigelow chooses to be less political with her war movie and straight away gets to the very essence of war and what it does with people. ‘War is a Drug’ quotes the movie at the beginning and proceeds on to ingeniously tell you how and why. There are almost no gimmicks whatsoever. Supported by mind blowing visuals and good acting, Bigelow slowly transfers the real feel and texture of war onto us. It also has the advantage of a very good script that knows what it is speaking about.  So Hurt locker is smart, sensible, thrilling and in the end, an extremely satisfying experience altogether!

Moon

One of the best Sci-Fi thrillers of the year, Moon was good fun in a very classic sci-fi manner! 2001 space odyssey stands as the biggest inspiration for Moon, which in itself is a very cool thing. The set up of the movie is both intriguing and thrilling and it easily stands out from the usual space opera stuff!! With an unbelievable low budget (5 million dollars) it’s surprising how flawlessly well constructed the movie is. Sam Rockwell is just phenomenal as Sam bell, the movie’s only human character. His performance certainly is the key factor in the effectiveness of the movie. Moon derives its inspiration from the right kind of classics and gets original where it has to be. Overall Moon was this smart engaging and satisfying experience that really left me wanting for more! Duncan Jones, really looking forward to you!

Watchmen

Okay, I don’t really care what the comic book fans think, but Watchmen was a really, really good movie. I would easily rate it above the much celebrated ‘300’, but that’s mainly because of the brilliance of the source material. For what was regarded as an un-filmable something, Zack Snyder have achieved quite a bit with his ‘Watchmen’. I mean, nobody would have expected it to be better than the comic or anything, right?  Snyder was spot on with the casting. The movie is so full of good performances. Characters are addressed very well. And you know, most of the story arcs are well assembled too! For some the 3 hour length may be a little intimidating, but honestly I didn’t feel a bit bored! The narrative is so rich (again, quality of the source material) that it all seamlessly falls into shape! And then I haven’t read the comic, so that really helped me, I guess!  Anyway, I believe Watchmen is an extremely well made movie and easily deserves to be on the best of 2009 list!

The Others

Other good movies that almost made into the list (but then I was lazy to do the write up) includes Bad Lieutenant, Public Enemies, Whatever works, Star Trek etc etc.

And more importantly Movies I couldn’t watch as of yet, but can’t wait, includes Coen’s ‘A Serious Man’, Reitman’s ‘Up in the Air’, Terry Gilliam’s ‘Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasscus’ and then Crazy Hearts, Precious, Paranormal Activity, Men who stares at the goats etc.

The INDIAN Ones:

Kaminey

I honestly didn’t except such crude kickassness from bollywood. Kaminey took me by surprise and really kicked some serious ass! This is a movie with an uber cool attitude and you’ve got to respect it. More than anything, it is the Smart, witty, weird, twisted and what not sort of characters that makes the movie so special! The brilliance of Kaminey begins and strengthens with the brilliance of these queer set of characters. Well, with the twin protagonists- one with a lisp and one who speaks ‘f’ instead of ‘s’, you simply know the movie couldn’t end up being ordinary! And it doesn’t. The plot offers so much confusion and so much surprises and twists that could keep you engaged for two days! It stays to be inventively funny and smart and keeps that cool attitude, all along.  And to back this all up, we have the awesome, awesome background score (Years’ best in my opinion)! Also, every single actor delivers!  I don’t know how Bhardwaj managed such a brilliant cast. Be it Amole Gupta or Priyanka Chopra or even Tenzing Nima as Tashi, everybody feels so much like the characters they play!  And who thought Shaid Kapur could act so well?

Right from the trailer, Bhardwaj have hinted upon heavy influence from Tarantino and the likes. Inspiration, with regard to Bollywood, usually means plain simple replication of story ideas and even scenes. But not with Bhardwaj and his Kaminey! Like what Tarantino would do, Bhardwaj digs up old Hindi classics and subtly pays homage through his characters and plot scenarios! Also influences of Tarantino, Coens and Guy Ritchie can be felt in the framing of shots and setting up of tense sequences etc. And all of that works out quiet brilliantly too! All in all, Kaminey was the best hindi movie of 2009 for me. This is what you call a real fun filled filmy rollercoaster ride!  And I‘ve enjoyed every twists and turns and falls and rises in this ride! Yay!

Dev D

Anurag Kashyap is on his way to becoming the most acclaimed Indian director, internationally. And within 10 years time, that is very much possible. At present, he certainly is the most innovative young director in Bollywood (And here is me standing with Kashyap, eat that! 😉 )! By doing a movie in the context of the over used ‘Devdas’ novel and by absolutely redefining it into something utterly original, Anurag Kashyap is actually screaming out loud to his fellow film makers about the need for some sort of a change! He thrashes down all the previous melodramatic renderings of Devdas and moves on to prove that he is the real thing! And in this brave quest, his lead actor Abhay Deol becomes his greatest supporter! Abhay delivers the most solid performance of the year as Dev D. And not just Abhay, Mahie Gill and Kalki Koechilin, the two fresh actresses found by Kashyap himself, also excel in their roles. AK also gets as experimental as he could with the narration, the visuals, the dialogues and the use of music (which is particularly brilliant) etc. And as a result Dev D ends up being an extremely interesting piece of cinema. Never before did a story about a perennial loser like Dev D felt so much appealing! Damn, right now I need to watch this movie again!

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja

Pazhassi raja is a really important movie for the present day Malayalam film industry. It is like Avatar for the Hollywood. Okay, may be not that big, but still really big. What our veteran director Hariharan have achieved through his 2-3 years long hard work is just something phenomenal. Other film makers should really learn from it. On a technical level, Pazhassi Raja stands above almost every other Malayalam movie till date. It is also probably the one movie that has made the maximum out of its large budget. You see so many movies these days, with this tag of a ‘Big Budget’, but in most cases none of them actually makes any sense. Pazhassi raja is different from all that.  Based on the M.T Vasudevannair’s masterful (yes, masterful!) script that strives to stay as close as possible with actual history of Kerala, the movie patriotically reminds us of our forgotten hero – Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja.  M.T interestingly arranges the life and struggle of Pazhassi Raja against the British and Hariharan visualizes it in such the grand scales. The movie also has towering performances from such talented actors like Mammootty, Thilakan, Manoj K Jayan etc. Art direction, editing everything looks exceptional! More than anything Pazhassi Raja is a war movie and the makers have made no compromises whatsoever, to make it more arty or anything. It just has got more action and thrills than what you would expect. And on another side, Pazhassi Raja is not a movie without flaws. It has got several flaws, especially some irritating ones in the department of action choreography. But I ‘am ready to overlook all of them, just for what the movie has dared to achieve. Pazhassi Raja is Malayalam’s very own epic and I felt really proud coming out of the theater! That’s all that matters!

Kerala Café

Inspired by Paris, je t’aime, Director Renjith and his friends have brought together Kerala café as a collection of ten beautiful short films vaguely based on the theme of travel. And except for two or three pretentious ones that failed, almost all of these short films are impressive. They entertain, disturb and shake you on different levels. Island Express by Shankar Ramakrishnan, Bridge by Anwar Rasheed and Puram Kazchakal by Lal jose were the best ones on the list. Such novel efforts are the need of the hour as far as Malayalam cinema is concerned and Kerala Café I believe is a good beginning in taking Malayalam cinema back to world class standards!

The Others

In hindi, other movies that almost made into the list includes Luck By chance..err only that one and then there are movie I couldn’t watch as of yet, which includes Gulal, Wake Up Sid, Rocket Singh and 3 Idiots .

In Malayalam, the one movie that almost made it into the list would be Neelathamara and the ones I haven’t seen include movies like Bhoomi Malayalam and Oru Pennum Randannum etc.

And thus we’re at the bloody end of this unnecessarily long blog post. I would really like to know what you guys thought about the movies of 2009. Also, Wishing you all a good time at the cinemas and a happy new year!


District 9 is Overrated!

September 20, 2009

district9 movie poster

I remember getting uber excited with the first trailer of District 9 a few months ago. It was evidently one of the most captivating trailers of the year. The Documentary (or rather the ‘mokumentary’) approach to science fiction seemed awfully impressive and had a promise of some great inventiveness to it. Seemed like a path breaking approach of movie making at that point and I had been living in great anticipation ever since.

Now weeks after its international release and weeks after listening to all those insanely positive reviews all around, when I finally got a chance to watch the movie, never for once did I expect to get disappointed. My bad, really!

District 9 opens with the ‘mokumentary’ styled narration that convincingly introduces us to the weird scenario where extra terrestrials have become refugees on earth and humans are struggling with mysterious interests to keep them back here. Most of the related bits and parts are explained with such clarity and essence that you are readily drawn in to the conflict presented by the cinema. The mock documentary approach prepares us to the upcoming drama and lays a perfect platform before the filmmaker to tell the story with all the freedom that he needs. The first act of the movie was generally very well executed and for me it was the best part too.

The first 20-30 minutes of the movie gives you such high impressions about itself and almost makes you believe that you’re watching a science fiction of very high standards, like maybe one of those old classics. And then, the lead character Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) comes to the centre of the drama, and soon there is a depressing shift in the tone of the film. The mockumentary style makes way for a live action mode and the story takes the course of the clichéd one man-against the entire world drama. Together with this sprouts a number of silly loop holes. A lot of why’s and how’s are left unanswered for no better purposes whatsoever. The aliens in district 9 are represented like disorganized bunch of animals in a zoo. It’s a bit hard to digest, you know, with a breed of aliens who were good enough to make there way through the space and fly over earth! Then again, never do they make any effective use of their advanced weaponry, which could only be operated by one among them, not even to protect themselves. In the separate district for aliens, we also have Nigerian hoodlums headed by a red eyed ‘Don’, who exploits the aliens in their own ways. They make illegal distribution of cat food and cow meat in exchange of alien weapons and money. And then there is an intelligent alien father and his boy in the group, who forms a friendship with the hero along the way. Both the alien family and the hero have their own interrelated problems, to solve which both of them have to help each other out. What follows is some high voltage Michael Bay styled CGI action drama. Brainy science fiction? Wrong guess! See, at the core it all turns out to be very silly! The part in the beginning where they say that ‘there are a lot of secrets in District 9’ turns out to be a plain lie! The effect of a peculiar style and the serious tone has helped the movie in large ways. It’s both surprising and depressing at the same time to see how a promising theme could be turned into just another summer blockbuster flick. I strongly believe that this movie had the potential to reach into such great heights of entertainment. But it doesn’t, it chooses to be just another action flick. Fine.

Now as ‘just another’ action flick, it’s not so bad. The action is pretty neat. The alien weapons are mostly cool. And did I say about the spaceship? Oh the spaceship must be second best part of the movie 🙂 Fell in love with it right after the trailer. The Johannesburg setting is also a welcome change as opposed to the generally American back dropped alien stories. Like I have already said the overall tone, even though a bit pretentious, probably helped the movie to gain a distinct appeal before the masses. The movie also subtly tries to touch on the aspects of racial discriminations happened/happening in South Africa and other African countries. The Nigerian Hoodlums makes sense that way. But it still was all a little farfetched for me. The cinematography was generally very good and it synchronized perfectly with the documentary-live action tone shifts of the film. CGI was top notch of course.  And the blending of the documentary style with mainstream methods was a good ‘idea’ too. Better movies should come to explore this technique. Now, when the movie couldn’t successfully deliver some pure sci-fi fun like it should have been in the first place, nothing else really matters. I was grossly disappointed in that regard. District 9 ends with a clear notion to a sequel and seriously I ‘am not too excited about that Idea. I suppose one cannot judge Neill Blomkamp with this one movie, but yeah the man has got some good miles to travel. The movie, however is doing good business all around the world and the critic guys are all happy!  So yeah, whatever!


Oscars 09

February 18, 2009

oscar, academy award

Oscar 09 is not so much of an interesting subject, I know. But last time I wrote a similar post on the Oscars and ended up getting some major traffic on the blog. So that’s not a bad thing and here we go again.

It’s a mess when you think of this year’s Oscar nominations. Forming an opinion is too confusing. But predictions would be easier, I suppose. The suspense of the academy awards have become so much of a cliché that I think they must start doing something just to break this predictability. They must give the awards randomly to completely unexpected contestants. Of course there would be a lot of uproars and criticisms but they will be there anyway and will only do good to the business. Okay, I was kidding and the academy shouldn’t really get confused over that. Let’s go deep into the matter!

slumdog millioanire

Now, I can bet my very own ass over the ‘Slumdog millionaire’ this time. Slumdog is on this dream run which is totally getting on my nerves now and which would most probably continue at the Oscars too. Wait, let me explain. I did like the slumdog first time I saw it, for the sheer quality of film making drawn in and didn’t care to think further into the subject as it appeared nothing more than a complete entertainer to me. Don’t you all remember that dance number at the end of the movie? And I thought all such stuffs are included in movies as a signal for the award guys to stay away. I was apparently wrong and I don’t like it that way. I mean you knew they were never going to consider the Dark Knight for the awards and why couldn’t they be a little more clearer with all their procedures and rules? But anyway, Slumdog is in and the Dark Knight is not. So let’s discuss about slumdog. Never has a movie been made before, which had the slums of Mumbai portrayed in such details and beauty. Mumbai is the capital to bollywood, where countless movies are made every year and never have you been able to see such close and heartwarming image of the slums as you see it in the slumdog. The first time I saw the movie all the comparisons were up between the slumdog and the richy rich bollywood movies. At least I believe they are on the same genre of mass entertainers. Slumdog did well in such a comparison. But when you move further, when you see all this ‘sweepings’ that the movie is doing at every international film awards, things gets a bit difficult. I saw Slumdog two more times since then. Yes you really can’t completely disagree with those people who claim slumdog to be another example of poverty porn and yes the realism of the story seems to be heavily influenced by how the westerns would like to see it and yes to most of such appraisals. But above everything, does the plot involving the story of a slum guy winning this huge prize money on a TV show and the senseless romantic plot that supposedly leads to all these, hold such credibility to win all these awards all around the world? Purely it’s a NO from me. The story is neither convincing nor moving beyond let us say, a general level. But I do repeat that it’s well made. Be it the perfectly immersed cinematography or the gripping editing, everything had the kind of feel goodness about it. But most importantly, the music department of the film, which played a major role in me liking the film the first time and something which helped me get through the whole deal the second and third time. And this brings us to the mastero A .R Rehman. The three nominations in the name of A. R will be the most important part of the Oscars this time for any Indian. Music of slumdog was nothing short of being sensational and it will finally bring some due international acclaim to the great Indian music director. But again, there is no great tension over that, as I think Rehman would surely win the award(s).

Then there was The Curious case of Benjamin Button, which became a disappointment for me in many ways. The movie was not bad, but it was disappointing anyway. When one of your favorite director and actor teams up to make a movie on a curious enough subject, you are certain to form some expectation levels of your own. In my case this exactly became the trouble. Well it’s difficult to see some one of the caliber of David Fincher ending up with such a conventionally styled movie. You expect these men to break the pattern and they do just the opposite. Benjamin button has got almost every important ingredient in it- a great cast, curious plot premises, amazing visual effects, top notch technical quality etc etc. But unfortunately all these things wouldn’t add up to an interesting cinema. I don’t know exactly why, but the movie is just not very engaging in most of its moments. The performances, especially that of Pitt’s, was just awesome. The period detailing by Fincher was awesome too, but as I already said, it is still very difficult to find such charm in the end product. For a movie which came with the promise of being ‘curious’, Benjamin button’s story ended up being too ordinary. But no much surprise on the huge list of nominations that this movie have managed in the academy. And it would possibly win many awards too, most of them in the technical side. It’s exactly the kind of movie that these academy people love to encourage.

Moving on, Frost/Nixon was quiet a good movie from Ron Howard. The movie was very successful in inflecting the necessary mood. The line between the documentary and drama is properly maintained by the script. The interviews which form the essential point of the plot is so very well presented that it gets both exciting and intriguing. The performance of Frank Langella as Richard Nixon was exceptional. The acting gets so convincing, especially towards the end of the movie that it really becomes the highlight of the whole film. However, I ‘am not quite sure about many awards for this movie. Not really sure.

Now, the academy’s love for gay movies are very well known and this time too they have made no difference with Milk. Milk pulls off because of its extreme faithfulness to the portrayal of the life of the San Francisco’s first openly gay elected official. All the spirit that the movie evokes is truly and completely what the true life story of Harvey milk holds in it. Backed by the amazing performance by almost all of them in the cast, especially the one by Sean Penn, this movie has surely got good chances at the Oscars. But, except for the extremely brilliant performance of Sean Penn, I don’t really see any reason why I should remember this movie for a long time. But anyway, I would love to see Sean win the best actor award but they simply has got too much competition in that category.

Reader, Kate Winslet

Reader is possibly the most ditched movie among this year’s Oscar nominations, both by the regular movie lovers and by the top critics. I don’t understand why that is so, but I surely loved the movie. Now the very low expectation levels in me may have helped, but that’s not important. The peculiar character of Hanna Schmitz played superbly by Kate Winslet remains to be the most important, interesting aspect about this cinema. The filmmaker’s approach to the portrayal of Hanna Schmitz is also very interestingly peculiar. Maybe this same ‘unusualness’ has resulted in many misunderstandings about the message of the movie and ultimately to all those negative opinions. Schmitz’s character has got this undeniable evil shade to herself throughout the movie. But we are restrained from making any sorts of judgments. The filmmaker quiet successfully pushes the entire question of right and wrong with tremendous amount of perplexity, on to the viewers. The decisions that most character’s makes in the film are so realistically strange and we are constantly made aware of how fragile we are all with our own secrets and choices. The emotional presentation of the tale is also quiet beautifully handled so that the movie is completely engaging when it should be. The intense performance of Kate Winslet remains as the main strength to the whole movie. Kate would win the award, I think. But besides that I don’t see too many chances for this film.Nevertheless, I was deeply moved by this one.

Mickey Rourkey’s performance as the struggling wrestler in the movie  The  Wrestler is truly a sensational comeback performance, as they call it. And the movie itself is no less beautiful. Aronofsky’s craft is well evident in this simple but intense tale of rare characters. The documentary feel in the story of a wrestler guy is quiet strange but that’s exactly why this movie is so involving. Under any other style, the whole plot premises would have appeared silly to most of us. Aronofsky’s is too brilliant a filmmaker to go completely wrong! It’s mostly like how you shoot it on your handicam and it feels so close to us that way. Especially the final moments of the movie involves such catharsis for the viewers. It is a shame that the academy hasn’t given this movie a nomination into the best movie category. I really feel that this film was one among the best last year.

The joker,The Dark Knight

Wall-E would most probably win the best animated movie Oscar and I also see good chance at the best original screenplay category too. But they wouldn’t give that to Wall-E anyway. I’am not sure about the screenplay department this time, but Slumdog shouldn’t really win the adapated screenplay category. But again, I think they will give it to Slumdog only. Whatever. Heath Ledger should surely win the best actor in a supporting role category. If he doesn’t, that will lead to huge public depression, that wouldn’t  really do much good to the business! But yeah, Heath ledger was really phenomenal and there is no reason why he shouldn’t be honored by the award.

I ‘am not going further into making more predictions. A post of this size was not really in my intentions. But anyway, I ‘am stopping now. Huh wait, I have got another idea too. Here is how I voted at the joblo’s Oscar prediction contest. In case you are interested. In some categories like the foreign film and documentary film etc the vote has been made with the help of throwing a dice!! Wish me good luck in winning the i-pod and have good fun for yourself too!


Luck By Chance- Review

February 6, 2009

luck_by_chance_movie

I have never been this close a follower of the Hindi films as I ‘am right now, that I have started feeling a bit guilty about it alltogether. Lately, I had a few real bad experiences at the theater in the form of some bollywood blockbusters which led me to this above mentioned guilty feeling. I wouldn’t have cared to go to the theater for another hindi movie now, if not for all those great reviews everywhere, the good mouth publicity, the ’Akthar’ factor and everything that differentiates this cinema. So, last day I watched ‘Luck By Chance’, and yeah, I was not disappointed. Not a bit!

The safest and perhaps the most appropriate option before any filmmaker on his/her debut is to make a movie on a subject which is very much familiar to him or her, a subject on which he or she has got an immense grasp and a direct involvement. Zoya Akthar has hit bull’s eye just doing that. The movie, ‘Luck By Chance’ is so much of a first person account on the hindi film industry, by someone who was born and bought up in the midst of all those glamour and glimmer, that the entire movie looks almost cent percentage authentic. And perhaps the most important point is that it is not as authentic as it appears. The director apparently knows too much on the subject she is sharing with us. The perfectly executed comical inside commentaries in the movie becomes such an important aspect of the film’s narrative, that it really holds the entire movie together.

But despite everything else, I wouldn’t have loved this movie this much if not for the nearly flawless performance put on by the entire cast of the film. Rarely do you get an opportunity to see such solid acting here in the bollywood. The comicalness, the fun is mostly in the manner how  the actors perform it and not it any dialogues or goofy filmy situations. Konakana Sensharma is sensational as Sona, an aspiring actor, who is struggling to find a place in the industry. It is with such great essence that Konakana actually brings out every tiny little gestures of the central character sona alive on the screen. Rishi Kapoor is hilarious as the big shot movie producer, Romy Rolly. Even Juhi Chawala, in a comparatively smaller role as the beloved wife of Romy Rolly, shines where ever she appears. Farhan Akthar’s performance as Vikram Jaisingh is nothing exceptional. But he too manages to avoid any serious flaws. He delivers such a plain performance, that’s neither too great nor too bad. The script is straightforward and a very well thought out one. Cinematography was fine generally, though at times the visuals seemed largely influenced by the commonly followed prototypes. The songs were incorporated beautifully in the movie that they had a separate beauty in the film. The Bgm used is also very light but is quiet effective.

At the end, Luck By Chance is not an unconventional experimentation of cinema or a pattern breaking attempt on storytelling. It’s just another hindi film, with all those commercial aspects carefully included, like all those fast dance numbers and the celebrity cameos. It follows the very conventions of a normal bollywood movie. But still it’s a good movie. And that’s the point!

8/10