Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! (2008), based on the hit musical, is directed by Phyllida Lloyd, and tells the story of a young bride-to-be wanting to find her father, before walking down the aisle. She sends out invitations to the three men she thinks the most likely, but the problem arises when all three of them land up for the wedding, each thinking she's his daughter! The story is told through Abba songs, Sophie (the bride-to-be) singing "Honey Honey" about her to-be-husband, and Donna singing "Dancing Queen" to prove to herself she's still young and 'with it' - just as examples.

This film is a total waste of time. The only reason I sat through it is because I always like to watch a movie right through to the end, no matter how bad it is, and believe me, this one was tough to sit through. Meryl Streep made me cringe, her sisters were even worse, and I couldn't believe that Colin Firth had stooped to this level! (Don't even get me started on Pierce Brosnan, whom I've never liked anyway and who just slipped a few notches lower in my esteem of him.)
Perhaps the highlights of the movie were the Greece scenery and Amanda Seyfried's blonde hair. But that's about it.

One could argue that the Abba songs make the movie what it is, but I disagree. I'm an Abba fan, and I think I'd much rather just listen to them on their own than be tortured by a movie such as this. Mamma Mia! is badly directed, badly written, completely implausible, over-the-top in the acting, and made me want to send out an "SOS"!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Coraline (2009) is a stop-motion animation film directed by Henry Selick, based on Neil Gaiman's novel. It follows the story of a young girl named Coraline, who takes to exploring the house her family has moved into. She finds a passageway into the Other World, where her parents (crabby and too busy in real life) cook amazing meals and are 'loving', where her room looks pretty and well made-up, where her neighbours run circuses and burlesque acts - the Other World seems a Utopia of sorts, where everything seems perfect. But the only worrisome fact is that the Other Mother seems to want to sew buttons on to Coraline's eyes, making her belong there forever. What follows is a Gothic fairytale of sorts, where Coraline, increasingly tempted by the perfect visions, realises all is not as it seems, and that she must use her intelligence and resources to save her parents when they are captured by the Other Mother.

Coraline seems extremely influenced by Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass - with its subject matter of walking into another world, a world where everything seems inverted (perfect), a world where amongst all the beauty, there is a hint of violence. In a nutshell, it's a moral table - Don't disobey your parents, appreciate what you have, and eat your vegetables! But that's not all the movie is. It's dark, it's creepy in parts, and even though the movie's second half progresses too slowly for comfort, it's a piece of work that stays with you.

Dakota Fanning is fantastic as Coraline, Teri Hatcher (of Desperate Housewives fame) voices the Mother and the Other Mother, and Jennifer Saunders is there in the film as well - remember the Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2? The animation is great - without any insult to the animators of this movie, it's a very Tim Burton-esque style that is distinctive - quite comparable to Corpse Bride. Incidentally, Coraline comes from the same guy who was behind A Nightmare Before Christmas (which was written by Tim Burton).

is a gripping watch, for more reasons than one. It's visually stunning, the differences between the two worlds shown up spectacularly not just in terms of subject details but also in animation, it's cute in a rather bizarre way, and the script is strong too. Mention must be made of the music, which fits the mood of the movie perfectly.

Despite a predictable plot and a rather dragging pace towards the end, the movie works. Kudos to director Henry Selick for coming out with a movie that is not just for kids, but also for adults. Much fuss, in fact, has been made of whether this movie is suitable for kids - but don't kids watch much worse stuff nowadays? And adults like us are sure to find relevant messages and perhaps even sexual metaphors in the movie. Watch carefully to know what I'm talking about.

Coraline is definitely worth a watch. With its dark, understated themes of perfection not being what it seems, of a young child's discontentment, of the age-old Good vs. Evil battle - it's eerie in its picturesqueness, Gothic in its style, and really quite memorable.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Elizabethtown, an offering from Cameron Crowe in 2005. The tagline goes, "It's a heck of a place to find yourself." Snippets from the DVD cover read the movie as a "life-affirming, heartfelt story", and then, "Every once in a while, a movie transports you to a place where heart, humour, incredible music, and an unforgettable story meet... Welcome to Elizabethtown."

Right. So the story goes something like this - Drew (Orlando Bloom) is faced both with the death of his father and a spectacular failure in his career (where he has somehow managed to lose his company around 1 billion dollars), and he travels to Kentucky for his father's burial. He meets flight attendant Clair Colburn (creepy stalker-ish woman who apparently has an 'unstoppably positive nature' according to DVD cover, and whose Southern accent comes and goes.) After that, the movie loses track. We're taken to scenes of the cliche Southern family, the father's burial, Susan Sarandon doing a ridiculous tap-dance and talking enthusiastically about her neighbour's hard-on at her husband's memorial service (no less!)... And, well, do I need to say more?

I always like to watch a movie right through to the end, no matter how good or bad it is. This was one movie that made me itch to switch it off after just half an hour. I've never liked Kirsten Dunst, and as for Orlando Bloom - well, the acting is pretty darn bad! Alec Baldwin's bit role is laughable, and sadly, Judy Greer's talents (remember What Women Want, and 13 Going On 30) are completely unutilised. I'm not sure about the direction - I haven't watched enough of Crowe's work to really judge. While I did like Jerry Maguire, I couldn't understand Vanilla Sky at all (but then again, I've seen just the first half), and I haven't watched Almost Famous, which is apparently one of his best.

At parts in the movie, I felt like whacking the characters for being so darn irritating. Drew, for one, seems more interested in getting into Claire's pants than mourning for his father. And as for Claire, well, that irritating camera-click action and her constant talk of Ben (the supposed boyfriend) made me want to scream. Loudly.

Of course, the movie does have its strong points. The soundtrack is spectacular - listen for U2, The Hollies, The Temptations, Tom Petty, and the song Moon River too! Add to that some really spectacular cinematography (just occasionally, though) - case in point - Drew scattering his father's ashes along his road trip.

That apart though, this movie has nothing to offer. I suppose you could read it as a person finding himself, or one woman's bubbly nature bringing a man out of his misery, or even as two souls coming together - but I, for one, was left feeling a little vague when the movie ended. And perhaps a sense of relief. Because the characters are not believable in any way, the plot seems stupid at times, and even the dialogue seems disjointed.

Watch it if you have nothing better to do. If you don't like it, well, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you do like it, well, drop me a line and try and convince me that there's something (apart from the music and the camerawork) in the movie that's worth paying attention to.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Brave One.

"There is no going back, to that other person, that other place. This thing, this stranger, she is all you are now." - Erica Bain, in The Brave One.

Welcome to the world of the attacked. Say hello to the people who have come face-to-face with real crime, the people who want to fight back instead of waiting for the police or the government to take action. Neil Jordan's 2007 movie The Brave One deals with a subject especially close to my heart - is it possible to carry on after being a victim, or should one take a stand?

In the film, Erica Bain (Jodie Foster), a radio show host, is attacked while out on a walk with her boyfriend David (Naveen Andrews). David succumbs to his injuries, and Erica is left to carry on with her life, but she makes a choice not to be a victim any longer, to fight back against those who harrass her on the Subway and in other places, those who deprive others of their right to life and property. She becomes a vigilante of sorts, protecting herself and others from being victims of crime. Enter Detective Mercer (Terence Howard) who is investigating the killings, the archetype of the 'good cop'.

Jodie Foster excels, as usual. The film belongs to her, through and through. You can see the fear in her eyes, the rage and the decision to fight. Foster always seems to carry through the role of the "strong woman" well - be it in this movie, or in Panic Room, or even in Flightplan. Terence Howard is good as well, puts in a solid and stable performance. The soundtrack is brilliant - the song "Answer" by Sarah McLachlan, in particular.

There is plenty wrong with the movie, though. Firstly, there is the rather unimaginative title. Secondly, Erica learns to handle a gun with unusual ease, and that's where the movie begins to get unrealistic. And then, there's the ending - you'd have bought it, had Detective Mercer not made overtly ethical speeches previously, that he would have the strength to put away someone he likes. But as it stands, the ending leaves a rather sour after-taste. It's predictable, and spoils what could have been a near-perfect movie.

But The Brave One wins brownie points for dealing with a subject that we should all think about. What do we do when attacked? Do we simply carry on, and avoid the chances of more attacks? Do we lock ourselves up and refuse to face a crime-infested world? Or do we go out there, with a promise to be stronger next time, to stand up for our rights? The movie makes you consider whether it's ethical to kill other killers, whether the idea of a vigilante is a suitable one, and whether criminals should be given a taste of their own medicine.

Despite being unrealistic and unpredictable at times, it's a movie that everyone should watch - anyone who has ever had a wallet snatched, anyone who has been given the occasion feel-up on a crowded street, anyone who has ever been beaten up by a gang of thugs. It's for you, and you, and you - all of you who have had to deal with trauma and terror. Perhaps taking a gun and shooting the wrong-doers out there is a little extreme, but the movie seems to tell you that there's no point being a victim any longer. I've been a victim, and I identify with the rage that Erica feels.

Sometimes, the line between ethics and revenge is a very fine one. And it's tempting to cross it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) is the stuff that a Gothic horror film is made of. While it is loosely based on Mary Shelley's 1818 novel of the same name, it is by no means a faithful adaptation. In fact, it is probably closer to Peggy Webling's play. The plot is tweaked, names are changed, a distinctly German look and feel is added - but leaving all that aside, the movie is truly an impressive one. Frankenstein is one of my favourite books, and I can say that while Whale's movie is quite different from the original text, it is by no means nothing short of a cinematic achievement.

Frankenstein has gone down in history as one of the greatest horror films ever made, and while modern audiences like us may not run out of the movie viewing with shrieks and screams, all of us will feel a chill or two, up and down our spines, at Boris Karloff's amazing portrayal of the Monster. While Colin Clive puts in a great performance at Henry Frankenstein, the man obsessed with creating life, the show truly belongs to Karloff, and perhaps Jack Pierce, for his make-up effects. For how many of us can say that image of the Monster, with its flat head, drooping eyes, and neck-bolts, is not striking, to say the least?

This movie has endured the test of time, and is a favourite with us even after 75 years. Initially, though I felt a little sore because I expected the movie to stay absolutely faithful to the text, I got over my resentment quickly- after all, which director truly stays faithful to a text? And how can all of the touching story of Frankenstein and his monster be compressed into a film that is just an hour long? No, it is useless to dwell upon these trivial details - Frankenstein must be seen for what it is - a horror film that stands apart from the rest, one that despite being made 79 years back, would still give all the horror films of today great competition.

While Shelley's novel raises many thought-provoking questions about life and creation, parenting and childhood, nature vs. nurture - the movie too, makes one think, though in entirely different ways, because of the plot changes. Did the Monster become violent simply because he was given a criminal brain, or was he made into one by Fritz's constant torment and torture? Or was it both these factors? To think about all this, you must watch the movie, but not just because of the issues it raises in your mind - but because it is next to impossible not to admire such splendid direction, such classy acting, and such chilling horror.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Evita (1996) is one of those rare masterpieces that takes a while to sink in. The musical adaptation follows the life of Eva Duarte, an illegitimate child drawn to fame and fortune - who leaves no stone unturned to ensure that hers is a 'rags-to-riches' story to remember, and she eventually becomes wife to Juan Peron, President and dictator of Argentina. Her charisma and glamour wins the people over, but it's left to the viewer to realise that her life is a sham, and her marriage one of mutual benefit.

I have always liked musicals, and if you give me a Lloyd Webber one - well, all the better! Full credit for Evita's music goes to him, but especially more so because his music somehow never gets monotonous. Each musical's tones are different from the last. For instance, while Jesus Christ Superstar has a new-age-rock sound to it, Cats has more of the typical classical twang. Evita, on the other hand, is slightly jazzy, dramatically Latina, and fiery in parts - the music plays a vital part, in a movie where there is precious little dialogue.

The songs are without a doubt, absolutely great - and I must say that the lyrics are very strong - credit for that goes to Tim Rice. In fact, this is one of Rice and Lloyd Webber's many collaborations. Watch out for songs like "Another Suitcase In Another Hall", "The Money Kept Rolling In", "High Flying, Adored" - those three being my personal favourites. Evita is different from other Lloyd Webber musical adaptations I've seen in the sense that it's not as stylised. There are not many elaborate dance sequences, the costumes aren't overtly theatrical - instead, Evita has somewhat simple sets, but the choreography makes its presence known in other forms - like the scenes of the singing of the butchers and the marching of the soldiers.

There is no doubt that Madonna's singing is great, but perhaps she was a little too old for the depiction of a 26 year-old. But that apart, she does full justice to the role of Eva Peron, and depicts her as a woman bent on making it to the top, at whatever cost. On the one hand, you sympathise with her hard-luck story and you grow enthusiastic as she makes her way to success, but on the other, you wrinkle your nose in distaste as you realise that this woman has hidden agendas. Kudos to Madonna for portraying a flawed woman perfectly. She is a screen presence to reckon with.

Antonio Banderas, as Che, completely blew me away! Who knew he could sing? Who knew he could dance? He is the high-point of the movie, both dramatically and musically - and complements Madonna perfectly. I've always thought that he was mere eye candy, but now I realise I'm wrong. Che was a difficult part to play, but Banderas manages perfectly - his part as the Narrator left me stunned. Jonathan Pryce, as Peron, was good too - another brilliant voice, great facial expressions, especially in the song "You Must Love Me". A pity he didn't have more singing to do.

is a political musical that leaves a lasting impression. I've always been a big fan of Lloyd Webber's work, and Evita now joins the list of Cats, The Phantom Of The Opera, and Jesus Christ Superstar as another favourite. It remains with you for its catchy music, its splendid direction and mindblowing lyrics, its period look of 1940's Argentina, and its stunning scenes of Eva's funeral and political instability. And you know what else? Right now, I'm humming "High Flying, Adored" as I'm typing this.

Watch Evita. Take my word for it - it's a movie worth watching, not just for the stars' names, but for the depiction of a true story that leaves you rather moved. And if you appreciate Lloyd Webber's music, all the better for you!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Revolutionary Road.

Revolutionary Road (2008) is not the movie for you, if you're searching for feel-good romance, or light-hearted comedy, or even witty dialogues. It has none of that. Instead, it gives you a rather realistic look at marriage, and shows how it can be anything but a bed of roses. Frank and April Wheeler have been married for around seven years, have a lovely big house, two children, Frank has a job in New York City - but all's not well. Their marriage is falling apart, Frank hates his job, April is struggling with the fact that she was never able to make it as an actress, and the complication of life seems to be closing in on them. Their plan to move to Paris for a better and happier life does not work out, but April wants to escape from the horror her life has become, at whatever cost.

I have seen one other movie directed by Sam Mendes, which was American Beauty, and that too, dealt with a similar theme- how a life that seems perfect can actually be far from it. Revolutionary Road is perhaps an inversion of the illusion of the American Dream. It portrays how life can bring with it marital and emotional collapse, job dissatisfaction, and a pervading sense of unhappiness.

Leonardo DiCaprio, it is needless to say, has matured tremendously as an actor. I found it hard to believe this was the same actor who played pretty-boy-Jack-Dawson in Titanic. Kate Winslet is simply brilliant. Her dialogue deliveries are right on cue, with just the right emotion, and her expressions are flawless. Truly one of the best actors in the industry today. Together, they are dynamite - their chemistry is wonderful. And here I shall make special mention of Michael Shannon, who plays the neighbour's mentally unbalanced son, but who seems to talk more sense than expected from a madman.

Revolutionary Road is a very powerful movie, one that explores the pressures and dilemmas of suburban life. The artistic sets, the costumes, and the music score are just about perfect as well. Perhaps the ending is a little too dramatic, but then again, perhaps it is the only way the movie could have ended. Frank and April represent each one of us, who have often thought that things will work out, that we shall be happy and content, only to find out life is much more twisted than that. It's a very honest film that forces you to rethink your idea of 'a perfect life', and urges you to reconsider whether anyone truly gets their 'happily ever after' ending.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


From Brad Bird comes a delightfully and comically fresh family movie - Ratatouille (2007). Remy is a rat with discerning taste in cuisine, who has rather unusual culinary talents. His misadventures lead to him getting lost, and then finding himself in "the city of the best food in France" - Paris. From then on, it's a hilarious turn of events as he achieves his dream - cooking in a top-class kitchen, but not without some rather funny mishaps along the way.

First up, the animation is simply great. Hats off to Pixar! They just seem to get better and better. The creases and crinkles on the Chefs' uniforms, the fur of the rats, the shimmering liquid texture of the soups and sauces - everything's drawn down to the very last detail. I don't profess to be an expert on animation, but Pixar's work is wonderful. At certain moments, you're bound to wonder whether it's an animated movie you're watching, or just a regular one. The visual treatment of the movie is truly incredible.

The plot is a little choppy in the middle of the movie. Perhaps a little forced. But it's more than made up by great voicing, by Lou Romano as Linguini (the garbage-boy who is discovered to be Gusteau's son), by Patton Oswalt as Remy the rat, and Ian Holm as Skinner is simply wonderful as well. Credit goes to Peter O'Toole too, for putting in some spectacular voicing work for the character of Anton Ego, the coffin-shaped food critic.

Janeane Garofolo, however, stole the show, I thought. Her French-accented English, her witty one-liners, and her easy changes from the friendly Colette to the angry Colette are something to watch out for. Also, she manages to make the character of Colette show - a girl intent on making her mark in a man's world - and managing to do that to an animated character, I suppose, is not easy.

Apart from offering some great comic moments, Ratatouille is also a rather sarcastic critique on food snobbery. I've seen food snobs and gourmet critics in my line of work, and Anton Ego is a caricature of these two types, right down to his immensely complacent "I know everything about food" air. Gourmet food may be great, but Ratatouille seems to suggest that sometimes, simple food can be just as effective as working its way to our hearts - for didn't Ego love the simple and traditional peasant dish that was served to him?

I could go on and on about Ratatouille. It's one of my favourite films (and not just for its cooking-theme). I'd dragged my then-boyfriend to watch it when it released, simply because the trailer itself captivated me. And I wasn't disappointed.

It's a rather unusual movie, one that children should definitely watch, but also one that has some important messages for adults. That talent and creativity can come from anywhere, even from the most unexpected of places, and we should give them their due credit. That sometimes, it's the most simple things in life that really matter, and it's not the money or the fame, but just the warm buzz of memories, that can make us happy. And lastly, that following your heart is essential, for selling out beliefs never did anyone any good - like Shakespeare put it so well: "To thine own self be true".

Monday, May 4, 2009

Love Actually.

Love Actually (2003), directed by Richard Curtis, is one of those heart-warming romantic comedies I just can't get enough of. The humour is always fresh, a la You've Got Mail, and the romance is as sweet as its gets, but not overly so. I've watched Love Actually a countless number of times, and what strikes me is the fact that I never get tired of it. Every time I watch it, I find myself warming to the characters, smiling at the jokes, and when the film's over, I'm left with a warm fuzzy-happy feeling.

The movie follows the stories of separate people, all inter-related somehow, set in and around London. It's about love in its many manifestations, about love in different forms. Love that knows no class boundaries - the Prime Minister falling for the tea-lady. Unrequited love - the man who has a crush on his best friend's wife. Love with an obstacle- the woman unable to continue a relationship with the man she loves, because of her mentally ill brother. Love with a language barrier - the writer who is taken with the charms of his Portuguese housekeeper. Love despite being cheated on - the wife who chooses to stay with her philandering husband for the sake of her children. Love in an unusual place - two actors taking to each other on the sets of an erotic film. Love in mourning - the husband who cannot get over his wife's death. Love in terms of friendship - the old rock ' roll star who begins to appreciate his manager's efforts. And childish love - the boy who has just lost his mother, falling for the 'coolest girl in school'.

Love Actually
is a movie with soul - it's a movie that reaches out to you, makes you feel good, and makes you feel that really and truly, love is all around us. It shows itself in the strangest of places and situations, often it may not be romantic - it may be a childish crush, or it may even be lust - but the point is that it exists.

Is there blatant stereotyping in the film? - possibly. Does one need suspension of disbelief? - Yes, in certain parts. Is the story a little forced at times? - perhaps. But that doesn't change the fact that Love Actually is a very genuine film that speaks to you, it's enjoyable, the script is great, and there are some fantastically funny moments that leave you laughing - like when the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) dances down the stairs, and when Jamie and his Portuguese housekeeper jump into the water to recover his manuscript. The cast is a great one - watch out for the likes of Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, and many, many more. Rowan Atkinson's guest appearance, too, is extremely memorable.

This movie has character. It has depth. Yes, perhaps the plot is unrealistic at times (would the US President try to grope the tea-lady? No way. Would the UK Prime Minister go door-to-door with only one bodyguard? Yeah right!) But at the end of the day, it is a movie, and sometimes, cinema is allowed to stretch itself, to be slightly unreal, because often, what we want in cinema is not reality, we want to be convinced that what we do not feel in the world around us does actually exist, in some way or another.

Love Actually
is an absolutely delightful homage to love. Whenever I watch it, I find myself warming up to the characters, no matter if I don't identify with them the slightest bit. While it was made specifically for the holiday season, I think it's relevant to any time, any place - it's a film that has the power to convince you that love exists - fulfilled or unfulfilled, happy or sad - it doesn't matter. It's a strong emotion that reaches out and grips you, and Love Actually does exactly that.

Don't classify this is as a chick-flick, or sweet-as-sugar romance. I think it's much more than that - it's a commentary on life itself. Watch this movie for an instant pick-me-up, some great laughs, a general feeling of happiness, and if you're a girl- you're bound to be swooning at Firth, Grant, and Neeson! Just when you thought things couldn't get better, eh? *grin*

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

From director Mark Herman, comes a Holocaust-story about two children- called The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas (2008). Based on the novel by John Boyne, it tells the story of Bruno, whose family is relocated to the countryside during World War II. Separated from all his friends, and driven by loneliness to explore his surroundings, he comes across a 'farm', and a 'boy in striped pyjamas'. Of course, the farm is a Nazi concentration camp, and the boy is a Jewish prisoner. What follows is a friendship that transcends beliefs, culture, and race- and perhaps even death.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is a story based on the Holocaust, but with a refreshingly new perspective- for it is seen through the eyes of a child. Bruno, as the son of the German officer, questions the treatment of the Jews with all the innocence that childhood possesses, and wonders why they are treated badly, while they are so comfortably off. He sees smoke from the camp's chimneys, rising into the sky, and wonders what's burning, and why it smells so bad. He thinks all the people in 'striped pyjamas' are farmers, and thinks it ridiculous that the 'farmer' in his kitchen gave up his medical practice to peel potatoes.

The film presents the inhumanity and horrors of the Holocaust- as seen through the non-judgmental, naive eyes of a young child. It is a beautiful story, with all its languidity- for here there is no fast-paced action, no Death Marches, no excessive violence- but despite all that, the simple treatment of the film moved me much more. Credit goes to Asa Butterfield and Jack Scanlon for great acting, in the roles of Bruno and Shmuel (the Jewish boy) respectively. Vera Farmiga, as Bruno's mother, puts in a riveting performance too- as the woman who is torn between her roles- will she be a good German wife and support her husband's none-too-noble work, or will she be a mother and protect her children from the horrible sights of the Holocaust? And Bruno's father (David Thewlis) seems to fit into his role as the Nazi officer with ease- in many parts, he seems to actually be the monster his wife accuses him of being.

What is perhaps one of the most moving aspects about this film is the multi-layered treatment of the characters. No one character is portrayed as all good, or all bad- no, not even the Germans. Bruno, in all his innocence, sympathises with the ill-treatment of the Jews in his house, and quickly forms a friendship with Shmuel, a friendship that is based purely on talk from either side of an electrocuted fence- Bruno brings him food, keeps him amused, and is indeed all a good friend should be. However, he lies in a situation, to save his own skin, and thereby Bruno is not a flawless character.

The pronounced British accents in all the characters are a little disconcerting, and certain parts of the movie call for suspension of disbelief (for instance, how would a young Jewish prisoner be left unattended near the fence for hours at a stretch? And is it really so easy to dig into a camp?).

But once you get used to all that- the cinematography, the music, and the good direction take up all your attention. The movie is stunning in its own way, and despite some minor imperfections, it still works- and is woefully underrated. This grim story about a bond between two young boys will leave you emotionally raw, but somewhere, I guarantee, you will feel a sense of hope.

With themes like the loss of childhood and innocence, the Holocaust, and internal conflict, it is a piece of cinematic achievement that will leave you spellbound, almost as much as Life Is Beautiful- another film that deals with a child's innocence about the Holocaust.

The ending is beautiful and poignant- and perhaps the only way the story could have ended. I was left with a sense of loss, and oddly yet, a sense of faith, that perhaps friendship does overcome every kind of boundary, and that despite the odds, it can live on.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Truman Show.

The Truman Show, directed by Peter Weir, is undoubtedly one of the best films ever made. Released in 1998, it tells the story of Truman Burbank, a man with a seemingly-happy life in suburban America, who discovers his life has been carefully constructed and manipulated, and that he is part of a TV show, broadcasted worldwide. His wife, friends, and apparent family are all actors, the island on which he lives is a set, where even the sunrises and sunsets are digitally controlled.

Jim Carrey establishes himself in this film as a brilliant actor, one whose talents are not just confined to facial contortions and slapstick comedy. Indeed, his portrayal of the man who finds his life to be a public spectacle is astonishingly good. Carrey outdoes himself with a stunning and thought-provoking performance, and I found it hard to identify him with the same actor who played Stanley Ipkiss in The Mask, and the animal-lover in the Ace Ventura movies. Those who think that Carrey cannot carry off serious roles should watch this. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind wouldn't be a bad choice either.

Truman's character development is flawless- a light falling from the sky, a distorted radio message, and an accidental look at what appears to be a lift- all raise his suspicions, and he finally realises that his life has been part of a TV show for 30 years.

Laura Linney, who plays his wife, is outstanding as well. Her performance is one that suggests depth- as Truman starts to realise his life is not what it is, her smile gets wider, her consolations more desperate- as an actress, as part of the TV show, she does not want the elaborate lie to be exposed.

Ed Harris plays Christof, the man who has conceptualised the TV show that Truman is part of. He is the master, whereas Truman is the puppet. Harris portrays Christof as a man characterised by grim ferocity, and a brutal lack of compassion. Even though his screen-time is much less (it is Carrey who practically holds up the movie), Harris's Oscar nomination is well-deserved. Also, Christof is perhaps a take on God Himself, the Creator- who has made up our world, and watches while we discover ourselves and the many truths that surround us.

The film can be interpreted on many levels. I think, first and foremost, it is a brilliant commentary on the role of the media, and a satiric look at how it controls our lives. There are scenes in The Truman Show where people are shown to be glued to their TV sets, almost having given up their normal activities.

Secondly, it is a jab at the voyeuristic nature present in all of us - the desire to watch another person's life, to look at how he leads it, and to follow his every movement, every thought, and ogle at the intricacies that make up his life.

And third, it is perhaps a look at how fragile our lives are, and how, sometimes, they can be made up of lies. Truman's life is seemingly perfect- he has a good job, friendly neighbours, a pretty wife... Indeed, he seems to be living the American Dream in all its glory- but half an hour into the film, you realise that's not the case at all. He is trapped by a job that he finds dull and boring, his neighbours get on his nerves, his wife is a little too plastic, his thoughts are filled with memories of his ex-girlfriend- and soon enough, Truman realises his entire life is being manipulated.

The Truman Show
has brilliant cinematography- certain camera angles make it seem as if we are watching not just a movie, but Truman's life itself- we are one of the viewers in the movie glued to their TV sets. The soundtrack is good, and the momentum of the movie builds itself up with determination, leading to an absolutely brilliant climax.

The film is dramatic, sincere, and not pretentious in any degree. It's an extraordinary, highly original film that leaves you thinking. And having watched it a decade after it was released, its relevancy is still potent, and its message strikingly clear even in the present day.

It's sad that Carrey didn't even get an Oscar nomination for his acting, but then again- Life Is Beautiful had lost out in the Oscars too. Sometimes, even the best films don't make it, and it's up to the viewers to immortalise them in their own way.

Watch The Truman Show for its unique storyline, its satirical portrayal of media and voyeurism, and lastly, for Carrey's performance. You will not be disappointed. This movie- a political and social allegory, will not let you forget it in a hurry.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

V For Vendetta.

Imagine a graphic novel. Characters drawn boldly, and painted with firm brushstrokes. Speech bubbles, thoughts, movements- all characterised on paper down to the very last detail. And then imagine a movie adaptation. And consider, just for a moment, that it could stay faithful to its graphic novel counterpart.

That’s exactly what V For Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue, does. It’s almost as if I could feel the pages of the actual graphic novel in the movie, and in that respect, it’s strikingly similar to Sin City.

V For Vendetta,
which is, of course, based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name, is about a man in a Guy Fawkes mask, called V, fighting back against a totalitarian government, and Evey Hammond’s role in his life, and in his revolution.

V, played by Hugo Weaving, is charismatic, chilling, intense, sarcastic – he is one man who dares to stand up to fascist, oppressive rule. He captures Moore’s words perfectly, his theatrical dialogue deliveries left me speechless. His ability to deliver the strongest lines with absolutely perfect emotion is marvellous to watch. And considering that he does not have access to moving viewers with facial expressions (his face is covered by a mask throughout the movie), his performance is astoundingly good. Watch out for the scene where he meets Evey for the very first time- the famous ‘V’ speech. It’s bound to make you want to give him a standing ovation, right in your room.

Natalie Portman plays Evey, and her emotional range and sheer talent for playing varied roles is, in a word- fabulous. She is fantastic as Evey, the woman who plays an instrumental part in the bringing down of the British government.

In the movie, the subplots are removed, bits are changed here and there, but the idea, as V would be proud to say, remains the same. The film has some spectacular action sequences – watch out for the scenes of buildings being blown up, V’s fight scenes, and my personal favourite – the Domino scene.

There are many reasons why this film is a must-watch: its amazing visual effects, a brilliant climactic sequence, and a great background score by the Oscar-nominated Dario Marianelli. Not to forget the outstanding acting, not just by Weaving and Portman- but the other actors, too – Stephen Fry, Stephen Rea, and John Hurt.

And of course, the fact that the movie has such a meaningful political statement behind it makes it one of a kind.

What truly matters, in revolution? Is it the man who lives and dies for its cause, or is it the idea, the motivation? Watch V For Vendetta, and decide. While the romance is subtly understated, the political and social allegory take first priority, and that is what makes this film a classic- and relevant to any time, any place.

You will realise that V is not just a man, but is an idea, a very powerful symbol. You can destroy a person, but the ideas he lives for and believes in, are indestructible. One man can make a difference, and if citizens stand united, change can be achieved. In a world that's ruled by oppression of all kinds, V For Vendetta sends a strong inspiring message- it needn't necessarily be about totalitarian rule, but we need to question the government's working, we need to stop taking things for granted, and start taking proactive measures.

But leaving aside the interpretation of the movie in light of today's times, this movie stays with you long after you've finished watching it. And if you're questioning whether the graphic novel is better than the movie, or whether V is a hero or a terrorist- you've lost the point. Because V For Vendetta is a rock-solid, honest film, which is, I should say, more than a film- like the graphic novel, it is a statement.