Saturday, November 29, 2008

"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008) - Movie Review

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” adapted from the novel by John Boyne is a story of a childhood beginning to question the shades of reasoning by the adults. The indoctrination on definition of right and wrong, friends and enemies looms from what the parents ask them to be. When the exposure happens does it make the child go confused on who his or her father is and what really does the education he have been receiving mean begins to haunt the tender heart. In the Nazi regime of atrocities which by now have been taken in films which I am losing counts and many in the spirit of goodness has educated it beyond any reasonable doubt. Why would I then recommend this film once again about time in holocaust and why it should be any different? Beyond the cruelty of the killings is the generation born to these Nazi generals who were carrying out the orders and how did it affect them.

Eight year old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is sad because his father (David Thewlis) informed that the family is moving to a different place. His sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) though is excited. Bruno has to find new friends to play with. His mother (Vera Farmiga) assures him that the place has garden to play which impresses little for Bruno. Bruno’s father is a Nazi soldier and the new place is a mile away from the camp. Bruno is curious when he sees a group of people from his window to be dressed similar with stripes. He tells this to his mother and she immediately bolts the window.

Bruno ventures on exploration behind his house which has been warned against by his mother. He finds a fence (which he learns later that is electrified) and a little boy of his same age is sitting dressed in striped uniform on the other side of it. The boy is Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) and he is in the camp. Bruno asks whether the uniform with the number is a game and Shmuel says it is not. Like this Bruno learns that he is a Jew and Bruno remembers that then Shmuel is supposed to be his enemy as his tutor Herr Liszt (Jim Norton) told him and his sister. He is confused than to blindly abide that. His sister unlike begins to fall for it which is more for her crush, a young Lieutenant Kotler (Rupert Friend).

As for many kids, for Bruno and Gretel their father is their hero. Bruno exposed to the camp and finding that Shmuel a Jewish kid is the same as he is desperately wants to believe that his dad is not mistreating the people in the camp. He sneaks in a façade film presentation of the camp watched by his dad and his superiors where the place is nice and well treated. He hugs his dad immediately for not letting him down. In the meanwhile Bruno’s mother smells the horrid odour as Bruno does and learns that people are burned in the camp. While she was aware of the camp, her “See No Evil” conveniently discarded the possibility of atrocities and as the kids she believes in her husband’s sanity in humanity. She is disappointed and soon she begins to dissolve in the guilt, madness and frustration of her being the silent witness to this evil.

The film never directly shows the inhumane conditions and lets the kids discuss their perspective of each side. Being untouched by the clutches of the hatred, Bruno without any education to tell him knows that what is happening is fishy. How clean is a kid’s mind that sometimes ignorance is in fact the bliss she/he needs to be in. The knowledge they are going to get growing is the knowledge to manufacture killing machines for bigot, hatred and inhumanity. The story of the film reminds what is fed into the kids now a day. What is that they grow and taught in the circle of society? Are they in the rational learning clinically absorb the concept of goodness as a study and discard it in the cynicism they witness and made believe? What is to believe of the government, country and worse their parents on recognizing the good and evil? The generation in the wake of technology and terror are both well informed and badly nurtured at the same time with the absorption for hatred in smears of sporadic emotions.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is not the story of the camp but a reminder what the kids are aware and taught of. It is a story how we are as an adult proclaim the wrongdoing as pragmatism for survival to the weak heart. And the minds gulp it in a sweet swallow in fear of being denied of the love from their parents. Gretel as Bruno knows the wrong doing but denies it over the credibility she has over the adults. But who decides the credibility and are we capable of advocating the right and wrong as clearly as possible? Is knowledge be a doctrine of wrong facts or a teaser for greater questions to be looked upon openly and with multitudes of possibility in this continuously growing diverse and wide world? When you come out of the film with soaked hearts think what you will be telling the kids about your frustration and complains against a community, a country, a religion or any one at all.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"Milk" (2008) - Movie Review

Sean Penn can flex in a jiffy from film to film with a cathartic change in each character. He portrays Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be city supervisor in San Francisco. Milk was assassinated and the film unfolds Sean Penn as Milk taping his statement in the event of his sudden demise of what he did and what it meant to him and others. A film coming up in the wake of Prop 8 being passed, it resonates how much we have come forward and yet how blaringly we are still behind in the acceptance of people for their individuality.

The movie begins Milk in his born spontaneity asking randomly a man he crosses over in a subway, Scott (James Franco) for an immediate date citing his birthday in few hours. After the flirtatious convincing argument over his age being a factor for Scott they end up in bed discussing his 40th year birthday that he jokingly laments of how much of nothing he did in this life. Scott becomes a change in his lifestyle and he goes more open and moves in to the Castro Street and opens a camera shop. Thus begins the day to day accumulation of the discrimination and irritation urging out in his shop and becomes the epicenter for his campaign to get in the office.

Milk more than the biopic is about the attitude of gays being looked down upon in the period of 70s which definitely is not a novel way in pictures like this. But it is about an impulsive man who thought that sitting in the closet does not help in getting what you want but doing something about it and that is this film is about. Standing for it and the interesting thing about the film is that we exactly do not know his values which are buried in the fights. In that Gus Van Sant have a minute surprises and which is the organism of politics getting the man. Apart from his fight for gay rights, he played the game well to get his points across. In a very small scene with Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber), the Mayor tells him who he sounds like now, a politician. Moscone jokes though in that submerged truth but Milk knows the transformation and he is elated to do more things with the power.

When gays are portrayed focusing a little more than usual on their promiscuity, it seem to have been of prominence. They want it to be open so that the people get used to it. In India physical intimacy in public is frowned upon or even worse teased and humiliated and in the 1970 San Francisco that would have been the situation for them. The difference is gay people said this is what who we are and we are not embarrassed about it. If some one has a problem, keep it with them was the statement. In another daring scene, Milk asks his friends and campaign supporters to disclose their sexuality to their family against their privacy. When voices need to be heard, privacy needs to take the door out.

The man who killed Milk, Dan White (Josh Brolin) and his relationship with Milk is a small but significant portion of the film. The manner Milk says to his friends that he sees White as some one caught up behind the Irish Catholic upbringing and in fact suspects him to be gay. Both men have this tension and White is both bound by the charisma and the dauntless behaviour of Milk. It is as if he cannot bare the sight of this man humiliating his presence of weakness. Brolin is mainly effective in this role as this complex person tightening inside and how he dances around with whispering yelling to Milk.

“Milk” has potential devoted casts as James Franco, Diego Luna and Emile Hirsch. Milk was so much into the activism that his personal life was in shambles. He was not able to attend his partner’s needs both Scott and the Jack Lira (Diego Luna). In former it ends in a break up while in latter tragedy strikes. He fights for the right to have normal social life in the society but it affects to have a personal livelihood with his lovers. This Catch-22 is another side of this man we see.

Harvey Milk was a brave man proclaiming his sexuality which three quarters of the population dislike. But that is exactly was his point that differences is bound to be existent and to discriminate to have a better equal status in society was the issue. I am sure while most of the people heard about Milk would not have seen him up close or for that matter his speech. And Sean Penn brings him to life in which we do not see a character in a film but a fighting man went down in history. Penn is remarkable in giving that.

"Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) - Movie Review

When Amitabh Bachhan took the hosting seat of “Kaun Banega Crorepathi”, the Indian version of “Who wants to be millionaire?” it had the initial suspicion of how a quiz show distributed among the regular people would even try to get some one to win the competition. Yet, many won a substantial amount of money no one expected to win and finally one contestant did win the one crore rupees named Harshvardhan Navathe.

The show worked for two reasons in my opinion and the first will be the hosting of Bachhan himself. He is the larger than life image who sat there talked with the contestant who grew up watching him kick bad guys on screen just like Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) did and the comfort level he was with them. Unlike the movie’s host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor), he embraced them getting down in his husky masculine voice and the delivery of those conversations came out with the feeling that he really wanted them to win. Second will be the “common” person going out and have a chance to turn around the financial part of their life. That part of the fantasy was the adrenaline and the energy of some one winning gave a hope for the viewers that there is a possibility. That show was the beginning of the game show in Indian Television and ended immediately as the theme popped up dime a dozen.

“Slumdog Millionaire” works through the formula and the definite ending of a high note because as the show itself, we want Jamal to win. In a style of “The Usual Suspects”, Jamal is being interrogated with an initial torture in a police station by Inspector (Irrfan Khan) and a typical terrorizing constable Srinivas (Saurab Shukla). They question on his credibility in being successful so far in the completion. They believe that Jamal an uneducated can never win the contest and he is one shot way from the two crore rupees. The film runs through in three lines, one with Jamal’s interrogation, his flash back and the game itself. How come he was able to answer the questions when his childhood had enough time for a constant running from the law and the street slave runners? Danny Boyle gives a film in blend of Indian and his style of film making.

In the slums of Mumbai, I have seen and stayed for a week in the nearby vicinity of the places the film shows some ten years back. And Boyle with his co-director Loveleen Tandan gives those inhumane conditions to have a child hood with an unbelievable air of positivity. We flinch when the small kid Jamal (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar) jumps in to pool of fecal matter to escape from the bath room lock his kid brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail) put when the celebrity Bacchan lands in the middle of the slum and yet when Jamal holds the picture of the star high up in the air to run soaked and smelling in the excrete amongst the crowd, it simply marks the energy of him. That bumbling attitude of him makes this formula work charmingly.

In no measure the film surpasses the greatness but I could not stop admiring how it found the place. The rags to riches story could have been made as sports film routine and sap it out till it was dry. But Boyle with his screenwriter Simon Beaufoy weaves an element of thriller, a twist and this journey of the kid along with a brother small stepping to be this gangster and finally running constantly for his love Latika (Freida Pinto). Growing up amongst the dramatic elements of Indian cinema, certain elements obviously would be a run on the mill and yet I liked it. I liked the way how each of the characters identified instantly by looking and hearing their voice which any one who would have watched those films would know about.

With a sufficient amount of film in Hindi, I had a complaint why did they drop it during when Jamal in his early teens (Tanay Hemant Chheda) begin to converse in a very good English. But the rate at which the kids are exposed away from the school to the language is immense that it amidst the nudge convinces us. It has a very regular acting from the leads and supporting roles. They have to be as the motion of the film is the story. It is the editing which runs the show.

“Slumdog Millionaire” is the talk of the festivals and a strong contender for many awards. I did not find it extremely appealing in that sense of appreciation. It is what “The Bourne Ultimatum” is for thriller as that for the category of “pleasers”. It is a film for the people who go to films for “entertainment” and for the avid film seekers. It in its non-linear narration provides an interesting story and soothes every part of the genre in the books. It encapsulates the appeal in a much wider audiences and that is a great thing. Rarely films with substance propagate deep and wide as this does.

I mentioned the positivity in the darkest of times in the life of these kids and the locations were shot on those. Never have I seen the colours in despair appeal so much. Similarly the angles of camera by Anthony Dod Mantle placing us in the hot seat and from the corner of the ears of the host and Jamal tickle the enormity of the game show inspiringly. A.R. Rahman gives a peppy back ground score and I sincerely have to thank him for not using the traditional Indian Sitar music. Why does it is a thematic immediacy to use those instruments to give the feel of India? Rahman and Boyle understand that and they provide a racy beat and do see the dance number when the credits run.

For a person who has seen the Bollywood films, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a great film. It gives the city of Mumbai in its vibrancy of destitute with a charisma to it. It always keeps us informed and the shots of flash backs and the game does not stretch a bit. It sinks in as the immaculate completion of a jig saw puzzle. But some one seeing on the planes of wide range of cinema, the film is not great but good. I explained myself in differentiating views for this film as it gives in both styles. “Slumdog Millionaire” does appeal to all the critics in US for that reason for seeing an Indian film to perfection. It delivers that for sure but the routine I have seen growing up is hard to forget being repeated. I liked those repetitions for the nostalgia in subtlety but did not get mesmerized by it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Raising Arizona" (1987) - Movie Review

Oh what can I say about me and the unsettling inharmonic wavelength with the Coen brothers. They are the master of a particular kind of film making which I would certainly be able to separate upon from the mix of thousands of films but their artistry is limited in few of those which have appealed to me. “Raising Arizona” is a comedy in Coen brother’s style with an unfamiliar Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter kidnapping a baby from the quintuplets of an Arizona furniture store owner. But it is not plot driven isn’t it?

HI (Nicolas Cage) is a recidivist (word of the day for me) and how often some one uses that in a film or may be even in coming books now a day. His regular visitation to the prison ward acquaints him not only to the prisoners but the cop out there Ed (Holly Hunter). Soon they marry and the couple settles for a peaceful regular life and in comes the need for a baby and Ed is not capable of having one. Sadness spreads and sudden news of the quintuplets triggers the craziness of the stable mind Ed has. They decide to take one from the many the Arizona’s (Trey Wilson and Lynn Dumin Kitei) have. In a flow of narrated series of scene in five minutes into the film we are made aware of the details I mentioned above. Then we see the chain of connected ridiculous events and the characters that align it with goofiness only Coen brothers could make it look like a work of perfection.

Where do these brothers get their inspiration for these quirky personalities? They speak in disjointed words with a vocabulary of a seasoned novelist and come out with a spooky statement which on surface gives a polished suaveness but in a deeper thinking make it the worst frame of sentence ever. Their existence is made possible in a look for a certain dimension of presentation by these two men. The comedy is as dry as the deserts of the state coming in the film. The throat is barren and longs for a droplet of a water and we laugh with that in the idiocy of the people in it. It reminded the matured nicety “Burn After Reading” carries.

A shabbily dressed man in the bushes of hair dried on wetted sand and what not and looking like to have jumped from the grind house screens of Mad Max is Smalls, Leonard Smalls (Randall “Tex” Cobb). Out he is developed from the nightmares of HI and for no reason offers to hunt down the baby. Then are the prisoners and Brothers Glenn (John Goodman) and Evell (William Forsythe) digging their way out of what looks like a dampened septic tank outside of the prison. In a swing of bent reality of madness and idiosyncrasy procreates this film with panned unique camera shots and a range of artistic audibility to the fans of these one of a kind duos.

The cinematography of Barry Sonnenfield hurries behind the criminals, dogs, super market carts, front of the bike, rear of the car, inside the claustrophobic trailers and out of the infinite lands of heat. There is a field of magnetism in this kind of film making. Their humour depends on a sweet sense of idiocy and a thought of uniqueness specifically addressed to a taste which provides the essence of a comic empathy for the viewers which never can quite be explained.

Every time I watch their films I end up in guffaws and a pinch to wake me up from the weirdness of characters and sequences. Rarely have I been satisfied without a speck of complaint. Despite individuality in a kind of inventiveness few people in the current film making could dare to present upon, they end sufficiently deficit in the scale of the taste I maintain. It is a complex association with their films for me. I could clearly see their talent but also honestly say that the talent they bore is not my cup of tea. Or may be I develop this unyielding expectation which takes a lot to fill up? I loved “The Big Lebowski” and “Burn After Reading” but the placid liking I had for “No Country for Old Men”, “Fargo” and “Miller’s Crossing” carries in for “Raising Arizona”. That would not mean I would give up that scale of appreciation for these perfectionists rather it increases it as I would never know the time when the peace between my expectation and their talent is absolutely made.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Secrets & Lies" (1996) - Movie Review

Watching Mike Leigh’s film is something every one viewing would have seen it in their family. It would be their mother, their uncle, their cousins talking back, going emotional in a flip of a second and embrace being the sun of this big wide solar system of family. Of me being unaware of the plethora of variety Timothy Spall has done in his career, this was a surprise. I have only seen him as the sleazy English man wandering as a virus and side kick for the villains in many films. Along with every other panache performances, Spall simply breaks us down in the party of people blurting truth and secrets as a hang over person throwing up. It is ugly but to be got over with to clean the system.

Leigh’s cameraman Dick Pope’s visual equipment clings on to the corners and doors of a crooked apartment. The dining table pushed in against the wall to have two members sitting opposite and not see eye to eye, the couch which seem to have helped consummate many of the sexual appetite and the doors that have been opened for surprises. It is in small, medium and large depending on the financial freedom of a person and in Leigh’s it is mostly on the middle class. Here it would be Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn) working in a factory with the earning paying her rent and smokes.

She has a daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook) who hates her mother with a knife on her throat slicing with words, frowns and snubbing in that small apartment. She will be twenty one in couple of months as we see her Uncle Maurice (Timothy Spall) and Aunt Monica (Phyllis Logan) in their big house looking at the child portrait of Roxanne mentioning it wistfully. They have loved her as a child from their sighs and Monica has mothered her from her resentment towards Cynthia on certain things.

This is the family Hortense (Marianne Jean-Bapiste) is going to get in. After her mother’s demise, in the act of curiosity she begins to search for her biological mother. Cynthia is that and meeting her makes the people swivel in the ending drama. Every time a scene starts we are as if entering couple of people in middle of their conversations. Not that it sounds but it feels like that. People mentioning events in a push and stress on words and glances and we have no clue on the topic. As if we are in the dark of the truth, the thing bringing the enmity and love is not known. The histories are not explained because so it has been by each other.

And this despise between Cynthia and Monica not in the “never to see each other” relation but in the friendlier conversations sliding those remarks as easy and soft but painful to the extent not on the words rather on the secrecy of their loose leaving of sentences. The doubt and presumptions takes care of the rest. When Cynthia and Monica finally meet and Monica proudly presents her home of six bedrooms and interior decorations, Cynthia fuels up in that high pitched voice of her. What is that in between these two? It will be revealed and not the made up drama suspense but one we could see it coming. But what it is really is the love being shared off. Maurice the connecting factor of these two never really gets understood by each other. Roxanne becomes another end of the knot to deal with. Everything is out on the table in the end and Spall is astounding in it.

I do not know whether Brenda Blethyn changed her voice for this but I can only compare that voice to a tiny rat in an unnoticed corner of a room making sounds and movements. Not largely annoying but grows on as it grows too. She falls out flat in tears the moment she is slightly overwhelmed. She is the aunt we stay away from because she is up all our faces. The aunts who think a hug is the best thing to comfort regardless of the timing and the person’s inclination to it. She puts so many “darlin’, sweet hearts” that it soon becomes a rattling expression we would not want to hear at all. But she is the one who makes the favourite sweet with a sick cold after the cooking for ten people. She is the one who in those expressions means every bit of it. It is just that she picks the most awful worst time in the perfect right manner to ruin everything and follows it up with the abundance of unwanted love for the situation.

Leigh binds these elements together in a room and puts two poor people who have nothing to do with the family apart from being a boy friend of Roxanne (Lee Ross) and a secretary (Elizabeth Berrington) for Maurice. If I was in their shoes, I would move far away from this family. But the truth is it exists behind the apartments and a big house in us isn’t it? We want to run away because we do not need one another family to deal with. Leigh made his debut “Bleak Moments” with the title resonating in the screenplay and “Secrets & Lies” could have been named “Uncomfortable Moments”. But we have to face it and we have to sustain it because that is what the family is, “Secrets & Lies” and when it breaks out it is either mayhem or a chance to reconcile.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Twilight" (2008) - Movie Review

And so they said, not the vampires in Peoria but the fans of it that the release of this film “Twilight” is going to come and that is the next greatest thing in the world after Obama making the historic win. I got to be under the skins of Michelle from “American Pie” and here it goes, “This one time, when I was tricked by the fallacy of the hype and everything and then I paid like seven dollars to get into this film called Twilight and it went on and on and on…and it was not fun”. The defcon level of disaster increases as I learn that the director is Catharine Hardwicke who gave the wonderful “Thirteen”. What a shame.

I was talking with a colleague of mine who is just out of school and the topic of which film I will be watching this weekend came up. I was saying about the hype of this film and he was asking whether I am aware of what kind it is. I had a slight clue but he put it like this, “teenage vampire romantic love story” and that encompasses everything that makes the film to be judged in a second. So I entered the movie theatre as the regular out of the usual single Indian guy. There have been lots of out of usual when I go to a theatre. The one when I was the only one sitting for an 11:00 clock morning show of “Lions for Lambs”, the one when I was the only person below the age of 50 in the audience and then it is “Twilight”. The single Indian male sitting alone with a majority audience of males been dragged by their girl friends, wives and the mom accompanying their teenage girls. I was talking about the target audience in the previous review for today, “Bolt”. Here they are and the show began.

I would not dare doubt the quality of visuals in the film. The dreary Washington state with rains nullifying the greens while among that dull climate moves Bella (Kristen Stewart) to the town of Forks with her dad Charlie (Billy Burke), the silent chief of police. She is more than welcomed in the high school out there with the kids giving summarization of each group and there comes the Cullen’s family. Everybody is pale as corpse and happiness are wiped clean and immaculate by a cleenex tissue fresh every moment. There is Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and if some one have not figured out that he is the vampire, then they would love this film.

Cullen almost pukes seeing Bella or does he covering his sudden growth of extra teeth to suck the blood of Bella? Oh, I did not know and giggles all over the place. I never understood the giggles as an acknowledgment of the people’s awareness of reading the novel by Stephenie Meyer which gave birth to this film. I remember the reverberating pains of sound waves when I went for the first Harry Potter film. I went away from the thought; anyways some thing propels Bella to go madly in love with this boy who has nothing but shades of doubts and creepiness. Even after coming to be aware of the fact that he and his whole family are controlling their urges to hunt humans for food and he very well is more than a century older than her, she trusts him. Teenage times are for tough in terms of generating unconditional love without anything at all. The same director gave it with a slice of flesh in the reality in “Thirteen”. Here I have to see the credits to believe she directed this.

I had major complaints on two things, screenplay and acting. Screenplay seems to rely on the cool factor of being a vampire and use condescending lines of obviousness coming out as a parade of facades. The baseball scene would be the perfect example. The acting while I would purely judge upon the characters the people were given upon. Kristen Stewart is numb and I would have had her to be the zombie on any day. If at all for her being attractive, she would have not have sold the quarter of the character of Bella. I feel that Robert Pattinson was forced to act in such a way of having an expression of being constantly constipated when he undergoes the pain and agony of oscillation in approaching and avoiding Bella. When he is out of it, he is good and makes Edward work. Rest of the time, he is a pale freaky guy with lipstick and dry hair gel badly in need of a good digestion.

I know that I am coming hard on this film. In fact I am pretty much aware that many teenage fans would mark their memories based on this film. The anticipation and the enthusiasm can be much empathized. Because as some one who got sucked in to the science fiction genre of reading books, I had the same reaction for a film which was called “Sphere”. Michael Crichton who recently died marks a great memory for his impressive books over me and my brother. While we thoroughly enjoyed many of his books, “Sphere” hit on the spot and aspired to develop a fake liking for being a geek. The film came by with a cast of Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson and it disappointed in ways I could not imagine. We were in denial for a while but soon swallowed the fact the film just sucked. I made a memory, a bad one and I guess the teenage fans will have one too of “Twilight”.

"Bolt" (2008) - Movie Review

“Bolt” is a fun ride. I can finish it over there and be done with the review. What is the substance I am going to discuss on an animated feature with a dog Bolt (voice of John Travolta) who thinks it’s a super power dog since it believes the TV series is the real world and an alley cat named Mittens (voice of Susie Essman) having deals with Pigeons on fetching its food and an equally mesmerized Hamster Rhino (voice of Mark Walton) idolizing Bolt? It is possible.

Disney Animation Studios renders its animation on following a dog so serious in its life of guarding its owner, Penny (voice of Miley Cyrus). The opening scene of the TV series is a wet dream for any comedy director. Directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard take the insane spoof of the action films and splash their imagination over it to give a “Hot Fuzz” in total animation. In the middle of the city launches fighter helicopters and lands its bike soldiers and they fire everything they have got while Penny escapes with her omnipotent dog Bolt in her scooter. That is blockbuster entertainment spoofed well.

When the lights go out Bolt goes back to his trailer and thinks Penny is in constant attack and threat from the TV villain and his side kicks. We are informed of its naivety through couple of other animals used in the series casually and in fact taking time to tease Bolt. Obviously to humans the talk between the animals are their barks or meows, do not we all know that by now? Anyways in the fright of losing the ratings and the series the director (voice of James Lipton) puts a twist on the happy predictability into a capture of Penny. Bolt as usual believes it and events occur for him to land in New York. Now he got to find back his Penny who is in Los Angeles and save her and this is the first time he is seeing the outer world.

He assimilates couple of sidekicks and off they go on a road trip. There is a weakness in the viewers for animated films. Because this is where the target audiences play a major roll to mould the content and for them it is an easy fair to be entertained. The kids would be more than happy to be staring and been absorbed by the characters from the screen and more due to the range of fast movements, the chases, funny falls and the cutesy talks. But I should have got bored by now in viewing many films of those. That is when it stuck that the enormity in the content of the project never can be dismissed in any kind of film.

If a film addressed to a particular audience wants to take a serious considerations in its script and invites the viewers to go along with it, the expectations dynamically is altered and depending on the execution the film succeeds or fails. “Ratatouille” and “Wall-E” invited in to a new way of film making or may be reinventing the silent films in the latter while the character drama in the former. It worked and worked best because of the screenplay and the animation accentuated it hitting the right places.

“Bolt” in the voices of Travolta, Essman and Walton is an energizer bunny ride. The agility of this little dog helps a lot in that kinetic choreograph of running amongst people and heavy vehicles with knack and nimbleness. The slow mo in jumping and the expected disaster of the little creature at the end of it floats us and brings a laugh along with the kids besides us. And for the adults comes the funny Italian accented pigeons. This is what amazes me in the creativity of these animations. They take the film’s stereotypes and the cities diverse mix and the dealing in the society into these unexpected animals coming off as the funniest settings every time in all these films.

“Bolt” as most of the animated films I have seen do it better and good. “Igor” amidst my appreciation has a touch of ordinary in it. “Bolt” is a step above it and suffices the conditions for being a successful children’s film. Yet under the criteria of the review, it is a good and better film in the regular flow of movies. “Bolt” is entertaining, funny, and cute and the whole nine yards of the animation films.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Children of Heaven" (Language - Persian) (1999) - Movie Classics

If any of the viewers after seeing “Children of Heaven” does not completely and utterly wither into particles and adore it, there is a strong recommendation to test your emotional sanity. This Iranian film written and directed by Majid Majidi does the best thing in its casting. The brother and sister, Ali (Amir Farrokh Hashemian) and Zahra (Bahare Seddiqi) respectively are the children we see in the schools, the students who try hard with the same pair of uniform until their body maturity does not allow them to wear it anymore. They play hard too and the sweat they pour in gallons can as well make a river of child hood joy in the midst of mad reality existing somewhere in a parallel world.

Ali is filled with guilt and fear as he enters the house and stands helpless in front of his sister Zahra after losing her shoes. The shoes were not new but a torn piece put together by a cobbler. Ali’s father (Mohammad Amir Naji) is a hard working blue collar dad letting out his anger on the society towards his children. But he loves them and loves them dearly. Their mother (Fereshte Sarabandi) is ill and both the kids help her out in the house work while struggling to go school and doing their home work. The losing of shoes is not matter of luxury or childishness (strange to say that as both are in their lower grades) but a necessity. Neither of them cannot go to their school without sneakers and thankfully girls have their morning shifts while boys their afternoons. So Zahra wears her brother’s shoes and as the bell rings, she runs like a cheetah cub with two legs towards her brother waiting and looking impatiently at the corner of the street. Swap the shoes and slippers and then goes Ali with agility and a touch of masculinity ruining the innocence but well men are cursed right from their child hood of the beauty.

The film is filled with emotional land mines it does not step. The land mines I am talking about are the expected heart breakers because we are in love with these two kids. I have never been a great fan when people go “aaahhh” when they see a kid’s picture (that includes my nephew too) but seeing these two with the sibling love and the fear and concern for their hard working father, I cannot avoid smiling with a shadow of sadness and affection over them. Ali is shrewd, top in class and the swap procedure makes him a damn good runner. Zahra is the cherubic girl with sunshine on her face huddled in the cave of her dress but never does her ray of shining happiness stops. The humanity in them is pure and unadulterated. Nothing for a moment makes it sappy and this is something we can associate with the goodwill existed in our child hoods.

“Children of Heaven” soars high because I was able to fly back to the days I walked with tons of books on my back under the merciful shadows of trees to the school, late and never regretted it. And as Ali is getting stopped by the time police teacher, I had many of them. And there were merciless and even thinking back as an adult, a lot mean. I could understand the thousand times I came late and was punished but I could never understand the sports instructor make me run the ground (trust me, that is the cruelest thing you can do to a fat kid) with the loads of bag on my birthday. Now this is the best part, when I come back for his sports class, he asks candies for the birthday. That sinks deep and cut deep. Either way he made a memory and thanks to him for that even if it is a bitter one.

What is beautiful is the potential artificiality being jumped off at every opportunity and making it serene and impeccable. It is the film which makes the living genuine and a reason to live for. In the cinematography of Parviz Malekzaade, the aerial shots and the slow motion are the punctuations for this poetry. We see the naïve faces of Ali and Zahra with a foot away and always they are out there with their smiles and tear filled eyes.

This is the family which binds the society together. A father scolding his wife because she works despite her illness and a mother in that illness making food for a sick neighbour. This is the family which has two kids who some how in this menial labour of surviving has absorbed the concept of love and care. Zahra follows a fellow school girl wearing her lost shoes. She brings Ali later and they see that they are a family like them and without a word they walk back. Ali comes running home to say that he is going to win third in the running race because that would earn him a sneaker for his sister. The race when it comes pulls the viewers forward and despite knowing the aim of Ali, we do not know what to expect. For the first time in any real race and the one in films we want our favourite character to come third.

“Children of Heaven” would be the most sentimental film I would have ever seen and yet not even an ounce of manipulative sappiness is put in it. It is a classic. It has the characters we want to put our arms around and the kids whom we want to walk along guiding them when they walk by the side of our legs. It is a happy ending with a sad interlude but we know things would be good. It ends with a symbolism of life working out its way if the efforts are there and mainly the love in every bit of it. I loved the film, loved every character in it, loved the reality in it, loved the child hood it bore and the adulthood it shared, loved the moments of angels growing to be some one else but did not worry about it and if some one did not love it, I who completely believe in the respectable nature of individual subjective taste has to sincerely question their psychological bent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Married Life" (2008) - Movie Review

“Married Life” is as cynical as it gets on the matrimony but trust me when I say this that it is devilishly full of conscience. In fact when the charismatic player Richard (Pierce Brosnan) acts unmercifully on the two front ladies Harry’s (Chris Cooper) life using that word “conscience”. Harry’s wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson) and his mistress Kay (Rachel McAdams) are those. Ira Sachs the director pulls a very unusual film noir and a drama for love very tough to construct on these flawed characters. It is a film full of suspense and it as straight and clean these men take their whisky. Bitter but satisfying.

Richard narrates the story of his best friend Harry who explains his decision to break up with his wife and live with Kay. A single man and who considers marriage as a disease of course has a concern for his friend and his wife until he sees the beautiful Kay. Kay is the bomb shell in a house wife skin. Her eyes are as kind as it can get and the blond hair chiseled with artistic beauty adding the voluptuousness. Richard’s animal instinct is to have her but is conflicted with his liking for his adulterer friend.

Pierce Brosnan, a man who can be cheeky with a slant on his chin and who fitted in his Bond immaculately (even in worse films) comes up with gentleman sleaziness. Set in late 40s this could not be a better suit for this charming calming negative man. Yet he is not the negative man but a person understanding his balance of conscience and plays these people in to his game. And why do we think Harry is the good man doing the wrong thing while we chuckle at the word play of Richard. Is it that the womanizing attribute of him makes an instant impression on us that he is wicked and disposes women at his will and control? Of course that is the factor the director depends upon to sidle the darkness of the dreamy regular men with this character.

When Harry explains his reason to Richard on his decision, we know he is finding it than to solve it. Harry in his forties goes through the mid life crisis as one would say and the suspense of Pat is something I would keep it for the viewers to look at. The scene in which Richard and Pat are beautifully placed and the reactions of each member in there is believably funny in the height of its awkwardness.

“Married Life” does not make it a picture of noir suspense but a study of the partnership as such. Secrets buries with the person and especially in a marriage. While the extremeness of “Married Life” might not be a regular feat but the crime records indicate the happenings very regularly in current affairs. This wave of oscillating heart in a companionship piercing its needle of pressure of monotony on these people with their showers of “I Love You” are some times tragically comic. They truly love each other and that is the whole reason each other lie among them to not hurt.

In all reality this film sees the long term of commitment in a transparency. It sees it in a dark entertainment as these are happening to some other couple than us. The problems in between them seem nothing at all but the way we feel about the loved one among us vary and that is exactly is in between Pat and Harry. It varies from day to day and moments to moments with cursing them and cursing us for the bad thoughts and the harsh words and even a life changing event. How much we sustain it and carry through it determines the longevity of the relationship. Some break down in noises and some go silent underneath plotting their own web of getting out of it. Harry does something like that while Pat does in her manner. But see Richard work into these people and cruelly wins over it. Yet he underestimates Harry when we hear the story. Even him who without any hesitation can easily step through in destroying his friend’s relationship and emerge guilt free could not spot the vicious nature coming out of Harry and pops the question in us, how well we know each other?

It is a doubtful film and it acknowledges the fact of marriage working out as life works out with the time sweeping the pieces of it. It unravels its mysteries in the unexpected actions of completely regular persons who we would have our neighbours having coffee with and sharing utensils. What happens in between a couple is the real thing. Outside of it we would see a friend in control of his emotions, a sister in her world of wisdom, a mother proud of her achievement in the relationship while a father withers his emotions in jokes and sarcasms. They are all happy and they are all sad and that makes the perfect marriage.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"After Innocence" (Documentary) (2005) - Movie Review

“After Innocence” is story of real life Andy Dufresnes and more about the aftermath of their release which is not exactly a relaxing rest of the life on the shores of Pacific Ocean. It is follow up on some of the exonerated wrongfully convicted people of how their life is outside the walls of the prison where they did not belong. The years of wrongful imprisonment varies from 6.5 years to 22 years. And there is Wilton Dedge fighting for his DNA evidence to be admitted which would dismiss all his charges when the film starts. He has actually been through this process three years ago and for the sole reason of inadmissibility he has been in prison.

When the discussion of the judicial system in United States crops up, the knowledge of the subject would be through the educational information through “Law and Order” and other films talking in detail about it and I could safely state that an average person’s cognitive understanding of the system would be that much. And it has done its job of how complicated the procedure is and how mistakes are made as it is governed by humans. But how many accept those mistakes and how many guilty would use that admission as leverage for their wrongful innocence? These questions are unavoidable while watching this documentary by Jessica Sanders.

Once a doubt looms it would remain and the stain of it being removed is a long process if and only if the effort is made to understand and acknowledge the fact of it. There is a standard line uttered in numerous crime/court drama tamil films as “Nooru Kutravaaligal thappikkalaam, anaa oru nirabaraathi thandikka pada koodaathu” meaning “Hundreds of criminals can escape but there should not be a wrongful conviction of an innocent”. That has been washed off its meaning by the clichéd and million utterances in every film. It applies truthfully to this film.

While seeing the brutal sexual offenses and the horrible murders being committed by some one claiming to be human, we want to believe the death penalty so strongly. But how irreversible it is and how dangerous it would be. And more than that what is the difference we set ourselves from the monsters who commit those despicable crimes. The rage and revenge as a victim and a normal life being clinched away from their hands does vacillate the choices. I could never imagine that pain but the death of another human would only be a tragedy in some form or other. And when it is a mistake, it has become a legal murder. “After Innocence” greatly objects the death penalty and in a more convincing way than any other. Think about the lives of these men being lost by a mistake and it would be gruesome and unforgiving.

Seeing these men trying to move forward their erased lives, it stresses the luxury we have and been taken for granted. Not that we need to live in fear but recognize the existence of the great things of simple nature as the source of tackling day to day problems. They are not compensated by any means for the price they paid and the government’s errors. Their records are not expunged and as one says in the film the paroled prisoners get more support from the government to regulate a life out of the prison. Every one has the right to be angry but all of them have found a way to shun it. They have seen the anger and other horrible things inside the bars and they just want peace. A hand to hold and the freedom to roam.

It is true that the system wrongfully convicts and also lets the guilty walk free. That is the system because end of day it is run by laws written by human and advocated by humans. The errors are part of it and corruptions lift up its head a lot too. And the ego of the people accepting that is something of rare phenomenon as we see when a prosecutor apologizes to Dennis Maher. The system needs to evolve to thoroughly exhaust all the possibilities not alone after the conviction but it should hold up against the test of time. Of course the human dynamics and resource would run amok on those but it is a matter of life and death. “After Innocence” offers hope for the hopeless and that is saying very less of the film.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Kandahar" (Language - Persian/Pashtu/English) (2001) - Movie Review

“Kandahar” supposedly did not get much attention when it came in the 2001 Cannes film festival and got its attention post 9/11. It is sad and cruel for a film to get its attention through a tragedy but the film’s content pictures worse and horrible state of a country disintegrating, decaying and looted by scavengers. In the public eye of viewing Afghanistan “The Kite Runner” as a book grabbed those in a certain element of emotional entertainment while giving the real picture of the country. In “Kandahar” we follow a Canadian-Afghan Nafas (Nelofer Pazira) hoping to save her long last sister’s life residing in Kandahar. Her sister has given up the life of imprisonment under the burka and in her final letter to Nafas has mentioned that she will be committing suicide coming eclipse which is three days away when the film opens.

As Nafas flies in the helicopter of Red Cross which is also a supply vehicle, it parachutes the necessities for the ground base medical facility. When the parachutes are floating in the air, we see the surreal sadness in it. The necessities are the prosthetic legs. There are thirty to forty men with their cradles moving as fast as they can. This is the beginning of very many tragic circumstances director Mohsen Makhmalbaf ride through the dry lands, blue sky and the bright sun in the land of Afghanistan.

Unlike the bland and annoying “Gabbeh”, “Kandahar” has a stream of thought and a story to have co-ordination into the artistic vision of the Makhmalbaf. Any director would have gone for view from inside the burka to give a feel for the cruelty imposed on the women in those places but we see what would be seen and that hurts us more. The audience of this viewing is not the arrogant people who are merciless to the women but the free living people. Hence we see the shame and embarrassment in seeing hundreds of women covering them top to bottom with not an iota of their skin winking the sun light. The ignorance and foolishness of that burns us inside and out.

With a much stronger eye for the characters especially by an African American born posing as a medic (Dawud Salahuddin) in a village, “Kandahar” is a better film by the director. Makhmalbaf shows a land which would very much resemble the post apocalyptic future world most of the Hollywood films tries to show realistically. Here it is unbearable with Mullahs giving pop quiz on the usage of Kalashnikov and Saber to a kid who has been so used to seeing clean skeletons in the desert fighting tooth and nail to sell the ring obtained from it to Nafas. All these tragic images of plundering innocence bring a sense of callousness.

There is a man arguing with the Red Cross volunteers on getting more elegant prosthetic legs for his wife. But why does he need it when she is going to cover it all the time? Or is there a loving care by the man to his wife to give her the best? There is a contradiction of views on that man. What about the unpleasant scenario these volunteers go through. They are out there to help but they are put into cornered frustrations when people want more. In fact as them we feel the unnecessary need for beautiful legs by this man but does it mean we think they should be happy with the sufficing of low expectations? When a film puts the viewer into the questioning chamber without much answer than sympathy, it has scratched its mark.

“Kandahar” while in integrity in depicting the country is not particularly a great film to be fair. It has untrained bland actors especially Nelofer. It has a drag but it is not a film to even appreciate the artistic involvement in it. It is more of a documentary styled with a journey to have the characters surviving hard and the madrasas as a feeding ground literally for food and future zealots. It might not be a good film in arts per se but Makhmalbaf wants to see the land as it is with fictional characters very close to the truth of the situation.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Tigerland" (2000) - Movie Review

Private Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell) is the messiah of civil disobedience in the platoon put in the training camp of “Tigerland”. The training camp of Fort Polk, Louisiana is the pre-Vietnam drafting to get the feel for the foliage, dirt and some live rounds of bullets slicing the branches near the ears of the soldiers. It is “Platoon” in the US soil but Joel Schumacher’s film has the set for it in its own form of treatment. It bounces on smarty remarks and the light heartedness carried by the protagonist where the authority is blindly respected and feared. The loyalty and honour are worn as the badge in the hearts of soldiers. Patriotism runs high on the weeds of fanaticism.

Fresh out of a conduct punishment, Bozz joins the platoon going for the eight week training camp before heading to the war field. Bozz is a good soldier actually a great soldier but he would not obey the rules. He would cross over the line of passes and in the process pick up ladies and get along his new friend Paxton (Matthew Davis) too for good times. Informed as well on the loop holes of the military system, Bozz does not want to die in a rainy muddy place left to rot in it. That adamant behaviour not alone makes him the target for the military commanders but a special hatred from a fellow comrade named Wilson (Shea Wigham) taking special IVs for god, love and country every morning.

In 1971 with the war getting unpopular as the War on Iraq is going through now, as Bozz many are well aware of the lies they have been talked into for fighting. As any free spirited person we see him talk less about the politics and more about the individual preference he has unlike Paxton. Paxton on the other hand despite the reality feels the necessity to fight for his country. As the friendship grows we see Paxton beginning to come on the same plane of thought as Bozz. But Bozz as clearly he sounds on this getting out of the army does not put that much effort he does for couple of his other soldiers to get out. He says, “I am not brave enough” and that means the courage to hurt him. In fact in a drunken night both of them try so hard to do that and know they would not do it. The body and mind are tangled in the suffering rather than the unknown suffering coming in the real war.

The military is in catch-22. They hate Bozz and they would not want him here before he deports every soldier from his platoon. But taking him out is what exactly he wants. They are not able to scare him or make him fear at all. When a Sergeant says “I am going to kill’ya”, he replies back “No, you might do many things but not kill me” and runs off lighting his cigarette and coolly asking the Sergeant whether he has a first name. They share a brief honest interaction which is one of many great scenes in the film.

The hate Private Wilson develops for Bozz is hard to categorize. He feels the necessity to discipline Bozz for the sake of his country but soon that turns into a personal battle. Every time Wilson comes up with a profanity to embarrass Bozz, it back fires because Bozz does not give a damn. There is a famous line from a film or may be it is from a quote saying that a person who has nothing to lose would be the bravest and happiest. Bozz is the man but he has lot of things to lose as he is making friends.

Any kind of fanaticism begins to murk the line of logic. The purpose of war in any time seems tragic but what is the best way to deal an attack? Keeping apart from the Vietnam and Iraq what would have been if World War – II did not happen leaving Hitler to continue his holocaust? What are the rules of engagement? In the film “Hey Ram”, there is a spectacular argument of one head of the Hindu extremist in convincing the protagonist to get into their side saying “Kolai Kutramna, Yuthamum Kutram” meaning if killing is wrong than war is wrong too. Funny that he uses the line to convince his practice of religious fanaticism. The context and tone of course makes more sense to the lead man in the film to get into the organization. War can never be right. It would win something with a lot more coming in the later part to extend it endlessly.

“Tigerland” says what “Jarhead” later took the concept in a dark comic satire. “Tigerland” fixes the character of Bozz to be its philosopher. It carries this person where in the plain sheet of country and freedom would be said as the traitor and coward. Yet Bozz is the best soldier they have in the platoon. The head of the camp says “You are pissing your life away” and Bozz in rage replies back “I do not need killing and war to say that”. Tigerland is one of the best films I have watched lately.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Q&A" (1990) - Movie Review

“Q&A” is a film beginning with an assumption on conscience and then getting plot oriented and end it to summate that through the voice over of the young Assistant District Attorney Al (Timothy Hutton). Directed by Sidney Lumet it is a story built on brick by brick with one element after another never siding for compromise and in tandem with the film’s screenplay. The series “Law and Order” has taken the whole section of the court drama genre in to television from the film industry but “Q&A” in 1990 was well before that and yet it would still stand out as a film than a conclusion of series in days of now.

There is something fishy about hero worship in Hollywood cop drama. There is always dirt on every one. Particularly in the cops because of the past and righteousness the job imposes and comes along with it. It is the same with one’s philosophy of following the values, rules or whatever one defines their path. When a person of those principles walks with it amongst his/her family, friends, foes and relatives, the people who feel the guilt might thrive for some dirt on them. That is the trick to get them in the gang to forget the wrongness happening around them. Something like that in a much bigger stature in the league of suits and ties and straight shot whiskies is the law, its abiders, abusers, non-believers and the strict enforcers.

Lumet takes on the diversity in the myriads of racial subtleties in everyday life especially in the office of law. Detective Chappie (Charles S. Dutton) an African American and a Latin American Detective Valentin (Luis Guzman) use those racial epithets in an acknowledgment of their friendship. It goes a notch up with Chappie and Brennan (Nick Nolte). Brennan is a hard and rough cop shooting point blank on a man’s head when the film opens. Al is brought by the Chief of Homicide Quinn (Patrick O’Neal) to wrap this up as it is said as a self defense by Brennan. The Q&A is the official “on the record” of the investigation imprinted on documents by an old stenographer. The young and naïve ADA becomes an instant pet for the Brennan but he is tough too as he had been a cop like his father.

The story brings in the criminals and they oddly distinguish them with the cops. Both exist because of each other and that acknowledgment is almost resembles a code in a war. The back stabs, set ups, business, money, corruption runs wide in the underworld while smoothly in between the documents and cabinets in the office of the cops. The clean people are skipped off or if they are on their way they can always find dirt as mentioned earlier. This endless spiral becomes a tune unsung loudly but heard in hymns amongst the contrast between the drug lords and the police chiefs.

The opening scene reveals Nick Nolte shooting and proclaiming it as self defense. There is nothing suspenseful in it. We know that this young aspirant, hopeful and idealistic lawyer would uncover this and would learn the complex ethics in this dreaded mess of crime and punishment. But hold on, there is suspense in this and a good one. Al in the investigation brings in one of the drug kingpin Bobby Texador (Armand Assante). Bobby’s wife Nancy (Jenny Lumet) is Al’s ex. The director would have wasted distastefully on their secretive love but watch this, Al’s break up becomes the axis line for this film. It tells about us on the bodily reaction and the prejudices to wipe off the goodness and the values in one. We learn from Nancy that after two years of dating Al is suddenly introduced to Nancy’s father and he is an African American. And Al’s face is the reason for Nancy’s break up. If that is though as being harsh, think again. It split wide open in me on the possibility of such thing happening to any one. It scares that irrespective of some one being much open their face hardly lies and the sad part is they do not know it either. Deep inside it exists and you fight with it till you die.

Lumet has each character to have something in them to say about the smallest discomforts and its biggest impacts in the business of crime and law. A snitch and an important gay witness tells to Bobby about Brennan is gay not in a funny tone but means it for a reason so widely true. The loyalty to their partners in the force and the whole meaning of bringing the truth out appears a fairy tale. As a child, we are all taught upon the values of right and wrong. There was a flimsy book of moral story with a situation “cut and dried” as said by the chief to Al on it to demark the right and wrong in stories. There was no ambiguity in it and growing up the line gets rubbed off and redrawn. It gets redrawn on the perception of laziness, selfishness and the love for others. Soon there are so many lines that giving up becomes a great option. But it is not that the stories change, it is the infinite knowledge of the human psychology which shocks, surprises and saddens to say that there is no line but a clear presence of the content inside keeping you sane in the midst of it.

"Quantum of Solace" (2008) - Movie Review

“Quantum of Solace” opens with the traditional uninspiring and badly choreographed action sequence, but when Daniel Craig as James Bond comes out at the end of it to unveil the trunk and asks Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) to come out, it is out of the question not to chuckle and get excited. What is this astounding magnetism this persona has to pound the start the film needed. With more action pumped than “Casino Royale”, this film is pure adrenalin sadly lacking the technique the Craig debut as Bond had. Coming from a good director as Marc Forster, it at times crosses the barrier of mainstream cinema into a film of poetic class especially in the Austria gun hunt with the back ground of the Opera. Yet it becomes a fodder of action sequences with more humanized form of stunts with no gadgets.

Craig jumps, punches, takes punches, get slashed by the deadliest pocket knives and kisses the death in leaps and feels the steel in his bare hands. It is physically exhausting to see the Craig’s Bond going through so much of running and fighting and what not in this film projecting a more down to the ground fight man. The nemesis for Bond is Dominic (Mathieu Amalric) fronting an environmental organization while smoothly dealing with the General of Bolivia (Joaquín Cosio) to plan a coup d’état. He is the lead of a secret society of lustful money mongers machinating control over resources but let that stay aside for a while for you to discover in the film. Let us talk about the man.

In “Casino Royale” we see a budding talented spy tumbling on the emotions and beginning to make mistakes. He learns fast with arrogance and becomes a killing machine. And he falls for a lady and gets betrayed in the end. In the clandestine operations of secret services trust is an obsolete word and he learns that. But he wears that iron mask more than he used to before he met Vesper after her death. A sense of regret and failure with himself and in “Quantum of Solace” he is driven by revenge. Now this paragraph is dedicated to the review of “Casino Royale” than this film as the material in discussion in the turmoil of saving the world forgets the man, a lot.

Regardless of that Daniel Craig is clearly in control. He has dripped out his blood and soul to perform this character and never would you see such a dedication in a role for this spy man. The stunts we see are most of the times are his face and body in the act. He clings on to the ruggedness of physique this Bond carries along. At any given moment he is in control but we do not know which characteristics of him take that control. It is mostly his rage and rarely by the conscience of saving some one.

Bond has become a mad dog and he keeps on piling dead bodies in pursuit of the operation. He does not care to obtain information as the non-living things of his victims would tell a lot than them. And Judi Dench as M has more screen time than ever but less smarty dialogues than ever. The passionate witty conversation existed in the previous film with M and mainly with the Bond girl misses a lot. Replacing that is the mindless loads of action sequences. When I saw the starting chase scene of the predecessor, I thought it has been very long since I witnessed such an action in a commercial film making. Here though with umpteen of it, I lost interest and becomes a whole ADD in act.

I would have to agree that the Bond girl Camille by Olga Kurylenko gives an able match in physical strength but the empathy for revenge seems unconvincing. Adding to that is the role of Jeffrey Wright as CIA agent Felix Leiter adding nothing at all. The photography and the dozen world locations were a display of the mood Bond goes through but it just did not have the charm and novelty in its characters except from Craig.

“Quantum of Solace” is a gritty action film as “The Bourne Ultimatum”. I enjoyed the latter because the darkness of the character and the intelligence of its protagonist did not get to think and keeps on moving it as in the previous two films we have understood a great deal of him for an action thriller film. “Casino Royale” set the ground for the Bond we have seen all the years living in a fantasy land of dancing in pleasure with death and debauchery. It made him flesh and blood. The sequel to it of course still has him in flesh and blood but with a soul missing not in him but in the story.

I was not put off by the regular expectation of Bond films not present like Money Penny and gadgets expo 2020. I was put off by the flurry of random action sequences with no clue on the cleverness, agile or the presence of mind Bond showed earlier. I admired the hard work of Craig and in his every strenuous movement of his limbs it is understood. But it became a regularity I have often seen in action films. While it definitely is not the conventional Bond film we have seen before “Casino Royale”, it has the only motive to boost the fight factor into knuckles and bare feet. Sparsely we see Craig without any lacerations on his face. Even in the colour tone of something new and catching, I only saw the usual fair of block buster action. I hope we see more of those fencing conversations and a perfectly angled shot of an action sequence aware of what is happening than guessing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"My Architect" (Documentary) (2003) - Movie Review

Finally I made to a viewing of “Real to Reel” a film group in Peoria. My practice all these times was to come out of a film and directly write the review without discussing with any one. I have followed it not because I do not want to discuss but the mistrust in personal strength of holding train of thoughts. I am writing almost couple of hours later from when the film was over and I was tensed when I began talking with some people out there. Gladly I was able to remember more things and surely to bring in more perspective from different people of the same film.

Louis Kahn is a revolutionary artisan in the field of architecture during the times of late sixties and this fact I was not aware of. I did not know about such a person in first place. In fact Nathaniel Kahn the unrevealed son of Louis Kahn have glazed images but with much perfection of the events with his father when he was a child. Louis Kahn died alone in Pennsylvania Train Station in 1967 and Nathaniel was eleven at that time. After several decades Nathaniel decided to venture for the true quest to understand his dad and whether the belief of him and his mother of Louis coming to stay with them forever was true becomes his destiny.

To understand his father he visits almost all of the buildings he constructed. Louis Kahn’s entry into the populace of elite Architects happened when he was fifty. He was married and was a father. He also had an affair with his colleague and she became pregnant with his child. Then in his sixties met Nathaniel’s mother. Even after so many years none of them remember of Louis having a son. The journey unravels this riddled perfectionist and a recluse from the social clan brings anger than answers for Nathaniel. Of course Nathaniel does not show it explicitly in screen but you can feel it when he sees the horizons from the Salk Institute his father built.

We see brilliance as the symbol in bricks and sharp edges. It stands tall, hollow and magnanimous. The view of those structures blows gentle wind at your face on the ventilation and elevation the man has provided. It is simplistic but has a stature clearly representing endurance. Seeing the building should actually put a picture of a strong man with strong decisive thoughts. Instead we see Louis as a wanderer, unsettled workaholic and kind of annoying restlessness when it comes to compromising both personally and professionally. As every one else that part of his life would be a mystical darkness which would be scrutinized.

But what exactly is “My Architect” is what “51 Birch Street” is. Both have sons trying to understand their parents. In the latter the father is alive to shed out his feelings and the diaries of director’s mother to tell her side of the story. In “My Architect” it is the other away around and it goes through all the women in his life. He loved all of them and his kids but to me he was a man unwilling to give up his tendency of being a social animal and an idealistic personality in the embarkment of a life of his own. This in between persona earned his personal life a stain of irresponsibility.

And to see Nathaniel traveling around the globe to derive something out of it is something I would have hard time relating to. I am fortunate to have grown up with both the parents giving constant love to not get that feeling but I see something else too. The father is the strong man for his kids. He never would let the weakened side of him show up. And the sons and daughters want to believe that too and even as an adult the rationality of seeing them as some one as a regular person is hard to conceive. Despite the unconditional love going both ways the letting in of a father inside this super hero frame rarely happens. In that context I could very well empathize with Nathaniel.

One of the viewers said the music was too dramatic. I thought it tried too much but it did not annoy me. It would have been more apt for silence to substitute in certain places but it did not bring down the film. “My Architect” is not about architecture but it is a symbolism used as the contrast of character of this great artist in his mastery and in debacle of his personal life. Louis Kahn is an inspiration for many architects and end of day is a human would be the underlining of this film.

The film group invited an Architect to moderate a discussion and I felt the film is more about the emotions than buildings. The buildings as films is a work of art but the layers of sadness, freedom, space and time is the subject which would have been more appropriate to deal with. Nevertheless it was interesting to know certain elements of the architecture and the style of it from a person understanding and explaining it layman terms. Watching Louis Kahn’s life unfold with flaws, complexities and mistakes is an opening of any individual seated in the audience. Louis Kahn just happened to be a great architect and at least he could represent his feelings through architecture than most of us flutter in the monotone of conventional social life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Standard Operating Procedure" (Documentary) (2008) - Movie Review

Couple of week back I went to a Halloween party and of course had too much to drink. I randomly remember flashes around me which apparently was people taking pictures. When I saw it with me inebriated, dozed I felt something wrong out there. Of course nothing wrong than a crazy drunk but for an outsider looking it would be a clear stamp of me being a complete alcoholic. That moment is sealed for good and wrong reasons. When the Abu Ghraib prison’s infamous pictures came out I remember my reaction towards the soldiers in the pictures. Degraded and despised them for their actions. What “Standard Operating Procedure” does is asks what could have they done. Or doing the right thing would have made it worth? Or is it even wrong when in war everything is declared right with the person in power?

Errol Morris directed documentary thankfully does not go over the wrong decision of going on war to Iraq again. It interviews the soldiers who were in the pictures and who took them and their state of mind in doing so. What propelled them to smile and pose thumbs up on a naked Iraqi prisoner humiliated and psychologically tortured? The photographs as such are a symbol of inhumanity but the smile on their face made it psychopathic.

Morris depicts the actions through some acted out scenes in shadowy and blurry films. With heavily stylized shots of high quality HD, for a sufficient time I was not comfortable by the fact of shining these disgraceful events with super clarity images. But understood as the film went on that it is the style of the film maker. It bothered me but the idea is to disturb on the actual events far worse than what happened inside the frames of the photos.

We see soldiers explaining the scenario with something only can be said as an absence of empathy. The relative nature of an actual human being reacting to the cruelty in the prison and them are not something to be even mentioned. But the truth is more than that. It is about the orders and a man in control of charming and dominating characteristics. There is a female sergeant who took the photos reading the letters she sent to her husband of the horrendous scene the prison makes her to witness. She has also smiled and posed thumbs up. When asked why she did that, the reply was that she has always been used to do in front of a camera. And if she did not have it would have only brought more trouble to the unsettling figure of actual human emotions in light.

Sitting at the comforts of many things any one would call them dumb enough to take photographs and cowards not to stand up to the authority on the wrong doings. Judgments come for free and with plenty of feeling good about oneself. As explained clearly by an interviewee, if they would have not followed the order they would have been in trouble and they did and they are still in trouble. Another says the only thing she would have done different is to not join the military. Explaining how shocking it was is futile as it is redundant.

What happened in that prison seeing beyond the frames of the pictures, the situations of war and obeying orders is nothing but a psychological warfare of being in control. As happened in the infamous Stanford Experiment which also was made in to a German film “Das Experiment” when the most regular human being are given the role of guards and prisoners, the result was bad. Nothing violent but the psychological humiliation keeps the prisoner in their cell obeyed and in constant fear and pain.

The film nails its goal when the army investigator of this explains how to classify a “Criminal Act” and “Standard Operating Procedure” which becomes an insult of the logic and conclusions out of it. The film provides the story out of those images and says the cover up of throwing people under the bus. What happened was wrong and the soldiers accept it and wonder who they were at that point of time. One was driven by love, one was driven by loyalty, one was driven by the anger, one was driven by fear but beyond that came the mantra of “This is war and sh*t happens”.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"The Visitor" (2008) - Movie Review

There are films that I like and films that I would like to write. “The Visitor” would be the latter. Nothing more or less but the exact simplicity it has and the ending of a short story I would like to write. Tom McCarthy’s directorial debut “The Station Agent” is about three people with no commonality come together to form a friendship and a little more and in “The Visitor” the same happens, a little bit tragic than the former. It unravels the pain of stealing away a life formed on the basis of right to reside on the longevity of the stay and a hope that worst would not happen. It deals with the deportation procedure in the United States but that is one part of this mellow film with gentleness much like its protagonist Walter (Richard Jenkins).

Walter a professor living in Connecticut and who has spent most of his life in teaching and writing books is compulsively made to visit New York for attending a conference. He has an apartment in the city which he no more visits because it reminds of his late wife. He does not tell it but it is obvious. His apartment is squatted by a couple Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) from Syria and his wife Zainab (Danai Jekesai Guirra) from Senegal. In a good gesture Walter lets them stay for couple of days till they find a place. In a dead beat conference which he is not interested, Walter is involved and drawn to the Djembe Tarek has. Djembe is a percussion instrument played with bare hands and a sound reminding of the dance of African tribal dance we would have seen in Discovery or National Geographic. In couple of days Walter gets a great teacher and a good friend in Tarek. Events leads to the arrest of Tarek of being illegal immigrant and is kept in a detention center. Since Zainab is not a citizen, Walter begins to visit and soon is hosting Tarek’s mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass) too in his apartment.

McCarthy’s “The Station Agent” had the power of time warping without getting boring. The scenes are not dramatic but a weight remained consistently in the people involved carrying inside them and delivers in terse conversations. There is sadness in their existence but not in the regularity of it. In the life of being busy and getting on with the life of social mundane happenings, the avalanche in the assimilation of those wishful desires begin to loom along with the age. Suddenly it is twenty years with everything being denied on the basis of too old to. Walter, a widower finds a rhythm provided by Tarek and begins to follow it. And in the smile of Tarek and Mouna in her unadorned nature invites his attention to it.

More than the subtle sorrow of the situation, the genuine smile McCarthy brings up when Walter plays along with Tarek is the sweetest thing. And how easily is he able to slow down the vibrant New York by the people is a fact of how much it draws on the people it cares. Walter and Mouna like each other which starts as respect and ends with both of them falling in love of their respect is a thin line to walk on. In any other film it would have turned into paramount of awkwardness but not with McCarthy as he understands these people and more than that he respects his characters as they do with each other.

“The Visitor” has two dramatic pauses for Walter. When he dines with Mouna and explains his life of existence and when he finally spills out the anger and unfairness happening to good people by the operation of the system. Both the cases the integrity of Jenkins in giving Walter is precious. For once we actually do not know how this calm and lonely person would react. In fact Walter himself does not know how to show his anger which agonizes him and frustrates him more. Jenkins gives all those without stepping even an inch out of the story and the character.

“The Visitor” tells the tragedy of deportation rigidity and the randomness of it in post 9/11 America. Where legality and citizenship stand when some one has assumed their home and begin to make plans and find shelter in a land which is not their origin of birth. In a doubt filled and paranoid world, trust would be the word forgotten. Doubt can twist the facts to make it sustain and reside in a person. That is the era of invisibility internet creates in the closeness it promotes. As Tarek says, he is a regular man wanting to live his life and play music. It is a small world, a phrase made true by the advancement in the technology of communication but how much we have distanced from each other because of it?

“The Visitor” is a wonderful film and it is still growing on me. It has the lightness in presentation and ingenuity in the emotions of its characters. It appears to be a self discovery of lonely person the indie flicks loves to explore and the film loves it too with a help from other characters who are there for a reason rather than a plot pusher. And the self discovery of Walter is neither the cheery boasting clapping scenarios nor the overly subtle untold emotions morphing into arrogance. It is as simple as it can get and as rich in emotions it could be presented with lucidity for knowing its characters.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Gabbeh" (Language - Persian) (1996) - Movie Review

If some one could let me know what in the name of art did “Gabbeh” tries to say, I would feel a little happy of my artistic ignorance and blame myself for the inadequate nature to understand the eloquence or articulation of the film. But it would be far from the reality and a test of patience for an avid filmgoer like me. This Iranian film directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf gives something resembling a moral story from our child hood books but uninteresting and ridiculously boring without any agenda whatsoever. Forget the subtlety or the metaphor or the symbolism but the distraught cacophonic voice of the elderly man (Hossein Moharami) haunts me even now beyond the wolf like sound made by another horse riding man in the film. What is this and what is the point of even attempting to make such a film in the name of abstract art? Its abstractness is not a high stand too but a confused individual giving a wonderful photography of characteristics of none.

Attempting to explain the plot line of “Gabbeh” would put me in the awkwardness in the eyes of the readers. Because it neither suggests whether the sudden appearance of this woman named Gabbeh (Shaghayeh Djodat) from the carpet (“Gabbeh” means carpet in Persian) being washed by this old couple represents their marriage or the fantasy land of fable story she tells about her clan and her eternal love for a howling man. It in its mellow pace injects the potion of colourful yet bleached with its incoherent storytelling into the viewers to not bring in any encouragement to tell something simple or even dumb.

Dumb films, I can understand because it has the property of one such. “Gabbeh” is a child writing a story without any guidance. It is not cute either to appreciate the imaginative demonstration of the director. I for one do not believe in a story structure or an ending or anything at all. I believe in poetry of the film without any purpose but the beauty of it laying it out to the viewers who come with no expectation than to look for a good film. I love the audacity of certain film makers pushing the envelope of the experimentation into taking the viewer on a tour to the territories unexplored and mainly dangerously driven. Mohsen Makhmalbaf does not seem to even acknowledge that interest from the viewers. There is a denial in the uncommunicative manner the film takes on.

It has the narrative character of Miss Gabbeh telling about her family. A male chauvinistic father and the disciples of him as daughters and the uncle (Abbas Sayah) who comes out of nowhere and wants to marry some one for no reason. What is happening in the screen? I have been utterly devastated by the abuse of the screenplay, insult to the audience and the offensive nature in giving a film of inhumanity but in “Gabbeh” none of those are there but the inability to exist in a dimension for an enthused film lover and appears to make some meaning only Makhmalbaf could understand. True that an artist makes a film honest to his persona in first place before considering the audience and I am a great admirer and supporter of such philosophy but I am also befuddled and a little bit offended by the inactivity and chaos shown by the director out here.

Even in my dislike towards the films of Tarkovsky, there was a level of achievement in the presentation of the concept in his stream of approach. In the distaste I had for the films, there was a line of plot or in the blandness of it existed an end. Despite the meaningless flow, it had something going for it. In “Gabbeh” more than the high stand, it is the frustration of unable to understand even a single scene. I am not sure whether I hate my ignorance or the director’s presentation. Either way, “Gabbeh” did not make any sense.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"Baraka" (Documentary) (1992) - Movie Review

Ron Fricke a cinematographer involved in a similar experimental non-narrative documentary “Koyaanisqatsi” (which I have not seen) takes the concept of it into his direction and skill of motion image capture in “Baraka”. It is a collage of the pictorial beauty, beast and ordinary happenings from around the globe. Its spiritual connection is obvious and its analogical themes have a sense of humour of its own.

The word “experimental” comes as the out of tradition, non-formulaic new method which has an open ended result of unknown out come. It is a bit of unfairness as cinema as the medium in its trend of formulaic and genre centered production does not know its outcome either. But the experimental is not the idea of the director rather a naming convention for a genre of its own.

Having cleared that fact, I was absorbed for most of the part in “Baraka” and sadly similar to “Microcosmos”, it wore out its inventiveness in a while. But it lasted longer than “Microcosmos” and a lot better than it with poetry of the textured and multicoloured life. Filmed in 152 locations from 24 countries as expected it starts out with the serenity of the brutal nature. The nature gives out its untold poetry in one of its creation through the high standing snow mountains seeming to grow towards the space of absolute absence of air and an invitation into darkness. Then the shift happens into the dawn of a monastery and in the streets of the poor. Again it jumps into the transparency of the nature and the time lapsed images of its movement.

With those alternate travel through the worlds not through the nature but through the people of it is charismatic and a meditation of trance in human emotions. It focuses on the people who look at the camera emotionless and having a blank statement on their face. The tribal untouched children and women, a passenger sleeping off sitting in a train and the yogi in the lands of Varanasi, every one has a stale mask over their face. They are in that moment of forgetting their environment and begin to think of everything apart from their surroundings just as the film makes the viewers into doing that. Slowly in a very conscious manner I began to wander in thoughts of what the images made me to think or associate events and emotions in the life I have and led till now.

Despite this courage of purely transpiring the art of cinematography and back ground score speak its emotions, it does get a bit too attention deficit as time goes on. Through the unexplainable and hair rising artistic imageries in river of clouds and skulls of the innocent victims in a former concentration camps, it as a trance music begins to go blank in time. In its rare attempt on capturing the purity of not the nature but the variation in the humans in different cities, culture, religions, place and high buildings, it goes amiss in its duration. It fails to acknowledge its experimental procedure in the time stamp of its film.

Still I would recommend “Baraka” for many reason and the one will that there is no way we could witness such an overflow of extreme and pristine cinematography in our life time. While the capturing is the artist’s talent, the location and the culture it grasped exists to give such ideas to him or her in recreating those observations into a series of spectacular paintings. Even in the chaotic yet organized schedule of the traffic and the human flowing like ants in the high style of city there is a feel of virginity and pureness.

This reviewer tries really hard at many times while writing his review on coming up with more appropriate words for much original and honest adjective to express his feelings in order to completely justify the emotions, being fair to a film and also have an attempt on the poetry of writing. Most of the times in that process, my thoughts does not precisely translate into sentences and words as properly expected and attempted. Lost for words is a common thing for some one writing regularly but I would feel disheartened and cheated in not coming or able to find the right word for the experience. For “Baraka” which I did not completely enjoy but adored its originality and spectacular cinematography begs a word to represent it completely and honestly. “Essence” would be it. Essence as in the concentration of entire sweetness from the succulent fruits to hold the sense of it in a liquid form to taste it wherein we forget the crushing of the fruit to extract it. “Baraka” is one such experience in its essence of life.