Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Waltz with Bashir" (Language - Hebrew) (2008) - Movie Review

“Waltz with Bashir” an Israeli film directed by Ari Folman is an animated documentary but I would call it pseudo documentary. And I am not dropping a doubt or declining the mode of the film but to truly explain the nature of this piece. It is as many often is the most poetical pictures you could see for an animation film. It takes bleaching brutality of the bloodshed into a less stressful watch but mounting into the unavoidable disastrous tragedy of the humans. The film is stirred by a nightmare occurred to a friend Boaz Rein-Buskila (Miki Leon) of the director. He meets with Ari Folman the director himself and that incident questions Folman’s time in Lebanon War in 1982. His mind has erased the existence of that period of time and he desperately wants to see the ugliness hiding inside the brain cells.

He remembers that he was yards away from the Sabra and Shatila Massacre that took place in West Beirut, the knowledge of which I embarrassingly and shamefully not aware of. But the audience who will be watching this film have not heard as me and the film while does not give a lecture on what happened unfolds the hallucinations of the forgotten reality from the director. Ari travels and meets with his old friends and comrades whom have taken the trips apart from the defeating life of war. They have become a recluse and have surrendered to the inner guilt. Sometimes the brain made them forget and some time confrontation is all they have got.

Through these people with real interviews and the mixing enactments through the animation, we see the shootings, shelling and slaughter of the innocence, the irreversible guilt, paranoid fear and pure rage. With the power to dispose bullets, it is better to be safe than be sorry. The safe out here is the paranoid and fear surrounding and germinating in the simple objects around them. One of the veterans tells about a non-stop firing on a car which later found to be filled with a nice family. And the director walking in the airport dissolving in to the hopes of being in that place for vacation travel and not for war are an outcry I cannot imagine going through.

The psychologist Zahava Solomon explains about a media man covering the war. She once asked him how he is able to bear the gore and execution of soul in the field standing as a spectator. He mentioned her that he sees them as an image and not in emotions. And I learned that he saw it as a great graphical device to be framed and placed in a newspaper to transport the feeling of that scenario to another person in the world. Something similar to the audience seeing the film. The life span of the emotions is the duration of the film, most of the times. We get back to the road we came and go further or run around in circles but the emotions expire. The media man managed to do that and separate it until the “camera” broke as Zahava puts it.

The animation is the key in telling this story. It is gruesome and affecting which is how it should be but keeps it going to complete the film. It is not a shock value or a spectacle of emotional black mail but how the clan, cult, religion, sect and what not has nothing to do with the past but mere labels to group the atrocities and victimizations. It also symbolizes that what exists in the mere end is the actions and inactions of oneself in a particular part of their life. That is forgotten and convinced in the corner of the mind to be otherwise but sometimes even the dismembered truth is enough to bring back the past. It is very effective in the past we want to forget.

“Waltz with Bashir” has a music which does not move with consistent theme. It uses electronic, orchestration and rock to aid the visual of surrealism better. It is immense and deep when we see the recurring nightmares of Ari about him floating in the sea and walking naked to the shores and getting dressed to see the flares lighting up the skies and the city. That is shown very many times but each time it adds a layer of an emotion based on the lit factors.

I was moved of course and disturbed deeply in the end as expected. But the journey to that abyss of questioning humanism is filled with love for the art of films. In bringing those colours and novel animations for story to be told on the human blunder not in the act but in being stale and non-reactive is a clever and honest presentation. In the film “The Happening” when the gun shots are heard in the far corner of their other group, the wife of the hero asks and shouts for doing something saying “We're not gonna be one of those a******s on the news who watches a crime happen and not do something!” History has written the horrendous acts of the evil doers in holocaust and very many other wars happening in front of us. In “The Reader” a lawyer spits on the inability of his previous generation not to act and simply going along with the Hitler’s crimes. And here in “Waltz with Bashir”, a man along with many had trained his mind subconsciously to forget the silent spectatorship. What can we do when the world is running in one direction and the direction is quite wrong in every possible aspect? Do we run along or take a turn? The answer is in the film and the lifespan of that emotion should extend beyond the screen.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"High Noon" (1952) - Movie Review

“High Noon” is unlike any western. It builds up the suspense and in the pursuit of arriving it depicts a failure of a town willing to stand up for anything. It begins heightening hopes of seeing a showdown fight continuing for very many hours between the good and evil. It is because when the film begins at somewhere around late morning aiming to the title time for a stand in battle between the retired Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) and a released criminal he put down Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald). Miller is arriving at the noon train to the town of Haydeville. Instead of gun play we see the lone Marshal just married to Amy Kane (Grace Kelly) on his way out of the town coming back for something inside him adamant enough to hold up his life for and his desperate attempts to line up some soldiers.

Westerns as much as it is boasting about the hard men with rugged yet smooth shaven faces runs more empathetic and sentimental than many would see it as so. Here Will Kane is at the end of his career and wonders to have pleasant time in his newly married life is drawn back in to the town. He has managed to clean the streets mainly by putting away the worst criminal five years back, Frank Miller. The clan of Miller parades through the town towards the train station wherein the news of the Miller’s arrival travels in waves. Minutes after his wedding, Kane is pushed away fast by his friends and townspeople to vacate the place after hearing the news. Kane leaves with Amy but he cannot as something in him torments. Amy leaves him towards the train station and he in the line of righteousness roams around the town for men to stand by him and fight this thing over when Miller arrives.

As Kane is met with failure after failure in getting his men, people have already began to assume his death. Every one want him out, some for Kane’s concern while many to avoid the hassle coming out of this bloody war. Kane is stubborn. He is shocked by the people in town for whom he has served faithfully and dangerously to be shunned and even blamed for the upcoming vengeance trail. One by one whom Kane meets disappoint him. He comes close to get away but he is gone too far to go back. He stays.

“High Noon” is a statement. A very strong political statement which raised controversies into the era of HUAC (House Committee on Un-American Activities). It is about a man questioning his faith on law and people. But it is not about law as the film walks on the shadow of Will Kane. It is about one man’s relentless righteousness. Is he stupid? May be. Most of the humans who stand on the stone of values and in a state of metaphysical elements inside them are considered so. While the reality defeats them and throws stones, they are drawn into the inner self of being who they are and taking pride in being so. While the world spits them at their face and stomps them on the ground in order to make an example of moving away from the system of staying off from troubles, they dust up and run right after their goal as if nothing happened. Such is Will Kane.

Gary Cooper presents a face fitting the man. He is old enough to retire but young enough to gun sling with wisdom. He comes magnetic and surrounded by the immense stature of his personality where he goes. He gets broken down but has a stance of pulling himself together for the fight he knows of losing. Even his hopes of building a team is to satisfy his preparation. He wants to cover bases with himself in order to die with precision and no regrets. Cooper underlines it but not overwrought it.

Written by Carl Foreman who got questioned by the HUAC, this film carries lot of cultural significance because of it. More than the times when debacle of freedom occurred under the hands of political stupidity, “High Noon” is a brave film towards that. It took the concept of strong men being posed in westerns as very many thought into cowardly people escaping into the posing woods of supposed smartness.

Look how much information it gives on the people speaking of the past and the present reflecting their state of mind without any facade. It happens in real time moving into the hot sun directly hitting the heads of our lead man to add one more enemy to fight for. When the tour to recruit deputies for his fight ends and when his past and present lovers pass through him. He lifts his head wistfully of course not smiling. We feel sorry for the poor guy from the bottom of our hearts. That makes “High Noon” a completely different Western film I have ever seen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Smiley Face" (2007) - Movie Review

Gregg Araki’s “Smiley Face” is a glorified cacophony of an desperate attempt to create an eventful crazy day in the life of a stoner Jane F (Anna Faris). Jane is at the top of a Ferris Wheel talking to herself through a celebrity voice of Roscoe Lee Browne (I knew about him only through this film). Of course the clock is tuned back to the start of the day as Jane settles for an usual early morning. That will be to sit on the couch inhaling copious smokes of marijuana and playing a dubious video game. The stoning directs towards some munch and Jane steals the cup cakes prepared by her nerd room mate Steve (Danny Masterson). It is a weed seasoned cup cakes putting her for an ultimate spin of complete screwed up day of random silliness and chaos.

Beginning with some giggles it does not take much for its temporary charm to fly off the story. Anna Faris a comic seen in spoof films makes a wonderful stoner. She mumbles with eyes wide and lips little bit open tempting for a drool but not quite enough, to enact the perfect face of being high. With a mysterious question mark look and as a faithful pot consumer, she wavers into focussing on solving her busy day ahead. She has to pay the electricity bills her room mate has left who deserves to be treated like this. He does so because if some one is dumb enough to leave the responsibility of paying bills to a perennial pothead, he needs to go down and out to learn his lesson.

Adding to that is Jane’s acting audition. The recent consumption of the “special” cup cakes makes her to buy some more “happy greens” from a dealer (Adam Brody) who threatens to take away her sweet and luscious bed if she fails to pay back his 40$. Thus she steps outside and one after another it is a repetitive annoyance of how noise, scream and simple occurrence around Jane spooks her out on the effects of the drug.

Now we have seen the acid trips and hallucinatory obligations in films taken as a free arena for creative extension and easy laughs. And trust me it works like a charm every time despite its odd oldness. In “Smiley Face”, the comedy becomes pester and as with the characters Jane meets we begin to get boring creeps out of her. She is purely out there and in this obvious irresponsibility, we could not blame her as the drugs are taking her to a land where her limbs are taken off the brain nerves. She wobbles into the streets and paranoids in to the routines.

Then it begins to take the route of avant garde presentation of comedy in its weirdness. The characters she meet either are mindless morons or doubtful lethargic dumb people who do not notice this lady on her trip to wonderland. People trust her in giving rides to places and give her rare documents to deliver. She of course takes what she is given and rides what she is offered.

Anna Faris has been praised by many for her commitment to the role of Jane F. I do appreciate her work in this because it is tough to imagine for some one to be in that mode of unmotivated and declining character without being actually under the influence of the drugs. She is funny when the script works with her physical comedy and her facial staleness gets her through the role. But even her both in character and person does not seem to have fun.

Araki of course seems to be a director of instincts and maintains his integrity throughout his films. Thus was his previous venture “Mysterious Skin” which quite disturbs but not appeals. Here he attempts to wear the clothes of funny tone using the stoner genre into indie flick and doing a transformation into his style. It becomes painfully distorted and uneventfully placid for the chaos it boasts.

Most of the time I felt like watching a kid’s film made for adults of course with mature themes with immaturity. That is what silly comedy is, is not it? Yes indeed but there needs to be the factor of uninterrupted laughs in that evident childishness. “Smiley Face” has the flavour of stupidity but begins to take it quite seriously. Hence as the film intended to be a pot trip on its own becomes a character under influence accompanying and irritating us till the film ends with an unsympathetic note towards its audience.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Who Killed the Electric Car?" (Documentary) (2006) - Movie Review

Documentaries has the power to make us look small. Small enough to stand aghast at the limitless cause and effect of the system around us. It has the wand only very realistic to stir up the magic in the sense of the viewers to look beyond the screens, the doors and the city limits of their living. Such is the potential of a documentary even when it involves a ridiculous stunt or two by Michael Moore in his films, it is powerful. “Who Killed the Electric Car?” has some but I could see the frustration of the EV1 drivers who desperately protest in not allowing the cars to be crushed by the makers itself, General Motors.

Director Chris Paine takes the forgotten car which was buried even before it surfaced. It is a technology which some might have heard only when Tom Hanks emphasized with his biting humour in “Late Show with David Letterman”. Where did it start and why did it end without much publicity? Why did now hybrids are sprouting around every one with a cry for alternative sources when thirteen years back there was a chance for a better car with a dependability towards electricity than the liquid gold? “Who Killed the Electric Car?” is a film with good bullet points and it is simple and reachable. A very strong characteristic for a documentary.

It does not mock but groans with frustration. The film which opens with a funeral service for a car is only little encouraging on its unbiased presentation. But it does well for most part. Why does drama takes a great precedence when facts reaches better in films like this? It might appeal for its purpose but the route only worsens. It almost seems impossible to look past the affection Chelsea Sexton shows towards her EV1 cars. She worked as an marketing expert in the EV1 vehicle manufactured by General Motors. She says they are her babies and she treats it more than as a pet. It takes hard time to understand it because we did not go through the work of building it from scratch and we did not have our dreams which nurture the expectation in reality to be shattered by unreasonable circumstances. The knowledge of that in later part of that film makes us empathize with her. Not sympathize but understand.

The film takes a very good strategy in identifying its culprits in the murder of the electric car. It puts forth them as suspects and then declaring “guilty” and “not guilty” in the end. It takes a stand in its decision which is reasonable and ends with a hope of better tomorrow which is now or never. There are grievances, many so told with ambiguity on how a company which went far, beyond and unbelievable in erasing any traces of its product. That tells how much of a cut throat is in the arena of capitalization.

The obvious suspects are the oil industries. Their business would be jeopardized and that points us to the known story of government. Then it extends to the stand the California Air Resources Board (CARB) did not take in the fear of law suits from the Automotive industries who were adamant and spoilt in adapting for a change. When CARB imposed the Zero Emission Mandate it terrified the Automakers of losing their market share in their existing cars. But as Joseph J. Romm an expert and author mentions, the irony of Japanese actually fearing of losing the competition in this new mandate came up with better cars. Now the reality of every body opting for Japanese cars has ultimately put the big three out of business in the current economic condition.

“Who Killed the Electric Car?” could have been an all through clean cut documentary which would have garnered a wider audience. An audience who can easily dismiss the intentions showing the stunts performed by the activists in trying to save the “killing” of the EV1. I am not ridiculing their efforts. Their intentions gets misconstrued as a materialistic obsession than a genuine concern for the ultimate direct effect of those cars towards the reality of environment, fuel efficient and non-polluting transportation.

A very good soundtrack which bows itself out to the pictures but plays out in a distant room to be heard but not be disturbed is a right choice by the film makers. Along with that is the original music by Michael Brook accomplishes the spreading quality of simplicity with an effectiveness. It is sad to see President Jimmy Carter in late 70s telling that the government’s aim in reducing the dependency of foreign oil for the country of US only to be repeated hopelessly by George Bush in 2006. Now the very same line is repeated by the current President Obama advocating the change as his mantra. Hope we do not have a documentary in thirty years taking that clip to show our world’s failure continuing further.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"American Movie" (Documentary) (1999) - Movie Review

“American Movie” is something of a tough watch as you would see the words coming out of Mark Borchardt in the start of the film splashed as a bucket of water on to my face. He has the passion as I have for the films and the difference though is he does not have a steady job and a lot more too. But of course in the current times, nothing is steady yet the film is documented during late 90s. And the other difference is he acts on his passion unlike me sitting on the couch. He acts quite immensely and pours energy consistently over a span of three years to a film “Coven” which I could not finish watching. It is that bad. But this is about the making of that film. Though this film’s title carries a subtitle of “The Making of Northwestern”, it is about making of “Coven”. “American Movie” is a funny, moving, mocking and a touching film by Chris Smith.

Mark Borchardt in Milwaukee, Wisconsin works on tight film budget with loans and debts and what not along with problems of his own. He has been postponing his work of making films for so long and he wants to hit it and hit it hard. He is thoroughly convincing and a man tall, lean with a good nice inches of glasses, his physicality is no wonder brings the comic element to the film. And we do ridicule him as he seriously digs into the process. He is constantly talking and working through his passion even though his projects gets shelved understandably of financial and talent reasons. As we have no doubts on his failure and the film which he begins to work on morph into something else he started a while ago, we are sucked into his camera, life and ultimately a documentary blossoming into great emotions and truly moving film.

Mark has great friends. Two in particular have been with him forever. This is a documentary filled with characters. Characters of immense weird surrealism. The people whom Mark befriended in involving them in his films and most of all drinks. A lot of drinks. One such is Mike Schank (who also composed simple soothing guitar picking score for this film) who seem to be existing in reality within himself and pictures the actual reality as a fantasy he questions. He is in a suspended state of clear and good high. But by the time the film finishes he has quit drugs and dropped down on drinks and he still wanders like that. We are illuminated by the fact that he in fact got imbibed in that aura of ambience and that is him. Truly him.

Another one is Ken Keeen, child hood friend and a big time alcohol buddy for Mark. He helps in shooting, editing, locations and everything Mark needs help. And then there is Mark’s father Cliff and his mother Monica. They have seen this kid grow with a camera in hand and they have warned and scolded and he never let that down. In the film though they are completely in support with him. Even when Mark is ready to give up, his dad wants him to keep going. Of course Mark is far from perfect, very very far but he works hard.

What is beautiful about this film which creates comedy on the expense of these characters, especially of course Mark, is the people who sticks with this man in the worst of times. And Mark despite his strangeness is a some one stirring up the passion in others. He weathers the strong words, the dismissal of his existence and every other form to be oblivious to the life outside of his imagination. His dad though has given up on funding his film but does not stop encouraging him. That turns to the most intriguing, comical, philosophical and adorable character in the film, Uncle Bill. Bill humiliates Mark at every instant with plain truth about his failure. Yet he loans him money and when Mark visits him for thanksgiving and other occasions, he pinches him with sarcasm. With all the cynicism the man just could not shun away the optimism of Mark who sucks thirty takes of this trembling old man.

When “American Movie” begins and we see Mark with a bum written all over his face and Mike Schank confirming it, we have no respect for him. As we see him in works, however untalented he would be for his ambitions, he pursues. He proposes a business plan of selling 3000 units of his film to earn back profit and repay Uncle Bill which of course is an illusion (now though with the popularity of this film, that does not seem unachievable). But it is more for him to finish and be in the trance of completing it. And it is the passion of every other people he stirred to be fulfilled by making this film. However bad “Coven” would be, there is something extremely human about seeing it. We know how hard every one worked and how lovely are Mark’s mom, Mark’s dad, his girl friend Joan and all the actors and crews who believed in that. Understanding that makes “American Movie” a great form in captivating true human emotions of aspiration, belief and love.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"American Splendor" (2003) - Movie Classics

Have you ever paused a movie because you are laughing so hard that you fear of missing at least five minutes of the next part of it? I have not, until I saw “American Splendor”. An year shying away from a very close comparison to “Adaptation.”, this is one of the most unbelievably funny movie I have ever seen in my life so far. Charlie Kauffman wrote himself in his script with fiction, reality and creativity like no other in “Adaptation.”. “American Splendor” is from a man claiming himself as the nobody is actually more than that tells his story from the years starting the day he begins to kick start his life, in his own gloomy way of course. This is Harvey Pekar.

See that I did not cite the actor who played him in braces. Because it needs some explanation. The film is about the life of the Harvey Pekar, a living man and he narrates the story. It educates on how he got himself into the world of comics and how it got himself to put him in it. He becomes a character in his comic book which he only pens and gets the help of other artists to draw him. Hence he becomes different faces of the same character on how each of the artist see him. Some do dignifying look, others gross him out as hairy and disgusting being and another draws him as it is. Everything is a little part of him as it would be of any of ourselves. We will be watching his life spanning from his youth till middle age laughing for the most part and then beginning to empathize. Before we know, we see a more profound and in depth commentary of an ordinary life magnified by the people outside but Harvey living and acknowledging the hole he came up and dealing the events bigger than that with what it is, temporary and providing.

Paul Giamatti plays the movie version of Harvey Pekar. The film cuts few scenes with the real life characters and put the comic graphics with the story. We see a blend of everything. A comic book, documentary, reality and the whole thing is a morphed reality of fiction from the memories of a man. This is not an experiment film but a film of true integrity adapting the comic book and events of actuality. A man so full of dreary, despair and floats in a vacuous state of cheerless clouds. We see him losing his voice and his doctor asking him to stop yelling as the suggestion for cure. He could not as his second marriage goes to drain and he cannot do anything about it, not even shout on anger and to plead.

He works as a file clerk in a VA Hospital in the city of Cleveland. He does not give a damn and burns internally of the criticism of the America around him. Not in the outcast speech way but how it affects him in his regular day of work. The monotony and his complete inability to make something out of the ordinary. His failure becoming the only better part of his existence. A job to hate but institutionalized in it and the stretched time of loneliness seeping into his thick sin and is almost there to tear the elongated slowness of his routine. This frustration blooms into a reality TV narration only a lot more original, better and honest to begin his comic book career. The film becomes the same and invents itself through brilliant castings and acting with a daring direction from Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.

But being funny is from the happenings around a normal man. He is more clearer than any one of his sunken living and has that clarity of thought to put it across of his day’s overhearings, encounters and experience into words which triggered the comic into the film that work precisely for the same. It is not boasting but bluntly truthful. It does not act smart but wonders how complicated, chaotic the day can be with people of every day dumbness.

Harvey despite his popularity in comic book continues without of course ever quitting the file clerk job but one fine day he is teased of being with a woman when he meets his old school mate Alice (Maggie Moore). And suddenly a film so funny turns for a few minutes into the sadness and pain of a being in the city walking alone in the streets empty. He sees that gap as a writer losing himself in lost for words seeing a blank white page. Then it springs back and we see a comic geek in a far away place at Denver getting irritated by her life giving tough time. She is annoyed because she missed reading the latest comic book edition of “American Splendor”. That is Hope Davis portraying Joyce Brabner. We do not identify her as the love interest of Harvey not because of Hope Davis but because of the immediacy we come to realize how similar and perfect her agony and cribbing coincides with our main man.

“American Splendor” blew me away, completely on my back, flat and plain, wondering aloud looking right up on the false ceiling upwards. Every one identifies with Harvey not because of the dreaded term of every man but of the turmoil of self esteem, low confidence and the tough life every one goes through even in the most financially proliferous job. It differs in the environment but the feeling is mutual. But it is also due to the character Harvey Pekar himself and Paul Giamatti nailing it. It is difficult to imagine but being on the same set as some one whom you are portraying is a tough gig and mainly to share the time on the screen. It is slightly made easy by an immaculate screenplay by the directors and of course Pekar and Joyce themselves.

It is weird that what Pekar did is a form of trashy reality TV. But what is the difference of this autobiography and the crappy TV show? It is the daunting honesty of saying what it is without any speck of manipulation, over dramatization or made up insanity. Most of us passionate about something see the life of us through it. Our stories written in books, our successes coming up as a character in a play or the submerged secrecy of passion in paintings and the songs which takes the otherwise mute day into something special. In music, books, paintings and theatre, it adds the beauty of the missing colour in the regularity of the day. I see that in films. What do you see?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Frozen River" (2008) - Movie Review

Remember when the border patrol officer in “Babel” steps back and puts one hand on his holster when a normal questioning of the driver becomes suspicious? You would be engulfed with that feeling of being scared helpless when Ray (Melissa Leo) and a Mohawk named Lila (Misty Upham) smuggle a Pakistani couple across the border. It is the single most heart stopping event in this film which no doubt is one of the best films of 2008. Written and directed by Courtney Hunt, it takes the illegal immigrant smuggling this time around through the frozen river spread across on an Indian Reservation in the border of Canada near upstate New York.

The chilling morning wakes up the family of Ray. A mobile dream home of theirs is sent back when Ray’s husband has left them without the payment money. He is a gambling addict we know through slipping lines of conversation between Ray and her elder fifteen year old son T. J (Charlie McDermott). Both love the house’s pet kid Ricky (James Reilly). Ray works in a grocery store and swims her fingers through the lump of coins in her hand every time a necessity for cash comes by. She spots her husband’s car run by some one else and following it leads to the Land of Mohawk where police jurisdiction ends. She meets Lila and not particularly in a mood for friendship as she struggles through to get her stolen car back. Lila suggests that she knows some one who would pay good money for the car. And Ray is tricked into a quick run of smuggling illegal immigrants from Canada border hiding them in the trunk of the car. There will be couple of easy trips to encourage Ray to get in for a scary two trips.

Like it or not, the wide spread of multi diverse nationalities throughout US is something has come to reflect in every part of the life in the country. There is at least one Indian guy in a Sitcom or a Television series. And there is sure to get a hit of Call Center jokes and California being said as another extension of Mexico or the take outs from a Chinese Restaurant in the daily Late night talk shows. I recall the times when I heard the various methods to be immigrated to Canada which is a one stop before US. And I was venturing into the regular legal traffic of getting to the country of US myself, do Masters. The American dream has definitely caught up with the speed and the flow of this population despite the sighs and groans from the people of the country. It has also led to a system of inter dependency. “Frozen River” takes that desperation in to its back ground story. Lila explains that the cost of transporting one person across the border is so much that they got to work for their owner in US for a year without wages to pay it. And Ray wonders why they want to come here when she is struggling herself to make ends meet. She does not know the conversion rates of dollars to other currencies.

Ray and Lila who are united by the force of financial need than anything else come to understand each other as the film’s intentions are but not on their differences. They both are mothers in the mess of being stranded and seeing through their day hour by hour. Lila has been robbed of her year old son and Ray knows how much her sons miss their dad whom she of course hates. With those, Ray and Lila go through the business through some good people and obviously the bad people along the way.

Melissa Leo makes it look easy. I hardly come to notice the performance when the moment comes for her character to save her own self and then look back on the river she has crossed to redeem something. She is fierce, hard and carries the common contempt in the overlooking of Indian Reservation being left for their own rules and systems. She is bold and foolish but uses that because of her need to support her family than being selfish.

There are films which brings together the people of various origins to point the stereotypic elements and then tweak the preconceived notions on each other into a mix of tense and scary situations. At that time, believe it or not you would forget the origin. Not in the melodramatic cliched manner but truly the fear grabbing by the neck and making you worry. The path to destruction is visible throughout as the characters knows it too and at that instance the feeling of good people being hurt is unbearable. You want to understand and do the best for make it go away. There are films which agonizes and makes you feel to wish that every one watch the film and give a chance for the people around them. “Crash” and “Babel” does that. So does “Frozen River”.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974) - Movie Classics

“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” is a Scorsese’s speech of love. But the love is not the selling point out there. There is no selling point of emotions in films of Scorsese except for its reality. What an eye for simple beauty in reality does this man has. And how does he extract the best out of the actors and some how in the interviews they speak about the film, there is an essence of jubilation and an experience they would never forget even in their pinnacle of many successes. This is Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson in an atypical Hollywood persona interview who has something to say about the film in the special features.

Taking the heat and survival of the life, Alice (Ellen Burstyn) is left with her son Tommy (Alfred Lutter). They are stranded in the town of Sorocco in New Mexico after her husband Donald (Billy Green Bush) dies in an accident. Alice wanted to be a singer but was happy or thought she was happy in a rugged care of Donald. He was grumpy, angry and treated what Alice wanted her to be, crappy and dominant. He comes home and while Alice begs some attention from the man she goes down under the ground to please, he ignores her. But she cries and wonders the open ended road she has to travel along with a son to support after Donald is gone. She is cheery, smart mouthed and ditto for her son. Both form a pair and head towards the west. She wants to pursue her singing and makes stops in cities for a temporary work to get them where they want to. The place is called Monterey, California where Alice in her teenage had the best time of her life singing and hoping for stardom and ambition.

The first stop they make is the city of Phoenix. Sun seem to reside personally for every one and Alice goes hunting for a job with a bored son in the motel. She is thirty five and works very hard to hide herself in make up and polished skin to pass for an under thirty singing talent. She lands in a job after some tears and a song to her would be employer Jacobs (Murray Moston). As the job starts to settle and routine becomes routine and when the men passes around, there comes the young Ben (Harvey Keitel). Charming and smooth. He fights hard with fencing words and getting jabbed but sure he reaches to Alice and to us. Little do we know about what would end up as the scariest thing ever.

The beautiful thing about the film is how Alice and her son converse. Whether Tommy speaks more adult or Alice behaves more childish is a tough thing to decide. Tommy is an amplified male young version of Alice and adds the classy annoying character of being a kid. He pesters the living daylights of Alice but a sweetness and sarcasm which Alice is a little proud about makes them live with the happiness they earn everyday. Alice promises him a school at Monterey and a great life out there.

When the consequences of choices make them flee to the town of Tucson, Alice has come to settle for something. She becomes a waitress in crazy breakfast place. She hates the place and she despises her fellow waitress Flo (Diane Ladd). But they get along fine in series of strange circumstances. There is a man with a beard and manliness sweating through begins to woo Alice. That is David (Kris Kristofferson). He knows the right way to approach Alice and that is through Tommy. Alice loses grip in a nice way about the dream of Monterey and begins to fall for this man.

If all those sounds like I have given the story, it is not that. It rarely does matter. It is about Alice wondering what is to be independent. She wants to be held but wants to stand up when she wants. She needs an ambition she has forgotten but respect the social and personal need for a companion. Does not everything align up? That is the life we have to compromise and deal for.

Of course Scorses brings his unique piece of flavour. The actors in his film wants to be that character even if the person is the worst personality ever. Such is the passion he generates that their becoming of the people is a willing process they learn to behave as their role. And in between those people the director creates the simple love, adorable affection and scary fury.

So many lovely scenes and an ending happening in the middle of the cafe crowded with regulars appearing none cinematic, sappy or melodramatic at all. He even invites an applause when the couple kiss without a blink of snatch away from the reality he thrives upon. How romantic they fall in love and charm each other. This is spectacular and funny in the role of Alice making merry with the little day she gets with her son.

Seeing a presentation from 1974 and a romance which one would love to see again and again, what happened to those cadre in coming days. It is like giving up on this genre and if that is sad, the worst part is the audience coming to settle for it. They laugh at the pathetic act of the stereotype and say that is what we watch a film for. It is unsettling. You do not need to be an avid art lover but a simple acknowledger of the honesty.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Confessions of a Shopaholic" (2009) - Movie Review

“Confessions of a Shopaholic” does one thing right and that is to clearly show how an shopping addicted person would be and we come to dislike her. And they do it even towards the adorable Isla Fisher, here she is under the clothes of spoiled young woman named Rebecca Bloomwood. She lies without a care to a debt collector from the credit card company, Derek Smeath (Robert Stanton) and he fights till he can to bring her down good and clear. P.J. Hoogan directed film is two hour of seeing one of the most irresponsible person over the screen and the worst of it is wants us to laugh about it.

Rebecca is a young journalist in New York with a financially frugal parents from whom she learned the opposite in spending. She goes wild in shopping unnecessarily and does it good. I have always wondered at this concept of shopping. I would not deny that there is a warmth of a great feeling to own something but I also know bloody well that it is pure feeling of control and very temporary in its posing of happiness. But is that something of an addiction for many people to go bonkers about it? May be it is but does it also invite a sense of irresponsibility? Looks like it. I shop DVDs a lot but under very rare circumstances I go beyond spending 10$ per piece. Will I be buying DVDs while being hunted by debt collectors? Nope and I feel insulted to ask me that question.

And if any of you think that it is a craze women possess, you are completely wrong. I have seen guys whose face glee with happiness and glow like seeing angels pouring sunshine especially for them. There was an order in spending when the currency existed as paper and did not become plastic. Sadly that card has got most of us in the current economic mess in the form of credit. The film while unabashedly lives through Rebecca Bloomwood and her obsession for shopping, it after making her a pester and a liar in the end wants sympathy. That annoyed me or even kind of made me feel of making fun of my sense of judgment. The solution they arrive for her problem is to sell all her clothes and make further budding addicts to that world of uncontrollable spending. And to top it off she gets her revenge on the debt collector who understandably goes nuts over her TV show after he has tried every possible avenue to get her attention to pay her bills.

I have seen couple of films of Isla Fisher and have been impressed with her performance. Even in a supporting miniscule role in “Wedding Crashers”, she was ecstatic as the obsessive and rough lover to the man who just wanted to sleep with her. Then she perfectly embraced a little matured but still colourful woman in “Definitely, Maybe”. Those two instances said that she could have been what Amy Adams is doing right now. She is full of energy and can tone down when necessary. And she can single handedly make a mark on you. Here she does that in a fallen story of ridicule and an abuse of the medium.

There is of course a better character than Rebecca in this film which would be her love interest. An English man trying to make a name for himself is Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy). He strikes off Rebecca’s name for a job after an abysmal interview. But in a drunken night in figuring her credit bills with a very devoted friend Suze (Krysten Ritter), Rebecca wrongfully mails the original aspiring letter for her dream job to Brandon’s magazine, “Successful Savings” ironically.

As I painfully finished watching the film, I was wondering whether I am being an hypocrite in not truthfully acknowledging the tendency to shop in every one while naming it as a materialistic and superficial statement taking a high stan. For that matter any kind of activity focussing on the levels of addiction has a chance with every one but we do not act upon it. Of course they are talking extremities but is there a film about alcoholism which actually glorifies it and then says, “Hey, It is bad”?

More than badly made, “Confessions of a Shopaholic” sugars up its concept fluttering its exciting wings towards the glass doors on the shops. Rebecca will of course learn her lesson and they put a moral conscience ending to it but not in the manner of conviction. The redemption she does only encourages further crazed shoppers to take a dip in this vanity fair. This is a film which migrates beyond its awful nature and stomps on the value it advocates. I guess I am more upset because of its hypocrisy.

"The International" (2009) - Movie Review

When the trailers for “The International” started coming up, I noticed the director of the film is Tom Tykwer. Tykwer, the director of the ethereal film “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” and it puzzled me. Clearly the trailer’s indication of “The International” does not fall into the leagues of Tykwer. It appeared to be the cheesy thriller which is destined to fail and it reveals most of its main plots to attract the viewers, a typical procedure. The truth though is that both the film and the trailer begins by telling that the fictional International Bank of Business and Credit (IBBC) conducts questionable business choices upfront. The movie is the process of building evidences amongst dead and disappearing pertinent people and there you can see how a talented director like Tykwer can make a plot of nothing into something else.

I always like a film where it finds thrill in the places of silence and stillness. That is something Tykwer managed to do in “Perfume:...” and the eye treating “Heaven”. There is a stalking that consummates into a bloody battle throwing the film out of its envelope a little. As Agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) from Interpol works out day and night in trying to find hard evidences connecting IBBC with the wrongdoings, the camera always has a broad way of showing a single man against a giant structure. A feat which at the end becomes quite unachievable by the realm of definition the justice has moulded Salinger for.

The villains of “The International” are couple of them with that one leader Jonas Skarssen (Ulrich Thomsen) and he is smooth and subtle but mainly not deadly and demoniacal a film of this kind generally attempts to show. He knows exactly his implications and operations are but not menacing. He is a cold man enough to convince himself of the way the world works. Along with New York District Attorney Eleanor (Naomi Watts), Salinger tries to pin this company down both moving with the minimum evidence they got and mainly working on their instinctive common sense. Nothing spectacular but simple things they have acquired in the jobs which any hard working person would have working so long. They manage to find the trajectories of bullets using flag sticks and get the footprints hiding under stagnant pool of water on the roof of the building. Those are which makes them more human to this gargantuan plot of accusing banks of trafficking money for the purpose of controlling, well the power of control as such.

The idea is quite extraordinarily explained by a defense company head Umberto Calvini (Luca Giorgio Barbareschi) who broke the deal with IBBC. He explains that we are indeed moved around by the money we owe than actually what we have. And the characters whom they meet on different countries as cops and agents automatically became a supporting cast befriending their new colleagues. Such happens when Salinger hunts down the assassin (Brian F. O’Byrne) with the New York Detectives (Felix Solis and Jack McGee). Salinger impresses them with his out of the usual technique in getting information and they find a frequency as the screenplay does.

The assassin gets a good ironical name from the company referring him as “The Consultant”. I quite did not go all the way into admiring this film which obviously loses control in the shooting fall out in the art museum. IMDB Trivia indicates that the film had bad previews and scenes were reshot to make it an action film. What a shame. But it only suffers a little bit of it and then comes back to the most intense scenes in it. With Salinger suffered enough defeats and meeting considerable amounts of dead ends, he is confronted by a choice by a crucial partner in the IBBC, Wilhelm Wexler (Armin Mueller-Stahl). Wilhelm has been that idealist what Salinger aspires to be and has taken the choices which he never really liked for greater good and that obviously did not turn out rosy. He places the exact same offer to Salinger and he knows he has hit his limit.

“The International” is a film which seem to give the feel of routine thriller action but is a more polished and very importantly intelligent film. It has Clive Owen who appears to be born to do roles like this, a run down man for so many times and not even once boring the audience. He is so good at it that he can produce a series of “Harry Callaghan” types of films Eastwood did. Along with a very supportive supporting cast as screenplay makes them to be and a panoramic view of Tom Tykwer, “The International” churns things out of nothings and it is good enough to keep you interested for the two hours of it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Driving Lessons" (2006) - Movie Review

The oddest and the outlandish speakers amongst us would be the greatest inspiration in peculiar of times. Sure they will be cocky, inappropriate and effortlessly embarrass their company and walk on with pride and valour but they have a knack for embracing the hidden honesty of life. Such is the character of old Evie Walkton (Julie Walters), an out of fame actress drenching herself in high class alcohol drinking of wines and what not. She employs a teenager who has not lived his teenage years as any one of his age would have. This is Ben (Rupert Grint) a boy at the footsteps of being a man and has been trained to be a true Christian.

“Driving Lessons” a charming film from the land of UK brings these two characters together, sometimes around Evie’s house and a sufficient time on the road of the beautiful views on the ways to Scotland. Ben has been sheltered and controlled by the mother we would not want to be around, Laura Marshall (Laura Linney). A religious zealot and suffocates by her vicious and adulterated acts of being nice, doing good and also having an affair. Her husband, Ben’s father (Nicholas Farrell) is a vicar who has a true understanding of his belief but has lost his control to Laura. He is intrigued by ornithology (a word I thought would never use in film review). And the nauseating nicety of Laura extends to let a crazy man (Jim Norton) to stay at her home. This is the family Ben is in.

Bound by shyness and being constantly chauffeured by her mom into what to think, act and behave, Ben has lost his identity. He writes secretive poems to a girl (Tamsin Egerton) he has crush on. While she is interested in Ben, there is a pretty girl attitude and a nature to move away from the shyness Ben brings upon. With everything around him melting down his years of being a boy, Ben finds in to the world of Evie. An actress with a great like for literary works, Evie is rude, loud and some how enthrallingly entertaining in her behaviour.

In between these two comes a friend ship which of course takes them to the place reality has long had them due for. Evie has one or two life lessons and Ben has a whole lot to live on. They both get to see the outside world for a change from the walls they have been kept inside. “Driving Lessons” could have been another “Scent of a Woman” unsuitably and badly mimicked but it gets the grip of the originality when it returns from the journey and let Ben put into test. Rupert Grint seemed to be completely comfortable in being the Ben not ready to blow up but beginning to bundle up his energy for an explosion towards Laura. It is not cinematic or made up but a simple and honest eruption of anger on his parents. His mom for being who she is and his dad whom he likes and wishes to stand up a little bit more for himself.

Have we seen an animated character of Evie in real life? I guess we have seen them in intensity both higher and lower with their own sense of flavour to it. There is always a thriving vigour for glory and the fame which never found its way to Evie. She in her tiny final bits of dissolving fragments of her celebrity wants to taste beyond its capacity. She sees the young boy losing a different part of himself and to leave it without being experienced is something she would not want him to do. She helps him in finding the path he always knew but hesitated to take. She becomes his guide but she is afraid to take him due to her fear of inability while at that moment, he gives her the helping hand.

“Driving Lessons” had handful of times at the guards of disaster for a melodrama unwanted but quite cleverly escapes it sans injuries. It is striking in its characters and its eye for locations not engulfing the story but adding a substance of character to it. A role like this for Laura Linney is an attractive take as an actor but doing it would have felt a little bit cliched for her. Not that it is any kind of unoriginal but it seems she can handle more than this. It is a personal opinion and in no way signifies a criticism of her acting in this film. On the contrary, it is spot on. Writer/Director Jeremy Brock gives a warm film with corky characters with a pleasurable experience in drama and comedy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Map of the Human Heart" (1993) - Movie Review

What can be made of “Map of the Human Heart” is good thing to ponder all through this review. There would be no argument in the area of its photography which captures fire and darkness with the shadows of the men ready to be plunged into the river of fury during a War sequence is one such example. It has very immense period to watch for in its characters. Each has a point of their real colours, their love and their humanity extending as much as the heart allows to override their normal feelings. But in the end it becomes what Tarsem Singh’s recent “The Fall” went through, it does not cut deep enough.

Directed by Vincent Ward who later went on to give another visually inventive “What Dreams May Come”, seems to be a passionate man of long lasting love, heaven, hell and sacrifice. Here he goes into one of the coldest part of the world, Arctic. An old run down native man of the place is Avik (Jason Scott Lee) begins to forcefully narrate his tale of love to the map maker (John Cussack in a very brief role). Growing as a kid , Avik (Robert Joamie) suffers from tuberculosis when a cartographer Walter (Patrick Bergin) rescues him. He drops him off at a hospital where he would find his love. It is a rather rebellious and strong voiced Albertine (Anne Galipeau). She is as she calls herself is half breed native American as Avik who is half Inuit. As always in romance films, fate separates them.

Years pass and young Avik is now Jason Scott Lee and he is again visited by Walter. Avik does not grasp that the world is in war. See it is World War-II in the rest of the world while a living in the cold Arctic is a war by itself for Avik. Avik hears the voice of that song which connects every lover over the radio and gives the X-ray of Albertine he acquired during their lovely days in the hospital to Walter. He asks to deliver that to Albertine and when the story turns, we would see events turn strange. The grown up Albertine (Anne Parillaud) will indeed meet Avik when he is serving in the Bomber air force. But she will be with some one.

Movies like this breaks the traditional story telling, especially the way romance is being told. Broken hearts and unresolved relationships are same fables because humans are bound to be in similar pattern when it comes to leaving each other. Either by themselves or by external forces as we can blame it. Here the love springs from the early years and for once there is a force which connects them in their first meet. Their heritage and them being in between two race and not complete of either. That brings them together and that follows them as adults too. But Albertine wants a life free from being looked different and live a rich life style. Yet the strings of the true love takes her back to Avik.

Avik lives in a middle world in his mind. He learns English but truly belongs to his culture in the Arctic. He begins to view him as a bad omen bringing death to his nearby people. That of course would lead him to isolate himself and roam as a mad man being driven off by the people. Yes it beckons sympathy but fortunately Ward does not make it a focus even though he makes it a sappy ending which cheats the integrity he maintained throughout in a film which for half its part less interesting.

Some times I question whether my taste for time consuming love stories are becoming sour. If that is the case, I would have not liked both “Forrest Gump” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. True that both are not entirely a story of romance but that is how life is. It is not filled only with love but events of boring, devastating, sorrowful nature to protect the love which is the precious thing to have in life.

“Map of the Human Heart” is a film to watch for its cinematography and locations. It has unusual area handled in films along with characters never been touched. It has the love story which we have seen but a flavour which we have not. Yet it fails in interesting us completely while occasionally springing to give an insight in to the characters. Especially when Walter the unexpected rival for Avik explaining his cold heart vengeance without any mercy as his jealousy and broken heart would make him do. That is the scene which should have been in between those spectacular visuals.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"The Great Escape" (1963) - Movie Classics

One of the million things my mom says again and again, which actually never gets boring is the story of “The Great Escape”. She watched it in her early years and the image of a lonely man sitting in a solitary prison playing with the base ball is something she permanently put upon me. I did not know it was the stylish and smart Steve McQueen as Virgil Hilts did that. Similarly are the image of a bike running through a barbed wire in the end and Charles Bronson’s (She did not remember the character name) character Danny “The Tunnel King” escaping never left my mind. The film had made such an impact on my mom that she retold this film many many times right from my child hood. Now I watched the film finally and am glad I did.

Directed by John Sturges it tells the story of a group of prisoners of war in World War - II planning an escape. Perfectly planned, attention to detail and men with an immaculate obedience in taking orders and doing it as said in a fashion surprises the audience. Comprising of major English army men and few Americans along with a Scotsman, the leader of the operation Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett “Big X” (Richard Attenborough) wants to hit the Germans hard this time. As the jailor of the camp Colonel Von Luger (Hannes Messemer) says “all rotten eggs in one basket”, the members have at the least attempted five escape attempts prior to their arrival in the camp. That is their duty says Group Captain Ramsey (James Donald) and they do it duly.

This film based on the true story admits its characters blended, mixed but also says the escape methods are identical to the real ones. It is an operation apart from freeing themselves. That is to get the German troops distributed as the D-day came by. That becomes the driving force to get Bartlett whose another escape would result him being shot, to plan big. He says to assist 250 men out of the camp. And in the way it gets planned, it begins to look like he could vacate the whole camp. He gets the Forger, the surveyor, trader, intelligence and him being the perfect leader. But the men who goes into the labour and procedure the signals and routines without a slightest hint of fault astounds on how the reality would have been.

“The Great Escape” of course is a big entertainer. It has the Hilts doing the cool and casual moments. He is astute and straight shooter in talks and dealing the consequences. He earns the nick name of “The Cooler King” as he visits the solitary confinement without any problem. The film is not an exercise on the cruelties of the prison. Actually this prison does not gets run by SS and hence every one are treated in a nice manner at least the film depicts so. The first day of the arrival, every one runs a shot gun method to escape just for the fun of it and also to gauge the vigilance of the location they are being put upon. Hence we jump along the topic of this scheme right away.

The film says the characters and time have been compressed. Quite true and one can not even imagine the work required to operate in stealth in digging tunnels straight under for several hundred feet with continuous possibility of being buried alive. The pool of characters and the actions which set the path in the direction are moved in a swift pace keeping us involved all through the end after the night of the event. With great bike stunt to finish and spectacular locations of the greenery, this film offers everything.
The film actually is a trendsetter for the war film and more importantly prison escape movies. Generally in prison films, the mere chance of breathing a little bit of fresh air from the atrocious inhuman prison and the guards in the films becomes the expectant factor for the lead person’s quest for freedom. In this film, it is the game and curiosity of the grand plan working out. As a con film, the actual act is nervous merely of its success or failure. The process of building it up becomes the characterization in its smart remarks and exquisite detail of cleverness and diligence to appreciate the art of constructing it.

Running nearly for three hours, it does not tire you with its details. In fact there could have been another thirty minutes and we would have not been bored by the information. Steve McQueen particularly is the charming face one would not forget when the film gets over. Characters like Hilts are the reason we face the tough situation with a facade of coolness. That would be the facade we sometime desperately need and in McQueen’s character case, it is quintessential for his survival and mainly hope.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Undertow" (2004) - Movie Review

After taking a peaceful drive through the middle of the Lake Mattamuskeet in the North Carolina, I took the 264 East in to the mouth of a desolated and dreary country side. A part which had houses with hollow soul and a calmness which would shrill the voices far distant in the depth of the woods. It was a wintery afternoon and there is no reason to be outside other than a foreigner with an appetite for traveling questioning his decision to ride that day. The houses, roads and the thick woods in “Undertow” which actually was shot in the vicinity of Savannah GA (which this reviewer covered during that trip later) took me to the day when I had that peaceful eerie drive in the afternoon which seemed so far and so long gone.

Directed by David Gordon Green, “Undertow” holds a literary value in the work of cinematic visual. In one of the houses as I mentioned earlier, there lives a family. A widower and a father of two is John (Dermot Mulroney). We see the rebel and the trouble maker Chris (Jamie Bell), the eldest son of John running away from law after breaking the window of his girl friend’s dad. During his escape he lands on a wood with a protruding nail piercing right through his foot and he runs along with it splashing into the muddy waters of the area. If that does not tell the film is with Southern flood of nature and the stillness of the photography in characters and unspoken movements among them, then you are in the wrong movie.

In a weather which hesitates between rain and shine, John has hard time getting Chris in control and vigilance of his trouble with the law. A relatively weak and with an eating disorder is John’s younger son Tim (Devon Alan). John has moved away from the smells of socialization and has a territory defined wherein it congests with sorrow, regret and painful memories. One fine day, he is visited by his elder brother Deel (Josh Lucas). Both sit together and in lines between each other are betrayal, blame and suspicion. John offers a place to stay and food to feed if he could give a hand with seeing his kids. Deel accepts and when he takes Chris to a drive and smells the free air and the loose throttle, we understand he is out of the prison. He has ulterior motives as expected.

Soon we understand what Deel is after. An old set of gold coins passed on by their dad to John and Deel claims to have been cheated of his half. He has been cheated before as John’s wife used to be Deel’s girl friend. The crime for which Deel went to prison is never revealed. What is needed for the story is the past unburied and wandering undead becoming a sudden movement in the film for a violent outcome. Deel finds the gold coins hidden. The story takes its turn and the kids are loose with the coins and Deel goes after them. This is after of course Deel settles his score with John.

“Undertow” is not a film looking for thrills. It is a film about the south and its richness in greenery and characters. Josh Lucas and Dermot Mulroney become the long last brothers and bring the kid fights becoming more dangerous due to their muscle growth. Lucas has the grin which means fishy in every tooth of it. With a physique that could take any hard beat and work is matched by the youth and briskness of Jamie Bell’s Chris. Bell embraces the character of Chris with doing the physical labour and accepting the part of his life. He would grow up to be Deel but John has taught him more than that. With his brother he journeys in to the wilderness and characters native to the area with obvious poetry in the travel.

Nothing much happens in “Undertow” apart from a greedy and enraged Deel chasing his nephews to get his golds and tie the loose ends. There are fairy tale stories told with a personal belief from the adults while there is a grasp of it with doubt and suspicion from the young. With sweat and dirt in their skin, labour is how they define themselves. Emotions are either openly clinical or hidden behind the toughness of their male ego. It is of course how the things are learned in when there are devoid of hallmarks and special days. “Undertow” is a film of its own kind with nothing much than a lyrical liking of a director taking inspiration from the other best, Terrence Malick known for poetic films.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

"Push" (2009) - Movie Review

I had the whole review written in my head when I entered the theatre to view “Push”. I could not take this super heroes genre any more. It had been enough of people with special powers to merely display the CGI and then have emotional problems. It originated as super heroes and people were not satisfied with one and hence many were given birth upon. It moved from “Superman”, “Spider-Man”, “Batman” to “X-Men” (all the comic fans got to forgive me as “X-Men” is the first film I know of with group of super powered people). And it stooped from bad to worse in “Fantastic Four”. Now “Push”. But I got to eat all those words when the film got over. “Push” is a clever and visual thriller.

Directed by Paul McGuigan with a colourful cinematography by Peter Sova provides ample treat for the eyes. The director’s previous film “Lucky Number Slevin” was a cheap shot at wannabe Tarantino and Guy Ritchie at smart dialogues and stylish visuals falling too short and tried too hard. Here he gets it perfect with the right casting and a good plot. “Push” needless to be said focuses on a group of individuals with special abilities. Drawing the future, tracking them, putting memories and other powerful physical abilities were a result of, yes “Nazi Experiment” enhanced. There has to be a government agency who only thinks about bad stuff and hence forms the plot device.

The thing is “Push” while says about the “us against them” actually hides us the real purpose which is to put the plot in place. And what a fresh breath of air in seeing the story in Honk Kong rather than the over used and abundantly wasted United States for these films. Always in a crowd in markets with red and pink and flashing wall colours makes it something unusual for a film of this genre. In crawling through the streets of Honk Kong it also shows the both sides of the character of the city. One in the congested apartments, streets and overflowing number of road side shops while the more sophisticated and westernized part of the city with high buildings, high way cafes and neon lighting on immense structures.

When I can write two paragraphs without even mentioning the cast and the plot, you can understand the effect of its presentation and mainly the novelty in a film with a story with no hope of new things in it. Anyways, there lives our handsome young man Nick (Chris Evans, who by the way was also in “Fantastic Four”) as a kid saw his dad (Joel Gretsch) killed by the “Division” agent Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou). His father clued him that some day a girl with a flower would guide him to do what is necessary. And the girl would be Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning). While it sounds so formulaic and cheesy in the sentences, trust the words of mine that it is more than it sounds, a lot more. “Push” would be trashed upon as a regular flair with flashy images which is sad.

Having said all those praises, the film obviously would mess up the logic of space-time continuum. There would be plot holes when rethinking would not make sense but it works on the moment. Writer David Bourla with director clearly understands that showing the stunts with CGI graphics is not the way to go forward. For that matter I would assume even the Studio would have laughed at it. What they know is that to use those as plot pins. See the audience as some one expecting the intelligence and cleverness in the story than looking for mindless action. In that they are spot on.

Dakota Fanning is withering her child actress image and growing up fast. She takes roles where in her maturity of her acting comes in handy for it. In that she is too good. She walks in the group of adults and becomes one without any one being aware of it. Because her capability and the attitude of her being able to carry herself on her own makes every one acknowledge it. At the same time, she is still a kid and that is used in the areas where necessary. “Push” is effective in its acting and mainly the supporting actors who know their material well enough to put in that casual conversation into funny remarks and sometimes moving moments.

“Push” is definitely an entertainer. I would not claim it to be the first great film of 2009 which would be way over the head. But what I can say is that if some one can come up with something so original and dig gold out of nothing, think about with a more solid material to work upon. May be the aspiration for McGuigan came out wrong in “Lucky Number Slevin” but it cannot be more well implemented in “Push”. With an obvious electronic and peppy music by Neil Davidge, this is a film which sadly would go under for its tag line and a more wrongly giving out trailer. I would recommend “Push” for any one who would look for a good thriller done in a better way and appreciates the simple art even in an exhausted characters and setup.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

"He's just not that into you" (2009) - Movie Review

I have never seen so many women at one place ready to listen for two hours, of course next to “Twilight” which had more of high school girl crowd. Clearly the perspective of this film is through a woman’s point of view. I was already beginning to form opinions about how sappy, cheap and manipulative the film is going to be and I have to tell you that I was caught by surprise. It is a little original but does use the usual steps to derive for the romantic comedies. I could straight through see two stories with much more focus than this example for each kind of relationship approach. Ensemble cast are the two words definite to appear on every review.

Germinating from the book of the same name from Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, it is a string of people wanting to be loved and also questioning the “signals, “sparks” and “connections to find reasons for their pursuit. But there is one character who is strongly in denial of his own marriage that every opportunity he is presented with the option of telling the truth that his marriage is not working, he says it as absolutely wonderful. He is Ben (Bradley Cooper) and his wife Janine (Jennifer Connelly) is the epitome of being that girl’s dream in life. They are in the process of building their new home and she is particularly irritating in the style and picture frame design she wants. She cannot stand any one smoking either and Ben has quit for her. She doubts it but there is more than smoke in him.

Ben and Janine form the stronger foundation the society has declared. Gigi (Jennifer Goodwin) is Janine’s colleague. She is cute, smart but obsessive about finding the man. She really puts out and wants quick answer. She is troubled by this phenomenon of dating, post-dating follow up and the things that originate to confuse and annoy both men and women. As expected there would come a young man Alex (Justin Long), a completely non-committal dude ready to loan his part of advice to her regarding men.

I have only covered two but there exists couple more and the interrupting monologues about “if he is..” segments. I loved the “if she is not sleeping with you” segment. Then what I did not like about this film? While there were many obvious routines which I regularly hate in romantic comedies, this film appears and pretends to dig deeper on the issue of this ritual of dating and finding the right love. It stages Gigi’s hunt for love as the film’s aspiration to woo its target audience and then builds around that with other very important serious relationship issues. Apart from Ben and Janine is a very interesting couple Neil (Ben Affleck) and Beth (Jennifer Aniston). Neil does not believe in marriage and they are in a true happy relationship for seven years. Beth has managed to ignore her friend’s prospect in moving towards life by marriage and kids for a while. But it gets the better of her. The stories about Ben & Janine and Neil & Beth is what I would have wanted to see more.

Then there is Conor (Kevin Connolly), Ben’s other girl Anna (Scarlett Johansson), the ad sales executive Mary (Drew Barrymore) and the gay friends who surround her as she is the center of this universe and many others in this film with something to say. And there is lots of phone calls, voice mails, obvious wrongs and the boring things we try to forget in films like this.

Ken Kwapis should have really moved off the Gigi part and stuck with the other two main stories. But even then, there should be a more clinical approach towards it. Even if the target audience would hate a film like that, you cannot cheat the reality of what the film assumes to know. It has some hard truths but it cannot get its hands around it.

Especially Neil disappears and Beth gets into her sister’s wedding and gets the look from her family and puts her in every awkward spots imaginable. Really? Come on people. Then of course she would come to realize the greatness of her man but does it have to be so obvious? And then it takes another step in pleasing the audience to make them go against the very same rule they agreed upon to stay together. That is compromising the integrity of a film.

I can say that the truth of going out in the field and ready to face the risk, embarrassment, humiliation and making fool out of ourself is something we should chance upon to meet the love we crave for. There is no denial that there is a breaking of hearts and feelings anywhere when this search happens. But there are more better ways to have it given. In fact this film had it with two of them and then cuddled itself to the niceties of selling its soul to the box office and to the faces of its target audience.

"Coraline" (3D) (2009) - Movie Review

It got to be said that “Coraline” is a fantastic visual exploration in the world of animation and 3D. But what begins as a dark and dreary melancholic musical piece resembling the tone of “Lemony Snickets: A series of Unfortunate Events” begins to deteriorate once the couple of visit into this other world of Coraline (Dakota Fanning) begins to happen regularly. It is a kids film and carries the emotion of good and evil as the moral stories does. Yet it is a little too dark for kids while a little too boring for adults in the end. And my eyes began to hurt for some strange reasons. I would not blame it on the 3D as I enjoyed every application of it in the story.

A stop-motion animated film, “Coraline” has the titular character who moves into the Pink Palace Apartments with her parents (Teri Hatcher as Mother and John Hodgman as Father). Her parents are glued to their computers and poor Coraline missing her friends from her home town begins to wander around the house. She dislikes the new place and especially the weird characters she meets around. A nerdy goofy young boy Wybie (Robert Jailey Jr.) standing for actually “Why Born” to imply the darkness of the film. Then are the neighbours veteran actresses forgetting they are too old for make up and revealing costumes. They are Miss Spink (Jennifer Saunders) and Miss Forcible (Dawn French) And finally an acrobatic eccentric Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane). This all slowly makes Coraline be irritated of the new life she has been thrust upon along with parents who are not in the mood to listen.

Soon the discovery of a small door residing usually in a new big gloomy house in films leads her to an alternate world. This world maintained in order with care and comfort by Coraline’s “other mother”. She looks and talks the same as of Coraline’s mother but she has buttons stitched instead of real eyes as in dolls. Same as all the other characters created based on the real world of Coraline with button eyes. She is been well taken care of with sumptuous meals and entertainments with an improved neighbours. She hates to be back at her regular life. But nothing as it seems and a cat (Keith David) warns her about the trap set for the prey. Only before Coraline realizes that is all for something more she gets caught in the labyrinth of this dictator other mother.

Henry Selick’s film does not lack any bit in imagination. And the 3D is more than entertainment. It is a navigation into more than one wall paintings and the objects in it takes form of clay puppets and begins to wander around in three dimensions. In a pure sense of art and animation, “Coraline” is a must watch. And with the music of Bruno Coulias, the film gets both those right only to fumble in the midst of it. The story begins to wear into the moral books and then goes to making no sense. Even the current generation of kids would figure it out on the “traps” of niceties and the fable of “even though their parents have bad days and phases, they will always love you”. It is becoming a little too old for that over the top preaching.

“Coraline” though is a tough case to be dismissed as lesser of a good film. It is successful in its story line of making the wonderland into a scary place as soon as the witch like mother begins to throw tantrums over Coraline. We yearn for the old and undecorated house of her and wants her to return. When she gets out after hustle and tussle to her home, we know it is not the end but wants it to be. Now she got to get the other trapped souls from the dungeon in the scary world. But to make it spicy, her parents are trapped too. When the villains are predictable, there is no fun in dismantling their plans. The film suffers from that.

Or am I judging a film for children a little too much than necessary? Well, in that case each genre would have its own excuses and forgiveness to be bad. Overlooking it does not make it better rather more sympathetic. Henry Selick’s colourful presentation is a nice intertwine of marginal dark and happy clown endings but what begins as an impressive film wanes into the mess of traditional witch hunt. I wish it was otherwise.

Friday, February 06, 2009

"Fried Green Tomatoes" (1991) - Movie Review

What an ordeal “Fried Green Tomatoes” turned out to be. It not alone becomes a tear jerker with obvious amateur acting and screenplay but also turns sick to your stomach in the end. This has been the most horrible film I have seen in recent times and I am wondering how come it made it to the Academy Awards. And how did Jessica Tandy from “Driving Miss Daisy” yesterday went deep down into this horrendous film. Am I dreaming or did I miss something in this film that I could not stand the two hours and eighteen minutes of this boring, sappy and uneventfully vacuous of a film.

The film is that story said by the old woman, in this case Jessica Tandy as Ninny to a visitor for another patient in the retirement home. The visitor is Evelyn (Kathy Bates) an obese woman trying hard to pep up her dull marriage with Ed (Gailard Sartain). Ninny is that cherubic grandma who weaves the stories of some long and courageous characters and never knows what the end is going to be. Well the story Ninny is going to say, we know where it will go and how many times they have to say that Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) the young tomboy gets arrested for the murder of one Frank Bennett (Nick Searcy)? Well, because then you keep on wondering how this lovely little woman come to murder that man and oooh you have a suspense. Dumb, pretty dumb I say.

Anyways, up grows little Idgie with her big brother Buddy (Chris O’Donnell) whom she loves. Then comes the tragedy when Buddy gets killed in a train while trying to rescue the sweet hat of his teen crush Ruth (Mary Louise Parker). If you think I am insensitive in giving this detail in a very cold but darkly comic tone, the film carries the same in the end which is not so funny and plainly disgusting. Anyways, you would presume that Idgie would be blaming Ruth for the brother’s demise as she grows up to be the rebellious woman. But no, that is not the angle director Jon Avnet takes from the story adapted from the novel of the same name by Fannie Flagg. Ruth is asked to talk some sense in to Idgie who drinks and dresses shabbily roaming with people who does not go to church as a concerned mother would put it. Instead Ruth is mighty impressed with the freedom Idgie has fun with. Clearly both of them develop a crush on each other and the signs of them in being lesbians are more than obvious. But for some reason though it is hushed which understandably is fine for the times the film takes place and the Hollywood not ready for a “Brokeback Mountain” I believe.

Either ways what annoyed me the most are these manipulative characters acting upon each other with nothing but a writer’s imagination gone bad. With one drunken night Ruth is in the charms of Idgie. While they are in the age of shedding innocence, how come there is no sustainable and solid evidence of any possible real kind of conversation happening in between these two in later part of their life? The problem of race in the Southern Alabama where the films seem to run easily is overdone and quite frankly unbelievable.

Then what is the deal with Evelyn going nuts on this Idgie character? Such a fine actor Kathy Bates derails in to this chaotic Evelyn who loses herself first to the low self esteem and self conscious of her appearance into this unpredictable rage monger and ready to pummel anyone who would wrong her. Soon Evelyn makes regular visit to the retirement home to hear the stories of Idgie from the Ninny. Now there is no reference of Ninny in the story she tells even though it is said as if she saw in first person. That means? Oh, Come on.

I am going to spill the beans of the end about this whole mystery in the murder of Frank Benett and if any one has interest in seeing the film can skip this para. I am going to let the people who have seen the film correct me if I am wrong, but did Idgie and the crew of Big George (Stan Shaw) and Sipsey (Cicely Tyson) dispose the body of Frank by barbecuing him and hold on for the worst, feed him to the very same police officer who comes looking for him? If that is nauseating, it is how Evelyn and Ninny laughs about it in the present day which would question whether these characters are real at all or if so, how come the director after so much effort in sappiness and emotional prop placements wants us to sympathize and cherish them? I might spend another para on ranting about this but “Fried Green Tomatoes” does not deserve a para more.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

"Driving Miss Daisy" (1989) - Movie Review

“Driving Miss Daisy” clearly is a social commentary of the times lapsing from the early fifties till the further sixties with two characters of different race and different belief. But it also is about a relationship which often does not happen. It has Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy), an old woman brought up as a Jew and stubborn by choice who gets an African American driver Hoke (Morgan Freeman) appointed by her son Boolie (Dan Akroyd). The film begins with her wrecking her car and in the next scene blames the car for the mishap. This is the second car she wrecked and Boolie a character of nicety and understanding hires the right person for the job of driving.

She is an obstinate woman with the old English conservative upper class attitude but at the same time does not want to be identified or called as rich. Hoke is a persistent simple man who is happy as clown and nothing can disappoint him. Or there are things which does disappoint him but the things what Daisy regular does, he seem to understand and knows how to handle it. The things that bother are the tricky ones and quite true and tough subtle emotions comes with it.

Miss Daisy says she is not prejudiced on the basis of race to her son two times. She is the aspiring liberal caught up in the traditional conservative. She has been a teacher and being able to command the respect of many children and high confidence had made her to live by herself in the big old house. She has a house maid Idella (Esther Rolle) a female silent Hoke. Idella has been the heart beat of the kitchen and Miss Daisy likes her because she has been there enough to know the things. Hoke is a new character she does not want to befriend. But Hoke gets something to do around the house. Miss Daisy every time rudely asks him to mind his business and quit working. He does but immediately finds another work to do. He cannot sit idle and take the money from Boolie. Soon Miss Daisy gives in and they start a wonderful journey through history and the sociology of the society put upon them.

Once they begin to know each other the conversation of pulling a stunt by Miss Daisy and Hoke dealing with it moves from a fight to something of a friendly jab match. It becomes clear that neither of them cannot exist without each other’s character. Which is throwing tantrums for Miss Daisy while acting cool and disposing and even putting down her speech for Hoke. They take a long drive. It is for Miss Daisy to wish her relative who is turning 90 and the destination is Mobile in Alabama. Now there is not threatening or dramatic scene to show the racism existed during those times. There is the attitude in which couple of policemen question them and suddenly the nice and pleasant beauty of nature around them where Miss Daisy and Hoke enjoyed their lunch becomes a place of instant danger. The tension is in the change of mood and the fear of something bad might happen is more threatening than the actual event itself.

The matter of racism are taken up in small qualms of acts and words rather than a great action of drama. But what happens is that the blooming development in their relationship. They do not become love birds but something else. Where love does not necessarily take a form of defined social norm. Miss Daisy is indeed a gifted woman. She has lovely son who gets to be under scrutiny of sarcasms from his mom and his wife Florine (Patti LuPone). He also knows how his mother and how Hoke has become to like each other. Truly great supporting work from Dan Akroyd.

Of course the performances which moves the film to another level is from Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. Now there can be no two ways about their chemistry together. One thing is very certain in that chemistry which is that there could not have been a great film if either of them outsmarted the other. There could never have been a true work developed in that scenario. They are on the same plane and in an immaculate performances very smoothly spread across both of them.

“Driving Miss Daisy” is adapted from a play by Alfred Uhry and directed by Bruce Beresford. It does not have a plot nor does it have the change of personality in characters. Both of them pretty much remain the same where they were with wrinkles getting more and eye glasses gaining thickness in its lens. They have their basic ideology defined in terms of race, colour and religion. What happens is that how they are able to get their points across on each other’s face rude and carelessly and also think about it rationally.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Best films of 2008"

Looks like I have seen some of the films I wanted to in the past couple of weeks to jot down the best films of 2008. I have also mentioned the films which were good but did not make the cut for the best films after the listing. 2008 was a terrible year for distribution. Not all the films got released and that pushed me to edge. But anyways most of it managed to sneak in slowly in the year of 2009 and I am fine by it. I can only hope 2009 is better but with the economy that might be another sector which would get hit too. Who knows. Alright, enough with cribbing and let me get down to the list (In Alphabetical Order (of course eliminating “the”).

“Appaloosa” - This film gone under the radar for many. A western from Ed Harris who directs the man suited rightly for the role of Everett Hitch the buddy of Virgil Cole played by Harris himself. It is a careful presentation of a friendship between these two enforcers. In between as expected comes a woman Allison French and she brings an unusualness to the character which becomes interesting for rest of the story. RenĂ©e Zellweger plays Allison with a woman wanting attention and to be protected always. This becomes a problem both for the men and advantage for the man they are hunting for, Randall Bragg played by Jeremy Irons. Many complained that it is a good film but not perfect. I saw it as the exact amount what the film needed and the brilliant performances of Harris and Mortensen is more than enough for this film to be perfect.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” - Many could not stand Benjamin Button because it is a shined piece of useless penny. They see it as an expensive production glossed up with nothing but confusion and ambiguity. I was moved by the film because it has deeper sense of its material in a great hold of its characters. Brad Pitt impresses me with great choices to do his films. He works through Button and works real hard. He brings out a child eyes in a centenarian looking man and then carries a maturity in his teenage looking Button when he meets his eternal love Daisy done by Cate Blanchett in her middle age. David Fincher does not hesitate to move away from his regular territory of storytelling into this Eric Roth’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzegerald’s short story. Sometimes nothing needs to be said for a great film, all it requires is an experience to enjoy immensely. Words becomes unnecessary in those times.

“The Dark Knight” - Perhaps the most anticipated film of the 2008 and the most successful of the year too, this is personally a film I was craving for when the year started. Being a true admirer of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale with their other separate works and of course with their “Batman Begins”, it is as serious a super hero film can ever get as I said in the review. And Heath Ledger bringing Joker into this villain I have never seen with a purpose and ideology that in the opposite spectrum, his character in an ironic way is very honest about his principles. Too bad we lost a great actor but his final film will be remembered forever. “The Dark Knight” is a complete film with its performances, screenplay, dialogues, stunts, editing, music and every other thing that went along with it.

“Gran Torino” - If Clint Eastwood’s Walk Kowalski comes up to me and pats friendly on my back, I would terrified. But he can also change that fear into a deep respect instantly even if he is going sputter racial slurs towards me. That is the power of Eastwood and he directs one another terrific film. This man is more than inspiration. Here his Walt is bitter and represents the traditional American grudging on the rest of the world occupying his country. The film which gets R-rated purely for language becomes a comedy, action and drama with Eastwood’s way of building things in leisure and pleasure. This is a film which would give a kick out of the hard men with male ego but at the same time make them shed tears too.

“Happy-Go-Lucky” - Thanks to Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel that I was introduced to Mike Leigh through their TV reviews. Here he brings out the best in Sally Hawkins who is bubbling with happiness which slowly begins to reek us out of jealousy. In a crude sense of our mind is Eddie Marsan as Scott, the driving instructor for Hawkins’ Poppy. No one can stand his egomaniacal arrogance and Poppy deflects, reflects and strips away those harsh comments with chuckles, smiles and laughs. Soon what one might expect does happen but in a rather horrifying revelation for Poppy. “Happy-Go-Lucky” encourages optimism beyond sky high but also warns the consequences of it.

“In Bruges” - A guilty young man and an history loving middle aged man come to the town of Bruges. Oh and they are hit men. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this on the looks of being that Guy Ritchie stylish smirky film turns completely different and artsy. And with Carter Burwell’s sympathetic and thrilling score, this becomes into a rather tour de force for McDonagh. It has the architecture nostalgia of the place with characters deeply drenched in conscience and judgements. An adulated script this film has three major entertaining performances from Colin Farell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes foul mouthing all the way to give a surreal, corky, aesthetic and in the end poignant emotional film.

“I’ve Loved you So Long” - Philippe Claudel’s French film is of course shows the love of the French artistic appreciation. Out here though it is Kristin Scott Thomas in an extremely tough role to enact. She comes out of prison to her sister’s place. The dark past when comes out puts us in imbalance. We do not want to believe but more and more her detachment and stale face advices other wise. But the film is about how one’s improbable resistance to goodness surrounding them. Thomas’ Juliette begins to embrace and essentially the family too but there is more to it and when it comes out, it shatters us.

“Man on Wire” - Philippe Petit is a man who talks like been high on sugar. He is high on something else. A single line of connection and a suspension into a world unlike any other. A world wherein people like Petit are the only can reside in. They become the words in a poetry. Petit writes his poetry on the wire he rides. In this documentary, Petit and his friends narrate with a great reenactment sequence by director James Marsh which makes us to sit curiously on waiting for that picture to come out. We see his madness but are thrilled by his passion. We see his insanity but are overwhelmed by the beauty of it. Petit’s attitude tells how he looks death in the event of this stunt. Death becomes a proud signature of that effort and he is completely fine about it. He is not suicidal but lives in between alive and dead. That is thin and narrow but damn poetical.


“Milk” - What can you say about Sean Penn? That man can sink to the bottom of a character and come out with such a relentless passion. Here he portrays a great bold and more importantly flamboyantly flawed human in his own ways, Harvey Milk. His migration from the shadows of nowhere in his forties rises towards height of a revolutionary inspiration to many. With strong supporting cast of Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, James Franco and Diego Luna, “Milk” is Gus Van Sant’s solid compilation and also a honorable letting of the great actor into his niche talent.

“Rachel Getting Married” - If you are afraid of social awkwardness and when uncomfortable is a least word to describe your position of placed in between a family’s traumatic problems, “Rachel Getting Married” would be a crash test for it. Anna Hathaway’s Kym makes look the drunken man in a wedding reception as a peacemaker in this film. But when the story begins to unfold with her sister Rachel played by Rosemarie DeWitt and their father done spectacularly by Bill Irwin, we see the mess in a family. Jonathan Demme’s film has painful emotions and when the fight breaks out between the three when guests are walking by, we envy them because they can ease out of this awkwardness but we are stuck. But it is more irking of its closeness in its problem with our own family.

“Recount” - While it did not get released in the theatres, this HBO film gives the dramedy which happened in the 2000 elections. Making films about true story distorts certain facts and I learned from my friend that they indeed went far ahead in butchering Katharine Harris (played by Laura Dern) a little too much. Nevertheless with the historic election, this film is a tightly packed tension drama played by actors which adds so much authenticity of their own. Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern and the spectacular Tom Wilkinson give a film on how it all turned out. How the actual pursuit for the truth became a display of contradiction in both the parties. “Recount” even knowing the result is an excellent thriller and completely unpredictable.

“Revolutionary Road” - I guess I have shouted enough about this film on being the best film for me in the year of 2008 with another splendid score from Thomas Newman. When you smile uncontrollably on how much beautiful, artistic and brutally emotional a film is, it becomes something more than a film. A social commentary from the direction of Sam Mendes and performances from actors Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, it would scare any couple and bring second thoughts of their existence. A film which happens in the 50s is clearly an apt application to the current society and now more than ever with the security of every family been threatened opening us how vulnerable we are. But Winslet’s April and DiCaprio’s Frank spits words with eloquent insults. The one hope of clutching away from the chains begins to dismantle right in front of April’s eyes. We see Frank’s inability to come out of that gravity pull of safety, security and importantly comfort space. A life which you hate is also easy and cozy when looking the uncertainty ahead. “Revolutionary Road” many say that they cannot see it again. I beg to differ because it has more than the tragedy which is deeper art and reflection of life to it. Quite frankly 2008 is not a spectacle of great films we saw during 2007 (despite that I have not seen many other critically acclaimed films of 2008). The reason I would say that is that we never had a slice of real life and art merged as we had in 2007 in “There will be Blood”, “Into the Wild” and even not much of a favourite of mine, “No Country for Old Men” had. This film is rare under those circumstances for this year but one of the best films of recent times.

“Tropic Thunder” - I have to say it did not impress initially but when Tom Cruise’s Les Grossman comes along it got better and when Robert Downey Jr. kicks in as this serious drama actor, this goes beyond. Ben Stiller provides a film about making a film only that it gets real without the awareness of its actors. Stiller takes a risk with so much stars but puts them rightly in places and very cleverly uses each of them pushing out of their normalcy. This film could be discarded as “comedy” but this is a very bold attempt in the genre and it is a spectacular success.

“The Visitor” - Tom McCarthy’s love for characters hiding inside the life they have lead is a known successful execution through “The Station Agent”. In this film though, McCarthy handles couple of stories. One being this professor who has lost all interest in his life and teachings which he was able to get by when his wife was around. He is played by Richard Jenkins in a command which the character would not exhibit. He changes his course of life for a while to assist the illegal immigrants in the process of separation. He begins to acknowledge his existence in the end despite losing his love to the distance and policies. “The Visitor” is a film which grows on you and never stops.

“WALL•E” - This animated feature from Andrew Stanton is not as impressive as 2007’s “Ratatouille” but it achieves something more than that. That is producing a film with very little dialogues. It works with Thomas Newman’s score and these two robot characters in action along with the sidekick electromechanical cockroach. It is moving, cute, moral and most of all fun. It is innovative and gets it going right away. For that I have to mention the animated feature which swooped every one and provided the ultimate entertainment for the whole family with an artistic involvement for its part.

“The Wrestler” - Mickey Rourke paints his body with skin care and maintenance in the morning and then brutalizes with unimaginable objects in the evening. His character Randy “The Ram” Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” is some one who has lost everything and lives only through the sport he loves. He lives a life of a popularity in a kids posters and begins to see his age pulling him down. He begins to see a life outside of the ring and begins to reach out to his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) whom he has negated all his life. There is a parallel commentary of him and his profession through a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. They both depend on their body which is giving up in slow patches. A tale which promises some good hope only spirals down further and when disaster is expected, Aronofsky leaves us with a hollow content. Better than hopelessness.

“Young@Heart” - What a moving documentary this can be? As up close and tearing unhappiness along with wonderful songs and revelations, this is a film which is definitely for all ages. It deals with old age and the spirit to have fun while inches far away from death. Music is an ultimate outlet for everything and director Stephen Walker takes a beautiful trip amongst these funny, adorable and inspiring old rockers.

While I hate to conclude with this list, I still have many other films in 2008 to be watched. That includes “Let the right one in”, “Frozen River”, “Tell No One”, “A Christmas Tale”, “Wendy and Lucy”, “Che”, “Waltz with Bashir” and some others.

Here are some films which did not make the best films but surely good ones I liked for the year of 2008 - “Frost/Nixon”, “The Reader”, “Doubt”, “Valkyrie”, “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas”, “Slumdog Millionaire”, “Bolt”, “Standard Operating Procedure”, “Changeling”, “Role Models”, “RocknRolla”, “W.”, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”, “Religulous”, “Blindness”, “Ghost Town”, “Burn After Reading”, “Aamir”, “Get Smart”, “Kung Fu Panda”, “Redbelt”, “Iron Man”, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, “Smart People” and “The Bank Job”.