Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Exit through the Gift Shop" (Documentary) (2010) - Movie Review

Art is a chaotic experimental effect on people’s sociological reaction towards it. People desperately try to find a stable and concrete understanding of a piece. Ignorance might be looked down upon on not receiving that cryptic message. For me it is simply an experience and not much to make of it. The factor of money in anything justifies the fame and a casual art seeker might not see the blockbuster sell out art from a critically acclaimed one. It is all opinions and relative perceptions. “Exit through the Gift Shop” is not alone a witness to a social experiment but also puts through the viewer through it after its over.

Graffiti has brought a judgment of low form of art in this reviewer. No reason than its mere existence in rundown places. But the idea has fascinated me and the cleverness has brought chuckles. Here the film directed by a purist street artist Banksy provides the life story of Thierry Gutta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles. A man with disheveled hair and a solid resemblance of Ron Jeremy invites judgments from the people he meets. Beyond the appearance he follows everywhere with a video camera to add to the creep factor. The obsession to film the details of his life takes him into unpredictable arena of street art.

Thierry got the entry into this strange art form through his cousin nicknamed Invader who pastes and paints tiles of space invaders in random places around the city. Thierry is fascinated by this and these arts pasted in darkness and secrecy needs a witness and that witness becomes him with his camera. He shoots everything and becomes integrated in the process. He comes back to LA and begins collaborating with the well known artists. One such is Shepard Fairey. A young man mildly surprised and suspicious on this new character tagging along to film these adventures of art vandalism.

The first art show I went was in Seattle. There were paintings that meant nothing and there were which like poetry brought in a sensation. I did not make much of it than to say that I visited an art gallery. After couple of years, I went to Denver Art Museum. I truly experienced modern display of art of an unknown kind. Lavish use of colours and daring images making statements getting personal interpretations. All those arts are a reflection of the viewer. You see what you want to see and becomes a personal statement. The true meaning of it which did not occur to me that time happened after the phenomenon of Thierry Gutta went through in this documentary.

Thierry Gutta is not a skilled artist. He was not born with great abilities to move his fingers to sketch detailed and collaborative arts. He obsessed over his instincts and impulses to film these people. He admired and adored them. He worshipped Banksy who remains a secret artist. He gains his trust and blessing. But the people who met Thierry did not make much of him. May be that is the sole reason they let him into this world.

While Thierry does get inspired by these artists, there is something bothering even us as an audience in his sky rocketing success in the end. He does not come across as a talented individual to pull off something like this. I think it is more than that which is he removed the method from the method in madness. He wandered off crazily and made a buzz and hype that structured the stardom to his show. He pulled the screens off to show that despite talent there is programming of people’s expectation in media and publicity. That sociological statement stunned the street artists who were thoroughly against it. The pure nature of their untainted and anti-capitalistic art got dragged into the dirty game of publicity.

“Exit through the Gift Shop” directed by Thierry’s mentor Banksy is not a disgruntled attempt but does a smooth and swift job of the startling nature in which Thierry got into this world as an observer and soon becoming a participant and a star. Even I was not expecting that. It appear to bring back faint memories of “Man on the Wire” in the way the street artists lurk around in dark to express themselves. The film is not about the journey but about the opinion we form of this person and this world. The film has so much interesting pieces to it and it never brought those goose pumps but when it got over I cannot stop thinking about the perception of art.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Solitary Man" (2010) - Movie Review

What can be a more powerful drug than the great art of manipulation? Reading a person and having that opportunity to spin them however you want is a direct energy storage for ego. Benjamin Kalmen (Michael Douglas) is the titular character of “Solitary Man” living life as he pleases when he pleases at the cost of others. He is 60 years old and does not want to be called grand dad or even dad for that matter. He is the Roger from “Roger Dodger” grown old and running out of fuel. Strange that Jesse Eisenberg comes as his short term trainee as he did in “Roger Dodger” here too.

Car salesperson are annoying helpers, most marketing people are. The best are the people who make you feel safe almost like in a relationship. They make you comfortable despite knowing the game and then you make their decision. Ben meets up with his Doctor and even in his small time gloating of his success in car sales he tries to sell the man. It is his ideology to have that transaction the way he intends it to be. The end of that scene does not go well on him as his doctor informs him that his EKG needs a more closer look at his heart. Six and half years later he is popping aspirins every morning alongside girls of varying age though only younger than his daughter, much much younger.

He has lost his empire of car dealership on an unnecessary scam and now lives off borrowing money from daughter Susan (Jenna Fischer) and trying to make that one final go at another car dealership by sleeping with women having the power to pull strings for him. That would be Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker) a single mom with a typical graduated high school daughter (Imogen Poots) ready to join the alma mater of Ben. This dealership is his last chance in gaining back to the throne but he does everything in his power to screw it up.

Ben Kalmen is a commanding man in conversations. He knows life and he knows people. He has lived by the code where he would do anything and everything he feels like to underline his presence. It does not take much for him to miss his loving grand kid Scotty’s (Jake Richard Siciliano) birthday party. Yet he is the coolest grand dad who can play video games and make the boy’s life the glorious time in his presence. That is his skill as well and the beauty is that he chooses to be irresponsible and callous towards other’s existence in spite of knowing the damages he has caused and causing.

Michael Douglas venturing in to this role sometime after “King of California” provides another kind of miserable father. He uses the charisma in this role to make the other characters fall for it but always is a wide opened jerk to his audience. Despite that we want to follow this man as he seems to dig deeper and deeper in to the abyss of hopelessness and sadness. We have seen Ben in our life where they break hope and come back for more. They are egomaniacal but enthralling when they are at their best in pleasing us. They are the people who have figured out everything about any person except their own.

Written by Brian Koppelman and he directs alongside with his regular writing partner David Levien. Ben is a great character for a film like this and you need an actor that can carry on till the end keeping his next move unpredictable. Michael Douglas is not the man I would have thought for it. It is not because he does not fit the role. In reality he is perfect but I never really saw him as a character actor with spontaneous nature in the roles he undertook despite his roaring presentation as Gordon Gekko. Yet Douglas plays his age and the character.

There are so many wonderful people in this man’s life. A loving daughter, a great grandson, a spectacular ex-wife played by Susan Sarandon and a loyal faithful friend played by Danny Devito. Look at Danny Devito whom I only recognize during the past couple of years as the disgusting Frank in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and here he plays the most respectable and amazing friend of Ben with a heart of gold. One would wonder how a terrible person like Ben have a friend like this. That is the beauty of any relationship which blossoms in the most unexpected places.

“Solitary Man” is a wonderful film and it has gone through thrills and gaps of movie releases in the past year. A film that has a central character with umpteen possibilities for redemption goes through those purposefully unnoticed and does not regret a moment of it. When he ruins his chances and does the worst thing possible of sleeping with his girl friend’s daughter, he comes to his daughter to confide after the break up. Even there he says it with so much conviction that it was worth it. It does not take much to come up with the title for this film, isn’t it?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"The King's Speech" (2010) - Movie Review

Tom Hooper apparently knows very well about the friendships between great men. He did so in the TV Series “John Adams” between the titular character and Thomas Jefferson. Then he thumped the big screen in “The Damned United” showing one man soccer coach Brian Clough’s admiration disguised as a rivalry towards his inspiration Don Revie the coach of Leeds United and his friendship with his long true friend his right hand man Peter Taylor. In “The King’s Speech” he formulates the relationship between a King and a common man.

Colin Firth has been like Hugh Grant for me, in the sense playing the romantic lead part to perfection without variation. And then I saw “A Single Man”. A film which exhibits the urge to achieve perfection by director Tom Ford that makes Colin Firth into a methodical man sobbing internally in total madness. The pain, the angst, the loss and the desperation have not been told with such a precision and arrangement like a photographic painting. In “The King’s Speech”, Firth is King George VI, a stammering, shy and often spewing one lined volcanic temper eruptions, he makes it all so very easy.

The understanding of someone stammering does not help in controlling the impatience of the listeners. The brain has been programmed to listen to an uninterrupted speech, especially a public one. If someone translates the train of thoughts, ideas, opinions and passion into wrecking it in serious pauses then the immediacy in judging them incapable is unavoidable. Being in a royal family and often to address people King George before being the King did not have much of a choice. More the pressure more the stammering and he is constantly being bullied by the physicians. Time for something radical and unorthodox. Otherwise there will be no spiciness in the story, isn’t it? In comes Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a man of pencil thin stature fitting his suit with justice and speaks and conducts in a free flow like his speech.

Geoffrey Rush might be remembered as the man in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise but I remember him in “The Tailor of Panama” a simple man playing the players around him with finesse through meticulous speech. As Lionel Logue he understands the nature of the help one asks wherein the healing of the speech wounds lies deep in personal corners. Unfortunately being in a royal family advises to withhold that part to any outsiders while Logue expects that to be the fundamentals of working on improving the speech of King George. Unsuccessfully he settles to treat the problem as a mechanical failure than a psychological issue.

Both Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush devote in their characters. Firth needs to forget his conscious nature to not stammer and embody the full effect of this frustrating and agonizing problem into him. Rush needs to not over do it in his animated dramatization of this colourful and cheerful character. While the film is indeed about the battle of fighting this problem of stammering for King George VI, it is about a man coming out in the open of the society and learning to learn the art of confidence. Born as a superior and taught so, King George has more to be embarrassed and ashamed to admit. To not convey himself properly to his people he questions his ability to govern them.

The life of royal family is as much as flamboyant and luxurious it appears to be is also one of the closed and contained public prison. The resemblance of a private life and one’s wish evaporates and all is left is the expectation of the several nameless entities counting moments to judge and crucify. In between these millions are the most basic problems of all, family. King’s wife Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) is supportive and authoritative while his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) choose to mock his brother when he wants to win an argument. His father (Michael Gambon) sees it as the mistake of him rather than a disability. Among these pressures the man has to rise and rise in the worst of the times the world has witnessed among depression and war to name a few.

“The King’s Speech” has one classic great emotional moment when King George comes by for a drink to Logue’s place after his father’s death. Great acting comes when there is an unconditional and involuntary empathy of feeling from audience. When King George disappears and off comes Bertie to his teacher and friend Lionel and confides in him, that is where the symphonic synchronization between Tom Hooper, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush blossoms the core of this story. Danny Cohen’s cinematography makes no mistake in capturing those close faces of these two men at that instance and provide that brilliance without disturbance. “The King’s Speech” is no “The Damned United” but it is a damn good film.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

"Tron: Legacy" 3D (2010) - Movie Review

“Tron: Legacy” is a shallow piece of work in the field of science fiction but as a visual spectacle it truly paints the screen with breathtaking races and laser colour forms and is nothing short of brilliant. This film is the sequel to the 1982 “Tron” unseen by me. It takes you to the inner world of a program, literally. Directed by debutant Joseph Kosinski, this is a film that kept me charged and thrilled for its unique experience of digitized motor races and disc throwing fights and baffled me with the extent in which it shamelessly empties any iota in having characters or story. The result is “Tron: Legacy” in my fact book comparison lines up in between the lowest in the scale “Avatar” and highest in the scale” 300”.

Jeff Bridges is Kevin Flynn, a successful software engineer turned CEO of a prosperous company ENCOM. Flynn was digitally sucked into a system and his digitized form built the empire in the hopes of having a perfect software. Unfortunately all the software engineers know that there is no perfect software. The program form he created Clu (Jeff Bridges made young by graphics) does not understand that and begins to become the villain for the screenplay written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis.

I learned that there were not many explanation given about the physical body sucked into a virtual world in the 1982 film which I can live without. Sometimes a phenomenon has to exist to provide clever plot points and elevate the film being the stepping stones to a productive and convincing science fiction experience. “Inception” will be a recent example where they do not go about the actual technology but use it as a tool. “Frequency” is another film that comes to my mind which employs the communication of past to the present and somehow evades the paradox on a surface level. “Tron: Legacy” is not one of those films.

Kevin vanished one fine night and the only logical thing in this illogical film is that he got stuck inside that world. Son of Kevin Flynn grows up to be Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) yearning for his dad to return and finally giving up. He grows up to be an extreme sports guy jumping off buildings and messing up the board of directors during their launch of product of his father’s empire. As the film would not make any sense without Sam getting into this world, the filmmakers need no persuading to make Sam getting into his dad’s old arcade game center and finding out the secret office. He gets in.

Then begins the excellence in treating the audience with stunning animation and effects. It is perfect imagination, if you can call perfect imagination of a digitized world as a blend of electronica and games. Sam gets dressed up with a disc on his back which is like a fingerprint of his identity in the system. That disc can also be used as a deadly weapon to attack his opponent in a game.

While I was being enthralled by this presentation, I took my memory back to “Avatar” experience on how spellbound I was to see this amazing technology opening doors and revolutionizing the film industry. During that film it lasted for 30 minutes and eventually I began to see past the technology and find a good film. It never was found. “Tron: Legacy” does not have a good film either but I have to say it with a guilt that it kept me going through its ridiculous screenplay. Much like “2012” I was awed by the graphics and it had a knack to make it a thrill ride of a unique kind for that time it runs. Even in this unabashed nature of screenplay being a guide to graphic effect filled fights, there is subtlety in their subconscious honesty. Or I conveniently made myself see the other side when the foolishness happens.

“Tron: Legacy” as my experience with “2012” while had me entertained has to be slapped to provide a satisfaction for the confused artistic integrity of mine. As a science fiction it flunked miserably. There is Quorra (Olivia Wilde) who rescues Sam from the midst of a fight and takes him to his father Kevin. Sam never asks who or what she is and why is she along with Kevin in a remote out lands. Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn is aged and they have dinner. Quorra expresses emotions. Does it mean the virtual world is similar to real world? Or how can a program exit out of the system and exist in real world? There can be forgiveness in the plot and logic for any film if it survives the time without reminding of its stupidity. The risk is higher when it is a science fiction as the quest of reasoning grows proportionally. “Tron: Legacy” is a beautiful presentation with some great musical justice done by Daft Punk but it falls into the abyss in giving a film without content in it.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

"The Fighter" (2010) - Movie Review

“The Fighter” does not break grounds in a real life story making its way to the screen. It even lays out the plot details snipping out the crucial scenes from the film to its trailer giving me more reason to avoid trailers. What it does though is bring up Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams at their wondrous best. That makes all worth it to watch David O. Russell’s “The Fighter”, the film based upon the real life events of professional boxer Micky “Irish” Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his older half brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale).

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch Drunk Love” features Adam Sandler as a grown bottled up in his emotions and fighting his place in the family and himself against his numerous over powering sisters. Add those sisters along with a crack addict Dicky and a controlling mother Alice (Melissa Leo) to the mix, you get Micky Ward stuck in the middle of a family doing emotional massacre with foul loud noises and smothering him in the name of love and affection. Even his fighting style is controlled by them. His family is all he knows and he hits rock bottom in boxing when Dicky and his mom lets him get in a ring with an opponent 20 pounds heavier than him. He needs breathing room.

Micky is played correctly by Mark Wahlberg wherein he does not emotionally express on his frustration and runs on a swinging balance of love towards his brother. He has the whole stereotyped Hollywood protagonist life story written on him starting from getting his daughter Kasie (Caitlin Dwyer) a better home. He needs to win fights and he is giving up. He meets a rough and tough bartender Charlene (Amy Adams). Charlene in her own way resembles his family members except she takes the other stand of firing Dicky and Alice from Micky’s fighting team.

“The Fighter” is not so much about the winning of fights. It is the regular pedigree for the movie’s title but the real story is in the drama of this family where love has been conditioned and nurtured into a different form of control game. It is not that they maliciously wants to ruin the career of Micky or provide destructive plans for failure but it is more about their belief that they are making the best decisions at their full capability towards the interest of their kin. This denial and ego makes them this hideous characters coming down upon Micky with no understanding whatsoever.

Charlene is the rational mind and the killer coin to check mate this wrong moves of Micky’s family. She obviously becomes the enemy. In this crazy mix of people is one genuine man by the name of George (Jack McGee), father of Micky and husband of Alice. He ofcourse as Micky is outnumbered both in number and authority by the women in the family. He though tries his hand to find the best for Micky.

Christian Bale as the laborious actor he is does the physical demand his character demands. He is lean and comically irritating. He is gloating on the victory he had fourteen years back towards Sugar Ray and prides on being the person to put his home town Lowell Massachusetts on the map. He knows his stuff but he is coked up and lives a life of trashy existence. His mother conveniently acts oblivious to this charade he puts up. All he needs is a moving comic song from him to forget the crappy things he does with his time. Melissa Leo and Christian Bale share several scenes together and they sparkle with performances. You see how two good actors can shine each other with just being there sharing the screen.

Thankfully the fight scenes are shot with ultimate real punches. It is boxing looking clumsy which the technical person can say as the rhythm but as a spectator it is the closest I have seen a boxing in a film comes to real life. It is not thrilling or motivating yet has a power to it when the moment of explosion happens. “The Fighter” comes through as one of the good films of 2010 due to the actors and the lengths each of them goes through and accommodates each other in providing the space and time to extract the best out of each other.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

"I am Love" (Language - Italian) (2010) - Movie Review

Luca Guadagnino’s “I am Love” treats the film, its characters and the subtleties in it with nothing but pure and unadulterated tenderness. It takes up a family, a really rich upper class family in Milan, Italy and slowly unravels the mystic identity burial of a foreign soul. This is Emma played with a daring artistic passion by Tilda Swinton who constantly surprises me with her wide portrayal of complex women.

Being married and leaving everything right from the tiniest possession to the valuable relations to her mother and father and enter a strange place with the only known face being her husband is a terrifying thing for a woman in traditional Indian setup. Similar experience has numbed Emma who is originally from Russia. We do not infer it in the initial family dinner celebrating he father-in-law’s birthday. Guadagnino does it with precision. The house keepers work with hurried fear mingled with respect and love to the family. No one ill treats them but you do not want to find out the hard way. The Rechi’s family assimilate and the story is theirs but the social status becomes an entity in the film.

Grandpa Edoardo Sr. (Gabriele Ferzetti) announces his retirement and predictably assigns his son Tancredi Rechi (Pippi Delbono), the husband of Emma as his successor for the textile company. But he adds a twist by making his grandson Edoardo (Flavio Parenti) another successor as well. Edoardo or Edo is the golden boy in the family as we hear everyone speak of him coming second in a race. He comes smiling and acknowledges that and yet wins everyone’s heart. In this Emma sits and she is very much accepted and belongs in the family. Yet there is something unfitting about the presence of her in the family. We learn.

The man who said to have beaten Edo in the race is Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini) a chef by profession. He comes by sincerely and gifts Edo a cake. After few months they become thickest of friends given the nature of their liking to similar passion and Antonio is the kind of person Edo would admire. He is gentle, humble and cooks one darn delicious meal. As their friendship thickens Emma goes through two notable instances which rekindles her buried senses and directs towards Antonio.

Emma finds out that her daughter Betta (Alba Rohrwacher) is a lesbian and then a casual line from one of her sons saying whether she misses her home, Russia. This line of thought wakes her up as though she has learned to subconsciously forget it. She does impulsively acts but begins to think. This thinking process mixes up in our minds without any notice. We know the direction of the story but the treatment of it is organic. She is a great cook as well and tasting Antonio’s food gives her an orgasmic experience. There is nothing more further one needs to convince Emma in pursuing this affair.

Emma en routes San Remo where Antonio plans to open a restaurant business with Edo and follows him to stumble upon him. The eventual consummation of them defines Guadagnino’s style. The sudden upheaval of passion between them is not their first act rather it is shown as a blurry image wherein we are not sure whether it happened. Dreamy with erotic poeticism, Emma and Antonio begin meeting and make his place their love nest.

When this is happening, Edo is facing with his values being challenged and wondering whether his grandpa’s facade of caring for people is unmasking or his dad’s attitude is masking the original intentions of his grandpa. He is confused and betrayed by this and we all know where this is going. The story of an affair is such a cliche but here it blossoms into a being in the film. We confide and empathize the feeling of Emma but when it disrupts the family, we begin to dislike her. For a good reason the director keeps the emotional bottling of Emma a guessing game. When she confides with Antonio, we realize her frustration but when Betta gives a sign in the end, it all becomes clear.

“I am Love” is an exercise of treating a simple story with great care and precision. Tilda Swinton not alone surprised me with speaking Italian but how truly and methodically she embodies this strange character to represent, Emma. On the simple outlook of the family and in her ease with moving around them, Emma is very much an Italian but when she begins to doubt and comes out of it, she no longer is an Italian or even a Russian. She simply comes to term the changes she got herself thrust upon for so many years. “I am Love” is a piece of impressive direction but it is more of great acting by Tilda Swinton.

PS: I would recommend you to watch “Michael Clayton” for which she won the Academy Award and “Julia” wherein she portrays a thoroughly disgusting and dislikable character.