Sunday, February 27, 2011

"the freebie" - Movie Review

There is so much offense couples who are married or in long term relationship may take from “the freebie” because to possibly discard the idea of that thought even rise in their mind. It is also because it is so dangerous as the couple come to realize in the end to take this road. Katie Aselton that brilliant performer in “The Puffy Chair” acts and directs this film may just want you to take this as that fable but she also aligns the mind set of her audience with her character Annie and Annie’s husband Darren played by Dax Shepard.

Darren and Annie are happily married which cannot be more evident from the fact that they cannot keep their hands off each other. Yet when they are in their bedroom they realize an odd fact which is that the last time they had sex was a while ago. A while ago means a long time for a married couple wherein they have every opportunity to have sex. I know it is not how it is but the ingredients are there and both of them are not ready to cook. Damn that sounded bad but you get the picture. This all spurred from the casual yet dangerous remark Darren made in their dinner outing with their friends. One of their friends breaking up from a long term relationship decides to go wild and Darren absolutely supports her saying that if he was in her shoes, he would do the same before making the big leap in to monogamy. Stupidly honest in this honest stupidity.

Darren and Annie decide to have one night off. Anyone including someone like myself not involved in a relationship might know what kind of dangerous decision that is. Yet the generation where being “forward” and “open” (yes with quotes) is the nice way of neglecting the personal preference, we could see Annie and Darren thinking that this was the idea of the century to fix their sex life. They believe in it, laugh about it and make funny references whenever they encounter a potential target for each other. I think that would have settled the score but both decided to go into this route and each believe that they do not want to be the first one to blink.

The votes are divided on whether humans are not meant to be monogamous. I think there is a truth to it but monogamy has been the proven method for sustained happiness going and growing through the bumps, fun rides and the weirdness of mid life crisis in a better way. I think at some moment people begin to get tired of explaining their life history to many people in the hopes of finding another partner. Age might do that. The proven principle in avoiding heartbreaks has been marriage but then again it breaks apart so many times in the current trend. I think I am arguing with myself to find an answer and there is none. Sometimes you do not want to find that out either. Darren and Annie get one which is not pleasant.

Katie Aselton provides a wonderful film which has a destined tragedy. Dax Shepard whom I have seen few times paying not much attention in stupid films gives a performance that is composed in its absurdity. This couple are a great couple and there is no reason they have to worry about their sex life as everything else about them seems so synced. There is a need to find it on whether there is more to it. They are worried on whether marriage makes a stale sex life and might finally succumb to the temptation in finding out something different. The idea of permanency is scary but curious us humans are, we invite and convince ourselves in reaching out for the obvious result and think back fathoming how crazy we were to fool ourselves in these supposed logical decisions.

“the freebie” might be despised for the decision the couple makes and go through being on a high pedestal. The self righteous nature of that might annoy the audience as it should. While their discussions are slightly pestering I could see Darren and Annie in flesh and blood being the people we all are and committing the blunders we all do. Annie even gets big sister advice from Jessica (Bellamy Young) and we can see why Annie ignores that despite the truth to it.

Katie Aselton is talented and there is no doubt about it. Both in acting and directing this, she is thorough in the material she has taken upon. The killing silence and the mundane activities becoming a gift to avoid the pauses are given with a stunning horror film feel. The energy in between these two alters throughout the film and is so visible that I have to say Katie succeeds in this somewhat predictable film. Yet we are curious on what happened during that night off. Whether they are telling the truth when they say what happened makes “the freebie” a scary moral lesson in any relationship.

"Idiocracy" (2006) - Movie Review

“Idiocracy” is not alone funny because of the futuristic human society devoid of anything resembling responsibility and sense but also the smartness in presenting situations in exemplifying the stupidity with absolute no BS whatsoever. Luke Wilson plays much like he does in all the films but Maya Rudolph does a far more outstanding job of Rita the prostitute. Written alongside Etan Cohen and directing the film is Mike Judge and he knows the attention span of this generation (running time of 84 minutes) and that is one of the reason he is able to emulate the futuristic society with great precision.

Luke Wilson is Joe Bauers, a Corporal in the army whiling his time relaxing in a library where work means watching TV. He is named Joe for a reason and becomes a part of an experiment to be hibernated for a year along with Rita the prostitute. Things go wrong as they are forgotten for 500 years. In this time the smart people slowly become extinct and the irresponsible and not so bright candidates breed like bunnies. Result is the state of world where every one has forgotten how to continue their life with any action whatsoever.

Joe and Rita both wake up by the crash of a garbage avalanche. The world Mike Judge creates has the perfect combination of technology making its way through in all human decisions. Somewhere in the line the people decided to trust the machines as the way of life. Resultant is a world run by machine because the humans let them to. It is not the Matrix world where the machines have the purpose of suck the energy out of the humans to exist but they let the humans waste their energy and they have focussed much on to the smallest of things they could waste on. Take Frito (Dax Shepard) the house of which Joe wakes up. Frito is in his recliner slurping a yellow like gooey liquid which can only mean Cheddar cheese and watches a TV show where the plain purpose of the famous show is to get the main character’s groin pounded in several ways. And this is the best part, the ways that happen are stupider than the show itself.

Joe is alarmed by this and an accidental I.Q test makes him the smartest man on the planet. People have forgotten to drink water and accept energy drinks as the living potion. They forgot to question anything. There is a point in the film where Joe advices to water the plants instead of irrigating it with Gatorade like liquid which has the simple tag line of having electrolytes. The people keep repeating that the energy drink with electrolytes is what the humans and plants crave for. At one point Joe asks whether they even know what electrolytes mean. And I cannot stop thinking about how we believe everything is put on label trusting the FDA and other organization to keep track of the manufacturers. Granted they partially do but as in film if they are run by the manufacturers itself, then all we are left is to substitute water with energy drinks.

“Idiocracy” succeeds because it makes you think of the possibility of this future world. As every generation goes through their life, information is not alone provided in abundance but also gets distorted. When zillions of stories emerge for one event, you have no idea which to pick and consider it history. The hospitals in this world are run by button presses and the doctors are well, not exactly doctors. What made me wonder was why do they even have a profession? Every one is gullible and believe the loudest noise. They all go through in mood swings and act upon their first stupid idea.
Joe the average person in 2005 becomes the most reasonable man in 26th century and yet he hesitates to take leadership much like every one else. The world is filled with average people and the reason to pursue something in their life becomes essential for the reason to live. The order exists based on that majority and in the future scary world of “Idiocracy” that has evaporated in to consumerism and blind belief.

The film could have been exploited in several dumb ways based on a spectacular premise and yet Mike Judge and crew think through it. They bring up good instances to remind us on the possibilities of such situation and makes us laugh and think. The best comedy is tough to produce, great comedies are ones which makes you think along with it. In this satirical film, they do not blame one part of industry or section or politics. They simply take the worst case scenario of the current situation of people’s awareness and advancement in technology and consumerism. The film rightly starts with the two couples side by side evaluating the idea of having babies through the years and that explains it all. A comedy that goes crazy on the plot device but always having a rational and logic to its behaviour throughout the film. “Idiocracy” has a cult following despite its poor distribution and there is a reason for it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Unknown" (2011) - Movie Review

Berlin has been made famous for its police siren than anything else through the Bourne series and so does “Unknown”. Stealing he concept of “Inception”, it can be said that Bourne series can be called as one of few thrillers that almost makes you believe like a dream in that moment as realistic. The same cannot be said much about “Unknown” a film bringing Liam Neeson to repeat “Taken” which swept the box office and little bit of critical acclaim. My enjoyment in “Taken” was calculated yearning for a better execution and “Unknown” does not qualify for that benefit of doubt.

The blonde bomb shell January Jones is the wife of Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), Liz. Never trust a golden haired beauty in a film. And if she is your wife then the first thing to be done is to execute her. Martin and Liz are in Berlin for a biotechnology summit. Martin forgets his suitcase in airport and he goes to fetch it leaving Liz at the hotel. He gets into a nasty accident that leaves him in coma. Four days later he comes out of coma and wonders why no one has been searching for him. The suitcase has his identity and now without it no one in hospital have any idea who he is. He gets back to his hotel and alas! There is a Dr. Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn) with Liz . Liz claims to not recognize Martin at all.

After several chases and German accents with Frank Langella in a thankless role, the film ends with those new identities for the main characters we rooted for. The known trick for the film is entering directly into this new city with two new characters revealing easy information about them. You do not suspect much of them. We have only seen scientist being killed by the glorious villains, not pick up crazy tricks to drive madly in Berlin streets. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, picking Liam Neeson is the only best thing they did. No wonder Neeson fits right in as the clueless man in a strange city. It is kind of opposite of “Taken” wherein despite his stranger in a strange land he stands of being so home in it. Martin is a clueless scientist looking for answers, yelling and acting frustrated. Logic does not come into place when it is best needed.

Soon Martin gets pursued by non-speaking tough assassins. They always give enough time for him to grab something to escape or use something from the surroundings to counter attack. In this mix is Gina (Diane Kruger) the taxi driver that crashed him into river and is being pushed in as duo character for Martin. They are a good combination in car as apparently he has skills to drive rash while she can provide short cuts in downtown. Do not ask what difference it makes when they crash every vehicle in the process.

I personally believe that car chases should be banned here after unless there is a critical panel approving it in a thriller. After encountering an accident myself the belief of any one surviving the chase and walking in a straight line has been permanently altered. I can never see a crash in the same way again in a film. That does not mean I will not enjoy the chase in “The Bourne Identity”. It has just affirmed that a poorly made car chase is going to be amplified more of its faults to me. And “Unknown” has much of it.

There are obviously twists forming explanation of why someone would want to replace Dr. Martin Harris. What are they trying to gain out of it? After couple of news headlines sighting a professor and a Prince from middle east, you do not need a spy education to put things together. Anyhow, the final explanation of the identity crisis Martin has been literally put through is more than not satisfying. We frankly do not care.

Liam Neeson in a way as much as fitting to play Martin is also not strong enough to be the central man in action. All his roles have been phenomenally commanding and a confidence that throws off his enemies with a respect. Since he is not sure of himself, the film and his character for the film falters in loosing us towards being enthralled by this man’s ability to get into dangerous situations and tackle it. There are no punching combat that brings the audience to get up in surprise and energy of the capability this innocent scientist carries underneath. I am not going to say that “Unknown” kept me in the seat with time to go and so it will which is what the audience might come for it. I am not going to say that “Unknown” would invite those audience to expect “Taken” and give them nothing but disappointment. I am not going to say anything at all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"The Secret in Their Eyes" (Language - Spanish) (2009) - Movie Review

You cannot alter a person’s passion says one of the characters about a killer they are in hunt for. He is not talking about the psychopath’s passion for killing but something else which would pave way for the greatest thrilling scene in the film. This is the Argentinean movie “The Secret in Their Eyes” starring Ricardo Darin who provided some brilliant performances in late Fabian Bielinsky’s David Mamet styled con film “Nueve Reinas” and a fantastic moody noir film “El Aura”. He is agent Esposito and this is a murder mystery intertwined with drama and beauty.

A story about a murder is more about the people finding the culprit than the culprit themselves. David Fincher’s “Seven” and “Zodiac” made it clear and disturbing. The latter of those Fincher’s classics undeniably brought the whole web of people dedicating their love and life for that obsessive answer for the riddle they could not solve. Juan Jose Campanella’s film does not go into the details of the investigation. It begins with Esposito in his old age trying to make sense of his life and begins to write a novel. If a person has no family to be left to mimic his existence after his death, there can always be a novel of his life story for a final attempt in remembrance.

Esposito refuges for the aforementioned attempt. He meets up with Judge Irene Menendez Hastings (Soledad Villamil). In this process he brings out the deadly case of rape and murder of Liliana Colotto (Carla Quevedo). They never openly talked about the case. It brings sudden shadows of fear and sorrow on Irene’s face. So we go through the lines of Esposito writing his novel and we learn about the investigation. But we learn more about the belief of Esposito on the love he saw in the eyes of Liliana’s husband, Morales (Pablo Rago). In those eyes he saw his passionate untold love for Irene whom he works for.

There are sudden impulses which leads to the killer. One such is the initial break Esposito finds in the old photos Morales shows. There is this spooky, lean and creepy man Isidoro Gomez (Javier Godino) looking lustfully over Liliana in all those photos. Esposito does not need any more evidence and he goes for it making rash decisions. He tumbles and stumbles with the other superiors and colleagues resulting in spur of events that would cause “The Secret in Their Eyes” a different film altogether in this genre.

The relationship of Esposito with Irene, his best buddy and colleague Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) and Morales forms the tale of thrill, revenge, justice and existence. Esposito and Irene are ridiculously in love but unable to tell about it as Irene is well educated and comes from a wealthy family and ready to marry the society approved groom and Esposito is a hard working guy climbing his way from the bottom. Their conversations are sparked by their passion for the justice and hindered by it too.

The best of all comes between the chemistry between the men in this film. Esposito’s best friend Pablo is a drunk but has the right mind for finding the trail leading to the killer. Esposito tries his best to get his friend on right track but there are friends who you have the burden of watching them drown themselves and you have nothing else to do than watch it. Here Pablo goes on a spiral and Esposito stands there waiting for his skillful friend to be sober for a moment at least to investigate the killer.

The other one is Esposito’s drive for the case in Morales. Morales is obviously devastated and crushed by the horrendous rape and murder of his wife but has a clear set of expectation on justice. He does not want death to the killer for revenge but the proper offer of the life the killer has to provide which is the solitude and the aimless years of living in a cage. Morales’ transformation from grieving husband to a man at peace is what makes “The Secret in Their Eyes” a more meaningful murder mystery.

Felix Monti’s cinematography is nothing like I have seen. It is the most original camera work in years using the technique to capture the sense of continuity in gritty chase than a gimmick. The cleverly presented feeling of one continuous shot in the football stadium is nothing short of precise employment of the technology in the most important scene of the film. The trick in the camera makes your heart go faster making the audience run towards the culprit and gasp for breath in the process.

Seeing “The Secret in Their Eyes” reminded Ben Affleck’s directorial debut “Gone, Baby, Gone” which took similar approach towards the genre. I am not saying that both films have the same look and feel similar but the approach is similar in the style of presentation, an original one. Affleck’s film while made an impact on me, it grew more through multiple watch while Campanella’s film is instant gratification and I am sure multiple viewing would provide more. If not for anything, watch it for the football stadium chase and you would get one of the best movies out of this.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

"Unthinkable" (2010) - Movie Review

“Unthinkable” faces the torture interrogation with the true brutality and takes the knife right to the heart of its audience to dissect it. What we truly made of is more than we could imagine and director Gregor Jordan does not need a documentary for this. He does a stage play in this gruesome film which was directly released to DVD. Why it did not receive theatrical release is something I can never imagine but regardless of that fact it is available on DVD and instant watch in Netflix.

There is an American who is a Muslim and has planted three nuclear bombs in major cities in US. He is under the shady custody and the officials has limited time to get the information out of him. FBI Agent Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) is brought in. A specialized interrogation consultant H (Samuel L. Jackson) is assigned as the primary interrogator. What follows is the moral pendulum swinging out of its clock and gets thrown away into the pool of blood. Whatever you think H is not going to do with the scalpel is what he is exactly going to do.

“Unthinkable” is not alone bloody in becoming torture porn but bad it may sound it is necessary in this film. Otherwise we would not even feel the iota of horrendous nature of this exercise in extracting information. Yet there are several moments wherein we as the audience tilt ourselves and think “may be there are no other options”. Agent Brody becomes that civilian despite her FBI badge. H is clinical. He not alone sees it as work but is his nature. He is courteous and has a loving family. He makes time for it. He does not enjoy this process as he would make him a cinematic villain. Samuel L. Jackson plays him with a twisted sense of straight face. He puts through the terrorist Yusuf (Michael Sheen) like a doctor operating his patient.

By now the documentaries have dissected the distraught and disgusting torture technics employed in the interrogation of the alleged terrorists. The experts in those documentaries suggest that building a rapport is the best way to get reliable and true information rather than torture leading to tell whatever they want to escape out of this pain. The director takes the time out of this and puts in a real scenario out here. They have three days.

British actor Michael Sheen plays the terrorist Yusuf with several dimensions and undertones. He knows he can take it but what exactly is taking it? The pain is not going to be less painful because is prepared for it. Or is it? I do not want to know but the idea that one can hold out boggles my mind. Nothing can prepare to the limitless evil nature of a person’s imagination to put through a fellow human being to pain. It is beyond my imagination to relate to that in persuading oneself to endure that for the sake of a belief.

“Unthinkable” never stops for leisure explaining. It knows that audience are well aware of this scenario and they waste no time in going through the necessities for a plot. It has the officials with no names standing there and order with the political and legal correctness to continue this charade H is doing in the name of interrogation. They easily change their mind as the situation changes. We are all at the mercy of misplaced morality, values and conscience as and when the surroundings morphs.

The film goes beyond the extremity when H begins to lose control of himself. He begins to go even above his non-existing boundary. While he does this work with ultimate clinical nature, he cannot fathom the failure in his work and in himself. He turns around for a moral compass in Agent Brody who now and again vacillates in letting him do and then wait for her chance to get some sanity of information from Yusuf. She is the only member in the room having tiniest bits of humanity and it is very real. That is scary sad too.

“Unthinkable” is unsettling and visceral. It does not of course answer the question but lets you through this situation where I sincerely wish none of us wants to go through. There are extents in which I would like to test my limits. Those will be for travel, endurance and happiness. The farthest I would like to test my pain will be for the aforementioned endurance and hardship for a decent cause. While those sound like I live in La-La land, sometimes those are the best anyone could hope for in the simple fantasy of regular human life. Because when you are there with a person very well determined to take this pain and give no information, what is the extent you would go to get that information? You would not want to think, do you?

"State of Grace" (1990) - Movie Review

In “Donnie Brasco” and the Chinese film “Infernal Affairs” it not alone dealt with the undercover cop’s turmoil in becoming a part of the gang they are infiltrating but also how they were still able to do their job successfully. In both films the cop was a good undercover man playing the cards rightfully as though they exist to do this thing. The details of their initialization in to the gang are shortened and goes relatively fine. They are not scared by it or the film deals more so with the after math of their induction than the process itself. In “State of Grace” they show a cop who for nostalgic reasons goes back to his native Hell’s Kitchen and realizes he is not cut out for this job because he cannot distinguish between his job’s direction and his best friend’s madness.

Sean Penn is the cop. He is Terry Noonan and runs back to his neighbourhood after a set up for his background as a thug on the run killing couple of thugs over a bad drug deal. After a decade he can go back to his friend Jackie (Gary Oldman) and still pick up where they left off. After a decade he can go to his neighbourhood and hook up with his old girl friend Kathleen (Robin Wright-Penn) who is also Jackie’s sister. After a decade he can go back to his neighbourhood and become one of them without even trying. Sometimes how much ever you bury the past all it takes is the environment and people to bring it out in the worst time possible.

Jackie is his best buddy and they grew up together in this place. Jackie’s dad used to run the mob and now it is Jackie’s elder brother Frankie Flannery (Ed Harris) running things. He is not a good boss. He does not have much control over his boys and the Italians are tightening up and work on a business deal. He goes out to threaten an old man running a bar to make him buy from his supply for. The old man does not cave. Soon his right hand man Nicholson (R. D. Call) punches the old man when the compassionate Stevie (John C. Reily) jumps on him. Soon Terry and Jackie are over Nicholson. Frankie is out of sorts in the business but is desperate to run it.

Jackie if no one figures out by the first 30 seconds into his introduction that he is a loose cannon should be somewhere else. He is obnoxious and loud mouthed but loves his roots, family and friendship. He is dangerous and a drunk. Terry comes back and immediately mingles well along with Jackie and the goons. He behaves as one of them and he even forgets that he is a cop. When he sees Kathleen even the slightest shred of those evidence of him being in the job disappears. As much as he is concerned he is back to the old days.

Written by Dennis McIntyre and directed by Phil Joanou, “State of Grace” has a deep and profound story of torn loyalty and the blurry vision of one’s past in right and wrong. Yet it suffers from lifting it all the way through to its audience. It has some of the best actors perfect at their prime best and they claw it through for most of it but the impact goes without a punch. I think it is due to the nature of the character Terry himself. May be we got used to seeing a successful undercover cop in distress than a realistic cop unable to go through with it. But that is giving reasons to myself. The men in the previously mentioned films of this genre were unsuccessful in different ways. Here the character of Terry is brave enough to admit it.

Sean Penn is young and charming as Terry Noonan. Gary Oldman feats on his Jackie and is stumbling all over the place as a drunk and a man driven by mad misplaced emotions and loyalty. These are the funny and dangerous psychopaths with odd feelings about friendship and family. He is true to his nature of being in a gang and stands up for his friends.

What I liked about “State of Grace” is how the characters try to cling on to the past and deny to let go off the past life. Kathleen and Terry are two people who are trying their best to get away from this life and yet they are pulled in back as though they are asking for it. The thing I did not like about “State of Grace” is the obligatory revenge ending as though there is no way out of this. Despite the beautifully shot finale of slo-mo gun fights for the time, it could have had a real state of graceful ending.

"Serenity" (2005) - Movie Classics

Having heard so much about the “Firefly” television series I immersed into it over couple of days. Here is quick history lesson on this cult following. This series like several forgotten good ones got cancelled after one season due to ratings I suppose. The people with sincere following began lot of buzz of this atrocity and tried several attempts to reinstate it without any success. Though they managed to create enough word of mouth publicity that Universal Studios green lit the film as the sequel to the series. While I did like the TV series which in itself has abundant of uniqueness in ambience and characterization, “Serenity” distinguishes as a much powerful, entertaining and a moving science fiction film.

Writer/Director Joss Whedon explains how we humans explored other solar systems with bunch of planets and moon due to necessity and making them inhabitable as we enter this world. The Alliance became the governing body providing central administration of the civilization. There was of course the opposition to this administration, the Independents. War between them resulted in a hard and tragic end for the Independents leaving them to fend in space and become scavengers. One such is Captain Malcolm Reynolds played with a timing brilliance and panache by Nathan Fillion. Mal has managed to fly high with his ship Serenity and other crew members.

As the series ended, it had Mal’s appetite for sexual tension Bonafide Companion (meaning high class call girl) Inara (Morena Baccarin) leaving the ship, a Shepherd Derrial Book (Ron Glass), pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk), his warrior wife and second in command Zoe (Gina Torres), a rather moronic muscle Jane (Adam Baldwin), a skillful mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite), her love interest and a doctor on a run from Alliance is Simon (Sean Maher) as he rescued his unpredictable and telepathic sister River (Summer Glau) from Alliance’s mind experiments over her. We are never really sure what caused River to be like this but we always know that she is nothing but trouble.

The film begins with the Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) an absolute delightful addition as the complex villain for Mal. Much like the mystical and dangerous bounty hunter Jubal Early (Richard Brooks) in the series finale, the Operative is philosophical and carries the role of a Samurai (with the obvious use of his sword as his prime weapon). Acceptance is such a beauty in human existence. Acceptance of oneself regardless of their nature is what makes a person at peace despite the horror and pain he or she may cause on others. The Operative is the man assigned by Alliance to find River and kill her. His character is highly successful in most parts in the film.

Despite a low budget the film has abundant great visuals. The titular ship gets a thorough make over in look and feel from the TV series. The first entry into the vessel through the cockpit and Mal walking through giving a short tour talking with the crew members puts a physical believability for this ship. Wash and Zoe are still married and Mal is still hiding his feelings for Inara and he is on for a job. Having provided home and hideaway for Simon and his sister, Mal takes River on a job in the lieu of getting aware of her psychic and ass kicking abilities. That job in itself is a high octane chase.

The film has many other spectacular chases, stunts and moments of surprise. It has all these futuristic people being so human and so unpredictable. The flair of Mal has been his impulse and the quick thinking in shooting people. Take the encounter he has with the Operative who comes with an utmost respect and truce to settle this capture of River. Mal being Mal does his thing and in the end it is so evident that the Operative can kill Mal without any hesitation and yet Mal survives. Of course Inara helps him but that makes us choose Mal to be our hero and develop a thorough respect for the Operative.

The Alliance though claimed as this authoritative administration has managed to run this civilization sans the carnal and blood seeking cannibals Reavers for most part peacefully. As with any political administration Mal is against them and having fought in the war the feeling is only obvious. At the end of the war he has given up any hold on remote sense of clinging on to a value and rides the space chaotically and as pure as a scavenger might. On the other hand is the Operative, quite smooth in his lethality and a firm believer in the intention of Alliance’s need to have a sin free world. The film never falters in distinguishing these two beings. Both are charming, elegant and capable.

I loved “Serenity” for several reasons. One for being the most entertaining science fiction film and second for having no reservation towards obligatory scenes. The love interests never hinders the movie and is there for a reason. The movie has some best lines. Especially a great one from the pilot Wash as he flies through the war zone. More than a good film “Serenity” is a memorable one as it ends. We earn for more. In spite of the TV series being a good show, I could not see how it cultivated such a fandom to follow. I think they would have felt something like what I felt in the end of “Serenity”, the need for this adventure to continue.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

"The Art of the Steal" (Documentary) (2010) - Movie Review

One’s Will is the wishful thinking of wishes within his or her bounds with the legality binding it. It holds immense value starting from the best plot twisters in nutty and cheesy films to the real life scenarios. I have never seen any one question it because it is the last sign of respect to the dead or rather they are not there to argue about it. Albert C. Barnes made his with clear indication of what needs to be done with this billions of dollar worth arts in his private art mansion in the suburbs of Philadelphia. What became of it is “The Art of the Steal”.

After the art exploration and manipulation dealt in the street art arena in “Exit through the Gift Shop”, this is another piece of documentary questioning the value attached to the priceless master works. But beyond the beauty, poetry and the experience of these arts Albert C. Barnes immaculately preserved and cherished, the film talks rather rudimentary principles, one’s right towards their property. Here the promotion of greater good and the expansion of the secret treasure of arts were used to hijack these to the city center.

I for one cannot dictate the standard or definition of a painting. Some possess those appreciation like I do for films and I can relate to it. The experience of certain piece around an atmosphere makes all the difference. In a multiplex ruled world I have subconsciously forgotten the rarity of the presence a building could make. Yet I could see clearly the theatres I grew up watching films in. Now I complain when Ebert’s film festival happens in Virginia historical theatre with blocking views. I have been comforted and while I choose the astonishing screen presence of the current multiplex, I still respect and admire the beauty of those old theatres. Barnes’ art mansion is like those theatres and he desperately wanted that to be that way for all his arts for eternity.

Albert C. Barnes from the video footage and the commentary that accompanies it comes off as a strict, terse and a strong man. Adamant and stubborn, it is his way or no way at all. His way was to safe guard the sanctity of the art he possessed and wanted the people to cherish it the way he wanted it to be. I can see how he pissed off people including his near and dear ones. The film is not so much about that side of his character rather his pure sense of love towards the art he possessed. Also his demand of enjoying it the right way.

As Barnes angers the people in Philadelphia and around, he knew that the legacy he is hoping to create after his demise might be affected a great deal. He knew it being a big time capitalist himself. He planned his will and laid strong terms such as no way to sell or move or any kind of sort of his art properties. When you write something like that it is supposed to be iron clad in the eyes of law. You would think so. After his death in 1951, things were in place with an able successor but the eventuality was merely postponed.

“The Art of the Steal” of course argues for keeping this invaluable arts at its long living place. It of course goes all in for supporting that and taking the view of Barnes himself against the establishment. I was constantly divided in the reasoning of moving or not moving these arts. On one hand it is Barnes’ wish to keep his property within his walls and not spoil the experience by making it an exhibition which is considered selling out for him and the purist art world. On the other hand it is an international treasure which has been put in confined spaces and not at the easy access for the public and comes off as selfish and closed minded. This vacillation of the opinion despite the movie’s lack of objectivity resonated strongly in me. The people of the establishment genuinely believed in bringing the art to a much wider audience and for the greater good of the city. I can completely see that. As a public reading news about this I would not hesitate to take their side. Yet what the film offers is the fundamentals of human existence which is to respect the properties of one even after their demise. Especially after their demise.

Directed by Don Argott, as any good documentary, the film has a clear set of agenda and provides it in a convincing chapter format. It helps as an audience to follow through the time and genuinely understand the politics behind the acquisition in the name of art. Beyond art it is about one man’s wish being dragged in the dirty game of politics and in the end concludes so tragically in the eyes of this film’s makers.