Sunday, July 26, 2009

CORALINE: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast (voices): Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Robert Bailey Jr., Keith David, John Hodgman
Director: Henry Selick
Runtime: 100 min.
Rating: *****
Genre: Animated, Adventure, Fantasy

        I look back and re-watch a few titles from that studio who are supposed to be the leading animators in the movie business, and I sense a growing disillusionment within me. Especially Wall-E, which I have been considering lately to be a ham-fisted embarrassment, and some kind of a squandered opportunity. There’s Finding Nemo, and I struggle to sit through it, so much so that I lend the DVD to somebody in the hope I never see it again. I might be mistaken here, but I seem to sense a lack of understanding of the entire spectrum of the emotions we feel as a child. Some of these films are so cute that they almost force-feed their cuteness. Animations, much like good comic books, and those fascinating children novels from Lewis Carroll, from R.L. Stine, from Roald Dahl, are a reflection of our hidden fantasies and our deepest fears we feel as we grow up, and those emotions we often are not even completely aware of. But I rarely seem to perceive such an understanding on screen, and most often I only see some kind of idealistic make-belief fantasy world that doesn’t necessarily reflect but instead seems to sell, feeding us what should be rather than what ought to be.
        And then I see that great Japanese filmmaking genius Hayao Miyazaki. Someone who doesn’t shrug away from looking deep into us, and himself, and our formative years. And I see now Coraline, a deeply layered pragmatic view of our world. It doesn’t lie to us that everything around is beautiful, and doesn’t promise us a world that can never be, like most Hollywood animation seems to suggest. It instead asks of us to find the beauty in our largely imperfect, often inconsistent and maybe even a harsh world. For an analogy, consider that little child in Life is Beautiful. And consider that young kid in McCarthy’s The Road. Or little Coraline here. I think when the realities of life knock on their door, that little child whose entire world has been fabricated with lies and shallow beauty would come out second best.
        Think of Coraline. Nobody is cutting for her a fake pretty picture. She has moved to a new house. Away from her friends. Her parents always seem to be preoccupied with their writing. They do not pamper her. They scold her when she gets annoying. They feed her tasteless vegetables as we all have eaten. And mind you, Coraline is not one of those sweet angels they throw at us in the movies. She is annoying just as most children are. She demands attention as we all do. She has an attitude and is often quite rude. Just like us.
        And we never were satisfied with what we had, often receding into fantasies of our creations, into a world constructed out of what we perceived to be perfection. Little Coraline, bored of our new house and lack of friends, happens to discover a secret door to a whole new world that promises the perfection of her desires and dreams. Delicious food, friends, and the most loving parents. Entertainment and fun all the time.
        I’ve had such a dream for most of my life. I seem to relish that cocoon, and I often recede deep into it when I feel the real world overwhelm me. Reader, you might wonder if such a cocoon is some kind of a poison wrapped within a chocolate bar. I wonder too. But then there’s no escaping the charms of it. And we end up being somewhat of an apprehensive lot, meandering in the hallways in between, always attracted to this strange world of our dreams that seems so much more beautiful than the imperfect one surrounding us, but circumspect enough to never embrace it fully and submit ourselves to it. Ah, our fears.
        Coraline suggests these imperfections in that most inspiring of all ways an animation can ever hope to achieve – by evocative use of the medium. It is visually stunning, but then stunning is an incomplete word that could be used to describe most of the mediocre fare that is doing the rounds these days. Maybe reflective is a better word. More so than Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel so masterfully illustrated by Dave McKean. This feels like a minor triumph. It uses 3-D stop-motion animation to render the real dimensionalities of a real word, and manipulates them to highlight these imperfections. These inconsistencies I hint at.
        I believe I need to include images to make my point. And much of what I suggest is inspired from David Bordwell’s blog entry, and this insightful and informative article in The American Cinematographer by Peter Kozachik, the DP on Coraline.
        Consider these two images, of Coraline in her real world, and notice the manipulations in depth perceptions.
        Look at the floor below, and notice how the depth of the floor has been deliberately manipulated to render a rather skewed image. There’s seems to be a glaring contradiction in the way the floor is arranged, without any degree of recession to it. The lighting is uniform, and there seems to be an unnatural gradient in height that our eyes actually sense as skewed.


Here is another image that captures this inconsistency much more glaringly. Pay attention to the wall corner in the middle of the image, and see how all the bricks seem of the same size, suggesting no natural gradation of size. This makes it, in a figurative sense, somewhat of a two-dimensional world.


        That idea fascinates me. Of making the real world feel two-dimensional, as against the imaginary world which seems to have a depth to it, and hence three-dimensional. I’ve often expressed my insecurities for considering Daniel Plainview such a fascinating character, as opposed to an evil one, and have even felt a certain reflection within his eyes. I’m a firm believer in the elitist line of thinking, and I do not try to hide my disappointments when I encounter a rather uninteresting conversation, or for that matter a person. People do seem to be, more often than not, terribly uninteresting and predictable. Unstimulating might be a better word. That might be the deeper me built over twenty-six years, and still a few bricks are being laid. Coraline seems to be that rare animated film that speaks to the child within me.
        I was gripped by the tale within it. I didn’t have to become a child to feel the dread when Coraline finds herself in more than a spot of bother. For the first time in ages, I desperately hoped an animated film ended on a happy note, and feared that it might not. You should see the imagery here. Scary and beautiful at the same time. Not even one bit of it is showy. Not one bit of it calls attention to itself. Not one but of it is symbolic or metaphorical. It serves the purpose of what I believe cinematic imagery ought to serve – evoke emotions. Doesn’t mean your child ought to be protected from it until he is ten. No, not at all. Rather, as a parent, it is your duty to let him feel it. This isn’t ugly, but surreal. There is imagination in the way it supplies rich images with depth in them that evoke an entire gamut of emotions. There is wonder, there’s wit, there’s charm, there’s mischief, and then at the end of the day there’s the truly heartfelt love. And not one bit of it seems force-fed.
        As I come to the end of my review, I begin to ask myself – Is Coraline a great film? I do not know, and to answer that with any degree of conviction, I need to watch it in the medium it was made for – 3-D. There’s no gimmickry attached to it, unlike all the films around. Just like The Dark Knight suggestive usage of the IMAX frame, Coraline, it seems to me, is probably the first film to actually explore the medium to construct a frame that makes a more profound usage of the spatial relationships that exist within it. Even before Avatar is even here.
        But I do think Coraline is the animated/fantasy/children’s film I have been waiting for, which just doesn’t serve the purpose of narrating a tale. A tale is beyond the point, I often remark, and most times it is the reactions to this tale that actually account for the richness. The film dwells within its moments, and takes immense care that we are drenched by it. It is quite possibly the richest audio-visual animated experience I have had. The sounds are so precise. So yes, I cut to the chase, and I ask of you to show this film to your kid. And see it yourself, for you are a kid too.
        And yes reader, it is Coraline. Not the obligatory Caroline. When you tell your friends about this remarkable film, do take care to get the name right, will you. Otherwise this fiery little girl wouldn’t be too amused.


Note: To read more on the production of Coraline, please visit the link below:
http://www.theasc.com/magazine_dynamic/February2009/Coraline/page1.php

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

THE BROTHERS BLOOM: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie Coltrane
Director: Rian Johnson
Runtime: 113 min.
Rating: ****1/2
Genre: Comedy, Thriller

        The Brothers Bloom touches me somewhere deep. Something I realize only later. I watch it on Saturday morning. I sit down to write about it. The affable con-game on display, and the artistry of its manipulation leaves me smitten. Like one of those Wes Anderson films. Like one of those romantic films from Hal Ashby. I know I’m already in love with it. I want to know why. I want to know the strength of those initial feelings of mine, and if they could withstand the analysis. It bothers me the film is titled The Brothers Bloom, when the principal characters are only called Stephen (Mr. Ruffalo) and Bloom (Mr. Brody), two Dickensian orphans who do not really have a last name.
        Elder brother Stephen always takes care of younger Bloom, and artistically designs elaborate con-schemes, and he would ask his younger brother to play the parts. He would script characters, and younger Bloom would play them. Mr. Johnson, the fantastic new talent who has only ever directed one film prior to this – the remarkable 2005 Indie-success Brick – and who seems to be well set to create a memorable filmography all his own, unique in style and substance, seems to incorporate a whole lot of movie references – from The Marx Brothers (Bang-Bang played by ms. Kikuchi is awfully silent during the movie and seems like Harpo Marx , to Godard’s Bande à Part (the romance that Penelope, played by Ms. Weisz, brings to the trio of Stephen Bloom and her), , to Fellini’s 81/2 (Stephen, the scriptwriter-director, always seems to be dressed in an attire that is not much different from Guido), to the cheerful poetic dialogs that remind one of early David Mamet. And the biggest influence of them all, that zenith of Mr. Bogdanovich’s career, Paper Moon. Mr. Johnson admits to have seen that film before heading along to make this one.
        That said, I wonder, Stephen’s designs seem to include a few literary references too. For instance, there’s the most blatant one to Melville’s The Confidence Man. The movie opens to one of the most beautiful montages in recent cinematic history, as we see young Stephen and Bloom hopping their way from home to home. These kids are smart, street-smart, especially the elder one. He has a knack of playing around with the neighborhood. With little hats on them they don’t look much different from Tom Sawyer. Maybe they both are winks to Sawyer and Huck Finn. So, as I sit down to write, with all these ideas hounding me, and the little fact that Stephen is the author of characters Bloom plays, the answer to the strangeness of the title strikes me. At least what I think is the answer. Another literary reference? Possible. Take a moment dear reader, rake your memory and ask yourself in which great book there existed such an author-character relationship between characters named Stephen and Bloom. James Joyce’s Ulysses comes to mind. I can only wonder, I can only speculate, and I can only seek to re-watch the film to convince myself. I know for sure I need to watch the film again just so to quantify the beauty of it, and analyze it. You might call it reviewing, as do I. But I prefer indulging deep within the recesses of a joyful piece of filmmaking.
        So I write not another word, and I buy the tickets to another show. Monday, 9 p.m. I’m excited. I wish my brother was here. Back when we were kids, father would always take us brothers to the movies together. But my brother had a six-year head-start, and he always seemed to know a lot more stories than me. We were always best friends, the best companions the other could ever have, and a huge portion of our weekends would involve a whole lot of enthusiastic storytelling from him and some eager listening from me. He would tell me stories of movies I’m discovering now. He would tell me stories I haven’t even seen yet. He would mix them all up, create an adventure all his own, or something ridiculously screwball, and I wonder now how could he be so unbelievably imaginative. I wonder because he would tell me stories of movies that do not even exist. He created a world of magical realism, all on his own, and I was his only audience. I always have been. He doesn’t watch many movies these days, doesn’t seem to have too many stories, with the grind of everyday life and all, and I think I already am one-up on my nephews. I shall tease them when they are born, and when they grow up – Hey, you know what, your dad would tell me stories. Take that.
        It is a great feeling to have an extra parent in your life. I have my ticket in my hand, and I walk into the theatre, and walk to my seat. Screen 3, E-11. I’m excited, you see. There’s another bunch sitting over there, and on my seat. I only say E-11. They remark – Impossible – and pull out their tickets. I hand them over mine. They say mine reads The Brothers Bloom, and the movie being screened is The Hangover. I’m stunned. I thank them, and I am still stunned. I walk out, and the manager is standing outside. I ask him and he says some stuff about the print being broken. I know he is bullshitting, and I know The Brothers Bloom isn’t finding too much favor. Not in the United States, and not here. My heart’s broken. I curse the dreadful The Hangover. I drive back.
        And I sit down to writing the review, which you must have realized till now isn’t turning out be one. I know. My heart’s still broken. The memories of the movie have been diluted somewhat. By Gabhricha Paus. By Coralline. By Good. Yet I shall seek inspiration from my brother. Not invent something, but write from what I remember. I’m severely handicapped to analyze the film with any great depth, and I shall wait for the day the DVD is out when I shall pour incessantly all over it. The most brilliantly constructed montage of Penelope’s skills. The poetry of the conversations. The impossible nature of the relationships. That will be the day I shall write a real review. Take this one as filler, and a plea to watch one of the year’s best films, and the early offerings of what promises to be a great career. Not much unlike the early Christopher Nolan, or the early Coen brothers.
        So the plot of this fairy tale. The Brothers Bloom have prospered at a life full of con artistry that is the stuff of conversations in bars filled with cons and beautiful temptresses. Younger Bloom is facing existential issues for he no longer wants to be playing roles designed for him. He is disillusioned in the way Stephen scripts his cons the way those Russian novelists wrote their books, like Dostoevsky, with thematic arcs and symbolism. He sits across a bench with Stephen, and explains his feelings. Stephen knows, or maybe he acts as if he knows. He seems to be the author in every which way, and he seems to be aware of the ins and outs of all his characters.
        Especially Bloom. Bloom wants nothing of it. Yet he doesn’t seem to be sure of what he really wants. We humans, dear reader, always seem to be at loss of the appropriate word when we aren’t really sure of what is that we exactly desire. When we do, the word invariably condenses in our minds. Bloom tries his level best to condense it all, and in a beautiful bit of conversation, he says – “I want a real...thing, I wanna do things how I don’t know are gonna work out, a, I, want, a...”, and that is when Stephen snaps, conjuring the exact words Bloom has been searching for – “You want an unwritten life.” Bloom agrees – “I want an unwritten life” – and a smile appears on Stephen’s face as Bloom just realizes that he agreed on a scripted line. You should applaud the poetry of the writing here.
        Three months pass by. Whilst Bloom has been passing his time by in Montenegro, Stephen has come up with what he claims is their last con. The perfect con. To relieve a filthy rich lonely woman of a million dollars. The script is ready. Bloom has the character. There is Bang-Bang who shall provide for assistance. The woman is Penelope. And I shall discuss no more of the plot.
        It is the convention of a good con story to make us part of the con. From The Sting to Ocean’s Eleven, we audiences are never sure what the scheme is. A con story has always been narrated in a third person. Mr. Johnson pulls a clever spin on this convention, and by narrating this last con from Bloom’s perspective, he kinda makes it really unsettling. Subjectively I mean. We share the exact same insecurities as Bloom. Who is in the scam? Is Stephen hiding something? At a moment in the film Bloom is worried Penelope might be onto something. She is a bright woman, and he fears that she knows it all. He wonders if the con is on him. This is the film playing with us, and all the notions that we have developed over at the movies. There’re twists, and there’re twists and there’re twists. So many of them that after a point, they no longer seem to be the point. The point is that Stephen is building a magical reality for Bloom all the while.
        The point is The Brothers Bloom seems to somewhat allude to the omnipresence of a grand narrative in cinema, and maybe even our lives. Is it possible for a character to live an unwritten life? I wouldn’t dwell into philosophy here, so let us just limit ourselves to the predominantly narrative nature of modern cinema. Most of our characters feel scripted. We thrive upon them. Is it possible for a film to break free of its script? For its characters to just be and exist? Would cinema thrive in such a form, and would bums be sitting on chairs watching it? I don’t know. Penelope at the end concludes – “There is no such thing as an unwritten life. Only a badly written one.” And she adds on – “We’re gonna live like we’re telling the best f***ing story in the world.” I think that is a pretty convincing answer, and a pretty convincing summarization of what constitutes for the best of cinema.
        And the narration doesn’t limit itself to the script and to the page. This isn’t intense, for Mr. Johnson seems to savor a somewhat light sense to the proceedings. The objective for us is to be entertained, in every which way, and he serves us with some delightful visual imagery that force you to let out a chuckle. There is so much happening at the same time – beautiful dialogs and fascinating imagery. A wall mural of a man holding a gun to his head has a door in the middle that opens to a loud “bang”, and out comes Stephen and the head is no more. There’s much randomness to its visual puns and often the plot seems to meander in its jolly mood too, and you might wonder if it all could be somehow streamlined into something that makes more of a point. Mr. Ebert makes such an argument. I perceive that to be a wrong vantage point to view this film from. The Brothers Bloom isn’t about the details of its plot, but about the joyful nature of it. Stephen and Bloom and Penelope want to find adventure that is not existent in their everyday lives, a certain kind of entertainment, a certain kind of happiness. The film seems to desire the same. If it doesn’t exist in any discernible timeline, with its mish-mash of twenties clothing and present day surroundings, it is only trying to enjoy the best of both worlds. And by God it does.
        I shall dwell on more of the film later, when memory is in my court. I feel I might have gained some kind of closure after the heartbreak of today, something I shall never forget. I shall reserve observations of the acting and the visual style and the editing and the resident themes for then. That this is a buoyant little film is a fact beyond argument. That Mr. Ruffalo is one of our great actors is a fact beyond any doubt. That Ms. Weisz delivers an enchanting little turn is a fact that only strengthens the charismatic nature of the film. That Mr. Johnson is one of our most exciting talents is a fact you shouldn’t forget.
        And yes, that a viewer needs a second viewing to look beyond the aesthetics and cute references and into the affection Mr. Johnson has for his characters, and to ascertain why this certain film has made me fall in love with it, is a truth I shall surely pursue.

Monday, July 20, 2009

IN THE LOOP: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison, Gina McKee, Anna Chlumsky, Mimi Kennedy
Director: Armando Iannucci
Runtime: 106 min.
Country: United Kingdom
Rating: *****
Genre: Comedy

        As they say, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. In the Loop seeks inspiration from that second part. Both as a piece of filmmaking, and as a piece of political commentary. History has always been about farce. Often, our over-enthusiasm and misguided cynicism leads us to concoct wild conspiracies, but a little bit of observations and cracks begin to emerge. Mediocrity has always been the norm, whether the ruler or the ruled.
        In the Loop very much realizes that, the utter lunacy of it all, and to drive home that very point it uses that other lesson history has taught us. The history of cinema I mean. That is the longevity of the smart intelligent filmmaking over the ramble of plain emotional/serious melodrama. Nobody remembers Mr. Lumet’s Fail-Safe, but even young cinema-goers appreciate Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, and view it with much fondness. By not going all ballistic and resorting to the clichéd whining liberal Hollywood anti-war stance, and instead choosing to make a wise and funny satire on the whole deal. In the Loop is the first great movie to emerge out of 9/11, Iraq and the whole war against terrorism. I really want to stress “great”. Not merely as an opinion of mine, but as a statement. I claim thus because I believe fifty years from now, when this decade and its tumultuous events exist only on the pages of history books, and time is ripe for another farce, this might be the only film that audiences would view fondly, and laugh at the utter mockery that it so smartly and convincingly captures. It is an added piece of wisdom that the film never alludes to any particular region of the world, or any particular war, and thus in a way rings timeless.
        Here’s the plot, and bear with me for I shall only deal in broad strokes. The joy of the film isn’t in what happens at the end. We all know that the farce is inevitable. What keeps us hooked is the way it realizes that farce, with ministers and senators across the Atlantic digging a mess for themselves, and sinking deeper and deeper into it. They dig with great confidence though, and that is one of the oldest tenets of comedy – it is always funny when an idiot, preferably smug, is busy making a complete arse of himself. Here, there’s a whole fleet of such idiots. One of them is Simon Foster (Mr. Hollander), the British Minister for International Development, and in one of those moments before the media where politicians are caught between a rock and a hard place without even being aware of it, he opines on a BBC radio interview that the threat of war is unforeseeable. Simon has an uncanny ability to walk right into such situations. The Prime Minister and the President are bent towards a war, and there’re pockets on both sides that are against it. One of those pockets is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karen Clarke (Ms. Kennedy), and her beau from long back, General George Miller (Mr. Gandolfini), senior military assistant to The Pentagon. In such a climate the confused Simon, who is against the war per se but has little idea how to tightrope between his political career and that of his ideology, becomes somewhat of a key player.
        Enter Malcolm Tucker (Mr. Capaldi), the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, and more importantly the guy who is in-charge of getting the job done. In any which way. His very job depends upon the way he influences what happens in a room, be it within the confines of a minister’s office or a meeting hall at the UN. He is aggressive and he might very well be the foulest-mouthed bugger at the movies in quite a while. More so than Tom Cruise’s Les Grossman. You should imagine them in a fight. Tucker would be all over him. The writing is brilliant here, and especially in the manner in which expletives are used for maximum effect. They aren’t randomly inserted to merely sound funny; they’re the very weapons of these alpha-males who have the job of influencing minds and decisions, and shaping the world. Ah yes of course, they’re wickedly imaginative and funny too. You should see how Malcolm uses them, unleashes upon unsuspecting folks, and you might wonder if there’re schools that offer courses to achieve excellence in expletive-spray. You should see the imagination with which he greets Toby (Mr. Addison), the new aide to Simon.
        Speaking of aides, the one to Karen Clarke, Liza Weld (Ms. Chlumsky), has come up with a report that is more anti-war. It is called Post War Planning: Parameters, Implications and Possibilities, or PWIP PIP. The film is so smart it milks that acronym for two serious bursts of laughter – one for the way it sounds and two for what it is, i.e. an acronym. Both seriously observant. In the Loop is a seriously intelligent piece of witty writing the likes of which we only occasionally come across. We all refer to the famed British wit. This is a worthy example of it. This is the kind of writing the Coen Brothers have always aspired to achieve, but fail miserably at, and instead resort to easy gimmickry of the stereotype-driven screwball.
        How funny is it all? It is so funny it is almost unfair. You’re busy laughing at a one-liner and you miss an even funnier reaction. The true richness of a comedy or a witty film isn’t the one-liners coming thick and fast, but how the film reacts to them. By itself, and through its characters. This is what we, as audience, notice on repeated viewings, and this is what rubs onto us. It makes a witty film that much more believable and that is what I believe makes a film truly funny. In the Loop has some terrific moments, and what enhances them are the reactions that follow them. Attribute that to the smart writing and delicious wordplay. For instance meet. And meat. Standing your ground. Or standing on the verge of your ground. I wouldn’t want to divulge anymore. This script is a goldmine folks, and one of the secrets to its infinite wit is the manner in which it uses pragmatism and superimposes it upon diplomacy. Somewhere in there, in the fight to gain control over world events, is a classic tussle between the diplomat, who is always busy choosing the appropriate tone and words, and the absolute in-your-face authoritarian, who only knows how to wrestle the moment, stamp his authority and get the decision in. There’s Simon and his aide Toby, whose attempts at political correctness lands them in one of those unenviable situations. These guys never manage to be what they are. Even while refusing the offer for hookers, Simon seems to be so caught up within his own diplomacy that he is unable to say a plain no. In a moment you realize what a mess the man is in, he replies – I hate hookers. Not even a second passes by and he realizes the possible implications, and he adds – Not in an aggressive way. He is so caught up he is even wary of stuff he wants to be watching on the hotel television on his trip down to D.C.
        And you could attribute it to the terrific acting too, because In the Loop scores heavily on that front. Mr. Capaldi is terrific and for all the right reasons. You should expect to hear a lot more about him during the awards season, and I hope he is remembered. He has the meaty part, and by meat I mean the exact opposite of what the film refers by it. He reprises his character from The Thick of It, that British comedy television series which I hope to catch soon. This is not merely an attention-grabbing performance. Watch closer and you realize how carefully nuanced it all is. You should see how his Malcolm uses the room, and conducts himself. He might seem like a wiry figure, but within the four walls he seems to tower over most. And when he doesn’t, like in the fantastic moment between him and General Miller, you should see how he wrests the initiative. This is very much a diplomat folks, and that diplomat who gets the job done. By hook or by crook.
        The greatest joy though comes from Mr. Hollander (Pride and Prejudice, At World’s End, Valkyrie), whose performance might very well be the richest and the most priceless of the lot, for it only enhances on repeated viewings, and grows funnier each time. With him, it isn’t the lines that are funny; it is him that is being funny. This performance is growing on me everytime. I am beginning to love it more and more. I am laughing more and more. It seems to have some kind of genius within it. His little open stance, so subtly invoking the loony nature of the affable loser living within Chaplin’s tramp and Keaton’s little man, his drooped shoulders, his generally hesitant demeanor and his constant endeavor to reach places far beyond his height, both figuratively and literally, is that third layer of the funny-cake. In a fantastic sequence where he is hounded by the press, pay attention the way he delivers his lines. And how he conducts his body, and his reactions. He knows it is going bad and he looks around for help. From somebody to bail him out. He can neither believe nor stop the words coming out of his mouth. It is a classic moment of the really smart kind of funny. Not merely reliant on funny lines, but simple observant lines building upon the situations preceding them and metamorphosing into something hilarious because of the superlative acting at hand. Mind you, it all isn’t pronounced as it was in Dr. Strangelove, which was entirely based upon the screwball, with deliberate caricatures and stereotypes pretending to be characters. Here it is subtle, and not for one moment does it feel anything but real. These are real people trying to channel out a caricature. And if I do not mention the excellence of the other performances, of Ms. McKee, of Mr. David Rasche, of Ms. Chlumsky and all the others, I realize I’m being unfair, for this is a superb bit of ensemble performance.
        In the Loop builds its satire entirely upon characters, and from that perspective it is a superior send-up than the Kubrick masterpiece. In a way it is more like the offspring that was borne when Strangelove did Network. One should attribute it to the incisive visual style of the movie too, and in no small measure. For the first time I see a film that actually uses the aesthetics of television to drive home its point, and gain from it. The film is more effective this way, maybe more than Dr. Strangelove. It uses the closed cramped spacing of television, and that actually makes these characters instantly familiar. When we see the offices, of the ministers, of the senators, we aren’t looking at the news-broadcasted images, but something that have been spatially so drained out, frame-to-frame, that we feel a part of them. This isn’t fly-on-the-wall folks, this is smack bang in the center of the room. Right inside the loop. There isn’t any background score but only the sounds coming off the location. The palette is drained out. Maybe drained out is not the correct way to put it for its color scheme is what we come across everyday. Never has the United Nations been a place so accessible a place as it feels here.
        In the Loop is one of the smoothest satires I’ve ever come across. In a time when a good smart comedy is rare, this one is a bit of a blessing. This is the kind of film where you actually laugh, and just keep laughing, and you’re so happy you want to text every person you know to see this film so that you can share the jokes and laugh at it all again. In what feels like another lean year at the movies, this one’s the best of the year hands down, and I would be really amazed if there come films that could actually top this one in smartness and fun and entertainment and filmmaking. I don’t know if they get much better than this, but I know a film is real brilliant when it makes me want to watch a television series. And yes, I shall get on with The Thick of It as soon as I can.

Friday, July 17, 2009

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Tom Felton
Director: David Yates
Runtime: 153 min.
Rating: **
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy

        I’ve been complaining this for a while now, and the latest installment of the Harry Potter franchise only cements my claim. With reinforced concrete. That television is the most dominant amongst all forms of media, and that our generation’s imaginations are primarily influenced by it. To say that the television-isation of our culture is almost complete isn’t stretching things too far. Our books seem to have taken a fondness for the bloated much like of what is on television, and our movies have gotten sillier. There’re no real endings but only illusionary ones which are nothing but ridiculous empty cliff-hangers. That we’ve to sit through seven eight films in a story that just bloats itself further and further just to find a reason for another installment. You need proof? Try having these films stand alone, and see how they stumble.
        Reader, I’m not sure the movies are the only ones responsible here. I look at the stories, and I can see how slavishly they have been adapted, and I realize the books wouldn’t be all that good. I haven’t read them, but I know enough to put two and two together. The first two were the sweetest, and okay, throw in the third too. But thereon, I can clearly see a venture that has long sucked dry from the teat of imagination, and all it was doing now is dishing out. That is the books though, and I shall leave it to the ones who have read them to analyze their narration, and the richness of the plot. And the innate logic.
        This film though, just like the whole franchise is television on big screen. We’re just watching installments, which as well might be episodes. The only objective is to stretch the thing for over two hours. The plot meanders, wherein silly romantic arcs provide the diversion. Or the source of bloat. Depends on the way you look at it. For every character, these stock romantic angles are not unlike those we’ve on those silly sitcoms. The girl is interested in the guy, and though the guy subconsciously loves her, he is too stupid to realize it, and in a case of hormonal rage picked up right off the shelf, he falls for another girl, causing envy and tears to the first girl. And so on. And so forth. There’re potions after potions. Are our young so unimaginative to actually fall for this trick, again and again? Is modern cinema really so unimaginatively repetitive? Is this all it come up with in the name of character development and back-story? Where’s that young kid J.G. Ballard conjured up, and Steven Spielberg brought to life in Empire of the Sun?
        And when we’re not busy in unfunny comic-relief sequences, we follow Draco Malfoy (Mr. Felton) lurking around the halls of Hogwarts with I-AM-THE-BAD-DUDE written all over his face. The faculty does not realize it, and maybe they have a secret plan. Doesn’t matter. Harry is unaware. So, in what seems like a ridiculous piling up of coincidence, Harry almost always manages to sneak behind Draco whenever he is pursuing his evil endeavor. Most concern a visit to a room called Room of Requirement where Draco is doing some kind of experiment with an old cabinet. It is one of the mysteries of the plot. He places in an apple and it comes out eaten. You should wonder what it can be. It is one of the film’s few better threads that actually have a sense of intrigue about them.
        Others, not so much. Half Blood Prince has little understanding of what consists of a mysterious plot, and how to unravel a mystery. Nothing here unfolds. They just happen at their designated time. Dumbledore and Harry stumble upon a secret of Lord Voldermot. This leads them to a secret cave. But reader, if you happen to be a viewer who hasn’t read the books, you shall wonder what exactly led them to the cave. What are the reasons behind Dumbledore’s cave-trip? You never know. Our thirst for that mystery is never quenched. For that matter, the film doesn’t do much with its title either. There’re mere references to the Half-Blood prince, and though the identity is supposed to be a mystery the film never sets upon to discover it. We just handed it out as an obligatory piece of information. We don’t even get to know why the half-blood prince is the half-blood prince. The problem is that too many of these adaptations of popular books assume we have a fair knowledge of the source. I’m sure many readers shall answer many of my queries, but that is not the point. The point is why the film is unclear. The point is not that I seek a Potter-expert and seek my answers from him. The point is that I am drawn emotionally and visually into this world, from whereon I can understand and feel it on my own. I shouldn’t be left cold during the romantic interludes, I should be smitten by them. I should feel the dread, the mystery of these characters, and not just tick off plot points. Most adaptations ignore that in their race to cram as much of the book as possible. There’s obligation piled upon obligation. I perceive that as a failure of imagination and creativity.
        Visually, there’s nothing that stands out, outside of a couple of tracking shots. One of them has all the principal characters perched at various places of the towers of Hogwarts, as the evening falls into night and night falls into morning. The sky and the background are all standard-issue exercises in creating a dark menacing atmosphere. Yes, the Hogwarts hallways have come a long way since those early days of chirping. They now seem lonely and without much lighting, and I wonder why. What happened to the pictures on the walls? I don’t complain, but I believe consistency of art-direction is something I’m concerned with. The place is murkier now, the sky is cloudier now. Sun’s on summer vacation. This attempt at creating atmosphere grows so heavy-handed that it comes across as dull. Not impending doom, but resident gloom. I asked myself why I didn’t like the visual strategy of the previous Order of Phoenix, and I found the answer here – that dull grey palette washed out of all color. It is such a visual cliché. Scene after scene after scene in Half-Blood Prince have been drained of their color, and almost to the point of boredom. I’m not sure that is the only shade that can rein in a sense of danger and mystery and darkness. Look how Christopher Nolan designed The Prestige. Look how Peter Jackson designed the Lord of the Rings movies. Look how Steven Spielberg designed Temple of the Doom. The last one strikes me as particularly fascinating because its visual strategy also manages to rein a sense of revulsion within us, and not boring us down.
        Coming from an outsider, I see nothing fascinating in these characters. No particular ones seem worth reflecting over. They have regular issues, and their reactions are all straight out of the shelf. The plot of course is obligatory. If this had been a real film, as against the flimsy excuse it is, we already would have had the pay-off. Come on, Lord Voldermot is already out. What are we waiting for? Why are we whiling away our free time? I mean, this already IS war, and here I see two films, back-to-back, which neither have a proper climax nor they provide any deal of closure, except to kill off an important character. Passionate followers might be emotionally engaged. To us others, this school is called Hogwash. This is where we have been all this while. And trust me, they can continue here for the rest of time, providing episode after episode under the disguise of an adventure. You know what they have? The Formula Spell.

Monday, July 13, 2009

SUNSHINE CLEANING: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Clifton Collins Jr., Steve Zahn, Jason Spevack
Director: Christine Jeffs
Runtime: 91 min.
Rating: ****
Genre: Comedy, Drama

        Ms. Adams plays Rose Lorkowski, a single-mom and a housecleaner trying to make ends meet. Rose seems to be in her late twenties, and life has been nothing like she had hoped to be when she was the head cheerleader of her high school and the girl every boy wanted to have for himself. A lot of actresses could’ve played such a character, I believe, but not Rose, not in this film, and certainly not with this script. Not everyone could’ve played her, and as I try to list down names in my mind, I can barely seem to be convinced by anybody. The very foundation of the script’s believability rests upon the innate goodness that seems to come so naturally and truthfully to Ms. Adams’ characters. There seems to be no façade to them. They’re for plainview.
        Consider Rose, whose financial and personal desperation makes her latch onto a job that involves cleaning the aftermath of a homicide. Like a murder. Or a suicide. The technical term for the job is De-comp. She considers it gross. Yet it is lucrative. She starts making some money. Every phone ring accompanies with it the anticipation of a death, somewhere, to somebody, and business. She picks up the call with a smile, a genuine smile. She’s happy; she’s got to clear the mortgage on the house. Her personal life sucks. Her high school boyfriend is married over to somebody, but still enjoys her company in the bed. Of motels. He is the father of one, and his wife is expecting a second. She hopes he’ll leave her one day. Her only son is a bastard. Yet she is hopeful. Her beautiful eyes still haven’t banished those teenage dreams. A person like her, who still hasn’t let go of her pink-colored glasses, and the hope that life shall somehow work-out , shouldn’t spend time reflecting upon. It might make her weak, it might make her acknowledge the truth of her predicament. Sometimes, the answer is blowing with it. While she’s driving her van she gets a call from an old woman whose husband has just shot himself. When her partner and her younger sister, Norah (Ms. Blunt) asks her who it was, she replies with an innocent and happy smile – Suicide. She’s a good person. The money-wheel is spinning. Any death is good. She goes over, and she meets a woman who’s shocked. The very sight breaks Rose’s heart. She asks the widow – Mrs. Davis, do you want me to sit with you for a while? You should feel the acting here, and the gentle and true nature of Ms. Adams’ voice. There can be only a handful of actors who can make it seem more sincere. But with Ms. Adams it isn’t about seeming. It is about being. She sits with the old woman, providing her company till her son comes over. And she struggles with her own tears. It is a quiet moment of reflection of her own pitiable state of affairs. It is a remarkable moment, and rarely do we come across such purity of emotions at the movies.
        The more I see of Ms. Adams, and the more I believe that we might have finally gotten ourselves the most natural talent since Tom Hanks burst onto the scene in the early nineties. In a role that requires a remarkable range of emotions, not a single moment finds Ms. Adams acting, or performing, or striving to find a note. I wonder if Rose was written with her in mind. It is a touching performance. Ms. Adams is Rose, as much as Rose is Ms. Adams, and it feels acting no more. It is heartfelt. Each expression, be it of humiliation, of fear, of joy, or of grit, is nuanced. I suspect Ms. Adams can never be caught phoning it in. I wait for the day she plays a cynical character, like the one Ms. Blunt plays here, and I wonder how she would turn out. I don’t think she shall be all that successful for cynicism on her face might seem like a paradox. There’s something about her face, maybe those expressive eyes that seem so pure and vulnerable, that instantly make it all believable. She seems like a little girl caught in the muddle of adulthood. Mr. Hanks, much like the great James Stewart, was the everyman of the movies. Ms. Adams, in a role that asks of her to represent the working class in the present times, might very well be the everywoman of the movies.
        Sunshine Cleaning is a charming film. That is because of the superior acting within it, not just from Ms. Adams about whom I seemed to have spent a considerable length of my review, but Ms. Blunt too. She is Rose’s younger sister, Norah, an edgy girl still living with her dad (Mr. Arkin), who has no real job and spends most of her time partying. Ms. Blunt plays the part with gay abandon, and it is an ideal foil to the relatively more gravitating Rose. The interplay between the sisters is one of the film’s great joys. And there’s Mr. Arkin, who basically gives a re-hash of his performance in that other film set in Albuquerque, Little Miss Sunshine, for which he won the Academy Award. If you happen to find similarities between the films, I’m not sure that is supposed to be a coincidence, for the producers happen to be the same.
        But it is also because of the compassionate way in which Ms. Jeffs handles the subject. These are tough times, and I’m reminded of two other films from last year capturing the tough lives of two women, or rather three – Frozen River and Wendy and Lucy – both directed by two women. This is a third, with characters just as complex and just as desperate. A single working mother is a substantial demographic in that part of the world. Yet the nature of the compassion differs. Those two films from last year were somber reflective dramas. This one’s one too, yet it is hopeful in its ways. Some critics are complaining that the tone of the film might not be appropriate. That it might be a little bit too sunny for its material. I say this is a smart film, and a kind film, and not a forced-feed like that Best Picture Oscar Winner from last year. It gives its characters reasons to be happy in their lives. Little moments, profound moments. Norah attempts a little bit of tressling, climbing up to the underside of a railroad bridge, positioning herself on the girder, waiting for the train to come. She says it feels like an angry God screaming at you. The train comes, thunders past her, and sparks fly all about her. She revels in them. She screams back. It is a beautiful sight. She lets go of some tears, remembering her past. I was moved. It is that kind of a little moment during which you find that truest version of yourself, whom you want to let all out. You want to shout, for no particular reason. Life isn’t all that sunny, but that is no reason the film shouldn’t be either to these wonderful folks.
        It doesn’t give us closure through the standard norm, but does hint that life isn’t all that bad. Yes, Ms. Holley, the scriptwriter here, and Ms. Jeffs do try and bring in that Indie-quirkiness that seems a little out of place, when looked at in hindsight. There’re several threads running in the sidelines, like of the former high-school buddies, of Mac, which start with quite a degree of freshness but end up quite derivative. But in there with the superior acting it is all pretty trivial. Great actors can do that to a film. The point again, is not the events that happen to these people, but how they react to them. The events may seem perfunctory, the reactions not. I believe that is where the smartness and the depth of the film lay. There’re great many tones to the film, and let us just say most of them stick. And some of them feel beautiful. Like an opening shot where a slow-mo shot of the devil-may-care Norah barging out of one of her waitress jobs is spectacularly juxtaposed with the dutiful and somber Rose carrying her cleaning stuff out of her van. It is a wonderful shot because it comes at the right time, and is preceded by scenes and acting that instantly convey the deal.
        There’s a final scene that features a remarkable bit of writing, again not because what is in it, but because it builds upon the events that precede it. Rose walks upto Winston (Mr. Clifton Collins Jr., Capote), who has been some kind of a breath of warmth and kindness into her life. Some kind of a hope. She probably realizes it. Her career as a De-comp seems to be all over because of a silly turn of events, which I shall leave you to discover. She walks upto his store to pick up her kid. She is shattered. And she confesses – “There's not a lot that I am good at. But I'm good at getting guys to want me. Not date me, or marry me, but want me. And cheering. I have always been good at cheering.” It is a uniquely romantic moment, something which could easily have been laughable, but coming through Ms. Adams is elevated to one that is capable of being one of the great dialogs. You cannot help but be moved beyond words. This lady, Ms. Adams, I tell you is one hell of a talent, the kind we don’t come across that often. A beautiful throwback to the charm of the black-and-white era. She is something straight out of a Chaplin film. God I feel lucky.

Friday, July 10, 2009

TRANSFORMERS – REVENGE OF THE FALLEN: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro
Director: Michael Bay
Runtime: 150 min.
Rating: Not Applicable
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy

        To review a film like Revenge of the Fallen is like attempting a contradiction. Now, at a glance my previous sentence might seem harmless, but look closer and it actually is an exercise in negation, for this second installment of the Transformers franchise by no means qualifies to being a film. To films, one might argue with one’s viewpoints, and claim if was well-made or not. Revenge of the Fallen doesn’t even qualify for that argument. It merely clangs metal against metal against metal against a backdrop of explosions and foreground full of explosions and somebody running somewhere in between and you staring at the screen in utter disbelief trying to hold on to any thread offered that might help make sense of it all. And it clangs more metal against metal. To call it a mess is to claim that it is indeed something. Something that is at least describable, something that has been witnessed previously at the movies, and something you can maybe point your finger at and complain. Maybe something is a good word. Maybe Revenge of the Fallen is some kind of a something, and one can only choose to look in its general direction and bark – Nonsense!! – and then be disappointed with the choice of word. It doesn’t even merit complaining.
        This is not a film that is going to annoy you, though it might compel you to pull your tooth and hurl it on the screen. As for me, I wouldn’t say this is bad, or terrible, or some kind of an abomination. No, no, not at all. I am not sure I was angry at it at any point of time. It seems the local multiplex was aware it was a Michael Bay film, had the general idea of the decibel quotient, and turned down the volume. Either way I didn’t hate it, I don’t think it breached the line of comfort and assaulted me, and I was too busy trying to make sense, any kind of sense, rein in any kind of logic, and not just to the plot. Plot, I had long given up on it. Instead, I chose to concentrate only on the action sequences, and at least gather some sort of information. But I cannot seem to recount what happened for two and a one-half hours. Michael Bay has a made something that runs in frequencies beyond the limits of our senses. One might suggest that I look in the general direction of his film and bark – Vomit!! But I don’t seem to have any kind of strong feelings within me. I just feel empty. This just feels like a 500 m high wall that makes hell of a lot of noise. Speaking of which, the car deck that usually keeps playing music enjoyed a rare drive of silence while we returned to our homes.
        I was unable to decipher Revenge of the Fallen at the very basic visual level. Story and plot is a concern of a different universe altogether. I was unable to make out who was fighting whom. I was unable to make out where the heads were. When two Transformers wrestled each other I was unable to make out where one ended and the other begun. Someone didn’t pay attention to color scheming. I was unable to make out what garble came out of some of the Decepticons. I was unable to comprehend the geography of the terrain in the climactic showdown, for at one moment it was supposed to be in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the middle of the Egyptian deserts, yet it was visible from the seas to aircraft carriers. Geography be damned. While I was driving my car out of the parking, I was unable to remember even a single frame. At the moment, unable seems like one of the great words in the English language. Never have I seen so much money spent to make something so enormous in scale that ends up being, well, such a complete and incoherent mess. It numbs your senses. It numbs you. Yeah yeah, I am aware, my attempts at adjectives to conceal my utter failure to come with a apt enough word have fallen flat. And I accept defeat. What other option do I have? Revenge of the Fallen doesn’t qualify for a feature length film. At its best it makes a great deal less sense than a five hour video shot on a 360 degree-spinning mobile camera. Shot by you, I mean. That much I can assure you.
        There is no beginning to it. There’s no end to it either. There’s no build-up. It all feels like one big scene. But only now, only in hindsight. In there, I was worried if parts of the film were being omitted. I was worried, at one point, why scenes weren’t being completed. Revenge of the Fallen traverses freely, often leaving fights right in the middle to scenes of crude adolescent humor and you are left wondering what happened on the other side. And we never returned. If I had remembered any of it, I would have still been wondering. The credits claim the presence of three writers. Rather than collaborating on a single plotline, I have a sneaking feeling they all wrote different scripts, and Bay and co. just messed up with the pages. Or maybe, I’m being too hopeful. There never was a plot, and Bay and co. made it all up as they went along. A fellow viewer of mine, absolutely numbed and sunk deep into the recesses of his chair, suddenly jumped up and remarked – This is a cake-fight. This is all a cake-fight. Only on a bigger scale. Everybody is smacking everybody. I believe that would be quite a fair description of what we saw. I assure you, even a hundred viewings of Revenge of the Fallen would have you in no better position than someone who was wise enough to skip it altogether. If a whole hour was chopped from the film, it still wouldn’t make much difference. If it were doubled, it still wouldn’t add up to much. It just runs randomly for 150 min., and the credits start rolling. Remember little kids, when we give them blanks sheets and a few color pencils for the first time, and the kind of fun they have scribbling all kinds of random garbage with color and lines and all sorts of geometric and non-geometric figures spewing every which where. This seems to be Bay’s version of that fun, and probably at our expense. I have a sneaking feeling that the final scenes, which boast of at least a million explosions, and a lot of them featuring Ms. Fox, were shot when Michael Bay was having an orgasm. Of some kind. I think David Cronenberg’s Crash is profound.
        Strange it is, that this is where I stop to look at what is it I’ve written, and I get a sense that I’ve scribbled a lot with nothing exactly making any particular sense. I could’ve gone on for a few more pages, and still I wouldn’t have added anything worthwhile. Still I’m satisfied for that is how Revenge of the Fallen feels like. It is the kind of movie where you feel absolute freedom to exchange text messages on what a bore it all is. It is the kind of movie where you can feel free to walk out, have a smoke, and come back and still miss nothing at all. That leads me to say with some conviction that this is a film you shouldn’t watch. Or rather needn’t watch. You could instead spin your mobile around for six hours, or maybe even seven, and then spend time making sense of it for the rest of the weekend. Wiser choice, I would say.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

ICE AGE – DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast (Voices): Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg
Director: Carlos Saldanha & Mike Thurmeier
Runtime: 94 min.
Rating: **
Genre: Animated, Adventure, Comedy

        It is all more of the same. If you have seen the earlier ones, there’s nothing new here. If you haven’t, you aren’t necessarily missing anything. Not a bad time to start, and never a bad option to skip it altogether. If I would term Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs a sequel, it would be a great disservice to the word, for a sequel involves an advance in the storyline, in terms of the characters, and in terms of the depth of the universe. Not here, not this one. This is where my complain about the degradation of cinema into another form of television re-surfaces, where matters are stretched to their absolute commercial limit, where skill is more or less redundant, and where the objective is to string as many jokes, or emotional moments, together is what loosely resembles a story. Some of the more incisive readers would argue that this kind of a transformation is only for the better, for television is a medium that is accessible to every which body, and cinema ought to be too. I say, as I say always, cinema is an altar for the grand. Your kid might enjoy the Ice Age movies, just as he did love the forgettable and unfunny Kung Fu Panda, and that is just about that as far as your contribution to his imagination goes. Please, for his sake, do not underestimate him. He is capable of a lot more.
        I shall not discuss the rhetoric details. The plot is more or less along similar lines, only that it now sees the dinosaurs rise up from the grave, so as to facilitate some lame references to Jurassic Park. There comes along a new character in the form of a weasel, named Buck, who is supposed to represent the folks from down under. And maybe, just cash in on Captain Jack Sparrow. Doesn’t work, simply doesn’t. Not a single moment of it is funny. I’m not saying ha-ha funny; I’m saying a little-smile funny. And reader, if you think it is, don’t lose heart. You just haven’t watched that many movies, and you are still not a discernible viewer. Five years and repetitive viewings of those astonishing films from Hayao Miyazaki, and numerous mulling over sessions, would make you realize that. The animation is state-of-the-art, but only in terms of its technicality. In terms of its imagination, it is merely run-of-the-mill. Modern animation, ironically pioneered by Pixar, it seems is only trying to liken as much of itself to the real world. The magic that a little stroke of a pencil is capable of has long been pushed to the sidelines. The best the film can come up with is making the heart-symbol of unsuspecting objects in the background, and it is so impressed by its trick that it stretches to the point of being absolutely annoying. Some of the more unenthusiastic readers would argue that this kind of a viewpoint is unnecessary for a film that is only supposed to entertain, and that this is not supposed to be art, and that it is all so cute. I watched the film in a packed theatre and I loathe that “Ah, it is all so cute and sweet that my analytical abilities were pierced” reaction. Yes reader, I’m susceptible to that too, though for a different kind of movies, and we should strive to grow up. Oh yeah, and if you need proof for the unimaginative nature of the animation at hand, just have a look at all the build up the evil Rudy gets, and what a whimper he turns out to be. And that is that.
        But there’s a different thing that has been bothering me. I speak to a friend of mine, and he dismisses my theory. And I agree with him, for films like Ice Age do not cut much when it comes to profound observations. Yet, I would want it to put it before you reader, for there might be a possibility you would want to juggle with this little idea. There’s Buck, a weasel, whose every moment of every day is spent in his pursuit to slay the enormous Rudy. Yet he does something in the end, which reminded of me of the profound moment from The Dark Knight, where The Joker’s anguish cloaked in morbid humor cries out to the Batman – You complete me. Do the Ice Age movies have a layer somewhere underneath them that wants to cry out its lonely existence? I see the characters, and in all the films they seem to be a pack of misfits, whose bond seems to be their absolute alienation from their kind. For whatever reason. And some of them find mates, the central ones, and some find obsessions. Obsessions that would divert, or maybe, fill their lonely existence. You know, like what would Tom do without Gerry? Some of the more cynical readers, and maybe the wiser, would argue that this is no more than a trick for a fourth film. The argument is solid, I shall say. But let us sit back, and ignore what the intentions were. We’ve only the finished product amongst us, and all I want to ponder is if this alludes, or maybe betrays, a few hidden emotions.

Friday, July 03, 2009

KAMBAKKHT ISHQ: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Akshay Kumar and a whole bunch of idiots
Director: Some idiot
Runtime: My watch was playing tricks.
Rating: Abomination
Genre: Shit-pile

        I hit the bed as soon as I entered my room. The devil possessed me. I wanted revenge. I wanted every innocent soul in this world to wince in pain. To wipe that smile of yours. I wanted to destroy your weekend. Wanted to push you good people into that dungeon of darkness and agony and watch you burn in the red hot flames of hell. And burn you would have. When this film revels in its degenerated humor of an obese black woman play the ugly beast supposedly unleashed from an asylum enjoying digging real deep into people’s posteriors and check for stuff. When this film in its schoolboy fascination for a woman’s body unleashes a whole army of disgusting and contemptible jabs at raunchy-humor. And fails. When that most wretched of all actresses Kiron Kher comes on to the screen and does what she does best – make you curse the day you were born. I assure you wouldn’t have just burnt. You would have been rotten in there.
        But for God. And the goodness he spreads within all of us. I hoped to enjoy by gaining some kind of sadistic pleasure while you rotted. In that enraged state I closed my eyes. But couldn’t sleep. Could hear a lamb crying somewhere in the dark. I suspect it was you. And the rage made way for a strange sensation. Something welled up inside. I had to be the savior. And up I stood and on I went. To my laptop. To spread the message to one and all of this disaster-zone. This here is a demented film. No amount of curses or expletives can assuage the pain within me. This is not just a horrible film. It is not even the bottom of your neighborhood’s garbage dump. At least bacteria and cows and dogs and pigs could hope to feed of it. This one shall wipe of species. Every print there exists of this abomination should be burnt. Or tied to a huge stone and thrown into the ocean.
        The idiots who made this movie had EMIs to pay. Had bills to clear. Had school fees to be filled. And what you shall lose within there is not just money. And I assure you shall be burning your money. Which is a sin in these times. You shall lose time. Time during which you could watch another movie. Or watch a cricket match. Or read a good book. Or sleep. Or enjoy the good weather. Or run around for no particular reason. Have good food. And then run again. But not watch this movie. You shall be assaulted. You shall lose your mind. And if you happen to be weak like me you shall grow disillusioned of God and humanity and succumb to the temptations of evil. So I fall on my knees. And beg for forgiveness. And beg you not to watch this film. Not to punish yourself. There might be a definite time and place for mea culpa. But not this. Not here. Not now. You people deserve better. Don’t even think about it.
        And spread the word. If you’re reading this. And pray for those who aren’t.