Friday 28 May 2010

The Letter

I shall die here. Every inch of me will perish. Every inch but one. An inch… It is small, and fragile, and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I hope that, whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and things get better. But I hope must of all that you understand that even though I will never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you.
-V For Vendetta

Saturday 22 May 2010

1) Just so Beautiful- MARIE ANTOINETTE versus A SINGLE MAN

So I have decided to write blogs comparing two or more films which are inter-related. When the idea came into my head, it was only because of two films. However as I thought more about it, hundreds of comparisons popped into my brain (okay not hundreds but enough to make a really long post). So I decided to post 1 comparison at a time.

Now to be truthful, I had not thought about this topic at all, forget making it my very first one. I just finished watching A Single Man, a film I watched on an impulse. And it was just breathtakingly beautiful. Before this the only other really beautiful film I had seen was Marie Antoinette. I called it the most beautiful film ever. However after A Single Man, I have a slight doubt about this title.

So basic facts about both- One’s made by Sofia Coppola, daughter of the legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. The other is made by the ex-designer of Prada, the quite dapper Tom Ford. The former is based on one of the most famous or rather most infamous queens in history. The latter is based on a homosexual English professor recovering from the death of his soulmate. The first is set just before and during the French Revolution, in Versailles, while the second is set in early 60s in Los Angeles.

Both films are actually quite different from each other. The only way they are similar is their cinematography. Marie Antoinette starts out in soft colours, like the character itself who is a blooming girl of fourteen, full of innocence and hopes as she is sent from Austria to France to get married and bring about a political courtship between the two countries. Then, as she starts her partying days to fill the void in her marriage, the film becomes bright and colorful and delicious. In the end of her life and happiness, the film becomes grey and pale. Almost similarly in A Single Man, the protagonist George is always in a dullish light, except when he notices the beauty in people and things magically become vivid and warm.

    The thing is that both the films are extremely beautiful in their own way. Marie Antoinette changes one’s perceptions on films about monarchs. It’s fresh and lovely. It is about a princess, who is played just stunningly by the equally stunning Kirsten Dunst- her life, her struggles, her clothes, her hair, her desserts, her lovers, her family. The resplendent French castles and gardens and rooms, the gorgeous dresses, shoes, materials and jewelry, and the scrumptious food and wine, all in a laid-back, fun-filled atmosphere with post-punk music playing in the air- ah the life that never was. But even with all that, one feels for the ill-fated monarch more than ever in this film. Marie in this film isn’t someone who ordered to have cakes given to the poor. She is a lonely young girl who just wants to make everyone happy. She is a teenager and goes through similar problems like many of us today but obviously on a much larger scale. She wants her husband to want her, her mother to respect her, and her country to love her. She is a caring mother and wife by the end of it. I have written it before, and I repeat- this film is a film in which I would spend my entire life.

    A Single Man on the other hand, is a film that shows the fascinating world of exquisite, sensitive men. Colin Firth in his best role ever, quite challenges Dauphine Marie herself, as it is too about his dream-like house, his handsome suits and dazzlingly divine love-interests. His misery, only heightened by afore mentioned lighting and also the chilling and alluring music, is touching and poignant. His relationship with Jim, played by the ravishingly sexy Matthew Goode, is that full of true love and oneness. There is no doubt that they were made for each other and though it was slightly heartbreaking to see the two hunky British men kissing and flirting, it was very sweet. But his relationship with Julianne Moore’s character Charley, the only main female character of the film, is what (according to me) makes the film awesome. She looks incredible, her make-up and clothes and hair. While all women, including the little neighbor girl, looked extremely pretty in the film- Charley was the most bewitching. She is the quintessential lonely woman of the sixties. She drank and smoked and danced. She was brilliant, and her friendship with George is enjoyable and provoking. George’s next relationship is with that of Nicholas Hoult’s character Kenny. Kenny is the confused, good-looking boy who develops an interest in his professor George. Theirs is a more suggestive affair. Though I did not really like Nicholas Hoult’s sweater or hair or accent or the tan a lot, he has one hot body. And his eyes are just enchanting. Lastly, George has a brief meeting with a Spanish male prostitute Carlos, played by Jon Kartajarena, with whom he shares a cigarette or two. Now he was someone I wasn’t aware of and the sheer magnetic beauty of Carlos took me by surprise. With all these people, the emptiness of his life and the brightness of his vision, the one day in his life makes one captivating movie. All I can say is that never before did I want to be a gay man this bad.

    So my final verdict is that there are technically no winners in this category, but Marie Antoinette is the bigger favourite of the two. Still, I repeat that they are both beautiful in their own ways and salutes to Sofia Coppola and Tom Ford for making these beauties.

Friday 14 May 2010


The Oxford dictionary definitions of a hero are - “1) a person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage or outstanding achievements- a person of superhuman qualities. 2) the chief male character in a book, play, or film.”

Now three weeks ago I had a completely brilliant weekend, filled with heroes! However, I was too lazy or busy to write a post on it. Until now… *insert loud triumphant classical music*

They are:

1)      About A Boy- this follows the second definition more or less. I thought this was Hugh Grant’s best performance. He generally plays the charming elusive bachelor, but he perfected that image in this film. In addition, it is Nicholas Hoult’s first film…and he is sooo adorable. He is the other hero in the story. Hugh’s and Nicholas’s onscreen chemistry makes this story of a lonely man and a lonely boy and their relationship an absolute pleasure to watch. Hugh’s character Will thinks of himself as an island, until he meets Nicholas’s character Marcus. Marcus, with his suicidal hippie mum, played superbly by Toni Collette, finds in Will the missing father figure he needs in his life. With hilarious incidents that follow- like Will’s and Marcus’s crushes, a profane hip-hop CD, and Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly, their relationship deepens as each of our heroes find happiness and contentment in their lives. Their co-narration too is quite funny and enjoyable. They are both heroes in each other’s eyes and hence I consider this to be a hero flick. This is a classic example of sheer British comedy brilliance and I would recommend it to anyone with a sense of humour or a Hugh Grant/Nicholas Hoult lover. (I happen to be all of them)

2)      The Shawshank Redemption- First! This film has the highest ratings in IMDB. Why? Because it is one of the best films ever made, and one of the best I have ever seen. It tells the amazing story of a man, Andrew "Andy" Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, who is sent to Shawshank prison for the alleged murder of his cheating wife and her lover. There he meets Morgan Freeman’s character Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding along with other inmates. He also meets the diabolical and bigoted Warden Samuel Norton, played by Bob Gunton, who believed in two things: discipline and the Bible. Andy is no ordinary inmate, as Red, who is also the narrator, understands first hand. He was an educated banker and because of his persuasiveness and accounting abilities, he is able to rise in the prison. He does all kinds of things in the prison and Red, who is his right-hand man and also the supplier of all things needed inside the prison helps him always. Andy spends nearly two decades in the Shawshank prison after which he does something that no one expects and gets brilliantly away with it. I really don’t want to tell what happens in this film, as it HAS to be watched. It is based on a book by Stephen King but I can’t imagine it being any better than the film. Tim Robbins’ acting is so awe-inspiring. He is one of the best heroes ever portrayed in the silver screen. He is brilliant and idealistic and such a complete leader and role model. He makes one want to be like him, or be friends with him. Morgan Freeman is a good sidekick too. I get such happiness out of films like these because they are masterpieces. They teach and inspire and give us hope and make life brilliant. MUST WATCH!

3)      Ironman 2- Again First definition but especially focussing on the ‘a person of superhuman qualities’ part. Ironman is not only a hero, but a superhero and a brilliantly funny, careless, reckless and narcissistic one at that. But it works. Why? Because Robert Downey Jr. is Ironman. Robert Downey Jr. is the coolest actor to ever walk on this planet. Ironman would be nothing without him. And the world would be nothing without Ironman. It is the best action super hero movie franchise that has ever come out. I love Batman etc. but the level of Awesome that exudes from every shot…I do not have words. Plus the remaining cast- Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and John Favreau is GENIUS!!! The action, the dialogues, the effects, the Ironman suits and drones makes this film an action gem and I don’t want to give the synopsis because everyone must have watched it already. If one hasn’t, he or she must because it is THE CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE! Blogs cannot describe it.

4)      One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest- it is sort of both the definitions, except the fact that he is absolutely mental. And if any actor can play a mental hero, it is the seraphic master of acting Jack Nicholson. If you don’t believe this description, just watch the one-minute long shot in the film which just focuses on his face. Emotions and expressions ooze out of every little square millimetre of his face. It’s breathtaking to watch. And the film is just so good. It is about a man Randle P. Murphy who is sent to a mental institution after numerous criminal offences to be examined. There he meets all the other inmates, especially Chief who was the narrator in the book. Also, he meets his adversary, the chief nurse Ratched, played by Louise Fletcher. He is loud and different and clever, she is calm and tyrannical and clever too. He wants to make other inmates feel good about themselves, while she undermines and controls everyone with perfected subtlety, except Murphy sees through it. Their clash of wits and trying to suppress each other’s authoritative influence is what the film is mostly about- with all the insanity around it. It has an excellent ending. I love the fact on how the hero and the villain have the characteristics of each other- McMurphy is a rebellious criminal and Ratched is an excellent nurse. The film is among the only three films to have won the Big Five at the Oscars- Best Film, Best Director for Milos Forman, Best Actor for Nicholson, Best Actress for Fletcher and Best Screenplay for Laurence Hauben, Bo Goldman. Again a Must Watch!

So with this my hero weekend ended. I also watched Schindler’s List a day later. I think I’ll write a review about it sometime later. The reason why I did not include it in this list is that even though Oskar Schindler is a hero, a real-life one no less and Liam Neeson is spectacular, I was in love with Ralph Fiennes in this film. And he played the evil, apathetic, cruel, murderous Nazi Amon Goth- not a hero, but a complete villain. But his performance, which is considered to be one of the best ever, just like Nicholson’s, was so chillingly good that I cannot help but hero-worship him. And also Ralph Fiennes’ face was made to be seen in black and white, it is just that gorgeous! This too is a must watch film.



    So after my last post, I actually watched a lesser-known film. However, I watched it because it starred Sean Biggerstaff, who had played Oliver Wood in the first two Harry Potter films. Needless to say he is quite attractive, Scottish and as a plus point liked by Alan Rickman. Also, the original short film was nominated for an Oscar. Still, it’s a start. It is called Cashback.

    I thought it was some kind of awesome. The story is quite interesting. It’s about an undergraduate art student Ben Willes who starts suffering from insomnia after a break up with his long-time girlfriend. To “trade time” as it is said in the film, he starts working nightshift at a supermarket. Over there, he battles time by pausing it as if in a film and noticing all the beauty around him in the world. He is a painter and is quite enamoured by the beauty of women due to a number of incidents that happened in his childhood, the most significant being that of an exchange student who being Swedish, did not require a walk from the bathroom to her bedroom to be a modest one. With him there are a number of crazy, mainly chauvinistic colleagues and one pretty cash girl named Sharon, who he inadvertently falls for.

    The beauty of this film was in its lines. Ben is an artist who is so in love and awe with the world, yet so unhappy by it. His constant struggles with time and him in it might not be relatable situation-wise, but emotionally it makes more than perfect sense. He is also the narrator, and some of the things he says are:

“Once upon a time, I wanted to know what love was. Love is there if you want it to be. You just have to see that it's wrapped in beauty and hidden away in between the seconds of your life. If you don't stop for a minute, you might miss it."
“I read once about a woman whose secret fantasy was to have an affair with an artist. She thought he would really see her. He would see every curve, every line, every indentation and love them because they were part of the beauty that made her unique.”
“I could feel a faint shift in a faraway place. A current of unknown consequences was on its way, moving towards me like an unstoppable wave of fate.”
“I wanted to freeze time. I wanted to savor that moment, to live in that moment for a week. But I couldn't stop it, only slow it. And before I knew it, she was gone. After the door closed I felt like the last person on Earth.”
“The bad news is that time flies. The good news... is that you're the pilot. “
“She caught the wrong second of a two-second story.”
“Within this frozen world I'm able to walk freely and unnoticed. Nobody would even know that time has stopped. And when it started back up again, the invisible join would be seamless except for a slight shudder. Not unlike the feeling of somebody walking over your grave.”
“You can speed it up. You can slow it down. You can even freeze a moment, but you can't rewind time. You can't undo what is done. I thought about what she had seen. I thought about what she hadn't seen. I thought about how I could explain, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew nothing I could say would make her anger go away. How long could I just wait here, delaying the inevitable?”

    Also, the lighting and the cinematography is pretty apt for these kinds of thoughts and feelings to truly be understood. This film reminded me of Trainspotting mixed with Virgin Suicides. Sean Biggerstaff was brilliant and he was perfect as Ben. His emotions were so clear and beautiful. There were actual times in the film I wanted to touch his face because he felt so utopianly real, heavenly yet sad. The support cast was pretty good too, and essential to show the mundane aspects of life. I especially loved his best friend Shaun who went on getting slapped, smacked, things and drinks thrown at by women, but still went after them in the same sleazy manner.

    I watched the short film after watching this. I wouldn’t be lying if I say it consists of the best scene in the film. But there were other good scenes. The music was commendable too. It was a very good film, but it had some drawbacks- things I just didn’t understand. The time-pausing was a bit confusing, especially when there is another person shown as a time-pauser like Ben but only for a second. Also, the fact that Ben’s entire art exhibit was on Sharron. I am no painter and have very limited knowledge about such things (though there is an interest), still I assume that it doesn’t happen very often and not all the critics die over it. I may be wrong about this point but that’s just my opinion.

    But it really should be watched by more people, and Sean Biggerstaff should get more recognition for his acting talent.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Film lovers are sick people. -Francois Truffaut

I have been writing about movies a lot in this blog...makes one (me) think that I have watched loads and loads of films. However, I have recently re-realised that my film knowledge is very restricted. I just haven't watched enough movies.
It technically wouldn't have mattered so much but the thing is that since time immortal I have known that I will do something related to movies in my life- a film critic, a film-maker, an old-fashioned cinema owner etc. And OBVIOUSLY I cannot possibly do any of these things if I haven't watched enough films!
So this got me thinking and I have come to the following conclusions why my filmiverse is so so small:

1) There are some types of films that I just do NOT watch-
(i) Unnecessary Drama- Two words- Nicholas Sparks. He is the ultimate king of all those awful films which are created to make people feel absolutely miserable. No I do not find The Notebook cute. Why? Because I couldn't see most of it through the deliberately forced misery that had filled my eyes. was not beautiful, I was crying because it was Nicholas Sparks' evil plan to make the people of the world suffer through his superfluos morbid stories!!! Oh how I hate him.

(ii) Westerns- I'm sure they are brilliant. But I am hesitant about them. I just have this feeling that I will hate them and I really don't want to go through the torture...thus I do not watch them at all. However I will get over this glitch...soon...and watch them. (Main reason- Inglorious Basterds is a minor tribute to them).

(iii) Sports Films- I hate sports and just don't seem to get sports films. However, I have watched a few and don't seem to have that big a problem with them.

(iv) Book Adaptations- With the exception of Big Fish, Tuck Everlasting and Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, all films made from books are never ever as good as the books themselves. And this scares me a bit. After reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass again, I do undersrtand how flawed the film was and would have been absolute disastrous if anyone except Tim Burton would have made it. Very rarely are the films better than or as good as the books and for a book-lover it can be quite nightmarish to undergo a film that ruins a beloved novel. I think amongs the worst are Vanity Fair, various versions of Pride and Prejudice which try to bring about a twist but fail miserably, Twilight (actually can't decide which is worse) etc.

2) I am biased- I hate to admit this but I have the most immense difficulties watching films in which I don't know anyone or the fact that I hate whoever acting in it. This is a terrible thing. I, being a self-prefessed movie critic, am supposed to watch all movies and judge whichever ones are the best, and due to my prejudices I rarely ever watch a film in which everyone's unknown to me. Also there are some actors who I just cannot watch. Generally this list consists of terrible fakes like Miley Cyrus, Zac efron etc. but there are some big names which I cannot bear either. Among actresses, I hate Hilary Swank and Halle Berry. I mean I hate Hillary Swank so much that I prefer calling her Hillary Skank. And in the actors, well for some reason I just cannot stand Russel Crowe. I know for a fact that he is a brilliant actor but something about his face just infuriates and disgusts me till no end. I just cannot watch a film with him in it. I have watched The Gladiator, but that was years ago and whenever I try to watch it again, I just puke at his face and stop. It's really sad but it just cannot be helped.

3) I just haven't seen enough films- I am red-faced (metaphorically as I never ever blush) to profess that I have never seen a Martin Scorsese film. I know how horrible this sounds but I just have not. It sucks! I have only watched parts of Gangs of New York and The Aviator. When I was trying to watch The Departed on the TV, my father made me change the channel because of all the swearing and the one time Goodfellas was coming on TV, I did not know about it's brilliance and did not watch it because of it's name (this too being a sign of my discriminating nature). Oh the Horror!! :(
Also my knowledge of foreign films is deplorable.

4) Technical Problems- I am from a very Bollywood-oriented family. Up until about 8, my complete idea of "English Films" was whatever action and comedy films my father watched. After that I went through a complete Harry Potter phase in which I did not really watch anything else. Then when I came out of this phase at 12 was when I started watching a great deal of Hollywood films but then I moved back to Dubai where I didn't used to cable. Cable too wasn't enough...and I got my internet last year, i.e., at the age of 17 (and yes I know it's the 21st century). Also I am in my final year of school which basically means I cannot sit and watch films all day long. I don't go to movie theaters alot as my parents have this insufferable habit of converting prices here in the UAE to those in India and as a result I suffer. In India when I can actually watch a lot of films, not many release or they have an adult rating..and I still look 16. CD-wise again they are either too expensive or unavailable or just that my parents won't let me subscribe to a video shop as they think I watch too many films already (is it me or does this sound like me whinig about my failed life so far?)

But as shown in this totally useless and futile post, I do not watch enough films and have taken an oath to myself that I will watch atleast one movie a day once college starts.

P.S.- I love the title of this post. :)