Fear Of Fitting In

Among the many movie genres, the teen movie has been in my opinion, one of the more divisive types out there. A lot of these films are not very realistic or at least, they don’t feel that way. This is where Eighth Grade is different. Instead of showing us the dark side like some films choose as a form of realism, what we see here is just how awkward life is at that stage of life. The script by debutante director Bo Burnham and the flawless performance by Elsie Fisher, ensure that the film is relatable all along. The 8th grade in particular van be very challenging as it represents a transition in our lives. You are on the fast track to your teenage years and the various challenges that come with it. It can be difficult to deal with all this and technology has added to that. Ultimately, it all comes down to our need to fit in and the film explores that emotion beautifully.

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This face in the picture above, is the one that defines the film. We see Kayla on her YouTube channel and she seems a different person but in the outside world, she’s shy, awkward and just wants to, (you guessed it) fit in. This is an emotion that is not just felt during your younger years, it can be felt no matter how old you are. The grass always feels greener on the other side. It looks like those people are having more fun than you. It feels like those people have more interesting lives than you. Honestly, that can be true or false but it is hard to be objective about that. For this, I would like to reply with a quote from an Indian film. It goes like this:

In life, there will always be something better than what we have, but there is no use in changing ourselves to get the other thing.”

Until next time, bye.

 

Believe The Hype

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS VERY MILD SPOILERS

Sometimes when a film is being praised by a lot of people, there is a tendency for us to dismiss it. This is because when we watch it, we are challenging the film to impress us and to be honest, that is the wrong way to see a film. So, when I decided to see Pariyerum Perumal I had already heard a lot about it and was excited to see it. The one thing I can say about the film is that it lived up to the hype and then some. Dealing with such a heavy subject such as caste and equality can be a tricky topic but debutante director Mari Selvaraj pulls it off with astonishing ease. The script has a maturity that one would associate with a seasoned filmmaker. By refusing to give any easy solutions, the film manages to stay away from cliches that we might get in a film like this. It is easily one of the best films of the year.

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There are many things about the film that stand out and this includes the performances and the music. Is the film flawless? That is for you to say. Kathir does an incredible job as we get to see someone who is helpless, brave, proud, vulnerable, happy, sad etc. It is tough to make acting seem natural but both Kathir and Anandhi do such a good job with their ‘love’ story and it is bound to put a smile on your face. Whether this film is going to bring about a change in society is secondary as the fact that we are talking about a social evil, is the true triumph of the film. When you see this film, you understand that a message does not have to be delivered with a sledgehammer but a glass of tea is all that it takes. That reference will be understood only by those who have seen the film. Its just my way of telling you to watch it and perhaps you too will celebrate it.

Until next time, bye.

When Words Don’t Matter

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

There are many things to admire about the 2003 film, Lost In Translation. The film won its director, Sofia Coppola an Oscar for its screenplay, that is an indicator of how good the film is. It has an amazing performance from Bill Murray in one of his most sombre roles. Ably supported by Scarlett Johansson, the film manages to rise above the usual romantic comedy and it becomes something that is enduring. This is quite unlike the romance that we usually see on screen. What I want to talk about today is the final scene of the film. It has become famous for how it leaves these two characters. It is also notable that the moment I’m referring to was improvised by Murray. A moment that is not suited for people who want everything to have closure. However, it is perfect in my opinion and I would like to explain why.

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Just before they part ways, Bob (Murray) and Charlotte (Johansson) meet to share one last moment. Then comes the shot where Bob whispers something into Charlotte’s ear. Now, if you belong to the group of people that wants to know what was said, I don’t agree with you. The very fact that we don’t know what is being said, gives the scene so much more power. It allows us to interpret it in so many ways. Perhaps it was something silly or maybe it was something profound. Either way, we are left with an absolutely memorable moment. We tend to believe that words are what matter but at times, it is just the act of being around each other that gives us happiness. These two people could go anywhere from here. I feel the reason that the film ends on this note is because, not every story needs an end.

Until next time, bye.

A Great Film?

Have you ever had this feeling while watching a movie, thinking that it is good, but it could have been so much better. That is exactly how I felt when I was done with Hostiles. It has all the hallmarks of a great Western. We have a fascinating protagonist, absolutely gorgeous camera work and some thrilling moments filled with action. While reading up on the movie, I was surprised to see how little the movie was marketed. This is a little strange when you have a genre that has always been popular and also, a star who has immense critical and commercial appeal.

In a film like this, what matters is the way in which the story is handled. Here, I believe more emphasis was placed on the characters. This is fine if you were making a shorter film but given the length of Hostiles a little bit of urgency would have surely helped. In some ways, these are the moments where you feel frustrated with a film. Yes, it is nice being with these people and getting to know them but sometimes, you gotta move on. You can sense the potential of it being a classic but it doesn’t reach that level.

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The above image is one of the many instances where Christian Bale shines with his acting ability. Bale is someone who has incredible range with his emotions and he shows a different side to it here. I saw some similarities between his work in this film and The Dark Knight trilogy. The brooding, dealing with grief are all there, except in this case, it is much more restrained. So, the moments where he does let his emotions out makes it mean something.

This could become a film which becomes better with age as many films do. That is the way with certain films because, we become less critical of older films. One thing that director Scott Cooper should be lauded for is commenting on the effect that war and violence has on people. The fact that this is done within the realm of a Western, where glorification of violence is a common occurrence, is even more appreciable. We can sense the horrors that these people have seen and that makes us care for them. So in the end, you have great characters but a film that falls just a little short of greatness.

Until next time, bye.

 

Love Blossoms

The Apartment has one of the most sweetest love stories that I have ever seen. A major reason for that are the performances of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. It is genuinely heartening to see the way their love blossoms. From the beginning till the very end, there is a gradual progression. Nothing seems forced or hurried as the film is paced correctly. It is safe to say that the film’s reputation as one the greatest of all time, is well and truly deserved. There are many aspects of life that the film comments on but I feel that its most profound statement is on our need to be loved. Just the mere thought that someone likes or loves us, is enough to be cause for celebration. Today, I would like to talk about one scene in particular. It is when we see the two characters together in the office lift.

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In this frame alone, we learn so much about these two people. The way they feel about life can be perceived from this one image alone. MacLaine’s Fran does not like the way life is treating her. And while Lemmon’s Bud feels the same way, he does not show it. His attitude towards life is much more upbeat than that of Fran. Even when things are not going his way, he does not lose his cool. This is a valuable trait for anyone to have. As for Fran, initially it looks like she is not doing what is right for her. But over the course of the film, we learn more about her and why she is the way she is. And through this, she earns the viewer’s empathy and sympathy. A lot of love stories do not work for me because I feel disconnected from what’s going on. This is not the case with The Apartment. And for that alone, I would recommend all of you to watch it irrespective of whether you like love stories.

Until next time, bye.

The Fight For Power

Iruvar is without a doubt one of the finest films ever made in India. It is a perfect mix of art and entertainment that is sure to leave one feeling awestruck at its brilliance. There is so much to talk about with a film like this. One of them is the historical significance of the story it depicts. And if you know anything about the history of Tamil Nadu, you know how important the two protagonists are. Today, I would like to focus on one scene in particular. It is the scene where Mohanlal’s character goes to the office of Prakash Raj and asks to be made a minister. In other words, it is for the fight for power. Not only is it key to the development of the story, the two actors are able show what acting is in just a few minutes.

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This expression, I feel, is acting at an incredibly high level. What we see is a man who has his pride damaged but does not want to show it. He did not expect to be rejected for the minister’s post. The scene also manages to show the distance that has grown between the once great friends. Where we usually see them close to each other, the table in the metaphorically shows the distance among them. Though there is only one expression in this picture, the whole scene has the both of them portray a range of emotions with such subtlety that you may miss it. This is not an easy thing to do.

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A fascinating aspect of the relationship between Tamizh Selvan and Anandhan is the love and respect they have for each other till the very end. Though their political ambitions end up making them rivals, they remain friends rather than foes. There is a constant shift in power throughout the film. At the end, one feels that Tamizh Selvan’s monologue shows the feeling of powerlessness. Without his friend, he feels lost. This is how the movie ends but we all know how real life turned out to be.

Until next time, bye.

 

The Joy Of Life

There are many films that can be classified under the feel-good category. These are the films that leave you with a smile on your face. But among these films, there are those which make you smile as well as cry. Are these films really feel-good ? Well, let me put forth my interpretation of this. As we all know in life, there are ups and downs. So, to truly feel an up we need to go through something that brings us down. Only then can true catharsis be achieved. Even if I told you about the end of Anand it wouldn’t be too much of a spoiler as the movie does this in the very beginning. Therefore, I’d like to talk about what the film wants to say.

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To put it simply, the message of the film can be summed up as this: try to find the joy in life. Although this is easier said than done, it is certainly something that all of us could use a little of in life. We spend so much time cribbing about what we don’t have that we tend to forget what we possess. In the film, Anand is diagnosed with cancer and while it seems quite cinematic to make him celebrate life despite his illness, it is what makes the film memorable. Here is a man who lives with such fervor that it seems cruel that his life is going to be taken away from him. All this makes us root for him to recover and when he doesn’t, it hits you like a bullet. Though you are expecting it, you aren’t fully prepared for it just like it happens in life. To quote a famous liquor brand: it’s your life, make it large. This is precisely what Anand teaches us. Whether we follow it or not is in our hands. So, here’s to what we have and hoping we make life just a little large.

Until next time, bye.

Enduring Sadness

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The 2015 film Masaan, is one of the finest films to come out of India from any decade. For a long time, Indian cinema has been attached with a particular image that is, not reflective of the deep heritage and quality of Indian films. It is a country that has been producing great films for more than a century, but a lot of these films don’t get the attention and recognition that they deserve. To be fair, India hasn’t been completely ignored by the world but there are definitely many more films that are waiting to be discovered. Luckily Masaan was a film that the world got to see and this is important as it meant that more people got to see this brilliant film. There are many elements that make this film great – from the performances to the direction but if there is one department that stands head and shoulders above the rest, it is the writing by Varun Grover.

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This above scene is probably the finest example of the quality of the writing in the film. It comes after Deepak’s love Shaalu has died and he has had a drink for the first time in his life. Then, he utters a line that for me is one of the most poignant dialogues that I’ve heard. He says, “Yeh Dukh Kaahe Khatam Nahi Hota”. When translated, it means: why doesn’t this sadness end ? In one line, he manages to say so much about life. When you think about it, life does seem like a constant stream of sadness at times. Most of life is how you react to the dukh (sadness, problems etc.) that happens to you. So, sadness becomes something that is enduring and something we have to endure. This is a man who has had his life turned upside down and he’s kept his grief bottled up until this moment, when it becomes too much to bear. There are times when we wonder why certain things happen to us. The truth is that there is no reason or even if there is one, we haven’t found it yet. Let’s leave that to Varun Grover to explore in his next film. If you haven’t watched Masaan please do. I am sure that it will speak to you on some level.

Until next time, bye.

The Comfort Of Delusion

SPOILER ALERT

Terry Gilliam is a director who is able to distinguish himself from the crowd through the themes he chooses and the way he portrays them. While his films may not be universally appreciated, he has developed a devoted fan following over the years. I am a huge fan of him and one of his best films in my opinion is Brazil. In simple terms, it can be described as a satiric take on George Orwell’s 1984 but there are many other elements that are explored in the film that make it an absolute delight. These range from consumerism to inept bureaucrats. One of the chief aspects that Gilliam explores is just how much better it is to be in a dream like state rather than suffer in reality.

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We see our protagonist Sam Lowry go through so much during the course of the film and when it looks he may have gotten a happy ending after all, you rejoice because of the events that have happened so far. And then, the rug is pulled from under your feet. Turns out that nothing like that actually happened and Sam is left in a delusional state. What could be comforting from this you might ask. Well, there is a simple answer. It saves him from the soul crushing horrors of reality. In his mind, he and the woman he loves have escaped the totalitarian state and are embarking on a happy journey. But in reality, she has been killed and he’s been arrested. Put yourself in Sam’s shoes and think, dream or reality ? Sometimes it is good to be delusional.

Until next time, bye.

 

A Perfect Frame

SPOILER ALERT

Even with our favorite films, we remember them for a particular scene or sequence. Though we may remember the entire film, it is specific moments that are memorable and are forever entrenched in our memory. Call Me By Your Name has one such moment. It also features a bit of acting that is breathtaking and heartbreaking at the same time.

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This is the final scene of the film and it’s probably the reason why the impact of this frame is greater. Timothee Chalamet does such an incredible job of bringing out various emotions. In many ways it is a perfect scene. Everything from the soundtrack to the acting and the framing combine to create one of the most impactful closing shots of any film. Chalamet and director Luca Guadagnino are able to distill the entire story into this single frame. It is not an easy thing to do. The scene rings true with everyone because most of us would have gone through the emotions that Chalamet’s character is feeling. You are awestruck by the acting yet your heart aches because of what you are seeing. A perfect scene.

Until next time, bye.