The Trial Of The Chicago 7 – The Cost Of Justice

There is only one feeling I had when I came to know that Aaron Sorkin was making a film about a trial and that was pure excitement. I had a vague idea of what The Trial Of The Chicago 7 was about but didn’t want to read up on it. I’ve found that going into these kinds of films cold, works better as an experience.

What I found most impressive about the film is the way the incidents are shown. It is not A-B-C but it gives you a more comprehensive outlook of what actually happened. We get to see the events that happen around the trial and the forces that are at play. This makes us connect more with the characters and their actions.

We aren’t simply thrown into the middle but taken there step by step. This achieves the sense of familiarity that makes the events unfolding feel more poignant. And what happens on screen feels relevant regardless of which part of the world you belong to. That perhaps is the biggest strength of the film. The ability to make us feel the sense of injustice, the sense of prejudice and a sense of hope as well.

But for a film like The Trial Of The Chicago 7 to truly work, it needs to be technically strong. And truth be told, this is an area where the film does wonders. Right from the casting, to the editing and the cinematography, it is top-notch. The editing and camera work provide the viewers with different moods. It can be frenetic, it can be steady, depending on what the action calls for. That makes it feel like the film is moving and you do not get bored.

Of course, when talking about a film by Sorkin, we do have to address the writing. In fact, it is probably one the main reasons why we love to watch his films. And he is in sparkling form in The Trial Of The Chicago 7. Be it inside the courtroom or outside it, the dialogue flows beautifully. Aided by some wonderful acting, the weight of the words being spoken can be felt by us. Without trying to spoil it, there’s a moment with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s character that will stop you in your tracks.

Moments like these keep popping up and before you can analyze the film, you are drawn into the proceedings. I wonder how this film would work the second time when you know what happens. Will it be as gripping? Well, that is a question for another day. For now, what we have is a film that is powerful, relevant and entertaining to boot.

The Trial Of The Chicago 7 is a film that should be seen for people to understand what the cost of justice can be. Perhaps the relevance of the film makes it feel like a better film than it is. Whatever the reason maybe, all I can say is that Sorkin has done it again. Netflix have a winner on their hands and a film that can surely spark discussions. Whether it will do so is for us to answer but if there’s one thing we know, the whole world is surely watching. Keeping an eye out for justice and for those who fight for it.

Until next time, bye.

Palm Springs – New Wine In An Old Bottle

WARNING: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD

One of the best things a movie can do is make you feel good after you have seen it. It doesn’t have to be a happy movie to do that but just be one that you like. This was the case with Palm Springs, a film that takes the concept of an infinite time loop and turns it into something fresh and exciting. Writer Andy Siara’s script is able to find new ways to play with this concept. What we get are jokes that feel organic and a resolution that is sweet, touching and ultimately satisfactory.

For a film like to work, the chemistry between the leads has to be spot on and Palm Springs is lucky to have actors who are in sync with one another. And this film adds another dimension to what Andy Samberg can do on screen and the way his relationship with Cristin Milioti develops is a treat to watch. The very fact that the movie begins with Samberg knowing he’s in a time loop is a touch of real genius.

You can look at this at a literal level as well as unpack the metaphorical meaning behind it as well. And for the latter part, I think this is what it all boils down to. As human beings, we are creatures of comfort and when a situation makes us feel comfortable, we rarely want to escape it. This does not make Samberg’s character immature in any way but just him accepting his fate and more importantly the comfort that comes along with it.

The film gets a shot of energy from Milioti’s performance. We are used to Samberg usually being the more active one but the reserved role he takes here serves the story better. The way she enters the world of the time loop, tries to make sense of it and eventually what she does in the finale is brilliant. In a way, she could be termed as the audience as she is getting to grips with this world the same way we would be.

Director Max Barbakow doesn’t waste any time with his storytelling. He gets to the point and that gives us a crisp and entertaining experience. A special mention must be made of the cinematography by Quyen Tran who keeps things in the desert glitzy and beautiful to look at. Palm Springs is also aided by a number of smaller characters who end up scoring in a funny way. The best of the lot would hands down have to be JK Simmons. The first time we ‘see’ him, all we hear is his voice and it brings a smile to our faces. I am not going to tell you to watch Palm Springs because it will restore your faith in love. I think you should watch it, because you will see a film that is entertaining and innovative and that in itself is a triumph.

Until next time, bye.

A Look Back At Piku 5 Years On

By Jaisri Nandhini S

“We are mad people, we are making a mad film!”
Says Amitabh Bachchan alias Bhaskor Bannerjee in the BTS clips of PIKU!
So true the words are for the film. Ever thought of watching a film where shit (literally) plays an important part in the entire narrative of the film? Ever imagined the Indian superstar who had been seen killing deadly villains over decades, could play a man whose only villain is constipation? Ever thought the OTT leading lady of Bollywood could be reduced to someone who could be as normal as the girl you meet in traffic could be? This is what PIKU is all about!

The significance of PIKU is all in its authentic writing that clearly defines the plot’s primary characters. Yes, the film is titled “PIKU” and it claims to be a women centric film which it is. But the core essence of the plot lies in the very fact that PIKU is not raised above any other characters. She is neither glorified nor kept in the limelight. She exists, like any other character in
the film. Yet, they make her strike hard and that is where the beauty of the characterization lies. She is neither Rani who explores herself nor Sehmat who experiments with her life. She does nothing special to be a special one, that is what makes PIKU one of her kind. She is neither a descendant from heaven nor a rebel without a cause.

The women flavors we see throughout the film makes us feel that it is written by a woman. Juhi Chaturvedi’s flamboyant writing makes us see PIKU elevated from being just a character to a real person. She is very much a human rather than a mere film heroine. She is someone who keeps eating something or the other. She is someone who stops the car to buy bangles in those roadside shops. She is someone who can’t stop playing with her catch clip. All these moments appear for a fraction of a second. But that’s where we see the real traits. She is blunt, straight, sincere, extremely moody yet adorable. She is as real as a film character could be.

She is hard and tough, yet there is a soft side to her which nobody really saw beyond that resting bitch face, except for Rana Chaudhary. There lies a realistic touch in every shade or emotion Piku shows. She is someone who has the strongest vulnerability and a fragile anger on the outside. When her life was no longer the way she wanted it to be, when she strives towards nowhere yet keeps trying and pushing herself, when she felt the heavy pressure of her parent’s indifference, when she misses her mother the most, all she does is to wander in the supermarket and fetch herself something to eat, in the most carefree fashion possible. But, she gets mad at her driver for her being late.

She is socially responsible. She hated a man on her date because he neither voted nor watched Satyajit Ray films. She even has a Ray poster in her room. She is financially and sexually independent. She is that woman who is aware that sex is a need and she was open about it. She was financially stable enough to take the decision of a break without any second thought and discussion. She believes in marriage, not because she can’t live alone, but she because believes in companionship. She is emotionally dependent. She’s in need of someone to understand her, but she was neither yearning nor desperate to find it immediately. She believed in going with the flow. She is sensitive to insensitivity. When you realize where she comes from, after all it is not an irony to find a “keep calm” poster in her office cabin.

The film’s cinematography is itself a language. It is a cleverly used tool to reflect the core concept of the narrative. Piku’s intro pans out from Ray’s poster, establishing her Bengali origin and her nature. She has more reaction shots than dialogues. Yet, things get conveyed beautifully from her perspective. When the entire family argues and discusses when Rana is about to leave Kolkata, all she does is eat mangoes unbothered by her surroundings. That says more about her than what she could have conveyed through words. The music understands the film and as it’s narrative needs an upper hand flows with it. Every single song has its purpose in the film.

The film is bittersweet until you realize that all got what they wanted. Bhaskor wanted free motion, a death not by constipation and no-hospital no-vein injection and a peaceful death, which he eventually got. He never wanted to sell Champa Kunj, which never happened. He wanted to ride a cycle in Delhi, which eventually happened in Kolkata. Rana’s much needed escape from his bugging family came in the disguise of Piku and Bhaskor. His not-so-evident crush on Piku is now at the stage of a blooming friendship. When Piku wanted to play Badminton with Rana in Kolkata and it never happened, the film ends with her playing Badminton with him in her Delhi home. Even the house maid who left home and promised to return, gets a happy ending.

Everything happens very subtly amidst all the chaos. Rana understands Piku like no other as he resonates with her. He is from a broken family stuck between his intolerable mother and sister. He empathizes with her situation of handling her household more than anyone else. This bond they share comes out openly in the car scene right before they enter Kolkata. There lies a sense of empathy along with the cute attraction he has for her. He can never be hard with her, because she is her softer version with him. This “silent pyaar” they share is the major take away from the film.

Bhaskor Bannerjee is that annoying yet unavoidable person. He has some lovely traits. He is the biggest feminist anybody could meet. He says marriage without purpose is LOW IQ. FACTS. He is high on ideology but falls flat in terms of empathy and emotions. He is a bit extra selfish in this already selfish world. But, Juhi’s success as a writer comes out when she manages to make the annoying Bhaskor Bannerjee lovable too. The balance she strikes between making Bhaskor tolerable and Piku non-angelic is all any writer should aspire to get. This is also pretty evident from her other works like October (wonderful arc Dan has) and Vicky Donor (both the leads). All her characters exist in shades, neither pure white nor plain black. And that is what makes Shoojit Sircar’s Piku one of the most relatable films with among the most relatable characters Bollywood has ever made.

So, mad people making a mad film is not really a MAD THING, afterall.

Until next time, bye.

Singin’ In The Rain – Time For Joy

Writing about cinema during a time like this seems almost wrong. With the spread of the Coronavirus, it might not the be right time to talk about this but life has to go on. And if you are among the sensible people staying at home, you might be wondering what to watch. While we have an excess of quality content, I’d like to turn your attention to a classic from decades gone by. Singin’ In The Rain is one of those films that just fills with you with joy. In many ways, it is the perfect kind of movie for these dark days.

To begin with, it has some insanely catchy songs with incredible dancing to go along with it. The story is one that seems relevant even today as we have someone trying to keep up with the changing times. How we adapt to change is an emotion that all of us can relate to. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynold and Donald O’Connor brings so much zest to their roles that their enthusiasm is contagious (pardon the usage).

This is one of the most iconic images in cinema and it comes in the middle of an equally iconic sequence. And in a way, it really captures the essence of Singin’ In The Rain. It is about finding that moment of joy that makes all the worries seem far away. A line in the titular song goes “I’m happy again” and that’s what all of us want in a time like this. I apologize for bringing this ‘review’ back to the current scenario but it is inescapable.

So, why did I write this? I myself don’t have an answer. But, I would like to implore you to give this film a chance. Will things become better by watching it? Probably not, but you will be filled with a little more happiness. Finding these brief moments of joy seems more important than ever before. That is what Singin’ In The Rain is capable of doing. Stay safe everybody and hopefully see you soon at the movies.

Until next time, bye.

Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal – Crafting A Winner

WARNING: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD

One of the true joys of going to the movies is watching a film with no expectations and it turns out to be great. This is exactly what has happened to me and many others with Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal. Written and directed by first-timer Desingh Periyaswamy, this is a rip-roaring ride that keeps subverting your expectations. What appears to be a standard rom-com transforms into something else. Telling you how this happens would be a disservice that will take away from your experience. First of all, I’d like to praise the director for having the conviction to not deviate from what he wanted to do. He doesn’t make any compromise for the sake of the audience.

So, what we get are characters that are amoral, realistic and best of all, entertaining. Despite a runtime that might look lengthy, the crispness in the writing keeps you hooked. A joke is never too far away and that is needed in a film like Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal. The casting is another strong point here. Having a seasoned actor like Dulquer Salmaan helps but the rest of the actors do a commendable job too. And what a revelation Gautham Menon is, pulling off the kind of swagger associated with his leading men. There is a sequence at the end of the film involving him that is sure to make you laugh.

By having the focus more on the story than the characters, the film keeps moving at an impressive pace. The first 15-20 minutes make you think that the film is a little cliched. This is perhaps intentional from the director as he wants to lull you into thinking what kind of film this is going to be. The interval block made me and many others in the theater audibly gasp. And it was heartwarming to see the kind of wild cheering that accompanied this moment. What makes Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal special is the commitment to the story. There are no shortcuts taken, no overly dramatic moments that hamper the proceedings.

Though we have a lot of technical information being thrown at us, it doesn’t feel like its too much. We go along with the ride and it proves to be thrilling and entertaining. The film works better if you have no expectations. Even if you go into it knowing how good it is supposed to be, try not to read too much about it. It is kind of ironic that I’m saying this in a review. So, go watch Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal and you will see why people are talking about this film. A brilliant debut from Desingh Periyaswamy that makes me excited to see what he comes up with next.

Until next time, bye.

Little Women – Recreating A Classic

I went into this movie not knowing much about the book and not being familiar with the previous adaptations of it. This worked for the better as I was able to fully enjoy everything as I was seeing it for the first time. So much so, I came to realize that the book takes a linear route whereas the movie skips back and forth. Greta Gerwig’s second directorial venture Little Women is a beautifully made film that pays tribute to its source material but with her stamp on it. The cutting between different years adds some detailing as to why these people are the way they are and that fleshes them out even more.

One of the strengths of the film is the casting. Be it Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh or even Timothee Chalamet, they feel like they are a part of this world. A pleasant surprise was French actor Louis Garrel who in a smaller part manages to leave quite an impression. If there’s anything that could have been changed in the screenplay of Little Women, it is that the cutting between eras could have been reduced a little. But apart from that, this is a brilliantly written and acted film with a gorgeous score from Alexandre Desplat to boot.

What makes Little Women even more remarkable is how relevant the themes are. Agency for women, economic freedom, the choice of marriage are all topics that still hold importance. And the journey we take with these characters is one of joy, pain and hope. The best performance comes from Ronan who deservedly got an Oscar nomination. She internalizes all that is Jo March so much that we start identifying with her. Her monologue towards the end of Little Women carries the emotional equivalent of a gut punch. She is supported by wonderful dialogue from Gerwig that transcends the era the film is set in and makes it timeless.

To talk about Little Women without mentioning the cinematography of Yorick Le Saux would be a mistake. His frames carry that immaculate beauty we have come to associate with period films. There is this shot of a palace in France that made me pop out of my seat, it was that beautiful. I look at Little Women as a triumph for Greta Gerwig who is already one of my favorite directors. The way she uses the camera, dialogue and blocking to tell a story makes it look she has been doing this for years. She took a story that had already been told, turned into something that was hers, made it relevant and into an engrossing film.

Until next time, bye.

Psycho – Looking For Answers

Mysskin is one of my favorite directors working in Tamil cinema today. There are very few like him who take the time to meticulously stage a scene. What the writer/director does with Psycho is show flashes of brilliance mixed with moments of indifference. The latter part was my reaction to the events unfolding. But still, his staging, use of lights is as vivid as ever. Without telling you too much about the plot, there are many interesting elements that needed to be explored more. The fact that they aren’t is a little surprising given Mysskin’s mastery over these aspects.

So what is Psycho about? Well, it is about a serial killer, it is about a blind man looking for his love. The way Mysskin interweaves these two story lines is impressive but it does not keep you hooked enough. Psycho begins to feel a little lengthy by the time we are in the second half. I have nothing against long films but a film with a central idea like this, needs to have an injection of pace. I felt that some of the revelations could have been shown much earlier. But the way we get to those revelations is a delight in themselves.

The performances across the board are what we have come to expect from the director’s world. If you are a fan of Mysskin, you will like it. Otherwise, there is a chance that it feels a little jarring. The actor playing the titular character is really menacing but is sure to break your heart in one scene. This kind of range is commendable and kudos to him for pulling it off. One of the most impressive aspects of Psycho is the production design and in particular the killer’s lair. There is a scene set in this area which involves Christian imagery and fire. That’s all I will tell you but it is one of the most unsettling sequences I’ve seen in a film for a long time. This is the power that someone like Mysskin has. He can shake you to your core but it doesn’t happen often enough here.

I kept wondering how Psycho would have shaped up without the central love story. It drives the story forward but somehow I felt that it ended up slowing down the overall flow of the film. In the hands of another director, this would have been a film of how the blind protagonist overcomes challenges. Mysskin is more interested in the psychological aspect of humans. This is also evident in the way the Nithya Menen character is written. There is a real sense of bitterness but somewhere there is a sliver of hope hidden. Perhaps this is what he’s trying to say about the film’s Psycho as well. The motivation behind the killer’s actions are convincing and that makes you empathetic but not really sympathetic. This level of feeling is not really present in the love story as it feels quite generic. Psycho is the director Mysskin showing off his brilliance but the writer Mysskin is not able to complement him enough. It is interesting, intriguing but the feeling I had at the end of it was that it could have been better.

Until next time, bye.

Sillu Karupatti – Sweet Joys Of Life

There are some movies where you are waiting for it to end. There are some where you do not want it to end. Sillu Karupatti falls in the second category as it is one of those sweet, feel-good films that stay with you for a long time. It is about 4 love stories that show people of different ages and how they connect with each other. What writer and director Halitha Shameem does is make sure that each story doesn’t overstay its welcome. Even when you feel the film might be getting into slightly more dramatic territory, we have a lighter moment around the corner.

A film like this does not really need music to work but Pradeep Kumar’s gentle tunes elevate the impact of the love stories. More often than not, we are left with a smile on our faces. What is most impressive is the level of maturity that is on display with the writing. It is also evident in the dialogues that are more realistic than what we normally see in our love stories. We can relate to any of the stories and that is the real beauty of Sillu Karupatti.

Director Halitha’s understanding of the dynamics between people makes every story feel personal yet universal. We know that we are seeing these characters but somewhere it reminds us of our own love lives. Sillu Karupatti is also the kind of film that can be enjoyed part by part. You could select one story and be taken back to that age. I am genuinely not able to come up with any criticism about the film. Does this mean that it is without flaws? I don’t know, it is just that we look past any flaw that might be there. Isn’t that how love works?

Another reason for the film’s lingering impact is the performances across the board. Whether it is the child actors or the more senior performers, there is a lived-in quality to their work. It feels like they are playing their characters and not just being themselves. This is most prominently visible in the performance by Samuthirakani. Sillu Karupatti is about connecting with others and is summed up by beautifully by a text in the trailer. Here is the rough translation of it:

“The best intoxication is that of words. Who hasn’t gotten high on it?”

It sounds more impressive in Tamil but you get the gist. This is precisely what Sillu Karupatti wants to be about. And to our sheer delight it aces this part of it’s objective. Halitha Shameem has come up with a concoction that is sweet, touching, relatable and most importantly, that makes you smile. Its an absolute joy when you walk into a film without any expectations and come away feeling satisfied. That is how you will feel at the end of Sillu Karupatti.

Until next time, bye.

1917 – An Astonishing Achievement

You are going to be hearing a lot of things about 1917 and one of them will certainly be about the technical wizardry. This is with good reason as a major part of the film’s triumph is due to the sheer magic behind the making. But what makes 1917 truly great is the personal conflict that drives the story forward. The soldiers that undertake the mission take it on for brotherhood and friendship. In the grand scheme of the war, this might not mean anything but for these two men it means everything.

There are moments in the film that will make your jaw drop regardless of which screen you watch it on. But that being said, the impact is so much more on a bigger screen. Films like 1917 show you how magical a theatrical experience can be. It is a testament to the power that the medium possesses. We feel like we have been dropped in the trenches with these soldiers. Every bullet that is fired feels like it’s whizzing past us. And of course, none of this would have been possible without the brilliance of legendary DP Roger Deakins and his team of camera operators. What they have done is not just an astonishing achievement technically but physically as well. They probably would have ended up running the equivalent of a marathon during filming.

But despite the technical marvel that 1917 is, it still needs convincing performances to hit home. This is where George MacKay’s extraordinary work helps the film enormously. For most of the film, the camera travels with him. He is our guide into this hellish landscape from which there seems to be no escape. He goes through enormous challenges that makes us feel and root for him. What really comes through is the sheer torment that builds up and is visible on his face as the film goes on. Shell shock is not an easy emotion to display. There has to be an emptiness mixed with terror and MacKay brings that out quite beautifully.

This review wouldn’t be complete without talking about the man directing all the mayhem. Sam Mendes is someone who has excelled at the bombastic action films and quieter dramas as well. 1917 is not a film where you expect this to converge but it does and that makes the film a more enriching experience. It is in the quieter moments that Mendes lets his characters and the audience take a breath. These moments add more weight to the journey that we see our protagonist undertake. War is not just about valor and bravery, it is also about the cost of everything for people. Cities are torn down, people are destroyed, spirits are decimated but through all that, our protagonist must soldier on. And thankfully for us, Deakins and his team are there to capture it in breathtaking fashion.

Until next time, bye.

Marriage Story – Moving and Masterful

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

Noah Baumbach is a name that makes me want to watch a film. One of his best qualities is the way he makes his characters speak. This is on full display in Marriage Story as you get to see a real splinter deepening between a couple. What is remarkable about this film is that he’s taken this structure and not take sides. We get to see both the husband and wife make their case for what they feel. This makes the impact hit you with a lot more force. You might be thinking that you’ll have to take a side but even at the end, there is that ambiguous feeling in us. These are just two people who care for each other but don’t have to be together.

For Marriage Story to succeed, a lot of it depends on the quality of acting from the leads. And this is perhaps the single biggest achievement of the film. We get two incredible, heartbreaking and real performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. I wouldn’t be surprised if people paused the film if it got too much to handle. I know I did this. You almost feel that its better to watch it on a streaming service than a theater from which there would be no escape. The emotional hits keep coming and at no point do they feel forced. And the beauty of doing this is that you understand where these people are coming from. Their motivations, feelings and actions feel organic and this is quite hard to achieve but Baumbach aces this part of the film.

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You can see traces of your own relationship, your parent’s relationship or those around you in these two people. Another good move by Baumbach is that he doesn’t use the emotional impact on the child to manipulate us. Even there, the element of realism present in the child makes us feel so much. The amazing thing about both Driver and Johansson is that they convince you in both the showy moments as well as the more somber ones. These are two actors who are completely in sync with the characters that they play to such an extent that we forget the actors and focus on the characters.

Marriage Story works as a way of telling us that it is possible to love someone but you don’t always have to like them. The cast is rounded off with some solid turns from Ray Liotta, Alan Alda and best of all, Laura Dern. She gets a monologue that is so riddled with truth, it becomes uncomfortable after a point. It is this kind of writing that makes Marriage Story so convincing. We may look at it and wonder why we should feel for these people but Baumbach makes us feel, ache and yearn for all sorts of things. At the end, your not left in a weepy mess but you feel the sense that this is life. As Russell Bufalino from The Irishman might say, “It is what it is.” Baumbach takes a real situation from his life and makes it our own by making us privy to these problems. It is hard to deal with personal material but he does it with real aplomb. And perhaps that is the biggest triumph of Marriage Story.

Until next time, bye.