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.

 

A Troubled Man

WARNING: NO SPOILERS

When you see First Reformed there are a few things that will grab your attention immediately. That includes the performances, the cinematography etc. as these are the things that we see. But where the film really succeeds is in what it does not show. That would include the motivation and feelings of the characters. I was completely engrossed by this film from start to finish but I’m not quite sure of how to word my love for it.

This is a good thing as it means that the film made me think. And that is what a lot of First Reformed is about. It makes you ponder about a lot of things. We can sense the world around Ethan Hawke’s Reverend, disintegrating due to a lot of factors. As the film goes on, this becomes more and more apparent to us and we understand why he is behaving this way. There are a lot of layers that are not visible on the surface as it requires the viewer to dig deeper.

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More than anything, this film is proof, of the power present in the words and scenes that come from the mind of Paul Schrader. The film’s power lies in how understated it is. It is not flashy at all, even when dealing with heavy themes. A large part of the credit goes to the performance of Ethan Hawke who adds another milestone to his already amazing career. As a man questioning his faith and morality, it is wonderful to see him struggle to keep his calm. I just have to make this tiny observation about the way Hawke acts. His way of delivering dialogue makes every word mean something.

Normally, you would expect a character like this to have that one moment where they burst and let all their emotions out. First Reformed subverts our expectations in an interesting way. And when the emotions bubbling inside, do come out, it feels like a nasty uppercut to the viewer. And since you didn’t expect it to be this way, it becomes even more powerful. When the film does talk about a particular theme, it is not in your face but it is subtle in its expression. This allows the viewer to interpret it in their own way. And what makes the film even better is the ending, it is a left hook and it’s a knockout.

Until next time, bye.

 

What Do We Want From Action Films?

This is the exact question that I had after watching the latest installment in the Mission Impossible franchise. The reaction to the film has been overwhelmingly positive but I have heard more than a few people react in an indifferent manner. I wondered what made them react this way. So to identify that, we need to take a look at action films in general. The first thing that any good film in this genre should have is, action. And that can come from a range of sources be it gunfire, fist-fights or even a battle of the intellect. No matter what kind of action there is, it has to be entertaining. Just to be clear, in my opinion, Fallout is easily one of the best action films to have come out in the recent past. A lot of the scenes/stunts in the film will go down in history as being among the best of all time.

The biggest problem with action films is that there are too many of them. This has made it more and more difficult for filmmakers to surprise the audience. But it must be mentioned that sometimes it does not even feel like they are trying to do anything new. We expect so many things from a film like this, that more often than not, it cannot match up to our expectations. It is like wanting an entire buffet on a plate but we do not think about the quantity of the food we take and then end up disliking the buffet itself.

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What I am about to say might sound a little crazy but hear me out. The way we watch films in general has undergone a major change. An increased amount of knowledge about the craft behind the film, makes it easier for us to nitpick. It has to be said that nitpicking is not wrong in any way. It is important to criticize but you must think about where it is coming from. A lot of the gripes that we have with action movies these days, comes from what we expect from them. We want to see big set-pieces that are beautifully choreographed, we do not want to see one-dimensional characters. We want the film and the plot to be entertaining and engaging.

It is perfectly fine to want all these things but spare a thought for those making the movie. Sometimes, there is a real possibility of overlooking one aspect while focusing on another. In the case of Fallout, seeing the incredible and not to mention insane action, I was ready to forgive any shortcomings in the other departments. But even I was surprised at how much the film was able to engage me. This is particularly commendable when its the sixth film in a franchise. So when I heard people talking about how bland the story and dialogue were, it made me wonder if this genuine criticism or are people saying it just for the sake of saying something. Maybe this is just the way I view a film and I’m not saying that this is the right way to go about it, but it is something worth pondering. More than anything, go and watch Tom Cruise run and risk his life for your entertainment. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Until next time, bye.

The Beauty Of Company

One of the best things about an Anjali Menon film is the way in which she is able to portray different relationships. This is is evident in all the films that she has written or directed. In Koode as well, we get to see a variety of people and the different relationships that they have. This is what the film focuses on and also, I feel that it comments on one of the worst feelings that a person can have: loneliness. None of us like to feel that way and it is always nice to have someone by our side. It does not matter if we haven’t spoken to them in years, all that matters is the here and now. The film also touches on the ways in which two people can drift apart not because of anyone’s choosing but as a result of circumstances. Koode is the kind of film that lingers after you have seen it. It will grow on you the more you think about it.

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For me, just getting to see three of my favorite actors share the screen was enough to make me happy. The film is written in such a way that at no point, do you feel that the emotions are being forced. Though both Nazriya and Parvarthy did really well, the film belongs to Prithviraj. He is able to bring out every emotion of Joshua with an honesty that makes us look beyond the actor playing the role. Koode is not just a film that is beautiful to see but it feels beautiful as well. You start rooting for the characters as they tug at your heartstrings but make sure to leave a smile on your face. I don’t think this film should be compared to Anjali Menon’s earlier films but should be viewed for what it is. A visual poem to soothe the soul and be an antidote to all the harshness that may be around us.

Until next time, bye.

 

A Change Of Pace

In the history of Tamil cinema, there have been many memorable female characters. Although the proportion is too little, every now and then we are greeted with something that is for lack of a better word, nice. These films show that it is possible to have women in the film and use them for something other than titillation. In that vein, I would like to talk about a female character I really like. She is not someone who immediately comes to mind when we discuss the best roles written for women. She is not someone who fights against the evils of society, yet she is strong in her own way. I am talking about Ganga from Dumm Dumm Dumm. Played by Jyothika, she is one of Tamil cinema’s more underrated women.

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So, what makes her special? There are a few things that are impressive about her. First, it is her desire to do well in life and not just marry the first person her father chooses. It also helps that her father is so supportive of her; so that’s refreshing to see as well. Even when the marriage is stopped at the beginning of the film, she doesn’t break down – she continues her journey. You may ask what is so special about this given the fact that so many millions of women do this. I feel that this is precisely what makes her special. When we talk about strong women on screen, more often than not, we have an image of a woman fighting against society. Ganga is fighting as well, but it is at a different level. It is no surprise that such a character came from the mind of Mani Ratnam, who co-wrote the script. To conclude, the character of Ganga is not revolutionary but her relatability is what makes her great. And a special mention has to be made for Jyothika who gives the character so much charm and depth, that we too end up falling in love with her.

Until next time, bye.

When Man Becomes Myth

THIS IS NOT A REVIEW

For many, the name Sanjay Dutt is associated with controversy and the excesses of the film industry. For some, he is someone who was wronged and is misunderstood by the public. Whatever your opinion may be of him, the fact is that Sanju is an amazing film, easily one of the best movies to come out this year. Making a film about such a sensationalized character is a tricky task but the script by Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi manages to show us the man behind the myth. Even if you know everything about the man, they manage to keep you engaged. I feel that is the film’s biggest achievement.

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It shows the human side of the character at each point in his life. The film is ready to show that Sanjay Dutt is someone who is flawed but by no means is he bad. But, if you have made up your mind before watching the film, there is nothing that is going to change your opinion. Some of you may even dispute the accuracy of the events shown in the film. Even if you put aside the man/myth the film is about, there is so much to admire. This includes the performances of Paresh Rawal, Manisha Koirala and especially Vicky Kaushal who continues to show why he’s one of India’s most underrated actors. A special mention must be given to the Director Of Photography Ravi Varman, who frames the bright and dark times of Sanju’s life with a painterly feel.sanju2

There are very few directors who make films the way Rajkumar Hirani does. His ability to combine good film making with a commercial sensibility is astonishing at times. Another trait of his films are the way in which sentiments and humor blend seamlessly and not one scene seems out of place. When I left the theater, I felt the same way I do after a great meal. I guess this is what happens when you get to see magic on screen. A big thank you to team Sanju for reaffirming the power of good cinema.

Until next time, bye.

What Is A Spoiler ?

The 2013 Malayalam film Mumbai Police is a fantastic thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last moment. It has everything that a thriller should. A central mystery, great performances and enough twists and turns to keep you engaged. But to be honest, the experience for me was ruined a little bit because of one thing that I did. Before I saw the film, I opened the Wikipedia page of the film to see if it had done well. And though I skipped over the plot, my eye caught a piece of trivia that gave away quite a bit about the big twist. Now, knowing that there is a twist is bad enough but at least then, you can think of all the different ways in which it can happen. In this case, I had more than a hint about how the film would play out. So, to anyone who has not yet watched this fantastic film, please don’t go on Wikipedia before watching it. Save yourselves.

Until next time, bye.

The Beauty Of Paris

When I first saw Midnight In Paris, the one facet that amazed me the most was the cinematography. It was incredibly beautiful as it showed how Paris really is, magical.  The opening montage can be watched over and over as it beautifully shows the varied delights of Paris. It is easily one of the best Woody Allen films in the recent past. A lot of people have never really seen Owen Wilson in this kind of a role, but the fact is that not only does he make it work, he makes his character completely convincing.

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The plot of the movie has elements of fantasy which makes it a little different from the usual romantic comedy. The movie succeeds with its wonderful sense of humour, characters that are so likable and a city that has a mystical persona. The performances are delightful, and Darius Khondji (Director Of Photography) manages to portray the different eras with ease. A particular highlight is the scene where Wilson’s character enters 1920 and meets the literary greats of the era. It is captured with innocence and a sense of playfulness that is alluring.

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Essential to the flow of the film is Wilson’s mind. Is it real? Is it imaginary? The point is that Allen has left it for us to decide, which is a wonderful thing. It clearly shows how we like to romanticize the past. Would you like to be in a different era, the era you consider to be the ‘Golden Age’? Since I am familiar with the artists and the writers shown it was memorable for me to see those great people being brought to life. If you do not like that era you may not enjoy the film as much as I did. The ending left me feeling satisfied with the film. With this effort Allen has taken us on ride that is heartfelt and fun. Sometimes, that is all we want from a film.

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.

Ranjith vs. Rajni

Let me begin by saying that I liked Kaala but wasn’t captivated by it completely. It is always a tricky task to make a film with someone who has transcended stardom as an actor. The big question with Kaala is how it would have been received had Superstar not entered politics. In my opinion, the reception would surely have been much better. The film also asks a fundamental question regarding its director. Is this a Pa. Ranjith film or is it a Rajnikanth film ? The problem with making a film with such a huge star is that sometimes, it may not be possible to put forth what you want to say. And, we all know the ideology that Ranjith has and it is quite evident in this film compared to Kabali. In the earlier film, it was merely hinted at whereas here it forms the crux of the story. And it seems to be more of a Ranjith film in this case. Ideally, when a director and star combine, you should be getting the best of both worlds. But, something seemed to be missing.

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In my opinion, the duo and their sensibilities worked for the most part but I was left with one particular feeling. That would be the urge to see a film that is completely Ranjith or something that is out and out Rajnikanth. But therein lies a major problem with the audience and their expectations. As an actor, we have started to expect a certain a kind of film from the man himself. There are those who want him to experiment but when he does, do not seem to be appreciate it all that much. Whenever this happens, there is always talk of the vintage Rajni and how he’s missing. Perhaps it is a case of someone reaching a mythical status and that we have started to project our own expectations on the man. While the latest Ranjith-Rajni outing seems to have had a better reception compared to their first, not everyone is satisfied. Yes, it goes without saying that you cannot satisfy everyone. One can only hope that Karthik Subbaraj can come up with something that will appeal to almost everyone. All we can do now is wait and watch.

Until next time, bye.