Drama, English Movies

Nine Lives directed by Rodrigo Garcia

1217376136_1217672299 While seeing this and while trying to put a word to the beauty of what was unfolding, I was reminded of the way some photographs seem to capture some things perfectly and while you watch, you seem to find hidden layers of meaning in the same photo – in the trees, in the eyes, in the mouth and so on.
 
 
If I have to describe this movie, this is how it seems – a series of beautifully and thoughtfully shot photographs with meanings in every frame. It is a movie made with lots of care, for its characters, for the situation and for the ‘baggage’ (as the Glenn Close says) that we all carry around
 
 
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia, son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ‘Nine Lives’ is a series of nine snapshots revolving around nine women and the situation they deal with. There is no beginning and there is no end. Perhaps it can best be described as windows into the lives of the characters, a small chance to see a small part of their lives.
 


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Stephen Hawking mentioned a few days back that he feels that women are the biggest mystery of the universe. ‘Nine Lives’ show also how varied each woman can be. Through situations of helpless anger, hopelessness, adultery, pain, sacrifice, yearning, fear we are offered glimpses of the strength, vulnerability and resilience of nine women.
Each of the nine stories are independent of each other but the characters from one story sometimes show up in others – just like life.
 
 
sissy_spacek5 Much like O Henry stories, each of the nine are a richly textured world of its own, with its own set of rules and past. Because there is no ‘end’, you end up wondering what may happen next. And because the director does not give you closure, you can only wonder about the answers – just like life.
 
 
The stories start as if in the middle of the telling and as you watch you piece together of where the characters have come from and by the time the climax appears, you get a fair idea of the life of the character and even though there is no ‘end’, you still feel a sense of incomplete completeness, to use an oxymoron.
 
 
There has been a spate of movies like these recently, trying to weave stories with separate incidents. However what sets ‘Nine Lives’ apart are two things -the sheer weight of the acting talents and the power of  the storytelling.
 
 
The cast includes Glen Close, Robin Wright Penn, Amanda Seyfried, Elpida Carillo, Ian McShane, Jason Isaacs, Aidan Quinn, Holly Hunter, William Fichtner, Joe Manegna. Almost to a T, all of them have given powerhouse performances. Perhaps because the time to make a presence was so limited, it seems that each of the actor has found some inner reserve to bring out that extra spark.
 
 
nine_lives Many of the performances require speaking with the body rather than with words and that is where this movie left its impact on me. The scene at the shopping mall aisle, the climax scene in the funeral home, the cutting short of the adultery and the last breathtaking scene of Glenn Close all without a single word said more or less makes this one a must watch.
 
 
Watch this not for passing the time because ‘Nine Lives’ will suck you in by the time the second story ends. Watch this if you like feeling being a part of a well told story, watch this if you like thinking for some more time after the credits roll.
Some of these stories will stay with you for quite some time

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Drama, English Movies

The American directed by Anton Corbijn

george-clooney-the-american (2) If you just happen to read the promotional summary of this movie which reads “An assassin hides out in Italy for one last assignment.”, and look at the poster, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a Jason Bourne or a Neeson “Taken” type of swashbuckling movie…
 
If you sit down to watch this with an intent to lose your blues in an orgy of fast moving punches and adrenaline pumping chases, you would be sorely disappointed. And that is only because this is a case of bad marketing…
 
Because this is probably one of the best movies that I have ever seen. And it becomes one not due to any breakthrough theme or espousing some philosophy that multiple views to get the aha moment.
 
It does this by having a screenplay that almost makes it a visual O Henry short story – a taut storyline that leaves more questions than answers, by a character sketch that is as profound as it is multi-american_set_image_george_clooney_butterfly_tattoo_01 dimensional and yes having a background score that almost gives a dark poetic feel…It had the same feel as Uzak (Distant) does in most part…
 
At the centre of this extraordinary movie is perhaps one of the most (till yet) under-rated actor of our generation – George Clooney. Watch this movie, Up in the Air, Syriana, Michael Clayton, Oceans series, One fine day and the sheer extraordinary range of Clooney comes through. And this movie is given its quality by his sheer presence.
 
Clooney is Jack, an ageing assassin, looking for a way out, another life. A man of few words, almost of Spartan laconism and never betraying emotion, at times he seems like a cold calculating machine who shows GEORGE-CLOONEY-THE-AMERICAN no remorse (especially when you get past the first 5 mins).
 
However as we move along, we realize that its just a job for him and its the same as when we do something over and over again, we end up doing it highly efficiently and without thinking. And as we see, he is not without his demons either. Or a conscience…
 
Where Clooney shines through as Jack is that he gives one of his best performances without so much as a handful of dialogues. Its all in his eyes and his slight changes of expression and postures. Its when you see a performance like this that you realize we as humans respond much more to body language and visual signs rather than to spoken words.
 
As you watch this movie, you begin to feel extraordinarily close to Jack and you begin to understand him and how he is feeling and all2010_the_american_020-thumb-640xauto-217156 without hearing anything much from him!! Its only then that you appreciate the depth of this performance.
 
A performance that for me reaches its opus at the end. The mingled expression of anger, frustration, pain, regret, helplessness, determination in one single moment is a performance that few actors can manage – past or present. The whole movie, for me, was given the perfect ending in the last five minutes.
 
Violante Placido (As Clara) also plays a superb supporting cast as the quintessential prostitute with the golden heart (a role as old as modern cinema and yet never seems to touch the heart!). The transformation of the relationship and the growing maturity of the relationship between Jack and Clara is another of the highlight of the movie (as is the relationship between Jack and Father Benedetto)
 
This is a movie that should be watched for the depth of the performances and for its perfect screenplay (the ending of the movie is something that i found better than the book’s on which its based – A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth). And yes watch it especially for Clooney who gives his most subtle, understated and yet powerful performance till now (after Syriana)…
 
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Oh and yes there action sequences – short, brutal and yes silent!!
 
This is a movie that stays…
 
One more thing…there are just about tonnes of people who either have no clue about what the movie was about or did not watch it through, or both – sample this review for instance 🙂
 
 
 

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Drama, English Movies

Silent Night directed by Rodney Gibbons

 silentnight (1) This movie, for me, is like “Dogpound shuffle”, a gem almost completely unknown generally. A movie that I saw on TV on a delightful channel called Hallmark (which stopped being aired long time back) way back in middle school and a movie that I craved seeing ever since. Internet finally came to my rescue and I was finally able to get it on my hard drive…
 
There is a certain appeal about movies that play out in a room or a house and dont use outside locales (the best case in point being “The Man from Earth”). That is because you have to rely on intelligent and taut scripting and need to have completely fleshed out characters to hold attention. You more or less rely completely on conversation to make the story.
 
Right from the first frame, you realize that this is going to be a dramatic movie. The scene of  Elisabeth Vincken (Linda Hamilton) trudging on the snowy wastes of a forest tugging along her son Fritz Vincken (the narrator), the landscape littered with wrecked tanks and dead soldiers, makes you take notice…

It is 1944 and Elisabeth Vincken is a German mother with a young son  who goes upto the family log cabin in the forest, which you realize is the theatre of the Battle of the Bulge, ostensibly to get to a safer place. But she has a deeper reason, which is revealed later…

 

 

 

 

 

The drama starts when their cabin is invaded first by three American soldiers, one of whom is seriously injured, followed soon after by three Germans. Events take such a turn (which it would be a spoiler to reveal!) that Elisabeth comes into a position where she is able to broker a temporary truce between the two parties so that they l9eave their weapons outside. It is naturally an absurd position to be in, in the middle of World War II and the soldiers are naturally incredulous at the situation but as it happens, it is something that they decide to abide by…for the moment…and they settle down to celebrate a very unusual Christmas
 
This is when the movie really comes into its own. The characters are so life-like that you begin to understand the personalities of each within a few minutes. The situations are realistic and makes the story move along at a clip. Mutual suspicion (after all you are supposed to be killing each other!!!) slowly starts turning into curiosity and later even grudging warmth.
 
The basic attraction about the movie cannot be understood unless the movie is watched since its all in the dialogues and the reactions of the different characters thrown together in this unusual situation. The Silent_pop1 atmosphere is always laden with taut tension (with the threat of things getting out of hand any time) and nervous camaraderie as everyone, over the course of the night, begins to understand a little bit of the other.
 
The whole story is about something very basic about human nature – we are as easy to be at each others throat as to be sitting around a table eating together, a paradox. And this simple fact is beautifully captured. At the end, after a dramatic ending, you wonder whether thats not the best way to defuse all wars – make them all sit around a table for dinner!! And yes, I loved the ending – completely went with what you would have expected from each of the characters.

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, if you were wondering at the outlandish situation (as i did), you would be pleasantly surprised to know that it is in fact a completely true story!!! This is one of those “happens only during wars” kind of story…and the fact that it is true makes it all the more compelling.
 
 
This is one gem of a movie that is difficult to find but it is one that is for keeps. Somehow my movie library seems complete with this…
 
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Documentary, English Movies

Chevolution directed by Luis Lopez, Trisha Ziff

Heroico1
It is the story of the power of a single image

 

che-guevara1242900104 Everyone has seen the image. Some may have wondered who he is, some of us know but everyone has been struck by it – the image of a man wispily bearded, hair flowing like a mane, looking intensely, penetratingly over the shoulder of the photographer as if into infinity.

 

Arguably the most reproduced image in the world, the image has adorned everything from the ubiquitous T-shirts, coffee mugs, key chains, vodka bottles, swatch watches, protest marches. It can be found painted on the walls of ghettos of Miami, in the guerrilla headquarters of the Zapatistas in Mexico, in the insurrection in Palestine and Philippines and as a tattoo on the arm of Maradona. It can be equally found as a backdrop of a swish bar in Bangalore to a free clinic in most rural Bolivia.

 

No other image in the history of images has been used so widely in so 126500 many, often contradictory, settings. No image has  been able to evoke the sense of empathy among such a diverse group of people cutting across geography and time as has this image. No other image has spontaneously come up whenever there has been a conflict – from Sarajevo to Iraq.

 

 

This is the story of this image. This is also the story of the power of an image, of an icon – in sustaining a myth and in propagating it. Images _44165313_che_socks_416_300 tell a thousand tales but few image can tell both the story of universal rebellion and defiance and sell socks and vodka at the same time. That is why this is a story that needs to be told.

 

The first part deals with the man Che Guevara and a short history of the man – from his motorcycle journey to the Cuban revolution, then bringing in the history of the man who took the iconic image, an image that he labelled later as Guerrillero Heroico (Heroic Guerrilla) – Alberto Korda.

 

We see the context in which the photograph was taken – a mere two frame shot that Korda took during a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion, when Che stepped forward for a few seconds before disappearing from_44159588_korda_body_ap view. The power of the image struck Korda but it was not widely circulated until the student riots of 1968 in Paris, when the image suddenly exploded and became a symbol for the passions of an entire generation.

The story moves on to how various parallel developments, not always connected to each other led to the image going viral at the right moment – Fidel and Korda’s refusal to copyright the image in the name of free expression, the invention of new imaging and copying techniques, the dawning of the age of larger than life celebrity  (Elvis, Dylan, Beatles etc), rebellion fervour in university campus around the _44159602_bottom_body_afp world (Vietnam war was reaching its climax) and finally the murder of  Che in Bolivia, martyring him, at a time when he was arguably the most famous revolutionary in a world where visual media was beginning to flex its muscles.

 

All of the conditions come together to make the image an almost independent entity from the man. With the result that down the decades people starting consuming the image unaware of who the man is and what he stood for. But what is fascinating is how the core idea and ideals of the image and indeed of Che himself survived the commercial appropriation. While Che’s image adorns bikinis in Brazil, it is still held aloft when injustice is protested anywhere in the world.

 

The film-makers have made a very slick and coherent narrative of the journey of the image. The pace never lets up and it has managed to bring together many different viewpoints in one single storyline. Weche5-733474 hear the history of the man and move on to the image and then on to how that image began to mean everything rebellious even after being appropriated. We hear from the people directly responsible for making the image go viral and from those who consume the image – from people who denounce him as a murderer and wonder what is there to emulate to those who say that they are not believers but if they have to believe, they would believe in god Che. Along the way we are given a grasp of why Che is still so fascinating and mesmerising to us, fifty years after his death (he is worshipped as a saint in Vallegrande, where he was killed).

 

No side is taken by the makers and the narrative is politically neutral (not an easy feat when dealing with Che). The focus is on the image and the threads that come and go from it…

 

It has got a great cast (including film-stars!!), perfect editing, fascinating footage, great music and most of all it has a great theme as subject. We gain a better understanding of ourselves and the society _42379938_cheafp416 around us, our need for heroes and how a powerful image like this fulfils all our needs. We get a better understanding of the power of image. And not the least, we understand Che a little better, to his relevance, as an icon, as an ideal in a world he would have felt intensely uncomfortable in…

 

I was shocked to see the rating on Imdb, one of the rare times that the site has got it completely wrong. I wonder if people actually saw this before rating it. Or maybe it was only the Cuban-Americans of Florida who voted!!!
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Drama, English Movies

Dogpound Shuffle directed by Jeffrey Bloom

10876919_det Before writing a review of the movie, a little note on how damn difficult it is to find it!!!
 
I first saw this movie when I was somewhere around class IX or even earlier. Like so many gems, it was coming at an odd time – late afternoon or so and I just chanced to see it after it had already begun. I remember being mesmerized by the simple yet touching story about a man and his quest to free his dog. I found out the name later (from one of those TV guides that I used to pore over). I think I saw it once more but I am not sure…
 
The movie stayed with me for all these years as one of those childhood movies that you saw but which you want to see again. The internet age came and the download speed slowly increased so now we are now able to download videos effortlessly where we could download images painfully ten years ago.
 
This movie however remained elusive even after extensive searching. There were other hard to find movies that I eventually pounced upon – like “Silent Night”, “The Scarlet and the Black” etc but this one wasmoodysouldogpoundshuffle182 tough. Real tough…
 
So I get into these fits of energy when a notion seizes me and I keep searching for whatever catches my fancy like a maniac. The “Dogpound Shuffle” mania kept hitting me every second year. And this time I was ready to buy from Amazon if necessary.
 
But wonder of wonders!!! Amazon has only a VHS tape of the movie (obviously used!!). I mean, VHS? After having reeled a bit from this sort of a letdown from the god of online shopping, I searched like a maniac for any torrent that might even give me 1Kbps speed!!!
 
And just when I had almost given up, I found it!!! Where? In a DVD lending website based in India – 70mm!!! I had to kick myself more than a dozen times before I could actually believe that a movie that the awesome power of Internet and Amazon combined was not able to deliver was lying nonchalantly in a DVD lending library that is just a phone call away!! Irony of modern technology, no less!!! Anyway, so  thats how I got this movie…Phew!!!
 
index So about the movie. I watched it after almost 12 years and it still  retained the magic that I had felt then. The story of an old tap dancer who teams up with a failed prizefighter who plays harmonica to raise money to free his dog from the Dogpound is a story that O Henry could have been proud of.
 
It has all the qualities of an excellent short story – You get fleeting glimpses into the lives of the characters but all the story is told in action, in the dialogues and the story is one which is lived in present. And like the best of stories, this is about relationships between people – in this case between people who start off being together to survive, in order to gain something from the other and end up forming a kinship that is difficult to put a name to.
 
It has a old literature feel that gives it a certain feeling of old romance – of two drifters finding friendship and purpose in and from each other, in a story that is beautiful and touching in its message of friendship. This is a movie that gives off a warm snug feeling and leaves you wetfilm-dogpoundshuffle-eyed and laughing at the same time…
 
Its quite a wonder to me how this movie is not at all popular as it should be – a sentiment echoed, as I found, on Amazon and Imdb.com. This is a movie for all ages and for the whole family…
 
Well, I dont really care about others but I do know this – this is one movie I am making multiple copies of. This is a movie that is rare in every sense of the world…
 
I wish I could tell you to go and see it…Unless you get it from 70mm, good luck to you in the whole wide world!!!
 

 
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Action, Drama, English Movies

Watchmen directed by Zack Snyder

Watchmen_2 The problem with some books (more specifically graphic novel, in this case) is that they are literally untranslatable into movie form. Especially when the story is highly complex and interwoven with multiple characters with a storyline that needs to go back and forth in time to make sense.

The problem doubles when the storyline contains “Superheroes”. Then the movie has to take form of the typical action superhero format (Batman, Spiderman etc) or become watered down in its effort to appeal both to the graphic novel fan and to the mass audience. An example of the latter is V for Vendetta, which was a highly sanitized teenager version of the original novel, which more or less killed its appeal for those who cherish the original.

The plot, simply put (very simply!!) is this. Watchmen is about an watchmen_by_imladrisellethalternate/parallel world similar to ours but different in many others. In this world, US has won the Vietnam war but only because they had the help of the Watchmen (their predecessors, the Minutemen helped win WWII), a group of vigilantes who don't have special powers like typical superheroes (except one) but they still dress up as ones and help out with ‘saving the world’. They become unpopular however and are  disbanded. The story starts with one of them getting murdered by an unknown assailant. One of the Watchmen (Rorschach), who has refused to leave the ‘field’ decides to investigate…so the story and the movie begins…

Watchmen is as much a complex novel as V for Vendetta, if not more. The film-maker chose a simpler route to avoid the fate of V. TheyWatchmenSmiley simply copied the frames of the movie from the original. When I say copied, I literally mean a xerox. While watching the movie, I had a weird feeling that I was seeing the novel move in fast motion. Even the dialogues were the same. Which in a way killed it for me – I loved the original and seeing the same thing in front of me without any adaptation or original thought of any sort made the movie feel like a sham, made it feel like a rip-off. What made it worse that they still had to water it down significantly in order to make it comprehensible in the 3 odd hours it played (it was a long movie) – for example, the pirate  sub-story was gone…

Then I stepped back a bit. I realized that the novel cannot be made into watchmen_silk_spectre a movie and be pleasing to someone who loves the original. But for those who are not so close to the original or have not read it, it was more than above average. It has a great storyline, has fascinating characters, great camera and animation work and yes, superb music. I mean, when they played “Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel during the funeral of the Comedian, the movie took on a surreal air. And the opening song by Dylan as the movie is introduced fits the mood perfectly.

And yet, no matter what, you cannot relate to the characters, like you did in the original. Everyone remains just about distant…

So, if watchmen is something you haven't read, this movie is worth a watch, if only as a primer for the read. And if you have read the original, give this one a skip…

 

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curb_your_enthusiasm
Comedy, English Movies

Curb your enthusiasm conceived by Larry David

curb_your_enthusiasm This is one of the most successful American comedy series so it is a bit of a surprise that it is so little known in India.

This is all about the most cynical social misanthrope that you cant help but fall in love with!!! Larry David, creator of Seinfeld, plays himself, albeit in a highly exaggerated form.  He plays a semi-fictionalized self, living as a semi-retired writer who has made a lot of money after the uber-successful Seinfeld series. A lot of other characters play themselves – Ted Danson, Richard Lewis, Mary Steenburg notably. A lot of delightful guest appearances happen throughout the seven seasons (there is another one to come out in 2011) – people like Mel Brooks, John McEnroe, Martin Scorsese, Ben Stiller, Shaquille O'Neal, David Schwimmer, Lucy Lawless  and the Seinfeld cast play themselves in sometimes more than one episode…

The show in mainly centred around the relationship that Larry sharesCurb Your Enthusiasm - Season 6 - Jeff Garlin and Larry David - Claudette Barius/HBO with the people around him – his wife, his friends, his manager, his friends and a lot of people that he meets daily – waiters, drycleaners, drivers and so on. He is a misanthrope with highly eccentric ideas and theories especially about social conventions and suffers from a foot in the mouth syndrome. But he is eventually good at heart and frequently goes out of his way to help his friends and other people around him, though he still manages to put off the people who he is helping.

The main feature of Larry’s characters  is that he is absolutely socially incorrect. He would say and do things that people would not because, well, we have been taught not to do so. Larry is always getting into troubles for this reason, frequently being thrown out of people’s houses 22_curbyour_lg and having to try and try and make up with people who are upset with his improper frankness.

He would almost always say what he has in mind even if it is completely out of context (which is very usual) or offensive (from mild to extreme). He is constantly getting into one warped situation or another. His manager, the incorrigible adulterer Jeff Green (played by Jeff Garlin) is almost always a partner in all the troubles – either as a direct participant or as an advisor or a confidante. In almost all the serials, Larry gets a tongue lashing from Jeff’s foul mouthed wife Susie (played by Sussie Essman).

At the end of each serial, Larry ends up with more trouble than he started out with. At the end of each serial, you wonder how people tolerate him at all. And at the end of each serial, you wonder why hisCurb Your Enthusiasm - Season 6 - Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman - Claudette Barius/HBO frequently embarrassed wife, Cheryl (played by Cheryl Hines) doesn't leave him (she does in a season, but comes back eventually).

And at the end of each serial, you end up laughing and grinning away like crazy – at Larry’s antics, his theories, the embarrassing situations he gets into and the way things always seem to go wrong for him. And it takes just one serial for you to get comfortable with the characters and it is soon that you become addicted to the series. You just want to see what other troubles he can get himself into…

This is one comedy series that you can keep for a long time and which you can watch anytime. There is no irritating canned laughter and that's the way I like my comedies. I want to hear my laughter. And I was constantly hearing it throughout the seasons…

I was almost heartbroken when I got through with the seasons. Life seemed a little less joyful but hey I can always watch them as re-runs. After all they are all on hard drive!!!

curb

 

 

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