captain phillips
Drama, English Movies, Recently Posted

Captain Phillips – Subtle, gripping and surprisingly poignant

Captain Richard Phillips: There’s got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people

Muse: Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America

Captain_Phillips_poster Initially, I admit, I was a bit reluctant to watch the movie. For a couple of reasons – post the complex and sensitive ‘Syriana’, it has been tough work   finding a portrayal that was is not either a self-pitying American version of white man’s burden or an out and out macho version of how American military goes about its business. Though thankfully, movies like Rambo have moved out of fashion. Secondly, the theme seemed like one where there will be quite a bit of action – though with Tom Hanks in there, I was sure it wont be of the Bruce Willis and Nakatomi Tower variety. More like the cat and mouse variety, I reckoned

Well, I can say that I feel lucky that I was persuaded to watch Captain Phillips. In its short running time, it was gripping and surprisingly subtle, with the best acting, probably, not coming from Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips but Barkhad Abdi playing Muse, the Somali pirate captain. At the end, it leaves with you with a feeling of having watched a well made, well balanced movie. It also leaves you with an ache you cant shake off. Continue reading

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Bollywood Movies, Crime, Popular, Recently Posted

Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1) directed by Anurag Kashyap

00-Gangs-Of-Wasseypur-2012-VMR-Covers-Album-Art Gangs of Wasseypur, for me, is a landmark in Hindi movies. There has been quite a few path breaking movies which have come recently – Taare Zameen Par, Udaan to Dhobi Ghat, Kahaani and Paan Singh Tomar recently, which have slowly started creating a market for movies with strong unique stories. Gangs of Wasseypur will be among the top in this list and will also have a few uniques to its name

I don't recall a Hindi movie that was intended to be produced in two parts from the start, different from a sequel. Which is a gamble. Since if the first half does not catch on, the second one will have no takers. But this confident gamble seems to have worked out for Kashyap and his cast

And another thing about Gangs of Wasseypur is that the whole universe of the movie is in a very believable hellhole of rural India. In the genre of movies dealing with gangs and the underworld, started primarily by Ram Gopal Verma, most have dealt with urban gangs, mostly Mumbai based. The fact that India has a very rich tradition of banditry and mafia culture across its length and breadth has been largely ignored till now except in superficial ways. This criminal culture is heavily intertwined with local politicians and police, to be almost indistinguishable from them. This has usually been shown in a very fantastical light – e.g. Singham, Rajnikant movies etc. These have never really got into the teeth of the matter.

Gangs of Wasseypur completely rips away this curtain of shallowness and presents to us a story which is completely raw and bloody and completely believable. Local mafia in a rural town of India is shown exactly how it is – driven by history, sustained by opportunistic politics, driven to a frenzy by a people who know no other way to survive. The characters are in a world where there is no moral compass of right or wrong. The right or wrong is completely dependent on who is on top and who has the muscle. Might wins at the end, no matter what else you put up at the table. You either fight and hope to win or you are suppressed by a heavier boot everyday. If Paan Singh Tomar was about banditry – outlaws who are forced to take up arms for dignity or revenge, Gangs of Wasseypur is all about the choice of a lifestyle. There is a revenge aspect all right but its mostly about gaining power, money and fame.

There is no sugar coating in the world of Gangs of Wasseypur. You swear, fuck around, kill people with a knife, gun or agangs-houseful bomb depending on the day, intimidate the police, earn a cut from illegal mining and hack bodies. Sometimes all in a single day! And nobody will think of asking for a justification nor will any be offered. Things are right or wrong just because, well, it is and because the guy on top said so.

The rawness of this world is something that is seen to be believed. Many people will be turned away by what they see as  'excessive' violence. I differ. There is no unnecessary violence at all in the movie. Each kill drives the story forward and I didn't find any violence for violence sake. In any case the whole point of Gangs of Wasseypur is that there is a continuous war outside your door. Do you sit back or dream or do you kill to love yourself? For those who like sanitized violence, watch the highly stylized violence of Singham. Gangs of Wasseypur is real. Deal with it

What increases the realism is the fact that real stories make up the Gangs of Wasseypur storyline – stylized and adapted for the screen. So you know right from the time that they show the history of Wasseypur (from 1941), you are dealing with real stuff. And talking of realism, the acting is something that needs to be seen to be believed. There are no ‘extras’ in this movie. Each character has a role to play, a story to tell of their own. Each in its own way takes the story forward. Manoj Bajpayee, the central character in this first part, shines as the complex gangster who kills to save a 335437-interview-with-zeishan-quadri-writer-of-gangs-of-wasseypurwoman’s modesty and sleeps around blatantly cheating on his wife, at the same time. The galaxy of talented stars around him – Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Jaideep Ahlawat, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Reemma Sen, Richa Chadda, Huma Qureshi are all deliciously rural Bihar – sing song dialect with the choicest swearwords, homemade revolvers and all. They get completely  into the story. Not for the characters of Gangs of Wasseypur the superficiality of mere rural clothes over urban behavior. These guys walk, talk and fuck like guys in Gangs of Wasseypur should!!

A special note about the music. Sneha Khanwalkar is truly a force of nature when it comes to extracting music from noise and creating amazing sounds. In Gangs of Wasseypur, she has created some ground-breaking music. Music created from emigrant history and localized, the music is something of a revelation. Listening to them separately, the music of this movie is a collector’s item in itself

Gangs of Wasseypur brings something quite different to cinema. All I can say is that I cant wait for Part II. This review will be complete only then

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We need to talk about Kevin
Drama, English Movies

We need to talk about Kevin directed by Lynne Ramsay

We-Need-to-Talk-About-Kevin "We need to talk about Kevin" is a film you wont forget in a hurry…the theme and the mood that the film creates will ensure this

This is one film that is truly difficult to review. It cannot be easily bracketed. What makes this even more difficult is that its in the form of a narrative where the narrator herself does not quite seem 'balanced'. The movie is adapted from the novel by the same name by Lionel Shriver

If I have to best describe it, "We need to talk about Kevin" is a horror film in the most terrifying sense. It turns what we consider our safe haven – the family, the home, the child and parents into an universe where horror can happen almost casually and naturally. And its not the horror of a ghost or a supernatural being or something not of this world but the horror which is completely human.

What if your child is destined to kill when he grows up and somehow, in some chilling way, you had an inkling of this ever since he was born?

Eva (Tilda Swinton ) is the mother of Kevin. The film opens with Eva living in a rundown house, with a host of neighbours who hate the sight of her. Her house and car is defaced with paint and graffiti. Eva seems neurotically nervous andwe_need_to_talk_about_kevin-large jumpy. And right from the start we know that something has gone terribly wrong with her life.

That is the life we are slowly shown – in carefully crafted flashbacks. From her wooing by Franklin (John C Reilly) to her wedding, it seems like a fairytale. Then Kevin is born and things slowly change, irrevocably. Right from the start Kevin seems to be at war with his mother – almost willfully playing mind games with her at an age when he had not even learned to walk on fours. And believe me, the child Kevin can be quite frightening. The father is always blind to Eva's pleas and explanations – dismissing them as something that exists inside her mind only. And Kevin, right until the end, acts absolutely 'normal' with the father, who until the very end continues to treat everything as normal. Eva, it would seem is the only one, to whom Kevin shows his true self.

The film switches between the present and the past, both of them slowly coming closer. You slowly get an inkling as to what may have happened. Of course nothing quite prepares you for what actually happens…

Eva seems to have become permanently imbalanced but continues to try and find a way to come to terms with 'normal' life. Once a successful travel writer, she takes work in a small travel agency and drives home alone to her ramshackle We-Need-to-Talk-About-Kev-007 house. She becomes so used to people hating her that small kindness or a friendly word seems to actually rattle her. One can literally feel the nightmarish world her life is. And yet she hangs on to life and whatever sanity she has left. And you wonder what she is hanging on for…

And as the film progresses we see that she visits Kevin, who is now in prison. And until the very final scene, they sit opposite each other without talking, without speaking one word, not even looking at each other properly.

What is so powerful about the film is that dialogues are sparse. The rest is filled with imagery and music and noise. The imagery used is probably one of the best ever created in cinema.The opening scene is of Eva soaked in red tomato juice in Tomatina festival followed by a white satin curtain blowing in the wind across a open garden door, the significance of which we get at the very end. The music is eerie and beautiful with a tinge of horror at the edges. The song – "Everyday" originally sung by Buddy Holly, one of my favourites, is played back in a slow moving, eerily shot Halloween backdrop, while Eva is driving home. It has altered the song for me forever. The noise and the silence used in this film is used like a sharp weapon – the scene of Eva drowning out baby Kevin's cries with the noise of a drilling site is a scene that will haunt.

Combine this with the haunting presence of Tilda Swinton and an atmosphere of impending disaster throughout. "We need to talk about Kevin" will keep coming at you long after its over…

In the end, a note regarding the imagery again. A lot of this movie is perception. Its about how you want to interpret it. Eva is seen scrubbing off the graffiti and the paint off her door and window throughout the movie, slowly, painfully butWeNeedtoTalkAboutKevinTomatina she keeps at it. And just before her final meeting with Kevin in the film she completes the process. Her door and window is clean again.

 

In the prison, at their final meeting, Eva asked Kevin the simple question – why?. What Kevin says is probably the most chilling yet pitiful part of the whole film. It leaves you unsure of how it goes forward for these two. Eva walks off into the bright white light, ending the film that had started with bright red. Was there redemption? For whom? Was it even possible…

 

You feel a strange pain in your heart as the movie draws to a close. There is a strange sense of closure yet non-closure at the end and it tugs at you.

This is one film that you will think of often and you would think of Kevin and of Eva too…

P.S – A note about Oscars. You see this and you see why Oscar is losing its relevance year after year. A movie like this is not even a contender for many major awards and wins nothing. Truly remarkable!!!

 

 

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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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World Cinema

Distant directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

 

1129104 If ever a movie was forged out of silence, this is it. There are only a handful of dialogues in the whole of the movie and it conveys much more than a verbose movie ever can. The testimony of the movie’s genius is that even when there is seemingly ‘nothing happening’, you are still gripped by the movie. You realize that it is the atmosphere in the scene that grips you and holds you and that the seemingly nothingness is a medley of light, colours, facial expressions, sound and silence that speaks more than words ever can.

The story is about Mahmut and Yusuf, both of whom hail from the same village. Mahmut is a middle aged photographer who came out a long time back from the village and who has ‘made it’ in Istanbul. Yusuf is a 20 something lad who has been forced to move out of the village due to closure of a factory and looks to Mahmut to give him some support in the job hunt due to the same-village affinity. The story starts with Yusuf trudging upto Mahmut’s place where he is greeted with polite condescension as one would greet a poor country cousin. The story evolves as both try to adjust in the same home with each other’s presence.

We are slowly given a glimpse into both of their lives – not directly but by almost wordless encounters with each other and with other people, their expressions when they are alone, and their behaviour with each other. The complexity of the two men’s their lives and the how their proximity affects each of them is something that needs to be seen and cannot be explained in words. 

The title ‘Distant’ comes into its own as the movie explores the 155758__distant_l contradictions and the weakness and their own little failures in life. Mahmut is shown to be a washed out photographer who has lost the fire to enjoy the work and who is essentially alone without the strength to maintain a relationship. His encounter with his ex-wife who is leaving forever is especially poignant. Yusuf is shown to be a person who while typifying a country bum at times is sensitive and shy. He implicitly understands his position in Mahmut’s house but keeps on trying to become better friends with him which Mahmut shrugs off as he feels that such a gesture is just opportunistic.

uzaksd6 ‘Distant’ suffuses everything in the movie – distances become unbridgeable and words become inadequate, relationship become strained and then the tenuous link snaps and there is nothing that can be done to repair it. The movie is a testimony to the fact that it is not language or culture that makes people and their lives distant but our lack of understanding and living in our own cocoon. The movie is about distances that become a part of our lives and between people around us without us getting to know about it.

The movie tells us all this and much more by the act of silence. Evenmcy7tz the dialogues that are present are strained and pointed. Much more is expressed by the silence and the expressions. It is a masterpiece in the way all the visual and auditory elements are synchronized throughout the movie. The scenes sometimes leave you almost breathless with your own indefinable emotions chocking you. The movie is almost like a symphony with large tracts of silences that cut deep into your heart.

Having said all that, this movie is not for everybody. I have seen some people crib about the fact that the movie is a drag. You need a different temperament to appreciate this movie. If you would rather be somewhere else, you would be wasting the beauty that is being played out in front of you.

I believe that this is a movie which can be watched at different times in life and we would feel different emotions. This is a kind of a movie that grows with you (or do you grow with it?).

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World Cinema

The Devil’s Backbone directed by Guillermo del Toro

6a00c11414cf6d5af500f48ce101390003-500pi Some people would just call it a horror movie and that it is – quite a good one at that. But classifying it in the horror genre would be stifling the whole concept of the movie

This movie is about ghosts – ghosts that we commonly know as ghosts, ie the paranormal ones and more importantly its about ghosts of events and betrayed hopes. The setting is in the Spanish Civil war in a town that is Republican but which is under siege by the forces of Franco. An orphanage run by Carmen and Casares, both ardent believers in the revolution, takes care of orphaned children of republican comrades. Both are shown to be brave in the face of mounting despair. We also witness their human fallibilities in their personal lives as we go on in the movie. That makes them very believable and makes them much more brave and heroic in our eyes.

The movie has a fabric that seems to be bordering on tension. There seems to be a feeling that something terrible has happened and is going to happen. There is an air of a mystery that is waiting to be unravelled. Side by side, the lives of the various characters are explored. Each person’s character has a link to the external political scenario – each of them is a product of it one way or the other.

Enter Carlos, who is brought by his republican tutors who have had to flee the area. He soon realizes that there is a mysterious character that haunts the school and discovers slowly that it is a child called Santi who disappeared mysteriously when a bomb fell in the courtyard of the orphanage and embedded itself without exploding. As events progress, Carlos discovers that Santi was murdered.

While Carlos is discovering the mystery one step at a time,devilsbackbone1 the political scenario takes a turn for the worse and the inhabitants prepare to flee but is betrayed and their vehicle sabotaged. Amidst the death and carnage, the boys decide to take revenge. They fight back and also help Santi take revenge on his killer in a dramatic anti-climax.

The movie, when seen beyond the horror/mystery element is multi-layered. It explores human nature under duress, both in personal and external spheres. It explores relationships (Dr Casares-Carmen, the boys, Jacinto-Conchita) and in this this movie is very strong. Every character’s relationship with others is explored and given thought to. Every character is shown in the grey, quite unlike most horror flicks. This gives the movie much more depth and gives it many memorable moments.

One of the most poignant moments is when this poem is read out by Dr  Casares to Carmen at the end -  “Stay by my side as my light grows dim /as my blood slows down and my nerves shatter with stabbing pain / as my heart grows weak / and the wheels of my being turn slowly / Stay by my side /as my fragile body is racked by pain /which verges on truth / and manic time continues scattering dust / and furious life bursts out in flames. Stay by my side / as I fade / so you can point to the end of my struggle /and the twilight of eternal days / at the low, dark edge of life.” It is these moments that makes the movie truly unforgettable.

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World Cinema

Infernal Affairs – Mou Gaan Dou

infernalaffairs pster This is the Hong Kong thriller from which Departed took its inspiration from…hence there is no need of an explanation required as to the content. The tag line in Imbd.com is enough to give the gist – Loyalty. Honor. Betrayal…

And after watching this one, I am liable to give this movie a higher rating than its English counterpart, not only because of the acting bit but because this movie has more nail-biting sequences. De Caprio is the only exception to the acting rule – he was equal to the performance shown here by Tony Leung in terms of depth and range.

What also compels me to give a higher rating to this movie is that soinfernalaffairs many sequences in this movie is a shameless rip-off from the original. There was a strong sense of Deja-vu in many of the sequences. Only the ending is different.

All in all, its a masterful crime thriller that grips you right from the opening sequence and does not let go…its cinematography is a fabric of tautness and its fast-tracked.

And in the end, unlike Departed, you end up relating to both the characters in the movie. Everyone is a victim – of circumstances. That itself gives it an edge of the english version.

There have been sequels to this – two more. I am not sure I would watch them. Too many times, they go the way of ‘The Matrix’ or ‘Pirates of Caribbean’. This movie is complete in itself.

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