Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jolly Good LLB 2

I didn't watch the first part of Jolly LLB starring Arshad Warsi. But I've heard pretty good reviews of the movie. The second part was a bit controversial when the makers decided to cast Akshay as the lead and up the stakes. Fans of the first movie were pretty vocal about this decision, but Arshad decided to stand with the director.

I am not in a position to comment about the differences between them, but the second part is a good one time watch. It tackles a serious issue in a semi serious manner, satires the legal system in a healthy way without getting preachy and never loses focus. The story is nothing new or original. But the narration is thankfully devoid of clutter.

For a change Akshay never try to go overboard with comedy or action, even with ample opportunities present. That decision turned out to be a wise one. It is the supporting cast who does a great job. Even the minor ones deserve a pat on their backs. The moments to watch out happens between the judge, played by Saurabh Shukla and the opposite lawyer played by Annu Kapoor.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Manchester by the Sea : To Be Or Not To Be...

Manchester by the Sea is nominated for Oscars. I would love if it wins one for the best picture. Actually I would love if Silence wins, but as I told before, its the Blade Runner of 2016. And it's not even nominated. Coming back to Manchester By The Sea, I don't think it'll win the best picture award. It doesn't have any narrative gimmicks, no social realistic theme and not even an existential conflict. It just has a protagonist who let his chances of redemption pass. So the award jury too probably will give it a pass.

But that doesn't make it any lesser movie than the one that is going to end up winning it (La La Land?). It is a very personal story about a man who lost everything once and is not interested in rebuilding it. He passes all the chances of redemption that the life throws at his way. Casey Affleck shines in a career defining role and gets full support from a perfect script, the director and all the supporting cast.

All That Man Is by David Szalay: A Warm Portrayal of Male Psyche

All That Man Is is written by David Szalay and was short listed for Man Booker prize 2016. Though it is listed as a novel, it is actually a collection of nine stories with many recurring elements and themes. Basically it is a portrayal of manhood through specimens of nine European men of different ages and at diverse stages of life.

The book starts with the story about Simon, a young introvert British teenager, sightseeing in Berlin along with his friend. It ends with the story of his knighted grandfather Tony who is seventy three and recuperating from surgery. In between there are diverse stories about men of many ages and social status facing testing life situations where either love, money or in most cases both are at stake.

All the protagonists are invariably flawed men in humiliating circumstances, mostly of their own making. Some are indifferent, some are with bloated egos and most of them totally break down. The stories are pretty bleak, but told with a very mild dose of humor and with much sympathy. They are so realistic that they have the potential to be case studies of psychologists.

All nine stories feature their protagonists in international journeys- some of them holidays, some personal errands and some business trips. Invariably while they are in a foreign situation, they face an issue where a tough choice has to be taken which can affect their life. The stakes- sex, love, money, job, assets and ultimately life- build up as the age goes up. The book is an existential comedy.

Buy the book :

Friday, February 3, 2017

Hell Or High Water: Resurrection of Westerns

There's nothing new in Hell Or High Water, the Oscar nominated heist movie directed by David Mackenzie. It is essentially a western movie set in modern times, with many elements derived from great movies of yesterdays. Even the character of Jeff Bridges getting ready for his retirement after cracking a final case reminds you of Tommy Lee Jones from No Country For Old Man. The decadence, crazy bravado, casual violence, all the usual point outs of the genre are thrown at the viewer. There's even a cowboy-Indian duel albeit with words and in good spirits.

But none of this stands in the way of enjoying this well crafted, gritty character drama. The movie is shot picturesquely, with a pacy, razor sharp narration and specimens of wonderful acting. I loved the care given on the minute details that tells a lot about the setting and the characters. It also helped to do away with a lot of exposition.

The movie follows two brothers who team up with a plan to rescue their barn from loan shark banks by robbing them and two Rangers who are out to nab them. The heist plan is pretty basic, but interesting nevertheless when we review how it finally ties up all the loose ends. The violence is kept minimum, but once unleashed, gets effective and shocking. The movie plods to the climax with clockwork precision and every component of it works well within the whole. It's a must 'watch'.

Nocturnal Animals : A Novel Within A Movie...

Nocturnal Animals is an acclaimed psychological thriller movie directed by Tom Ford. It is intense and dark with a unique novel-within-movie structure of narration. A women receive a book from her novelist ex-husband. The movie moves in three parallel routes- the present reality, the novel that she reads and the flashback of their life together.

I loved the movie for the finesse with which the three narratives are blended. The biggest pleasure was watching them culminate in an awesome climax, the like of which I have never seen in my life. The depiction of the novel is very violent and dark. The plot of the novel is very basic, but that part got the benefit from some great acting talent that elevated it and bridged the remaining two narratives solidly.

I loved the parts that established the parallels between the novel and the events from real life. There is no real connection between plot of the novel and reality, but the way it is visualised, we get convinced. This adds ambiguity to the plot. We are left doubting whether it is intended by the writer or is it just the imagination of the reader.

The visual tone of the movie is reminiscent of the thrillers that used to be made in late eighties and nineties. It was good because these days we never get to see that style. Background score is excellent and contributes in adding impact to the visuals. The movie has a relentless pace with frequent cutting from one plot to another. I think after Nightcrawler, it is the first time I am watching such a good thriller.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Eileen : A Dark Comedy About Dreary Existence

Eileen, the 2016 Man Booker shortlisted novel by Ottessa Moshfegh is not the kind of book that normally appeals to me. It is the story of a woman who has very low self esteem, living a dismal and pathetic existence. Nothing dramatic happens in the first three quarters, except routine, dreary existence of her, always wallowing in self pity. But still, while reading it, I wasn't able to put the book down. There's something about this dark comedy that touches and make you empathetic.

Eileen is a young women doing a boring job in a children's prison (correctional facility is not an appropriate name for it, as told in the story). A motherless child, she lives with her drunkard and senile father, in a dilapidated home, performing her daughterly duties like a slave, albeit hating him and wears her dead mother's ill fitting clothes. She is a social disaster, never been loved or cared by any and her self pity and self indulgence never let her engage in social relations. Her plan to run away from her home in search of a better future never materialises.

All this changed when one day a new staff is appointed at the prison. Rebecca is just the opposite of her. She's pretty, a great talker, well dressed, well mannered and most importantly, she is friendly with Eileen. Eileen is ready to go to any lengths for maintaining her first chance of starting a social relation. But what is the true intention of Rebecca?

The book is narrated in Eileen's point of view. Like the mental state of her, the narrative is a long rant that moves in times and coils around. But in spite of the wallowing, repetitive nature of it, the narration has a charm that makes it hard to put down the book. It is an easy read that took me just hours to finish.

More than the plot, the author gives priority to the premise. She makes us live Eileen's existence, which believe me, is rather uncomfortable. But the subtle black humor and a satisfying resolution, which is impossible to see coming, makes it a worthy read.

Buy the book :

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Monster Calls- An Anti-Fairy Tale

A Monster Calls is another among the 2016 movies that was favorited by critics but fell flat at the ticket counter. I watched it and felt that it is an amazing fantasy, a very personal tale about confronting your deepest fears and carrying on with life. Why didn't more people appreciate this movie?

These days we want our movies clearly and safely bracketed. We are uncomfortable when we see a movie that we expected to be a fantasy with a boy playing the lead discuss dark topics like death fear. This movie was unsuitable for kids who these days are totally safeguarded from uncomfortable truths and certainties of life. Adults will definitely not watch it because it is about a walking, talking tree that appears to help a boy.

This is the story of a boy whose mother is dying from cancer and he has repeated nightmares about she falling into an abyss in spite of him trying to hold on her. The prospect of living with his grandmother, who is a strict and dominating lady is another turn off for him. He gets socially inept, suffer in studies and get regularly bullied at school. When things go from bad to worse, a tree monster appears to tell him three stories. After the third story is told, the kid has to tell his story, the truth.

A Monster Calls is a movie that is basically a fantasy, but defies its conventions. The fairy tales that the monster recounts aren't actually fairy tales. In them, seemingly good people do unspeakable wrongs, and bad ones are spared. The monster tries to make the boy realise that pent up emotions are not going to help. Sometimes it becomes necessary to burst open and do bad things. And doing bad things need not make you punishable always. He understands that humans are complex beings and cannot be labelled good or bad.

A Monster Calls is a film that has potential to appeal adults and matured children who didn't grow up all padded up from the sharp edges of the world. It is a treasure trove of wisdom, not the quick fix type that Hollywood regularly churns out in the kids-friendly tag. It speak of a real world, real sorrows and real challenges. 

Everybody Wants Some!!...- Great Plot-less Fun

Roger Ebert used the adjective anthropological in the review of a movie directed by Richard Linklater. All his acclaimed movies serve simultaneously as wholesome entertainers and strong social commentaries. His movies are mostly plot-less affairs, but based on great characters and solid dialogue.

Everybody Wants Some.., his latest, follows the tradition. A spiritual successor of his earlier movie Dazed And Confused, this movie follows Jake, a newbie baseball player on his first weekend before college starts. Jake has just arrived into college after a successful stint as a high school baseball player and learns that he has to stay with his fellow team members in a separate house. He has a whole weekend to pass before college begins. The movie follows his interactions with his team mates and all the fun and games of one-upmanship they have in those two days.

The movie, like every other Linklater film, relies heavily on strong characterisation instead of a structured plot. Here you find genuinely etched characters who display distinct world views and temperaments, but are totally relatable. Linklater uses these characters by making them interact in different social situations to create humor as well as social commentary. The movie is totally fun and enjoyable.

Jake and his friends, being sportsmen and team mates, uses every other situation to gauge their companions and to prove that they are one step ahead in competition. Failure, even in minor affairs causes much frustration. In the highly competitive world of college baseball, a stepping stone to being professionals, it becomes essential for survival.

Tremendously stylish and featuring a killer soundtrack its a must watch movie.