Review/Oscar Road, Part 8: Rachel Getting Married

Anne Hathaway is one charming actress who has got the acting credentials to go with itrachel-getting-married. I read an article where someone was saying that with an oscar nod and a possible win she could be the next Julia Roberts with her beautiful and intelligent common woman looks. Thats true, she hasnt got divinely looks like that of Angelina Jolie and neither does she play the deeply entrenched characters like her other competitor, Kate Winslet. Her roles in The Devil wears Prada, Brokeback Mountain and now Rachel Getting Married are good examples to prove the point.
Kimberley (Anne Hathaway) is a drug addict who is back home from rehab for a couple of days to attend her sister Rachel’s wedding. This is a family with quite an unhappy past which has left scars on everybody. The past cant be let gone off but they have to live the present. They have to celebrate a happy and joyful occasion of marriage where two people, really in love tie the knot and two families bond. The fact that it is always hard to overcome our difficulties, yet smile and embrace the happy moments we come along whenever we can was well captured. I felt like I was one of the guest at the marriage or part of the family while watching the movie.

The movie is brilliantly scripted and the flow between the celebrations of family and guests and struggles within the family is superb. Nothing seems unnatural or out of place. No scene was stretched or tried to be capitalized upon due to its subject matter, be it the 12 steps, the festivities or the quarrels. Jenny Lumet has done a marvellous job with her first script by showing a lot of maturity giving a lot of grace and depth to characters who are in pain beneath the surface. The veteran Director Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia) has made a heart touching movie which explores human relationships and the strength and love of a family. The background score was quite good and the music was in sync with the celebrations as the musicians attending the marriage as they keep practising in the background. (The groom is a musician and the others his friends)
However the reason I loved the movie so much is the dynamic between the two sisters who have all the issues sisters generally do. Superlative performances from Anne Hathaway and Rose Marie DeWitt(as Rachel) give the movie so much more charm. Hathaway is definitely a strong contender for the lead acrtress oscar. On the other hand I think Rosemarie Dewitt should have been atleast given a best supporting actress nomination for essaying such a complex role so well. I have seen her before in the critically acclaimed TV series Mad Men, where too she looks very beautiful with a mysterious glow around her which makes her so vivid and subtle at the same time. Here in Rachel Getting Married, she plays the role of a woman who is about to get married but is afraid that her drug addict sister, who she loves dearly, might ruin one of the most important days of her life. Its surprising how oscar pollers get it so wrong and deny some brilliant performances even of a nomination.
After the good reviews it initially got I waited for a long time to watch this and I wasnt disappointed. Overall, the movie is a warm and touching drama, with good share of joys and sorrows, well worth seeing. One of my favourites so far and though I havent said anything negative about it (Cant think of any either except a longis sequence where people dance after the marriage and we kinda lose focus) , it isnt perfect.
Rating: 9/10

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Review/Oscar Road, Part 7:The Wrestler

After the critically acclaimed but box office bomb Fountain, director Darren Aronofsky goes back to the drawing board and creates his new drama flick, the Wrestler. The movie is doing well at the box office and has drawn Mickey Rourke a lot of positive attention. This is Aronofsky’s seventh film and the highly esoteric director has changed gears and finally given a film that relates to a larger movie going audience.

The story of the Wrestler talks of a spirited wrestler, Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson and his turbulent life as he continues to wrestle beyond his prime to make both ends meet. The movie starts off with the introduction of Mickey through images of his matches with the familiar sound of a ring side before ending with a scene in the present where he sits dejected while accepting his prize money after a bout. The movie is touching in many ways and throws light on the tenderness behind the brutes of the wrestling world as they lead ordinary lives and stick up for each other in quite a surreal atmosphere. Mickey has given a fascinating performance and this was just what the doctor ordered for Mickey to resurrect his career after a string of massive flops.

The beautiful Marisa Tomei plays the stripper Pam and the object of endearment of Randy in the film and quite surprisingly one needs time to get used to her bold character considering the roles she played before this movie. Her role never takes centre stage but adequately fills the supporting cast space. His strained relationship with his daughter and the battle with frailty are well portrayed by Mickey. Darren doesn’t let himself indulge into his characters and treats the audience with amazing images of Mickey’s pain and glory. The whole movie never lets go of the urban feel that surrounds it and the background music from Clint Mansell is nothing less than perfect.

Having already won the Golden Globe and the Bafta awards in the Best Actor category, Mickey Rourke looked tailor made for this role and it would be a definite surprise if he doesn’t bag the coveted Oscar too. Aranofsky is set to finish the Fighter that again talks of the life of a boxer and Mickey is rumoured to be working on Sin City 2 and Iron Man 2, both could get him back on track.

Rating: 8/10.

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Oscar Road, part 6: The BAFTAs

429px-BAFTA_2008_-_MaskThe British Academy of Film and Television Arts, BAFTA in short is a British charity that hosts annual awards shows for excellence in film, television, television craft, video games and forms of animation. The British Academy Film awards ceremony which is the flagship event of the BAFTA is usually regarded as the British Oscars recognizing the best from the movie industry . They have been awarded since 1947 at an annual charity event held in early February. The 2009 BAFTAs were given on 8th February and Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire has quite swept away everyone with 7 BAFTAs. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button won 3 awards and all other movies including Dark Knight, Wall-E, In Bruges, Frozen River, The Wrestler, The Reader etc won one.
There were no big upset victories or big surprises this year. The roster of nominations was very similar to the one at Oscars, Generally the BAFTAs and the Oscars dont have much in common but this year seems to be different. Slumdog Millionaire won the Best Movie, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editor, Sound, Cinematography and Music awards. This is no different from what has happened at the Golden Globes or the Guild awards and many are betting high on Slumdog to repeat this at the Oscars too. By now every one knows that two Indians, AR Rahman and Resul Pookutty won the BAFTAs and are hoping Rahman wins at the Oscars too. However he should be wary because in the best song category where his ‘Jai Ho’ and ‘O Saya’ are nominated, Wall E’s ‘Down to Earth’ has already won some awards and the best score is an open race. However the novelty of Indian beats and rhythms must be wildly appealing to the oscar pollers and we all hope we wins it.

Mickey Rourke, Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger and Penelope Cruz won the Acting awards, lead and supporting respectively. This is again very expected. It clears up mist over supporting actress category now that Cruz has won the best supporting actress award wherever Winslet wasnt nominated for the category. She really deserves it for her fiery performance as possessive, crazy yet brilliant artist who is the mentor cum ex-wife of Javier Bardem in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
There is one category which is unique to the BAFTAs which is ‘Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year ‘. the movies nominated this year were Man on Wire, Hunger, In Bruges, Slumdog Millionaire and Mamma Mia. I was hoping that one of the first three, all excellent yet relatively undiscovered films, would win. Man on Wire won and it was kinda mildly surprising that a documentary(it has been nominated for oscars too) beat out some great dramas and comedies. I have seen the film and it is quite brilliant. There is no doubt that it is going to win the best documentary oscar this year. A complete review of Man on Wire later.
Finally, in the foreign language category Kristin Scott Thomas’s Il y a longtemps que je t'aime took away the prize. This film beat out Vals im Bashir and Der Baadermeinhof Complex but hasnt been nominiated for the oscars. Thats it about the BAFTAs, I shall soon update with more reviews of oscar nominated films as we walk down the oscar road and see who deserves the oscars.

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Review: Dev D

Here I am, sitting at the keyboard, about to write a review for a hindi movie and wondering where to start. Of more than a dozen we reviewed on this blog/podcast this one must be the second proper hindi movie (pls lets forget that I watched Phoonk) after Rock On. It is highly unusual for me that hindi movies garner interest before release and hold attention even after watching it. Dev D is an exception, not only for me but in several other senses.

Lets start from the beginning. I knew nothing about this movie until I saw its album on the top of music charts. On inquiry I heard that it is a re take on Devdas, especially with the current times and Gen Y in mind. My interest piqued as I have long been a huge fan of devadas, the film legacy and the incredible story of his in general. For a long time I was pretty sure I am going to watch every take on this 1917 novel written by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. This wasnt going to be any different, especially with its no holds barred renovation. I saw immense potential with what could be done. My interest sky rocketed on the day before its release when a friend had pinged me saying Times gave it 5 stars(out of 5).

Trying to keep expectations within hold, I walked into a theatre to watch the movie. Unfortunately the screen had crappy picture quality and a crappier projector/projectionist. The image kept shaking and seemed very grainy. I guess I shall be paying Dev D another visit at a multiplex this time, to see actually how the look and editing of the film were. Its time I talk about the movie and bypass the point about Anurag Kashyap and his supposed mastery with all the fine movies he had made before.

For those who dont know, every Devdas film the story is as follows Dev and Paro's friendship in childhood, the separation due to education, continued correspondence throughout the period, love blossoming on their re union, baseless quarrels leading to estrangement and the poorer Paro belonging to a lower strata of society being married off to an older, richer man with kids. Dev reluctant to stop it inspite of all his love, getts wasted while she leaves town, meets a courtesan who falls for him but he cant return her love and he finally dies burning his life away, doused with alcohol.

Dev D has the same basic structure but the pillars of the story have been redecorated with modern day furnishings like sex, booze and drugs. The movie smoothly moves along with these changes with the foundation of the usual elements of love, animosity, misunderstandings, longing and so on. The delightful elements of the movie are inculcating the mindset of a modern individual into the story e.g: Dev's father rebuking him for letting Paro marry a stranger and losing such a wonderful girl while Dev is acting like a self absorbed ass. The courtesan is now a non ethnic, high class sex worker and importantly the ending reflects realistic thought process of the modern individual. The intermittent laughs, idiosyncratic music and the slick cinematography add to the watching experience. The songs are all in the background and there are no elaborate dance sequences which we have now come to associate with Devdas.

It is not without its shortcomings. I really felt this movie wasnt as captivating as the previous ones; especially the Shah Rukh- Bhansali one which had apppropriate intensity creating greater involvement and adding shine with some brilliant sets and dialogues. This one however keeps you a step away from the unfolding events. The pacing is improper and the memes like mms clips and bmw running over people on footpath could have been kept away. Though providing additional masala to the average viewer, they only further distance you from the turmoil of the characters. The plot could have been driven by similar yet different issues.

Abhay Deol portrays the remix Devdas well. Paro and Chanda played by Mahi Gill and Kalki were quite disappointing and clearly Kalki was miscast. Inspite of the background story she is given she still looks too young for her already young character. The other characters (other than changi, the pimp) were kinda show pieces and were waiting for their cue to exit the screen. Overall it is a movie worth watching and yet it could have been better. I am not going to complain anymore because movies of this standard are rare to comeby these days in the Hindi film industry.

Rating: 7/10

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Review/Oscar Road, Part 5: The Reader

It is surprising how some good film making values can make a deeply flawed and weak story appear engrossing and even touching at times. That is the power of the medium called film. Stephen Daldry does it with 'The Reader'. Last time round, with 'Frost/Nixon' I was complaining how Ron Howard did not make full use of it to tell us an already powerful story. In this movie it is exactly the opposite. Daldry, who had previously directed The Hours and Billy Elliot, is telling a story of a young man who is in love with an older woman who he has had an affair with. Later it turns out to that she was one of the guard who was stationed at Auschwitz.
I need to address the story first which is such a drawback full of loopholes and weak situations. The movie is made after a novel of the same name which was written in 1995 by a German Law professor Bernhard Schlink . A large focus of it is the German guilt for what happened to the Jews especially at the concentration camps. Also how a young man is torn between truth and justice during wat seems to be one of the Nuremberg trials. and how he deals with his decision later. The motive of the story seems good but the plot is flawed with the characters making numerous foolish and stupid decisions and many such things.

Kate Winslet's performance is outstanding and she brilliantly essays a complex role of a woman who has to live inspire of her gory past and accept it for what it is. She has a large role and story revolves around her involvement in the man's life. I wonder why she was nominated(and won) for the golden globes as best supporting actress. David Kross and Ralph Fiennes play the young and old Michael Berg, the protagonist of the story who is a lonely and cut off from the rest of the world. Its a simple role for Fiennes and Kross does a good job too. I liked the character of the Law professor who raises some intriguing questions.

The movie is beautifully made and the score evokes the right kind of emotions and leaves a lot of open ended questions regarding what should have been done and the ethics of the Nazi trials. It is a good watch inspite of all the flaws but not really some thing that has oscar credentials even on a lean year like this. It is a heavy drama stretched across time and except for decent filmmaking it hasnt much going for it. Watch it for Winslet's strong acting if you have to.

Rating: 7/10

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Review/Oscar Road, Part 4: Frost/Nixon

February is here and there are less than 3 weeks left for the Oscar night. Starting with Frost/Nixon, I review the important movies in the Oscar race and try determine who is worthy of winning and who isnt.


Oscar winner Ron Howard, who has made a mixed bag of movies like A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, EdTV, Da Vinci Code, Cinderella Man among many other is back with a project which deals with The Nixon interviews. After The Watergate Scandal, which is one of the biggest scandals in American political history. Richard Nixon had resigned and maintained a low profile after being granted pardon inspite of public protests against the scandal. Around this time David Frost, a British journalist had approached Richard Nixon for a series of interviews. These interviews went on to become a landmark events in Television as the premiere of the first part of the series had 45 million viewers; a record which still stands today.

Reprising their roles from the 2006 play of the same name, Frank Langella and Michael Sheen(Tony Blair in the Queen) play Richard Nixon and David Frost respectively. The movie unfolds in a documentary style with various characters narrating what had happened since the break out of Watergate Scandal, through the resignation of Nixon and the arrangement and execution of interviews. The movie is tightly written and the tension is created and maintained properly in the second half. However the scripting of movie could have been better. The documentary style feedback from the characters was quite unnecessary. Ofcourse Ron Howard and team must have had inputs from the actual team present, but I feel they could have done better things with the script. However the good thing was the essence of nearly 6 hours of interviews were well captured for this medium as the movie moved at a brisk pace and made most of the powerful situations in the story.

Though Frost's character was well established, we dont get to see enough of his plan and determination to succeed before taking up such a huge project at a great personal risk. Frost's character could have been deeper in the middle part of the movie. I dont know if it is true but the phone call from Nixon during the night and subsequent awakening of Frost seemed a little too cinematic. I have seen the actual interview and found the real Frost to be much more confident than portrayed by Sheen.

Frank Langella steals the show by giving a great performance as the money minded, ever hungry for success Nixon. His diction was pitch perfect and sometimes even surpassed that of Nixon himself(compared to what I saw in the interview). The rest of the cast including Samuel Rockwell, Rebecca Hall and in particular Kevin Bacon did a good job.

Overall the movie is pretty good entertainment inspite of its shortcomings and definitely worth watching. It has 5 oscar nominations, the best movie, director, lead actor, editing and best writing based on previous material(the play). Frank Langella is definitely a strong competitor for the Lead Actor oscar and editing was pretty tight too as I said before. However we have to wait and see how other films fare and where this movie shall make its inroads.

Rating: 7/10

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