Hey there friendly reader. Just giving you a reminder to go vote for your favourite casting choices in the latest "LAMB Casting". There are some great choices (including my own) for a hypothetical remake of "On The Waterfront".
"Like Stars on Earth" (Taare Zameen Par in Hindi) is an inspirational film that ranks among the best of Indian cinema (in my opinion). The film tells the story of a dyslexic 8-year old who struggles in school due to society's ignorance of his condition. Due to the subject matter I was fully prepared to dismiss this film, expecting something sappy and overly sentimental. Thankfully, I was wrong. This film really worked for me on so many levels. Story-wise, this poignant film really struck a chord with me. Growing up on a small Caribbean Island, I could totally relate to the pressures of an education system based on traditional British principles. The rigid structure (much more than that found in USA) is firmly opposed to alternative teaching methods. In fact, many persons in my country (I'm sure it's the same in other Caribbean countries too) still scoff at the notion of mental disorders like ADHD. I could easily imagine challenged kids in my society going through the same struggles as Ishaan (the focal character). The parents' shame, the insensitive children and the strange tendency to use humiliation as motivation, are all things that I've seen in my school days. This film is actually a great companion piece for the equally affecting "3 Idiots", where the pressure to succeed (in specific fields of study) continues at University-level. In the Caribbean and India, we are still yet to embrace the concept of a holistic liberal arts education. As a result, many students crumble under the pressure to become one of the big 3: lawyer, doctor, engineer. Accompanying this great screenplay is a beautiful score, fine acting and even some cool visual effects that really bring you into Ishaan's perspective. The music is less "loud" than many other Bollywood films, with lyrics that are actually quite touching. Aamir Khan plays a great character that celebrates all those great teachers out there that contribute so much to society. Last but not least, the film features outstanding child acting from Darsheel Safary as Ishaan. His performance is quite accomplished, as it doesn't use the expected mannerisms that we have come to expect from similar roles. I really loved his performance and the film in general. Highly recommended.
Mayhem, glorious mayhem. That seems to be the main focus behind this thrilling conclusion to "The Dark Knight" trilogy. Christopher Nolan goes all out and delivers a truly epic cinematic experience. This film gives you everything and then some. As a result, I will admit that Nolan gets slightly carried away with the grand action spectacle. It's almost too much to take in sometimes. This is only a minor issue, as the pay-off is well worth it. By the end of this film, I was literally bug-eyed with my jaw on the floor.
On this week's Hit me with your best shot, Nathaniel chose a film by one of the most unique directors currently working today (Wes Anderson). The featured film is "The Royal Tenenbaums", which has one of the best ensemble casts ever. This movie came as a big surprise to me, as I was ready to dismiss it before even watching it. I am one of those people who don't "get" Wes Anderson's style and find his movies too "twee". Strangely enough, I loved this film. The screenplay is really strong and is grounded with a true sense of poignancy. While the film maintains the usual Wes Anderson quirkiness, there is a definite undercurrent of melancholia. It almost brought me to tears on several occasions. This film is about intra-family relationships, the failures of these relationships and the disappointments of life in general. I was particularly struck by the imperfections of all the characters in the film, which really gave the movie an authentic real-world feel. Even in instances where a family is comfortably affluent and well-educated, the film reminds us that life is still not perfect. My favourite shot focuses on the estranged patriarch of the Tenenbaums (Royal, played by Gene Hackman), as he attempts to reconcile with his family.
Nostra has started another great blogathon (you're probably familiar with his Actors/Actresses relays) where participants list their movies confessions in response to a series of questions. Without further ado, here are my secrets:
Who ever thought a movie about a pool-playing hustler could be so fascinating? Well, when you cast Paul Newman in the title role of "The Hustler", you get a great film indeed. Like his other roles, Newman once again blends his movie star good looks with his immense charisma to create another captivating performance here. As his character unfolds, you are forced to hang on to every word, every expression, every gesture. His screen presence is really something to behold. Although the film gets a bit too mellow sometimes, you are so invested in his performance that you have no choice but to stick with it. I must admit, I groaned when they introduced the cliché love interest for Newman’s character. Shockingly, Sarah Packard (played by Piper Laurie) turned out to be one of the most interesting characters in the film. I expected her to submit herself to him and fulfill the vulnerable "damsel in distress" role, but she defied my expectations. Instead, this tough cookie is an unapologetic drunk who is fiercely self-assured. Her performance is deeply soulful, to the point that it almost overshadows Newman’s leading performance. Besides Laurie, the entire main cast performs well, earning well-earned Oscar nominations. They are the vessels that deliver this potent screenplay. While watching the film, the rich dialogue kept reminding me of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for "The Social Network". This script and the film itself is a true classic.
The Dark Knight Rises is causing quite a stir this week (unfortunately both good and bad), so of course it's the hot topic around the blogs. Check out Parts I and II of the Podcast trilogy by Outside The Envelope and The (title pending) podcasts, discussing you guessed it...Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Go have a listen and also check out the other great posts below:
For Part I of the special "podcast trilogy", Ryan, Dan and Brian discuss Batman Begins for the Outside The Envelope podcast.
In Part II, the trio discussed The Dark Knight Rises for The (title pending) podcast.
Steven Soderbergh has been getting some flack for his atypical casting choices lately, but Alex wonders whether some of these "non-actors" don't actually bring a further sense of realism to his films. Check out his insightful post and join the discussion.
This was another underwhelming week for me in my movie-watching, so I will once again highlight I film I saw earlier in the year. My "Movie of the Week" is the underrated and under-seen film - "The Whistleblower". This film is a grim, intense thriller that reminds us of the unreported evil that pervades throughout society. The title character is incredibly fascinating and admirable, impeccably acted by Rachel Weisz. The film provides more than just simple entertainment. It is a scathing exposé on a shameful UN coverup. The injustices portrayed in the film certainly left me angry. If that was the intention, then it definitely succeeded. Some of the scene choices were a tad too obvious but overall, this was a well-made film. Go check it out.
In support of The Film Experience's Hit me with your best shot series, I watched Pink Narcissus. Unfortunately, there was nothing about this film that made me interested in choosing a "best shot". This film was so awful that it actually made me angry. If this is supposed to be some amazing art house film, then I'm perfectly fine with being a philistine.
With Anna Karenina on the horizon, Keira Knightley is set for another well-dressed period piece. Do you think she's been typecast over the years? Read Andrew's thoughts on the matter below, along with other great posts from other bloggers this week:
Like myself, Andrew is a fan of Keira Knightley's work and speaks up in defense of her labeling as "the corset queen".
Nathaniel gave me a nice treat this week on Hit me with your best shot, as he chose "Road To Perdition" for this edition. This beautiful film is one of my all-time favourites. It tells such a rich story, covering themes of loyalty, betrayal, innocence, family and love. The film has a gorgeous score, fantastic acting and suitably for this exercise - Oscar-winning cinematography. On this viewing of the film, I was really captivated by the Tyler Hoechlin's performance as the son of hitman Michael Sullivan (played by Tom Hanks). Much of the film's success rides on his ability to nail the emotions and he certainly rose to the challenge. He portrays a remarkable sense of inner confidence, while simultaneously expressing his vulnerability in dangerous situations. Aside from that, what really hits it home for me is the love for his father so evidently displayed in his face. My favourite shot therefore captures this wonderful father-son relationship.
After much concern over the validity of a reboot, I decided to catch “The Amazing Spider-Man” on opening day and you know what? I really enjoyed it. First off, let me make this clear. This film is a love story more than an action film. It’s clear that Marc Webb was more interested in the romantic and emotional aspects of the story. The action scenes felt tagged on to appease the masses. Who can blame him though, as Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone had dynamite chemistry together. Andrew Garfield is totally believable as a teenager and Emma Stone is as affable as ever. In addition to the romantic aspects, they both get to display their considerable comedic talents. I expected it from Stone, but Garfield was a pleasant surprise. When the two are not on screen, the film just seems like another routine summer blockbuster. Their acting is so captivating that it immediately made me respect the film more. Sally Field also does well as Aunt May, bringing a lot of genuine warmth to the role. As a result of the solid acting, the film had a surprisingly strong emotional pull, which is quite rare in typical comic book films.So, do I think this reboot was successful? I think if you are expecting a groundbreaking, dark interpretation (which they claimed it would be, but it really isn’t) then you may be disappointed. However, if you are a romantic like me, I think you would appreciate this film.
Oh "The Blues Brothers", what a disappointing film. This movie started out with a good premise, but really went over the edge with its campiness. Overall, the humour fails because there isn't much grounding in reality. The situations are just too implausible and often downright wacky. As I was watching this film, I was reminded of the recent "The Muppets" movie, as it follows an almost identical story-line. However, "The Muppets" works because the viewer has a pre-existing fondness for the characters. In this film however, the title characters really aren't that endearing (it doesn't help that their eyes are covered by sunglasses through the entire film) and in the end you really do want them to get arrested. Furthermore, I just don't buy these "Blues Brothers" as successul R&B artists. I wished they had casted actors who could actually bring some soul. Especially when you pair them with real R&B legends James Brown, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, they just came across like a bunch of fakers. I really wanted to like this film, but I just couldn't.
Could this be Matthew McConaughey's breakout year? He's getting great reviews for his performances in Magic Mike, Mud and Killer Joe, so will Oscar take notice? Check out Alex's discussion on the matter and many other great links this week:
In anticipation of 'The Dark Knight Rises", I posed the question yesterday on twitter - "Is Christopher Nolan's better as a writer or director?". Soon after, Nick posted a interesting piece about one of the key strengths of his screenwriting.
Not many people are gushing over the Spider-Man reboot, but I really dug it. I haven't decided if I will review it, but go read Dan's review. He elaborates on everything I felt about the film.
Special Plug: Nathaniel Rogers runs a fantastic blogathon/series called "Hit me with your best shot" over at his site The Film Experience. Basically, participants watch the week's selected film, choose their favourite shot and then write a post on their blog. You then send it via email/twitter/blog comment to Nathaniel so he can post all the links on Wednesday night. We are in the midst of Season 3 and I encourage lammies to participate. It's really a lot of fun and you get to read all the incredible insight as other bloggers choose their favourite images. It's not too late to join in on the fun. On Wednesday we will be looking at a film with great visuals - "Road To Perdition".
"Harold and Maude" is an exceptional film that strikes you with its originality. This film was nothing like I expected. Based on the synopsis, I was wary that the film would focus on its morose aspects and it made me very hesitant to check it out. The film totally caught me off guard however, as it hits you with moments of absurd humour and is alternately deeply touching. Though the film does have some dark humour to it, the story transcends the "emo" characterizations of its central protagonist to produce a film that ultimately celebrates life. This protagonist is Harold, a teenage loner who is obsessed with death. While attending a funeral (his favourite pastime), he meets the elderly Maude. Equally fascinated by funerals, they become friends and the film follows the blossoming of their peculiar relationship. The film soars on the basis of her character, as her carefree, vivacious nature sets the stage for a coming-of-age experience for young Harold. At 80 years old, she is infinitely more "alive" and shows him the joys of life. Her performance works so well, that the quiet, sentimental moments between the two are deeply touching. Despite their age difference, it’s not hard to see why they would become so attached to each other. It’s a great credit to the screenplay, as their chemistry never comes across as forced or far-fetched as you expect. Apart from Bud Cort (Harold) and Ruth Gordon (Maude), Vivian Pickles also gives a stand-out performance as Harold’s mother. She attempts to instill a sense of purpose in her son’s life and provides quite a few comedic moments with her stoic, unaffected reactions to Harold’s suicide attempts. Interestingly, despite her seemingly cold nature, you never get the sense that she doesn’t love her son.
To top it off, the film features a great soundtrack by Cat Stevens. On its own, the music seems at odds with the dark comedy, but it somhow works brilliantly in providing a welcome joyous atmosphere to the film. In the end, despite the film’s pervading awareness of mortality, "Harold and Maude" is a truly heartwarming tale of love, friendship and finding happiness.
Here's another top 10 list for ya. I feel like there are a few guilty pleasures in this list, as some of these films don't exactly have the highest of Rotten Tomato scores. I should have re-watched "Rat Race" (I last watched it when I was 13 and easily amused), but I couldn't bother. I am however, very proud of my #1 film - "In The Mood For Love". Check out the full list below:
In The Mood For Love The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Ali Bridget Jones’s Diary Ocean’s Eleven Zoolander Monsters, Inc. I Am Sam Blow Rat Race