It hasn’t been the greatest September, and apart from a change in my human surroundings there’s really nothing much going on, at least not worth mentioning on here anyway. To distract myself from all the movies I was looking forward to watching as soon as I possibly could and the fact that almost all of them played at TIFF, I reviewed a movie that wasn’t even on my list. My heartbreak in terms of missing out on TIFF this year was worse than ever and I resorted to living vicariously through many a critics’ twitter feeds. You could say this was a coping mechanism and a poor one because it did nothing but reinstate that my heart is always, and always tied up in writing and my academia has unscathingly beat it in terms of priority.
A quick disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. Even if I had I’m pretty sure my review would be mostly objective and have maybe one paragraph seamlessly merging both and stating if they worked independently or not. I’m really that easygoing.
As always a few technical details before we jump right in. White Bird In A Blizzard, directed by Gregg Araki and based on the book by Laura Kasishke, starring the likes of Shailene Woodley, Eva Green and Christopher Meloni. I went into the movie completely blind about the plot and as much as I hoped that it would surprise and thrill me, it did and didn’t.
In the year 1988, a single child named Kat (Shailene Woodley) is left on her own devices when her mother (Eva Green) mysteriously disappears. Kat’s father (Christopher Meloni) visibly taken aback with this disappearance does everything he needs to co-operate with the search for his wife but to no effect. Kat’s life takes a different twist and the lack of her boyfriend’s interest in her further fuels her discontent. I can’t quite put my finger on any adjectives that can fittingly justify Kat. I mean I can name a few but they are ultimately contradicted and this is why I never related to Kat at all, despite the dysfunctional family et al. Kat’s character development is flawed and confusing. I feel like either the script writers completely misinterpreted what it’s like to be 18 and hung out to dry with no sense of direction to your life, the mother you may or may not have respected or looked up to bailed on you or the director purposely aimed at this kind of shoddy representation. This is what confuses me to a point of extreme frustration and the reason I write this is to figure out what I feel about this movie. We know now that I didn’t enjoy it but we’re slowly getting to why I didn’t.
Not knowing the genre of the movie three-quarters into it I felt as dazed as Kat did in the frigid nightmares she had about her mother asking for help amid a snowstorm. Kat’s therapist concludes that dreams don’t mean anything and Kat quickly starts to feel disdain for the therapist. I will say if I was paying to talk to someone about my feelings, I wouldn’t necessarily be hoping to uncover a divine interpretation of my thoughts or feelings but Kat’s therapist might be the worst representation of a person doing a job they weren’t ever meant to do. The only other therapist I can think of that pissed me off so much was the one in Donnie Darko. Why am I even glossing over these trivialities? Maybe because there were so many angles to this story that felt forced. I can see how a novella might have essentially brought out more to these scenes that on the reel felt like a complete drag.
What can I say about Kat’s boyfriend though and how much he resembled guys that some of my closest friends dated. It’s eerie. The grungy, dumb as a pole, messy and unkempt hair a given kind of a boy that girls like Kat put up with for reasons that are the biggest secret in the world, in my opinion. So, Kat goes from being so into Phil to really just wanting someone she can go to bed with – that someone being the older detective on her mom’s case. Kat’s character up to this point seems completely fine that her mother may never be found. She watches her dad continue to be the man he used to be and moves on to college. On coming home she finds that he has a girlfriend and takes no objection to it whatsoever.
So in keeping this review spoiler free, I can only say this much that at the stage when Kat really starts to show signs that she cares her mother is gone, that she needs closure you have no connection with her at this point at all. All of the last fifteen minutes or so are rushed, dramatic, supposed to induce levels of thrill and suspense moments. The only thing that climax did for me is genuinely catch me by surprise.
I will diverge here just a bit to explain why this “being caught by surprise” is something so important to me. I know someone who watches movies and anime and loves the subtleties, the story arcs, the little details and the idea behind the bigger pictures almost the same way I perceive them. So when we watch anything together, it’s usually a fun ride. However, he feels like he’s reached this point where he has cracked the code behind every kind of movie there is. This for me feels like a very impressive feat. I know, for a fact, that I’m no where close to that level. More importantly, he makes me wonder, do I want to be? Halfway or even sooner through a film, he’s usually got a good grasp of the possibilities, I daresay he’s managed to shortlist the one outcome, too. Whereas I on the other hand, leaning ahead, face in my palms, tapping feet, am way too engrossed to even bother thinking ahead afraid I’ll overlook something. So when a curveball hits the screen I am usually smack in the path and I’ll tell you this, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that I can still enjoy something without already knowing how it might end, that my mind is not (yet) attuned to pick up things that fast and thereby ruin my viewing experience. I remember initially feeling a little less about not being able to grasp these things as easily as he could, but then I wouldn’t have this blog and I wouldn’t ever need to write about a movie in order to figure it out. This lacking is a blessing.
I do not suggest White Bird In A Blizzard primarily because the movie made me uncomfortable and sort of queasy and I am still not sure why. It’s slow and far from compelling and even for the suspense genre that I had no idea about until an hour into it, White Bird In A Blizzard is odd, gloomy and confusing in the way that it doesn’t leave your mind for days after you’ve watched it. No one really needs that.
Another review requested by S. It’s becoming increasingly evident that I am having a good time working through the list she requested/recommended. More than ever, I feel like all hope is not lost with my review writing and that someone, somewhere respects what I do, and that is often enough to keep me going. That she addresses herself as “my biggest fan” not only humbles me a great deal any more but only adds the icing to the cake of the wonderful movies suggested. Lest we forget, words and movies are the best way to carve a niche in my heart.
CAUTION: Implied spoilers and a personal rant embedded somewhere in the middle.
Teenage Dirtbag is a small-budget indie movie directed, scripted by Regina Crosby based on somewhat true events. I looked up background details on her and the lead cast but I’ve decided not to bore you with the details because well, my goodness, can I not wait to write about this movie already.
If you’re like me and not quick to discount a book, movie or any other form of media by simply its name or in this case, IMDB description then you’re in for a huge delight. Teenage Dirtbag is way more than what meets the eye in the first few minutes. I say this because I watched this movie thinking I knew exactly what I was in for. I’ve been doing that lately. I’ve been afraid to find triggers in movies and books that remind me of a life I had. A life I may no longer have any access to. It’s difficult to be that one person society is expecting you to be every single day. Unbearable when you’ve agreed to be that way and have no way of going back. And this is what Amber’s point of conflict is. Let’s start from scratch now, shall we?
Teenage Dirtbag is a non-linear film surrounding the high school prim and proper cheerleader, intelligent, pretty to a point of unnecessary perfection girl named Amber and the typical high school delinquent, Thayer. The movie starts off with a present day scenario where Amber is leading her days rather incoherently as she carries inside her a tiny human being. Flashback to high school. Think back to that one person you met in high school who was so thoroughly exhausting, annoying and downright difficult to avoid as much as you tried, especially if you tried. That one person of the opposite sex that tried their level hardest to get your attention and as exasperating as it was, you secretly enjoyed it. I know I did.
Thayer is a deeply troubled boy trying to put on a brave-enough-to-eat-absolutely-anything obnoxious front at school while he can barely stand up to his abusive father back at home. Amber, on the other hand, excels at all the tiny and big accomplishments a girl can perform well at in high school but is neglected by her family and yearns for their appreciation. It’s hard to say that this part, right here, isn’t already sounding like the usual good girl meets bad boy cliché. But believe me when I say it’s hardly like that.
So, Amber is obviously the only person indifferent and quite unamused by Thayer’s ridiculous, cringe-worthy shenanigans that usually squeeze out reactions from everyone else. Amber, in the first person narrative describes how in retrospect all of her actions and the lack thereof, affected Thayer deeply and led from one thing to the other. It’s hard to tell what Amber feels about everything that happened back when they were young and free, whether, in hindsight she wishes she had behaved differently. But that’s me getting ahead of myself. Anyway coming back, Amber decides early on that Thayer is unworthy of her attention. She makes this so apparent at times, you have to wonder whether that really helps anyone at all. What this does is builds an air of mystery around her and attracts Thayer towards her, mostly subconsciously at the start and later, quite intensely.
As much as Amber believes that her misfortune of always being in such close proximity with Thayer is only because of the alphabetical ordering of their surnames, they end up together in a Creative Writing class. Their interactions through poetry and prose and the underlying hints passed on through verse draws them together in ways otherwise unimaginable. You see them forging a bond that is strained from the very start. Amber plays along with this and chooses to communicate with Thayer of her own volition when people aren’t paying attention. So they start passing notes during study hour. As they start developing a half-decent relationship with each other, they start to realize that both of them have issues at home that have some degree of commonality. Here’s my bone to pick with the story, Thayer and Amber were attracted to each other regardless of this angle to the plot. Anyway, I’m not one to bicker about such things too much and let me take this sour spot to diverge into parallels I love drawing between the reel life and my real life.
High school where I grew up was nothing like the one Thayer and Amber studied at or like any other high schools depicted in Western cultures. Hell, we don’t even call it “high school” per se. However, people – as I’ve been picking up on so acutely over the past few months are more or less the same in all parts of the world. So, there was a person exactly like Thayer in my life. There were two whole years that I look back on and ponder about but never speak out loud. This boy had an interest in me that aggravated me very much at the start. Recovering from a terrible break-up at the time, the last thing I needed was excessive attention and a need to overshare and thereby get really intimate with another. Fortunately, this boy for me was just a simple “no” and all of his playful (I suppose?) advances were dismissed by me and termed “hopelessly cheesy”. Onlookers laughed at us pulling off the girl-boy best friend stance and to a great extent we nervously laughed with them, too. Knowing that we each had very different personal lives but were more or less stuck in the same classroom for hours on end, we grew comfortable to a point that any kind of lack of attention from the other, resulted in a huge fight and another fact that we never admitted – jealousy. Days caught up to weeks and months and years. Time changed. We moved on with our lives. I put my foot down, asked for a choice that had me or someone else and said hurtful things and when this boy demanded I say something, anything, just like Amber, I said nothing at all. And just like Amber, in present time, I have no way of knowing how he is. I have ruthlessly chopped all means of contact and all I can do now, is wonder.
Coming back, there are scenes in the movie that give me goosebumps and I can see how they have actually been drawn from the writer and director’s personal experiences. Teenage love can be made to look all too fine and perfect on the big screen and many of these moments between Thayer and Amber are handled very carefully to bring forth more than just what meets the eye. The Creative Writing class professor brings to his character such genuineness and clarity that it’s hard not to feel you’re actually in that class with everybody else. Even that character was not stereotyped completely or overplayed. Thayer and Amber’s back and forth with their prose and poetry do not go unnoticed by him. He does not intervene in matters that he clearly has a good grasp about but has no right to interfere.
As the movie comes to its last lap, I had to take a deep breath and the gooey corners of my heart held on tight hoping against hopes that things work out for Thayer and Amber in the past. Despite knowing present day Amber’s condition. I guess, I was hoping for some kind of redemption from her, that her reason for never giving Thayer the time of day had only to do with society’s created norms. Films like this are hidden gems, not looking to make grand statements, targeted towards an extremely narrow audience that can draw on and appreciate even the slightest of resemblance to their past or present life.
Take poetry. Take music. Add over-saturated, vivid, vibrant cinematography. What is not to love about this beautiful mélange?
So often poetry translates into imagery in our minds that is often difficult to do justice on the main screen. Poetry is art. To do anything more with it often feels like a disservice to it. However, The Color of Time makes me feel otherwise. I am so whelmed at this point that I want to go back into the dream-like cocoon the film built around me and never escape.
Poetry written with a honey-glazed rhythm, spoken modestly, shot like a dream, plays like a heartbroken yet optimistic tribute to life. Those are the words that come to mind if I want to sum up The Color of Time in a single sentence. Directed in parts by twelve directors, pieced together in a haunting, back and forth manner – like our memories. The Color of Time is a compilation of Pulitzer Prize winning poet C.K. Williams’ beautiful poems and a peek into human memory and the moments that define us.
Starring James Franco as the present day poet we are taken way back into his life at various stages of growth, the instance he started noticing the world around him, his experiences with love, loss, the women in his life at various stages, his mother (Jessica Chastain) and his struggle with his art. The film does not work on a solid movie-like plot but brings out the underlying message about how C.K. Williams found his calling as a poet. It is hard to say that The Color of Time is a very original and insightful movie and that nothing like it was ever imagined or made before. It is, in parts, very reminiscent of one of my all-time favourite movies, The Tree of Life. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch every film that’s made that is inspired by it. However, I know some critics that find these parallels (Jessica Chastain gracefully walking around on vast expanses of grass and sunlight pouring in through the trees, through her beautiful hair and her ever perfect features) mildly annoying. I get that but I’m not one of those people and The Colour of Time works for me as is.
Having not read anything by C.K. Williams before I was happily taken to find that his poetry is my kind of poetry. I don’t write poetry very much at all any more but it comes to me sometimes and tugs at my sleeve for it to be written; I’m always wary of it because I know that writing that writes you is often the dangerous kind of writing. What I took from this movie, why it mattered to me so much right away was the fact that I was able to relate easily to what C.K. Williams felt in those particular memories of his previous years.
I know for a fact that I’m not the only one and that the urge for writing develops unknowingly inside you when you are very small. However, what I also know right down to my bones is the aloofness, the queer sense of being amiss from your physical self that comes with it. The relative ease with which you can subtract yourself from your current situation and piece sentences in your mind is often a limitless luxury. And who can tell on you, really, especially if you’re a child.
C.K. Williams grew up in a very reclusive time and he reflects on memories that change you, forever. A fleeting embrace, the touch of someone’s palms, the rush from running and the lack of interest in the things your parent might want you to do. I want to say that James Franco is simply James Franco in this movie and I don’t mind that at all. It feels like a better progression to his character in his self-produced movies (Palo Alto, anyone?). Mila Kunis, who intermittently features as the present day love of his life, the mother of his child, has no greater role to play except being beautiful in that ephemeral way where you want nothing more than to spend the rest of your life loving her.
The Color of Time is a vintage, soft-spoken, visually eccentric and thoroughly overwhelming movie. It has some really good moments but others that you may have seen elsewhere before and might not do much for you. However, if you love wordplay built on loss and lament, love and longing, basically just life go ahead and dim the lights, settle in by yourself and give this film a watch.
I’ve often said I’m not big on the comedy genre in movies and that it takes a very sharp, witty and often satirical take on humour for that genre to seemingly appeal to me at all. I feel like lately I’ve been stepping out of my usual indie movie flavours and experimenting with a random dash of humour and getting rewarded for my courage.
Appropriate Behaviour is a humorous, at times audacious yet thoroughly amusing take on several issues ranging from being an immigrant in modern day New York to living with a queer sexual orientation, coming out of the closet, dealing with heartbreak, growing as a person and simply being in your 20’s and what that entails. While all of this could easily be made into a five season long television show on HBO with a studded star-cast and a strong soundtrack, Desiree Akhavan – the writer, director and lead actress in the movie successfully wraps it all up in about 80 minutes.
Starring as Shirin, an Iranian immigrant living in NYC, Desiree effectively puts forth the bubble of her world as a bisexual young woman simply trying to get by. The movie flows back and forth to her relationship with a white girl named Maxine – that is, to be honest – doomed from the start. Post this devastating break-up with Maxine, Shirin is a big, hot mess. Shirin, although very spontaneous, upbeat and perky is a sensitive person under all that and wants Maxine back so bad.
The underlying reason for the break-up that Shirin can’t seem to shake off is the fact that she couldn’t come out of the closet and tell her parents. Her Iranian parents, with Iranian values and an Iranian straight elder son, set out to marry a girl from his medical profession. Shirin terms it as older child syndrome where the older kid wants to be perfect for his parents and do everything right but deep down is simmering and could one day pull out a gun in a public place. Shirin made me laugh and reminded me a little bit of me and that made my day.
Shirin’s the obvious centre of this story and even though the movie felt so familiar – I later figured out why – she does a stupendous job at keeping you gripped start to finish. She has a strong camera presence, lovely set of expressions, much grace in her acting and a whole lot of gumption that makes you love her but also sometimes pity her.
The issues Shirin faces trying to find in Brooklyn – an apartment, a decent job, the right partner – will strike a chord of commonality in anyone, in any part of the world. What I love is how Appropriate Behaviour doesn’t dwell too much on a particular problem, doesn’t poke humour too hard at say a scene between her potential employer and herself wherein he reacts to her Iranian origins in the most clichéd way imaginable. It’s refreshing when comic elements are in the slights and not all over the place in that metaphorical slapstick manner. It’s even more appealing when characters try to keep their sense of humour even in their darkest days.
Appropriate Behaviour is clearly an achievement as a debut film and is definitely a movie worth watching with your bunch of friends on a Friday night sleepover. If you’ve watched Blue Is The Warmest Colour (and loved it as I did) you will find that Appropriate Behaviour is actually a superfluous take on that same film. I don’t know if this comparison has been drawn by anyone else before but certain scenes, dialogues between the lead lesbian couple and arguments brought back distinct flashes of that movie in my mind. Which makes it tough for me to love Appropriate Behaviour as much as I would like to. Nevertheless, a movie that grips me from start to finish, resonates with my personal understanding of human nature and sneaks in a good few laughs is definitely a depiction of good cinema.
For the longest while I’ve waited for on-request reviews and even then some of the ones I wrote never felt like they were doing justice. I felt tensed as I wrote those. I wasn’t sure what was expected of me. However, a complete stranger came along and explained why they felt so strongly about my reviews, sent me a bunch of movies they’d like me to write about and signed off as my biggest movie review fan. Not only does that flatter me but that fills me with a kind of inexplicable joy. So thank you, S for appreciating what I love doing best. You have no idea how much that means to me. No idea at all.
Matthew: “I was one of the insatiables. The ones you’d always find sitting closest to the screen. Why do we sit so close? Maybe it was because we wanted to receive the images first. When they were still new, still fresh. Before they cleared the hurdles of the rows behind us. Before they’d been relayed back from row to row, spectator to spectator; until worn out, secondhand, the size of a postage stamp, it returned to the projectionist’s cabin. Maybe, too, the screen was really a screen. It screened us… from the world.”
The Dreamers is the kind of movie I would give anything to watch once and then never again. It’s hard for me to explain why that is so, but in no way does that imply that it isn’t a great watch. The Dreamers is a film that makes me yearn for a life in France, in a stingy hotel in Paris, on well-paved streets that were walked all over by not so well-dressed people, in the 1960’s, at the tender age of 21, with nothing else to care about. That’s it.
It is simply an iconic representation of youth, of erotic love and passions of varying degrees, of the minds that lived through uncertainties but still found time to dream and to escape through cinema. We venture into France in 1968 through the eyes of Matthew (Michael Pitt), an American, doe-eyed, idealist young man away from his family – probably for the very first time in his life – who finds a whole new, enchanting world in the cinémathèque française.
We then meet Theo and Isabelle (Eva Green), a pair of twins that also frequent the cinémathèque and seem to be increasingly interested in knowing Matthew. The sudden interest and kindness shown by these French strangers immediately brings a feeling of belonging to Matthew and he’s quick to latch onto this hand of friendship – or so it seems at the start at least.
Sooner than later Matthew notices that Isabelle and Theo are more than just siblings and share certain intimacies and sleep together in the same bed. Matthew’s curiosity and vulnerability are all so natural and his attraction towards Isabelle from the first sight, extremely evident. When Isabelle explains that she and Theo are twins and that they’ve always been connected and part of each other, my heart soared. This might be one of those few movies out there that takes the concept of incest and doesn’t try too hard to justify it. Theo and Isabelle just are who they are and they know not a world without each other.
So when the twins’ parents head out for a long trip, Theo, Isabelle and Matthew burrow into a fantasy ménage à trois. They lose all idea about time and appetite and they only care about existing in dream-like moments. Matthew settles into this arrangement like a hand in a glove and the character development is brilliant. Matthew goes from the prim and proper guy who sat at the dining table with the twins’ parents, grateful for the wonderful dinner, always polite and promptly answering “likewise” (which is honestly the most American way of replying to well wishes) to the guy who felt no shame in sharing a bath tub with the twins themselves.
The extended depiction of this erotic cocoon that the trio build around themselves does a fantastic job of pulling you into something less important than the main story. Which is what, exactly? I found myself questioning that a couple of times. Yes, the controversy is there. Yes, I see that Matthew’s understanding of violence and France are still vastly foreign but honestly what are Theo and Isabelle doing about it that makes them any different from him? They’re all still voyeurs, hiding in that mansion, indulging in erotic exchanges and turning away from the reality. I don’t like to act as though I understand everything and I guess cinema is an art that even if you don’t entirely get, you can never fail at appreciating. But everything comes together neatly at the end when in the snap of a moment, Theo and Isabelle mature into people who can actually make a decision on their own. Matthew walks away to realize he might not want what they want with their life. That certain experiences, certain people only last a while and you take what they gave you and turn around and walk.
It would seem ridiculous to me if Isabelle actually ended up wanting a relationship with Matthew. That was not who she was and although she did the whole dance of a proper date with him, Isa and Theo shared the twin connection I find so intriguing and compelling and can never get enough of.
The references to timeless classics, the movie quizzes brought up at random points, the love for cinema greater than all else, those are the things I take with me from this movie. It also makes me question how little I know about black and white movies back from that time and as of now I endeavour to change that. The only way The Dreamers will get any better for me now is to go and read a review of it by the late Roger Ebert because there’s no way he could’ve missed reviewing a gem such as this.
I sat down last evening, thinking to myself that I need to go back to watching movies and writing about them. Sometimes I push myself. I force myself to put on reviewer’s glasses and absorb everything. Even before I reach the halfway point in a movie – the part where things should be making sense, the part where you think you know how you’ll end your review, the part where a critic’s eye becomes almost unnecessary – what I mean is, the process becomes effortless. And my god do I love that. You’d imagine a change of surrounding would do so much more for your writing. But my inspiration is a big ball of wool that I can’t quite unravel. I’m getting there. Undoing knots a few layers at a time.
I went back to my list “To Watch, And Probably Review” which at this point has over 63 movies. If only my ambition could translate into reality. Anyway, missing so many movies that got nominated for the Academy’s, I watched it halfheartedly. I declared that Boyhood should have won all the awards. I tweeted about what the stars wore on the red carpet (I’ll admit in retrospect, I’m a bit ashamed now) and the jokes that were cracked. I dismissed the awards and that they didn’t hold anything for me. Who was I kidding, I just wasn’t prepared for them like every year. So to redeem myself, I’m going in the ascending order of my list and somehow The Heart Machine happened to be the oldest record on the list. I will try my best to review the less heard of movies because at this point I’m too late to review the likes of Birdman, Selma, Life Itself, etc and say anything that you don’t already know.
Honestly, I was so afraid going into this movie. Somewhere at the back of my mind I knew exactly where this was going to take me when the first scene panned into perspective. Hazy, discotheque lights, a hum of music that is borderline annoying, strobe lights, bodies rubbing against each other (or what you may call a form of dancing?), and finally an ordinary looking man, sitting alone in this dimly lit, party place with a phone in his hand. Key word here being ‘alone’.
The man in question is Cody (John Gallagher Jr.), an average 20-something living in Brooklyn, at a crossroads in his life, working on commission basis which also sometimes means not really working at all. Cody comes across as a person with a fairly simple understanding of things and doesn’t have any shining characteristics that I can possibly outline to make him seem different from your regular 20 something year old. Cody is a part of the generation that relies heavily on the Internet for communication and information as a means of finding semblance in his life. He meets a beautiful, doe-eyed girl named Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil) on an online dating website and after a pleasant initial encounter they plan to go steady with each other. What this movie emphasizes on, that I find a bit ridiculous is how Virginia being in Berlin and Cody in New York is such a huge, huge problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for long-distance-met-the-man-of-my-dreams-on-the-world-wide-web scenario. The Heart Machine weaves in a very great ambiguity about this distance that honestly makes no sense to me.
So Cody and Virginia have faith in their relationship and commit to each other. They share the normal Skype sessions and there is a lot that they talk over the internet that I don’t find many couples talking about when they see each other on a regular basis. We take for granted proximity, we assume that people will always be around and that that funny incident from earlier in the day can wait until there are more listeners. Long-distance relationships put that all in perspective.
Virginia on one hand has dirty secrets of her own. She’s far from faithful to Cody and has herself up for grabs on various other online media. There are hook-up apps and missed connections and somehow the ways and means of getting someone to come to you at any given time of day are endless. None of this feels like I’m spoiling anything for you. The timeline of the movie is not linear and that comes to light soon enough. So there’s no surprise when you find Virginia roaming streets that seem less like Berlin but more like New York.
I believe the movie being shown from the perspective of Cody may put all the harsh light on Virginia’s promiscuity. But for the life of me, I couldn’t stand him. I just couldn’t. Cody soon begins to doubt that maybe Virginia isn’t in Berlin. Instead of questioning and cross-questioning her, he stalks her social media to figure out for himself. He goes to obnoxious lengths and exhibits crazy stalker behaviour. All of this, for someone who he’s in a committed relationship with, Skype video calls daily, loves and you’d automatically assume, trusts.
And that’s why The Heart Machine frightened me. Love need not be synonymous to trust and like Cody puts it, “It’s the not knowing that kills me”.
I’m unsure about the message Heart Machine is trying to project. It doesn’t so much as warn about the perils of online relationships as much as determines that obsessing over someone you love and constantly doubting them is not healthy. That not always knowing things is okay and that the digital age is constantly trying to counter that. I fail to see why The Heart Machine could be compared to brilliant pieces of cinema such as Spike Jonze’s Her, the movie trailer is misleading and unlike Her there are no heart-wrenching moments, beautiful cinematography or likeable characters. The Heart Machine drags and lulls and tries very hard to not be a cliché and in the process ends up being exactly that.
I will say to its credit that the movie ends as it should and I wouldn’t change a thing about the ending. Yes, it’s tragic but nonetheless quite appropriate. Watch The Heart Machine keeping in mind it does not have much to its credit except that its an indie movie and that even if it doesn’t do great things for you, you won’t really be able to make yourself forget it.
Camp X-Ray is an almost masterpiece. It’s almost a good movie which also means it’s not a bad movie at all. There has been such a sudden rise in the number of semi-political indie films that have been coming out lately and they all seem to have that same flow but Camp X-Ray stands out. Just a little bit. I can praise this movie on several ends but I want to be realistic enough to tell you it’s not that great, either. You shouldn’t put down everything you’re doing and watch it right away. I want to openly admit that a certain scene made me weep in that ugly, private way you never want anyone to see. Not that movies don’t make me cry, au contraire, I cry during movies all too easily. I find it difficult to weep for people I actually know, but movie characters get under my skin with great ease. I live most of my life vicariously, bite me.
“…The man who committed these crimes has blond hair and blue eyes. These details are shared repeatedly in a litany of disbelief. Too many people expected the perpetrator of this crime to have brown skin and a Qur’an because we need to believe that there is only one brand of extremism. This is the world we now live in. We forget compassion. We pretend we are somehow different from those we otherwise condemn…”
I can’t help but wonder how so many instances in my life are such big coincidences. I ventured into Camp X-Ray knowing as little as possible – details about the cast, genre of the movie – and it was actually worth the while. To be able to enjoy a movie with as little adulteration from other people’s opinions is often the best way to be objective. Camp X-Ray is a concise movie in Camp Guantanamo where Muslim jihadists and supposed terrorists are restrained as detainees sometime post 9/11. The movie is mostly filmed from the viewpoint of Amy Cole played by Kristen Stewart who joins the military with the intention of being a part of something bigger than the small town she comes from. Cole doesn’t know what she has landed herself in and finds that things are not just black and white. She develops a peculiar bond with one of the detainees after he constantly jabbers away at her when she’s on duty. Cole and this detainee, Ali Amir played by Payman Maadi are the windows for the audience into both viewpoints. Behind the locked door and outside it. For the first 90 minutes I would say the movie plays out brilliantly. Not too overtly putting across ideas yet offering glimpses and leaving things to imagination. It can just as easily be argued that Camp X-Ray is more about Amy Cole and what she undergoes being a woman soldier than just about the injustice done to a certain type of Muslims, believed to be extremists. That being said, and now that we have the plot out of the way let me tell you why I love and don’t love the movie. Camp X-Ray is a movie about the terror after the actual terror has passed. It encompasses what many movies have done before but offers a different insight into it. The torture elements are not the highlights of the movie and are so few and far in between that they seem routine prison protocol, really. Even their emergency protocol when a detainee steps out of line involves taking the detainee from pod to pod, cell to cell, all night long for a week by plane. This definitely leaves the detainee disheveled and unable to sleep for that entire week. Yes, that is torture. Yes, like one of the soldiers says, “That’s brutal,” but really, I mean, we know for a fact that what happened in other places at the same time was much worse. Many documentaries and movies have been made about it and sold on just that fact alone. Audiences love a good cry. Audiences love seeing movies like 12 Years A Slave. I love Camp X-Ray obviously because of Payman Maadi. After watching it, I can openly challenge anyone that this man is capable of pulling off absolutely anything thrown his way. I am Team Maadi, forever. This is embarrassing and exhilarating to admit but I could only resist it so much. I love Camp X-Ray even more for Kristen Stewart. What do I say about her that hasn’t already been said before in reference to her Twilight image? I could say, that perhaps, I liked her very much in the Twilight saga but because I reached a certain age where everyone was making fun of the series, I had to cut down my feelings and join the herd. I could also say that I liked Kristen Stewart even before that but it’s hard for me to point why exactly. I can now. Kristen Stewart has long since been pushed around with everyone saying her face lacks expression. She has been ridiculed, used in memes to depict she can’t make one emotion look different than the other and in short, something that the character Bella was supposed to be which everyone suddenly had a problem with when it was portrayed on the big screen. I have wanted to talk about this openly for such a long time now and I feel like this movie opened the floodgates to my repressed opinions. If you’re uninterested about it, you can skip a paragraph. As anyone who read the Twilight love story at the age of 13, I fell in love with the books right away. As someone who grew up way too fast between 14-17 and saw what more can be done with genres like romance and horror, I knew I couldn’t love the series the same way ever again. I knew that it was meant for a certain age group with a certain mindset and I had clearly outgrown it. Why the books appealed so much to girls is because Bella made us feel it was okay to be average. Which is what Kristen Stewart was meant to be on screen. When you take a book which reads in the first person and you make a movie out of it, you simply cannot include countless monologues of this person. You have to draw a line and make your character come alive through their behaviours and interactions and even then you are compromising. So Kristen Stewart got caught up in playing an awkward, unconfident teenager who is being pursued by a very good-looking, gentlemanly vampire. Stewart became the girl most girls identified with but also despised. It was confusing and it took me a while to be done with my obsession with the books and the movies. Kristen received so much flak many years after the movies were done, which I’m not sure I understand entirely. Both the Breaking Dawn installments were remarkably successful at the time and we saw a more meaningful and expressive performance from her as a new-born vampire and mother. Where she went wrong was after these movies. Her choices and the roles she took up only went on to feed the mindset of people that she can only play a certain type of role and in short, cannot act. Some even went as far as to say she bagged the role of Bella Swan through nepotism. Who knows. In a tough movie such as Camp X-Ray, Kristen Stewart single-handedly hits the ball back onto the court of everything her haters splurged on. She expresses herself in scenes requiring minimal dialogues, she is bare in the sense that you can see that there has been no need for any makeup, she executes one of the most powerful scenes in the movie at the end with such finesse it’s hard to ever believe she was accused of being expressionless. It almost seems as though her acting abilities were on par with Payman Maadi, which is probably the biggest compliment I could hand out to her. There is a scene in the movie where the Captain asks her, “Are you a soldier? Or are you a female soldier?” What Kristen Stewart achieved in this movie is worth noting. Her character demanded her to fit into an environment where on duty she was supposed to be at par with her male counterparts but to be somewhat submissive when they weren’t in uniform. It’s a hard but true fact that this kind of unfairness is a part and parcel of being the gender minority in the military. My problem with the movie is the final crescendo. My bone to pick is that the movie was running at such a good pace and the last few minutes kind of goofed it up. Maybe certain movies need to be brought around full circle – to satisfy the audience, among other things. But that’s the thing about indie movies, sometimes they aren’t required to follow that. I can think of so many better endings. Now that I’ve assimilated all parts of the movie, I can say that the ending need not have been so hopeful. And even then the irony is, a part of the final crescendo moved me to tears and brought me to write this review. I would say, watch Camp X-Ray for the acting and for those sudden breakthrough scenes, but not so much for the plot.
So much has been said about this movie being a genius take on an abortion-themed romcom. I beg to differ. I would like to plead that Obvious Child is obviously so much more. Give me a chance to explain that in this review.
Obvious Child is easily one of the strongest directorial debut movies I’ve ever seen. I’m all here for the positives but I really need to explain a delusion people are having before I go ahead. Let’s take a second and understand why this movie is being heralded as ‘a cultural landmark’, ‘an honest portrayal of abortion’, and what not. I believe taking the taboo concept of abortion and trying to fit it in the genre of comedy, even romantic-comedy is far too risky. Far too delicate to play with. The first thing that comes to mind is, abortion is unpleasant, whatever may be the circumstances. Secondly, this movie is supposed to be funny? What can possibly be funny about aborting an unborn child? Nothing.
When you watch this movie keeping those thoughts in mind, and you see Obvious Child for what it actually is, I imagine you’d breathe out a sigh of relief. You’ll chide yourself for being ridiculous enough to expect a dark, slapstick comedy about a woman who isn’t prepared for a child, or a man who doesn’t know he got someone pregnant and now she has to go through it alone, or worse; rape pregnancy. When you see how effortlessly the plot unravels, all your apprehensions will fade to black. For the most part, Obvious Child is not about abortion. I cannot fathom why it’s being sold for what it’s not when it’s actually so good and should be recognized for that instead.
The story follows a twenty-something stand-up comedian named Donna (Jenny Slate) who has a queer teenage sense-of-humour and mostly ends up making jokes about her sex life, her stained underwear and other body parts related clichéd limericks. Donna brings to her act an emotional twist even though her jokes are almost borderline ridiculous. She is completely herself when she’s up there and that’s what nine odd people attending her show in a Brooklyn bar appreciate and enjoy. Donna’s boyfriend – also present at said bar – cannot appreciate having his private sex life being put on display for people to laugh at and breaks up with her. Or that’s the reason he uses while he has already started seeing someone else. Right from this moment, the movie puts you on the edge of your seat because it’s not easy to predict what Donna will say or do next. However, she is like any other twenty year old and drinks and drunk dials and cries herself to sleep with the aid of her best friend. Still no mention of abortions.
After this point, Obvious Child picks up pace as we see more of Donna’s life, her separated parents and her two best friends who sometimes have no boundaries. Donna’s stand-up comedy goes for a toss after her breakup and she is unable to make even poor underwear related jokes. All of this and the fact that the bookstore she’s working at is supposed to shut down only add to her miserable situation. Amidst everything, you see Donna brood, laugh, worry, overreact and it’s all so endearing. You almost want to hug her and tell her that it happens to everyone at some point and she’s actually doing pretty well considering everything going on. So when Donna meets a really nice guy at the bar, you have no problem when he wants to take her home. Even when they both are drunk and peeing on the road, really. Never before have I found this to be funny and don’t think I’m being morbid but halfway through the movie and there’s still no sign of a pregnancy much less a damn abortion. And I’m really enjoying the movie at this point and even laughing out loud, which is a rare but good sign.
Fairly predictable is the one-night stand and Donna’s reluctance at getting into anything further with the boy named Max who is albeit, too eager to get to know Donna’s hilarity. It’s adorable that Max is very much the opposite of her cheating ex-boyfriend, but it’s also rough that he’s the one who gets her pregnant. Leaving her with no choice but to visit the doctor and say something on the lines, “I would like an abortion, please!” as though she is ordering food at a drive-through.
What follows next are the simple and cute interactions between Max trying to woo Donna who is all too afraid and confused about someone being this nice to her. Not forgetting that she is scheduled to abort his child on February 14th and intends on keeping it a secret from him. Irony in this movie is immense but completely enjoyable. All in all, the movie takes a cutesy turn towards the end as Donna figures out how to deal with herself, her decisions and her love life. It’s amazing how she goes back on stage and makes fun of herself for getting into a mess. Again, Max who happens to turn up at the bar is not pleased to find out about this through her act and walks out of the bar. However, Donna is not perturbed this time as she knows how she feels about this and what’s right for her. How well she does on stage is an indication at how well she handles things that are not so right in her life. Her act goes pretty well despite mentions of an abortion and she has her shit together now. Figuratively and comically, of course.
Obvious Child is a movie that got promoted on a concept it wasn’t entirely intending to depend on. Yes, the movie handles the subject of abortion quite smartly. There are some brilliant depictions of the crisis Donna faces, for example, when she equates the amount required to get an abortion to her one month’s rent. Men like Max are not made-up, fairy tale princes but they do exist and sometimes they don’t know how to do the right thing, right away but they come around eventually. When you consider the fact that there is so much more to this movie it seems almost demeaning to hail it as simply ‘an abortion comedy’ on the lines of Knocked Up or Juno. The fact that the title of the movie was based on a Paul Simon song is enough to convince me that the makers of this film have more depth, understanding and insight than they are being incorrectly, if not unfairly credited for.
Sometimes after watching a movie I feel like I have something that I simply have to say about it; as though there is a storm of words inside my mind that might be harmful to me if I don’t let it all out. I’ve watched so many movies but there has never been a question about why I only review say 1 out of every 10 movies that I stream. By that I mean, why have I never questioned myself about this? I’m passionate about films and I also wouldn’t mind doing this professionally someday but why am I so selective and on what basis? And now it beckons the question: what really makes a movie good or bad and thereafter review worthy for Sloppy Etymology?
The absolute honest answer to that is – a movie needs to stir something inside me. It must, at best, confound me completely at the start and maybe even after the fact, at times. I want to ensure that when I’m reviewing it I’m not merely stating facts. My reviews delve into personal territories so often and I find that they bring out something more in me when I write them and it’s really the most satiating feeling, ever.
Disconnect (2012) reminds me why I enjoy writing movie reviews. It’s the kind of movie that I search for all over and meanwhile, in its quest, end up watching thirty-forty mediocre movies. I don’t think I say this outright at all, (for fear of sounding imposing and thereby scaring away my tiny reader audience) but PLEASE watch this movie.
As the name suggests, Disconnect is a drama that evolves into a very riveting thriller around the various facets of technological advancements and the subsequent consequences when we cannot disconnect from it. Several parallel storylines involving an upcoming journalist, a bunch of adolescent boys, a workaholic father, another extremely dictatorial father and a couple grieving over their dead child. The stories are not interconnected in a tacky way like Valentine’s Day or any other movie that decides to rope in more than one leading story. There’s only one instance of a connection and overlap between two stories and is in no way detrimental to the independent stories.
What I enjoyed best about Disconnect is how engrossing it is. I didn’t think about anything else while watching it. The movie does not linger over unwanted details and unnecessary exchanges between characters to create back story. It does not scream out a warning message to scare audiences regarding the perils of the Internet realm. It never creates a distinction between harm-inflictors and their victims. You will not be able to hate any of these characters no matter what side of the rope they come out on. I found myself rooting for every person in all four stories.
I believe the movie depicts real life right down to the nitty-gritty details without making you feel too uncomfortable. If you’re looking for something very sore and bothersome with this type of Wired disadvantage story-line you should go watch Trust (2010) and after that never be able to trust anyone ever again. But really, we don’t need that kind of brutal reality. Besides, everyone seems to have enough trust issues and insecurities anyway nowadays.
I would go into the details about each story but I suppose it would be more enjoyable if you entered and inhabited these stories without much prior knowledge. It was a complete delight for me because I was unaware. You tend to notice things with more keenness without much forewarning, is what I’ve come to understand now. As the movie progresses to its crescendo, things simultaneously come together and fall apart. While I could argue at length that each of the stories ends perfectly, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that somehow they’re all happy endings. They’re not.
The slow-motion climatic sequence and the Sigur-Ros music score, the brilliant cast and crisp editing and script make Disconnect one of the best movies I’ve seen in the past year. I like to believe that sometimes filmmakers, writers, directors put a piece of themselves in a movie and that’s one of the reasons they are motivated to make it. Very often, viewers miss that peak moment and maybe that’s when they pass it off by saying the movie made little sense or that it just wasn’t a good movie.
With Disconnect, not for a single moment will you feel like you’re being led astray. The message is crystal clear, it’s not the Internet that we need to disconnect from but our lack of humanity and the way we lead our lives, the morals and virtues that we appraise ourselves with so proudly but never really believe in, the need to be loved but still never express it – keeping that in mind I would say it’s pretty obvious where lies the actual Disconnect.
“A genuine revelation. We may finally have an heir to Kubrick.” – LA Weekly
“A grand statement on what it means to be a human being.” – Blankprojecter
“It’s simply one of the most unique, original and mind-blowing movies you’ll see in a theatre all year.” – Playlist
It’s rare to find a movie that has been so extravagantly praised and does not live up to your expectations. Under The Skin is an unbelievable and exotic masterpiece. It’s nothing short of what everyone has said it stands out to be and for that I’m truly glad. Very often you’ll hear a movie being exalted with immense praise and it creates a kind of pressure on you before you actually watch it. I think this time, for this movie I, alone, am responsible for the experience I derived out of it. My movie review will not be what it would (should) have been had I not read the book before I watched the movie.
Directed by Jonathan Glazer and loosely based on the novel by Michel Faber, Under The Skin is a sci-fi, mysterious and deeply beguiling thriller revolving around an extraterrestrial creature in a human form who drives a white van and picks up lonely, wide-eyed, single and eager men. The apparent stroke of luck always baffles these men after seeing this woman with deep-set eyes, a mop of dark black hair, but the most striking feature being her lips heavily coloured in with red lipstick. When she starts to converse with them, it is next to impossible for these men to believe that it is going to be anything else except a quick hook-up. The vulnerability at this stage grows quickly and even in the midst of the dark quicksand-like velvetness surrounding and engulfing them when they return to her place, they cannot seem to get past their desire and notice that they aren’t actually going to get lucky at all.
This forms the basic premise of the plot that involves very little dialogue and mostly leaves the audience to understand what they will.
That’s how the book is too, for the first half at least but words always bring a greater understanding with them, a ‘read between the lines’ that is somewhat obvious and you can reread and figure out eventually. However, Under the Skin, the movie, is not what the book is and I feel badly for expecting it to be like that in the first place. When a movie is loosely adapted from a novel, it’s best to look at both the media in different lights. To respect what the directors and scriptwriters saw in the book and thought appropriate for a cinematic presentation and what the author of the book did with his words alone to create that inspiration. Had I not read the book before watching the movie, I would be in a state of complete awe. I still am, but it somehow feels secondhand. Like I experienced this moment of beauty somewhere in another time through another source. I could compare and tell you what the movie does that the book didn’t and vice versa but I’m not looking to make a comparison here. I would only suggest that you watch the movie first and then go to the book to better understand both the interpretations, first individually and then as two parts of a whole. Of one thing I assure you, the build to the climax in both, the book and the film is absolutely perfect in both situations, different as the respective situations may be. The explosion of understanding that is expressed in both the respective endings is what unites the book and the movie into one. I couldn’t get rid of my unease at how the film was skipping scenes I had imagined in my mind when I read the book. I was restless and unable to focus because I was caught up with what I had expected to see. I wished I could unlearn what I knew just to be able to enjoy the movie for the breathtaking and hypnotic haze it was endlessly weaving. Alas. If you’re reading this, you’ll know better. My good deed for the day is done.
Caution: Spoilers ahead because this review simply cannot even be written without revealing spoilers.
Scarlett Johansson’s quixotic portrayal of an alien is so unnervingly beautiful and near perfect that you cannot help but feel maybe she got under your skin when you realize you are looking at all the human beings she encounters with the same distant and detached eyes. My words will fail me if I start to tell you what a remarkable role she has played with just her body language, her eyes, her honey-glazed voice and the unflinching emotionless expression carved into her face. I’m beginning to think if the artificial intelligence software from Her (voiced by Scarlett, herself) had a face, that’s how she’d look. Fur coat, black messed up hair and that exact same posture. While her voice in Her simply breathes humanity, there is a kind of intoxicating tinge to it in Under the Skin and it’s more compelling and unreal than any voice I’ve heard. Even for a moment you are not betrayed that she is human under that flawless skin.
The movie begins with a very Kubrickian scene and it’s rightly been described so. The abstract birth of Scarlett Johansson’s character in some universe as a biological process we are not meant to understand, but simply absorb. The vastness of the earth and landscapes, the fixed camera shots over these expanses, the uncomfortable silences at the perfect moments and the gripping story that succeeds without much talk and telltale are sure signs of why Jonathan Glazer’s direction has been credited with such praise. If you are not into art films, if movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and the like leave you confused and feeling disoriented about life, then Under The Skin won’t work for you. What you should try to understand is that these movies try to capture something larger than life in their own way and they are supposed to be unsettling until you can think deeply and see through them.
Scarlett’s nameless character is a female alien (I will call her Isserley from now on as per the book) who seduces young males, single and mostly on their own; unanswerable to anyone. The part that the movie skips out is why she does this dance when she has no intention of indulging in any sexual activities at all. Once she lures them to her house, a black, glassy, tar-like mist surrounds them as she walks backwards and undresses with agonizing lethargy. While the victim hastily undresses himself, he is unaware that he’s actually being pulled in by this dark black surface.
The movie starts out with a guy on a motorcycle who brings a body to Isserley that looks almost like her. If she is another alien like Isserley or whether Isserley simply needs her clothes is not clear. What we do know about this motorcycle guy is that he is her minder, of sorts. He keeps an eye, takes care of the victim that Isserley lets escape and finally in that last scene watches Isserley burn.
There are scenes in the movie that have been shot on the streets of Glasgow with hidden cameras. Even some of the men Isserley picks up are actually people who don’t know they’re being filmed. All the scenes shot in her van are filled with a queer feeling, a sensation of an outsider watching the world through the windshield of their car. There is also that fearful notion of a predator watching its prey. The entire movie could be shot in that van and it would still be a visual delight.
When Isserley meets a guy near the ocean, hoping to pick him up, she asks him, “Why here?” and he answers it after a moment as if the knowledge just dawned upon him, “Because it’s nowhere.” Just as soon the man witnesses a girl drowning and her father jump in to rescue her. Without a thought he runs after them. Isserley watches this tragedy with a detachment akin to the one she shows when she picks up an ant from the body the motorcycle guy brings to her. At this point the audience can understand that Isserley is not human and get used to the idea.
Isserley picks up all sorts of men. Unlike the book, there isn’t a particular type or build she’s searching for as a means to her obscure ends. There is a brief scene where we see what is happening to the men once they’re sucked in the black nothingness. We see that the men are suspended in the abyss and the life in them, the muscle and the mass is being sucked out. After which we see bloody red mass, like the mashed up remains of the insides of a person flowing on a factory-like reclined platform. Only if you’ve read the book will you understand what that means. If you haven’t, it simply adds to the weirdness of the movie.
The change in the pace of the movie creeps in when Isserley meets a guy whose face is deformed beyond recognition or probably suffers from a very ugly disease. She picks him up hoping to lure him back to her house but suddenly finds herself seducing him differently than she would any other man. The man here is different and oblivious to her advances. He answers her flirtatious questions in monosyllables and reiterates that he is only looking for a lift to the supermarket. When Isserley asks him if he has friends or a girlfriend, he replies in the negative to both. Isserley finds herself oddly connected to this man, and asks him a simple question while placing his palm against her cheek, “When was the last time you touched someone?”
This is the victim Isserley lets escape after briefly catching a glimpse of herself in a mirror.
What follows is the gradual awareness Isserley develops of herself and her new body. She finds herself reacting differently. The transformation is subtle but so powerful at the same time when a man she meets takes care of her. We see her trying to actually touch another person and explore her own self by doing so. Isserley is frightened, at first. Like any human would be. There is a scene where Isserley is so terrified of her body reacting to this man that she pulls close a lamp shade to explore this powerful space between her legs. It’s funny that some audiences were intending to watch this movie just for the nudity because believe me, this is not the kind that arouses, it will only shock you.
Isserley runs into the woods now feeling thoroughly disoriented and confused at this new understanding of herself. Her face, usually so brim set can now be seen furrowing with worry and fear. Fear of what? I guess none of us can know that for sure. She tries to escape from it and by this point I’ve all but forgotten that Isserley is in fact, an alien. The revelation in that last scene although quite different in portrayal from the book is done in a fascinating and convincing way and only then do you feel you can exhale the sigh you’ve been holding in the entire time during this beautiful nightmare.
Although categorized as sci-fi, the film borders on many more complex themes. What truly transcends the movie is the eerie background score that is almost synonymous to Isserley’s ravish appearance. The galactic, synthesized beats give the aloofness of Isserley and the alien feel of humans on the street the perfect setting. Under The Skin is incredibly disturbing and unforgettable in many regards; a deep insight into what we really are beneath our faces. If there’s anything that binds us all is earthly emotions of pity and compassion. It’s not clear if Isserley got too close to them, or if she wanted to fight it. But the most intriguing part is that whatever the message intended to be will get injected under your skin and once it has insidiously settled there it’s hard to shake it off. In my opinion, those are the kind of movies worth watching more than once.
Let me go ahead and say this right at the start. This movie is as close to perfection as can be. I say it that way, because nothing can ever be truly perfect and perfection in itself is a subjective concept.
I’ll be honest this is why I really do Movie Reviews. When something like this comes along and I know that I can’t keep myself from writing about the movie and channeling my adoration into a blog that I can constantly go back, reread and absorb. That’s the prize in all of this.
Short Term 12 is a quietly compelling and brilliant movie. For some reason these are the near perfect movies that get conveniently forgotten. The unassuming genius of such movies is underrated and soon enough it disappears from most minds. Not mine, though. Short Term 12 stealthily touched my soul and changed me. I said that out loud while typing it and the Imaginary People in my head asked me, “How can a story change you?” But that’s the thing my friends, how can it not.
I’m so afraid that I won’t be able to do justice to this review but my desire to write about it is driving me insane. I’m simply whelmed. I will struggle to convey to you what this movie accomplishes and I will make my strongest attempt to make you understand what it is that Short Term 12 did, that other movies don’t. In between all of this, I will sway to the deep recesses of my mind and implicitly tell you things I fear are too personal.
The movie is set in a group care home (Short Term 12) for troubled adolescents and teenagers that is run by Grace (Brie Larson) and Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). Outside their job, Grace and Mason is a couple that lives together and is nearly indistinguishable from a married couple. They are essentially the ideal definition of a couple that loves each other in the rawest sense and have an understanding and connection far superior than most others. All of their scenes outside the facility have a beauty, a softness that is so genuine and endearing. They are not perfect and that is fine.
The entire movie is glued together by the outstanding performances of the actors and actresses involved. While anyone who has paid attention will easily say that Brie Larson who played the lead character Grace is simply amazing and at complete ease with what she’s doing in any scene. Be it at work where she can only provide a safe environment for kids so eager to self-harm and run away, or be it at home where she faces similar problems and can’t even get out of bed on certain days. At the start of the movie, I was unsure if she was the lead character. She somehow blended in and was not noticeable. But I was so wrong.
Enter Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), the punk teenage girl with dark eye make-up and scars on her wrist concealed by bracelets. While it could’ve been so easy to overdo that kind of a role, so easy to act whiny or try too hard to act natural, Kaitlyn effortlessly aces it.
Among all of this is John Gallagher Jr. who plays Grace’s fiancé Mason. He is the eptiome of nice and warm. He brings to the story a certain humour simply with his on-screen presence. He expresses himself with complete ease and his interactions with Grace are all too endearing. Mason is the Person Grace needs in her work life and love life.
I must make a special mention about Marcus played by Keith Stanfield, an almost-adult at Short Term 12 about to leave the facility soon. He adds to the movie that sullen feel of a destroyed young life that is so hard to retrieve. He singlehandedly executes one of the most twisted scenes in the movie and has tremendous potential with his facial expressions. My only wish was that there should’ve been more of him.
While all the other kids at the facility have problems of their own, they all seem to find some kind of odd kinship at the centre. They know they’re all there because of a certain kind of lacking in their lives. Something that came in the way of them attaining a normal childhood.
Various scenes in the facility showing interactions between the children and Mason and Grace are executed with such precise detail it made me wonder how such life-like scenes were even written. It came as no surprise when I found out that the writer and director Destin Cretton worked at a group care home and his personal experiences depicted in those scenes gives the movie due credibility. I’m sure other documentaries have been made on the subject of abuse, depression, overcoming a failed upbringing and an irresponsive family. I’m sure there have been others that were far more emotional and tear-jerking with hard hitting stories about the cycles of abuse and depictions of ‘what is the worse that could happen?’. Keeping in mind all of these things, it’s so easy to cut this movie short. To say that it merely skims waters that others have deeply immersed themselves in before would be an abomination. Short Term 12 has much more depth if you take a step back after watching it and ponder about it.
Short Term 12, overall, is a dark movie which picks up several issues of troubled childhoods and expands on them right from its core. It digs deeper into the psychological aspects of the characters and pulls out revelatory moments. It is rare to find a story that you can connect with whether you have or have not experienced something along those lines. I like movies that are cinematic and entertaining. I also like indie movies which are very intense and focus on emotions. But a movie such as Short Term 12…I’m unsure how I would categorize it. I would first say it is important and then humble and so incredibly introspective. It’s the kind of movie that puts you in the centre of something and makes you question your moral compass. It tells a story that makes you go back and think about yours and find hope in the face of it all. It made me want to think about certain actions and fundamentals that I so strongly held my ground in. I am reeling from a story that wasn’t about my life but makes me think afresh about mine. And even then some Imaginary People will still think a story cannot change you.
As the Oscar fever inside me is reaching its pitch and I have been literally gobbling down all the nominations, Spike Jonze’s Her made me pause, catch my breath and then want to write about it. While that in itself is truly something, I also felt like simply writing a review about this movie would not be enough. I’m not always very critical in my reviews as it is and you must understand this is more than just a story for me.
Set in the not-so distant future Los Angeles resembling a Shanghai skyline lives a man by the name of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) – a lonely, sombre and soulful man just trying to pull himself together after a breakup with his childhood sweetheart and wife (Rooney Mara). Theodore is a calm and thoughtful man who writes personal letters for people as a part of his job at handwrittenletters.com. At the very start it becomes clear that Theodore is unable to move on. The frequent flashes of Catherine and their happily married life together paint us a picture of how different he used to be when he was with her. Now, Theodore is heartbroken and left to his own devices with divorce papers he hasn’t been able to sign for a few months.
Her has a very futuristic feel to it. Theodore runs all his daily technological chores with the help of his phone’s operating system. Theodore seems to be spending more time with his computer and his OS and we only see him interacting with the couple in his building occasionally on the elevator. So when he comes across a new artificial intelligence operating system that is designed to evolve according to an individual’s intuitive needs and requirements, he gets pulled right in. This step sets off the dominos to the most heartwarming and heart wrenching phase of his life.
The OS offers him a choice between a male or female and he chooses a female who then introduces herself as Samantha (voiced with a sultry, breathy humanity by Scarlett Johansson). Sooner than expected Theodore finds himself awed by Samantha and the way she expresses herself. There is something particularly attractive about the way she can communicate so clearly even though she’s only an OS. She helps Theodore to get out of his rut and experience more things than he ever thought he could. Samantha is also more than just your everyday Siri in the sense that she finds herself evolving everyday in her interactions with Theodore.
This brings me to one of the scenes where Theodore-blissful and elated, is spinning around in circles with his phone in hand, just trying to grasp and absorb all the happiness and exuberance he suddenly finds in his life with Samantha. Although that moment is supposed to depict joy, a certain intimacy that is shared by two lovers in a moment, the scene also paints a picture of loneliness and isolation. For a passerby who does not understand what Theodore must feel with Samantha, he is very likely to be termed crazy. That’s funny, isn’t it?
This is also the part where my movie review drifts into other territories. What might seem crazy to someone might be a perfectly acceptable way of life for someone else. While it is easy to condemn someone’s style of living, why can’t it be easy to actually accept it? We’re in the 21st century now, and I think we have all experienced those long stretches where you sat crouched, staring down at your phone, endlessly waiting for a message from your lover, anything, a validation maybe that would get you through the day.
Let’s take it a step further. When you don’t get to see the person you love as much as you’d like and your relationship feels like it’s entirely based on messages and last seen timestamps. Is that not real then? Would you like to argue how that cannot possibly take away the essence of your love and instead enhance it in a more revitalizing way. What happens when you see someone on a computer screen on Skype or on Instagram more than you do in person, does that somehow make it ‘not real’?
Then why should we be so critical about Samantha and Theodore’s love?
The genius of this film is that there is no technical reasoning about the limits of the OS, its potential or lack of it. That in itself makes you feel that maybe, just maybe Theodore and Samantha are destined to be. You start picturing Samantha’s husky voice over the phone as a long-distance lover on the other end, as human and as real as Theodore. Amidst it all, you still know that she’s an OS and that this is a love without any kind of physical presence or confirmations.
Is that enough?
Which brings me to the part where things in your ‘not so real relationship’ have actually gotten to a point where you have met the person to whom the voice belongs. Learnt how they touch their hair, not just the side of the bed they sleep on but also the way their body curves when they do. You’ve figured that aural sex would probably never equal oral sex, and there is something deeply saddening to be able to settle for the prior after having experienced the two. You return to your life and try to focus on being together whilst you are actually apart and leading your own lives. You call them and text them just like before, but somehow 25 text messages a day do not cut the deal anymore. It’s not enough. You try your hardest to explain that it’s not that you want more of their time but you just need more of the ‘real’ thing. What is the reason for this sudden longing? Why are you being so greedy? You don’t understand but it’s an unnerving worry that doesn’t go away and is difficult to hide when you Skype with them next.
This is something that Theodore and Samantha do not face. They’re not greedy; neither do they have unreasonable expectations from each other. Theodore loves Samantha and he is happy to just have her love him back, really that is all. When Theodore’s wife accuses him of always wanting to be in a relationship without having to face the challenges of actually being in one, Theodore is thoroughly hurt. But what I love is how he has faith, he knows that whether human or not, Samantha understands and it’s futile to ponder over what someone else thinks of them. Just like a normal relationship, they experience highs and lows, bouts of jealousy, passion and desire. Samantha does her very best to make Theodore feel at ease with the complicated relationship they have, Samantha makes it look so easy, that it somehow makes you wish your life could be so convenient.
As we all know in our deepest selves, stories like these will always have a tinge of sadness and soon enough things go sour and Theodore’s fantasy comes undone. It is heartbreaking to watch him disintegrate like that, for the second time. It is undeniably as real a breakup as he had with Catherine. He ultimately turns to his friend living in the adjacent apartment who also seems to have gone through something similar. What they share in that last scene, it is not some kind of glimpse into them getting together in the probable future, they share their pain. They are both intensely aware of their heart being mangled inside out and need some kind of reassurance that they are not insane. It is not a plea for human touch but at the same time, it underlines the fact that reality, tangibility will always be constant in the face of fantasy. Which made me think that maybe happiness, love, vulnerability are more closely linked to a certain kind of spirituality, an introspection, too. Maybe what you think is going to make you happy doesn’t necessarily need to have a physical form or structure. The intricacies of your lover can exist entirely in your head and still satisfy you if you truly trust yourself and what you want. I’m also not saying that will end well.
I suspect many people will see this movie as some sort of satire, a kind of deliberate mocking at our progressively technological lives which culminates in alienation from human touch and emotions. At the same time, the movie expands on the various aspects of social interactions as well and why sometimes disappointments and continuous failed attempts at trying to reach out to another human being could lead to us moving towards something less unpredictably volatile.
The movie does such a beautiful and delicate job at pulling us into the minds of its characters and what defines them. We are so accustomed to watching a love story with a cinematic feel to it, waiting for what will be the next move. Spike Jonze’s Her has stirred a revolution in the kind of care that is exhibited in showcasing human nature and its complexity. There is a scene where Samantha asks Theodore in complete innocence,”How do you share your life with someone?” and this question attempts to be answered throughout the movie. In an age of information overshare and also the convenience with which we can select what to share online and what to conceal, what is it like really sharing your life with another person? In that sense, whether it has a futuristic take or not, whether or not you watch Her 20 years later or even right now, it is in many ways timeless.
I have seen quite a few Pakistani films, and though the culture there is similar to my life, this is the first Iranian film I watched. I largely relied on the subtitles, except for the salaams and the salutations that are normal in everyday Muslim conversation but be rest assured this movie is relatable to anyone from any cultural background.
“A Separation” is an Asghar Farhadi film revolving around a Muslim family in Iran who get caught up in the Iranian justice system over an issue that initially seemed trivial but no sooner got out of control. Crisp direction, tightly held camera work and staged-play kind of feel to the acting are distinct features of this movie. As the very title suggests, the movie commences with the separation of Nader and Simin, the husband and wife over conflicting interests about their adolescent child, Termeh’s future. While both Nader and Simin might not have any grave problems in their relationship with each other, they both desire different things and therefore decide to part ways. What they don’t realize, neither at the beginning nor when things have already gone out of hand much later, that with a little patience and steady thinking they could’ve found reasonable middle ground. But we’ll get to that later, I suppose.
While Simin is a strongly opinionated woman in a headscarf, she believes her daughter, Termeh will not be able to achieve a steady future in this country. Simin wants the family to move abroad so that Termeh can claim a better education right in her formative years. Nader, on the other hand, is a man who is invariably and repeatedly caught in his own turmoil. His father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and is now in need of personal care and attention. Nader and Simin both have their own justifiable reasons for wanting what they want and right at the start you figure out that their own personal interests, too, somehow end up forming a part of what they desire.
Simin: “Does he even know you’re his son?”
Nader: “I know that he is my father.”
The movie commences with the divorced couple trying to get along with their newly separated lives. When Simin packs her bags to leave, Termeh decides to stick with her father. Nader, now left on his own accord is unable to take care of the daily chores along with his absent-minded father’s time-to-time requirements. He employs a house maid, Razieh to look after the work while he is away at work. Little did he know what that decision would lead to.
I’m not sure revealing any more about the story would be fair and would then let me label this review spoiler free. Also, I will tell you that the point of conflict strikes in very early on in the movie. When Nader gets himself into a situation that could affect Termeh’s life, too, Simin intervenes. The movie surrounds five characters, Simin and Nader, Termeh, and the house maid, Razieh and her husband Hojjat. The audience is offered a somewhat brief exposition of every character throughout the movie. Nothing about any of these characters is stereotypical.
Although Hojjat is an extremely short-tempered and aggressive man, quick to make loud accusations you realize that he, too, is facing his own demons in the form of unemployment, the visible horizon of oncoming poverty and a deep resentment towards people who are relatively better off. Razieh, on the other hand, who I loathed very much, is actually one of those extremely devout Muslim women, almost on borderline paranoid. Some of her accusations made me cringe but even then I realized where it’s coming from. When you believe in certain things too strongly, nothing anyone says or does will make little sense. You will always see only what you wish to see. You might even be lying but it will feel like the truth. It’s not even politicians or sociopaths that we need to be scared of, it’s these people who will use religion in their defense and offence.
While every character has depth and reason behind their every action, none of them are entirely right or entirely in the wrong. That is what makes this so difficult. You cannot even decide who to sympathize with, who to hate, who to feel protective about. That last emotion, maybe you can appoint that to Termeh. Little Termeh who is implicitly manipulated among all these moral dilemmas and conflicts. Termeh, is the heart of the film. Her steady, observant eyes behind those glasses are ever so endearing. When she cries, you know Nader would do anything to make it better. Even though he chooses to stay in Iran for his father’s sake, he isn’t in any way overlooking Termeh’s education and upbringing, altogether.
A major plot twist towards the end which you may or may not have seen coming is the crescendo in the movie. Out of the many obscure moments and behaviours, this is a revelation, a clarity. A Separation cannot be called an emotional drama of sorts. The basic design of the storyline is, that there is no fixed storyline. It’s just a sequence of events happening one after the other. The movie does a wonderful job at making you feel déjà vu at several instances. Who hasn’t witnessed their parents fighting as a child and secretly feared what might happen to you if they decided to “Divorce” or when a terminally ill family member embarrasses themselves and you find yourself feeling pity for them, tell me that at the time you didn’t cry yourself to sleep. Numerous such raw, stunning imagery is depicted in this movie and is rather overwhelming.
What left an indelible mark on me more than anything was the way the movie concluded. Anyone who knows me fairly well will know what endings appeal to me the most. A Separation rightly ends the intense, fantastically raw and titular depiction of human nature criticisms in the most ambiguous manner.
Warning: Contains obvious Spoilers.
After waiting for an unimaginably long time, I finally got to watch Drake Doremus’ new masterpiece. My heart is torn apart. And that barely scrapes the tip of the iceberg.
Firstly, I’m unsure if this movie can only be termed as a family drama or a romance gone awry or an unconventional love story which was supposed to beat the odds. You can say it was a delightful combination of them all. Remember when they said Breathe In was the darker cousin of Like Crazy (the Drake Doremus movie that won at The Sundance Film Festival), well that really sums up everything. Breathe In is a whole different world from Like Crazy but one that you’ll soon grow to inhabit and familiarize yourself with as the movie progresses. If you’re obsessive like me and have watched Like Crazy that many times as I have, I suppose nothing can surpass the sheer untraditional beauty and brilliance that movie depicted. But here I am, watching Breathe In over and over and trying to tell myself that it’s okay, maybe something better than Like Crazy has come along. Maybe, it’s time to love this movie, as I did Like Crazy. Can I, in my heart find place for both of them? After all they’re both deeply tragic in their own ways and just my nature of torturous love.
Let’s get you in on the plot first. Felicity Jones plays Sophie, an 18 year old exchange student from UK who moves in with the Reynolds family in the outskirts of Manhattan. What follows next is an emotional upheaval when Sophie delicately crosses lines and comes close to destroying Megan Reynolds’ (Amy Ryan) marriage and household by drawing Keith (Guy Pearce), her husband into a romance unimaginable on so many levels. Although, the lead pair Keith and Sophie put up stellar performances, Mackenzie Davis who plays Lauren, Keith’s 18 year old daughter, rightly plays the true victim to all the turn of events.
Right from the start where this perfectly happy family is getting a photoshoot done in their front lawn, somehow trying to smile for the camera, to the end where they’re doing it again, Breathe In will give you so much to think about what went on in between. The narrative is interspersed with few dialogues and allows the audience to grasp the interactions and relationships by their own will. The steady camera work and natural lighting, the dreamy poise and repeated flashes of their house, the piano, the window where you can see the rain fall, the swings in their lawn will get imprinted on your mind.
What holds this movie together is the stupendous acting skills of Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones even though they don’t have that many dialogues. Why and how they fall in love with each other can be debated at length and there still won’t be a conclusion that would be acceptable to all. Almost all the aspects have been slightly touched in the movie in some scene or the other about what it was that created this attraction between a married man and a teenager. You can say that it was Sophie’s esoteric demeanor that caused Keith to look at her differently. Or his crave for the youthfulness in life, maybe her fierce spontaneity and belief that you should choose to do something and not just do it because you can. Or even that she was a piano prodigy which was beyond anything Keith had seen. His interest in her could’ve also been sparked for sexual reasons like how his friend cheekily points out, but even that will not hold true if you consider that their physical relationship never went beyond a kiss. It was more about how Sophie appeased the part of him that his wife, his daughter actually couldn’t ever acknowledge. How she wanted to make him feel free while his family only held him down. His job as a music teacher, he felt was never something he was carved out for, about which his wife constantly jibed at him. Not knowing that her lack of interest in that area of his life, his music, was ultimately what was ruining everything. I still can’t get over how she asks him one night about Sophie’s music abilities and he lies so easily.
Sophie is a mature and calm girl who knows how she would like to live her life. She isn’t easily swayed which we realize when she goes out with Aaron, a classmate only trying to get her to sleep with him after a drunken night at a club in New York. Sophie knows that Aaron was Lauren’s first and would never try to hurt Lauren like that. However, if you look at this ironically, she is romancing Lauren’s dad and as if that wouldn’t affect Lauren at all. So you see, Sophie and Keith’s relationship was unjustifiable from the start. That they were doomed from the very start never failed to stop them from realizing how much comfort and reassurance they gained from each other’s company. It only pushed them to an affair and a middle of the night decision to elope. Like Sophie termed it, just get in the car and drive and let’s see where it takes us. While all that is extremely alluring and romantically adventurous and you would absolutely love the thrill when they finally escaped from their lives and responsibilities, the movie turns into a nightmare right in the last fifteen minutes. You feel your heartbeat race, hoping against hope that somehow, maybe for some reason the decisions made by each character could be reversed, altered or abandoned altogether. But alas, a family drama it is and it’s absolutely predictable (and not much Spoiler material) that something major happens to give Keith a snap back to reality and the role he’s expected to play in his family. The crescendo music montage in those last few minutes is unforgettable. If that doesn’t feel like your heart being ripped out from your chest, I don’t know what else does.
Breathe In is a compelling and raw movie showing us the vulnerabilities and intricate lives of all three members in the family. Just like how you felt you, the audience was the eavesdropper in Like Crazy, in Breathe In, Felicity Jones is somehow the eavesdropper in this family’s personal matters. On many accounts, she can be termed as the insidious villain and also the grim truth everyone had their eyes shut against. She can be accused of being ungrateful for bringing the warm welcome she received reduced to insecurities and ultimately hate. Or you can pretend to be one of the people in that affair and see how beautiful life can actually be when you’re with the right person, no matter how old they are or what is right by societal norms. When you find a love that shakes the very core of your existence, nothing else can matter much. When you think on those grounds, you can barely term those instances as “cheating” and mind you there is nothing that I could despise more than the act of betraying your partner with the cheap act of cheating on them. Then again, the movie is a plethora of melancholy emotions and untold feelings, lingering gazes and beautifully raw depictions of unrequited love. When there’s so much going on, all you can do is close your eyes and breathe in.
P.S: The music score by Dustin O’Halloran continues to enthrall and give a deep rendition to a fairly simple storyline. Had it not been for that, Breathe In could never be what it is to me now. Though I’m a Felicity Jones fangirl, Guy Pearce clearly was a great match and his brilliant acting continues to please.
You can read my review of Like Crazy, here.
There are very few movies I insist on viewing at a cinema. I’m usually better off watching them at home. The last movie that I saw (based on Steve Jobs’ life) was a disappointment and I didn’t think that would be repeated when I decided to watch Gravity. Well, what do you know.
Warning: This review contains Spoilers.
Let’s start with the basics. Gravity is directed by Alfonso Cuaron and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and is a space mission gone horribly wrong. The plot is actually quite simple and right from the start of the movie your eyes will be glued to the screen. A medical engineer and an astronaut are on a routine space mission which goes awry leaving them stranded and tethered to each other in a black abyss of zero gravity. For someone who has acrophobia, I was actually pretty shaken at the start.
What starts with a simple space mission, results in a wrestle for survival. The movie is like a house of cards, it keeps building and falling apart. The plotline is fairly predictable. You’d know that George Clooney’s character is made so charming and likeable because he’s not going to survive. There’s little background about Sandra Bullock’s life only so it can create a certain kind of rapport with the audience. The ending of the movie is actually so unrealistic that after you move out of the theatre, you tell yourself that is absolutely ridiculous.
That’s all about the negatives.
Let’s all agree on this: the visuals of Gravity are downright brilliant. However, when you are watching a movie related to Space in the year 2013, you’re expecting something more. I’m not sure myself. Not such a big fan of Space, you see. The scenic beauty of Mother Earth will send shivers down your spine. The same person who did the Tree of Life creation of life scene renders absolute beauty to this movie in terms of the celestial phenomena that is taking place. The first person camera view also makes for a beautiful experience leading you to feel as though you’re in Space and actually running out of oxygen. The scientific lingo doesn’t seem to create a disconnect for the layman and is not too dumbed down, either.
I would commend Sandra Bullock for her excellent screen presence throughout the movie. She’s strong, steady and makes the right decisions even though she’s light-headed as she is literally breathing in Carbon Dioxide after a point of time. The steady sound of her breathing stays with you for the most part of the movie. There are certain scenes that are so impressionable. My favourite being when she takes off her spacesuit and curls up in the fetal position while floating in zero gravity. I also loved the scenes where there was so much happening but you couldn’t hear a sound. The silence, you could get used to it.
In my opinion this was a one-time watch unlike Tree of Life. Despite the stunning effects it leaves you feeling a strange sense of discomfort after it’s over. Maybe, survival isn’t everything. Every story doesn’t need to have a happy ending. Also, when the odds staked against someone are so high, chances are they won’t make it. Why show otherwise? Maybe the writers should’ve thought this through: Sometimes ambiguous endings are the ones that express the most.
I recently managed to watch The Bling Ring. I say ‘managed’ as it’s quite a herculean task to be able to watch most of the new foreign movies here because they don’t always release in the theatres. After waiting long enough, I don’t know if the wait was worthwhile or not. I’m yet to come to that conclusion. However, the review couldn’t wait any longer.
The Bling Ring was an article published by Nancy Jo Sales in the Vanity Fair and a recent Sophia Coppola movie. Let’s get this clear, Sophia Coppola is one brilliant director (Virgin Suicides, anyone?) and somehow I had a fixed mindset before I even watched this teen flick. Let’s say, I appreciate all her movies and adore the magic she brews from behind the camera and somehow I’m trying very hard to do so for this movie, too.
The storyline is pretty concise and can be summed up in a few sentences. A group of Californian teenagers obsessed with celebrity fashion and culture go astray and rob several famous celebrity houses with nothing but their access to Google and the darkness of the night. They go shopping in these celebrity closets and lead a meaningless, vapid life filled with too much of everything, be it partying, drugs or huge brand names.
The group is led by Rebecca whose first break-in at Paris Hilton’s with her friend Marc opens for them a whole new world of materialistic things for which they needn’t shed a penny. Later, they’re joined in with Nicki, Chloe and Sam, whose characters are as vain and difficult to like as Becca and Marc. I guess there’s a reason there wasn’t much to any of these characters. We aren’t supposed to like them. They don’t like themselves either.
By googling celebrity addresses and their whereabouts on particular nights, the teens fix a pattern to breaking-in and taking whatever they like. Mostly, on the presumption that the celebs have so much it wouldn’t be missed. Which is in fact, true. They steal jewellery, Rolex watches, expensive clothes and accessories and even carpets and paintings off the wall. Also, none of the heists are caught because the celebrities never noticed their valuables missing. The security camera footage was the first instance of them coming into the light. That doesn’t deter them either as it does not give away much of their identity.
They get caught simply because they’re all imbeciles. Vain and thoroughly stupid to brag about their heists at parties and clubs and all over Facebook. So it’s actually no surprise that they all ultimately get caught. Even Becca who moves to another state and pretends that she had nothing to do with any of it.
What I realized while writing this review is, that the whole vapidity and vacuousness of the movie was exactly the point. These teenagers, even before their breaking-in feats were rather obnoxious and had no semblance of goals in their lives whatsoever. What they most revelled in were their iPhones and their music, their social lives, ‘selfies’ on Facebook and of course their late-night shopping sprees. No one, I repeat, no one talks like that. Exclaiming “Oh my god, I love it!” to every new pair of heels (in the squeakiest tone, ever!).
I guess I do understand if not patronize the allure behind stealing fancy clothes and accessories and getting away with it. The adrenaline, the mere fascination of stepping into another life and have nothing to lose. Very alluring. But how stupid can anyone really be and think that there would be no security to those houses? Just because celebrities like Paris Hilton actually leave their keys under the mat makes me wonder why the hell would I not break-in, too. Are they, to some extent actually saying that they don’t care if any burglars take their stuff away, because they’ll always have more coming. I don’t know, and I don’t wish to find out either.
Marc: I think we just wanted to be part of the lifestyle. The lifestyle that everybody kinda wants.
It does come down to parenting, too. This movie was more about highlighting the involvement American parents have in their kids’ lives these days. When a mother involves Adderall as a regular dosage in her kid’s breakfast and home schools by asking what they have to learn from Angelina Jolie, you’ve got to wonder where the world is going to. From what the movie showed, none of the parents were all that aghast when their teens were arrested. Apart from the initial outrage and shock, they seemed to accept it calmly and be their shoulder in the court when they waited for their verdict. Appalling, rather appalling.
The reality show at the end where Nicki talks about being in the adjacent cell with Lindsay made me laugh so much at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. To think that even after everything and on being arrested Becca still wanted to know what Lindsay had to say to this.
If this movie was made in order to showcase hollow lifestyles and how little some people live for, I guess it does so superbly well. If I bring myself to give it another watch, I’ll be able to form better opinions. But who needs more of such unquenchable materialistic hungers anyway?
This is the first time someone asked me to watch a movie and to write a review on it. It’s quite overwhelming and I took my time with this. I hope I’ve got it right.
First and foremost, this movie is everything that you are NOT expecting it to be. The Tree of Life is a Terrance Malick movie. Period. Anyone who is familiar with his style of direction will not be so taken aback, but I belonged to the not-so-familiar category. I was sent reeling 30 minutes into the movie. I’m hyperventilating now. I need to take a deep breath and try to prepare you what you’re in for.
Here it goes.
For persons who thought that this movie starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken is a routine indie or worse an action-packed drama film. It is not. Do not expect to understand this movie in its entirety, moreso in just one watch. Do not expect to find answers here in this blog, either. I cannot provide them.
The movie starts with a narrative, “There are two ways through life, the way of nature and the way of grace.” Little do you realize how much those words are going to resonate in all the scenes that are to follow. Malick uses intense nature happenings, titillating celestial occurrences combined with the evolution of life, even dinosaurs (right!). The 20 minute music montage at the start, it is pure brilliance. There are no dialogues or commentary just the representation of life through nature and Mother Earth. The imagery is all too powerful to encompass in one watch. My friend and I, both, admitted to have paused the movie several times just to get a grasp of the intensity of the cinematography. There is one scene that keeps repeating over and over in between clips and it could seem like a divine light manifesting as we move further into the movie. It would be fair to say that the music montage chosen is very, very haunting. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so eerie while watching waterfalls and organic molecules, the sun and volcanic eruptions.
If you get past the first 30 minutes of the movie, you’re in for something very beautiful. The movie transcends beyond nature into finer details of an American family and their lives in 1956. The lack of conversation and dialogues is not felt at all. This, the director has made sure with very emotive performances from every actor, especially from the child artists. The film moves back and forth from the eldest son’s point of view. The eldest of three sons who is now caged in a corporate world and battling with the issues from his past. There is also the mention of a tragedy at the very start of the movie. The worst of them all. Death.
The characters of the parents are portrayed as complete opposites. I daresay, I think the opening statement signifies that. The mother, gentle, naïve, always looking out for her kids, beautiful and calm and not over-bearing in the least. That, is the way of ‘grace’. Whereas, the father, played brilliantly by Brad Pitt, epitomizes the way of nature. Lauding, overbearing, he provides but never fails to collect his dues. He wants returned what he has provided, on his very terms.
What I liked most about this out-of-the-way movie, was the way they depicted the three boys growing up. There are some very powerful scenes, one of which I had to re-watch again just now because it felt like deja-vu.
The Tree of Life will only leave you with a myriad of questions. Some of which, you’ll need a very deep analysis to even grasp at all. We are all continuously evolving. Life, is all about evolving. From birth, to adolescence, to adulthood and death. It is amazing and so refreshing that all of human evolution can be roughly narrated in a matter of 2 hours. Watch this movie without any kind of expectations. Feel yourself take to a higher order, maybe. Question everything. Don’t criticize. It’s of no use. Every person who tries to breakdown what this movie is about will have a wildly different interpretation. This, is mine.
“I am very interested and fascinated how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.” – Stephen Chbosky
(I have been procrastinating way too much lately. This review should’ve been written by me long ago. But then again, it’s never too late for anything. Or so I like to believe.)
For people who claim that movies based on novels never match up to the magic written words can create, here is a fair exception. Perks Of Being A Wallflower is an absolute breakthrough. It is as profound, deeply moving and eccentric as the book. I say this with as much conviction as I can. Having read and watched, I would not be able to separate one from the other. I think the primary reason for this is the author of the book Stephen Chbosky is also the director of this wonderful coming-of-age high-school teenage drama.
The movie’s star cast is so fitting. You have Logan Lerman (Charlie) playing an anxious, emotional, lonely and unsure boy with a troubled past and a history of mental illness. There is Emma Watson (Sam) who plays a strong-headed, self-opinionated, affectionate, smart and sassy senior. Ezra Miller (Patrick) stars alongside Emma Watson as her step-brother and all-time companion.
Already, I can feel my pulse quickening. That is the effect this movie had on me. The actors have brilliantly portrayed their characters, so much so that one hour through this movie you feel like you’ve known these people forever. Emma Watson has left Hogwarts and transcended into college, Logan Lerman has no traces of Percy Jackson and what should I say about Ezra Miller… No words that I use will be good enough to compliment his acting abilities. Who would’ve thought he would make such a brilliant Patrick after playing a sociopath in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’.
Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a retro, American high-school indie movie set in the 1990s. Although this is not stated per se in the movie, from the nostalgic, dreamy, soft rock music that the three teenagers base their lives around, any person with functioning hearing ability can figure that out. Much of my 2013 playlist are songs from this movie.
That was a suitable background and now I will delve further. This movie, as the title goes, is about the pros of being a Wallflower. A Wallflower is someone who silently observes and does not like being the centre of attraction or in this case the centre of anything. They could easily pass as a mere painting on the wall without anyone ever bothering to look twice. And I’m sure; we have all been Wallflowers at some point in our lives.
The Wallflower here is Charlie. A young freshman about to start his first year at high school. We get to know more about Charlie from the letters he pens to an anonymous friend. Charlie is an aspiring writer, full of potential, loved dearly by his parents and sister (Nina Dobrev). In any teenager’s life, friends are very important. As adults, many of us will refute that. I am 19 and I already do.
Charlie, having just resurfaced from a tragic instance in his past sets out to make a brand new start to his high school year. Enter Patrick and Sam, and everything suddenly transforms for Charlie. Charlie goes through the highs of having crushes and trying drugs to the extreme lows of watching the person you love, love someone they don’t deserve. It is with Sam that Charlie starts listening to ‘different’ music and explores the facets of unrequited love; it is with Patrick that Charlie learns that it’s about being yourself no matter what anyone labels you as, even if that means only being ‘below average’. It is with Mary Elizabeth that Charlie learns about relationships and sex. It is with Professor Billy that Charlie expands his writing potential. It is with his sister he learns about what it is like to be abused by the one you love, but deep down he already knew that. With his aunt, who is no more; he has constant haunting visions of who she was and what she did to him. But ultimately it is with himself that he realizes what and who he needs to grow as a person and become who he ought to be.
Halfway through the movie, when everyone including the audience is deeply entangled in the plot, I had a sudden pang of fear that Perks would lose its essence, the beautiful build-up would just crash and burn like most clichéd American high-school crushes. But fortunately, it didn’t. There are scenes which are so awfully relatable you will wonder if you just heard the strings in your heart snap.
The ‘90s party sequences, the mesmerizing drives through the Tunnel, Secret Santa, The Living Room Routine, Sam and Charlie’s study sessions, The Rocky Horror Show, Patrick’s nuisances in shop class, and Sam’s laughter are what stays with you till the end of this daze.
Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a movie very close to my heart. This might not have seemed like a review and more of an exemplary praise from someone who is oblivious to noticing any kind of flaws. But that’s what you do to something or someone so close to you, you don’t point out their shortcomings. You embrace them. You fondle them and put them to rest. Perks was very well received from the critics and masses but there were some who claimed it was not convincing. What those people need to do is let down their guard for a mere few hours and watch the movie all over again. I’m sure that would help.
For others who haven’t watched it at least 10 times, here is something to lure you.
Watch this movie and swear that in that moment, we were infinite.
2. I have just finished watching this movie for the 4th time.
3. I wish there was some way I could watch this movie again for the 1st time.
4. I am an emotional sap and sucker for movies which show love in its rawest form.
5. I am also realistic enough to know that there are two types of movies in the romance genre:
i) The movies that leave you dumbfounded at the enormity of how much two people can love each other and somehow always beat the odds in about 127 minutes screen time.
ii) Then the other type of movies which leave you gripping on to your heart and make you mash your teeth together and feel that unrequited love is probably the only love that exists in the real world. Period.
Like Crazy is ‘the other type of movie’.
I stumbled on to this movie in 2012. A year for me which marks a lot of unrequited emotions, long hauling stretches without any semblance of normal, perplexing situations, weird and wonderful people. While watching this movie I could somehow put all of this away. Far away. In some corner of my mind where nothing matters. For an over-thinker that is truly something.
Like Crazy is a 2011 American romantic drama film, shot with an inexpensive DSLR camera. Its budget did not exceed $250,000. The film won the 2011 Sundance Film Festival ‘Grand Jury Prize’. Already I am drifting away to what is not really important.
So anyway, this is the story of Anna and Jacob. This is the story of most young adults. People in love. People in long-distance love. It is the kind of movie which brings up things you have faced in your life or will most definitely in the future. Now that is something every other movie tries to portray. But what sets this film apart is the honesty in this couple which shines outright and blinds you to tears. Felicity Jones plays Anna, a British college student in Los Angeles who falls for an American, Jacob, played by Anton Yelchin. When the term ends for the summer, so does Anna’s student visa. They are well aware that the sensible thing would be for her to go home, and wait just a few months while she gets the cash to come back with the proper documentation. But a few months is a long time when you’re in your early 20s, so Anna and Jacob defy the visa law and with it follows a glorious summer of love and sex. It is a decision that affects the rest of both their lives.
It also leads you to wonder, what would have happened had she not broken the visa limit. But I will get to that later. Not right now, later.
Right from when Anna pours out her feelings to Jacob in a letter filled with the things you can only feel for someone you are crazily crushing on to appearing dignified, by using e.e. cummings and a post-script giving disclaimer that she isn’t a psychopathic nutcase. Anna’s parents bring comic relief and class to scenes that would otherwise be painful. The soundtrack to most scenes where no dialogue is required will leave you enthralled. These are moments that stay with you long after that phase of Anna and Jacob’s life has passed.
The rush of emotions felt by the two will sweep over you and leave you feeling absolutely frustrated and used up in a bittersweet way. The movie made me feel that you can never love someone enough. There’s always some part of you which is waiting to fall more in love with this person; oh and never, NEVER to underestimate this ‘part’.
When Anna is detained and unable to return to Jacob due to her visa issue, it brings an unwanted distance in a lovely 20-something fairy-tale romance. Here is when the movie gets so real, good God! When both of them, get involved in their careers, the missed calls due to time variations, the ache of not knowing what your other half is doing, all this growing like an elephant in the room.
With this starts the on-off relationship. Jacob once mentions that he just doesn’t feel like he is part of Anna’s life but he feels like he’s on vacation. Here is where Anna lets out the cat (or should I say elephant?) out of the bag. She suggests that they should try seeing other people when they are away. Although that upsets Jacob, deep down he knows he has considered it too.
Their relationship circle widens now. They are tangled more than ever in people they don’t love, but cannot leave. This movie is not about finding ‘The One’. If it was, this wouldn’t have happened. It also signifies that after falling in love for the first time, no matter how good or bad it was, you are never the same with anyone. So one night in the respite and lulls of physical and emotional temptations, Anna calls up Jacob and asks him to marry her.
For someone who doesn’t believe in love, that would be absolutely absurd considering they were both involved with other people. But then again, refer to point #4 stated ‘well in advance’.
The movie transcends further into how Anna and Jacob are still the same even after marriage. Here is when I thought about those tiny gifts they had exchanged over their first summer of love. For some reason I even noticed the very subtle changes in their appearances, behaviours, the phones they used. I thought about how much uncertainty they had laid in front of them back in that summer. And yet they got married. Shouldn’t the movie end now? At least that’s what is rationally supposed to happen.
But no, the movie extends further (I was so glad it did!). The movie does not end. It is this part of the movie I absolutely loved. It is not easy to please hopeless romantics and the skeptic pessimists. We will never be able to figure out what happens when Anna steps out of the shower. But we are free to dream about it. To wonder that life is a never-ending love story and all you got to do is live it out.
When you watch this film, you may feel like you’re eavesdropping rather than watching a movie. And I mean that in the best possible sense. Not every director can bring out such performances in actors whose unfamiliar faces we aren’t already in love with. Why was I not surprised when I found out that this movie was filmed without a script?
Only then can such untraditional beauty and rawness be achieved:
“I thought I understood it, that I could grasp it. But I didn’t, not really. Only the smudgeness of it; the pink-slippered, all-containered, semi-precious eagerness of it. I didn’t realize it would sometimes be more than whole, that the wholeness was a rather luxurious idea. Because it’s the halves that halve you in half. I didn’t know, don’t know, about the in-between bits; the gory bits of you, and the gory bits of me.”