The Speech #OscarMagnet3

The King’s Speech doesn’t only reinstate the enormous actor in Colin Firth; to take what he deserved in A Single Man , but finds a truly magnificent film that grows on you and fades when you watch it, just like a shadow.

There is an endearing scene almost nearing the first half of the film , where Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) asks to-be-The King George VI about his childhood and who he was close to. Colin Firth simultaneously provokes empathy and sympathy which humanizes the whole British stoicism that embodies the royal highness. For a dangerous second or two, Firth loses it , you could actually notice him looking into the camera while he narrates about his uptight ,partial nanny. It was that second which makes us care about this royal poor highness. He stutters in his narration reliving his daily viewing when he was a kid; a kid who is/was made fun of ( “B-Bertie”) by his much preferred elder brother, the next heir; the kid who was pinched from behind by his first nanny. After a while Bertie gasps for words , its like as if he has been shut close every time he had tried to open his doors. Later Lionel asks him to sing it and there again you see a lesson for ad-libbing. Firth had rest his case a long time back.

Firth

What a huge profile , I must amaze at his stature . Firth is made by the film as the film is made by Firth. Initial scenes consists of the familial compassion Bertie finds in his charming wife (Queen Elizabeth) and his two beautiful daughters charms his days more than anything , but later circumstances propel his life in unknown directions.

To be safe ,casting Guy Pearce’s(King Edward VIII) buffy jaw was enough to differentiate him from the dear protagonist and later when he makes fun of Bertie, you cringe his presence on screen. Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue is at full command. For what most might think , it is not just a character driven two-hours. The film works well too; and so the nomination. Geoffrey Rush entertains you , listens with you and asks what you wanted to ask that very minute. He is the mediator , an on-screen representative of the virtual audience. The film starts with an elephant of a body that Firth initially belittles so beautifully , grows into a meditative retrospection nearing the half and stands upright as Firth dons his royal attire and is ready to make a man out of himself, by a supportive friend in Lionel and for a nation that dearly needs his voice at a junction where the gates of World War II were about to open (the constitution of the film-to,by,for).

Usually put, it is said that a character portrayed on screen is considered good if its worth the while, an entertaining face. It is great when he /she makes us(the audience) care and Tom Hooper churns the old, familiar and drama-rich British legacy to build a Herculean task among the audience to root for none other than the British Royal Highness. The load is shared throughout by a huge Colin Firth . I mean who says only films about poverty or “ordinary realistic” people can invoke ?

A voice brings a change. The King’s Speech has glorious intent .

#notjustanotherbuddyfilm like how Manohla puts it.

Becca #OscarMagnet2

After watching The Rabbit Hole I couldn’t stop comparing it with the bizarre Antichrist directed by Von Trier. Appalling that he too was trying to convey parental loss of a son.

The reason why Nicole Kidman’s underplayed Becca easily overshadows Aron Eckheart’s Howie in this highly observational parental grief exhibition is because of the kinetic nature of her character. She is the one searching for an outlet, a hole to dump and move on, or that’s what she thought she can do. The film starts with her burying the roots (gardening a herb), then she dumps the clothes of her dead son in the washing machine thinking of making use out of it by donating them to her knocked-up sister. But she eventually finds out there is nothing to overcome but only somethings are meant to live with, as the film reluctantly gives up on Becca’s grit in her futile search.

The various stages of Grief are more intelligently presented here in The Rabbit Hole via a talented Nicole Kidman giving clarity with a border-line Santaolalla type background score.

All though Nina’s painful paranoia might tighten your watch(and looks like more of an obvious nomination and a glorious win) , there is so much to learn about Becca. She is all by herself as she was always but somehow this new loss had made her uneasy. She argues with the invisible law of life .Her lessons in psychology don’t offer practical suggestions/solutions to this pain she is experiencing in her stomach. She realizes they were mere theory. She just can’t quite understand the intangible purpose of those hearings in the group sessions Howie suggests her. Howie might have got an ear to listen to, a person in Gabby to smoke pot with/to connect with , but he faces his daily dose of sorrow too,but as an average man. Not so that the mother feels more, just that Becca searches for more in her edge of total disbelief and dissatisfaction in her present life.

It reminds of a little snippet in this infamous documentary What the Bleep do we know? , where a reference to a rabbit hole theory is made. This seems to be the concept behind the parallel universe comic book that Jason makes across the film in a series of cut-shots. The search for higher questions is measured in how far do we want to go down the Rabbit Hole. The two might not have any relation, still an uncanny reference.

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Becca

A sudden shock loss somehow accompanies a crystal clarity. As though it defines everything that surrounds you and most importantly defines you. This film is clear for its avoiding the amount of confusion it ought to have owed for sentimental liberty of emotions. You can just imagine how Becca’s mother would have grieved her son. The term survived by his/her parents is given meaning by a cental performance by Nicole Kidman. You notice it when she gives up and questions her mom. She gives up to the universality in grief. No more, “My son is different”. No more searching.

When her mom answers with the brick metaphor, do watch Kidman. Not to mention the last scene where Howie plans their immediate future, punctuating every now and then by an inevitable question by Becca, “and then?”. As these might be her winning moments of clarity over the suicidal Nina by a determined Portman.

 

The Sad Clown #OscarMagnet1

In The Fighter,as a scroungy Dicky sits for a documentary interview he has little idea about , the first thing that comes to his mind is to call for his brother’s presence. He thinks he is the future writer of a glorious epilogue for his sad story. It is sad because he is stuck in a moment of signature victory over Sugar Ray Leonard when he steps over his face. He relives it with the help crack cocaine. In the beginning he switches and scatters between his ’78 (July 18th) Ray episode to –“everyone still talks about”-“‘cuz he is my brother”-“we both are very different fighters”. It is an uncanny mesolimbic reward pathway that Christian Bale invokes.

There is the obvious link that is made within minutes into the film of why he is so addicted to his crack house. It is his place where he recreates his memories. It brings back down some of Cobb’s guilt from Inception as Bale slowly floats with his feet ,with closed eyes and a vivid visceral nightmare that oscillates between “Everything is O.K” to “Nothing is going to change”. It transcends a true cinematic nightmare as he steps over his crack-buddy/friend Boo-Boo simultaneously so in his mind’s eye. The next cut is to his reward. A crack-pipe to suck on more heavenly moments. David O. Russell had this knack of implying things ugly just by showing. It rolls back way before in his controversial feature “Spanking the Monkey”, filled with implications.

Dicky

What he later does is to concentrate on a familial bond that recuperates and dies continuously in a mid-family confusion where Micky Ward is stuck. All though everytime Dicky jumps from his crack house he feels it his responsibility somehow. It is his brother, his mother and his Lowell. He walks the talk about the place and his family, obvious isn’t it?

I started a joke, which started the whole world crying, but I didn’t see that the joke was on me, oh no. I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing, oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me.

The Bee Gees song that Dicky pacifies his mother with ,signatures his role to a large extent. When he realizes it is getting late to train his brother notice his ghost face. The same face he puts on while expressing his brother’s “Thu-underous Punch!” When he realizes that his brother and Mickey O Keefe are getting too tired of his irresponsibilities look at his ghost face. He carries the surprise cake bought by his mother/ sisters and gives it to his memory cell-mates. His mouth quivers as he walks as he becomes alive.He is the turning curve in this highly rubbish road of a family that has happened. It took him long enough to see the curve. But there is more to come.

Bale has circumvented all his shortcomings till date(physically) and today with so much visible ease is able in giving a sad clown for everyone to droop into. Both Wahlberg and Bale are still close friends with both of their counterparts. Seems Dicky has his own language “Dickinese” and Bale knows it.

Destination Lost.

Sofia Coppola’s new film is unforgiving and severe in its character isolation however reluctant the camera might seem to be. Its the European way of capturing the American filmdom in one man’s papparazzi filled with sorrow and absolutely no life.

I don’t know where Sofia learnt her ways of narrating , but she truly is one of a kind, but her characterJohnny Marco is definitely not. When asked whether the film was a broad generalisation , she denied it at the same time confessing that she really does know some people close to her who live like the protagonist (Stephen Dorff) in Somewhere.


Johnny Marco seems to be the classic Hollywood star template. Divorced , with a kid shuttling back and forth and living alone in an apartment. His sad boring life includes access to hot women , repeated pole dancing sessions, uninformed parties thrown at his apartment and redundant questions thrown at him which he may or may not choose to answer ,but a broad smile would do it. It is quite obvious that the granfather lessons, like the rich and famous might have everything in life, but when you do have everything there is nothing there to pursue for , and thus there is no life. These lessons are always around the corner in Somewhere, that you might think its just another film. But do wait and watch those extra seconds the camera leaves on its character. There is asea of difference.

As always, Sofia Coppola doesn’t need dialogues. In fact Somewhere might have had no specific writing I can tell. She prods and provocates the audience like Haneke . She stubbornly refuses to care and follow her character but that is because Johnny Marco is lost. The initial scene where a super car is doing laps in what seems to be a race track is a classic narrative. The car seems to enter and depart the screen in a hurry. Celebrities come and go , they don’t really stay. They are showcased and talked about for the common man’s human rush. Everyone would want to be like them.

 

zoom-out.

But Johnny Marco is a fake exhibition. He doesn’t know what his film stands for. He can’t differentiate the women he sleeps with and above all acts cool in front of his daughter’s mother, like there is nothing really that’s bothering him, where in real, he sleeps to unknown semi-naked women dancing in front of him, he sleeps with emptiness filled with cigarette smoke and a bunch of pills he takes along with his scotch on the rocks.

The only scope for Johnny Marco’s life to beg for meaning is his beautiful daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). For what its worth he does seem to care. 11 year Cleo is not the cliche celebrity daughter. She is not the spoilt rich kid who complains and rebels as you might have guessed. She doesn’t lack interest and keeps her time full by cooking recipes, playing Wii games and keeping order in what she needs. She’s been learning figure skating for three years. Sometimes directors include a character just like themselves in their films. Cleo could be Sofia’s side of argument for recognising herself from the famed and the overshadowing Coppola family.

With so many scenes that show the hollow day-to-day of Johnny it might seem a subtle satire that takes place on the screen . But Coppola sympathises in snippets.There are so many audacious Kubrickan zoom-out and zoom in shots in the film effervescing with a confused blend of emotions. But it is the static camera that potrays this lost character in all its reluctancy to live. The initial scene, the scene where he relaxes on the pool, the scenes that follow his car all around the city.

Johnny Marco is going somewhere but he really doesn’t know where.

Living a Choice.

Danny Boyle’s latest can be taken either as a simple survival answer in the heavy chaotic intermittence of life or as a complex rebirth of constant humanism that needs to be found within ourselves surrendering to nature. In both ways Danny succeeds. Aron Ralston found himself at the brink , the fork of choice between life and death. Is everyone capable to face it?

The first 15 minutes of 127 hours opens with such familiarity starting with crowded activity of life in colourful staccato with “Never Hear surf music Again”, taking foreground.

Aron Ralston on April 26 ,2003 plans to venture out his life naked,with no one close to him knowing about it. Its almost as if he cuts himself out of everyone’s life (not returning his mother’s call as an example) to figure out his. The cut shot where his right hand almost couldn’t find the Swiss Army knife was how close he was to make his choice of escaping from The Chosen Boulder easier, not that he wouldn’t have experienced what he was supposed to, if not for a crazy Butterfly Effect theory probing every if-not-and-if-only minded prophets. But Danny calculates his metaphysical eroticism and Ralston, believes he had a premonition.

Initially,the divided screen disjointed creates random mobility and the screen couldn’t have had more space to cover the Canyon. Ralston was completely engulfing his space that he wouldn’t have guessed himself to be stuck with his arm jammed with an unmovable boulder just after he dived into an underground natural water body with a couple of fellow girl mountaineers he just got acquainted with.

Ralston’s comment that many people close to him felt that they saw a lot of him in James Franco in itself is testimony to Franco’s intrinsic performance and there is nothing more to add or subtract. Allthough, his portrayal of Allen Ginsberg  in Howl must have given him a better shot at the Oscars.

Franco as Ralston.

The film’s subject reads to some as a philosophical symbolism that Danny fights to secure in his digital canvas with Dod Mantle’s adundant help. They see it as man’s rebirth within himself in his constant romance with nature fighting for his own physical freedom from the vaginal crevasse made of rock by cutting himself free of the umbilical chord (his arm) part of Mother Nature. It makes the film’s content far too complex, I believe. Who knows if only we are all organisms connected with nature via an invisible umbilical chord. The sheer nature born calamities and her moods we compromise with, humbles us, more than fall in love (a good share of the film we see Ralston humbling to his own human futility to a “naturally”-driven fate). But here is Aron Ralston who still caresses with affection,still mountaineers.

Looking up from such insights, we simply see a man making his choice when the cards are laid out. It is simple in Danny’s way of quantizing things that can’t be quantized. A superficial erotica it has compounded his genre. You witness it when in Rahman’s “If I Rise”, Danny Boyle tries to find comfort in narrating parts he usually would have found difficult to narrate.  His 5 days there gave him an independence to his mind since he was physically locked. His 5 days there allowed him to measure himself. His 5 days there sets the yard scale to showcase  Man’s greed to live, willingness to pursue happiness , compensation , compromise or whatever that makes him come out this place where he is stuck. He begins to see himself in his past , present(imaginative) and a forseeable future. He may have lost his arm but his mind now has witnessed liberation. It has given him an eye to see beyond what is perceived normally. It may be a thirst for survival or mere greed to jubilate his physical pleasures. Who knows? I think Aron does. He was 27, when he knew.

Aron Ralston still mountaineers.

May be if we are between a rock and a hard place, we might.

NOTE-It is a pity that a man came to be known via Oscars and its even more sad that it is Anthony Dod Mantle. It was his groundbreaking digital cinematography achievement in Festen that made him useful in the Dogme fraternity. He constantly works with Lars Von Trier. (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark and Anti-Christ).

Grit.

Coen brothers following generics of the Old-American Western brings out a much different True Grit , than the 1969 classic. It is not experimental , it doesn’t have energetic cinematic styles and it is not Coen. No, please don’t make films with No Country of Old Men type hype and hoopla to attract the Academy, you’re better than that. Definitely.

After watching True Grit all that came to my mind was, atleast  “No Country.. ” had Bardem and Harrelson building the pace up in an unforgettable scene and Brolin was running around somewhere in the background.

Here an insignificant Brolin playing Tom Chaney becomes even more insignificant with lines not more than half a page . If Mattie Ross’s (Hailee Steinfeld) true grit and conviction to avenge her dad’s unnecessary death was thick enough to follow a drunk uncouth Marshall , Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) among the harsh woods and the worst climate , there was not much reason for her grit.

In fact, Chaney seemed harmless and kinda funny to me.

Bridges and Steinfeld

For a man who wrote Intolerable Cruelty, The Big Lebowski , The Hudsucker Proxy and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Ethan Coen is uninteresting and rarely funny in True Grit. Not that a Western needs to be funny. It always seems that a Coen film needs to be. Even so ,if the film were supposedly following the genre strictly it was not done in style nor purpose. True Grit feels more unnecessarily accurate and obviously boring in between, which surprises me (only because I like the Coens).

We see an incorrigible Rueben “Rooster” Cogburn who seems to chew his words along with his cigarette smoke and whiskey. Bridges’s Cogburn is more believable for sure , but not entertaining to be in a Western. He is kinda slow too, except for the last showdown. Matt Damon’s LaBeouf rapports with Rooster for his Texan glory splits you , but then again, the film surprisingly , I say really surprisingly, is paced poorly, that LaBeouf too becomes insignificant.

Damon

The one that puts this film together is Hailee Steinfeld. Yes. This 14 year-old’s Mattie Ross is neither cute nor meek. She is gutsy,knows the law and she strives to abide by it, ridiculously. She is unattractive and seems to be sure of the truth. She says, “I want him (Chaney) to be hanged for his crime of killing my father and not for anything else.” She gives importance for other people’s view of the verdict. Sadly when she is old, she is not married and seems like she doesn’t give a damn of what others think.

So why did the brothers make this after an ill received ,under-appreciated A Serious Man? To get back some of it ? An Academy call?

May be. But True Grit fails to give complete meaning and its quite ordinary.

The Fighter.

For a script that was ignored by both Aronofsky and Scorsese , David O.Russell has shown very well that he too can uplift an audience.

The Fighter is a fat bundle of sentiments and emotions, just like the last scene (the famous Shea Neary win,click here for real-life footage), not only for familial bond that “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) yearned for ,but also for the locational history and more importantly pride to be restored, here in this case Lowell, Massachusetts. The families there seem to have strong ties, whatever/whomever they might be.

Dicky Eklund’s (Christian Bale, again turned down by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt ) welterwieght boxing career had died long before he and his over caring mother , Alice (Melissa Leo), realised it for themselves . His addiction to crack-cocaine was the center subject of the documentary named, High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell , that HBO filmed closely for 18 months. But he seemed to careen himself into a deeper addiction spiral and his mother , who managed Ward initially ,kept lying to herself. There is a scene where Bale sings an old Bee Gees song, ” I started a Joke “, to his mother, do watch out for the lyrics.

Bale and Wahlberg

Charlene (Amy Adams)  the sharp mouthed bar-girl is all about getting Ward into a focus that had him arguably “back on track”. But Micky’s win over Sanchez makes things more complicated, for his family in itself is complicated. A bunch of sisters who crowd the screen with their cigarettes and foul cliches topped by his mother herself, is just about enough for anybody.

But family is family and he knew he always wanted needed his half-brother Dicky’s help. Somewhere someone always seem to be more important to us more than anyone anywhere. I guess thats what is called family. It is not because Bale is more on the screen that this film is overtly praised for his performance, among all critics all around. It is not because Wahlberg wasn’t good, hell no (watch Boogie Nights). It is not because Amy Adams and Melissa Leo weren’t great. In screen,they were equally good. Great , in fact.  But,it is because of his (Bale) impact on screen even when he is not present.

The film is about Micky Ward. But Micky Ward is all about Lowell, his half-brother Dicky and his family and that is what we see. In fact when half the time the camera wanders on the streets occasionally floating in and out of houses filled with thick smoke and strong emotions it doesn’t take too much time for you to realise, “Here is a story that needs to be told”. Micky Ward might be a local boxing legend now ,but it was his crazy half-brother,crack head, Dick Eklund who was there to tell him “This is yours”.

"This is yours"

The final boxing match was a success both to the screen and in real with honest emotions which surprisingly and unsurprisingly didn’t interest both Aronofsky and Scorsese . I guess the only thing that would’ve interested Darren must’ve been the drug quotient in the script and Scorsese , well he already made Raging Bull, so wth can’t blame him. Just wondering, not that David O.Russell didn’t fare well. It is his best till date, undoubtedly. But sadly for him ,it will be remembered for Bale’s Oscar.

Oops did I jinx it for him? I hope not.