Wednesday, January 26, 2011

127 Hours review: Filming the impossible!

A high altitude hello, frEek fellows!!

British wonder-director was ushered into the collective psyche of Indian cinegoers through "Slumdog Millionaire", Slumdog's global success resulted in Boyle taking on a film which he had been planning for over four years; based on the book "Between a rock and a hard place" by mountaineer Aaron Ralston. The resulting movie was of course, 127 hours.

What it is: 127 Hours recounts the life of adrenaline junkie and free-spirit Aaron Ralston (played by James Franco), who while traversing the canyons in Robber's Roost - Utah, falls into a deep crevice, resulting in his hand getting lodged underneath a boulder. What follows, is a gut wrenching tale of courage, as Ralston desperately tries to dislodge his hand from the boulder; resulting in him spending the titular 127 hours in a mountain crevice! With dwindling food supplies and very little water, Ralston is forced to take the horrendous decision to amputate his lodged arm; things take a turn for the worse when he realises that the pocket knife tool he has carried with with him, is not sharp enough to cut through his arm!

What Works: Danny Boyle described his screenplay as an "action film that goes nowhere". Truly,the plot faces several disadvantages in that it focuses for the most part on one character, and that too stuck in one location; even so, Boyle lets his creative genius shine in this impossible film. At the very onset, we are made to understand Ralston's free-spirit and his willingness to be with nature, as the story progresses on to where Ralston is trapped; Boyle uses innovative cuts to give the viewers a glimpse of Ralston's imagination. This movie, marks the global heralding of actor James Franco who dials in a brilliant performance as the free-spirited Ralston; In a performance where the camera solely focuses on his face, for a major part of the film; Franco brings an easygoing charm, that never lets go of the viewer's attention. Truly, an Oscar worthy performance!

What Doesn't: 127 Hours, is a film that lacks Slumdog's larger-than-life canvas; even though it far vividly portrays the triumph of the human spirit. There have been known cases of audience fainting during the "arm-amputation" sequence - hence if you are the queasy type, be advised!!

Verdict: Film Critic extraordinaire Roger Ebert called 127 hours, "an exercise in impossibility" and I cannot think of a better term to describe this movie, that despite it's constraints, manages to herald the triumph of the human spirit, and in so doing, never once lets go of its vice grip on the viewer's emotions!

A Full Five FreEkies - A modern masterpiece!

Chutney on the side: A.R. Rahman provides a melodious score, but his duet with Dido; tries hard to do an "Enya" from Lord of the Rings but fails!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

DHOBI GHAT review: Half - Slice of life cinema

A lazy weekend hello, frEek fellows!

Slice-of-life-cinema, in bollywood has tilted from the extremely schmaltzy genre such as "Life in a Metro" to the gut-wrenching such as "Mumbai Meri Jaan". Kiran "Mrs. Aamir" Rao's directorial debut, "Dhobi Ghaat" promises to be a slice-of-Mumbai-life film like no other. Does it deliver, or does it end up getting "washed up" (Dhobi...washed? get it?). Read on to find out:

Woh Dekh...Critics Award!!

What it is: Dhobi Ghaat, apollogetically publicised as the "the movie without an interval" tells the tale of a reclusive, divorced painter; Arun (Aamir Khan), a slum-teen; Munna (Prateik Babbar) who makes a living doing odd jobs from a Dhobi during the day, to a rat-catcher at night, and an NRI expat; Shai (Monica Dogra) who is on sabbatical in India. In very subtle strokes of circumstance, these characters from differing aspects of life are thrown together. Thrown together in this mix, is the video footage of Yasmin Noor (Kirti Malhotra); which Arun accidentally discovers and becomes intrigued with.

What works: Steering away from the above mentioned cliches, Dhobi Ghaat uses that long lost art of subtlety in telling its tale; Aamir Khan, known for his larger than life portrayals (Lagaan, Mangal Pandey, Ghajini) is refreshing in the role of the reclusive, temperamental artist. Monica Dogra displays earnestness, but the undisputed scene-stealer is Prateik; in his role as the odd-job Munna who lives in a shanty near the railway tracks, but earnestly harbours dreams of being a movie star.

What Doesn't: No Munni, No Sheila, No Interval: NO WAY!!

Rang De Basanti!!

Verdict: Shahrukh Khan in Om Shanti Om delivers a line which goes "Kahani ke end tak sab kuch theek ho jataa hai." Audiences in Bollywood are habituated to seeing a logical (mostly happy) end to their characters. Dhobi Ghaat steers away from this and other from melodramatic cliches, does a brilliant job in character study; while standard Bollywood characters are painted in borad strokes of black or white; Dhobi Ghaat allows each of its characters to display a wide range of emotions - and this is probably its greatest success.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

BLACK SWAN - movie review!!

A lazy weekend hello, frEek fellows!!!

While 2010 wasn't a great year for cinema, with many hyped up biggies both in Bollywood (Tees Maar Khan) and Hollywood (TRON: LEGACY) failing to live upto expectations. There was momentary respite through brilliant films such as PEEPLI LIVE and INCEPTION. Closing out the year came the much hyped Darren Aronofsky's "BLACK SWAN"

What it is: As previously covered by yours truly, BLACK SWAN is Aronofsky's (Requiem for a Dream, the Wrestler and the Fountain) darkly told tale of a ballerina played by Natalie Portman, who egged on by her overbearing mother played by Barbara Hershey vies for the lead role in a new ballet production, by the leading ballet producer portrayed by Vincent Cassel, coping with her mother's ambitions, the director's sexual advances and the threat of another ballerina (Mila Kunis) usurping her role, Portman's character slowly slips into delirium and starts seeing terrifying visions..or is it all true??

What Works: Aronofsky who arrived on the global cinema circuit through the eery, claustrophobic "requiem for a dream" and inched closer to Oscar Glory last year when "the wrestler" got nominated, uses his trademark, mindf*ck style with claustrophobic camera angles, eery lighting, and did-i-just-see-that shots; and makes it all work! Black Swan plummets into the ardurous lifestyle of a Ballerina as we see Portman suffer broken toes, sleepless nights and anorexia to put up with her schedule. Barbara Hershey as her overbearing mother reinvents creepiness, and will make kids lock their doors from their mothers for a long time! Mila Kunis playing a sexually adventurous ballerina, sizzles with the right amount of oomph on screen and Vincent Cassel, thrives in his role as a lecherous ballet producer.

Me Fair....You Lovely??

What Doesn't: Aronofsky's cinema thrives on putting its protagonists in situation where their psyche is tried, tested and ripped apart. To this effect, he has often used the above mentioned camera angles and brooding lighting; and for someone who has followed his other movies, this comes across as a tad repetitive. But really, I am just nitpicking here.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall..

Verdict: The Black Swan was a great way to cap off the cinematic year, and we may well see Portman, up on stage, come award time!

Four FrEekies!

Chutney on the side: Aronofsky, first intended to have the Wrestler as a love story between a wrestler and a ballerina, however as that was considered too complex a plot, the Ballet story was hived off into..Black Swan


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