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Friday, January 29, 2010

An Education(2009)

Sometimes an education isn't by the book. This is the tagline of "An Education." Set in England in the 1960s, where women were less wary, it revolves around the life of a teenage girl, Jenny. A bright inquisitive girl on her way out of school, inclined to art- literature, music, painting and french films. She belongs to a conservative, "bourgeois" family that is keen on her getting into Oxford.

Her life is routine. She studies, plays the cello and gets bored, oblivious of the fact that she's actually feeling bored. Only after you've done something exciting do you feel that by missing it, you are bored.

In walks David, a middle aged man who gives her a lift on a rainy day and then sends her flowers wishing her luck arousing suspicion. Peter Sarsgaard is suitably slick and edges towards creepy as the middle-aged smooth talker who seduces her by fulfilling her enthusiasm for conversation, cigarettes, literature, French films, jazz, expensive restaurants -- and yes, a connection to a man who understands her, unlike those "teddy boys" who wobble about on their bicycles while trying to get her attention. Once he's finished charming Jenny's parents he slowly begins working his magic on her with the audience feeling its side effects. Just his ornate presence on screen will make you side with him. You'll think "Yeah, he's an older guy. So what? He's still a nice guy."

Carey mulligan knows this girl, Jenny. She probably was Jenny at some point in her life. You get to see Jenny right there on screen. I don't know what I can appreciate of it because it might not actually be acting. Imagine being asked to get on screen and play yourself, would you deserve credit? Had I read the screenplay, the woman whom I would've pictured in mind would've been a lot like Mulligan. Teachers at school warn her that this Mr.Rochester figure is a suave sexual predator ready to pounce on her, but she takes that chance. By making a subtle reference to the influential novel "Jane Eyre" it is hinted that Jenny is fascinated by the idea of dating an older man.

Alfred Molina deserves all the acclaim that he's been getting for his portrayal of Jack, Jenny's father, a Bigot whose social life is limited to Jenny and her mother. He goes out of his way to be cordial to a friendly stranger and ends up giving his daughter's hand to him in marriage. All the trust that he never dared to put in people all his life, he invests in David.

The main thing about the performances is that this cast is a damn good team. Unlike Inglourious basterds, Up in the Air and Precious where we saw the actors slyly intervening for the spotlight, this is a mutual effort. The best part of An Education is its acting synergism. Lone Sherfig probably chose people who loved their roles more than the script. Going by the buzz, a Best Picture and Best Actress nomination is guaranteed, but I can't be sure if it will or should win. One award I really think it deserves more than any other film of the year is the Screen Actors Guild award for an outstanding performance by a cast, an award that will be added by The Academy in the future.

Lone Sherfig has given the film just the right touches. Where this movie is leading you to, isn't the point at all. It is the journey. There might be many paths you could take to get to the destination but Lone Sherfig pushes you in the direction she wants you to and yet you feel at ease. This isn't a compelling film. When I say that, I don't mean it as a flaw. She takes the age-old story of the "young girl, married man leads to disaster" and revitalizes it. The screenplay is well written by Nick Hornby with witty, sarcastic and contemptuous dialogues- a trademark of the brits. The point of the film isn't to judge how naive girls were but how people get sucked into believing that a dream can transform into reality.

A wonderful coming of age film that requires multiple watches to get its entirety, "An Education" is one of the years very best picking up its spot right at the top beside "Up in the Air" and "District 9."

Rating- 10/10

Friday, January 15, 2010


If you're amazed by feats that human beings achieve, you MUST watch Vallavan. Take my word, it will astonish you. Not because it shows you the heights up to which the human intellect can go, but because it opens your eye to the fact that, there exists no bottom.

Self deluded film-maker, T.R Silambarasan believes he is all that is required to make a film. He assumes himself to be the director, the screenwriter and the Lead actor. Only, what he does give birth to is a deformed offspring of a film. This is what happens to you when you take charge of all three primary roles, you fuck yourself and you get fucked.

T.R Silambarasan giving himself the privilege of collecting thrown up pongal.

I am not going to go into the details of the story because even the slightest of information would spoil it. Yes, it is unpredictable. Very unpredictable. Sherlock holmes would agree. So would Sigmund Freud. The degree to which self-indulgence and dementedness can possibly reach, is something that hasn't existed in the world I live in, until now. Seriously, what was he thinking? Was he thinking? As an actor I wouldn't blame him. You do what you have to for that fat paycheck. But then again, you wrote the screenplay and directed the film. Why couldn't he put someone else? The answer is simple, people here are idiots. They want you to do things that they wanted to do but never had the balls to. He knows this. He strips himself of dignity and integrity and acts retarded to expand his fan club and increase his bank balance. You Hack, are you aware that films are a form of art? And guess what, he succeeds with his intentions.

It became a box office hit that ran for 100 days and was later dubbed into telugu. What does this say about Kollywood? It needs more honest directors like M.Sasikumar who directed Subramaniapuram, a film that was expertly directed with artistry, at the same time, preserving its tradition.

You might wonder why I let myself be tortured with this utter crap. I contemplated quite a few times on turning off the television set, but I came to realize that there have been a lot of films this year that I've loved and now I needed to hate. So, human beings, if you feel like 2009 was a showcase for good films, this is just what you need.

Rating- 0/10

Friday, January 8, 2010

Up in the Air(2009)

Jason reitman has an interesting point of view on the corporate world. In "Thank you for smoking", we saw a man who "talked for a living", a man who went around defending the tobacco industry. There's another man who goes from company to company telling people they've been let go of. As if that wasn't enough, he reassures them that it is not a misfortune, but an opportunity to let go of a life they loathe. "Up in the air" tells us the story of that man.

In a period of economic recession, it is only the firing companies that thrive on the losses of other companies. Ryan Bingham works for one of these companies. He calls himself a career termination facilitator. He has a secretary, a boss and a home. But they're not a major part of his life. The majority of his life is spent at hotels, airports and in aeroplanes. There exists no real connection between him and other human beings. A middle-aged bachelor executive closing in on 10 million frequent-flier miles, Ryan has his own protocols which he strictly follows. His philosophy is simple- Life is a backpack. He says "Human beings are the heaviest component of our lives." A heavy backpack will slow us down and "the slower we move the faster we die." He is incomprehensible and you don't know much about how he feels and you aren't supposed to, that is, until two women enter and become an important part of his life.

The performances in the film, every one of them, can be described in one word- Invisible. When the movie starts, thanks to the hype, you sit and watch, waiting for something brilliant to happen. To see some REAL acting. But you don't. As time progresses, you forget all the hype and you just watch it as it is, forgetting that all of this is staged. Clooney was born for the role. He is pitch-perfect in playing a guy who is distant yet magnetic, charming and brims with vitality. Anna Kendrick and Vera farmiga don't have as much screen time but when they are with him on screen, they match his energy.

Jason Reitman has done a great job in holding all the pieces of the puzzle together. He gives prominence to the themes in the film by his use of colour schemes. Only after watching "Up in the Air" did I realise that he had done the same in Juno as well. "Juno" had a mix of bright, bold and rich colours- Red,Orange,and yellow to emphasize on it being a simple,breezy and buoyant comedy. "Up in the Air" is more of white and black since it deals with the corporate world. It shows a clear distinction between things. We know Ryan is lonely. The only thing that makes us feel it is his use of colour schemes. Ryan's house was picked to have the barest of necessities and what colour makes that more obvious than white?

Despite the film being shallow in content, it is deftly executed with an equal blend of drama and clever,sarcastic comedy. An engaging, thought provoking film so perfect for its time, it is destined to become a classic. "Up in the Air" will be welcomed by The Academy with a red carpet and maybe an orange one for Jason Reitman.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

District 9 (2009)

To be honest, I'm not really a fan of Science fiction films. I hated "The Matrix" and "The Terminator" series. In fact, the only reason I chose to watch"District 9" over "An Education" was because it has been a while since I've bashed a film. But to my disappointment, I happen to be in great admiration for the film.

Visual effects artist, Neill Blomkamp got his film education not from watching movies but from watching CNN, BBC, NGC and Discovery channel. He employs a cinema verite style in his directorial debut, District 9. There hasn't been a greater breakthrough in recent years. The last I can remember are "American Beauty" in 1999 and "Amores perros" in 2000. Yes, those were the most memorable debuts. But this one although not as great, will be the most memorable debut because it will make me watch films of the Sci-Fi genre, one that is new to me.

A lot of films have released in the past ten years where the narrative is presented as a documentary pieced together from footage, filmed in real time. District 9, however, is incomparable. It doesn't simply abuse the shaky camera, but combines fast cutting technique so that before you judge and appreciate it in the cinematic sense, you get conned, swallowing everything you see. It really is, "Transformers" for the thinker.

Its initial premise isn't very original. Aliens land on earth. For some reason, they choose Johannesburg, South Africa. They come in a spaceship but this time, they're malnourished, so they're harmless. Only, its human beings who are a danger to them. These human beings intend to send them back but love their weapons. So they're kept here and used as lab rats in medical experiments. All of this monitored by MNU, Multinational United. Enters, Wikus van de Merwe, a worker at MNU. He is ordered to give the aliens an eviction notice. Little does he know, that he's the one being evicted.

The only performance I can recollect from District 9 is that of Sharlto Copley, the lead. You see everything that happens in his life. He delivers what is expected from a simpleton who gets exploited. There is a scene in the film where he sees himself on screen being accused of having sexual intercourse with a prawn. On any other occasion, I would've found it hilarious. But Sharlto Copley's performance made me feel pity.

I don't know why, but I think that Neill Blomkamp and James Cameron both engage in bestiality and haven't had enough. In just one month, I've seen two films in which the main character's relationship is with an alien.

Grazing upon themes such as apartheid and Xenophobia, District 9 is a fresh,original and riveting film with high brow visual effects. A definite contender in the best original screenplay and best picture category but sadly, not in the best director.

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