Oscar weekend has come and gone...Jon Stewart hosted them and we even had a rap act singing a sanitized version of their song. Below I present my take on some of the movies that were in the running..
Munich - Should have been an outright winner. Treading gingerly through a minefield of potential controversies, the real success of Munich is that no one could find anything much to protest about it. It is a story about the young men who become part of the official killing machines of their countries. It also is a look at Europe in its age old role of the theatre of war. Its a gentle attempt to hold a discussion rather than shout slogans or take positions. Probably the director too faced the pain that the main protagonist felt, that of being powerless to ask too many questions.
Capote I remember buying a tattered book off the pavement in Roorkee for 20 rupees called "in cold blood" by Truman Capote. I was 21 yrs old, and rather bored with life. The book starts off as a newspaper report and continues in the same way. Its a non fictional account of the last days in the life of two guys in america, who break into a house, kill the occupants, escape, are caught and executed by the state. I knew right away that I was reading something extraordinary, the dispassionate style, the clinical stating of facts, this was a new style of writing. Truman Capote who cynically hunted the story down, befriended the killers and wrote about them was no ordinary writer and no ordinary man. Having become nothing but a story telling machine while writing this book, he never wrote again and died an alchoholic. This movie tells of the writing of that book. It doesnt have many weak points and the heroine from " the 40 yr old virgin " plays a great part as Harper Lee, who wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird". I wish it had gone into the character of Capote a little more, looked at him from a few other people's viewpoint and given him more importance than the book. Still, its an awesome movie.
Crash This is a slick movie. Very very slick. It starts off with a roll and keeps on rolling through coincidences, chance encounters, stock situations, stereotyped characters and lyrical cinematography. Its beauty lies in the fact that it is almost a parody of itself. The mad iranian immigrant, the working class hispanic, the black yuppie, the white handsome cop, the fresh faced moralistic white kid, the bad black guy and his good black buddy, the scheming politician and his rich bitch etc etc are characters in this film. Still it works at the basic level because it is slick and does its job well. It stops you from thinking and just lets you float through a slick action packed day in LA and makes you love all the stereotypes and accept them as real. Worth a watch if for nothing else, for watching Matt Dillon feel up a pretty young thing in a cocktail dress.
Brokeback Mountain Well what do you expect when you get a Taiwanese guy to direct a movie about cowboys. Can alternatively be titled as " The secret life of the Marlboro Man". The title itself sounds faintly porno-graphic. Frankly I felt "The Birdcage" was more to the mark when showing a homosexual couple. This movie is about emptiness and silences. Its also shows that two guys with really hot wives can get it on with each other. Next expect movies about gay baseball players, marines, gay CEO's and gay policemen. Nicely crafted but with just a one page storyline.
Walk the line Faint traces of "Ray" show up in this movie, redeemed by Reesse Witherspoon and Phoenix making wonderful music together. Its the songs that carry the movie and its the songs that stay with you. The performances are intense. The storyline somehow is predictable but the performances just glow. Its like one big music video and you get your moneys worth. Its a black movie made for the man in black and it paints the canvas black, out of which the spotlight picks out Phoenix and Witherspoon singing their hearts out. Listen to a Johnny Cash song, if you like it, watch the movie.
Syriana This one is cute. It almost manages to tell the emperor that he isnt wearing any clothes. It shows the CIA conducting a targeted assasination of a West Asian political leader, it shows fingernails being plucked out, it shows the corruption of power, it shows how a suicide bomber is born and it shows the disease technically known as oil fever. It doesnt go too deep into these topics because then it would no longer remain a movie of the mainstream. The final image is that of George Clooneys face as he stands there panting, tired, weary trying to stop what he cannot stop. Its a great effort, but it raises too many uncomfortable questions and so its being quietly ignored and hushed up, hoping it will just go away.
Good night and good luck This is a TV movie. Again its understated and makes its point gently. Some characters arent built up properly, and u keep wishing that some more background was provided. Still its a stark simple look at a period in America when the witch hunt was on and all sorts of decent people were bullied because they held different beliefs from the mainstream. I say its a TV movie because it sort of looks like an old movie that you watch on Turner classics. The heavy larger than life characters, the cigarette smoke ( color film can never capture the beauty of smoke like black and white did ) the play of light and shadow ( ditto for light and shadow as for smoke ) and the footage of Senator McCarthy all give it a flavor that is unique. George Clooney hovers around doing his bit and the film never loses focus and stays on message. A job well done.
Memoirs of a Geisha Watch it with the sound off. To appreciate japanese art and aesthetics, all you need to do it let this movie play on a wall in the living room like a moving painting. The accented english spoken by the characters is funny, ridiculous and rather stereotyped. Would have been happier to watch it in subtitles.
The story doesnt inspire, the plot is non existent and its rather like a geisha performance, a thing of beauty and grace, but ultimately hard nosed and commercial.
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