Next Actor Studios

Movie Review of the month

 

A MOST WANTED MAN

















'A MOST WANTED MAN' (2014)
Directed by Anton Corbijn


Anton Corbijn (The American) made his name as a still photographer before his debut feature film Control, a biopic on the Manchester rock icon Ian Curtis, rocked the festival circuit in 2007 with its stunning black and white photography, stylized story-telling and good acting.

A Most Wanted Man, his third directorial venture, will no doubt win him new admirers.

A very well-made movie, intricate as clockwork and acted with relish by the ever-watchable and amazing Philip Seymour Hoffman alongside Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe, Rachel McAdams. The movie is amazingly shot on Ari Alexa by Benoît Delhomme, capturing the German city Hamburg with an immaculate urgency.

Based on John le Carré's novel, A Most Wanted Man, just like its predecessor Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy, is a contemporary, cerebral tale of intrigue, love, rivalry, and politics that packed with tension right through to its last heart-stopping moment.  

Sadly, this is one of the final films of Philip Seymour Hoffman where he plays an overweight Gunther, a spymaster with a soft heart and failed Beirut mission, on trail of the masterminds of 9/11 terror attacks. He dominates the role, and carries it as efficiently as he has always done in every movie, suddenly making us realize that we will no longer enjoy the privilege of watching his craft.
 

 

RIDE WITH THE DEVIL

 

REWIND
'Ride with the Devil' (1999)
Directed by Ang Lee

A complex and divisive time in American history is painted in admirably expressive shades of gray in Ride With the Devil. Impressing once again with the diversity of his choices of subject matter and milieu, director Ang Lee has made a brutal but sensitively observed film about the fringes of the Civil War, about the families and neighbors who were divided among themselves along the Missouri-Kansas border. 

 

Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich and Jeffrey Wright capably handle the principal parts with extraordinary depth and power. Frederick Elmes' widescreen images have a sweeping, sometimes desolate beauty, and Mark Friedberg's production design and Marit Allen's costumes help create a good impression of a newly settled but quickly changing environment.

Ride With the Devilthough did not find an audience in its release in 2000 but the film passed the test of time and went on to become an American Classic.

 

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
 

In 1985, a homophobic Texan with AIDS becomes an unlikely hero for the gay community. 

 

Matthew McConaughey's performance is mind blowing and one of the best of the year. McConaughey's quest to establish himself as one of the finest, most committed actors of his generation continues with a bang in this film.

 

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from a script by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club isn't exactly a feel-good movie, the AIDS epidemic was not a happy-ending story. But it was certainly a test of the human spirit. Ron Woodroof passed that test. 

 

The film marked Jared Leto's return to acting after 4 years. Matthew McConaughey lost 50 pounds in assuming his role as an AIDS patient. 

 

Leto's and McConaughey's work will initially be remembered for their physical transformations. But it's the work they do inside these broken bodies that is the true strength. 

MUD


Expect the unexpected.  Matthew McConaughey's great stint continues in the feature film Mud. Perhaps his best role to date that doesn't focus on his pecs and biceps, Mud is a taut drama that unfolds at its own pace, giving its lead actor a stellar platform to showcase his talent. 

 

In 2007, Jeff Nichols made Shotgun Stories, a down-home story of a rage-blinded feud. He followed that up four years later with Take Shelter, a gloriously disturbing story about a hastening apocalypse.

 

The story — which clearly has more than a passing acquaintance with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — has two boys, Ellis and Neckbone, making friends with a fugitive. 

 

An authentic Arkansas setting, a flawless cast and a keen eye for characters and relationships and absolutely brilliant cinematography by Adam Stone make this film an instant classic. 

 

This is a real movie that stays with you. A wonderful break from car chases and explosions.

SIDE EFFECTS


Side Effects is another thriller in classic style. Channing Tatum plays an insider trader who emerges from prison to find that his wife, played by Rooney Mara, is seemingly plagued by depression. He finds a doctor (Jude Law) who prescribes a succession of different drugs, one of which affects her behaviour in unpredictable and profound ways.

 

It was fun, Soderbergh stresses, all the more so because he was savouring his last days on a film set. As a Director of photography this is the best looking film he shot. Soderberg will be missed.

 

Since 2011, he's cranked out five flicks, including "Side Effects," which came out last month, and a Liberace biopic for HBO, "Beyond the Candelabra." When the latter airs sometime later this year, that will be it, according to the director. He's either retiring from big-budget movie making or he's taking a long extended break.

 

Click here to read the interview of Soderberg that appeared in the February 4, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.

ZERO DARK THIRTY


I am outraged at Kathryn Bigelow's exclusion from the Best Director Oscar nominations for Zero Dark Thirty. This is a complete travesty. I'm also upset that Ben Affleck wasn't nominated for Argo, but that's another review. Zero Dark Thirty, the title referring to the dark of night and the moment, 12:30 a.m., when the Navy SEALs first stepped onto Osama Bin Laden's compound, is one of the most masterful espionage films ever conceived.

 

With a brilliant original screenplay by Mark Boal, who also wrote The Hurt Locker, and an outstanding ensemble cast of Jessica Chastain, Edgar Ramirez, Jason Clarke, Mark Strong, James Gandolfini, Jennifer Ehle etc, Bigelow unflinchingly depicts the so-called enhanced interrogation of a naked detainee in one of the C.I.A.’s black sites—detention centers located outside the legal jurisdiction of the United States. What follows is a fact-based compilation of Geneva Convention violations, including waterboarding and sexual humiliation.

 

According to Bigelow and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Mark Boal, you can’t take torture out of the equation even though, for the rest of the movie, old-fashion detective work leads investigators to Bin Laden. Whether the C.I.A. would have received the information without coercive tactics is left completely unaddressed, yet the film hardly advocates for torture.

 

Senators, from both parties, have criticized the film for overemphasizing the use of torture, but it’s a bit of a stretch, as they state in a letter to Sony Pictures, to assume that the movie is “misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location” of Bin Laden. According to Senator Dianne Feinstein, torture did not play a significant role in finding him, based on a recently released 6,000-page study by the Senate Intelligence Committee of the C.I.A. detention and interrogation program. The merit of Senator Feinstein’s rebuke lies in the definition of “significant.” Yet the depictions of torture in the film are not off-base. In a December 21st letter to C.I.A. employees, the acting director of the organization, Michael Morell, states that “Some [intelligence related to Bin Laden’s location] came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques, but there were many other sources as well.” He has gone on record criticizing the film for exaggerating the role of coercive interrogations in producing valuable information: “Multiple streams of intelligence led C.I.A. analysts to conclude that Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad.” Additionally, George W. Bush’s C.I.A. chief, Michael V. Hayden, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that instrumental in the hunt for the Al Qaeda leader “was information provided by three C.I.A. detainees, all of whom had been subjected to some form of enhanced interrogation.”

 

Jessica Chastain is a lock for Best Actress, her performance as CIA undercover Maya is that astounding. The movie is brilliantly shot by Greig Fraser and superbly edited by William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor. However, no one can come away from the film feeling triumphant or celebratory, though Maya achieves her goal (no spoiler alert is necessary, I hope). The mood is melancholic and reflective in the subdued last shot, a close-up of Maya, with tears of relief streaming down her cheeks.

 

Bigelow has delivered a film that is, at best, much more nuanced than the norm, especially for a major studio release, allowing viewers to think for themselves. ZDT is an instant American classic

LINCOLN


In the new movie from Steven Spielberg, Lincoln, we join the sixteenth President (Daniel Day-Lewis) in early 1865, as he seeks to wrestle the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution through the House of Representatives. Spielberg's Lincoln reaches out to the people he leads but remain seeming lost in himself.

Lincoln, written by Tony Kushner, directed by Steven Spielberg, and derived in part from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, is a vivid look into Lincoln's personal life - his relationship with his wife, kids and other member of his party, along with his own personal interaction with people, giving us an in-depth look into the mind of one of the greatest figures of history.

 

With running time of two and a half hours, Lincoln prepares you for an epic. Yet the film is a chamber piece, with Spielberg going into lockdown mode even more thoroughly than he did in The Terminal. Wonderfully crafted with words of Tony Kushner and the visual style of Janusz Kaminski, and under the leadership of Steven Spielberg, its safe to say the whole team delivered a classic. 

 

Day-Lewis looks so much like the photographs of Abraham Lincoln that you don't have to squint, even a bit, to buy that it's him. He nails Lincoln totally. A monumental achievement in screen acting, Day-Lewis' performance has a beautiful gravitas, yet there's nothing too severe about it.

 

The movie is grand. As the congressional fight rages on, Lincoln orchestrates it all. He seduces, cajoles, begs, and tyrannizes. He offers patronage jobs — bribes — to the Democratic congressmen who support slavery. He courts but also tramps down the influence of Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), the abolitionist who's so possessed by the cause that he might alienate any congressman on the fence. And through it all, Lincoln must delay the war's end — without breaking the people's faith. The Lincoln we see here is that rare movie creature, a heroic thinker. He has the serpentine intellect of a master lawyer, infused with a poet's passion.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK


After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife Nikki. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a widow with problems of her own.

Writer-Director David O. Russell's new endeavor "Silver Linings Playbook",  adapted from the novel by Matthew Quick, goes back to the working class community of Philadelphia and shows his ability to tackle strange and melancholic situations with a great sense of humor, which is often hard to do. His characters look real on screen, just like those that we saw in "Fighter" and he does it again here with the characters portrayed by Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz and others.

A nod in the adapted screenplay category is definitely expected at major awards ceremonies of 2013 for David O. Russell.

Robert De Niro shines again this year after his exceptional performance in "Being Flynn." Bradley Cooper reinvents himself as an actor in a very challenging role, with subtle and brilliant choices.

Overall, a masterfully crafted family drama that celebrates life and keeps you engaged for the entire time and as you leave the theater, you have something to cherish and take back home with you.

 

ARGO


The new Ben Affleck film, Argo, begins in November, 1979, with the storming of the American Embassy in Tehran. A crowd breaks into the compound, taking more than fifty Americans hostage. Six escape through the back of the building and take refuge in the residence of the Canadian Ambassador. How can they be brought home? ''Exfiltrated''? Various plans have been discussed, the most credible being that the hostages could make it to the border, hundreds of miles away, on bikes. But, C.I.A  Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) has an even better idea: how about making a movie?

Every shot, every frame of Argo looks authentic. Affleck films Argo with the confidence of a maestro at the top of his game. Who knew one day Affleck will be one of the greatest Directors/Actors of his generation.

Nearly every speaking role is magnificently acted with the likes of Philip Baker Hall, Bob Gunton, Michael Parks, Kyle Chandler, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and more. This is easily the best cast of 2012 and they all brought out there A game.

Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography is definitely one of his best along with Biutiful, State of Play, Amores Perros etc. The shots take you to the mid 70's. Great work by Editor William Goldenberg and once again great background score by Alexandre Desplat.

First time getting out of Boston (Gone baby gone, The Town) into a global political, period setting, Ben Affleck doesn't  just direct Argo, he directs the hell out of it. Is he the next  Clint Eastwood of America?

 

THE MASTER


A Naval veteran arrives home from war, unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a troubled and troubling drifter who becomes the right-hand man of Lancaster Dodd (actor extraordinaire Philip Seymour Hoffman), "the master" of a cult named 'The Cause' in post-WWII America. Their strange, ambiguous relationship is the center of the film. The Master is a thought-provoking indictment of cult fanaticism and lies sold as religion, which has caused controversy and concern among Scientologists even before its release.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson has never made a Hollywood pot boiler and this one is no different. Films like Boogie Nights (1997), 
Magnolia (1999), Punch Drunk Love (2002),and There Will Be Blood (2007) are all films about character study and this one is no different.

Joaquin Phoenix gives the finest acting performance of the year so far. Philip Seymour Hoffman adds another feather in his cap.

PTA's work is fiercely original and captivating. Anderson and Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. decided to shoot on 65mm giving the film a unique look. Mihai is a cinematographer to watch out - he has the talent to be one of the greats like Gordon Willis, Harris Savidies, Conrad Hall etc.

It's hard to really explain what makes The Master work even though it lacks many traditional narrative elements that provide most other films with powerful drama, closure and immediate gratification. It's a very subjective experience, and I'm sure many viewers will have difficulty immersing themselves in the film without the typical sense of narrative progression and character goals. For this reason, The Master is probably Anderson's least accessible film. That said, I think it is a testament to Anderson's enormous intellect and directorial abilities that he managed to capture the attentions and fascination of so many viewers and critics. He certainly won me over.

Although I had more visceral and immediately satisfying reactions to Anderson's previous films, I find that The Master lingers on long after the lights went up in the theater. The film's intellectual ambitions, along with its very unique, eerie tone, will keep me mulling over the experience for days to come. Already I feel the urge to re-visit it and attempt to uncover more of the film's secrets. And that right there is a telltale sign of an instant classic film in the making.

 

BEING FLYNN


Jonathan has a son he hasn’t seen in years: Nick (Paul Dano), a tremulous would-be writer still reeling from the recent death of his mother (Julianne Moore). Being Flynn is based on the real Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir, Another [expletive] Night in Suck City, which detailed his experiences volunteering at Boston’s Pine Street Inn at the same time his father landed at that storied homeless shelter. The movie relocates the action to New York - can you see De Niro driving a taxi anywhere else? - but that isn’t the reason it plays out at a fatal remove.

Directed by Paul Weitz, who has bootstrapped his way up from the American Pie comedies to About a Boy and, um, Little Fockers, Being Flynn is earnest to a fault, and it offers the now-rare sight of De Niro giving an actual performance. Jonathan is mouthy, aggressive, paranoid, and he becomes more so as he slides further between the cracks of society. The actor doesn’t pretty up his character in the least, and you’re thankful for the honesty - for the angry funk that comes streaming off Jonathan in waves.

It takes a strong leading man and a strong director to counterbalance a performance like this, and Being Flynn has neither. In supporting parts, as in Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood, Dano can seem wonderfully woeful, but he may be too reactive for lead roles. This is another one of those coming-of-age stories in which the hero doesn’t snap into focus until the final scenes, and by then the audience may have given up. Dano’s Nick spirals into drink and drugs, mistreats his occasional girlfriend (a very good Olivia Thirlby), and agonizes over helping a father who won’t ask for help. He’s finding himself, but he never convinces us why we should stick around until he does.

The movie’s much better at sketching in the bustling life of a shelter - the many mundane tasks involved in keeping the destitute alive for one more night. Native American actor Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans) gets some nice, terse moments as the shelter director - a former tenant - and there are too-brief glimpses of Lili Taylor (Nick Flynn’s real-life wife), Victor Rasuk, and Eddie Rouse as fellow volunteers. Being Flynn is frank about the grinding dehumanization of being homeless and about the psychological toll of caring for the fallen. But it has trouble carrying that urgency over to its hero’s personal struggle.

The British pop singer known as Badly Drawn Boy chips in a ruminative score similar to the one he composed for Weitz’s About a Boy . Mostly, though, Being Flynn is memorable for the sight of a once-great actor rousing himself to a performance the movie itself isn’t prepared to handle.

 

SAVAGES


Savages, a solid thriller about the cross-border drug trade, is Oliver Stone’s latest entry following his apolitical  9/11 heroism World Trade Center (2006), his semi-satire W. (2008), and his corporate-shark sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010). Leaving  aside  the catastrophic Alexander (2004), Savages is the best of them so far - mainly because it feels so fully realized that it becomes the most stylized work of Stone since JFK.

Savages is not a great film, but it has got many great moments in.

The cinematography by Dan Mindel is colorful and grainy and a mix of handheld and steady shots often intercutting with black and white shots. Stone has been able to capture a world of materialism and narcissism with this movie. Every character is a savage, every character is  trying to survive in a cruel, unattractive and confusing world.

The film is nowhere near Stone's amazing JFK, Nixon, Wall Street, Natural Born Killer or Salvador but way better than the films he made in the last decade. Its a refreshing change to see an Oliver Stone film with an edge after a very long time.

 

OSLO, AUGUST 31


This is a story of a 34-year old recovering drug addict, emotionally scarred and unable to move on with his life leaving behind his past. The story deals with a day in the life of Anders, who takes a brief leave from his treatment center to interview for a job and catch up with old friends in Oslo. With all his old friends now married with children and successful careers, he feels completely useless and empty. It’s a marvelously constructed personal journey, both melancholic and gut-wrenching.

This is Norwegian screenwriter and director Joachim Trier's second feature film and is a loose adaptation of French writer Pierre Drieu La Rochelle's novel Le Feu Follet from 1931 which French director, screenwriter and producer Louis Malle (1932-1995) honored with his masterful adaptation The Fire Within (1963).

Joachim Trier is one of the most promising young director to watch in today's world cinema. Norwegian actor, musician and medical doctor
Anders Danielsen Lie is remarkably brilliant in the movie, making his character Anders come to life and soon making us forget the thin line between the actor and the character. Oslo, August 31 is a movie that will stay with you for days and weeks after you have watched it.

 

LETTERS NEVER SENT


Mikhail Kalatozov's breathtaking 1959 drama tells the story of four geologists who are searching for diamonds in the wilderness of Siberia. One of the lesser-known filmmakers in Soviet cinema, Mikhail Kalatozov is best known for 1964's I Am Cuba, though cinephiles will also recognize Salt for Svanetia and, thanks to the Criterion Collection's efforts, his elegant drama of war and remembrance, The Cranes Are Flying.

Kalatozov's direction is readily identifiable by his visual style. The story is just a starting point for the film. What shines and carries the film from scene to scene is the cinematography. I didn't expect to see hand-held camera work in a 1959 Russian film, let alone the kind of impossibly-filmed shot that appears early in the film. Later, there is a sequence that makes me wonder how they created the opportunity to film in such conditions.

Frequently collaborating with the brilliant cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky, Kalatozov created deep, exuberant, stylistic body of work . One of the best man vs nature drama I have ever seen, Letter Never Sent is my favorite Russian film of all time.

 

DRIVE


Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, the man responsible for the critically acclaimed Pusher trilogy, demonstrates an awe-inspiring grasp of cinematic craft and history. It’s no coincidence that the film is set in the movie capital of the work, which cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel does a stunning job of captureing sun soaked days and its glassy, neon nights. The film pays homage to motion picture styles and genres such as Scandinavian avant-garde movement, 40s noir films, 90s crime thrillers and of course, 70s car movies. The violence comes in short but sudden and extremely graphic bursts that rattle the sense and prove that gore is most confronting when it’s used sparingly.

The visual style is also influenced by Hong Kong based director Wang Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love - especially some of the slow motion shots. Coolly played by Ryan Gosling, the driver is a monosyllabic loner with a monotone voice, a toothpick in his mouth, and a fondness for a silver racing jacket with a giant yellow scorpion on the back. By day he works in a garage on Reseda Boulevard run by hard luck Shannon (Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston) and does stunt driving for the movies. Once the sun goes down, he drives getaway cars for criminal types.

Nicolas Winding Refn won the best director award at Cannes, and it's easy to see why this tale of an emotionless wheelman (Ryan Gosling) who lives to drive and makes a rare stab at human connection with a fetching neighbor took the prize.

 

J. Edgar



Leonardo DiCaprio plays J. Edgar Hoover in a new biopic that explores the complicated life of the controversial man who was the FBI's first director.

J. Edgar is yet another movingly elegiac, brilliantly acted effort from director Clint Eastwood and is probably going to land Leonardo DiCaprio his first Academy Award for Best Actor.

We always hear a lot of talks about the physical rigors of playing a certain part - months of training, hours in the makeup chair, etc. - all done for the love of the role.

Leonardo DiCaprio kicked that up a notch. He endured "five, six or seven hours daily for two weeks" of having old-age prosthetics applied. He also took a 90 percent pay cut from his usual $20 million salary - all to play controversial FBI director.

Eastwood admits the relationship between Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Clyde Tolson, (Armie Hammer) is ambiguous.

However, Eastwood, who is a Republican, contends that J. Edgar Hoover was "probably good for the country," and whether he was homosexual or not makes no difference.

"I don't really know and nobody really knew," he told ABC. "It's definitely a love story. You can love a person and whether it goes into the realm of being gay or not, is here nor there."

Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" is, of all things, a portrait of a soul. The movie is a nuanced account of J. Edgar Hoover as a sympathetic monster, a compound of intelligence, repression, and misery - a man whose inner turmoil, tamed and sharpened, irrupts in authoritarian fervor. Eastwood and the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black have re-created that period in the nineteen-twenties and thirties when a righteous young man with a stentorian style could electrify a nation. Outraged by scattered bomb plots and shifting values - what seems to him the moral chaos of modern life - Hoover senses that Americans need safety, or, at least, the illusion of safety, and he becomes the vessel of their protection, exercising and justifying, with ironclad rhetoric, his own dominance.

IDES OF MARCH



This Is the fourth Film of Director George Clooney following "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", "Good Night and Good Luck" and "Leatherhead". The big revelations in The Ides of March are that politics is a dirty business and idealists are doomed to compromise their values or even forsake them in order to get elected. The story unfolds through the eyes of Stephen (Ryan Gosling), press secretary for Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney), who is the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. The only thing standing between the popular Morris and the nomination is the state of Ohio, whose delegates are up for grabs and could be stolen by Morris competitor, Sen. Pullman (Michael Mantell).So Morris team hunkers down to ensure their candidate wins the state. Stephen works closely with Paul (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Morris campaign manager, to make sure the candidate's radical campaign promises are heard around the country: No new cars with internal combustion engines! Two-year mandatory service for all 18-year-olds, military or stateside, in exchange for a fully-paid college education! Morris is charismatic and likable and media-savvy: He's smooth, his staff likes him and he seems to genuinely believe in what he preaches. Stephen manipulates a persistent, pesky reporter (Marisa Tomei), who could be the key to an endorsement by an influential senator (Jeffrey Wright) that would seal a victory for Morris.

Gosling continues to prove he may be the best actor of his generation. His performance in The Ides of March, following his comedic turn in Crazy, Stupid Love and his portrayal of a stoic loner in Drive, proves this actor is capable of practically anything. Stephen is sharp, professional and ruthless, but he's about to learn the business he's in is treacherous and unforgiving, and anyone will say or do whatever is required to earn the desired result, regardless of loyalty, honesty or simple human decency. Clooney's performance as Morris is trickier (the character was never seen in the original play). He's a convincing and inspiring candidate; how can he not eventually end up in the White House? But at what cost? The Ides of March is smart, invigorating entertainment that reminds you the only person you can trust less than a used car salesman is a politician.

The Crime of Monsieur Lange


REWIND
'The Crime of Monsieur Lange'(1936)
Directed by Jean Renoir.

"The Crime of Monsieur Lange," was released in France in January, 1936 - but it's important to note that it was made in the fall of 1935, many months before the May, 1936, election of the Popular Front, the government of the united left, led by Leon Blum, which instituted many of the social policies (including paid vacation time for workers) that are still in place in France.

But what's extraordinary about "The Crime of Monsieur Lange" is that it makes the predatory boss immensely appealing: the actor who plays him, Jules Berry, is a bluff, vigorous, excitingly hot-blooded and good-humored actor, who, Renoir said, improvised most of his lines (and they're good ones). Here's what the director said about his politics (as quoted in Pierre Leprohon's 1971 book about him):

I found myself engage without having meant to be. I was willy - nilly the witness of events, which are always stronger than my will. Exterior events influenced my beliefs. What I see around me determines my reactions. I am the victim - the happy victim -of my environment.- Jean Renoir

"The terrible thing about this world is that everyone has his reasons" - RULES OF THE GAME(JEAN RENOIR).

THE LINCOLN LAWYER


The Lincoln Lawyer is a very well done adaptation of Michael Connelly’s best-selling novel, shot beautifully with Red cameras on interesting Los Angeles locations.

Matthew McConaughey's finest hour as Mick Haller, who operates out of a Lincoln Continental car. He’s one slick attorney who knows all the angles and isn’t afraid to play them, whether it’s bribing a bailiff to get his client higher on the morning roster or cajoling information out of his ex-wife (Marisa Tomei), who works at the D.A’s office. He’s accustomed to dealing with low-lifes, and the fact that he helps some of them go free doesn’t win him any fans in the L.A.P.D. So when he’s summoned to represent a wealthy young man (Ryan Phillippe) who’s accused of brutally beating a prostitute, he takes full advantage of the situation, until it turns on him.

It’s a pleasure to watch a film that makes such good use of the city and fills its cast with such solid actors as John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Bob Gunton, Frances Fisher, Josh Lucas, Bryan Cranston, William H. Macy, and Shea Whigham. 

Overall a finely shot and directed movie and a stellar performance by Matthew McConaughey. The Lincoln Lawyer is now out on DVD. 

HEREAFTER


Legendary director Clint Eastwood's Hereafter is a meditation of life after death, if there is anything like that.

French journalist Marie (Cécile de France), has a near-death experience while on holidays in Asia that creates a major impact on her life. George (Matt Damon), is a blue-collar worker in San Francisco who has a special connection to people who have died. And when London schoolboy Marcus (George McLaren), loses the person closest to him, he is devastated and alone.

While looking for answers about life after death, their lives intersect, forever changed by what they believe might or must exist in the hereafter.

Three seemingly unconnected stories that are touched by death and the afterlife are interwoven seamlessly until the element of chance prompts them to intersect.

This is a film that has a little bit of everything in it. The scale is enormous, as it canvasses life's big topics: life, love, death and the meaning of it all. Just like life itself, there's a wonderful sense of the unpredictable about Hereafter; it's fascinating, moving and overwhelmingly satisfying.

80-year-old Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, one of the most prolific filmmakers, tackles a script by Oscar nominee Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) that includes supernatural themes, extensive French dialogue and two real-life disasters. Tom Stern's beautiful cinematography elevates the film, as Eastwood's assured direction and subtle music sweep us away. Matt Damon delivers one more time and Cécile de France sizzles the screen with every appearance.

A heavily underrated masterpiece, Hereafter is a film for a sophisticated palate, offering a thought-provoking journey that makes the world (and beyond) seem a more beautiful place.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK


On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the popular social site "Facebook" is the youngest billionaire in history...but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.

A flawless casting consisting of Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake as Mark Zuckerberg, his best friend and partner Eduardo Saverin and napster founder Sean Parker, makes the movie as real as it could be. While Eisenberg carries the film as Zuckerberg, it is young British actor Andrew Garfield who stands out with his emotionally charged and volatile Eduardo Saverin who sued Zuckerberg for being wrongfully cut out of Facebook due to the instigation of Parker, brilliantly portrayed by Justin Timberlake.

This is the third time in a row Fincher chose to shoot a movie digitally, (Zodiac, Curios Case of Benjamin Button, Social Network) and always getting the best out of the medium out of any other director working today.

Re-uniting with his Fight Club director of photography Jeff Cronenweth, Fincher manages to create best looking Red One film ever made.

The cinematography is absolutely stunning. Jeff Cronenweth can be called the new King of Darkness, a title that was earlier given to the great Gordon Willis.

Written by Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network boasts of an intelligent and thought provoking screenplay. Sorkin has been able to give his audience a true understanding of this real life character by writing a clever, layered screenplay that could probably garner him an Oscar for Best adapted screenplay.

David Fincher continues his journey as a filmmaker making one after another great film. It would be safe to say he is probably one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

The Social Network is the best film of the year so far.

THE FIGHTER


THE FIGHTER is a boxing drama in the tradition of  Raging Bull, straight-forward and predictable in its concept and narrative, but extraordinarily executed by its director and finely acted  by an amazing cast, making the film one of the best and heart-warming film of the year.

Directed by David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings), and written by Paul Tamasey, Scott Silver and Eric Johnson, The Fighter is based on the true story of American boxer Micky 'Irish' Ward. It's a family drama, and at its core, the story of brothers Micky, played by Mark Wahlberg (The Departed) and Dicky, played by Christian Bale (The Dark Knight), and the personal struggles Micky must overcome to finally unleash his potential and advance his stagnating boxing career.

It's also another showcase of Christian Bale's incredible acting talent as he morphs into the crazy, drug-addled, borderline-narcissist character of  Dicky. 

In large part the movie succeeds however because the actors so completely draw us into their characters, their world and their struggles. Melissa Leo (Frozen River) as always is stunning as the Manager and mother of Micky and Dicky, and Amy Adams (Julie and Julia) makes us forget that she is not Micky's girlfriend Charlene.

But it is Christian Bale who completely steals the show, totally transformed from his look to his accent, and a knockout as the delusional crack-addict Dicky. He should receive an Oscar for supporting actor for one of the best performances in recent times. 

Mark Wahlberg  holds his own as the quiet, downtrodden Micky, playing his role with a genuine warmth and depth

Overall a great American drama very well directed, acted, shot and edited. A must see movie which certainly will get several award nods.

THE TOWN

Ben Affleck has certainly proved that "Gone Baby Gone" was not a fluke. He directs this major motion picture with tremendous power and style, making 'The Town' one of the best films of the year.

Carefully crafting hand-held shots with slow dolly movement and steady camera, Affleck has been able to create the movie magic that every director hopes for.

This is a great character driven American heist film, I will put this right after 'Heat'.
 

Affleck shines in the lead role along with Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker), as his boyhood friend and hotheaded accomplice, shining in a supporting role. Renner brings a sadness to his psychotic character as he plays a man who knows he is trapped in a life of crime and poverty, and sees violence as his only option. Chris Cooper leaves a mark in a brief yet powerful role as Affleck's father.

Amidst Affleck's expertly orchestrated chases and thunderous shootouts, the movie brings forth the similar kind of characters with moral complexities as we have seen in the magnificent 'Gone Baby Gone'.

Cinematography by the great Robert Elswit and editing by the magical Dylan Tichenor hit the mark to keep the movie entertaining and exciting.

There are a few cliche's but other than that this is one of the best in its genre. I highly recommend this movie.

WINTER'S BONE

 

Debra Granik directs this gritty American crime thriller adapted from Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name. Winter's Bone takes place in a rugged, beautiful corner of the southern Missouri  Ozarks. Here, when someone's cooking skills are mentioned, the phrase refers to a methamphetamine lab, not dinner. The land and its socio-economics are not for the weak. And in 17-year-old Ree, a survivor is portrayed by the spectacularly talented young actress Jennifer Lawrence -  an actress with such screen power and imagination has rarely hit the American screen in recent years.

Shot beautifully with Red One camera and lenses by Cinematographer Michael McDonough who also shot the great digital film 'Down to the Bones' by the same director.

Debra Granik does a great job of setting the mood by shooting post-apocalyptic style of photography and combining that with harsh winter when the characters are pushed to the wall.

This one is one of the best movie I have seen so far.

A story of survival, crime, family and responsibility, this movie is an example of a great American independent filmaking. No wonder this must-see work is a Sundance hit.


 

THE SHUTTER ISLAND

Martin Scorsese crafts a gorgeously stylized psychological thriller, full of darkly orchestrated horror that torments its obsessed protagonist.

As former WWII vet and U.S. Marshal, Edward "Teddy" Daniels, Leonardo di Caprio hits every mark physically and psychologically, to bring to us one of the best performances you will ever see.

 This is one movie which Scorsese seems to be having a lot of fun making. Adorned with bizarre flashback sequences shot Fellini style and reminiscent of Bergman's Wild Strawberries,  the movie feels like a piece of great music, where the master director is playing jazz with camera, actors, visuals, and your mind.

The Shutter Island has been able to garner giant performances by each and every cast member. Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley support Leonardo di Caprio with layers of brilliance while Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Max von Sydow and Jackie Earl Haley carry their scenes with prominent fervor and amazing depth.

This movie will only grow with time just like Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssey or Copolla's Apocalypse Now.

Great work by an entire department of crew especially its Director of Photography Robert Richardson and editor Thelma Schoonmaker.

An essential viewing for all movie lovers.

CRAZY HEART

Four-time Academy Award nominee Jeff Bridges stars as the richly comic, semi-tragic romantic anti-hero Bad Blake in writer-director Scott Cooper's debut feature film.

Bad Blake is a broken-down, hard-living country music singer who's had way too many marriages, far too many years on the road and one too many drinks way too many times. And yet, Bad can't help but reach for salvation with the help of Jean (Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist who discovers the real man behind the musician. As he struggles down the road of redemption, Bad learns the hard way just how tough life can be on one man's crazy heart.

The show completely belongs to Bridges, who starts off as a train wreck and then takes on a journey with the character. He understands Bad Blake so completely with such confidence, that in his capacity as an actor, he successfully makes us forget that he is an actor playing a role. Few minutes into the movie and you really think Bridges is Blake.

More than the story or the direction of first-time filmmaker Scott Cooper who, by the way did an extraordinary job, or T-Bone Burnett's country/western songs, Jeff Bridges is the reason to set aside two hours to watch this.

They need to make more of this kind of small film where you sit down for two hours watch a good story, great performance and a passionate job by a very competent filmmaker.

HURT LOCKER

"The Hurt Locker" presents the daily life within a bomb disposal unit, showing how the men go out, day after day, identifying improvised explosive devices and either deactivate them or blow them up within controlled areas. It shows the various roles that each member of the unit plays, the routine, the hierarchy and the stress involved in knowing, as you wake up each morning, that you might get blown to smithereens before lunch. But mainly "The Hurt Locker" concerns itself with the notion of war as addiction, how, for certain personalities, the adrenaline rush of war becomes a drug.

 

Director Kathryn Bigelow is interested in the people in the midst of the trauma, and its this quality, Bigelow's understanding of the psychological aspect of action, that sets her apart.

Cinematography of Barry Ackroyd is mindblowing - the hand held stuff is so well used that you almost feel you are standing next to the characters.

 

The super 16mm source material helps the film to give a realistic docu-look which perfectly works for the film. The movie is enhanced by the marvelous editing by Chris Innis and Bob Murawski and a powerful performance by Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty.

A great American war film, Hurt Locker deservingly puts Kathryn Bigelow into the top tier of American directors.

INVICTUS

 

File:HumanFactorInvictus.jpgThe movie tells the inspiring true story of how South African President Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa's rugby team, Francois Pienaar, to help unite their country during apartheid. Directed by the great Clint Eastwood, the movie is based on the book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation by John Carlin.

 

Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sports, Mandela rallies South Africa's underdog rugby team as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup finals.

 

Brimming with humor, the film's detailed scenes evoke emotions despite being predictable.
As he approaches 80, living legend Clint Eastwood shows no signs of slowing down, and making bigger and more successful movie than the other one.

 

Thanks to expert performances by Morgan Freeman (as Nelson Mandela) and Matt Damon (Francois Pienaar),  as well as Eastwood's extraordinary storytelling genius, the movie depicts an unlikely intersection of sports and leadership in ways that manage to be equally inspiring and insightful without ever becoming preachy and monotonous.

PUBLIC ENEMIES

File:PEPOSTERsm.jpgSet in the 1930s, Public Enemies follows charismatic bank robber John Herbert Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and his gang as they rob banks all over the Midwest and try to evade the authorities, who are led by federal agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale).

 

When I first heard Michael Mann was shooting digital, I was a little surprised as its a period piece and Digital would give it more of a realistic docu-look.

 

However, after watching the movie, I realized why Dante Spinotti used F23 - the footage from the F23 was very, very sharp and with shallow depth of field. Although it didn't have the full tonal range of film, yet its response to the night material is mindblowing. Digital cameras read into the shadows very differently - there's an incredible elasticity there that you don't get with film stock  - you can adjust gamma curves and gain and really gain incredible control over the image.

 

Michael Mann does an extraordinary job of directing this epic. Though it is supposed to be a gangstar movie, Mann makes sure to keep the love story between Dillinger and his girlfriend Billie Frechette alive very effectively, thereby keeping us at the edge of the seat and rooting for the bank robber throughout the movie.

 

William Ladd Skinner's spectacular art direction creates the era where Mann wants us to travel. And once again Dante Spinotti shows us why he is one of the best Directors of Photography in the world.

 

Even though some viewers have expressed their disappointment over the choice of camera for this movie, one thing everyone acknowledged - the level of performance was so high that it made the viewers forget the technology easily.

 

Christian Bale makes us forget who he was as he transforms into Melvin Purvis hunting for Dillinger throughout the piece. Academy Award Winner Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette marvels as she carries the scenes effortlessly makes us laugh and cry with her. And Johnny Depp's choice as John Dillinger only goes to prove his genius as he convinces us that he can do little or nothing and still take you to the place where he wants you to go.

 

TWO LOVERS

File:Two lovers ver2.jpgThis is the first great film of the year coming out right after the award season. An extraordinary performance by Joaquin Phoenix, setting a very high standard for every actor to match for rest of the year.
 

I am sure we will see him a lot at the next year award season. 

I have really liked every James Gray film (The Yard, We Own the Night). and this one is no different.
 

This movie is something profoundly moving and, like all other Gray films, deals with the conflict of different characters within the family.
 

Paltrow is wonderful as the girl walking an emotional tightrope. And Vinessa Shaw is really good in this one as usual. I was also moved by Isabella Rossellini's final touch as Joaquin's mother!
 

 Cinematography by Joaquin Baca-Asay reminded me of Gordon Willis especially in The Godfather with the richness of brown and warm colors. Overall Two Lovers is a wonderful film to watch and enjoy.

THE WRESTLER


The Wrestler poster by ANTWRANGLER.Mickey Rourke makes the job of the jury of the Academy easy by giving a towering performance that most likely will get him the Academy Award this year. Director Darren Aronofsky does an extraordinary job of showing the sport with realism without being condescending. He highlights the humor, but never makes fun of it. 

The film. shot in 16mm, helps bring the gritty and tough life of the wrestling world by giving it a slightly overexposed and documentary look. Aronofsky made a process film and not just a drama on sports. Its independent spirit was written all over the frames.

The film respects the wrestling world and the wrestler's world, and demands the same from the audience.

Marissa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood's characters could easily have fallen into cliches, but they give Randy (played to the T by Mickey Rourke) some of his best moments on screen. Both excel in their performances. And Marissa Tomei shows extraordinary bravery in playing this role.

Overall, 'The Wrestler' is an extraordinary drama about ordinary people in extraordinary situations of life.  It's funny, dramatic, tear-jerking and tough at the same time. Definitely a must-see.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE 

Danny Boyle has always made powerful movies like Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine etc but Slumdog Millionaire is definitely his best. Coupling the amazing performance from the child actors in Mumbai, India with a  powerful picturization of the visuals in India, Boyle goes on to create one of the best first 40 minutes in the history of cinema. Based on the book Q and A by Vikas Swarup and written for the screen by Simon Beaufoy (Full Monty), Slumdog Millionaire is one of the best movies of the decade and has rightfully been nominated for the upcoming Golden Globes. 

The film, shot and set in India follows a slum kid Jamal Malik who appears on the popular game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?  and exceeds people's expectations, raising suspicions from the game show host and law enforcement who accuse him of cheating. The explanation of how he knew the answers leads us through the history of Jamal and his brother Salim's lives  - from obtaining the autograph of a famous Bollywood star to the death of his mother during Hindu-Muslim riot in Mumbai and how he fell in love with another orphaned girl Latika.

Visually, like Boyles' previous work, it's stunning. The only other movie that comes to mind while watching the paced treatment is the Brazilian crime drama City of God  by director Fernando Meirelles. The raw style mixed with the amazing locations make this film one of the most cinematic experiences one can ever see. The sound editing is crisp and of the highest quality. Chris Dickens' Editing and Anthony Dod Mantle's cinematography are worthy of Oscar nomination. of the highest level.

 

 

 

 

 

The most impressive segment that remains on my mind is the performance by the child actors and the way Boyle has been able to get such extraordinary emotion out of Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (youngest Jamal) and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail (youngest Salim). 

 

 

 

 

SYNECDOCHE, NY    


Synecdoche, New York. I consider this film a masterpiece. It is an ambitious film, a gamble, an extraordinary script written and directed by Charlie Kaufman and in many ways better than his earlier masterpiece Adaptation.

Synecdoche, NY is about Caden Cotard (Seymour Hoffman), a theater director who is struggling to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as part of his new play that involves his personal and professional battles and the different women in his life.

The cast is unbelievable. And each one of them does an incredible job. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers what in my opinion is the best performance in his career. Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Dianne Wiest and Michelle Williams stand their ground in this remarkable ensemble.

The style of this movie can be compared closely with Fellini's La Dolce Vita - especially the dream-like narrative of the story telling.

Director of photography Frederick Elmes does an extraordinary job in giving the film an epic look. 
This is yet another film which will stand the test of time and will remain an important piece of work in many many years to come.

 

RACHEL GETTING MARRIED    

A movie about two sisters and their sibling rivalry initially made me wonder if I really want to watch this movie. But I'm glad I did.

Anne Hathaway will definitely contend for the Best Actress Oscar for her riveting performance as Kym, who comes home to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) to Sidney (TV on the Radio's lead singer Tunde Adebimpe). Kym has spent years in and out of rehab after her drug use led to a tragic accident in her family. Here, Hathaway takes a chance by playing Kym as an unlikable, almost unsympathetic black sheep. Ultimately, this decision pays off. Kym feels like a person you know rather than just watch.

Director Jonathon Demme's movie "Rachel Getting Married" - based on the screenplay by Jenny Lumet - is filled with generosity, humanity and compassion towards the extraordinary characters he puts on screen. 

Together with cinematographer Declan Quinn (who had earlier shot the gorgeous Monsoon Wedding), Demme has been able to give the film a realistic documentary look that helps the audience to become a part of this eventful wedding.

Shot with handheld digital camera and often breaking every rule with its flawless jumpy cuts by editor Tim Squyres, the movie gives you a unique free- flowing style thats comparable to classics like Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless." Because of its long handheld shots, the actors moved effortlessly giving a lose, inspired and intense performance.

Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia,  The Manchurian Candidate) directs this movie with style, humanity and dignity in telling the story of a true American family.  

  

FROZEN RIVER   

 
Courtney Hunt, the writer-director of this movie did an amazing job of what could be the best indie of the year.

Frozen River tells the story of two women, that takes place right before Christmas near a little-known border crossing on the Mohawk reservation between New York State and Quebec.

Shot with HDV (720p) and without any big star, Frozen River keeps you on the edge of your seat just by the sheer power of writing and extraordinary performances by its cast, the amazing storytelling by Courtney Hunt and the magnificent cinematography by Reed Morano.

Melissa Leo churns out a phenomenal performance as a a 40-something mom raising two boys and dealing with a gambling-addicted husband. This could become one of the best acting of this year. Misty Upham as a Native American mom who introduces Leo's character to the frozen river could not have done any better. The two actresses along with the other supporting casts carry the movie flawlessly.

Its a little surprise that the movie has been so well received at the Sundance Film Festival and is now playing to a very big indie audience all over the nation.

This one is definitely a must-see. 

MARRIED LIFE    

This is a movie that Woody Allen will be proud to make. The greatness in the film lies in how director Ira Sachs handles an adult relationship story and turns it into a thriller so funny and thrilling at the same time. Like many great films of our time, this film will need time for the audience to see and appreciate. 

"Married Life" is more of a metaphor for long term relationships. It deals with seasonal discontent and joys of all long-term relationship.

This is the best performance of Pierce Brosnan ever. He comes out of his James Bond image and gives a great performance. Rachel McAdams is extraordinary in her role as Kay while Academy Award winner Chris Cooper as always excels in his character. Similarly Patricia Clarkson plays the ambiguous wife to the T.

Peter Deming's cinematography captures the time beautifully thus making the film easy and entertaining to watch.

If you care for a good film definitely watch it on DVD. 

 

 

THE VISITOR    

Richard Jenkins plays a widowed professor who has lost his passion for living in this drama about love, music, country and politics. His passion for life comes back when he finds a cause to live. There�s a toughness to Jenkins� academic that precludes feeling sorry for him. When he rediscovers his feelings, his warmth lights up the screen. 

Writer-director Tom McCarthy has made a film as touching and original as his debut feature, "The Station Agent." 

This is definitely the best movie I have seen so far this year, and may be the first oscar film of the year. The greatness in the movie lies in the fact that from the preview itself, you can expect how the movie is going to be but still as you watch it you are completely sucked into it and also it keeps you at the edge of your seat as it never stops to surprise you. 

After decades of honing his craft in film and on stage at Rhode Island�s Trinity Repertory Company, Jenkins became the character so effortlessly, that you don't even watch the performance.

Acting in this movie is of the highest caliber, Richard Jenkins will definitely get an oscar nomination and other awards for this performance and it is going to be very hard for other actors to match up to this towering performance this year.

Tom Mccarthy proves to us again that he is a master filmmaker in the making. Oliver Bokelberg's cinematography is beautiful and understated and his use of available light works very well with the rhythm of the movie the director wanted.

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS    

There were two reasons for me to want to watch this movie 
1) Wong Kar Wai  - One of my most  favorite filmmakers of all time  
2) Darius Khondji - one of my most favorite cinematographers of all time

And I can only say that the result of this collaboration of two great artists was one of the most pleasing experiences on celluloid.

Elizabeth (Norah Jones), a restless young woman, travels cross-country working a variety of waitresing jobs and connecting with an odd assortment of characters along the way, including policeman Arnie (David Strathairn), his estranged wife Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz), and a flighty young gambler (Natalie Portman). But she realizes that her touchstone is Jeremy (Jude Law), who she met in a cafe in New York.

The treatment is very Wong Kar Wai - those who have seen In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, 2046, Eros etc will get the similarity in its treatment right away
.

The uniqueness of this movie lies in the observation that although it moves through different landscapes in America, but the audience only comes to know that from the conversations and the characters and not so much from transition or outdoor shots except in a scene between Natlie Portman and Norah Jones.

The performances are memorable way after the movie has ended. Rachel Weisz makes you forget she is Rachel Weisz as soon as she enters the bar. David Strathairn is wonderful in his portrayal of two sets of characters. Natalie Portman makes you aware of her acting prowess yet again. Jude Law is amazing as a cafe owner in love. And Norah Jones does not cease to surprise as a first time actress. 

Wong Kar Wai borrowed a piece of Academy Award winning composer Gustavo Santaollala's music from Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries, indicating that Elizabeth has managed to get rid of the failure in love.

Darius Khondji (Seven, Panic Room) proves again that he is a master of light, After Sven Nykvist (Bergman's D.P) I have only seen Darius use light so effectively.

Overall this is a great treat for movie lovers of all ages.

 

PARANOID PARK    

Gus Van Sant is definitely one of the rare talents working today in cinema, and his new release Paranoid Park is an example to manifest that. This is a movie which is small in its size but may be the biggest ART-HOUSE movie so far this year. From its style of shooting - long gliding shots following a certain character (which Gus uses a lot these days) to keeping the script non-linear and mixing overexposed shots along the line made this film a unique in its treatment.  

The cinematography of Christopher Doyle is really experimental and works beautifully with the style of the film.

Here is one guy who is not sold to the Hollywood money .He is one guy the whole art house film community looks upto. He is still making small budget films with no named actors.  

Gus is undoubtedly a rare example of someone who refuses to make only big budget stuff. And this is definitely one of his best works so far.

If you are up for something different in style or story telling this movie you cannot miss.

YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH    

When I got out after watching Francis Ford Coppola's digital film Youth Without Youth, I had a feeling I had a few glasses of very expensive wine (I am a cheap beer guy) and a nice light dinner. I did not know how to feel about it but few minutes later as the ideas started to sink in, I realized the movie was extremely fulfilling from one of the greatest directors in this world, who returned after ten years to make this metaphysical epic, written by Mircea Eliade, a Romanian writer, philosopher, theologist and professor at the University of Chicago. 

Eliade had traveled to India at the age of 21 to learn Sanskrit at the Calcutta University and fell in love with the city and his teacher's daughter Maitreyi Dasgupta (the central character of his widely read novel Maitreyi - translated into several languages including an English version Bengal Nights in English and the more famous French version La Nuit Bengali that was later made into a movie by the same name starring Hugh Grant) 

Maitreyee, who read the novel 30 years since its publication, wrote her version of their love story titled "Na Hanyate" that was translated into English as "It Does not Die." 

Bengal Nights by Mircea Eliade and It Does Not Die by Maitreyi Devi were released in 1994 by the University of Chicago Press as companion volumes depicting two sides of a romance.

Youth Without Youth to me is very much a love story of a similar nature that continued the unfulfiled romance in Mircea Eliade's life.  

The extreme use of Sanskrit in the movie emphasizes the obsession Eliade carried throughout his life for India and Kolkata where he met and left his love. 

The credit to bring the story to life of course goes to Francis Ford Coppola who came out of his retirement and risked his own money to make a movie that he knew American critics would not understand - most movie critics in this country have very little idea of the modern literature - so its going to be even difficult for them to understand Eliade's thirst for another culture and the deeper meaning of life as described in Hinduism. 

It was extremely brave of Coppola to put millions of dollars to make a movie like this instead of making a gangster or war or comedy movies that sell, get an actor like Tim Roth to carry the entire movie instead of box office superstars and make it digitally instead of glossy film.

Remember this is the guy who gave us GODFATHER, APOCALYPSE NOW, CONVERSATION..........a masterful work from a true giant.

This is the best looking digital film I  have ever seen. The work of DP Mihai Malaimare Jr. is truly fascinating. The look of the film convinced me that even period piece can be shot with digital camera if its lit well.

This movie is not for everyone......but if its for you, then this could be the best movie you have seen in a very long time.

CASSANDRA'S DREAM  

When a true giant like Woody Allen is making a movie you just put your hands down and watch, and expect you would learn something....something would rub off....that would make you a better filmmaker.

This movie of Allen is almost a sequel to Match Point.

If you liked Match Point then you are definitely going to like this movie. This is one of the movies that is full of subtext - there is deeper meaning to whats going on the screen and you have to read between the lines in order to understand what the director is trying to say.

Lot of critics are cutting down this film, simply because they don't like to see an intelligent thriller......I understand they are completely out of practice as these days all you can expect are chase scenes with cars and building being blown away.

This is a youthfull movie as though Woody Allen is a student again and making this movie for the real love of the cinema. Shot exclusively on real locations in England by this 70 plus year old maverick, the shots are full of energy which is great to watch. 

Cinematography of Vilmos Zigmond is just mind blowing. He kind of accentuated the black and the colors look really saturated and solid. The film was shot kind of dark, which works very well with the story.

The performances of Collin Farrel and Ewan Macgregor were astonishing and so were that of Tom Wilkinson, Hayley Atwell, Clare Higgins, John Benfield and Ashley Meadawkwe.

Only thing, the Woody Allen's characters in the seventies were much more academic - especially the leading ladies who were smart and cerebral - but now his characters are more evil and less funny, which kind of fits the time as we live in the time where everyone looks at another person with fear and suspicion.

Overall a very absorbing crime caper from a master of cinema.

THERE ARE LOTS OF GIANTS IN CINEMA, BUT WOODY ALLEN IS A TRUE GIANT OF THIS MEDIUM.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

Julian Schnabel made a genius of a film which made me think how lucky I am as a human being - this is one of those films that changes your life - one of the best films I've ever seen. I cannot think of another film that explores the innersystems of a character so intimately and believably.

Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is just extraordinary and works brilliantly with the style of the movie. I felt that the FRENCH influence was absolutely neccesary in this movie - the language brought a certain kind of feel which would be hard to capture in ENGLISH..

This is a rare accomplishment in cinema. Julian Schnabel directs another extraordinary movie after the brilliant BEFORE NIGHT FALLS. Performance of Mathieu Amalric as Jean-Dominique Bauby, and Max Von Sydow was heartbreaking. The female leads were all equally impressive as they were beautiful.

Overall, this film is a pure cinematic genius.

I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THIS MOVIE TO EVERYONE BECAUSE IT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK.

 

Atonement  

Atonement is truly a magnificent movie.Being exposed to the British cinema at a very early age, especially the movies made by Ismail-Merchant production such as James Ivory 's Room with a View, that was not only accepted in the West but also widely watched in most third world countries, especially in a British colony like India, and their other movies like Shakespearewallah, Bombay Talkies etc and of course the great work of David Lean and Sir Richard Attenborough, to name only a few in the long list of great British director. Joe Wright is the new inclusion in that long list.

Based on Ian McEwan's award wining novel of the same name, Atonement tells the story of a British romance that spans several decades. Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit.

Anyone who has loved a woman will love this movie. I love British sensibility when it comes to a certain period or class or certain kind of realism synonymous with the works of Mike Leigh, Sam Mendes, Anthony Minghella, Tim Burton and the Scott Brothers.

This movie will be a top contender in all award shows for its universal appeal. I was drawn to Kyra Knightlely the first time I saw her on Bend it like Beckham, and over the years she has evolved as an actress and definitely knocked this role. James McAvoy is an example of extraordinary talent, a true talent, a talent that is going to stay.

This is the first film of Joe Wright that I have seen and I will watch Pride and Prejudice now.

I recommend this movie to everyone.

 

 

Lust Caution  

Se, Jie
aka Lust Caution

Is Ang Lee up for yet another Oscar?

When I saw Lust Caution on Thanksgiving night, I was just blown away by the richness of the film, the sheer depth of its characters, its culture, extraordinary cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros, Babel, Brokeback Mountain) and director Ang Lee's amazing understanding of women. This is as genius a film as it can get. It haunted me all night and I woke up appreciating it more than when I was watching it.

Lust Caution is another masterpiece by Lee. Years to come it will be studied and watched compulsively and this film will stay in conversation for many many years among film lovers and most likely the film will grow into a classic in the next ten years almost like Apocalyse now.

The intimacy between the central characters were portrayed with such psychological power that you get immersed in their mental games while they battle out their physical supremacy through cerebral competence. Actors Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Wai tang's performances should get nominations in all major award shows.

This film is definitely the best film of the year along with No Country for Old Men

Actor/Screenwriter Matt Damon once said that Oscar should be given after ten years. And I know that this is one movie that will stand the test of time and ten years from now will become untouchable.

I definitely recommend this sensational film to every movie lover.

American Gangster  

Ridley Scott's new movie American Gangster was a good one. Though this is definitely not the best film of the year.

To me the real star of the movie is the extraordinary cinematography by Harris Savides, mostly known for his work with director Gus van Sant in movies like Elephant, Gerry, Finding Forrester as well as director David Fincher's The Game, Zodiac etc.

Savides is definitely up for a nomination in the forthcoming Academy Awards for his work in this film.

Ridley Scott is an expressionist. He instinctively tries to manipulate things and thats why almost all his films got stylized photography - his earlier films Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven etc were all shot by the great John Mathieson. Perhaps the style is one of the reason I never connected with Scott's characters as closely as I may have connected with Scorsese or Coppola's characters.

Another highlight is definitely the extraordinary performances by Denzel Washington. Denzel is one actor you really never have to worry about. And you've got Russell Crowe playing the other lead, and like always, he always has the character down. He was great in this flick. Though, his character's story was interesting in that he was in charge of the case to figure out who the big boy druglords were, his side story with his wife was for me the "dull" parts of the film. They were well-acted and all that, but mostly, it was just character development that to me, was not really needed. Russell Crowe's good enough an actor to portray a struggling cop without a family problem. And let me also mention here that Josh Brolin was great in his portrayal of Detective Trupo.

I really enjoyed the last scene of the movie.

Into the Wild  

Into the Wild is most definitely one of the best film I have seen so far this year. Director Sean Penn once again confirms that he is one of the best director working today.

With a magnificent performance from actor Emile Hirsche (Imaginary Heroes) and a brilliant cinematography from DP Eric Gautiere (The Motorcycle Diaries), this true story screams for freedom of spirit through the soul of 22-year old college graduate Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp, who walked out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people. 

Penn's last three film (Indian Runner,Crossing Guard, Pledge and his short film on 911 Stories) were all brilliant work but did not get him in the oscar race as a director. 

Into the Wild is the movie that will take him to all the award shows with a a best director and best film nomination. Its truly an Oscar-worthy film.

2 Days in Paris 

{C}{C}{C}Samuel Goldwyn Films' 2 Days in Paris{C}{C}{C}When I was driving to see the movie "2 Days in Paris," I was not sure if I really wanted to see it.
I am glad I have seen it and will definitely see it again.
My main motivation for seeing this movie is the fact that I recently shot my own film MONEY in Paris and
for me, Paris, the city, was the star and I wanted to see it on screen again.
But after watching writer-director-actor-editor Julie Delpy's "2 Days in Paris," I not only enjoyed the city Paris (not for just transition) but also enjoyed the true character of the
city.
I first saw Julie Delpy in Woody Allen's "Husbands and Wives" and was instantly enchanted by her talent. She
has again impressed me with her directorial and writing skills in this movie. The movie is smart, funny, bright, cerebral and entertaining. Its a great homage to Woody Allen though I must say, that, Delpy definitely made a personal film. And made it not a Woody Allen film.
Both her parents cast as her parents, and Adam Goldberg as Delpy's lover, the casting made the movie
even better.
I recommend this movie for anyone looking for an enriching evening in the theatres.

 

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM 


I haven't been so mesmerized in a very long time. From the opening scene of The Bourne Ultimatum to the very last one, this is truly a brilliant movie, with a superb cast and great direction and film production values. 
Paul Greengrass who directed Bloody Sunday , United 93, Bourne Supremacy shows us again that he is a master of this medium from hand held camera to cutting on the axis and keeping long single take for the action sequence he just hit the ball out of the ground... I loved every moment of it and am going to see it again --I ordinarily wouldn't. But it was just that divine. 
Matt Damon is great as usual, as an actor he made us care about Jason Bourne so much that we went back to the theatre three times in five years to see what happens to Bourne though we all new the end. 
Let's also credit cinematographer Oliver Wood, who shot all three Bourne films. He was able to work with both directors well though stylistically different the first Bourne from the last two, his work shines in all three.

ONCE 

OnceIt seems silly and grandiose to lavish praise on a movie whose dramatic crux is the recording of a demo tape, and there is some danger that the critical love showered on �Once� will come to seem a bit disproportionate. It is not a film with any great ambitions to declare, or any knotty themes to articulate. It celebrates doggedness, good-humored discipline and desire � the desire not only to write a song or make a recording, but the deeper longing for communication that underlies any worthwhile artistic effort.

The special poignancy of the movie, the happy-sad feeling it leaves in its wake, comes from its acknowledgment that the satisfaction of these aspirations is usually transient, even as it can sometimes be transcendent.

Neither Mr. Hansard, who fronts a band called the Frames, nor Ms. Irglova is an established professional actor, though both are gifted composers and performers. Their guilelessness protects the movie from its sentimental impulses. A good song � even a bad one heard at the right moment � can cast a glow of enchantment over ordinary circumstances.

�Once� understands this everyday pop magic about as well as any movie I can think of, and communicates it so easily and honestly that you are likely to want to see it again.

The camera melts away and one is left with the experience of having spent an intimate few hours with close friends. The emotions are bitter sweet but honest and not contrived. And the music winds its way through the movie to keep the plot moving and maintain its emotional intensity. Great movie.

 

No Country for Old Men 

Director Joel Coen, cast members Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Kelly Macdonald and director Ethan Coen at the premiere of their film at the 60th Cannes Film Festival 

The new film from two of the best filmmakers working today No Country For Old Men  rocked the Cannes Film Festival 2007. Coen Brothers are in the top form. After a couple of disappointments they knock this violent western drama out of the park.

No Country For Old Men is a slow-moving, character-driven masterpiece about uncompromising characters. It is very violent and bloody.
With moments of humor and goofy-characters, No Country   is a tough, gritty story.

The unrelenting pace may take its time but you are gripped every moment. This is a thriller that genuinely thrills.

Javier Bardem gives the best performance of his career. And, yes, I have seen The Sea Inside and he in superb in that but here he is simply extraordinary. It is a portrayal of unrelenting evil, of true derangement, of a human being with no shreds of humanity that ranks at the very top of studied film psychopaths. And I say film not movie because this is not a cliched character. This is not a character whose lunacy you enjoy over popcorn. This is one of the most frightening performances ever committed to celluloid. I felt truly nervous of what was going to happen every time he walked on screen.

Josh Brolin essentially carries the bulk of the movie and he is excellent in a role that challenges him. I have never seen him perform to this level and if Bardem didn't steal the film, you'd be talking about Brolin all the way home. As it is this gives him a showcase for his talents that should see him get a lot more attention.

Tommy Lee Jones is used sparingly but to great effect.

Roger Deakins' cinematography is breathtaking as usual and the Coens' script is superbly crafted. There are moments, almost asides from the main plot, that would be superfluous in most scripts and excised in most studio films but which work perfectly in the overall context of the movie as only the Coens can achieve. One scene featuring Bardem in a gas station is up there with the best scenes i have ever seen on film.

Go in knowing as little as you can but knowing at least this: this is a serious, violent, slow-paced character piece from the Coens. This is not a Fargo. If you are squeamish don't see it. If you have a short-attention span don't see it. If you only love the Coens for their fantastic comedies like O Brother and Big Lebowski and the comedy/thriller Fargo don't see it. But if you want to see an intelligent, superbly acted, powerful, beautiful cinematic treat that will remind you of the true power of cinema see it, see it, see it. It's a masterpiece.  

 

 Little Children 


BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE

Unnervingly good, "Little Children" is one of the rare American films about adultery that feels right--dangerous, hushed, immediate--even when the sex takes a back seat to other longings.

The performances, especially those by Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson , Noah Emmerich, and Jackie Earle Haley, are tremendous. Winslet and Wilson face the challenge of portraying regular, intelligent people who are trapped by the normalcy of their lives. Emmerich and Haley, on the other hand, played individuals with monstrous personality defects, and they do so without making their characters unduly sympathetic . . Field's goal here is to present a slice of the community - the soccer moms, the bored housewives, the disempowered husbands. The main story deals with Sarah and Brad, but the other characters are given existences of their own, which is rare in motion pictures, and Little Children is richer for it. With In the Bedroom, Field demonstrated his mastery of difficult dramatic material and his ability to direct actors.

 

 The Namesake 


The Namesake

In 2003 days after its publication, I could hardly put down Pulitzer-winning Jhumpa Lahiri's novel "The Namesake". Lahiri was born in London to Bengali immigrants, raised in Rhode Island, and now lives in Brooklyn.

I was therefore excited when I heard that Mira Nair would be directing a film based on the novel. Readers may be familiar with Nair's films, including "Monsoon Wedding" (2001), "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love" (1996), "Mississippi Masala" (1991), and Oscar-nominated "Salaam Bombay!" (1988); she is also in pre-production on a crime drama, "Shantaram", due in 2008. The movie, to some extent portrays an almost autobiographical recollection of Jhumpa Lahiri's experiences as an young adult growing up in Philly. She was born "Nilanjana" (as her good name), but due to a chain of events, her 'pet name', Jhumpa persisted, being both terse and less cryptic than her more Indian-ised first name. Nikhil (or Nick), played wonderfully by Kal Penn, faces a similar dilemma. Named Gogol, by his father in memory of the Russian writer, Nikolai Gogol, Nikhil finds himself estranged by his unusual non-American name in the midst of the American culture. He tries, in vain to convince his parents that he should change his name from Gogol to Nikhil. Gogol's father, played by Irfhan Khan, genuinely believes that there could be a name no more fitting for his son. The name carries a strong emotional value for him, which, understandably the Americanised Gogol cannot relate to.

 

 A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints 


A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints

First time director Dito Montiel's "A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints" is a harsh autobiographical look back at his youth on the mean streets of Astoria, Queens in the mid 1980's. From the film's opening moments, Montiel introduces us to an intimate world of family and friendship that totally blindsided me by its greatness. There are moments in "A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints" that roll along with such force and emotion, that Montiel feels like a natural born filmmaker, infusing his personal heartache into strong characters breathing within a vivid time and place. Montiel's handling of edits, sound, and music are also powerful, such as a scene in Dito's kitchen between his father and group of friends that explodes into stark images and quick cuts to black. Montiel also handles the return home of Downey Jr. with care and vulnerability, searching for small answers that come in revelatory conversations with his mother (Dianne Weist) and grown up girlfriend Dianne (played by Rosario Dawson). And while such personal material can be hard to translate without lapsing into melancholy, Montiel finds a way to craft a clear eyed version of his life, allowing strong acting and electric film-making to take over the balance of the experience. I love finding unheralded gems such as this. The name of Robert Downey Jr. brought me to the theater and I discovered a true talent in Dito Montiel who has crafted one of the finest directing debuts in several years

 

 LAST KING OF SCOTLAND 


I left the screening feeling much the way I did after seeing the film Capote last year. While both films were great, the outstanding portrayals of the lead characters are really what made them enjoyable. Just as Philip Seymour Hoffman did with his performance of Capote, Forest Whitaker stole this movie, and with such an empowered and skillful depiction of the dictator, I would be sorely disappointed if he didn't get an Oscar nod for Best Actor. This film is definitely worth watching, though for the faint of heart, be forewarned: there are some grisly and unsettling images shown in this movie, which is to be expected in a film about a man who was responsible for the deaths of over 300,000 of his own countrymen. Also, as a side note, if you watch this film and are interested in finding out more about the real-life Idi Amin, or simply would like a little back-story on him before checking out The Last King of Scotland, I would encourage you to see the 1974 documentary General Idi Amin Dada by Barbaret Schroeder. Both films I believe will leave you with much to think about, and surely a much greater understanding of the man who was General Idi Amin.

 

 T H E   LETTERS  FROM  IWOJIMA  


And Letters is quality from first frame to last, a war film that is almost like a poem in how it reveals the minds and secret hearts of the Japanese soldiers defending the volcanic island of Iwo Jima against American forces over forty days of battle in 1945.

Working from a screenplay by Iris Yamashita (her first), Eastwood's companion film to Flags burrows deeply into Japanese culture, starting with Lt. Gen. Tadamichi (the soulful Ken Watanabe), once an envoy to the U.S., who led the defense and came up with the controversial plan to tunnel the island (eighteen miles' worth) and dig caves to take on the American forces that far outnumbered them.

Eastwood's direction here is a thing of beauty, blending the ferocity of the classic films of Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai) with the delicacy of satyajit ray(apu trilogy). Characters are drawn with striking nuance and tender feeling, Ken watanabe is magnificent,for some unknown reason he did not get any nominations for his soulful performance,I think he is robbed.

This is eastwood at his best,at the age of 70+ he is definetely in top form,with two great films this year.

 

 T H E   DEPARTED  


I should probably begin this review by owning up to a particular personal bias I have in favor of Martin Scorsese�s films. I�ve seen almost all of them, and with only a few exceptions, have liked just about every one of his movies. That said, my love for Scorsese only accounts for a fraction of my anticipation for his most recent big-screen foray -with a slick trailer and a cast stacked with talented actors like Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, and Vera Farmiga, by the time the lights dimmed, and the trailers were over, I was already primed and ready to like this movie. To the film's credit, I was not let down at all. Quite often it is the movies that I am most excited about seeing that I end up being the most upset about having wasted the ticket money on. I find this phenomenon is even more common in the case of adaptations or re-makes. Not so in THE DEPARTED - THOUGH A REMAKE FROM "INTERNAL AFFAIRS" A HONGKONG MOVIE.

SCORSESE ROCKS IN THIS MOVIE. ONE OF HIS BEST.DEFINITELY UP FOR OSCAR (does it matter).

Music, editing, direction, writing, performances, action and suspense - all were expertly executed and enjoyable. Don't wait to see this one on DVD -this one is definitely worth seeing on a big screen.

 

 T H E   Q U E E N  


?

"The Queen" could have been told as a scandal sheet story of celebrity gossip. Instead, it becomes the hypnotic tale of two views of the same event -- a classic demonstration, in high drama, of how the Establishment has been undermined by publicity. I think it possible that Thatcher, if she still had been in office, might have supported the Queen. That would be impossible to the populist Blair.

Stephen Frears, the director, has made several wonderful films about conflicts and harmonies in the British class system ("My Beautiful Laundrette," "Dirty Pretty Things," "Prick Up Your Ears"), and "The Queen," of course, represents the ultimate contrast. No one is more upper class than the queen, and Tony Blair is profoundly middle class. The screenplay is intense, focused, literate, observant. The dynamic between Elizabeth and Philip (James Cromwell), for example, is almost entirely defined by decades of what has not been said between them -- and what need not be said. There are extraordinary, tantalizing glimpses of the "real" Elizabeth driving her own Range Rover, leading her dogs, trekking her lands at Balmoral -- the kind of woman, indeed, who seems more like Camilla Parker-Bowles than Diana.

Mirren is the key to it all in a performance sure for an Oscar. She finds a way, even in a "behind the scenes" docudrama, to suggest that part of her character will always be behind the scenes. What a masterful performance, built on suggestion, implication and understatement. Her queen in the end authorizes the inevitable state funeral, but it is a tribute to Mirren that we have lingering doubts about whether, objectively, it was the right thing. Technically, the queen was right to consider the divorced Diana no longer deserving (by her own choice) of a royal funeral. But in terms of modern celebrity worship, Elizabeth was wrong. This may or may not represent progress.

 

 T H E   P U R S U I T   O F   H A P P Y N E S S   



Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness.

The director, Gabriele Muccino, debuting here with his first English language film, cannot go unnoticed. He has translated the story from the page into a beautiful visual medium. His use of light is key in this film as it is a motive used through out to help the audience understand the plight of Chris. In his darkest moments he has no light, but in his moments of hope, light sources are abundant. It is an interesting parallel to see on screen. Further, he is brought Will Smith to a great level of acting. It is not Will Smith being cool like he does so well, it is Will being the worst off we have ever seen him before. The director pulled a great performance out of everyone in the entire film.

This is the perfect holiday film for families. The triumph of the human spirit over these circumstances can't help but put you in a good mood. I do have one criticism to offer. We see his struggle with money outside, but the filmmakers could have really upped the ante if ackhe had problems in the actual internship program. Once he got in, the program was really simple, and no one seemed like a threat to him. Even the bosses at the fortune 500 company seemed happy to help him out. That added obstacle wouldn't have made the l of money so redundant. Other than that, the complaints for the film are few and far between. If you can handle a little cliche and you are in the mood for a solid family film, then check out this movie when you get the chance.

 

 F A C T O T U M  


Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor in Factotum
Hollywood, as sign or guiding principle, is nowhere to be found in Factotum and there isn't a palm tree in sight. Shot in a seedy, forlorn Minneapolis, far from that city's green-canopied streets and Prairie School architecture, the film was directed by Bent Hamer, a Norwegian whose earlier features include the deadpan comedy Kitchen Stories. Working with the producer Jim Stark, Mr. Hamer adapted the screenplay from the 1975 novel of the same title, with snippets from three other, more characteristically Bukowskian sounding volumes: The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills and the posthumous What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire and The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship.

Published when Bukowski was in his mid-50s and starting to reach a wider readership, Factotum presents the age-old struggle of man against mediocrity. Henry Chinaski (Mr. Dillon), Bukowski�s familiar alter ego, is the heroic survivor of countless benders, brawls, rejection slips, crazy women and soul-killing, mind-deadening jobs. Or, as he puts it so nicely in the novel: How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, there is, naturally, a scatological dimension to this list - brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?

In Factotum, Henry answers this most reasonable question mostly by trying to avoid working, or at least working too hard, for other people. (Bukowski himself toiled for the Postal Service for more than a decade.) To that end, he takes a succession of menial jobs that require him to polish the vainglorious decor of a newspaper building (he holds out hope, briefly, for a job as a reporter), jackhammer ice and sort pickles. He does all of this with degrees of competency and just enough interest to keep him from collapsing into a stupor, though on occasion he does drop into the nearest bar. There, in a flood of alcohol, he casts a bloodshot eye on the adjoining flotsam and jetsam, taking notes on the human condition.

Of course Bukowski-Chinaski was always working, even when he could barely hold down a job, sending out manuscripts and collecting, for many lean years, rejection notices. In Factotum, Mr. Hamer shows us Henry coiled over a dimly lighted table, pressing his pen hard into sheets of paper, as the words float on the soundtrack. Mr. Dillon, wearing a beard and the flushed cheeks of a committed lush, sounds as persuasive as he looks. Whether he�s nuzzling another drunk (Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei take turns baring necks and psyches) or swapping philosophies with another shirker (Fisher Stevens), the actor delivers much of his dialogue with the hushed deliberation of a man who spends a lot of time in his head, which makes sense, given the company he generally keeps.

Like the film itself, Mr. Dillon�s performance works through understatement. It�s easy to go big with Bukowski, the way that Barbet Schroeder did in his 1987 film, Barfly, in which a freewheeling Mickey Rourke plays a skid-row Puck in a theater of the damned. There are intimations of soul amid this film's bloody grins and barstool gargoyles, but what it lacks is an appreciation for Bukowski's tenderness, for those sighs of feeling that rise up when life is this hard, but the soul enduring it has not hardened in turn. Mr. Dillon's phrasing carries the weight of such feeling, as does the hypnotically slowed gestures that give him the aspect of a man sitting at the bottom of a pool and thinking about drowning.

Henry doesn't drown, though, as played by Mr. Dillon and interpreted by Mr. Hamer, he does wallow magnificently and often rather hilariously. Factotum is a film about the horrors and occasional comedy of work, as well as gutting through life on your own terms, which in Bukowski's case meant turning both that horror and that comedy into literature. Even now, more than a decade after his death and well along into his canonization, there remains something genuinely liberating about his refusal to join the clock-puncher's lockstep. Subversive might not be the right word with which to characterize his commitment to his art, his muse, his hip flask and the Big No, as in no to the straight and narrow, no to the clean and tidy. But it does have a nice ring.
 

Factotum� is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). The language is blue, and you could get a contact high from the alcohol fumes.

 B A B E L  

Starring :  Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal
Directed by : Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarrittu

The EXTRAORDINARY Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarrittu and his screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga -Amores Perros and 21 Grams - have applied theconcept of Babel to the way we live now, in a world threatened by terrorism and divided by language, race, money and religion.. In the year's OANE OF THE BEST, complex film, Iñarrittu invites us TO LISTEN TO EACH OTHER AND UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER TO MKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.

 " Santiago's sudden rage is not because of that night or because he is drunk but because of several years of humiliation and resentment that he has been holding back for a long time. "
-ALEJANDRO Iñarrittu

Adriana Barraza, Gael Garcia Bernal and Clifton Collins Jr. in Paramount Classics' BabelDirector Alejandro Gonzalez Innarritu and Gael Garcia Bernal in Paramount Classics' Babel

Gael Garcia Bernal as Santiago from the film (left) and  being directed by Iñarrittu (right)

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