The Revenant (2016): A Quick Review

Leonardo Di Caprio Oscar 2016 winnerThe hype the Oscars create always make you watch a few of the movies that win awards. This year the Oscars and The Revenant were more in the news to check if Leo finally makes it to the awards or gets relegated yet again to the nomination seats. No event possibly could have garnered more debate than possibly a Salman getting married or Putin attacking Syria. For once Leo didn’t disappoint and added the most elusive and prestigious awards in the world to his kitty.Continue reading “The Revenant (2016): A Quick Review”

Golden Globes 2016: List of Winners

The who’s who of Hollywood gathered earlier today at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles for the 73rd annual Golden Globe Awards. After a gap of a few years comedian Ricky Gervais returned to host the ceremony. Celebrity presenters include Amy Schumer, Tom Hanks, Katy Perry, Matt Damon, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Mel Gibson.

Given below is the list of winners-Continue reading “Golden Globes 2016: List of Winners”

The Great Gatsby (2013) DVD Review: Devdas in Hollywood

America of 1920’s and India of 1920’s were poles apart in term of culture, values and everything is what one assumes generally. Interestingly a Bengali novel Devdas and The Great Gatsby written in the same period has the same theme a rich boy, hopelessly in love with a girl who also in love with him, but is now married to other person, while the boy still pins for her and in the process destroys himself.

Baz Luhrmann is known for his over the top musical extravaganza, a la Bollywood style, this is exactly what is required for screen adaptation of  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s popular American novel The Great Gatsby.Continue reading “The Great Gatsby (2013) DVD Review: Devdas in Hollywood”

Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio: Is DiCaprio the successor to Robert De Niro for the master filmmaker?

Martin Scorsese once famously remarked that it was Robert De Niro who recommended him to work with Leonardo DiCaprio.

“I just did this thing called This Boy’s Life with this kid named Leo DiCaprio. He’s really good. You should work with him some day.” – De NiroContinue reading “Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio: Is DiCaprio the successor to Robert De Niro for the master filmmaker?”

Django Unchained Movie Review: Of Tarantino's Unchained magic..

Note: The use of politically incorrect epithets/words in the below note is merely to respect the film-maker’s political incorrectness. No other agenda regarding race should be construed otherwise.

Quentin Tarantino is like an irresistible bar-tender; one that you wish to go to anytime you want, without a second thought, so that you can be rest assured that the flowing wine he’s going to serve would mess up your brain in an exhilarating way. The only difference being that you don’t want to narrate your troubles to the bar-tender and bore him/her to death; instead, just sit back and listen to the story that the bar-tender tells you! Along with the other master of moving images Steven Spielberg, this year, he serves us a more bizarre and history-skewing concoction that only a few seasoned bar-tenders could even think of serving. While Spielberg still remains faithful to the ‘iconicity’ of Lincoln and the historicity of slavery in the United States, Tarantino sews up that bit of history in such a bizarre cloth that it would put the fashion-design antics of Lady Gaga to shame. With bits and moments of pain, bigotry, violence,  and oppression serving as the many buttons, as  mirror-pieces, as tie-knots in this ensemble, he holds such a mind-numbing  cloth of slavery in our face that there is just no lurking or turning away. In ‘Django Unchained’, Tarantino simply disregards and throws out the window the serious narratives of history but brings into the room that essence of history with such an unkempt cinematic conviction that one feels more humanized in the process of understanding the dehumanizing aspect of oppression that any student of history that has ever struggled and managed to get even a B+ in American History classes would simply lap up.

He begins the movie with the titles being pasted in blood-red against the half-scenic dry-lands of Texas reminiscent of the ‘B’ movie westerns’ credit-display styles. From there-on, he takes us on a journey from Texas to Mississippi through Tennessee of a bounty-hunting team earning ‘cash for corpses’ comprising a hideous spring-tooth adorned carriage riding Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz) and his Mandingo/valet/ Mr. Django (a ‘nigger’ portrayed by Mr. Jamie Foxx). And since he has a weakness for the German fatherland, he enunciates to Mr. Django an irresistible proposal of working together to freeing Django’s wife Broomhilda (named after a German legend) while he makes his profits both monetarily and conscientiously along the way. Well, since this is set in 1858, before the civil war and before the complete owning of emancipation by Lincoln, Django accepts the deal—not that he had many other choices! This leads them to Mr. Calvin Candie, deliciously played by Leonardo di Caprio, showing us the ugliness he is cinematically capable of, behind that pretty face. As a plantation and slave owner down south, Leo is both irresistible and slimy. He comes across as a southern, ruthless slave-owner who is the no-nonsense business-man of slaves and has a seemingly incestuous relationship (Roman emperors anyone? Let’s keep the blood-stream unpolluted from foreign bodies) with his charming sister (a beautiful Laura Cayouette). How then, the duo of Shultz and Django go about freeing Broomhilda from the clutches of Mr. Calvin Candie is what adorns this part-western/spaghetti/history/morality/civics-laden art by Quentin.

Quentin leaves almost no stone unturned to spool us a movie that is bizarre and irreverential, irresponsible but soul-searching at the same time, and definitely searing. There is a schizophrenic underlining to his thinking by playing to the gallery when one of the black-servants in the movie says, ‘But all niggers are Herculean!’ and then a few frames later, he goes on to break the oft-lamented ‘institutional’ stereo-typing of blacks in a symbolic scene when Django uses his wits to out-fool his white-owners and rides off into the sun-set to free his wife while the remaining three black slaves just sit in their carriage, chained, not doing—not even trying— anything for themselves! This might be an extremely disturbing metaphor for any oppressed class anywhere in the world regarding the necessity to ‘get off their posteriors’ and do things for themselves without caring two hoots for the politically and academically-correct protective cloud of ‘institutionalized racism/oppression.’ But Tarantino just wants the audience to rack their brains and get the message that he shoots at us subtly, in his own wacky way. If oxy-moronism had a human personification, it would be Quentin Tarantino. The violence in the movie is part-cartoon and part bloody; but disconcerting it definitely is. While he shows blood spurt out of the bodies just like a torrent of melon-juice being shot out of water-melons; he ensures that every whip-lash, every uttered ‘nigger’ word register a deeply emotional impact.

Christoph Waltz as Dr.King Schultz

The film just flies by for its running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes. Tarantino simply writes outlandish characters, and then finds even more outstanding actors to portray those characters. There is a problem with one actor, however, and that is Christoph Waltz. The man simply gobbles up any other actor in the frame! He virtually owns the first 30-40 minutes of the initial frames and also in the latter part during his negotiations with Leo’s Mr. Candie with his moustache-twirling accented antics. He plays to the gallery and how! And after him, you have Samuel Jackson’s Steven, an oppression-internalized black house-servant of Mr. Candie’s, who isn’t hesitant to be the most unctuous creature on this earth. He is simply remarkable as the ‘yes-man’ of Candie. His expressions of exasperation at the sight of a ‘nigger’ riding on a horse along-side a white man are a hoot, particularly when Candie asks him to set-up rooms for the both in his estate! Jamie Foxx comes across as suitably repressed but as a somewhat ‘other’ when considered in comparison to his ‘brothers’ and environs, maybe necessarily so.

The ultimate winner in this enterprise, however, is, Quentin himself. His cinema comes across as inspirations from cinema themselves, not real-life. All his tropes, his influences, suggest uni-directionally to a cinematic universe and not anything otherwise. He makes no bones in using extremely contentious historical facts to deliver his dark humor. There is an uproarious scene where an army of whites in Klu Klux Klan gear swoop down to kill Django and Schultz and find themselves discussing for a flat-out 5 minutes regarding the masks having been poorly stitched with holes poking out of all the wrong places and hence having trouble deciding whether to actually wear the masks or go bare-faced during the raid! There is also a chilling scene—a crude but very effective way of tackling the ‘gene’ theory of oppression—which Leo enacts brilliantly when he breaks open the exhumed skull of a ‘loyal’ black-servant to point out 3 dimples that brilliant brains like Isaac Newton and Galileo are supposed to have had but which, curiously, the blacks are supposed to be having on the same side of the skull scientifically screaming ‘subservience’ or ‘servility.’ Quentin cares two-hoots what people ‘conceive’ and interpret of his films. And this was more than apparent when the theater in which the writer watched in Washington, DC—filled to the brim with blacks, erupted with joy when Django shoots Candie’s sister cold-bloodedly in spite of the fact that she had actually prevented and objected to a dinner-table humiliation of his wife! Through such incorrigible scenes, Quentin shows us the dehumanizing effects of oppression on the oppressor and the oppressed, and thus, holds a mirror to the audience that claps when a person belonging to the ‘other’ side is killed and no remorse is felt, either by the whistling audience or the ‘rambunctious’ lead. Whether they have got the point or not is solely upto them.

The D in Django might be silent, but the E in Quentin screams entertainment with a capital E.

Aneesh

The Departed: A symphony between the mafia and police

Everyone loves a good mafia story, especially if it is done well. For a mafia based film, this requires a well written script which is matched with a great representation on film. We have seen many good mafia stories in the past but quite often they fall short of hitting the benchmark of being truly spectacular. This may be due to the fact that most people automatically put a gangster-mafia film on a pedestal, when in actual fact, it needs to be made well to become one of the ‘greats’.Continue reading “The Departed: A symphony between the mafia and police”

Redefining Cinema The 'Tarantino' Way

Quentin Tarantino – the name  represents machismo, style & loads of attitude. And a good deal of the same can be found in the strongly etched out female protagonists in his films. They are tough, sexy, sassy, smart and hard as nails . Who will stop at nothing before they get what they want. They definitely aren’t what they look like. An aura and an element of mysticism surrounds them. There is always a hidden agenda which they have and which makes them enter potentially dangerous situations willingly. And these traits or nuances make these characters so memorable. Be it Pam Grier as Jackie Brown, Lucy Liu as O-ren Ishii(Kill Bill Vol-I)Uma Thurman as The Bride or Melanie Laurentz as Shosanna Dreyfuss(Inglorious Basterds).

His films have some great characters who despite having a short screen time make a lasting impression. Their performances  add a lot of sheen to the proceedings.

Case in point being Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz(Til Schweiger) in Inglourious Basterds. The way his character is introduced is superb. Especially the narration of his flashback.

“The reason for Hugo Stiglitz’s celebrity among German soldiers is simple.
As a German-enlisted man, he killed 13 Gestapo officers.
Instead of putting him up against a wall, the High Command decided to send him back to Berlin to be made an example of.
Needless to say, once the Basterds heard about him, he never got there.

Stiglitz may not have a very big role but the way his character is introduced and presented, it stays in your mind long after the film has ended. Other such characters that come to my mind are Gogo Yubari the crazy assassin hired by Lucy Liu in Kill Bill or Chris Tucker as Beaumont Livingston in Jackie Brown.

The protagonists in Tarantino’s films are more than often involved in shady deals or business. Be It Samuel L Jackson in Pulp fiction or Jackie BrownHarvey KeitelMichael Madsen etc in Reservoir Dogs. Even if they are gainfully employed, they are often engaged in achieving a particular sinister mission. Like Brad Pitt and the basterds in Inglorious Basterds.

Morality has never been a point of conflict in Tarantino’s films. There is never a sense of dilemma in the protagonists mind regarding right and wrong. The protagonists in Tarantino’ s film are most of the times amoral. They go about doing the job because that’s what they are supposed to do without thinking about the consequences of their actions. For instance, Lt Aldo Raine(Brad Pitt) in Inglourious Basterds is concerned with one thing only ‘Killin Nazis‘. That is his way of extracting revenge from the Germans for the atrocities committed by the Germans on the Jews. There is no argument on whether the means justifies the ends or not, neither in the protagonists minds nor that of the audience.

There is just the hunter and the hunted on two opposite sides. The viewer is also therefore spared from endless sermonizing on the clash between good and bad unlike many other films. The protagonist is always concerned with achieving his/her mission , morals be damned.

More than often the protagonists get involved in some crazy mishaps leading to some unexpected but funny situations. Like the trigger pulling incident of John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.

Music plays a very important role in Tarantino’s films. The way he integrates music into the proceedings is simply exemplary. The way Tarantino uses Background Music or retro songs to shoot or build up a scene is orgasmic.

Take for instance the famous ear chopping scene in Reservoir dogs featuring Michael Madsen. When Madsen ties the cop to a chair and thereafter turns on the radio, there is a nice retro song playing on the radio. Thereafter, Madsen coolly swings to the song while he chops the ear of the cop with a razor. And all you can hear is helpless grunts by the cop, helplessly trying to fight off a maniacal Madsen. The way the song is used in depicting the scene gives you goose bumps. Notice that Tarantino doesn’t use any BGM apart from the above mentioned song in the scene. This gives it an even more chilling effect. Trust someone like Tarantino to use music for executing scenes so uniquely yet effectively.

Kill Bill is one film which very well displays his brilliant sense of music. The whistle tune played by Elle driver while she goes to kill The Bride in the hospital  changes from being sweet sounding to absolutely menacing in a spur of a second. The theme music playing in the background when The Bride and O-Ren Ishii are heading for a lethal confrontation creates an excitement amongst the viewer indicating that there is a lot of action that is waiting to happen.

Even the action in Tarantino’s’ films is brief but very well staged & executed. Be it the shootout scene at the bar in Inglourious Basterds or the clash between the bride and a dozen odd henchmen of Lucy Liu in Kill Bill. Or the fight between Vernita Green and The Bride in Kill Bill. The action scenes are very quick , they don’t last for much long yet it is very effective and gets the desired reaction from the audience.

Dialogues are the mainstay of any Tarantino enterprise. Tarantino effectively uses dialogues for some specific purposes : to carry the story forward or to establish that though his protagonists are engaged in unscrupulous activities yet they are very normal and ordinary human beings. Or to establish the presence of a certain character. Like the opening scene in Reservoir dogs, the thugs (led by Harvey Keitel ) are planning a robbery yet they find all the time in the world to engage in a trivial discussion on Madonna’s song “About A Virgin”. Or be it the conversations between Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Or the iconic scene in which Jackson threatens the business associates of Marcellus Wallace .

The iconic scene of Samuel L Jackson

Or sample some of the lines of Samuel L Jackson from Jackie Brown

“I’m serious as a heart attack.”
“My ass may be dumb, but I ain’t no dumbass.”
“Somebody with a grudge blew Beaumont’s brains out…
Oh, shit.That shit rhymes…Blew Beaumont’s brains out…”

The way Tarantino builds up a scene and ends it  is also remarkable. He takes his own sweet time to build a scene and ends it quickly even before you can say “Whoa”. Like the bar shootout scene in Inglorious Basterds. Or the scene towards the climax in Jackie Brown between Louis Garra (Robert De Niro) and Melanie (Bridget Fonda). While exchanging the bag, Garra knows that there was some goof up and he has misplaced his car keys. All the while, he is being constantly taunted by Melanie for misplacing his keys. Initially Garra tries to ignore her while frantically searching for his car keys. But when he cant bear her taunts any longer he simply shoots her leaving her dead and leaves the spot calmly. The way the scene begins and ends is simply amazing.

However, the greatest strength of Tarantino is that he manages to extract uniformly spectacular performances from his actors. I mean, have we ever heard any actor putting up a mediocre show in any of his films ? Hell no. Be it Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, John Travolta in Pulp Fiction or Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds, most of the performances in his films turn out to be iconic and truly memorable. He also has a thing for re-inventing icons or stars of yesteryear’s. Such as Pam Grier with Jackie Brown or the late David Carradine in Kill Bill.

Gary Oldman in True Romance
Samuel L Jackson in Jackie Brown

The looks which the characters sport in his films are indeed different and go a long way in adding to the overall feel of the characters. The looks sported by the actors convey a lot about the characters. For instance Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown adds to the overall menace which the character exudes. Or be it Gary Oldman as Drexl the pimp in True Romance ( the movie which was written by Tarantino). Oldman plays a loathsome pimp in the movie and the way in which he has been styled adds to the overall creep factor of the character.

Come to think of it, a Tarantino film is like an experience . There’s so much you can observe and enjoy in his films. And most of the times you end up asking for more. With every viewing, the film gets all the more enjoyable.

Quentin Tarantino can be truly be called as ‘an auteur’ or ‘a maverick film maker’ . He has in more ways than one redefined various genres with his uber cool movies which often has a unique storytelling pattern. Be it the heist flick genre with Reservoir Dogs. Be it the gangster movie genre with an uber cool Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. Be it the action movie genre with Kill Bill. Or be it the war movie genre with Inglourious Basterds.

And now with his next venture Django Unchained which stars Jamie Foxx & Leonardo Dicaprio amongst others, it seems Tarantino is all set to redefine the Western movie genre. As the trailer is due to be released soon, all the Tarantino bhakts are eagerly awaiting Django Unchained to see what it has to offer for us.

Some know him as God, you may call him Marty.

In a world where the superstars or actors pull-in the crowd, how many directors manage to do the same?  How many directors command a bigger pedestal than the cast of the movie? Not many, I guess.

During the Academy awards, one name was invoked more often than anybody else’s name. Martin Scorsese. After giving us 22 movies, 13 documentaries, many commercials and  just 1 Oscar, the 70 year old Marty, as he is fondly called, gave us HUGO.

Whether it is gritty and violent like MEAN STREETS, TAXI DRIVER or poignantly romantic like ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, or satirical like THE KING OF COMEDY, AFTER HOURS or just plain stylish like AVIATOR, GOODFELLAS, Marty‘s uniquely versatile vision has made him one of cinema’s most acclaimed directors.

As a young kid, bought up in the little Italy section of Manhattan, he decided to “Make movies about what really happens”. In hindsight, you will know that Marty does not only make movies, but also is a great movie fan with an insatiable appetite to watch, discuss and enjoy cinema. His inspiration for making movies came from his own childhood which was spent in the Bronx. By his own admission, he said that the biggest research he did for making Mean Streets, his first major release, was his life. He would watch people in the gritty neighborhood go about their life and business and just poured his experiences in the movies that have made him the man he is today.

40 years after he made his first major Hollywood movie, his balance sheet looks balanced. He is one of the few directors today who have received both critical and box office acclaim. Of course, like anybody, he did go through a lean patch in the late 70s and early 80s when none of the studios supported him after box office disasters like New York, New York and The King of Comedy. His professional life dipped further when studios did not accept The Last Temptation of Christ, as it was deemed too radical.  All the while, he lived in Los Angeles, learning the mechanics of how large cities function. It was this knowledge that he put to use, to bounce back. He moved back to New York to set his professional career on track.

The second part of his career is the part where-in he came into his own. He belted out movies like The Last Temptation of Christ (he made Universal studios to produce the movie), Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Casino and Kundan before ending the millennium on a high. Post 2000, having juiced DeNiro with some fine performances his association with Leonardo Dicaprio began. The noughties saw Scorsese shed his Mafia fixation and dabble into big budget set piece movies. Scorsese and Dicaprio would collaborate to give us movies like Gangs of New York (a script that he had been wanting to make for 20 years, with DeNiro in the lead), Aviator, Departed (the movie that won him the most coveted Oscar, finally), and finally Shutter Island.

While all of us love the overall feel of his films, he should be credited for all the factors and innovations that he bought to cinema.

Known as the “king of tracking shot”, he is known for his lengthy takes. Most of his movies start and end with 2-3 minute scenes, which is a mean feet.  Other contributions like bringing the “New York vernacular” talk in movies like Mean Street, Goodfellas, color treatment in movies like Aviator, Gangs of New York, and now re-interpretation of how 3D can bolster a film’s beauty without intruding on the story  only add to his folklore.

Having been fed on movies by Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, Sidney Lumet, he was adamant about learning from them and developing his own unique style of film making. He was mainly influenced by these greats, because, they did not bend down in front of the Hollywood studio system and got their creative vision on screen.

When not giving in to the big studios or simply battling it out with them, he vented out his creative genius into making documentaries , music videos (the Rolling Stones concert and Micheal Jackson shows were legendary) and restoration of old-movies.

His style of movie-making combined a rough and gritty attention to the everyday life of the urban jungle with a monumental visual sensibility. In one of his most acclaimed films, Taxi Driver 91976), he focused on the particulars of an individual and his obsessions. Starring Robert DeNiro (with whom Scorsese has had one of the most celebrated collaborative relationships in American cinema), Taxi Driver elevates the obscure specifics of a disturbed life with greatest drama.

Through movies like Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, Departed, he has shown us the engaging world and power structure of Mafia. He bought together, style and theoretical content with great flair. Scorsese often focused on a theme that has permeated nearly everyone of his movies – the plight of the desperate and out-of-control individual. Often unsympathetic, his characters display a crazed violence that mimics the repressive social structures in which they live. Almost all his movies are engaging and social commentaries.

Martin Scorsese is the most important living American filmmaker – one whose relentless search for the furthest emotional reaches of his genre have led him to the center of the American ( and global) psyche.

In an era where careers are measured in months rather than years, Marty has served us for close to 45 years. In Hollywood, that is no lesser than a battlefield, he has battled it out with studios, stars and himself.

But all this has not resulted in a burn-out. At the age of 68, he set out to make a 3D movie. For a man who has always believed in old-school film making, and who has never tasted massive box office success (his most successful film was Shutter Island, that grossed $ 300 million worldwide), he adapted to the rigors of a new technique of film making. He has achieved three things that very, very few filmmakers achieve in life – (1) Enough money to make movies and documentaries that interest him, (2) enough freedom to make the movies in the way he wants to make them, (3) Enough acclaim and appreciation (not in the way of awards , though) from his peers and fans.

His lack of recognition from the Academy awards actually adds to rather than detracts from his reputation: after all, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Cubrick were also all denied Oscars.

Just like a 3 minute show reel of a lifetime’s work cannot do justice to a man or his body of work, this is just a sincerely written piece of tribute to a man who has worked his lifetime to entertain us. I raise a toast to Marty, the movie fan, who also makes movies.

12 films to look for in 2012

It’s always a tradition for a movie maniac as he/she looks forward to the year with some anticipation even though one gets heartbreak, anger, amusement and excitement while watching films. Not giving any general consensus or making a statement on behalf of everyone, but there are some movies that have my date and time fixed and so would like that to be shared amongst my fellow cinemalcholics. The list only includes Hollywood releases and has excluded World Cinema, Hindi & Regional films for a better outlook. Hope these movies live up to their hype and we have a satisfying time at the movies.Continue reading “12 films to look for in 2012”