Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gran Torino is 5 Stars. Just go Watch it. Now

A few days ago, my friend dug up a really good copy of the Gran Torino on the internet (only after we had watched it did we realize that was yet to be released. Dont know how this copy was floating around!)

The critics have gone ga-ga over the movie. Here is a what a friend (Dr. V) has to say about Gran Torino, which he thinks "is the best movie of this year and one of the best this decade."

I dont usually wax about movies as its a rather personal journey. But this Clint Eastwood (actor, producer, director) film takes the cake. Its called Gran Torino. I dont wanna give any spoilers but suffice to say, he's at the zenith of his directing career.
A humourous, dark, tragi-comic story of a Korean War Vet and his relationship to "the gookheads in this neighbourhood" as he succintly puts it. Nothing is wasted in this film in typical Eastwood style. For those familiar with his work like 'Unforgiven', 'Mystic River' or 'Letters from Iwojima' will know what I mean. Not a single pan of the camera, not one dialogue, not even a glance. This film however surpasses them all. Its back to short 'Dirty Harry' style dialogues- 'Padre...Youre just an overeducated 27 year old virgin...' or "Once in a while you stumble across someone you dont wanna fuck with...Im thatt guy..." might make you think this is a ham. But he does it with such force that you feel it ans somehow it gels with the whole character he builds so effortlessly. The same themes run through this film as before, anger, justice...but most importantly self discovery which very few people appreciate about him.

I cant agree more. Clint Eastwood know his movies. He knows how to keep things simple, focus on the human drama and thus make a cracker of a movie.
The movie is terse, refreshing, gripping, funny, witty, tragic and leaves one with a sense of loss but also of hope. The movie has a refreshing story and unlike others shows a lesser known and depicted ethnic immigrant group as they struggle to reconcile their culture with the demands of the American way of life.

The script is taut, to the point and the story takes commonalities and turns them around. A neighborhood that was once white, is no more so with just one old man toiling to keep his place (and his way of live , mowing the lawn, doing the garden). An American war hero, a Korean war vet, who killed many Koreans, now having to befriend an Asian (Humong) family, not out of choice but after an attempted robbery goes bust. An American father who could never understand his own family and children, now fighting for his next door Humong family. A non-believer who is coaxed by the local padre to come to church, but ends up teaching the padre the real meaning of life and death. An old American ford car factory workers pride in his 1972 Gran Torino which is in super pristine condition even 35 yrs later, as the super giants of the aut industry are falling apart in Detriot. This is a story that is so simple but looks at life from the other end of the tunnel.

Wont get into more details, but the tension builds on to a climax.

Quoting Dr. V again, "Anyways enough talking, just watch it. You can watch it for free on or this is worth a friday night out (thursday if in Nottingham) with a beer and some buffalo jerky.

Go Ahead Make Your Day..."

Oscar Predictions:
1. Best Director (will win)
2. Best Picture (close fight with )
3. Best Actor (will probably go to frank langella for frost/nixon)
4. Best Screenplay

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. A life Lived in Rewind

Mr. Buttons case or rather life is indeed curious. Infact, exceptional. And quite other-worldly. It is a life lived in rewind from the grave to the womb. Its as if a dying grand parent is visualizing their own life as they hold their new born grandchild and see what lies in store for the new life

The movie is century-spanning epic. It flows melodiously, smoothly, lyrically and magically. And also at times you cant help but feel deja vu - some scenes, characters, situations and even the southern accent remind you of the GUMP - Forest Gump. Well the two movies share the same screenwriter, Eric Roth.

There are some beautiful scenes and its difficult to not notice the actors - Pitt, of course. Then Ms. Blanchett - stunning, slender, almost waif like in her ballet movements and a fierceness to live life youthfully. The tug boat captain on th tug boat Chelsea with all his tattoos. Tilda Swinton as the English channel swimmer (as below) and caviar freak.

See full image gallery

Brad pitt is absolutely awesome as he ages backwards, specially as a octogenarian young man who first walks when 7 yrs old, learns the things grown ups do, surprises the women with his unusual vigor (they mistake him to be "grandpa" because of his very old looks). And then when he has reversed aged enough to be his mid age person, the scene of him riding a bike, sailing into the wide ocean, left many of his female admirers gasping in the audience. When you see those shots you know why he is so so so famous.

The movie has moments and scenes of brilliance too. One of the best scenes in the movie is when people, unrelated, unknown to each other, are orchestrated by the conspirators of time and its machinations to be "just off the clock", leading into the collision course that leaves Ms. Blanchett's character forever altered. This sequence is brilliantly shot, narrated and depicted.

Then there is lyrical southern accent of Pitt's mama. There are the almost magical, fantastical and esoteric scenes of the tug boat sailing into the wide open sea.
The nights in the russian hotel when Mr. Pitt learns about love and romance (over caviar and vodka) from the older wife of british govt officer. And the movie has its hilarious "Did i tell you i was struck by lightning 7 times" moments.

Benjamin Button is definitely a must see.

Before i end and since i am on a pre-oscar binge these days, my oscar predictions are that the the movie will be a strong contender and will probably get the following nominations.
1. Best Picture of the year
2. Best Director
3. Best Actor
4. Best Actress
5. Best Supporting actress
6. Best Makeup/Effects
7. Best original soundtrack

I think it will probably win 4. Cate Blanchett can oscar-roll herself with ease now. It will definitely win number 6 (the computer effects used here are just mindblowing. The scenes of the old brad pitt are just unbelievably real).

And even though i would pick Gran Torino as the Best Picture of the Year, Button will probably win. But Clint Eastwood beats Fincher for the best director and Frank langella would trump Pitt for the best Actor. Pitt does a great job and has played an epic role (ala legends of the fall ) but frank langella's high intensity and high energy portrayal of Nixon wins my vote

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sold Out! Sold Out! Sold Out! Yes Slumdog Millionaire is Sold Out In New York

Yes. I am not kidding. The Slumdog Millionaire is Sold OUT. In New York City. Released in just 2 theaters in New York City (and till a few days ago, in just 10 theaters in the entire US), the movie has received an overwhelming response. The day i went to watch it, we saw sold out signs. And even three weeks later, yesterday while crossing Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, I saw shows sold out. Infact, it is running neck to neck with the sean penn starrer, Milk.

I was lucky because i saw it the very first weekend it was out. I had just seen a few glimpses of the trailer and was intrigued by an all Indian cast in a non-bollywood movie with some exciting visuals. And then on nov 16th, a friend called saying she was buying tickets to the movie. I was on it.

And what a pleasant surprise. The movie is simply refreshing. A fairy tale. A beautiful tale. A story with so many twists. An improbable story. One of those stories are are weaved with such contemporary situations, events, people, that you wonder, "oh why didnt i think of this earlier."

Much has been said and written about the movie (NY Times Review and others). There is even a live webcast of an interview with the author (Vikas Swarup) of the book tomorrow, "Q&A", on which the movie is based. I dont know how to describe the story other than that is takes the slum kids of bombay and mixes them with the underworld and the most popular game show and yet its all inspired by a true story that in the end is a simple love story. And the background score and music is simply brilliant. Who but AR Rahman, could create that magic.

The movie is an all round emotional roller coaster that will make you laugh, get you the edge of your seat, sparkle your eyes with some brilliant cinematography of the great city of Bombay, amuse you, thrill you and also make you root for the underdog. In fact, for many, like never before that i have witnessed in a theater in the US. I mean that, literally. In a theater in Bombay on elsewhere in India you would hear loud claps, whistles and cheers on several scenes. But you wouldnt expect to hear that in Manhattan. But you do. People, the upper crest of the upper west side, 80 yr old, the 30 somethings, the younger ones, they are were cheering for our underdog, Saleem! A rare movie that has a mostly American audience actually clap, root for and gasp for the characters in the movie. Kudos Donny Boyle and team.

The film left me mesmerized, energized, and entertained. And thankfully it didn't show the stereotypes about life in Bombay slums or in India as is usually shown in Hollywood movies. There were real characters, who did real things in real places.

I couldn't stop emailing friends with messages like "have you seen slumdog" , "go see slumdog", "Just returned after watching slumdog millionaire. A must watch. One of the rare one-of-its-kind movie. Very fresh and innovative storyline reminiscent of the new style of story telling of Rang De Basanti (their stories are miles apart, though)."

Go, Watch it. And Beware, most shows are SOLD OUT! So buy online and buy early.
Will be looking out for slumdog to get an Oscar Nomination for sure.

Udpate: Jan 11, 2009 - Slumdog wins 4/4 Golden Globes. Will definitely win Oscars.