Monday, 29 December 2014

''High Noon'' (1952 movie)- Review

Directed by: Fred Zinnemann
Released: 1952
Country: United States

Genres: Western, Drama, Thriller

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


In ''High Noon'', Gary Cooper plays Marshal Will Kane. The film tells a story that spans just a few hours- and within these few hours, a lot of things happen: tension, disappointment, fear, thrills, apprehension. It is a western thriller full of thrills and tension- and one that I would highly recommend. 

 Marshal Will Kane marries Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), but just a few minutes after their marriage, they get a terrible news: a man, Frank Miller, whom Will had sent to prison, has been released, and is coming back to take revenge on Will. Everybody advises Will to get out of the town before Frank arrives, and Will initially agrees, but soon returns to the town. Amy is furious at him: she wants him to leave the town with her, but when he disagrees, she decides to leave the town on her own. She waits at a hotel near the station, waiting for the train. On the other hand, some friends of Frank are waiting for him at the station, ready to welcome him back. Will starts looking for help, looking for people who would help him face Frank. But nobody agrees to help him: some out of fear, and some because of their dislike for Will (ironically, the only people who want to help Will are a one-eyed man and a teenager). And as the minutes fly by, Frank's train keeps approaching...

One of the things I loved about this film is it's simplicity: it tells the story that spans just a few hours, and within those few hours, the characters go through such incidents, such fear, such thrills, such tension. Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly are definitely excellent in their respective roles, and I should also mention Katy Jurado, who plays Helen Ramirez, who had been the lovers of both Frank and Will. 

''High Noon'' is a thrilling film with excellent screenplay and performances. I'd highly recommend it.

4.5 out of 5


Saturday, 27 December 2014

''Modern Times'' (1936 movie)- Review

Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Released: 1936
Country: United States

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Stanley Sandford, Chester Conklin

Genres: Comedy, Romantic comedy, Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


Charlie Chaplin's ''Modern Times'' is set during the Great Depression. It tells the story of a tramp, who, with the help of an orphaned young woman, dreams of a better life, a life without hunger and poverty, and struggles hard for it. ''Modern Times'' is really very funny like other Charlie Chaplin films, but it is also really sweet, it also has an excellent emotional depth, and yes, it is heartwarming and inspirational.

Charlie Chaplin plays a factory worker who starts suffering from mental depression that ultimately causes him to lose his job and go to a hospital for some days. After he is discharged from the hospital, he is left without a job, a home, and means to support himself. Circumstances cause him to meet a Gamin (played by Paulette Goddard), whose father died recently. Her younger siblings were taken to an orphanage, but she ran away from the authorities as she didn't want to be in an orphanage. Chaplin's character and the Gamin become great friends, and decide to get a better life, a home, to get rid of the poverty and difficulty they have to face because of the Great Depression.

''Modern Times'' reminded me how much I actually love silent films. The film is mostly silent, but there are scenes where there are spoken dialogues, and a song that Chaplin's character sings near the end of the film.

''Modern Times'' is hilarious and funny. It kept me laughing. But at the same time, it is no mindless comedy film. Instead, it deals with a very serious subject matter: poverty, sufferings of the poor people, dreams and hopes for a better life, and the struggle for it. While it is definitely a funny film, it is, at the same time, heartwarming, emotional, and beautiful. Charlie Chaplin's performance is definitely excellent, and Paulette Goddard, as the Gamine, is beautiful and equally amazing. My favorite scenes from the film are those in which Chaplin's character is released from the prison, and the Gamine is waiting for him outside the prison, and when they are meet, they look so happy, and the looks on their faces and their smiles and their reactions  are so beautiful, so heartwarming! The final scene is also really very beautiful.

Overall, '"Modern Times'' is an excellent film, definitely recommended. It is funny, it is sweet, it is cute, it is emotional, it can make you smile, laugh, and cry. It is a beautiful film.

5 out of 5

Friday, 26 December 2014

''Allegiant''- Book Review

Published: 2013
Author: Veronica Roth

Genres: Novel, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


''Allegiant'' is the final book in the ''Divergent'' trilogy.

After the death of Jeanine Matthews and the victory of the factionless, Evelyn takes up the duty of leading the city and the people, and abolishes the faction system, much to the displeasure of many people. Evelyn also declares that nobody will be allowed to go outside the city, defying the instructions found in the Edith Prior video at the end of ''Insurgent''. However, members of a rebel group, led by Cara and Tori, known as ''Allegiant'', defy the tyrant Evelyn's authority. Instead, they plan to go outside the city and discover how the people outside the city's borders need their help. Tris, Tobias, Christina, Peter, Caleb, Cara, Uriah and Tori decide to go outside the city's border, and they manage to do so. Outside the city, they come across shocking revelations: the greatest secrets about their entire lives, about their city. They come to know that what they had seen, their lifestyles all along were nothing but lies and made-up things. Throughout their lives they had believed, they had known certain things, but after leaving their city, they come across such strange revelations that makes them realize the truth behind everything, the truth behind the city, the confinement, the factions, and above all, the truth about themselves.

''Allegiant'' contains revelations, extremely important revelations. We come to learn the backgrounds of everything in the series in this novel. We come to know about the background of the city, the background and history of the things in the trilogy.

''Allegiant'' is indeed a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. While I really liked it, I didn't exactly love it in the way I loved it's predecessors. There are important revelations in this one, and it was wonderful to know get an insight on the past of the city, the real reason the city was formed, and the truth behind the faction system. The romance between Tris and Tobias is great in this one as well, with nothing becoming sappy, but is really emotional. The character development is excellent like it's predecessors. 

I have loved the ''Divergent'' series. I really admired the storytelling, the character development, the excellent emotional depth, the endless secrets and mysteries and the revelations! The ending of ''Allegiant'' was really good- I was in tears several times while reading the book. Overall, it is a good conclusion to the wonderful series. I really liked it.

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, 20 December 2014

''Harold and Maude'' (1971 movie)- Review

Directed by: Hal Ashby
Released: 1971
Country: United States

Genres: Romantic comedy, Dark comedy, Drama

Cast: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Charles Tyner

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


''Harold and Maude'', directed by Hal Ashby, has it all: feel-good romantic comedy elements, extremely dark humor, hilarity, as well as emotional depth. It is a hilarious, witty, darkly humorous, romantic, (sometimes) mischievous and sweet film.

Harold Chasen (Bud Cort), in his early 20s, is obsessed with deaths and funerals. One of his favorite hobbies is to fake his own suicide. He has done it so many times that it does not scare his mother (played by Vivian Pickles) anymore. During his visits to funerals, he often notices an elderly lady (Ruth Gordon), and one day, the woman approaches him. She introduces herself as Maude. She is 79. Maude is happy-go-lucky, and lives life to the fullest. Mischiveous, extremely lively, and defying her age, she often gets into cars that don't belong to her and drive off. Her actions, undoubtedly, surprise Harold. With the passage of time, Harold and Maude become really close. When it comes to characteristics and lifestyle, Harold and Maude are exactly opposite: while Harold finds life hopeless and not worth living, the 79-year-old Maude loves her life, lives life to the fullest. Gradually, Maude teaches Harold that life is worth living, that life has to be enjoyed. Harold finds himself falling in love with Maude- and it is genuine, pure love.

''Harold and Maude'' is sometimes extremely funny, extremely hilarious, yet sometimes really touching, really very sweet. Both Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon give perfectly amazing performances. Ruth Gordon is so cute, so sweet! She is perfect in her role as the happy-go-lucky and mischievous Maude. Similarly, Bud Cort also gives an excellent performance. Vivian Pickles, as Harold's mother, is really good as well. I should also mention Ellen Geer, who plays Sunshine. Harold's mother arranges dates between Harold and three different woman, as she wants Harold to get married and settle down. One of these three women is Sunshine, an actress. Harold tries to scare her off, like he had scared the two previous women, but Sunshine, a talented actress, remains unmoved by Harold's trick, and instead peforms such a trick that manages to shock- if not scare- Harold. Ellen Geer's role is short, but really very amusing.

While there are sweet moments of romance, there are darkly witty moments as well. The very first scene of the film comes as a surprise. We see Harold hanging himself. His mother enters the room, and we naturally expect her to scream. But instead, she doesn't even react. We look at her, surprised. Only then do we realize that she is used to seeing this: Harold often fakes suicides, and his mother has seen him faking suicides so many times that she is now quite used to it. The thing he did at the very beginning of the film is such an example of his fake suicides.

To sum it up, ''Harold and Maude'' has humor, romance, and emotional depth. There were scenes that made me laugh and laugh and laugh, and still make me laugh when I think of them, and there are scenes that are really touching. It is a wonderful little film.

4.5 out of 5


Thursday, 18 December 2014

''The Book Thief''- Book Review

Author: Markus Zusak
Published: 2006

Genres: Novel, Historical fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5


By the time I finished reading ''The Book Thief'', my face was drenched with tears. This book is... unique. It's so powerful. So astounding. It sparked in me my deepest emotions. This novel made me cry, it made me deeply attached to the characters. ''The Book Thief'' made me go through the same emotions that the characters were going through. It made me cry with the characters, it made me laugh with the characters, it made me feel relieved when the characters were relieved.  ''The Book Thief'' was a heartbreaking novel; it was extremely powerful and emotionally intense, and it also had humor. It is a book reading which I felt happy, I felt sad, and I felt devastated. 

The novel is narrated by Death. Yes, Death. The story is set in Nazi Germany, during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Liesel Meminger is a young girl who is taken to Molching where she has to live with foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. While she was on her way to Munich, her infant brother had died on the train.At the home of her foster parents, Liesel misses her dead brother, and also her real mother, who, being a Communist, had to leave her with foster parents. Liesel has nightmares everyday. Her foster father, whom she refers to as ''Papa'', comforts her. Her Papa decides to teach her how to read and write. Helped by Hans, Liesel learns to read, and soon, she develops a fascination with books, with words. She falls in love with books, with words. On one occassion, when the Nazis are burning books by Jewish authors or with Jewish subjects, or books that deal with subjects that oppose the Nazi idealogies, Liesel steals a book that managed to escape unburnt. Our narrator, Death, refers to Liesel as ''The Book Thief''. 

The Second World War takes away the smoothness and happiness from their lives. There is poverty, there are wants. And there is also another danger. The Hubermanns hide a Jew, Max Vandenburg, in their basement. If the Gestapos find out about this, then they will all be in grave peril. Meanwhile, Liesel and Max become great friends, amidst all the dangers and fears and poverty.

Throughout the novel, Death noticed Liesel, the book thief, three times. This is what the narrator announces at the very beginning of the novel. Death briefly discusses the situations under which he noticed the book thief.

''The Book Thief'' is driven by it's plot, it's characters, and it's words. The words are simply so powerful, I really, really, really loved the way the story is told. The storytelling is simply beautiful, simply powerful. There were characters I started to love. I got deeply attached to the characters. Liesel. Hans. Rosa. Max. Rudy Steiner, Liesel's best friend. Ilsa Hermann, the Mayor's wife. These characters were so powerful, so excellently-developed. Excellent character development is one of the reasons I absolutely fell in love with this novel. 

Bond between people. The bond between Liesel and Hans. Liesel and Max. Liesel and Rudy. Liesel and Ilsa. All these bonds were so beautifully developed.

The storytelling. It's so emotionally intense. I ended up with tears in my eyes, with a lump in my throat, not once, but numerous times while reading this book. How powerful and intense this book is! It is really beautiful, it really is.

The horrors and devastation of wars are really well explored in this novel. The poverty and the misery that wars can bring. The fears, the horrors. The deaths, the tragedy. All these are deeply explored in this book.

''The Book Thief'' is an extraordinarily powerful novel that I will recommend to everybody. It is so deep, so beautiful. The characters are so wonderfully developed. The storytelling is beautiful.  It is a beautiful and extremely powerful book that I simply loved.

5 out of 5

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

''The Maltese Falcon'' (1941 movie)- Short review

Directed by: John Huston
Released: 1941
Country: United States

Genre: Film noir, Mystery, Drama, Crime

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook, Jr., Lee Patrick

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Short review

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) is a detective, who is approached by a certain Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor), who asks him to keep an eye on a certain man, Floyd Thursby. Spade's partner, Miles Archer, follows Thursby, but Miles is mysteriously killed, and, within a short time, Thursby is also killed. Who could have killed them? What was the motive? This incident sparks events that leads Miles to discover that Miss Wonderly is not actually the person who she claims to be, and it further leads him to problems regarding a certain, precious, expensive, historical statuatte of falcon, which is somehow related to the crimes. He comes across Joel Cairo and Kasper Gutman, criminals who desperately want the falcon.

''The Maltese Falcon'' is an excellent, twisted mystery film. Humphrey Bogart's performance is excellent, and Mary Astor is brilliant as well. Sydney Greenstreet is also great in his role as Kasper Gutman. Lee Patrick is similarly brilliant as Spade's loyal secretary. The climax, which takes place in the same room and lasts perhaps for thirty minutes and is full of shocking twists, is really very memorable. The cinematography is beautiful, the screenplay is excellent, the performances are brilliant, ''The Maltese Falcon'' is indeed an excellent film.

4.5 out of 5


Monday, 15 December 2014

''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland''- Book Review

Author: Lewis Carroll
Published: 1865

Genre:  Novel, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Oh well. Who doesn't know about this book? When I was little the story of Alice in Wonderland was read to me, and when I got a bit older- perhaps when I was seven or eight years old- I read the abridged version of the novel. I have always enjoyed the story, and read the abridged version a lot of times. This is the first time, however, that I have read the original novel, ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland''.

As a child, when I used to read the different abridged versions, I used to think that ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' is simply a children's fantasy novel. I didn't know it is this nonsensical, this weird, this fantastical until I read the original novel! ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' is quirky, it is weird, it is strange. It has got many funny and interesting characters like the white rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Hatter, the March Hare, the Gryphon, and the Queen of Hearts, among others. And there is little Alice, who finds herself amidst such quirky and interesting characters when she reaches the Wonderland after following a Rabbit into a rabbit hole. Many things happen there, many strange things that simply make no sense, and this is the fun of it, isn't it? I  The characters, the things they say, their stories, their poems and songs- are all so hilarious, so captivating!  loved this one!

4.5 out of 5

Saturday, 13 December 2014

''Still Alice'' (2014 movie)- Review

Directed by: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Released: 2014
Country: United States

Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish

Genre: Drama

Rating: 3 out of 5


''Still Alice'' tells the story of an intelligent linguistics professor's descent into the depths and horrors of Alzheimer's disease. We see her losing the ability to find the right words, we see her losing the ability to express herself, we see her losing her memory, her words. Julianne Moore's excellent performance brings into life the pains and horrors that the protagonist, Dr Alice Howland, has to go through. 

Dr Alice Howland is a successful linguistics professor. When she finds that she often forgets the words through which she wants to express herself, she consults a neurologist, who finds out that Alice is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. As days pass, she starts forgetting things, and the disease skeeps worsening. But what she has are loving family members who take care of her, help her to deal with the pains as her condition keeps worsening.

''Still Alice'' is yet another film that portrays the horrors of Alzheimer's disease. We go through so many experiences, happy experiences, sad experiences. We cherish the memories. And it is painful for people if they discover that they have lost the ability to express themselves, the ability to recall things, the ability to remember their achievements and success, the ability to recognize their dear ones. These are the things ''Still Alice'' deals with. 

I found ''Still Alice'' a realistic and sad little film. Julianne Moore's performance is excellent, and Kristen Stewart, as Alice's daughter, is really good as well. The film is quite captivating. I really felt sad and shocked seeing the protagonist's struggles, her slow descent into the horrifying depths of the Alzheimer's disease. While it is a realistic portrait of how Alzheimer's disease can change everything, how Alzheimer's disease takes away a person's ability to express himself/herself, his/her ability to recognize even his/her most dear ones, I wouldn't say it is a great or unforgettable film because it definitely isn't. The film did move me into tears (I had tears in my eyes when Alice delivered her speech, it was such an emotional scene),  I was satisfied with it. It was moving, it was captivating, and Julianne Moore's performance is really great. But the film itself, in spite of being realistic, moving and having strong performances, is nothing great, it is not unforgettable, but yet it is recommendable because I am sure it is an impressive and touching little film that very realistically portrays the horrors of Alzheimer's disease.

3 out of 5


Friday, 12 December 2014

''The Night of the Hunter'' (1955 movie)- Review

Directed by: Charles Laughton
Released: 1955
Country: United States

Cast: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, Billy Chaplin, Evelyn Warden, Peter Graves, Sally Jane Bruce

Genres: Thriller, Crime, Drama, Film noir

Rating: 5 out of 5


There are probably very few villains whom I hated in the way I hated Harry Powell, the antagonist of the film ''The Night of the Hunter''. And, there are very few films that I loved as much as I loved ''The Night of the Hunter''. Scary, thrilling, suspenseful, and at the same time, gorgeous and magnificent, this is one of the greatest films I have ever watched.

What is the most memorable thing about this film? The storyline, the scary plot and the suspenseful and extremely frightening moments? The beautiful cinematography? The beautiful backgrounds and settings? The excellent performance from the talented cast? Everything is memorable, everything is unforgettable. It is the combination of all these that makes it one of the films that you can never forget. While it is one of the most thrilling and suspenseful films I have ever watched, it is also one of the most sublimely beautiful and captivating films I have ever watched.

Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is secretly a serial killer while claiming himself to be a preacher. He is arrested as he was driving a stolen car. In the prison, he happens to meet Ben Harper (Peter Graves), a man who, in order to financially support his wife and two young children, robbed a bank, and had to kill two people. Harper tells Powell that he had hid the stolen money, and that his two young children are the only people who know where the money is hidden. Harper is hanged. Soon, Powell is released. He plans to get hold of the money by persuading Harper's children to tell him where the money is actually hidden. He goes to the little village where Harper's widow and two children live, and using his charm and amiable behavior he manages to impress everybody and ultimately persuades Harper's widow, Willa, to marry him... But his true intention is to get hold of the money, and when the children refuse to tell him the location of the hidden money, he gets violent, he reveals his terrifying true colors, bringing in bloodshed and torture... He will go to any length to get hold of the money, even if he has to kill or torture people for that..  How will the two little children get rid of his torture, of the horror of his mere presence? 

Oh, what a magnificent gem of a film it was! It is definitely one of the scariest films I have ever watched. It indeed is. And oh, the antagonist, Harry Powell. He is definitely one of the villains whom I hated with all my heart. He is one of the scariest villains I have ever come across. Robert Mitchum gives a powerful performance that definitely remains unforgettable.

Lillian Gish plays Rachel Cooper, an elderly woman who provides John and Pearl with shelter after they run away, and does her best to protect the two children. Thirty-six years before the film was made, this very woman played a helpless girl who was oppressed by her father in one of the most heartbreaking films I have ever watched, ''Broken Blossoms''. Thirty-six years after ''Broken Blossoms'', this woman gave a powerful performance in ''The Night of the Hunter''. This time she played a powerful and righteous woman who stands up against all injustices, all oppressions.

And yes, the two children, Billy Chaplin and Sally Jane Bruce, are excellent and powerful in their roles as John and Pearl, respectively.

And oh, the cinematography. The beautiful images. These make the film so atmospheric, so beautiful-looking, these give the film nearly a Gothic, dark, and sublime atmosphere. There are scenes that are unforgettable because of their beauty, their excellent atmosphere, their beautiful cinematography. I must mention those scenes where we see John and Pearl rowing, amidst the darkness of the night. The water, their boat, and all the animals watching them (frogs, foxes, etc.) all these make these scenes so beautiful. There is a scene where Pearl sings a song on the boat, while John is deep asleep, and we get glimpses of the water, the frogs that are watching them. Sublime. Magnificent. These two words easily sum up my thoughts about the cinematography.

One of the greatest films I have ever watched, ''The Night of the Hunter'' is frightening, it is beautiful, it is magnificent. A scary and atmospheric  film with excellent cinematography, excellent performances and great screenplay, it is a must watch.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

''Insurgent''- Book Review

Author: Veronica Roth
Published: 2012

Genres: Novel, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Romance, Mystery

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Insurgent, the sequel to ''Divergent'', begins the very moment it's predecessor ended. Tris, Tobias (Four), Caleb, Marcus and Peter are on their way to the Amity compounds. They hope that the peaceful Amity will protect them- and help them during this extremely dangerous time. Though they are welcomed by the Amity, they have to leave the Amity compounds within days for certain reasons. They then take shelter with the factionless- and they come to know that the factionless are now organized against the injustice and tyranny of the Erudite. The once-organized factions have now fallen apart: Abnegation has been destroyed, with only a few members still living. Half of the Dauntless support the Erudite, and are known as ''Dauntless traitors''. The other half, not having been instigated by the Erudite, is residing with the Candor. The factionless, supported by the loyal Dauntless, are planning to take down the Erudite authority.

Tris has faced many tragedies. She has lost her parents. She had to kill one of her best friends, Will, in order to save herself. She does not know if Christina will ever forgive her. Tris has to face many more struggles, many more choices, many more difficult situations, many more hardships. Jeanine Matthews, leader of the Erudite, is hunting for the Divergents. And then there is a big secret, a big mystery: according to Marcus, there had been a certain information  that the Abnegation had been protecting, information that sheds light on the mysterious things that are beyond the city. Jeanine Matthews now possesses the information. This information is so vital, so important that it can change everything...

Oh well. What an exciting ride ''Insurgent'' was! I really loved it. Just like I had loved it's predecessor. It is action-packed, exciting, and with numerous twists and turns. And like it's predecessor, it also has everything: emotional intensity, great character development, romance, adventures, secrets, mysteries, revelations.

One of the things I am simply loving about this series is the great character development. There are simply so many memorable characters. Tris, Tobias, Christina. Tris is a remarkable heroine. She indeed is. Selfless, brave, and in spite of going through so much sufferings she fights on. An unforgettable heroine she is. I really liked the chemistry between Tris and Tobias.

And there are characters whose true colors are revealed in ''Insurgent''. There are characters who played minor roles in the first novel but play important roles in this one. I admired the excellent characterization.

In the previous novel, the main focus was on Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite, and in this one, Candor and Amity are well-explored as well.

There are twists and turns in this novel, culminating in an amazing cliffhanger ending. There are many secrets, many revelations in this one. Overall, with excellent characterization, mysteries, revelations and twists, ''Insurgent'' is an excellent sequel to ''Divergent''!

4.5 out of 5

Sunday, 7 December 2014

''Howards End''- Book Review

Author: E. M. Forster
Published: 1910


Rating: 3.5 out of 5


The protagonists of E. M. Forster's ''Howards End'' are sisters Margaret Schlegel and Helen Schlegel. They are half-German, and belong to the privileged middle class. The Schlegel sisters have a decent income, and they live a comfortable and elegant life with literature and the arts. They grew up with literature, and they find pleasure in reading and attending cultural programs. The Schlegels soon become acquainted with the Wilcox family, and Helen is soon invited to spend some time with the Wilcoxes in their country house, Howards End. There, Helen has a short affair with Paul Wilcox- the younger son of Henry and Ruth Wilcox. However, the affair ends soon, and after returning to London, Helen and Margaret decide not to remember the affair. However, circumstances cause them to get involved with the Wilcoxes again, as the latter family take a house in London. Margaret develops a friendship with Ruth Wilcox. After Mrs Wilcox's sudden death, the Wilcoxes discover that she left her most valued possession- Howards End itself- to Margaret. They decide not to inform this to Margaret or anyone else, thus disobeying the late Mrs Wilcox's wish. 

Time passes, but circumstances bring the Schlegels and Wilcoxes across each other again and again. On the other hand, Margaret and Helen befriend Leonard Bast, a lower middle class clerk who wants to ''improve'' himself, that is, gain a social status, through reading more and trying to become interested in the arts. Leonard is stuck in an unhappy marriage, and then there is his financial problem. The Schlegel sisters get determined to help Leonard.

The story involves these three families: the wealthy, economically and socially prejudiced Wilcoxes; the well-read, intellectual, knowledgeable, middle class Schlegel sisters, who believe in equality among the different class;  and the lower middle class Basts (Leonard and his wife Jacky). The novel explores the lifestyle, the way of thinking of the different classes during the Edwardian era. Somehow, the fates of the Schlegels, Basts and Wilcoxes get interconnected- bringing a lot of changes in their lives...

The book explores the class structure of the Edwardian England, the thoughts, views and ideals of different classes, class conflicts and differences. It also explores industrialization and urbanization (among other things), as the population of London keeps increasing, leading to further urbanization.

The reason I am giving Howards End a 3.5 out of 5- in spite of, more or less, loving it- is because I found the first part of the novel too slow-paced. During the first many chapters of the novel I found it difficult to fully understand the characters. It was slow-paced- very slow-paced, and though the story was interesting, the first many chapters was too slow-paced to be enjoyed properly. But then. Really very suddenly. The novel gets really fast paced and lively. Really. Especially from the stage where Margaret receives the marriage proposal. From then it gets really very fast-paced, really enjoyable. It was then that the story picked up a good speed, a nice pace. And with that I picked up a pace as well. I flew from a page to the next, with curious eyes, eagerly waiting for the surprises, for the things that would happen next. I was excited and engrossed, I could then easily understand the characters, identify them properly, identify their emotions.  It was at that stage that I started loving this novel. It is during these middle and final chapters of the novel that I found the characters to be greatly developed, greatly understandable. I found the story lively and excitingduring these middle and final chapters. And needless to say, I finished reading the book with great satisfaction. I was glad- more than glad, to be precise- for having read the book.

 Well I think my feelings about this book can be summed up by this: I really, really, really admired this novel. During the first chapters I couldn't enjoy it, because I couldn't appreciate, or feel attached to the characters. It was a bit too slow paced. But then when the novel picked up it's pace, I really started admiring it. I disliked some characters because of their thoughts. And I loved some characters. I loved it how Margaret stood up for herself, stood up again injustice. I loved how Margaret and Helen understand each other.  There were times when I felt sad because of the unfair behavior shown towards certain characters. 

Overall I am happy with this book, I really am. I loved the way E. M. Forster told the story, I admired the richly developed characters, I loved the all the drama and fast-paced incidents towards the end of the novel.    

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, 6 December 2014

''Notes on a Scandal'' (2006 movie)- Review

Directed by: Richard Eyre
Released: 2006
Country: United Kingdom

Cast: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson

Genres: Drama, Psychological thriller

Rating: 4 out of 5


I was overwhelmed with a wide variety of emotions while watching ''Notes on a Scandal''. I felt pity.  I was shocked. Horrified. Sad. ''Notes on a Scandal'' is a powerful film about obsession, an overwhelming and intense film that remains so memorable, so intense because of the extraordinarily brilliant performances of the two actresses, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. Judi Dench herself is probably the reason for which this film can never be forgotten. Dench's amazingly powerful performance is definitely one of those performances which you can never forget about.

Dench plays Barbara, an elderly schoolteacher. Barbara is strict and feared by her students, but in her personal life, she is extremely lonely, her sole companion being her diary. Secretly a lesbian, she longs for company, for a person with whom she can spend the rest of her life. Soon, she finds herself obsessed with Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), the new art teacher of the school. Sheba becomes good friends with Barbara. Barbara, on the other hand, discovers that Sheba is also a lonely person. Married to a man who is years older than her, Sheba is lonely, and Barbara makes up her mind that Sheba is not happy with her marriage and family life. Becoming terribly obsessed with Sheba, Barbara starts thinking that she will help Sheba get rid of this miserable family life. She thinks it would be nice if she and Sheba could live together, could live like inseparable companions for the rest of their lives. 

Barbara soon comes across a shocking discovery: Sheba is having an affair with one of her students. Barbara confronts Sheba, but however, says that she will not report Sheba to the school authorities, and through this, Barbara aims to strengthen her grip and influence over Sheba. Sheba is thankful, treats Barbara as a very good friend, but Barbara's views and intentions are different. She wants to possess Sheba. Barbara's obsession and possessive attitude  leads to such consequences that ultimately cause damage to both of them...

Why does this film remain simply so memorable? Why is it so overpowering? That is because it is simply so intense, such a powerful and captivating film. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are simply excellent in their roles. Judi Dench's performances as the psychotic Barbara can never be forgotten. She is simply so powerful in her role. This is definitely one of her best performances. At the very beginning of the film we see her only as a lonely and bitter spinster. But this loneliness and bitterness lead to a much more dreadful thing: obsession. An illogical obsession with something that she can never possess. Over the course of the film we see her descending to serious mental disorders, caused by her obsession with Sheba, and this ultimately messes up her life. And it messes up the life of Sheba. The situation that we see them in is simply terrible. Pathetic. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are amazing in their roles.

To sum it up, ''Notes on a Scandal'' is a brilliant little film, a powerful, captivating, shocking, saddening film, with a great screenplay, a great story and two unforgettable performances.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

''Wild Strawberries'' (1957 film)- Review

Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Released: 1957
Country: Sweden
Genre: Drama

Cast:  Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Jullan Kindahl, Folke Sundquist, Björn Bjelfvenstam

 Rating: 5 out of 5


Isolation. Emptiness. Loneliness. How much can isolaion impact somebody's life? It is quite obvious that isolation can cause emptiness, it causes loneliness. Where does selfishness, antisocial attitude lead us to? How long can somebody remain satisfied if he keeps himself isolated, if he dislikes social interactions? Can somebody change himself if he understands the true meaning of life? Through the dreams and reminiscences of the protagonist Professor Borg, ''Wild Strawberries'' poses these questions. It is a remarkable story of self-discovery.

Our 78-year-old protagonist, Professor Isak Borg, had a successful career as a physician and bacteriologist. We get a glimpse of his life in the very first scenes of the film: he leads a very lonely life, with only a housekeeper to take care of him. His wife died years ago; his son rarely contacts him; his mother, though still living, lives far away. He has to go to Lund to receive an honorary doctorate degree. He decides to drive to Lund, and his daughter-in-law Marianne, who has been living with him for some time, having apparently had some problems with her husband, decides to accompany him. She wants to meet Evald, her husband (and Isak's son) in Lund. On their way to Lund, Isak has such experiences, strange dreams, reminiscences, thoughts, that ultimately lead him to realize how emptiness can affect somebody's life, how small things can deeply affect someone's life, how isolation can leave a terrible impact in somebody's life, and all these ultimately lead him to self-discovery, and make him determined to change his way of life, to learn how to love and appreciate people, to leave the life of selfishness and social aloofness.

Over the course of the film, Professor Borg learns to identify himself, he learns to identify how meaningless an empty and lonely life can be. It is definitely one of the most beautiful and emotionally impacting films about self-discovery.

The dream sequences, the flashbacks are so beautiful that it's impossible to forget them. The amazing cinematography, background scores- these are unforgettable. The dream sequences and the memory sequences are beautifully executed.

The performances are, of course, excellent. Victor Sjöström, as Isak Borg, is amazing throughout the film. Ingrid Thulin plays Marianne, Isak's daughter-in-law who initially dislikes Isak but over the course of the journey gets closer to him and starts liking him. There are two characters named Sara and they are played by the same actress, Bibi Andersson. The first Sara is the woman to whom Isak was ''secretly engaged'', but later she had married Isak's brother. We see her in flashbacks. The second Sara is a young girl who (along with two friends) joins Isak and Marianne in their journey. The three young people remain with Isak and Marianne throughout the journey, and these spirited, cheerful young people help Isak self-discovery as well.

''Wild Strawberries'' is a hauntingly beautiful film. It is emotional, it is beautiful, it is thought-provoking. It is definitely one of the best films about self-discovery, and about the very meaning of life, ever made.

5 out of 5