Sunday, 30 April 2017

''Life Is Sweet'' (1990 film)- Review

Directed by: Mike Leigh
Released: 1990
Country: United Kingdom

Genre: Comedy-drama

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review

''Life Is Sweet'' is a lovely little film written and directed by Mike Leigh. The film tells the story of a working class family consisting of a couple, Andy (played by Jim Broadbent) and Wendy (played by Alison Steadman) and their twin daughters Nicola (Jane Horrocks) and Natalie (Claire Skinner). Andy and Wendy are hardworking, happy and optimistic, and so is Natalie, who works as a plumber but loves her job. The only one who is different among them is Nicola. Nicola hardly leaves the house and she is hardly, if ever, happy. In spite of her rather bad behavior at times, the other three members of the family deal with her patiently and lovingly. The film takes place over the course of a few days and tells the story of the family.

I fell in love with Mike Leigh's films after I watched ''Secrets & Lies'' back in 2012. Even today, I consider ''Secrets & Lies'' one of my all-time favorite films. The best thing about his films is that they are very character-driven and the characters are developed with care and depth. ''Life Is Sweet'', Leigh's third feature film, tells the simple story of a simple family. At times, I wondered where the film was heading to. I got my answer in due time. The climax consists of an encounter between Nicola and her mother Wendy and this encounter results in a revelation that changed my perception of the film. This one revelation was powerful enough to make the entire film very memorable. 

''Life Is Sweet'' is a sweet little film, well-written and well-acted, but I thought it could have developed its characters more. I mean, the characters are very well-developed indeed, but had the film been a bit longer (and perhaps more focus on the interactions among the family members and less focus on the antics of the family friend), then perhaps I could really, really care for them. However, I enjoyed spending time with them and some of them were really sweet- particularly Andy and Wendy. Their optimism and cheerfulness really touched me. Broadbent, Steadman, Horrocks and Skinner are great in their roles, and Timothy Spall appears as a friend of the family, a funny character, and David Thewlis appears too, playing a small role.

Although not as great as Leigh's ''Secrets & Lies'' and ''Vera Drake'', it is a very good film, a moving film.

Friday, 28 April 2017

''Room'' (2015 film)- Review

Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Released: 2015
Country: Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''Room'' tells the story of Joy (played by Brie Larson) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Joy was kidnapped by a man known as 'Old Nick' (Sean Bridgers) seven years before the events of the film and since then, she has been kept locked inside a tiny garden shade. Old Nick impregnated her and Joy has raised her son in the garden shade. Jack is now five years old and knows the garden shades lives in as 'Room'. To Jack, Room is everything; the outside world is only something that he sees on the television. Even in these conditions, Joy tries to keep Jack as happy as possible. Now that Jack is five years old, Joy feels that he is old enough to know that there is such a thing as the outside world and hatches a dangerous and difficult plan to escape.

The first half of the film has great touches of thriller in it. I was often so concerned about Joy and Jack that I kept breathing hard as I wanted them to escape safely. 

The second half of the film, however, is very different in its tone and approach, although the basic theme is the same: a mother's love and concern for her son. In the second half, having escaped, Joy and Jack must adjust to the outside world after having been in confinement for seven years (five years for Jack). While Joy had known an outside world before being kidnapped, Jack grew up being entirely confined in 'Room'. As such, the outside world is very intimidating for both of them.

Paradoxically, though, Jack might take a long time to get used to the outside world, but being a child, after that certain time has passed, he will naturally be able to be adjust to the outside world. However, in spite of the fact that she was initially very happy to be back in the real world, it is Joy who eventually falls into the depths of depression. Seven years have been snatched away from her, her parents have divorced, her own father refuses to accept Jack as his grandson, and at one stage, she feels guilty for having raised Jack in confinement. She is worried not for herself but for her son. She is worried that her son might not be able to lead a normal life- not understanding that he is still a child and while it may take him some time to adjust to his new surroundings, he will eventually make it. Her maternal worries, though, are very realistic, and we see love for Jack reflected in everything she does. Brie Larson makes Joy a very realistic character. Jacob Tremblay is simply magnificent as Jack as well, while Joan Allen is great as Joy's mother.

''Room'' is an emotionally overwhelming film. What it reflects is maternal love. In her attempt to escape from Room, Joy makes sure that Jack has the opportunity to escape first and call for help. She does not know if her plan will succeed. She does not know if Jack will be able to escape and even if he escapes, if he will be able to summon help. She does not even know if she will ever be able to escape. But she wants Jack to have the best chances for escaping. Later, after they have escaped from Room, she worries for Jack. She wonders if he will be able to adjust to the real world. Among the several themes that ''Room'' explores, the power of love- maternal love and a child's love for his mother- is the most significant.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

''The Talented Mr. Ripley'' (1999 film)- Review

Directed by: Anthony Minghella
Released: 1999
Country: United States

Genre: Psychological thriller, Crime, Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

The protagonist of ''The Talented Mr. Ripley'' is also the titular character. Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon, is hired by the wealthy Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn), who asks him to travel to Italy and try to convince his son, Dickie Greenleaf (played by Jude Law) to come back to the United States. Dickie is spoiled and lives off his allowance, not interested to make anything of his life. Tom travels to Italy, where he meets Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (played by Gwyneth Paltrow). He becomes good friends with the two of them and Dickie comes up with a plan: they will use the money that Mr. Greenleaf sends Tom to indulge in more luxuries. Very soon, Tom gets very close to Dickie and Marge and over the course of time he becomes very obsessed with the privileged lifestyle led by Dickie and also with Dickie and his identity- something that eventually leads to disastrous consequences. 

Well, I could assume that Tom would cause something disastrous from the time he reaches Italy and runs into heiress Meredith Logue (played by Cate Blanchett). He tells Meredith that he is Dickie Greenleaf. I could assume that things will eventually go very wrong, which they indeed did.

''The Talented Mr. Ripley'' is very suspenseful, very thrilling. Tom's lies and crimes cause him to get involved in more crimes and lies. He makes a great villain indeed. Matt Damon is fascinating in his role, making Tom look creepier and creepier as the movies goes on, ultimately culminating in an unpredictable ending.

The entire cast is really good: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jack Davenport playing important supporting roles. They all deliver great performances. The film is very well-written and besides being intense and suspenseful, it is a very good-looking film with beautiful cinematography. In short, it is a brilliant.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

''Feud: Bette and Joan''- Review

''Feud'', created by Ryan Murphy, Jaffe Cohen and Michael Zam, is an anthology TV series that airs on FX.''Bette and Joan'' is the first season of ''Feud''. Consisting of eight episodes, it premiered on March 5, 2017 and the season ended on April 23, 2017.

I started watching the season rather whimsically: I had loved the movie ''What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?'' (I watched it just last year) and as such the concept really intrigued me: eight episodes about the rivalry and feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. That did sound interesting.

Well, the season turned out to be much more than interesting. It turned out to be GREAT, simply GREAT, and when I say great, I mean it.

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had tensions from the 1930s, but these tensions turned into a feud when they started filming the one film that they starred in together: ''What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?''. The season follows their feud from the time they starred in Baby Jane together.

The season portrayed not just the rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis but it also dealt with such issues as the problems that women had to face in Hollywood back then, the problems and struggles faced by directors, how other people fueled the rivalry between the two actresses and so on.

Yes, the season started in a rather entertaining way. There were little jokes and lightness all along. However, in spite of the humor and witticisms found in the early episodes, the season dealt with issues very serious and real. Be it the problems faced by aging stars like Crawford and Davis, or the problems faced by directors like Robert Aldrich who aspired to make great films but due to the whims of the studios had to stick to 'B' movies, or the problems faced by people like Pauline Jameson (the only major fictional character in the season) who wanted to make something of themselves in Hollywood but the overall system would not allow them to do so. It was very, very thought-provoking and very informative as well.

I never imagined that the season would turn out to be so deep, so rich. Over the course of the episodes the development of the characters became so excellent, all the major characters, as well as the supporting ones, became richly developed. 

The season portrayed both its protagonists, Joan Crawford (played by Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (played by Susan Sarandon) in sympathetic and excellent ways. We can understand exactly why they behave the way they do, we can understand exactly why they do what they do. There are times we applaud for them, there are times we feel extremely melancholy and sad for them, there are times we do not approve of their actions but know just why they are doing so.

The supporting characters great, really great: Mamacita (Joan's loyal housekeeper, played by Jackie Hoffman), Hedda Hopper (prominent film columnist, played by Judy Davis), Pauline Jameson (Robert Aldrich's assistant who is ambitious to make something of herself in Hollywood, the only fictional major supporting character in the season, played by Alison Wright), Olivia de Havilland (the graceful two-time Oscar winning actress, played by Catherine-Zeta Jones), Robert Aldrich (the struggling director of Baby Jane, played by Alfred Molina), Jack Warner of the Warner Brothers (played by Stanley Tucci), and Victor Buono (who played a supporting character in 'Baby Jane' and later became a close friend of Bette's, played by Dominic Burgess).

These supporting characters are also, over the course of the season, developed with such care that you cannot but appreciate the character development. I loved and grew very attached to some of the characters. I am pretty sure that most fans of the season would name Mamacita as their favorite supporting character. I would agree with that. I never imagined that Mamacita would become such a pivotal character in the season. I loved her so very much.

Apart from that, Pauline Jameson was also a very interesting character. Although a fictional character, the character reflected the struggles faced by a woman in Hollywood, particularly the Hollywood of those days. I loved Olivia too, she was so supportive of Bette. Catherine Zeta-Jones gave a really excellent performances as Olivia. If I am asked to name my three favorite supporting characters from the season, I would definitely name Mamacita, Pauline and Olivia.

This was a great season. I felt so sad saying goodbye to it. I loved each of the eight episodes. I will not be exaggerating a bit when I say that the last episode made me burst into tears. It had me in tears several times, particularly in the last few scenes. It was so heartbreaking, so raw, so emotionally enriched. The first seven episodes did such a great job developing the characters that the emotionally charged last episode made it impossible for me to control my tears. And I mean it.


Monday, 24 April 2017

''Talk to Her'' (2002 film)- Review

Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
Released: 2002
Country: Spain

 Genre: Drama

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Review

Marco (Darío Grandinetti) is a journalist who falls in love with Lydia (Rosario Flores), a bullfighter. He is devastated when Lydia is injured in a bullfight and goes into a coma. While caring for Lydia in the hospital, he becomes friends with Benigno (Javier Cámara), a male nurse who is caring for Alicia (Leonor Watling), who is also in coma. Flashbacks reveal how Benigno first met Alicia and fell in love with her. The two men form a close bond but Benigno's obsessive love for Alicia eventually leads to unpredictable consequences.

Personally, I just could not bring myself to love ''Talk to Her''. There were moments near the beginning of the film which I really enjoyed, really admired, like the part in which Marco and Lydia first meet. Their chemistry there seemed really promising and I thought, like other Almodovar films, I would find in ''Talk to Her'' great chemistries between the characters. The major focus is supposed to be on several things: the friendship between Benigno and Marco and Marco's love for Lydia and Benigno's obsessive love for Lydia. Well, that focus seems fine to me but I would have really preferred a deeper development of the chemistry between Beningo and Marco. More interaction between them, perhaps. Or getting to spend some more moments with the two of them together. That would be how the characters would seem more real. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say that they are shallow characters. My point is, I just wanted the chemistry between the two people to be of such depth that when it came to the tragic climax, it would feel really heartbreaking. Well, I did feel sad and was moved by the tragic climax, but I wouldn't say that was anything close to heartbreaking whereas the climax is SUPPOSED to be very tragic. 

I love Almodovar's films. But my feelings for ''Talk to Her'' were nowhere near love. I didn't hate it, for sure, but that does not mean I liked it very much either. His other films- ''Volver'' and ''All About My Mother'', for example- have richly developed characters. For example, the chemistries between Manuela and Rosa, Manuela and Huma, Manuela and Agrado in ''All About My Mother''. They were all so very deep that I could not but love the characters and care for them. In case of ''Talk to Her'', there were moments and certain flashbacks which I really liked, but overall,I could not bring myself to care much for any of the characters.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

''A Separation'' (2011 film)- Review

Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Released: 2011
Country: Iran

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

Asghar Farhadi's ''A Separation'' has to be one of the most emotionally intense films I have watched recently. Filled with flawed characters in situations they never wanted to be in but where life, which is never predictable, landed them in, ''A Separation'' is a film that portrays the emotions of its characters with raw intensity.

Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi) are a middle class couple living in Iran. Their family consists of themselves, their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) and Nader's father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Simin wants to move abroad for better opportunities for Termeh, but Nader will not, by any means, move abroad, as he wants to remain in Iran to take care of his sick father. When the judge does not grant them a divorce, Simin decides to separate from Nader and moves with her parents. Meanwhile, Nader hires a woman, Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to take care of his father in the daytime. Razieh is from the working class and her conservative husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) does not want her to work, but she secretly works in order to provide for her family (Hodjat is unemployed). Razieh brings her daughter, Somayeh (Kimia Hosseini) with her when she comes to Nader's house to tend to his father. A series of incidents then follow that drastically affects the lives of all of them.

Unexpected incidents take place over the course of the film and so many questions came to my mind: whom should we blame for the things that happen in the film? The characters? The situation? Or both? 

I decided, after the film ended, not to think of what to blame because it can easily be understood that it is the characters and their flaws and the particular situations that are responsible for the things that happen. But the film is not portrayed in black and white, rather, the characters we see are flawed but they are also very three-dimensional characters. The things that they do are not probably the things that they would even think of doing in any other situation. They are not bad people. Certain incidents caused certain actions, and it is easy to sympathize with every single character.

It is such an emotionally intense film. There are certain encounters between certain characters in the film that moved me deeply. Every single character is developed with care and I felt sympathy for every single character: Simin, Nader, Razieh, Hodjat, Termeh and Somayeh. Termeh, in particular, is deeply affected by the things that take place throughout the film. She is only a child and is not responsible for any of the things that happen, but the things that her parents go through greatly affects her life. 

''A Separation'' is one of the most moving films I have watched recently. It is very raw, emotionally intense and with very realistic characters in situations they never thought they would be in. 



Saturday, 22 April 2017

''The Heiress'' (1949 film)- Review

Directed by: William Wyler
Released: 1949
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

William Wyler's ''The Heiress'' is set in the 19th century, in New York. The protagonist, Catherine Sloper, is played by Olivia de Havilland. She is the meek and introverted daughter of the wealthy Dr. Austin Sloper, played by Ralph Richardson. Dr Sloper has never been happy with his daughter, always comparing her to her late mother. He believes that Catherine is neither beautiful nor skilled. Catherine has not met his expectations when it comes to social issues: she does not like attending parties and events, which, Dr Austin thinks, are necessary for a young woman of her class. However, Catherine is very skilled at embroidery, something that her father never praises her for. Dr Sloper has rarely shown affection for Catherine, often criticizing her. Catherine, however, is very timid and has never uttered any word of protest. 

One evening, in a party, Catherine meets the handsome Morris Townsend, played by Montgomery Clift. She eventually falls in love with him over the course of several meetings and Morris proposes to marry her. However, Dr Sloper believes that Morris- who has spent his entire inheritance- is only interested in Catherine's money: she has inherited a considerable amount from her late mother and will inherit even more upon her father's death. Catherine does not believe this, but Dr Sloper is firm in his belief. This leads to a series of events that eventually helps Catherine to transform  into a very mature person.

I felt so bad when I saw Dr Sloper criticizing Catherine the way he did. Dr Sloper might not be an antagonist, but he is often so harsh with Catherine that it is rather painful to witness it. It is so very sad when parents cannot accept their children for who they are.

The best thing about ''The Heiress'' is Olivia de Havilland's excellent performance. Catherine's  transition from a meek young woman to a mature woman is very convincing. When we first meet her she is very meek, shy and socially awkward. The moments in which she was emotionally hurt are made more painful by the meekness of the character. De Havilland portrays the timidity of the character with perfection. Over the course of the film, certain events help the character transform, and thanks to de Havilland's excellent performance, this is very convincing. It is painful to see the ordeals through which the character has to go through over the course of the film, and I applauded for her when I saw that she had transformed into a mature person.

I love Gothic films, I really do. I instantly became comfortable with the atmosphere of ''The Heiress''. Being someone who deeply longs for the past, I really like such films as ''The Heiress''. The great character development of Catherine Sloper made the film even more lovable to me. It is a very well-written, well-directed and well-acted film (excellent performances by Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson and Miriam Hopkins {Hopkins plays Catherine's aunt}).
 

Friday, 21 April 2017

''Lion'' (2016 film)- Review

Directed by: Gareth Davis
Released: 2016
Country: Australia, United Kingdom

Genre: Biographical drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review
  
Saroo, the protagonist of ''Lion'', lives with his mother and siblings in a small village of India. However, after accidentally getting on a train, he finds himself in Kolkata, which is far, far away from his home. The little Saroo is lost and confused in the unknown city and ultimately, he finds himself in an orphanage and is eventually adopted by an Australian couple, Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John (David Wenham). Twenty years later, Saroo, now a young man (played by Dev Patel), has forgotten his original mothertongue, Hindi, but still retains memories of his biological mother and siblings and of how he got lost. When a friend suggests that he use the Internet to locate his home in India and thus find his biological mother, Saroo gets to work immediately, working for several years to trace his hometown and often coming to dead ends, but never giving up hope.

''Lion'' is based on a true story. The screenplay is based on the book ''A Long Way Home'' by Saroo Brierley. The film manages to capture so many things beautifully: the hard lives of impoverished people, the plight of a child lost in an unknown city, the determination of a man to make his way back to where he originally came from, and maternal love- reflected through two different characters: Saroo's biological mother and also Sue Brierly, who adopts not just Saroo but also a boy named Mantosh and deeply loves them- we come to know her reason for not having her own children but adopting two children instead, a deeply moving reason.

It is heartwarming and deeply moving as we follow Saroo and his search for his identity, his home. Dev Patel gives an excellent performance, and Rooney Mara (playing Saroo's girlfriend Lucy), Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Priyanka Bose (as Saroo's biological mother) and Sunny Pawar (as young Saroo) provide extraordinary support, shining in their roles. It is a very beautiful film indeed.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

''Adam's Rib'' (1949 film)- Review

Directed by: George Cukor
Released: 1949
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic comedy

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review

In ''Adam's Rib'',  Adam (played by Spencer Tracy) and Amanda (Katherine Hepburn) are a married couple. Both of them are lawyers. Amanda strictly believes that women should have the same opportunity as men in every sector. She thinks that when it comes to law, women often don't get the same verdict that men do. When a case arises in which a woman, Doris Attinger (played by Judy Holliday) shot her husband when she discovered that the latter was having an affair, Adam has been given the task of prosecuting the case. Doris's husband (played by Tom Ewell) was only wounded, but charges have been brought against Doris for attempted murder. Amanda knows that Doris never attempted kill her husband or his lover, that this happened because Doris only wanted to frighten the two of them, and that Doris, having never intended to cause anything dangerous, deserves sympathy from the jury. Amanda decides to defend Doris in this case and she fights against her husband in the courtroom, where a hilarious situation ensues. 

The film shifts between pure comedy, romance and at times drama. The relationship between Adam and Amanda is really sweet. (The method which they implement to mock and tease each other while the hearings go on is really hilarious.) There is also a lot of comedy, both in the courtroom and in the house of Adam and Amanda. The case creates a tension in the relationship between Adam and Amanda, but even this is presented very funnily. Judy Holliday makes Doris a rather cute and funny character.

Although ''Adam's Rib'' is a very funny film, it can also be very thought-provoking at times. I really applauded for Amanda because of her strong belief that everybody should be equal in the eyes of law. Women should get the same justice that a man gets. In a particular scene in the film, Amanda asks the court to imagine Doris as a man and her husband as a woman. She knows that the jury would be more sympathetic to a man in such a circumstance and asks the court whether Doris would have been viewed with more sympathy had she been a man. Why should this inequality exists, she wonders. She believes that the time has come for women to be treated the way a man is treated. I completely agreed with her.

 I really liked this film. I liked the concept, laughed at the comedy, liked the romance, and found the chemistry between Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy really nice. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

''Big Eyes'' (2014 film)- Review

Directed by: Tim Burton
Released: 2014
Country: United States

Genre: Biographical drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

''Big Eyes'' tells the story of artist Margaret, played by Amy Adams. At the beginning of the film, Margaret leaves her husband and arrives in San Fransisco with her daughter. Margaret is good at painting and has always wanted to be an artist. Her paintings are those of little children and all the children in her paintings have big eyes. In San Fransisco, Margaret comes across Walter Keane, played by Christoph Waltz. Walter says that he is an artist and shows Margaret the street scenes that he has painted. Walter being a charming man, Margaret falls in love with him and they decide to get married. After their marriage, certain incidents cause Walter to come up with an idea: he decides to sell Margaret's paintings under his own name and gradually Margaret's paintings become very famous and they sell very quickly- and Walter takes the credits. Although he initially tries to keep this a secret from Margaret, she eventually finds out. She is shocked and crestfallen: her paintings are like her children, she never imagined Walter to be capable of doing such a thing. However, Walter manages to convince Margaret to play along, and although Margaret is disappointed and sad about it all, she agrees. But how long will this continue? How long will Margaret tolerate being wronged?

''Big Eyes'' tells the story of Margaret Keane beautifully. Over the course of the film- thanks to the great screenplay and the great performance by Amy Adams- she becomes a very deep, well-developed character. We can see how much she loves and cherishes her art, and we can feel how she wronged she feels when someone else takes credit for them right in front of her eyes. The story was developed strongly enough to make it possible for me to follow Margaret through what she faces and feel how crestfallen she feels at being wronged. And I felt so very mad at Walter. Although initially a charming character, he becomes a rather detestable, greedy character over the course of the film, I hated him for how he kept wronging Margaret. Christoph Waltz does a very good job portraying him. I also loved Madeleine Arthur, who plays Margaret's daughter Jane. Over the course of the film she becomes a very important supporting character and I loved the way she felt for and supported her mother. 

''Big Eyes'' is Tim Burton's best film since ''Sweeney Todd'' and is undoubtedly one of the best films of his career. Through its portrayal of what Margaret Keane had to face, it depicts the constant struggle of a woman to establish herself- and her opinions- in a patriarchal society. With excellent performances from Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, a great screenplay and beautiful cinematography, ''Big Eyes'' is a very thought-provoking film.

Monday, 17 April 2017

''The Grapes of Wrath'' (1940 film)- Review

Directed by: John Ford 
Released: 1940
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''The Grapes of Wrath'' is a thought-provoking and touching film with a lot of emotional depth. It deals with social injustice, rights of people and most importantly, how working class people have struggled over the centuries, overcoming one obstacle after another.

The film's protagonist, Tom Joad, played by Henry Fonda, was in prison for having accidentally killed a man in self-defense. He is released on parole and is traveling to his Oklahoma family farm. However, upon reaching the farm, he comes to know his family- along with other families of the area- was driven away from the farm by deed holders of the lands. Shocked but determined, Tom manages to locate his family. His family is planning on going to California and start all over again, having heard that there is work available in California. On their way to California- and after reaching California- they face obstacles, difficulties and tragedies- including the death of some family members, but still, they cling on to the hope that they will be able to start all over again and find happiness again.

It was overwhelming how the characters retained optimism even after being driven away from the land they lived in for centuries. The characters in this film have hope for the future, they won't let a single blow extinguish all the optimism from their lives. Their lives might have been shattered and torn apart, but they want to do their best to bring the pieces together and rebuild their life all over again. They get their strength, their optimism from their love for each other, from their strong wish to stick together no matter what happens.

There is a scene in which the family is preparing some lunch with whatever they could manage, and although there is hardly enough food for them, they are moved by the sight of hungry children around them and share their food with these children. This scene moved me, it really did. I mean, here are the Joads, having faced cruelty from people, having been driven away from their home with no certainty about the future, but in spite of all these they have retained their humanity and good heart. Overwhelming. 

''The Grapes of Wrath'' is excellently-directed, excellently-written and has great performances, particularly from Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell (who plays the family matriarch). I was deeply moved by the film. The central characters face so much difficulties throughout the film but in spite of all these they try to retain their hope for the future.  The development of Tom's character is very impressive as well. Over the course of the film he comes to comprehend the injustices faced by the common working class people and gradually, he decides to play a role to bring the injustices to an end.  

Sunday, 16 April 2017

''Before Midnight'' (2013 film)- Review

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Released: 2013
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic drama

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review

''Before Midnight'' is the final film in the lovely ''Before'' trilogy and after I finished watching it, I could feel that I had just finished watching a beautifully sophisticated trilogy of films.

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are the protagonists of the ''Before'' trilogy. The events of ''Before Midnight'' take place nine years after those of ''Before Sunset''. Jesse and Celine are now in their early forties. They are vacationing in Greece with their twin daughters and Jesse's son from a previous marriage (the son leaves for the United States early in the movie as he stays there with his mother). Over the course of a single day tension and conflicts arise between Jesse and Celine about different things. Celine thinks that Jesse makes her feel guilty, that Jesse wants her to leave her career behind and accompany him to the United States so that he can be near his son. This gives rise to a series of arguments.

The ''Before'' trilogy can be summed up in two words: simple and beautiful. The romance in the trilogy is sublime. It is never sappy. The chemistry between Celine and Jesse is very believable. Their conflicts never feel overdone. It is strange how we first met the two characters in ''Before Sunrise'' and spent a few hours with them in Vienna- but these few hours were so very beautiful that we could not but love the two of them. And then in ''Before Sunset'' we met them again and although we spent fewer hours with them there, it was such a joy! ''Before Midnight'' gives us a glimpse into their life after their marriage. Their lives are not perfect, they have conflicts and quarrels, but their chemistry is strong all the way through. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are, once again, excellent in their roles. ''Before Midnight'' is a very satisfying conclusion to the lovely trilogy. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

''All About My Mother'' (1999 film)- Review

Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Released: 1999
Country: Spain

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

Oh, it is always such a great experience to watch a Pedro Almodovar film. It really is. ''All About My Mother'' is a film that displays perfection and beauty all through. I really, really, really loved it.

Cecilia Roth plays Manuela, the protagonist of the film ''All About My Mother''. Manuela is a nurse. She lives in Madrid and is a single mother and is very close to her teenage son, Esteban, played by Eloy Azorin. Manuela and Esteban share almost everything with each other, although Manuela has never told Esteban about his father. The two of them seem to have a perfect life until tragedy strikes one night: Esteban is killed in a car accident. Manuela is heartbroken and devastated, but decides to travel to Barcelona, find Esteban's father, and tell him the news. Esteban's father had never known about the existence of Esteban. However, upon reaching Barcelona, Manuela discovers that Esteban's father has disappeared, but she reunites with an old friend, Agrado (played by Antonia San Juan), who happens to be transsexual. She also meets Rosa, played by the lovely Penelope Cruz. Rosa is a nun who loves to help people in need- and then unfortunately, she finds herself in a difficult situation and Manuela takes her in and cares for her. Also present in the story is Huma, played by Marisa Paredes. Huma is a famous actress of whom Esteban used to be a great fan. Manuela, Rosa, Agrado, and Huma- all having faced difficulties and tragedies in life- form close bonds with one another.

The best thing about Almodovar's films is that he deeply cares for his characters. His films are character-driven, very much so. He makes sure that the characters we see are realistic. I came to love and appreciate all the major characters- Manuela, Agrado, Rosa and Huma. They are  made so real, so lovable.

''All About My Mother'' is also about maternal love. Although Manuela learns to move on, we can see clearly how her life has deeply been impacted by the loss of her son, that no matter what happens in her life, she can never forget those seventeen beautiful years she spent with her son, and her son's memories help her to face life even after the heartbreaking tragedy. Huma, the actress, feels a strong affection for Manuela's son, and in this we can also see maternal affection reflected. Rosa loves the child she is carrying. Mother's love is a persistent theme throughout the movie. 

''All About My Mother'' is not a bleak film. There is plenty of tragedy but Almodovar makes sure that the tragedies do not cast a dark shadow over the film. The effects of the tragedies remain in the film but the characters are so very lively and realistic that although their lives are deeply impacted and scarred by the tragedies they face, they still know how to move on. There is plenty of sadness in the film, but there is plenty of humor and liveliness. Almodovar's characters are very real characters in very realistic situations and they are characters you cannot help feeling a deep affection for. I first discovered Almodovar's greatness through ''Volver'', a lovely film with strong characters focusing a lot on human relationships and bonds. ''All About My Mother'' also focuses a lot on human bonds, on relationships. Life moves on through tragedies and happiness and what matters the most in human life is the relationship that we have with one another, of the way one person can make the other feel protected and secure even in the midst of dangers, sorrows and difficulties. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

''Arrival'' (2016 film)- Review

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve 
Released: 2016
Country: United States

Genre: Sci-Fi, Mystery, Thriller, Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

Poetry and science fiction are two terms that may not always coincide, but when they do, you get a film as beautiful as ''Arrival''.

When twelve mysterious structures- apparently spacecrafts- appear in twelve different locations in the world, the entire world panics. Scientists get busy to solve the problem and to come to a conclusion. To know why the spacecrafts have landed on the earth and what exactly their purpose is, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) of the American army appoints linguist Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, and physicist Ian Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner. Louise and Ian work to help the aliens- seven-feet creatures that are eventually named 'heptapods'- communicate with them so that they can come to know why exactly the heptapods have come to the earth.

Initially, ''Arrival'' seems to be a simple little science fiction mystery about the appearance of aliens on earth and humans wanting to know what the purpose of these aliens are. But, well, I was proven so wrong. I mean, the film is really about that, but it so much deeper than that, so much more twisted and layered and emotionally intense than that. Eventually, when everything falls into place, I literally felt the beauty of the film. Yes, I felt it. It is so very beautiful, so very poetic, so magnificent. The story is designed so beautifully. Along with the excellent performances by Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, the film is also really well-directed, well-written and has beautiful cinematography and music. It is an overwhelmingly beautiful film, both visually and conceptually.

 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

''The Conversation'' (1974 film)- Review

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Released: 1974
Country: United States

Genre: Psychological thriller, Mystery, Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

Francis Ford Coppola's ''The Conversation'' deals with surveillance. The protagonist is Harry Caul, played by Gene Hackman. He is an introverted surveillance expert. He is highly successful, well known and has his own surveillance company. When he gets the job of recording and comprehending the conversation of a man and a woman, he gets slightly startled. The two of them are apparently having an affair, and Harry is able to detect the exact words that they say. However, after he is done with the task, he is hesitant to hand the record in, as, based on his past experiences, he thinks that record might be used against the two people, that the record can become the basis of a serious crime. However, when he gets to the bottom of things, the truth he discovers is much murkier than he expected it to be.

For the first fifty minutes or so I kept wondering where the film was heading to. It seemed way too quiet, very little seemed to be happening, except showing us glimpses into Harry's life and showing us how Harry tries to figure out what the man and the woman are saying, what is actually means. The first fifty minutes or so were quiet and subtle, and although engrossing, not exactly suspenseful. However. When the film takes a turn- a very twisted turn indeed- it seems as if the entire tone of the film changes. The last part of the film is not just shocking but scary- and I mean it, it is extremely suspenseful and scary. I wouldn't be exaggerating when I say that it is Hitchcockian. Yes, indeed, the last part of the film, through its suspenseful and scary atmosphere, reminded me of Hitchcock's films. That is when I realized why it was so very important to keep the first half of the film as quiet as it is: to build up an atmosphere slowly, so that when the shock actually comes, the atmosphere is already developed- though I must repeat again that the atmosphere took an entirely different turn after the shock. The pace remains the same even after the shock: it is the atmosphere that takes a terrifying turn.

At the same time, besides the intention of building up the atmosphere, the quietness of the first half was also important to develop the character of Harry Caul, so that we can understand the reasons for his paranoia that we eventually get to experience near the end of the film. Really, his is a very well-developed character, and Gene Hackman does an excellent job.

I wouldn't be exaggerating when I say that the film shocked me to the core. The twist and the shock that come near the end- along with the way it is presented in (I must mention the excellent sound effects here)- make this film an unforgettable psychological thriller.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

''Whiplash'' (2014 film)- Review

Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Released: 2014
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

When I was twelve, I enrolled in violin classes. As soon as the classes started I realized that a musical instrument was not for me. I could not manage the pressure and although the teacher was kind and understanding, I found it way too stressful. In the end, the little passion for playing a musical instrument that I had disappeared, and I ended up quitting it after a grueling year of trying to learn an instrument and failing at it. 

Well, my passion for an instrument was nothing- absolutely nothing- next to the intense passion that the protagonist of ''Whiplash'' has for jazz. And my teacher was very, very kind, unlike the teacher/conductor in ''Whiplash''. In addition, the pressure that I faced trying to learn to play the violin is nothing next to the pressure that Andrew, our protagonist, feels. My point is, I was awed by the protagonist because of the extreme passion that he has for jazz. I was fascinated by the things he is ready to do to succeed in jazz, be it breaking up with a girl he really likes, or facing the terrible insults by the strict- strict is rather a mild word in this case- conductor. The conductor, Terence Fletcher, is the character that really shook me to the core, because of the way he treats his students, because of his extremely perfectionist method. 

Our protagonist, Andrew Neiman, played by Miles Teller, is enthusiastic about jazz and plays drums. He studies at the Shaffer Conservatory, and when he is spotted by the well-known conductor (who works in the conservatory) Terence Fletcher, played by J. K. Simmons, and Fletcher invites him in his own studio band. Fletcher is a perfectionist and he is ready to do anything to bring out the best performance from his students- be it insulting them, slapping them, or throwing chairs at them. His grueling methods are at times way too cruel- indeed, the students have great passion for jazz, as we see them tolerating this kind of treatment from Fletcher. Andrew is soft-spoken and introverted, and Fletcher's methods are really very pressurizing for him. However, his passion for jazz inspires him to keep practicing harder and prove himself; he dreams to be one of the great jazz musicians, and for doing that, he is ready to do anything, even if it is to face the insults from Fletcher day after day. 

''Whiplash'' remains memorable because we can really relate to it. There have been times when I guess all of us have been in Andrew's situation. We have been passionate to achieve something and that passion and ambition inspired us to do anything to achieve it. And there have been times when we have met people like Terence Fletcher: the kind of people who want you to succeed but can do anything to make sure that what you do is perfect. The kind of people who are intimidating and scary and at times you hate, hate, hate them but at the end of the day, if you can endure their treatment, you can succeed in what you wish to succeed in. My second grade teacher once told us about one of her teachers. When she (my second grade teacher) was in school, she was careless about her handwriting, in spite of the fact that she was a very good student. A teacher of hers scolded her, gave her detentions, and my teacher hated that teacher of hers. But, eventually, within a few weeks, her teacher was able to do something that my teacher had never dreamed of: my teacher now had a beautiful handwriting, and won a prize in a handwriting competition that same year. These teachers are quite like Fletcher- although I think very few people can be as intimidating and as perfectionist as Fletcher is.

There is also another scene that I thought was extremely relatable. There is scene set during dinner, and the people present in the scene are Andrew, his father, a few family friends and their children. The family friends were glorifying the achievements of their own children while not paying much attention to Andrew and his own achievements. This really pained me and I think everyone can relate to it: everybody has had the experience of being slighted and ignored.

Damien Chazelle's next film- after ''Whiplash''- was ''La La Land''. Both films deal with the necessity of following your dreams, your passion. Although the two films dealt with two different situations, they definitely do not belong to the same genre, but both films deal with dreams. ''La La Land'' is more about how to keep chasing your dreams without being intimidated by the competitive world, and ''Whiplash'' is more about the extent to which people can go to achieve their dreams, and the role of perfectionists like Fletcher.

There were times in which I really hated Fletcher. There were times in which- I don't know how to put it- I became Andrew, if you know what I mean. There were times I felt Fletcher was misbehaving with me, because I felt deeply for Andrew. But here is the point: Fletcher wants his students to be the best. Could he be successful in his mission if he were slightly less strict? Well, I think for his goal strictness is absolutely necessary and there is a line he says with which I absolutely agree: ''There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.'' Perhaps the words ''good job'' would lessen the drive in his student to be better, to be perfect. I agree, definitely agree with it. In that sense, I appreciate his character, but I guess he could have slightly milder.

''Whiplash'' is a very realistic film in the sense that we can relate to it. Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons both give excellent performances, and the film is very relatable, intense and moving.


 

Monday, 10 April 2017

''Some Like It Hot'' (1959 film)- Review

Directed by: Billy Wilder
Released: 1959
Country: United States

Genre: Comedy, Romantic

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

I might say this every time I review a Billy Wilder film but it is such a delight watching his films! ''Some Like It Hot'' is a hilarious film: it is wacky and funny and it can also be, at the same time, very romantic.

''Some Like It Hot'' tells the story of two friends, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) who are jazz players working in Chicago. After, for some reasons, they find themselves unemployed, they start looking for jobs, but the only job that is available requires only girls: it is a post in an all-girls' band. However, when Joe and Jerry accidentally witness a murder by a gang, they decide that they should leave the city as soon as possible as the gang, having seen them, is looking for them (they had managed to escape). They get an idea: disguising themselves as two girls- Joe calling himself Josephine and Jerry calling himself Daphne- they join the all-girls' band. The band is headed to Florida. Doing this, they secure for themselves not only jobs but also an opportunity to get out of the city. On the train, they become friends with a beautiful member of the band, Sugar- played by Marilyn Monroe. Sugar- who keeps saying that she is not very ''bright''- intends to marry a millionaire. Both men are attracted to Sugar (who does not know that they are actually men) and as soon as they reach Florida, hilarious, wacky things start happening.

The film was very funny, very funny indeed! From the time Joe and Jerry got on the train, there were very few moments in which I did not laugh! It kept me laughing, it did! There are so many funny things happening in the film concerning disguised identities, a very rich man having a yacht, a man disguising himself twice, and so many other things! 

The performances by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon were very impressive. Marilyn Monroe was wonderful as well; I loved her performance so much! She portrays Sugar as coquettish, charmingly innocent (she is talking to someone pretending to be a ''rich man'', and the man asks her if she plays the stock market, and she replies that she plays the ukulele) and very romantic. Her character is so very sweet and memorable. And then there is Joe E. Brown, playing a very interesting and hilarious character indeed. It is Brown's character that says the last dialogue in the film, and this quote remains an iconic quote in film history.

Excellently directed, written and acted, ''Some Like It Hot'' is a very, very funny film! 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

''Moonlight'' (2016 film)- Review

Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Released: 2016
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review

''Moonlight'' tells the story of Chiron and it focuses on three phases of Chiron's life: the first being Chiron's childhood, the other showing Chiron as a young adult, and the other phase it his adulthood. Being homosexual, working class and living in surroundings where drugs and drug dealers are not uncommon, Chiron has to face a lot of difficulty growing up. The people in Chiron's life include his verbally abusive mother who also happens to be a drug addict; a drug dealer named Juan who becomes a father figure to Chiron; Teresa, Juan's girlfriend who eventually becomes a close friend of Juan's, and Kevin, Chiron's best friend.

At times, ''Moonlight'' can be a very captivating and beautiful film. It is an excellently-written film and is artistic and poetic. A film does not necessarily need a great storyline to become an excellent film. The three actors playing Chiron (Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert) are amazing, each of them good in his own way. Mahershala Ali, who plays Juan, has comparatively less screen presence but he gives a great performance, and so do Naomie Harris- who plays Chiron's mother, a very realistic and strong character- and Janelle Monae, who plays Teresa. The three actors who play Kevin are amazing as well.

 ''Moonlight'' is a quiet film about the difficulties that people like Chiron have to face growing up, and yes, the film has a poetic beauty of its own: it is deeply moving, and although very quiet and unpretentious, it is a powerful film in its own right. This is a great, poetic film and yes, I liked it very much but do I think it should have won Best Picture? Well, that would be difficult to answer: when it comes to the artistic achievement, it is an excellent and powerful film, but I personally liked ''Manchester by the Sea'' much more than this film.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

''The Piano'' (1993 film)- Review

Directed by: Jane Campion
Released: 1993
Country: New Zealand

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

I fell in love with ''The Piano'' in one of the earliest scenes of the movie, when the protagonist, Ada (Holly Hunter), looks at the sea, there is a focus on her face as well as on the sea itself, and the beautiful- extremely beautiful- piece ''The Heart Asks Pleasure First'' plays inthe background. 

''The Piano'' is a very simple film- the subject matter is pretty simple- however, this simplicity is handled with such poetic skill and beauty that it becomes a film impossible to forget and impossible not to fall in love with.

Ada is a mute woman and has not spoken since she was a child. She lives in Scotland with her daughter Flora, played by Anna Paquin. Ada cannot speak but she communicates through two mediums: her daughter understands the sign language she uses and she has her piano. She loves her piano and she plays excellently. The film starts as Ada and Flora are brought to New Zealand, where Ada will be married to a man named Alistair Stewart, played by Sam Neill. Ada's most valued possession is her piano. However, as it is way too heavy, the natives refuse to carry it to Stewart's house, and it remains in the beach. Ada misses her piano, and is devastated to know that a man called George Baines, played by Harvey Keitel, has agreed to give Stewart lands in exchange of the piano, and George- without taking Ada's permission- agreed. Ada desperately wants her piano back, and when she discovers the way through which she can have the piano back, she does not hesitate to take that path, thereby ignoring the consequences that it can bring.

Emotions unfold over the course of the film. Passion, emotions, love, cruelty. The characters develop over the course of the film. And so do their emotions. Holly Hunter's performance is strong and extremely powerful. The character she plays is very strong as well. She does not speak a word, but through her expressions she reflects the determination and strength that is in her character. Excellent, to put it in a single word. 

Jane Campion's screenplay portrays the 19th century New Zealand- or the particular coast of New Zealand in which the film is taking place- as isolated and bleak, where the natives and the European settlers coexist peacefully, where storms are not uncommon, and where sunlight is a rarity. The setting of the film is as such atmospheric and adds a lot to the poetic beauty of the film.

''The Piano'' tells a simple yet powerful- very powerful- story. Thanks to Jane Campion's excellent screenplay, the excellent performances by Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill, the beautiful cinematography, and the lovely soundtrack- particularly the piece ''The Heart Asks Pleasure First''- the film is transformed into a work of art. It is so sophisticated, so poetic, so beautiful. It is one of those films that stay with you.