Kapoor and Sons – Since 1921, 2016

I suppose I ought to compose a review – if I can collect my thoughts, that is – almost a month after having seen this movie – and before I see another Hindi one.  So, what’s the verdict, you say?  Thumbs-up or thumbs-down?  Well, I’ll give it a thumbs-up, fine.  And that’s not necessarily half-heartedly so, even though it might sound like that.  The thumbs-up is for a well-crafted story that examines the dynamics of a multi-generational Indian family in post-modern India – and the undertone of disappointment, if any, is owing to a personal dissonance with the way that the drama in this family-drama is addressed by individual family members.

So, what’s the drama, you ask?  Well, it does cover a wide gamut of universal human emotions that range from jealousy and infidelity, to sibling rivalry, revenge, and the many “dysfunctions” of a family unit in which good intentions do not always translate to good actions.  And in the midst of all this, there is some small relief in the romantic pursuits of two young people trying to find themselves even as they try to find each other.

For a Hindi film, there are some unchartered waters that the story treads – ever so lightly, and in this, perhaps the portrayal of the characters involved isn’t too far from the truth of how such sticky matters are most likely addressed in this day and age, back in the old country (I refer to my motherland, India, of course).

As for other elements of the film that bear note, there is the lovely topography and landscapes of the lovely hill-station Coonoor, a sleepy town in the hills of Tamil Nadu, but it must be noted that the family and related friends of family here do not appear – in physical appearance or manner – to be natives of the region, i.e., Tamil.   Nonetheless, this minor detail doesn’t detract too much from the engaging style of the characters and the plot, although, I would question if the portrayal of the young woman is anything even remotely similar to a young woman in that situation.  Perhaps it is, but then again, perhaps I’ve been away from the motherland for far too long to know any different.

As for the personal dissonance to some of the themes of the movie that I have mentioned earlier, I do look forward to a continued evolving of Bollywood boldness that will perhaps make small forays into the difficult trails of the human mind and heart even while attempting to frame it all within the amazingly diverse cultural context of the country.Kapoor-Sons-New-Poster

 

The Annual Viewing of The Ten Commandments 

The Annual Viewing of The Ten Commandments   

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

When one waits too long to write a review, one finds that it isn’t the easiest of things to do, especially when the movie was not particularly earth-shattering.  Which is certainly the case with this one.  This is a marked shift from what one typically expects from the Coen brothers.  It is an exuberant embrace of Golden-Age Hollywood, gliding smoothly through various classic genres over a day in the life of a harried studio executive. There’s Channing Tatum, doing his best Gene Kelly impression as a lonely sailor in a beautifully choreographed dance number.  Then there’s Scarlett Johansson, in a bathing-beauty extravaganza number.  And then there’s George Clooney as the star of a period film, a sword-and-sandal epic that’s meant to be the studio’s year-end prestige picture. The whole thing is called: “Hail, Caesar: A Tale of the Christ.” Ralph Fiennes is the fastidious director.  And finally, there’s Jonah Hill in a small but intriguing role as a lawyer.

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that the individual films within the film work beautifully. It’s the tying them all together that didn’t work out too well.  Josh Brolin stars as a studio fixer who makes his daily confession of nothing terribly earth-shattering to a vaguely annoyed priest.   And as is often the case in the Coen brothers’ films, religion comes into significant play, not only in Brolin’s Catholicism but also in the film-within-the-film, “Hail, Caesar!”, and in the notion that movies provide something to believe in — a sense of guidance and hope.  And finally, from what I can remember, the conclusion — which is decidedly abrupt and unsatisfying — is intended to serve as a contrast to the neatly packaged Hollywood endings that mark the made-up movies in “Hail, Caesar!”

Overall, a somewhat underwhelming and often perplexing set of action sequences that gets all-too confusing at times.  But still, a brilliant cast of actors who make you want to sit up and pay attention.

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Navigating a Zoo to See Zoolander 2

Navigating a Zoo to See Zoolander  

If You’re Looking for Some Laughs, You Check Out ‘Hail, Caesar!’

If You’re Looking for Some Laughs, You Check Out ‘Hail, Caesar!’  

Ditto, Sam Wheat! Ditto!

Ditto, Sam Wheat! Ditto!  

The Revenant, 2016

To say that it was both emotionally exuberant and exhausting an experience to view this masterpiece of a motion-picture would be an understatement.

If there was a way to convey all of the determination and anguish of a fur tradesman from the nineteenth century in the brutally beautiful mountainous terrain of the American Rockies, it would be with the face of DiCaprio – who does it skillfully with the blazing emotions in his eyes and the grunts and groans he exudes as he pushes his body to superhuman feats. His is truly an amazingly physical performance. The Revenant takes a stark, simple story and stretches it out over two-and-a-half hours of mind-blowing artistry. It is slow and contemplative, staggeringly beautiful, and utterly compelling.  It is excruciating in the voluminous narrative that is unspoken for the better part of the movie – because none is needed.  And it is haunting in the intentionality of its many themes – the most obvious one being that of survival.

But even greater than that obvious theme of survival – that takes the shape of the ordeal endured by DiCaprio’s Glass – the more compelling ones to me were those of loyalty and love.  This was a love-story, plain and simple.  That between a man and a woman, and a father and his son.  One’s will to live is not so much a function of one’s desire to seek revenge, but due to the sweet memory of one’s loved one, and the determination to keep that memory alive for as long as possible.

This is, what is called muscular film-making, I suppose, and there is much muscle – and bone and blood and sinew.  Such imagery is not for the faint-hearted, but how does one then feel the pain of love and loss without any of that?  And while much has been made of the punishing physicality of the shoot in artic-like temperatures – with a digital grizzly bear that looks anything but digital, it is true that the film is gorgeously shot in a most relentlessly violent manner.  Alas, nature watches in gorgeous indifference as the human characters suffer.

If you ask me, this is a genre all to itself, but just to keep it simple, I would endorse this movie to be nominated for and to sweep Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography this year, next year and the year after that.

revenant-leo