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

Wazir, 2016

So, if chess is the game of life, then a chess-themed story-line has got to be teeming with chess metaphors, no doubt.

Which is what you get with Wazir.  And so, beyond the metaphor-heavy plot, what you have is a reasonably well-told story, only, there’s an inconsistency to the quality of it all: the quality of the convincing story-line, the acting, and everything else in between.  I suppose I ought to disclose here that I have never been big on revenge-themed stories, which is quite possibly the reason for my approach to this review.   But if that is your cup of tea, by all means, I daresay you may find it to be satisfying, perhaps even stellar in parts.

But as for me, I was taken with the early setting-of-the-stage to the story and the fresh young faces that were a good reminder of the talent that Bollywood is bursting with – and especially when viewed in contrast to other established talent from the likes of Mr. Bachchan and Mr. Abraham.

Final thoughts:  not a bad way to spend a Friday evening, but if there’s something else on tap, you’re none the loser if you choose to give it a miss.

wazir

“Friday night and everything’s alright!”

“Friday night and everything’s alright!”  

Theater 7, Please!

Theater 7, Please!  

Bajirao Mastani, 2015

This is the week for movie reviews – both catch-up and newly watched ones – today’s review falling into that latter category.  Because what I have to write about today is what I just watched – and I cannot but help want to rush to put into some words – as inadequate as they might be – my deep admiration for this indisputably and gloriously epic love-story in the time of the Marathas in the northwestern part of India.

And the rendition of this famed love-story is no ordinary one; it is indeed an extraordinary one.  It is a love-story that is most irreverent and untamable, no matter the circumstance.  It is a love-story that transcends status, faith, culture, familial relations, political connections, geographic boundaries, and any other societal divisions one can imagine.  Set in the eighteenth century in feudal India, this is the kind of love-story that legends are made of.  When the name of both lovers is spoken as though it were one name, you can feel it in your bones from the very first moment that this is a love that is doomed, but a love that will go down in the annals of history to set the bar for what it means to have loved and lost.

Frame all this in the most grandiose of cinematic sets – both indoors and outdoors – that include masterfully orchestrated battle scenes, breathtakingly beautiful palace interiors, exquisite costumes and jewelry, and a cast of convincing actors, and you have an epic motion picture.   Add to that a great musical score, moving dialogue, and a pulsating chemistry between Singh and Padukone, and you have a winner.  Not without flaw, but trivial enough to be negligible, the story of Bajirao Mastani follows the trajectory of the lovers, whom nothing can separate, and whose destinies seem intertwined.  

High marks, all around – to the directorial prowess, the spectacular cinematography, and the skillful acting.  And a strong word of recommendation to see it on the big screen at the movies, please.  Anything less would be cheating yourself of a most fantastic viewing experience.

 

Baji