Thursday, February 26, 2009


The story is moving but the film is not. Acting is good but not phenomenal. Melissa Leo got nominated for Oscar, but maybe the subject was more moving than the acting. And sometimes that can affect the viewing - when the film fails to grip you strongly, other things can pale because of that.

Ray has been abandoned by her gambling-addict husband with her two sons; she struggles to make her living. She was on the verge of buying a home but the husband left her and...she can't afford that. Forget that, she can't even afford meals for her kids, as she has only a part-time job. A chance encounter with an Red Indian woman, a smuggler of people from across Canada to USA over the frozen river, changes her life as she gets involved for the money to make life better for her kids.

The Indian's one year old son has been taken away by her mother-in-law and that seems her justification for smuggling - make money and leave it at her in-laws doorstep. Ray and she get together to smuggle more people so they can get some money for their needs. They run into complications but continue as getting money is more critical than the fear of going to jail.

The hassle with the film is that it tries to be earnest; the characters are out in sympathetic situations and despite their hardships, you don't really relate to them. There is conflict between Ray and her 15-yr old son, and Ray and the Indian woman, but...nothing is convincing. Things kind of resolve too conveniently. And harping over the same issue over and over again doesn't work.

It's an interesting comparison with the film, The Wrestler, which had a very straight forward storyline and was so very effective. Unlike this film, which has scope for highlighting the desperation of the single-mother trying to survive but the depiction is wanting. The tension never really builds up and the release happens too easily, and then...we have standard cliched scenes of satisfaction when someone issues are overcome or too obvious in-your-face sympathy oriented scenes.

The terrain is new, the story is interesting but the momentum never builds up. It's somewhat surprising that Melissa Leo ranked in the top 5 Oscar nominations, but then...awards, like almost anything connected with emotions, are always subjective.

Screenplay: Courtney Hunt
Director: Courtney Hunt

Rating **1/2

[Max ****]

{Watched on 25th Feb, 7.45 pm show at Starz (Tivoli.) 10 people were present in an audi of around 115 capacity. We wanted to attend the 5.15 show but got late courtesy the traffic; bought tickets and had not so great grub at the food court, japanese joint. After that went for a very nice walk in the lovely Auraria (Metro) campus; the downtown with its high rise buildings lit-up in the evening looked fantastic.}

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Viewed: MILK

Sean Penn won the Oscar for this role, and like ever, he is rock solid portraying the character of Harvey Milk. It raises the controversial topic of gay rights, through this story of Milk who took on the challenge and brought the issues to the forefront in America.

Gus Vant Sant perhaps comes out with his finest work in depiction of this person and plays with flash-backs, even flash-forward and uses great actors to showcase the eight years of Milk's life.

By also focusing on his love life, Milk is humanised and becomes a very captivating three-dimensional character. On one level he is the do-gooder trying to fight for the rights of Gay thanks also to the effort of his circle of close friends, but...he also pines for love. He has a long loving relationship with Scott and they do make a very loving pair on-screen. However, as Scott leaves him, Milk finds another lover, who is neurotic, and obnoxious, yet...Milk needs him.

Mike makes a capativating couple with his rival Dan White played so effectively by Josh Brolin. Dan White and Milk also seem like made for each other close buddies. They talk to each other, make attempts to support each other causes, Milk even goes to White's son's christening, and yet....they remain at loggerheads. Though Milk's main rivals are others who are publicly anti-gay movement, it's this relationship that brings in the biggest turning point at the climax.

Brolin brings in a performance of confusion, of a man who is in pain, disturbed, unsure and to an extent Penn feels the same against him. Two characters deeply layered iin conflict with each other provide a thrilling viewing and that's what these two do.

This is not a mass-flick. Not only for the theme of pro-gay-activisim but even the scenes of intimacy between men may not go well with many audience. It may be hard to watch, but it's definitely a must-watch for the subject and for the portrayal of this courageous man.

Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black
Director: Gus Van Sant

Rating ****

[Max ****]

{Watched on 23rd Feb, 7.30 pm show at Regency Theaters, Tamarac Square on Hampden. A plex with nice exterior but ordinary interior, (mostly 6 screens); audi was big: 210. Previews, like in The Wrestler were only three; else, they tend to be at least 6-7. Stopped on way to Village Inn, Tower/Hampden & had decent Apple Pie!}

Viewed: DEV D

Kudos to Anurag Kashyap to give a fresh perspective on this age-old Sarat Chandra's tale of Dev Das, and for visiting an area that not many Hindi films venture into - sexuality, highlighting the repressed desires quite well. By setting the story in a Punjab village and then taking it into the underbelly of Delhi is definitely a good move; you see images which you don't often see and the innovative music,the songs gels pretty well.

The story works to a good extent as it focuses chiefly on one main character and the two women. But something seems amiss despite an upbeat ending, which is a good closure; it perhaps needed more emotional tonic in terms of relating to the characters.

The film dives right into the strong sexual desires of Dev and Paro for each other, but a brash Dev ends up losing her, who in her anger ends up marrying another person. He takes to drink more than ever before and eventually lands up meeting Chanda, who seems equally brash and they end up making a good pair.

It's an interesting line to take - bring a new, seldom-showcased perspective of characters - in their youth driven by sex - being in love, falling out and trying to find meaning. In the original version, Dev ends up in self-pity, which is the key driver of his personality, and here...he eventually detaches from it.

The deal lies in how you portray the events, and as you witness a realistic way of talking and view outdoor locations you enjoy the story. But at times, it tries to be funny for its own sake, which never works.

Kashyap always get good performances from his actors and this time too he is on the mark with his main cast. What's required is more to do with building the character and playing with the events that would have taken this to another level.

A case in point - Dev comes all the way to sleep with Paro. That's his 'driver', to sleep with his beloved. He gets physical but the opportunity always goes by. But then a guy tells him that she has loose morals and he falls for that so much so that when she gets physical, when she is quite alluring, he pushes her off. The fact that he shall be dismissive of her hinges on this fact - he is convinced that she is sleeping around. There is no doubt that he is a male chauvinist but the question is, is that transition believable enough?

Interestingly, as Dev unfolds more over the scenes that brashness seems to justify his behavior. However, his feelings for Paro, which seemed a big driver in the beginning, go off courtesy his anger. But...the fact that he still loves her, rather he believes he loves her has to be convincing as that's the pivot point. What works well is how's Paro portrayed - she is captivating and her (single-focused) feeling for Dev makes the pair attractive.

Another interesting turn-around in this version is Dev's confession in the end that he never knew Paro to love her. This seems a good move in giving more strength to Dev's character, though the question is if that's convincing enough. Again, it kind of works, since the past scenes have focused on Chanda and him, and their great chemisty; with Paro in another world, their interactions make them a good pair.

The film moves pretty fast, and that's what the question is - should it have slowed down a bit and let us see more of these characters? Perhaps what was more required was some empathy, and maybe less clutter. It seemed to go off in a way like Requiem for a Dream, which is truly a class act, which gradually builds the tension,climaxes it and then...releases it. And it's always a challenge to portray when conflict is mainly internal.

There IS a scene which seems 'inspired', unless it's an amazing coincidence - fellow passenger giving a sermon to Dev who eats her ticket as a TT comes to check. The short film, The Black Rider is an awesome piece, but this scene seemed redundant.'s great that such a film gets made. And such a film is released. was a good move considering bare backs and dirty talk would definitely get lot of young adults interested! Yes, it's that and much more - interesting characters, real tone, fresh setting, which makes it quite watchable.

Based on a story by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya
Screenplay: Vikramaditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap
Director: Anurag Kashyap

Rating ***

[Max ****]

{Watched a lousy torrent video on 23rd Feb at Hampden}

Monday, February 23, 2009


Tell a simple story of just one character, keep it focused on his journey, let the complications grow, keep him going and what you will get is a good story. That's what, The Wrestler is. You go on a journey of a legendary wrestler, who still fights to earn his daily bread and eventually it becomes a pretty moving film.

Mickey Rourke has been picking up every big award for best actor and there's no doubt that it's a performance that is super. He plays a wrestler, Randy Ram who is moving towards his old age, battling against his body and living all by himself. Though he's revered by other wrestlers he is a lonely man. The only person who adds something to his life is a cabaret performer (Marisa Tomei) and though she is fond of him, he is another 'customer'.

Things change when he gets a heart attack after a bout and is advised to stay away from wrestling lest he might lose his life. He opens up to his stripper friend who suggests that he should visit his daughter. He goes to her but she turns him off. Later he again makes an attempt and buys her a gift with the help of his friend.

He takes her to her favorite childhood spot and it becomes apparent that the film is moving towards this scene; it's a moment, when a man who knows he has been in the wrong tries to make it up and for forgiven. Randy a lonely man, who would have been brash and silly in his younger life eventually finds meaning as his daughter accepts him.

However director, Darren Aronofsky isn't making things sweet; the man errs and loses what he has gained. And then with no one on his side he goes back for his big re-match into a world that is his. The parallel world of stripper is also ventured into along with Randy's; they are like mates united in pain at an age where they would be soon over the hill trying to make ends meet.

The film reveals the dark side or perhaps the true side of (fake) wrestlers; it opens up an alley not seen before; what you have seen are these super-muscular guys roaring in glee as they cause 'massive' harm to their opponents, who looks like their worst enemy, you go backstage, you see a great bonding between them. And...the injuries they deal with it at times. One scene could be very difficult to watch, where Randy goes all-out with another wrestler. Perhaps the highlight scene of their plight is when Randy goes for a charity events for ex-wrestlers. It's another sport where the eventual path is figuring out on how to survive in the real world.

Aronofsky (with films like Pi and Requiem for a Dream) deals in a simple narrative, just focusing on Randy and tells a very effective tale. Initially the hand-held camera seems kind of jarring but later you settle into things. The best part of course is how less the characters speak and how the actions unfold to grip you providing insight into the world of a lonely ex-legend.

Apparently the film was made thanks to (free) contribution by many. Made for a $6 million it goes to show what a good story-telling can do - take a very small story and make it very big.

Screenplay: Robert Siegel
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Rating ****

[Max ****]

The Wrestler (Wikipedia)

Interview: Darren Aronofsky

{Watched on 20th Feb, 5.50 pm show at Southlands, Gun Road, Aurora. A big, decent plex, (maybe 16 screens); audi was small: 100, but...the screen was big, so was pretty good to watch. Later a great dinner, Hibachi scallops at Fuji.}

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


How many documentaries do you watch? Very less. many documentaries do you watch that are animation? Perhaps, none. Waltz with Bashir walks on a rare territory of being an animated documentary about the 1982 Lebanon War and in particular about the Shabra and Shatila massacre.

Ari Folman, the director goes on a journey to retrieve his lost memory when he was a part of the Israeli army and took part in the Lebanon war. He meets a friend who has a recurring dream that reminds Folman that he remembers nothing from his 'war' past.

He talks to a close friend who advises him to meet the people who were with him at that time and thus begins a journey that depicts the horror of the war but more so of individuals who were part of the 'crazy' history, who were caught in the middle of the hatred between Lebanese Forces and Lebanese Phalangist militiamen, and the pain of being in a war.

It is the story of people who given a choice would spend their day, any time, far away from the maddening world of war but have to go through the trial and they come out of it affected for life. It highlights the terrible face of humanity and by depicting what the veterans of this war went through it shows you the futility of it all.

Three things work in a unique synergy - the action, the music and the voice-over narration. They all gel seamlessly bringing so many layers to the fore - of the hassles of the war, of helplessness in being forced to be a part of such situations, of innocent families being caught between rivalries of manic forces, of non-humans paying a price for being with them, and of scared men scarred so badly that they have forever blanked-out stuff from the head.

Once you immerse in the story, you lose track of the fact that you are watching an animation, and it goes into areas where a 'real' film would find it very tough to go. The small last segment is the only 'real' part, the actual footage of the refugee camp post the massacre, which shakes you to the core bringing the whole film to a crescendo, will sink you further.

It's dark, it's messy, even though animated, some scenes are hard to watch, it is also funny but carries a forlorn tone throughout and stuns you by portraying the realities so poignantly. This one is at the very top of the war films you will ever see.

Screenplay: Ari Folman
Director: Ari Folman

Rating ****

[Max ****]

{Watched on 16th Feb, 4.30 pm show at Landmark's, Chez Artiste (on S Colorado Blvd, Denver.) The screen was around 8ft x 15 ft! It was like sitting in a big living room with a capacity of around 111.}

Monday, February 16, 2009

Interview: Joss Whedon's Plan to Monetize Internet Content

Joss Whedon's Plan to Monetize Internet Content (Watch Out, Hollywood)

Whedon: The fact of the matter is, if somebody has a story to tell there is no reason at all that they should not be telling it. The quality of the material that exists -- I'm talking about the physical [equipment] like the cameras -- [allows you to do] things that could not be done when I was a kid for almost nothing.

People aren't going to the Internet to look for IMAX [large screen movies]. They're going to look for things that shock and delight and surprise and upset and all that good stuff. They're going for the most basic story.

A lot of people sit around and go, "How can I get this made?" The only answer is: By making it. By borrowing someone's camera. By buying a camera. They come cheap and they work well. And if you know where to point them -- and the person that you point them at is saying something interesting -- that's it! That's how it works.

I can't stress enough that I believe the best thing in the world is for everybody who feels like they have a story to tell, to tell it.

If they want to sell it, if they want to make a lot of money, they can do that -- and they can kiss their story goodbye. Because, in general, that's the last they're ever going to see of it, because somebody else will own it and they will either not make it, or make it very differently than that person hoped.

So, if you really have a story you think you're ready to tell, what are you doing talking to me?

The complete stuff

Friday, February 13, 2009


The title perhaps would create images of sexual acts or perhaps a couple going to make with each other 'in the bedroom'! But...nothing of that sort happens; least there is no sex 'element', and...a couple do go against each other, however they do so as their lives have lost complete meaning since the death of their only child.

This is what the film deals with - trying to come to terms with the death of a child. And in doing so, Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek give terrific performances in this very sensitive film. A loving couple watch their young son (Nick Stahl) in love with an older divorced mother (Marisa Tomei, as captivating as ever) of two children; though they don't approve of the relationship like matured parents they back-off and let their son work his way out. However there are underlying tensions and external conflicts, including violence which results in their son's death.

The film then travels a path that's extremely tough to pull through - highlighting the grief of the parents and their anguish, which results them splitting in different worlds, becoming strangers in the same room. This is the tough terrain as the film goes on for a long period before the next big turning point happens. It moves very slowly as if depicting the grief through the pacing and grips you. As the plot turns, the film gains momentum and moves towards a satisfying resolution. One may wonder if the actions taken by the docile couple are 'authentic' but that's what precisely the film does - shows what grief can do and how any action could be believable.

The entire pace of the film is leisurely. But it gets us involved with the family, with the small town and the people with whom the couple spends time with. And that's the beauty of the film - showing the every day life but...keeping us engaged with the story of this couple. It first focuses more on their son and his girlfriend, and gradually moves to delve into the psyche of the parents.

Nothing is worse than losing one's child, and the film takes us on a painful journey. Courtesy it's languid pace, the film may not work with a younger audience, but if you shall invest your attention, you will be rewarded with a great cinematic experience.

Based On A Short Story By Andre Dubus
Screenplay: Robert Fetsinger & Todd Field
Director: Todd Field

Rating ****

[Max ****]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some links on 'Writing Dialogue'

Writing Screenplay Dialogue
The Difference Between Actual Speech and Great Dialogue

How to Write Dialogue

Dialogue is the exchange of words in a scene—what the characters say to one another. The purpose of dialogue is to illuminate character and conflict.

The Heart and Soul of Screenwriting: Writing good dialogue and description

Some Exercises

Thursday, February 5, 2009


The Akhtar family introduce a new talent of their family, Zoya who makes an impressive debut with her directorial venture that focuses on the struggle of two actors and takes a peek in the Hindi film industry.

The story is of a girl (Konkona Sen) who does bit roles hoping to land a meaty role in a big production who falls in love withs another struggler (Farhan Akhtar). As the story tracks their journey, it also showcases parallel tales of a producer (Rishi Kapoor), ex-starlet (Dimple Kapadia) and her daughter (Isha Sharvani) and an insecure star (Hrithik Roshan, who has a neat role in the film.) It attempts to highlights various film 'arenas' and the reality behind the scenes.

The Akhtars anchor on their strength and bring-in whole lot of stars in the film. Zoya does a neat job of eliciting good performances. She tries a brave thing by venturing into parallel narratives; the film becomes multi-protagonist kind of a story, and at times struggles as it delves into caricature representations; it perhaps would have been more effective to travel more with the leads than with trying to show everything.

It does show effectively the lives of all the main characters but likely a simpler portrayal would have been more effective. It's a challenge to balance all the conflicts and track the various arcs, which the film endeavors to do. Though the film after starting very well takes a dip of sorts, eventually it does work. In a way it's scary to see this industry and imagine how difficult it could be to break-in into this league.

It is a fresh kind of a flick. One viewing is definitely worth it. We have another new talented director making a debut and hopefully we shall see more quality works in the future. Though I do wonder why the film was stuck for many years for want of a lead actor; though Farhan is fresh in a way, he is not really 'new', I wonder why couldn't they be brave and go for a new actor. It looks even more scary if guys like Excel Productions are not willing to walk the line with a totally new face in this 'new'-look industry that is supposedly open now for experimentation, or maybe....there is extreme dearth of fresh talent in the country.

Though with their previous production, Rock On, they perhaps did take a kind of a 'risk'. Though I am not sure if exploring new themes is actually a risk. But it's interesting to see that this film was stuck for want for a 'star' and that's one of the points, which this film raises! Well, as long as we don't take chances, the more we shall bank on luck.

Screenplay: Zoya Akhtar
Director: Zoya Akhtar

Rating ***

[Max ****]

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Article: Report on Obama's Use of Social Media

Report on Obama's Use of Social Media

"The Social Pulpit" is a very interesting analysis of how the Barack Obama campaign used social media. The folks at Edelman compiled this report, and there are many lessons that businesses can also apply, so check it out.