Monday, November 21, 2005

Comedy Tonight ...

These winter days when everything outside is dull and lifeless; a good escape from this all pervading drudgery is MOVIES … especially COMEDIES!!! These days are meant for grabbing some munchies, curling-up on a sofa and enjoying a laugh riot comedy-flick in the warmth of a thick blanket !!!

Now I am *NOT* talking about some of those movies, which though are termed as comedies; are not really funny . For example I can never call a movie like “Fargo” to be funny! To me it’s simply a tragic dark crime-story. I’m also leaving out satiric dramas like “The Trueman Show”, which though belongs to genre of comedies, but far from making me laugh, leaves me melancholic and pensive. Even romantic stories with happy endings, are ruled out.

So today I’m going to write on hardcore laugh-out-loud comedies like:
- SLAPSTICKS – characterized by exaggerated physical action, like cake-fights, chases, collusions …
- SCREWBALLS – with odd and eccentric pairing; intelligent with stupid, rich n poor…
- SPOOFS – comedy take on serious movies …

Humor is a very personal individual taste. What may make one person roar with laughter, may totally offend another. As I’m attempting to list some movies that I’ve throughly enjoyed; I wont be surprized if some of the readers find them to be totally nonsense, boring or even repulsive!

To begin with, three names closely associated with comedies are:
- Ben Stiller
- Jim Carrey
- Adam Sandler

Recently I saw a movie, “Dodgeball – A true underdog story”. Now that’s an outright funny movie!!! Ben Stiller acts as an obnoxious fitness freak, and is uproaringly outrageously
H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S!! In fact, if I’m asked my favourite comic character; its Ben Stiller … he has consistently proved himself to be a top-class low-brow comedy-champion, covering a wide range of roles in different movies:
- Starsky & Hutch – play-by-the-book impractical cop
- Zoolander – unintelligent awkward male model
- Meet the parents / Meet the fockers – simpleton male nurse with a funny name!!!
- There's something about Mary – goofy embarrassing [zipper!!] loser
- Along came Polly – neurotic OCD salesman

I remember another riproaring screwball comedy that I saw some days back; “Anchorman - The legend of Ron Burgundy”. In this the lead role is played by Will Farrell, but Ben Stiller makes a small appearance!!! In fact Stiller and his friends have formed an informal FRAT PACK / SLACK PACK – which is a group of middle-aged men who keep popping up in each others movies. Members are: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Will Farell, Vince Vaughn and Black Jack.

Seems like these Frat-Pack members have dislodged the longtime king of Hollywood comedies :Jim Carrey. Though he’s known for his comic-roles, some of his movies to be rather serious, like “The Trueman Show” and “Eternal Sunshine of a spotless mind”. I really like his performance in non-silly movies, but comedy is his forte ...
- Dumb n Dumber
- The Mask
- Me myself & Irene
- Bruce Almighty
- Ace Ventura

Another person to have carved a substantial niche for himself in the world of comedies is : Adam Sandler. Starting as a stand-up comedian, he now writes and produces his own movies and also composes songs! Some of his good movies:
- The wedding singer
- Little Nicky
- Big Daddy
- Anger Management
- 50 first dates

But of these three: Ben Stiller, Jim carrey and Adam Sandler ..
... I like Ben Stiller THE MOST!!!


Some other good comedies:
White chicks
The wedding crashers
Hitch
Napoleon Dynamite
American Pie – 1 and 2 / American Wedding
Analyze This / AnalyzeThat
The whole nine yards / The whole ten yards
Dude where's my car?
Road trip
Tootsie
Mrs Doubtfire
Police Academy

Friday, November 18, 2005

Good Night and Good Luck

The movie is a historical documentary; so spoilers shouldn’t be an issue. I myself being a movie aficionado; know the importance of mystery and suspense in a movie; so I wouldn’t be a killjoy divulging any part of the storyline. But since it’s based on a much-known event; a reference to plot; shouldn’t matter at all…
But be warned of spoilers …



Two days back, when temperature dipped sharply and Chicago had its first round of flurries; my friend and I decided to celebrate this [non] event with a movie! We chose “Goodnight and Good luck”, and boy, it turned out to be an absolutely brilliant movie!!!

To begin with David Strathairn’s acting is mind-blowing! Makes me wonder where he was all this while; don’t recall seeing his movies. The script is taut, gripping and perfectly paced; I mean it neither races through nor slows down. It’s meticulously edited with no wasted moments. The most exalting highpoint is the articulate language used; which is crisp, gentlemanly, direct with no-frills; no melodramatic dialogues and no swear words even in the worst fits of rage and frustration. It is such a refreshing change from the much degraded language that we hear today.

It is in the backdrop of the dark period of American history - the period of witch hunt for communists in the US of A or the period of McCartheism. The story is of newscaster Edward R Murrow who waged a media war against him and eventually brought him down. The movie immediately takes the audience to the fifties milieu with Black-n-White cinematography and period costumes that reflect fashion of those days when formal pinstripe suits and button-down shirts were in vogue. What further gives an authentic stamp, is the wonderful Jazz-interludes; with relevant lyrics, which makes a person chuckle .

But the reason why this historical piece; really hits so hard, is its relevance in today’s world. Just substitute communism with terrorism and McCartheism with the US Patriot Act; and we get stark parallels! Now-a-days, we live in a vicious atmosphere of fear and suspicion and have even forsaken some of our civil liberties in the name of security. In the wake of Bush administration’s war against terrorism; any dissent to his policies is usually treated as unpatriotic and viewed as a move that will potentially strengthen our enemies. In fact this has become a good strategy to avoid public scrutiny and accountability. The movie emphatically underlines the issue that criticizing government policies do not make its citizens unpatriotic!!!

Further; it brings out the “power” and “role” of investigative journalism and mass-media in a democratic society. Though challenging the establishment is an extremely daunting task; especially with corporate control over media, sponsorship issues and rating pressures; but its still possible! We got a few outstanding precedences, if we just turn the pages of our history books!!! So the movie gives a jolt to the mass-media, while itself playing its small little role in creating awareness ... and in such an entertaining manner!!!

I’m reminded of a couple of other true-story based movies.
- “All the Presidents Men”– one of my all time favorite movies; based on the works of two journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward who exposed the Watergate scandal and brought down the Nixon administration.
- “The insider” - media versus corporate arm-twisting! A must-see real-life drama.
- “Confessions of a dangerous mind” – which was George Clooney’s first movie as a director. It was another true-story on a comedian who claimed to be an undercover CIA assassin.

With this movie, Hollywood once again plays its role in tossing around liberal ideas.
A must watch movie!!!

DIRECTOR: George Clooney
CAST: David Strathairn
Robert Downey Jr.
Patricia Clarkson
Jeff Daniels
George Clooney

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

British Movies

My name is Bond ... James Bond!!!
When I think about British movies; the first name that comes to my mind is of Bond ... James Bond. This spy-thriller can safely be said to be the most successful of the British movies in the world. They also brought-in few of the most handsome of faces on the silver screen: Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan ... and now Daniel Craig. Interestingly, Bond movies, is another phenomenon with roots in the “swinging sixties”- in the atmosphere of all pervading music, dance n sex; as its very first film "Dr. No" came out in 1962.

But somehow, I think that the influence of Brits in the field of movies is much less profound than their flamboyant contributions in the musical arena. But maybe that's just me. So now I'll just pen down the names that come to my mind; when I think of British movies. Few names definitely stand out: Charlie Chaplin; the “master of suspense” Sir Alfred Hitchcock and other directors like Richard Attenborough, Ridley Scott, and Guy Ritchie. Then there are few wacky comic-series that I've really enjoyed like: Mr. Bean [Rowan Atkinson], Monty Python, and Carry-on series ...
Of course the super-duper Harry Potter series:
- Sorcerer’s Stone
- Chamber of Secrets
- Prisoner of Azkaban

Now if I list of my five fav. British movies, it'll include:
• Bridget Jones Diary
• Notting Hill
• Love Actually
• Four weddings and A Funeral
• Bend it like Beckham

Some other movies I’ve really liked: About a Boy, The Full Monty, The day of the jackal, The English patient, Educating Rita, The Bridge on the river Kwai.

LISTMANIA:
Actors: Hugh Grant, Clive Owens, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Orlando Bloom,
Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, Peter O’Toole, Christopher lee, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh

Actresses: Kate Winslet, Catherine Zeta Jones, Kiera Knightly, Elizabeth Hurley, Minnie Driver, Emma Thompson
Dame Judie Dench and Dame Julie Andrews


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YET - TO - SEE MOVIES LIST:
Shakespeare in Love, Trainspotting, Billy Elliot, A man of all seasons, House of flying daggers, A fish called Wanda, the Killing Fields
Classics: Lawrence of Arabia, Pride and Prejudice, Crime n Punishment, Great Expectations, Chariots of fire

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Film Genres

GENRES:

• Thriller
• Comedy
• Action
• Science-Fiction
• Crime / Gangster
• Horror
• Epics / Historic
• Musical
• War
• Westerns
• Documentary

Innumerable Combinations: Action-comedy-crime-mystry; Drama-romance-comedy; History,drama, action

SUBGENRES:

COMEDY:
- SLAPSTICK / WACKY – Charecterized by exaggerated physical actions. [ Trivia:The term “slapstick” comes from wooden sticks that clowns slapped to make audience laugh] Movies: Lauren-Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Zoolander, Monty Python, The Mask, Ace Venture ...

- SCREWBALL - Films where everything is in juxtaposition: rich n poor, intelligent n stupid, honest n dishonest, male n female, educated n uneducated. In a typical screwball comedy, two lead characters often employ hideous tricks on each other, untill finally they fall in each others arms. Like: You've got mail, Wedding Crashers ...

- SPOOF / PARODY – These are comedy takes on serious films. Like: Austin Powers series, Airplane ...

- ROMANTIC COMEDY - commercially; this is probably the most successful of all sub-genres. Movies: Sideways, Wedding Crashers, Hitch, My Big fat Greek Wedding, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary, America’s Sweethearts, My best friends wedding, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry met Sally, French kiss ...

THRILLERS / CRIME:
- FILM NOIRS: Key ingredients of a noir-movie:
- Primary Mood : melancholy, alienation, disillusionment, moral corruption, guilt and paranoia
- Dialogues are often crisp n witty with great one liners
- In typical noir; the “protagonist” tries to escape some mysterious past. He maybe gangster, crook, criminal or even government agent or cop
- "Femme fatale" plays a crucial role; she’s usually mysterious, manipulative, irresistibly attractive and often leads men to disaster
- Distinct cinematic visual style – dark, shadowy, gloomy appearance
- Film usually has a narrative style with a series of flashbacks.
Movies: Momento, Pulp Fiction, se7en, Usual Suspects, The Last Seduction, Vertigo ...

- GANGSTER MOVIES - The Godfather trilogy, The Untouchables, Scarface, Goodfellas, Casino, Ganges of New York ...

- COURTROOM DRAMA - Philadelphia, A few good men, My cousin Vinny; John Grisham novel based movies: The Rainmaker, A time to kill, The Client, Pelican Brief, The Firm ...


WESTERNS
- SPAGHETTI WESTERNS - During 1960-1975, many Westerns were made; mostly financed by Italian companies, so they were called ‘Spaghetti Westerns’. This term is now used for any Western movie made and financed by European film makers.



References:
http://www.filmsite.org/genres.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cinematic_genres