Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Citizen Kane [1941]

A CLASSIC .....
An absolutely brilliant movie!!!

Let me begin by saying that the first time I saw this movie; I didn’t enjoy it that much. But its one of those movies that pulls you for a repeat viewing and the second time I saw it; I was totally E-N-T-H-R-A-L-l-E-D !!!!

It’s a landmark in creative direction and technical wizardry.
- Its one of those films where the craft of *story-telling* is as fascinating as or rather more interesting than the story itself. In no way am I suggesting that the plot is not arresting … there is romance, tragedy, music, dance, victory, defeat, dreams fulfilled and shattered and a whole lot of drama and mystery !!!!

- And to add to the *mystery* is an equally absorbing plot-delivery technique. A *narrative* style. A * non-linear* method of presentation which was definitely futuristic for that era! The movie unfolds in a *series of flash-backs* beginning with the death of a media tycoon – whose last words were “rosebud” … and the story is about discovering on who/what is rosebud and why so important to a man who had everything in this world!!??!!!

- There is lot of *symbolism* used which is more absorbed in repeat viewing! When Kane loses his job; he walks down spiral staircases; when his wife leaves him, she walks through a fleet of doors … the movie is full of visual representations ….

- Brilliant camera work - The angles of shots & the use of light - makes for an experience extraordinaire. A movie-watchers pleasure ...

- The dialogues are crisp & witty …

- The story is not definitive but leaves ample scope of multiple interpretations. What the movie conveys depends totally on the viewer and his perspective. Does it convey - the hollowness of American dream? The duality of life - a rich media tycoon who cares for the poor?

SOME TRIVIA:
- This was Orson Welles debut movies. He was just 25 years old when he wrote, directed and acted in this movie.
- The movie opened doors for many fresh faces ... Most of the cast members were first-time in the movie industry …
- The story is said to be loosely based on the life of "William Randolph Hearst"; who is considered to be the greatest newspaper baron in the history of United States ...

SUGGESTION: Citizen Kane needs to be seen *over–n-over-again*.
Repeat viewing is highly recommended – to grasp the nuances of the movie - dialogues, camera-work, lighting, symbolism and acting!!!

Final Word: MASTERPIECE !!!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

This post is a spin-off

This post is a spin-off from an earlier volley-of-comments in the post - “From the Idiot Box” - on Anna Nicole Smith ... To me, Anna conjures images of a gal who has lost significant amount of weight ...

And that reminds me of Hollywood stars who gain or lose significant weight to suit the roles they are playing ...

- Renee Zellweger, had put on 20-30 pounds for her role in “Bridget Jones Diary” & its sequel and what’s more interesting is that in-between she lost all that increased weight for her role in “Chicago”. It’s well known that she was offered more than 3 millions to shed weight after “Bridget Jones-Edge of Reason”.

- Robert DeNiro had put on 50 pounds to perform the role of Jake la Motta in “Raging Bull”

- Charlize Theron is said to have put on about 25 pounds for her role in “Monster”

- Adrien Brody lost 30 pounds for film “The Pianist”. I think he never put that weight back

- The most interesting is the gain-loss by Tom hanks. For “Cast Away” he had put on weight in the first half of the movie and shed about 50 pounds in the second half!

Now this takes me to the issue of “Method Acting" ...
Where performs actually “live” the life like the characters they are performing ...
Few names closely associated with “Method Acting” ... Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Paul Newman ....

For example for the movie “Gandhi” Ben Kingsley took to vegetarian food, no-drinks and sleep with minimum mattresses, read books written by him to understand how his mind worked … Similarly, Robert DeNiro captured the characteristics of Jake la Motta in “Raging Bull”. Tom Cruise took a lot of training for “The Last Samurai”. Demi Moore spent quite some time in strip clubs foe her role in “Striptease” ...
The list goes on n on ...

* But well Anna Nicole Smith has nothing to do with acting in Hollywood ...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Quentin Tarantino

After listing some Gangster Movies ... here's some more "Crime-Thrillers"...
and Quentin Tarantino qualifies for a separate post ... so here ...


Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie “Hostel” is running in theaters ...
However I have no intensions of making it to this one ...From the reviews I’ve read; it sounds more like a horror-&-gore film than a crime-thriller ... And I stay away from horrors ....
Also; Tarantino is not the director/writer of the movie, but is the executive producer. Its director is Eli Roth and is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard novel “Kill Shot”.

Excepting Hostel, I’ve seen every other movie of Tarantino.
He shot into fame from his very first film … when
• In 1992 his debut movie as a writer/director; “Reservoir Dogs” was released … in the Sundance Film Festival. It won rave reviews.
• In 1994, “Pulp Fiction”; premiered at the Cannes and won “Palme d’Or [Golden Palm] – It practically revived the Independent Films and was the come-back movie for John Travolta.
• In 1997, his next film was “Jackie Brown” was out. It was adaptation of novel by Elmore Leonard “Rum Punch”.
• “ Kill Bill” [Volume I & II] – An out-an-out “revenge” flick in Japanese n Spaghetti Western style

Though the above mentioned movies have been written-directed by him; there are few movies for which he just has the writing credits:
- *From Dusk to dawn [A strange crime-vampire film; didn’t feel like watching the entire movie]
- *True romance
- *Natural born Killers
[*- I haven’t seen any of these three]

Tarantino has come a long way from his modest beginning as an assistant in a Santa Monica video store ... Though his movies are extremely violent; but I like them as they are very stylishly made!!! He adopts unconventional storytelling methods like: nonlinear, retrospective, chapter format [Kill Bill]. He’s now become a cult-figure in Hollywood ...

His most significant contribution has been the big-boost to *Independent [Indie] films. His name is closely associated with MIRAMAX - the film studio that has nurtured all his films ...

Now this post sounds incomplete; but whatever ...
... and "Crime-Thrillers" will continue ...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Gangster Movies

Issues surrounding law & order will always generate interest;
and Hollywood has churned out some excellent Gangster Movies …

There are three main elements:
- perpetrator of crime – gangster/mobster
- victims
- law enforcement officer/s – police, detective ...

But such simplified storylines are recipes for fairy tales ...
Crime thrillers have more complicated storylines:
- the gang leader is often the law-enforcer & does justice to the oppressed
- the gangster himself is a victim of social-injustices, poverty, police brutality
- the police officials are more-often-than-not corrupt

Most people often relate to this situation and that’s one reason for its huge popularity ... In most Hollywood movies gangsters are immigrants: Irish, Jewish, Italian, African-American, Mexican ... mostly a victim of poverty, oppression & injustices and rises to power-&-fame, through guns-drugs-&-violence ... And then it all comes crashing down ...

Three names are closely related to Gangster movies:
- Brian de Palma ... The Untouchables, Scarface, Carlito’s Way
- Francis Ford Coppola ... Godfather trilogy
- Martin Scorsese ... Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York

Some actors into method acting: Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Chazz Palminteri, James Gandolfini ...

Some of the best Gangster movies:
• GODFATHER trilogy: I, II & III … The all-time favorite American gangster movie about the rise and fall of Sicilian Corleone family in the world of organized crime.

• THE UNTOUCHABLES: [True-story] Based on street – crime perpetrated by Al Capone in Chicago during Prohibition years of 1920-30’s.

• GOODFELLAS: [True- story] New York crime scene in 1960-70’s. How a local half-Irish-half-Italian boy becomes a gangster and then bares it all taking shelter under the “witness protection program”.

• CASINO: [True –story] Mob involvement in Las Vegas casinos in 1970-80’s.

• GANGS of NEW YORK: [True-story] The crime scene in “Five Point” area of New York City with Irish immigrants in the 1860 -70’s.

• DONNIE BRASCO: [True–story] An FBI undercover [Johnny Depp!!!] infiltrates into a New York mob in the 1970’s.

• CARLITO’S WAY: How difficult it is for an ex-con to leave his life of gangs & violence.

• SCARFACE: Set in 1980’s when a Cuban immigrant [Al Pacino] comes to America; to pursue his American dream, only to get involved in the drugs and money network of Miami.

• ROAD TO PERDITION: A very different sort of gangster movie, delicately handling the father-son bond ...

Few comedies with gangster themes:
- Analyze This / Analyze That
- Get Shorty / Be Cool
- Bullets Over Broadway

Few good movies, in “YET-TO-SEE” list:
- Bonnie & Clyde
- Once Upon A time In America
- Miller’s Crossing
- A Bronx Tale

I’ve NOT included “crime” –thrillers like Usual Suspects, se7en, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Memento ...

Al Capone

Slot reserved for

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre story of Chicago in 1929 ...

will write today / tomorrow / whenever

Saturday, February 11, 2006

From The Idiot Box ....

Who is the "Idiot Box" here ??!!! ... Well ... ME of course ...
So I love another idiot box. Ahhh ... What would I do without it?
Though I rarely watch soaps or reality-shows, but comedies and talk-shows political-satires are my staple ... Thanks to dish, I have more than 200 channels [don’t know exactly how many are there]; Though most of them are boring but some are worth getting hooked-on.
Here’s a list of shows ... I enjoy ...

[1] FRIENDS:
“I’ll be there for you, When the rain starts to pour
I'll be there for you, Like I've been there before
I'll be there for you, 'Cause you're there for me too…”


Perhaps this is the most recognizable theme song of any sitcom ... And "How you doin'?" ... perhaps the most popular catchphrases of any sitcom. Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Joey ... [Green, Geller, Geller, BING! Buffay & Tribbiani ] ... All so adorable ... and the unforgettable characters of ... Gunther, Janice, smelly cat, monkey and naked ugly guy ... And the sofa ... And coffee-house! A TV phenomenon!!!
Set in Central Park, Manhattan, New York; its 10 year run has ended ...*alas*
Friends’ spin-off; “Joey” with Matt le Blanc is not half as good!

* Though at the moment “Friends” figures top in my list, but somehow I feel that very soon I’ll be bored of it; in the same why as when I had come to the US; I used to be glued to the “Jerry Springer Show”; but now I cant watch it for more than 10 minutes.

[2] SEINFELD:
Yada Yada Yada ... A show about nothing, but something all of us can associate with!
I find Jerry Seinfeld to always dressed to the occasion as against Kramer’s retro-looks & George’s a-size-too-short cloths. Jerry & Kramer are good fun to watch; but I find George Coztanza a tad-bit irritating though much better than Elaine; who simply gets on my nerves. She’s the only reason why Seinfeld fares second in my choice.
Set in Manhattan,New York; 9 seasons.

[3] THAT 70’s SHOW:
Fes-z [ Foreign Exchange Student] is the ohh-so-funny; Michael Kelso is so-stupid; Jackie is such-a-snob; Steven is so totally-lost; Eric is such-an-adorable-lil-kid ... Only red-hair Donna seems to be somewhat normal! Eric & Donna make a steady couple, but the rest keep changing their partners … Eric’s parents play the typical role of “strict father n soft mother”... & Donna’s parents are typical - 70’s hippies ... AND together they all rock – the 70’s style!!!
Trivia: Their episode title is frequently based on song titles of rock legend of 70’s ... Like: Led Zeppelin, The Who & the Queen!
Set in Wisconsin; 8 seasons’ ...

[4] 3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN:
Group of aliens disguised as humans …all with “Solomon” as last name ...Dr. Dick, Sally, Harry n Tommy ... and ... poor ole’ earth-creature Dr Mary Albright – stuck with ‘em! An a-typical show, where in every character is crazy, whacky, weird and sooo funny!

[5] DREW CAREY SHOW:
Lovable loser Drew Carey and his bitter-sweet feuds with Mimi – recipe for instant giggles!!! I find Mimi as the funniest character in the show! Lewis Kiniski (Ryan Stiles) with his laid-back approach to life; is just too good. He is said to have an IQ of 180; which is fairly evident from his other show; “Whose Line is it anyway?” Oswald and Kate are good too!
Set in Cleveland, Ohio ... 9 years!!!

All the above mentioned series have ended ... From among the NEW ones ...
[6] SCRUBS: A BRILLIANT sitcom – smart & funny ; with an interesting narrative style. Set in a hospital; it deals with issues in a entertaining manner, yet makes a point! Dr. Elliot, Dr Turk, Dr. Carla, Dr Bob, Dr Cox … and the janitor … EXCELLENT Show! Actually; on second thoughts, this should be No1 on my list ...


SATIRICAL NEWS / TALK SHOWS:

[7] THE DAILY SHOW with JON STEWART:
Its comedy with current events: news, politics, pop-culture, sports … you name it!
Jon Stewart is not only witty, he looks good too and this show – I love !!!

[8] THE COLBERT REPORT:
Stephen Colbert is another extremely witty satirist – I’ve become his big-time admirer ...
This show has become my "TOP" Favorite these days!!!

[9] LATE NIGHT with BILL MAHER:
I have mentioned him so many times, on different occasions. In many ways he has shaped my opinions on many issues! Another one of my absolutely favorite shows.

[10] CNN – My default channel …
Though some anchors I greatly admire : Anderson Cooper, Larry King & Howard Kurtz

NOTABLE MENTION:
# COMEDY:
• [A] OLD: Frasier, Sex & the City, Will & Grace, Golden Girls, Faulty Towers, Fresh Prince from Bel-air …
• [B] NEW: Stacked, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Office, My name is Earl ...
# SERIOUS: House [Excellent serial!!!]
# Sci-FI: Battlestar Gallactica [A sci-fi - I Love]
# TALK SHOW: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno & Late Show with David letterman

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Oscar Nominations [2006] ...

Oscar Nominations 2006 ...

Best motion picture / Best Director:
Brokeback Mountain’_________________ Ang Lee
Capote ______________________________ Bennett Miller
Crash _______________________________ Paul Haggis
Good Night and Good Luck ____________ George Clooney
Munich ______________________________ Steven Spielberg

Best Actor:
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote”
Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain”
Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line”
David Strathairn in “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Terrence Howard in “Hustle & Flow”

Best Actress:
Judi Dench in “Mrs. Henderson Presents”
Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica”
Keira Knightley in “Pride & Prejudice”
Charlize Theron in “North Country”
Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line”

MY CHOICE:
Best Motion Picture: Crash [though Brokeback Mountain seems set for the award]
Best Director: Ang Lee for "Brokeback Mountain"
Best Actor: Philip Seymore Hoffman in “Capote”
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line”

Crash & The Constant Gardener ...

Finally I saw two movies which were in my priority list of 2005-movies…

CRASH:
An Excellent Movie! I was totally absorbed.
Multiple characters & each character is multi-faceted … and … multiple plots but they all are linked together. Few very moving scenes; as when the person shoots the kid … Well I cried! I am not very fond of Sandra Bullock and in this movie she seems to be copying Julia Roberts :(
I think this movie would be a serious contender to “Brokeback Mountains” for Best Film Oscars.
Director: Paul Haggis
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Ludacris, Terrence Howard, Thanadi Newton ...

THE CONSTANT GARDENER:
Here comes a very good movie from the British stable!
It’s based on a novel by John Le Carre, by the same name.
A political thriller; set in Kenya; featuring a diplomat [Ralph Finnnes] and his political-activist wife [Rachel Weisz]
Wonder if the story is based on true events???
Reminded me of another movie: “Beyond Borders”; with Clive Owen & Angelina Jolie.