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Ignore the detractors and the rating, watch and judge for yourself
After a small blip in their productions (Ghoul), Netflix India comes back stronger with a second brilliant offering of the year in Leila. I guess in a super charged nationalistic environment which India finds itself other, this series provides some cruel truths which was too hard to handle for the nationalists who seem bent on bringing this series down.
The show is based on a novel about a dystopian future where a woman is on the search for her daughter in an authoritarian regime. I will not give of anything of the plot but the story is engaging, the performances are captivating from everyone and the cinematography blends within this chilling new environment created by the show runners. And most importantly, it is absolutely binge worthy. Check out this great show and you will not be disappointed.
Salinui chueok (2003)
A modern day masterpiece done by a modern day master
Korean cinema at the moment is at the pinnacle of both commercial and critical success. The country is blessed with the acting talents from the likes of Min-sik Choi, Kang Ho-Song and Byung-Hun Lee along with visionary directors such as Chan-Wook Park, Kim Jee-Won and Bong Joon-Ho. Just as "Oldboy" is arguably categorized as Park's masterpiece, "Memories of Murder" is the film which established Bong Joon-Ho as being a visionary on his own right.
The film, as the title suggests, is based on a murder being investigated by two detectives; Park Doo-Man (Kang Ho Song) and Cho Yong-Koo (Ro-ha Kim). Due to the publicity that the killings are getting in their area, Seoul decides to send Detective Seo Tae-Yoon who will help the current detectives with their case. This film, however, is not your conventional detective drama. This is an exercise on "Who-Dunnit" films which even the master Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of. The heart of the story, unlike the films from it's genre, is not in in it's mystery, but in it's exploration of the protagonists and the motives and reasons which drove hem through the case. Throughout the film we will also explore into the nationalistic and social environments that these characters had to come through to stay focused on the task that mattered the most; solving this case.
The film is a little more than 150 minutes in length and is engrossing for that whole period. This is hard to find in mystery films but it achieved this not only through the master story-telling of Bong Joon-Ho, but due to the absolute mesmerizing performances given by Kang Ho-Song, Sang-Kyung Kim and Roe-ha Kim. The three detectives complemented each other with sublime chemistry but the star of the show was Kang-Ho Song. Song is established as one of the most accomplished actors to come out of Korea and this film, along with J.S.A., helped him to establish a reputation which is as strong today as it was then. The film is the only time when the characters were not defined by the story or vice-versa, but they perfectly complemented each other due to the skill that both the film-maker and the actors had in both their trades. Bong Joon-Ho is not as stylish as Park Chan-Wook is or as outrageous in his art as Kim-Jee Won is, but his vision helped give birth to another kind of film-maker from Korea who focused on simplicity a lot more than his counterparts to bring forth a complicated vision. This film was one of the first ones to promote this vision and to this day it stands as a film which defines this extremely different visionary who emerged out of this small but culturally rich nation.
What Maisie Knew (2012)
A beautiful sad story
"What Maisie knew" is a story about a divorce told through the eyes of a little girl and is one of the best and saddest films to come out this year. Maisie (Onata Aprile) sees the marriage of her parents Susanna (Julianne Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan) fall apart and sees herself becoming one of the major conflicts in a bitter divorce. The film shows divorce from the perspective of an innocence which cannot comprehend the selfish motives of two adults who are willing to hurt each other even if it comes at the cost of their own child. It is a study of how the people who are meant to act as examples in a life can act so selfishly despite the costs, and who they leave to suffer the repercussions of their actions.
This is the fifth film jointly directed by David Siegel and Scott McGehee. The perspective with which they told the story enabled them to deliver it with a compassion and realism for a subject which has seen it rarely. They are supported brilliantly by a cast which includes great performances from Steve Coogan, who acts out of his comfort zone with conviction, and Julianne Moore, who gives one of the performances of her career. They show how unintentional cruelty portrayed in a performance can be realistic and not be as melodramatic as is usually the case for characters in films about divorce (e.g. Stepmom). Good supporting turns are also given by Alexander Skarsgard (Lincoln) and Joana Vanderham (Margo) who turn out to be the only salvation for a little girl left alone by her circumstances. The star of the show is, however, the little and extremely talented Onata Aprile who plays Maisie with a sophistication that actors much older than her would be proud of. Her reactions to the things happening around her not only make us question about the maturity of the people around her but shows us how an innocent perspective can make these motives seem as inane as they are. A few of such moments are so compelling in their delivery that they create some of the most emotionally draining scenes you will ever witness. One of the performances of the year, Aprile elevates this movie to an even greater height and shows how young actors can project such maturity in demanding roles. One of the overlooked gems of this year, please watch it if you haven't.
A lot of loopholes (no pun intended), but still pretty entertaining
"Looper" is a science fiction film about assassins who kill people sent from the future. It is the middle of the 21st Century and time travel has not been invented yet. It was though twenty years from the film's present and in the process got outlawed. Since then, the only people who accessed the technology was the underworld and they would send the ones to be killed to the past as if they never existed. The assassins who kill these targets of the future are known as "loopers". Joe (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a looper and the film centres around his last assignment which is to kill his older self (played by Bruce Willis). As you can imagine, a film with such a plot line would have a lot of holes in it that it couldn't avoid, but the great thing about this film is that it distracts it's audience from that with exemplary camera-work, an Oscar-worthy screenplay, riveting editing and realistic acting (considering the circumstances) to create one of the best films of the year. Directed by Rian Johnson, the film is one of the most innovative pieces of the year and has put it's young Director as one of the film- makers to look out for in the future. Joseph Gordon Levitt seems to grow with every role he gets and is really evolving into an actor who it seems will be around for some time to come and he gives his career's best performance (IMO). He does so by grasping the roots of his character with an exemplary understanding of his motives which results into one of the most measured and realistic performances of the year. His role reminded me a lot of Gosling's driver but even though it was not as powerful, it played with similar character aspects with a more chaotic interpretation as was required. He is well supported by Emily Blunt, Jeff Bridges and Bruce Willis who goes back to his roots that made him popular but with an angle which was far more different than the people he has been known to portray. There is also a great cameo by the criminally overlooked Paul Dano as well. Willis' performance, however, was the surprise of the film even though it was not as unexpected as his turn in Sixth Sense. His walk through familiar territory was done with motives which could easily have been transformed into something cheesy but he managed to do that by balancing his darkness that proved the catalyst for his passion. The other great performance is given by another actor who I should not mention because to do so would spoil it for people who have not seen it. All in all, "Looper" is definitely one of the best films of the year and it is a movie which will have you hanging on to your seats till it ends. It does have a lot of holes in it which you are bound to expect from a film which deals with such a unique vision on the time-travel context.The fact that it makes you overlook them with it's quality film-making is a testament to Rian Johnson and the production built around to tell such a complex tale by using the basic fundamentals of story-telling is what made it mind blowing.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Just finished watching the trilogy in one go
You know I was never a "Batman" Fan and the previous films didn't help the cause either. But, these films made by Nolan, and I am sure I am not the only one who shares this view, has made us look at the cape crusader in a totally different light turning previous haters into believers. I am one of them, and even though this trilogy is brilliant, some parts of the series stand out far more than others; only a continuous viewing can make you see these things. I have always considered "The Dark Knight" a greater film than Nolan's conclusion, but the viewing today not only confirmed those thoughts but did so with an assertion never experienced before.
"The Dark Knight Rises", for the few who haven't seen it, is about the return of Bruce Wayne as the masked crusader after the arrival of an adversary unlike any he has faced before; Bane. The film is not about this fierce rivalry but more about the evolution of Batman unlike ever shown and the focus on it was pivotal to it's brilliance since Nolan probably understood that a more vivid focus on it's hero than it's villain would draw lesser comparisons to a part of the series hard to match. I loved TDKR and did so more than I thought would be possible because of the unmatched respect I have for TDK, and even though it focused more on it's main protagonist, the reason why TDK was better was because of introducing and tapping into so many other facets than most films can ever aspire to. Some of them are:
i) The Joker, who is not only the greatest character ever portrayed in a comic-book based film, but also one of the greatest characters ever portrayed on the silver screen.
ii)The Joker gave light to not only his insanity but an insight into the truth that ruled the chaotic world that was truer than one could admit. He was the commentator, the catalyst and the indirect protagonist.
iii) It was also the only time that made people root for the bad guy in a comic book film, a feeling I think which will ever be repeated.
iv) The Joker's inclusion in the series made Bane seem more insignificant in the grand scheme of things and would always make me wonder how long Bane would last in a world with the Joker; I don't expect very long, no one could, not even the Batman.
v) Alfred was always insightful and he probably had his greatest scene in the trilogy's conclusion but his performance in TDK was pivotal to the understanding of the characters to which he was a witness to and provide a commentary whose relevance was given credence to much later. It was this aspect of Alfred's role that made his character more fascinating than it ever was despite the great chemistry that always existed between Bale and Caine through the films.
vi) TDK not only had one villain who was superior in character depth than Bane, but two. The second was Harvey "Two-Face" Dent whose brilliance was amplified due to the understanding Eckhart brought to his character in such a short space of time and showed the demise from Hero to Villain with a sublime pace that could hardly be matched.
vii) The screenplay was better, the acting, the story-telling and even though the female characters in the conclusion were far more riveting than Rachel could ever be, that including a greater understanding into the Dark Knight were the only aspects that could be considered superior to the qualities of "The Dark Knight", but everything else mentioned made the previous a superior film.
Even though I have stated a lot of reasons, it does not change the fact that TDKR is not only a great conclusion to a great trilogy but a great film which could stand on it's own. It might have been no "The Dark Knight" but it's brilliance tapped into the most fundamental philosophy concerning any film based on heroes, an understanding of it's protagonist through a microscope and still making the audience root for him.
Even though it tapped into comic book fundamentals more than it's highly acclaimed predecessor, TDKR was an exceptional comic book film with another different insight. The difference is TDK is an exceptional film and will forever be remembered for not being not only one based on a comic book, but as a revolutionary piece of film-making that gave a genre a more in-depth look than could ever be expected before or even after it's time. Thanks if you have read my long two cents....
Breaking Bad (2008)
The most under-rated show of all time
"Breaking Bad" is not just any TV Show and calling it such would trivialize such an unbelievable exercise into it's brilliance which personifies the great heights that can be achieved on the small screen. The reason I consider it being under-rated is because it is proving to be leaps and bounds above every other show in it's time (barring Game of Thrones) and it's progression is not merely surprising but awe-inspiring and has not received the praise warranted till very recently.
Created by Vince Gilligan, it tells the story of Walter White, an under-achieving genius chemist who after being diagnosed with cancer that would lead to his inevitable death decides to cook meth to save money for his family once he passed on. What starts out as a sort of "valiant" attempt in taking care of his family, turns into a world which transforms him due to the incidents that befall him during this endeavour. "Breaking Bad" was a very good show in it's first three seasons, but since then it has transformed itself into being one of the greatest and boldest achievements in TV History.
Central to it's brilliance is it's amazing cast. Bryan Cranston, who was best known for being the goofy father in "Malcolm in the Middle" has against all the odds transformed that image to show us the versatility that is as surprising as it is riveting. He is more than ably supported by Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn (who has been at her best in Seasons 4 and 5)who complement the nature of the duplicity that has become a part of Cranston's life. Even though the writing in the show is brilliant, it is the portrayal of the actors of their characters which really brightens the material as they portray their metamorphosis with a brilliant pace and realism which one would not think would be possible (especially from Gunn). Solid supporting performances are provided by Betsy Brandt, Dean Norris and Bob Odenkirk. The most memorable supporting performances however come from Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito and Mark Margolis, the latter two being awarded deserved Emmy nominations this year.
However, all this would not have been possible had it not been for Vince Gilligan who brings us a world where ordinary people are faced with extraordinary circumstances and their battle to be able to live through them. The show is more of a testament towards survival than anything else and Gilligan's protagonist (White) is central to the vision of his creation.
All that being said, Cranston is it's highlight. His metamorphosis is the testament to what I think is what translates Gilligan's perspective. Season 5 is delving into the aspect even further and his brilliance as a character actor is evolving immensely which carries the show even though he is surrounded by very capable performances around him.
I am saddened by the fact that the show does not have much longer to go, but whatever conclusions do transpire, it was a privilege to see a character who could go toe-to-toe with some of the most memorable TV characters of all time. We are witnessing the rebirth of Bryan Cranston and he is stamping his revival with a show we will never forget. A lot of people are picking up on it recently, if you belong to this crowd at the moment I suggest you join the bandwagon because it is an experience which you will never forget.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Didn't live up to the hype but still good
When word was going around about "The Hunger Games" trilogy (being someone not familiar with the books), I thought I would give it a shot when it came out since Jennifer Lawrence was in it. Then came the insane Box-Office earnings and rave reviews from most parties. My expectations, as a result, were heightened. However, for me, the hype did not match it's reality. I am not saying that it wasn't a good film, it just wasn't as good as I thought it would be and I think it was so because it really did not put much detail into the many aspects which define the sociological order that exists in this dystopia. This is personified in an event which is based on the idea of a celebration dedicated to nothing other than constant revenge being undertaken by the powerful on it's powerless to serve as a reminder to the consequences of their actions.
I know that most people (who have read the book) would not hold this critique into consideration coming from someone who has not read the prose. Most of the film's fans,however, are thoroughly satisfied due to it keeping true to the original material. To me a great adaptation does not necessarily need to replicate it's source but also give a perspective of the film-maker on it to be really considered to be a piece of art he/she can call their own. Even though the film is directed well by Gary Ross, the lack of that insight into the mechanisms that rule this dystopian futuristic world would have been appropriate and would have been a film which he could call his own. Probably the next installments will delve into that aspect a lot more to make it a better film than it is.
Despite this flaw, I found the movie to be very enjoyable and would watch the sequel. Gary Ross (who, unfortunately, won't be back to direct the second installment) does tell the story he wants to tell very effectively with the use of Flashbacks and skillful editing despite the material lacking proper character development. A lot of people are saying that it lacks this insight into the characters due to it being the first of four films, but that for me is no reason why it could not be delved into since it has been done with such a series before.
The star of the show was Jennifer Lawrence who continues to awe us all with her versatility and maturity on screen at such a young age. She really gives us a glimpse into what her character is all about and does it with a guile that is synonymous to the most seasoned actors. Unless, God forbid, some unforeseen tragedy befalls her, I think we are really witnessing the growth of a great actress for the future who will give us a career with performances to remember. Even though this performance is nothing compared to her brilliant breakout role as "Ree" in "Winter's Bone", it brings out her versatility as she plays the different facets of her character with admirable realism.
A lot of people have been comparing this film to "Battle Royale" and I can't blame them. "The Hunger Games" even though it deals with very different schematics to that of the Japanese film, the portrayal of darkness in Takashi Miike's film was far more resounding giving it a more realistic perspective to society's degradation than "The Hunger Games" did. I am no sadist, but I think another flaw of "The Hunger Games" was that it really did not delve into the darkness and brutality which is the signature of such an event to a level which was required with such a premise. I guess if it was Directed with a darkness which is a signature for Director's in the East, it would have not been as accessible in theaters as it was, thus would have definitely deflated it's monstrous earnings (In hindsight, a wise business decision). Despite it's flaws (ones I consider to be), the film is really enjoyable and does have some very gripping scenes which complement it's material. Not a must-see, but I promise you would be entertained if you do.
Get the Gringo (2012)
Mel Gibson might still be stuck in Hollywood oblivion due to his personal beliefs, but it has not had any effect in the clear talent and the ability he possesses whether he is in front or behind the camera. Hollywood really needs to move past of what was said by Gibson because art does not promote the performer's humanity, but only their ability. What is resulting due to the cold shoulder that Gibson continues to receive is that people are deprived of good films at a time when they are few and far between. This is personified in his latest film "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" or "Get the Gringo" which will undoubtedly go down as one of the best "straight to DVD" films of all time.
Directed by débutante Adrian Grunberg, who co-wrote the script with Gibson, the film tells the story of a hardened criminal (played by Gibson) who finds himself in jail in Mexico and his eventful stay at the institution. The core of the film is the relationship that Gibson has with a child who is in the prison (it explains why the child is there) and the events that unravel due to this connection. It is an action film with a witty script and takes us back to a genre where Gibson first made his name. The film does stretch the boundaries of realism but is told so well that you hardly question it's lack of it. Gibson again provides a stellar performance and is complemented perfectly by a very good supporting cast, with Peter Stormare being the stand-out among them all. It is also a great debut from Grunberg who proves himself to be a film-maker to watch out for. The core to the film is it's pacing which jumps between suspense to scenes injected with high adrenaline, depending on it's environment. The star of the show, however, is Mel Gibson. His narrative throughout the film is witty and narcissistic in it's delivery and complements a performance which is subdued compared to the movie's plot defying the fundamentals of the portrayal of a "borderline-sociopath" on film.
This is a film which should not be missed and is definitely one of the best movies of the year so far. Gibson haters should also watch it because it is a true testament to the amount that Gibson can still contribute to Hollywood at a time when it needs meaningful contributions the most. Even though I hate Roman Polanski as a human being and I believe he is a person who belongs in a cell, it does not change the fact that I think he is a great Director and would eagerly anticipate any film he directs in the future. To me these people are not supposed to be role-models, and quite honestly their eccentricities prove this without contest, they are entertainers. Gibson is an artist who needs to show up on screens far more frequently than he does, and this snub needs to end. "Get the Gringo" is another testament to this undeniable fact. Definitely watch it and please leave your personal feelings aside while you do.
Game of Thrones (2011)
The most imaginative series...yet
"Game of Thrones" to me right now is the best show on TV by a long way. To me, it would hold it's own even against the great shows of HBO from the last decade, which (at least to me) is quite an achievement for a series which has just concluded it's second season.
This it achieves due to it's complete form as a piece of art. It has the best cast ensemble where character development is achieved with a fluidity that is hard to attain when you have so many major players crunched into ten episode seasons. It's writing is mesmerizing as the prose brings to the forefront many aspects which not only provides an intricate look into this fantastical world, but insights into the human mind in our world. There are great performances provided from it's cast coming from actors of all ages with the greatest turn provided by Peter Dinklage, who right now is probably the most favorite TV character and Jack Gleeson who delves into the evil side of a young king, who is a sociopath, with a realism you would not expect from an actor so young. It has at it's disposal some of the most accomplished TV Directors who have directed numerous episodes in great shows such as "The Sopranos", "Deadwood", "Six Feet Under", "The Wire" just to name a few. The greatest asset of the show, however, is the vision of the writer of the Best-selling novel it is based on, George R. Martin and the visionary adaptation done by it's two creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss who have brought Martin's magical world to screen with enviable perfection.
The series deals with the struggle of many different factions who wish to control the Iron Throne which sits at King's Landing in Westeros. Like any form of art which deals with power, it deals with many varying characters with different methods and motives in achieving their own needs and wants to ensure survival, power and other aims depending on the needs of the player who plays this dangerous game. It is immersed in a world filled with magic but it provides a realistic look into the thin line maintained between good and evil and who's validity is influenced by the ones who control the definitions through victory rather than with reason.
Even though the central plot to the series is the struggle towards holding or achieving the Iron throne, there is another significant war without which this struggle would never go on. This "other" war is fought by the unknown and the rejected of society who hold the wall against civilization and are not accorded with the glory which is showered on warriors they protect. They live their lives in anonymity despite their sacrifices. The realm of the true unsung hero is portrayed through these guardians who are not how you would picture them to be and who invalidate all our definitions about heroes despite performing actions which being called heroic would trivialize their sacrifices.
For all of you who have not seen this show, I have tried to keep the information to it's bare minimum because it is a MUST-SEE for every adult and it would be a crime for me to spoil it for you. If you want to watch something which is provocative, smart and unique, this show is bound to be your cup of tea. "Game of Thrones" to me is the most imaginative series of all time and has raised the bar on television like the select few shows that came before it and which shaped the quality of the medium during their existence.
J. Edgar (2011)
An Incomplete Story
It was understandable to be excited about "J.Edgar" when it came out. A film about one of the most intriguing characters in American History and to top that off, it would be directed by Clint Eastwood, written by the Oscar-winning Dustin Lance Black ("Milk") and would star DiCaprio playing the protagonist. What (at least most people) found was a film which was extremely disappointing due to many reasons depending on their own evaluations. What made it disappointing for me was that it seemed to barely scratch the surface into the life of this man and was thus an incomplete look into a man's legacy (however despicable) and his contribution to American History.
No one doubts that Hoover was a fascist who manipulated the most powerful people in America, who threatened his power, by using blackmail to solidify his position as the director of the FBI. However, it cannot be disputed that he turned one of the most ineffective government institutions America had and turned it into one of the most powerful and feared police institutions in the whole world. This he did with no previous police experience which makes this accomplishment even more significant. The film, however, used the relationship he had with Clyde Tolson as the central plot-line (probably in an attempt to humanize Hoover) and by doing so over-looked some of the most significant events which must have made this complicated man as powerful as he was.
The screenplay was poor and Eastwood's direction was not captivating and the method in which he told the story fell flat. The film was paced extremely poorly and it's editing was choppy and didn't have the flow which it required for a film which continuously relied on flashbacks to tell it's story. The make-up was pretty horrible and made the "aged-looking" younger actors that much more implausible. All in all it was a bad exercise into film-making with almost every aspect of it's production falling flat and making it into just another disappointing film of what was truly a disappointing year for Hollywood.
The only salvation, however small, it had was it's acting. Actors are, in most cases, can be as good as the story that is being told around them. Armie Hammer does provide a very good performance as Clyde Tolson and DiCaprio was believable as the character he was portraying (however terrible their make-ups were) and it made the chemistry seem believable. Judi Dench was not bad as Hoover's mother and Naomi Watts was not disappointing, given that she was not given that much screen time. DiCaprio however, I think did the best he could with the material that he was provided with and at least portrayed the character, as Eastwood wanted him to. with as much realism as could be expected. However, when you are telling a story which is as dull as this film is, there is very little you can do to salvage it from the mediocrity it is bound to be associated to.
The ability of an actor to make a mediocre film seem better than it actually was happened only once when Al Pacino rescued "Scent of A Woman" with one of the greatest performances in the legend's career. However, even in that case, Pacino played a charismatic figure who used the good material written for him to his highest ability giving one of the most captivating performances of all time. As "J.Edgar" was lacking in all departments in it's production, it would be unlikely that DiCaprio would be able to do the same. To top that off, DiCaprio is still no Al Pacino. A forgettable film and at least in my opinion, is not worth the viewing. It was even more painful for me because it was directed by Eastwood, who to me made the greatest Western Film of all time at a time when the genre was past it's glory days and then followed it up with films which might not have been as memorable but still held a bar pretty high (barring "Hereafter"). If you are an Eastwood fan, stay away from it, it would bring you nothing but disappointment.
The Rise of Refn and Gosling
"Drive" is a story about a young man with no name who works as a stuntman during the day and works as a getaway driver, at times, during the night. A man with no attachments to his past, he wandered through his days unnoticed with a determination to stay so. All of this changes when he meets Irene creating a shift in his priorities leading to situations and circumstances he would never before involve himself in. We know nothing about his past and the motives of his present are as mysterious. The perfect "Anti-Hero", he hits a strange balance of being a combination of a Western Hero (personified by Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood) with a darkness close to that of Henry Fonda's "Frank" in "Once Upon a Time in the West" and Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh in "No Country For Old Men".
Nicholas Winding Refn directs this picture and it really shows how far he has come as a film-maker. His use of colours are brilliant as he shifts through darkness and light with an artistic manipulation that contributed to the great cinematography which was essential to create the varying moods. It was predominantly eerie and helped the transitions smoothly leaving a touch of suspense all the way through it's end. The screenplay, written by Hossein Amini, is sufficient in it's brevity adding to the enigma, which was the Driver, enhancing the mystery to his motives by sufficiently cloaking who he is.
The star of the show, except Refn, was Ryan Gosling who continues to build a reputation as one of the actors to look out for. His evolution, which was slowly in the works, hit a new height with his portrayal as "Driver". To be so convincing with such few words and relying only on expressions and mannerisms to be the basis of a great performance is an art which is almost lost today. He is loving, caring, generous and loyal to only a few people but at the same time he is also ruthless, fearless and unflinching in his determination, which sometimes led to "justified cruelty" on those who stood in his way. He is never over-the-top, however out of hand a situation might get, thus building a character who had enviable serenity in testing situations. Ryan Gosling will in all likelihood not be nominated for an Oscar for his best performance to date for what was undoubtedly one of the best performances of 2011 (personally this was my favourite). This, I fear, would be the first of many crimes the Academy will undoubtedly pull on this film in the year.
Gosling is supported more than capably by a great cast. It includes the rising star Carey Mulligan, the love interest, played her torn character with such simplicity and an under-tone of complexity that bringing out a sense of realism would have been very arduous. But, the talent she has, has helped her to find the balance and give one of the most under-rated performances (along with Gosling's) of the year. There is also the brilliant Bryan Cranston whose evolution is just extraordinary. This character actor tests another variation to provide a great supporting role of a man who with his desperation has lost all his dignity clinging on to the last straw of hope which is Gosling. Cranston played the anti-thesis of Walter White (Breaking Bad), with such guile that you forgot it was Mr. White. For a TV actor that is hard to shake off, ask James Gandolfini. Ron Perlman's screen time was small but his significance to the plot was not and he did justice to the role re-enacting his own persona of the "bad guy" he has done so successfully and predominantly in action films.Then, there is the rejuvenated Albert Brooks who gives the performance of his career (and seems the only likely nominee) as mob boss Bernie Ross, who is more like the anti-hero than we would like to admit. A man who is calculating in his ruthlessness and terribly frightening in it's deliverance is the perfect nemesis to the grey hero. They both fight for what they care about and none of them would hesitate to stand up against anyone who would try to destroy what was most important to them.
"Drive" is a must-see for all who want to something different in a year which has been all about recycling and few rare pieces of originality. If you can stomach the violence and the long periods without dialogue then make sure you watch it, otherwise just stay away, it won't be your cup of tea. Let's hope Nick Refn will be able to keep this form for the future
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (2011)
The Best Film of 2011
2011 was especially bleak for films in general with the exception of a few. This film however towers over all the few bright lights that emerged and gave it a kick in the chest to bring to life of what has otherwise been a forgettable year. "A Separation" is a film which hails from Iran, a country which despite it's oppressive regime has always managed to surprise the world with a few film gems of it's own, and this might be the jewel in the crown. Directed by Asghar Farhadi, the film talks about love, bitterness, sorrow and happiness that befall a family during it's arduous times. In this case the tumultuous period is personified by the separation that the two main characters are going through. This is not because that they are not in love with each other anymore, but because their circumstances and their goals are far apart from each other to achieve any hope for reconciliation. The wife wants to leave for America because she believes that the move will bring hope to their daughter's life. The husband does not want to go because he has to care for his ailing father who is suffering from Alzheimer. Both the causes are noble and are for the things they deeply care about, but it is also tearing them apart and brings forth further predicaments to all characters within the film as it puts into perspective the lengths people will go to protect, not only their families, but also themselves.
The film is a return back to grounded realism and the influences to the film can be attributed to Ozu, Satyajit Ray who used simplicity to tell their story to enhance the aspect of reality. The directing in the film uses a perfect pace to piece together the events and the director creates a screen to personify his neutrality, as he engages the crowd to assess what they think. This was a technique used by Ozu with a certain guile which has never been matched, but I am sure even the Japanese Master would appreciate the feat achieved by the director. Farhadi did however use some aspects of fundamental camera grammar created in Hollywood film-making to express the varying reactions to the characters embroiled in it. The writing was ingenious and strayed as far away from melodrama as possible to create a scenario where the screen was inhabited by ordinary people and dealt with their feelings with a certain subtlety rarely seen today. The acting was unbelievable and it strengthened the mood for realism as the director got great performances from Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat and Shahab Hosseini. Their characters were very different and they dealt with their situations as such but the actors hit the note with their characters to show their desperation, their fear, their love in a way which was believable for them to do so. The star of the film was Sareh Bayat who should be nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Razieh, Nader's father's nurse, and it also brought to screen the genius of the young Sarina Farhadi (the daughter of the Director) who was on screen not because of her father, but because she deserved the merit on her own as proved. All in all, this is a great film and it would be a major crime if the Oscars do not recognize it's greatness simply because it is not in English. Nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Actor and Best Supporting Actress are certainly due unless the Academy loses it's brain once again. A great watch for everyone and if you haven't seen it, see it now so that you don't miss out on what has truly been the film of the year.