Blue is the warmest color

I have been curious to watch this film from the time I heard about it sometime last year. Simply because I read how it would give “Room in Rome” a run for its money when it came to the “graphic” content. If you know my feelings towards “Room in Rome”, you’ll totally understand my curiosity ;) Anywhoo, saw this on Netflix and I’m very happy to announce that I indeed liked this film! Even though it was 3 hours long and (spoiler alert) it doesn’t have a happy ending.

So, young, pretty and hungry Adele’s life changes like a dream when she meets the blue haired beautiful Emma. We see the whirlwind romance, the exhilarating love-making, the warm, compassionate bonding, the groundedness of their relationship and the fragility. It is so intimate for us, the viewers, because of the innumerable close shots of Adele’s face which last for a long time. You’d almost want to bite off her always-opened lips, tuck her tresses behind her ears and just watch her breathe. This is one motif - her face and the closeness - indicating the act of seeing, observing, taking in all the beauty. The other is food and/or hunger. Adele loves eating food and devouring her lover like there’s no tomorrow. It is fascinating to watch simply because it is very beautiful. I read that people had trouble with this, that it was too beautiful and a little too unreal. It suffices to say that I had no such complaints. 

Anyway, life is not all sex, love, food and art. Life is also about loneliness, naivety and impulsiveness. It is also about growing up. So, Emma and Adele part their ways. Really though, you can see that fear in Adele’s eyes - right from the time Emma kisses her on her cheek the very first time. There’s fear and also acceptance. Which makes her calm and importantly,  makes us calm.

Weekend

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I have seen romantic/sexual films with lesbian leads. Actually, I have seen a lot of them, and I like them. Even though my lack of actual experience is a factor, whenever I see those films, I feel like I get it. I see it happening.

But with gay men, I always had this thought that “eh, I don’t know”. I often see many women talking about enjoying gay porn (on the interwebz, ofc. And I do strongly think it’s just men writing those type of posts many times) and I used to wonder how. Is it the idea of two hot men kissing/making out? I am probably sounding very ignorant and even insensitive writing this. But my point is, it was something that I didn’t understand. And, I realized I hadn’t even seen movies with gay leads. I have seen “A single man”, but it didn’t make any impression on me. I haven’t seen “Brokeback mountain” or “Milk” . So yesterday I thought should give it a try. 

Aaand I guess I couldn’t have picked a better one! This film reminded me of Linklater’s “before..” trilogy so much. Honestly, it’s not a “gay film”, it is  a romantic film where two people, who are gay, start off with a one-night stand, grow closer than they ever imagined over a weekend, and depart abruptly not knowing whether they’ll meet again. It’s a very pretty film, easy on the eyes, and there are moments where you can feel the connection between the main characters as they slowly cross many unsaid boundaries, letting their guard down and withdrawing immediately, too incredulous of the way how it’s all going swimmingly well.  All of this typical of the amazing beginnings that new love brings about! The actors play this so well that, you are not even consciously thinking that they’re two men. 

There are certainly many parts of the film which dwell ever so slightly (but strongly) on the aspects that make you realize that you’re indeed watching a film with gay men. How it is still different, how being accepted is not the same as being considered normal and how it still gets a few people riled up if a bunch of gay people went to a “regular” bar.

This was a nice film and I recommend watching it! 

Inside Llewyn Davis

Another Coen Brothers’ classic. The general opinion seems to be that this is really not one of their best films, but to me it felt like it was!

This film is, sort of, my dream come true. Everyone makes films about success stories, rags to riches stories. I often think of a film which shows the life of a person who is not extraordinary by any means, a failure even. Coen Brothers tell such stories in their films, although usually they are stories where ordinary people go through extraordinary circumstances, usually painful ones. Their “a serious man” had Larry Gropnik, the Physics professor suffering through unending troubles when he did nothing wrong. It is amazing to watch the way their films have evolved starting from the in-your-face “Blood Simple” or the amusing “Raising Arizona” all the way up to the really dark “No country for old men”.

This film is about an ordinary guy going through ordinary circumstances and failing at this life thing miserably. He is not evil, he doesn’t have exceptionally bad circumstances but nothing really works out for him. Llewyn Davis is a folk singer in the 1960s. He doesn’t have much going for him on the music scene after his partner commits suicide and leaves him with boxes of unsold records. Llewyn survives with a little help from his friends and strangers and tries to turn his life around. But then, you don’t know if it’s his lack of a lot more motivation or talent or if his luck has completely run out or if he has been a jerk to others all along (they show very little back story), Llewyn is in a bad place.

it is a sad film. And surprisingly, it lacks the wry, humorous undercurrent which is common in their films. The music is great! When he sings “hang me, oh hang me”, you want to hug him, tousle his hair and say “it’s going to be okay”. But, they show enough for you to know that it’s probably not going to be okay after all.

There is a cat, that is a recurring motif in the film. Many key events in the film have either the cat coming into his life or getting away. I read many explanations for the symbolism behind that, I am too lazy to write about them. But, there’s one line in the film “Llewyn is the cat”. In the last scene, when Llewyn walks out of the Gaslight  Cafe and gets punched in the face, you kinda think why that might be true.

My grade: A-

Blue Jasmine

I liked this film. Phew, how long has it been since I said that! Without long winded explanations and bullshit like that!

Woody Allen’s characters have to be neurotic. (ಆಗ್ಲೇ ಅದಕ್ಕೊಂದು ಕಳೆ) Jasmine in this film feels the culmination of many neuroses, a pathetic smugness, delusion and a helplessness that is heartbreaking and yet it is very hard to empathize with. There are people like this is the real world - broken, crushed and yet narcissistic and mean , you want to look for the sweeter inside but it feels so exhausting to deal with them that you’d rather not. Cate Blanchett plays this character so beautifully, it was moving! She is always on the edge of a teary, sweaty, nervous breakdown. 

A large part of the film is shot in San Francisco, but it couldn’t matter lesser. Woody doesn’t pay tribute to SFO like he did to Paris in ‘Midnight in Paris’ and the circumstances in the film are far less magical. The story telling is excellent, scenes of Jasmine’s past and present life interlaced leading up to the unfortunate, heart-wrenching climax. One could argue that the way a few events happen towards the end of the film is rather lazy. But I liked that. It was befitting to the way Jasmine’s unreliable character is - throughout the film.

Her sister, Ginger, should get some sort of award as well. She is amazing as the second fiddle. She has the right amount of assertiveness and uncertainty, and gives someone to root for! I liked the casting for all the secondary roles too.

This is one Woody Allen film without the comedy. Even some of the goofy scenes were incredibly sad. And there weren’t any piercing Woody Allen-esque dialogs either. But he was there. In every frame that Cate was going to go up in flames - that was him!

Prisoners

A friend of mine suggested this film to me saying that it was similar to this game called “Heavy rain” (which I love) So, I watched it, with a moderate amount of expectation, to be honest. This also got nominated for the Oscars for cinematography, so it would fit in my ‘project oscar 2014’ as well!

This is a thriller about a police officer and a dad looking for two little girls who go missing from their house on Thanksgiving day. It is not fast paced and is quite an uncomfortable watch at many points. It does have many similarities to the game, but not with respect to the actual plot, rather the way the situation gets resolved. There are better crime thrillers than this, for sure. Jake Gyllenhall is still quite sulky and Hugh Jackman was annoying at best.

I don’t have much to say about the film, it is something that you can watch some evening to just pass the time, but if you didn’t watch it, you wouldn’t be missing all that much. 

My grade: B-

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Whatever. It was long, unending, exhausting and pointless, I really do feel bad for Leonardo DiCaprio because he tries so hard, so damn hard to win a fucking oscar.

Yeah sure, bad boy characters are charming and the more rotten they get on screen, the more we are supposed to be enamored with them, but this, this kinda got unbearable. Jordan Belfort is a swindling, money crazed stock broker. He games people and gobbles up their money and lives a life so luxurious that it is nauseating. It is a Martin Scorsese film for godssake and yet, the lack of a real plot and a character who is interesting because of something other than being an addict - the film failed for me.

I don’t understand why this was nominated for the Oscars. Because, it portrayed the 80s wall st. truthfully? Or because it was an accurate depiction of someone who falls down pretty badly when their past actions catch up with them? I am not sure. Whatever it was, unfortunately I wasn’t so impressed.

August: Osage County

While I watched this film, I didn’t know that this was based on a play (perhaps I didn’t pay enough attention to the credits?) I thought if it could be based on a book or a short story, because it all seemed so contained, but then, being based on a play makes much more sense.

Violet Weston(Meryl Streep) is addicted to pills, has an iron tongue and also, ironically, mouth cancer. Her assorted family gets together in her Oklahoma house after her husband goes missing(and subsequently dies). The few days in her house is essentially the plot of the film.

At one point in the film, Barb (Julia Roberts) yells “this madhouse is my home!”. That sums up the film very well. There is so much of selfishness, meanness, obnoxiousness and yelling in the film, that like I read somewhere, you will feel happy that this is not your family! They did a great job with the cast. Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale rock the shit out of their intense, deeply flawed roles. Every character is unvarnished and every one gets their moment to shine. Benedict Cumberbatch has a surprising, touching role! Everything that they say is weighty, there is a caustic jab at every turn, even if it is laced with wry, sometimes slapstick humor. There is hardly a tender moment - except for those between Ivy and Little Charles - and you just know it in their sad eyes that the whole thing is destined to be doomed.

The film feels all the more heavy and dark because of the nature of the way it is shot and edited as well. Every scene has so many people in it and there is so much dialog! It might have made sense to the play but they could’ve changed it up a bit for the film. There’s that intense sweltering Oklahoma heat that everyone’s talking about and wide stretches of nothing to stare at. I wish they’d creatively used these in the film - than stuffing everyone in that dingy (was it dingy? it felt that way!), dark, creaky house.

I would categorize this film as a ‘tragedy’. It reminded me of this film ‘happiness’ although it is not as disturbing. There is a scene where Meryl Streep narrates a heartbreaking sad story  from her childhood to her daughters and says ‘my mama was a meaaaan old lady’ and laughs “now you know where I get it from! and where you get it from”. You don’t laugh because you know that it’s true and it is just very sad.

So, this got nominated to the Oscars as well, I don’t know if I am happy about it. I didn’t hate this, but this was hardly a great film.

The Moon Song - Karen O 

Such a beautiful song!

(From “Her”)

American Hustle

Beautiful people, unending debauchery, con-men, love, weakness, ambition, friendship, the 70s’ blingy, flashy charm and the very satisfying hollywood ending- that’s American Hustle. It is a really nicely made film. Although the film is roughly based on ‘abscam’ that happened in the 70s and an FBI operation, there’s hardly that nail-biting, tense situation. The film doesn’t rush, it makes you want to soak in the beauty and prosperity, even the wastefulness, around.

Stylish is one word that came to mind as I watched this film. They go the distance to make this a thorough retro film- the jewelry, the stilettos, the hair, the slo-mo shots - it’s a pleasure to watch! Amy Adams is hot. J.Law is HOT! Although I am worried that she may start doing more such roles, because she is so fucking great at it, I loved her in this. (I don’t exactly want her doing such roles, her character was better in Winter’s bone/Hunger games) The story telling is not obvious, it is such a rare thing to find these days, and this with the characters narrating their thoughts, every now and then. So, that was a plus. The story itself is just okay, even though not exactly predictable. I guess the fun is in all these characters and the amazing actors that played them. (Haven’t I said that enough times already?) 

Other than that, I didn’t think this was a great film. And I don’t think I’ll watch it again. I am not even sure if there’s anything hugely memorable about this, either. So, I am mildly pissed that this got nominated for the Oscars!

My grade: B

Her

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(Many spoilers)

This Spike Jonze film is a semi-other-worldly, science fictiony, touching love story. From the film’s synopsis and the trailer, I thought this would be like ‘Ruby Sparks’ or ‘S1mone’ - both films that I like a lot - and when I later learned that Spike Jonze also made ‘Adaptation’, ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Lost in translation’, my curiosity further piqued. 

So, Theodore Twombly, this sweet, serious, ‘regular guy’ is like everyone else. He is also just very lonely. And he falls in love with his operating system. Does that sound sad? Well, hold on to that thought because, actually, it’s not all that sad! It is a brave new world, it’s shockingly similar to ours, but it is a world where artificial intelligence and ‘created consciousness’ are integrated into people’s lives. It’s almost like, if you told someone who lived two hundred years ago that, you are in a ‘long distance relationship’ and ‘video chat with each other on skype’, they would think that’s very sad too! So, this premise, this feeling that ‘being in love with your operating system is not totally abnormal’ changes gears for this film as compared to ‘Ruby Sparks’ or ‘S1mone’. Theodore doesn’t hide it, he takes a little bit of time to get used to the idea - just like it is with any other human, but once he does, he has no problems talking about it with people he knows.

Love is never simple, is it? And here, you have a huge man-machine barrier to cross too! But ‘Samantha’ and Theodore do that. Samantha is the name that the operating system gives itself. It is Scarlett Johansson’s voice in the film and every time she talks in that throaty, husky voice - you don’t even think about how odd it all is anymore. Samantha evolves too - she changes in ways she didn’t think she would. And this change, evolving , growing, growing apart which seems to be a strong, central theme of the film leads them to grow apart as well. She develops human emotions - jealousy, longing, a need to be longed for and surprisingly all of this don’t make her weak. It enriches her, it enriches their relationship, it makes it involved and complicated for sure - but still surreal.

For quite some time into the film, I couldn’t shake off this feeling that, the operating system was just programmed to recognize what Theodore wanted and just behaved in a way that’d please him. But, that feeling wilted away as I recognized my attention being drawn to some of the broader question the film seemed to ask.  Is human love incomplete without the promise of exclusivity? Is it ever possible for two people to ‘feel’ the same way about a certain experience even though the range of experiences they have both had varies really widely? Does love lose that ‘special’ nature when you love multiple people even if you promise that nothing will be different in the experience? A lot of these questions have definite answers(almost) in the purview of human experience. When you bring in an existence that exists beyond this human world, beyond experiences and emotions that we experience, all of these questions may need a different perspective. In this regard, the film was a success. 

A few words about the technical aspects of the film - the color, lighting choices are excellent, Theodore’s clothes are retro but that’s a nice, subtle take on how fashion repeats, the ‘date’ scenarios are edited so well that it feels almost surreal. The trains, the skyscrapers, his huge apartment, his video games make for a nice background. This film relies hugely on the dialogs - it’s like 2 hours of non-stop talking. And his face. It does get tedious, and would have been excellent if it were shorter, but I am not complaining too much.

Also, for the record, I am not unhappy this got nominated for the Oscars!

My grade: A-