#Whiplash Like None Other

The eternal battle between “why me” and “try me”

I have been hearing a lot about this film from multiple sources. It has been one of the favourites in prestigious film festivals around the world. Mostly in the Supporting Actor category for J.K. Simmons and his brilliance on screen. So far, the film has claimed a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, a Screen Actors Guild Award for the same and many more. I watched the film twice in one week and I feel I should refrain myself from speaking about how good Simmons is at what he put up on screen and speak more about some other points that make the film stand out.

Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) as a drummer with great potential meets Terrence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) known for his terrifying methods. Fletcher gives Andrew a chance in his top ensemble as an alternate. Andrew struggles making a permanent place in the core team as Terrence pushes both – his ability and his sanity.

The director Damien Chazelle made a short film of the same name in 2013 with the producers Jason Reitman and Jason Blum with J. K. Simmons in the same role. It was a 17 minute proof that the subject and the director can make it to the big screen. At the age of 30 the director has an Academy Award Nomination under his belt.

If you are remotely interested in this film, please do not watch the trailer. On one hand, the film shows off excellent editing but the trailers are quite the opposite. True that they generate interest about the film but if you wish to enjoy the film one piece at a time, unraveling the minute details about it; then simply skip the trailers. They contain major spoilers without any spoiler alert. Almost as if the producers were desperate to get the audience to fill the seats.

I have heard a lot of people complaining that the plot of the film is quite like any other sports film. And it is. To put it in simple terms, Whiplash is a movie about a guy with potential who meets the toughest challenge of his life in the form of his instructor. I even had an argument with a friend of mine who attacked the film by calling it a typical Hollywood commercial film. For me, the film succeeds for its spot on beginning and perfect ending.

Being a filmmaker, being an artist, I have been in Andrew’s shoes. And I feel everyone has been through this at one point or the other. We all have that one person in the world we feel is impossible to impress. And some of us do take small things personally. When you put so much of efforts in something, it is hard to take any criticism at all. The bottomline being the last scene of Whiplash. Conviction is the key. There are all sorts of friends, philosophers and guides in the world who simply enjoy to pull you down. Even if you are good. This is my way of dealing with them. NOT TO GIVE A FUCK.

Regardless of the great performance, Terrence Fletcher IS the bad guy in the film. And Andrew wins my heart. An icon such as Fletcher has the power to discourage someone. But the next great one will never be discouraged, no matter what. That is what I am going to take back from the film.

Whiplash is by far the best film I watched in 2015. I am a little biased towards it for many personal reasons. I predict the film has a great potential winning the Best Sound Mixing award and also Best Film Editing. I am sure the film will get a warm response on its release in India. And the only sound that would be louder than the drumming would be the applause the movie receives!

#Boyhood – First Time Ever!

Every impossible phenomenon is only impossible, till someone who has the conviction to bend the limits and change the rules.

Boyhood! One can go on and on about this film and yet not touch the slightest glimpse of what it has achieved in itself. Shot over the period of 12 years, Boyhood is a cinematic experiment that has yielded unbelievable results. The movie being made, itself is a legend and worthy of a nomination. But for everyone remotely interested in enjoying the film, keep aside this fact when you go to the theatres and just let it flow through you.

“I have never been in a helicopter crash, but my life from my perspective has been an adventure” – Jesse (Before Sunset)

Boyhood is a bundle of moments that encompass 12 years of the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the age of 5 to 18. The theme of the film is growing up. We are introduced to three most important characters in Mason’s life – His mother ( Patricia Arquette), his sister (Lorelei Linklater) and his father (Ethan Hawke) and a lot of important yet temporary characters.

“Do you consider your book autobiographical?”

“Well, it is hard to say. Isn’t everything autobiographical? We see things through one keyhole!”

It is one whole story from one perspective. We don’t see anything that Mason does not witness. The film is terribly honest in that sense. Of course it takes really minor liberties in a couple of scenes, but nothing largely related to the plot of the film. The director Richard Linklater said, “Boyhood is a memory. It’s about how time passes and how that informs the way in which we process the world.”

Speaking of the plot of the film, I wonder if there is any plot to the film. The film starts abruptly and it ends abruptly. We simply wish to see more of Mason after the film is over. To me, the protagonist of the film is time and Mason is the point of view character. Time goes by and we are mere observers. There are hard times and there are times when we are completely lost. But no time lasts forever. It is constantly changing. And at the end of the day, we are just in the perfect place to say, that we did alright.

The music in the film, needs an honourable mention at least. I am hoping to find the entire OST of the film as a playlist somewhere. The change in the mood of the track can let us track the change in the mood of the characters. We learn a lot, not only about Mason, but also about his father through the songs that he writes for his kids. And apart from that, songs provide the necessary transition between different vignettes in the film. Something the Contemporary Indian Cinema very generously lends its distant cousins.

If someone is familiar with the technique of timelapses; then I can certainly consider this 2 hr. 45 min. epic as a humungous timelapse. Apart from the technicalities, the two most important aspects of a timelapse are change and consistency. In the film, as the characters actually grow up, change in the physical form is a part of the parcel. But the script really maintains the pace of behavioural changes. On the other hand, the director acts as a tripod and holds the consistency. So that the movie does not become a tedious collection of moments, or as Celine says in Before Sunrise “A National Geographic program about people.”

Speaking more about change and consistency, some of the characters change. Some of them stay the same. Or to put this in better words, the goals of all these characters evolve from time to time. Mason’s Father graduates from being a manchild to a well settled man. As he puts forward himself in the film, he becomes everything Mason’s mother wanted him to become 20 years ago. On the other hand, Mason’s sister remains the same throughout. We are talking about the basics. How one person deals with a problem and what is that person’s first reaction to it.

When I watched School of Rock, I didn’t even know about Richard Linklater or the Before Series. When I first watched Boyhood, my initial reaction was burdened by the so called “gimmick” of the film 12 years in the making. Mainly because, if I have to make the film right now, I would make it in a different manner. I stay in a different part of the globe and the culture is vastly different over here. And the film relies on the simple moments shared by everyone while growing up. On watching it for the third time, by some alterations I could easily find my impressions in Mason. I could find my mother’s sacrifices for me and my younger brother and I could see my father’s inability to express his love for us in the film. And I feel that is the biggest achievement of the film. To generalize something as simple and as universal as growing up!

After this one, I am expecting at least the Academy Award for Best Director. And I am eagerly waiting for Linklater’s next. This is what he has to say about it:

“I think the word ‘spiritual’ gets me off the hook. I just shot it and wrapped it recently, and it has nothing to do with Dazed and Confused other than it would be set four years later, when one of the younger characters went off to college. It’s a party film. It’s really about the beginning of school, not the end of the school year. I guess personally or autobiographically it’s kind of in that realm, but it’s also a continuation of Boyhood, believe it or not. I don’t know if one film can be a sequel to two different movies, but it begins right where Boyhood ends, with a guy showing up at college and meeting his new roommates and a girl. It overlaps with the end of Boyhood.”

And The Nominees Are..!

It is that time of the year all the cinephiles in the world wait for. The Academy Awards! Two days ago, the nominations were out. And I have received my to watch list before D-Day. Last year I watched 8/9 of the nominated films in the Best Picture category. And with the help of a few colleagues, I was able to predict most of the wins right. Let’s see if I can do better this year.

But for now, it’s trivia time!

1. Till now, only three films were able to bag all 5 of the major awards known as the Big Five. Those being – It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

2. The only performers to win consecutive Academy Awards are Luise Rainer, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Jason Robards and Tom Hanks

3. On the other hand, some of your favourite performers are yet to hold the gold.
4. While some people crave for a victory, others decide not to attend the ceremony and receive the award themselves.
5. I keep talking about this a lot. But the shortest performance to win an Oscar for Best Actor is by Anthony Hopkins of about 16 minutes.
6. There are several different stories why The Academy Award of Merit is called an Oscar. Well, check out this weird explanation.
7. The trophy is a knight, holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes signifying the five original branches of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers).
8. The youngest actor to ever receive an Oscar is Shirley Temple (5) . And the oldest one to get nominated is Gloria Stewart (87).
9. Three actors have won Academy Awards for playing characters that utter not a single word throughout the entire film. Jane Wyman, Sir John Mills and Holly Hunter.
10. Chaplin’s film Limelight, made in 1952 had to wait for another 20 years after its first release for an award. At that time, to be eligible for the award, it had to be screened in Los Angeles.

Enid Blyton meets Paranormal- The Shadows (Poppy Farrell Mysteries #1)- Alyne de Winter

Books, Food and Me!!

The blurb reads,

It is the Chilly time of year….
Darken your Halloween with this Paranormal Thriller: The Shadows!

From the moment she enters the world of her new boarding school, Blight’s Academy, teenage sleuth, Poppy Farrell, finds danger. From a strange encounter on a train platform, to evidence of a murdered student in the woods that surround the ancient, gothic buildings, life at Blight’s Academy grows more menacing by the day.

Poppy and her friends, Clair and Georgie, must outwit their Shadows, older girls assigned to mentor them, but who coldly follow them wherever they go, like their shadows. There is a dark secret at the heart of Blight’s Academy: disappearances, deaths, and conspiracies pervade the wooded grounds, flicker in the stained glass windows, tinkle like a music box lullaby through the turreted halls.

Enter the world of The Shadows where witchcraft is afoot. Young Adult or Old Adult…

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Coherence (2014)

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

Dinner parties are sketchy enough as is.

A group of friends gather for a dinner party and the usual occurs- eating, smoking, drinking, and gossiping. Nothing out of the ordinary except for the fact that, on this night in particular, a comet is orbiting over them as they continue to speak. While this doesn’t necessarily freak them out at first, it definitely makes them a bit weary once weird stuff around the house begins to happen. Like, for instance, certain people’s iPhone screens start inexplicably cracking. And then, to make matters a bit worse, some party-goers start acting a bit, how to say it, off. They start to forget certain people’s faces and they begin to reveal deep, dark secrets that they wouldn’t have otherwise gone through with revealing, to a huge party no less. But it’s when the power goes off that everybody in the house decides that it’s time to figure…

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#Tragicomedy – Life is Beautiful (1997) – Roberto Benigni

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.
– Charlie Chaplin
(Note to all readers: The following is not a film review to be frank. Just some thoughts this film triggered. The film is a must watch without knowing anything about it. If you have not watched it yet, go and watch it right now)
Have you heard of The Merchant of Venice? It is one of the most perfect examples of tragicomedy. You cannot really determine if it is a tragedy or a comedy, even though the words perfectly contrast each other. At some points you feel buoyant and in another blink you are laid down by stockpiles of misfortunes. The overall mood, is neither bright nor gloomy. It has something from both these worlds.
Life is Beautiful is a story of a loving father and a caring mother, and a birthday gift for their son.
Life is Beautiful is a fable of the family of an Italian Jewish book shop owner, captured by the Nazis.
For me both these one liners make complete sense. Because the film, as a whole cannot be termed as one story. The life of this family is the story of the film and there are two drastically opposite episodes in this story.
Narrative Structure:
I feel there are six acts to this film. Or you may rather say, there are two halves of three acts each.
Act I: Guido’s (Roberto Benigni’s) introduction till the point he bumps into Dora (Nicoletta Braschi)
Act II: Guido’s quest to express his love to Dora
Act III: Dora runs away and marries Guido
Act I: Guido’s family and the new life as a book shop owner till they are captured
Act II: Life in the Nazi concentration camp
Act III: Chaos in the camp as the Allied Forces (Americans) approach
I belong to a constitution of film lovers that believes in the importance of the title of the film. I like titles that are ambiguous, yet make sense on watching the film. There is some surface area to them, as well as some volume. They mean something at first, but when you go pause your life and think a little more about it; they mean something even deeper.
The film ends with a voice over of Joshua (Guido’s Son) which goes like this:
“This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me.”
A whole generation of fathers, sacrificed their lives so that their sons can live in a beautiful world believing that life is beautiful. Also, the family is taken captive on the day of Joshua’s birthday. So what follows, he considers as his birthday present.
Life is Beautiful, indeed it is! But one must cloak all the problems and believe that everything is going to be alright. That ultimately if he doesn’t give in; his faith, his patience will be rewarded. That is how one can make his life beautiful. By having faith in it.
It is astounding how the film manages to switch so quickly from an exaggerated (almost slapstick) comedy to a tragedy. And it does it with such an ease. When dealing with a dramatic subject, not all from the audience can have empathy for your characters. Most of the people go to the movies to escape from their troubled lives. So it is important to have a comic relief to manage the grip on the audience when the subject is burdensome. Over here, the film deals with – Nazi concentration camps – a very emotional subject for many if not all. And yet, even after the switch; the film gives you some moments to smile. Another director could’ve shifted to a completely cheerless treatment in the second half. But Benigni keeps rewarding your faith throughout.
Charlie Chaplin once confessed that one cannot make a comedy out of the Nazi era, like the one he made The Great Dictator. Benigni successfully falsified his claim by making this masterpiece. I am not the one who usually ends up weeping after an emotionally intriguing movie. However, I felt a lump in my throat after watching Life is Beautiful.
Life is Beautiful was shown at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to win the Grand Prix. At the 71st Academy Awards, the film won awards for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, and Best Foreign Language Film, with Benigni winning Best Actor for his role. The film also received Academy Award nominations for Directing, Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture