Tag Archives: hollywood

#Crowdfunding- Lost Angeles by Leonardo Leon

Film making is not just going out there and pointing your camera at the first thing that pops in front of you. No. Film making is the greatest illusion created by human to convey a story, portray the world; through his eyes. And the feature film Lost Angeles by Leonardo Leon explores how people lose everything in search of their Hollywood Dream.

You can watch the video over here.

The film is directed and co-created by Leonardo Leon. By looking at the video the film looks very promising with a sense of redemption towards the end. It is definitely going to be a film that will make you think about a lot of things that we take for granted, once again. The protagonist of the film, being a college dropout comes to Los Angeles to fulfill her modelling dreams. But not all dreams are meant to convert into reality. The protagonist takes us on a journey to show us the real “Hollywood” as she becomes homeless.

A very interesting fact about the film is that the crew, during the filming actually stayed with the homeless people of Los Angeles; to discover more about their lives. The actors and director left their apartments for the streets to accurately capture this reality on film. The characters in the film actually interact with real people during the film, giving a more natural and realistic feel to the film.

There seems to be a sense of irony to the concept of the film. The city of Los Angeles features some of the richest stars in Hollywood. At the same time there are innumerable people who fight for their basic needs, every single day. And all of this happens in a very close proximity. This is a wonderful attempt to capture the contrast and surely gets a thumbs up from my end.

There are many Academy Award winning films out there who appear to highlight a sensitive issue. But in fact just showcase poverty in some developing countries and make money out of it. Lost Angeles is not one of those films. The makers actually want to help them. The makers have promised to donate 10% of your contribution to shelters around the Los Angeles Area. If contributions pass the $50,000 mark they will donate 15% of the donations. From the Heart Productions also makes it possible for contributors to make a 100% certified tax deductible contribution. And this fact has attracted me even more towards this project.

So what are you waiting for? Be a part of this groundbreaking new and moving project and visit the Lost Angeles campaign site here, where you can become eligible to receive great perks from the creators of the this new feature film.

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#3 Christopher Nolan – Insomnia (2002)

A good cop can’t sleep because he’s missing a piece of the puzzle. And a bad cop can’t sleep because his conscience won’t let him.

The story opens as sleep deprived detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) gets down with his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) in a town best known as “the fishing capital of the world”. These veterans are on an assignment to to assist the local police with their investigation of a 17-year-old Kay Connell’s (Crystal Lowe) murder. At the same time, Dormer is going through an intense investigation by internal affairs. And the verdict may ultimately have a great impact by his partner’s testimony.

(Tiny spoilers ahead)

In an attempt to find the murderer and put an end to the case, Dormer accidentally shoots his partner. Eckhart dies before he could tell anyone who fired the shot. Dormer believes that it would be impossible to convince that it was an accident as the internal affairs wouldn’t ever trust his word. A young local police officer Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) is put in charge of Eckhart’s shooting.

Dormer tries to put the blame on the murderer but Walter Finch (Robin Williams) outwits him. To return his favour, Finch blackmails him to put the blame of Kay Connell’s murder on her boyfriend. Now it is Dormer’s choice. Finch puts him in such a situation that he has to choose between his career and this one case. And everything else is just too interesting to spoil it over here.

The trailer of the film is one of the most misleading trailers ever. The film is definitely not as typical as the trailer makes it sound. It is one of those rare cases where the film is better than the trailer. Calling the film better won’t be the right term. The film is completely different from what the trailer promises. You can rely on my word for that.

The film is a remake of a Norwegian film of the same name, made in 1998 by Erik Skjoldbjærg. Christopher Nolan belongs to that category of directors who love to write their films. And Insomnia might be the only film in which Nolan has no credit as the writer of the film. And yet, surprisingly enough the film has many elements that signify that it is a Nolan’s masterpiece.

While reading more about the film I just discovered how perfect the casting of the two lead characters is. Dormer is guilty of his crimes and he knows that he deserves to get caught. He is burdened and tired of carrying it all by his own. And all of this shows on his face. On the other side, Finch is confident. He is calculated and he knows that Dormer will eventually give in. Finch’s face is straight and composed.

There are more important characters in the film than the names shown in the credits. The location itself, with daylight for 24 hours without any discount gives an additional reason for Dormer to be an insomniac.

I believe that names are everything. Whether they might be the names of the characters or the title of the film. You hear the names of important characters at least ten to twenty times in the whole film. It tells you a lot about the character and gives a poetic weight to everything that happens. Similarly the title of the film sums up what the film might be all about. And that’s why in my recent film Boundary I waited till the very end to finalise my title.

The film explains to me what a grey character could be. A character trapped in his own actions with a past that haunts him every minute. Guilt and regret fuels his behaviour. It is what the person thought was right at that very moment. In Insomnia it is not just Dormer but also Finch, troubled by their respective pasts. The similarity of the situations is a matter awe. And none of this could be termed as wrong when seen from the character’s perspective. And it is all perspective and opinion in the end.

Insomnia is an American Psychological Thriller and one of my personal favourite films. Not that I can watch the film again and again. It is somewhat heavy as it should be. But I there is a lot that I have taken back from the film.

#5 Robert Zemeckis – Cast Away

“I’m not sure this is a world I belong in anymore. I’m not sure that I want to wake up.”

~ Gayle Forman, If I Stay

 

I’ve always wanted to write about this one. A major reason being that I admire being alone on an island, literally and figuratively as well. I am the one who enjoys company of a few. I find it difficult to share my private space with others. To be very frank, just like the protagonist in the film, Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) I am a workaholic, self indulgent man of many follies. I confess. Rather than explaining more about the plot of the film, I would like to make this blog post about what I take back from the film. And of course some interesting trivia!

1. Life really finds a way of surprising you: We wish that we had known all the twists and turns life has to offer. But would it be as exciting as it is? We lose things we hold so close and sometimes we are receive the rewards we never asked for. Whatever it may be, life is the only thing we have.

2. If you truly want to know a man, push him to his limits and push him some more: We do not know our capabilities. It is wrong to presume our limits based on others experiences. All of us are unique and in that all of us are the same. Same goes with one’s personality. It is easy to be good when in abundance. It is simple to follow a moral code when one lies in the cocoon of law and order.

3. All of us are a little myopic: If some things are too nearby, if they are easily available; we hardly value their presence. The smallest of conveniences bring the greatest of joys. Now these things maybe anything, even a person.

4. There are no misfortunes; there are only opportunities: Every opportunity cloaks itself as a misfortune. She has to do that in order to preserve herself from the undeserving ones. Only the few willing to take a step towards uncovering what lies beneath may find the treasure.

5. Hope is a really good thing, maybe the best of the things. And no good thing ever dies: This one comes from The Shawshank Redemption.

6. A tinge of tragedy is the reality of living: No good thing ever comes out of a story without obstacles. They have a very important role to play.


 

Did you know?

For the character of Wilson (played by a volleyball) actual lines were written. Like any volleyball, Wilson did not utter them. They were simply for Tom Hank’s reference. We see wonderful performances on screen. The hardwork that it requires comes from a lot of sources that often go uncredited.

Several crew members were abandoned on the same island for some days. Later on they were questioned on what they did with their quality time. Some of the activities were: having trouble lighting a fire, opening a coconut, talking to a volleyball, collecting packages washed up on the beach, and catching fish. All of which are essential scenes in the film.

The name Chuck Noland is kind of a pun. If you write it this way C Noland it sounds like “see no land”

When the director of the film was asked about the mysterious package that Chuck finds on the island and refuses to open; he said that there was a waterproof, solar-powered satellite phone. I think this has to be a joke. But I’d love to think what if Chuck had decided to open it while on the island.

Apart from that, I just stumbled upon this wonderful article by Drake Bennett which uses some references from the film to explain a very interesting fact.

#4 Robert Zemeckis – Forrest Gump

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring — these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”

~ John Burroughs, Leaf and Tendril

The film is ranked 14th in the IMDb top 250 list.

Twenty years ago, in 1994 there were these three movies, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump. Many consider 1994 to be such an iconic year for cinema because of these three films. All of these had their contribution to make towards the industry for what it is today. All of these were successful in their own fashion. And all of these were totally different from each other in all terms. No matter how many times I watch these I can never get enough of them.

I think The Back to the Future trilogy was how I was introduced to Robert Zemeckis. The first part of the trilogy is a very special movie for my whole family. Even as a kid, I could recognize the power of detailing and how it could enhance the overall understanding of the film. So much can be said in such a little time. That is what cinema is all about. We witness the journey of a child as he is born through his teenage right till his grave in the short span of two and a half hours. And yet we feel that the story is somewhat about us. The trick is to get the details right.

The first ten minutes of the film define how your entire film is going to be. This may or may not suit all the genres but at least in the Back to the Future trilogy and even in Forrest Gump, we were given a hint of what the film is all about in the first ten minutes or so. The opening sequence of Forrest Gump is one of the most iconic opening sequences of all times. Apart from the brilliance in the execution and stunning VFX, the relevance to the story has made it so exceptional.

Have you seen the film Guide by Vijay Anand? No matter how different the plot is, I cannot fail to recognize the similarities in the structure of both the films. Both the films have more than three acts. There is a resolution to every story and more importantly, just like in real life; events keep happening regardless of the final conclusion. What supports my argument is that the protagonists in both the films start their regular lives and circumstances take them through various adventures. Ultimately leading to an intimate, spiritual experience for them. Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

(Spoilers ahead)

Apart from the compelling performances, I admire how honestly the story is told. It is completely from Forrest’s perspective. (At times they have taken the liberty of showing us how the female lead character had been doing all this while, but there are only glimpses.) Nothing that Forrest wouldn’t understand has been said. That is where the film makes us believe that we are looking at the world through the eyes of a man who understands so little. The film makes Forrest run away from certain things and it makes him embrace some new things. Just like life. Every end is the start of a new beginning. Just like life.


Jenny Curran: Were you scared in Vietnam?

Forrest Gump: Yes. Well, I-I don’t know. Sometimes it would stop raining long enough for the stars to come out… and then it was nice. It was like just before the sun goes to bed down on the bayou. There was always a million sparkles on the water… like that mountain lake. It was so clear, Jenny, it looked like there were two skies one on top of the other. And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It’s so beautiful.

Jenny Curran: I wish I could’ve been there with you.

Forrest Gump: You were.


 

Overall, Forrest Gump is completely an American formula film. The incidences covered in it are so perfect that every American person could connect with them. It is the story of a generation. I love how apolitical they’ve managed to be while doing so. The film won the 67th Academy Awards for the Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film EditingRoger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “I’ve never met anyone like Forrest Gump in a movie before, and for that matter I’ve never seen a movie quite like ‘Forrest Gump.’ Neither has any of us. 🙂


I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.

#2 Frank Darabont – The Green Mile

We each owe a death – there are no exceptions – but, oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long. – Paul Edgecomb

The film is ranked 43rd in the IMDb top 250 list.

You can simply admire the similarities between The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption or you appreciate how contrasting the two films are. The choice is really yours. But these first two films sure did create a niche for writer-director Frank Darabont.

Just like The Shawshank Redemption, the film is an adaptation of a story by Stephen King. This time King was eager to work with Frank Darabont. So was Tom Hanks. Shawshank did open new possibilities for him. Yet again a prison based story with characters even more interesting than his previous film. Especially the sub plots. Every character, no matter how little screen time it has is exceptional. Frank gives full credit to the actors.

Speaking of performances, the film brought Michael Clarke Duncan in front of the world as a compelling actor. The journey for the big man wasn’t so easy. He worked as a bodyguard for celebrities like Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, and The Notorious B.I.G. Bruce Willis, after Armageddon suggested his name for the role. Michael had to train under acting coach Larry Moss. He was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.


 

In actuality, Michael Clarke Duncan is of a similar height as his co-star David Morse and is a couple of inches shorter than James Cromwell. Among other things, creative camera angles were used to create the illusion that Duncan as John Coffey towered over the prison staff, even Brutal Howell and Warden Moores.


 

The film explores all the subplots so well that even the three hour long film seems fast and interesting. There are limited characters but every character has an important role to play.

There is no clear antagonist in the film. Every character is peculiar. We don’t know what are the crimes committed by Eduard Delacroix or Arlen Bitterbuck. It is just that some of them are sorry for what they are.


Doug Hutchison (Percy) was given, according to the director, the squeakiest shoes he’d ever heard. He thought this was the greatest bit of fate, and a “perfectly wonderful, annoying character trait” that he kept it in the movie, and you can hear sometimes how loud his shoes are.


 

The execution of Eduard Delacroix in the film is described in a even more brutal way in the original work. I think it is the strongest scene in the film. The director describes it as ‘a necessary compromise to suit the audience’. If this was the compromise, the original work if I ever be brave enough to read it is going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

The film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and received none. The accolades were in a different league altogether.

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 and a half stars out of four, writing “The film is a shade over three hours long. I appreciated the extra time, which allows us to feel the passage of prison months and years.” Forbes commentator Dawn Mendez referred to the character of John Coffey as a “‘magic Negro‘ figure.” Stephen King considers the film as the most faithful adaptation of his work. The worth of these achievements is greener anything else.

 

#1 Billy Wilder – Fedora (1978)

Glorify who you are today, do not condemn who you were yesterday.

 

I saw my very first Billy Wilder film today and I can’t wait to watch more of his work. In his career spanning five decades as a film maker, he has accomplished to make sixty film, many of them still considered as classics. I feel dreadful to say that I haven’t been fortunate enough to watch more of his films. I look forward to it.

 

(Spoilers ahead)

 

First things first, I feel the poster gives away the story completely. If you can join the dots, it should not be difficult for you to determine the great secret behind Fedora. As for myself, I knew it all along. I’ve known this story for a long time and it makes me wonder what kept me from watching it so long. And yet, I was hooked. I think there are very few films who possess you so deeply that even if you know what is there to unfold you just wait to appreciate how it unfolds.

 

And this is what the film is all about, unfolding a story. Fedora, to those who don’t know it yet is this. Essentially a hat which leaves a shadow on your face when you walk in the Sun; covering most of it. The brilliance of the story begins with the title. The title tells us the story in a word. And that’s it.

 

We have so many films which end with every character in the film getting what he/she wanted. A crescendo, a happy ending. Surprisingly enough, though this is not the only film that has done this but it must be among the very first to end a film with none of the characters getting what they wished for. I feel it is just another suggestion towards the real world of celebrities which is different from their profile they project in public. It is about the tragedy of those who seem to have it all, but in reality are more hurt, more lonely than anyone else.

 

If we speak about the pattern, we have seen this same one in Citizen Kane. Charles Foster Kane dies right in the start and we explore his story through some unreliable sources with prejudices and biases. Although this structure is much simpler. It consists of two distinct flash backs according to me. One right after our point of view character,  Barry “Dutch” Detweiler played by William Holden stares at the mortal remains of the Legend, Fedora. And the other after the secret is just revealed in the second half.

 

We know all along that the film is not going to end on a high. We have no moments in the film when we can rejoice for long. Just the haunting past which keeps pricking us right where it hurts and reminds us of the unfortunate future of everyone. And that’s what makes the film so special for me.

#2 Learning from the experts – Antihero at his best

Alright, so let’s get this straight. You have Al Pacino on one end, and De Niro on the other and you have to choose sides. Damn, that’s a tough call!

I had read a lot about the film Heat (1995) on various online forums. Usually when I anticipate too much from a movie, or anything for that matter, it disappoints me. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t even close to disappointment in this one. From a completely subjective point of view, I can say that Heat is a blend of intriguing script and brilliant performances, both on-screen and behind the cameras.

Imagine how complicated it is to make your audience cheer for your anti-hero with all his idiosyncrasies and imperfections. The following are few of my personal notes on how to make your audiences empathize with your bad guy:

Note:  Most of the references are from popular/ comic based films for better understanding

  1. Everything has a reason: I don’t know if every other successful anti-hero follows this principle, but most of them do. Let them follow their path, commit sins en route. But back it up with such an amazing credible reason that it momentarily overshadows all their vices. Nothing happens in a vacuum, everything has a reason! (Magneto, the X-Men franchise)
  2. Circumstances: Not all of us believe that we are the sole creators of our destiny. Circumstances put is in some situations where we have to do what we seem right then, even though it is the easy way out. (Sandman, Spiderman 3)
  3. It is almost funny: In recent years we’ve seen so many films with characters so self occupied after a point, it is hilarious. You expect your multi-layered characters to do certain things, otherwise unacceptable in the society. And you admire them for that! (Jack Sparrow, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise)
  4. Brute force: Don’t you love a good action film with your bad guy so strong that you would never want him to get defeated? Syd Field says that your film is as powerful as your antagonist. And how true is that? (Bane, The Dark Knight Rises)
  5. Taking it to another level: Some villains are simply masterminds. Making the world dance to their tunes by remote control. Puppeteers! Their purpose is not to get any material benefit. No, no, no. They have higher agendas in their minds. They are simply ‘agents of chaos’. (Joker, The Dark Knight)
  6. Change: On a very positive note, everybody has the potential to change. All of us have made mistakes. We are weary of the turbulence by the things we are not proud of. And all of us have the potential to change. (Doctor Octopus, Spiderman 2)