Just Watched: The Descendants
A father must deal with the loss of his wife and try to reconnect with his two daughter after she is involved in a fatal boating accident. Alexander Payne embraces simple heartfelt storytelling. This film deals with loss, handling pain and moving on in a way that doesn’t try to be something to be more or do more that give us a touching, natural and relatable story with characters we can care about. That light-heartered, yet still genuinely heartfelt approach is what makes this film work so well, I cared about everything that was going on and the people the situations affected. Every character has a purpose, there are no wooden performances or pointless bodies hanging around.
George Clooney is able to use his own charm to make the role feel real while also playing his grief-stricken, trying to cope with the hardships of life father role better than anybody else could. He fits the role perfectly because he brings the sarcastic and chaoticly unpredictable nature of life to the film. He makes bad decisions then at the same time handles his circumstances with more maturity and understanding than most people would. His parenting methods are inconsistent and often hypocritical, but that is what all parents are like. Shailene Woodley plays his 17-year-old daughter; she drinks, does drugs, and is rather disrespectful - just like the majority of all teenage girls. But Woodley’s performance has a delightful maturity to it, she is just as involved in their entire situation as her father and as they uncover her mother’s secrets they form a bond resulting from the little secrets about each other they discover. Snubbing her for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination is an atrocity.
The Descendants isn’t a film that will knock you off your feet, but instead gracefully make you feel like you saw something that was real and mattered. It is a well-acted, attractively photographed, pleasantly-written movie, and it’s directed by Alexander Payne in a cohesive and logical manner.
As of now, this is my pick for the Oscars. Clooney, you genius, you.
Personal Rating: 9.0/10
Just Watched: The Artist
At the end of every year, or at least leading up to the Oscar awards, I try to sit and catch up on all the favourites for the year that has gone by. Sadly, most of the times, I’m not able to catch most of them in time. This year, I decided to go about it in a different way. I’m just catching up on select films in addition to the ones I already liked, and this happens to be just one of them.
After the insane Oscar buzz around this film, I absolutely had to check this out and finally did last night, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. The Academy’s supposed love for European cinema notwithstanding, The Artist is a beautiful piece of cinema. Making a silent film about the struggles of a silent film star in the world of talkies sounded pretty interesting and the way that Michel Hazanavicius draws you into the plot is commendable. The wonderful performances keep you hooked to the screen for the screen time of a little over 90 minutes. Jean Dujardin is fantastic as the charismatic superstar of the silent film era, George Valentin, while Bérénice Bejo as his protégé, and later the reason for his ‘downfall’ is top-notch. The film’s background score has a largely operatic feel to it, and it goes with the film’s tone throughout. One should also watch out for Malcolm McDowell in a scene. It’s quite something seeing him silent, without that piercing gaze of his.
It’s one of this films which make you sit back and feel good about life in general. That’s all I can say about this. I’m quite sure that this one will shine, come Oscar night.
Personal Rating: 8.9/10
Just Watched: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I think I might have just found my film of the year gone by with this wonderful adaptation of John Le-Carre’s spy thriller set in the 60s, during the Cold War. The whole film is like a symphony with every piece at the right place, layered beautifully, with a not too dramatic background score like most spy thrillers and some rousing performances. This is not just a typical spy film, filled with jaw-dropping stunt sequences. This is a story of deception in the upper echelons of British intelligence where every scene holds significance, making it extremely important for the viewer to pay attention for the entire duration of the film.
Comparisons to the TV adaptation starring Alec Guinness are inevitable, but I’m sure this is the best that could be done for a feature film. Gary Oldman has delivered what, according to me, might be the most powerful performance of the year. Controlled, nonchalant and with an amazing zen-like demeanour even during crisis, he plays the lead, George Smiley to utter perfection. After having watched him in supporting roles for quite a while now, it’s refreshing to see him take center-stage here. It’s not just him though, for he’s ably supported by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch, who post-Sherlock is on quite a high, and Tom Hardy, the man who is having quite some time after Inception with Warrior and then The Dark Knight Rises up next, he’s the next big thing to look for in the coming year for sure. John Hurt and Mark Strong are barely there, but leave their mark. Performance wise, the only star who didn’t quite leave a mark was Colin Firth, from whom I think I ended up expecting a little too much, but at the end of the day, I’m not complaining.
If this is the sign of things to come in 2012, then I can’t wait a bit. Gary Oldman better get a Best Actor nod at the Oscars this year for this. He surely deserves at least that much. Oh, and I think I can actually forgive a certain Rohit Tiwari for spoiling this film for me months ago, though I’m still a tad miffed. Moreover, the Mamidipudi brothers are surprisingly good film company- Vishnu always was, and with Vallabh now, I’m in safe hands.
Personal Rating: 9.0/10