Movie Review: October

To be frank, I don’t expect much from Varun Dhawan. Yes, I had thought that he was better looking than Sidharth Malhotra in Student of the Year. But that had been about it. Over the years, Sidharth Malhotra has selected a better variety of movies, even though his acting is okay-okay, if not abysmal. Varun Dhawan, on the other hand, has been seen in mostly rom-coms, it feels like, bar Badlapur.

So when the trailer to October came out, my first reaction after watching it was: What the hell is this movie about? It seemed like such a mish-mash, even though the background score and the cinematography (whatever I could make of from the trailer) made it look like an artsy film. Moreover, the positive reviews stoked my curiosity and now, I couldn’t pass up a chance to watch the movie.

Daneesh Walia (Varun Dhawan) or Dan as he is known to friends is a strange, strong-headed character who does as he likes and has his own notions of right and wrong. He is a regular 21-year-old in other matters and an intern at one of the biggest 5-star hotels in Delhi. His friends are constantly exasperated by what he does. Shiuli Iyer (Banita Sandhu in her acting debut) is in the group, but they don’t have much of an interaction. But when Shiuli meets with an accident, their worlds clash and thus starts a story about love and its various forms.

I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to watch Varun Dhawan act and go ‘Wow!’ But October is one of those films. Dan is really annoying in the first few minutes of the movie, but soon, you start going with the flow. You don’t even realize when he goes from making you want to punch him to being completely adorable. Yes, he still is impulsive and does stupid things at times, but hey, don’t we all?

This might as well be Varun Dhawan’s best film of his career. There is no doubt at all that he has improved a lot since his comic capers. And if you were to ask me, when Judwaa 2 came out, irrespective of how much it might have earned, all I could think of was: Oh God, there he goes again! Won’t there be any change in what he chooses?

And now, with October, I feel there is hope after all, that despite his choices that annoy me just a tad bit from time to time, Varun Dhawan has promise. He is not a bad actor, but if he chooses more films like Badlapur and October, it might make his repertoire impressive and help him break the mould that he is so firmly fixed himself in.

Banita Sandhu, in her acting debut shows promise in whatever screen time she has. She is beautiful, carries herself well and with confidence, and molds herself into the character as long as she is on screen. Let me be honest: I didn’t expect much from her, but she was a surprise. And let’s just hope she doesn’t end up forgotten and as a one-film wonder because I’d definitely like to see her full-fledged acting.

Another praiseworthy performance is of Gitanjali Rao as Shiuli’s mother, Vidya, a professor. She is restrained in her grief, and still, you can feel the pain radiating off of her. Despite all this, you can feel her hope of getting her daughter back from the clutches of death.

All of these performances, however, need to pay obeisance to the director Shoojit Sircar and scriptwriter Juhi Chaturvedi. Without a strong script and brilliant directing, there is no question of the actors coming up with such laudable performances. Shoojit Sircar is known for the offbeat films he directs – not in the sense of budget, but in the viewpoint of the script. And when he joins hands again with screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi, his old collaborator, with whom he has worked on Vicky Donor and Piku, all you can expect are fireworks.

For some, this movie might seem a little dragged in places. But stay patient and sit through it all, and you’ll find yourself affected like you haven’t been in ages. Love, love, love October!

Why doesn’t Bollywood promote more movies into mainstream like this? L

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Ground.

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

I’m not a fan of horror. Mostly because I get scared very easily. The last time I watched a horror movie, sandwiched between my brother and my husband, both of who decided not to let me budge, was a big disaster for me, entertainment for them. So you can understand why I’ve always been skeptical about horror movies. But when my husband said he wanted to watch A Quiet Place, directed by John Krasinski and starring him and Emily Blunt, I reluctantly agreed, but mostly because I have a teeny, tiny girl-crush on the lady.

A Quiet Place is set in a world where you must remain silent, or face an end, thanks to blind extraterrestrial creatures. The tagline for the movie is, If they hear you, they hunt you. Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), along with their children, Regan (who is deaf), Marcus, and Beau, look for supplies while using sign language, because of the no-sound rule. Beau is killed by a creature, no thanks to a toy airplane. Fast forward a year, and the Abbott family is living on their farm, trying to survive through each day. How they curb the sounds, and how they make sure they aren’t caught forms the rest of the story.

I knew John Krasinski was a funny guy, but the depth he has shown in this film, both as a director and an actor, is mind-blowing. Creativity has no limits, they say, and this is true of this film. And thanks to the screenplay by Krasinski, Scott Beck, and Bryan Woods, silence gets a new level of importance through this movie. It shows you that you don’t need words to prove your love for your loved ones.

The actor who absolutely takes the cake is Emily Blunt. She is raw, emotional, and motherhood personified. Given, Krasinski is almost as good as her, but that’s the point. Almost. Blunt is exceptional as she sobs, jumps in front of her children to save them, grieves, is afraid – every little action seems like a masterpiece in itself. The last 15 minutes are full of absolute emotion. I wasn’t surprised to find tears rolling down my face as my heart broke in two. In one particular scene, Krasinski outshines Blunt. And his guttural scream will haunt me for a long time to come.

Though I’d gone into A Quiet Place thinking it’s a horror film because that’s what it’s supposed to be, apparently, I found it more on the lines of an extremely gripping suspense thriller. Dystopia scares me and this movie was exactly that. What if something like this happens in the future? With our intelligence and what we are doing to the planet, I don’t think it will be long before creatures like the Death Angels will make our Earth into A Quiet Place.

You must gather all your strength if you’re going to watch A Quiet Place. You’ll need it because the movie scares you with its soundless storyline. There are no empty jump-scares. Everything in there happens for a reason and has a consequence. The no-sound rule for survival in there seeps out and embeds itself into your head, making you think that you have to stay silent or something is going to sprint through the walls and eat your head off. It’s that effective.

With a combination of a taut screenplay, crisp direction, and brilliant acting, A Quiet Place deserves all the applause it can get. John Krasinski, in particular, thanks to the multiple roles he has taken up for this project. Every second holds your attention, and makes you hold your breath. And that is not an easy task to do.

So when I say that you should go watch this horror movie, go watch it. Because if I can sit through it, so can you. And the list of reasons I mentioned above will make sure that you fall in love with the movie. Emily Blunt in particular, but also John Krasinski. What an incredible couple!

Rating: 5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Event Cinemas NZ!

Movie Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One is based on a book of the same name by Ernest Cline. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tye Sheridan, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Ben Mendelsohn, and Olivia Cooke, the adaptation, as my husband tells me, differs a lot from the book. And now, I can’t wait to go home and start reading it. [Yes, I’m sitting in a café and writing this review. 😛 ]

It’s the year 2045. The world is in complete chaos and on the brink of collapse. But there is one thing that is giving hope to everyone: a game called OASIS. The winner of the game, Oasis, will inherit the company, this was put in motion by genius extraordinaire and trillionaire, James Halliday, just before he died. And now, vicious businessman Nolan Sorrento wants to win this game and pocket everything on offer. It is up to Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), and Samantha Cook (Olivia Cooke), and their friends to save the game by assuming their avatars.

The Ready Player One screenplay has been written by Ernest Cline and Zak Penn. This is probably the reason why the crispness translates on screen and gives us an experience of a lifetime. There are inside jokes and references to a number of books and movies that any movie buff and/or bookworm will fall in love with.

The CGI action sequences got quite a number of loud hoots from a particularly enthusiastic audience in the theater. I was surprised, thinking that there were so many people who read the book and were watching the movie. But then again, it could have been that they were enjoying what was transpiring on screen. I surely was. And I haven’t read the book. Yet!

In addition to the action, Ready Player One is humorous to the point of no fault. Yes, it is a thriller, but it reels you in and sets you in motion like a spinning totem until the very end. You have the opportunity to connect the dots. But this fast-paced movie does it all for you without taking away the entertainment factor. In no aspect is it lacking. Well, what else can you expect from a Steven Spielberg movie?

In addition to the entertainment, Ready Player One gives you heavy doses of truth cloaked in the humor that we talked about earlier. The emotions of the characters are so raw, so real, that you cannot help but identify with them when they explain their beliefs. Of course, it’s not the intensity, but the lightness with which they treat it that you watch on in awe and wish that you could be like them. But I laughed the most when 11-year-old Xo is irritated when people are surprised he’s 11 years old and plays the big, badass game of OASIS.

The acting in the movie was awesome, except for Ben Mendelsohn as Sorrento. Out of five levels, with fifth being the highest, if everyone else was on the fifth level, I thought Mendelsohn was somewhere between the third and fifth. He tries too hard to look evil, I felt. Though, I must say, at his last expressions in the movie, I sort of melted and brought him up from third to somewhere between third and fourth.

All in all, Ready Player One is a brilliantly entertaining thriller, with drama and humor thrown in for good measure. It keeps you on the edge of your seat till the very end. And that is a compliment not many movies today can boast of doing.

Go watch it! As soon as possible!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Flickering Myth.

[Review for Ready Player One, the book will be coming soon. Keep watching this space!]

Movie Review: Phantom Thread

[Phantom Thread has been nominated in 6 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design.]

Believe it or not, Phantom Thread is the first time I’ve seen Daniel Day-Lewis in action. His reputation precedes him, what with three Academy Awards under his belt. Thanks to this, I thought that maybe he was overrated. But no. Phantom Thread showed me my place and taught me not to question this man. Ever.

Phantom Thread is about Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a designer in the late 1950s who dabbled in designing dresses for high society women. His is helped by his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), and has a House of his own, a pretty reputed one at that. When Reynolds goes to the country to clear his head, on Cyril’s suggestion, he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps) at a restaurant there. She is the waitress who serves him. He asks her out on a date and quickly, she becomes his muse, apart from being his lover.

Alma soon realizes Reynolds’s temperamental nature. She wants to do something for him, only to be told that he doesn’t like what she has done. Any diversion from routine sets him off. And Alma isn’t one to take things lying down. What follows is a dark journey of love and wanting to get out, yet staying where each actually is.

What a film Phantom Thread is! It is slow-paced, yes. But every actor in it does a fantastic job. Nowhere in the film does anything look out of pace. Instead, you think, “Does this really happen in real life?” or “Were there people like this back then?” Though it isn’t chilling by a large margin, I feel chagrined at how it all turned out in the end. Not that I would change it. Maybe it’s all in how much you allow yourself to accept from the world. If you think nothing is impossible, then that’s what it is. If you think that this isn’t possible, then that’s what it is, too. Phantom Thread is one of those movies.

Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson is sweet. You sympathize with her to a point where you really don’t like Reynolds anymore. She maintains this countenance throughout the film and it is an ode to the Luxembourgian actress’s acting chops that you are taken in with her sweetness and keep it that way, come what may.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction is beautifully exempt from the exaggeration that many directors tend to take on with such a story. He has all the threads (no pun intended) together until the end, which in itself is an awe-inducing one. I didn’t see it coming and it punched the hell out of my head. But then again, what else can one do but merely shrug and get on with life? After all, don’t they say, to each, his own? That’s exactly what Anderson tried to do in Phantom Thread and spectacularly got away with it, too.

The costume design was keeping in mind the era in which the movie is set in. The costumes were low-key and not too extravagant without being dowdy. The background score is lilting and haunting at the same time, perfectly in sync with the emotions on screen. And there are a lot of them to take in, given the man called Daniel Day-Lewis.

Once I’m done with all the Oscar Mania, I’m going to go and watch all Daniel Day-Lewis films. It’s a shame I only started with his last movie before retirement. He vacillates between being the temperamental Mr. Woodcock and Alma’s tender lover, Reynolds with a perfection that would hardly be possible if it were played by anyone else. He is deserving of his sixth Oscar nod, three of which (to date) he has won.

Reynolds’s sister, Cyril, is strict and stern but can also be soft when the situation demands it. And she is the about the only one who can stand up to Reynolds. Lesley Manville takes up this role with considerable ease, and though I can agree she has done a commendable job, I didn’t see it as one to go gaga about.

With all this elements coming together, Phantom Thread makes for a convincing Best Picture candidate, though with other heavyweights in the fray, I’m not so sure this will win. But it’s always a surprise, going into the Oscars. So let’s wait and watch if Phantom Thread manages to sweep whatever it has got on its platter into its bag.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: The Film Stage.

Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

[Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been nominated in 6 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor (both Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell have been nominated in this category), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.]

You wouldn’t even think in your wildest dreams what this movie could be about with such a long, routine, yet bizarre title. Yet, when it starts off and you finally know what it is about, you think, “Oh, of course it could be about this.” It is that difficult to figure out this film, and that easy. Really.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is about, well, three billboards outside the town of Ebbing, Missouri. When mother of raped and murdered teenager Angela Hayes, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) chances upon these billboards, she finds in them a way to get the authorities to do something about it. Especially Police Chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).

But Willoughby is a good man. Willoughby’s subordinate Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is a drunk pain in the ass but Willoughby sympathizes with him. Thanks to this soft spot, Dixon cannot take it when anyone does anything against Willoughby. Once the billboards come up, the horrified residents of the town rally behind Willoughby, almost antagonizing Mildred, who is left with almost no one to fall back upon except a few people not including her ex-husband.

What follows is whether Willoughby manages to bring the criminal to justice? Will Mildred be able to give her daughter the peace that everyone craves for in death? Will Dixon be able to stop being a pain in the ass and be useful instead? What happens? Just what exactly happens in this movie?

The first thing I’ll say about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is that every Oscar nomination is perfectly justified. From Frances McDormand’s justifiably angry, calculating, prepared Mildred to Woody Harrelson’s apologetic Bill Willoughby to Sam Rockwell’s hot-headed, unapologetic, and racist Jason Dixon – ‘convincing’ is a very amateur word to describe these stellar performances. I’m not making any predictions but Sam Rockwell has a great chance of winning in his category this time!

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has a brand of humor that can hardly be classified into a category. It is close to dark humor, but you cannot exactly call it that. And there were multiple points in the film where everyone in the theater simultaneously burst into laughter. Director Martin McDonagh perfectly blends every element into its place and it shows on screen, shows how screenplay, direction, acting, and editing can come together in a dance as heartbreaking as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

The screenplay is crisp and to the point, giving us shots that will probably chill your bones. They are not gross or gory, merely detailed. For example, when Mildred sits outside her house on the swings in her lawn, you can see the backs of the three billboards in the distance. Make of it what you will, but this particular shot is so emotional for me, for some reason. Mildred can see the reminder of the violation meted out to her daughter every single day. And not once does she lose hope.

I cannot say the background score was lilting, given the storyline, but it was beautiful when coupled with the story. You will find meaning in the lyrics – so poetically heartbreaking, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Almost.

And to top it all off, the editing. Editing is something that combines all the elements on screen in a fashion that outdoes every other competitor. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a worthy competitor to all the others in this category.

So I’d say, you go and watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It is a thought-provoking film and with its open ending, it will give you hope and a scope to believe. And isn’t that what modern cinema is all about?

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Charlotte County Florida Weekly.

Movie Review: Call Me By Your Name

[Call Me By Your Name has been nominated in 4 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Song.]

Call Me By Your Name, the movie, is based on a 2007 book of the same name by Andre Aciman. The movie is set in 1983 in a remote Italian village and explores the sexuality of a 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet). Elio is an introvert, an intense bibliophile and musician. His parents are played by Michael Stuhlbarg (who was also in The Post and The Shape of Water) and Amira Casar, both very supportive and loving of their son.

Mr. Perlman is an archaeologist who, every summer, invites students to intern with him. The summer of 1983 sees doctoral student Oliver (Armie Hammer) coming to work under Mr. Perlman. Though Elio has a girlfriend Marzia (Esther Garrel) and becomes quite intimate with her, he finds himself becoming more and more attracted to Oliver. What follows is a story that is so beautiful and heartbreaking, even with its slow pace.

A coming-of-age drama, Call Me By Your Name has Timothee Chalamet give a performance every bit worthy of the Oscar nod he’s got. He has almost everything perfected – right from the joy to the sorrow to the confusion to the heartbreak, the gamut of emotions crossing his good-looking face is astoundingly varied.

And what a character 17-year-old Elio is! At that age, everyone struggles with adolescence, everyone has their own battles to fight – either with their peers or with themselves. Elio has to fight his own understanding to understand himself. And in doing this, he finds the world a much better place to indulge himself in. Such a well-written character is Elio!

Every other actor in the film does their assigned job to the point of what is expected of them. Be it Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, or Esther Garrel. But it is Chalamet who outdoes them all. And that is how you see the results.

Luca Guadagnino does an amazing job as the director of the film, bringing in quirks where it is least expected. A socially relevant film in today’s time, it is thanks to Guadagnino that it took off. Otherwise, the adapted script would have been languishing without a director.

Another star of the movie is the village where it was filmed. To the best of my “research”, this was Crema in Italy. The architecture, the quaint little cafes, and the beauty of nature amidst which this story takes place gave me wanderlust as well as a weird homesickness that I cannot quite explain. There is so much to see in the world and so little time. Most importantly money. I wish I could sit in that café by which Elio and Oliver talk. I wish I could sit there, reading a book and sipping on a coffee that I wouldn’t find anywhere else. I wish…

But I digress.

Call Me By Your Name, the movie, in itself is slow-paced. At least the first 40 minutes are. I checked my watch a number of times to see how long it was before the movie would end. Though this prevailed for a majority of the film, the last half an hour more than made up for it. The range of emotions that went through me as I saw those on Chalamet’s face was incredible. But then again, it’s a very one-time kind of movie. I wouldn’t consciously watch it again but I’d definitely recommend it with a few well-intended words.

Call Me By Your Name comes at a time when we need its message the most. While LGBTQ rights have only been moving forward now, there’s a lot of ground to cover yet. And this movie, despite showing how a 17-year-old deals with his sexual awakening, is as relevant as for adults as it is for adolescents. Everyone MUST watch this film, if you are a forward-thinking human being or if you want to become one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Twitter.

[Timothee Chalamet was also in Lady Bird.]

Movie Review: Padmaavat

There’s an ad for Maruti Suzuki that has stayed with me ever since it was first aired on TV. A kid plays with his toy car, driving it across every surface he can find. On the sofa, on the bed, on the floor, on someone’s tummy, in front of the dog, on the kitchen counter, in the fish tank – everywhere. When he gets to his father’s stomach, the father puts down his paper, exasperated, and tells his son, “Oye chote, bas kar yaar!” To which the son replies, “Pappa ki karaan! Petrol khatam hi ni hunda!”

Padmaavat is like this car – khatam hi ni hunda!

Padmaavat is the story of Rani Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), a queen in the early 1300s. A brave woman with the right sense of justice, administration, and genteelness, Padmavati went on to marry Rajput Raja Maharawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) of Chittor. On the other hand, there is the vile and ruthless Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) who stops at nothing to get what he wants. He married Mehrunnisa (Aditi Rao Hydari), his uncle Jalaluddin Khilji’s daughter. He later murdered his uncle to gain the throne, much to the chagrin of his wife.

When the banished Rajguru of Chittor, Raghav Chetan turns up at Khilji’s doorstep saying that Rani Padmavati is everything that Khilji looked for in a woman, Khilji is overcome with want and invites Maharawal Ratan Singh to Delhi. When the Rajputs snub his invite, Khilji attacks Chittor and later demands to see Padmavati. What the Rajputs do, what Padmavati herself does, and whether anything is enough forms the rest of the story.

Like all of his magnum opuses, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has made sure that Padmaavat too has everything that awes us. There is grandeur in sets and story, there is emotion, there is sense, there is courage – there is so much that comes together beautifully to show us a part of history that defines courage in its own way.

The best part of Padmaavat, however, is not the queen herself, but the villain. Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji is absolutely scary. His performance as the ruthless Khilji will give you goosebumps and leave you with no doubt as to Ranveer Singh’s credentials as an actor. He may be a happy-go-lucky, quirky man in real life, but onscreen, he sets everything on fire. He owns his role with an intensity that nobody else could have pulled off. I liked him earlier, but now, after Padmaavat, I have a newfound respect for the guy. There’s nothing he cannot do. And for that, I am thankful. Because not many people will get to this level of perfection.

Deepika Padukone is the majestic Queen Padmavati. She is good as the doting wife, and fierce administrator in the absence of her Rawal-sa. Deepika exudes the strength of the character and it’s hard not to agree with her. In the end, though Deepika was good, I wouldn’t say it was better than her role in Bajirao Mastani. Moreover, Ranveer steamrolled everyone in the film.

Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh is everything that’s required of a Rajput king. He’s tall, bearded, and strong, and has his values clean and clear, though that would finally be the end of him. There isn’t anything that you can actually put a finger on to show that he was not good. But somehow, as with Deepika Padukone, he gets majorly overshadowed by Ranveer Singh.

One special appearance that stood out was that of Aditi Rao Hydari as Mehrunnisa, Alauddin Khilji’s wife. She brings out the heartbreak in her eyes, as she watches her husband lust after another woman and go on a rampage in every walk of life. As in that age, she is the submissive wife, unable to do much, though she does come through in the end. Special applause for Aditi Rao Hydari for a stellar role.

Another performance that was lauded in the media was Jim Sarbh’s role as Khilji’s slave-general, eunuch Malik Kafur. But though I felt that his performance fit well into the movie, I didn’t find it extraordinary. But hey, that’s just my opinion. Maybe that is what is enough acting in today’s time and age.

Padmaavat has been mired in controversy ever since it was announced. Sets were attacked and destroyed, and the actors and the director were threatened. Someone even threatened to cut of Deepika’s nose if the film released. It all made me angry. Are we still living in the Stone Age where there is no common sense at all? Whatever was shown in the film actually happened. It is not Bhansali’s opinion. Merely a retelling.

It is unfortunate, yes, that people decided to take a historical event and turn it into something that’s completely stupid. But that is their stupidity. People in this time and age are easily offended, even with a topic that is currently irrelevant. Instead of focusing on the courage that Padmaavat teaches us, people decided to go ahead, belittle themselves in their head, and then blame the director. It is your problem if you feel reduced to a vagina. By saying that, you yourself are belittling yourself. You cannot ‘reduce’ to a vagina. I don’t have to tell you that without a woman, there is nothing in the world. So how can you put a vagina to the lowest level of respect there is? Is that all your self-esteem and self-worth allows you to be and do?

It is infuriating how people will go to any lengths to stay in the news. They’ll get mortally offended at a topic such as this, call themselves ‘Sena’ (army), and then turn around and say the exact same thing that the sane part of the community was trying to put into their heads. Why can they not understand that the events in the movie happened centuries ago. You cannot just go and apply them as lessons now. If you do, you are stupid. There’s no two ways about it.

It took a movie as gorgeous and well-made as Padmaavat (even though it is such a long movie) to make me realize I’m ashamed that I live among people who are so thick-skinned they don’t want to listen to what the other has to say.

Here’s to hoping that this changes in the near future!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Matters India.

Movie Review: The Shape of Water

[The Shape of Water has been nominated in 13 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing.]

The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro, and starring heavyweights like Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, and Octavia Spencer is a dark film. There’s no two ways about it. It shows us our reality, our tendency to hate everything that doesn’t conform to our thoughts and everything we have known so far. Yet, within this darkness lies hope for humanity.

Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a nighttime janitor at a government laboratory along with one of her two friends, Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer). Her other friend, Giles (Richard Jenkins) is her neighbor and both look after each other. Elisa is mute and communicates through sign language. She is an orphan, found on a riverbank with three long cut-like scars on either side of her neck.

Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) is responsible for the vivisection of a humanoid amphibian from South America, after General Frank Hoyt’s (Nick Searcy) orders. As a janitor, Elisa discovers this creature and slowly, gradually befriends it, learning in the process the creature’s intelligence. What follows is whether or not Elisa is able to protect her new friend from what the government has in store for him.

When The Shape of Water got 13 Oscar nods, I initially couldn’t understand how such a weird story could be getting all the attention. There is water, there is darkness, and there is a weird creature floating in the water while embracing a woman. That was what I took away from the poster.

But watch The Shape of Water and you’ll know why it’s the talk of every movie-watching town. Every nomination is an assurance that all is well with the world. Sally Hawkins personifies strength and grace in her role as Elisa. Octavia Spencer is brilliant as Zelda, be it the wit or the emotions. Richard Jenkins is impactful as the scared but will-do-anything-for-Elisa artist. And Michael Shannon is simply terrifying as the anti-hero.

The Shape of Water is a dark, realistic fairytale of sorts. Like all fairytales tell of miracles and give us lessons to learn, this movie too, has a relevant lesson for today’s time and age. This lesson is one of acceptance and generosity in contrast with the truth of who today’s monsters really are. While we deem someone else as a monster, many-a-times, it is us who are the real ones.

Every element in the movie gets its due recognition. Every actor gets his/her spot in the limelight. The sets are absolutely magical in their 1960-ishness. The humor is sometimes dark, but relevant nevertheless, most of it being doled out in chunks by Zelda. There is no way you cannot fall in love with her.

Every visual in the film is stunning. As the title goes, clever usage of water and light brings to the movie a brightness that you’d most probably not even see anywhere else. What I’m saying now defies what I said earlier about The Shape of Water and darkness. But watch the film and you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.

Of course, it will take some time for you to get used to the notion that the movie is talking about. But the beauty with which it is put forth will make sure that that time is not too late in the movie.

All in all, a brilliant movie with a brilliant message! What a job Guillermo del Toro has done! And every bit as Oscar-worthy as it is now. 🙂

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: thefilmexperience.net.

Get Out – A Spooky Film That Creeped the Hell Out of Me!

[Get Out has been nominated in 4 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay.]

When my husband told me that Daniel Kaluuya had been nominated at the Golden Globes in the Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy category for Get Out, I went all thoughtful, thinking that maybe there was some dark humor in the film. Maybe they did it for a reason. I was willing to give the Golden Globes the benefit of the doubt. And then I watched the movie.

All I can think now is: What sort of an insane bunch of people could even remotely think that Get Out could even stand for a second on the threshold of comedy? It’s so ridiculous that even now, as I write this, I shake my head in exasperation. And it’s been quite a few days since I watched the movie.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is a photographer. His white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) is taking him to meet her parents at their annual get-together. Rose seems to be an advocate for equal treatment of all people. They reach the Armitages’ countryside estate and everything seems to be going well.

But Chris soon discovers the strangeness that seemed to be invisible at first. Everything from Rose’s father, surgeon Dean, to her mother, hypnotherapist Missy, to the staff on the estate, Georgina and Walter, make the place claustrophobic to Chris. Rose, on the other hand, seems completely oblivious to the happenings around her. She is concerned when Chris airs his concerns, but nothing more than that.

Most of the movie Get Out goes on in this fashion. But it is when you cross the halfway mark that true terror sets in. Everything that you have seen so far is a mere mirage. There is so much that the movie manages to conceal with clever, subtle placement of plot points that it literally blows your mind. It took me a good few days to get over it. The mere mention of this movie is enough to make me shudder, come to think of it.

There are no jump scares in this movie. None at all. It is even funny in a few places. Yet it is brutally scary in a never-seen-before kind of way. So many what-ifs pepper the duration of this movie that it becomes difficult for you to breathe after a point. Mostly because there is a perspective to race that you might have and have not thought of before. It’s an absolute bomb, Get Out, and for it to come out of the stables of Jordan Peele, who makes his debut as a director, gives us even more hope for the future.

In the director’s words, Get Out “is a horror movie but has a satirical premise.” And he also thinks that both genres are similar. This, maybe, explains why it was nominated in the Comedic category at the Golden Globes this year. But it doesn’t mean I agree with it. I still think it is utterly stupid and ridiculous that this movie was nominated in that category. What were they thinking?!?!

Get Out is a world in its own. A crazy, topsy-turvy world in its own where you are forced to come to terms with how life indeed is. You will laugh, you will be horrified, you will cry, you will sit on the edge of your seat – there are a lot of things that you will feel that you cannot put into words. But on the whole, this is a movie you must watch so that you can come to terms with all those emotions and acknowledge them.

You need to watch Get Out for the film’s craziness. GET OUT and go watch Get Out!

Rating: 5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Tumblr.

Movie Review: I, Tonya – Margot Robbie Shines

[I, Tonya has been nominated in 3 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Editing.]

Tonya Harding is a former American figure skater who, no thanks to a number of circumstances, was banned from figure skating for life. I, Tonya is Harding’s story, which if it is true, means that a great injustice was done to her.

I hadn’t heard of Tonya Harding before this movie came out. Since then, however, I’ve known more about her and I sympathize wholeheartedly. One of America’s most controversial figure skaters, Harding got the hard end of the bargain every time she went out to perform, despite being the only skater at the time who could do a triple-axel jump. The scene has changed since, but first is first, come what may.

Figure skating is a difficult sport to take up. And I, Tonya uses every trick in the book to show the nuances of the sport without actually showing it. The cinematography is raw and intelligent. Steven Rogers’s (not Captain America) screenplay is crisp and filled with emotion. Craig Gillespie’s direction is almost flawless. As for the acting? Read on.

I, Tonya tells Tonya Harding’s story as it is alleged to have happened, with Margot Robbie playing Tonya, Alison Janney playing her mother, and Sebastian Stan playing her husband (ex), Jeff Gillooly. While Sebastian Stan does a commendable job, it is Margot Robbie and Alison Janney who take the cake with their performances. And though both of them have been nominated for Oscars, Robbie for Best Actress and Janney for Best Supporting Actress, Janney comes out on top by a wide margin.

Alison Janney is a superb actress, and saying this is an understatement. She brings the perfect amount of disdain and disgust required of the character. Every frame of her presence spells brilliance. Utterly convincing in her role as LaVona Harding, Janney deserves every bit, every part of her Oscar nod. I have a strong feeling she’s going to win.

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding is amazing, too. There is, however, one complaint from me. Not so much a complaint as an observation. The reason I said that the direction is almost flawless earlier is that in places, her diction seemed forced when she cussed. But hey, that could just be how Tonya Harding is. I’m going to go watch old videos of her now to understand Margot Robbie better. [:P] That should tell how amazing Robbie was!

The first half of the movie – though Hollywood doesn’t believe in first and second halves – goes on at a fairly average speed, though I’m not subtracting its brilliance. The second half, however, comes in with the speed of a freight train and before you know it, you’re steamrolled into thinking what exactly happened here. It is heady in its larger-than-life conflict, spiking your heartbeat in its own understated way. You know it is based on someone’s life and everything happened quite a while ago and you cannot change it. But you hope that the best comes out of what’s happening onscreen, you hope for a positive ending, despite knowing that many-a-times, the happy endings are the ones that get translated to the big screen.

Harding’s arch-rival on the ice, Nancy Kerrigan, on whom a vicious attack was orchestrated due to which Tonya was banned from skating for life in addition to a number of fines, said she never got an apology from Tonya. During a little research I did for this review, I saw that Kerrigan said in an interview that she was the victim. Of course she was. There is no denying it. I, Tonya is merely saying that Tonya Harding didn’t get a fair bargain in it all when she so obviously should have.

I, Tonya is a raw telling of a real life story that happened more than two decades ago and that people had almost forgotten. Tonya Harding, a controversial athlete back then, needed to tell her story. And I, Tonya does that for her with much panache. The movie is sympathetic to her side and now, it is easier to see what might have actually happened.

All in all, I love this movie and I hope it wins in at least one category on March 4/5!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Apple Trailers!