Monthly Archives: September 2010

Movie Review : A Serious Man

I fucked your wife, Larry! I seriously fucked her!” says Ableman to Larry Gopnik. So, how is Larry supposed to react when his wife’s lover mutters something so disturbing in such a casual manner. He remains cool, calm and composed. That’s Larry for you. He cannot even cry out to the Almighty because he is agnostic at heart. And this is just first of the many problems that he would go onto experience.

Here is a man, so full of problems, that he has no time for himself. He believes in karma, and thats demonstrated by the fact that he keeps asking why these things were happening to him when he has not done anything. His wife is not in love with him, his son is a marijuana addict, his daughter only wants to stylize her hairs, his brother is a gambler and he himself is facing professional problems as his tenure at the college is about to expire and he needs good reccos to have that tenure extended. So, what should he do? How is he supposed to handle his life!

Larry is a physics professor in a university and is shown teaching students about Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty. But the irony is that, the joke is on him.

The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can’t ever really know what’s going on. So it shouldn’t bother you. Not being able to figure anything out.

Larry himself doesn’t know what’s going on and not being able to figure it out bothers him. For all his problems, the only advice he gets from everyone is to ‘visit a rabbi’. But agnostic that he is, he wonders if a rabbi will be of any help. His disbelief in God and religion is also established in that scene where he repeatedly says to the person on the phone, that he did not ask for Santana’s Abraxas gramophone record. The allusion here is to God, as in Abraxas, which he has no need for.

But after much self-convincing, Larry plods his feet to meet a rabbi. His brush with the various  rabbis makes for some engrossing watch. One of the rabbi narrates to him, a story of a dentist who while making dentures noticed hebrew characters in the tooth of the patient and the words inscribed were ‘help me, save me’. The dentist was really worried as he did not understand what this meant. His inquisitiveness brought him to the rabbi. So, was the rabbi able to help the dentist? What does the story imply? Will the rabbi’s wisdom help solve Gopnik’s problems?

In another encounter, a junior rabbi points to the parking lot and says that its all about the perspective. If he changes his viewpoint and sees the parking lot from a fresh perspective, he maybe able to see/feel God and his presence and that may solve his problem.

As already stated, Larry is a man who believes in karmic cycle of life; but that’s where he could be wrong. It may not be his ‘karma’ thats bothering him, it could be an age old curse which was played as an epilogue to the movie. The first few mins of the movie builds a fable wherein a family gets cursed for mistaking a living being for a wandering spirit/ghost and harming it. So, has the ghost of the past caught up with the descendents of that family? Its never explained. The fable could just have been played out to set the tone of the movie. Yes, its plain black humor.

When the truth is found to be lies
and all the joys within you dies

The speciality of Coen brothers is that, they put people in tumultuous situations and unfold the character’s response to the stimulus. Gopnik of Jewish descent is a man with multiple problems, all pounding on him in a multi-prong assault. When he tries to concentrate on his wife, his job comes back to bite him. When he is at work, he is constantly thinking of his wife and her lover. When he is with his lawyer, he is thinking of his job and his wife.

The epilogue at the beginning of the movie and the dentist-rabbi interactions are the most interesting parts; the former scene gives a nice start to the movie while the later gives it the much-needed boost else the movie would have become boring, slow as it already is.

The movie is not just about Larry and his despicable life but is also about religion and its importance or the lack of it. Will religious heads like rabbis and gurus help us solve our problems? Not sure. The movie almost borders on atheisim because it shows a dutiful and responsible but an agnostic man not being happy. And the agnosticism makes people feel that if Larry visited a rabbi and believed in existence of God then his problems would be resolved. So, is it important to be religious to have a happy life!  I think the Coens can make another movie with the contrarian view of a deeply religious man being swarmed with problems and leading a life of dismay and sadness.

The Coens have shot the movie beautifully, bringing to life Minnesotta of the late 60′s and early 70′s. Beautiful houses, clear skies, the empty streets, the lifestyle [dressing and clothing] of the jews has been very well re-created and captured. Its an indepth study of a conservative jewish family and their culture and religion, be it the reference to bar-mitzvah or hashem or dybuk or gett.

But what stood out was the acting. This movie deserves a serious look from Coen fans for the sheer emptiness of Larry Gopnik’s life and the way his character is brought out, always in a self-conflict, always self-consumed. The only time he gets out of character is when he spots his neighbor sunbathing. That pulls a few strings of his losely wound life. Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry is just perfect. He brings out the vulnerability and helplessness of the character very well. All other minor characters have done well, but its Larry all the way.

The movie starts with a bilzzard in the fable as mentioned earlier, and ends in a tornado which stormed Minnesotta in ’67. Fantastic portrayal of a life full of confusion, a great satire of a man who wants nothing but a few moments of peace and joy.

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Posted by on September 25, 2010 in hollywood, movie review, movies


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Trailer : Action Replayy

Cast : Akshay Kumar, Aishwarya Rai

Director : Vipul Shah

When the movie was first announced there were reports that its a rehash of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. But the trailer reminds me of Back To The Future(1985). The only thing that generates my curiosity is the kind of time travel device used here. Its slated to release this Diwali and this probably is the next big release after Dabangg. I really don’t now what to expect from the movie.

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Posted by on September 21, 2010 in bollywood, movies


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mtv awards : nobody going gaga over this lady

MTV Awards - The good, bad and ugly

MTV Awards - The good, bad and ugly

MTV Awards - The good, bad and ugly

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Posted by on September 15, 2010 in AWARDS, hollywood


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Tape … brilliance of Richard Linklater

This is third of my favorite Richard Linklater movies, two others being Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. I just loved this movie for the amazing content and his handling of characters. As usual, he has very few characters but heavily loaded with conversations. This movie came sometime between Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and he cast his favourite hero and fellow texan Ethan Hawke.

The movie takes place in real time, but unlike the use of steadicam in Before Sun…, there is heavy usage of a handycam. The movie has a very amateurish approach with the handycam moving from one face to another, trying to capture immediate reactions to the lines spoken. But the content of the movie is very mature and the story idea is delicate/sensitive.

The entire action takes place in a motel room in Michigan. Vincent is in Lansing to attend the Lansing Film Festival. He is not a movie buff, he comes to Lansing to give moral support to his old buddy John Salter whose movie has made it to the fest. But he has an ulterior motive of coming all the way to Lansing. He brings back fresh memories of an incident from the past which revolves around John and Vince’s ex-gf Amy, while all 3 were in high school.

This incident is the crux of the movie, and takes place on the farewell day of the high school. The movie is about different perceptions of the same incident by different characters. A high voltage psyscho-drama is unleashed in the small room where the two friends chat about good old school days. While Amy becomes the focal point of the chat, they build up the tension and paint the character of the 3 individuals.

Vince, out of nowhere, blurts out that Amy had confessed to him something sinister. Vince outrageously suggests that John had forced Amy to have sex with him in high school, which is tantamount to rape. And John goes on the defensive that it was consensual sex. Now, while both the men are on a verbal duel, only one person can say if the allegation made by Vince is true or not; and that person is Amy herself. While John tries to defend his actions of the forced love-making, Vince takes him by surprise when he pulls out a tape-recorder and shows that he has recorded every word spoken by John and that he has invited Amy too; she would be joining them any moment.

Amy makes a late entry, after almost two-thirds of the movie is over. But this is a fantastic ploy, because she brings in a new perspective to the incident. She is the woman in question, and the way she handles herself is fantastic. The tension is palpable as she too does not know the real purpose of this get-together. John and Amy take the movie forward with some brilliantly written dialogues and a tight screenplay. Although Vince has nothing to gain from this, he tries his best to add fuel to fire. He comes up with lots of wise-crack statements which are partly relieving and partly wild remarks. The awkwardness in the room, the way Amy and John interact has been handled with lot of sensitivity.

When all 3 characters are deep into conversation, the manner in which the camera pans from one character to the other is fantastic, capturing Amy’s calmness, John’s initial composure and then losing his cool and Vince’s wickedness of having created the entire ruckus and the way he is enjoying the scene at the cost of his friends and ex-gf’s plight. The movie keeps you totally gripped and you just can’t bat your eyelids.

While I was still wondering how this movie would end, this clever movie got the fine ending it deserved; it started with vile and guile and ended the same way. The story by Stephen Belber is very well written and was actually a stage-play which was then translated on-screen by Richard Linklater with his innovative direction. And apart from the handycam, which assumed the part of the fourth character, the casting was perfect.

Ethan Hawke as Vince was conniving and I feel he is quite an under-rated actor. His performances in Before Sun… , Training Day, Gattaca and Great Expectations is awesome. He is an unassuming guy who just sweeps you off with his performance. Robert Sean Leonard as John Salter was very convincing in the way he played the guy with a dilemma of rape versus consensual sex and the guilt of having been a party to such an act. He was terrific in the movie, last I had liked him was in Dead Poets Society. And finally, Uma Thurman as Amy was marvellous. The way she conducted herself and being part of just one-third of the movie, she handled her sequences with deftness. After this movie, her next best movies were the Kill Bill series. Another noteworthy point about the performances is that, nowhere in the movie did Ethan and Uma show the warmness and the affinity of the married couple they were. They went about the job very professionally, stuck to the character and brought out the rough edges and rawness that the character demanded.

And of course, Richard Linklater, the guy who directed this movie is just brilliant. He makes movies with minimal characters and minimal fuss. He is so focussed that he does not give you a moment to turn your head around. He keeps you glued with those enchanting conversations and real-time cinema experience. This movie is a must watch as it reminds us the importance of story-telling and the art of writing conversations. All we need is a good story/script/screenplay, good actors and of course a brilliant director to make a good movie.

This post was first published on PFC

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Posted by on September 10, 2010 in hollywood, movie review, movies


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Trailer : Jhootha Hi Sahi

Cast : John Abraham, Pakhi

Director : Abbas Tyrewala

Music : AR Rahman

This Abbas Tyrewala movie was earlier titled 1-800-LOVE. The female lead Pakhi is Abbas Tyrewala’s wife. The movie also has Raghu Ram and coincidentally his wife Sugandha Garg played Shaleen in JTYJN. I hope this too turns out as entertaining as JTYJN.

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Posted by on September 8, 2010 in bollywood, movies


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nandana sen : re-living ‘zeenat aman’

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Posted by on September 6, 2010 in bollywood


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