Thursday, February 4, 2016

Oscar So white

Oscar So white

I am sure that everyone will recognize the trending hashtag of “Yo, Oscars So White” that I don't need to elaborate further on the topic of the title except to say that the comedian Chris Rock’s jokes on the hashtag are now more popular than the original movie nominations for which the hash-tag was coined. For all the flak that this years Oscar nominations have received for being an all-white affair, the fact is (according to me at least) there were no outstanding performances or movies by non-white actors which demanded to be recognized and any other way of being nominated would be purely race-patronizing. With one exception. 

And thats Samuel L Jackson's performance as the civil war era bounty hunter in Hateful Eight, where amidst a mix of solid performers he stands out once, not for his profanity count, but for the authenticity which he brings to the embittered war veteran’s role. Hence my vote for best actor this year goes to Sam Jackson who narrowly beats , yet another nuanced performance by Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies. The problem with Tom Hanks is he slides so effortlessly into the storyline, so much so that he self effaces himself into the background and we fail to recognized a virtuoso performance when we see one concentrating more on the ebb and flow and all the drama of the movie. If there is a lifetime achievement Oscar for the best portrayal of an everyday common man then Tom Hanks is a shoo-in for it.

For the best picture Oscar my vote goes to the outstanding drama of the year- In The Heart Of The Sea. For once Chris Hemsworth does not dominate the movie but lets the story take over the character. It also helps that he doesn't flaunt his biceps wielding that gigantic hammer unlike his Thor avatar. The movie is a gripping retelling of the familiar Moby Dick tale with the parts usually left out added in for once.  The sense of doom which manifests itself right early on in the movie, the taut screenplay, the recreation of the old style whale hunting and the eerie second half filled with gut churning scenes of survival in the ocean while cannibalizing the shipwrecked comrades sitting beside, deserves the award for being the best movie of the year.

Which brings me to the subject of Leonardo Dicaprio and The Revenant for lets face it- if Leo dicaprio wasn't fronting the movie there wouldn't even be a whisper about it being an Oscar contender. It doesn't matter whether Leo grunts, growls, eats raw meat or rolls about naked in the snow- the movie is one long yawn filled disaster of a disaster movie. I wish the academy would give Leo dicaprio an honorary best actor award and get it out of the way so such movies wouldn't be inflicted on an unsuspecting public and  he wouldn't be tempted in future to try to do anything, anything to get that statute.  After watching the entire movie of revenant in one sitting the only conclusion I could come to was that how did this script pass through all the safeguards and get made while better stories are probably languishing without attracting attention? Are studios willing to bankroll such frivolous efforts merely to pander to a stars Oscar dreams? And why does it matter to Leo so much? Questions which don't have any easy answers I guess.

So thats my line up for this years performances, whats yours?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Smell The Coffee - Short Fiction

Smell The Coffee - A Short Story

One of the best ways to wake up on a cold winter morning, other than with morning-after sex which is the very best way to wake up, is to wake up to a nice hot cuppa filter coffee, the aroma of which filling the nostrils up in a “hello, morning's come” kinda wake up alarm and the heat cupped in the palm as a gentle reminder to sip and not to gulp to get the best of the bittersweet taste in the tongue taste buds. Especially when you are accustomed to the same way of waking up every morning for years and years, the bed coffee becomes a rite of passage and an institution, with time, which you are loathe to let go of, despite any other change in your life circumstances.

So when we recently shifted houses to a new apartment I insisted on continuing the same morning routing which I had been following for the past 60 years or more. This was a bit tough on my wife for she has recently developed arthritis of both legs and finds it difficult to wake up early on mornings. So even though one of my daughter-in-law's volunteered to make my early morning cuppa I still prefer my wife to fetch it for me to my bedside, for if I am anything I am a creature of habit and its difficult after so many years of living together to wake up to the face of someone else other than the familiar spouse.

Of course there had been a bit of kerfuffle recently, when we shifted house here for some malicious rumours had been spread by competing real estate brokers, business rivals I suppose, of the real estate agent who had sold me this house, that this place was vacant without possession for so long a  time because it was haunted by the ghost of a previous occupant's wife and said ghost being very particular in chasing away other occupants by either frightening them or killing them off if they refused to be frightened away into vacating the place.

I disbelieved it entirely from the very first i heard of it, but the people in the  house were slightly disturbed by the rumour and kept muttering about how cheaply we had got the place having something to do with the fact of the rumour. But as I kept reminding them as as retired pensioner this was very best I could afford and ghost or no ghost we would have to put up with this- at least until I die, when my heirs could sell this off and move away to wherever they wanted. This house or my death- I had put my foot down and hoped that would be the end of all discussion.

So this morning, a cold muggy morning I woke up to my usual smell of my usual brand of filter coffee and accepted the cup -steaming hot and sipped it slowly still with eyes closed and looking forward to my usual retired life – a day filled with relaxation and small talk with my wife interspersed by meals at regular intervals unlike the hectic work life I had been a part of all these years. As I finished my coffee and still without opening my eyes, placed it on the side table, leaving it for my wife to come back to collect the empty cup later, I remembered something which caused a mild discomfort in my chest.

I remembered that my wife and kids and grandkids had left the previous day for a vacation to our native place and though I grumbled at the expense I had secretly looked forward with pleasure at a few days of absolute solitude and living alone in my new life. That's when the crushing pain in my chest started when I started wondering about whose hand had handed over my usual cup of coffee when I had closed and bolted all the doors safely last night before retiring to bed alone in the house. As I am lying here on the bed clutching my chest and breathing hard, sweat poring off my face, I wish I had strength enough to get up and go check in the kitchen if there really was an empty cup of coffee in the kitchen sink waiting to be washed or if I had imagined everything.

But the taste, the taste of a fresh strong cuppa of the best coffee, it still lingered on my tongue. I still maintain that there is nothing to beat waking up to a nice hot cuppa filter coffee, unless to die for it. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Star Wars- The Force Awakens (2015) – Film Review.

Star Wars- The Force Awakens (2015) – Film Review.

Director:  J.J. Abrams   Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford. 

The new Star Wars movie, the J.J.Abrams directed latest installment of the Star Wars franchise raised a lot of new hopes but ultimately failed to measure up to standards. Leastwise to my standards. I believe that the excessive hype pre-release raised up expectation to such a fever pitch that the resultant movie on screen turned out to be an anti-climatic finish. Anyway the duty of a good reviewer is take the good with the bad and thankfully in this instance its not all bad, but good in patches. The best scene of this movie comes a half an hour after the movie begins when Harrison Ford playing Han Solo enters with Chewbacca inside his old Correlian freighter The Millenium Falcon. Till then the movie is all yawn worthy and suddenly with Han Solo's entry the screenplay picks up or it seems so due to Harrison Fords imposing screen presence. And that shows up the biggest Achilles heel of this movie- casting disaster. Casting relatively unknown actors in important starring roles is a welcome step, but only if they have the acting chops to pull it off. In this case they dont. I am not sure why with such a big budget film they too the risk of it all imploding spectacularly with such a casting disaster and I can only think of two reasons- either there was a pressure on the producers to be politically correct by casting an african american and a woman as the main protagonists in complete antithesis of the usual Hollywood white anglosaxon male domination or they believed that with the power of the star wars franchise actors didnt matter and anybody, any  robot faced cipher could just coast along in a crucial part and people would still be cheering in the theatres with the memories of the original trilogies making them view everything in a nostalgic haze.

Anyway to get back to the story, the film opens with the exact same scene as the original star wars- an important secret, a secret vital to the success of the rebel alliance, is hidden inside a droid named BB-8 - a cute adaptation from the hit movie Wall-E (in tribute?) and the droid's owner is captured by the First Order, the evil successor of the old Sith Empire. The droid is rescued by a spare parts scavenger called Rey who then teams up with a reformed storm trooper called Fen, a character who channels his inner Chris Rock (and fails pathetically to) in an effort to play the comic side kick to Rey's warrior woman. Together they end up escaping in an old abandoned spaceship which turns out to be the iconic Millenium Falcon and in search of which Han solo soon turns up. From then on its a Harrison Ford show as he takes over the search for the missing Luke Skywalker the last of the Jedi who alone can defeat the evil First Order and its dark side adherents. The film ends on a poignant note, with Han Solo's death at his son Ben Solo's hand, for Ben solo is the new Sith apprentice to the Chairman of the First Order. And Luke Skywalker is discovered standing amidst the ruins of the deserted Jedi temple as the credits roll promising more films to come in the future.

Director Abrams does a fair job by not going overboard with special effects but keeping the CGI scenes at the same level of technicality as the original trilogy which somehow makes it all believable. And by giving the best lines of the movie to the old pair of Han Solo and Princess Leia he shows he knows the pulse of the audience and satisfies the fan boys. Now if only he had stuck his foot down with the studio and the casting director what seems to be a fair movie would have become a good movie. A good storyline, excellent special effects let down by bad acting is what we feel as we the movie ends.

Our verdict- just passable and worth a single watch. Or better wait for the DVD.