Category: Movies

Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados (2013)

posterDirección: David Trueba             

Guion: David Trueba

Intérpretes: Javier Cámara, Natalia de Molina, Francesc Colomer, Jorge Sanz, Ramón Fontseré.

Historia: Es el año 1966, la juventud mundial vive inmersa en la Beatlemania, la liberalización sexual, la experimentación artística y apertura cultural como pocas veces antes se había visto.  Mientras, España bajo el asfixiante yugo de la dictadura sigue estancada cultural y socialmente en una sociedad represiva y estrictamente tradicional.  En medio de una crisis existencial, John Lennon está pensando si dejar a los Beatles y probar suerte como actor protagonizando una película anti-bélica (How I won the war) que se rueda en Almería.

Antonio (Javier Camara) un profesor con ideas progresistas en un colegio religioso y represivo es fan incondicional de los Beatles y sueña con algún día conocer a su ídolo John Lennon.  Cuando se entera que su héroe va a estar en España a no demasiados kilómetros de su ciudad no se lo piensa y emprende un viaje en su coche para ir a conocerle sin ningún plan ni estrategia aparte de su improvivir es fácil escenavisación y carácter afable.  En medio recoge a una chica haciendo autostop, Belén (Natalia de Molina) y más tarde, un joven adolescente Juanjo (Francesc Colomer), ambos huyendo de sus propios traumas y problemas personales.  Al llegar a Almería los tres, conocen a un amable tabernero Ramón (Ramón Fontseré) quien emplea a Juanjo y les aconseja y ayuda para que Antonio pueda cumplir su sueño.

vivir es fácil escena 3Critica: Vivir con los ojos cerrados es una bella y sencilla historia basada en hechos reales en las que en efecto un profesor español quien admiraba a los Beatles consigue su sueño de conocer a Lennon.  El título hace referencia al comienzo de “Strawberryfields Forever” que fue escrita por John Lennon  durante su estancia en España.  El profesor, Antonio quien utilizaba sus canciones para enseñar inglés a sus alumnos se planta en el rodaje de la película que está rodando Lennon y le convence para que de allí en adelante empiecen a introducir las letras de las canciones en sus álbumes (cosa que hasta entonces no se hacía).  David Trueba recrea de manera muy nostálgica y acertada la década de los sesenta en una España muy atrasada social y técnicamente.  Javier Cámara por su parte está sobresaliente como en él es costumbre interpretando al afable y genial profesor queriendo compartir sus ideales con los jóvenes y a la vez intentando proteger a aquellos que más lo necesitan.

Intérpretes:

Antonio - Javier CámaraAntonio (Javier Cámara) – Antonio es un profesor de ideas progresistas en un entorno que no favorece esta mentalidad.  Se siente como pez fuera del agua dando clases en un colegio religioso donde los castigos físicos son tolerados y frecuentes, cosa que él rechaza.   Sueña con una sociedad más abierta, culta y atrevida y se refugia en la música de los Beatles para evadirse del entorno opresivo que le rodea.  Cuando se entera que su ídolo Lennon va a estar en Almería coge su coche y emprende un viaje sin pensárselo dos veces.  En Antonio vemos a un hombre decente, protector y cercano, muy querido por sus alumnos y que se termina ganando la confianza y el cariño de Ramón, Juanjo y Belén.  Cabe mencionar que su personalidad tenaz, su entusiasmo casi juvenil y su amabilidad natural le ayudan finalmente a hacer su sueño realidad.

Belen - Natalia de MolinaBelén (Natalia de Molina) – Belén es una chica encerrada en un convento junto con otras jóvenes chicas solteras quienes han cometido el “pecado” de quedarse embarazadas antes del matrimonio.  Está literalmente en cautiverio y ni su propia madre puede visitarla libremente.  Harta, decide escaparse e irse a Almería.  En el camino conoce a Antonio quien se convierte en su protector y Juanjo un joven y juntos van a Almería.

Juanjo - Francesc ColomerJuanjo (Francesc Colomer) Juanjo vive en Madrid, está pasando por la habitual etapa rebelde de la adolescencia con el doble inconveniente que coincide en los sesenta.  Si bien para cualquier adolescente occidental abrazar la música, los cambios en la moda, en el estilo y sobre todo la mentalidad liberalizadora de los sesenta era duro, en la España católica y franquista lo era todavía más.    Es además un joven creativo y sueña con ser artista, algo que no convence a su figura paternal.  Hastiado se fuga de casa y va sin rumbo hasta que se cruza con Antonio y Belén.

Ramon FontsereRamón (Ramón Fontseré) – Ramón es un tabernero catalán en Almería quien sirve como un apoyo básico a los tres protagonistas de la historia.  Siendo él mismo un extraño en un lugar tan apartado como el pueblo donde vive en seguida acoge con naturalidad a los tres forasteros.  Le da un trabajo a Juanjo y aconseja y asesora a Antonio para que pueda llegar hasta el rodaje y poder conocer su ídolo.

Jorge SanzEl padre (Jorge Sanz) el padre de Antonio aunque no aparezca demasiado representa esa España y la dictadura que poco a poco va a ir desapareciendo, una figura paternal nada dialogante, estricta, opresora y obtusa de ideas (aunque a día de hoy sigue existiendo algo de esto).  El padre es brusco, cerrado de mente, machista y autoritario y termina siendo la fuerza principal a que su hijo se fugue de casa.  En cierto modo su relación con su hijo se puede entender como una metáfora de los artistas quienes tuvieron que emigrar de España en busca de un entorno más tolerante donde expresarse libremente como Picasso o Dalí.

Her (2013)

her posterDirection: Spike Jonze 

Screenplay by: SpikeJonze

Starring:  Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams,

Music: Arcade Fire

Plot: Set in a futuristic 2025, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a shy and reserved man.   He works for a corporation where he writes personal letters on behalf of his customers who are unable or don’t have the time to express their feelings and so hire the services of these companies.  He is going through a midlife crisis having to face an impending divorce, and spend most of his time alone.  He downloads an operating system on his personal computer one evening and transfers it to his mobile phone.  The OS has the ability to emulate human behaviour, synthesise human voices and interact with other people.  Theodore assigns it a female voice and thus the OS develops into Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). her scene 1

They soon bond and develop a relationship much closer and meaningful than Theo has ever had, becoming extremely co-dependent of each other.  Throughout his evolving relationship with Samantha, we see Theo painfully try to relate to his soon to be ex-wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara) and his relationship with one of his few friends, Amy (Amy Adams), an ex-girlfriend of sorts who is now married to another man.

Eventually Theodore starts to realise that his relationship with Samantha is not exactly unique, dismayed he finds out that so many people are just like him addicted to the OS on their phones and that Samantha too has bonded with thousands of other users simultaneously.

Critique: Her is on a personal level, the best film I have had the pleasure of watching this year.  It is a deep and incisive dissection of a not so distant future.  her scene 2It is a sensitive, sweet and honest approach to our present day mores and behavioural patterns.  It depicts a society where people have become so dependent on technology for the daily tasks that they are losing the ability to express their emotions face to face.  We see people twitch nervously, unable to make eye contact most of the time when relating to each other and the few times they open up and communicate beyond banal clichés, they tend to indulge in talking more about themselves than actually listen to what the other person has to say and have a structured conversation.  It also portrays the underemployment so present in today’s society where Theodore who is a professional writer has to write meaningless personal letters to complete strangers on behalf people he knows very little other than their user profiles.  The films brilliance would not have been complete without the brilliant soundtrack with the collaboration of Arcade Fire, Owen Pallet or Karen O.

Main Characters:

joaquin phoenixTheodore (Joaquin Phoenix) – Theodore is a professional writer who lives alone, has a listless and solitary life.  Being a professional writer he has to conform to a menial job of writing personal letters to complete strangers on behalf of people he barely knows through their user profiles in his company.  He is waiting and at the same time avoiding to face an impending divorce with his wife Catherine. One night he downloads a new Operating System on his personal computer which is shared on his mobile phone and ends up connecting with “it” more than with real people.  Played brilliantly by the gifted Joaquin Phoenix, Theodore shows his extremely sensitive and sweet side, with shadows of cowardice, social procrastinator and possessive.  The scene where he is briefly unable to connect with Samantha surely deserves to be amongst one cinema´s recent most touching and convincing scenes.

samanthaSamantha (Scarlett Johansson) – Samantha is a virtual and yet powerful presence in the film.  It is a new Operating System created by a software company which can be downloaded at any computer, phone or any other device.  It is completely adaptable to suit the consumers’ requests and in Theodore´s case, the OS adapts a female voice and persona at his request and thus becomes Samantha.  Samantha is programmed to emulate human behaviour through observation, absorption and imitation.  Thus Samantha starts to grasp Theodore´s qualities such as been curious, sensitive and sweet.  She also begins to value intelligence as a key quality that sets apart individuals from each other.  However she also begins to absorb his frailties and starts to become insecure aching to be accepted as a sentient being.  She also begins to imitate human emotions and reproduce them such as jealousy, love, lust and sorrow.

amyAmy (Amy Adams) Amy is one Theodore´s closest friends.  They have known each other since college and even shared a brief romance in the past.  Yet most of their communications do not go beyond superficial clichés.  Like him, she is extremely insecure and longs for a more loving and warm environment.  She has difficulty expressing her true emotions and too scared to experience life´s moments.  Despite being married, she is unhappy, her relationship does not fill the void she has for human contact and also ends up downloading an OS with whom she bonds more than with her own husband.

catherine - rooney maraCathrine (Rooney Mara) – Catherine is Theodore´s wife who is divorcing him.  At one point in various flashbacks we see a happy couple in bliss and making plans for the future.  However Theodore´s melancholic nature soon starts to take over their relationship and thwarts her feelings for him bringing to them to a dead end road.  Through Catherine we see one of Theodore´s weaknesses: his cowardice not to be brave enough to face his relationship has ended and have the courage to move on as well as his habit of procrastinating important decisions such as avoiding to meet her to sign the divorce papers.

Sholay (1975)

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Direction: Ramesh Sippy  

Screenplay by: Javed Akhtar, Salim Khan

Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini, Amjad Khan, Jaya Bhaduri

Plot:  Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) is a retired police officer and a respected neighbour in Ramghar, a small village in the middle of rural India.  He approaches two small time thugs he has previously arrested; Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jaidev (Amitabh Bachchan) who are currently serving a sentence for a petty crime and manages to get them out on the condition that they assist him in capturing the notorious Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) alive for a reward of 20,000 Rupees.  They accept though initially their intentions are to simply take the money and run.  It is later revealed that Thakur Baldev and Gabbar have a violent and bloody feud which goes back a few years in the past when Thakur arrests Gabbar Singh only to find later that the bandit has escaped from prison and savagely murdered his family, including his young grandson.  Enraged the Thakur rushes to the mountains where Gabbar hides but ends up captured where he has both arms chopped off by his enemy.

After arriving at the village, Veeru and Jai despite being two city rats soon begin to develop close feelings for the villagers and Imagemanage to protect them from Gabbar´s men.  Furthemore the chatty and open Veeru starts to develop romantic feelings for a local chariot driver; Basanti (Hema Malini) a feisty and talkative young girl  and spends countless hours trying to woo her.  The quiet and cynical Jai on the other hand develops feelings for Radha (Jaya Badhuri) the Thakur´s widowed daughter in law and yearns to give her a better life and restore happiness in her world.  After fending off Gabbar´s men from the village, they eventually clash directly with him.  Soon a bloody and violent battle begins between the two heroes and the bandit with tragic losses until finally Gabbar is defeated.

Critique:    Sholay is considered by many as the greatest if not, the most iconic and popular of films in Indian cinema.  Based purely on positi

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ve word of mouth it broke all records at the box office remaining for up to five years at the Minerva Cinema in Mumbai.  It carries many legendary film dialogues which are still referenced today in Indian pop culture and media.  One cannot forget Gabbar´s Singh´s first scene with the “Kitne Aadmi thai” (How many men were there) or “Jo Dhar gaya, so marghaya” (anyone who is scared by this, is as

good as dead).  Sholay brings themes with mastery such as loyalty, friendship, love, vengeance and dignity against oppression.  It is a film, like most of Bollywood hits that encompasses all the possible genres in one whole film (drama, comedy, action, romance, musical, etc), only that it manages to bring a story which touched the hearts of millions of Indians throughout various generations.  It is truly a masterpiece which set the pace for future villains after Amjad Khan´s unmatched performance of the sadistic Gabbar Singh.  Thanks to this film, in family or friend circles any talkative and sociable girl is referred to Imageaffectionately as “Basanti”, Amitabh Bachchan became the inspiration for future antiheroes who desperately fight the odds no matter what the outcome.  The comic characters in the film with Asrani playing the clumsy and silly jailor and Jagdeep playing the cheating businessman Soorma Bhopali are an invaluable asset to the film bringing tears of laughter to this masterwork which stands (and shines) to the test of time.

Main Characters

ImageJaidev (Amitabh Bachchan) – Jaidev (Jai) is one of the two heroes of the film.  He is a small time criminal who has been in and out of jail charged with a string of crimes going from theft to fraud.  He is quiet, reflexive and openly cynical of authority.  Yet he is brave and immensely loyal to his best friend Veeru.  He does not flinch when having to fight his way through a crowd of thugs or do whatever it takes to protect his friend.  Between both of them he is more calculative and subtly manages to have his way whenever the two friends are deciding what decision they should make.  After arriving at the village he is struck by the loneliness of Radha, the thakur´s widowed daughter in law.  He gradually begins to open up and becomes more trusting of people and yearns for a simpler life away from crime where he can provide Radha with a new chance to be happy and restore colour and joy into her world.

ImageVeeru (Dharmendra) – Veeru is the other main hero of the story.  He is Jai´s best friend and despite being as loyal and brave, the two could not be more different.  In Veeru we see a talkative, boisterous, sociable and a generous person.  He is also comically a drunk, a gambler, a womaniser and a manipulator.  Immidiately after arriving at the village he feels an instant attraction for Basanti and spends endless hours trying to conquer her with memorable comic scenes such as trying to impersonate Lord Shiva and imposing her that she marry him or getting drunk and threatening to jump off a water tank if her aunt continues to object to his romantic advancements.

Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) – Thakur Baldev Singh is a quiet and reserved manIt isImage soon revealed that he has a brutal rage for Gabbar Singh and wants him captured alive.  The source of his hate for Gabbar Singh is shown later when we learn of the brutal punishment the bandit inflicted on the Thakur by murdering most of his innocent family and chopping both of his arms.  Prior to this tragic episode, in a flashback scene we see glimpses of a decent and well respected police officer with a gentle and protective aura with his close ones and family.  He is courageous and despite being at the opposite end of the law, recognises bravery in Jai and Veeru which encourages him to hire them to capture his nemesis.

ImageBasanti (Hema Malini)Basanti is a talkative and independent young woman.  She supports herself and her aged aunt by driving passengers with her cart across neighbouring villages.  She is feisty, insanely talkative, warm hearted and incredibly proud of her community.  Despite also starting to develop romantic feelings for Veeru she initially fends off his moves knowing full well he is a crook.  She is also very loyal and close to all the members of her village being very popular and liked by everyone.

Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) – Gabbar Singh is the violent and sadistic leader of a

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gang of bandits who terrorise local and helpless villages.  He hides out in the mountains where he has his own kingdom and rules ruthlessly outside the law.  Whenever anyone dares to challenge his power be it the Thakur or later Jai and Veeru,he reacts furiously and with bloody violence.  His own men are terrified of him and suffer dearly the consequences whenever they disappoint him.

ImageRadha (Jaya Badhuri) – Despite being more in the background for most of the story Radha represents the tragedy of violence and futility of vengeance.   When Gabbar Singh arrives at the Thakur´s house to execute his family she had gone outside on some errands and so is spared.  Yet she becomes a ghost in life and wanders in silence and eternal mourning after that.  Her loneliness soon draws Jai´s attention and she becomes his conscience in a subtle way where he decides not to cheat the Thakur and later when he makes up his mind to give up his life of crime.  Following traditional Hindu customs and more in this era and in a small village, she is not meant to love again, yet she too begins to develop feelings for Jai and subtly lets him know of this.

 

Match Point (2006)

Direction: Woody Allen Image

Screenplay by: Woody Allen.

Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emily Mortimer, Scarlett Johansson, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox.

Plot: Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a tennis pro who never made it to the elite in the ATP.  He decides to quit competing at a professional level and takes a job as a tennis coach at a prestigious academy in London.  There he befriends one of his pupils: Tom Hewett, (Matthew Goode) an easygoing and friendly man from an extremely wealthy family.  They both share an interest in the opera.  Through this hobby Chris meets ImageTom´s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) a naïve young girl who is instantly smitten by him.  The two begin dating and encourages her father Alec (Brian Cox) an extremely successful businessman with investments in various companies to procure him an executive job.  Through them, Chris meets Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson) a struggling American actress with a strong temperament and currently engaged to Tom.  The two of them begin a fatal attraction and seeing each other behind their respective couple´s backs with tragic consequences. 

Critique: Woody Allen has had a strong inclination for showing failed romances with the background of Europe´s main cities (London, Barcelona, Paris or Rome) in the last decade.  TheImagere has been a lot of hit and miss in this time.  Fortunately this is one of the hits.  There are various major themes displayed: failed romances, materialism, facades with a main focus on how important luck plays in life´s success and happiness.  The main characters are extremely well displayed, transparent and approachable.  All this of course, peppered with a bit of good old British Charm and humour.

Main Characters

ImageChris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) – Chris is an ex tennis pro who once he saw did not have the competitive edge or drive to be a full pro decided to become a tennis instructor at a prestigious academy in London.  Being from a working class background he is extremely materialistic, and aims for the short cut to success.  He is an excellent manipulator and befriends Tom and starts dating Chloe knowing that this would open up the doors to the elite of London´s wealthy circles.   He is ultra-selfish and self-centered.  Yet where luck did not favour him in his pure talent (tennis) it does favour him in his destructive ones of double crossing and lying.

scarlett johansson match pointNola Rice (Scarlett Johansson) – Nola is a temperamental, passionate and beautiful young American woman struggling to be a successful actress.  She is sensitive and yearns for a life with excitement and adventure.  She gives hints to having had a sad and dull life in America which she desperately flees from.  In contrast to Chris, she is proof that good luck if elusive is the main factor behind success or in her case, failure.

Chloe (Emily Mortimer) Chloe is a young and naïve woman from an extremely wealthy faemily mortimer match pointmily.  She is open, friendly and completely gullible.  She trusts Chris without thinking twice and tries to push him towards being the ideal boyfriend (later husband) she yearns for.  That is someone working with a successful career in business, with expensive tastes and someone who can make her a mother (something she desperately and annoyingly craves).

mathew goode match pointTom Hewett, (Matthew Goode) – Tom is a wealthy executive who enjoys playing tennis.  He is immediately likeable, sociable, witty and knows how to charm a woman.  This is what leads him to meeting and dating Nola.  He immediately befriends Chris since like his sister he is trusting of people.  He is also brought down by his overbearing mother which ends up his passionate but erratic relationship with Nola.

Alec (Brian Cox) Alec is an affluent business man with a taste for philanthropy.  He is open, trusting and an oldbrian cox mathc point fashioned British gentleman.  Unlike his mother he does not interfere negatively in his children´s lives.  In fact he is positive and supports their lives choices to the point of being over protective and when Chris is careless and underperforming guarantees him that he need not worry since he does not want to bring any grief or worry to his daughter.

 

Django Unchained (2012)

Django Poster by Quentin Tarantno (2012)Direction: Quentin Tarantino   

Screenplay by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Di Caprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L Jackson.

Plot: Set in 1858, two years before the American Civil War, a group of male African slaves is chained to one another and transported across the Texan forest in severely inhumane and degrading conditions.  Amongst them is Django (Jamie Foxx) a slave who has been sold separately from his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  One night the slave merchants are stopped by a dentist: Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who is in reality a mysterious German bounty hunter who kills one of them and injures the other.  Django Unchained Jamie Foxx and Christoph WaltzHe asks Django if he can help him find the Brittle Brothers whom he must next kill.  Django knows them as they were his previous owners and since they treated him and his wife with savage cruelty accepts to help him.  He is unchained and the other slaves are freed by King Schultz who does not like slavery and leaves the slaves to avenge the humiliation they suffered by beating the other Speck brother to death.  Hence begins a very successful partnership between Django and Dr. King.  They hunt down and execute the Brittle Brothers and begin to work on other bounty contracts together.  Dr. King admires Django´s bravery and feeling empathy for his suffering offers to help him find Broomhilda.  After several successful bounty contracts he learns that she works in Calvin Candie´s (Leonardo Di Caprio) plantation known as Candyland.  Candie is notorious for his cruelty and his passion for engaging his slaves in savage Mandingo fights and so Dr. King and Django work up a ruse where Django much to his disgust has to pose as a slave trader and offer him a considerable amount of money for one of his prized fighters in order to get close to him and confirm that Django Unchained Jamie Foxx and Christoph WaltzBroomhilda is indeed in his plantation.  As part of the business negotiations they are invited to his plantation where they see that Broomhilda is alive although shocked at the inhumane conditions she was punished prior to their arrival.  Since Broomhilda speaks German fluently she is invited to go to Dr. King´s room at his request and “entertain” him.  Once she arrives, he tells her the whole story in German so that anyone eavesdropping cannot understand them.  The ruse seems to go very well although Candie´s master butler Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) notices that Django and Broomhilda in fact have a common history.  He alerts Candie who furiously coerces Dr. King and Django to pay the price they offered for the champion fighter for Broomhilda and they can take her (a price much higher than they had planned).  After signing and ensuring that Broomhilda is indeed no longer his property, Dr. King shoots Candie and kills him but is shot himself and dies.  Thus ensues a bloody shootout with Django killing many of Candie´s henchmen.  However Stephen had apprehended Broomhilda and he is forced to surrender.  After been tortured, he is sent to a mine to work to till his death and Broomhilda is locked in a cabin.  Fooling his new slave traders (amongst them a cameo by Quentin Tarantino) he kills them and returns to Candyland to rescue Broomhilda and burn the mansion thus killing Stephen.

Critique: Django is a masterpiece by the controversial and daring director Quentin Tarantino.  It definitely sets him apart from other directors who have gone into the “Western” genre and puts him in a different league.  Django explores and digs around taboo subjects until now, such as portraying graphically the horrors of slavery or the savage cruelty of slave owners in cotton plantations.  It is definitely not a film for all audiences, not even a film for all of Tarantino´s fans.  There are moments when one feels the need to look away but that would be as futile as pretending such a horrific episode in human history did not happen.  Samuel L Jackson and Leonardo Di CaprioIt marks Tarantino as slightly more mature than his beginnings.  Recently he has made some excellent use of the rightful avenger protagonist who has being wronged in the past (The Bride in “Kill Bill or Shosana in “Inglorious Basterds”) and has repeated the formula successfully this time with Django.  A definitive recommendation though as mentioned, not for the faint hearted. His brilliant directing and script would not be complete without the masterful performances by the three protagonists, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo Di Caprio along with the insuperable interpretation by Samuel L Jackson of the repulsive Master Butler Stephen or the sensitive and rebellious interpretation of Kerry Washington.  Not to forget, one must also mention the brilliant soundtrack with memorable tracks by John Legend, Elisa Toffoli, RZA or collaboration between legends Tupac Shakur and James Brown.

Main Characters:

Jamie Foxx Django Unchained in the snowDjango (Jamie Foxx) – Django is a black slave who had to live through a cruel and savage time in American history.  We are never revealed how much of his life he has had to bear slavery but he is no stranger to its cruelty.  The story begins with him travelling by foot chained to other male slaves across a forest in extremely harsh conditions.  He is freed by Dr. King Shultz who has a bounty contract to kill his previous owners and agrees to assist him in doing so.  Gradually we learn that Django is a brave and decent man.  He longs for his estranged wife who was sold separately and wants to rescue her.  We also start observing his intelligent and curious nature.  Django Jamie Foxx having his revengeHe longs for a society where a black man can present himself just as a white man and even copies the (sometimes ludicrous) clothing style of high class white men even though King is surprised and a fellow female slave mocks his attire.  He is also very sensitive and is appalled when he learns he has to pose as a black slave trader or when he has to shoot a criminal in front of his son.  On a lighter side, we also get to see his cocky and vain side when he enjoys showing off with his horse in front of his beloved Broomhilda in a memorable scene. 

Christoph Waltz Django UnchainedDr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) – Dr. King Schultz is a former dentist, now a bounty hunter.  He is charismatic, extremely intelligent, and highly articulate.  He disagrees with slavery and shortly upon freeing Django takes and instant liking to him and befriends him.  He is very empathic and decides upon hearing his story, that he must help Django reunite with his estranged Broomhilda.  We can observe his highly sensitive attitude towards with black slaves when he witnesses the horrific execution of D´Artagnan, (one of Candie´s slaves) or his repulsion towards the end of their negotiations with Candie.  He is also respectful towards Broomhilda and keeps his loyalty towards Django until the very end. 

Leonardo Di Caprio Django UnchainedCalvin Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio) – Calvin is a brutal and yet sometimes charming cotton plantation owner in the South.  He is immensely wealthy through inheritance.  His family has been slave traders for generations and he himself is the owner of a considerable number of slaves.  He is brutal and sadistically cruel towards his slaves whom he treats like animals forcing his male slaves to engage in Mandingo fights till death.  If one of them decides to escape, he is executed publicly as a lesson for the rest.  He openly quotes scientific research (manipulated in those times obviously) where he belittles black people as having a part of their brain that makes them more submissive than other people and that’s why he justifies slavery.  Nevertheless this does not prevent him from accepting Stephen, a black butler as his confidante and even follow his instructions, thus seeing him as at least his equal. 

Kerry Washington as Brroomhilda in Django UnchainedBroomhilda (Kerry Washington) – Broomhilda is the heroine of the story, the estranged wife of Django who endures torture, abuse, humiliation, corporal punishments and maybe even sexual assaults whilst she longs for her hero.  Like her beloved soul mate, in the lighter parts of the story we see a playful, romantic and joyous young woman who likes to joke around and simply be happy.  The fact that she has a German name and speaks the language fluently amazes Dr. King Schultz who decides he has to help his friend and is also a key part in their plan to rescue her. 

Samuel L Jackson Django Unchained 2012Stephen: (Samuel L Jackson) – played amazingly by Samuel L Jackson (one of Tarantino´s life loyalists) Stephen is probably the most repulsive character in a story that already contains the origins of the Ku Klux Klan, rednecks from the south and slave traders.  He is Candy land’s Master Butler and Calvin´s main confidante.  On the outside he is a foul mouthed, sometimes comic, and overbearing butler with a limp.  Yet it is all pure façade (even his limp).  He is a manipulator and his extreme loyalty towards Candie leads him to abuse other black servants or slaves when he sees necessary.  He has no conscience and lacks all empathy towards other black people in this savage time.  Behind the curtains we observe how he moves the threads of the Candy Land plantation even when push comes to shove, how he controls Calvin himself.  When no one sees them, Calvin treats him not as an overbearing servant but as an equal and sometimes even superior intellectually accepting his suggestions when dealing with the Broomhilda ruse. 

The Life of Pi (2012)

The Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi posterDirection: Ang Lee

Screenplay by: David Magge, Based on the novel by Yann Martel.

Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Gerard Depardieu, Rafe Spall.

Plot: Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) is an Indian immigrant from Pondicherry who works in Montreal in Canada as a university lecturer.  He is approached by a local novelist, Yann Martel (Rafe Spall) who is struggling with his writing and is in need for an inspirational story.  Upon meeting, Pi agrees and begins to tell him his amazing life story.  He explains the origin of his peculiar name.  He is named after a famous and beautiful public swimming pool in France “Piscine Molitor”.  For obvious reasons his name becomes a burden for him whilst at school and is known as “Pissing Patel”.  Into his second year he renames himself as “Pi”.  He is brought up in a Hindu family.  His father Santosh (Adil Hussain) is a strict and caring father and runs a local zoo, his mother Gita (Tabu) is a gentle and loving mother.  He has an older brother, Ravi, and a happy childhood.  He has an open and curious mind and begins to wonder and accept other religions such as Christianity and Islam.  His curiosity leads him to one day approaching a caged tiger (named Richard Parker due to a clerical error) and is scolded by his father who warns him of the tiger´s carnivorous and wild nature and is never to be trusted like a pet animal.  PondicherryAt the age of sixteen (Suraj Sharma) and experiencing teenage love with a local girl of his age he is distraught to learn that his father has decided to sell the zoo animals in Canada and move the family there for a better future.  They embark on a Japanese cargo ship to cross the Pacific with all the animals in the deck towards their new life.   However in the midst of their journey they are hit by a heavy storm and the ship is wrecked.  Pi manages to save himself and is hurled onto a lifeboat with an injured zebra.  A mother orangutan and much to his shock, the tiger Richard Parker also climb into the lifeboat.  He later finds out a hyena has also managed to climb in.  Weakened, he is unable to protect the orangutan and the zebra from the hyena who is later attacked by Richard Parker who was hiding inside the boat.  Scared of the tiger, Pi builds a small raft attached to the boat with a rope.  He survives on emergency supplies and rain water, tries to confront the tiger and even cohabit with him occasionally failing obviously due to the animal´s wild nature and growing hunger.  Observing that on the raft he is more vulnerable to shark attacks and soon from the tiger itself, he resolves that he must “master” it and so begins to catch fish in order to feed him.  He eventually succeeds and can spend time on the boat in relative safety.  Life Of Pi sceneAt the highest point of desperation due to weakness and dehydration they being to bond.  Shortly they find a small island with fresh water, vegetables for Pi and meerkats for Richard Parker.  They recoup their strength and hope.  At night, however the animals behave in a strange and frightened way and Richard Parker rushes off to the boat, Pi whilst trying to sleep finds a plant with a human tooth in it and observes how the fresh water at night becomes acidic killing the fish.  He resolves the island is carnivorous and decides to leave the following morning with plenty of supplies for him and the tiger.  They eventually hit the coast of Mexico.  Completely starved and weakened Pi lands on the sand unable to move and observes how the tiger with whom he had survived and bonded leaves into the jungle without even looking back and is heartbroken with his egoistic behavior.  He later finds out he is the sole human survivor of the wreck and is approached by two insensitive and overbearing Japanese insurance agents who want to find out what happened.  They find his story unbelievable and so Pi to ease them off his back recounts a different story.  Coming back to the present day, Yanet notices the parallels between the characters in both stories but prefers to the first version.

Critique: The Life of Pi makes a stupendous use of 3D technology; Bioluminescent Waterbringing life and color  to the screen beautifully from the very first scene.  Ang Lee portrays a story full of sensitivity, joy, tragedy, despair and the indomitable will to survive.  Enhanced by 3D Graphics we see the action through the eyes of a teenage boy with an open and curious mind, his love for adventure and new experiences is best reflected when even when recently shipwrecked and orphaned, he can enjoy the beauty of the ocean in the scene with the glowing fishes.  The parallel personalities of Pi and the tiger are also hinted occasionally when the boy masters the beast, showing in fact that both creatures must have being equally scared of the new situation whilst discovering how to deal with it.

Main Characters

irrfan khanPi Patel (Gautam Belur/Suraj Sharma/ Irrfan Khan) – Pi whose original name is Piscine Molitor (named after a beautiful public swimming pool in France) is a boy who grows up in Pondicherry.  During his first year at school he has to bear with an uncomfortable nickname “Pissing Patel” so as soon as he gets the chance he renames himself as “Pi”.  He enjoys a relatively happy childhood constantly exploring new sources of knowledge.  He has an open and curious mind.  Brought up in a Hindu family he also adopts Christianity and Islam later on in his childhood.  His curiosity leads him once to get too close to a caged tiger and his father berates him for this and warns him that a tiger is a carnivorous and wild beast, not a pet animal one could trust.  This however does not prevent him for seeing similarities in the tiger and his own personality.  As a teenager he takes an interest in music and starts to play the “tabla” and meets a girl for whom he falls in innocent teenage love.  Like Richard Parker, the tiger, Pi is a survivor and a fighter and is the sole survivor of the ship wreck.  His initial fear of the distressing situation is mirrored by the tiger´s.  Both are equally scared of each other at the beginning of their journey and cannot share the boat so Pi builds a supplementary raft where he feels safe from the beast.  He is aware of the growing dangers from approaching sharks and the rising hunger from the tiger Suraj Sharma himself knowing for sure that it’s a matter of time before the feline´s hunger gets the better of him and pounces on him.  His survival instinct enables him to quickly learn how to catch fish and feed them to Richard Parker.  Upon having the power to do so he gradually masters him and ends up sharing the boat in relative safety.  In his lowest hours of weakness and despair he bonds with the tiger and weeps for his family feeling guilty at having taunted the skies “With more Rain” when the storm started lashing out at the ship.  As a grown man, we see him as an intelligent, eloquent and witty lecturer.  He is an open and friendly man who treats his guest, Yann, with courtesy and hospitality whilst telling him life story.

TabuGita Patel (Tabu) – portrayed beautifully by the lovely Tabu, Gita, Pi’s mother is a sensitive and caring mother.  She understands him best of all and usually sides with him more than his father and even his brother.  She is supportive of her husband despite she may not always agree with him.  Later on the story, it is indicated that in the official report that Pi gives to the Japanese insurance agents, she might have survived with Pi and two others on the boat but later pushed off it by the cook (instead of the animals).  Her caring and doting nature being reflected in the mother orangutan that has also lost her child was shown in the official report which the writer chooses not to believe.

Adil Hussain Santosh Patel (Adil Hussain) – Santosh is a zoo keeper and Pi’s father.  He is strict and caring at the same time of his family.  He wants to protect Pi from outside dangers like the zoo´s tiger even though if that involves in teaching him a lesson that can scar him psychologically (making him witness how the tiger kills a goat).  He respects Pi for being open minded and prefers him have a different point of view from him rather than agreeing with him all the time.

Gerard Depardieu

The Cook (Gerad Depadieu) – The family have a brief and nasty encounter with the ship´s cook, an obnoxious and insensitive person who does not understand the needs of a vegetarian family and has a rude attitude with Gita when requested a vegetarian option.  His personality is later mirrored in the hyena´s own selfish and cowardly behavior.

American Beauty (1999)

Direction: Sam Mendes

Written by: Alan Ball

Starring: KeviAmerican Beauty by Sam Mendesn Spacey, Annette Benning, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper, Alison Janney.

Plot: The story revolves around Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a middle aged man who despises his dead end job at a media company and is stuck in a loveless marriage with Carolyn (Annette Benning) an ultra-materialistic real estate agent obsessed with her career and material gains.  His family life is dull, vacant and in his own words “sedated”.  His relationship with his teenage daughter Jane (Thora Birch) is dejected if not as bad as it is with his wife.  He enters a midlife crisis and is unable to come out of it until he meets Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari), an attractive teenager, who is a friend of Jane (much to her chagrin).  The second key person to enter his life is Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) an intelligent and mature boy with a violent and troubled past who moves in with his family to the house next door.  Upon befriending Lester they start smoking marihuana together and become friends.  This starts to wake up a happier and more carefree version of Lester who starts to work out, not caring about his job, smoking weed and listening to rock music.  He also adopts a more carefree and nonchalant attitude at home much to the shock of his puritanical wife.  Upon losing his job he applies for a position at a fast food franchise because he literally wants nothing to do with responsibility and with the severances package he obtains, buys himself the car of his childhood dreams A 1970 Pontiac Firebird and starts behaving like when he was a happy teenager “with his whole life ahead of him”.

Dinner scene in American Beauty

Ricky meanwhile though considered as a freak by Angela, has caught Jane´s attention and these two start dating.  She is attracted by his sensitive inner side and is gradually less impressed by Angela’s pretentious and manipulative attitude.  Soon Lester´s world around starts to collapse, as he sees it, there are hardly any “normal” people around him.

Critique: American Beauty is considered as one of the masterpieces of the end of the 20th Century.  It represents a direct attack into what the “American Dream” has become for a lot of people.  Throughout the story we see how families work harder in mending their front garden than on trying to communicate amongst themselves.  It brings forward how corporate life has become dull and unchallenging, and how appearances matter more than honesty, self-worth and being happy with what one does.  It also touches themes such as the failure of the Western concept of family values, repression, emasculation, materialism, sexuality and the pursuit of happiness.

Main Characters:

Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham in American Beuaty

Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) – Lester is the film´s main character and around whom most of the other characters revolve.  He lives a dull and boring life.  He is stuck in a dead end job at a media company where he doesn´t feel valued and sees how he is being stepped over by a younger and more aggressive executive.  At home his relationship with his wife is cold and sexless bordering frequently on openly hostile.  His relationship with his teenage daughter is hardly any better with her not hiding her disappointment in the boring and distant father he has become.  Through Jane he meets her friend Angela, a flirtatious and attractive teenager and immediately feels aroused by her.  Whenever they are in the same room he clumsily flirts with her much to his daughter´s embarrassment.  He meets Ricky Fitts with whom he bonds instantly having more in common with him than with most grownups.  Thanks to Ricky he obtains marihuana and starts to smoke weed on a daily basis.  He also starts to work out to impress Angela.  He constantly laments where his life went and upon losing his job uses the severances package to buy a sports car and applies for a job at a fast food franchise.  He openly disregards any form of responsibility associated with his role as an adult and a father.  Much to his wife´s shock he starts to behave openly confrontational of her emasculating attitude towards him.  As the story evolves we see the irony of how the middle aged man who sheds all responsibility and starts to act as a teenager is probably the most “normal” person in the whole story.

Carolyn Hayes (Annette Benning) – Carolyn is Lester’s overbearing wife.  She works as a real estate agent and openly considers herself Annette Benning in American Beautymore successful and therefore more worthy than her husband.  Outwardly we see a confident, materialistic and career driven mother.  However deep inside she is unhappy, frustrated and incredibly insecure.  Her self-esteem is only reinforced with professional rewards (like when she sells a house).  When failing to do so, she punishes herself to the extent of slapping her own face and crying when no one is watching.  Her relationship with Lester is as good as dead.  They no longer enjoy being together to the extent that she finds his few sexual advances repulsive.  She no longer respects him and has no remorse in publicly emasculating him in front of their daughter.  As a mother she fails to communicate with her daughter on the simplest of levels due to her hidden traumas.  Her self-esteem is so low that she is easily impressed with a rival estate agent; a shallow man obsessed with projecting an image of success rather than being honest or hardworking and the two begin an extramarital affair behind Lester´s back.

Jane Hayes (Thora Birch) – Jane is a Lester´s daughter, a teenager with her own personality and insecurities and who occasionally sees aghast how her parents bicker over minor problems and seem to forget to give her any kind of attention.  Thora Birch in American BeautyShe appears as a sensitive young girl who longs for outside approval, be it her parents, her friend Angela or society in general.  Due to her insecurities she doesn’t consider herself attractive enough and is considering going through breast augmentation surgery.  Angela´s egocentric attitude and her father behaving like a teenage buffoon when she is around the house make her feel unappreciated and misplaced.  Meeting Ricky changes her gradually her gloomy mood; he is the first person who actually pays her attention for who she is and she feels intrigued by the mysterious new boy in school with the rumored dark past.  She feels attracted towards him because of his inner sensitive side and begins to conspire to run away with him and start a life together.

american beauty mena suvariAngela Hayes (Mena Suvari) – Angela first appears as Jane´s close friend.  At first sight she seems to represent the ideal American girl, good looking, confident and friendly when speaking to her friend´s parents, popular, a cheerleader.  She however represents the shocking contradiction that this prefabricated image of the ideal girl is far from real happiness.  Her good looks weigh on her and she brags about older men she has had sex with when she does photo shoots as an amateur model.  She appears shallow when judging others and dismisses anyone like Ricky who dares to be different.  Even though Jane initially considers her a friend she uses her to boost her ego.  Upon realizing that Lester has a crush on her she openly flirts back with him without caring for Jane´s feelings.

Wes Bentley American BeautyRicky Fitts (Wes Bentley) – Ricky is a teenage boy who moves into the house next to Lester´s.  A curious, intelligent and sensitive boy he enjoys recording home videos with his video camera.  He is surprisingly a resourceful person considering his age. Unbeknownst to his father he is a drug dealer and has numerous clients who help him out with the odd favor.  He has thousands of dollars saved up and deals with highly expensive marihuana of the best quality which impresses Lester.  His maturity and self-confidence catch Lester´s attention who befriends him immediately.  His family life is incredibly miserable.  His father is an ex-marine with an obsessive attitude controlling every movement his son makes and who has occasionally hit him violently.  He himself has a dark violent past where he was sent to a “hospital” when he beat another boy to a pulp two years before.  Upon recording his surroundings with his video camera one day he stumbles with Jane whom he finds interesting and feels attracted towards her.  He also likes Lester and gets along with him.

Chris Cooper American BeautyFrank Fitts (Chris Cooper) –Frank is Ricky’s violent and obsessive father.  He is a retired marine who finds it hard to adjust to his neighborhood.  He has close ties with a Nazi society and openly displays his disapproval of homosexuality by criticizing a gay couple who live nearby.  He wants to rule his household with an iron fist and does not accept anyone contradicting him.  His over abrasive behavior and obsession with controlling everything are in fact a façade to hide some unbearable secret that has being eating him up inside most of his life.

American Beauty alison janneyBarbara Fitts (Alison Janney) – Barbara is Ricky’s introverted mother.  Most of the time she hardly utters a word, yet through her silence the viewer best understands all the pain and misery that dominate his family life.  She appears extremely absent minded most of the time and even though it is never explained it would be no surprise if she has suffered an excessive amount of electro shock therapies in the past (something very common in the 60’s with women who expressed their unhappiness in their married life).  We know that Ricky and her share a silent and yet powerful bond where they support each other in their pain.