Thursday, February 15, 2007


Last weekend I decided to OD on movies after a really stressful week. It was a lot of fun, although in retrospect it was probably a bit too much…

My movie-licious weekend didn’t actually start on Saturday, because it was a very busy day. I had to spend my morning at the office doing some urgent work, which I (thankfully) managed to finish by noon. Then I was off to Surulere for a colleague’s wedding, then off to Victoria Island in the evening for a dinner organized by a solicitors’ association. It was all fun, I have to say – I had a good time with my colleagues at the wedding, and it was fun watching the Island upper-crust intermingle at the dinner – they all did the French ‘kiss kiss’ thing – very posh.

Somewhere amidst all that, I stopped by the library and checked out two DVDs – ‘Mystic River’ and ‘United 93’. At the time I thought I was checking them out because I’ve wanted to watch them for the longest time. Now I wonder: Was I subconsciously trying to get myself depressed?

I kicked off my weekend at the movies with ‘Mystic River’. It’s a really good film with great performances by Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and the rest of the ensemble cast; and it was very nicely shot – but it’s a tragedy. I guess I knew that, but wasn’t expected it to be quite so… tragic. Anyway, I really liked it even if it did put me in a bit of a funk.

I am getting really interested in Clint Eastwood’s work. I have to say I’m a late convert – I didn’t really get into his westerns until a couple of years ago, but I think they’re great. My most recent was one of his earlier westerns, ‘Two Mules for Sister Sara’, which features Clint and a very naughty (and good) performance by Shirley MacLaine. And of course his more recent award-winning directing work is great too, although he seems to have a penchant for sad endings (‘Million Dollar Baby’, ‘Mystic River’). He also seems to have a knack for getting the right actors for his key roles, and for getting great performances out of them. And I really like the ‘tone’ of his films – it’s difficult to put into words, but they really throw the focus on the characters and create the perfect ‘stage’ for them – it feels like an old-fashioned but really well-executed style of film-making. So I’m a semi-Clint-fan – still haven’t seen ‘Unforgiven’, though.

About ‘Mystic River’, this is probably a question for the novelist (haven’t read the book), why did the women have to be so evil? I mean, the men were no angels either (especially Sean Penn’s character), but at least you could empathise. The women were a different story. Well, I can empathise a little with Marcia Gay Harden’s character – obviously the fear she felt was not the work of a day but had been building up over years of living with her troubled husband. But there is no way she did not know that by telling Sean Penn’s character what she did, she was effectively signing her husband’s death warrant. I mean, there’s just no way! Why didn’t she just tell the cops? As for Laura Linney’s character, she was just plain evil. I kinda think the Oscar voters like the stereotypical ‘evil woman’ though – Laura Linney’s role in ‘Mystic River’ reminds me of Sissy Spacek’s frightening turn in ‘In the Bedroom’, another Oscar winner. You find out right at the end of the film (although you’ve been suspecting it for a while), that the nice capable mother is actually just evil. I don’t like it.

My weekend at the movies continued with an afternoon trip to The Palms (my first ‘real’ trip there – it was interesting, I saw everyone and their brother there– people I haven’t seen in YONKS!) At the Nu Metro Cinema, I saw ‘Salaam-e-Ishq’. As usual, it was in a room full of desis – the guy checking my ticket was like ‘Hmm…’ Anyway, I really enjoyed the film. It’s a lot of fun. Nice music, decent acting by a nice cast, lots of colour, some sadness, some laughs, a lot of cuteness… it was just fun. Not genius, not amazing, but then it’s not trying to be. It is simply what it is – an entertaining fun movie. There’s a definite corniness to it, but I really don’t care about that. I guess I’m just kinda easy like that. I agree with almost everything Maja said about it in her review Maja said about it in her recent review. It’s a long movie, but it was an afternoon well-spent – it actually didn’t feel as long to me as it was. It put me in a great mood.

And then I had to spoil my great mood by getting home and rounding off my weekend at the movies with ‘United 93’. Although, to be fair, this is not a ‘depressing’ movie in the same way ‘Mystic River’ is. It’s not another pointless tragedy (although maybe the tragedy in ‘Mystic River’ wasn’t exactly pointless). This is probably because it was shot without the schmaltz and sentimentalism that most film-makers would have injected into it. What happened to the passengers on the plane was undoubtedly a tragedy, but it was also a triumph, it was true heroism on the passengers’ part, and this really comes through in the extraordinary last minutes of the film. It made me cry, sure, but I also felt very uplifted and almost in awe of just how strong the human spirit is.

Another thing I loved about Paul Greenglass’s script and directing is that this film not only looks back, but looks forward – in that it tries to present information and to ask questions, with an aim to saying ‘this awful thing happened – and so many awful things have happened as a result – but what can we learn from this to ensure that it doesn’t happen again?’. The inadequacies and the obstacles that the officials who had to grapple with this crisis were faced with are highlighted, not in a way that just tries to lay blame (a la Michael Moore – although Fahrenheit 9/11 is a brilliant film in many ways, even he does not deny that it’s not the most balanced film ever made), but in a way that goes deeper to ask ‘what can we understand from this and how can we prevent a re-occurence?’

The weekend was pretty busy, but my Monday was even more so. I managed to sneak out of the office at 8.35, and then rushed off to see the 8.40 show of ‘Rocky Balboa’ at the Silverbird Cinema. Needless to say, I was late, so I missed the beginning of the movie (hate when that happens). Now I think I’ve said before that I’m a hardcore fan of the Rocky movies. I have the 5-DVD box set and have solo ‘Rocky’ festivals from time to time – always great fun. I just love them sooo much. I can’t really express why.

It’s not just because the fight scenes are so realistically shot that they make you go ‘ouch’ (I’m not a boxing fan at all – although I do love Muhammad Ali). It’s not just because the films were trend-setters at the time they were released. It’s not just the fantastic, amazing music – although I do love that. It’s often mocked as schmaltzy, but I just love, love, love the music to bits and listen to it a lot. It’s not just the great characters (I love them all, from Rocky to Adrian to Paulie to Apollo to Mickey). It’s not just the good scripts and beautifully-shot scenes (especially in the first movie). I love the themes in the films, from the obvious ones (perseverance, hard work, patience, second chances, deliverance, overcoming fear, courage) to the less obvious ones (character, kindness, beauty, HOTNESSS – that last one’s kinda obvious, actually). And the character of Rocky just strikes a deep chord within me. I guess it’s a combo of two things – I can relate to him so much, and I admire him so much.

What do I find to relate to in a heavyweight boxer? A lot. Not the sharpest pencil in the box but extraordinarily perceptive about people? Check (well at least I think I am). Constantly underestimated – always the underdog? Check. Not very good with (spoken) words? Check. Mocked and made to feel out of place? Check. A dreamer? Check. Perceived as a loner but actually a people person? Check. Regarded as ‘weird’? Check – see my profile at the bottom of the page. Constantly trying to achieve the impossible? Check. A fighter to the finish? Check. Quietly stubborn? Check (just ask my mother). Quiet and shy but very intense? Check. Not afraid of anyone as much as he is of overcoming himself and his demons? Check. Usually a slow starter but a good finisher? In some ways, check. Indulgent of people he loves? Check. Not one of the ‘cool kids’? Check. Loyal and a good person to have in your corner? Check. Very very human, prone to pride, selfishness and other failings? Check, check, check.

What do I admire about him? First, he has (well, had) a partner who totally ‘gets’ him (so rare) and supports him (I love Adrian). That’s not easy to find – and I love the way they found each other (said that before in my couples post). Second of all, he has a wonderful heart. I don’t think I have that, but I love it. I love people with big, fat, open-wide hearts and I wish I had that – maybe someday. Third of all, he is tres tres tres hottt. Now, you will not appreciate this from watching him in ‘Rocky Balboa’. Sly has gone and gotten all plasticked, which is a shame – his eyebrows are all ‘up there’ now… you’d think that, just from looking at his mother (who he’s very close to), he’d appreciate the horrors of what plastic surgery can do to a face. Evidently not – but then, I guess we are in a way destined to repeat our parents’ mistakes. Anyway, he’s not that hot in ‘Rocky Balboa’ – although he IS very fit for a man of his age.

But… he is so hot in all the other Rocky films - with the exception of ‘Rocky V’ (for which I have a special hatred – though not with good reason). I love him – whether he’s in his sweats training, in his shorts boxing, in his everyday clothes (I like THAT hat he wore in the first movie and wears again in ‘Rocky Balboa’). I’m usually not a muscle nut, but my oh my, I love his. He is just so fit… and those deep dark Italian eyes… hold me while I swoon! In ‘Rocky’, he’s a little rough around the edges, a little clumsy, but still really hot. In ‘Rocky II’, he’s more refined, but he still has that edge – so hot. In ‘Rocky III’, he’s trimmer, more self-conscious and so much more fabulous. He has a wardrobe to die for (for that time at least – my fave article were these killer dark glasses he wears at Mickey’s funeral). In ‘Rocky IV’, still very fabulous and looking sooo good in the ring.

In ‘Rocky V’ –well, don’t let me even get started on that one. I guess this makes me shallow, but I hate that movie – not because it’s not a good film with a great script and a whole lot of life lessons tucked into it – but just because Rocky is sooo not hot. He and Adrian have lost all their wealth and are back to living in a hovel, he looks just – deflated – like he’s tired of life, he wears these awful awful garish sweaters, his son is an ungrateful brat, and… it’s all not good. Fine, he does get his triumph at the end, but it’s by beating up this obnoxious stupid kid in the street, with no audience to speak of and a total lack of fabulousness – so excuse me if I’m not exactly hip-hop-hurraying over that. So not hot. Disillusionment with a big ol’ ‘D’.

Which is (partly) why I loved ‘Rocky Balboa’. Yes, his eyebrows may be ‘up there’ in a permanently surprised look, but Rocky is hot again. He’s got that fire in him again. He tackles huge odds – and he proves why he’s the champ. Even his loser son has to recognise that his dad is the man (I love that Rocky actually gives him a good talking to for once!). I loved it. I was so sad to see Adrian gone (although I guess it made sense – he loses her and has to re-discover himself), but other than that, this movie was the perfect end to the ‘Rocky’ movies (he comes full circle – he gets a dog again, he goes back to where it started, he meets that girl from the past – perfect symmetry). I’m so glad they didn’t end it with ‘Rocky V’ – although I can’t quite erase it from my memory, I’m glad Sly ended the series with style. Nobody really thought he could do it – they predicted the theatres would all be empty. But they underestimated the tenacity of this character – always the underdog – and always a tiger.

What IS it with me and extra-long posts these days?


Maja said...

Whoa, major movie marathon! I'm afraid I've only seen Salaam-e-Ishq out of all these you've watched, so I can't really comment on anything else. Except maybe to say that I never ever intend to watch United 93 cos even just the trailer depresses the hell out of me.

I've been meaning to tell you another thing about SEI though, you know the whole Gia ka piya/husband deah subtitles thing? I was thinking (I don't know why it got stuck in my head like this, it's not like it matters in any way ...) and I've decided that they probably just wanted to make it rhyme in English as well. Gia-piya in Hindi and Gia-deah in English.

Daddy's Girl said...

Thanks Maja - I think you're right - that must be it. They wanted it to rhyme with 'Gia'. United 93 is very sad and will probably make you cry, but it's also inspiring (at least I thought so)... so it's not so bad.