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Investigation into the death of Neil Darrell's girlfriend/fiancé
What starts out as a possible murder mystery ends up being something else. A note with the word "stalemate" written on it may offer clues as to what happened. As the mystery resolves the truth leaves Neil sad and wondering as to whether he could have made a difference in Lisa's life. The mystery is not as much about how Lisa died but why. Neil examines his role in her death and realizes that here was a woman he wanted to marry and thought that he knew very well - and yet, it appears that he didn't know her at all. Hence the title of the episode. I was much younger and probably more impressionable when I saw this show but its haunting quality has kept it fresh in my memory after 33 years!
Yume (Dreams): Why Kurosawa is considered a master director and story teller
A visual essay which spans the arc (alluded to by the rainbow symbolism?) of childhood's innocence and fears to adult cynicism and desperation, Yume nevertheless ends on a note of hope and optimism. Along the way, we are introduced to the cultural, artistic and technological influences of contemporary life. While it is difficult to choose any particular episode in this collection as a favourite, I would have to pick "Sunshine through the Rain" and "The Tunnel" as the 2 dreams that I consider to Tobe the most memorable - both in terms of content as well as intent. I also feel that these two dreams hold the central theme of the film together.
In "Sunshine through the Rain" a young boy realizes that actions have consequences.The boy gives in to temptation by disobeying his mother. In the aftermath of this indiscretion, he is given an option - beg for forgiveness to avoid death. "The Tunnel" is an excellent study in guilt - the consequence of a man's actions. While the boy in "Sunshine" is given an opportunity to make amends for his actions, no such option is available, nor will ever be, for the survivor in "The Tunnel". He has to live, forever,with guilt knowing that he was responsible for the death of his platoon. His rationalization and justification of his actions may have been sufficient for the dead men but his own guilt - symbolized by the tank-dog - knows that he knew that he was sending the men to their death and that he will never be able to convince himself the way he was able to convince his men. He would never be able to undo the damage he had done.
In essence, the thread that runs though the film is one of actions and consequences. "Windmill Village" ends the essay on an upbeat note that it is possible to aspire to a better life in spite of ourselves. "The Blizzard" reminds us to not give in or give up when all the odds are stacked against us. We can be strong and aspire to a better life if we want to.
Suspect Zero (2004)
Remote viewers and Psychics
An interesting premise with good potential undermined by a shaky script- rescued by strong performances by Eckhart and Kingsley. Just wondering... So why is it OK to ridicule psychics but accept remote viewers? How are visions different from viewings?
The director's commentary on RV was laughable. (DVD)Ruined the movie for me. Disagreed with the director on choice of ending. Preferred alternate ending. (DVD). I had hoped that the story was going to be a combination of Fight Club and Seven. Sorely disappointed.
Finally - who was suspect zero? Did the spiral at the end (O'Ryan) mean something? Wish that the director had spent more time with the movie instead of "demonstrating" remote viewing.
Mission to Mars (2000)
We are afraid - very afraid and, of course, in space no one can hear you scream for mercy
I am a science fiction fan - and there have been very few movies or books in this genre that I am intensely disappointed with MTM to the extent that I have to speak up on the subject. Mission to Mars, or in Gary Sinise's character's case, Mission to Mrs., made me ache desperately trying to find one redeeming factor in the cluttered arena of bad cliched dialogue, bad (over) acting, incredibly cheesy special effects ineffectively disguised by odd camera angles, no real plot line and absolutely no character development making it impossible to care about anyone or anything. If this is what inter-planetary seeding projects by super-intelligent alien life forms can produce after all this evolutionary time and, at such great expen$$$e, I'm afraid those aliens will be back to smite us all very soon and write us off as a failed project.
Visually haunting film
This is an extremely ambitious project that tries to tackle very complex and profound philosophical and spiritual subjects. The film fails to impress one as a comprehensive account of the Dalai Lama's life (and I don't think it was meant to be one, although various reviewers have commented on how the movie "fails to deliver the goods"). Kundun, in my opinion, needs to be viewed as a cinematic (audio-visual) exploration of the Tibetan spirituality and the cycles of existence - birth, death, reincarnation - a continuity being preserved physically and spiritually while rejuvenating mind, body and spirit generation after generation, or if you will, cycle after cycle. Consider too, the title Kundun, by which name the Dalai Lama is called. The word literally means "a presence". In an ephemeral world, is this a reference to the one constant cosmic presence or guardian spirit that presides over Tibet, inhabiting a succession of Dalai Lamas even when the physical presence is itself in exile far away from Tibet?
To approach Kundan as a docudrama or biography of the 14th Dalai Lama would be to deprive oneself of the appreciation of the visual metaphors illustrating the paradoxical aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, or for that matter many Eastern spiritual concepts. Scattered images of the Tibetan sand painting mandalas occur in the movie at critical points in the narrative. These ritual paintings are made with great care and reverance and routinely "swept up" just a few hours after they are created. The coloured sand is collected and dropped into a river or stream where the spiritual elements inherent in the mandala are symbolically returned to the earth to rejuvenate it. This process is a metaphor for life itself : Nothing, however precious or beautiful, is permanent - yet even after it has been "destroyed" in one form, it retains the capacity to rejuvenate and be reincarnated in another. The editing in the scene where the colours in the dismantled mandala reflect the colours of the robes of the lamas in the stark landscape of the plateau with the sacred mountains in the background as the sand is dropped in the stream is one of the the most poignant sections of the film. The imagery not only emphasizes spiritual concepts but also serves as a premonition of events yet to transpire. Even as the Dalai Lama grapples with the spectre of Chinese control of Tibet, his own safety, the loss of Tibetan culture and religion, his duty to his people, and the possibility of living in exile - the vivid fleeting interspersed images of the mandalas remind us that nothing is permanent - only that there is hope of rejuvenation and rebirth. Similarly, the scenes of the funeral rites involving the vultures is yet another way the theme of life and death is explored. (The symbolic and spiritual aspects of the mandala paintings are beyond the scope of this review but interested readers can find information on this subject at various web sites or libraries).
This is a multi-layered and multi-dimensional presentation of a complex subject. The experience of viewing this film will no doubt be enriched by familiarizing oneself with background information on the various facets of Tibet - its culture, its history and politics, spiritualism and Buddhism, and a fundamental appreciation of Eastern concepts dealing with the non-permanence and cyclical nature of life and death.
Kudos also to the cinematographers for creating the illusion that this film was set in Tibet when, in fact, (if the filming locations listed are to be accepted as accurate,) the film was shot in Canada, USA and the farthest East the film makers went was Morocco!
As additional background, Arthur C. Clarke's short story about counting the names of God will also shed some light on interpretation of Tibetan beliefs. This movie is recommended to all those who have the patience to look beyond the obvious and attempt to comprehend the obscure.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
:) Remake of Mr. K. Balachander's "Naan Avanillai" :)
In 1974, Tamil Nadu's famed movie director K.Balachander offered Tamil film enthusiasts yet another inspired creation - "Naan Avanillai" ("I am not he") starring Gemini Ganesan in the title role. It was one of the most entertaining, progressive and thought provoking movies of that time - especially in an era where most Indian films still dealt with formula musicals with romantic themes or stories dealing with identical twins separated at birth - (one grows up to be a police officer and the other a dacoit pursued by the unwitting twin, the police officer, the movies usually culminating in tne "revelation" by the widowed mother who identifies her long lost son by the melanotic mole on his back and brings about a family reunion of sorts...and so on and so forth). Mr. K. Balachander generally avoided such stereotypic tripe and made movies that stood out from the rest of the crop. Naan Avanillai was one of those. Enough said. The Tamil movie may be available on VHS. For those interested it would be worthwhile checking it out.
Naan Avanillai (1974)
:) Remade in 2002 as "Catch me if you Can" :)
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Excellent K. Balachander offering - gripping, thought-provoking and ahead of its time, I sincerely hope the remake "Catch Me If You Can (2002)" lives up to the original! Gemini Ganesan plays the charming yet ruthless inpersonator who manages to keep up the charade and the chase until the very end. Look for Kamalahaasan in a minor role before he became the matinee idol of the 80s. All supporting cast do an admirable job (not surprising, since K. Balachander was at the helm) and the pace of the movie keeps one interested until the last scene. May be a good idea to rent this one and compare it with CMIYC.
Heat and Dust (1983)
East, West and Everything In Between : A BONAFIDE CLASSIC --
Based on Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's Booker Prize winning novel of the same name, this film is not so much as being about India but rather using the country as an effective setting to tell a story spanning approximately 3 generations. Two story lines - one set in the past and one in the present - are juxtaposed and connected by the narrative of a young British woman who seeks to uncover the truth about an ancestor who once caused quite a scandal by having an affair with a local Nawab. The story lines examine the impact of Western and Indian cultures as lifestyles, social mores, and centuries of history clash and collide. A tapestry of India is woven, as seen through the eyes of the narrator, a foreigner, who sincerely attempts to grasp and interpret her observations. The story and the screenplay for this movie speak volumes about Ms. Jhabvala's extraordinary literary and cinematic talents as a social and historical commentator, storyteller, and screenwriter.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Effective but ultimately another exploitative piece from Spielberg
Seems like the Spielberg who gave us Sugarland Express, Duel, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. has departed our company and has been replaced by a clone who is intent on exploiting human suffering in the name of art and the Oscar. Schindler's List was perhaps the worst example of this trend... followed closely by Saving Private Ryan. Both films were undoubtedly critical and commercial successes. But somewhere, something called a soul may be MIA amidst all the hoopla. Personally, I'd rather watch A Bridge Too Far (again), The Longest Day (again), Apocalypse Now (again), Full Metal Jacket (again), The Deer Hunter (again), and Paths of Glory (again) if I have to remember how horrible war is.
A much much better treatment than the original theatrical release
I watched the theatrical release after it was recommended quite highly - and frankly didn't know what the fuss was all about. I had not read the original novel by Stephen King and was told that the movie would appeal to me more if only I took the time to read the book. Many years later, I have still not read the book (sorry!) but watched the 2002 version of the story .... and was pleasantly surprised. The characters were better drawn out and notably, the character of Carrie was less freak and more troubled teen. The mother's character was also better portrayed. All in all, this production just goes to show that not all remakes are a waste of time.....or effort. I would recommend this one.
Hard Times (1977)
Admirable adaptation of a lesser-known Dickens creation
Unlike Charles Dickens's better known works like David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist which mainly deal with social ills such as poverty and / or the hardships faced by orphans or children displaced from their parents, Hard Times deals with the effects of upper middle class affluence, force-fed "Facts" based education and authoritarian - almost dictatorial- parenting on the development of children. Mr. Gradgrind's misplaced but well meaning and relentless "education" of his children ultimately yield tragic consequences. Repeated readings of this book have convinced me that this is Dickens's indictment of the loss of human values and the growing emphasis on material interests and accumulation of scientific knowledge (the "Facts" that Mr. Gradgrind places so much emphasis on) which were ushered in by the Industrial Revolution. Gone is the bloom, the blush and the romance of 'The Arts' as the cold, grey, grimy new self-conscious affluence is ushered in. This aspect of the book is extremely well captured by the screenplay and cinematography. Great moving performances by everyone involved in this production - especially from Edward Fox (a long time favourite actor of mine) who plays the slick, opportunistic Mr. Harthouse, a symbol of the times. Rosalie Crutchley turns in another stellar performance. It is a shame that neither the book nor this production have received the attention so richly deserved.
Next to No Time (1958)
Please " keep on keeping on" making movies like this one
Based on a story by the prolific story teller Paul Gallico (Poseidon Adventure, Mrs. 'arris series, Thomasina, and Lili, to name a few), Next To No Time is an entertaining, enchanting, and good natured fantasy / drama about a shy, self-effacing man David Webb (Kenneth More) who has to clinch a high profile deal while on a West bound voyage on an ocean liner before the ship reaches New York. Aboard the vessel with his prospective clients, although he is bright and personable he lacks the self confidence to approach them with his proposal. His only source of support and encouragement is a photograph of his adoring fiancee with the inscription "keep on keeping on" - a testament to her unflinching faith in his ability to accomplish the task and her unwavering encouragement that he can count on. One night, sitting at the bar, David Webb notices that the clocks on the West bound ship are stopped for one hour each night to compensate for passage through the time zones. A steward jokes about how time stands still for an hour each night when nothing that one does during that time really "happens" or "registers". Webb realizes that this "timeless zone" - Next To No Time - may be the perfect time and quite possibly, his only chance, to pitch his proposal - for, if he fails, it wouldn't really be "happening". From then on, Webb is a changed man - at least for one hour every day - when he is most confident and persuasive in approaching his clients with the proposal. In a Cinderella-like way, he must accomplish what he must within the confines of the "enchanted hours" before it is too late. Does his plan work? If it does, is it magic? Or did he have it in him all along? And why don't they make simple movies like this one anymore?
Bama Vijayam (1967)
Highly recommended: Comedy Gem from K. Balachander
One of South India's all time great film directors presents one of my all time favourite Tamil movies - Bama Vijayam. The theme is one of universal appeal- the effects of trying to keep up with the Joneses. The story revolves around an urban South Indian joint family composed of brothers, their wives and children and parent/s. It is the ideal household with every one getting along well with each other and living a simple but content life. All this turns topsy turvy when an affluent and glamorous movie actress moves in next door. The family tries to do everything possible, often going to ridiculous limits, to impress their new neighbour when she plans to pay them a neighbourly visit. Every activity seems to revolve around this much awaited visit and when the day arrives, the family is surprised by Bama's reaction. This is a movie that has at least a couple of great songs - the more famous one being Varavu Ettana Selavu Patthana- about the effects of over spending. The other hit song is Aani Muthu Vaangi Vandhen.
Kadalikka Neramillai (1964)
Extremely entertaining escapist fare
I saw this film many many eons ago and remember seeing it many many times for the song and dance elements which combined comedy and romance. In addition, the cinematography had something very compelling about it- especially in the last scenes when the old man reveals his identity to the woman played by Kanchana. Nagesh and Baliah steal the show with their comedy dialogue timing and delivery. If not for anything else, their work alone in this movie (especially where Nagesh is describing a scene from a scary movie he is planning to produce) is worth the price of admission / cost of renting the video where available.
Oru Nadigai Natakam Pakiral (1978)
Mr.Jayakaanthan is probably one of the most important novelists and essayists writing in Tamil. His work is compelling, often unorthodox and controversial but always thought-provoking. The characters in his stories often challenge social mores and cultural norms out of sheer necessity or for personal reasons. On the surface, Oru Nadigai Natakam Pakiral deals with the issue of matrimony and whether it is a necessary rite before two people can happily live together as a couple. Given the conservative cultural, social and moral standards of South India, this is a bold and controversial issue even by today's relatively progressive standards. It examines the issue not only from society's viewpoint but also from the characters' perspective and how they must adjust to this apparently unconventional arrangement. The irony of the situation is revealed and explored when one of the characters falls ill - the issue then takes on a legal angle as well. This is a literary as well as a cinematic classic brought to life admirably by Lakshmi, Srikanth, Naagesh and YGP - all of whom give strong restrained and convincing portrayals of the characters. Kudos to the director as well. Ultimately though, the success belongs to Mr. Jayakaanthan for providing us with well crafted socially relevant literary art. Tamil literature, cinema, culture and society seriously needs more people like Mr. Jayakaanthan to broaden the horizons.
Thaneer Thaneer (1981)
Cinematic Gem from South India
In my opinion, ThanNeer ThanNeer easily makes its way into the list of best films ever made. In fact, after all these years since its original release, this film still ranks among the top 5 Tamil movies I've ever seen (and, I've seen a LOT of Tamil films). Mr. K. Balachander is a director of formidable talent and has always had a reputation for making films that are thought provoking and entertaining at the same time. His works are generally well received at the box-office and are also critically acclaimed. ThanNeer ThanNeer is a poignant human interest story and a biting political satire that succeeds at several levels - technical, artistic and emotional. It is a story that has universal appeal and yet works exceedingly well at the local level. I don't know how the translations / sub-titles hold up since one of Mr. Balachander's fortes is the clever use of Tamil language puns and nuances to heighten the impact of the dialogue. I highly recommend this movie for any one interested in what Indian cinema has to offer outside of the standard issue song-dance-and-slums-of-Calcutta fare.
A Morality Play for An Amoral Age
This movie grows in relevance with each passing year especially in light of the never-ending debate on the effects of sex and violence on TV. The metaphors and symbolism in this movie are very clever although, sadly, not very subtle. This flaw not withstanding, this film makes a very strong statement as to how addictive TV can be to the point where the lines between reality and make believe are blurred irrevocably. Dr. O'Blivion is aptly named for the mental state of those who indulge in his offerings. Similarly, Dr. Convex, changes the way you look at things. At what point does entertainment become destructive? Then again, what is entertainment? How much control do we have in exercising control over something that is designed to control us and our minds? This is a disturbing but thought provoking essay on who we are, what we do, what we like, and who decides these things for us.
Don't suspect a friend,report him.....
**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS** One of the finest satires of our time brought to fruition by one of the greatest cinematic geniuses of our time, Gilliam's BRAZIL mocks the inefficiency, inadequacy and ultimate injustice of the world that humans have made for themselves. Paranoia and suspicion have become the passport to survival. The person who questions this state of affairs and attempts to change the system for the better becomes an enemy of the state. In fact, this person is his own worst nightmare as symbolized by the revelation of the Samurai's identity. What hope does a sane and caring human have for surviving in this world? Hence Sam's repeated (and futile) attempts to break free and soar far above this reality - if only in his imagination. In his ethereal make believe world he can transcend the grotesque reality of his dingy life and live happily ever after with the woman of his dreams, literally. And perhaps, if one views the situation in the same grotesque, hopeless way Sam does, one could very well agree that his ultimate madness / lobotomy was the only way he could attain the life that he so desperately sought..... " I don't dream any more .....". A very pessimistic prospect indeed but that's the way it goes. And, would we find this film so depressing if we didn't identify with Sam's plight, even a little bit? I wonder ......would Mr. Gilliam agree with my interpretation of his opus? Signed, Tuttle. No. Wait, I meant Buttle.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
A profound and personal view of the effects of war and survival
**May contain spoilers** I first saw this movie more than twenty years ago, and wasn't terribly impressed. I have seen this movie many more times over the years and my impressions of this film are quite different now - having evolved with each viewing. It has to be seen from Michael's perspective. His attitude and reaction to life, death and survival (physical and emotional) form the crux of this movie. Perhaps he sees himself reflected in the eyes of the deer before it is slain - perhaps he sees Nicky reflected in those eyes too. The wanton killing associated with the war symbolized by the brutally graphic Russian Roulette scenes underscore the fact that war makes humans numb - every one is a pawn in another's scheme. The Pennsylvania family is symbolic of any country that may be at war and the family symbolizes its citizens. The story forces us to view the effects of war in a personal way - not as something that happens to faceless, nameless strangers far away but as something that could happen to us and the ones we care about and its impact on our day to day lives.
$$$$$$igns : But neither unbreakable nor sixth (sus)sense(ful).
MAY CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS: A big problem with this film, as I see it, is that we have come to expect M. N. Shyamalan to continue to deliver projects as superbly crafted as The Sixth Sense. But with success, especially in Hollywood, comes the commercial demands to capitalize on such phenomena by expecting subsequent projects to be conceived of and completed under increasingly tighter deadlines. This often results in watered down versions of the writer or director's potential vision. All SIGNS suggest that this may be the case in this latest offering from Shyamalan. This tale of reaffirmation of faith could have been improved tremendously if attention had been paid to some distracting plot devices such as the aliens' aversion to water. Why then, did they choose to land on a planet whose surface was two thirds water? Or is that why they had to invest in those cheap wet suits? Again, what was the purpose behind repeating flashbacks of the wife's death? I was expecting something more profound like the scene of the injured airman in Catch-22. Also, it made it a little difficult to sympathize with a family that was so apparently callous about the welfare of not one, but two of their animals. One can go on, but then again, every one's a critic. All in all, the film's biggest weakness may lie in the fact that we understand the character's conflicts in a cerebral way but don't "connect" emotionally with any of the characters - i.e. we need to care about what happens to them. That is why Sixth Sense was such a critical success. And, that is why, although SIGNS will make a lot of $$$$$igns at the box office, it will ultimately remain an unsatisfying film to watch. I sincerely hope Shyamalan will live up to his awesome talents in his next project.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
One of the best movies in recent release - trusts the viewer's intelligence
I was pleasantly surprised by the premise and meticulous execution of this gem (although the sound track was a tad too distracting). The plot reminded me of sci-fi great Philip K. Dick's story I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon. To dissect this movie would be to give too much away. I had to watch the movie over again to get the nuances and it was well worth the effort. Hope more intelligent movies such as this one get made.
Como agua para chocolate (1992)
Definitely over-rated: Can't understand all the good reviews this item received
Unless there is some unwritten law that dictates that ALL foreign imports should receive not just a favourable review but also the unflinching adoration and recommendation of movie critics, I simply don't understand all the fuss that was generated about LWFC. If you want to see a really good movie about women, food, love and life, please skip this one and watch Babette's Feast instead. The tragedy of LWFC is in the fact that its story and characters are too idiotic even to watch on the Satellite of Love. This turkey should come with a warning : If forced to watch, fake a headache and go to bed early.
Warrior of the Lost World (1984)
If you really want to enjoy this film, see the Mystery Science Theatre episode where it was featured. Crow's comments are priceless!
The warrior of the lost world: Yet another hopeless celluloid foray into a dusty, chaotic post-apocalyptoid world featuring yet another hero (?) with no name. The film was redeemed by its inclusion in the brilliant Comedy Central series - Mystery Science Theatre - and provided wonderful fodder for the snide comments of Joel and his robot friends, especially Crow. This film was so inane that it proved to be one of the best offerings of MST. The talking motorcycle is a treat! So, if you MUST, and you must really WANT to watch this one, check out the MST archives. Good Luck!