De Tweeling: A Review

My brother thinks I am pretentious. Thing is, my brother’s interests and likings differ a great deal from mine. He loves his Biryani, while I need my daily dose of home-cooked Bengali food (more on that some other day). He loves new Hindi movie songs that I can simply never stand. But the biggest difference perhaps is our choices in movies. He’s totally into Bollywood capers and superhero Hollywood flicks, whereas I catch at least one foreign film every weekend. And, that’s where the pretentious part comes into play.

 

Watching Iranian, German or Korean movies with English subtitles isn’t my brother’s idea of fun. The only foreign film I know he has liked is the incredibly well-made Swedish movie, Let the right one in. I loved it too and while I watched it I wondered how could my younger sibling with a proven tacky taste in movies could have stumbled upon it and then mustered up the courage to watch it. Anyway, I digress. This post is neither about my brother nor our volatile relationship which has been marred by his terrible need to turn up the volume of our TV every time a Hindi song he likes is played.

 

I am writing to gush about this wonderful movie I watched over the weekend. Not surprisingly, it’s a foreign language film again and one I had a hard time finding on the net.

 

Based on a novel of the same name, De Tweeling (The Twins) is a Dutch/German movie which released in 2002. It’s a moving tale of pain, despair and longing. Two sisters, separated after the death of their father, grow up in starkly different conditions. One goes through a childhood of poverty, abuse and hopelessness while the other is fortunate to find love and care.

 

Set in the 1930s, the movie presents a grim picture of the conditions prevailing in Europe at that time. The sisters find themselves caught in opposite directions, as one falls in love with an SS army soldier while the other is set to marry a Jew, whose life tragically ends in a concentration camp. The war creates a permanent rift between Lotte and Anna who do not resolve their differences until the very end.

There’s such brilliance in the way the story unfolds onscreen that I can go on for hours gushing over the director’s treatment of themes like love, disappointment, hope and so on. I love almost everything about this movie, especially that moving scene in which the two little sisters are separated from each other or the one in which they meet after losing the loves of their lives to the war.

 

A special mention of the lead actresses who infuse life with their spellbinding performances. Thekla Reuten and Nadja Uhl convey emotions not only through their words and gestures, but also their silences.

 

It’s a shame that De Tweeling did not win the Oscar, despite making it to the nominations. But then I am yet to catch The Barbarian Invasions that eventually won that year. Nevertheless, De Tweeling is one of my most favorite movies and one that shatters me scene after scene. Do not miss it!

Top 5 Most Overrated Romantic Films

Romance is one emotion that has been time and again exploited and over-exploited in cinema. Hollywood, in particular, takes the cake. I, for one, firmly believe that many of these ‘romantic sagas’ are manipulative and pretentious. To defend myself here, let me discuss 5 goody-goody films that are generally loved by most people (especially women) but not by me.

5. Maid in Manhattan

Okay, IMDB shows a rating of 4.8 for this lousy film, which is good news because I think I am not the only one who thought this movie totally sucked.

The plot is about a charming politician played by Ralph Fiennes who befriends a maid working at a classy hotel in Manhattan. The maid (your proverbial damsel in distress) is a poor single mother. They fall in love, (the guy by the way, doesn’t know about her occupation and mistakes her for someone else. Read: A rich socialite.) The guy, the girl and her young son become a happy family until her charade is over. How it all ends? I think you must have guessed it by now.

If the story reminds you of Cinderella, it’s simply because the makers of this movie obviously had no creative talent. To make it more soppy, they got Jennifer Lopez to play the lead (you know getting brownie points from the Hispanic community). Every scene of this movie reeks of manipulation and that makes it a terrible watch. And, JLo cannot act. Period.

Boring, boring, boring

4. A Walk to Remember

Another tear-jerker this one. To be honest, I did shed a few tears while watching this movie. Cancer, pain, death. Well, I am human, of course. But unlike my friends who seem to think of it as some sort of modern day classic, I thought this movie is plain ridiculous and again manipulative.

It’s essentially a high school romance about this really spoilt kid who’s punished to join a drama club. Since he’s too cool to join any goddamn drama club whose members are all dorks, he’s really obviously pissed off. Then comes the girl (the goody goody girl) in oversized clothes trying her best to look ordinary and boring. She’s ridiculed by the cool kids but is too kind to take offence. Turns out she is the daughter of a reverend, has never been kissed and believes in God. While preparing for a school play, the guy spends more time with her and ‘surprisingly’ falls in love (who would’ve thought that, huh?) We get to know she’s not that boring and has some secret wishes (nothing kinky here, okay?)

Everything’s fine until one day the girl tells the guy that she has cancer and time’s running out. Poor chap is devastated and how he fulfills her wishes before she dies forms the rest of the story. Some people call it a coming-of-age movie (obviously they haven’t heard of the Graduate). To me, it’s so lame that even Mean Girls looks Oscar worthy when you compare the two. First of all, the way the girl breaks it to the guy that she’s dying is one of the most god-awful scenes in the history of mankind. It’s like you are in the middle of a date when you casually remark that you’re lactose intolerant. It’s really casual and quite unfair for the guy. Then, the girl! She’s a one-dimensional, lousy character who can do no wrong. Sorry, but I am not too fond of pious angels in movies, especially when the movie is set in the 2000s and in not some little village in Eastern Europe or the Middle East. Doesn’t fly! Even the guy’s reckless behavior is blamed on the broken home he comes from (again a stereotype). In short, no character development.

It’s basically one of those sweet movies that make you feel a little diabetic in the end.

3. Dirty Dancing

I have watched this movie many times for the moves. But I’ve never quite understood why many people think it’s a wonderful romantic film. Yes, there’s a romantic track (every movies has it) but that doesn’t make it a romantic saga, right?

More than anything, watch it for Patrick Swayze’s moves. Loved the way he looks and glides on the dance floor. But the romantic track is really, really overrated. The story is narrated by the lead who comes from an affluent family on their way to a fancy resort. She is shy, intelligent and kind. In the resort, she meets the poor hunk (Swayze) who’s the dance instructor. They fall in love and that pretty much sums up the story.

Now the problem with this movie is that it paints all its characters in black and white. The noble doctor, the girl with a golden heart, the shallow sister or the evil hotel owner. You don’t have to spend too much time on deciding who’s what. Plus, the leading lady Jennifer Grey is not easy on the eyes. She’s neither pretty nor charming. Her hair, nose, eyes, everything is less than ordinary and to think she’s paired opposite someone as good looking and charming as Swayze! Not fair on her, I guess.

Enough with Baby and her corner!

2. Silver Linings Playbook

Everyone has his/her take on movies that didn’t deserve an Oscar. This movie is mine. Apart from Jennifer Lawrence (who’s definitely among the most talented actors of our times), there’s truly nothing going for this movie. Not even the romance.

Talking about its plot is also a tiring exercise. The guy (Bradley Cooper) has come back from some rehab where he struggles to fit in with his own family. He wants reunite with his ex-wife and in the process meets a sex addict (Lawrence). The two get closer and participate in a dance competition, where they must score 5 or more (Exactly why, I can’t remember).

The problem with this movie is there’s no element of surprise. You know how it’s all going to end. The guy will end up with the woman and honestly, the dance competition bit is something we’ve all watched. The leads look good together but there’s not much focus on their chemistry. Rather, the director put his fingers in too many pies. Racial attacks, poverty, family disintegration. Blah, blah, blah.

In one word, Overrated!

1. P.S. I Love You

There are basically two types of people in the world. Those who love P.S. I Love You and those who don’t. Never came across an indifferent person who has watched this movie and hasn’t made up his/her mind yet.

Now why do I hate it? Maybe, it will be easier if I put that it points.

1)     As I mentioned with A Walk to Remember, I detest stories that exploit loss and death. This movie does that, every scene, every dialogue is aimed at making people feel sad and terrible.

2)     So, the guy dies and wants his woman to move on. Great! But with every letter, doesn’t he try to do the exact opposite? You keep reminding how wonderful you were together or how you met in the first place and still expect her to move on? A tad difficult.

3)     I have no problems with Gerard Butler. But I’ve met many people who’ve loved it simply because of his accent and good looks. Of course, it’s hard to come to terms with the death of such a good looking husband. Would it not have been better if a regular guy was playing the character? Someone not so charming or good looking. An ordinary guy who could still leave an impression and make audience think why the woman is not capable of moving on after his death?

4)     Hilary Swank. Give her a Million Dollar Baby, but NOT a mushy love story, please! She looked odd, acted weird and honestly seemed just wrong for the role. Case in point, watch her in the scene where she first meets Butler. It has the most awkward kiss in the history of mankind and it’s quite evident she is confused.

Everything said and done, I don’t have any problems with it. I just don’t understand how people can go all crazy with this movie, that’s it. It doesn’t strike a chord with me and I am happy to admit I am not a fan.

Greatest love story? Really???

Tom Cruise: The Actor in Magnolia

Back in the 90s when I was still some time away from the much awaited teenage years, boys and girls had hardly anything in common. If boys had their WWF stars to talk about, girls had all the time in the world to discuss MTV and their favorite nail polish color. It was also fashionable for the boys to dislike everything the girls liked (and vice versa). So, boys would laugh at Spice Girls while the girls would scoff at Schwarzenegger. There was one actor though who bridged the divide without much effort (not counting the charm and good looks here). That was Tom Cruise.

Every girl’s pin-up star whose pictures in the papers were stuff to gab about in the class next day. Interestingly, I never came across a guy who said he hated Cruise. Pierce Brosnan. Too gay. Nick Carter. Too girly. Keanu Reeves (before Matrix). Too lame. But Tom Cruise? Now, he was someone every boy wanted to be like and I can see why. At 5 feet 7, he is certainly not the ‘hunk’ women would fall in love with. Instead he just appeared as this unassuming cool chap who despite being aware of his drop dead good looks and effect on women, never acted as a douchebag. (Katie Holmes was still in school, I think and the couch act was still some years away). Boys wanted to grow up to be a guy like him. Someone who could melt hearts with a smile and look killer in Aviator glasses.  

The boy next door

 

As I grew up and watched him in his famous flicks, I felt his movies could somehow never tap his acting talent. Good looks, yes charm, definitely. But acting? Most of the movies he acted in had very little of the character he was portraying (barring Jerry Maguire, of course. Though that movie too harnessed every inch of his superstardom by making him ooze charm in every frame). He has always been Tom Cruise, the highest earning star in Hollywood, the man who sends hearts aflutter and who is perhaps more known for his personal life than professional work.

One movie though that attempted to give a glimpse into Cruise’s acting potential is Magnolia. Cruise plays a pickup artist, a really annoying guy who helps frustrated men hit on women and get them onto their beds. He has everything working for him, fans, money, fame; a perfect life.

The douchebag

You’d be pissed off by this know-it-all misogynist guy who seems to be doing quite well in his career. I was too but Cruise with his innate likeability kept me glued. Plus, the movie’s not about Cruise. It has other interrelated stories and he’s just another character in the plot.

The movie progresses and Tom Cruise’s cocky, egoistical self-obsessed character meets his match in a mean TV interviewer. In a couple of minutes, she tears down the character’s veneer of love, success and perfection. We come to know about Cruise’s troubled childhood, his loss and difficult years while growing up in a broken home. In a flash, Cruise transforms his character and you can’t help feel sorry for him. A guy who had to watch his mother die, leave home, stay with some relatives and build everything from the scratch. He looks dazed as the interviewer starts tearing him apart and when she asks him what he’s doing, he simply answers that he’s quietly judging her. The words cave in and I imagine the tough road he’s had to take to reach wherever he is.

Much later, he reunites with his ailing father who’s on his deathbed. He is apprehensive, almost shaking as he enters the house and asks the nurse to stay close because he might kill him if they are alone. Finally as he sits next to the dying man, he gives in to all the pent up emotions that were choking him all these years. He cries out for him, screams at him and expresses his innermost feelings that he could not share with anyone all those years. It’s such a poignant moment that chokes you up when Cruise angrily demands his father not to leave him again. Loss. Abandonment. Pain.

The man dies and Cruise looks composed, as if he has accepted everything and can now go on to become a better man.

The performance is so heartfelt that I didn’t feel Cruise was acting in any of the scenes. As someone who keeps his past buried somewhere to create an image of success, Cruise is the veritable loner here. He doesn’t have a girlfriend or close friends, just an entourage in charge of polishing his celebrity status. In the end, you feel for him. You do, like I did.

The fact that Cruise himself grew up in a troubled house and his relationship with his father was far from being cordial perhaps brings that level of authenticity in the final outburst. I don’t know how much of himself he was playing in this one but the final scene broke down that pinup boy’s mirage. He was nominated for an Oscar and I honestly feel he should’ve got it. Not taking away anything from Michael Caine who received it that year.

Which is your favorite Tom Cruise movie?

Gone Girl, the Movie and the Long Wait Begins!

Have you heard this? Gone Girl, the bestseller by Gillian Fynn is all set for a movie adaptation now. David ‘awesome’ Fincher is said to be at the helm of the project and the movie is going to star Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike! Can it get any better than this?

Nick Dunne

I can’t begin to tell how exciting all this sounds right now. First of all, anything involving David Fincher has the word ‘superlative’ written all over, isn’t it? The guy has given us some of the most memorable movies of recent years. The cast is also quite interesting, though I must admit I am not well acquainted with Pike’s work (apart from Die Another Day, the bond flick). And then there is the story. If you haven’t read the book yet, you don’t know what you are missing out on and I am not exaggerating one bit. I finished reading it last week and I am yet to get it out of my head.

She’s pretty, for sure

Gone Girl, The Book – A Synopsis  The book is about a ‘happy’ couple, the Dunnes. In their mid 30s, they seem ‘perfect’ for each other, until one day Amy (the female protagonist) goes missing on their 5th anniversary day. From thereon, layers of their relationship are unraveled brilliantly by the author. The narrative is from the central characters’ point of view. So, we get two versions of the story that keeps you guessing on what exactly is happening and how everything is going to unravel.

Gone Girl is a study of the complex husband-wife relationship and what makes it so good is that it’s very topical. A seemingly happy couple, their lives in a fast-paced city first and then in a small town, marital discords, appearances, deception and crime. (Yes, there is a murder)

But more than a tout thriller, the book is a commentary on the constantly changing and unpredictable world we live in. How it impacts our relationships, our decisions and future. The economic crisis takes huge toll on the central characters and the choices they are forced to make. As someone who started working in 2007, I know exactly how Nick feels when he’s laid off from work or when he has to go back to his home town to start afresh.

There are not many characters in the book and it is to Flynn’s credit that she fleshes out each one of them so brilliantly in her narrative. I’ll be judging (yes, judging) every scene of the movie when it comes out to see if the director does justice to the book because it’s one engaging story with not even one dull moment. It’s like one of those novels that you just can’t keep for another day, you have to know how it all ends and decide whose side you want to be in.

My Cast

Unlike most book lovers, I have never been against movie adaptations of good books. It’s a matter of perspective I guess. A fresher take and a different interpretation and also a great way to reach millions of people who don’t like reading (beats me though). After reading the book, I googled to find that Reese Witherspoon’s company holds the right to the script and for some odd reason I read the name Renée Zellwegger. The cast wasn’t decided yet and I imagined the Chicago star as Amy. Wouldn’t have been bad though, had it not been for the age factor. (Amy is supposed to be in her late 30s). Zellwegger could bring the right amount of vulnerability and astuteness required for the character. (P.S. Really glad Reese didn’t think of playing the character herself).

As for the guy, I somehow couldn’t think beyond Jake Gyllenhaal. The guy can pull off a writer’s role, someone who has just lost his job and has gone back to his sleepy home town to open a bar. But of course, Jake and Renée would look totally bizarre as a couple for this movie.

Anyway the cast sounds interesting right now and with Fincher donning the director’s cap, I think we are in good hands. If Pike can get into the skin of the character, I bet she’ll be a top contender for the Oscars (it’s that great a role).

Till then, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for all the updates.

 

Have you read Gone Girl? What do you think of it? Are you excited about the movie like me?

 

 

Top 5 Most Underrated Romantic Movies

I am a sucker for romance. But unlike most women I know, I am not that into sappy romcoms. So, no P.S. I love you or Katherine Heigl movies for me (god bless Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl though). 

What I really love watching are movies that are about regular people like me. Plain Janes and Regular Harrys who may not necessarily be the most ridiculously good looking people around. In my quest to find movies that are about simple/believable/feel good romances, I have stumbled upon quite a few gems that most of my friends at least had not heard about earlier. If you too enjoy watching a nice little movie that fills your heart with joy, here is a list of 5 really romantic movies that you may/may not have seen.

1. Signs (2008)

I have this theory that after you cross your 25th year and resign yourself to the office-home routine, you start taking an interest in office romances. Well, in my case at least this has been true. I love 500 days of summer and find all the characters very relatable. A movie in a similar vein is Signs. With a running time of just 12 minutes, Signs is one of those nice films that make you smile and look forward to a long day at work. In my case, a lousy Monday that didn’t promise to be too interesting.

The movie is about a lonesome guy caught in what many of us know as the monotonous work life. He has nothing to look forward to until a pretty girl comes along who works in an office next to him. To know how the story evolves, you need to catch this one.

P.S. According to many people who’ve watched this one, its plot is eerily similar to Disney’s Paperman. I haven’t caught that one so, not sure. Maybe you can tell if you’ve watched the latter.

2. Somewhere in Time (1980)

As much as I’d like to think I don’t like the too good to be true stories that require you to put logic on the backburner, there are some movies for which I am happy to make an exception. Somewhere in Time is one of them. A plot about self-hypnosis, time travel and eternal love that the protagonists arrive at in just one day, I started watching this movie with least expectations. For all I knew, I thought I’ll have a good laugh once it ended. Much to my surprise, I was just swept away.

Not only are the protagonists, Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, breathtakingly good looking, they are in real good form in this one. There is enough drama to keep you engaged and make you feel for its central characters.   

Cynics might (and have) pan the improbability of the plot, but I am happy to put that aside simply because the actors have this crackling chemistry that makes you root for them. The movie was a box office failure (not surprising) but more than 30 years of its release, it has achieved cult status. The International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts (INSITE) is the proof to gauge its impact on movie buffs. Do give this one a try, it’s certainly worth every second of your time.

 

3. The Painted Veil (2006)

I strongly believe this movie is the most underrated romantic flick of our times. Everything about it is just charming, the Chinese landscapes, Naomi Watts, background score and Edward Norton. Ah, Edward Norton! This guy is one of the best actors of our generation and this movie establishes that one more time. Based on Somerset Maugham’s short story of the same name, the Painted Veil is one of those movies that do not start out to make some sort of sweeping statement, yet manage to enthrall movie lovers like me.

The plot. A simple, good hearted doctor falls in love with this social butterfly who marries him simply to escape the monotony of her London life. They are so different from each other that marital troubles are written on the wall right from the word go. Once the good guy discovers his shallow wife is fooling around, he decides to teach her a lesson and the movie shifts to China.

Not spoiling the plot for you here. I was just awestruck by the beauty of this movie’s narrative. Characters are complex and situations extremely difficult. How the two people who are virtually at each other’s throats find love in these trying times forms the crux of the story.

I had to coax all my friends to watch this one and even the not-so-romantic ones found it brilliant. A must watch.

 

4. Splendor in the Grass (1961)

I was a bit confused while deciding if this one should feature in this list or not. To me Splendor in the Grass, is not just a romantic film with two good looking people. It is as much about the social mores of the early 20th century America, a class of classes and sexual emancipation. (More on it, some other day).

Now why does it then figure in this list? Simply because it builds a story about the many misconceptions about love. Let me put this into perspective. The story is about two teenagers, played by Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood who are in love (well at least they think they are). The boy comes from a wealthier family while the girl is dominated by a mother who sticks to the social codes of the day. As the story progresses, you realize why the idea of love is so confusing. It’s not a mushy romance, rather a pragmatic story that can appeal to you if you are a practical person like me.

 

5. Terms of endearment (1983)

Okay, I might be wrong but a lot of my friends have not watched this one and those who have feel it’s a touching story about a mother-daughter relationship. It is. But if you watch it closely, you won’t be able to miss the striking chemistry between Jack Nicholson and Shirely McLaine.

He is a womanizer, an alcoholic and simply irreverent while she is proud, uptight and not so easy going. You’d laugh every time the two come to face each other initially. But as the movie progresses, their relationship matures. It’s heartbreaking to see Aurora (McLaine) deal with the tragic death of her daughter. More than anything, I feel this movie makes you believe how different people can be just totally right for each other.

 

     So, what’s your pick?