Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mini Reviews: 2012 Edition

Now that we are coming closer to the end of the year, I am on quite a binge lately of clearing up the movies released earlier that I missed in anticipation of end of the year lists. Some of them have been OK but surprisingly, there are many that actually turned out to be much better than I anticipated. Here is a batch of four movies that I would not have seen, and in some cases wouldn't even know about, if they did not come with strong recommendations from some of my fellow bloggers.

Compliance(2012): Most of the readers might know that I am a part of LAMB. If you head over to the LAMB site, there is a small table which highlights 2012 movies which have highest Lamb scores i.e. members like me, rate each movie out of 5 Lambs and average score is that movie's Lamb score. Even though there are only 9 people who have voted for it, Compliance has one of the highest Lamb scores of 2012. To tell you the truth, this review is going to be little difficult and once I tell you the story, you will understand why. The thing is movies like Compliance and even Funny Games(1997), which I saw just the day after because I was in the mood to punish myself, basically draw out a strong emotional response from you. They rattle your senses, they numb your brain and in case of something like Compliance; they question your very basic common sense, which apparently isn't that common. I always find it difficult to judge such movies objectively even after some time has elapsed since your viewing. To tell you the synopsis of what it is about, it basically takes place in one of the branches of a burger joint. Someone who identifies himself as Officer Daniels calls manager Sandra and tells her that he has someone in front of him, a woman, who has a complaint that one of the employees in her branch, Becky, stole something out of her purse and he is investigating further in the matter. He asks her if she is willing to comply. Sandra has had a bad start of the day as she finds out that she has lost bunch of her meat because of someone's negligence the day before. Since she is taking care of this without telling her regional manager, she is already on the defensive and with something like this on her plate, she has no choice but to agree. He asks Sandra to take Becky to the back storage room and what follows after that is basically he humiliates her sexually on multiple occasions, in front of multiple people.

Personally, I do not believe that someone would be so stupid to go as far as they show in the movie but this movie is based on true events and as I later found out, everything really did happen. To The Last Word. I am just not ready to believe that someone like Sandra, who is otherwise sane and good person would be so stupid to believe everything the guy on the phone tells her and does not do what she does in the end sooner. But that exactly is the whole point of the movie I guess. To the movie's credit, it is exceptionally well-made, almost all the acting performances are spot-on. It hits all the right notes. You are disgusted by how excited the caller seems when he is instructing Sandra's boyfriend, you are frustrated by Sandra's submissiveness and deeply disturbed by whatever Becky has to go through and in the end, it leaves the viewer feeling used, dirty. However, evoking such a strong response from the viewer is its biggest achievement. This movie is quite an experience, just not the pleasant one.

Rating(out of 5): 

English Vinglish(2012): Yes. A Hindi movie and after quite some time, something that is really, really worth it. I am telling you, this makes me so happy to say that I see this making my end of the year top 10 list. English Vinglish first got my attention when I saw its trailer. It was not only different but also clever. It also meant return of Sridevi to the big screen, who was one of the most popular actresses in late '80s - early '90s. I also found out that even though it is Gauri Shinde's first directorial effort, she is R. Balki's wife who has done movies like Paa(2009) and Chinee Kum(2007) and she has been helping him out. The more I got to know about it, more intrigued it got me and then after it's release, it opened up to almost unanimous praise. When I saw it, a couple of weeks ago, there were around 40 people in my hall. For a Hindi movie in US, having 40 people in its 4th week is a really big thing in my opinion. It actually even played at TIFF though I do not know anyone who went there and saw it.

So, basically it is a story of a housewife, Shashi from a well-to-do family. She likes to cook and hence as a past time, has started a small catering business of her own. However, her problem is she can't speak English well which even in her household is perceived as a social standard and hence often made fun of by her own kids and her husband. One day her sister who leaves in America, calls her to tell that one of her daughters is getting married and she will really appreciate it if Shashi can come a little early to help her with the marriage. She hesitates initially but agrees for her sister's sake. Rest of the movie is her attempt to learn English, she even joins an English speaking class and elevate herself in everyone's eyes to gain a respect that she deserves as a mother, as a wife and more importantly, as an equally important member of the Family. Though I never had language problem like Shashi, I can totally understand what it means to be in her shoes since even I and quite a few people I know have had some encounters like her but they were more awkward, less humiliating. Beauty of it is it has almost everything Indian film has to offer - comedy, drama, romance, music, culture and language and it is all done so subtly and maturely. This is Sridevi's show in every sense and she owns it like a pro. My only problem was her daughter. If I said something like she says to her mother, I really would not know what hit me but that's very minor rant. My favorite thing about the whole movie was when in the end, Shashi speaks in English(Come On, that's not a Spoiler), she speaks in proper English but she isn't fluent. She stumbles, she searches for words and she is still scared if she is saying the right thing. It might be a small thing but it makes it look so genuine, so real.

Rating(out of 5): 

The Deep Blue Sea(2012): This one has been doing rounds in the discussions mainly because of the Rachel Weisz's performance and let me tell you straight away that there is some value to it since it sure is one hell of a performance. In a remake of 1955 movie of the same name, Rachel Weisz plays a middle aged woman, Hester, who falls for a younger man - an Air Force pilot and walks out on a much older husband - a British Judge, who would probably be able to give her a much better life, at least in a materialistic sense. However, reason why she first gets into an affair and then walks out of her marriage is because they lack one thing that she probably needs the most in a relationship - Love. Even though her husband denies her a legal divorce and openly takes a stance of making it every bit difficult for her, she still moves in with Freddie, her lover. With Freddie, there is passion, there is intensity but probably not in equal measures from both the sides. It seemed like reason why Hester chooses Freddie over her husband is not just love and is much more...primitive as she herself seems to hint a couple of times. However their very different personalities, their expectations, behaviour doesn't make it exactly a walk in the park; something she probably expected while leaving her husband. It opens with Hester trying to kill herself. However with timely intervention by her landlady and some of her neighbors, she is saved. From this point, movie keeps on jumping back and forth basically to bring us up to speed with whatever has brought us to the current event. First 15 minutes or so which also include a parts of flashback as well, use incessant violin in the background which makes it even more sad than they are. However after some time, these violins just go silent and surprisingly this period of calm made me want them to come back. Throughout the movie, its background score captures the feel of movie so perfectly that it made me think of In The Mood For Love(2000).

The Deep Blue Sea is Rachel Weisz's show and as I stated above, she is truly amazing in it. Little too morbid maybe, but it is to be expected from a movie about a woman yearning for love from both the men in her life and one that starts with suicide attempt. She really gets into the role from the very first scene and it maybe is painful to see her at times but she never gets out of that role. Others kinda fade in comparison, though none disappoints. In addition to that score, it is beautifully shot(like the scene in metro station), well edited(back and forth of first 15-20 minutes) and that ending. As heartbreaking as it is, I thought that is where it was leading from the start and I am happy that director had the courage to take it there eventually.

Rating(out of 5):

Sound of My Voice(2012): "Yet another cult movie" was my expression when it was released originally. But with the recent DVD release, I heard quite a lot about it which prompted me to give it a look. So, Peter and Lorna - a couple who actually do not believe in a cult at all, join one to expose them. They have some kind of sting operation in mind, out of which they can make a documentary and show people that how bogus these cults are and what their real motives are. This cult they join is headed by Maggie, who believes that she is from the future and an apocalypse is waiting for them there. She says that she has come back so that she can train those who are worthy and promises salvation to them. Peter thinks that she is complete phone and really dangerous and needs to be stopped and Lorna tags along to help him. At first, I did not find Maggie convincing, especially since she was so young but she convinced me over the time. Off course, I have never been a part of a cult but their proceedings felt quite genuine to me in a sense that that's how I think a cult would operate. Even Maggie became much more acceptable to me with a kind of grip, influence she shows on herself and on most of her followers. This control, influence that Maggie has makes it even more difficult for Peter and Lorna to do what they aim to do. Even more so as after certain incidences, Peter starts getting attracted and even intrigued by her; maybe even starts believing in her even though he puts up a brave face in front of Lorna. Things take interesting turn as when Maggie asks Peter to do something for her to prove his loyalty to the cult and at the same time, Lorna meets someone who tells her few things about Maggie's past.

There is really a lot that I really liked about Sound of My Voice, including the ending which kinda leaves it open but that's what I like about it the most. However, there are couple of things that really stop me from giving it higher rating it deserves and they are both very basic flaws in script in my opinion. First of all, I didn't realize what makes Maggie so dangerous ? They stay in there basement with their weird rituals. She is not trying to destroy anything, she isn't even preaching her followers to do it for her. So what's so wrong about her? And secondly, why is Peter so dead-set on exposing her. Maybe she is a phony and people do deserve to know but what's Peter's inspiration behind doing it? There is something about his mother but it didn't convince me. For a movie based on these two things, there probably should have been some explanation for either of the two things.

Rating(out of 5): 


  1. Really insightful write up about Compliance, which remains one of the very finest films I've seen so far this year. Everything you felt - the whole "how the hell could someone be THAT stupid" sentiment - is exactly how I felt. Then, yeah, you find out it's all real and you're like... shit.

    I agree, a good film, but not a very pleasing one.

    1. Thanks. It sure is. I am still in denial BTW, acceptance stage just can't reach soon enough.


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