Argo

Let me begin by saying, that this film was by far, one of the most original film stories I have viewed in a while and, bonus: it was executed brilliantly. Not only was it related to a part of history that I only vaguely, it was bizarre enough to capture my attention. Simply put – it was a world created from reality, but completely separate from my reality.

The main character was both complex and credible – something I look for in a good film. In fact, all the actors were to some degree, a little complex and most definitely credible. Each and every character and/or social group had some form of justification for their actions and behaviour – whether it be the the ‘hostages’, the dear inhabitants of Hollywood or the classic CIA officers. In particular, the presentation of the population of the population of Iran was balanced (or as balanced as it could have been) and whole – completely contrasting the constant demonising and fear inspiring depicition of them in the media.

Needless to say, its win at the Oscars for Best Picture was surprised and shocking to most. I think what made this film stand out amongst the pack was its balance. Although it was a serious film, it had just the right does of suspense, comedy and irony, creating a fast paced film of depth , meaning credibility (on a human level) and action – who doesn’t love a good car/plane chase? :)

Overall, a wonderful story with a touch of sci -fi for good measure. I hope you have/will enojy it as much as I did!

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Zero Dark Thirty

Prior to watching Zero Dark Thirty, I had no knowledge or background of the film or its subject – except that it was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, that the lead was Jessica Chastain, and that it was somehow related to Osama Bin Laden.

Post-watching this film, I realised just how poorly equipped I was to watch the shocking spectacle that was, this film.

The opening scene was not really a scene at all, but rather, a sequence of voices, overlapping, distorted, blurred, and to be perfectly honest, utterly confusing. However, I think that’s what the director was hoping to achieve – a true representation of the chaos and horror that terrorism creates.

Having not watched a single Bigelow film preceding this one (namely – The Hurt Locker) I was caught unaware, in witnessing such brutal raw violence. Although some may disagree, I don’t believe it was gratuitous, but rather, acted as a driving necessity for the maintenance of the pace and intensity of this film. The lack of exaggerated editing and non-diegetic music allowed the meaning and reality of torture and helped me realise its place not as a glorification of torture, but rather a truth and as presented – a means to an end. It also helped that these scenes focussed featured heavily on the distraught reactions of Maya, played by Jessica Chastain – and further amplified the humanness (and consequentially, the inhumanness) of the act.

As for Ms. Jessica Chastain herself – I found she gave quite an astute and sustained performance throughout and despite, of all the tumultuous chaos of her character’s ‘hunt’ and  as an actress, brought an insight of character, producing a credible, human story – supported by the evidently incredible director Kathryn Bigelow.

It is the human story, amongst all the contextual details, that allowed me to fully appreciate this film. Although predictable, the unconventional story-telling techniques employed in this film are what set it apart. Emotions were evoked not only in the dialogue (as is normality) but rather in the pronounced body language of the actors once again, creating  room for multi-layered interpretation and a meaning that is not clear or explicit but fascinating.

Overall, an extremely intelligent, clever representation of a very unclear reality. I cannot say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, nor can I say it was particularly thought provoking however it is smart, unrefined (in a good way) and above all, VERY good entertainment.

Life of Pi :: Yann Martel

I read this book in anticipation of Life of Pi [directed by Ang Lee] the multi-award winning film that, as I’m sure you all know, has been getting both public and critic attention as – stated by the Guardian

The most beautiful film of the year, a technical marvel, and magic realism at its most magical.

To be honest, I can’t really see it as a truly masterful film. Yes, the visual aspect of it is stunning – the realism of it all was quite astounding – however, my verdict of this film is rather similar to the one I had of Avatar. Although the films were a spectacle to be seen, I believe that Avatar had a predictable plot, and that Life of Pi lacked the action to drive the film to the end. What made the film disappointing for me, was the lack of detail, so exquisitely and explicitly written in Martel’s novel. In addition to this, I felt the movie lacked a sense of “forever” that the book captured in terms of the length of Pi’s journey to his inevitable arrival on land.

I guess by now, you can deduce that I enjoyed the novel far better than the film, and so, here are a few of my favourite phrases from the novel.

Quote One :: Life & Death

This is so beautiful. I’ve never seen the relationship between life and death described so…well, beautifully

The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity – it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.

Quote Two :: Time

I have noticed this happen to me many times – when I lie idle ;)

I did not count the days or the weeks or the months. Time is an illusion that only makes us pant. I survived because I forgot even the very notion of time.

Quote Three :: Freedom

Freedom is a very confusing concept – one that I am trying to come to terms with everyday.

I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.

Quote Four :: Survival

I have a habit of dreaming too much and doing too little. Society tells us to dream but fails to really convey the action that is involved in achieving those dreams (and the hard work!)

Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.

The Help :: Kathryn Stockett

After studying To Kill a Mockingbird , I decided that some educational reading was not to be missed and picked up The Help (of which a Oscar nominated film was made in 2011 – may I also add that this film was super entertaining also :)

Kathryn Stockett’s practical, direct and often humorous writing provides a near-perfect account of the events of the imaginary town of Jackson, Missippi. The three perspective – Skeeter & Aibileen & Minny – offers varyin points of view of the discrimination and injustice suffered by the African-American domestic servants of Jackson. Not only does this allow us to view (‘see’) events as both the victim and perpetrator, it reveals the true rigins of such extreme attitudes causing the attitudes.

Possibly the weirdest thing I like about this book is that it odes not immediately incriminate the ‘White-Americans’ of Jackson but rather, it presents them in a slightly negative light, always giving reason for their discriminatory actions. It’s interesting how the childhood of “Aibileen’s children” is shown to be completely innocent and prejudice-free but as they grow older, they become influence by the society they are surrounded by and the behaviours they are exposed to.

One of the most memorable events from the book, personally, was Skeeter’s “simple error” in a newspaper advertisement resulting in the deposit of numerous toilets on the front garden of Miss Hilly – the antagonist in the novel. It reiterates a concept shown in many texts – that the ‘evil’ ones are perhaps, the most resourceful – I guess, kind of similar to a quote I read online: “The Devil can cite the Scripture for his own purpose.”

Another prominent motif in the book is the boundaries in society and the origins of them. It is presented in two instances: the first, in which Minny and Aibileen discuss the ‘lines’ that they encounter and the second, explaining types of jails, both physical and psychological.

Example One :: Lines

I used to believe in em. I don’t anymore. They in our heads…Lines between black and white ain’t there neither. Some folks made those up, long time ago.

Example Two :: Jails

I think about Yule May setting in jail. Cause Miss Hilly, she in her own jail, but with a lifelong term.

Just as a side not, these quotes are directly from the novel and the language is that of the African-American domestic servants of then Southern America. It is important to note that in this case, “setting” means “sitting”. May I just add, that Yule May is a servants who had stolen from her employer in an attempt to get an education for her children – hope you have a better understanding of the quotes – and the book – now :)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close :: Jonathan Safran Foer

I ALWAYS read the book before I watch the novel – almost since I could remember…

until a few weeks ago.

I rented Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and expected quite a good film. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer volume of tears I shed during the course of the film and afterwards. Astounded by the emotional scope of the film, I decided to ask Lord Google if in fact it was bassed on a book and sure enough, it was. Not only was it a book, but my I recalled a friend of mine recommending it to me. And so, I ventured to the library and came home with a copy.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close :: Book Cover

It took me a while to finish it, mainly because at times, the book was often uneventful but I did end up finishing it end I found it quite an enriching experience. Before I go any further, for those who haven’t read the book or watched the movie, here is a good synopsis.

I found it quite interesting that the book had multiple perspective and at the beginning, their unrelatedness was very confusing and frustrating – especially for me as I have an obsessive need to organise and connect things I learn :) This technique was novel to me at the time that I read it and I found that once the stories did connect, it gave me a better understanding of the individuals within the text. It also helped me realise the relationship between experience and personality (in this post) and I found that it helped make the characters seem more real, by including both their flaws and their positive attributes in an unbiased voice.

The writing voice and style of this novel captured the feelings and thoughts that often, we can’t express through simple words. Emotions that are too complex for organised sentences and yet, this book does just that, through the scattered thoughts of a nine year old boy, and old man, and an old woman. It’s this distillation of emotions that sets this books apart from others into a category of raw and pure writing.

Notably, this and extremely well written novel but evidently, also a well edited one. It is the first novel that I have read that directly represents the characters feelings or thoughts through intermittent graphics (apart from The Invention of Hugo Cabret) and although some reviews found it useless, adding nothing to the plot, I found that it was helpful and gave me insight into the way the characters thought and acted.

Overall, this novel was entertaining and educated me on the truths of experiences of New Yorkers in the 9/11 attacks – some of which I was completely unaware of, and opened me up to a new level of emotional writing with both depth and flair.