Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I'm much too busy seeing that you don't lose any of the money I married you for. - The Thin Man

Can you imagine any movie in the last five years that would be appreciated after nearly eighty years. I cannot think of one!

The Thin Man, made in 1934, is timeless and does not make you feel antiquated. The credit for it must go to the fun and witty dialogue of the husband-wife duo, Nick (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) along with their chuckle-inducing dog, Asta. Nick Charles , a retired private investigator, is approached by Dorothy (Maureen O'Sullivan) to locate her missing father, Clyde Wynant . Nick is not too eager to take up this assignment.This is what he says to his rich wife Nora :

" I haven't the time. I'm much too busy seeing that you don't lose any of the money I married you for." 

With the murder of Wynant's girlfriend, Julia, Wynant is the prime suspect and members of the Wynant clan plead Nick Charles to help them.Nick is too busy enjoying a drink too many and still refuses to get involved in the case. Nora wants some excitement and eggs Nick to start the investigation. Their light banter edged with sarcasm seems like a good camouflage for their romance.

Nora Charles: Pretty girl. (about Dorothy)
Nick Charles: Yes. She's a very nice type.
Nora Charles: You got types?
Nick Charles: Only you, darling. Lanky brunettes with wicked jaws.

When Nick narrowly escapes getting shot at, he decided to plunge into the case. Nora, although, fearful for Nick, enjoys the thrill of the investigation.The case takes a turn like a good who-dun-it when Nick invites the murderer to a fun dinner party, which includes policemen dressed as stewards waiting to serve fish.
 Although The Thin Man continued to be a successful series of films, it is unclear who the actual Thin Man is. Internet sources reveal that Wynant was alluded to as the Thin Man in the movie but it seems to have stuck to the detective, Nick Charles. Maybe my viewings of the other Thin Man series would reveal more.

A fun movie to watch on a sultry summer afternoon when you wish to see something that is cross between an Agatha Christie mystery and an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

(PS: I was very impressed by the dress worn by Myrna Loy in the Christmas party scene. Another reason to believe that this movie does not feel like 1934. Enclosing a picture of it below)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Review of the movie To Rome with Love

How do you write a non-tribute to your favorite director? By being candid, I guess.

Woody Allen , one of my favorite directors, has disappointed me with a tedious, errant and contrived movie called 'To Rome with Love'.

The scenes where Woody Allen, playing Jerry, a retired music director, seem to have the best laughs. But sadly Woody Allen doesn't stick to those scenes. There are four disjointed stories and what point they all serve is best understood only by the makers of the movie.

The opening scene introduces us to the chaotic Roman streets where Hayley(Alison Pill) , an American tourist , meets the handsome Italian Michelangelo. Hayley invites her parents, Jerry(Woody Allen) and Phyllis (Judy Davis), to meet her in-laws.During the visit, Jerry discovers the natural singing talent of Michelangelo's mortician father and launches him as an opera-singer. The best of the guffaws are part of this story :

Jerry: "The kid's a communist, the father's a mortician, does the mother run a leper colony?"

Elsewhere, we are introduced to an architect John (Alec Baldwin) who bumps into a young architectural student Jack (Jesse Eisenberg). In a series of surreal imagination, John hovers around Jack like a guardian angel. Sometimes whacky, sometimes didactic, John tries to steer Jack away from the mistakes of the young  like warning him against women like Monica. Woody's obsession with the pseudo-intellectual woman, is  brought to screen by Monica (Ellen Page) who waxes eloquent of Dostoevsky and Ozymandian melancholy.

Monica: "I would do anything to spend one night with Howard Roark."

Scenario three is about a newly-wedded couple who are separated and is laden with the cliched 'call-girl pretending to be wife' . Even Penelope Cruz in a sexy red dress, fails to save this one. 

The last tale is the one depicting that the famous become 'famous' for no apparent reason. Except as a tribute to Fellini and Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) , this is the most tiring of all . 

The movie might have worked decently well if the story of  the newly-weds and that of a 'schmuck' becoming famous were avoided.For those who are not familiar with Woody Allen's  work, this is not the best place to start familiarizing with his oeuvre.But if, like myself, you are a Woody Allen fan, then you must definitely check it out just so that you can go back to appreciating Annie Hall or Manhattan more than ever.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review of Moonrise Kingdom

      Nostalgic moments of childhood are funny when we wonder how strongly we believed in stories like the stork bringing babies or how people actually lived inside television sets.

       In ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, Wes Anderson does an amazing job of taking us back to this world. Our heroes are 12 year olds –Sam Shakusky(Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), who start as pen pals, fall in love and escape to a forest in an idyllic island. Set in 1960s New England, this sepia tinted movie has a fairy-tale feeling.

      Sam attending ’Khaki Scouts’ summer camp is an orphan and is troubled with foster families, who do not need him. He finds solace in Suzy Bishop, who is unhappy with her constantly bickering parents - Laura (Frances McDormand) and Walt (Bill Murray) Bishop. They decide to elope.

    Sam Shakusky: Dear Suzy, walk four hundred yards due north from your house to the dirt path which has not got any name on it. Turn right and follow to the end. I will meet you in the meadow.

      Together they discover the joys of fishing, hiking the hills and woods, reading, camping and lo and behold, kissing!  Their adventure is threatened by multiple search parties .Camp master Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) launches a search party with the other boy scouts. Meanwhile, the sheriff of the island, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) also tries to rescue the kids.

    Sam Shakusky : What do you want to be when you grow up?
    Suzy Bishop    :  I don't know...I want to go on adventures I think; not get stuck in one place.

          Camouflaged in this story, is the unhappy troubled story of the adults. Captain Sharp and Laura Bishop’s affair as well as the life of Walt Bishop are melancholic. All of them want to do the right thing and hence put up with unhappiness.

           Two actors who make the movie worthwhile are Jared Gilman as Sam Shakusky and Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp. Jared Gilman as Sam, adds the right element of naughty glint in the eyes along with enough innocence to make audiences want to hug him.  You are also impressed by the transformation of ‘Die-Hard’ Bruce Willis, who, as a melancholic middle-aged sheriff in a small island evokes strong sympathy.

         Captain Sharp :  Let's face it. You're probably a much more intelligent person than I am. In fact, I guarantee it. But even smart kids stick their fingers in electrical sockets sometimes. It takes time to figure things out. It's been proven by history; all mankind makes mistakes...

      There are multiple chuckle-inducing scenes not because they are laugh out loud funny but because they are reminders of the innocence of kids and the awkwardness of 12 year olds.

       Sam Shakusky : Watch out for turtles. They'll bite you if you stick your finger in their mouths.

     The music, composed by Benjamin Britten, is soothing to the soul and adds an ethereal element.

     Moonrise Kingdom will take you back to the time when you first read ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and if like me, imagined yourself to be Becky Thatcher enjoying the adventures with Tom Sawyer.

     For today’s digital era kids, it is a wonderful story of creativity, ingenuity of surviving in the woods, enjoying nature, retreating to the wonders of reading and last of all, learning that one needn’t resort to cell phones and Facebook to have fun in life.