La Femme Nikita


It appears that I have fallen in love with French movies and their mysterious directors.

Just saw this 1990 movie by the famous French director, Luc Besson. His style is unlike that of the usual movie directors – he has a thriller concept and builds it around a main character in a rather fast-paced manner, and the movie sequences that fall out of his camera seem to be stylish with a nice merger into the overall concept. There are many directors who are famous for their directorial output and class of movies. But if you wish to witness style in action, go for Luc Besson, who has been called the Steven Spielberg of French cinema.

La Femme Nikita is about a fierce drug-addicted girl (very young) who was caught in a drugstore robbery and assault, after having shot at a policeman. She is uncontrollable and gets angry very fast, and is rather violent even in prison. The government decides that they would fake her death and recruit her to be a secret assassin for a super-secret government agency. She is trained rigorously and then sent out into the society. She has no feelings of a normal woman. The whole story is about her discovering her feelings of being a woman and falling in love with a commoner. At the same time, the government does not let her forget her past and her commitment to be an assassin. As you can see, the conflict which then arises is too much to handle.

The destruction of the soul of a young girl by drug addiction and violence is followed by a similar destruction of her soul by the secret agency which makes her commit crimes and assassinations. She cannot escape from her government handlers, and have to do their bidding via phone calls received at odd times. All these activities create suspicion in the mind of her new lover, who becomes rather worried for her safety. The nice thing is that this guy continues to lover her instead of chucking her out of his apartment. She could have secured a nice life with him – someone she dearly loves – but fate would have some other roadmap for her.

I felt bad that she had to go away from her new found love because she wanted to be away from it all – all the violence and destruction. She wants to have a normal life, having discovered her potential as a young woman of substance. Unfortunately, her secret agency handler is not in a position to let her go of her own accord. More assignments are coming her way because she was really talented – as a killer.

La Femme Nikita is a psychological thriller and it is not beyond the realm of reality. Anne Parillaud has delivered a great performance as Nikita (she is actually the wife of Luc Besson at that time), with emotions clogging her face when she had to obey the agency’s orders. Tcheky Karyo as Nikita’s government handler is amazing – he rarely shows any emotions in his stoic countenance, and carries out his task without a trace of smile or sorrow. Except in the last scene! Jean Hugues-Anglade as the super market billing counter guy comes in a simple role but establishes his credentials by his love and affection for Nikita, and for letting her go towards the end as she will not be safe in Paris. Amazing cast of actors chosen by Luc Besson. I will be remiss if I do not mention Jeanne Moreau who as an instructor at the secret agency transforms Nikita into a beautiful woman.

The psychological transformation of Nikita is captured wonderfully via Luc Besson’s skillful direction and editing. Her vulnerability is portrayed in an elegant manner despite her violent tendencies which she exhibits in ample measure towards her training instructors at the secret agency’s school. Anne Parillaud is simply an amazing actress who transforms herself into the character of Nikita in a seamless manner and delivers an outstanding performance as a drug addict, a violent killer, a lover, a woman of substance, and a romantic whose love life goes awry at the end.

I bet you would like to see this 28 years old movie if you have not seen it. Enjoy it and let me know if you like it.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th June 2018

 

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“Raazi” Movie Review


In Singapore movie theatres, they show English sub-titles for Hindi movies. This has been a motivator for me to go to theatre sometimes, as it is really hard to get English sub-titles except for Netflix movies. For other language movies, the sub-titles are generally in Mandarin, not useful for me. I am yet to learn Mandarin despite a quarter century of exposure and experience operating in largely Chinese markets. In the meanwhile, everyone is already speaking in English in all these markets!

My wife mentioned to me that the “Raazi” movie has been received rather well by movie audiences and it would be interesting to see a Pakistan-oriented movie in a spy thriller setting. I thought it is not a bad idea to sacrifice one late evening for such a thriller and so we went yesterday for what indeed turned out to be an excellent movie with some very good acting. I do not go for the usual Bollywood and Kollywood movies as mostly their focus is on escapism and violence combined with some salacious romance. I can count the number of movies that I have seen in a theatre over the past decade.

I liked “Raazi” which in Hindi means “Agree”. While I do not understand its literary impact, I believe this word implies the acceptance of the “spy” actress in the movie, called Sehmat, of the wish of her father – to go into Pakistan as a spy for India. Alia Bhatt has delivered a stunning performance as a young college-going girl who transitions herself successfully into a spy, while performing the chores of married life in a Pakistani army family. The director has done a great job of pulling together a spy thriller without showing bombs going up everywhere, except in the last 10 minutes of the movie.

This movie is all about human emotions and patriotism, rather than bombing each other. The most outstanding performances in this movie are by Jaideep Ahlawat who acts as the Intelligence Bureau head who uses Alia Bhatt (I am using actual names) as a spy. Notwithstanding his initial doubts, he demonstrates a quiet confidence on the capabilities of his newest lady spy, and his trust was not misplaced. Even he is astounded by her effectiveness as a spy in an alien setting, and that too as the wife of an army officer. While the army family is all about attacking India, Alia Bhatt is all about her patriotism for India and the task handed over to her by her dad. She stays true to her objective, despite the love she develops for her new husband, Vicky Kaushal, who delivers a subtle and conscientious performance in a difficult role in which he had to balance his love for his new charming wife and for Pakistan.

The movie revolves around these key characters who are very well directed by Meghna Gulzar. I liked some of the thrilling situations in which Alia Bhatt finds herself in, mostly caused by her actions as a spy who executes her training in the field amazingly well with dedication and quiet efficiency. There are close calls, of course, like when an army file was missing and people come looking for it while Alia Bhatt was copying information from it and sending to the Intelligence Bureau in India.

After every major action that Alia executes, like when she almost kills the household head servant, she comes back home and explodes her emotions in the bathroom. This was an outstanding performance by Alia Bhatt, who did not expect that she would be a killer one day, and that too so soon. She is not able to stomach the emotions and needs help – probably from her parents, but they are not in close proximity to her – they are in India and she is in Pakistan. Alia also murders her own brother-in-law who is another army officer who starts to develop some suspicion on her. All these critical actions are unavoidable in her spy role, as otherwise she would have been exposed. The emotional outburst is a natural outcome in her role as a young and inexperienced spy, and she demonstrates it well. Another instance worth watching is when she really discovers the gold mine – the plan of Pakistani Army/Navy to attack the Indian Aircraft Carrier, INS Vikrant. She is overcome emotionally, almost paralyzed, but rushes to send this hugely important information to her Indian intelligence handlers.

There are lapses in the movie – several of them, but one noticeable issue is how come a Pakistani army officer comes into India so easily and gets married and goes back? How is it possible for Alia to escape so easily when the entire Pakistani Army and Pakistani Intelligence are looking for her?

Nevertheless, this movie is a successful one due to the power of its direction and the choice of its cast. All actors have performed well together and there is a subtle tension which runs in the background which has been knit rather well.

I would suggest that you see the movie – it is different from the usual song and dance movies of Bollywood, absorbing, thoughtful, well acted and well directed. I am giving it a 4 Star rating (I rarely give 4.5 and never a 5).

Have a wonderful weekend, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

2nd June 2018

Lost in Translation and Lifelong Monogamy


It is hard to understand the 2003 movie “Lost in Translation” directed by Sofia Coppola which won the Academy Award for the Best Original Screenplay, and many other awards. Award-winning movies, in general, are difficult to understand as they convey a deeper meaning of ordinary life that cannot be easily grasped by one and all. Such movies can also be generally interpreted in different ways and there is usually some mystery around them.

“Lost in Translation” has no structured presentation as a movie story. It is about two souls – one old and the other very young – who are lost in themselves, but in a foreign land – in this case, Tokyo. The title is also a pun on the Japanese language which none of the main characters in the movie understand (all being Americans). I felt that the movie had nothing going on for quite a while, and suggested to my wife that we should see something else on Netflix. She also felt the same way for quite some time. However, we finally persuaded each other that we must see such a well-awarded movie to its end and see what really happens towards its end. And, what did we see at the end – nothing, yes, simply nothing. There is no conclusion, and not surprisingly, there is no beginning and no middle as well!

Deciphering the movie’s message depends on your understanding of the American culture, way of living, and its psyche about relationships. It happens to be vastly different from Asian way of living. Lifelong monogamy has much less significance in America than it is in the East. We can see the challenges that Bob Harris (Bill Murray) has in his life with his wife of 25 years who is far away in the U.S. He struggles with his forgetfulness (about key dates in his daughter’s life), his wife’s curve balls (like when she says that he can stay back in Japan if he likes Japanese food so much), the difficult long-distance conversations he has with his wife, his comments about children, etc., In our lives, all such things are considered normal – we have issues with our spouses and our children, who doesn’t, but yet we proceed living our lives in the best way we can. Not that there absolutely no distractions or temptations, but we reconcile with our choices we made so assiduously in our lives, and realize that any deviations could cause untold hardships to our families. It must be the same way for Americans, but it sometimes appears so easy for them to deviate from a straight line of a solid family orientation.

On the other hand, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), comes through as a vulnerable, unhappy married housewife, who has not figured out what to do with her own life. She is unsure of herself, and does not know what to do next. She wanders around Tokyo in an almost aimless manner. Her husband is a celebrity photographer, who is always busy, and I wonder why he brought her along to Tokyo if he is always going to be away on assignments. She is left all alone in her hotel room, but it does not jell when the director shows that she has a number of friends in Tokyo – that comes through as unbelievable. Scarlett Johansson delivers a good performance in her role, but she pales in comparison to Bill Murray who delivers an outstanding, seasoned performance as a lonely rich Hollywood actor who has lost it all, though he has money and family. When he gazes through the night sitting in the hotel bar, it is so very communicative – he has a forlorn face, completely lost and lonely, and really sad and totally tired. He ignores the other bar drinkers and does not connect with anyone else easily. He is not connecting with his apparent fame and recognition anywhere in the world.

So the movie is about these two lonely people essentially who hook up in the hotel bar and develop what appears to be a platonic relationship which allows them to enjoy each others’ company while exploring the nightlife of Tokyo. It is indeed cool that two people who are separated so widely by age can reach a silent understanding of each other and then go on to eventually share their thoughts in an intimate fashion. It is rarely the case when anyone will easily open up their most personal views to a total stranger. But it happens in an almost effortless manner between Charlotte and Bob, and several times I thought that Charlotte desires a physical relationship from her longing look at Bob.

After seeing the movie, and thinking for a while, I am getting a bit more clarity on the director’s intentions and messaging. This is a movie for Americans as it almost perfectly reflects the issues and challenges that they face in their married lives (recall both Bob and Charlotte are married folks but yet totally lost and lonely, even with reference to their respective partners). Their ability to resolve those issues and challenges is always almost messed up due to the distractions that life throws at them – in this case in a remote country with a unique language, wherein one’s perceived loneliness can only increase!

Interesting though complex movie, but too slow moving for my taste. Both Charlotte and Bob do not attempt to resolve their problems by talking their issues out with their partners, and I wonder why. May be then there is no story for the movie!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th May 2018

 

Salt Mango Tree


I felt only shame after viewing this Malayalam movie “Salt Mango Tree” on NetFlix along with my wife.

While there are many positive things I can say about my birth country India, there are equally many bad things that exist even today in modern India. I feel very proud when I see global corporate CEOs from India (far outnumbering many other countries), over 100 satellites being placed successfully in orbit by one single rocket launch by the Indian Space Research Organization, the very optimistic young generation in the entire world which India has in abundance, and so on and so forth – it is a rather long list of achievements by India and Indians in a short span of just six decades.

However, the things which went wrong over these same six decades, and which continue to hamper the potential and growth of India still bother me a lot. These should bother all well-wishers of India. What I am referring to here are things like corruption, lack of guaranteed, affordable and accessible education for all, lack of universal healthcare for all citizens, lack of safety and security for women and even for very young girl children, and lack of world-class infrastructure and facilities all across the country including uninterrupted access to electrical power, potable water, proper roads, high speed internet, etc., etc., Though there have been some improvements in the past few years, what India needs cannot be met with incremental enhancements of existing infrastructure. India needs to do what a China has done in the past 30 years of relentless public investment in a non-bureaucratic manner with the sole intention of enhancing the livelihood of its people. Communist China has done a far better job than a democratic India, and I am not going to listen to the democratic nonsense that many armchair philosophers expound on the superiority of democracy. Everything in the corporate world is measured on budgeted outcomes, why not in government and governance?

The movie “Salt Mango Tree” describes one facet of India’s systemic failure in providing quality education for all children. Parents have to run around for getting admissions to prestigeous schools, and are totally stressed out in the process. They have to perform better than their children in school admission interviews. What about children of hawker stalls and poor people? How will they get admission in such schools if the criteria is based on how well the parents perform in interviews? How will they speak in English, let alone come well dressed and well groomed for such nonsensical interviews?

I was seriously embarrassed to see how the movie portrays the anguish of both the parents, who struggle to make a living and save money for their only boy. The movie strongly hints about the so-called “donation” which is nothing but a bribe which parents have to offer to schools. When parents give up on the due process in getting school admissions, they turn towards short cuts such as bribe, and this practice continues throughout the life cycle of their children, embedding and validating the need for systemic corruption. Why would anybody outside the Indian system believe that our quality of education is good and impeccable, on par with the developed countries? Making an incorrect comparison with the IITs and IIMs is wrong, as the folks who get into such schools do so entirely on merit, and they go on to change the greater world in many ways. They are focused on making wealth and very few dedicate their lives to fixing the systemic issues of governance in India (I personally know of only one such classmate).

I am not going to describe the movie here, but the message from the movie cannot be more impactful – to get quality education in India even at the primary level (starting at Kindergarten) today, parents have to prepare well, get trained, perform very well in school admission interviews, and be ready to offer donations. This is not the case in any one of the developed nations of the world. If India wishes to achieve the status of the top 5 countries of the world (not just based on GDP), it has to pay serious attention to education, healthcare, quality of living, public infrastructure, etc., and follow the model of either the Nordic countries or countries like Singapore, where public systems by government trump even the best quality of private systems (which are also available but at a tremendous cost). If India cannot invest at least 5% of its national budget on improving public Education and another 5% on public Healthcare, then the future generations will continue to suffer.

The focus outside India today has turned positive about India after a long dry spell of negative media coverage about the bad things happening in India. I have seen that over the past quarter century (most of which I have spent outside India), and it sometimes used to pain me. I am out of it now and immune to the negative coverage on India. I look for some positive news on India every day. The political news is not encouraging. As I wrote in a recent blog post, my experience in Bangalore traffic in the midst of visiting foreigners was not positive. The “East Asians” detest infrastructure problems as they have long been used to good infrastructure and environment. I make it a point not to bad-mouth India in any manner to them, and I try to keep my views to myself. I tend to talk about the positives and push the envelope for their next visit.

However, as I write here this evening, it pains me again to see that India has not changed in fundamental public services.

Looks like this will be the situation in our life time.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th April 2018

The Mechanism


Institutionalized corruption has been the bane of good governance in most developing countries. Even in developed countries corruption masquerades as expensive lobbying, with quid pro quo for almost all favours done by the powers that be. Unfortunately, corruption is instinctively embedded in human psyche – the premise is that almost everyone has a price, like everything has a price, and provided that price is paid, that everyone is available to provide a service. It sounds obnoxious and bothersome to say the least, but it is a practical reality most of us have encountered in our lives. There is no denying it, it is very rare for a person not to have experienced or seen it.

When corruption is institutionalized in the system, like it is feeding upon itself in embedded circles, then we have a very serious and dangerous problem to handle and fix. When public money (basically taxpayers’ money) is siphoned off by government-owned companies through the well-oiled system of awarding contracts at inflated prices to chosen contractors, who then reward the politicians and ministers who appoint directors on the board of these companies via a money laundering scheme, then corruption is well entrenched. It is not possible to eradicate the scourge of corruption irrespective of change in governments or officials. The law enforcement becomes part of the system as it comes under the Justice Ministry, which is just another government machinery to ensure that the above-described system stays in place.

“The Mechanism” is a Netflix serial which just started running – it is about the systemic corruption in Brazil, which is still playing out in real life. You might have seen that the ex-President Lula da Silva has been arrested and sentenced to years in jail, and his successor Dilma Rousseff is also facing corruption charges. I have been seeing the serial for the past couple of weeks, and it has got my full attention. I can visualize how the same system would work out in other countries that I know of.

What surprised me in the serial is the passionate commitment of the law enforcement officers and their loyalty to each other as they fight the corrupt villains together sometimes, and on a disjointed basis on other times. It is funny to see how the lead officer fights off the prosecutor during a press conference. At the end of the day, it is all about human emotion, and how that plays out while the almost real story spins out of control. The Mechanism also shows how important it is to have an impartial judge who carefully evaluates the evidence before signing off the search and seizure or arrest warrants. When someone cannot be bought, then the story turns in favour of ultimate justice.

Many of us have experienced the most simple variety of corruption – like the official at the property registration office demanding a cut before registering the sale or purchase of property, or the driving license official asking for a price, etc., Many of us have only “read” about institutional corruption – how public funds that otherwise could be usefully deployed to pay for much needed infrastructure or citizen services, are tapped by unscrupulous public companies and politicians which keep developing nations poor for ever. This is a sad story playing out in most countries. There are only a very few lucky countries which do not have this plague afflicting their system of governance.

I was never that much interested in Brazil, but The Mechanism brought Brazil right front and centre – a fascinating country indeed. It is the 8th largest economy in the world with more than 207M population, and a GDP per capita of over USD 10K. It is the largest economy in South America and prior to 2012, it was one of the fastest growing economies in the world, meriting its inclusion in the McKinsey BRIC group of countries.

Large countries do have large problems, and Brazil has not been an exception.

Corruption has roiled the country out of shape over the past several years, damaging the presidencies of multiple presidents. It is always surprising to find that the pressure to maintain the status quo is just phenomenal – as we see in The Mechanism, the previous Attorney General (called the “wizard” in the serial) tries to negotiate a deal with the incumbent Attorney General on behalf of the 13 corrupt contractors who, he maintains, are crucial for the survival of the Brazilian economy! And, when that pressure builds up all the way to the President of the country (as is shown in the serial as well), then one can imagine the enormous stress that can be applied on honest law enforcement officials and judges.

The serial is not over, and I have not seen all the episodes. But is easy to figure out the impact of corruption in the Brazilian society, as the water utility company which comes to fix a broken pipe in the serial demonstrates the corrosive influence of systemic corruption by passing off the work to a small time contractor who will then feed back the bribe to the company officials.

I have not seen serials on corruption – this is probably the first one. The creator of the series has done an amazing job (his name is Jose Padilha), and the key actors have performed exceedingly well, though personal animosities do take an overarching role disturbing the main theme of the serial. But let me forgive that distraction and focus on the positives of the serial!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

08 April 2018

 

Two Oscars


Yes, I saw two Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning movies this weekend!

One was “The Shape of Water“, this year’s Oscar Winner for the Best Movie. Before I get into some comments, let me mention one thing – while this is a fabulously directed movie (Director: Guillermo del Toro) and wonderfully acted by Sally Hawkins as the lead actress who is mute, it is still a fable – a story which combines an extra-terrestrial alien with Cold War secret experimentation and a mute woman who falls in love with the alien (as apparently she has not found love in her life). In my considered opinion, this movie is more about the kind of “eternal” love we all aspire for in our own lives. The fact that it happens between a scaled, terrifying creature and a normal human being creates an aura of romance, love, empathy and passion.

I was surprised with the level of nudity in the movie given that it would always be a sure bet for the Oscars. There are several scenes which does not require much imagination on the part of the audience. Nevertheless, the director has weaved such scenes beautifully into the overall storyline, so that we do not feel at all odd watching these scenes. That skill does not come easily to most directors.

“The Shape of Water” is a beautifully directed fantasy story, trying hard to connect with the reality of this world (or the world of the Sixties). It is hard to believe that two janitors in a super-secret military research facility could kidnap a well-guarded “asset” (as they call the creature in the movie), spirit him away without making much of a noise, escaping in a ramshackle van when the military should be able to send fast cars to chase the van and retake the “asset” – but that does not happen! After this miserable loss of the “asset” the director of the facility goes on a wild goose chase trying to find clues for the disappearance, and accidentally discovers the potential whereabouts of the “asset” in the apartment of the mute. The tempo builds up nicely, and like most everyone watching the movie, I was disappointed when the director of the facility locates the creature and shoots him. But then, the creature possesses “god-like” powers and kills the director, and escapes with his love mate (Sally Hawkins).

Good story, in parts totally unbelievable, but a love story with touches of reality and as I said, directed by Guillermo del Toro in an amazing way, leading to the Oscar win in the recently concluded event.

The second movie is “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri“. I was wondering what kind of movie would elicit such a long name. Frances McDormand who is the lead actress in the movie won the Oscar Award for Best Actress in the recent 2018 Oscar ceremony. She delivers what I would call a stunning performance as the aggrieved mother of a brutally murdered daughter, who demands justice from the police department in the small town of Ebbing in Missouri. There was not a sagging moment in this drama of a movie, and my wife & I enjoyed Frances’ acting thoroughly. She brings to life the real feelings of how such a mother who has unjustly and brutally lost her daughter would feel all the time. Her grief is demonstrated throughout the movie in subtle and sometimes not so silent manner. I was thinking “what has America come to and why is it so violent” – for a country which is #1 in the world in most social, economic and military parameters, why it does not dawn that violence is not the way forward in ordinary peoples’ lives and why police have to be so brutal in smashing normal people, and why racism rears its head on most occasions in their lives. As the police chief writes in his letter to the angry police guy on his team, it is more important to develop a sense of calmness, because thought flows through calm and hate needs to be removed from oneself who is performing service to people.

Frances (I am using the real name of the actress) delivers an amazing stand-out performance in this movie, and impresses even the police chief against who she had put up the three billboards demanding justice for her daughter. Her rage against injustice is palpable and dominates the movie.

It is normal for Frances to possess rage and feel angry all the time because justice has been denied to her daughter in her mind. It is proportionate to her loss. But what about scores of people (which includes cops) always feeling angry against everyone and everything around them? Especially in America. This is not healthy at all. Such angry folks resort to violence, and the damage they cause is disproportionate. In fact, in most cases, these people do not deserve to be angry, and certainly are not entitled to rage.

Overall, this is a good movie, though the issue of race has clouded its acceptance. Without going into that aspect of the movie, I can only state that Frances’ acting prowess has not ceased to amaze me – she is probably the best fit for the character. Even with some good Pinot Noir, the image of the angry Frances and her machinations to get the police to act, remain fresh in my mind as I am ending what has been a wonderful Saturday of movie-watching – the Oscar types!

See both these movies, they both are great.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th February 2018

Weekend Movie Choices


To be honest, I did not see these three movies during one particular weekend.

I saw these movies over several days, but think it is good for me to suggest for your viewing if you are bored during this or the next weekend. Simply because I enjoyed all of these excellent movies, and believe you will also do so.

Let me start with an Indian movie featured on NetFlix recently – it is “Love per square foot” – I enjoyed every bit of this light romantic comedy. I could sync with the movie rather well, having lived in Mumbai for a little over six years. It is a city with some amazing people, comparable with any other global business city, but has a perennial shortage of living space. It is not at all surprising to witness young people trying to outwit the system in their quest for owning a few hundred square feet of space in Mumbai. Only Mumbai City in India can come up with the unique “business arrangement” of convenience when it comes to getting a space to live – just get married for the sake of convenience and then later throw the marriage to the winds. I always loved the laissez faire attitude of Mumbai, which is so very different from the politically-laced Delhi or the social constraints of the South (meaning Chennai specificially!). With loveable characters acting out almost what sounds like a real-life story, I got hooked from beginning to end (I have to thank the English Sub-titles so well done on NetFlix for my sheer enjoyment).

The second movie I would recommend is “The Bank Job”. This is a movie about a bank heist in London. It is always fascinating to see a movie on a well-planned bank robbery, but how about this movie where there was really no serious plan and no serious robber gang on the job? I liked the movie simply because I could not guess what was going to happen to the gang – are they going to be arrested by the London Police or by the MI5 who knew that the robbery was happening (!)? Or, are they going to be allowed to escape by the government? What is going to happen to the scandalous photos and some serious police evidence involving payoffs to senior police officers, which are found in the bank vault? Good suspense, and ultimately the unknown thing happens and for that, you got to see the movie of course. Quite enjoyable for a Sunday afternoon, with coffee of course. Too early for the wine to come out of the wine cooler.

The third movie that I would suggest is “Perfect Stranger”.  A psychological thriller, this movie gripped me again from beginning to end in a non-stop chase to find out what exactly is the thesis of the movie – who is the culprit, and what is going to happen at the end? It is always thrilling to see a movie with little ability to figure out what is the end game, though I had some suspicion at some point in the movie about the motives of the lead actress (Halle Berry does a great job). Though this movie did not receive positive reviews, I liked it – I chose to view this movie based on its strong story line rather than the film critics’ reviews, and I was not disappointed. There was some very good acting in the movie by the lead actors – Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, and Giovanni Ribisi………suspense is the key and you keep moving the chess pieces to figure out what is going on.

I enjoyed all the three movies. When I select movies to watch, I am careful to ensure that I would like the story line, followed by the actor lineup. I use several tools for fishing out such movies – obviously, there is no time to watch a lot of movies, and most are generally useless from the point of view of a strong story line, and story telling by the director. So, it does take time to identify the ones which will keep you engaged. NetFlix offers an excellent choice of movies and TV Shows, and again, the question is time availability. Even if we start seeing a movie, it is not possible to finish in one evening after coming back from office. So, the movie viewing is usually spread over two evenings, or one weekend. The family will complain if any one of us in the family spends too much time on the laptop seeing movies or spending time blogging about movies!

I would recommend the above movies to you. Enjoy them!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

3rd March 2018

Atomic Blonde


This post is not just about one movie.

Whenever I travel, I get to see multiple movies. During my recent travels, I saw the following selection of movies on Singapore Airlines flights:

  • Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron (one of my favourite actresses and James McAvoy)
  • American Made, starring Tom Cruise
  • American Assassin, starring Michael Keaton and Dylan O’Brien
  • Security, starring Antonio Banderas (one of my favourite actors) and Ben Kingsley
  • El Bar (The Bar), a Spanish movie starring Blanca Suarez

There were other movie that I wanted to see, but couldn’t for lack of time. I will surely see them in the near future.

In all the above movies, there is a sense of escapism – I do not think such movies are “real” in the experience of a commoner like me. However, these movies could have happened in real life in the Western world – the first three movies involve spy agencies such as MI6 of the U.K., and the CIA of the U.S. The 4th movie is an unbelievable one – just a few security guards who lack any weapons defend a helpless girl against a massive team armed to the teeth wanting to snatch the girl away, her only crime being a court witness in a trial against the armed gang. The last one is totally unbelievable – it is a story of a simple coffee bar in downtown Madrid which gets into trouble with security services due to the fact that couple of its patrons were carrying the Ebola virus – hey, come on. Totally incredulous, the remaining ordinary folks in the bar all kill each other in search of the anti-virus serum, and all action during the entire movie happens in that tiny bar and underneath in its cellar and sewer.

I admire the directors who venture to take such daring movies – I would be surprised if any of these movies were to become big box office successes, though all of these movies are interesting action movies. Adventure and thrill characterise all the movies, and some of the actors are outstanding – Charlize Theron, Tom Cruise, Michael Keaton, Antonio Banderas, et al.

I look at the very short synopsis of the movie in the KrisWorld magazine, look at the names of the actors, and check to see if there are English subtitles. Then I select the movies, and tackle them one by one. I see non-stop, right through the flight, so that I get to the finish of the last movie – if for some reason, I cannot do that, then I continue from the last movie onwards during the return flight.

Movies make me think on the sheer escapism of life. We like to see what we ourselves cannot or will not do in our own lives. It is simply because of the pleasure of imagination – I like to visualize myself as a CIA or MI6 Agent for instance, and parachute into action in a global city with all the resources of the State supporting me, and with the thrill of rapid fire action encompassing me. How about that? I am not going to drive a bike even at 80 KMPH anymore in real life! I have never touched a gun (except for the thrill shots in game machines in a video parlour), and it is likely to remain so for the rest of my life!!

So, here we are – we know there are spy agencies, and well-trained secuirty guards almost everywhere. But we do not see spy action or the Antonio Banderas action. As I walked back from the gym yesterday, I realized how much muscle buildup would be necessary to tackle any surprise attacker – I do not have even 40% of what would be required. We do not pay attention to gym workouts and do not focus on body exercise and development, so we do not stand a chance in fighting an usurper. I am happy the younger boys are getting military training, and I would think that the girls also should pick up similar training. It is essential pre-requisite for self defence.

Enjoy your weekend folks, we have one more day off due to the Chinese New Year long weekend!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

18th February 2018

Newness


Newness is a 2017 Hollywood movie.

I selected this movie recently on Netflix for joint viewing with my wife.

May be a wrong choice, but then one gets to see the latest trends in Hollywood’s thinking on millennials. This movie, in a nutshell, is all about social media, unfettered social hookups via special apps and resultant dating, cavorting for physical pleasures, night club culture fascination, but also about how a young couple struggle together for intimacy in the midst of visceral fights and disappointments.

The movie reflects American culture today – especially amongst young folks who are not able to deal with the surprises that life throws at them, not very stable emotionally, and constantly seeking “newness” in experiences. If one hookup does not work out, so be it. Even if it has resulted in a strong physical attraction. Go on to the next one. Smoke and dance in nightclubs feverishly. Drink a lot of alcohol (the so-called “shots”). And, so on and so forth. It is all about the gist of Western culture which defines a free-wheeling drive in the spirit of men and women, not directed or influenced by parents or traditional supporters of emotional well-being. In fact these others would not even be aware of the alternate persona of young people that they are connected with. It is just the opposite variation of a traditional, family-oriented culture that was dominant in the 20th Century.

If relationships get damaged because of foolish and futile behaviour, so be it. How about mending the fractured relationship? No. Instead, go for another social hookup, in the hope that the newness of that new potential relationship (which always ends in dating and sex) would heal the rift of the previous relationship. In fact, relationships are completely dispensable.

It was funny when our heroine (Laia Costa) asks the hero (Nicholas Hoult) to be totally transparent with her, even after he protests on the basis of emotional damage he had incurred due to the untimely death by accident of his sister with who he was close, and due to the divorce that happened in his first ever marriage after a short 8 months. The Spanish heroine resembles so much of an Indian girlfriend who is perennially nosey and totally intrusive, and will not tolerate even minor indiscretions or secrets. It was again funny when she, after having obtained the oath of transparency from the boyfriend, proposes that it would be perfectly all right for each of them to continue dating others as long as they tell each other what they are upto. Absolutely amazing!

This all reveals the innate desires of young people to keep experimenting with newness – new people, new experiences, new adventures, irrespective of any moral value destruction in the process. However, at the end, they do not discover anything “new”. As the close friend of our hero (Matthew Gray Gubler) says “it is critical to keep working on the relationship, and not give up on each other”. Long-term hookups (to use the terminology of the movie), meaning “partnership-based marriages” are tough to sustain, and are prone to blowups similar to the ones which happen in this movie. We all know that it is tough to stay invested in wedded bliss forever, but then we stay committed though there are issues and challenges. It is a partnership that should not be broken despite strong differences, emotional fights, dislikes, and potential misbehaviour on either side. The new theme of life tends to ignore the valuable life lessons of a true partnership, and makes it fleeting – something which is like most other things in life – non-permanent. The couple in this movie try to hurt each others’ feelings almost constantly despite their very obvious physical attraction for each other; this is nothing but destructive progress towards an unintended separation, which occurs couple of times. Feelings can be hurt only when you do not care about your partner, like what our heroine tells her older partner (Danny Huston) towards the end of the movie. The director has done an excellent job portraying the emotional breakups and impact on the actors.

What about romance and falling in love “permanently” with someone? Does it not happen anymore? Does the young generation of tomorrow surrender their ability to fall in love to, after all, a dating app?

Come on.

This is not the way it was supposed to be. Technology cannot destroy love and romance, and cannot also induce moral destruction.

This is an interesting movie which deserves to be watched. It proves that human relationships are not eventually dictated by dating apps, but by real feelings for each other. Struggles and disappointments are common in life, and if younger folks haven’t yet realized it, then that is a shame. As our heroine says……”…..I am yet to start my life……” which only means that she has all along been experimenting with herself but now has arrived at a milestone when she is ready to start living her life seriously with just one serious partner. No more wild experimentation, but she acknowledges the fact that her partner is likely to spew some disappointments at her, and she should have the strength of character to deal with them.

New-age movie. You “might” just like it. See it.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

11th February 2018

 

Movie from Sunday – “Wanted”


I chose this movie from the Netflix “Action Thriller” offerings. It takes quite some time to choose any movie, while it is rather easy to pick a TV serial on Netflix. I had seen a number of TV serials on Netflix in the past, but dropped out of Netflix viewing some 6 months ago. I thought I will try a movie, and chose this one.

I expected lots of action, but this movie has truckloads of action and gruesome violence on its way to glory – sometimes one cannot understand why movie stories have to build in lots of unnecessary things into the final script. The movie starts in an innocuous manner, but quickly graduates into some implausible theories and unbelievable action sequences which defy reality. There are always mysterious stories circulating, especially in Western countries about secret societies and highly trained private assassins who live by an unspoken creed, and never show who they are to the rest of the world. They are otherwise normal people, but when danger lurks around the corner, their hearts start pounding, like it does to our hero Wesley, acted so well by James McAvoy.

The movie is full of “unrealities”, or unbelievable and implausible stuff that one tends to focus more on the action sequences featuring Wesley (a rather small made man compared to other assassins in the Fraternity), Fox (Angelina Jolie), and others (such as Cross, who is Wesley’s father in the movie). The “Loom of Fate” in the eerie textile mill produces the code on the next target to be assassinated, and Sloan (so well acted by Morgan Freeman) deciphers the code, and issues the kill order. I was laughing, as it resembled some cock and bull story that we usually see in Indian action movies.

Man always has wanted higher physical and mental powers than he has been endowed with, and it is no wonder that movies try to capitalize on this hidden desire. The “Wanted” movie takes this aspect to levels of incredulity like bullets which swerve from their straight path (could become a reality in future with the aid of artificial intelligence and IoT technology), and a train which stops on a high mountain bridge while at high speed and then starts hanging all the way down to the valley into which it ultimately falls, while there is a fierce gun fight waging between several assassins inside the hanging train!

This is a super-duper Rajnikanth movie – the actor who delivered impossible stuff in Tamil movies from India!

Overall, this is a good action movie that you can enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon instead of sleeping which action will only add inches to your waist. Sometimes, an escapist movie such as this helps to relax and enjoy the fun. Obviously, you cannot get to do any of these stuff in your own life, except to imagine the luck of actors who have all the fun, while probably laughing at all the stupidity of it all. The audience, of course, pays for their fun and get some in return.

Not recommended for the avid critic of movies and books.

Recommended for blokes who don’t give a damn and just wish to while away some time, warming up for their evening cup of coffee!

Caution: Wives do not like such movies which are full of violence, and also has Angelina Jolie. In fact, my wife told me that I selected this movie because of Angelina.

Have fun!!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

04 February 2018