Saturday, November 21, 2009

5 Recent movies worth a watch

Reviewed by Island Chic

Here are some movies on my ‘Recommended watch list’ of random movies I have recently seen. These are not of any specific genre. These just happen to be some favourites among the lot I’ve watched in the last few weeks. Thought it might be worth a mention. Read more

The Wrestler

REVIEW by Yusuf Abdulla Shunan

I am not much of a fan of Wrestling, or more importantly tear-jerky movies. And by the title, "The Wrestler (2008)" I wasn't expecting that, but this movie really made my eyes wet. Mickey, (also seen in Sin City) did great acting, really commendable... Read full review

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Man from Earth


It is seldom that movie is able to intrigue me in such a way as to wish it all to be true. The Man from Earth had me glued, unblinking, to the end. And at the end I was thoroughly satisfied, almost gleefully happy and childishly excited.

Here is a movie that asks a rather interesting question, one that would keep your imagination going wild and hungry and your coffee table discussions going long into the night. The Man from Earth asks the question, “What if a man from upper-paleolithic survived until the present day?” Read full review from Simon's blog

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

“District 9” – the best film of the year so far

Review by Hilath

Racism, in all its forms, is something all humans have to overcome if we are to ensure the survival of our species and others as well.

Whether it is one religion’s superiority over another; or one language’s superiority over another; or one ethnicity’s superiority over another; or one species’ superiority over another, racism is racism. Period.

Racism is against humanity. Racism is against the very essence of being human, of being an intelligent creature. Anybody who supports racism, seek psychiatric help first before you start speaking to me.

When a film gets an average of more than 8 points out of 10 on and when critics rave about it so much, not to mention one critic calling it the most unusual sci-fi film in recent history, you tend to wonder whether it really lives up to the hype and what could be so unusual about it to leave you stunned.

But here is one film which actually went beyond my expectations and one of the few films in recent memory that actually left me in a depressed mood hours after watching it. In fact, even as I write this, I am still in a quiet mood.

District 9 is one of those few films which can actually make you go emotionally haywire. I can only describe it as a social commentary disguised as a science fiction film. Its premise strikes uncomfortably close to home one of the most basal characteristics about us human beings; racism, hostility and wanton violence towards the unknown -- whether it’s another species different from our own, or whether it is another people ethnically, culturally or religious-wise different from us.

One of the greatest ironies in the film is how easily we tend to forget our own suffering and let our inherent racial bias and prejudice loose when black Africans, who themselves have suffered so much under Apartheid in South Africa, treat the aliens in the Johannesburg ghetto as subhuman. Is it then a wonder that the Israeli army routinely unleashes its violence against helpless Palestinians in Gaza though the Jews themselves suffered worse at the hands of Nazi Germany?

Throughout the film I sat stunned and towards the end, a lump formed in my throat as director Neill Blomkamp crafted his masterpiece of a movie weaving into it the very melancholic sadness I felt when I watched Steven Spielberg’s misunderstood alien in E.T. The Extraterrestrial and Brad Bird’s misunderstood alien in The Iron Giant. I am glad Jorge Blanco and Javier Abad are releasing their animated Planet 51 on November 20; that film should demonstrate to any human what it feels like to be misunderstood as an alien "invader" among an alien species; sort of an ironic reversal of fortune (see the below YouTube trailer).

When District 9 ended, I felt so strongly for a sequel to deliver justice that had been denied, and felt utterly disgusted with the word “alien” itself. Who are we humans to think we are a superior species? And who are we humans to think that a certain ethnicity is superior to all others based on religion, language or anything else? Living things are living things. Life is life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

“Twilight”: abstinence from eating your food/lover

The above YouTube “trailer” titled “Twilight with Cheeseburgers” for me sums up the cheesy conceptual silliness of the premise on which Stephanie Meyer bases her story “Twilight.”

The pointless concepts like “vampires who sparkle like diamonds” and “vegetarian vampires” and the lame dialogues ranging from Edward’s comments to Bella like “The lion have fallen in love with the lamb” and “You are like my own personal brand of heroin” is the worst kind of screenwriting ever.

Needless to say, “Twilight” is my worst film of 2008.

It also brings to my mind my worst film of 2002 “Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones” which was based on a romantic premise that would put Bollywood’s Yash Chopra to shame because it had the worst movie romantic dialogue ever. Case in point: when Anakin touches Padme’s hands and back and compares the softness of her skin to the desert’s tough structure: “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.” See YouTube video below:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where we all call ‘Home’ …


Hello …
Few days back … on recommendation from some of my friends …
I downloaded and watched a documentary called ‘Home’
And I tell you … it was awesome … it totally blew my mind …
Home by Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a beautifully shot panorama …
Planet Earth and the damage done to it by modern humanity …
The film has breathtaking aerial footage from 54 countries …
Showing the pure beauty of our planet with amazing facts …
Glenn Close narrates the journey with very good original music …
We are shown the history of Earth how everything came about …
And how everything is interconnected and balance maintained …

Read the rest of the review from subcorpus blog

Monday, July 20, 2009

Transform this … transform that …


Hello …
I was in KL a few days back …
I had the chance to watch Transformers 2 on big screen …
I was all excited waiting in line for an hour to get tickets …
But it seems my excitement was short lived …
The moment the movie began … after 20 mins of ads …
It went downhill from that point onwards …
Let me tell you …I really liked the first Transformers movie …
But this Revenge of the Fallen could not have sucked more …

Read the rest of the review from Subcorpus' blog

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Warped hilarity in Will Ferrell's "Land of the Lost"


It may not be as smart as Anchor Man but Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost, based on the 1974 TV series, has its own originality and hilarity.

From Brad Silberling, director of the excellent City of Angels, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and Casper comes science mixed with humor, irony and even slapstick, which might put off some people.

In this literally warped setting, Ferrell and Co. get stuck in a place (a singularity like a black hole or Big Bang?) where the past, present and even the future are found together! So don’t be surprised if you find humans together with barely evolved Neanderthals, dinosaurs and even aliens with mindboggling technology! Not to mention collapsed bridges, ice cream trucks, a motel, a swimming pool and even a Narcotic Tree oasis all together in a combined land of desert, cave, forest and even a volcano!

And I was thinking “Wtf?” when I saw a “monkey boy” about to be sacrificed on a slab of stone by a “monkey man” with a dagger! This monkey boy is supposed to have a “harem” of 7,000 (not so virgin) gals, whom we get to see towards the end of the movie…

I have not seen the 1974 TV series on which this film is based but am wondering whether the filmmakers have taken vast liberties on this one because I can’t imagine all this mind-fucked shit in the 1974 series which was supposed to be a children’s TV series!

So I guess this is as twisted as a Will Ferrell comedy can get! kekeke

Original link on Hilath's blog

Monday, July 6, 2009

Stiller has more fun with history in “Battle of the Smithsonian”


It’s difficult to compare Night at the Museum with its sequel Battle of the Smithsonian because while the former was more emotionally touching, the latter is more fun and action!

So much animation and visual effects must have gone into Battle but what is enjoyable (and made me watch the movie with a smile on my face) is Ben Stiller’s own take on world and American history! I’m saying this because Stiller is such a big shot in Hollywood he really does have a say in shaping the projects he is involved in, and though he does not have a producer or writer credit to this movie, some of the fun in the movie is pure Stiller. Read the rest of the review from Hilath's blog

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Hell with Martyrs


Would you believe it I am actually writing this 2 weeks after watching the movie and still my heart starts a heavy pounding when I think about it.

Yes, Martyrs, the French horror flick by director Pascal Laugier has left a permanent feeling of discomfort within me. It is not so much your average fear as in Friday the 13th kind of fear. No, this was a perversely darker fear. When I watched it I actually felt breathless and like a child I yearned to be held, comforted and for morning to arrive and light up the world and for birds to sing. Read the rest of the review from Simon's blog

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

“Confessions of a Shopaholic” is light-hearted entertainment dealing with addiction

Review by Hilath

“Confessions of a Shopaholic” is a good starting point for those who want to understand the psychology of addiction -– whether you are addicted to sex, sports, Kasauti, God or even drugs and alcohol. And the moral of the story is that, any obsession, whatever it is you are obsessed with, is not a healthy thing, either for your emotional stability, or your credit card. Read the rest of the review from Hilath's blog

Thursday, June 25, 2009

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” works as a good action movie

Review by Hilath

I wasn’t much into comics as a kid and not even now. So my “reception” of movies based on comic characters and stories may be different from those who are fans of comics and most often end up disappointed with the movie version of comics (and books).

I think the same can be said with regard to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, because ironically, though it was made purely for fans, some fans ended up disappointed with the film — when I really enjoyed it. Read the rest of the review from Hilath's blog

Oscars expanding best film category not about snubbing "Dark Knight": Academy

The best film shortlist at the 2010 Oscars will be 10 films instead of the customary five, it has been announced but BBC quoted Academy president Sid Ganis saying The Dark Knight "did not come up" in discussions about expanding the category.

"Audiences and many critics felt that the latest Batman epic, which won a posthumous best supporting actor award for Heath Ledger, should have been included among this year's best picture nominees", writes BBC.
Read the full BBC report

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

“Angels and Demons” satisfying at many levels

Review by Hilath

... Unlike "The Da Vinci Code", "Angels and Demons" is, how should I say, more “movie material”: the plot is a mixture of serial killer, suspense, mystery, detective, and action thriller all wrapped into one, which makes it conventional, but in the hands of a gifted director like Howard, he manages to pull it off beautifully with balance! ... Read Hilath's full review

Saturday, June 20, 2009

12 Rounds of Stupidity

Review by Simon Shareef

I consider myself pretty good at selecting good movies but after last night’s movie I realized I was taking it for granted and being foolish.

See, last night I went to purchase a movie from one of the hundreds of pirated DVD outfits in town and asked the guys there for suggestions as I didn’t see any instantly recognisable movies on the shelf. So the guy there, who I admit is pretty good at marketing his product, handed over a movie he said was just too good to be missed.

It starred a man who the shop dude really liked very much. I never heard of this actor before. Apparently John Cena is very famous and this movie titled “12 rounds” was the action flick of the year. Now that I think about it, the marketing guy’s next suggestion was a dead giveaway to his taste in movies. I should have known better. Tell you later what I mean.

Anyway, this “12 Rounds”, is by far the worst movie I’ve ever seen. John Cena’s pectorals do more acting than he himself ever could. In fact, his supporting cast did a far better job, doing so almost to the point that it felt like Mr. Cena was constantly stumbling into the set of another, far better movie starring the supporting cast. I think in a couple of scenes the supporting cast were even surprised to see Mr. Cena there at all. Mind you, when I say the supporting cast I do not include the most forgettable villain in all of movie-making historys. I’m serious!
Read the rest of the review from Simon's blog

Angels and Demons

Review by Hassan Ziyau (Student of Mass Communication)

... as I watched the movie, I realized that Catholics from around the globe consider Pope resident in the Vatican City as their leader. Pope is the Bishop of Rome and as such is the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church (that is, all Latin Rite and Eastern Rite churches which are in full communion with the Roman Pontiff). The Pope is also head of state of Vatican City. Popes focus almost exclusively on spiritual matters.

While the movie rolled, thoughts evolved through my mind! For a second I thought what would it be like to have a Muslim leader or authority that commands and guides the whole Muslim world towards the true teachings of Islam? To settle our differences and unite us in one thinking! What would it be like to depend on him for the religious problems that we face? What would it be like to treat him as Leader of Muslims who will protect the religion and who will talk on behalf of about 1.3-1.5 billion people, roughly one-fifth of the world population? Not just on behalf of one’s own country or political thinking... Read the full review from Hassan Ziyau's blog

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Horton Hears a Who!

Here is a film that should be seen by both believers and non-believers. Although it may not convert one camp into the other, it nevertheless hopefully will serve as an enlightening experience to bridge the gap in communication and understanding between the religious and the skeptic mind.

In fact, this film is so relevant to the frightening level of extremism, religious conservatism, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness currently gripping our small society in Maldives, I suggest that no one -- who wants his or her vision of existence expanded and tolerance level increased --  miss this entertaining and yet enlightening film. Read full review from

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The night is darkest just before the dawn...

Adaptations are a tricky business. Just ask Alan Moore or Uwe Boll – though, admittedly, not for the same reasons.

Promotional Art for Frank Miller's 'Batman Year One' Trade Paperback

At the best of times your source material has a rabid following who will, once you've announced your intentions, scrutinize your every move – down to the the colour of underpants your hero may, or may not, wear under, or over, their costumes.

And at the worst of times... well... you should click on the Alan Moore link (above) before you go on to the rest of what I've got to say...

Most times our worst fears are realised (see Uwe Boll for the worst case scenario) but sometimes... sometimes the  improbable does actually happen... [full 'story' at Nuances]

Friday, April 24, 2009


[Originally posted at Nuances]

[also berakhah] in Judaism, a blessing usually recited
during a ceremony, OR
[also barakah] in Arabic, Islam and Arab-influenced
languages such as Swahili, Urdu, 
Persian, Turkish, meaning
spiritual wisdom and blessing transmitted from God;
or in a Sufi context, "breath of life."

Baraka, means 'Blessing' a spiritual power believed to be
possessed by certain 
persons, objects, tombs, in Arabic,
Swahili, Urdu, Persian and Turkish.

A few months ago I became the proud owner of a Baraka (1992) Blu-ray. I first watched it as part of a college assignment focusing, as I recall, on non-verbal films.

It was enthralling, to say the least. And this was a viewing in standard definition on a 21 inch monitor accompanied by a loud, somewhat agitated, group of college students with a healthy dose of ADD – oh not to worry... I count myself along with the ADD crowd.

Five minutes into the film everyone quieted down – most of us were either trying to figure out where the 'no talking' was headed OR it could have been that the almost serene imagery and music started to resonate with their brain waves... or maybe a bit of both.

Cover art – Baraka [Blu-ray]

In the next 91 minutes we, through no conscious will of our own, found ourselves soothed and calmed to the point where some of us experienced something totally alien – a silence that is never seen (heard?!?! unheard?!?! witnessed?!?! experienced!)... experienced in a college much less a tight screening room packed with students!

Beautiful, peaceful, serene images washed over us – even in the moments where the motion lapse technique was used to show 'herds', repetitions and juxtapositions we were not jarred out of our trance like state... not even when we where shown the 'cruelty' that man, and war, unleash upon nature did we flinch – the 'no blood and gore' philosophy helped... every 'point' that the film made... it made peacefully... serenely... beautifully...

And then we were done... and were faced with the horror of writing about a film with no dialogue... YIKES!

Fast forward five years to two months ago – there I was, holding nostalgia at bay... surely this wouldn't stand up to the first experience ... would it?

In a small-ish room with no natural light, I saw nature unfold and unleashed before me in glorious High Definition...

And I kid you not my friends it DID surpass my first viewing.

A scene from the film

Whether it was the new transfer OR the five year gap that erodes the memory of the first viewings (I saw it multiple times in standard definition that semester in college) I cannot tell...

Oh who am I kidding... it's the HD and the larger TV (36 inches now) AAand the lack of a fidgety, ADD-ish college crowd... and the HD... did I say that already?!?! Well it bears repeating...

Baraka looks AMAZING in High Definition - AM. Ay. ZING!

Filmed at 152 locations in 24 countries which includes several natural wonders of the world (sadly no Maldives) this is a MUST for any film fan AND any human with a cranial space.

I can't wait for Ron Fricke and Co. to unveil Samsara, the sequel to Baraka which is planned to be released around 2009/2010.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

...This Keanu Reeves one is not a classic I have to admit. For me, it was just another guilty pleasure (like the surf chick flick Blue Crush :-)). If you passed on this film, you are not missing anything. So I shan’t advise anyone to make an effort to see this.

But for hard core sci-fi fans like me who at least needs to check out the few sci-fi films that come out every year to enjoy the visual and sound effects, I recommend them to at least check this film. I don’t think it will be a great disappointment or that great a waste of time. Full story from

Friday, March 20, 2009

A story from the heart

By Ali Rasheed

"How do I look?" Indian actress, activist and filmmaker Nandita Das asks me.

We're in Film City, Mumbai, in early January 2008, and it's the last day of the principal shoot of Nandita's directorial debut Firaaq...

...Throughout the shoot Nandita has been steadfast and, actor Paresh Rawal commented, "sure-footed", her unflagging energy the admiration of everyone in the 60-odd film crew.

...Some people have criticised the film as pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu, Nandita sees it as "pro-human" film...

Full story from Ali Rasheed's blog

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shyamalan a victim of his own devices?

By Hilath Rasheed

This article may need a major overhaul as I haven't seen Shyamalan's critically panned most recent The Happening which led to's Bill Gibron to declare: "It's official: M. Night Shyamalan is no longer the next Spielberg."

Ever since that great Oscar-nominated film The Sixth Sense, which critics thought would make Shyamalan the next Spielberg, Shyamalan seems to be stuck in one formula: delivering a shock or twisted ending at the end of his every film.

Though Shyamalan is an Indian born and raised in Philadelphia, the United States, it seems odd that he should succumb to that unique South Asian mentality where filmmakers like to attach themselves and be known for a preferred genre or formula (e.g. John Woo identifying himself as a director of action movies).

Western filmmakers like to do diverse things in order to master the art of film-making and audiences naturally don't demand that a certain director do only one kind of movies. Hence, Spielberg is equally good at dealing with the subject of racism (The Color People) as he is good at dealing with science fiction (Minority Report) or historical epics (Schindler's List).

What Shyamalan should now realise is that there is only so much he can deliver with shocking and twisted endings and that audiences have tired of his game. If he wants to continue his film career, he should diversify his movie "formulas."

The below article which was published in The Evening Weekly on 11 April 2005 was written at a time when I had high hopes in Shyamalan and was quite fond of his films, even when he faltered with films with so many loopholes like Signs.

So here it is:

Major spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk if you haven’t seen Shyamalan’s The Village yet.

Manoj Night Shyamalan, the Indian born but Philadelphia resident Hollywood director, has stamped all his films with a prediction of a “big twist” whether it is “The Sixth Sense” or his most recent “The Village.”
“The Sixth Sense” is by far his most critically acclaimed and commercially successful film. But even his not-so-acclaimed film “Unbreakable” has won a cult place alongside the immensely popular but flawed “Signs” among his hard-core fans. So what went wrong with Shyamalan’s most recent outing, “The Village”?

Some commentators claim that the main reason why Shyamalan’s fans failed to take to “The Village” was because the big twist at the end did not have any supernatural connections. The big twist in “The Village” is a perfectly logical, though questionable climax. Or anti-climax, depending on how you as an individual happened to receive the film.

Fans were let down because Shyamalan gives a logical answer, and not a supernatural twist, and this was not acceptable to a hardcore Shyamalan fan.

Every Shyamalan film’s trailer is packaged in a way which increases the anticipation of the viewer toward a big twist. The trailer for “The Village” was not different either. And all Shymalan’s films are packaged in such a way that towards the end, we are led to a big supernatural twist.

“Unlike ‘The Sixth Sense,’ however, ‘The Village’s key revelation might be too mild to jolt audiences. Some may even feel cheated. The temptation is to declare the film's main appeal will be to older audiences,” wrote film critic Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter.

“‘The Village’ emerges as a victim of its own ambitions,” film critic Claudia Puig concluded in USA Today.

But this time, the reason why I immensely liked “The Village” is because Shyamalan once again gives us something different -- a logical conclusion instead of a supernatural one. If that is not a departure for Shyamalan, if that is not a big twist by itself, I don’t know what can be.

Though the film still has references to supernatural creatures, “The Village” deals with a more mature social subject. The moral question here is: in these contemporary times where crime is rampant, is the only way to escape from it by caging ourselves in isolation from the rest of the world?

Film critic Wesley Morris from the Boston Globe called “The Village” “a sociology project disguised as a sylvan horror flick.”

“Every minute of ‘The Village’ is the work of a genius and a fool, as each of Shyamalan's last four movies has been. And this, by the filmmaker's standards, is the bravest, craziest one yet, questioning the meaning of magic and the trauma of loss. It springs from a type of defiant immaturity that seems possible only with him -- or Michael Jackson: a Neverland sprung from hurt and paranoia. Both men's art is so otherworldly, grandiose, and disfigured with naivete that you're forever asking whether you share the same planet with them,” he wrote.

What really surprised me this time is, like Shyamalan’s fans, most US critics blasted this film as well. It baffled me why, unlike audiences, critics failed to see into Shyamalan’s creativity. In “The Village”, Shyamalan creates a stirring thriller through superb acting (especially by Bryce Dallas Howard who deserves nothing less than an Oscar nomination for her electrifying performance), eerie cinematography (by Roger Deakins) accompanied to a wonderfully evocative score by James Newton Howard, particularly the work of violinist Hilary Hahn. Not to mention the creepy sound effects which create a more terrifying environment than sometimes even the visuals.

Roger Ebert, one of the most popular film critics of Hollywood, called “The Village” “a colossal miscalculation.”

“A movie based on a premise that cannot support it, a premise so transparent it would be laughable were the movie not so deadly solemn. It's a flimsy excuse for a plot, with characters who move below the one-dimensional and enter Flatland,” he wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times.

Do critics like Ebert go to the movies like us popcorn-eating audiences expecting a big twist? Perhaps.

“Every negative review of ‘The Village’ has been based on the disappointment of the ‘twist’ and the ease of suspecting The Village's true secret so early in the film. These same critics, Ebert included, are so focused on their assumption of Shyamalan's reliance upon a plot twist that they fail to realize that the director purposefully and intelligently chose not to rely solely on a big plot twist like ‘The Sixth Sense’ and the far worse ‘Signs’”, wrote a reviewer identified as Whyz77 on Yahoo movies.

“The surprise is no surprise, but more importantly a purposeful piece to a well crafted puzzle. See ‘The Village’ for a good movie with a thought-provoking message, not for a reinvention of ‘The Sixth Sense.’ The real surprise will be how much you can enjoy a movie if you maintain an open mind,” Whyz77 wrote.

And of course there are those Shyamalan-haters who seem to hate him just because his films, so illogical, are yet so popular. Consider this criticism from Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle: “M. Night Shyamalan has nothing to say, but he's going to keep right on saying it until people make him stop.”

Just because people like LaSalle feel cheated, should we make Shyamalan stop making films? I do not think so. People who want to see “logical” films should not spend their money on a Shyamalan film and then complain about it.

In the end, only film critic Peter Travers from Rolling Stone magazine seems to have nailed the reason why “The Village” received a cool reception though it is, in my opinion, Shyamalan’s best film to date.

“It turns out Shyamalan was in on the scam -- a guerrilla marketing campaign gone awry. That would be as butt-stupid as writing off Shyamalan as a trickster to be judged solely on how many rabbits he can pull out of his hat. Know what? Let the film speak for itself. ‘The Village,’ even when its step falters, is on to something more provocative than seeing dead people,” Travers wrote.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Rachel Getting Married": classic realism cinema at its very best


Perhaps a lot of people seem to have missed this movie because of its title which most serious cinema-lovers will easily dismiss as "just another romantic pop corn comedy" -- which is actually the polar opposite of what the film is really about (I will come to that).

This is one movie which I will easily dare call a classic that also happens to celebrate humanity in its truest sense. A triumph for not only Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme's illustrious career but for universal cinema as a whole.

With Rachel Getting Married, Demme seems to have undergone a major personal transformation as well, in that he has become more humanist and wide-ranging in his world view.

The blend of so many ethnic groups, Caucasians, Blacks, Chinese, etc, along with unique ethnic features such as the donning of the Indian sari for the wedding ceremony and the incorporation of ethnic music, without any overt justification for its being there, demonstrates how far Demme has grown in his own humanity.

There are two scenes in the film which sent chills down my spine, brought tears to my eyes, and made me realise the wide gap of communication and misunderstanding between addicts and their non-addict family members.

I won't go into details and spoil the movie but that scene is when recovering addict Kym (acted brilliantly by Anne Hathaway) confronts her sister Rachel (another excellent performance by Rosemarie DeWitt) in the presence of their father (superbly played by Bill Irwin).

So many emotions were evoked in me and deep inside I was crying myself.

But perhaps the most disturbing scene in the film is when Hathaway finally confronts her mother (another classic performance by Debra Winger) and asks her the question which still haunts the family to this day; the question why a mother would ever leave an under-aged addict daughter high on drugs to babysit her little brother?

A kaleidoscope of emotions erupted and I think I too openly cried along with Hathaway and her mother.

This is one of the best and most realist films of last year. I am not surprised that it comes from Demme who made that brilliant psychological thriller about a cannibal, The Silence of the Lambs, one of the few films in movie history which won all the top 5 categories' Oscars: Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress.

And talking about the title of the film, I think though it might put off serious cinema lovers, when you really think about it, it's just the kind of non-assuming name that a humanist like Demme would give, rather than coming up with profound-sounding and sweeping names like "Pride and Glory" or "Body of Lies"! And even in the context of the movie itself, Rachel Getting Married is an appropriate name because the film shows events of a two-day period all taking place surrounding a wedding.

Rachel Getting Married on

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Heena" and the Maldivian Woman

What effects (and setbacks?) the popular Indian serial may have on Maldivian women's empowerment movement

By Hilath Rasheed

Some find it an exhilarating experience to watch films or read books that have strong and independent women as central characters. Thank Jane Campion and Sidney Sheldon for that. But others dwell in socially constructed patriarchal societies, infatuated with women characters who are submissive to the extent that they suffer gross injustices at the hands of men, whether physical or emotional.

Where does the Maldivian woman stand? Perhaps, we don't need go further. The Maldivian society is not subtle. The clues are all there to see. A look at Maldivian women's obsession with soaps that have central stories woven around submissive women, such as the likes of the Indian serial Heena, reflects Maldivian women's outlooks on their social roles, and where their sympathies lie.

"The fact that many Maldivian women identify with Heena is because they themselves can identify with the character of Heena--submissive, obedient and very much protective of her husband Sameer, whatever injustices he does to her," said a 28-year-old mother of two.

However, we have to take into account the cultural differences when we relate Heena with Maldivian women. In Indian culture, divorce is very much frowned upon; women and their families will go to great pains to preserve the sanctity of marriage even if it means the woman has to undergo a lifelong suffering in a loveless marriage.

But that is not the case in Maldives. Though divorce is still frowned upon, Maldivian women still have the option of ending a loveless or oppressive marriage without so many social complications as is apparent in Indian culture. But the surprising thing is many Maldivian still try to "stick it out", regardless of unhappy marriages they may have entered into.

Take the case of Aishath (who wouldn't give her last name for personal reasons) who is from an island but came to Male', pursued higher education and got a white-collar job. She then married, got two kids, resigned her job and took up the role of housewife. She later found that her husband had been keeping other lovers but she choose to give a blind eye to her husband's double life. Why?

"For the sake of my children," she said simply.

Give her credit for taking into consideration the sensitivities of her children. But look at how depressing it is for her to live the rest of her life with a husband who is taunting her human dignity--and her self-dignity--by seeking pleasure in other women while he is still married to her. In a Maldives context, Aishath could very well be another Heena--protective of her husband, ready to struggle to save her marriage regardless of the injustices he is doing to her.

Some call such a situation a "silent suffering." Some women argue that women like Heena and Aishath are actually "emotionally strong", the reason being that they are able to take the emotional onslaughts of the husband with calm and quiet.

But women who argue against this doesn't think that being "emotionally strong" necessarily makes a "strong woman." In fact, they take "emotionally strong" as being a kind of weakness--a weakness that disables the woman from standing up to her husband.

"I would describe Aishath as strong if she would really stand up to her husband and demand that he treat her with dignity and equality," a 24-year-old unmarried girl said in relation to Aishath's case.

"We women have to believe that we have a good life ahead of us. We don't have to take sufferings that we don't deserve, tortures that others inflict upon us. In the case of Aishath, I would strongly argue her to end her husband's humiliating treatment of her by going separate ways and seeking someone who really loves her and who will treat her as equal partner. Where's her dignity? Isn't dignity the most valued asset of any human being?"

Perhaps the individuality is lost when a woman gets married?

"Independence and individuality--a lot of this is lost when a woman marries," commented Maryam, a teacher trainee.

"Talk about sexual oppression. Heena was sexually unfulfilled but she stuck it out. Aishath is, too. And so does a lot of others. We're taught that everything other than 'the big picture' is not important, 'the big picture' being that one has to hold the marriage together."

However, divorce can turn out to be messy. You might have to run to court for days. And even then the trauma of laying open your personal life and your emotions to an indifferent judge could turn out emotionally frustrating. At the end, you may be left drained.

"And after a divorce, where will she go?" questioned Maryam.

"We are talking about an average woman with adequate educational background with about a Rf2,000 (about 200 US dollars) salary. Can she go back to her mom's place, where their is hardly any space and where she'll be considered a burden? In most of the cases it is."

Perhaps Heena--and the Maldivian woman--should adopt, to some extent and to suit her own needs, some of the traits of Ruby who seems to be everything that Heena is not--ruthless, independent, ambitious, manupulative.

"Personally, I would want a diluted version of both Heena's and Ruby's qualities," agreed Maryam.

"But if anybody asked me who would be the most happiest of them in the long run I would have to say that it would be Heena because if a person is considerate about others, then she will find happiness, as against Ruby who does everything out of self-interest."

Coming to the root of the problem: why are women--not just Maldivian women--generally submissive? Is it an inborn thing? A biological phenomenon? A natural instinct? A trait of "being a woman"? Some don't think so! And with good reason, too.

"It is not a natural or biological phenomenon," said Aneesa Ahmed, the Deputy Minister of Women's Affairs and Social Security.

"Gender roles have been socially created. From childhood, we have been taught that men are breadwinners and women the dependents. It is only when someone becomes dependent that the person becomes submissive, regardless of whether it is a man or woman. That's why there is a need for women's empowerment movement."

"Think about what girls have been taught from the day they are born: the duties of a daughter, a wife, a mother comes before the individuality of being just a woman with the needs of a woman," echoed Maryam.

Some question the validity of the existence of a women's empowerment movement, claiming that Maldives enjoys gender equality in all walks of life, as it is sanctioned by the Constitution. But the reality is that although the government recognizes equal rights of the sexes, society and tradition do not. And this is why a women's empowerment movement is needed. We need to educate women on their rights, the need for them to be independent and strong, the need for them to demand equal treatment, the need for them to be on an independent and sound economic footing, so that they won't have to be dependent on any one--whether it be their peers, superiors, partners or husbands--in case should they become subject to neglect, suffering and other injustices.

Equal rights are not about a war being fought to determine whether who is physically strong--man or woman. Equal rights are about treating every woman with dignity, the dignity that a human being deserves and has a right to. Equal rights are about loving and caring, about sharing, about treating your partner as your equal, because in a relationship where one partner does not treat the other as his or her equal, love won't bloom.

What a pity! If only men and women could learn to love one another, treat one another with respect and concentrate more on expanding the horizons of their relationships could they discover how fantastic and blissful our short lives here on this earth could otherwise be.

This article was published in The Monday Times

"The Love Guru" "wins" Worst Film

The 29th Annual Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Award "Winners" were announced just 24 hours before the prestigious Oscars. Below is the full list:

Worst Film: "The Love Guru"

Worst Director: Uwe Boll, "1968: Tunnel Rats", "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale", "Postal"

Worst Actor: Mike Myers, "The Love Guru"

Worst Actress: Paris Hilton, "The Hottie and the Nottie"

Worst Supporting Actor: Pierce Brosnan, "Mamma Mia!"

Worst Supporting Actress: Paris Hilton, "Repo: The Genetic Opera"

Worst Screenplay: "The Love Guru"
Worst Screen Couple: Paris Hilton and either Christine Lakin or Joel David Moore, "The Hottie and the Nottie"

Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel: "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"

Worst Career Achievement: Uwe Boll

Uwe Boll was said to be "Germany's answer to Ed Wood". *LOL*

The Full List on Razzies Website

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Slumdog Millionaire" wins 8 Oscars including for Best Film

The Hollywood-Bollywood collaboration "Slumdog Millionaire" won 8 Oscars including for Best Film at today's 81st Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

Click here for the full list of winners

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Oscars: Best picture is best bellwether

Movie people care about the Oscars in part because they understand that when you vote for a best picture candidate, you are voting for more than an individual film. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you are voting for the philosophy of filmmaking, the attitude toward cinema, your particular choice represents. In this day of the disappearing dollar, attitudes that don't earn the respect of Hollywood might be facing the dustbin of history. Though one of the oldest clichés of moviemaking is, "If you want to send a message, call Western Union," sending a message is exactly what voters end up doing.


Whichever of the five nominated films walks away with the academy's top prize tonight helps Hollywood gauge which way the biz blows.

By Kenneth Turan / Los Angeles Times film critic

Tonight's Oscar ceremony will be the 81st in the award's venerable history, and like people who've reached an advanced age, the institution has had a hard time getting respect in a contemporary culture that cares mightily about being up to the minute and ahead of the curve.

It's difficult to read anything about the Oscars these days without coming across attitudes that are either blasé or outright dismissive. The awards are derided as meaningless and out of touch, too cut off from the films that real moviegoers (code for those 25 and under) are determined to see. Who could possibly care enough, cynics carp, to so much as turn on the TV and watch this antediluvian event strut its hours upon the stage.

Aside from my house, where the Oscars remain must-see programming, the one place where the Academy Awards continue to mean a great deal is within the movie business. In fact, the prizes, especially the one for best picture, seem to mean more this year than ever.

I say that because it's been another bitter awards, with partisans of the five contenders eager to bad-mouth whomever they saw as competition. When Entertainment Weekly wrote about the race in the Feb. 13 issue, the cover line got right to the point: "Battle For Oscar: Now It's Getting Ugly."

Movie people care about the Oscars in part because they understand that when you vote for a best picture candidate, you are voting for more than an individual film. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you are voting for the philosophy of filmmaking, the attitude toward cinema, your particular choice represents. In this day of the disappearing dollar, attitudes that don't earn the respect of Hollywood might be facing the dustbin of history. Though one of the oldest clichés of moviemaking is, "If you want to send a message, call Western Union," sending a message is exactly what voters end up doing.

I wanted to examine the five best picture candidates from that point of view. Rather than focusing exclusively on personal favorites or trying to predict which nominee might win, I wanted to analyze what it would say about Hollywood values if a particular film came out on top. Here's what I came up with:

'The Reader'

Despite its considerable pedigree, including producing credits for departed filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, this "We're not a Holocaust drama" drama is widely perceived as being the fifth film on the list.

Unlikely though it is, a victory for "The Reader" would be a sign of respect for Pollack and Minghella (both gentlemen passed away in 2008). It would also be a tribute to the persuasive power of Harvey Weinstein, who knows, as few people do, where the buttons are in the academy and how to push them. And finally, it would be a sign that touching on the Holocaust, however tangentially, is still a way into the hearts and minds of academy voters. The old ways die hard, especially in Hollywood.


I was surprised and not surprised when this film made the final five. Sean Penn's remarkable performance aside, "Milk" couldn't be more earnest and conventional. This is not necessarily a bad thing with the academy, but with other, equally conventional films such as "Defiance" falling by the wayside, "Milk" must be benefiting from the power of other factors. And it is.

For one thing, people who were passionately opposed to Proposition 8 and who allow political concerns to influence their votes will feel they are sending a message with this choice. The other factor in "Milk's" favor, frankly, is guilt and the desire to make amends. Actors often get their Oscars years after the film they should have won for, and regret at unjustly bypassing "Brokeback Mountain" three years ago may lead to "buyers' remorse" votes for this film.


If there are two things the business appreciates it's impeccable professionalism and longevity, and this film by Ron Howard -- who's remained well liked during his half century on center stage -- epitomizes both qualities.

Working with longtime producing partner Brian Grazer, Howard not only expertly coordinated the work of actors Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, screenwriter Peter Morgan and cinematographer Salvatore Totino, he produced the best classic Hollywood effort to make it into the final five. If he didn't already have a best picture winner in "A Beautiful Mind," this film would have a stronger shot at victory.

'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'

My reader mail on this film has been divided right down the middle, with viewers either transported to higher realms or bored to tears. But like it or loathe it, "Button" presents that rare situation where what it stands for is more valuable than what it is.

"Button" is that almost extinct species, the major studio art film, a piece of cinema where enormous sums of money were spent and the power of the Hollywood machine placed behind a film that was not "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Harry Potter." To toilers in the studio vineyards who don't want to feel doomed to spending their entire careers making films for people not mature enough to vote, casting your ballot for "Benjamin Button" means casting a ballot for hope and against despair.

'Slumdog Millionaire'

Which is where the favorite, "Slumdog Millionaire," comes in. For though it was not a studio product and nearly didn't get theatrical distribution at all, a vote for this film is really standing up for the best of mass-audience moviemaking, for the notion that cinema with wide appeal can be smartly made as well as popular. It's also a vote for strengthening Hollywood's connection to the most promising trend of the past decades -- the rise of the independent film world that produced director Danny Boyle.

Though its appearance was inevitable, I've been astonished at some of the anti-"Slumdog" backlash, by observers who seem to regret that the film isn't a somber position paper from Human Rights Watch. Demanding that poor people be miserable and rent their garments on screen is as patronizing an attitude in its own way as Samuel Goldwyn's insistence that the sets for his 1937 film "Dead End" be free of trash. "There won't be any dirty slums," biographer Scott Berg reports the mogul declared. "Not in my picture!"

Given that it's basically a delirious fantasy, what's frankly surprising about "Slumdog Millionaire" is how much realism there is in it, not how little. It's an old-fashioned movie, for heaven's sake, a hugely accomplished piece of entertainment that delights audiences across the widest possible spectrum, which is exactly what traditional Hollywood so often lusts for and fails to achieve. If academy members don't recognize and reward that kind of success, there are going to be a lot fewer of them to enjoy in the future.

Original link

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to get an Oscar nomination? Here's the science behind it


Movie star Cate Blanchett’s recent stirring performances may not have been the only reason she got two Oscar nods this week.

Academy Award nominations tend to go to performers in dramas, who are female, who have been nominated in the past and who command a high rank in the movie-credit pecking order, a new study shows.

Sociologists Nicole Esparza of Harvard University and Gabriel Rossman of the University of California, Los Angeles, used records from the Internet Movie Database for every Oscar-eligible film made between the founding of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in 1927 and 2005 to see what conditions might improve a performer's chances of getting a nod.

"A performer's odds of being nominated are largely set before the cameras even start rolling, back when the script was bought, the director was signed and the film was cast," Esparza said. "It's surprising how many variables other than a performer's talent play a role in determining who gets nominated."

The researchers found that the largest predictor of garnering a nomination was to leave the audience in tears instead of in stitches: Actors were nine times more likely to receive a nomination for a dramatic performance than a non-dramatic one.

"In the entertainment industry, there's long been a sense that the nomination process prefers dramas, but I don't think anybody is aware of the magnitude of the effect," Rossman said.

The second strongest predictor in the study, the number of films screened that year, may seem fairly obvious.

"It's better to be nominated in a year when fewer films were screened, because there's less competition come awards time," Rossman said.

Actresses were more than twice as likely to be nominated as actors for any given performance, the findings showed, making being female the third biggest predictor.

"At least in this case, being underrepresented on the job works in women's favor," Esparza said. "Because there are fewer female than male performers in films, and both are eligible for the same number of awards, actresses stand a better chance of being nominated than actors. It's a simple matter of arithmetic, but as far as I know, nobody has ever raised the point."

Actors and actresses were also more likely to receive a nomination if they had a history of being named at the top of the credits, had been nominated for an Oscar before or if they appeared with previously nominated writers and directors.

Blanchett, who received a best actress nomination for the sequel, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age", and a supporting actress nod for "I'm Not There," certainly has many of these factors working in her favor. Nominations for the 80th Academy Awards ceremony were announced Monday morning.

(This article can be found at this link on

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The very worst in film

It wasn’t just the American economy that took a disastrous downturn in 2008 — so did the quality of Hollywood movie-making. Of the 573 films released last year a record 75 rated forum discussions on the official RAZZIE® Awards web site.

This plethora of putrid motion pictures proved a double-edged sword — It meant Golden Raspberry Award voters had plenty to choose from — but it also made their task of culling the crud down to a mere five contenders each in nine categories berry complicated.

The eventual “winners” will be unveiled in intentionally tacky ceremonies set for the now traditional Oscar® eve, Saturday night February 21, 2009 at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood.

Click here for the full list of Razzies nominations:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Parveen Babi: A star is dead

When police broke into her Juhu home in January they discovered something altogether very different: the rotting corpse of a bloated, gangrene-infected 55-year-old recluse. Ali Rasheed looks back at enigmatic seventies star Parveen Babi, one of the most beautiful actresses to ever have graced Bollywood cinema

Parveen Babi won her first screen role when she was still a student at Ahmedabad University, in an unremarkable film called Charitra (B R Ishara, 1973). The film bombed at the box-office, but Babi’s screen presence did not go unnoticed. Coming from the old royal family of Junagadh, her unconventional looks and aristocratic poise caught the attention of both audiences and producers.

Bollywood saw in Parveen Babi the raw materials that could be transformed into a marketable product. Producers offered her a certain type of role, manipulated media coverage to their advantage, and successfully constructed out of her looks, glamour, and charisma a star image that could be bought and sold at will.

Stars, according to film theory, are found in both the roles they play in films and the media exposure they receive as a consequence, which in turn contributes to the meaning they bring to their next role.

Within the next few years, a string of films were constructing and cashing in on Parveen Babi’s star image. One film in particular presented what would arguably become her most remembered role. The 70s blockbuster Deewar (Yash Chopra) showed Babi lying in bed with the then emerging superstar Amitabh Bachchan, smoking a post-coital cigarette. In a country where female smokers and sex before marriage are still considered taboo the image sent shock waves down its conservative sensibilities.

But there was also an unmistakable fascination with what Parveen Babi was representing. Babi’s co-star Amitabh Bachchan noted: “I did the maximum number of films with Parveen after Jaya. The audience liked us as a pair. She brought in a new, bohemian kind of leading lady to the screen.”

Parveen Babi clearly destabilised established notions about respectable femininity in conservative India. Yet many of her films were phenomenally successful. Babi’s star image thus invites many different meanings, and its study could well lead to a broader exploration of the culture in which it circulated.

It is important that bold and bohemian as Parveen Babi was, she never transgressed the category of femininity itself. For most part, she allowed herself to be displayed as an object of desire for the voyeuristic gaze of a largely male audience. She was certainly different, but not threatening to established patriarchal norms in mainstream cinema. In contrast, Babi’s fellow contemporary Zeenat Aman habitually transgressed gender boundaries in films such as Don (Chandra Barot, 1978).

Star images are also said to embody the fantasies, desires and myths often otherwise repressed in ordinary people.

Parveen Babi may have allowed male audiences to temporarily suspend traditional values, and to project their secret desires onto the bold, sexually-liberated woman she was representing. By the same token, female audiences could identify with her image as what they really wanted to be.

We may never fully understand our fascination with star images. Indeed we may be reluctant to, for the deeper we delve into the voyeuristic pleasure or identification processes at work, the closer we are to uncovering the darker side to our own selves.

In Deewar, Parveen Babi is killed off by the bad guys once she has fulfilled her function as the object of desire. This can be read as the reflection of an unconscious and, should I say, patriarchal desire and willingness to enjoy the forbidden fruit, as long as we can annihilate it afterwards and, by definition, our own guilt. In real life too it appears that the Bollywood that adored Babi at the height of her fame and beauty, left her to die on her own.

Parveen Babi acted in more than 50 films, including Amar Akbar Anthony, Kalia, and Khuddar. She quit films in the 1980s to experiment with alternative philosophies and lifestyles, in India and overseas. In the 90s she returned home, but became a recluse, rarely venturing out of the house. Some people speculated that she also suffered from schizophrenia.

Amitabh Bachchan in an interview after her death sounded almost apologetic: “The nature of her illness was such that she was terrified of people. We felt by associating ourselves with her we were causing her more grief.”

Despite her tragic end, Parveen Babi will go down in history as a cultural icon and someone who paved the way for a new generation of stars like Aishwarya Rai. Rai was recently featured on the cover of Time, three decades after Babi enjoyed the same privilege.

(This article was published in The Evening Weekly on 7 March 2005)