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Happy 5th Birthday!!!!!

It’s No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’s 5th Blogaversary!!!! Wow!!  

The Birthday cake my mum made for my sister’s 5th Birthday (20th October 1985) New Delhi, India

When I started this Blog, on the 20th of March 2012; I had no idea how far this would go. But the fact I’ve managed to come this far, in five years, is great achievement for me. I’ve mostly blogged about films; but I’ve written a few other posts about books (especially when I started this in 2012); art, music, history etc etc…

Added to which I’ve got a few personal posts as well; two to do with the stress and depression, I’ve been going through. Even at this moment, am not in a great place, psychologically speaking (NO, am not mad, though feeling a tad too down). But, as I’ve said I’ve already done two posts of depression here, and another one on Facebook. I have no desire to do yet another post, no matter what I’m going through. And I’m survivor, always have been. Touchwood!!

On the PLUS+ side; My BLOG is a high FIVE!!!! It’s a celebration!!

I have to say, a spacial, THANK YOU, to all my fellow bloggers, for following, liking and commenting on my Blog. If not for you all, I doubt I’d have continued this blog, this long. So really, Thank You!!! 🙂

Nuwan Sen

Queer Movies, and the month of Mardi-Gras

10 years ago, on 3rd March 2007, I witnessed the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (simply known as Mardi-Gras, down under). This was when I was a student, doing my MA in painting (2006-2007), at COFA (College of Fine Arts), UNSW (University of New South Wales). It was a spectacular event, with gaudily glittering floats, semi naked bodies, cute kids, and the Sydney Mayor. In full swing, in the Australian summer, it went on, from dusk till dark.

The Mardi-Gars festival, is actually a carnival before Lent, in the Christian calendar. BUT, in Sydney, it’s a Pride carnival. Mainly due to the fact, that during the Pride month (which happens to be the summer month of June); is in the heart of winter, down under; where seasons go in the exact opposite direction to the norm. Christmas down under, is in the height of the hot sweltering summer. Thus, the Pride March, down under, has been interwoven with the Mardi-Gras; and is known as the Sydney Mardi Gras!! This takes place, on the first Saturday, of March. And thus, this year, it was held on 5th March 2017!!

In 2008, it was on the 1st of March, 2008. By now, I’d completed my 2nd Masters, and I was temporarily working as an ‘International Student Advisor’, at the ISS (International Student Services), in UNSW. I did not attend it that year (in fact, March 2007, has been the only Mardi-Gras carnival I’ve seen, so far). But I did, go and see, one movie, at the Mardi Gras Film Festival, held in Sydney, in February 2008. The movie was, The Houseboy (2007); and it was pathetic. One of the worst films I’ve ever seen.
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Downloading

Towards the end of last month, I came across a fellow film buff, from Pakistan, on Twitter, with whom I ended up chatting (something I rarely do, that too on Twitter). Soon I befriended him, on FB (Facebook). And on his FB timeline, he had mentioned Mahershala Ali, an actor of Muslim faith, who won the Oscar, for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for Moonlight (2016), at the 89th Academy Awards, held on the 26th of February 2017; and how proud he felt of being a Muslim, himself, for the very first time. I simply asked him whether he’d seen Moonlight, and that I’d love to. He told me he had watched it twice; and said he’d send me the link to download the movie. And he did.

Now, back to 10 years ago; Year 2007!! I was dead against piracy, and downloading movies on the web, et al. I remember how my Australian friends & flatmates, use to react; feeling embarrassed at doing such things themselves. But I have been living in Sri Lanka, for 7½ years now, and not being able to watch any good movies (as they practically are never shown in Cinema’s here); I’ve had to rent or buy films occasionally, that happen to pirated copies. See my posts on Life of Pi  (2012) and Mud (2012) from October 2013.

But, luck had me travelling to, places like:-
New Delhi, India, between 2010 & 2012 (where you don’t see pirated copies in street shops, unlike Sri Lanka, and have to (literally) go to an underground market, if you want cheap pirated copies); where I not only got to buy good original DVD’s (even though they were with Indian copyrights, thus they have to be approved by the Indian Censor board, and certain films, have a universal rating, with sex and nudity edited out; and though am against censorship, I prefer to buy original DVD’s, than badly pirated ones, found in good shops, in Colombo and it’s suburbs, in Sri Lanka), but also got to see some great films on the Big Screen, on the superb Cineplex’s of New Delhi (see my list on IMDB titled Oscar Winners … and then some 2012, from March 2012).
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Adelaide & Sydney (once again), Australia, in November 2014; where too, I watched a couple of the superb films, on the big screen, plus bought many a DVD’s (see my Blogpost Holidaying in Australia, comes to an end from November 2014).

Meanwhile, back in Sri Lanka, I’ve tried to download films, from certain sites; either I get an error message, or it’s not available in this country, or something or the other. So, only way, I’d watch films online, is if they were available on Youtube; and late last year, streamed a few on iflix. But, as I mentioned above, that this nice new (virtual) friendly acquaintance of mine, sent me a link. And on the night of 28th February 2017; I started to download, Moonlight. By the time, I finished downloading the film, it was next morning, i.e. 1st March 2017. Thus Moonlight, was my very first successful download. And within the next few days, I downloaded four more s; in conjunction, with the month of (or rather the last week of), Sydney’s version, of the Mardi-Gras festivities.
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5 Queer Movie, within the first 5 Days, of March 2017

So here are my mini-critiques on the 5 films, I’ve downloaded so far (downloaded for the very first time). And unlike the pathetic film I saw at the  Mardi Gras Film Festival; except for one here (which too was Averagely good), all the rest of the films were pure excellence of Cinematic magic.
Thus, here is my own little ‘Queer Film Festival’!!!!!!
Beware of some spoilers below!!!!!
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1. MOONLIGHT (2016)

An Art-House Film, that bagged the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar, this year; a rarity, and a win after a fumble at the Academy Awards, that almost felt like Moonlight, had not won.

Moonlight is a touching portrayal of a young, afro-American, gay man, Chiron, brought up in a rough neighbourhood, in Miami, Florida, USA. With a drug addicted, emotionally unstable and abusive, mother; plus being bullied and beaten up in school; Chiron grows up to be a thuggish looking drug dealer, with a heart of gold. The finalé with the admission of virginity, by a very masculine, strong built man, pulls at your heart strings. This is a brilliant, coming of age, drama, about sexuality, true love, and what it’s like to be black in America, especially in a poverty stricken neighbourhood. Directed by Barry Jenkins, who won the ‘Best Director’ Oscar; Moonlight is a powerful piece of though provoking cinema. This is also Jenkins’ directorial, feature film, debut.

Ashton Sanders & Jharrel Jerome in a scene from Moonlight (2016)

The strong built, Trevante Rhodes, brings out such a sensitive performance; through a character, that outwardly generally feels frightening, with his gold chain, and gold teeth; and tough, overtly masculine, act; that touches deep, seeping into your veins, feeling the pain he’s going through. What a beautiful human being the character of Chiron is. The movie is told in three chapters, with three actors, playing one character, Chiron, in three stages of his life. Thus, the film has a main character (Chiron the protagonist of the film), but no lead actor, as such. The trio of actors perfectly essay the role of Chiron. In fact, the whole ensemble cast is terrific.

Mahershala Ali; who won the Oscar, for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ (making him the very first Muslim to win an Oscar, in the acting category); plays a kindly drug dealer, who becomes a mentor, a father figure, for little Chiron. Overall an excellent movie, that deserved the ‘Best Picture’ award, at the 89th Academy Awards, held last month. Moonlight, was the first film with an all-black cast, and the first LGBT film, to win an Oscar, for ‘Best Picture’ ever.

Watched Moonlight, late Wednesday night (1st of March, 2017)!!

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
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2. CAROL (2015)

A Christmas Carol, a beautiful Christmas romance, and a wonderful, lesbian, love story.

Cate Blanchett is superb as ever, nothing surprising about that fact. Todd Haynes, is an equally great director, again nothing new about that. But, Rooney Mara, WOW!!! What a brilliant performance. I’ve seen excellent films, starring Mara, in small roles, like in The Social Network (2010) and Her (2013); but I hardly noticed her in these movies. So she definitely was the surprise packet in Carol, for which Rooney Mara, tied in, for the ‘Best Actress’ win, at the 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival, in May 2015 (see my posts The 68th Cannes Film Festival finalé and Winners & Disappointments – at Cannes 2015, from May 2015).

Carol, is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, titled The Price of Salt. Though am a fan of Highsmith thrillers, I haven’t read this particular novel. This story, is very different to Highsmith books (at least that’s what I gathered from the movie). While most Highsmith literature has to do with crime, interwoven with themes of sexuality; The Price of Salt seems to be, an out and out, love story, of two beautiful women; living in a male oriented, homophobic, world. Sadly, this is the world, a great American writer like, Patricia Highsmith, a lesbian herself, had to survive in, in the 1950’s.

Carol is a beautiful heart warming Christmas romance, set in America, in the foxy 50’s, starring two fantastic foxy actresses. Rooney Mara carries ’s charm and simplicity, with grace; and bold Blanchett, is outstanding as ever. Carol, has the potential of being, a future Hollywood classic. While Moonlight, is a brilliant, low-budget, American indie-film; Carol is the quintessential, modern day, Hollywood romance.

I had the luck of seeing Cate Blanchett, in real life, down under. Heavily pregnant, she came to UNSW, to see a digital television exhibit, at our University; in early 2008. I actually didn’t recognise her at once. For one thing I wasn’t aware she was pregnant. So, when I saw a heavily pregnant lady, come out of the exhibit, in a massive pair shades, with a little boy, and stare right at me; I didn’t really pay much heed to her (I was waiting to go inside, with a couple of friends; waiting for whoever was inside to come out). But I did feel she looked familiar. Then she removed her dark glasses (for our benefit 😀 ), and started speaking to a person in a wheelchair, quite near me. It was her voice I recognised, and it’s only then I looked at her. After she left, I asked the students working the exhibit, and they confirmed it was her!! If I already knew she was pregnant, I would’ve recognised her instantly.

Watched Carol late night, on the 2nd of March, 2017!!

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
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3. HOLDING THE MAN (2015)

Above: Actors Ryan Corr & Craig Stott; as Timothy Conigrave & John Caleo, respectively; in the film, Holding the Man (2015)
Below: The real-life Timothy Conigrave & John Caleo

What better day to watch an Australian Gay-themed film, than on the night of, Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. Of course being on this side of the Ocean, there is no way I can attend the parade, down under, in all it’s splendour. But instead, I watched an Australian Queer Film, based on a memoir; which was the basis of a stage play, with the same title, by Tommy Murphy (who is also accredited with the screenplay for this movie), that came out in 2006; whilst I was in living in Sydney. The play was a big hit in Sydney; and in 2007, I remember seeing an interview with Tommy Murphy, on a local television channel in Sydney. Unfortunately I never got to see the play.

As I mentioned, Holding the Man, is based on the true story, of Timothy Conigrave’s (stage artiste, writer & activist), 15 year love affair with John Caleo (who died of AIDS); which Conigrave penned down, in a book called, Holding the Man. Conigrave completed this book shortly before dying of an AIDS-related illness, himself, in October 1994, at the age of 34 (a month before his 35th Birthday).

Holding the Man, is a tragic story, chronicling the life of two gay men, in Melbourne, Australia, who fall in love as teenagers, in the 1970’s; and survive all odds, when the land of Oz, was still very homophobic. It’s a pity, Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo, weren’t able to see, how much the world has changed today, and how much more open, Australia is to gay culture today. In fact, Sydney is the next gay capital of the world, after San Francisco, in USA. BUT, no matter how open and free, homosexuality is down under, today; sadly many a Australians do take Gay people for a joke. Homosexuality is no laughing matter. People can still be pretty cruel, and inhumane, even in Australia, towards the LGBTIQ community.

Watched Holding the Man, late night, on the 4th of March, 2017. The movie finished past midnight!! A sad beautiful tale, filmed beautifully by director, Neil Armfield. This is among the rare greatest Australian films, I’ve seen.

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
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4. REFLECTIONS OF A GOLDEN EYE (1967)

Brando & Taylor, on the sets of Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

Based on the novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye, by Carson McCullers; this beautifully made movie, with a uniquely stunning photographic technique, was directed by John Huston, starring Elizabeth Taylor, in the lead, with Marlon Brando, Brian Keith, Julie Harris and Robert Forster. This was Forster’s debut role, where he played a sexual desire, of Brando’s character.

The main plot of the movie, revolves around the wife of a Major, stationed in a US Army post in the American South in the late 1940’s. The said wife is played by Elizabeth Taylor. A young new Private (Forster), has a perverted obsession, who voyeurs around the violet eyed beauty (Taylor), watching her naked body reflect through the golden brown lens of his eye. It’s a beautifully filmed, movie about a peeping Tom; unaware, of the Major (Brando), the husband, of his sexual desire, himself has a repressed homosexual desire for the Private. Seeing the Private’s naked golden body, many a times in the brown woods, only adds to the Major’s already uncomfortable want for a young man, he cannot have.

Despite a great story line, and the beautiful photographic technique, the film isn’t without it’s flaws. The most visible one being, that of Taylor’s character. Though the film is set in the late 40’s, Elizabeth Taylor’s look, just doesn’t feel the post-war period. With the latest hairdo’s and fashionable dress sense, straight out of the 60’s; Taylor is magnificently more modern, than the setting of the movie. Another flaw is, the movie starts to bore in the middle, especially after the death of a mentally unstable character, played by Julie Harris. Added to which, Huston could have focused more on the Major’s repressed sexuality; i.e. the character played by Marlon Brando.

A scene from the film, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967); featuring Robert Forster, in the original release of the picture, with the golden hue, that did not impress audiences.

Initially the movie was released, with a golden hue enveloping the movie, as a reference to a drawing of a golden peacock, in the movie; a golden peacock in whose eye, the world is a mere reflection. But audiences did not seem to get this symbolic aspect, thus the original copy was withdrawn from cinema’s, and a normal coloured version re-released. I saw the ordinary colour version, but I’d love to check out Huston’s original aesthetic creation; with the warm sepia tint, over the colour film.

None the less, it’s a very admirable effort by John Huston. I watched Reflections in a Golden Eye on Sunday afternoon, 5th March 2017!!!!

My Rating:-
Average Fare!! 6/10!
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5. SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY (1971)

Last but not the least, most probably my favourite of the lot. What a clever, unusual film. The 60’s & 70’s were definitely the period that Hollywood ruled; bringing out bold unique plots.

Starring Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson and Murray Head; and brilliantly directed by John Schlesinger; Sunday Bloody Sunday, is a very mature, open minded, intelligent story. Murray Head plays a bisexual; who has two partners. One, played by Finch, and the other by Jackson. And each is aware of the other’s existence; and have a mature understanding, and acceptance, of the other, though neither of the, young bisexual scientific artist’s, partners have met each other. What’s more interesting, is how decent these people are, and in what a civilised manner, they handle sharing the same partner. They go on living a very normal life, with their lover, who finds time to spend with both, his male lover, as well as his female lover.

This is a very modern outlook, we don’t really see in this century. Of course, there are plenty of films on threesomes, extreme sexual deviations; but most of the time it’s showcased in a sleazy manner. That’s the beauty of this film, despite having a homosexual man and heterosexual woman, sharing one lover, there is nothing sordid about it. It’s so sophisticatedly handled, and is made to feel, so normal, and that too in a movie, that came out in the 70’s decade; it’s a wonderful feat.

One of the most intellectually adult movies, I’ve ever come across. Peter Finch, is spot on, as the elderly gay man, who is not seen suffering because of his sexuality, and who happens to a well to do Jewish doctor. Glenda Jackson plays a divorcee, who suffers from a childhood trauma, during the war. And each of them lives a relatively happy life, sharing one man, without suffocating the lover. And the lover, being bisexual, enjoys openly romancing both. And yet, it’s only the two of them he romances, and he doesn’t hide the fact he’s also seeing the other. So technically he is faithful to both his lovers.

A lot does happen in the movie, but it’s more character based, where these three people live a very civilized life, in a very normal manner, with acceptance and understanding. Isn’t this the kind of normal acceptance, of people who are different, and understanding them, that could make the world a better place. In a way, a very futuristic attitude. It’s a society that doesn’t have to fight for Gay Right’s, or Women’s Lib, et al; why?? ‘cause gay men and women are seen, living a relatively liberal lifestyle, with no judgement. Their friends accept them, friends’ children play with them, they are asked to take care of the kids, they trust each other; isn’t this the kind of normality, that ought to really exist, in today’s world, but sadly does not. Schlesinger, though set the movie in the 70’s itself, has forecasted a very progressive future, which should have made it’s way, by now.

This British film, is a masterpiece of cinematic intellect. A must watch. The Best film, in this list, I watched Sunday Bloody Sunday, late Sunday night (5th March 2017); the movie ended past midnight. Totally worth it!!

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
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So that’s all folks, the 5 films I watched, within the first 5 days, of this month. Four of which, were pure excellence!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Remembering Giovanni Duprè (1817 -1882), on his 200th Birth Anniversary.

Giovanni Duprè's Cain

Giovanni Duprè’s Cain

Giovanni Duprè's Sappho

Giovanni Duprè’s Sappho

Giovanni Duprè's The Infant Dionysus

Giovanni Duprè’s The Infant Dionysus

Born in Siena, Tuscany, Italy; on the 1st of March, Year 1817; Giovanni Duprè, was a prolific Italian sculptor, of the 19th century; who was highly influenced by Renaissance art. His creations; specifically his life size sculpture of the dead, Abel; presaged the beginning of the sad demise of Neoclassicism in Italian sculpture. Giovanni Duprè died in Florence, Italy, less than two months away, from his 65th Birthday.

The Picture of Giovanni Duprè

The Picture of Giovanni Duprè

Nuwan Sen & ARTS

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Congratulations, to all the winners, of the 89th Academy Awards, held last night!!!

As per usual, I woke up, way before, 5 a.m. (rather I hardly slept). Just had time to make myself a cup of coffee, and grab a couple, chocolate coated, muesli bars, before sitting down to watch, the Oscars Red Carpet LIVE! It started at 5:30 a.m. on this side of the ocean.

An enjoyable show, hosted by, Talk show host/Comedian, Jimmy Kimmel. The Oscars went pretty smoothly, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the ‘Miss Universe 2015’ style blunder, towards the end!!

A Big Applause, to the Oscar Winners, for Year 2017!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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oscar-blunder-2017

oscar-awards-2017

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To Sidney Poitier Esq.  

Dear Sir,
            First of all, let me wish you a very Happy 90th Birthday. And a big congratulations for being in the acting profession, on both the stage and the screen, for over 70 years.
           Thank you sir, for making it in Hollywood, at a time, when non-Caucasian celebrities, were a rarity. Most of Hollywood was initially made up of, the British, various European countries, Canada, and a few Americans (though those Americans who found fame, were limited to the stars of the fairer skin). Yet, considering the fact, that many a notable Hollywood personalities, were mostly British (and from other Western European countries); it’s obvious that Hollywood is actually, made up of immigrants. Yet, a very big thank you, to you, Sir Poitier, for not only being a leading actor, from the 1960’s (a decade when the world began to change, for the better) onwards; but also, for being the first black male actor, to win an Oscar.
           Legendary, Hattie McDaniel, beat you to it, by winning in the, Best Supporting Actress, category, at the 12th Academy Awards, in 1940; for her brilliant role, as ‘Mammy’, in Gone with the Wind (1939). Thus, making her, the very first African American to win an Oscar. So in a way, she paved the way for you. But it’s only when you won, for Lilies of the Field (1963), at the 36th Academy Awards, in 1964; that darker skinned stars truly started getting a recognition. Of course, in the 70’s, there were a lot of Blaxploitation (a.k.a. Blacksploitation) films. A pity, Afro-Americans, were being reduced to cliché’s. BUT, luckily you were not part of the Blaxploitation cinema, of the 1970’s (not to my knowledge, anyway). So, thank you, for not falling into that trap, and keeping a dignified edge, for Black stars, yet to shine. Plus, thank you, for opening up an avenue for non-white acting talent, in general, in Hollywood. Today, a British born actor, with Indian roots, is nominated for an Oscar; i.e. Dev Patel, who has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor, category, for his role, of an Indian brought-up abroad, in Lion (2016). So, you started it, by being the first non-white actor to make it in Hollywood (which was already full of white immigrants); and today there are quite a few immigrants, from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and South America (of various skin tones), making it, in the most celebrated film industry, in the world.

Classic Bromance: Sidney Poitier & Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones (1958)

Classic Bromance: Sidney Poitier & Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones (1958)

          Growing up I had heard about you, but had watched very few films, of yours; like Sneakers (1992), and your directorial ventures, like, Stir Crazy (1980) and Hanky Panky (1982), for instance; but it was in my late teens/early adulthood, when I saw, Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), that you became one of my favourite stars. What a brilliant movie!! It’s my second favourite film, of yours. My first, is no doubt, the British film, To Sir, with Love (1967), directed by James Clavell. I had heard of , To Sir, with Love, since I was a kid (in the late 80’s). BUT, it was only, finally in 2005, that I got watch it. I actually saw it on the Big Screen, when it was shown at Russian Centre, here. But it’s rarely I get to see good cinema here, especially on the Big Screen. I’ve actually, only seen three classics, at the Russian Centre. First was, Gone with the Wind, in 2002. Then, To Sir, with Love, in 05’. And finally, Tess (1979), in 2012. So it’s that rare (see my Blog post on Tess from October 2012). Of course, the Ethnic Centre, in Colombo, is, comparatively better. It’s still been a while, since they last showed anything worthwhile; but this week, they are showing two of your movies; the above mentioned, Lilies of the Field, and The Defiant Ones (1958). Both are on my Watchlist. And am really keen on going and watching these two films, this week. I heard, you play a modern day saint, in Lilies of the Field. A really kind human being. Humanity, is the best religion to preach. Kindness and open-mindedness, is sadly something still missing in today’s world of greed and materialism. In, The Defiant Ones, I heard, that your co-star, Tony Curtis requested, that your name appeared alongside his, above the movie title. This was a progressive first for you, and all other (non-white) skinned actors. How kind, it was, of Tony Curtis, to request something, so unheard of, at the time. He didn’t see your skin colour, but the fact, that you were a talented actor, and a lead character, in the movie, and not a supporting one. Blackboard Jungle (1955), A Patch of Blue (1965) and In the Heat of the Night (1967), are three other movies, in my Watchlist, that am really keen on checking out.

Sidney Poitier receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, in 2009

Sidney Poitier receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, in 2009

             Besides being a talented actor, you’ve also been a great diplomat. In real life, you’ve played the role of an ambassador for the Bahamas, to Japan; for a decade, between 1997 and 2007. Concurrently you were also the Bahamas ambassador to UNESCO. This most probably was the greatest, and the most significant, role, in life, you had to play.
On top of all the film awards, you’ve received, I must congratulate you, on receiving the great honours, of the KBE (Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1974; and more specifically, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by the previous American President, Barack Obama. Again, thanks to you, paying the way for African Americans, in the United States; Barack Obama, was the very first African American president, that USA, finally had. Him winning the election, in the end of 2008, and becoming the President in January 2009; and during his tenure, the Supreme courts ruling, of same-sex marriage to be a fundamental right, in June 2015; America showed progression. Being an avid supporter of Equal Rights, you shall agree, how progressive and open minded the country was getting. BUT, a pity, with Trump’s triumph, at the elections, held in November 2016, the country seems to have taken a step backwards. None the less, there is still hope for improvement; and the 2017 Women’s March, held last month (in January 2017), not just in your part of the world; but around the globe, is enough proof!! You too were part of an equality march, back in 1963; the March on Washington, headed by Martin Luther King Jr.
              The last time you worked, on screen, was sixteen years ago. I hope, something that interests you comes up, and you wind up doing another impressive role, even today. Or a great directorial opportunity comes your way. I don’t feel, you’ve retired from the film industry, yet.
              And lastly, Thank You, once again, for your great contribution, to the world of Cinema.
                                                                     Wishing you the best of health and happiness
                                                                                                                             With Regards
                                                                                                                                    Nuwan Sen

This Blog Post, in the form of a letter, is my contribution to the, 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon, hosted by , of The Wonderful World of Cinema.

sidney-poitier-blogathon

Thank you Virginie; for letting me take part, in this wonderful Blogathon.
Please also do check out my Blog posts, To Sidney, with Love and South Africa, The Apartheid, Missing Diamonds and The Wilby Conspiracy, from 20th February 2013 & 23rd December 2014, respectively.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense

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Last month, on the culture segment, ENCORE, on FRANCE24; I saw Lisa Nesselson, speaking about an online French Film Festival (FFF)!! It wasn’t until, the night of, the 20th of January, 2017; that I finally got to check it out. All the short films, in the festival, were free; and apparently, in some countries, including our neighbouring country, India, ALL Films were Free!! So, I got to watch some of the short films, on 20th, last month (as I stated earlier); but I didn’t get to the watch some more until, the 11th & 13th of February 2017!! I wish I could have done a post about this earlier; as the Festival finished on the 13th of February, 2017. Pity, I hardly got to watch all the short movies, let alone, BLOG about it, sooner (I did not watch a single, full feature length, movie). BUT, I DID Tweet about the festival, initially, the very next day (after I first saw it), on the 21st of January, 2017, so that at least my followers on Twitter would be aware of it, just in case they already didn’t know about it. Even though, it’s too late to catch any of the films, from the festival site, do check out the website, “www.myfrenchfilmfestival.com”!!

So here is a look, at my quick take(s) on French Shorts, from the virtual Festival!!
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Vincent Cassel in a scene from Violence en Réunion (2015)

Vincent Cassel in a scene from Violence en Réunion (2015)

Short Films, I watched on 20th January 2017
SET OF SEVEN7

A Done Deal (2015/16) a.k.a. Une Formalité

A hilarious short film about a hit man, who is asked to take out a man to coffee, and shoot him later in an alley. But instead, the intended victim, ends up being a real pain in the arse; driving the hit man into near insanity. The most enjoyably piece of farce française, in the Festival.

This Canadian film, stars, actors, Steve Laplante and Richard Fréchette, as the hit man and his mark, respectively. Une Formalité was co-directed by Pierre-Marc Drouin and Simon Lamarre-Ledoux.

Funny, yet violent!! Excellent movie!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 5/5  On IMDB: 10/10

Overpass (2015) a.k.a. Viaduc

A teenager risks his life, in the middle of the night, to do a  graffiti, on a flyover (a.k.a. overpass). The next morning, there is talk of picking up his brother from the airport. The scene at the airport, is sad, once we understand, what they meant, by picking up the brother. BUT, it is when we realise what the young teenager was writing, on the flyover; that it really pulls at your heartstrings. A poignant Canadian film, directed by Patrice Laliberté.

Young newcomer, Téo Vachon Sincennes, gives a heartrending performance!!

Touching! Another Excellent Short!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 5/5  On IMDB: 10/10

Group Violence (2015) a.k.a. Violence en Réunion

Headed by a celebrated French actor, like Vincent Cassel, how can this movie go wrong. Vincent Cassel, plays an ex-street fighter, who is trying not to go back to his old violent ways. But it’s not as easy, as it seems.

Really good take on the western fear of Islam; and how a group of thugs; headed by Cassel’s character, use that, by covering up in a burka, and walking in the streets in the hours of darkness, to intimidate the cops on night patrol. An excellent short film, mostly due to Cassel conveying so much through expression, and less dialogues. Pure Perfection!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 5/5  On IMDB: 10/10

4XD (1964) a.k.a. 4 Fois D

The Classic short film in the competition, is a nostalgic trip to beautiful French femmes of the 60’s decade. Near excellent documentary short, thanks to director Philippe Labro’s, directorial debut, naturalistically filming, Mireille Darc, Marie Dubois, Françoise Dorléac, and my favourite French actress, Catherine Deneuve (see my post 3.3.3.3 from July 2015, as well).

Year 2017, also marks the 50th Death Anniversary of Françoise Dorléac, the elder sister of Catherine Deneuve. Dorléac’s untimely death, at the age of 25, was due to car accident; when the car flipped and burnt. Françoise Dorléac had tried to open the door, was unable to do so, thus was incinerated. The police could only identify her remains, through the fragments of a cheque book, a diary and her driver’s licence. A tragic loss, to world of cinema.

Beautifully filmed in Black & White, 4 Fois D, is really worth checking out, if you are fan of these classic French stars!! An Ode to Beautiful Women!! Close to Excellence!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 4½/5  On IMDB: 9/10

Téo Vachon Sincennes in Viaduc (2015)

Téo Vachon Sincennes in Viaduc (2015)

1992 (2016)

The year is 1992! A lonely, gay, 17 year old, only has a video camera for a friend. He films everything around him, all the time. Soon he develops a crush on a 23 year old. After a night of sexual pleasure, he films the sleeping, naked body of , his 23 year old, on night stand. What would happen when the teenager’s father see’s the tape!!

Director, Anthony Doncque, has brought out a very touching, coming of age drama; of what it was like to be a gay teenager, in the early 90’s!! It’s interesting to see how the father handles it, when he discovers his son is gay. Young Louis Duneton, and Matthieu Dessertine; play the teenager, and his older sexual desire, respectively. Alain Beigel, plays the father of the 17 year old lone youngster.

Really Good Queer Short!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 4/5  On IMDB: 8/10

The Plumber (2016) a.k.a. Le Plombier

Méryl Fortunat-Rossi’s, Belgian movie, Le Plombier, is a hilarious film, full of sex sound. Behind the scenes of the porn industry, a Flemish man, who generally dubs, for animated characters, in cartoons; goes into lend his voice, for a blue movie. The results are idiotically comical. Though there is no actual skin show, the movie is very adults only, thanks to the various sounds, explored by the dubbing crew of characters.

Erotically Funny!! Quite Enjoyable!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 3½/5  On IMDB: 7/10

The Geneva Convention (2016) a.k.a. La Convention de Genève

Two group of teenagers are getting ready for a fight, over somebody owing someone money. One young man, tries to act as a mediator; and thus unfortunately gets roped into it. But when the person, the money is owed to, walks in, with no violence in his mind, the movie takes a comical turn.

Pretty Good Coming of Age, movie!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 3½/5  On IMDB: 7/10

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Short Film, I watched on 11th February 2017
LONE1 RANGER

Flesh & Volcanoes (2014/15) a.k.a. La Chair et Les Volcans

An ailing adolescent girl, lives with her father, in Auvergne; a beautiful region in France, popular for it’s dormant volcanoes, and natural hot springs. The young lonely girl deals with daily constraints of living in this little village, with a lot of patience. But there is a limit to her patience; and her inner volcano could easily burst out, any day now, and make her do something completely irrational.

Pretty good, specially thanks to surreal hallucinogenic qualities interwoven into the film. Though I wasn’t a fan of the abrupt runaway, at the end. Still Quite Good!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 3½/5  On IMDB: 7/10

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Short Films, I watched on 13th February 2017
FIVE5 FILMS

In Deep Waters (2014) a.k.a. Dans les Eaux Profondes

A beautiful creation in animation, blending 3D & 2D artwork. Yet, quite an unnerving experience. Is it possible, to spend nine months, in your mother’s womb, with the corpse of your dead twin, and never know about it. Does the feeling of loneliness, fear of being alone, have something to do with?

This is a beautifully shocking tale, of three lonely people, who are unaware; the reason they don’t feel whole; is ’cause of  the fact, that they were meant to be a twin; but their sibling died in the womb, in the initial stages of pregnancy. Scary, Excellent!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  5/5  On IMDB:   10/10

A Town Called Panic: Back to School (2016) a.k.a. La Rentrée des Classes

A beautifully animated children’s movie. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Love the stop motion animation, process, used in this.

In a school, an astronaut named, Monsieur Youri (an obvious allegory on Soviet Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin; the first human to venture into space and orbit the earth, in 1961. See my Blogpost The American Civil War & Yuri Gagarin from April 2013) arrives; and tasks the students to measure the distance between the Earth and the Moon. The prize; a trip to the moon, with Monsieur Youri, in his rocket. It’s hilarious how, a Cowboy, a Red Indian, and a group of farm animals, try to find the distance, from the Earth to the Moon.

Comically Excellent!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  5/5  On IMDB:  10/10

Veil of Silence (2016) a.k.a. Un Grand Silence

Set in 1968, in a sanatorium for pregnant teenagers, expecting unwanted children, a well-to-do young pregnant girl is sent, by her parents; to avoid scandal. Being the only well-to-do girl, she finds it hard to fit in with the other, more rebellious, and somewhat jealous, peers. She faces a dilemma, when she doesn’t want to give up her baby, and go back to her wealthy family; and start anew.

A very tragic film, about the hypocritical world; which doesn’t necessarily denounce teenage sex, but does so, to the unfortunate result, of pre-marital sex. It’s absurd, how an unplanned pregnancy is looked down on; and mainly it’s just the woman carrying the child who bears the burden, of being a societal outcast. Of course, this is set in the late 1960’s, in a more rural country side.

Starring Nina Mazodier, in the lead, Un Grand Silence is the directorial debut of Julie Gourdain. The movie also stars, Sonia Amori, Clarisse Normand and Louise Legendre.

The last film, I watched, of the festival, and it went on till close to half past midnight; thus finished on 14th February 2017 (St. Valentines Day), on this side of the ocean. Very Good!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  4/5  On IMDB:   8/10

Juliet’s Band (2016) a.k.a. La Bande à Juliette

A French film bordering on sexual harassment, tells of a group of art students, who travel to one of their batch mate, Juliette’s, holiday home in Normandy. Here she introduces the others to her childhood friend. Soon her childhood friend, tells Juliette, about one of art students constantly hitting on her, and treating her in a discriminating manner. But, Juliette doesn’t believe her own close friend. A sad film, where we ourselves wonder whether Juliette’s friend is just crying wolf (as she’s suppose to have done in the past), or telling the truth.

Beautifully filmed, in a lovely house, yet a very slow moving, movie. But still, enjoyable enough. La Bande à Juliette, happens to be the directorial debut, of newcomer, Aurélien Peyre. The movie, from France, stars a beautiful young cast, including Pauline Acquart, Adrien Schmück, Phénix Brossard, Aurélien Vacher, Fanny Lamblin, Faustine Levin and Lucas Audineau.

Average Fare!!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  3/5  On IMDB:   6/10

The Last Frenchman (2015) a.k.a. The Last of the Frenchmen, and Le Dernier des Céfrans

What is it to be French? A pretty good story on Muslim youngsters, with Middle Eastern/African roots, born in France. Technically they are French, born and brought up in France; but when one young Muslim boy goes to enlist in the French army; he’s questioned, as to where his loyalties stand. Added to which, it’s difficult for him to tell his fellow ‘Muslim’ French friends, that he is enlisting.

The movie starts off with the French Muslim youngsters; going to the mosque, then hanging out, making fun, of one of the gang, for dressing up in outdated clothing; from Back to the Future (1985), et al. Then one of them, goes off to enlist. We see an identity crisis, these kids are neither here nor there. They are born French; but their roots aren’t. Thus, they are not accepted in either societies, without scepticism.

There is a scene, where the lead young man, waiting to enlist, is standing at a bus stand, named Frantz Fanon. This could be symbolic, as the; Martinique born, Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist, philosopher & revolutionary; the late, Frantz Fanon, spoke in detail, on the subject of identity crisis in the fields of post-colonial studies. Back in 2002-2003; when I was studying for my MA in International Cinema; I used his very first published book, Black Skin, White Masks, as a reference for various assignments, specifically on Post-colonial Cinema. Black Skin, White Masks, is a deep psychoanalysis, on effects of colonial subjugation upon Black people.

Despite a really good concept, and interesting metaphors, it feels like a waste. Quite a dull movie!! Only short film, in the online festival, that I did not care for, much; although I liked the idea, of the message the movie was trying to convey. Pretty Bad Film though!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  2/5  On IMDB:   4/10

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That’s all Folks!!
french-online-film-festivalThere were two short films, I couldn’t watch; i.e. Mother(s) (2015) a.k.a. Maman(s), and Of Shadows and Wings (2015) a.k.a. D’Ombres et d’Ailes; as, when I finished watching Un Grand Silence; it was already, past midnight (as I have stated above). Thus, unfortunately, I couldn’t see the last two available films, mentioned here. Plus, there were a couple of films, that were not allowed, in this country!!

One of the Classic Feature films, on the festival site, was, Agnès Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) a.k.a. Cléo de 5 à 7. Though I did not watch it online; I saw this excellent movie, some years ago. It’s French New Wave, classic. A Must Watch!! I gave it a 10/10, rating back then (also see my Blog-post Being mesmerised by ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ from August 2013). Sad, I couldn’t watch, any of the full length films, in the festival.

None the less, from the short films I watched, quite a few of them, were really worth it. Do check them out, if you get a chance, to do so!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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From movies released last year, 2016; I’ve only seen 12 of them so far; 9 of them within last year itself; and only 2 on the Big Screen; from the rest, except for a couple of them, that I watched online, on iflix, the others were on cable TV (either On Demand, or a foreign television channel)!! Here are the Best to the Bad!!!!!

Left: Sonam Kapoor as Neerja Bhanot in Neerja (2016) Right: The late Neerja Bhanot

Left: Sonam Kapoor as Neerja Bhanot in Neerja (2016)
Right: The late Neerja Bhanot

1. Neerja (2016) – Excellent: 10/10!

In 1985, Pan Am (Pan American World Airways) began an all Indian cabin crew for its India/Pakistan/West Germany routes. Neerja Bhanot was the Head Purser, of Pan Am Flight 73, when hijackers attacked the flight, on the 5th September, 1986.

The Pan Am flight had reached the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, from India, that morning. Carrying 380 passengers on board, the flight was on it’s way to Frankfurt, West Germany, and was to travel to New York, USA. As the flight was ready to close it’s doors, at the Jinnah International Airport, four armed Palestinian men of the terrorist organisation, known as ANO (Abu Nidal Organisation), forced their way into the aircraft; disguised as security officers escorting a Libyan diplomat. The brave Neerja Bhanot, quickly warned the trio of pilots, who, following protocol, escaped through an overhead hatch in the cockpit. Thus, making sure the plane does not leave the tarmac. Neerja, though terrified, along with other attendants, hid American passports, so that the ANO couldn’t differentiate, Americans from non-Americans, as the terrorists were specifically targeting Americans. After 17 hours, of their demands being unheard, the terrorists went crazy, and opened fire on all passengers. Neerja Bhanot quickly opened the emergency exit, and managed to save the lives of 360 passengers on board (20 others were killed), and 19 crew members. Bhanot made sure, all the people, who were still alive had escaped, without saving herself first. Ultimately she sacrificed her life, saving the lives of three children, as she shielded them from gunfire. She died of gunshot wounds, just a couple of days, before her 23rd birthday.

Sonam Kapoor does justice to the role of Neerja Bhanot!! Kapoor was spot on. In an interview, when Kapoor was asked, whether she is looking forward to winning the ‘Best Actress’ trophy at the Filmfare Awards, this year; she replied, that she didn’t know, for that was not the reason, she did this movie. None the less, she deservedly won the Critics’ Award, for ‘Best Actress’ at the 62nd Filmfare Awards, held earlier this month. However she lost out in the popular vote, for ‘Best Actress’. The movie altogether won six awards, including the Critics’ Award, for ‘Best Director’ (for Ram Madhvani), the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ trophy (for Shabana Azmi) and ‘Best Production Design’ (for Aparna Sud). The Production Design was truly superb, the way they replicated the whole Pan Am Flight 73, by making the model of the flight and it’s interiors, to perfection. It looked like an actual plane, on the tarmac.

This tragic story, is a must see. A perfect tribute, to the late Neerja Bhanot (1963-1986)!! Bhanot, an ordinary girl, not your conventional super heroine; but when put in an extraordinary situation, showed an inner human bravery, under fear. Also see my mini-write up on Facebook’s AHC page (Link:- https://www.facebook.com/search/str/%2523nuwansensfilmsense/keywords_search?filters_rp_author=stories-feed&filters_rp_creation_time=%7B%22start_month%22%3A%222016-03%22%2C%22end_month%22%3A%222016-03%22%7D)!!

Watched Neerja, on the Big Screen, early last year (in March 2016)!!

Here’s to Neerja Bhanot, an innocent girl, a film buff, a model, an abused wife, a divorcée, an air hostess, and most of all, a humanitarian; who put others before herself! Bhanot was posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra Award, India’s highest peacetime military decoration award, for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice, away from the battlefield. She was the youngest, and first female, recipient of this award. She received various more awards, posthumously; for her bravery, her loyalty to her passengers, and humanity.

2. Kapoor & Sons (2016) – Excellent: 10/10!

A fun filled family film, with a gay character. Bollywood is becoming more progressive. It’s a beautiful family movie, about a dysfunctional family, that get together to celebrate, the family patriarch’s, 90th Birthday; post recovery from a heart attack. A lot of drama, secrets, pain, romance and comedy, unfold; into a complex family reunion. With a great ensemble cast, the movie is made in a way, that the whole family can enjoy; from tiny tots to the elderly!! Just loved this Dharma Productions, movie, directed by Shakun Batra.

The Film won five trophies, at this year’s Filmfare Awards; including one for the legendary, Rishi Kapoor; who deservedly won, in the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ category. 64 year old Kapoor, played the 90 year old, head of the house, with perfection; in this movie.

Watched Kapoor & Sons, last year, when it was shown on the Indian cable channel, Colors (July 2016).

3. PINK (2016) – Excellent: 10/10!

“No means No!”, utters Amitabh Bachchan’s character; as he defends three girls (one of whom was molested), when the trio are charged with prostitution and attempted murder by the male culprits.

This is a brilliant Art House film, an excellent courtroom drama, and a women’s rights advocacy. Amitabh Bachchan proves, he is still the best actor around, in the aesthetic world of films. Bachchan plays a retired lawyer; taking care of his ailing wife, while suffering from his own health issues; who takes up this case, pro bono; for the sake of three innocent victims, who are being charged with a crime, and not the other way round. He does it for justice, and a woman’s right to refuse sexual advances.

Amitabh Bachchan lost out, in the ‘Best Actor’ category, to Aamir Khan. I haven’t seen Dangal (2016); for which Kahn won the Filmfare Award, earlier this month; but the 74 year old, Big B (i.e. Mr. Bachchan), was phenomenal, in PINK.

Watched PINK, late last year, on another Indian channel, Star Plus (November 2016)

4. Confirmation (2016) – Excellent: 10/10!

From one fictional tale of sexual abuse, to another based on a real incident. Though in this case the abuse might be merely verbal, and not of a physical nature; it is still a case of abuse of power, and gender discrimination.
confirmation-2016This movie deals with the ‘Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination’ of 1991; when a law professor, Anita Hill; who had previously worked under Clarence Thomas; was asked to ‘confirm’ her allegations of sexual harassment, against Thomas. Another sad, excellent film, with an unsettling ending, for both the protagonist’s of the movie. Kerry Washington is superb as Hill, who is initially reluctant to come forward.

Watched this television drama, Confirmation, when it was shown on the cable channel, HBO Signature (July 2016).

5. Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive (2016) – Near Excellent: 9/10!

A hilarious piece of satire, set during Obama’s presidency, dealing with; making a false proof, of the actual; Osama’s death. Not amongst the greatest comedies ever, but I couldn’t stop laughing. The movie was really enjoyable. Thus, I think I’ve given it a tad higher rating, than I should have. For more details, see my post Mai May Movies 2016 from May 2016, as well.

6. Airlift (2016) – Near Excellent: 9/10!

A true account of Indians trapped in Kuwait, in 1990, as the country was being invaded by Iraq; under Saddam Hussein. Yet again, see my mini-review under, ‘Mai May Movies 2016’, from May 2016.
pink-laden7. Michael Moore in TrumpLand (2016) – Very Good: 8/10!

Despite all Michael Moore had to say in this Stand-up/Documentary, Trump still triumphed; and now, 70 year old, Donald J. Trump; a business magnate; is the President of the United States!!

What I really liked about this documentary, is without directly attacking Trump, Moore slowly tries to make people understand, why he shouldn’t be the political leader, of America; and the dangers they face, if he came into power. This was almost an advertorial campaign for Hillary Clinton. Despite all this explanation, it is a pity, Mrs. Clinton; so much a better politician, lost out, to a business celebrity. I was rooting for her to be the first female President of America. Sad! And many, open-minded, Americans were distraught with the results. And the Women’s March 2017, is proof of that.

Watched this last year, as Trump won the elections, on iflix (November 2016).

8. Passengers (2016) – Pretty Good: 7/10!

I loved, Norwegian director, Morten Tyldum’s, The Imitation Game (2014); and his Hodejegerne (2011), a.k.a. Headhunters, is in my watch list. And when I went and watched, Passengers, in 3-D; I really enjoyed majority of the movie. BUT, unfortunately there is ‘But’!!

A spaceship carrying over 5000 people, under induced hibernation; travelling to a distant planet, in a span of 120 years; has a malfunction. As a result, more than one person, is woken up, approximately 90 years early. The film, with just two lead characters, who have to carry the burden of film, entirely on their shoulders, is very impressive. And it goes on really well, to near excellence; the whole while, a question of ethics, gnawing at you (the audience). But then (spoiler alert), a third person wakes up; and starts to ruin the film; turning the highly clever premise, and the intellectually stimulating story, into a silly, action blockbuster, waste. From here the movie becomes really, unrealistic (sure it’s set space, but the fictional aspects, still have to be believable enough) and, the romantic angle, pretty mushy. None the less, majority of this, stunningly, visually, beautiful movie, is worth checking out!!

Chris Pratt & Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers (2016)

Chris Pratt & Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers (2016)

For next month’s Oscars, Passengers, has been nominated for it’s Production Design; and the interiors of the Spaceship are magnificent; as are the special effects. But then again, CGI/special effects, are practically good in any movie today; and unfortunately, most of the time, that is the only good thing about a movie. I hope this movie bags a trophy for ‘Best Production Design’, at the oncoming Academy Awards. Passengers, might not be a great film, but still quite good, a very enjoyable movie; until they ruin it towards the end.

Watched Passengers on the Big Screen, earlier this month (January 2017)

9. My Sweet Audrina (2016) – Very Bad: 3/10!

A creepy thriller, with a really interesting premise. But a bore of a film. Don’t waste your time on it.

Watched this TV film, last year, online, on iflix (November 2016).

10. Ki & Ka (2016) – Very Bad: 3/10!

The concept of the wife going to work, and husband staying at home, and being a househusband/homemaker, may seem a bit outdated; but that is not reason the movie doesn’t work. It had it’s fun spots, and serious segments; but the movie as a whole, was pretty stale and dull. On the positive side, I love the fact, the man, by choice, decides to be a homemaker; and is very supportive of his wife; and I loved the role reversal, the Abhimaan (1973) moment, in the movie, where the wife pushes him to do an interview on TV, and as he starts becoming a celebrity, she starts to feel jealous. So the concept was enjoyable. The movie also reminded me of, this Hindi sitcom; we use to watch as kids; Mr ya Mrs (1987-1988). But the movie is a bit of drag, and ultimately a waste of time. Enjoyable premise, yet poorly executed.

Saw Ki & Ka, when it was shown on Colors, last year (October 2016).

10+1. 13 Hours (2016) – Very Bad: 3/10!

Based on real events, it’s such bore of film. On the 11th of September, 2012; the US Ambassador’s compound, and an unofficial CIA base, in Benghazi, Libya, is attacked. The movie starts off really well, but then drags on, and is way to long. I felt I sat through the movie for ‘13 hours’ myself.

Watched 13 Hours, on HBO On Demand, late Sunday night (29th January 2017)!!
film-13-hours-201610+2. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) – THE Worst film, of 2016, that I have seen, so far: 1/10!

It’s not even worth talking about, this crap of a film, by Karan Johar. Johar is a good director, and did a marvellous job when it came to his short film, within Bombay Talkies (2013); an anthology of four short films. In fact his directorial segment was my favourite. BUT, when it comes to feature length films, he sure mucks it up. And he is a good producer; Dharma Productions, is his company, the company that produced, the above mentioned, Kapoor & Sons. Plus, he is quite a good television talk show host. Really enjoy watching, most of his interviews on, Koffee with Karan (2004 onwards). Currently, the latest season, of Koffee with Karan, is running on the Indian cable network, Star World.

Watched Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, when it was telecast, on Colors, on Saturday morning (28th January 2017)!!

Special Note: End of last year, I watched a Sinhala documentary, called Usaviya Nihadai, which I tweeted as being released in 2016, for it was released in Sri Lanka, only last year; amidst a lot of controversy (of course, I watched it on the small screen; rented it out, when it was provided by our cable operator). But according to IMDB, it was released in 2015!!!!! Apparently it was released at a ‘Sakhalin Film Festival’, in Russia (I didn’t even know about an island called Sakhalin; let alone about this festival; till now). I gave Usaviya Nihadai, an Average Fare rating, of 6/10!!

Ki & Ka (2016) is practically a remake of the 70’s classic, Abhimaan (1973); with roles reversed!!

Ki & Ka (2016) is practically a remake of the 70’s classic, Abhimaan (1973); with roles reversed!!

Unfortunately, from the releases of 2016, I haven’t watched any Oscar worthy, English language, movie (except for the great production design, in Passengers). BUT Amitabh Bachchan’s performance in PINK (2016), is definitely an Oscar worthy performance. Pity, I doubt Hollywood has even heard of this movie, let alone, nominate the Big B, for his outstanding acting skills, in general.

Looking forward to, watching the Oscars LIVE telecast, next month (February 2017).

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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Late Last Night, I watched the deeply psychological on-screen study, that was, David and Lisa (1962), online on Youtube!!
david-lisa-posterVery Freudian, in nature, David and Lisa, is set in a teenage mental asylum, where a new mental patient, David (Keir Dullea); with hapnophobia, the fear of being touched; starts diagnosing other mental patients, in the facility, to perfection. He deals with each patient, helping them out with their psychosocial problems, but himself. His favourite study, is that of a girl called, Lisa (Janet Margolin); who is suffering from a split personality, as well as disorganised schizophrenia. Poetic Lisa, can only speak in rhymes, whilst, her other adopted persona; the aesthetic Muriel; cannot speak, but writes and draws what she wants to say. David’s other favourite subject, is Simon (Matthew Anden); his partner in chess, with great musical skills.
david-and-lisa-with-sculptureDavid, is well read, has a high level of intellect, but his paranoia; of getting killed, if he were touched; his fear of people invading his space, and his obsession with time, make him less than normal. A young unsocial man, who needs help, to control his fears. At the time, this movie came out, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) wouldn’t have been considered. We all have a little OCD, but David’s is rare case of extremism. At the same time, his OCD does not incorporate the ritualistic behavioural patters, associated with ordinary individuals with OCD. Yet his OCD is more specifically to do with time, and his hapnophobia. He goes about his everyday chores as a normal human being; but detests any physical contact, even that of a handshake, or an accidental brush. No matter how slight, a touch, it could throw him into a deep despair. Distressed David, shows strong symptoms of mental health. But otherwise, he is so wise, as to tackle his peers mental problems, even better than the shrinks involved. For example, as Lisa speaks only in rhyme, he connects with her, through rhythmic speech towards her, himself, trying to understand her disorientation, from the normal world. David is a patient, in a mental institution, that studies other patients, not just ’cause they intrigue him, but also to try and help them. Though he seems emotionally distant, sans any feeling, and very rigid, in public; left on his own, and to some extent in front of Dr. Alan Swinford (Howard Da Silva), we see his emotional vulnerabilities. Plus we see, his aesthetic, knowledgeable side, as he quotes the likes of Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, and when he tells Dr. Alan Swinford, not to play “Dr. Freud” with him; referring to Neurologist/Psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud. David is shown reading a lot, and we are told, he has been reading up on many books on psychology.

David’s surreal dream sequences!!

David’s surreal dream sequences!!

David’s obsession with ‘Time’, reminded me of surrealist painter Salvador Dalí; and his famed works on melting clocks. The likes of ‘The Persistence of Memory’, ‘The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory’ and ‘Melting Watch’, to name some. Although, the analysis of David’s obsession, and Dalí creations, are extremely different. The Surreal dream sequences, involving Clock executions, were very Dalísque. David has nightmares, which he attributes in a positive manner. He dreams of himself holding the hands of a massive clock, decapitating the head; of someone that has hurt him emotionally; 12 times, around the clock. Dr. Alan states, in David’s dreams, he is clearly killing off, people he considers the villain; like Dr John (Clifton James) for instance; plus making David feel fully in control. Thus the actual nightmare, to David, though tensed, is a positive dream. Yet, when Lisa falls prey, to his Clock executions, he finds it difficult to decapitate her head, even once, let alone 12 times. This is one nightmare he cannot accept.

Keir Dullea as David

Keir Dullea as David

There is a suggestion of a homosexual subtext, in the movie, but it’s not even slightly noticeable. Yet, David’s warmth towards Lisa, is of a more of a psychosomatic nature, and his desire, that of a purely platonic friendship. At the same time, his closeness towards, Simon, his chess partner, again, isn’t an emotional, and/or sexual, one. His facial expressions and body language convey no romantic desire, for neither Lisa nor Simon. Highly intellectual, yet he seems devoid of having experiencing, psychosexual aspects of, puberty. It would be interesting to read, the late Philosopher and Social Theorist, Michel Foucault’s, psychosexual analysis into David’s character.

Janet Margolin as Lisa

Janet Margolin as Lisa

The young cast of mental student’s are brilliant, as are the elderly, playing psychologist & psychiatrists, running the institute; and David’s dysfunctional parents. Especially the two leads, played by Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin. This was Janet Margolin debut feature film. Also debuting, in David and Lisa, were Matthew Anden, Jaime Sánchez, Karen Lynn Gorney, Nancy Nutter and Coni Hudak. This was also the directorial debut, of Frank Perry.

Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin, visit New York theater; where their film has set box-office records!

Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin, visit New York theater; where their film has set box-office records!

The basis of the movie is a book, called Lisa and David, by psychiatrist and author Theodore Isaac Rubin. Loved this movie!!! Wish I could have come across a better copy, and seen it on a bigger screen. The Black & White cinematography by Leonard Hirschfield, adds to the excellence of David and Lisa!! Especially great movie, by a first time director. This is most probably, one of the best films, ever made on mental health; rather an actual study of it. The movie is not a love story, as the title might seem to suggest. I highly recommend, David and Lisa, for film buffs, and psychology enthusiasts, alike.

David and Lisa (1962)
My Rating: Excellent!! 10/10!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

The Cassandra Crossing (1976)
the-cassandra-crossing-1976A train travelling from, Switzerland to Sweden, is re-routed to Poland; which will have to pass through a disused bridge; once American authorities learn that a deadly (pneumonic plague) virus is spreading on board! An excellent piece of guilty pleasure starring the who’s who of the cinematic world, taking you on thrill ride, across the scenic landscapes of Europe. Love this movie!!!!!

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

The Movie & I

When I first watched The Cassandra Crossing (1976), as a 12½/13 year old, in the late 1980’s (1988/89 – more probable that it was in 1988), on the telly, the only star of the film I was aware of, was the lead actress Sophia Loren (for I had a vague memory of having seen her in epics like El Cid (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), when I was even younger; plus had heard her name, many a times, in the children’s film, Dream Girl (1977); where a playboy is teased whether he is on a call with ‘Sophia Loren’, as he speaks to his grandfather; a movie we watched as kids, a kazillion times, back in the 80’s & early 90’s). Of course, by now, I have seen so many movies of her, but The Cassandra Crossing, was my proper introduction to her, for that’s when I really got to know, who Loren was. Late last night, I re-watched, The Cassandra Crossing, on youtube, almost three decades later. The quality, not so good, the movie, totally worth it. And today, I practically know majority of the glamorous star cast, of The Cassandra Crossing. Besides Loren, the movie stars, Richard Harris, Burt Lancaster, Ingrid Thulin, Lee Strasberg, Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen, Lionel Stander, O.J. Simpson, Lou Castel, Alida Valli, Ann Turkel, John Phillip Law, Ray Lovelock, Thomas Hunter and Stefano Patrizi; to name some. There was also, an averagely OK, Bollywood disaster movie, with an ensemble cast, roping in the who’s who of the Hindi film fraternity, similar to this, called, The Burning Train (1980), which I watched in the 1990’s. Unless you are fan of Hindi movies, in general, stick to The Cassandra Crossing. The Cassandra Crossing, also reminded me of Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express (1974), based on an Agatha Christie novel; which too roped in a great star cast, of the 70’s, but set in the roaring 20’s, in another train journey bound to travel across Europe. Murder on the Orient Express, was yet another Excellent movie, I got to watch, around 15 years ago, in my late 20’s!!! Of course, Murder on the Orient Express, is neither a thriller, nor a disaster film. It’s a murder mystery, set within the confines of a snowbound train.

Behind the Scenes: Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen & Sophia Loren; on the sets of The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Behind the Scenes: Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen & Sophia Loren; on the sets of The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

My Analysis & The Characters
(Spoiler Alert)

Despite critics panning it down, with an average rating of almost 7/10 (which is a pretty good rating), on IMDB; The Cassandra Crossing, is actually a very enjoyable fare!! The 70’s did have quite a few famed disaster films, but none like this. This has double the pleasure, being a hybrid of a thriller as well as a disaster movie. A thriller about people trying to steal a biological weapon, harboured by the Americans, and the American authorities, to cover up their asses, trying to kill off thousands of people travelling in a train, carrying the said deadly virus, plus a train heading for derelict bridge, that hasn’t been used, since post World War – II. The thrills are never ending, the mesmerising Swiss landscapes please the eyes, the background score, hauntingly brilliant, and a very stylish international star cast, adds to the enjoyment. In addition to which, minus modern day special effects, overpowering and ruining the movie, as is the case of most thrillers of today, this is a great guilty pleasure to sit through.

Sophia Loren and Richard Harris, play a twice divorced couple, who re-meet on a train bound for Sweden; in The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Sophia Loren and Richard Harris, play a twice divorced couple, who re-meet on a train bound for Sweden; in The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

The movie is no doubt a Sophia Loren vehicle. She looks amazing as ever, and is brilliant as a witty best-selling author, a two-time divorcee (to the same man, who also happens to be on board, as well), whose hunches are never wrong, and heroine of the movie. Richard Harris is superb as a neurosurgeon, and playing (the twice divorced) ex-husband to Loren’s character (the two together have perfect chemistry, and the characters feel, madly in love and hate, with each other, as real-life celebs, Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor, were at the time). Harris’ character is shown trying to save lives of infected patients medically, as well as, trying to save the train from impending doom, along with his, two-time, ex-wife. Interestingly, Harris’ real life wife, Ann Turkel, plays a young hip woman, in a small role, along with many other more famous stars playing really small, and hardly noticeable roles. It’s pity, an actress like Alida Valli, seems to be wasted in a movie, where anyone could have played such an insufficient character. I didn’t even recognise her, until she took her spectacles off.

Clockwise from Top-Right: Ray Lovelock, John Phillip Law, Stefano Patrizi, Ann Turkel and Alida Valli, in small supporting roles.

Clockwise from Top-Right: Ray Lovelock, John Phillip Law, Stefano Patrizi, Ann Turkel and Alida Valli, in small supporting roles.

Yet, the massive star cast is superb, in their respective roles. BUT the best role goes to Ava Gardner, playing a creepy old lady (a wife of a prominent arms dealer), with a young lover, her boy toy (played by Martin Sheen). She is ecstatically humorous, she brings in the comic relief in this otherwise tense drama. Sheen’s character, we initially assume, is suffering from an Oedipus complex; but in reality, as we find out later, he’s a drug trafficker, who just uses the older woman, to pass through customs, without being checked. O.J. Simpson, is a cop, in the guise of a priest, on the trail, of this drug trafficker. Nobody is who they seem. Something which is hinted at the very beginning of the movie, when a trio terrorists, rush into a medical facility, dressed as two attendants, trolleying in a patient.

Burt Lancaster, John Phillip Law and Ingrid Thulin, in a scene from the film.

Burt Lancaster, John Phillip Law and Ingrid Thulin, in a scene from the film.

Burt Lancaster, plays the villain of the piece, as a U.S. Colonel (Military Intelligence assigned to the International Health Organization (most probably a fictional organization, represented, in lieu of the WHO; World Health Organization), in Geneva, Switzerland). He has the least amount of action credited to his character. He is so good in his role, that he is quite convincingly hateable. As he is mostly confined to a room, it’s his facial expressions, body language, and dialogues that have to do all the work. Ingrid Thulin, who is stuck inside the room, with Lancaster, is even better in her role, as a firm humanitarian medical head.

The bridge known as the ‘Cassandra Crossing’, plays a significant supporting role as well. The way the bridge is shot, in a threatening manner, and showcased, on and off, as the train is being re-routed, it appears like a menacing beast, waiting to devour this oncoming train and it’s passengers. The last scene with the parts of the train crashing through the bridge (again without modern CGI) is real showstopper.

The movie blends in all the suspense that make a great thrilling achievement; blending in all the necessary action, chills, thrills, heroism, shootouts, government intrigue, you name it, along with a good plot; making this unrealistic flick of catastrophe, with an almost realistic scenario, very plausible.

Richard Harris & O.J. Simpson in a scene from The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Richard Harris & O.J. Simpson in a scene from The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

The Background

Most of the interior scenes were shot in Cinecittà, a large film studio in Rome, that is famed for being the hub of Italian cinema. With beautiful cinematography, the location shots were taken in both France and Switzerland. The steel arch bridge depicted in the film, as the notorious “Cassandra Crossing”, is actually the Garabit Viaduct, a railway arch bridge spanning the River Truyère, in southern France. The Garabit Viaduct was built between 1880 and 1884, by Gustave Eiffel, the man behind Paris’ iconic, Eiffel Tower.

The movie flopped badly in the United States, but still made money, thanks to Japanese audiences flocking to the cinema’s to catch the movie. It apparently did well enough, in Europe, as well. Though it flopped in the USA, the movie was critically praised, for it’s beautification through Ennio Guarnieri’s cinematography, as well as, Jerry Goldsmith’s superb musical score.

The Cassandra Crossing, was directed by Italian born film personality, George Pan Cosmatos. A director, whose other works I haven’t watched yet, nor do they really interest me much, thus this movie is an exceptional case. This, no doubt, is his best work. The film was produced by Carlo Ponti, Sophia Loren’s husband. This British-Italian co-production, is an underrated gem. A must see, for film fanatics!!!!!

The Cassandra Crossing (1976) – Pure Entertainment!!!
My Rating: 10/10!!

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Happy New Year 2017

Wishing all my fellow Bloggers a Peaceful, stress free and Happy; New Year, for YEAR 2017!!!

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Sean Connery

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Out of the Se7en, Suave n’ Sophisticated Gentlemen pictured above, which is your favourite photograph??? And can you guess all seven classily dressed people above????

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P.S. Today also happens to be ’s 1st Official Birthday!! Plus (Atta) my maternal Grandfather’s, 97th Birth Anniversary!!

Nuwan Sen ❤