Tag Archive: Mystery


On a Sunday afternoon, at Prescient 21, New York City, an assortment of coulourful characters, from crooks to thieves to innocent first time offenders, swarm around, waiting to be booked. One such character is a shoplifter, played by Lee Grant, witnessing all the crazy goings-on, in the squad room. Lee Grant reprises her well received role, in her film debut, in Detective Story (), for which she won the award forBest Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1952.

Lee Grant in Detective Story (1951)

As the movie begins, Lee Grant arrives in a not-so-well maintained car, dragged by a shabby looking cop. She’s taken upstairs into the squad room of New York’s Prescient 21. Her crime – she picked up a purse, due to a kleptomaniac impulse. A bag she didn’t even like. And it seems this was a first time offense, or at least the first time she got caught. Naive, innocent, stressed and nerve-wrecking, she is more worried than she should be. In fact, the cop tells her, that it’s not as if she committed a murder, she most probably will be acquitted, with no charges; and it will all be a waste of his time.

When she is asked to call a lawyer, she’s apprehensive, the only lawyer she knows is married to her pregnant sister. But as things start to heat up in the squad room, she finally asks her brother-in-law for help. Meanwhile, we see what a good heart she has, and what a social person she is. She innocently tries to comfort a young girl, whose sister’s ex-boyfriend, is being booked for embezzlement. She tells one of the detective’s he is quite handsome, and doesn’t look like a cop. She is amused with a watch in a comic strip, and compares it to the wristwatch worn by the cop that arrested her. This shoplifter, might have accidentally committed a crime, but is a very genuine person. More genuine, than most cops. Of course, the cops here treat her well. When one brings her food, she is truly grateful. As Grant’s shoplifter leaves the station, she bids adieu, to all the detectives at Prescient 21.

Lee Grant is superb as a nervous wreck, a foolish and somewhat comical shoplifter. A bit of an oddball nut-bag. A very naturalistic twitchy portrayal of a scared little kitten, feeling guiltier than she should be. Grant learnt the weird New York accent, she uses in the play and movie, when she heard two girls on a crosstown bus. Yes, she eavesdropped on total strangers, not because she wanted to know what they were talking about, but to study their mannerisms. A true testament to great acting.

Based on a 1949 play by Sidney Kingsley, Detective Story, and directed by William Wyler, the movie comprises of a superb cast, including Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, Joseph Wiseman, William Bendix, Craig Hill, et al. Set in a single day, the main plot of the story, however, is about a tough cop (played incredibly by Kirk Douglas), who doesn’t believe in second chances, with a temper he can’t control. As the movie progresses, he learns of a past mistake by his elegant wife (gracefully played by the beautiful Eleanor Parker), which he finds difficult to accept. He is not a forgiving man. Detective Story, is a brilliant movie, with many a sub-plots. Lee Grant is seen through most of the movie, and is well fashioned with a scarf over her shoulders (it’s worth checking out some of cool ties and suits worn by some of the male cast, as well, including Douglas and Wiseman). Basically the movie is, out and out, a Kirk Douglas venture. He is the protagonist, the only lead character of the film. The rest are all supporting characters, revolving around the main plot within Prescient 21. So it is baffling, why Lee Grant, won an award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, the following year. She was no doubt superb, yet she was a supporting character; as was the cop’s wife, Mrs. Mary McLeod (played by Eleanor Parker). Parker received a Best Actress Oscar nomination, along with Lee Grant, for Best Supporting Actress‘, at the Academy Awards. In fact, with just over 20 minutes appearance, Eleanor Parker’s performance is the shortest role, to ever be nominated for aBest Actress Oscar. Like Grant, Parker ought to have been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, as well. The movie garnered two more nominations, including one forBest Director, for William Wyler. Detective Story lost out at the Oscars, but happens to be among greatest study of varied character-sketches, on film.

Lee Grant in a scene from Detective Story (1951)

Despite the accolades, Lee Grant received for her unique Oscar nominated performance, in Detective Story, she found it difficult to find work for the next decade. In 1952, she refused to testify against her husband at the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) hearings, and thus was blacklisted. This was during the notorious McCarthy era, under which the Hollywood Blacklist began, in 1947; where famous people were being persecuted for supposedly having ‘Communist’ beliefs. Sadly many great influential personalities lost work during this period, including Hollywood celebrities, such as Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Dalton Trumbo, to name some. Lee Grant was removed from the blacklist, in 1962, after which she rebuilt her career in film and television.

From playing a shoplifter in her first movie, her last Cinematic appearance was in a film titled, Going Shopping (2005). She hasn’t worked in films for the last 13 years, but she did appear on stage, where it all began, in a revival of Donald L. Coburn’s 1976 play, The Gin Game, in 2013; directed by her daughter, Dinah Manoff.

Detective Story (1951)
My Rating: Pure Excellence – 10/10 !!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

This write-up, is my contribution, for The Lovely Lee Grant Blogathon, hosted by Gill of of Real Weegie Midget and Chris from Angelmans’s Place!!

Thank you Gill and Chris, for inviting me to join this Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen

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Little Barrymore & Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror 

Born on the 22nd of February, 1975, to the famed Barrymore lineage, Drew Blythe Barrymore, started acting at the age of 11months, when she auditioned for a canine food commercial. Not yet a year old, she got the job on the spot, when she laughed instead of crying when her furry co-star nipped her. By the age of 5 she was acting in Hollywood Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror films (with a few exceptions), one after another, throughout the 80’s decade; from Altered States (1980), to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), to Firestarter (1984), to Cat’s Eye (1985), to Babes in Toyland (1986). She’s among the most well known child artistes of the 1980’s. Her most notable Sci-fi flick, as a child star, was none other than E.T. (mentioned earlier); directed by the man responsible for bringing out the “Blockbuster” phenomena (a ridiculous craze for predominantly tasteless cinema, today), way back in 1975, with Jaws (1975); Steven Spielberg.

Among the fantasy genre of movies, she worked in, two films involved the penmanship of, the crowning glory of modern supernatural fiction, Stephen King.

Drew Barrymore, with author, Stephen King, at the world premier of Firestarter (1984)

Little Barrymore’s King Connection!!!!!

As mentioned, as a child star, Drew Barrymore, appeared in two movies written by Stephen King. The first was Firestarter, which was based on a novel by King; and the next was Cat’s Eye, an anthology of three stories as witnessed by a cat. The first two tales, in Cat’s Eye, are based on the short stories, Quitters, Inc. and The Ledge; the third tale was specifically written by King, for the movie (where both, the cat and little Drew Barrymore, have significant roles). Beware of certain spoilers, below.

Firestarter (1984)

In Firestarter, two college students take part in an experiment orchestrated by a secret government agency known as The Shop (the Department of Scientific Intelligence). Later they get married and have a child together (a daughter). A girl with supernatural abilities, of clairvoyance and pyrokinesis. This child, Charlene McGee, a.k.a. Charlie, is played by an adorable little Drew Barrymore.

The film starts off, with the father and daughter on the run (the mother has been murdered) from members of The Shop. This secret government agency wants to use the little girl’s pyrokinetic abilities to harness a weapon of mass destruction. We see what happened prior to them being on the run, through various flashbacks. Soon the father and daughter are captured, separated, and kept against their will, in The Shop.

David Keith, Drew Barrymore and Heather Locklear, in a scene from Firestarter (1984)

Director Mark L. Lester’s adaptation of this King novel, is a flop show, and the overall experience is pretty bad. Especially thanks to the non-stop vengeful calamities by the little ‘Firestarter’, to destroy The Shop, towards the end. And each time she says, ‘to you “Daddy”, I love you’, you wonder, has she forgotten her “Mommy”, who was murdered, too, not so long ago? Especially when she says it at the end, in front of The New York Times office, it feels silly. The only saving grace of the film is the interaction between George C. Scott (who plays a cold blooded, inhumane, sociopathic, member of The Shop, with no regard for human life whatsoever; John Rainbird) and Little Barrymore. It is interesting to see how Rainbird (in the guise of an orderly) psychologically manipulates Charlie, and earns her trust. Those scenes are so innocently beautiful; and Barrymore shines most, within those moments. The experiment scenes, with a cute angry little Drew Barrymore, are actually quite good as well.

Though Firestarter, is a pretty badly made movie, it has a sort of cult following today. The movie does boast some good acting talent (including Oscar winners), yet not in their best element here. Besides George C. Scott and Drew Barrymore, we see David Keith (playing Andy McGee, the father) and Martin Sheen (as the head of The Shop, Captain James Hollister); along with, in comparatively smaller roles, Art Carney, Louise Fletcher, Moses Gunn, Freddie Jones, John Sanderford, and a young Heather Locklear as Vicky (Barrymore’s mother) in her first Big Screen appearance (prior to Firestarter, Locklear had only worked in television). Though, far from good, this 80’s B-movie is worth a look, due to innocent little Drew Barrymore, and it’s cult status today.

Cat’s Eye (1985)

A stray cat is chased down some suburban street, by a mangy looking dog. It escapes through a delivery truck and ends up in New York City. At a shop window a mannequin of little girl comes to life (only for the tomcat’s eyes) and asks him help her. And so begins the cat’s quest, through a maze of eccentric characters, to locate the real-life little girl, whose image, he saw via a mannequin, and to save her from whatever is threatening her.

A Mannequin comes to life in the form of Little Drew Barrymore, in Cat’s Eye (1985)

Little Drew Barrymore is amazing in a triple role, and she was nominated for the Young Artist Award for Best Starring Performance by a Young Actress in a Motion Picture, in 1986, at an event know as Fantasporto (i.e. an International Fantasy Film Award ceremony) held annually in Porto, Portugal. As mentioned, first we see her as an apparition, of a living person. The cat is picked up from front of the shop window, and thrown into an electric cage and tormented, in front of an addicted smoker. So this is the first segment, of the anthology of tall tales. The cat is tormented as a warning, for the smoker, to kick his habit. This takes place at Quitters, Inc., where smokers seek help to quit smoking. The king of this torturous method is a brainchild of, the Chief counselor of the clinic, Dr. Donatti’s (Alan King), ancestor, who died of lung cancer. The man being warned is smoker, Dick Morrison (James Woods); whose wife (Mary D’Arcy), and then his daughter with down syndrome (played by Drew Barrymore), will be subjected to the same horrors that the cat faced, if he doesn’t comply and stopped smoking. Drew Barrymore appears briefly in this segment, as Alicia Morrison, and we see the close loving bond between father and daughter. When Dick Morrison visits Alicia, who seems to be hosteled in a special needs school, we see Dr. Donatti following Dick, keeping an eye, and reminding him of the consequences of ever smoking another cigarette. As crazy as this satirical tale is, it’s really well made.

The cat soon manages to escape, while Dick’s wife is being tortured, and soon we see the cat leave New York, in the Staten Island Ferry, with a beautiful view of the New York skyline, which includes the now lost, then landmark, Twin Towers (World Trade Center). The skyline with the Twin Towers, was shown earlier as well, during credits. The cat ends up in the resort city, of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Here, at another shop window, he sees a bunch of televisions playing an advertisement with a little girl (again played by Drew Barrymore), as the cat curiously watches, the girl in the advertisement turns into an apparition like earlier, and again pleads the cat to save her. Here the next segment begins, led by Kenneth McMillan and Robert Hays. But Barrymore does not appear in this segment at all, so shall skip it completely. The gist, the cat gets caught by another weirdo, helps save another innocent life, and escapes. Then he jumps into a freight train and travels to Wilmington, North Carolina. And it is here, we finally meet the little girl in trouble, the little girl’s apparition the cat saw twice, Amanda. And the third segment begins.

This third segment, where both the cat, and Drew Barrymore, have a very significant role, is the one Stephen King wrote, specifically for the film. Barrymore is superb, and no doubt was one of the best child stars of the 80’s. But the third segment, is my least favourite of the three tales, especially thanks to the actress playing Amanda’s mother (Candy Clark). The woman can’t act for peanuts. At least not in this movie.

Amanda adopts the cat, against her mother’s wishes, and names him General. A troll secretly has taken residence in Amanda’s bedroom, and tries to steal her breath. A troll, her parents don’t believe exists, and the mother blames everything that goes wrong on the cat. When the troll kills Amanda’s pet parakeet, the mother blames the cat. Ultimately the cat manages to save Amanda from the troll, and when his disembodied parts are found in the box fan; the parent’s finally believe their daughter.

As I mentioned before, this last segment is my least favourite. Yet, it’s a really good children’s horror story. If only Candy Clark did a more believable job here, this movie could have been so much better. James Naughton plays Amanda’s more understanding father.

While watching this Dino De Laurentiis production, directed by Lewis Teague, it felt so familiar, I wondered if I’ve seen it before. I’ve most probably watched Cat’s Eye, long ago, maybe in my teens, back in the 90’s . Am not sure. The entire film was only averagely good, but the first two segments, themselves, were actually really good. Especially the first story, based on King’s short story, Quitters, Inc..

My Ratings!!!!!

  • Firestarter (1984) My Rating: 4/10
  • Cat’s Eye (1985) My Rating: 6/10

For this Blogathon, I actually wanted to watch and work on Rasputin and the Empress (1932), which all three Barrymore siblings (Lionel, Ethel and John) starred in (and the only film the trio appeared in together), but unfortunately I couldn’t find this classic gem, anywhere, online. So, I downloaded the two cinematic adaptations of Stephen King stories, that Drew Barrymore, acted in as a child, back in the 1980’s. Normally for Blogathons, I’ve written on movies I’ve already watched; but this was just the second time, I watched a couple of films, specifically for a Blogathon. The previous Blogaton, I took part in, i.e. THE KURT RUSSELL BLOGATHON: Conversations with a Serial Killer from May 2018, was the 1st time, I downloaded and watched a movie, especially to take part in a Blogathon. It’s definitely easier than writing from memory alone (unless I had an old video cassette or DVD of a movie, or had downloaded a film, that I could re-watch, I had to be completely dependent on my memory, in the past). Of course, there were few Blogathons, where I didn’t work on movies; in that case I had to be dependent on my own personal knowledge and research (books and online information, provided by reputed sources).

Drew Barrymore’s Great Aunt, Ethel Barrymore

This Blogpost is my contribution to The Fourth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon hosted by Crystal of In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, in conjunction with Drew Barrymore’s Great Aunt, Ethel Barrymore’s, 139th Birth Anniversary, which falls today !!!!

Thank you Crystal, for getting me involved in this enjoyable Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Quoting Quotes of the Brilliantly Famous

I hate it when people say ‘come back to earth’ or ‘stop dreaming so big,’ 
it destroys all the hope someone had for something
     – Xavier Dolan
    (Born in 1989)

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense!!!!!

RekhaBollywood Superstar of the late 70’s & 1980’s

Check out my trio of Lists of mini-write-ups I posted on IMDB, this month (July 2018). Press on the links below.

1Bollywood FIVE

2 FIVE Feature-Length Gay-Themed Films of 2017!!

3Ingrid Bergman & 40’s Hollywood

I had made way more than 35 lists on IMDB, but for some reason, IMDB has removed lists involving Characters. There were quite a few character studies I had posted on IMDB (Sad!). It has all the rest though, lists of people, titles and pictures.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

The 8th Annual SAARC Film Festival, celebrating films of South Asia, came and went; and I got to see some films, ranging from excellent masterpieces to pathetic waste of time flicks. Below are my take on the movies that I got the chance to see, my experience of the festival, as well as my ratings for each.

JANAAN (2016)

Janaan (2016) is a Pakistani commercial film, aping the the styles of the Bollywood masala rom-com, with done to death love triangles, heroes and villains, the battle of good versus evil, tragedy and triumph. Though beautifully filmed, capturing the spectacular landscape of Pakistan’s breathtaking Swat valley; with equally beautiful people with flawless skin (not just the younger generation, but all three generation encompasses flawless beauties, male and female, with sharp features, and perfect healthy figures), speaking the very refined and poetic languages of Urdu (national language of Pakistan) and Pashto/Pushto (language specific to that region of Pakistan), with glamorous costumes; due to the cheesy story line and mediocre acting talent, the film disappoints.

The story is pretty simple. A bewitchingly beautiful girl, who’s been living in Canada for 11 years, revisits her ancestral home; and encounters love and sadness, happiness and tears, romance and tragedy, the good, the bad and the ugly; all the melodrama of a commercial movie scene. The Pakistan film industry’s commercial cinema needs to up their game. These directors don’t need to go out of their comfort zones to make Art Films, if they don’t want to (though Pakistan has a few good artsy films; one that comes to mind is Ramchand Pakistani,2008, starring Indian actress Nandita Das); but with a perfect screenplay, superb actors, and catchy tunes; even a mediocre story could turn out to be an enjoyable movie. Look at Bollywood movies; why are they successful, despite most movies coming out of the Indian commercial Film Industry made in Hindi (India’s national language) being crap; because the few good commercial movies they make are brilliant. Though am a bit of an Art House snob; I do love a good commercial movie; which includes Bollywood movies. The likes of Awaara (1951), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Teen Devian (1965), Guide (1965), Amrapali (1966), Anand (1971), Haré Rama Haré Krishna (1971) a guilty pleasure, Abhimaan (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Arth (1982) which happens to be my favourite Bollywood commercial movie, Nikaah (1982), Rang Birangi (1983), Sadma (1983), Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994), 1947: Earth (1998), Yes Boss (1997) another guilty pleasure, Guru (2007), Aamir (2008), 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), Barfi! (2012), Kahaani (2012), Haider (2014), Mary Kom (2014), Neerja (2016), etc etc Dot Dot Dot …. What’s brilliant about these movies, are not just the unique story lines (in some cases), the catchy music, the costumes, the cinematography et al; BUT good film direction (which I noticed Jannan actually has) and great performances (the main flaw of Jannan, besides the story). Thus a good director and great acting skills are the two key elements for making a good movie. The rest are secondary. Of course, though Bollywood is mostly popular for their commercial ventures, India does have some really good Art Films in Hindi as well, like Ankur: The Seedling (1974) my favourite Hindi language Art Movie, Junoon (1979), Kalyug (1981), Utsav (1984), Saaransh (1984), Mirch Masala (1987), Salaam Bombay! (1988) which was nominated for an Oscar, Raincoat (2004), The Blue Umbrella (2005), Stanley Ka Dabba (2011), The Lunchbox (2013), Masaan (2015), Aligarh (2015) to name some. Of course, India is not just Bollywood; there are lot a regional film, from various Indian states, in regional (and foreign) languages, from English and Urdu, to Indian languages ranging from Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Assamese, Malayalam, Telugu, to Tamil and many more. India is a massive country, with an equally massive population; with a vast array of racial, religious, cultural differences from state to state. Bengali Art Films coming out from India’s State of West Bengal, be it in Bengali or English (or bilinguals) are the best. Other Indian-English language films tend to be superb too. Last year’s The Hungry (2017) was a brilliant modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

I’ve heard about a new Pakistani movie, called Cake (2018). Really looking forward to checking it out. Sorry Azfar Jafri, your Janaan, was pretty bad; despite having made a whopping at the Box Office. Though I commend you for the excellence in direction, cinematography, editing and the beautiful costumes.

MATA NAM AHUNA (2015)

This Sri Lankan short film from Nadya Perera, was a waste of time. A total drag. Not to mention politically incorrect and tad racist. Nadya Perera had worked as crew member for the Sri Lankan/Italian film, Machan (2008), an averagely good movie, directed by Italian director, Uberto Pasolini, and much loved by Lankan audiences. Mata Nam Ahuna (2015), English Title – While You Slept (2015), is Perera’s second short film. The movie deals with a brothel catering to male Chinese construction workers here. The prostitutes are local girls who cater to these Chinese men’s needs. Once an actual young Chinese girl is brought into serve the men, a girl fears for her job. Slowly her inferiority complex and insecurity takes over and she tries to become Chinese, inside out. A good concept, but what a bore. The movie was only 24 minutes, but I felt I sat through that flick for an hour, at least.

Plus, they’ve got the facts wrong. True there is an influx of Chinese workers coming into the country post war; but Chinese labour is nothing new. And brothels are nothing new in the country. This movie gives the impression that such places are a necessity today, because only Chinese men have such sexual cravings. There have been brothels in Lanka from time immemorial, including the bringing in of prostitutes from abroad. Although the premise of the movie was good, bringing in foreign workers, means less work for locals. Yet, it’s not just post-end of war; it’s been happening since way before.

This was the second worst movie, I saw at the festival.

Jaya Ahsan & Abir Chatterjee, in a scene Bisorjon (2017)

BISORJON (2017)

This Indian Bengali movie was THE best movie I saw at the Film Festival this year, but sadly it was shown “out of competition”. Beats me, why????

With brilliant character sketches, a heart-rending story, and superb performances, Bisorjon (2017), English title – Immersion, is a must watch, for all film lovers. The story is about a Muslim man from West-Bengal, India, who washes into Bangladesh; where a Hindu Bangladeshi widow, saves him, protects him, and takes care of him. The irony of the circumstances is even more intriguing, as India’s state of West-Bengal is a predominantly Hindu region (though Islam is a fast growing religion in that state), and Bangladesh is a Muslim country, with a tiny percentage of Hindus, and other religions. Thus the biggest irony is, the fact that an injured Indian Muslim man, has to pretend to be Hindu, in an Islamic country, as he is living under the roof of a Hindu widow, and her ailing father-in-law. Plus, though they speak the same language (i.e. Bengali); the dialectics differ. So as not to get caught by the Bangladeshi forces, as he is an Indian residing in Bangladesh illegally, she teaches him to speak in her dialect (i.e. the Bangladeshi version of Bengali; or Bangla, as they call it). This beautiful slow-paced love-story without any romance is made with perfection, by director, Kaushik Ganguly. Slow does not have to be a bore, and this is anything but. The suspense of the story keeps you glued, and the exchange of dialogues are unmissable and amusing. It’s the dialogues, the expressions, and beautiful performances, that keeps the story going. The cast is just as brilliant, as the films direction; and the director too plays a significant supporting role in the film. The best work in this Indian movie, was by Bangladeshi actress, Jaya Ahsan (pronounced Joya Ahsan).

Jaya Ahsan plays Padma, the selfless widow; who gives and gives, and sacrifices, without really expecting anything in return. Seeing what a saintly human being she is, one can feel content, that there is still scope for humanity. Her character is uniquely complex. She loved her husband, who died due to alcohol abuse. She spends her time taking care of her, weakened with age, father-in-law. The discovery of a near dead man, re-ignites her dormant passion for a male companion, in her heart and soul. She doesn’t necessarily fall in love with this handsome stranger; but seeing him in her husband’s old clothes, she falls in love with the essence of her husband, that brings back memories, through this stranger. She had submerged all human feelings of desire till now. But this strange Muslim man, from another country, re-kindles her desires for a male lover. Yet, their friendship is purely platonic, and the stranger, Nasir (played by actor, Abir Chatterjee) doesn’t reciprocate. He has a girl, waiting for him back home. Even though he admires and cares, for this Hindu widow, he doesn’t feel any lustful desire for her. But neither does she feel any lust for him, but more for the memories of her husband, brought back to life, through Nasir’s clothing and smoking the cigarette brand that Padma’s husband use to smoke. As she inhales the cigarette smoke puffed out by Nasir, her heart pounds for her dead husband, in this new human avatar. She resides with contentment and misery through this unrequited love. She doesn’t want things to change, and rebuffs the affection of the village headman, Ganesh (played by film director, Kaushik Ganguly). The ambiguity of the character of Ganesh, makes the film more intriguing; as sometimes he feels like the sly villain of the piece, horny headed, helping the widow, with an alternate agenda; and yet, on the other end, his affections for her seem genuine, and he is very protective of her. His sidekick Lau (Lama), provides the comic relief, in the movie.

Then comes the movie’s climax, the day Nasir has to escape (by now we know Nasir is a thief, who trying to escape the cops, jumped into the river, on the day of immersion of the idol of Durga, and got wounded). Padma’s father-in-law is dead, she has no where to go, except maybe back to her parents. Yet, it won’t be easy for Nasir to leave, undetected, with the border patrol. Thus, Padma’s biggest sacrifice. She agrees to marry Ganesh, if he helps Nasir get back through the river, on the day immersion. She comes home, shedding her white attire of a Hindu widow, dressed like the Durga herself. We see the agony she is going through, she drinks, she smokes; and Nasir breaks down on learning of her ultimate sacrifice.

The scene so tragically beautiful is done with exceptional brilliance. Jaya Ashen is superb, your heart goes out to her. For all her affection towards Nasir, she does get one thing in return, his seedling. Initially, with all the border problems, I assumed the movie was set during the Bangladesh war of liberation, in 1971. But then I saw mobile phones, so realized it’s set in the modern day (village attire doesn’t give away the time period, as those traditional styles hardly change). Yet, the mobiles were somewhat older, in style and technology. Which made sense later, as we see Padma married to Ganesh, with a six year old kid. A kid with Nasir’s birthmark on his back.

The finalé is beautifully done, with the camera zooming into the, now dilapidated, house; where Padma and Nasir consummated their desires, resulting in the conception of a child. A child, Ganesh calls his own. Symbolic of the void left behind, by the man that brought back human desires into her heart. A man, that is dead to her, metaphorically (but lives through the son they created, that one night); unlike her husband’s death, literally, which left her with nothing.

The best Indian movies tend to come out of the state of West Bengal (as I mentioned earlier), and Bengali Cinema has brought out some of the best directors ever, including Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh, to name some. In fact, Aparna Sen’s The Japanese Wife (2010), based on a beautiful short story, by Kunal Basu, happens to be my all time favourite Indian movie (see my post, Photograph no.5, from six months ago). Having seen Kaushik Ganguly’s, brilliant tribute to the veteran Satyajit Ray, that was, Apur Panchali (2013), and now Bisorjon, Ganguly can be added to these Bengali greats. Last month, director, Kaushik Ganguly, announced that he is making a sequel to Bisorjon.

Indian Film Director, Kaushik Ganguly, announces that he is making a sequel to Bisorjon (2017), as Bangladesh Actress, Jaya Ahsan, looks on; at an event (April 2018)

POORNA (2017)

Based on a true story, Poorna (2017), is Rahul Bose’s second foray into film direction.

Malavath Purna (a.k.a. Poorna Malavath) is an Adivāsi girl from Telangana North, a state in Southern India, who became the youngest girl to scale the highest peak of Mount Everest, at the age of 13 years and 11 months. She, till date, is the youngest girl to have done so. She reached the peak on the 25th of May, 2014. Adivāsis are a tribal community (which differs from regions to regions), that make up a small population of South Asia. Majority of them, are scattered around India. Though Adivāsis are a lower caste, considered primitive, they are not considered impure, by higher Indian castes of India’s Hindu population. Thus, not to be confused with the caste of Dalits, who sadly are also known as “Untouchables”. Unfortunately these caste systems still prevail, in modern India.

Bose’s Poorna, is a bio-pic on this famed young mountain climber. AND a brilliant movie at that. Young Aditi Inamdar, does a marvelous job, as the protagonist of the movie, in her debut performance. The movie demonstrates the trials and troubles faced by this young girl, coming from a lower social background, where child marriage of younger girls to older men, is still the norm; and how she defies social stigmas, overcomes problems after problems, from family issues, training, to the actual ascend onto the Himalayas.

These impressive inspiring tales are nothing new, and there are plenty of films made on sportsmen/women and adventurers. But this is still a wonderfully made movie, that too on real life person. Added to which, this story is about a tribal girl who beats all odds, and triumphs against adversity. If it were any other Indian or other well to do girl, the triumph would have been hers alone; but the fact an Adivāsi girl reached the peak, at such a young age; is an inspiration to the entire Adivāsi tribe. It’s a push forward for the entire community. Thanks to her, young Adivāsis have scope for getting away from monotonous lifestyles, and making something of their lives. Of course, Poorna, has the luck, and help comes in the way of Dr. Praveen Kumar (Rahul Bose), who see her potential and never stops encouraging her, and other children like her. Added to which Poorna’s mentor, her elder cousin sister, supports Poorna, and pushes her forward, despite having no hope for herself. In the end, it’s the memory of her cousin that helps Poorna achieve what she sought out to do.

More recently, in July 2017, Malavath Purna, scaled Mt. Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia, and the European continent.

With Bangladesh Film Director, Tauquir Ahmed, at the 8th SAARC Film Festival 2018 (26th May 2018); post the screening of Poorna (2017), and just hours before the screening of Ahmed’s film, Haldaa (2017)

Tauquir Ahmed gives a small speech, before the screening of his movie, Haldaa (2017)

HALDAA (2017)

Shot around the scenic river Halda, in Chattogram, in southeastern Bangladesh, depicting the lives of fishermen and their families; Haldaa (2017) is a movie with breathtaking cinematography and a lovely story. The story deals with repression, both of fisherman, due to industrial pollution and at the hands of pirates, and women, living under a patriarchal society.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha plays Hasu, a daughter of a troubled fisherman, who is forced into a marriage with a rich older man, against her will. She is the second wife, of this wealthy villain; whose first wife hasn’t borne any children, and is still married to him. One interesting point shown in the movie, is the symbolic representation of killing of the “Mother Fish”, or pregnant fish. It’s not only shown as a superstition, considered wrong to kill a pregnant fish, but also shown with a realistic aspect too, that of the breeding of the fish. If you kill a pregnant fish, the number of fish in river would reduce, which happens to be the main livelihood of those living along these banks. The Halda River, of Chattogram, is the only pure fish breeding center in Asia. When Hasu’s father kills a “Mother Fish”, it upsets both the father and daughter, later when a “Mother Fish” from the Halda River, is sent by Hasu’s husband, she refuses to cook it, and when guests arrive she throws the cooked fish to the groud, in demonstration. She is badly beaten by her husband. Unlike the first wife, Hasu, is a bold woman, and not afraid of her man. Since post marriage, she shows no signs of getting pregnant, people talk about her being sterile like the first wife. Killing of a “Mother Fish” was a sign. But she eventually does get pregnant, but it might not be her husband’s.

This shows a bold village feminist, who refuses to lose her identity; as her mother-in-law, Surat Banu (Dilara Zaman) asks Hasu, while Banu lies bedridden, after a fall, to call her by her name (instead of calling her mother). A tear-jerking scene, as Banu points out, how women lose their identity, as a daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, mother, mother-in-law; and their names vanish along with their identity. Surat doesn’t call her younger independent minded daughter-in-law Bahu (daughter-in-law), as is the custom; but by her name, Hasu. Surat admires Hasu for her braveness, and gives her the household keys, instead of the elder Bahu. This makes the, nameless and conniving, elder Bahu, not so happy.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha is superb as Hasu. With director Tauquir Ahmed’s (a.k.a. Toukir Ahmed) beautifuly filmed movie, and few awesome performances, and a touching script, it’s no doubt a great film from Bangladesh. Yet, the overall experience of the movie was average fare (among international standards). Though I didn’t think it was among the greatest films ever made, there were lot elements of the movie, I loved. The last scene, when just Hasu and her husband are left in the house, with the unexpected twist in the end, was gracefully executed. ’twas just sublime. Tauquir Ahmed, at the post screening , mentioned that he made two versions of the movie. One a commercial venture, for Bangladesh audiences, and the other, an art movie, for the international distribution (the one we saw); which he called the “director’s cut”. It would be interesting to see both, and do a compare and contrast, though no doubt, the version we saw, was the better one.

The next day, this film was awarded four trophies, including ‘Best Film’ at the SAARC Film Festival award ceremony. Though I didn’t think Tauquir Ahmed’s Haldaa, was the best film, am glad it was given the recognition, instead of some undeserved movie. It definitely deserved the win for ‘Best Cinematography’, no doubt about that. A big congratulations to director, Tauquir Ahmed. And all the best with your next project.

These three feature films have beautiful titles with beautiful meanings. Bisorjon/Bishorjan (pronunciation differs according to Bengali dialects) means immersion, as the English title suggests, and is based on the custom of immersing the idol of Durga into water (the ocean or a river), during the famed Durga puja festivities in, certain parts of India, and Bangladesh (this festival plays a vital role in the movie’s plot). Poorna or Purna, meaning fulfilled, is the name of the protagonist, and is based on the life of Malavath Purna, a young Indian mountaineer. AND Haldaa, is the river Halda, in south-eastern Bangladesh, on the banks on which the entire premise of the story is set in. Though not as great as Bisorjon and Poorna, Haldaa is the best film from Bangladesh I’ve seen; and there is scope for Bangladeshi Bangla films to catch up to International standards, akin to great European and other Asian Art House Films.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha, dressed in bridal finery, as Hasu, in Haldaa (2017)

THE WATERFALL (2017)

Seated right at the front, like Bertolucci’s “Dreamers” (i.e. like the trio of lead characters from Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, 2003), I was one of the first to absorb this short film, before it reached the rest.

Like wasps attracted to a hornets’ nest, people thronged into the cinema, including Colombo’s so called elite. It was as if these uncontrollable crowds were from a remote village with a high level of illiteracy, or people from slums. Such a rowdy crowd for a short film. No, they were there, for the next film, a Sinhala feature film; but these losers came in early afraid to lose a seat for the next movie, Bahuchithawadiya (2018). Not that most of these people care for films at a festival; but a free viewing, that too of a Sri Lankan film, brought in the worst crowds possible.

Anyway, Lipika Singh Darai’s The Waterfall (2017), is an Indian-English language short film. Having worked on documentaries, this was first venture into a fictional movie. It’s a beautiful movie about a city boy from Mumbai, who visits his ancestral home in a scenic hill station, in the state Odisha (formerly known as Orissa). He spends his time enjoying the natural wonders of the village, missing in the city, with his cousin. In particular, there is this one waterfall, that he has great admiration for. Soon he learns that the waterfall is drying up; and urbanization is ruining the surrounding nature. It affects him, and villagers, profoundly; but it doesn’t seem to bother his cousin (who resides there), and other well to do people of the village.

Beautiful little story, about the effects of climate change and construction projects. Averagely good.

BAHUCHITHAWADIYA (2018)

This crude caper is a crapper. And yes, I was still seated right at the front.

What a pathetic waste of time. Ridiculous acting, the actors are thinking of their dialogues then saying it. With long pauses between dialogues, how artificial and unrealistic it looked. What a bore!! These “tele-drama” style acting ought to be obsolete by now (Sri Lankan soaps have been known as tele-dramas, since the invent of these distasteful Sinhala television series’, back in the 1980’s. Lankan’s till date stay glued to the idiot box watching such nonsensical shows, thus their brains are just as slow and narrow).

Even though the premise of virtual acquaintances and promiscuous youth was (though not unique), an interesting area to turn into a cinematic experience; the pathetic execution of the plot, and specifically the fake acting talent roped in, made the viewing unbearable. This was the last movie of the festival. Heavy Sri Lankan egos might not like my take on the film (as they feel they have to love films made in their own country); but me having no false pride, or fake sense of patriotism, nor any brainwashed attitudes of loving everything, just because it’s Sri Lankan, have to say it; Sri Lankan movies are not up to the standard. Gone are the days of Lester James Peries (Rekava,1956, Gamperaliya,1963), Sumitra Peries (Ganga Addara,1980) and Tissa Abeysekera (Viragaya,1987); yet these greatest Sri Lankan films mentioned here, still were average fare (internationally speaking). In more recent times, only director, Prasanna Vithanage (Anantha Rathriya,1996, Pura Handa Kaluwara,1997, Silence in the Courts,2015) comes to mind as local films worth checking out; yet even his movies are only averagely good (but brilliant in Sri Lankan terms). One main reason is, though these were/are good directors; the acting skills even of the best actors here, do not match up. And in Bahuchithawadiya, the acting talent is amongst the worst ever. Added to which, Bahuchithawadiya, is among the worse films ever made, anywhere; and THE worst movie I saw at this year’s festival. Even though, this was given an award for ‘Best Sound Design’; I feel there were better films that deserved the said award.

THE SAARC FILM FEST EXPERIENCE

The poorly organized SAARC Film Festival, with it’s totally mucked up schedule, started on the 22nd of May, 2018. Practically any event in this country, tends to be badly done; yet, this years SAARC Film Fest, was definitely comparatively better than the previous year’s (which was held only six months ago, in November 2017). I couldn’t go the first two days, especially due to the bad weather, and various other reasons. On the third day, 24th of May, I went. I really had a keen interest in seeing this 13 minute short film from Bangladesh, Daag (2017). The story is set during the Bangladesh war of liberation, in 1971; where a woman marries her rapist. I thought the premise was interesting. Already stressed out, as I was leaving for the fest, due to inhumane cruel people of this country; not to mention being stuck in a terrible traffic for close to 2 hours, I missed the short film. So I sat down to watch the next movie, Janaan (I’ve spoken of above). After the disappointment of sitting through the cheesy romance, and going through the stress of the day; I felt too tired to watch the rest of the films. Otherwise I would have seen the next two at least, the local Sinhala film, 28 (2014), and the Indian Marathi movie, Kshitij: A Horizon (2016). Kshitij: A Horizon, is the movie I really wanted to watch, for I could watch the Sri Lankan film, rented on cable TV, or if shown on a local channel. So, on my ‘Day 1’, Janaan, is the only movie I watched. Next day, I went early enough, and caught the short film Mata Nam Ahuna & the feature length film, Bisorjon (spoken about them above). The schedule being changed there was a Maldivian horror movie next, 4426 (2016). Initially I thought of checking it out, even though it didn’t really interest me, but still going through the weariness of the day before, I decided I needed to go home and rest. The next day, the last day of screening, on Saturday, 26th May; I went in the morning, to catch most of the movies. Still, when I reached there the short film, Kalo Meghar Vela (2018) a.k.a. The Cloud Boat, from Bangladesh had already started. So waited outside, and went in to catch the next movie, but happen to see the last bit of Kalo Meghar Vela, as it ran longer than scheduled. The next was Poorna (spoken of above). Post that, I did not see the next film, another commercial venture from Pakistan, which I heard skipped. Technical problem!!! Technical problems are nothing new at film festivals here, it always happens, and that too specially at the NFC (National Film Corporation); where these festivals mainly tend to take place. Added to that the seating is really bad, so congested, there is not enough leg space, for even a person of average height (and am 6ft, 2½”). Anyway, next I went in for Haldaa (spoken of above), which too had a technical difficulty (the sound wasn’t clear), so we ended up watching it on Blu-ray, projected onto the big wide screen. Post that, saw the next two/last two films, The Waterfall & Bahuchithawadiya, seated right in front, as mentioned.

I didn’t go for the award ceremony next day, on Sunday, but am glad the main awards were given to more deserved movies, unlike last year. Hope the organizers of this film festival do a better job, next time around. Even though badly done, am glad these rare festivals occur; as such films don’t really come to cinemas, in this aesthetically depressive country. There is no real understanding, nor an interest for, the arts, in general, in Sri Lanka. But it’s good, they have film festivals here now. After all, there were only two Colombo Film Festivals (back in 2014 & 2015) a festival, funded by the Japanese, and that died pretty young; and this was just the “8thSAARC Film Festival (which I hope shall continue, thanks to the help of other South Asian countries). None the less, looking forward to the next film festival, and preferably a more well organized one.

MY RATINGS (Set of Seven):-

  • Bisorjon (2017) – The Best – 10/10!!!!!
  • Poorna (2017) – The Next – 10/10!!!!!
  • Haldaa (2017) – (higher) Average Fare – 6/10!!!
  • The Waterfall (2017) – (lower) Average Fare – 5/10!!!
  • Janaan (2016) – Pretty Bad – 4/10!!
  • Mata Nam Ahuna (2015) – One of the worse short films ever – 1/10!
  • Bahuchithawadiya (2018) – The worst film at the festival – 1/10!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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The Mean Season (1985) is a pretty impressive thriller, which showcases the talent of actor Kurt Russell in an equally impressive measure. Directed by the quintessential 80’s film director from Canada (born in Australia), Phillip Borsos; who died too young (he was only 41, when he left this world); this Hollywood modern classic, encompasses some of the best traits of the 80’s decade. From technology, to style, the realistic feel; I felt the decade of my childhood run through my veins, with nostalgia. It’s not necessarily a masterpiece, but still an enjoyable piece of post-noir crime caper.

Set in Miami, Florida, USA, in July 1984, during Florida’s notorious “mean season”; the hurricane season that runs through the coasts of the US state of Florida, during the humid summer months (June to September); the movie is a about a reporting journalist, Malcolm Anderson (Russell) working for The Miami Journal (a fictional newspaper) and an (initially unnamed) sociopath (played by Richard Jordan). Exhausted with the never ending crime coverage he has to endure, Anderson is ready to quit and leave for cooler climes, to the more scenic US State of Colorado. A young teenage girl, Sarah Hooks (Tamara Jones), has been killed; and Anderson is given the assignment to cover it. He reluctantly agrees. Once he writes about it; he gets a call congratulating him, by the young girl’s killer. Soon a vocal relationship develops between the journalist; who’s in a dilemma (on one side he wants to genuinely help catch the killer, feeling for the families of the victims; and on the other, the scoop, nabbing the story of a lifetime is an opportunity no journalist wants to let go); and the serial killer, yet to commit more crimes.

Now the suspense begins. Kurt Russell, proves himself as an actor, in a decade Hollywood was infested with run-on-the mill blockbusters, B-grade actors, and cheesy catchphrases like “I’ll be back” (The Terminator, 1984), “I feel the need…, the need for speed” (Top Gun, 1986) and “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” (Dirty Dancing, 1987); to name a few. Soon an unbreakable bond begins, with each having a fascination bordering on homoeroticism for the other. Which in today’s terms, would be categorized as, a “Bromance”!! But this isn’t the typical bromance. For the journalist; he waits in anticipation, to hear from killer, the killer’s latest confession. Meanwhile, the attention loving murderer can’t wait to call the journalist, and letting him know about his latest victim/s. But when the reporting journalist starts to get more attention; not just because of his swell writing skills, but also ’cause he is the only person to be in touch with the killer; added to which the journalist appearing on television, with a hint of him venturing into Pulitzer Prize territory for his articles; is when the “Bromance” starts to turn sour. The killer isn’t happy. He wanted fame, through his newer killings (as we find out later that he had killed before, and confessed, and nobody believed him; thus he is duplicating the killings), and sought the help of Malcolm Anderson for it; but instead Anderson is making a name for himself; mainly just by association. True, Malcolm Anderson is great writer; but if the killer didn’t contact him, Anderson would’ve left Miami for good, and his byline could have gone into oblivion.

The killer finds the best way to get back at his “Bro”, by going after Anderson’s Achilles heal; going after his lover, a schoolteacher, Christine Connelly (Mariel Hemingway).

Kurt Russell and Richard Masur in a scene from The Mean Season (1985)

The Mean Season, is beautifully filmed. One of most beautiful, albeit pretty morbid, scene happens to be murder of an elderly couple. Though the murder itself isn’t shown, the murder’s description of it, along with Anderson’s imagination, shows how his use of a pillow, created an aesthetically spectacular scene, as the pillow feathers fall down like snowflakes. He mentions how he stood there watching this horrendous artistic creation of his.

What is more impressive, about this movie, is the realism aspect. Unlike the CGI blockbusters of today, where computer graphics overpower and ruin the entire premise of a film, instead of helping them (you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all); these films sans CGI, have an element of realism; with neither being overtly realistic nor disconnectedly artificial (though they might be out and out fictional). Of course, the film was based on a novel, In the Heat of the Summer, by a veteran Miami Herald crime reporter, John Katzenbach; who based his book on his own experiences as a newspaper reporter. Director, Phillip Borsos, spent time studying people at work at Miami Herald, he consulted them; and actually filmed on location, at the Miami Herald, with actual staff seen in the background. That’s one of the best things about the movie, the fact the press environment wasn’t recreated in a studio; but filmed in an actual press office. It was very generous of the Miami Herald to let them film there, despite being a very busy newspaper (what newspaper isn’t busy).

Crime & Journalism: Two scenes from The Mean Season (1985), with Kurt Russell (Russell is seen with Andy García, in the picture above). The movie was filmed on location, at the actual “Newsroom” of the Miami Herald newspaper.

Phillip Borsos, recalled later, that in April 1984, the day he, along with his crew, arrived at the Miami Herald; a man suspected of being a serial killer, killed himself, during a confrontation with the cops; “it seemed as though there were about 500 reporters in the office, and everybody was going insane” (quote mentioned in Wikipedia’s The Mean Season page).

Proof of the pudding, is in the preparation of an actor for a particular role, he or she, is to convincingly play. AND actor, Kurt Russell, followed around veteran American journalist and Mystery novelist, Edna Buchanan (who was working at the Miami Herald, at the time) along with Miami Herald‘s photographer of the time, Tim Chapman. And it paid off, as this no doubt is one of Russell’s better character roles. Similarly, Richard Masur, to prepare for his role as the editor of the fictional newspaper, The Miami Journal, spent several days at the Miami Herald‘s city desk.

One of the main flaws of the movie, for me, was that the revelation of the killer’s identity came too soon. It would have been better, if his face was revealed only after he pretends to help Christine Connelly, and we find out she’s been kidnapped. Post that, the revelation of the killer’s name, Alan Delour, came at the appropriate time. The thing is, when Delour, pretending to be a substitute teacher, pretends to help Connelly; we already know she’ll be kidnapped, as we know this is the killer. The other flaw, though a minor one, was the casting of Christine Connelly herself. Though Mariel Hemingway, had nothing great to do in the movie, anyway, she feels a bit out of place. In a way, it goes well with role, as Connelly wants to leave Miami, but only stays on for lover, Malcolm Anderson. Yet, Mariel Hemingway’s acting ability seems pretty limited, even for a side supporting role of small caliber. She’s an average actress; neither good nor bad. But surprisingly this average actress seemed perfectly cast in the brilliant Manhattan (1979), a Woody Allen (Black & White) masterpiece.

Mariel Hemingway in The Mean Season (1985)

Mariel Hemingway definitely looks good though. Richard Jordan is superb as the creepy voice over the telephone; but once his face is revealed, a tad too soon, it starts to go downhill a bit. Plus the done-to-death scene, when we feel all’s well that ends well, but made to realize it’s not over yet; is a tad too predictable. Still it didn’t ruin the movie for me, for most part, it really went well. It could’ve been greater, with certain changes. The one to watch out for, the icing on the cake, happens to be a fresh faced, young Cuban born, Andy García; as a good cop with a sly grin, Ray Martinez. He oozes with boyish charm in this movie.

Kurt Russell and Mariel Hemingway in The Mean Season (1985)

Though not a great movie; with it’s blend of the hurricane season (i.e. Florida’s notorious “mean season”), crime and journalism; The Mean Season, reminded me of some great suspenseful films set in Florida; the likes of Key Largo (1948), Absence of Malice (1981) and Manhunter (1986), to name a few. It also has classic-noir elements of films of the 40’s; an almost Hitchcockian feel; tied in with an investigative journalism style seen in movies like, His Girl Friday (1940), All the President’s Men (1976), Absence of Malice (mentioned above) and The Paper (1994), to name some. Even though this modern classic might not be a movie that has aged well, unlike the other movies mentioned above, it’s not exactly outdated. In fact, it’s quite a good insight into the workings of the press, press of the 1980’s decade. Plus, this would be a great guilty pleasure for die hard Kurt Russell fans. Pretty Enjoyable fare!!!

The Mean Season (1985)
My Rating: Pretty Good – 7/10 !!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

This Blog Post, is my contribution to the, THE KURT RUSSELL BLOGATHON, hosted by Gill of Real Weegie Midget and Paul of Return to the 80s!!!!!!

Thank you Gill & Paul, for letting me take part in this cool Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen

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The Annual , for Year , hit off, yesterday, with Asghar Farhadi’s Spanish psychological thriller, Todos lo Saben (2018), English Title: Everybody Knows. Below are the highlights, in pictures, of Day 1 (8th of May, 2018), of this prestigious Film Festival.

Jury member, Léa Seydoux (in Day and Evening wear), at the 71st Cannes Film Festival (8th May 2018)

Penelope Cruz & Javier Bardem arrive for the opening night premiere of their movie Todos lo Saben (2018) a.k.a. Everybody Knows; at the 71st CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

71st CANNES FILM FESTIVAL: Penelope Cruz smiles at the opening night premiere of her movie Todos lo Saben (2018) a.k.a. Everybody Knows (8th May 2018)

Golden Guest, at the 71st CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

The Jury (L to R): Lea Seydoux, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Khadja Nin, Robert Guediguian, Cate Blanchett, Denis Villeneuve, Ava DuVernay, Chang Chen & Kristen Stewart

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Couldn’t sleep a wink last night, kept getting up to check the time. Finally got off my bed by 4:30am (0430hrs); made my instant coffee, and got ready to catch the Oscar Red Carpet coverage LIVE (on this side of the Globe), at 5am (0500hrs); and continued to watch the entire show, until the finalé at 10:20am (1020hrs).

James Ivory giving his Oscar speech; after winning for Best Adapted Screenplay, for Call me by your Name (2017)
89 year old Ivory (who’ll turn 90 in June) became the oldest person to win an Oscar, ever!!

I was pretty disappointed, when Call me by your Name (2017) and Loving Vincent (2017); didn’t win the golden statuettes, for ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Animated Picture’, respectively. BUT I wasn’t surprised either. Though I haven’t watched The Shape of Water (2017) and Coco (2017); which won the earlier mentioned awards; in their respective categories; I highly doubt, they are as unique, as the naturalistic delicate love story that was Call me by your Name, and the spectacular literally moving impressionist artwork that was Loving Vincent. Added to which Coco also grabbed the award for ‘Best Achievement in Music written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)’. Poor Sufjan Stevens; his “Mystery of Love”; is such an amazingly melodious creation. Love that song.

Yet, luckily James Ivory was awarded the trophy ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’; for Call me by your Name. Aged 89, this was the very first Oscar win for Ivory; making him the oldest Oscar winner ever. Being one third of the trio behind the famed Merchant/Ivory Productions (which included Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), and today, with only Ivory being among the living, of the trio; he gave a heartfelt speech paying tribute his two co-producers/directors/writers and close friends. I’ve been a fan of Merchant/Ivory Productions since I can remember. They made some brilliant Indian English language films, from the beginning of the 60’s decade, to the early 80’s; before they went onto make beautiful British Heritage Films, like the E.M. Forster trilogy for instance; A Room with a View (1985), Maurice (1987) & Howards End (1992); and other eloquent creations set in eras of elegance.

Another touching speech, that was given, was by Frances McDormand; who nabbed the ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role’ Oscar, for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). Albeit pretty hysterically; but heartfelt. She got all the female nominees and winners to get up, and stand with her (though not on stage). I was really happy when, as expected, Gary Oldman won ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role’ for Darkest Hour (2017). For he was brilliant as Churchill, and ’twas not just ’cause of the prosthetics. He truly embodied the character. At the end of his speech, he asked his mother to put on the kettle, for he was bringing home an Oscar. Darkest Hour, quite deservedly, also won for ‘Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling’. Jordan Peele, became the first Afro-American Screenwriter, to win the prestigious award for ‘Best Original Screenplay’; for his horror venture, Get Out (2017). Though Dunkirk (2017) sadly lost out to Blade Runner 2049 (2017) for ‘Best Achievement in Cinematography’; it did bag a few in technical categories.

During the In Memoriam, the academy paid tribute to various stars like Harry Dean Stanton, Roger Moore, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lewis, et al. Added to these great American celebrities, they had also mentioned actor Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017); the very first star of  Productions; which was not a surprise, as he was an international star. But, somewhat of surprise, of course a pleasant one at that, was the inclusion of Sridevi (1963-2018), a national star of India; who bridged the gap between Bollywood (Films mainly made in the national language of India, Hindi) and South Indian Cinema (she’s worked in various South Indian languages made in various Southern Indian States).

Black & Gold: Lupita Nyong’o & Sandra Bullock

Rita Moreno, when she won for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for
West Side Story (1961), at the 34th Academy Awards, in April 1962; along with Best Actor in a Supporting Role winner (for the same film), her co-star, George Chakiris (L); and actor Rock Hudson (R)

From Oscars 1962 to Oscars 2018: 86 year old Rita Moreno, wore the same skirt she wore when she won the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role; 56 years ago

Fashion and a great sense of style, are a dominant feature at the Academy Awards; and this year, it was the Black & Gold combination that struck me as the best. Both Lupita Nyong’o & Sandra Bullock, looked amazing in their Black & Gold garb; but it was the 86 year Rita Moreno, who stole the show; when she wore the skirt that she originally wore for the Oscars, in 1962. She topped it off with a strapless black top, simple jewellery, a headband, gloves, and spectacles. She made spectacles look good. The attire that disappointed me the most, was the crude chandelier of a dress, that hung on Salma Hayek. Too gaudy for my taste!!!

In a chic pantsuit, Emma Stone presents the Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing; which went to Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water (2017)

Red n’ Bright: Meryl Streep & Allison Janney
Allison Janney won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for I, Tonya (2017)

True Blue: Nicole Kidman & Jennifer Garner

The Gentlemen looked dashing in their tuxedos; but it’s always the Ladies who steal the show at Award Ceremonies; or any function, when it comes to dress sense. But what is even more impressive is when a Lady dons a Trouser suit; and at this year’s , it was the chic style adorned by Emma Stone, that caught my eye!!!👁

Overall, the 90th Annual Academy Awards, was an interesting show; with no slip-ups this time!! And Jimmy Kimmel did a wonderful job, second time round. Bringing in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) veterans; Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway; a second time, as well (after last years debacle), was a icing on the cinematic cake.

Congratulations to all the Winners!!! Here’s to 2018!!

Nuwan Sen

Nuwan Sen n’ Style

Timothée Chalamet with his mother, and Armie Hammer with his wife (Oscars 2018)

Comical moment with host Jimmy Kimmel and Helen Mirren

Daniel Kaluuya congratulates Jordan Peele on winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar (inset) Daniel Kaluuya

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Right: Lady Gaga & Matt Bomer in American Horror Story – Hotel
Left (inset): Ewan mcGregor in Fargo

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Nuwan Sen’s TV Sense

There’ve been quite a few fantastical tales, on celluloid reels, of humans falling in love with the unreal, and vice versa. Lets take a look at some great, and some far from great, renditions of this unusual phenomena, explored mainly on the Big Screen. Fairy tales for more mature audiences (teenagers and/or adults), if you may.
What brought about this sudden urge to write about unrealistic romances, portrayed in a realistic style on celluloid? I watched, Her (2013), back in March 2015 (on 22nd), and never got to write about it (of course films today aren’t made on celluloid, but am speaking in a general term, to reference cinema of the past). Plus it brought about memories of some really great films (as well as certain terrible movies), I’ve watched in the previous decades, going way back to my childhood.

In Her, a writer, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls for an electronic voice, without a body (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). In Lars and the Real Girl (2007) a lonely, simple headed, man, Lars (Ryan Gosling) falls for a sex toy, a female without a voice.

In Ruby Sparks (2012) a writer, Calvin (Paul Dano) creates a fictional character Ruby Sparks (played by Zoe Kazan) that comes to life. He fall in love with her, but treats her like his possession, in contrast to the sex toy, to whom, Lars, tends to show so much respect and affection towards. Ironically Lars doesn’t treat the sex toy as play thing, but Calvin treats Ruby, as a toy, making her do what he wants. An egoistical male’s god complex, of being in control of his woman. While Lars of Lars and the real Girl and Theodore from Her, are the exact opposite. Of course, when Theodore finds out the voice of Her is ‘in love’ with thousands of other human beings, he starts to feel jealous, knowing he wasn’t special. While we sympathise with Theodore and Lars, we can’t help but feel Calvin is a bloody prick.
Stranger than Fiction (2006), has a similar unreal premise, but am yet to watch it, so I shan’t comment on it further.

In the animated movie, Corpse Bride (2005), a man, Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp), accidentally marries a corpse (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter). Of course in this case, it’s the corpse, who falls for the human. Yet, the corpse, itself, was a human being once, who was tricked and murdered by her paramour, on her wedding day. Similarly in the comedy, Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), an Invisible man (Chevy Chase) and a woman (Daryl Hannah), fall for each other, yet the invisible man, being an actual human being, it makes it comparatively realistic. As in the case of Mr. India (Anil Kapoor) in Mr. India (1987), a vigilante who can become invisible with help of a devise created by his late father, happens to be the romantic object of many a women. He is still a human being. Yet, we see, the reporter, Seema (Sridevi), fall for the invisible vigilante, than his human self. In fact, she initially despises ‘Mr. India’ in his human form as Arun Verma, unaware that he is in fact her invisible hero. In Hollow Man (2000) and Invisible Strangler (1978), once the protagonists of these movies, find they can get away anything, in their invisible form, nothing stops them from acting on their lustful desires, committing rape/murder, on beautiful women.

In various superhero tales, you find a similar dilemma, as in Mr. India, faced by the love interest of the story. In Superman (1978), reporter Louis Lane (Margot Kidder) falls in love with Superman (Christopher Reeve), who actually is an alien from a distant planet. But she refuses to acknowledge, the affectionate advances from her co-worker Clark Kent, who happens to be her superhero in his human avatar. There have been quite a few ‘Superman’ films since.

Of course Superman is from another planet. But if you take other superhero’s; American conceptions like Batman (played on the Big Screen by many stars from 1966 till date), Spider-man (Nicholas Hammond, in the 70’s, Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield & Tom Holland, this century), or Bollywood creations like Shahenshah (Amitabh Bachchan) from Shahenshah (1988) and Krrish (Hrithik Roshan) from Krrish (2006) and Krrish 3 (2013), sequels to Koi…. Mil Gaya (2003); in all these stories, the superhero happens to be human, with superpowers, but their leading ladies don’t necessarily, easily, fall for the man, but have more of a desire for the vigilante, unaware the two are one and the same. In love with not just the unreal, but impending danger as well. Dangerous, risk taking, hero’s, seem sexually more appealing to the fairer sex, than a realistic human companion. These kind of films actually also put pressure on growing young men. As kids, most guys like the idea, of imagining themselves as superhero’s, for fun. But when in their teens, it’s more to do with appeasing the opposite sex, through false perceptions of masculinity, showcased in such movies. Sometimes foolishly young men might try and take unnecessary risks, just to get the attention of their female peers, with disastrous consequences.
If you take classic fairytales, we read as little children, like Beauty and Beast and Princess and Frog, this phenomena of man and beast is nothing new. Yet at the same time, both the ‘Beast’ and the ‘Frog’, are actually human beings, making it somewhat acceptable for children. If you take Greek mythology, there is the famous tale of Minotaur, where the Minotaur is the result of the Queen of Crete mating with a white bull. Added to which there are plenty of tales of Gods and human love stories, as well, in Greek Mythology. Then there is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. There have been plenty of movie versions of these classic tales and great old literature. In I, Frankenstein (2014); as I stated on twitter ‘another 21st century ruination of a 19th century classic’; this dull horror movie ends with the hint, that Frankenstein’s monster, a man made being, has found a human companion, after searching for over 200 years. On a lighter vein, in not so great films (yet no where as near as terrible as I, Frankenstein), like the comedy, Hercules in New York (1970), Arnold Schwarzenegger falls from the skies (and not to forget Schwarzenegger’s ridiculous Terminator franchise, from 1984 onwards, with the craziest and cheesiest storylines, ever). Like in Corpse Bride, a man accidentally awakens a goddess, in the near pathetic, Goddess of Love (1988), while in Love-Struck (1997) we see a woman who doesn’t believe in love (Cynthia Gibb) fall for Cupid (Costas Mandylor) and vice versa; and Cupid has to decide if he wants to leave his immortal form, and become human. Similarly in City of Angels (1998), an angel (Nicolas Cage) gives up his human form, for his love for a human being (Meg Ryan). Date with an Angel (1987) is about another union between a man and beautiful angel.

In the 80’s and 90’s, there were quite a few teen comedies, based on this concept of unrealistic love, helping a young man find the perfect looking partner, especially if the lead character is a geek or considered a loser, who cannot attain the affections of the opposite sex.

Weird Science (1985) and Virtual Sexuality (1999), are two films I haven’t watched, but the concept of the two teen movies, are the same. In Weird Science, two geeks create a ‘perfect’ woman (Kelly LeBrock), while in Virtual Sexuality, a girl creates herself a ‘perfect’ man (Rupert Penry-Jones).

Similar to Corpse Bride and Goddess of Love, in Mannequin (1987), an artist (Andrew McCarthy) falls for a Mannequin (Kim Cattrall). Big (1988) and Date with an Angel; the two movies combined resulted in the crappy Bollywood take, that was Chandra Mukhi (1993). The film was so bad, that it was credited as being a Salman Khan idea (the lead actor of the movie). Getting back to Tom Hanks, star of Big, back in the 80’s he did a lot of run on the mill comedies; that weren’t great, but were enjoyable enough, thanks to Hanks. In Splash (1984), we see Hanks falling for a mermaid. This adult fairy tale, is similar to the classic children’s fairy tale, The Little Mermaid.
Funny though, how all these Hollywood romances, dealing with unreal love, where the perfect looking lover, be it a mannequin, a fairy, a goddess or mermaid, were all hot white women. What happened to the browns, blacks and yellows? Where are the gays and lesbians? Are they considered less than perfect???? Added to which why is it most of time a man finding the perfect mate? And that too preferably a Blonde one? Even better if the blonde’s in a red hot attire? Like the sequence in The Matrix (1999), where Neo (played by Keanu Reeves), suddenly turns to take a good look at a blonde in a red dress. Why did she have to be blonde? What if he saw an African-American? or an Indian beauty? What if he turned to look at a man? Even in Virtual Sexuality, though it’s creation is a male, the man is a white male, Blond, with a perfect physique. Of course when it came to the Bollywood films, the perfect hero/heroine are both Indian’s, obviously. But United States of America, is a diverse country with all colours and creeds, where the indigenous people of the country are actually Red skinned, not white. Yet the 80’s (and 90’s to a certain extent) target audience, were the straight white American youth. Even though these reached beyond borders. And in a way, 80’s was one of the worst periods for Hollywood, with a load crappy B-movies, being made. Not all, but most, including these fantasy flicks.

Getting back on the topic of films based on unrealistic romances, there are some interesting films of ghosts and people falling for one another. Like in Corpse Bride (discussed above), these dead spirits were humans at one time, and are scavenging earth ’cause of some unfinished business. In the classic Bollywood film, Ek Paheli (1971), a modern man, Sudhir (played by Feroz Khan) falls in love with a mysterious woman (Tanuja), whom we discover later, to be a spirit of a dead pianist, who had committed suicide, during the Post-war era. The only way for the two to be together is, if Sudhir leaves his bodily form, releasing his spirit. Similarly in Somewhere in Time (1980), a modern day Chicago playwright, Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) falls for a photograph of an Edwardian beauty, a stage actress, Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour). He manages to travel back in time through self hypnosis (see my post DVD Films From Last Month PART-II from December 2014). Yet, they can’t be together, as he’s thrown back into the late 70’s, due to a small mistake, he made, where she doesn’t exist anymore. The only way for them to be together, is for him to die of a broken heart, and letting their spirits unite in heavenly paradise forever.

In Paheli (2005) the exact opposite happens, a woman falls for a ghost, who’s taken her husband’s human form, and trapped her real husband’s spirit.

In Ghost (1990), when a banker, Sam Wheat ( Patrick Swayze) is killed by his best friend, he tries desperately to communicate with his fiancée, an artist, Molly Jensen (Demi Moore), with the help of psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg). While in Love Can Be Murder (1992) a ghost of a former private detective brings chaos into the life of a living private detective, (Jaclyn Smith).

Then, there are on-screen figures/cartoon characters, where the real world intervenes with the celluloid/animated characters. In Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), an animated character; based on classic Hollywood stars, Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake and Lauren Bacall; seduces more than one human in the movie, and spectators alike. Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), has a movie character, walk off the screen and seduce his most ardent fan.

Getting back to man and beast/alien, PK (2014), sees a humanoid alien fall for a human. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), shows a great friendship between an alien and a human child. Planet of the Apes (1968) there is a famous kiss, between a man and an ape. In The Animal (2001) a man becomes sexually attracted to a goat in heat. He talks to the goat while rubbing her back and sloppily kisses her on the head. He then slaps her butt. All the popular Hulk films have a love interest

The Sixth Sense (1999), Warm Bodies (2013), Transcendence (2014), The Fly (1958 & 1986), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Bewitched (2005), Pleasantville (1998), Ex Machina (2014), all have similar unusual human and non-(real)human interactions.
The Stepford Wives (1975 & 2004), tells of how an intelligent woman finds it difficult, to integrate into a narrow minded society, when she moves into a new neighbourhood. Of course, all the wives (in the original 75’ film) turn out to be machines (while in the 04’ version, only one husband turns out to be a robot, while the other wives have been brainwashed). This is also symbolical, of how difficult it is, when a lone intellectual person gets trapped in an archaic society, that constantly tries to drag him or her down with them. I personally know how hard is to stay afloat, without changing for the worse, living in an extremist narrow minded country. It’s not easy not to be influenced by negativity. And just like Katharine Ross (in the original), and Nicole Kidman (in the comical remake); I have to fight to stay sane, not to be swayed by the rest.

In Moon (2009), we see a clone in love with the image of a dead human; while in The Space between us (2017), a human born in Mars feels like an Alien on Earth; and falls for a human, who decides to leave with him to Mars.
Then there are people who fall for wordsmiths, that they’ve never met. In Saajan (1991) we see a woman (Madhuri Dixit) fall deeply in love with a poet (whom, nobody knows what he looks like), when a man claiming to be the poet (Salman Khan) seduces her, she falls for him. But does she truly love him? If he turns out not to be the poet, would she still love this man? In the Bengali (Bengali/English bilingual)Art Film, The Japanese Wife (2010) and the Hindi (Hindi/English bilingual) Art Film, The Lunchbox (2013), two people have an entire love affair through letters, without ever meeting each other. In The Japanese Wife, they even get married; through ink.

Last but not the least, lets have another look at the union of onscreen humans & Aliens (besides ‘Superman’). Similar to Meet Joe Black and Paheli (as spoken of earlier) Jeff Bridges in Starman (1984), plays an alien who clones himself, into a dead man’s form; and gets the widow to help him escape. In The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), David Bowie plays a humanoid alien, sleeping around with women of earth. And not to forget the Vampires/Werewolves and human unions; in films like, Nosferatu (1922), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), The Hunger (1983) and the recent Twilight franchise.

Some great films on this unusual conception, some terrible, and some in between. But when they bring out something exceptional, those films are really worth checking out.

An ode to unrealistic romances.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Special Note: I actually worked on this post, one day (on the 22nd of April 2015), exactly a month after I watched the movie, ‘Her’, in March 2015, I wrote most of In Love with the Unreal, and left it incomplete, hoping to work on it the next day or so. I never got back to it, and left it pending. Then, five months later, in September 2015, I re-worked on it a bit, stopped, and didn’t touch it at all through out the Sweet Year of 2016. So it was just hanging there, untouched and incomplete.…That is until today. This was my second incomplete post, from April 2015, that I left unpublished; the other being The Beatles in Art movements through the ages. But I did mange to post in … the following month, May 2015. Anyway, back in April that year, I hardly got anything much done, so far as blogging was concerned. I only posted one blog-post, i.e. The Great Villain Blogathon: Juhi Chawla as corrupt politician ‘Sumitra Devi’ in GULAAB GANG (2014), on the 15th of April, 2015. Now there are no more pending posts. All done!!

Nuwan Sen (Pending Posts from April 2015 !! All Complete!!!!!)
Also see (my), Nu Film Site of Nuwan Sen – Nu Sense on Film (nu Sense on Film), started in August 2015.

Now though, later in Year , am actually planning to close nu Sense on Film!!! I prefer to continue blogging here, on No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen.

Nuwan Sen