Tag Archive: True Story


On this Day …………

Martin Luther King jr. – Maya Angelou – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

TWO EXECUTIONS

The Civil Rights Activist

On the evening, of 4th April, 1968; globally well know American activist, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot by James Earl Ray. King Jr. succumbed to his wounds, and died an hour after the fatal incident. He was 39 years old. Today marks the 50th Anniversary of his death!!

The People’s Leader

Educated at Berkeley and Oxford, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was a very prominent and progressive figure in Pakistani politics, in the 1970’s.  First as the President of Pakistan (1971 to 1973), and then as the Prime Minister of Pakistan (1973 to 1977). On the 5 of July, 1977, the military, led by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, staged a coup, Operation Fair Play; relieving Prime Minister Bhutto of power. After various appeals and legal battles, Bhutto was finally sentenced to death. On 4th April 1979, 51 year old, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged to death, at Central Jail Rawalpindi. General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq imposed Martial Law, and his military dictatorship ruled Pakistan, until his death in 1988, in a plane crash. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s eldest daughter, Benazir Bhutto, soon came into power, after the death of her father’s assassin; bringing an end to military rule, and in turn becoming the first woman leader of Pakistan; as well as the very first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim majority nation. The irony is, the more modern, open-minded, progressive country of the United States of America, is yet to have a female leader. Benazir Bhutto, too was assassinated, in 2007. She was 54 years old.

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BIRTH OF A CAGED BIRD

The Poet

Maya Angelou was born on April 4th, 1928; in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. She was named Marguerite Annie Johnson. Having gone through childhood trauma, including rape and child abuse, she grew up to be a prolific poet, singer, and civil rights activist. Having published 7 autobiographies; the most well known happens to be I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings from 1969. This memoir helped increase black feminist writings in the 1970’s. She received many accolades in her lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2011, which was presented by President Barack Obama. After suffering from poor health, in her old age, Maya Angelou died on the morning of May 28, 2014.

Éric Rohmer – Pareveen Babi – Roger Ebert

THREE GREAT FILM PERSONALITIES

The French Director

According to IMDB, French Film Director, Éric Rohmer, was born on the 4th of April, 1920. BUT, this is disputed by other sites, including Wikipedia’s “Rohmer” page (although if you go to other links, on Wikipedia, his birthday is listed as 4th April). But the Year is definitely, 1920. None the less, he was among the most influential directors, of French New Wave movement. Aged 89, he died on January 11, Year 2010.

Bollywood Babi69

If Parveen Babi were alive, she would’ve been 69 years old. Born into a noble Muslim family, in Junagadh, Gujarat, India; on 4th April 1949; grew up to be the quintessential heroine of 70’s Bollywood. With her minimalistic modern style (parted Babi bangs & bellbottoms) and brilliant acting talent, she captivated audiences of that era; as both a star and an intellectual actress. She was the first Bollywood star to appear on the front page of America’s Time magazine (July 1976 issue) as the modern face of Indian Cinema. But, alas, she suffered from schizophrenia, almost her entire life. Once her illness was out in the open, thanks to Mahesh Bhatt’s feminist films, Arth (1982); she left the industry (in 1983, after completing her film projects; which were released throughout the 80’s decade, keeping her fame intact) and took refuge under the patronage of U. G. Krishnamurti, and embarked on a spiritual journey. She returned in the late 80’s, by now suffering, not just from her ailments; but from deep depression as well. Soon she became a recluse. Parveen Babi died all alone, on 20th January 2005, and no body knew; until two days later. Her death, till date, is not clear as to what truly happened; police ruled out any foul play, and apparently she starved to death. She was 55 years old. Bollywood ought to have been more empathetic towards her.

The Death of a 1975 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Roger Ebert, the most prestigious American Film Critic, who was a film critic for Chicago Sun-Times, from 1967 until his death; won a  Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, in 1975. Ebert was the first Film Critic, to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Having lived with cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands since 2002, Aged 70, Roger Ebert, died on 4th April 2013; as he was preparing to leave the hospital.

Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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A LETTER TO VIOLET EYED HEAVEN: TO ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN THAT GRACED THE HOLLYWOOD SCREENS

Elizabeth Taylor with her two great Loves
Left: Mike Todd (1950’s)
Right: Richard Burton (1960’s & 70’s)

Dearest Ms. Taylor,

              First of all, let me thank you, for contributing so much to the world of Cinematic Arts; with your marvelous performances; working tirelessly to bring us, film buffs, joy for eternity.

              Born in United Kingdom, to two American citizens, on the 27th of February, 1932; you moved to the United States of America, at the age of 7; in April 1939, as tensions of another war gripped Europe. Couple of years later, you started working in Hollywood, as per your mother’s wish. You were adored by Hollywood for your unique sharp features, raven hair and fair skin. Specifically it was your unique eyes, a genetic mutation; that grabbed their attention. Blue eyes that appeared Violet, and a double pair of natural eyelashes. A rare beauty, and a natural acting talent; proved through your first auditions. Casting directors found you different to other child actors of the time; and some were afraid of your direct open attitude. Growing up, you survived through many hurdles and hardships. Two of your baby teeth were pulled out, before they were ready to fall; to make you seem more mature. By the age of 12, you had no free time at all, as you attended school in the studio lot itself, and then you had to practice singing, dancing and the lines for next day’s scenes. You never really had a childhood, as you mentioned once, that your childhood ended, when you became a child star, as MGM controlled every aspect of your life. Born with scoliosis; in your preteens, whilst filming for National Velvet (1944), you had a bad fall and fractured your back, which went undetected for many years; for which you suffered in silence, your entire life. Yet the worse was yet to come.

              In May 1950, aged only 18, you married heir to the Hilton Hotels chain, Conrad Hilton Jr.! Beaten black and blue on your wedding night; and having gone through abuse at his hands, your parents were horrified when they found out. Eight months into your marriage the two of you divorced. This caused a public scandal, and it sadly reflected badly on you, not on the man who abused you. Then a year later, you were back in the United Kingdom; this time working on a British Film Ivanhoe (1952). During the filming of Ivanhoe, you met  the newly divorced actor, Michael Wilding (20 years your senior). He thought marrying a young innocent starlet like you, would aid his failing career; and you felt being an older gentleman he’d be kinder, and you’d feel secure. But ’twas far from a happy marriage. Egoistical men, little understood your compassion and sympathetic nature towards people suffering; including your kindness towards gay actors, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson and James Dean; to name a few. One of your main co-stars, of the epic, Giant (1956), James Dean was killed in a car crash, on 30th September 1955; before the movie was completed (although Dean had finished working on his scenes). You were devastated. Soon, yet another young actor was almost killed in a car crash, but you weren’t going to let history repeat itself. On 12th May 1956, during the filming of Raintree County (1957); when close friend and co-star, Montgomery Clift had a terrible accident (soon after leaving a dinner party at Wilding and your Beverly Hills home; when Clift fell asleep whilst driving); you rushed to his aid, and saved his life by literally shoving a hand down his throat, and pulling out his teeth, he was choking on. Your husband was not impressed. After giving Wilding two sons, and his philandering ways reached scandal magazines; you couldn’t take it anymore, and divorced him, in 1957. Having suffered through two bad marriages, you wouldn’t have wanted to experience that pain again. But then came Mike Todd (an even older gentleman, born on the 22nd of June, Year 1909; who had been married twice before, who’d lost his first wife to death, and next to divorce), an American Theater and film producer, who swept you off your feet. The first great love of your life.

              You and Mike Todd had a whirlwind romance. Married on 2nd February 1957; it was a third marriage for both, a 24 year old, you, and 47 year old Mike Todd. For the first time in your life, you were truly happy and deeply in love.You traveled around the world in Todd’s private jet, named The Liz (a.k.a. The Lucky Liz); a testament to your love for each other. In fact, Todd had released a film, Around the World in 80 Days (1956), based Jules Verne’s classic novel; which ended up winning five coveted Oscars, including for ‘Best Picture’; just over a month after you were married; at the 29th Annual Academy Awards. You were lucky for him; and you were lucky in love, for the very first time in your life. For once, both Todd and you, were in happy, like never before. Later that year, you gave birth to a beautiful baby girl; your very first daughter. A child born out of marriage filled with love and joy. On the first anniversary of the release of his Oscar winning film, Todd threw a grand party, as a celebration of his love for you. 18,000 of close friends were invited to this Madison Square Garden extravaganza. A live coverage of the event was held. Todd loved to boast, and why not, he was jubilant, as were you. A 14 foot high cake was made for the event, and you had to climb up to cut the cake. It was all show and pomp; but ’twas wasn’t hypocritical function in the name of traditions or customs you were carrying out; but a fun filled party. Apparently the party ended up with a very Hollywood  slapstick style food fight, thanks to a rowdy crowd; but you, Todd, your close friends and other elegant guests weren’t part of that. The television coverage of the party made it an Hollywood event of the century; and the function was deemed a flop. But did it matter, not really. This was your great love story, and you felt safe that nothing could ruin this euphoric romance. But then tragedy strikes…..

              On 21st March 1958, you were to fly with your husband to New York, where the Friars Club was to honour him the next night as Showman of the Year. But you were suffering from a bronchitis cold and a temperature 102°. You really wanted to go, but Todd insisted you stay at home and rest. Added to that there was a rainstorm outside. Actor, Kirk Douglas, your next door neighbour, was to accompany your husband. But, Anne Buydens (Douglas’ wife) had a bad feeling about the plane ride. They argued, but Buydens won, and Douglas missed the flight, and was mad at his wife for it. Mike Todd hugged you for a fifth time, part of him not wanting to leave you alone with your children. Even though ill, you were glowing with love and sadness and being apart. When Todd got onto his plane, he spoke to you once again, he called from the air-to-ground telephone, and told you he’ll call you once he lands in Tulsa, to re-fuel. But he never did. Despite the bad weather, the flight was considered safe enough, to fly smoothly. At 10:41pm (2241 hrs), left the airstrip , and headed to New York. The twin-engine Lockheed Lodestar plane suffered engine failure, went out of control and crashed killing all four people on board, including Mike Todd; the love of your life. It was 22nd March 1958, early morning, when the incident happened. Meanwhile Kirk Douglas recalls having missed the flight and mad at his wife, ” We were driving and not talking to each other, so we turned the radio on, and the announcer spoke of the shocking news of the plane crash. At the same time, you, sick in bed, unaware called up Todd’s personal secretary, as you were worried you hadn’t heard from him. Soon you got the shocking news, and your world came tumbling down.

              Your close friends, actresses, Debbie Reynolds and Shirley MacLaine, rushed to your side; staying there for a few days, and helping taking care of your three kids. Liz Todd was still a baby (she would never get to know her wonderful dad). Film director Howard Hughes, lent you his jet. There was hardly much left of Todd’s remains, as the plane had exploded on impact. The only items recovered from the wreckage were Todd’s wedding ring, and a pair of platinum cuff-links, gifted by Todd’s friend, actor and singer, Eddie Fisher (Debbie Reynolds’ husband). The funeral was in Chicago. You were so distraught, you threw yourself over the coffin. The pain of loss of someone you loved so dearly would have been unbearable. Two decades later, grave robbers would desecrate his remains, due to rumours of a $100,000/- diamond ring, said to have been placed in his coffin by you, before burial. His remains would be found, have to be reexamined by dental records once again, and reburied, in a secret location.

              Your next marriage, was the biggest mistake you made. You were grief stricken at the loss of Mike Todd, and Eddie Fisher, took advantage of it, and proposed marriage to you, admitting he had always been in love with you. You accepted without thinking of the consequences. You did not marry him for love, but for marriage security (this was still the 1950’s and marriage was considered, one of the main criteria for a woman to gain respect; today a woman does not need a husband anymore). But by accepting, you hurt your best friend, Fisher’s wife Debbie. Soon your image turned from grieving widow to homewrecker, in the eyes of the public. Both Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher (Fisher and Reynolds  daughter); would eventually forgive you (Eddie Fisher is the one that abandoned them); but for the world to do so, it would take some more time (both Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher died in December 2016). To add salt to your wounds; Mike Todd had accumulated a lot of debt, which meant you would have to earn to pay it back; due to pressure from film studios. Added to which, being on a contract, meant you owed MGM; to work for them. You had no choice but to work on a film you detested, due to this contract; BUtterfield 8 (1960). But you managed to convince them to cast husband no.4, Eddie Fisher, in a sympathetic role. Having a kind heart, you were more concerned about his image, than your own. Then you won an Oscar for BUtterfield 8! Even though you were nominated thrice for ‘Best Actress’, it was finally for the film you hated, that you bagged the award. You went crying up to the stage. You were definitely not thrilled; as you were forced into working for this movie, not ’cause you wanted to. Added to which your marriage to a spineless man, wasn’t working. Even though you’d give the marriage six years of your life. But, you needn’t fret, for your next great love, was just around the corner.

Elizabeth Taylor was no doubt THE most beautiful Cleopatra to grace the cinematic screens ever!

              Now, in 1961; you had finally completed your MGM contract, and were free of it. Not only that, you had won an Oscar, for ‘Best Actress’. 20th Century signed you on for their next big venture, a historical epic on the Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra. This would be your biggest venture yet, and a crucial turning point in your life.

              You became the first Hollywood actress to be paid $1 Million for the role; and this expensive production, of Cleopatra (1963), would be among the most loved Historical epics of all time. You’d end up being so closely identified with role; when film buffs hear the name “Cleopatra”; it’s your bewitchingly beautiful face, in ancient Egyptian garments, that come to mind. Cleopatra today is synonymous with your portrayal of her on celluloid (a role you almost lost the role, when you suffered from pneumonia). Added to which, you’d end up meeting the second love of your life, Richard Burton. The Burton-Taylor romance is one of the most talked about love stories, in the world of cinema (also see my Blog-post, Sexiest Couples of Hollywood from July 2016). Your violet eyes sparkled when you saw him, he felt the same, sparks flew; you were both unhappily married to different people. An extra-marital love affair started to ignite on the sets of Cleopatra. Like the character you were portraying, you were neither young nor innocent; but a bold brave new woman, afraid of no man. Like Cleopatra, who had two great loves in her life, Cesar and Anthony; you found your next great love, the actor playing Anthony, opposite you. In a sense, it was real-life, imitating reel-life; a reel life, based on a real life historical account from an ancient civilization. Soon paparazzi snapped you and your new lover, on a yacht in Ischia, Naples, Italy in 1962. Your scandalous new romance was out in the open. People, who hated your marriage to Fisher, started enjoying this affair with Burton. Whilst, the love story, with Mike Todd, turned you into a happily married family type of woman; this new romance showcased a side, people had never seen before. A sizzling sexy side of your persona. Your steamy romance was the talk of the town. Soon you divorced Fisher, in 1964; and married your new love, Richard Burton. 

Dubbed at Liz & Dick, you two would end up doing some of the greatest performances in your lives. You ended up appearing in 11 films together, and stage plays. The most notable film of which, happens to be, Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); for which you won your next ‘Best Actress’ award, at the 39th Annual Academy Awards (Oscars 1967). Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? also happens to be among my Top 10, all time favourite movies. The movie itself, felt like reel-life, imitating real-life (a reversal of fortune from the time you filming Cleopatra). You two loved each other, were perfect for each other, bickering and fighting; you loved each other. You had a tempestuous relationship; mainly thanks to his alcoholism. Nor matter how much you loved him, you could not handle his drinking; and he was alleged to smoke at least a 100 cigarettes a day. Thus, after completing one more movie with him, coincidentally titled, Divorce His, Divorce Hers (1973), you finally divorced your second great love, in 1974.

Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton on the cover of NOVA (October 1966 issue)
Photographed by Douglas Kirkland

              But, both Burton and you, loved each other way too much. And reconciled, married in 1975. But this second marriage to Burton, wasn’t to last too long. You two divorced once again, this time for good, in 1976. Post that you married twice again; but that was more for companionship; and less to do with love, sex and romance. You were married to Republican politician, John Warner, and helped him with his electoral campaign. Meanwhile, you became an advocate for HIV and AIDS awareness, in the 80’s; along with actress Doris Day. You spent the 1980’s onward, raising money for various causes. You bravely persuaded President Ronald Reagan to acknowledge the disease for the first time in a speech in 1987, and publicly criticized presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton for lack of interest in combating the disease. You awarded for your humanitarian efforts, as well as for your contribution to the arts. You were the first celebrity to create a signature line of perfume. Soon other stars followed suit. And you founded a jewelry company, House of Taylor.

After having suffered most of your life, to physical ailments, mental depression and prescription drugs; you finally left the world of the living, aged 79, on the 23rd of March, Year 2011. But you live on, in our hearts; through your great cinematic ventures. You left behind a great legacy; as one of the last stars of classical Hollywood cinema, and also one of the first modern celebrities of Hollywood. You were among the lead actors, at the time Hollywood, and the world, went through a major transition. The 1960’s & 70’s decades.

               Here’s to you Ms. Elizabeth Taylor, a beautiful heart, and an equally beautiful actress. Thinking of you, on your 86th Birth Anniversary.

                                                                                                            Thanking you,

                                                                                        with Love, from one of your ardent fans, 

                                                                                                                             Nuwan Sen

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This Blog Post, in the form of a letter, is my contribution to the, THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR BLOGATHON, hosted by Crystal Kalyana of In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood!!

 

Thank you Crystal, for letting me take part in this beautiful Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, happens to be one of my favourite epic novels; a condensed version of which, we studied in Grade 8 (at Stafford International School), when I was 13 years old. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre too I read in my early teens; and later saw the extravagant play, based on Jane Eyre, by a British drama troop visiting New Delhi, India. So, having read two of the sisters works, out of the trio of published Brontë writers; Les Soeurs Brontë (1979), English title – The Brontë Sisters, supposedly the most accurately bleak biopic based on the lives of the famed Brontë’s; was definitely a must see for me, as both a lover of literature, and a diehard Film Fanatic!!!! And so I did, yesterday evening, when Les Soeurs Brontë, was telecast on TV5MONDE.

Pascal Greggory (as Branwell), Isabelle Adjani (as Emily), Isabelle Huppert (as Anne) and Marie-France Pisier (as Charlotte Brontë); in André Téchiné’s Les Soeurs Brontë (1979)

The title, Les Soeurs Brontë (1979), is a tad misleading, as there is a lot, over an hour, about the depressing life of the artist, Branwell Brontë (played by Pascal Greggory), the less famous brother, of the Brontë sisters. Thus the film ought to have been aptly titled, The Brontë Siblings, or simply The Brontë’s (or Les Brontë’s)!! The version I watched was the 115 minutes long movie, which was released at the 32nd Cannes Film Festival in May 1979; competing for the prestigious Palme d’Or. The original (unreleased) film is said to be around three hours long. I’d love to watch that version as well. Hopefully it will be released in it’s entirety on DVD, someday.

There have been very few English Language Biographical films/television mini-series, on the lives of the Brontë’s. Yet, ironically, this French epic, happens to be the most accurate re-telling of the Brontë family on the Big Screen. Set in wet and windy Yorkshire, the movie tells the story of the lives of the Brontë siblings, as adults. Thus, the two elder sisters, who died, aged 9/10 and 11, are not spoken of. We see the three famed sisters and only brother, living an averagely well enough life, though it’s still a pretty stoic existence, in the countryside. The mother is long dead, thus the rest of the household comprises of; their ageing, Anglican Minister, father; a spinster aunt (which hints, determining the fate of the Brontë children) and the housemaid. At the beginning of the movie, the brother, Branwell Brontë, paints a a portrait of the four living siblings; which is admired by the entire family. They have an artist in their midst. A painting, which later on, Branwell erases himself off of, as he nears his own death from depression.

The Three Sisters: The original Bramwell Brontë painting of the famed Brontë sisters (before they were famous)
Bramwell Brontë erased himself from the painting.

The tale of the Brontë’s is really a tragic one. And the movie is filmed beautifully, with superb cinematography, creating the atmosphere of pure misery, with a backdrop of a dull, dreary, cold, uninviting, capture of the Yorkshire moors. Despite leading an ordinary life, that won’t really amount to anything; these three Victorian women desire to make something of their lives. We see, a pre-20th century feminism, a 19th century subtle boldness, the three encompass. They aren’t very vocally vociferous about not being just household creatures serving men, but they somehow manage to enforce their desires in a very patriarchal society. Charlotte Brontë (Marie-France Pisier), the eldest sibling, is the most ambitious. She somehow convinces her aunt, to permit her to go and study French, in Brussels, Belgium; along with her younger sister, Emily Brontë (Isabelle Adjani). She wishes to come back and open a school. However, Emily ends up despising Brussels, especially as the two English Protestant sisters have to deal with residing in a Catholic country. Charlotte endures without agitation, as she wants to somehow study, at the same time we see her silently fall for her much older teacher. Meanwhile, Anne Brontë (Isabelle Huppert), finds work as a governess, with a wealthy English family. While the three sisters are away, the unsuccessful Branwell, has to deal with the death of their aunt; who dies from exhaustion from constipation. Funny, as it might sound today, it is sad, at one time such a thing existed, as medicine wasn’t advanced enough for ageing people suffering from constipation. Her death, gets all the three sisters to stop their academic/working lives and come back home; for the sake of their father and brother.

Father & Daughter: Patrick Magee & Isabelle Adjani in a scene from the film

From here we see a lot about Branwell Brontë. His affair with an older married woman. Him not achieving anything through his literary works. His depression when his lover leaves him (she leaves to be with her children, once her husband dies). To his ultimate demise. Of course the lives of the rest of the sisters are shown too; but he seems to be the protagonist for most of the film, until his death. Meanwhile, we see the father’s support of his children’s wishes; their father, Patrick Brontë (Patrick Magee). It’s as Branwell Brontë nears his death, from drugs and alcohol; we see the trio of Brontë sisters secretly publish a book each, under a male pseudonym.  Soon two of the sisters succumb to tuberculosis, and Charlotte Brontë is the only living sister, by the Operatic end of the movie. Charlotte too died young, at the age of 38.

With a great cast, the movie is well acted, perfectly directed, beautifully photographed; yet not without a few minor flaws. Branwell Brontë’s story is a bit of a bore; but overall, the entire movie is slow paced anyway. But the darkly depressing portrayal of the Brontë’s, make the icy brilliance of the movie, extremely realistic. With very naturalistic performances, we feel what they are going through. We feel the depressing tone of the film to near perfection. It’s hard not to be annoyed at Branwell Brontë though; and admire the sisters, especially Charlotte and Emily. Both Branwell and Charlotte suffer through unrequited love; but Charlotte bears it all, with a strong mind and unbroken spirit, even though with a broken heart, and ends up publishing a novel, which Branwell never gets to know about. But Branwell, when ditched by his older lover; takes refuge in alcohol and Opium; dies of tuberculosis, and passes his illness onto his two younger sisters, Emily and Anne, as well. Charlotte Brontë was, less than a year, older than Branwell.

Marie-France Pisier as Charlotte Brontë, in a scene from Les Soeurs Brontë (1979)

It’s sad, when the movie ends, we realize that none of the Brontë family members were aware of the three sisters accomplishments, other than the trio themselves, and most probably the father. The mother, the brother, the aunt, et al are dead, by the time the books are published and credited to the three sisters.

Marie-France Pisier, steals the show, as the eldest sibling, Charlotte, who survives everything, and everyone, that tries to pull her down. After Pisier, Isabelle Adjani, who plays Emily, is the next brilliant character sketch. Emily loves to trek through the moors, in men’s clothing. Not that she is a tomboy; but she dresses in trousers, as a practicality; as she tells her maid, “it makes me walk faster”. But she’s careful not to let anyone see her dressed in that manner, other than her own family. For a Victorian Lady to be dressed in trousers would have been a scandalous affair. Isabelle Huppert plays the youngest, and doesn’t have the sense of psychological strength of her elder sisters. But the dullest character is played by Pascal Greggory. Who to is actually superb, in doing a character role of a very weak human being. All the actors are superb, including stars like Patrick Magee, Hélène Surgère and Jean Sorel; to name a few, in their supporting roles. Hélène Surgère plays the aptly named Madame Robinson; the older married woman who seduces Branwell Brontë. I think the biggest flaw of the movie is that, too much of the plot is focused on Branwell Brontë; though the title suggests otherwise.  Yet, trust the French to bring out a masterful retelling of three of greatest writers of British literature. However, Patrick Magee, who is Irish; spoke his lines in English, and then dubbed into French. Though, I hate the idea of a movie dubbed in a different language, in general (I prefer reading subtitles in English of foreign language films I don’t understand); it really works well here.

The Three Actresses, who played the Brontë Sisters: (L to R) Marie-France Pisier, Isabelle Huppert and Isabelle Adjani

Overall a beautifully executed piece of cinema, a well made period drama, just slightly less than excellence for a few minor flaws.

Les Soeurs Brontë (1979)
My Rating: Near Excellent – 9/10!!!!


#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Bookish Nuwan

Quoting Parveen Babi

 

The essence of spirituality lies in being a good human, and following, good, positive principles
– Parveen Babi
     (1949 – 2005)

 

Parveen Babi with Shashi Kapoor, in the late 70’s, on the sets of Kaala Patthar (the film was released in 1979)
The Film was based on the Chasnala mining disaster of 1975

Amitabh Bachchan & Parveen Babi in a scene from Deewar (1975)
This tragedy was loosely based on the life of notorious Indian gangster, Haji Mastan

Parveen Babi with her (then) life partner, Kabir Bedi, in ROME, in 1976

Lovers in Rome: Kabir Bedi and Parveen Babi, in 1976

Amitabh Bachchan & Parveen Babi, in the biggest Bollywood blockbuster of 1977; Amar Akbar Anthony
A comedy about three brothers, brought up in three different faiths; Hindu, Muslim & Christianity. The Big B and Babi starred in a number films together, and all of them super-hits

Pink n’ Blue, I Love You
Hema Malini (dressed in pink) in the titular role, of Raziya Sultan (1983), along with Parveen Babi (in Blue)
This bio-pic is based on the life of Queen Razia Sultan (1205 – 1240), the only female to ever rule the Delhi Sultanate; and this was one of the rare Bollywood commercial films to tackle Lesbianism (although the lovers were shown in a purely platonic sense, it was well hinted)

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Nuwan Sen (Quoting Quotes)

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

My Latest list, of quick write ups, on IMDB:-

Modern (seasonal) Anthology Series on Television

(Link:- http://www.imdb.com/list/ls020472233/)

Nuwan Sen’s TV Sense


(1929-1993)

Remembering Audrey Hepburn, on her 88th Birth Anniversary!!!

Audrey Hepburn; a brave kid during the second world war who participated in the Dutch resistance, a beautiful young ballerina, a Tony & Oscar winning actress of the stage & screen, a Hollywood icon, a classy Fashionista, a kind humanitarian, a caring philanthropist, and a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF; who gave herself completely to serving poverty stricken, and ailing, children, across, Africa, South America and Asia!! A modern day saint!!

A mini-pictorial tribute, to this unique personality!!

Nuwan Sen

 

Supposedly based on a true story, this is about a group of sweet sixteen/seventeen year old swingers, who form a secret club, to literally bang one another; resulting in sexually transmitted diseases, for almost everyone involved in this notoriously, teenage, pornographic club. A very bold movie on idiotic teens, who think with their sex organs rather than their brains.
Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) (2015), known in English as Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story), is the feature length directorial debut of Eva Husson. It’s a good educational film for teenagers, to be careful. And using protection, isn’t a 100% guarantee either. Sleep with someone you truly care about and trust (even then it might not be safe, if you happen to blindly trust someone; as we see in the case of Marilyn Lima’s character, George, who gives herself to Finnegan Oldfield’s character, Alex, and once he’s used her for his pleasure, this Alex fellow, moves on to deflower another virgin). BUT, the message is clear, don’t screw around. But at the same time; as this is apparently based on a real incident that happened in America (Atlanta, Georgia) and is transported to France here; the STD’s aren’t that of a dangerously incurable nature. It’s just syphilis. Thus the youngsters here are safe in that sense; but it still could have been something worse. Yet, at the same time, the film isn’t judging the young characters for their indulgence, nor does it condone the behaviour. It simply tells a tale of what took place in an elite suburb of USA, set here in a small French town!! It’s up to the audiences to decide, how they feel. Compassion, or anger, or a mix of both, or neither. I actually felt nothing for the characters. In a sense, it is an emotionless film. Sex without human emotions. No Love, No Romance!! I thought it was quite a good story, but felt nothing for the characters. There was nothing that provocatively shocking either. Amazingly not even a sexual attraction towards the many graphic nudes, in the film. Eva Husson has brought out something really unique, even though sex orgies and teenage promiscuity, is nothing new to the world of cinema. As Andy Grove once said “Every generation thinks they invented Sex”, and as well as the quote by author Robert A. Heinlein, states, “Each generation thinks it invented sex; each generation is totally mistaken”!!!!! Same in the case of sex in modern cinema, including early & modern Hollywood (pre & post the Hays Code).

Finnegan Oldfield & Marilyn Lima

One major flaw; besides the fact that the movie takes plenty of it’s time to get to the point, i.e. the result of being involved in these orgies; is that, it is too obvious that some of them aren’t teenagers. Of course, no body playing these teens, actually would be, but very few feel like they might be 16 or 17. Especially Finnegan Oldfield, he looks like a much older man. 26 year old, Oldfield, plays a 17 year old, but feels that he is in his late 20’s, and the other four leads feel early to mid-20’s, despite the fact actress Marilyn Lima showcases her flat, underdeveloped, breasts, quite a few time. At the same time, she is the most beautiful looking character in the show. Marilyn Lima almost looks like a cross between classic French stars, Jeanne Moreau & Brigitte Bardot. Both, in charming innocence and sex appeal. Marilyn Lima is brilliant in her very first role, that too a very challenging one. Young actor Lorenzo Lefebvre, was almost believable as a 16 year old, until he took his clothes off at the end, showcasing his very mature looking naked body.
I watched this downloaded movie (now that I’ve become a bit of a pro, when it comes to downloading films; see my Blog-post Mardi-Gras, Movies-Gay from March 2017), late last night!! Unfortunately, the copy of Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) I downloaded, had no subtitles in it; but my little knowledge of the French language, was enough for me to comprehend what was happening, in a general sense. Besides, the movie was less to do with dialogues, and more to do with banging, and the serves ’em right aftermath.

Lorenzo Lefebvre and Marilyn Lima, in a scene from, Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) (2015)

In the actual incident, that took place in Atlanta, USA, apparently the kids involved were even younger, ranging from 12 to 16. Eva Husson though, increases the ages to 16 & 17, as well as portrays the crazed sex, drugs and parties, with a very detached outlook. Instead of getting the audience involved with the characters, we actually are just an audience looking at a screen, sans any emotional connection. Quite good, but I deleted the downloaded copy, as I’d like to get hold of a copy, avec subtitles. Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne), a movie with a very realistic look at social problems faced by youngsters of today, is really worth checking out, even though it’s not among the best Art Films ever.

Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) (2015)
My Rating: Pretty Good!! 7/10!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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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

sidney-poitiers-90th-birthday

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

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).

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