Awards Season Feature Post

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Oct 16, 2012

Quick Takes: The Miracle Worker - 21 Jump Street - Coriolanus.

The Miracle Worker (1962)

         Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke, Victor Jory, Inga Swenson, Andrew Prine and Kathleen Comegys.

                  Arthur Penn.


                The Miracle Worker is a movie based on a stage play by the screen writer of this movie, William Gibson based on the autobiography of Helen Keller. I can't even begin to describe what this movie did to me. I was swept away by the story, the performances and human spirit in general which both Helen Keller and her tough teacher Anne Sullivan reminds us of. I previously watched an Indian movie inspired by it which is called "Black" directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. This is the story of young Helen Keller, who is blind and deaf from her very childhood which was brought upon by a severe case of Scarlet Fever. She is now growing up and so is her frustration due to her inability to speak, interact or communicate with anything. Which results in violent outbursts and uncontrollable behavior which is troubling for the family and as well as for her. Her parents worried and helpless contacts Perkins School for the Blind for assistance. They send Anne Sullivan who herself was a student before to help young Helen learn to communicate and to educate her of basic things. Movie then follows Miss Sullivan trying to teach Helen through ways which seems quite rough and strict but this battle of wills is what finally brings down the wall Helen had.

              Anne Bancroft delivers a towering and magnificent tour de force performance as the stubborn and strong as well as determined teacher. The sheer physical, emotional and personal determination, willingness and stability which was much needed for a daunting task like this, Bancroft realizes that and bring it into her performance. As well as Patty Duke in her unforgettable turn as Helen Keller, much inspiring story and much brilliantly played the pivotal role by her. Its a no brainer that both these actresses are something that truly makes this movie an unforgettable experience. Take that much talked about dinner sequence where Anne is trying to teach Helen manners and a proper way to sit and eat like the rest of us. That physically intense and ferocious battle that happens is something that delivers chills down your spine. Its unbelievable and unimaginable how these both actresses in such convincing ways played their parts with such brilliance. Both of them deserved the Oscars they got for their powerful performances in this movie. The movie is a miracle itself, the way its being made is something you rarely see specially from that era. Arthur Penn carefully lets the camera get the best out of the actors and makes us totally invest in the characters, their situations and their feelings. He simply lets the actors perform, find a way out all by themselves and the movie itself feels like a stage play rather than a movie. A thing or two that almost brings down the movie a little bit are the flashback sequences that feels a bit cheesy per say but the rest of the movie doesn't rely on sentimentality, it doesn't have to.

              Also the frequent physical encounters, the close ups and the prolonged scene like these often leaves you feeling exhausted in a way but both Bancroft and Duke never ceases to amaze. Its an optimistic movie at the end but the director never actually drives the movie on optimism making for a darker and more intimate journey of a human need to communicate, touch and love, the need to break the silence, darkness and madness and to find a way for both of them to help each other break the loneliness and fear makes up for a rewarding end. Towards the end, the scene where Helen finally learns the words mother and father is one of the most memorable moments for me in my cinematic journey. I could hardly breathe at that particular moment and you can't help but cry, its a surreal moment to see human spirit reach that place. She wouldn't have learn these things if it wasn't for Annie who behind her dark spectacles and wall she created around herself was able to break the same for Helen. A powerful and astonishing humane movie that teaches us about life and the fragility of it on such level.

Grade: A-

21 Jump Street (2012)

           Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Ice Cube, Ellie Kemper, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, Chris Parnell, Spencer Boldman, Holly Robinson Peete, Nick Offerman, Dakota Johnson, Rye Rye, Randal Reeder, Valerie Tian, Johnny Simmons, Dax Flame, DeRay Davis, Jake Johnson, Johnny Pemberton, Justin Hires, Brett Lapeyrouse, Lindsey Broad and Chanel Celaya.

                    Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

                 21 Jump Street is an action comedy movie based on the 80's television series of the same name. This definitely is one of the best comedies i have seen this year so far. I would really thank last year's Bridesmaids for bringing me back to these R rated adult comedies because some filmmakers truly realizes the fact that a comedy doesn't have to just rely on the need to make people laugh by inserting cheap pathetic jokes one after another or to insert some trashy vulgar scenes or dialogues and make the actors do insane things because that is not comedy. A comedy is what makes you feel happy and makes you feel good in a way it doesn't offend you. But people these days have truly changed the meaning of things that makes you laugh and things that makes you feel bad for laughing at those things. 21 Jump Street was the first big hit of the year as far as adult comedies go, which was followed by Ted, which i am looking forward to watch. 21 Jump Street follows story of Morton Schmidt (Hill) and Greg Jenko (Tatum) as former schoolmates who meet again at the Police Academy. By helping each other somehow, Schmidt helping Jenko with studies and the Jenko helping Schmidt with physical activities, they graduate. They mess up their first assignment as Park Patrol and are then assigned for a special job at 21 Jump Street. Their job is to infiltrate a High School and stop a new synthetic drug from spreading, finding the supplier. The movie then follows both of them trying to do their job undercover while getting involved too much in the high school life.

              21 Jump Street is a raunchy and highly entertaining comedy but also with a heart at the end. It may follows the same route as most of the buddy cop movies does but its a nice spin on the genres we are so fully aware of. The breakthrough/surprise of the year Channing Tatum once again does a good job in this movie. He was never this funny, he was never this likable and he was never this good. He is perfect as this jock figure and is complimented equally by Jonah Hill as the nerd. Both of them team up for a fun, hilarious and guilty pleasure ride. What is good and so different about 21 Jump Street is that it never feels like a bad remake, its a good remake and its an entirely new spin. They filmmakers didn't just took the premise of the 80's nostalgia but they took it to a new level, added the current generation's obsession with YouTube and technology etc while making fun of that. Its a satire, its a buddy comedy, its raunchy and its equally touching. There are a few action scenes like when both Jenko and Schmidt are running away from the drug dealers or the end with a surprise appearance by Johnny Depp. Its not action packed, its packed with a lot of vulgar profane jokes which works well here. This movie was a blast from the very start till the end, its very rare when movies like these these days does that but its quite delightful when they does.

Grade: B-

Coriolanus (2012)

          Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, John Kani, James Nesbitt, Paul Jesson, Lubna Azabal, Ashraf Barhom, Slavko Stimac, Dragan Micanovic, Radoslav Milenkovic, Harry Fenn and Jon Snow.

                   Ralph Fiennes.

                Ralph Finnes' take on the Shakespeare's tragedy Coriolanus is a highly electrifying and ambitious piece of work. Its quite a relevant modern day commentary on the socio-political situations around the world. Its very rare for me to actually appreciate a modern day adaptation of Shakespeare while sticking to its root, the Shakespearean language and for it to still come out as satisfying adaptation. There is something unique about this movie which makes it rise above all the previous such attempts like Romeo & Juliet for that matter. Coriolanus tells the story of modern day Rome, riots are in progress everywhere as the citizens opposes Caius Martius (Fiennes) who people think is to blame for the city's problems. Ralph Fiennes in one of his very best work as an actor in his career gives some of the most amazing appearances particularly when he is surrounded by people. Martius hates the general public and he doesn't hide that even when he is speaking to them directly. Maritus is an army General, he has an enemy too, Commander of Volscian army Tullus Afidius (Butler) with whom he has fought on many occasions and in one scene we see him leading an army raid over his city. That scene will remind you of The Hurt Locker for example, the way its been filmed is brilliant in my opinion. Its intense how these two different leaders with such distinct ideologies and outlooks and strong figures of different cities can have such encounters. The whole feel of it is exactly how you'll find in the literary work of Shakespeare while it also feels like one of those ferocious one-on-one encounters between a hero and a villain in action movies.

              Caius is deemed victorious after this and is given a title of "Coriolanus". His mother Volumnia (Redgrave) encourages him to run for the Senate of Rome and he does. There are some people who aren't happy with him joining the senate and that his military achievements and his popularity might lead him to go very far which they can't stand. In another riot, he can't seem to hold himself up and in a raging outburst, he clearly shows his hatred towards common people and is then called a traitor and is banished from the city. This is when he decides to team up with his brutal enemy to bring Rome down. Ralph Finnes leads the cast of some of the most impressive actors, he knows himself as an actor and directs himself towards greatness. His performance as this strong, angry, violent, gritty and energetic Army General is nothing less than excellence. Vanessa Redgrave is equally impressive in every scene she is in, both of them delivers one of the best performances of their careers. While this film is technically released this year but it was in the festival circuit last year, this was another movie in the long list of Jessica Chastain starrer releases. She as the wife of Coriolanus, Menenius is very good in her few scenes she is in. On the whole, this movie didn't got the kind of appreciation or open hearted reception a movie like this deserved but its still a pivotal movie when you talk about the relevance of Shakespeare's work in contemporary settings and an impressive directorial debut. Coriolanus is not for everyone, its a 2 hour long movie filled with brutal intensity, bitterness and over-raging brawls of political figures shouting and screaming at the top of their voices. It does have a few weak moments here and there but the director is able to hold the movie together most of the time.

             It glorifies war, presents an excellent case of how media and public opinions can effect and even manipulate at times. The over-abundance of arrogant, self-destructive stubborn and fierce figures with street fighting taken to another level gets a little too over-saturated at times. The editing could have been a lot more better but this movie for what it is, is something you'll rarely ever get to see and as an artistic achievement that it is, it should be embraced.

Grade: B