Awards Season Feature Post

Awards Season 2015-16 Scoreboard

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Oct 28, 2014

Quick Takes: Mother of George - This Is the End - Trance


MOTHER OF GEORGE (2013)

Cast:
            Isaach de BankolĂ©, Danai Gurira, Bukky Ajayi, Tony Okungbowa and Gideon Okeke

Director:
                    Andrew Dosunmu


Review:
                  Mother of George is a Nigerian drama directed by Andrew Dosunmu and stars Isaach de BankolĂ© as well as Danai Gurira (from "The Walking Dead"). It premiered at Sundance Film Festival last year and received Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic for Bradford Young's contribution to this film as well as "Ain't Them Bodies Saints". This is a domestic drama centered around a family of immigrants from Nigeria living in New York City. It opens with a traditional wedding ceremony of Adenike and Ayodele, attended by many of their relatives and people of the community. A lush, exotic and fascinating blend of colors, costumes and traditions. It is one of the most richly photographed and depicted wedding sequences that you will see. A long ceremony that is captured with utmost craft, catching every bit of its importance and extravagant through the lens of the camera. People dance around, the bride and the groom takes blessings of the elders. It is a rapturous celebration and an important occasion. The radiance of the present and the unlimited joys of the future for this newly wed couple is obscured by traditions, expectations and obligations. They are not just starting a new life together but also obliged to bring a new life into this world as well. In many cultures, a married woman is supposed to give birth or else she hasn't done her part in the marriage. In this film, the mother of the groom practically demands a grandchild within the first year of the marriage. Adenike now has to deal with this familial pressure that is slowly and gradually going to build up over days and weeks and months. No matter how much she supports and cares after her husband, keeps him happy and welcomed, deals with his family and successfully ticks all the boxes of a good wife and a human being, she is not going to be considered 'complete' without giving birth to a child.

                  Andrew Dosunmu realizes that strength of films like these lies in us slowly penetrating the fragility as well as the importance of the characters and what makes them who they are. Characters from other countries and cultures or those who follow particular customs and lifestyles. With much added and needed help from cinematographer Bradford Young and strong performances, specially by the lead actress, Mother of George becomes a fascinating and unique experience thrusting us into the lives of these people with a strongly realized focus. The world around Adenike starts to get confounding as she goes along despite her best intentions and personal will to make things work. The pressure builds up to a point that she in a pivotal turn, doesn't hesitates from taking a troubling substitute to her problem. They are dealing with fertility issues but the working husband, who loves his wife in his way, cannot be questioned on his manliness. Men aren't supposed to, it is always women's fault. No matter what they do is never going to be enough at the end of the day. I loved how this film literally transported us into this particular community, so completely immersed and thoroughly depicted. The stunning traditional costumes wore and a unique custom followed in modern New York City. When Danai Gurira walks in the streets of NYC, the camera focuses on her. The modernity of the city and the world never seems to effect or overwhelm these tightly followed customs. Several slow-motion, beautifully focused and colorfully ignited sequences. Cinematography and costume design is the highlight of this film. The close-ups keeps our focus on the characters and their emotions, nothing else matters. The poetic photography helps in both immersing as well as keeping us at a particular distance. You feel as well as you think. This film is a portrayal of human beings, their versatile and strange nature, the drowning sense of being subjected to live a life that is more about fulfilling other's wishes than yourself. The character played by Danai Gurira is a strong and ambitious woman but is torn, frustrated and pushed to her limits. Gurira gives a fascinating performance in the film. Overall the characters are well-imagined with all their complexities and weaknesses. The dialogues are sometimes fairly weak but the film is directed with a particular touch. The plot has so much range throughout. Sexuality is approached in many ways. Mother of George also has a transfixing score mixed with traditional and symphonic tunes. An aural and visual experience, boldly portraying layers and layers of complicated relationships and giving a whole new meaning to what its like to be a married woman. Exotic and terrifying, intensely dramatic and alienating.

Grade: B+




THIS IS THE END (2013)

Cast:
           Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna, David Krumholtz, Paul Rudd, Mindy Kaling, Martin Starr, Kevin Hart, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aziz Ansari, Channing Tatum, Evan Goldberg, Brian Huskey and Backstreet Boys

Directors:
                      Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

Review:
                  This Is the End sounded like a disaster in the making, pun intended. But it turned out to be one of the most bonkers fun-tabulous time I have ever had watching such an uneven comedy. With the basic premise that sounded insane and superbly silly, in a negative way, my expectations from this film were fairly low. But once this robust mix of self-aware, satirizing, monsters-apocalypse buddy comedy started, there wasn't much that came across as unfunny. This is a film that keeps you laughing and laughing till your stomach explodes. That is no exaggeration and it is one hell of an entertaining film to watch. As with many films, it has its flaws and sometimes it doesn't work as successfully but despite some of its shortcomings, This is the End is worth watching. Directed by both Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, This Is the End is a 2013 apocalyptic comedy starring an ensemble of many recognizable faces. Most of the actors here have worked together on several projects, on similar comedy films. Then there are some cameos that adds to the appeal and laughter. The first thing that I admired about this film was how it so fearlessly reached such freakish heights. Not sure if I have seen any mainstream American comedy to go so out there in its gags, whether crude or otherwise, as well as going very meta and surreal along the way. The plot of this film basically revolves around many actors who play fictional versions of themselves, dealing with the severe aftermath of global apocalypse. So Jay Baruchel arrives in Los Angeles to visit his friend Seth Rogen who instead of spending time with him, invites Jay to attend James Franco's housewarming party. The party itself is wild, many celebrities drink and do drugs as well as other hedonistic acts. Everybody is having a great time but Jay is uncomfortable in the presence of so many people he doesn't know as well as disappointed in Seth for not spending time with his best friend, something he was looking forward to. They both leave the party for a while to get some cigarettes at a store and that is when hell comes down. The Rapture or wrath or whatever it is, carries away many people with itself via beams of blue light. Seth and Jay come back to find the party undisturbed amid the mass hysteria and chaos that has taken over the entire city.

                  Many of the celebrities die ridiculous but amusing deaths in the party due to earthquakes and fires. Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Hill and Robinson survives. They await for some help while setting up a ration system and collecting all the supplies items they can find. The disaster sequences and the deaths are hilarious to watch. Can't believe I just said that. In some of the moments, Michael Cera has hilarious appearances. So does Emma Watson later in the film, possibly the best and it involves rape joke. That comes across as funny and for that purpose only without turning into a sexist moment. McBride plays an annoying character which suits him perfectly, there is a highlight moment of his with Channing Tatum that produced some of the biggest laughs from me. This Is the End works basically because it is so over the top and riotous, both trying to get laughs from the audiences on or with the actors and their fictional selves. It is a satire not on anything other than our perception of these celebrities and how we imagine them and their lifestyle as well as their closely knit relationships based on professional or personal friendships. Many of the celebrities are shown in the film at their worst but purely for comic purposes, not shocks. Where this film lacked much of the punch of its first act is the middle portion which isn't strong enough or well-written to keep us engaged or amused. That part feels stretched and most of the jokes doesn't work well enough. The gags involving Jonah Hill however does. As the film reaches the conclusion, the absurdity gets excessive. Both for good reasons and otherwise. But you will have one hell of a time watching these characters and their attempts to book their flights to heaven. The sudden use of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" to an extremely bro-mantic moment is joyous. That Backstreet Boys appearance? a miss! This Is the End is a weird mix of visual effects, destruction, vulgarity and self-referential humor. There is also some heart to it, optimism and warmth. Actors are mostly good at playing the more obnoxious versions of themselves, Franco specially. Funny, exaggerated, silly, insane, uneven, problematic, rude and one hell of a time.

Grade: B-




TRANCE (2013)

Cast:
            James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani, Wahab Sheikh, Matt Cross, Tuppence Middleton and Simon Kunz

Director:
                    Danny Boyle

Review:
                  We are always told and advised to 'be curious' about life and whatever it is that we are doing. As far as filmmaking goes, those two words are central to what I find fascinating mostly about cinema and its unlimited reach. Danny Boyle is a really fine filmmaker who loves genre experiments and making different kind of films each time like Steven Soderbergh. I was more impressed by the emotionally resonant and stylistically ace survival drama "127 Hours" than his Oscar-winning pleasurable fairy-tale romance, "Slumdog Millionaire". After these two films, he was responsible for the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. And he nailed that perfectly. Following that, he made this psychological thriller set in London called Trance. A film that starred James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel while it was written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge. A highly stylized, sexually charged, violent toying of narrative dealing with memory, unreliability of identity, greed and lust. It starts off promising and by the end, it has mocked itself and us and the filmmaker to a point that questions exactly what was on Boyle's mind while making this film? Trance is nothing less than a film trying so bad to pull off "Inception" or "Memento" without taking a lesson or two from what actually made those films so significant. Inception created an entire world where the mechanics, stylistic elements and characters worked based on the strength of its plot and screenplay. Sure it confused us and it also had its moments where the characters uttered too much of the plot themselves but Nolan trusted his audience and his film. Boyle on the other hand took psychology and heist and made a tasteless dish out of them. While most of the first half keeps you hooked and invested, Trance then turns into a film whose only purpose ends up being twisting the twists to reach a twisty ending because twists is the only thing it has to show us. Play with your audience, play with your film but don't ever play for play. Does that even makes sense?

                  So, Simon (McAvoy) is a fine art auctioneer who gets involved in a theft from his own auction house with the help of Franck (Cassel) and his men. During the heist, Franck attempts to check the stolen painting but Simon attacks him during which Simon himself is hit on his head which leaves him amnesic. The painting disappears and Franck thinks Simon double-crossed him so he kidnap and torture him. Simon has no memory of anything, hence Franck decides to hire a hypnotherapist. Oddly, Simon picks a woman named Elizabeth Lamb (Dawson). Slowly, things gets complicated between the three characters trying to outsmart one another while the goal being retrieving the painting. Sex, more sex, hypnotism, memories, dreams, sex, violence, plans, murders. Trance works really well I must say to a point. But the plot and screenplay turns into its own enemy. Things starts to get convoluted and dull. The fizzy and trippy energy of the film, mostly because of its stylistic choices keeps things from turning into a complete messy fare. The characters in the film aren't sympathetic, a fact that never troubles me but they are also far from interesting. The extremely improbable situations and outsmarting scenarios that comes one after the other in the final act are more silly and senseless than twisty and smart. Where this film fails is when it tries too hard to give everything a deeper more meaningful resonance. Characters who were nothing more than selfish pawns in this overly boiled stew of tiresome thriller are unsuccessfully given emotionally sensible touch. Which is something that never relates well with anything that has happened before in the film. Among the actors, Rosario Dawson stands out in a good performance and a character that despite the deep flaws in film, really gives some much-needed significance to everything. If I ever wanted to watch this film again, it will only be for her. Trance collapses in the final act under its own weight and the constant significance given to outsmart the plot and the film itself leaves us wondering what the plot and its purpose was in the first place. Trance hypnotises itself into making the wrong right but not before loosing much of the appeal on the way. It is not clever or well-imagined neo-noir crime film because its mystery is nothing more than an excuse for the shortcomings and over-eagerness. At the end, despite the good things this film has going for it, turns out to be an average thriller with good stylistic choices and a tense first half that many will enjoy and gush over. Boyle tried, his screenwriters tried, I will give them that. It has the energy and likability in some of the sequences, unfortunately the film seems to be interested in creating senseless twists rather than an audacious twisty thriller.

Grade: C-