Posts Tagged ‘Hiam Abbass’

Avatar: Very few films have made me think about life to the extent Avatar has. James Cameron’s latest film is so ridiculously boring that my mind wandered to places that I never knew existed. For instance, I discovered that I cannot in fact wiggle either of my ears. By the time the actors started spewing those awful one-liners, I realized that I used to have more North Indian friends back in school than I did for the past few years. Halfway through the film it also dawned upon me that I could do the following things while watching a film – cut nails, have a shave, take a bath and watch music videos on the laptop. By the time the film ended, I was pretty sure that deep down inside I am a hardcore Republican Hippie who practices Kabbalah. Seriously folks, apart from grossly lending itself to distractions, Avatar deserves more shit than Russia did communism. All the special effects in the world could not make this watchable. That’s like saying you’d watch Titanic again just to see how elaborate the set designs were.

The Cottage: Hands-down one of the decade’s most entertaining horror films. There is so much of fun in Paul Andrew Williams’ film that I didn’t want it to end. I was hoping for yet another jaded and clichéd twist towards the end just to see how else perversely entertaining it could be. The Cottage isn’t just dumb kitschy fun either. Yeah there are mutilated cannibalistic rednecks, psychotic Koreans wielding machetes, ruthless British gangsters and creepy small town folk, but still what entertained me the most were the crispy, razor-sharp dialogues.

Actors Andy Serkis (David) and Reece Shearsmith (Peter) engage themselves in some of the funniest conversations I have heard in horror films…ever. They play two blithering idiots who kidnap the daughter of a ruthless gangster, hoping to hold her for a ransom that would give them and the soul of their mum a bit of solace. Of course, things go conveniently wrong (very horribly too) as the previously mentioned assortment of crazies are out to get them and we, the audience, are treated to worthwhile thrills and kills. Just so you know director Paul Andrew also made the brilliant London to Brighton and Andy Serkis played both Gollum in LOTR and Kong in King Kong.

Bottle Shock: I don’t get wine. Neither its complexities nor its taste. Still it is hardly irritating to hear someone wax poetic about it on film, especially given that two talented actors – Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman – are the ones doing all the waxing in Randall Miller’s Bottle Shock. Loosely based on the ‘Judgment of Parisblind wine tasting of 1976 in which French wine lost out infamously to California’s finest for the first time ever, Bottle Shock looks to chronicle the lives of all those that changed after the historic tasting session. While for most part it carries itself dignifiedly as a semi-serious comedy the film sometimes charmingly threatens to go indie on us, but then sadly lacks the idyllic grace (something which Alexander Payne’s Sideways had in aplenty).

Pullman plays Jim Barrett, a winemaker at Napa Valley who accidentally submits his chardonnay for the infamous wine testing, thanks to his stoner son Bo (Chris Pine) and a snobbish sommelier from Paris – Steven Spurrier (Rickman). Pullman and Rickman in fact many times actually save the film from its lightweight script with their acting chops while the rest stand in distance and gently sulk about how Sideways should have never happened. Maybe Bottle Shock would have lent itself to more appreciation then.

The Visitor: Let’s briefly pretend that the Academy actually appreciates talent. Man, I tell you, Richard Jenkins should have won the Best Actor award for his role in Thomas McCarthy’s The Visitor. Good…now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you why his performance in The Visitor is one of the finest and one of the most realistic I have seen all year.

Too often we have seen intricately-woven characters in films ignore the very human trait of feeling awkward and looking the part in favour of far more extravagant emotions such as indifference and surprise. One of the fantastic things about Jenkins’ performance is the attention he has paid to making his character’s body language seem remarkably honest. He plays Walter Vale, a forlorn widowed professor who prefers miserably failing at piano lessons than going through most of life’s chores. An educated man with unshakeable determination that he could never truly be happy. Enter Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira) – a Syrian djembe player and his wife, a Senegalese jeweler craftswoman. Two people who live on the other side of people like Professor Vale. Free-spirited, unperturbed and full of love for music and each other. Their lives irrevocably tangle with the professor’s as together they discover the closeness of being human and the unnatural comfort of being drawn towards music. Gosh I’m making this sound like a Lennon-McCartney lyrical collaboration but fear not, The Visitor has lesser tolerance for painstaking clichés than Hitler had for Jewish male ballerinas. Also, special mention to Hiam Abbass, who plays Tarek’s mother. The grace with which she acts is enough for us to imagine her moving like colours on a canvas.

I’m sure of it, years from now I’m going to adjust my horn-rimmed glasses and hassle my grandkids/pet snakes until they agree to listen to me complain about cinema. “They just don’t make movies like they used to,” I’ll scream, pointing my cane with malicious intent and tossing dusty DVD copies of Thomas McCarthy’s first two magnificent films – The Station Agent and The Visitor – at the ungrateful bastards.


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