A Star Is Born Movie Review: One’s glory, another’s fall

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A combination of terrific performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and a mixture of enchanting romance, the growth of a star (and the fall of a star), and the eventual tragic end makes A star is born a beautiful and inspiring film that shows both the highs and the lows when one attains stardom.

The film opens with a rock concert. Jack (Bradley Cooper) sings “And I’m all alone by the wayside” in front of a cheering crowd. We, then, see Ally (Lady Gaga) walking down the street singing “When all the world is a hopeless jumble and the raindrops tumble all around, heaven opens a magic lane”. The lonely Jack sees a hopeful Ally in a nightclub singing a French song. Jack wears a smile that shows his instant admiration for a captivating voice of Ally. He goes backstage and asks her out (Loved how Ally feels shy as he looks at her romantically). There begins the rise of a star with the help of an established artist. A star is born, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, illuminates not just the ascension of a singer but the fall of a star as well.

There is no freshness in the plot as, of course, the movie marks the third remake of William A. Wellman’s film (same title) that released in 1937. It can be divided into two parts: The first one is where Ally’s talent gets recognised by Jack, the charming romance between them grows, and Ally gets to sing on a big stage before eventually signing her own album with a record company. And the second one is where the relationship between them is falling apart, Ally’s singing career has touched sky-high and Jack ends up in a drug rehabilitation program. While the former depicts the glory, fame and love, the latter represents the grief and dilemma.

The love angle between Jack and Ally is the standout feature of this film. It’s going to be talked about for years to come. Jack is truly enamoured of her. He looks at her as if she is the most precious person he has ever met in his life. He drops her off at home and while she gets down from the car and heads towards the door, he calls her and says that he wanted to take another look at her. He is sitting beside her bed while she is enjoying her pleasing slumber and he just can’t take his eyes off of her.

In a known plot, as this film has, it is important not to stretch too much when it comes to delineating the process of becoming a star. So, amidst the romance, her stardom kicks off as well. In one scene, Jack emphasises the significance of “talent” over “looks” and, in another scene, she presents a song to him which she wrote herself but is not confident enough if that is good enough to show to the world. Impressed to a great extent and charmed by her beauty, he asks her to join him on stage and that is it. As Ally hoped, heaven has really opened a magic lane for her. It was so beautiful to see them singing “Shallow” together.

Probably I was mesmerised by this relationship so much so that I felt the film got draggy and jading once the problems in their life kick in. But I liked how the film exhibited the harsh realities in the life of a star. When Ally is giving her speech on stage after winning the Grammy Award, she is joined by a drunk and unstable Jack who pees in his pants. It is disheartening to see the embarrassment on Ally’s face. Bobby (Sam Elliott), Jack’s half brother, says, in another scene, that people are still listening to Jack’s songs while Jack has succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction. Nevertheless, a combination of terrific performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and a mixture of enchanting romance, the growth of a star (and the fall of a star), and the eventual tragic end makes A star is born a beautiful and inspiring film that shows both the highs and the lows when one attains stardom.

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The Favourite Movie Review: Side-splitting and insightful

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Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is a delightful black comedy movie that attains a semblance of normalcy towards the end that is both insightful and thought-provoking.

If Anne (Olivia Colman), the queen, gets what she wants (sex), she would, in return, offer the luxury. Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) know this characteristic nature of Anne and bestow this with utmost profuseness. Sarah and Abigail take turns to woo Anne and try to become the ‘favourite’ of the queen (hence, the title).  In all its weirdness and the hilarity that it, thus, produces, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is a delightful black comedy movie that attains a semblance of normalcy towards the end that is both insightful and thought-provoking.

The Favourite is one of the finest examples of how black comedy films should be written. There is every bit of seriousness in it and yet we find it strange and extremely funny. In one of the early scenes, Anne joyously tells Sarah that the war against France is over. Sarah, in response, tells with condescension that the war is not over and it must continue as Anne replies, “oh!”. This was the first strange and hilarious instance when I laughed out loud. Abigail, in a scene, explains that, while she was travelling in a carriage, a “man was pulling his (penis)” and the actual image flashes in her eyes as we burst into laughter. As she gets down from the carriage, unable to resist, that man grabs her butt and she falls in the mud (If I had seen a complete stranger behaving in such indecent manner, I would have felt an immense amount of indignation growing inside me). Then, in response to Abigail’s request for a job, Sarah rudely replies that she can be a “monster for the children to play with” and Abigail excitedly roars mimicking a lion. In another humorous instance, Abigail, while working as a maid, is asked by an inimical lady to “scrub the floor until Mrs. Meg (Jennifer White) can see her toothless, fat face in it”. Abigail narrates a sad turn of events to Sarah but explains in a way that throws us into uproarious laughter (Abigail says that when she was 15, her father lost her in a card game to which Sarah replies, “you are not serious”. Abigail continues saying that “the debt was to a balloon-shaped German man with a thin cock”). Sarah, in a scene, teaches how to shoot the birds to Abigail. And when Abigail misses her aim, Sarah mocks her by saying that she is really doing damage to the sky. When Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn) enters the room of Abigail, she casually asks him if he has come to seduce her or rape her. It was both droll and whimsical when Harley (Nicholas Hoult), sitting on a sofa, is annoyed by the presence of duck beside him as he asks, “Must the duck be here?”.

I was impressed by the performances of Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in particular as they portrayed the characters of Sarah and Abigail with such perfection. Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, the narrative lets go of strangeness and humour towards the end and shifts the focus towards who-becomes-the-favourite-of-queen. Abigail, with all her prudence, manages to give a fierce competition which causes consternation to Sarah. Anne, even, denudes Sarah of her privileges. The moment of realisation strikes when Abigail, who thinks to have succeeded Sarah as the favourite, has to kneel down and rub the legs of Anne. In spite of it being a historical period drama, the movie seems so relevant in the present world where the greed for ‘more’ has always resulted in a disastrous way as we fail to realise that ‘less is more’.

Roma Movie Review: A film that will linger long upon the retina of memory

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Netflix’s Roma is a heartrending and picturesque film that will remain in our memories for ever so long.

The movie opens with a close-up shot of the floor as the background sound indicates that floor-cleaning is being done. To confirm that, dirty water splashes onto the floor. There is apparently an opening on the ceiling which can be seen through the reflection on the wet floor. It brings the outer sky in view. A plane flies above in the sky. Slowly camera changes its direction from the floor and moves upwards to show Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) busily cleaning the floor. By this time, I was already engrossed in the movie and enthralled by the scrupulous attention to detail in the camera work. Cleo is the central character who works as a maid for Sofia (Marina de Tavira). Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is a film that will linger long upon the retina of memory as it takes us through the lives of Cleo and Sofia and beautifully exhibits the pain they go through.

Cleo and Sofia express their anguish in different circumstances and for different reasons but their loss has a congruence. Sofia, whose husband has left her for another woman, tells Cleo that women are always alone no matter what people say. Cleo, whose boyfriend has betrayed her after impregnating her, delivers a stillborn baby. Later, Cleo weeps and reveals that she never wanted that baby to be born. We understand where’s that coming from and are moved by their loss.

Roma is a perfect example of majestic camera work. It is like a tutorial to the filmmakers. In many instances, the camera remains stationary at a point and swivels around as the characters do their job. It almost feels like you are standing right there keenly observing each of the characters. Cleo just goes about doing her household chores while the camera is fixed at a point and rotates around to follow her (It feels placid, hushed and lonely). While Sofia, her husband (Fernando Grediaga) and the kids are watching a programme on television, we see everyone of them sitting on a sofa with a smile on their face (camera slowly rotates from left to right) as Cleo is moving behind them showing a keen interest herself (You feel the attachment towards her while she sits down beside their sofa to watch the programme and the next moment Sofia asks her to bring tea). A beautiful bed-time song can be heard as we see a lot of toys kept in a room (again, the magnificent camera work is on display as it moves leisurely from left to right) and the visuals reveal Cleo singing for Sofia’s daughter. A 360-degree view from the centre of the house can be experienced when Cleo goes about switching off all the lights in the house (Thanks to Alfonso for presenting merely a switching-off-lights scene so remarkably!). To top it all off, it is a black and white film that made it visually even more appealing.

The brilliant piece of camera work further accentuated the feel of specific scenes. Cleo joins Sofia’s son and lies on a concrete slab at the terrace, with hands spread and eyes closed, playing what the boy calls as being “dead”. She responds by saying that she likes being dead. There was a feeling of tranquillity in the whole scene as it leaves us in a train of thoughts. The camera moves up, slowly rotates towards the right and we get the view of other terraces with clothes hung out to dry (There is nothing great about this view but it comes after a thoughtful scene that makes it more serene-looking). In another scene, Cleo reveals to her boyfriend that she is pregnant inside a cinema hall and he goes away saying that he will be back. But the movie ends and he is nowhere to be seen. While the movie ends on a happier note, we see her slightly worried and turning back to see if he is coming back. All the while camera is placed behind her with the full view of cinema hall and the screen to illuminate the contrasting emotions. As she comes outside the cinema hall, we do not see her crying or showing some strong emotions, instead we feel her forlorn state as she is engulfed by the noise of roadside sellers.

We get so attached to Cleo’s character that we rejoice when she is in a jollier mood and feel sad for her sufferings. She correlates, in a scene, a relaxing environment of the countryside with her own village and it soothes us. When Sofia scolds her to clean the dog shit on the house corridor, it hurts us. At road traffic, two children, wearing a frightened face, are glued to their car window to see Cleo crying in pain who is being taken to hospital as we feel her affliction. Cleo is about to have a glass of alcohol in a party but a couple dancing nearby hit her accidentally as she drops her glass (Her innocent face is enough to make you feel for her). Even Sofia’s children are very attached to her (We are emotionally drawn towards her when she informs about her being pregnant to Sofia, cries and Sofia’s son suddenly appears and hugs her. In another scene, Sofia’s children hug her and persuade her to come out with them for an outing).

As the movie comes to a close, we see that Cleo is back to doing her household chores at Sofia’s place. She is walking up the stairs to the terrace and the sky comes into view. A plane passes by in the sky which reminds us of the opening scene. It leaves us with a plethora of thoughts. One can think that it’s the end of all her sorrows and a return to normalcy. Or, one may think, whatever happens, life goes on. Netflix’s Roma is a heartrending and picturesque film that will remain in our memories for ever so long.

First Man Movie Review: Effulgence of the Moon and Throes of Neil Armstrong

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First Man is an aptly titled movie which explores the afflicting journey of hardships and griefs in the life of Neil Armstrong… Spoilers ahead

When Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) was finally prepping up for the famous first-ever trip to the Moon, there were two contrasting scenes which brought out different emotions. His concerned wife Janet (Claire Foy) tells her son that his dad will be flying out of this world and all the way up to the Moon. Her son, being very young, is unaware of this historic event and asks his mom if he could just go ‘“outside”. And, in the other instance, when Neil and his other two partners (Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) had to answer questions in the customary press meet before the flight, Buzz (Corey Stoll) responds to the reporters saying that they are “excited”. These contrasting emotions resonate well with the audience as we travel through the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. From being oblivious of the sheer magnitude of the events leading up to the mission to getting excited and nervous at the same time by the prospect of gradationally getting to understand the sufferings and monumental efforts, First Man really does take you through an emotional journey.

Based on the book called First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, Director Damien Chazelle’s First Man is a biographical drama on the unseen aspects of one of the most significant space missions in the history.

For the most part, First Man throws light on perturbing and harrowing life of Neil

For the most part, it throws light on the perturbing and harrowing life of Neil. The hindrances that he had to face for this almost decade-long mission only made him hard-bitten and committed. When his daughter dies due to illness, we get to sense his mournfulness while he feels her hair strands in his hands for one last time. Some of his friends and teammates have even died in the process of rocket tests and we can feel his state of despondency and loneliness.

We come to a point where we do not know what is more disturbing than the horde of questions hurled at Neil and the team for the failing mission which is also facing huge criticism for the astronomical sum of money being spent on it. In spite of the failure during the tests, he sees the positive side emphasising upon the notion that failing here on earth would help them overcome adversities up there in space.

Director Damien does not allow the audience to feel at ease either and puts us in the spot to make it look extremely real.

While Neil has to undergo a lot of sufferings during this mission, Director Damien does not allow the audience to feel at ease either and puts us in the spot to make it look extremely real. One can see the brilliance behind those jerky and shaky camera shots which illuminate how tough it can be to control the spaceship. It made it look real so much so that we can feel like we are the ones on that spaceship trying hard to control it against all odds.

The three-pronged approach of portraying the mission to Moon was just marvellous to watch. Neil and his partners on the spaceship, the NASA team on the ground, and Janet at home were all equally involved in this gruelling task. Not only did the successful docking of two spacecraft was romanticised like a reunion of a couple with astounding background score by Justin Hurwitz. But it also brought a smile on the faces of Neil and his partners, the ground team, and Janet who was listening to everything on the radio while her son playfully keeps her busy with all his naughty tricks. And when something goes wrong, they all are in this together. And so are we feeling crestfallen and grievous in the difficult moments and rejoicing for the success.

The movie opens with Neil as a test pilot who steers the aircraft to the ground alive when something goes wrong. We see the intrepidity and never-give-up attitude in him. We see that characteristic nature again when he applies for the mission to Moon and has to go through weary tasks. We realise that it is this hardihood which made him overcome all the struggles over the years and become the first man to walk on the Moon. After all the challenging times, when Neil takes a sigh of relief on finally reaching up there, so do the jubilant people around the globe in the film, and so do we as the audience as we are so much immersed in the movie.

At 2 hours and 21 minutes, First Man feels a bit slow but you do not mind it due to the splendiferousness of the movie

Throughout the movie, we are shown the naked eye shots of Moon which we hark back to when Neil looks at the Earth from the Moon. This is also the time when we are reminded that there are nicer moments in the film as well when all those good memories flash in the eyes of Neil where he cheerfully plays with his children and wife.

At 2 hours and 21 minutes, First Man feels a bit slow but you do not mind it due to the splendiferousness of the movie, amazing performance by Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy who were ably supported by the supporting casts, and brilliant screenplay by Josh Singer (writer of The Post and Spotlight). First Man is an aptly titled movie which explores the afflicting journey of hardships and griefs in the life of Neil Armstrong.