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The Master (2012)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Masterclass, 10 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sex obsessed alcoholic World War II veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder , struggling to fit into the post war society, becoming a drifter.

One night, he stumbles drunk on a private yacht hosting a party. It belongs to Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a self styled "Master" of "The Cause". Dodd gets hooked to Freddie's liquor, allowing him to stay if he keeps making more. He subjects Freddie to a psychological exercise about his past (His father died of alcoholism, his mother is institutionalized and he has abandoned the love of his life, Doris, who he hasn't seen in seven years) Freddie is enthralled by Dodd, who is very firm on his abject beliefs and revelations regarding reincarnation & the subconscious. Dodd too takes a liking to Freddie, calling him his protégé and guinea pig. Freddie travels along the east coast with Dodd and his family ,which also includes Dodd's new pregnant wife Peggy (Amy Adams) , daughter Elizabeth and son Val as well as his son in law. Dodd is invited to the houses of many affluent women who have been attracted to the Cause, where he gives talks aiming to win more followers. Freddie's alcoholism & unpredictable behavior haven't subsided( going as far as beating up people questioning the Cause's methods and authenticity)making other members of the Cause feel that he does not belong there. Freddie's drinking continues inspite of him promising that he will quit.

Val confides to Freddie that he thinks that his father is a fraud who just makes things as he goes along, causing Freddie to berate him. Dodd is arrested for practicing medicine without license. Freddie attacks the policemen who have come to arrest Dodd and gets jailed as well. In jail, Freddie goes berserk calling Dodd a fraud and questioning everything he has stood for. Both men trade insults and stop only when Dodd reminds that he is the only one who cares about him.

After their release, Peggy and the rest of the followers become more vocal for expelling Freddie, branding him as a threat and a spy but Dodd declines. It become subtly clear that Dodd is merely using Freddie as a test subject , to prove that his methods can cure even a hopeless case like him. He aims to break Freddie down and rebuild him in the Cause's image.

Freddie is subjected to repetitive and grueling tests for long periods which make him agitated due to their lack of results but Dodd declares him successful. Freddie has started becoming disillusioned of the Cause. Dodd's fraud is revealed to the viewer as he loses his temper with a follower (Laura Dern) when she states as per his latest book, he is actually causing his test subjects to "imagine" their past lives instead of "experiencing" them.

During one of the exercises of the Cause in a desert, Freddie abandons them , deciding to leave the Cause forever. He visits Doris's house but is told that she is now married. Freddie is disappointed but happy for Doris.

One night , Freddie has a vision of Dodd calling him. Taking this dream literally, he travels to meet him. Peggy tells Freddie that he either has to improve or leave, as he might become the undoing of the Cause itself. Dodd sadly realizes that his wife is right and tells Freddie that he has to find his own path in the world. He gives Freddie an ultimatum that he can either stay and devote his life to the Cause or leave never to return. Freddie chooses to leave. The ending shows him with a woman, remembering his happy days in the Navy. His fate is left ambiguous.

Rootless, directionless, futureless aren't enough to describe Freddie Quell , played beautifully by Joaquin Phoenix . This is a person beyond redemption, a sad shadow of his former self , both the clothes and the skin that he lives in are ill fitting, whose speech is half incoherent and half irrelevant. This is a physically demanding role for which he had to lose weight considerably , to show an emaciated person blowing in the wind, whom alcohol is drinking up, a sad character , albeit wiser in the end.

Philip Seymour Hoffman even in a cameo appearance can steal the show from the film's leads. Here, he is no different , playing the titular role of the film and its He brilliantly portrays Lancaster Dodd who is a charmer and at the same time, a charlatan, who even when proved wrong, staunchly promotes the snake oil he sells as an elixir, and he leaves no stone unturned to show a cold and a cunning person who while appearing to be magnanimous to Freddie, is merely using him as a lab animal for his experiments. Amy Adams is very effective as Peggy, a manipulative dedicated wife & driven follower of the Cause who goads her husband to keep answering bricks thrown at him with stones.

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of those directors who never makes films for entertainment but for cinematic experience, thus making him both the critics dream and a nightmare. Lancaster Dodd and Freddie Quell appear as different as chalk and cheese, but deep down, both are in their own worlds, obsessed by their own products- Freddie by his liquor and Dodd by his abject and vague philosophy. In the end its Freddie who is proved wiser and braver than Dodd, because he chooses to leave something which has just made him a toy in someone else's hands He abandons a comfortable existence for a person like him for a scary and uncertain future, ending up right where he was at the start. Dodd remains a toy in the hands of his own convictions. Who is the Master that you serve? Your Lord? Your convictions? Your conscience? And can you identify the right master to serve?

Flight (2012/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A perilious flight, 28 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Robert Zemeckis has made us wait long for his first live action feature film since Cast Away (2000) and this wait has well been worth it.

Captain William "Whip" Whitaker (Denzel Washington) awakens in an Orlando hotel room after a booze & sex filled night with very little sleep with flight attendant Katerina Marquez (Nadine Velasquez), arguing on the phone to his now divorced wife who is demanding more maintenance for his estranged son's higher education. He uses cocaine to be jolted awake, as he is due to fly SouthJet Flight 227 to Atalanta. The weather is overcast but Whip, being a skilled pilot takes off the plane through turbulence and then turns it over to his co pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty). He then discreetly drinks vodka mixed with orange juice and falls asleep. He is awakened by Evans just before the flight's descent and as he takes the controls, the plane goes into a steep dive due to a malfunction, rapidly falling apart piece by piece. With no other choice, he flips the plane upside down to stop the dive, maneuvers the plane right side up, and then glides it away far from residential areas, crashlanding it in a field.

Whip awakes in an Atalanta hospital with minor injuries, to be greeted by his old friend from the Air Force Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), now representing the airline's pilot union. He tells Whip that his heroic skill saved 96 out of the 102 lives on board. An NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) official then briefs him that Katerina was among the ones killed and that Evans is severely injured and put in a coma. Whip meets Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a recovering drug addict in the hospital and promises to visit her when he is discharged. He is sneaked out of the hospital ward the following morning by his drug dealer friend Harling Mays (John Goodman), who tells him that he has become a media celebrity. Whip drives away to his late father's farm to avoid the media, decides to quit drinking, destroying his stash of alcohol. Unfortunately, he relapses soon. He is called by Charlie and Attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), the latter informing him that his blood test was performed while he was unconscious revealing a high alcohol content, which could get him a life in prison for both drug and manslaughter.He storms off angily and visits Nicole, finding her getting evicted and asks her to move in with him, beginning a relationship with her. His alcoholism gets worse while Nicole on the other hand is getting rehabilitated. She leaves him seeing no improvement in him. Whip also visits Evans, finding that he has a very little chance of walking again ,who chides him for being drunk that day but accepting that the plane was at fault.Whip is soon discovered by the media in his farmhouse making him flee from there in an intoxicated state to his estranged family, from where he is evicted as well. Hugh informs Whip that he has trashed his toxicology report proving the incompetence of the testing equipment, and now he just has to stay sober till the hearing, led by NTSB investigator Ellen Block (Melissa Leo), which if all goes well will allow Whip to walk away a hero.

Whip is put in a guarded hotel room with no access to alcohol a day before the hearing, but he somehow finds a way to the adjoining room, discovering alcohol in its refrigerator. Hugh and Charlie find Whip passed out the following morning, barely an hour before the hearing is to begin. Harling is called to revive him and he uses cocaine to revive him. A rejuvenated Whip goes for facing the hearing which is to decide his fate.

Will he lie in his usual manner to walk away free to continue his decadent ways or will his conscience finally make him choose the painful but right path? These answers will be best found on screen.

Denzel Washington is one of the best actors to grace the screen and can emote more in one glance than the likes of Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt can with pages of dialogues. His portrayal of a successful person who is suicidally and stupidly dissolving his career, life and happiness in alcohol and drugs is painfully realistic. As a person who shamelessly lies, runs from the truth to the one who finally realizes that he has been going wrong since a long time or as a pilot who remains calm even in the face of an impending deadly crash, his performance is a class act. This is certainly his best role in a decade since Training Day and certainly marks his comeback after a string of forgettable films.

John Goodman gives the best cameo that you can remember and totally steals the show for the hardly ten minutes that he is on screen. Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood are left to play second fiddle to Denzel Washington, but they are nevertheless very effective in the thankless roles the script has for them. Kelly Reilly is effective in her supporting part as well.

Robert Zemeckis does a brilliant job here, and this film is no less than his earlier classics like Forrest Gump and Cast Away. He keeps the story line taut and pacy, avoiding being preachy about drug or alcohol abuse or portraying the protagonist Whip Whitaker in any sympathetic light. The dialogues are crisp and so is the storyline. The technical aspects are well researched and nothing is overdone. The most important question asked by the film is whether a "hero" is pardonable for his other bad deeds ? Should he be allowed to get away for an act of his which would have also endangered the lives of the very people he saved in the first place, just because all ended well? Come aboard ,folks. This one is a memorable ride.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A stellar triumph..., 24 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Oregon 1963. Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) a criminal ,is admitted in mental asylum due to insanity, faked by him to avoid jail . His ward mates are the stammering nervous wreck Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif) who fears his mother, timid & childish Charlie Cheswick (Sydney Lassik, delusional Martini (Danny DeVito) ,paranoid Dale Harding (William Redfield), profane Max Taber (Christopher Lloyd), Chief Bromden (Will Sampson) a gigantic deaf & mute native American.

The institution is run by the domineering Nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher).McMurphy discovers that the patients fear her & their fear of her is stronger than their will to get cured, her therapy sessions & schedule meant to keep the patients docile & under control than curing them. McMurphy quickly becomes the dominant & most troublesome patient in the ward by his complete disregard for authority & rules, challenging Ratched whenever possible.When she refuses to let him watch the world series, he defiantly stands in front of the switched off TV, shouting baseball commentary,causing other patients to disrupt the ward.

He also teaches the patients basketball ,making the withdrawn Chief admire him. Once he steals the bus meant to take the patients on a tour, herds his fellow patients aboard, picks up his hooker girlfriend Candy (Marya Small) ,and on reaching the shore, takes them all fishing in a boat after tricking its captain.This is one of the only two outdoors scene in the entire film, and it makes the viewer feel the brief freedom that the patients enjoy in the open sea, away from the claustrophobic environment.

This leads to stricter restrictions on him. He learns that the hospital can detain him indefinitely. All the other patients in the ward, except hard cases, are voluntarily committed. During one of the sessions, Cheswick,McMurphy & Chief fight with the guards and are hence sent for electro-therapy.McMurphy learns to his delight, that Chief has only been pretending to be deaf & mute all this time to avoid attention.

That same night, he decides that he has had enough and decides to escape, as he cannot risk being sent back to prison. He asks Chief to come with him, but he declines, stating his fear of the world. He calls Candy and another girl, asking them to smuggle liquor with them. They sneak in, and McMurphy even ropes in the warden in the liquor party involving the patients, which quickly leads to the dismantling of the entire ward.

McMurphy prepares to leave and sees that Billy is the most emotional to see him go. He decides to have Candy spend a night with Billy. McMurphy and the other patients then, unluckily for them, fall asleep due to combined effect of alcohol and medication.

Nurse Ratched and the orderlies arrive in the morning to find the ward wrecked completely. All the patients are summoned. McMurphy and Chief are held back as they try to make a quick getaway. She is enraged to find a half dressed Billy with Candy, who for the first time faces her confidently without stammering. Ratched ,using her usual weapon, threatens that she will tell his mother about it. Billy reverts to his old stammering and nervous self and is locked up in a room. Unable to control his nervous breakdown, he kills himself. McMurphy is devastated and viciously attacks Nurse Ratched. He nearly strangles her to death before being knocked down by the orderlies and taken away.

The scene moves many days ahead. All kinds of rumours are flying around about McMurphy, ranging from he has been subdued like a lamb to he has escaped. The Chief listens curiously. Nurse Ratched is shown smiling weakly, a shadow of her former self.

Late that night as others sleep, McMurphy is brought in and laid on his bed. Chief rushes over to him and whispers that they escape right away. Getting no response, Chief tries reviving him and is horrified to see that he has been lobotomized .Chief decides that he cannot leave his friend in such a pitiful existence,as a symbol of Ratched's victory. He suffocates McMurphy to death before the others wake up. He then smashes the window of the ward by a heavy slab and escapes just as dawn breaks.

Jack Nicholson as Randle McMurphy is the soul of this film, and he plays the anti authoritarian, rebellious, crazy and unpredictable character to perfection. His performance is a lesson for any aspiring actor and a treat for any admirer of cinema.Louise Fletcher brilliantly plays one of most coldest villains ever.Of the supporting cast, Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbit is the best.Small but significant performances are given by Christopher Lloyd , William Redding . Will Samspson as Chief Bromden is impressive.

Milos Foreman adapts the novel with a few minor changes (in the novel, Chief Bromden is the narrator and all the other inmates escape in the end).The story uses the context of a mental institution to portray the never ending & largely hopeless struggle of the individual against the establishment, resulting in the certain destruction of the individual / section fighting it, but it has to be carried on for the hope of change. The film ends in McMurphy's defeat &destruction, but he also ends up shrinking Ratched into a mere mortal from someone who looks invincible. Out of the two people whose life he changes, Billy meets a sad end, but Chief Bromden lives upto the hope sowed in him by the doomed McMurphy, thereby signifying a little change that has been achieved.The closed settings depicting the mental ward and the robotic movements & compliance of the patients to the numbing schedule depicting safe but hated slavery of the individual is a contrast to the final scene of the film which shows the dawn breaking through the smashed window from which Chief Bromden escapes to an uncertain but welcome future.

Which one would you choose?

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
There's is so much beauty in this film..., 19 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The deceased Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) tells the story of the last year of his life. His life is going nowhere ,being stuck in his job with no future.He is hated by his materialistic wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) & his introvert daughter Jane (Thora Birch).

Lester's world changes when he falls in lust with Jane's slutty friend Angela (Mena Suvari).Angela is aware of this & cruelly encourages him. The new family next door is of the homophobic Colonel Frank Fits (Chris Cooper),his traumatized wife & disturbed son Vicky (Wes Bentley), who is attracted to Jane. He starts filming her in her house & once accidentally films a nude Lester working out. She abuses him openly but is secretly pleased. Ricky is secretly a marijuana seller, he soon befriends Lester who becomes his regular client .Frank looks at this bonding suspiciously. Lester smokes pot & works out regularly becoming confident & outspoken.

An eventful day Lester quits his job but not before blackmailing his company for a year's salary& joins a restaurant as an attendant to have a job with the least possible responsibilities. Carolyn starts an affair with Buddy Kane . Ricky and Jane begin a relationship.

Lester finally stands upto Carolyn for the first time in his life. He knows that all his attempts to find any place in the lives of either his wife or daughter are useless and the least he can do is have a happy life for himself.

The last day of Lester's life dawns. He & Angela flirt ,much to Jane's disgust. He signals to Ricky to call him which catches Frank's eye. He investigates by searching Ricky's room and finds the video of a nude Lester ,deducing that his son & Lester are in a relationship. Carolyn and Buddy drive into the same restaurant where Lester works He coolly serves them even after catching the two red handed. Carolyn is hurt by Lester's indifference. Buddy breaks off the relationship, leaving Carolyn distraught. Lester calls Ricky to buy more marijuana. Frank spies on them ,mistaking their meeting for a sexual encounter. He beats up Ricky & demands explanation. Ricky, already sick of his overbearing father, lies that he works as a prostitute. Frank throws him out. Ricky goes to Lester's house and asks Jane to leave with him. She agrees, but Angela who is present there tries to discourage her and starts to fight with her. Jane throws her out.

Frank visits Lester and asks him about his wife's whereabouts. He replies that his marriage is a sham, thereby turning Frank's doubts into belief. Suddenly, he attempts to kiss Lester, revealing that his homophobic personality is a mere facade. Lester pulls him off & Frank leaves without another word. Lester finds Angela crying on the stairs. One thing leads to another and Angela is soon in his arms. Angela reveals that she is nothing like her projected slutty image & is a virgin. Lester suddenly sees her as a daughter & realizes that he has been wrong in lusting after her. He embraces her like a child. She leaves a content Lester whose life has now come to a full circle. He feels no remorse but only gladness at spurning the object of his desire. He gazes contently into a family photograph. A barrel of a gun appears behind his head. A shot is heard and his blood is splattered on the wall. The reaction of the each of the rest of the characters is shown, when the shot rings out. Frank is revealed to be the killer.The deceased Lester in a final voice-over sees his life is flashing before him.His dying thoughts revolve around his childhood memories, Carolyn and Jane. He has no regrets & finds hard to be angry with so much beauty in the world. He is grateful for every moment of his short life.

Look closer says the film's caption. The Burnham's house is full of smiling,happy family photographs but the house is anything but that. The prosperous neighbourhood is eerily silent,whether it be the sombre atmosphere in the Burnham household or macabre in the Fritts one. Behind smiling faces lies just contempt or insecurity. The film can be interpreted in innumerable ways- as a demythifier of happy suburbian middle class life , an attempt to find life's meaning, a person's wish to break free out of a mundane,materialistic existence or there's more to life than stuff & status symbols like job or status or how everyone lives a fake life. Carolyn's fake self esteem is a cover to hide her dissatisfaction & hate for her job. Frank's homophobia is a cover to hide his own homosexual tendencies. Angela's dirty talk and loose image is a pathetic attempt to be seen as a glam doll. Jane while projecting herself to be aloof suffers from low self esteem and feels jealous of the extrovert Angela.The only person content and happy in the end is Lester, inspite of his life's journey coming to a cruel and abrupt end.

Sam Mendes couldn't have asked for a better debut in Hollywood, with his film sweeping all the major awards, including five Oscars. His direction is flawless, as he peels away the pompous layers of each character to reveal their vulnerable selves. Yet it stands out in the fact that he has avoided sugarcoating or giving the film a happy ending, in order to give the real message of the film- Ultimate freedom comes at an ultimate price.

The film belongs to Kevin Spacey. As Lester Burnham, he has portrayed beautifully a vulnerable & ordinary person prone to weakness & temptation yet remains a good human being who only wants a more dignified & fulfilling life. Annette Bening is excellent as the materialistic Carolyn .Chris Cooper is brilliant as Frank Fritts. The same is applicable to the rest of the cast. There is beauty all over this film.

Watch. And look closer.

Goodfellas (1990)
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster, 14 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film is based on Wiseguys, the true story of Henry Hill's rise & fall in the Luchesse crime family during 1955-80.

In 1950s Bronx, young Henry Hill admires gangsters who according to him live an ideal life.He quits school and joins the gang under Paulie (Paul Sorvino) , doing jobs like paying off people & collecting protection money. He meets Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) whose main work is hijacking cargo trucks. He learns the biggest rule of crime life from him - Never rat on your friends & always keep your mouth shut.

In the 60s, the adult Henry(Ray Liotta) with Tommy Vito (Joe Pesci),a psychopathic gangster & Jimmy work to spread the gang's influence. Henry & the others hang around with numerous women in nightclubs in an intimidating manner .In 1967, Henry carries out the Air France robbery thereby making his entry into bigtime crime. He marries a Jewish girl Karen (Lorraine Bracco) who is seduced by his glamorous lifestyle. She accepts his crime life, mostly because it gives her an opulent living.

In 1970 Tommy brutally beats Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) for insulting his poor origins, Jimmy too joining in. They are in trouble as Batts is a made man with the Gambinos. They bury him in the outskirts of the city, stopping midway to finish off the half alive Batts. Later they are forced to exhume and rebury the corpse elsewhere when they find out that the land due to a new construction project.

Henry soon takes a mistress. Karen pulls a gun on him, he overpowers her and tells her that he has bigger worries than her, like getting killed on the street. Paulie meets him and orders him to return to her, and sends him with Jimmy to recover money from a defaulter. But the target's sister is a typist with FBI, she turns over the entire gang (her brother included) to the police. In order to make his ends meet, Henry resorts to drug running from jail.

Upon release from prison in 1978,he continues his cocaine trading which he had started in jail, much to the disapproval of Paulie who sternly warns him to stop it immediately. He not only ignores this warning, but ropes in Jimmy and Tommy and various other people, including Karen, his daughters babysitter and a new drug addict girlfriend.

The same year, Henry along with the crew, carries out the Lufthansa heist in JFK airport , which is the biggest hijacking of goods in US history.Some gang members start spending the proceeds from the heist immediately, buying expensive things that put them in the spotlight. Jimmy promptly has them murdered and later on,also has one by one all the other participants of the heist murdered, their corpses turning up in different parts of the city for months. Henry knows that Jimmy has all the cash from the heist, and he is merely eliminating the partners to have it all to himself, but cant do anything. One day, Tommy is lured by promises to make him a made man and killed, by his own gang members as a revenge for the murder of Billy Batts in order to make peace with the Gambinos.

By 1980, Henry is a cocaine addicted wreck, sustaining himself solely by drug running, due to which he has alienated Paulie and the others. He is on the constant surveillance of the FBI , who finally tail him an entire and arrest him. During his absence, his house is also raided, and Karen in order to evade arrest and conviction flushes down the entire cocaine stash, thereby rendering themselves virtually penniless.

Jimmy goes to Paulie for help, who being angry with him due to his drug operations, pays him $3200 and ends all association with him.He gets a final shock when he realizes that Jimmy intends to have him killed, by setting him up in a hit, in order to erase the last link between him and the Lufthansa heist.

With no other way to save himself and his family, Henry agrees to become an FBI informant under the witness protection plan. As a result of his collaboration and his testimony, Paulie, Jimmy and all the major members of the gang are arrested and sentenced to long terms in prison without parole. Henry himself gets a sentence which is further reduced due to his collaboration.

The last shot of the film shows a very vulnerable looking Henry Hill ,now divorced, who in a final voice over says that the good times are over and that he is penniless just like the average working people that he used to ridicule .The closing credits show his fate and that of all the others in the gang, being put away for life.

Scorsese maintains a good pace, with a crisp background narration. Gangsters are shown as what they are, vermin beneath the shining suits . It perfectly shows that crime never pays giving the message subtly, sans preaching or moral dialogues, instead leaving the viewer to figure it out as the film goes along.

Ray Liotta plays Henry efficiently, right from the background narration to his transition from a brash gangster to a sorry shadow of his former self. Lorraine Bracco is fine as Karen. Robert DeNiro very beautifully portrays the cunning & vicious Jimmy Conway ,a friend one instant and a killer the next, his screen time is shorter than usual but just as effective. But the show stealer is Joe Pesci as the psychopathic Tommy Vito who is crazy & vicious at the same time, as the one who intimidates Henry or the one who calmly shoots a waiter for being late in serving him.

Oscars snubbed this great work and only Joe Pesci got his due. But it rightly was a commercial & critical success and will always remain a favourite for any avid film viewer.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A "raging " triumph, 6 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Raging Bull is more about a boxer's life out of the ring. Shot entirely in black and white,it is based on the turbulent career and life of the two time middleweight champion Jake La Motta.

The film opens in 1964 where an aging & overweight Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro) is rehearsing his lines for a standup comedy act. The scene then moves to two decades earlier with JakeLaMotta losing his first major match. Jake's brother & agent Joey (Joe Pesci) discusses his chances for a potential title shot with one of his mafia connections, Salvy Batts (Frank Vincent). He starts a relationship with a 15 year old Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) inspite of being married. He defeats Sugar Ray Robinson twice but is denied victory in the second bout due to judges. He finally marries Vickie, his love for her gradually becoming an obsession. Frequent fights erupt, most of which end in Vickie being abused physically. In one of his bouts, which he wins against Tony Janiro he brutally smashes the latter's face because he knows that Vickie finds him attractive. Later , discussing Jake's victory with journalists in a night club, Joey spots Vickie in the company of Salvy and his friends. He attacks Salvy and injures him badly in a fight. The mafia head asks Jake to throw his next match in order to have a title fight. As a result, Jake is disqualified. However, he wins the middleweight title in his next bout against Marcel Cerdan in 1949.

The title win and subsequent success the following year do nothing to quell his jealousy about Vickie, his insecurities only become worse. Things come to the worst one day when he blatantly asks Joey whether he and Vickie have something going in between them. Joey leaves, disgusted. Unmoved, he confronts Vickie asking her the same, to which she replies, fed up of the routine torture, that she has relations with Joey and every man in the neighbourhood. Enraged, Jake goes to Joey's house and beats him up brutally in front of his family. That spells the end of relations between the two brothers.

Jake defends his title against Laurent Dauthille in 1950, a match even his estranged brother Joey watches on TV. He calls Joey in an attempt to reconcile but is unable to speak anything when Joey answers the phone.He never tries to call his brother again. His career slowly starts to go downhill and he loses his title to Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951.

The scene then cuts to 1956 with a now obese LaMotta, having moved to Miami and running a nightclub. Vickie soon asks for a divorce,which she had been planning since his retirement. She gets the custody of the children and moves away. Jake then suddenly gets arrested one morning on the charge of introducing underage girls (posing as 21 year olds) to other patrons of his nightclub. He is jailed being unable to raise enough money for parole even after selling his title belt. In a memorable scene, he bangs his head and pounds the walls of his prison cell, crying and repenting his actions and questioning his misfortune. The scene then moves to 1958.On being freed, he moves back to New York and continues his gigs at various night clubs in addition to managing them. One night, he sees Joey on the street. He calls out to him and asks him to forgive him, but Joey keeps walking. Finally he catches him near his car and hugs him and asks for forgiveness. Joey reluctantly forgives him and drives away without another word. Back to the first scene in 1964 where La Motta is practicing his lines and in between pondering what might have been had things been a little different and had Joey looked out for him .A stagehand informs that his act is ready and the last shot of the film shows Jake exiting the dressing room, shadowboxing like the older days.

This isn't a biopic about a idol because this is anything but a hero. Its a story of a man who inspite of reaching great heights in the ring is pulled down to the abyss because of his abhorrent behaviour outside it. Like his other works, Scorsese does not add a bit of pleasantry but shows realism, with human nature at its ugliest, the usual expletive laced dialogues and grimness.

This is arguably Robert DeNiro's best performance & the most physically demanding role any actor can have.Not for a moment does he even try to make the viewer feel any sympathy for or like the hatred and envy filled character he is playing. Jake LaMotta on screen is the exact opposite to Rocky Balboa . Rocky is a hero in everyman who we root for in his quest to reach for the sky. For Jake, who already has reached the top, the viewer feels only revulsion and later on pity, when he begins his downward slide. To prepare for the role, DeNiro trained vigourously for weeks under the real Jake LaMotta,even fighting and winning some amateur matches. Production was halted for four months and DeNiro went on a binge eating spree on gourmet food across Europe in order to add nearly 30 kilos to portray the older La Motta. On seeing his performance, the real LaMotta quipped "I never knew that I was that bad".DeNiro deservedly won the Oscar for the Best Actor for this role where he had in his usual style erased the difference between reality and celluloid.Joe Pesci who was an unknown actor at this time, is great as Joey. He very aptly portrays the brother who tries his best to stick with his sibling but puts and end to the whole thing when it gets beyond redemption. Cathy Moriarty is impressive as Vicky in her debut film but couldn't live upto the promise she showed in this film.

A must watch simply for the appreciation of good cinema.

Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man., 29 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Taxi Driver brought three of the most precious gems of cinema into prominence, namely Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese and the then 13 year old Jodie Foster. This 1976 Martin Scorsese psychological thriller takes the viewer into a very different world, away from the candyfloss romances, away from the opulent surroundings, from the big dialogue mouthing mobsters or high school cheerleaders. It takes them into the mind of a frustrated and an unstable person who is becoming dangerously psychotic due to the filth that he sees around him.

Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) is the unlikely protagonist of the film who also serves as the film's narrator. A discharged Vietnam Vet with seemingly no professional or social skills, the 26 year old (the age he gives his employer) finds it almost impossible to adapt back into the society. He takes a job to drive a taxi in New York at night for 12 hour shifts both as a means to combat his insomnia and to give some direction to his empty and lonely life. His only activities other than driving the taxi are maintaining a diary (which is the narration of the film), watching pornographic films in seedy theatres and writing letters to his parents in which he blatantly lies about working with the secret service and being on important missions all the time.

He gets infatuated with a campaign volunteer Betsy (Cybil Shepard) and asks her out. He later takes her on a date and being socially inept, takes her to one of his frequented seedy theatres. She leaves offended and breaks off all contact with him. His attempts to reconcile with her end in his humiliation at her office which make him further shun himself from society.

Meanwhile, instead of calming him down, driving the taxi at late nights makes his mental condition worse as, owing to the odd hours , he sees the worst elements of the society at work. Most of his fares during that time too are from the underbelly of the society. His mental instability makes him want to lash out at the decadence that he sees around him. He buys guns and starts intense physical training for someday that perceives that he might have to fight the evil that he hates so much. One night, a twelve year old prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster) gets into his cab and pleads him to help her get away, only to have her pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel) pull her out and throw a crumpled note on the backseat. Travis tracks Iris down by posing as her client only to discover to his dismay that she is very content with her life as a prostitute and has no intent of returning to her family. She says that she was stoned on the day when she tried to escape her pimp/lover.

This breaks down any remaining sanity in Travis and saving Iris from this wretched life becomes his sole obsession. He loses all sanity, even trying to make a ridiculous attempt on the life of the presidential candidate (from which he barely escapes) for whom his former love interest Betsy is campaigning. Finally, he decides in the end to save Iris at any cost, paving way for a devastating climax.

Even after more than three decades of being made, this film remains the most harrowing portrayal of an unstable mind. Martin Scorsese pours his brilliance into the script in which the dialogues are the farthest thing from eloquent or flowery yet hard hitting. The film is painfully real and not for a moment is the viewer given any false hopes that things are going to get better and something good will surely come out in the end. The viewer knows the end cannot be any better and sadly goes with this unlikely protagonist on his march to the abyss. This film is rated highly by any director today worth his salt and remains an inspiration for any film student today who wants to make it big.

Robert DeNiro's portrayal of Travis Bickle is superlatively brilliant. Much has been written about it and all I can add is that it's a privilege to watch him live this role. He makes you feel disgusted, afraid, sympathetic and sorry for Travis all at the same time, because the viewer realizes that he too unknowingly wants to lash out at the evil all around him. Being a method actor, DeNiro drove a taxi in New York for a month for long hours in order to become Travis Bickle, instead of merely playing the role. The result is for all of us to see. Jodie Foster's portrayal of the twelve year old drug addict hooker Iris is disturbingly awesome. The scene of her first meeting with Travis where she tells him that he's got only fifteen minutes to do his thing is definitely not for someone raised on goody goody cinema.The rest of the supporting cast is effective as well, Harvey Keitel being remarkable as Sport.

The fact that Robert de Niro, Jodie Foster and Martin Scorsese did not win the Oscar for their performance or Taxi Driver didn't win the best picture again proves that awards don't go to the best films most of the times. Rarely does a film come which takes the viewers out of their comfort zone and make them see cinema for what it is, a fulfilling art and science instead of merely being a medium of entertainment. But when it does, you should not miss it. This timeless classic is applicable today as much as it was in the 70s, simply for the fact as its caption states that in every street in every city in the world, there is a nobody waiting to be a somebody.

Milk (2008/I)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Great work, Sean..., 22 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Harvey Milk says in the beginning that he is 40 and hasn't done anything to be proud..little did he know that in the last 8 years of his life would surpass all that. He would emerge as an icon for his kind and a new voice against bigotry. Sean Penn breathes life into this role. This is a complete departure from his image. The result is a great great film.

The film begins with the announcement of Milk and Moscone being assassinated. It also begins with a narrative, actually a will he recorded just 9 days before he was killed.It starts with Harvey meeting a much younger lover, Scott Smith in 1970 and then moving to Castro neighborhood in SF. Enraged by the bias against gays, he decides to fight against it by running for supervisor. He fails for six years before finally emerging victorious in Jan 1978, becoming the first openly gay public official US. He continues his agitation, rallying against Proposition 6 before he is gunned down by fellow supervisor Dan White (Brolin)in Nov 1978.

Gus Van Sant does a brilliant job, running the narrative and the story parallelly. He shows how biopics should be. Sean Penn brings out the long slain supervisor back on the silver screen and shows how he lived a lifetime during the last 8 years of his life. Its a fitting tribute to a man who strived to change the society's perspective, fought for the rights of gays for them being accepted and ultimately paid with his life for that. James Franco and Emile Hirsch are effective. But its Josh Brolin in the supporting cast, who takes the cake. Though he has very less screen time, he makes it up with his great portrayal of Dan White. This is one guy who is gonna be great.

Its very seldom that the best actor award is a two guy race. This time it is, between Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn. May the best man win!!!

The greatest comeback ever, 14 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the greatest comeback by any actor on the celluloid, ever. Mickey Rourke hasn't played the part of Randy...He is Randy the Ram. He has taken extreme physical training which saw him put on nearly 30 lb of muscle.Great feat for someone in his 50's.A few minutes into this movie and you forget that this is an actor playing a role. Mickey literally brings to life the once famous and now destitute broken down wrestler who is always struggling to reach to the top. It is Darren Afaranosky's skill that he shows us Randy with all his flaws and shortcomings. It is made clear that Randy is this today because of his own faults. Marisa Tomei does a commendable job as Cassidy even though this film is completely dominated by Rourke.Evan Rachel Wood is effective in her short but important role of Randy's daughter.The wrestling scenes are terrific. The fight which sends Randy to the hospital is brutally effective as it makes the user wince seeing the two fighters pummel each other with barb wire, staple pins, nails and steel chairs. One of the best scenes is when Randy tries in vain to reconcile with his daughter.Thats really heartbreaking.Same is the scene where former wrestlers have to sit on the counter to sell their memorabilia. The climax fight, that is the re match with Ayatollah is a fitting ending to the film which is a saga of a man trying to redeem himself and regain his former glory.The last shot simply blew me away.

The only performance which can compare to this will be Sean Penn's in Milk. It will be a close contest between the two but judging the situation, one feels that Mickey Rourke is this years winner for the best actor.

17 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Over-hyped and clichéd, 14 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Only a few films live up to their hype e.g American Beauty, No Country for Old Men, Brokeback Mountain etc. I was eager to see how this one was and I was infuriated. Anyone who has no idea of India, will after viewing this film think that India is an anarchy where cops play cards while watching men burning alive and chase street kids right upto their houses. The same person will also think that India is a morally corrupt nation where winning contestants on a game show are handed over to the police for third degree torture and where the audience laughs in delight when crass comments are passed on the contestant's poverty. Has Danny Boyle even watched the Indian version of Who wants to be a Millionaire? Mr. Bachchan was the most courteous towards all the contestants. He won everyone's heart with his humility. Anil Kapoor here makes the viewer want to punch him in the face. Plus the uneducated protagonist of the film who speaks British English! Wow! And this despite the fact that all around him speak in Indian English.The most angering aspect was the portrayal of the magnanimous hindu community who prey upon the hapless(!) Muslim minority. And the portrayal of Lord Raam should make the blood boil of any devotee. I dare Danny Boyle to make a similar portrayal of Jesus Christ or Prophet Muhammad. He will be promptly butchered.And also all street children don't end up in begging rings and gangs. They fall into good hands too. A guy who's Mercedes has been stripped bare pays the accused kid $100?? Talk about the white man's burden in the post modern world!!A blind beggar knows who is on a $ 100 bill?? A teenage Salim knows Colt 45? Indians are film crazy but no one will jump and wade through excreta to get an autograph of any film star. Plus, is the name of the third musketeer so unfamiliar that one has to pose as a question for Rs 2 million????? And whats the fuss made about Freida Pinto's performance?? Her performance was even more insipid than the rest of the cast. How can a battered girl who is not allowed to step outside drive?? And does Salim's heart change when he sees his lil' bro win millions?? Why cant he escape himself? And can a man who has won two million in a game show go unnoticed in CS Terminus, one of the most crowded places on earth? The only saving grace are the child actors. They are a welcome relief in this otherwise insipid film.

Had this movie been made by a Bollywood director or even some prominent Hollywood director, it would have been labelled as trash which it is. And I'm shocked at the academy. Yes, AR Rehman should win at least one, but that's it. But then what do you expect from Oscars which can ignore a movie like Dark Knight? Or which can award a hideous Chicago best picture in place of the Pianist? I think this time the tradition will be followed. And I'm aghast by the overwhelming approval by western audiences…get a life, guys and leave India alone if you cant portray it correctly.