The Top 3 Performances of 2014

Sartaj Singh makes his Movie Masticator debut and reflects on 2014…

Despite the recently published figures that showed 2014 was one of the lowest attended years for cinema, the year did not disappoint in terms of showcasing the best acting talent.

The following four performers all share the common characteristics of playing characters who push boundaries in order to achieve simple, but impossible goals even in the face of overwhelming and deterministic forces such as time and mortality.

Scarlett Johansson – Under the Skin

Scarlett Johansson’s performance in Under the Skin is an excellent recent paradigm of an actor and director collaboration. Johnathan Glazer uses Johansson as a sketch to make potent commentary on image and objectification while additionally changing our perception of the actress. Johansson adds to this vision by creating a fascinating portrait of a foreign being who learns what it is like to be human, with all the pitfalls that come with that. Her performance accentuates a film that is dazzling in showcasing the unexpected, unconventional and power of independent cinema.

Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Monsieur Gustave H is perhaps the most delicate character on the list because he could have easily become a one-note exercise in comic indulgence. However, Ralph Fiennes finds the humanity and innate melancholia within a hilarious man.

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Patricia Arquette Boyhood

An exceptional reminder of just how powerful cinema can be in showing the mundane and seemingly everyday trials and tribulations of life. While the film on the surface is about a boy growing up between the ages of 7-18, the subtext that makes the central narrative fascinating is seeing the parents develop too, and the effect of their parenting on how Mason will turn out. Arquette’s finest scene is her last as she painfully bids farewell to her University-bound son.

Agree? Disagree?

Let us know @MovieMasticator on Twitter, or on our Facebook page.

Advertisements

The Interview is NOT the new Life of Brian

I’m going to be absolutely honest: When I first saw the trailer for The Interview, it did feel slightly off to me. I know, I know – hindsight this, hindsight that – but it did.

Parodying Kim Jong-Un, a living dictator, in such a broad fashion seemed extremely provocative. It was weird enough when Hitler was parodied and made to be a fool in Inglourious Basterds, and he’s dead, as well as unoquivocally considered to be one of the most evil people to ever have lived.

Something about making comedy and lightness out of genuinely morbid figures seems medieval to me. A bit uncivilised. Like a farcical play in 16th Century Britain where the bad guys wear silly hats and get booed.

It’s all well and good me saying this now, AFTER The Interview has become the epicentre of a political storm and been pulled from every cinema worldwide. Frankly, my voice will be lost amongst millions of others on the morality of the movie and the validity of branding it’s cancellation ‘cencorship’.

What I’d like to flag right now, before it gets out of hand, is the misplaced mystique beginning to surround The Interview.

Upon cancellation of the movie’s release Twitter erupted with celebrities stating they will try their hardest to see the movie as soon as possible, or be ‘first in line’ upon its eventual release. This suggests that The Interview as a movie stands for much more than silly Hollywood comedy. It suggests that by being cancelled (or censored), it gathers appeal and a restricted allure as inevitably as a rolling snowball gathers more snow.

This is NOT the case. The Interview is not a monumental comedy. It is not trying to make a political point, or fashion an intricate and satirical dance around international current affairs. It is NOT Monty Python’s Life of Brian. 

Life of Brian was Monty Python's silly take on religion and belief.
Life of Brian was Monty Python’s hilarious take on religion and belief.

Life of Brian, famously, was similarly censored (albeit not as widely) in counties, states and sometimes even whole countries upon its release in 1979. The very act of restricting its release along with hugely positive word coming from the few who had managed to see it combined to create an earthquake of interest that rippled throughout the globe, so much so that people scrambled to see it at all costs.

Of course, when they did eventually see it, all the controversy was forgotten and replaced with adoration for a seminal piece of comedy film-makingLife of Brian remains one of the greatest comedy films ever made.

I haven’t seen The Interview. But I have seen pretty much every other film involving Seth Rogen. If I imagine, hypothetically speaking, that ANY of his previous works for some reason provoked a foreign leader, or sympathisers of a foreign leader, to launch a cyber attack on the movie and halt its release, I can’t seem to draw up ANY of them that would have been worth so much interest and hype.

MORE: Anyone else want Seth Rogen to just STOP?

Imagine if The Green Hornet had irritated Putin. Or if Funny People had really ticked off Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. After to-ing and fro-ing, the movie was finally able to be seen. The occasion wouldn’t be momentous, hilarious and significant, on the scale of Life of Brian – it would have been an anticlimax. It would have been:

‘Oh. This is it?’

While the Life of Brian was reasoned and intelligent, The Interview seems clumsy…heavy handed – and that’s just from the trailer (watch below). So don’t start trying to make The Interview some emblem for democracy, some badge of rebellion that we all crave to wear. Because it’s not. It’s just a silly little Hollywood comedy that has found itself in the middle of a big old news story.

You can share your opinions on the matter via

Twitter @MovieMasticator, or our Facebook page

Bollywood Made Me Question The Romance Of Romeo & Juliet

Our resident guru on all things romance, Renu, gives us a radical Romeo & Juliet interpretation. 

Recently I watched a Bollywood film titled Ishaqzaade, which – loosely translated – means ‘Love, Rebels’.

The movie told of two families of opposing cultural tribes (Hindu and Muslim), in which the black sheep defy all odds and fall in love with each other – a classic, can’t-do-wrong plot.

A plot that is identical to Romeo & Juliet. But what I thought was just another adaption of Shakespeare’s play turned out to be something far more pertinent.

The name Romeo & Juliet makes girls (and guys) sigh and scoff in equal measure. William Shakespeare’s most ‘romantic’ play portrays an infamous act of love, rebellion and lust, some finding the suicides of the besotted pair beautiful, others stupid.

My entire life I have grasped at, and adored, every version that offered itself to me. I have read the play and seen three adaptions; Baz Lurhman’s Modern-Mafia take, that old one with the Zac Efron lookalike, and even more recently the adaptation starring Douglas Booth. All the while I have longed for my Romeo, questioning whether or not I would ever die for love as Juliet for he. And the answer was a hands-down yes! Okay…sort of yes.

Throughout cinema’s history the Romeo & Juliet concept has been memorably re-imagined many times; West Side StoryGnomeo and Juliet… Even The Lion King 2 was loose interpretation.

But the re-imagining in Ishaqzaade is far less glamorous. 

Gnomeo and Juliet
Gnomeo and Juliet

Straying from the basic plot, our Romeo decides to ‘trick’ Juliette into falling in love with him, getting married under the watch of both Hindu and Muslim Gods, along with blackmailing her family into dropping out of the upcoming county elections so his father can win. Extreme and brash, his actions lead to his mother dying and the families agreeing to kill their children as punishment for their actions…before carrying on as usual.

The film has a strong, underlying message: thousands of couples in India are banished/killed/scorned by society and their families because of their interracial love. The film calls for change in society, to accept and embrace love of all sorts regardless of religion, cultural or status.

After seeing Ishaqzaade, I questioned the romance of Romeo & Juliet. I realised that the story has been over romanticised through the years, sweetened up to show love as we want to accept it; fatally, heartbreakingly passionate…

But for thousands of people in India and all over the world, Romeo & Juliet is quite literally the story of their life, without the any happy reconciliation or starstruck romance.