Try A Little Tenderness (Film Thoughts: A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood)

beautiful_poster1_1There are movies that make you cry, and there are some that make you feel good. ‘ A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood’ made me feel a lot of things – it made me miss my father, it made me want to show kindness and be a better person. Last year one of my favorite movies was ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me,’ because it touched me immensely, and Marielle Heller, who directed both that and this film, has done it again. (She is now one of my favorite modern filmmakers)  The emotions in ‘A Beautiful…’ are expressed subtly, but their effects will blunt you.

Like probably everyone else, I thought this was a Mr. Rogers biopic. But of course, why do we need that when we already have last year’s documentary ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This film is based on Tom Junod’s write up on Esquire Magazine, where he was ‘forced’ to feature Mr. Rogers, and how that experience enlightened his life. Well, ‘enlightened’ is probably a weak way of putting it. Mr. Rogers changed his life. In the film, the character’s name has been changed to Lloyd Vogel, and the experience made him a lot less broken. I thought Matthew Rhys was fantastic here – it’s a quiet but resonant performance, one of those wherein by the end of the film, you see an arc of what the character has gone through. And of course, the heart and soul of the piece is Tom Hank’s performance. He becomes Mr. Rogers before our eyes, with kindness and heart emanating from his pore from the very minute he shows up on screen. I think at this point, like Streep, Hanks has become a living legend, and his performance here is master class in fine acting.

We are all broken in some ways – no one emerges anywhere intact and untouched. But it is these imperfections that give us texture. This film celebrates all that, and finds ways for us to mend all that’s broken. After seeing the film, I got a incandescent sense of tristesse, thinking of all the ways my parents made me the person I am today. I am happy with how I turned out, because I have no other choice but to be.


What To Post (Film Thoughts: The Post)

large_Post-posterFor all you young ones, ‘The Post’ is not about Facebook or Instagram.  Rather, it is Steven Spielberg’s new film about freedom of the press, and in this day and time, it really is a message that resonates. Apparently, Spielberg rushed this in time for Oscar bait season, if only to reiterate that this as relevant today as it was in 1971 when the movie is set.

The film has megastars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in it, playing, respectively Kay Graham and Ben Bradles. It tells the story of the publication of The Pentagon Papers, which showed the United State government deceiving the American people regarding involvement with Vietnam. The New York Times began to publish excerpts from it but the courts stopped them from further printing because of alleged threats to national security. When The Washington post got access to the same papers, they face a dilemma: should they go ahead and publish it face repercussions, which could close the paper and put its publishers in jail.

Both Hanks and Streep are great here, although really this are roles that really both could do in their sleep. There are people who say that Streep doesn’t do anything new here, and sure, the same mannerisms and tics do show up in her Kay Graham, but I think she gives a more understated performance here than usual, and I kind of liked that. Does the film feel like a rush job? I don’t  particularly think so, although I think the film carries it own weight a little too much. Yes, we know freedom of the press is important but the film hammers it a little too much. It’s not the worst thing in the world, and the film is good solid entertainment. One should certainly see it.

We Could Be Flying (Movie Thoughts: Sully)

sully_movie_poster‘Sully’ was released around the time of my birthday but I was in the middle of a trip then and didn’t want to watch it, afraid I will visualize the crash scenes from the movie while traveling. But months later, with no impending flights booked in the horizon, and finally I feel like I can see this movie. And I need not have worried – those scenes weren’t really scary. I mean, they were suspenseful and thrilling, but the imagery is not something one will remember and be petrified about. And, I should not have waited, too, because ‘Sully’ is a solid film, a no-nonsense crafty film from Clint Eastwood. Moreover, it has a solid Tom hanks performance, unshowy and dignified, and he gets to the heart of Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s soul with a performance that never seems gimmicky. I should hope that this gives him another Academy Award nomination.

It has to be said that it is great to find the film suspenseful even as you already know how the incident ‘ends.’  And I have to be honest that I didn’t know that the government agencies were partly blaming Sully that he did not follow some protocol or that according to some flight simulation programs, he had enough time and altitude to make it back to La Guardia Airport- that was disputed afterwards. Most of all, Sully makes me proud of New York. I remember that day when this happened – I was at work and our whole office started to look out the windows to see if we could see the plane on the Hudson River. New Yorkers have been through a lot, and this was just another ‘test’ that we passed. I had tears at the end of this movie, and it’s for a lot of things, but at the end, mostly good.

Who Could Imagine A King (Movie Thoughts: A Hologram For The King)

fid16237Has Tom Hanks ever given a bad performance? He proves he is a living acting legend in ‘A Hologram For The King’ proving that a great performance can elevate a lesser film into something greater. Hanks here plays an American businessman trying to sell IT business to a planned city in Saudi Arabia. He has a lot of internal turmoil – a messy divorce, financial issues that hinder him from sending his daughter to college,  an irate boss who is pressuring him to cinch this account. Hanks manages to balance both the comedy and dramatic tones here, and even if the character’s back story makes him a bit unlikable, Hanks manages to reel you in his corner.

The first half of the film plays like ‘Alice In Wonderland,’ wherein Alan the American has to the KSA’s customs (He asks the room service for beer only to be told liquor is not consumed in the kingdom) He gets raincheck after raincheck upon meeting his contacts, until he takes matters in his own hands. His jet lag leads him to a local driver and their scenes remind us of a weird buddy film and their adventures. The second half of the film is more a journey of self-acceptance, a tender romance with a doctor (a luminous Sarita Choudhory)

I liked the film enough, probably because Hanks’ star power carries the day. I don’t know if I have been interested in the film had I only known about its plot, and also from knowing it is adapted from Dave Egger’s novel (I just do not ‘get’ Egger’s writing even as I appreciate its brilliance) I know this film got lost in the Spring shuffle, but I bet a lot of people will discover this on video and will get a second life.