Monday, November 17, 2008

~*~Grace is Gone~*~ Left over there is felt over here~*~

Few days back, when I was looking for some war movies on a DVD store, i was handed over this movie saying it to be a very nice one. At that time I was not able to read the plot on the DVD as that part of cover was torn away. When I started watching this movie then I was flabbergasted to see that this is not a real war movie as DVD store caretaker told me. For some time I was disappointed but as soon as movie went on I was lost in the perfect blend of human emotions.

Plot: "Grace is Gone" is a film that depends entirely on whether you feel empathy for its characters andattempts to address their grief frankly, gently, and without didacticism. The story is quite simple and it goes as: When a father learns about his wife’s death during Iraq war, he does not have courage to tell his two adolescent daughters about their mother thus he decided to keep it a secret and takes them on a road-trip to a Children Theme Park, but as the trip continues the eldest daughter realizes that her father is hiding something from them. The journey that started as flee from veracity soon divulges itself as a man’s way of coping up with his wife’s loss and finding the guts to tell his kids that their mom is gone.


John Cusack (as Stanley Philipps): Oh!!!!!! Who else than Cusack can fit in the role of Stanley Philipps wearing thick glasses, walking with an unsynchronized pace and having his own little presentiment and premonition? Cusack disappeared into an everyday average Joe kindda character with such tenderness and compassion and portrayed this gawky, physically ’small’ and fumbling tense and hunched man and a suburban father who is dealing with her wife’s death. A few moths back I watched “The Martian Child” where Cusack played a role of a brokenhearted widower raising a troubled child on his own and I was amazed of his ability to play the role of a troubled heartbroken father but here he came more strongly in this Sundance Audience Award-winner.

He loves his country and to serve it he tried to cheat his way into the Army, where he met his wife before he was thrown out for the poor eyesight which he tried to conceal. He believes in Bush administration and the Iraq War but still do not know how to explain to his children that it robbed them of their mother? His acting was flawless, I was left speechless when he gives call his home only to hear her wife’s voice over the answering machine and plead with her for answers for his questions, for a way to tell the girls.

Shelan O’Keefe has done full justice to the character of Heidi whose own expedition is equally complex, she observes her father and uncle arguing to define themselves and she doubt that how her mother survive with a world of men in Iraq war. She is not only a rebellion (a secret cigarette smoking in motel parking lot, a brief fling with an older boy) but she also know her responsibilities towards her younger sister Dawn. Hovering on the edge of teens, she’s just old enough to suspect that something’s terribly wrong and his father is hiding something, but still has enough of a child inside her to get fleetingly seduced by Cusack’s capricious, desperate distractions. Even in her first movie, she proved herself as a remarkable actress, giving her best to her role when it comes, and holds her own against Cusack very well.

Where as Gracie Bednarczyk played the role of bubbly Dawn and in my views she was just being herself, injecting much needed effervescence to counter the heavy drama that circulates throughout the movie. Their acting was like real sisters, fighting with each other for small things, irritating their father by asking "are we there yet" every 10 seconds. Amazing performances.

Alessandro Nivola (Remember him??? Naah?? Ok ok he is known for Best Laid Plans, Jurassic Park III, Face/Off, and the Goal! Trilogy) also turned in a rather short but nicely performed role behind that heavily bearded appearance as the brother of Stanley and the children’s uncle who distrusts the U.S. government.

Direction: Writer-director James C. Strouse, besides capturing some predictable but yet really moving scenes in the movie and plot, also managed to slip in a comment or two about Iraq war and the truth behind it. And the best part is that politics aren’t really argued much in the movie, at least not that much as I thought that was going to be and remain as distinctive truism of family members conflicting in viewpoints and trying to get their own point right and apart from the cause of death, the war was never really mentioned. The best part is the screenplay which holds the gripping drama with a sense for small details over grandiose statements and successfully fulfills Strouse’s sole objective to study the extreme grief Stanley suffers. The best scene is when Stanly tells the girl the truth, the musical score comes up over the voice and you wouldn’t be able to hear thing he says but one can easily see it on the children’s’ faces and their eyes. A really influential scenethat will remain with you for days, if not weeks.

Scores: Read these

"I could never love again, so much as I love you

where you end, where I begin, is like a river running through

Take my heart, take my eyes, I need them no more

If never again they fall, upon the one I so adore...

Excuse me please, one more drink,

Could you make it strong?’Cause I don’t need to think,

She broke my heart My Grace is Gone,

Another drink and I’ll be gone

One drink to remember, Then another to forget

I think of every day to find, A love like you again"

The music of this movie was captivating, poignant and evocative, especially the background scores which displays the emotions of the characters. Score “Grace is gone” was nominated was nominated for Best Original Score-Golden Globe Award.

My verdict: I wrote this review a long back but some how failed to post. But yesterday, after watching “Heroes” and reading Manjit’s take on it, I decided to post it. Grace is Gone comes as a very intense film which gets unfolded in an ironically inconspicuous style all through and attempts to tackle angst forthrightly, tenderly and without any didacticism and it largely succeeds to achieve it. Instead of hovering a lot on the moral questions of Iraq war movie concentrates on its characters and find its answers on sensitive uncertain faces of O’Keefe and Gracie. If you need another plus point for this, then it will be the scores by Clint Eastwood (yes, I was totally surprise when I read the end credits) interspersing the story painstakingly when and wherever required. This one is not a feel good flick in which everyone goes home with a smile on at end but it offers a pragmatic depiction of regular people coping with a very harsh reality. And is tribute to soldiers who fight and sometimes die for their country and for the families of those who wait for their return; when sometimes the waiting is in vain. I will give 4 out of 5 stars. Grab it...

P.S. In the name of peace, They waged the wars, Ain’t they got no shame ~Nikki Giovanni

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

~*~ThE EnD oF Mr. Y~*~

What are you going to do when you found a book with a line on the cover saying “This book is cursed”??? Well, I don’t know about you but this tagline caught my attention and I ended up in reading that thought provoking and mind churning book. But to be true, this one is among one of the toughest books I have ever read with so much of metaphysical stuff that I my poor brain struggled a lot. See “Not only is nothing good or ill but thinking makes it so, but nothing is at all, except in so far as thinking has made it so” So what do you think now???? The novel is an avant-garde look at 19th-century philosophy combined with the fervor of a sci-fi novel and the deepness of a most astounding expedition of self-introspection and discovery.
The book: The cover of the novel is the best I have seen in years with pages edge being black, and the cover having a psychedelic twirl of intricate black calligraphy on a haughty red background (see the pic) and with a shadow on last page that kept me attached to the novel to know who the shadow was on the back page. Hey that is not all, the weirdness of the content of this ingenious novel will not disappoint you while taking you into an unforeseen exciting and riveting contemplation experimentation through the mysterious world of the Troposphere.

The Plot: The novel is story of Ariel Manto, who is conducting research into a 19th century author Thomas Lumas, one of whose commercially failed books, The End of Mr Y, is alleged to be cursed as “anyone-who-reads-it-will-die”. But this book seems to have disappeared from existence along with everyone who ever had its copy. During a sudden visit to asecond-hand bookshop, She finds out a copy of The End of Mr. Y which starts with “By the end of this book I will be nothing, but for the time being you can call me Mr. Y.” and tells the quest of Mr. Y and his unearthing of Troposphere (an alternate world where the visitor can travel through time and space and able to enter the minds of other people, and access their thoughts and memories), that could be only be reached after consumption a meticulous mixture. Somehowshe managed to prepare the mixture, swallowed it, stared into a black dot and is transported into the Troposphere in her quest for the truth and where a jigsaw puzzle begin to unravel. This cursed book brings together a strange mix of people as Apollo Smintheus (Mouse god), ex-CIA agents and an errant Jesuit priest who are wholly disengaged and yet essentially associated in another sphere. But soon she finds that the knowledge she now holds could put her own life at peril and she sets out to find Saul Burlem, her lost PhD advisor, who may be the only person left who can save her.
Who was Mr. Y.??
What is troposphere??
Is she able to save her life???
Will Apollo Smintheus and Saul Burlem help her??

To know the answers read the book.

Characters: The main story is constructed around Ariel Manto, a young PhD scholar living in mouse-infested freezing apartment, whose thesis counselor has inexplicably absent just after her joining, she is visiting a married professor for sex which is a source of income rather than an expression of love. But, her ultimate passion is reading and she says “Real life is physical. Give me books instead: Give me the invisibility of the contents of books, the thoughts, the ideas, the images. Let me become part of a book; I’d give anything for that.” And that was the reason that after getting a copy of The End of Mr. Y, she rushed home with mixed feelings of fear, wonder and intrigue and despite of the curse she read it to know the truth. Her journey to the troposphere, which started in scarcity, lure and craving finally get converted in form of reality, love and above all trust.
All other characters (Saul Burlem-Her lost PhD advisor, Adam-Her 2nd Boyfriend, Apollo Smintheus- The mouse god and denizen of the Troposphere) were built around her character and help in generating various subplots.
The Author: The author Scarlett Thomas was named as one of the twenty best young British writers in 2001 and Writer of the Year at the 2002 Elle Style Awards and after reading The End of Mr. Y I know the reason. This one is an absorbing concoction of page-turning-mystery-mixed-philosophical-religious ideas. The best thing about the novel is that it doesn’t hold back and drag out the suspense to a point where it looses its grip. It is like reading Darwin’s work mixed in Robert Louis Stevenson novel; metaphysics supported with logic and fact and is a perfect mix of genre as romance, felony, assassination, science and mathematics, faith, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, self-loathing and honesty. Despite being relied mainly on history, philosophy, religion and physics no-where it seemed a dull commentary, be it description of 4th Dimension or Apollo Smintheus or gedankenexperiments.

Facts I liked: The best part of the novel is the deep and profound theme based on the ideas borrowed from Derrida (Algerian-born French philosopher famous for Deconstruction theory), Heidegger (German philosopher famous for Being and Time) and Samuel Butler (iconoclastic Victorian author famous for his takes on The odyssey), the natural world of realism, the influence of faith and even the conception of life itself. Besides, the first person narration allows the reader to empathize with Ariel and it also left some loose ends for developing other characters.

Facts I disliked: This book is the toughest book I have ever read, be it the dialogues or the words or the quotes used in the book. See a few examples “The matter of which man is a cognizant escapes the senses in gradation” and “in any place that I take flight, the dark will mutate into light”. Besides, the explanation of Darwin’s theory, The Odyssey, Schrödinger’s’ cat, Relativity theory was a bit hard on my small mind and through out the book I have to Google them to know more and more. The language is coarse and the central character finds it hard to express, even love, without swearing. There are descriptions of some dirty sex at few places.
My take: To say that it is a petrifying, mesmerizing attention grabbing thriller would be an irony as the author through a sequence of actions and plot creates a spooky, daunting setting which makes you glide through the pages. Half way through the book you feel as if you know the entire plot but here comes the ace in form of some twist and turns leaving you again rapt and above all shocked!!! There are few spoilers of course, the coarse language and swearing and at places the dosage of psychology and science gets too heavy for liking. Despite the novel’s length and content, it is immensely readable and even succeeds as a page turner. All in all, a must read for all the thriller buff.

P.S: For more check