Monday, June 28, 2021

Eeda another Malayalam gem

 It may seem I am obsessed with Malayalam movies.  For awhile I thought they just had a few outstanding actors and crew members, but now it seems they are overloaded with talent and experience. Although those in front of the camera are the ones we most easily identify it is often the dozens of crew behind the scene who make us forget we are watching a contrived story.

Likened to Romeo and Juliet "Eeda" proved to be similar, but with a few wrinkles.  There was a family hatred with a history of assassinations.  The film depicts the role of party loyalty that calls for revenge.  Both parties decides such things as who marries who, who goes to jail, and who kills who.  

Of course the two young lovers meet by chance.  There are a few misunderstandings, but soon they pledge to one another.  A crisis occurs and they are forced into desperate action.  It would not be fair to tell you what happens, but to assure it is not quite like Romeo and Juliet, but there is some ambiguity at the end.

What makes this movie so attractive?  The actors look real and were not picked for glamour.  The plot is believable, but with interesting unique details.  The cinematography is beautiful, especially in natural sections.  There is fighting where the hero overcomes odds, but not with any great strength or martial arts skills.       

My list of Malayalam actors and crew to follow, expands further my awareness. 

Ajithkumar is director, writer and editor.  He got his start as an editor including "Annayum Rassoolum" (2013), "Liar's Dice" (2013). "Ottall" (2014). "Eeda" was his third effort as a writer and his first as a director.

Shane Nigam who plays Anand  had earlier appeared in "AnnayumRassoolum" (2013) and later in "Kumbalangi Nights" (2019).

Nimish Sajayan who plays Amu has been in a film with Fadadh Faasil "Thomdi Muthalum Driksakshiyum" (2017), " Nayattu" (2021) and is in an English movie."Footprints on Water" (2021).

Pappu, cinematographer was a camera operator for "Liar's Dice" (2013).

From a name never heard of, I have come  to expect enjoyable viewings from Malayalam films.  Of course  you must have discovered that English language cover a wide range of quality.  Expand your range of film and go for the better ones.

For more Malayalam titles worth pursuing check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/03/how-i-discovered-malayalam-cinema-and.html

As usual I have bolded titles at first mention of films I have seen.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Another Round picks up an Oscar

 It was puzzling how a comedy about drinking could win the best foreign film Oscar.  "Another Round" ("Druk" in Danish original) deserved the award.  Drunks can be entertaining, but at some point they become pathetic.  The scriptwriter was making a statement about the Danish drinking culture which is not all that different from what we encounter in Canada and elsewhere.  

At the very beginning there is a clip about a drinking game where students form teams and carry a case of booze around a portion of a lake and then are obligated to drink.  The one rule I caught was that if they needed to vomit they had to do it as a team.  After some credits the story starts out innocently enough and we are introduced to the four main characters who are all teachers.  Their students seem disinterested.  Martin seems to have a sterile relationship with his wife Anika.  

The action develops as the four gather for a 40th birthday celebration.  Nikolaj, the birthday celebrant brings up about a psychology proposition that declares man was born with a shortage of BAC (blood alcohol content) short by 0.5% and would be better off if they could maintain a higher BAC.  Martin, at first is very reluctant to drink, but gradually gives in and the four all have a pleasant evening.

They get together the next day and formalize their experiment.  They are going to drink on the job, but not past 8 pm and not on weekends.  Before too long each of the four not only seem more relaxed and creative, but also get a better reception from their students.  Gradually, feeling the experiment is going well they increase their alcohol intake. 

The antics of the four inebriated teachers do seem very comical and they all seem happier not only in their jobs, but also personally.  Then the reality we all should have expected starts to set in.  The only two marriages we see become difficult and eventually Martin's wife leaves with the children. Somewhere at this time Nikolaj who had been writing up the experiment declared it was over.  Bad things still happen and one event will wait for your viewing.

Several small clips are shown with prominent politicians drinking and being drunk.  Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton holding each other up was memorable.

At the end we learn the students did unexpectedly well and went off to celebrate.  Three of the teachers join in and we see Martin for the first time dance as he had been earlier kidded about having taken jazz ballet dancing.  You should feel sober at the end, but Martin is not.

The movie does have a serioius impact.  It is well presented to make a point.

Sisse Graum Jorgensen, the producer has long been supportive of Danish directors such as Thomas Vinterberg and Susanne Bier.  She has produced such films as "Brothers" (2004), my all time favorite, "After the Wedding" (2006), an Oscar winner, "In A Better World" (2010), Oscar nominated "A Royal Affair" (2012), another Oscar nominated, "The Hunt" (2012), "The Salvation" (2014), an English language film with Danish director, writer and leading man.  She was also an executive producer for the English remake, "After the Wedding " (2019).

Thomas Vinterberg directed and wrote the script.  After graduating from the National Film School of Denmark he won awards at two international film festivals for short films.  An early film, "It's All About Love" (2003) was with Hollywood stars, Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and Sean Penn. In 2005 he teamed up with Lars von Trier for "Dear Wendy," another English language film.  He directed and co-wrote "The Hunt" that received an Oscar nomination.  He directed "Far from The Madding Crowd" (2015).    He was also nominated for best director Oscar with "Another Round."  His daughter was due to make a film debut with this film, but died in a car accident just beforehand and the film was dedicated to her.

Tobias Lindholm co-wrote the script.  He wrote 10 scripts for popular Danish mini series "Borgen" (2011).  His scripts include "The Hunt" (2012),  "A Hijacking" (2012).

Music clips cover Tchaikovksy, choral, rock, choral and jazz.

Mads Mikkelsen was the leading actor, Martin.   His career had included numerous top films including "After the Wedding" (2006), "Casino Royale" (2006), "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky" (2009), "The Salvation" (2014), "Arctic" (2018) and the American mini series, "Hannibal" (2013-2015).  As one of my favorite actors you can read more at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/05/mads-mikkelsen-helping-denmark.html

Thomas Bo Larsen played the gym teacher.  His films have included, "It's All About Love" (2003), "Dear Wendy" (2005) and "The Hunt" (2012).

Quotes at the beginning from Soren Kierkegaard:  "What is youth? A dream.  What is love? The content of the dream."  Not sure how it relates to the film that follows.  Perhaps highlighting that we are all looking for some sort of meaning in life and maybe some of us get sidetracked with drinking.

Available through Apple.

As I am tidying up this post Denmark has beaten Wales in a semi final match of the Euro Cup.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Mad For Each Other another gem from Korea

Korean mini series have captured my attention.  My curiosity was stoked when my son spent 18 months in Korea teaching English.  Many years ago the Korean authorities recognized a profitable export could be culture and they set out to find out what the market opportunities were.

One of the most visible results were the boy and girl bands.  Passing by Jackson Square before the pandemic the very long lineup for a boy band at the adjacent Copps Coliseum included young girls who had flown all the way from Vancouver for the only Canadian appearance.  Out of touch with young people more than I thought.  

Korean movies became part of my regular viewing as DVD's were easily accessible at the local library and later got my fix through Netflix.  Sex and violence were often more extreme than American movies, but the stories were compelling and well presented.  One example familiar to many North Americans was "Parasite" (2019) that won two Oscars.  It was slick, but had an underlying message.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/09/parasite-breaks-oscar-tradition.html

Then I discovered their mini series, at first not realizing it wasn't a movie.  "Crash Landing on You" (2019) was a good choice.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/02/crash-landing-on-you-very-addicting.html

From there I followed the two leads and then struck out for new territory.  I would recommend any of the following: "Chocolate" (2019), "Hyena" (2020), "My Mister" (2018).  I draw attention to "It's Okay not to be Okay" (2020) that is set around a mental health institution:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/03/its-okay-not-to-be-okay.html

"Mad for Each Other" was slightly different in that they were about 1/2 hour each and the first episode seemed like a typical rom-com and funny.  As usual a viewer needed to realize we were being set up with the main characters and the main premise.  As one IMDB responder declared it went to "heart attack serious."  There was still lots of humor.  The two main characters were both psychological counseling patients at the same clinic and coincidentally they lived next door to each other in an apartment complex.  Contrived circumstances are standard tools of rom com.  We learn that the guy is a suspended police officer with anger management issues and in reality is an honest cop.  The girl has trust issues and we learn that she had been misled into an affair by a married man who later beat her.  The comedy veers off in a dramatic direction and you can imagine all the misunderstandings and obstacles that keep the couple apart until the very end.

Unlike with the movies, the sex is very little and suggestive and usually relatively mild violence.  They are awkward around one another even when it is obvious they like each other.  The police man had been in pursuit of a drug dealer who it seemed was protected by higher ups in the police department.  The old boyfriend comes back to pursue the leading lady and does stir things up.  A few side issues include gossipy women, a stray dog and a transvestite and a part time worker do fit into the plot.

Ending was different in that involved some pretty scary action scenes and acting out a psychological problem.  I don't think it would be a surprise that it has a happy ending.  

Unfortunately there is little access to background information.  

Directed by Tae-gon Lee who has 8 credits, all for television series, three of them for the full series.          Written by Ah Kyung as the only script.            

A romance can only work if we "like" the couple.  The leading male was played by Woo Jung who strikes one as an earnest soul with a touch of self deprecation.  He has won a few national awards.  The leading lady, Yeon-Seo Oh once had the leading role in a number one rated drama.  When she gets out from behind sunglasses and head gear she is attractive, but perhaps more important she is believable as a frightened, distrustful woman who has a heart.  The supporting players play their roles well.

Those people who developed popular cars and electronic gear have a comparable command of what it takes to entertain you.  You might not notice that your emotions are being manipulated, but of course that is how it works.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Hamilton Ontario's Connection to Racamulto, Sicily

What makes a city unique?  The key thing is people.  My adopted home Hamilton is a mid sized city, close to a major large city, Toronto and at the same time surrounded by farmlands.   

 One summer, a few years ago there was a festival not far from my home and I learned that Hamilton is twinned with a small city in Sicily called Racamulto.   The Festival is based around a religious ceremony going back to 1503.  At that time a noble group was caught in a violent storm in northern Africa.  They came across a hidden statue of SS Maria del Monte and the storm subsided.  They decided to take the statue back to Sicily, but while on the journey the statue became bogged down in Racalmuto and it was decided to keep it there and declare SS Maria del Monte their patron sense.  The journey has been reenacted both in Sicily and in North America.  In 1931 Dr. Vincent Agro made it a 3 day event.

It is believed over 25,000 Hamiltonians have a family connection to Racamulto.  As of 2011 there were less than 9,000 citizens.  The Fratellanza Racalmutese Italian Club was formed in 1933 and located along Murray Street that has been renamed Corso Racalmuto.  It is the centre of the festival.  Also on Corso Racalmuto is the Bonanza Italian bakery is famous city wide for its submarine sandwiches.

Covid pandemic delayed the 2021 Racalmutese Festival which re-enacts the journey and adds in music, food and a children's carnival.  Hopefully they will be able to restage it starting August 27th.

The statue at the top is of a famous Racamultese citizen, Leonardo Sciassa.  He was born there and lived his life there.  One historic building carries his name.   The statue is a duplicate of one in Racamulto.  He was a teacher until 40, then a writer including books and movies.  One of his books was about the kidnapping of Aldo Moro.  Lots to say about Mussolini, the Mafia and Italian politics.  

Sicily makes many people think of the Mafia and poor people.  That is unfortunate as Sicily has a very interesting history.  Carthaginians (you might think of Hannibal) had settlements.  Archimedes, was a famous Greek scientist who deterred invaders.  The Normans more famous in conquering England also controlled parts of Sicily.  The Romans obviously played a role.  Arabs left their mark including the Sciascia name and some foods (eggplant one of my favorites).  Today refugees from Africa head towards a nearby island Lampedusa  considered part of the province.   Many of of the refugees end up in Sicily.  I love the Sicilian canoli.  Years ago I found a white Italian wine Lacryma Christi (Tears of Christ ) which owed some of its taste to volcanic soil found near Mount Etna.

Locals or tourists like to play with the statue who has seen a scarf in winter and a mask during the pandemic      

 

 

 The Racalmutese have certainly left their mark on Hamilton. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

"The Square" illustates the fragility of democracy

 Watching "The Square" was very scary.  The Egyptian revolutionary protesters were in reality a small group.  But there was an anger in the population that was ignited and huge crowds assembled in Tahrir Square.  In succession they were able to force out Mubarak and later Morsi, but in the end they got a military ruler.  Controlling military force has always been a key to power and media control has been a factor.  Political psychology was used  to help manipulate.

We don't realize how lucky we are and how fragile democracy really is.  The so-called "Arab Spring" started in Tunisia and quickly spread to Libya, Syria and Egypt amongst others, but in the end as of today Tunisia is the only one that escaped dictatorship and that precariously.  Military/police power is used to keep dissent in check while media control distorts reality.  In religious societies the people are encouraged to obey their leaders.  Western powers wanted cheap energy and Arab nations had plenty.  All we had to do was make friends with the leaders and keep them happy.  In turn they used their increased wealth to tamp down any resistance.  Egypt was not blessed with huge reserves of oil, but as the predominant Arab nation and in control of the Suez Canal they were in a sense the force needed by dictators.

Our democracies were won by a combination of luck and persistence.  The Magna Carta occurred because a despotic monarch needed money and to get it he had to make concessions to aristocrats which opened the door.  Americans, upset that they were taxed, but had no political representation violently rebelled.  They were helped by sympathetic French, but perhaps more by an ocean.  The British Empire realized Canada, Australia and New Zealand were expensive undertakings and contained British political sensibilities. 

The film depicts the rioting and the military intervention.  We hear lots of conversations of revolutionaries along with explanations that motivate them.  We see torture and battle wounds inflicted on those who dared to dispute the dictrtorship.  They anticipate if they are successful in getting rid of Mubarak they could easily end up with someone just as bad.

As it happens they are successful in forcing Hosni Mubarak out.  The military steps in to force elections, but in a very short time.  As was pointed out it takes time to organize political parties and the Muslim Brotherhood who played a cagey game to this point) were organized.  Most people did not want them to rule as they were too strict in religious concerns.  With little real choice the people picked Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.  In fairness many Egyptians were not politically aware and just wanted the fuss to go away.  Somewhere around 10% of the population was Coptic Christian and the rulers had tried to separate them with some success.  There was some solidarity, but not enough.

Again the revolutionaries rebelled in Tahrir Square expressing their disdain for Morsi and eventually he was forced out by the military. They said they would maintain the society until proper elections could be organized.  Power was too much as General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi decided to take command and was able to win an election in a landslide as many voters more concerned about instability.  Not enough people were willing to fight again.  

The video has come with great risk.  Some scenes show police actively looking for film.  Some of the mutilation of victims is hard to stomach.

A key person in putting this together is Jehane Noujaim.  Born in Cairo and educated at Harvard.  She was director, cinematographer and producer.  She has a history of doingfactual  documentaries that present a Middle Eastern viewpoint.   Her efforts are often criticized by politicians, including Americans because they hit a nerve.  One film look forward to is "Control Room" (2004) regarding the Iraq War.   She is working in the States using her directing and producing skills.  Together with her husband Karim Amer she received an Oscar nomination for this film.

Aydah El-Kashef was one of the revolutionaries depicted expressing concerns about the revolution being hijacked.  She had played a big role in a movie from India based on a Greek philosophical idea about the time of rising tensions in Egypt "Ship of Theseus" (2012).   She had been invited to India to help with casting, but got offered a most unusual role.  Read more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/01/ship-of-thesus.html

After watching the movie I recalled reading that Mohamed ElBaradei who was a well respected international diplomat had offered his services.  He had been involved in the nuclear inspections of Iraq prior to invasion and has gone on to promote nuclear radiotherapy for cancer.  He is not mentioned in the film or at least I didn't catch mention of his name.   My understanding is that he did get involved with opposition efforts, but resigned when some members started violent action against Morsi supporters.  It is hard to be sure of the facts, but it is believable that there were differences within the opposition, which can be fatal for strong unified action.

In Chile there were something like 17 different groups that were opposed to the dictator Pinochet who controlled the military and most of the media.  When the opportunity to conduct a referendum Pinochet was confident that the opposition was too disorganized to vote him out.  The group was united enough to want to make a half hour promotion that they were allowed each week. rotating among the many groups. An advertising agency was able to force a unified message so that bickering would not dilute the effort.   Unity made a big difference.  This was depicted in "No" (2012)

Some would argue that North America had a slippery hold on democracy.  In the last American election the side that lost felt they were in the right and declared fraud and some actually stormed the Congress to interfere with formal acceptance of the results.  They have not succeeded so far, but even so the rules in play give them a lot of power to stymie the side that did get elected.  Here in Canada we are a bit self righteous, but we still have a system that allows a minority to rule over the majority.

A quote from the film that I would like to close with which might also be appropriate elsewhere , "We're not looking for a leader, we are looking for a conscience."

Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Self righteous view of enlightenment

 Egerton Ryerson was in recent news, not commending him for his significant contributions to Ontario's education.  Like most I was upset about the discovery of 215 young bodies at a Kamloops residential school.  I would agree that he did have something to do with that.  He felt education was very important and felt his enlightened views required assimilation of those who lacked his viewpoint. 

 Like many of my readers I like to think I am enlightened.  Unlike most of my blogs I am deliberately using the first person pronoun as this is intended as a confession.  Usually I feel free to be critical of those who do not share my enlightened views and feel superior to most  of those who preceded me, because frankly they were not as enlightened as I am.  If you were so inclined I believe you could find a similar personal history.  But I have learned life is an ongoing education.

The concept of temporal centrism is something most of us are guilty of.  We feel that all history has been a buildup to our current more important times and what happens today is a foundation for the future.  We also tend to think of some people as heroes or saints and others as evil when in reality all humans contain elements of good and not so good.  We have progressed by harnessing the good and are held back by the not so good

As a youngster I recognized my parents knew lots of things I didn't, but as I reached adolescence I thought they missed the boat on all kinds of things.  When I went to university (the first of my family to do so) I knew I was more enlightened than my family.  Reaching the time to earn my own living I realized that the world was full of people who didn't recognize my true worth.  I like to think I truly am enlightened and deplore the amount of ignorance that surrounds me. 

Every now and then I feel forced to do some self examination; maybe retirement gives me the inclination and opportunity to do so.

Most of my life I have been totally unconscious of white privilege.  I didn't struggle to get fed, clothed or sheltered.  The opportunities to nurture myself were taken for granted.  My parents encouraged me to read through bedtime stories and buying books, even including an encyclopedia.   I had some good teachers in school and was encouraged to apply to university (not something I thought about for many years) and at that time government policies made it easy to borrow money.  University was in many ways mind opening.  I met students and teachers from literally around the world from all sorts of background.

After formal education I got another sort of education in the work world which seemed rough at times, but I was protected from the worst obstacles that less fortunate people dealt with.  I married and had kids and that involved another sort of education.  

At one point I felt compelled to study my family tree and that of my wife.  On my side most of my ancestors were of British stock which enabled a relatively easy passage for the opportunities offered in North America.  I was surprised to learn that some were very religious.  Some were Pilgrims and others Puritans.  One even came over on Fortune, the boat after the Mayflower which appealed a little to my vanity until I read the elite had been chosen for the first voyage while the "riff raff" came over a year later.  Another group were in Massachusetts and had a religious dispute and left in the middle of the night to go through a forest to reach the Springfield area and set up their own church.  Some were involved in the American Revolution and a few left for British North America.  Still another branch were Mennonites that originally had fled Europe and later feared being forced into American militia and left for the Markham area of Ontario.  Still another branch had been among the Scots settled in Ireland to help control Catholic Irish.  Other branches came to North America relatively recent (within the last two centuries) and I was disconcerted to learn two branches contained members of the Orange Lodge.  Another ancestor was a Methodist circuit rider,  In short there was a lot of self righteous believers in my past.

On my wife's side her ancestors were Italian and Ukrainian making the transition to North America more difficult and found themselves trying to fit into an established English speaking culture.  They overcame all sorts of obstacles and achieved a variety of successes.  I came to appreciate there was more than my mostly British background and expanded my range of enjoyable activities. 

Going back further I am sure some of my ancestors assumed the world was flat and only concerned themselves with their immediate neighborhood.  As time went by they gradually became more sophisticated and eventually led to the world I live in.  

My father inherited a coal business from his father that became untenable, but provided a foundation.  His true love was driving and working from a delivery van for a drug store he progressed to a bus driver and eventually got his own trucking business.  I got used to him away from home on the road for 14 hour runs and resented him for occasionally forcing me on some of his trips (but absorbed some of the new adventures).  Now I look back and see an intelligent man, frustrated in many ways with his own insecurities but also one who with my mother tried to steer me in the right direction.  I remember him explaining that he was an agnostic, which meant that unlike atheists who felt they knew the truth he was open minded.  I adopted this posture.

Over the course of my life I had many interesting experiences, but recognize that I was very fortunate not only in having the opportunities (not all of which I recognized or took advantage of), but also had been encouraged to take advantage of many of them.  

Long before retirement I came to think of myself as enlightened.  If I wasn't as successful in the work world as some of my friends and relatives I could be smug in my open minded enlightenment.  Only I realized I wasn't as open minded or enlightened as I thought.  Some of the books I read, entertainment I enjoyed and people I talked to pointed out I really was ignorant and limited in my vision.  On such occasions I congratulated myself for learning something new and felt a little more enlightened.

A few links to illustrate some of my self righteous enlightenment:

    although I lived in a rural area for two of my adolescent years I didn't fully appreciate it;                http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/10/what-about-those-hicks.html

    I thought as an enlightened progressive I was above looking down on people.    http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/02/the-righteous-mind.html

     I seldom thought gay people were human, but check the 4th paragraph: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/05/sex-in-classroom.html

    a book explains how even whites are hurt by racism in their desire to hurt:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/dying-of-whiteness.html

That is some of the baggage I bring to the state of the world.  Egerton Ryerson is not the first commended person to have an unsavory connections revealed.   In school I vaguely remembered hearing he was an early and successful advocate for education.  Before my time an institute was named after him and more recently upgraded to a university from which I met at least one graduate. One thing I learned in university was how prejudice started with basically the core being pride in your own group meaning other groups had to be inferior in some way.  As I perceive it now, Ryerson felt non believers would be better off if they assimilated to our (his) beliefs.  To some degree most of us are like that.  For instance if we have come to appreciate the nuances of golfing we feel others are missing something--if we understand progressive politics to be ideal we frown on those who are opposed.  A recognition that education is important is surely commendable while we can still deplore mindless assimilation that deprives humans of basic freedom.  

John A MacDonald helped found Canada and as a proud citizen I find it easy to admire his intelligence and persistence to make it happen.  That he drank too much might be understandable considering the frustrations he must have endured.  That he made some underhanded deals and discriminated against the Metis and others is not something we can be comfortable with.

A good example of someone who is admired, but had a deplorable side is Thomas Jefferson.  His words for the Declaration of Independence are beautiful and he did numerous good deeds.  We have always known he was a slave owner, if relatively enlightened.   We also know he fathered children with one of his slaves.   For more on this:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/06/thomas-jefferson-and-sally-hemings-make.html

A personal hero of mine has been Mohandas Gandhi who from an early age I thought as strong, intelligent, courageous, tolerant and incredibly disciplined.  I have since learned that he could be petty and abusive to his own family. Still he did things that set new standards for humans.  He is still someone I admire, but realize he had his share of human frailties.  Illustrating how an odd personal coincidence at an impressionable age set up a lifelong attachment to a "saint" who really was a remarkable human with faults check out:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/08/gandhi-life-long-fascination.html

The point is not that we all have flaws, but that we are all products of our times.  It is very likely that our descendants and those that follow us (assuming we don't screw things up too much) will look upon us as unenlightened about the really important issues.  Some already feel meat eaters are hurting everyone.  I can deplore Egerton Ryerson, John A MacDonald and Thomas Jefferson for their flaws, but also recognize they rose above many others to accomplish positive achievements that we all benefit from.  Let them who are without sin throw the first stone.

The photo is of our two cats, Oscar and Izzy confronting my daughter's dog, Lexie.  They couldn't figure out what to make of the other.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Movie Remakes

Where do movie ideas come from?  Very often from other movies.  Hollywood is a business and is always looking for a sure bet.  They understand that if a foreign audience is excited about a movie so likely will an English speaking audience.  Original ideas are really an arrangement of already established ideas.  Seeking entertainment is one of our most time consuming activities which also makes it challenging.  People crave novelty while also wanting familiarity.  One of the most divisive factors in humanity is language.  But that has some advantages.  First language itself aggregates unique culture.  Second while imposing barriers it also creates opportunities to those clever enough to cross those barriers.  In my observation it is often the original that is better.   Most films are made to make money and those that aren't are financed by those who already have money, in many cases including profitable films.   Each film is a risk--they are budgeted and scheduled, but things go wrong and costs sometimes run up--anticipated profits can be affected by unknown factors such as poor publicity, competition, national economic or political problems

Akira Kurosawa was an admirer of John Ford's westerns.  "Seven Samurai" came out in 1954 set in Japan with its cultural history.  You may be more familiar with the 1960 version starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen and directed by John Sturges.  Or such a good idea was updated in 2016 with Denzil Washington and Chris Pratt directed by Antoine Fuqua.  The two American versions might remind you of John Ford, but in fact it ithe Japanese writer/director who came up with the plot.   The Japanese version actually had 2 Oscar nominations ( for art direction and costume design) while the first American version only received one (for musical score).

 "Infernal Affairs" which came out in 2002 was recommended to me shortly after, but it was a few years before I actually saw it.  The plot revolved around the idea of the police setting up undercover in criminal group while simultaneously the criminal group was setting up a mole in the police with each trying to learn about the other.  Lots of tension co-written and co-directed by Alan Mak starring Andy Lau and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung.  "The Departed" came out in 2006 borrowing the plot, but set in America directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson won 4 Oscars and actually had a slightly higher IMDB rating (8.5 to 8.0).  The Oscars included for best adapted writing.

"Open Your Eyes" (Abre Los Ojos 1997) written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar and starring Eduardo Noriega and Penelope Cruz.  The plot revolved around a vain handsome man having an auto accident that severely damaged his looks.   A few years later "Vanilla Sky" (2001) borrowed the plot and Penelope Cruz with Tom Cruise as the leading man.  Cameron Crowe directed and adapted script. Amenabar is a director I greatly respect.

 'Blind Chance" (1987) was written and directed by Krzysztof Kielowski  taking an event and then backtracking to the beginning and changing one detail which changed everything else.  He ran into censorship concerns with Polish authorities.  The concept struck film makers as a new opportunity.  Using the same concept  "Run Lola Run" (Lola rennt) embellished with new technology German in 1998.  "Sliding Doors" came out the same year with Gwyneth Paltrow.  "Mr Nobody" (2009) was a Canadian adaptation starring Jared Leto, Sarah Polley and Diane Kruger.        

I had already been turned on to Argentine actor Ricardo Darin when "The Secret in Their Eyes" (El secreto de sus ojos 2009)  came out and won the Oscar as best foreign film.  Ricardo is joined by Soledad Villamil.  Juan Jose Campanella directed and co-wrote and had once directed an episode  of an Emmy award series.  Billy Ray directed and adapted the script "Secret in their Eyes" (2015).  Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor starred.  You can read more about Ricardo Darin whose movies are always above average at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/04/ricardo-darin-brings-charm-from.html


 

"After the Wedding" (Efter brylluppet 2006) is when I discovered Mads Mikkelsen who has since left his mark on both sides of the Atlantic to.  The director Susanne Bier is one I have followed and she too has been involved with American films.  This Danish film also starred Rolf Lassgard, a Swedish actor who has portrayed Kurt Wallander and later starred in "A Man Called Ove" (2015) and has appeared in Norwegian, English and German films.   I have often listed this movie as my all time favorite, "After the Wedding" (2019) was remade with Bart Freundlich as director, script adapter and producer.  They decided on a gender switch for the lead character who was Bart's wife Julianne Moore   More  on Mads Mikkelsen:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/05/mads-mikkelsen-helping-denmark.html   Mads was also the leading actor in the recent "Another Round" which won the 2021 Oscar for best foreign film. 

So far I have only discussed movies that ended up in America, but the same process goes on elsewhere and if you can check out what other film entities are checking out you might not be surprised to see good ideas that could end up elsewhere.

 I saw the Bollywood remake of "Bluffmaster" (2005) with Rohan Sippy and starring Abhishek Bachchan and Priyana Chopra first.  It was harder to see the Argentine original  "Nine Queens' (Nueve reinas 2000) with Ricardo Darin  and I ended up buying a copy.  It seemed strange, but I was amazed at some of the weird clips that were duplicated.  Fabian Bielinsky wrote and directed and later wrote and directed "The Aura" which was the film where I first encountered Ricardo Darin. 

"Badla" (2019)  left a strong impression and I didn't realize they had done a gender switch and was already strange as set in Scotland rather than India.   The remake was directed by Sujoy Ghosh who had also adapted the script and written and directed my favorite surprise ending movie, "Khahaani" (2012).  Starred Amitabh Bachchan and Tapsee Pannu. "The Invisible Guest" (Contratiempo 2016), the original was based in the Catalan region of Spain.  Oriol Paulo wrote the script with Mario Casas and Ana Wagener starring.  Read more on both films with a comparison:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/a-masterpiece-film-and-very-good-remake.html    Both worked beautifully.

Within India there huge language segments that are always looking to borrow a proven idea.  Telegu  cinema came up with "Arjun Reddy" (2017) which proved popular nationwide,.  It was the first writing and directing effort of Sandeep Reddy Vanga and starred Vijay Deverakonda and Shalini Pandey.    Bollywood responded with "Kabir Singh"(2019) which did extremely well at the box office.  Sandeep Reddy Vanga directed and was listed as one of the writers.  It starred the well established Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani.  The lead character performed outrageous acts, but had a mesmerizing influence including with the audience.  Read more comparing the two at: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/arjun-reddy-and-kabir-singh.html                    

"Vicky Donor" (2012)  is the movie where I discovered Ayushmann Kurrana and Yami Gautam.  Directed by Shoojit Sircar and written by Juhi Chaturvedi (I follow her).   "Dharala Prabhu" (2020) in the Tamil language made a somewhat different emphasis between comedy and drama that seemed a worthy contribution to the concept.  Directed by Krishna Marimuthu and starred Praveen and Aditya.    Read more about the two films:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/vicky-donor-cf-dharala-prabhu.html    The donor referred to in the title is a sperm donor which of course lends itself to a lot of comedy, but both films have a dramatic conclusion.  

 

A few years back I read "The Devotion of Suspect X" by Japanese author, Kiego Higashino that offered a unique perspective on crime stories.   I was reminded of this when I first watched "Drishyam" (2015) where we were shown a murder and then how the innocent perpetrator escaped detection.  The Bollywood version.  This version was directed by Nishikant Kamat and the script was adapted by Upendra Sidhaye.  I especially enjoyed the cast, Ajay Devgn, Shryiya Saran and Tabu.   The original was seen after I discovered the Malayalam cinema.  Jeethu Joseph directed and wrote the original script for 2013.  Mohanlal, a well established actor plays the lead  The same crew came out with "Drishyam" (2021) which carries the story forward with a twist and I would say is an excellent sequel that I hope the Bollywood crew can be reassembled to remake this version as well.  I wrote a review of the remake:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/11/driishyam-bollywood-remake-masterpiece.html

Miss Granny might be the most remade film in a short number of years.  The original film was Korean and came out in 2014. and was directed by Dong-hyuk Hwang.  By 2015 a Mandarin version had come out followed in 2018 by a Filipino version.  In 2019 the Telegu version, known as "Oh Baby" came out and I was able to watch it attracted by the star Samantha Ruth Prabhu.  It was directed and adapted by B.V. Nandini Reddy.  The plot which uses a fantasy tool deals on the desire for eternal youth, but also unfair discrimination against the elderly.  Of special interest to me as they remind me of my wife's grandmother .  You can read about the Korean and Telegu versions at:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/comparing-two-grannies.html

For those of you who get to see two or more versions of the same movie there is an extra element of understanding.  Although remakes make an attempt to upgrade the original there is still a link that helps you appreciate both better.  Of course you are going to compare and sometimes technology can make a difference.  If you have seen the English speaking re-make do yourself a favor and check out the foreign original.  You may still be more comfortable with familiar actors and culture, but you should still be able to appreciate the original idea that inspired a remake.