Predestination: Film Analysis of the Week

This is going to be hard. Please excuse me if this ends up being a completely terrible article that is a waste of your time.

Also, here’s the routine spoiler warning for these things, this time earlier than ever before because it’s impossible to talk about this movie at all without spoiling something.

Predestination is… A weird film. The Google synopsis says “An agent is tasked to travel back in time to prevent a bomb attack in New York in 1975”, and that is really like saying “the icing of the cake is strawberry”, without mentioning the flavour of the actual cake.

In reality, this is a time travel movie that messes with your mind mercilessly, following mainly two characters, played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook, across time, tying together pieces of their story to create something that is as beautiful as it is very, very disturbing.

A female is born and abandoned at an orphanage doorstep. She grows up, and develops an interest in science and math, and is selected for a secret space program, where she gets kicked out.

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She falls in love with a man. He gets her pregnant. He leaves without warning. Then her daughter is kidnapped while she was in the hospital, at three days old. After she gives birth, she discovers that she was born with male genitals as well, and giving birth forced her to change into a male.
Time passes by and she narrates her entire story to a bartender, who introduces her to time travel.

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Now, you should know that her parents, the person she falls in love with, her daughter, her daughter’s kidnapper and this bartender… Are the same person. In fact, they’re all her.

Somebody who hasn’t watched this movie would never be able to comprehend all that. And that’s a praise for this movie. It tells its very weird story in a good way.

I suppose that’s what Predestination does best. It’s able to have something huge lingering over the movie, in plain sight, but doesn’t give it away.

It isn’t something completely hidden, though. There are a couple of indications. First, the opening scene of the movie is not chronologically in order (or, you know, it is. Time travel mumbo jumbo. What is chronology?), and already shows the biggest twist of the movie, without anyone actually knowing it. Furthermore, in the first place both characters travel to together through time, there are clothes already there and it’s explained that Ethan Hawk knew they were there because he had been there before (“it’s complicated”), hinting at some sort of loop.

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In the same scene, Ethan Hawk says he suspects Snook’s boyfriend-to-be is the ‘Fizzle Bomber’ (yes, the guy from the Google synopsis), and, ultimately, he is not lying. He says “don’t worry, I’ll be around. Trust me”. And he always is around, one way or the other.
However, the biggest clue, which is in the same scene, comes when Snook says “don’t you think sometimes, things are just inevitable?”, and Hawke laughs and says “the thought has crossed my mind”. This is not just foreshadowing. The fact that Hawke laughs while he spoke is the biggest indication that the reason the thought has crossed his mind too is that they are the same person.
Finally, all the ‘hidden’ characters – Snook’s parents, her boyfriend, her child’s kidnapper, the Fizzle Bomber – the nature of their secretiveness makes it rather obvious that they are not just any other person. This movie had something to reveal at the end, and it doesn’t hide the fact that it does.

So, that’s it. There is probably a lot more, but that’s all I could gather from one viewing. My brain is not willing to go through that again. At least, not yet.

Like I said at the start, this probably wouldn’t be a good article, and I can say myself that it is incredibly confusing, even when it isn’t exactly hiding anything. You see what watching Predestination feels like?

 

 

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Blade Runner 2049, Thankfully Better Than Blade Runner, But Still a Let Down

Let me get this out of the way immediately. I do not like Blade Runner. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I know that the film has its fair share of fans, but I am not one of them. I think it’s far too slow, has a paper thin premise and looks completely dreary.

However, I was quite excited for its 35-years-after successor, for two reasons. The first, obviously, was Ryan Gosling. The second was that the trailers for this movie are sublime. I didn’t expect to be let down as much as I was.

I’m going to start with the positives, though. Blade Runner 2049, despite it still being way too dark (visually) for my liking, is a beautiful looking film. Every frame seems crafted by artists who paid attention to every detail.

Furthermore, the plot is significantly more interesting than the original film’s. In this, it is more of a story of K (Gosling), a next level replicant member of the Los Angeles Police Department, trying to discover himself as he works on a peculiar case that is connected to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the original protagonist of the original 1982 film.

However, the execution of this plot is really questionable. For one thing, Harrison Ford is barely in the film. This was sold like a passing of the torch movie, but is anything but because of how little screen time Deckard actually has. Usually I like it when older characters take a back seat like this to give the newer ones the spotlight, but this is ridiculous. There isn’t even a viable bond between Gosling and Ford in this film, at all.

Speaking of Ryan Gosling, his performance in this film is nowhere close to his best, and I suppose a large reason for this is the way his character is written. Calling his performance robotic would be ironic, but it is.

I went into this film completely unaware of the runtime (I usually prefer to do this) but I didn’t expect to be anywhere near as long as it was. 2 hours 45 minutes is completely out of proportions, especially considering how incredibly slow the film is. It really doesn’t need to be that long. It’s not like I’m a 2 year old with no patience. The Godfather is a slow film, but it’s still good. This isn’t.

Jared Leto is also in this film, playing a supposedly important character who shows up in two scenes. This isn’t something only his character possesses. Characters who are pivotal to the plot of the film are in only one or two scenes, and so you have such little weight to their importance that the entire movie fails to have you really care about everything that’s going on.

I will end on a positive note. This film expresses quite well what it feels like to be human and experience human emotions, especially around Ryan Gosling’s character.

Blade Runner 2049 is nowhere near as bloated or boring as the original, but it still significantly fails to meet its potential. A few good moments are sprinkled here and there, but ultimately, all you feel is disappointment.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Blade Runner 2049: MIHIR

Heat: Film Analysis of the Week

This week’s film analysis, or as I now like to call it, the Weekly Mental Health Series, deals with a film that is not related to mental health. Heat, a 1995 Michael Mann crime drama starring Al Pacino and Robert de Niro, is a film that is long but doesn’t feel long, mostly because it is so damn good.

The central idea of Heat is to try and define the line between cop and criminal, or rather, to highlight how blurred this line is. Robert de Niro plays Neil McCauley, a criminal who is especially good at being in the dark with his operations. Al Pacino plays Vincent Hanna, a police lieutenant who specialises in taking down the best of criminal organisations. What’s the result? Excellence.

As usual, here’s a spoiler warning for the entire film.

Something anyone who watches this movie notices is that both men are not so different. In fact, one could argue that de Niro’s character is more fitting as a good guy, and Pacino’s as a bad. The first time we see de Niro, he’s taking a train, like any normal, everyday person, and then gets in an ambulance and drives away. The first time we see Al Pacino, he’s making love to his wife and seems like a very happy man. It’s only later on that we learn that de Niro steals the ambulance for a robbery, and that Al Pacino’s wife is in fact his third. The movie initially makes us believe that they are not extreme characters, but rather, normal people.

And when I say extreme characters, I mean it. While both men are certain about what they do, it’s how they are that can perplex a viewer. Al Pacino is dangerously charismatic, almost to the point of comical, while Robert de Niro is calm, collected and carries out his operations in a more civilised manner. Any outsider could mistake them for each other, as one characterises a criminal and the other cop, while both are in fact opposites.

One instance in the film where the movie really asks you question your perception of both men is the infamous bank robbery scene. As Robert de Niro and his men steal the bank’s money, de Niro oddly tries to calm everyone in the bank down, almost as if he cares for their well being. After they finish the job and are escaping, the police catch up and a long street shootout takes place, at the culmination of which de Niro’s right hand man Chris Sheherlis (played by Val Kilmer) gets shot and almost killed. McCauley risks his own life to save him and get him to a safe spot, proving how loyal he is to his men, something usually associated with the police or even the military.

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This is a particularly strong irony since Kilmer’s character is a pushover who constantly disappoints everyone in his life, and so he doesn’t have much value to be saved, other than true loyalty.

On the other hand, throughout the course of the film, we see underground connections that Al Pacino’s character has, something that a criminal usually has. He uses these connections to catch criminals, but the fact is that he still uses them.

Coming back to de Niro and Pacino, both men play off each other wonderfully. While Vincent Hanna has had two failed marriages, he still tries to keep his third one together despite being wholly committed to his job. Neil McCauley, meanwhile, has never been in a relationship but develops one during the events of this movie.

What is interesting is that both have to make similar choices in this film. They both have to choose between their work and their partner. And it isn’t conventional either. Al Pacino’s character chooses his work. Robert de Niro’s character chooses his partner, and decides to leave to New Zealand with her to start a new life.

This is interesting because it is usually the opposite that is associated with both men. The criminal’s greed gets the best of him and so he continues to commit crime for the reward. The cop’s attachments to his family are far too strong to take the place of his work. This movie really makes you think about the actual people who play the roles of good and bad. More about both men’s choices later on. Something to note about this is Al Pacino’s wife’s daughter, played by Natalie Portman, who feels entirely neglected throughout this entire movie.

Towards the end of the film, both men have to go to a hotel room; Al Pacino to find out from someone where to find a criminal (who is an ex-associate of de Niro’s); and Robert de Niro to find the very man the police are looking for and kill him. De Niro does, of course, kill this man point blank, but what is most intriguing is that when Al Pacino tries to get information from the person in his hotel room, he doesn’t hesitate in harming him, and seems to be enjoying it.

This is exactly where the film peaks with its idea that both men aren’t that different. While their motivations for their actions were different, they both caused harm without remorse. Who’s really the bad guy?

Now, finally, I’ve come all this way without talking about that scene in the restaurant.

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Midway through the film, Al Pacino finds de Niro and asks him to go out for coffee. So they do.

This was not their first encounter. Both men had stared at each other earlier, although one of them didn’t know it at the time. During a robbery, Al Pacino and his men are undercover in a van and observing, when one of them accidentally makes a noise and de Niro notices. Both men stare at each other, through camera and screen, and it is clear that they develop respect for each other. One for being able to find him despite trying so hard to be hidden; one for being able to so quickly evade being caught.

So when both of them sit down together to have a conversation, they already respect each other. Both of them know the other will not do anything to harm them. And so they converse about each other, as if they were old friends. The biggest thing evident from this scene is how much both of them love what they do. Even though they end this conversation by threatening each other, they know that both of them love to play this game. Both of them really need each other.

During this conversation, Pacino asks de Niro if he would abandon his girlfriend if he had him cornered, and he says yes. Keep that in mind.

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Towards the end of the film, it appears as if McCauley is going to get away, and Hanna has given up. The latter goes back to his hotel room (he has moved out after a fight with his wife) to find his stepdaughter bleeding out in the bathtub. He rushes her to the hospital and has a moment of closure with his wife, and everything seems fine with them.

Meanwhile, de Niro is about to leave town when he realises that he can kill his ex-associate who betrayed him, because he knows which hotel he’s in. He tells his girlfriend he’ll be back soon, and does the job.

When he’s leaving, Al Pacino is at the scene, and a chase ensues, with de Niro leaving his girlfriend behind, staying true to his word from the restaurant scene.

While Hanna chose his work over his wife, and McCauley chose his girlfriend over his work, ultimately, the cop found closure with his wife, while the life of crime called back to the criminal. In the end, good pays and bad, after all the reward, comes with a price.

An intense chase takes place at an airport, which ends with both men being one shot away from death, and Al Pacino comes out on top. He stands over de Niro, and both men hold hands as he dies. Hanna has won, but he seems disappointed. He looks like he’s losing an old friend. McCauley dies holding the hand of his killer. Both men share one emotion. Respect.

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The image above is the final shot of the film, and it really says a lot. De Niro, dead, the criminal, is facing us. He is open about his crime and his bad acts. He knows he is a criminal and doesn’t hide this fact. Al Pacino may be alive and standing, but he facing the other way. He is the cop, but he is also bad in his own ways. He also does things that are shady, that are to be looked down upon, but he doesn’t do things he shouldn’t in the open. He is still good. But there is a side to him that definitely isn’t.

Heat is an incredible film in which Robert de Niro and Al Pacino share very little screen time, but both make it an enthralling experience through their performances and a great script that subtly highlights the characteristics of both men, to allow an audience to think about their definitions of good and bad.

 

 

Shutter Island: Film Analysis of the Week

Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley, all headed by Martin Scorsese. Could one’s mouth water any more?

Shutter Island is a psychological thriller (aren’t those always the best to think about?) directed by Martin Scorsese, set in a mysterious mental health facility on Shutter Island, a fictional land mass off the coast of Boston. I realise that last week’s article also dealt with mental health, but what can I say? These are the best to look into. The difference between this and A Beautiful Mind is that this is fictional.

As much as I do not like having spoilers in my articles, it is quite difficult to talk about this film without spoiling anything, particularly the most interesting aspect. Therefore, here’s a spoiler warning to anyone who has not watched Shutter Island. If you haven’t, please watch it. It’s brilliant. Or if you don’t care about spoilers, read on.

Shutter Island sets up a false premise and then swerves midway. It’s nothing completely original, but it is nothing bad either. When a film does turn on its head in the middle (Iron Man 3, another film featuring Ben Kingsley, springs to mind) and it doesn’t work, everything falls flat on its face. However, when it’s done well, such as in this movie, it only makes the film so much better.

I did see this twist coming, though. Maybe I just try to look for things to predict. Predictability, of course, is relative, but this film didn’t try too hard to hide its secrets. Unlike, for example, (spoilers) Fight Club, Shutter Island leaves rather obvious hints of its facade from start to finish.

And I mean literally from the start. When a movie begins with the main character dramatically opening their eyes, perhaps in a situation of weakness, there is bound to be more than meets the eye.

The initial premise of Shutter Island is this: Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo are US Marshals assigned with the investigation of the disappearance of Rachel Solando, a patient at a mental health facility that completely occupies Shutter Island, which is headed by Ben Kingsley.

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It is quickly evident that there is more to it. It turns into a mystery movie, and it seems like the age old government conspiracy story is taking shape. At least, the movie makes you think that.

The Rachel Solando story that is presented to us is that she murdered all three of her children, and doesn’t know she’s a patient of the facility. Rather, she thinks everyone around her, including psychiatrists and guards, are simply people like postmen and milkmen.

In order for me to discuss this, I need to explain the end reveal. Leonardo DiCaprio is a patient of the facility, and everything is a grand simulation to be able to get through to him.

It is evident throughout the movie that DiCaprio’s character suffers from PTSD from his time serving in World War II, and is haunted by his wife’s supposed ‘death’ at the hands of one Andrew Laeddis. Immediately, when you constantly see his dreams, you are inclined to think that he is a patient, or the movie will end with him going so insane that he taken in as a patient.

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Evidence of the former is sprinkled here and there. First, you see a patient stare intensely at DiCaprio when he first enters the facility. There seems to be some sort of recognition there, especially as she smiles like a neighbour would. Furthermore, DiCaprio’s description of the man that killed his wife seems almost too comical to be true. A scar going diagonally across his face? This isn’t The Lion King.

Obviously, as the story develops, it is all revealed at once what the real scenario is. Neither Rachel Solando nor Andrew Laeddis exist. They are both anagrams, from Dolores Chanal and Edward Daniels, the names of DiCaprio’s dead wife, and DiCaprio’s character himself.

The real story is that Edward Daniels had three children with his wife Dolores, and she murdered all of them while suffering from severe mental health problems. In his darkest moment, Daniels kills his own wife after discovering this, and creates a massive illusion that all of this happened through people he made up.

All of this is delivered through a magnificently crafted movie that perhaps nobody except Martin Scorsese can create so masterfully. Even though I was able to predict this about fifteen minutes in, I was still on the edge of my seat as everything happened.

The most interesting element of this film, however, arrives with DiCaprio’s very last line.

At the end of the film, Ben Kingsley asks Leonardo DiCaprio if he has fully accepted reality, and that if he has not, then they would have no choice but to put him down because he is of great danger. He says yes. We then see DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo sitting outside, and DiCaprio makes it seem like they are still partners and he still thinks they are investigating Shutter Island. Ruffalo indicates to Kingsley, who is watching from a distance, that DiCaprio has not accepted reality after all, and things are put in order for DiCaprio’s death.

As he gets up, DiCaprio turns to Ruffalo and says “Which would be worse? To live as a monster or to die a good man?”.

Obviously, this is open to interpretation, but as far as I’m concerned, I have only one. DiCaprio had control of his mind and his thoughts the whole time. He crafted a different reality for himself at full will to allow himself to think that he was better than the murderer of his own wife, and that he never lost his children. He wishes to end his life thinking this is who he was. This is one of those lines that puts the whole film that precedes it into question, and you can look at it in a completely different light. This, I did not predict.

Shutter Island is a fantastic psychological thriller (with, I might add, a particularly spectacular score) that is able to catch you off guard even if you think you have predicted everything. My interpretation of the end may not be correct – if there is one definitive interpretation – but I do think it is plausible. Movies that make you think are the best kind of movies.

 

A Beautiful Mind: Film Analysis of the Week

Ah, colour grading. It can tell a lot about a film or television program. Sometimes, its use is blatantly on the nose, as in The Defenders, and sometimes it is subtle and effective, such as in this movie.

A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 Academy Award Best Picture winner, which is based on a book of the same name detailing the life of John Nash, a renowned mathematician for his work on Game Theory (the study of human conflict and cooperation within a competitive situation, and possibly my economic Achilles’ Heel) who has a dangerous case of paranoiac schizophrenia.

I will try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but there may be some story details I have to discuss in order to be able to talk about this movie. If you have not watched this movie, do not read the Google synopsis, because it stupidly gives away the ending.

Russel Crowe’s excellent portrayal of John Nash earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor, and he deserved it. Playing someone with a mental illness is always a challenge for any actor, and Crowe proves himself capable here. An equally deserving performance comes from Jennifer Connelly, who plays Nash’s wife Alicia. Both of them are pushed to their limits of ability, because this film has a brutal, cold take on this form of mental illness and its effects on people.

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This film has a brilliant bait-and-switch that works perfectly; it works so well, in fact, that it changed my opinion of the film from being far too ‘Hollywood-ised’ to being far too beautiful to contain tears. Indeed, this was not something I didn’t expect to see, considering the way everything in the film was edited thus far. The first half of A Beautiful Mind makes it seem like a mysterious Cold War conspiracy movie, which I really wasn’t a fan of, considering this is a movie about the life of a famed mathematician. However, when it is revealed that all of this is a result of schizophrenia (not an end-reveal so not a huge spoiler), the film turns on its head and becomes extremely tragic.

What A Beautiful Mind does so effortlessly is make you feel sympathy and sorrow for John Nash, not because he has an illness, but because the illness makes his whole life questionable. Aside from the whole Russian conspiracy, his very best friend in the world was the result of his condition, and this is something anyone can relate to. It’s truly an accomplishment for this film to be able to make you care so much about Nash’s supposed ‘life’ before you realise not much of it is real, and you truly feel the loss with the character in this film.

As I said, I did predict this reveal midway. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the entire Russian story seemed wildly cartoon-like and couldn’t at all be realistic. The second give-away is the colour grading, which I mentioned before. In regular scenes, the colours look natural, but in scenes involving people who are not real, the colour is a little more bland, with more emphasis on bleaker tones.

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I do love films that hit you in the face with a big reveal, but I also appreciate those that drop subtle hints to test the audience.

The last subject I would like to touch on is the nature of Russel Crowe’s character. There is a growth through the movie that is directly related to Nash’s relationship with his own illness. I cannot talk about this in detail without spoiling anything, so I will leave it at that. It is not something that is emphasised on, but it is a truly great way to express how the illness can have an effect on a person’s sociability.

A Beautiful Mind is a beautiful film, which is able to pay respect to a truly great person, with a wonderful performance and an exquisite style of storytelling. As far as biopics go, it is up there with the best. John Nash will always have something to ensure his legacy on the silver screen.

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Film Analysis of the Week

We have reached a point in the journey of Hollywood cinema where finding a gem that stands out unquestionably has become rather difficult. However, a perk of this is that when something does shine brighter than the rest, it shines blindingly bright.

Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015. This is especially an achievement considering that nominations included American Sniper, Boyhood, Whiplash and The Theory of Everything. Do I think the right film won? Yes. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s drama centered around a theatre play and its creator, Riggan Thomson, is a masterpiece on almost all accounts.

The inclusion of Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in this film is something that is actually meant to be. Riggan Thomson is an actor who has significantly fallen from grace (no pun intended) over the course of a decade, after the Birdman franchise died out. He, of course, was Birdman, and ever since, is unable to really find his footing again.

This, essentially, is a blueprint of Michael Keaton’s career. Ever since he stopped playing Batman, he was never quite as relevant in mainstream public attention. Let’s be honest, with films like Spotlight and Spider-Man: Homecoming, the guy’s on a roll now. And this is largely due to this film. Michael Keaton delivers the performance of his career as a man who longs for satisfaction in his work. His character appears to have some sort of psychological disorder, seeing as he’s stuck in the past with Birdman. The character continuously calls out to him throughout this film, as if to stick it to his face that he will always only be known for playing that one role. That, or he really does have mystical, unexplained powers. You choose.

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Edward Norton is a last-minute actor Keaton hires to fill in for an injured actor, and when he is on stage, nobody acts better than him. When he is off stage, however, he is the hardest person to be around. This does not appear to be by accident. Norton has been known to be a little bit difficult to work with, despite being a brilliant actor, which is a part of the reason why he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk.

This is one of the few details about this film that make it very clever and very meta. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg for this film’s excellence.

Birdman is a reflection of the state of Hollywood overall. It is a film about a washed out superhero actor who is unable to find fame because all anyone wants is big budget action films which emphasise style over substance. There is even a section of the film in which Riggin is walking almost naked around the theatre his play is in, and everyone on the street only recognises him as Birdman. This is ultimately the entire conflict in Thomas’ head, and is what he is trying to escape from.

Perhaps the saddest part is that the movie isn’t incorrect in its message. Even as a person who loves comic book movies, I can understand what the movie is trying to say.

I’ve said all this and still haven’t mentioned what makes the movie most special. Around ten minutes into the film, at least in your first viewing, you begin to notice something incredible. Birdman is, through flawless editing and acting, a film that entirely takes place in one shot. The camera moves constantly around the theatre, and makes time cuts through all this as well. If this film didn’t win the Academy Award for best director, it would have been a disgrace. Nobody had quite made a feature length film seem like one shot before. It deserves acclaim for originality alone.

Interestingly, this single cut is actually the basis of quite a lot of speculation around Birdman, and in order for me to discuss this, I need to place a spoiler warning here, because this is discussing the end of the movie and nothing else.

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After having a sort of spiritual talk/flight with Birdman (in his head), Riggin Thomas is set to perform in the premiere of his show. By now, he has felt fulfilled. He is at peace with his ex-wife and daughter (magnificently played by Emma Stone), he is at peace with Birdman, he has sold out his first show and has achieved satisfaction with his work. The show ends with his character shooting himself in the head, and on this occasion, he takes a real gun out to the stage, without telling anybody, and shoots himself in the face.

At this point, the film makes its one and only cut. There are various shots of nature, and then we go back to Riggin, who is on a hospital bed after supposedly shooting his nose off. He then removes his bandages and sees his new nose, after being with his best friend, ex-wife and daughter, and learning that his show received unanimously positive reviews. After everyone has left the room, he vanishes. When his daughter comes back, she looks out of the window and smiles, looking up. Then the film ends.

Now, this can mean a number of things. First, it could mean that Riggin has indeed had supernatural powers the whole time, and can actually fly. Everything in the film that appeared to be a dream or a self-concocted fantasy was indeed real.

What it could also mean is that Riggin is actually dead. This is the significance of the one cut in the film. Maybe it was to indicate that Riggin’s story was finished, and what we were seeing at the end was simply what could have been if he survived.

What I think is most intriguing, however, is that Riggin did not die when he shot himself, but he did want to. As I already said, by this time, he was completely satisfied as a human being with everything in his life, and possibly thought there was no other reason to live seeing as he achieved everything he wanted to achieve. Riggin lives to see his family one last time, experiencing nothing in that moment but love, looks at his new nose and laughs, sees Birdman (on the toilet) one last time, although this time not saying anything at all, indicating that he does not need him anymore, and then makes the final jump to end his life in a state as perfect as he could imagine. Maybe when Emma Stone looked up and smiled, she saw her dad ascending into heaven or something of the sorts, and our journey with Riggin ends along with him.

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I may be looking into this a little bit too much, but what can I say? This is the type of film that invites you to think like this.

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a modern cinematic masterpiece that will hopefully be remembered for decades to come as a true classic. Iñárritu’s original and beautiful vision, paired with Keaton’s extravagantly real and touching performance, makes Birdman a delight to watch. This is going to be one that’s taught in film classes for years to come.

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922) – Film Analysis of the Week

When it comes to film genres, there is one in particular that stands out as my least favourite, and that would be horror.

Horror movies – at least most modern horror movies – are usually a compilation of bad acting, terrible writing, paper thin complexity and a cheap jump scare at any given moment.

However, when a horror movie is done right, it is most spectacularly splendid. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror – a 1922 German silent film directed by F W Murnau – is one of these exceptions.

Based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, without legal permission, Nosferatu follows Hutter as he travels to Transylvania to meet Count Orlock, a man who wants to buy a house in his town. When he arrives, however, things get a little complicated…

Before saying anything else, it should be noted that this film even still existing is amazing, and is ironically thanks to the work of pirates who illegally made copies of the film and kept them. Because of legal complications with Bram Stoker’s family, every copy of the film was to be destroyed, and only the ones that were illegitimate survived. Today, you can watch the whole film on YouTube. Incredible, isn’t it?

Nosferatu is not a punch-in-the-face horror movie. It is a more restrained, creepy experience. It prefers to slowly inch into reveals rather than throw them at your face.

An example of this is Ellen’s (Hutter’s wife) very first dialogue in the film. After her husband presents her with flowers, she remarks “Why have you killed them, the beautiful flowers?”. When it is later revealed that Nosferatu can only be killed by a sinless maiden, it becomes clear that it is Ellen, as she does not even like to kill flowers.

These subtle hints are used for scares too. On Hutter’s first night in Transylvania, he sits at dinner with Count Orlock (who is, if it hasn’t been made clear, Nosferatu) and accidentally cuts his finger. We do not see blood. Instead, we first see Nosferatu be alerted by something, to look up and to walk towards Hutter. Only then is it revealed to be blood, and when Count Orlock tries to drink it off Hutter’s finger, his true identity becomes clear.

This is truly a magnificence, as it is a film that is not hard to understand, but also not serving you everything on a silver platter.

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Performing in the silent era must have been a real challenge, but luckily, the slight overacting from Gustav von Wangenheim and Greta Schroder – who play Hutter and Ellen respectively – is a welcome addition to this film, as it more clearly translates the extreme emotions both of them feel throughout the film. Interestingly, the most subdued performance comes from Max Schreck: Nosferatu himself. He is very slow, very creepy and very brilliant. It is a nice touch of irony, that the humans are acting a little crazy and the monster is completely calm.

Of course, the last thing that has to be mentioned is the marvelous score attached to this film. Being a silent film, the only sound is the score, and at least on the YouTube version of this film (in which it is mentioned in the credits that the score was attached in 2000), the music is unbelievable. You could close your eyes and just listen to this film’s score and develop goosebumps all over.

This is not a review so I will not be rating this movie, but it is most definitely a film that any film lover has to watch. The quality of this film is exceptional, especially considering it came out in a time in which film hadn’t fully found its footing yet. Considering it’s a miracle it even exists today, it deserves attention and praise from film communities all over.

A few random points:

  • When Count Orlock first sees a picture of Hutter’s wife, he proclaims “Your wife has a beautiful neck”. How subtle.
  • This movie inspired two of my favourite cartoon moments. The first comes from Spongebob Squarepants, in an episode in which Squidward and Spongebob are working the night at the Krusty Krab and strange things start to happen. You can watch this segment here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yorZRDujbd0
  • The second is from Big Trouble in Little Sanchez, also known as the Tiny Rick episode from Rick and Morty season 2. After Summer, Morty and Rick investigate, they find out that the vampire in Summer and Morty’s school is Coach Feratu (I know, brilliant). This then leads to what is my favourite post-credits scene of the show. You can watch this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBOfj61PWCo
  • Finally, you can (and should) watch Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror in all its glory here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC6jFoYm3xs

19 Years Later: Harry Potter Will Forever Be an Entire Generation’s Patronus Charm

September 1st, 2017 is a date marked on the calendars of Potterheads all around. It is the date on which Albus Severus Potter, Harry and Ginny’s second child, starts school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, or, more importantly, it is the date on which the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is set.

The time setting of Harry Potter is rarely mentioned in JK Rowling’s books, and it is never explicitly stated. However, there are two instances that stand out in which one would gain an understanding of the time period in which the books were set.

  1. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Hermione, Ron and Harry attend Nearly-Headless Nick’s 500th Death Day party. There, they find mentioned the date on which he died, which read “Died October 31st, 1492”. Count up 500 years, and the Chamber of Secrets was set in 1992.
  2. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry’s parents’ death dates are written on their tombstones, which both read “31st October, 1981” (Wouldn’t want to be a wizard who falls ill around Halloween, apparently).

Put the pieces together, and Harry was born in 1980, started school at Hogwarts in 1991, and the Battle of Hogwarts was in 1998.

What all of this means is that everything in the Harry Potter books happened in a time before they were all read. However, today, for the first time ever, Harry Potter fans are able to experience the same time as Harry would be. And by 11 o’clock at King’s Cross this morning, the final pages of the Harry Potter books would have been played out, and all of it (excluding the Cursed Child) would be history.

There was no need for me to write this post, but any opportunity I get to talk about Harry Potter, I will take.

It is indeed a rare spectacle to see books appeal to people of all age groups. Harry Potter is unique in its ability to do this. Walk into a bookstore and you will see a ten year old sitting next to a forty year old and they could both be reading a Harry Potter book.

I first read a Harry Potter book when I was 12. This is rather embarrassing. However, I first watched a Harry Potter movie when I was much younger, and Harry Potter became my favourite thing in the world. From the day my dad brought home the first three movies on DVD, I became an addict. Growing up, I would wait to turn eleven so that I could be as old as Harry in the Philosopher’s Stone. If a Harry Potter movie was coming out, I wouldn’t care about any other movie that year. As soon as a Harry Potter movie was released on DVD, I wouldn’t want anything else. A lot of my childhood is in that eight-movie collection (including a limited edition version of the Half-Blood Prince, which has a box shaped like a Death Eater’s mask). If I was at an event with a face artist, I’d want nothing other than a scar on my forehead.

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On that note, let’s talk about the Harry Potter movies, before we talk about the books.

Let’s ignore the differences in the movies from the books, and look at the movies just as movies. There is no series of films in history that, combined, is as good as Harry Potter. Producing eight movies, of which none of them are bad, is something nobody has done. Even Star Wars has had its significant lows. The Harry Potter movies are in another league, and something very important to all of them was the person in the director’s chair.

This is essential to capturing the tone of the movie, and Chris Columbus making the Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets with a touch of the childishness from Home Alone was perfect. His focus on capturing the setting through the main characters’ eyes was something that both films needed, and then having Alfonso Cuaron direct a film that transitions between juvenile and dark so seamlessly (and the best film of the series) only made things even better. The Prisoner of Azkaban is a movie in which very little happens for the overall Harry Potter arc, but is still the most widely acclaimed movie of the lot. That really says something.

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Despite my issues with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (being that it is way too far removed from the book), there is no denying that it is a beautifully-made film. Mike Newell only directs this one, but like the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is a film that stands out more than all others. If anything, it is the most entertaining of all films.

From the Order of the Phoenix on, however, the Harry Potter movie tone that everyone associates the films with today started to developed, because David Yates directed all films going forward. This would be a complaint if he didn’t do such a great job. David Yates’ Harry Potter films are all mature, but none of them forget to have heart. It’s the little things like Ron thinking he drank Felix Felicis in the Half-Blood Prince and George teasing Harry and Ginny in the Deathly Hallows Part 1 that prevent the films from falling into depressing territory, and that is something especially difficult when you have a story like this one to deal with.

In July of 2011, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 released, there was an air of sorrow in every movie theatre across the world, not only because the movie was so magnificent, but because everyone knew a part of them would be missing from then on. I walked out of the theatre not knowing how to feel. It was like a chapter of my life had been closed. Perhaps what was most poetic was that I was eleven at the time.

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Ultimately, however, the biggest accomplishment of the Harry Potter movies was being able to have actors who were so fitting for their roles. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint played Harry, Ron and Hermione to perfection. But even more so, having pedigreed actors play supporting characters like Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman is something extraordinary, especially considering they all capture the essence of their characters so perfectly.

The only reason I hadn’t read a Harry Potter book until I was twelve was because I hadn’t read books that big before. To this day, I struggle to keep my attention on a book, and take long with all the books I read. However, there are seven exception to this, and those are the seven Harry Potter books.

I could read Harry Potter over and over again for the rest of my life and it would always be as magical, if not more, with each read. This is largely because, as you grow older, there is more significance to Harry Potter.

Sure, as a six year old, all you care about is the magic and the magical creatures, but as you grow up, you begin to understand so many other things, like Harry’s transition through his teenage years, the sheer depth of the story, just why Lord Voldemort not being able to feel love is something deeply saddening and all of the other underlying themes and messages that exist in Harry Potter. A lot of people say readers grew up with the books. The books also grew up with the readers.

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As I mentioned, the only books in the world that I can read endlessly, without losing attention, are Harry Potter books. I cannot explain this fully in words, but there is something about the way the books are written that grip me like no other book has, or possibly ever will.

Obviously, I’d fallen even more in love with Harry Potter after reading the books for the first time. Woven in all those pages (no pun intended) is quite simply magic, or the closest thing we Muggles will ever have to magic. It’s one thing to be able to tell a story that is so infinitely vast, but it’s another to be able to create a fandom that is so dedicated. With Pottermore now, Harry Potter fans can be placed into Hogwarts houses (I am a proud Hufflepuff), there are innumerable fan fiction, and more details of the world of Harry Potter are unveiled all the time. It’s a community of truly great people.

The last time I read the Harry Potter books certainly won’t be the last time in my life, and there is assurance that I will love them in a completely different way when I read them again.

The reason I wrote this arduously long article is simple: Harry Potter deserves it. Today, when JK Rowling’s books have come full circle, Potterheads around the world will want to be at King’s Cross, and those who have the privilege of being there today will certainly not take it for granted.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for giving the world such a wonderful gift.

September 1st, 2017. The day Albus Severus Potter starts his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

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Memento: A Review… But More of an Analysis of Film Editing

Every once in a while, someone produces a film that is so different, it sparks a massive fan following and invites people to speculate about it and create theories – which can neither be proven true or false – to boost the popularity and impact of the film.

This can only happen if a film is able to stand out. This is especially difficult today, when over two thousand films are released a year. Nobody is marveled by the concept of the moving image anymore. Nobody is amazed by synchronised sound anymore. Nobody is in awe at CGI that looks like it’s completely real anymore.

Cinema has evolved so much that things that would have been unimaginable only half a century ago are common standing. Would anyone who was in a theatre watching 2001: A Space Odyssey have possibly thought that one day, a film like Guardians of the Galaxy would ever exist?

So what does it take to be etched into film history forever?

This is a question I would like to answer with a few examples, but first let me talk a little bit about the film that actually has a place in the title.

Memento is Christopher Nolan’s first widely released film, from the year 2000, and is quite frankly a work of genius. The film follows Guy Pearce’s Leonard Shelby, a man with a condition which disables him from producing any memories at all, which he received after an incident involving the rape and ‘murder’ of his wife. His ultimate goal in this movie is to find the culprits and kill them.

Given his condition, however, this isn’t particularly easy. And that’s where the true genius of this film lies.

Christopher Nolan has always been one to fiddle around with chronology and time. Even though this was questionably done in Interstellar, its subtle influence on Dunkirk was a welcome feature of the film. However, that would seem like child’s play in comparison to Memento.

Here is where I answer my own question. Films that will forever be etched into history, at least for me, are those that are able to be original even today. How this is achieved is a result of a filmmaker’s vision.

An example that comes to mind is Pulp Fiction (obviously). Similar to Memento, the narrative isn’t exactly chronological, and the chunky puzzle of a story is what makes the movie so beloved. A little further down the line, there’s Fight Club, a movie that failed miserably at the box office but has one of the most passionate fan bases ever. Why? It’s a film that ends in a way that makes you look at it in a completely different light, encouraging you to watch it again in order to view the story from a different perspective. A film that’s a little more recent and will most definitely be remembered for decades to come is Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which is unique in the way it’s made. The entire film is one long take, and even though there is one cut in the film, there are even theories regarding why that cut exists.

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The point is, all of these films make two things very clear:

  1. Editing is an aspect of film that is often overlooked, but when something that is unconventional, not entirely chronological or completely original pops up, receives the biggest spotlight.
  2. The biggest reason all of them are so good is that they had visionaries at the helm. I strongly doubt any of them could have been nearly as good if Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher or Alejandro González Iñárritu weren’t in their respective director’s chairs. On that note, it is strikingly clear that Christopher Nolan is also a pioneering filmmaker.

Memento is quite possibly edited in an even more special way than all of those films. There is a narrative that both goes forward in time and in reverse, at the same time. This is rather difficult to explain, but I can try.

The events going forward are in black and white and exist to add context to the story. The events going in reverse are in colour and are connected as they go along, but the point of everything going in reverse is to make the viewer feel as if they are the protagonist, someone who cannot remember anything and has to photograph, write or tattoo everything to have some sort of recollection.

Clearly, this is something that can go horribly wrong if not done properly, and Nolan is able to craft a film that gives you the answers before the questions. How many times has anything ever done that?

This is strongly aided by the fact that Guy Pearce’s performance reeks of magnificence. There is an air of innocence to the character that makes it completely believable that he has the condition that he has.

What Memento does to you by the end of it is have you really appreciate the value of editing. Why else would I have written this extensive analysis? Sure, the conventional way of telling a story on screen is fine, but when it’s told a little differently, it can make a film seem so much more special. If one thinks about it, Memento wouldn’t have been nearly as good if the whole movie was told in the right order. Really, it’d just be a much worse version of John Wick. But when this sort of thought was put into it, it was made into something that is unforgettable (pun intended) in the mind of any film lover.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Memento: MIHIR

If ‘Unbelievable’ Was a Movie, It Would Be Dunkirk

We’ve come so far into the art of cinema that it often passes over us how magical a theatre experience can be. We live in a world in which the quality technical aspects of film are a given. So when a film is able to be a completely visceral experience, it is something that will be remembered for decades to come.

Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s latest film, and it tells the story of the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. It is, without a doubt, a film that is nothing short of a spectacle.

Dunkirk does not waste any time. From the start, it gets going and it grips you right onto it. The editing of this film deserves immense credit, because the way the story itself is told can be a complete muddle if not told properly, and yet the film is so masterfully edited that it is just perfect.

The story of this movie is told from three perspectives. On the land, there are Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles, who are a part of the 400,000 men who are to be evacuated from Dunkirk. In the sea, there are Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy, who are on one of the 700 civilian boats that came to help in the evacuation. And in the air, there are Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy, who are trying to keep a check on enemy aircraft that are bombing the area. What is most intriguing about these three perspectives is time, and I will not say more than this because it is really a great thing to experience while watching the film.

Everyone I mentioned above gives a surreal performance (even Harry Styles). Their combined effort in replicating an event in history to their fullest ability makes it completely real. Their performances are raw and powerful, and nobody stands out because everyone is able to be just perfect.

However, what makes this movie so special is the way it’s directed. Christopher Nolan has created something that is to be pondered upon as an aesthetic icon.

My two favourite war films other than this, both set in World War II, are Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge. The first depicts war as war, and as sticking out for your comrades. The second is a war film told from the perspective of someone who does not want to kill, but to heal. Dunkirk is a war film that highlights the humanity of war. It puts the viewer right in the middle of it to experience it themselves.

The characters in the film are simply what they are in terms of the war. They have no backstory or anything. And this is something brilliant. They are only what they need to be at that moment. On the land, the viewer struggles with the army. In the air, the viewer flies with Tom Hardy. You can feel everything the characters are feeling because of the beautiful cinematography and intricate sound mixing, along with Hans Zimmer’s amazing score. The mix of visuals, sound and music make this film something truly spectacular.

For instance, there is a sequence in which a ship is flooding with water. The screen goes black and only lights up when the water sloshes around. The sound makes you feel like you’re drowning. The music gets louder and increases its tempo with every second. This is how the film is throughout, and you are truly immersed in it.

I’m going to focus on the visuals again for a second, because the scenery in this movie is incredible. There are times in the movie I swear I could see the curvature of the Earth. When a film makes you sit back in awe of simply what you are seeing, you know it’s unique.

One last thing to note is that the enemy, or the Germans, aren’t seen at all in this film. This is smart because the perspective of war is usually always one-sided, and that’s all the viewer sees too.

Everything I have said about Dunkirk does not justify its magnificence. It is a theatrical marvel that uses every frame to entice the viewer, and it is a powerful narrative that is aided by even more powerful performances.

Christopher Nolan has crafted a perfect film.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Dunkirk: MIHIR