Shades Of Words


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Oscar Weekends – The Color Purple

Over the past two weekends I have had a chance to look at some  famous movies and have had very different reactions to it.
The first movie that I saw was “The Color Purple” starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey among others. Now before I do talk about what I thought the movie was, I would like to mention a few words about the book. “The Color Purple” is an award winning novel which tells the story of two African American sisters who live through an abusive childhood . Its narrative is in the voice of the older sister who first suffers from an incestous relationship with her father and then marries a violent husband. Its a dark and depressing a book told in such a matter of fact fashion that there is oddly a sense of hope.
Now to translate the subteleties of language into a visual media is no mean feat. Though the movie “The Color Purple” excels in certain areas , in some  places it just falls flat.
I believe Whoopi Goldberg’s casting as Celie is brilliant ! She plays the elder of the two sisters who because of being raped as a child and  being married very young to an abusive and extremely violent husband  becomes docile and in some ways stunted in her mental growth. WG nailed the part – her body language was so perfect – the permanent cowering look, the amusing tolerance towards her husband that she has gotton used to , the shyness while talking to strangers.
Celie’s sister Nettie disappears from the movie frame soon enought but not without determining the strenght of their relationship and not without leaving Celie an important gift – the ability to read. Nettie promises she will write and Ceilie waits for years and years to receive the letter. Its almost heartbreaking.
The movie is also not just about Celie and Nettie – its also about other black woman and their plight in that pre- war period.  Another important character is Sophie who is a complete contrast to Celie. She is loud, imposing and strong willed. She refuses to let the norms of the society get her down and fights abuse boldy – but even she is not able to escape the rascist laws which land her in prison and eventually break her spirit. Oprah Winfrey is another brilliant casting choice for this role and I cannot imagine any other actor play this role at all. She brings such a breath of fresh air into the dreary story that you cannot help but cheer for her when she defends herself.
The other character is that of Shug Avery – she is a club singer and truly liberated. She is also Celine’s husband’s lover. It is through her that Celine learns to live and love. She represents hope in the lives of the women of the sad little Georgian town.
I dont know enought about African American history during the war period to say if this was an accurate depiction of the state of the woman – but I know enough about the history of women in social structures across the world to not be surprised by any of this. Society so conditions a person that even if something hurts you – you accept it coz thats what you have always known. Celie’s spirit broke very early in childhood when her father raped her and when her husband hit her – for her it was as if there was no place in the world where she had any choice and any say. That is why when she saw Sophie saw taking control of her life her only advice to Sophie’s husband was – beat her. The movie is a very telling commentary on the structures that societies create and how different people either flourish or die in those structures.
The movie though executed very well with a very good cast begins to fall flat towards the later half. Firstly the movie is too long , even for the kind of story it is trying to tell. The camera tries to hunt for objects of symbolism so desperately  that it wastes a lot of time. For a story that is so deep, we dont need to add extra layers of philosophy by panning cameras on fields of purple flowers, sunsets, empty kitchens etc etc.
The movie was quite true to the book and maybe that was not such a good idea. In a book its easier to give multiple messages and have several character based storylines that the reader can get used to – in the movie they should have done some editing and picked some of the most compelling material. A span of 3 hours is not enough to build empathy with the situation of some 5-7 characters in the cast. And with that the message of the movie is lost.
So my verdict : Read the book and then decide if you would want to watch the movie or not.
Coming Soon : Review of Driving Miss Daisy


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Picture Perfect

After helping  a friend move into her new apartment, I was exhausted with all the accompanying weight lifting that we had to do. So I decided to relax with what I was hoping was a light romantic comedy.
“Picture Perfect” is the story of Kate’s ( Jennifer Aniston)  ambition to have it all. Katie works in Mercer Advertising and is clearly very talented for the job. Her personal life is not that great – she is the last in her circle of friends to get married.
At work, she lands a big client and is now waiting for her big promotion – which doesn’t come through. On top of her that her boss implies as that she has no liabilities and no family, she is not considered “tied” to the company and hence passed over promotion.
So its time to get her life in order and a little fibbing does no body any harm, right?
She concocts a fake fiancé which tells her boss that she is not going anywhere and also surprisingly lands her in the bed of her colleague, Sam, whom she has always desired. For once her life is perfect, until one day when eveyrone wants to desparately meet the new fiance and she has to find one or something on those lines..I am losing interest as I write.
To cut a long story short, she pays money to this guy, Nick to be the fiance and to stage a break up, uses him and hurts him, he falls in love with her..da..da..da..happy ending.
Things that worked – Only Jennifer Aniston can make a cold and calculating ambitious person be likeable. She does full justice to her incredibly cliched role. Also loved her wardrobe for the movie.Everyone else’s performance is meh – nothing to write home about really.
Things that did not work – Unfortunately you can’t watch a movie for Jennifer and her wardrobe alone. There has to be other things – like a good script. I have worked in the corporate world for over four years and I do not think my boss ever gave a rat’s ass about my personal life. The story is so stupid. As long as you turn up to work and deliver, I dont think people care if you are married or not. And definitely, no wants to meet your other half on dinners.
I generally am not nasty about actors but Jay Mohr has absolutely no screen presence in this movie. He bored me every time he was on screen. Kevin Bacon was again miscast – just doesn’t fit in the romantic comedy genre – I see him in more edgy roles.
Only watch this if you have absolutely nothing else to do.


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The Magician’s Death

Again randomly picked from the aisle of my library this book was a treasured find. I love my British mysteries and I love them more if they are based in medieval area.
“The Magician’s death” is based some time during the early 14th century. Thought the story starts off in Paris, most of the plot is based in the Corfe Castle area in Dorset.
The plot is not complex but has several layers – all of them equally intriguing. There is firstly the political struggle between King Edward of England and King Phillip IV of France – they are both looking to unravel Friar Bacon’s Book of Secrets, which has been written in a secret code and will reveal the mysteries of the world. Both of them send their best man to Corfe Castle in the dead of the winter to hold a convention to break the cipher in which the book is written. Things start getting troublesome , when the french scholars start dying apparent natural deaths.
At the same time  murders are being committed around the castle, where dead young women are being found, shot down by arrows for no conceivable reason. Then there are these outlaws that claim that they are innocent of these murders and speak of even worse “horror in the woods”. Lets not forget, Father Matthews – who lives almost an ascetic existence in his little church in the woods. All the murdered girls are students in his sunday classes – is he more than what he seems? If this isn’t enough, the King’s men report presence of pirates in the nearby coastel town, unexpected and seemingly suspicious. Are all these activties related?
Every good crime novel , needs a good detective, ours is Sir Hugh Corbett, King Edward’s right man. Melancholy with a sense for black humor, Corbett is still an instantly likeable character. Along with his advisor, the young Ranulf, Corbett tries to bring pieces of the puzzle together.
What worked for me as I read the book were the storylines and the characters. Though they are a dozen or more important characters in the book, Doherty manages to shape them out in the short spaces they occupy. The fact that I could empathaize with some of the characters of the book is a lot to say for a mystery novel.
The only place where the book falters is at the climax. Its predictable and slightly boring. The build up is pretty huge – political drama, jack the ripper like murders, accidental deaths, the creepy winter, dead bodies in the wood – and then the resolution is pretty unimpressive.
However, I think this would make an excellent movie actually. I would also definitely read more of Paul Doherty.