Shades Of Words


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Sidewalls


Sidewalls is a quirky indie Argentinian movie that explores the explosive and divisive nature of today’s metropolises on our life styles.  Directed by Gustavo Taretto, the film uses Buenos Aires, as the setting of the general delineation of the human culture.

Sidewalls’ two protagonists Martin and Mariana, provide semi-philosophical commentary to a mostly voice-over based narrative. Both represent the common dysfunctional state of being singles in a large city. Each lives in tiny apartment, suffers from new age phobias and is terribly lonely person in need of love, peace and companionship in a city of millions of people. “Sidewalls” examines multiple factors that have led to this compartmentalization of individuals from each other.  It lays the blame on 21st century metropolises with their daunting, congested and ever-changing skylines, making the city uglier every turn and the people living in them strangers to one another. It takes a look at the web of cables connecting the city,  but ironically making it’s inhabitants more isolated. For instance, Martin and Mariana live on the same block but never meet. Their first interaction is through a virtual chat room.

Mariana is an architect and Martin is a web designer, and through their eyes we see the beauty of the architecture of Buenos Aires. Mariana explains in the movie that Sidewalls are the ugly sides of the buildings that no one pays attention to, that have all the repair marks, have cracks or are covered with ugly adverting. I believe Taretto is trying to say that people are the “Sidewalls” to this fast paced life of the new world. They are the marginalized, ignored and  fractured remains of new millennium.

The movie however, on a whole has a hopeful comical feel to it. Whether it’s Mariana ditching her date on the floor of a 20th floor apartment building, or Martin’s romance with his dog walker, you will find yourself smiling often.

I personally thought the movie lost steam in certain places and when I checked online I found that it was originally made as a short film. When it did really well, the producers went back and expanded which could explain why it was so slow sometimes.

It’s a bittersweet movie with solid performances from the leads Javier Drolas and Pilar Lopez and worthwhile watching once.

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Karthik Calling Karthik

After an excruciatingly painful first half of 60 minutes, which could have been shorter or craftier, the film really kicks in.  KCK is the story of Karthik (duh), a timid man, bullied around by everyone who gets much needed help by therapeutic phone calls from himself. As bizarre it may seem to be getting calls from himself, which have no existence on his phone records, he decides to go with the flow and trust the caller. His life turns around in a few weeks. But all good things come at a price, and when he accidentally lets slip the secret of his success, everything starts unraveling. It’s up to his girlfriend and his psychiatrist to figure out who is this mystery caller and is Karthik all right in his head. The execution of the second half of the movie is pretty good. If only the same effort and class was applied to the first half which is full of clichés, lame songs and over the top acting by both Farhan Akthar and Deepika Padukone. I have always like Akhtar, but he has some major dialogue delivery issues in this movie. For a role that was this emotionally intense, a good voice actor would have done a better job.

I am beginning to notice this new trend in Indian movies that I find really disturbing. Characters switch to lengthy dialogues in English, where the movie does not provide subtitles for it.  I understand that “English” has become part of the spoken urbane language in Indian and the producers may be targeting the multiplex audience but it’s almost disrespectful to everyone else.  If it’s a Hindi language movie and extensive phrases are being used of a different language, then subtitles must be used.

The other thing that I found really strange was Padukone’s character development. The idea, was I believe, to show her as an outgoing, modern and independent minded girl. She smokes and knows  her scotch. I am not getting into a discussion if that is the true interpretation of a modern woman, which I think warrants a separate discussion, it is the way it was portrayed in the movie that was so juvenile. Padukone’s character, Shonali, walks into her office (which like most modern office spaces has transparent glass walls) in the morning, sits backs in the chair and takes out her cigarette and smiles and smokes. I have never seen anything sillier.  I don’t smoke but am sure any smoker will tell you that if you do that in today’s workplaces, that’s bound to set off the smoke alarm, and if you wanted to smoke the first thing in the morning, you would have done it outside. The second incident is that Karthik and Shonali and are a pub, and Shonali asks for a drink, and they have an extended discussion on why her drink is not a juice or a soda but alcohol. It’s like hitting the viewers over the head with a hammer and saying – “Look she is so modern – she smokes, she drinks”. Why do Indian directors insist on repeating these clichés and shoving them down our throats in such unsubtle ways? Why?

The movie was not short on stupidity on a whole but somewhere in the last 40 minutes it became a psychological thriller which made the experience of watching it marginally worthwhile.


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Hope Springs

Hope Springs is a classic example of a movie where great acting can make up for an ordinary script. Screen legends, Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, bring a lot of class to a simple yet deep story of a stagnating marriage.

Kay and Arnold have been married for over 31 years and their married life has inevitably set into a pattern. With the kids grown up and away with their own lives, Kay is struggling to find meaning in her life.  Her marriage lacks intimacy, and as she finds the loneliness increasingly unbearable, she looks for help in Dr Feld’s ( Steve Carrell’s) intensive couple counseling workshop.

Funny in parts, the movie is mostly a very touching and realistic portrayal of an ordinary marriage and how much work that goes into it to make it work. What I found fascinating about the relationship, was that how differently Kay and Arnold see it. Kay sees a problem and wants to fix it, Arnold denies the problem for the longest time and when he sees it does not understand why it needs fixing at all. This conflict makes their story believable. It was so easy to empathize with both the characters who meant well but kept missing the mark.

I do maintain that the screenplay by Vanessa Clay  is not extraordinary and could have been quite trite had it not the subtle touches of the performances by Streep and Jones. I honestly don’t understand the point of Steve Carell’s role. He was perfect in it but I half expected him to crack a joke at the end of every sentence. It was so disconcerting.

On an entirely different note, the movie had some pretty apparent product placement which was a little irritating.