Saturday, 20 January 2018

He Loves, And in Loving, He Becomes.

In this world, there is a moment just before a teenage crush blooms and becomes a fully-fledged first love. It is a moment in which time is briefly suspended. That shiver of uncertainty before you dive over the edge of the waterfall into the kind of love you could drown in. It is this, the exquisite torture of not knowing if feelings are reciprocated. Followed by the helpless flood of emotions. All of this has been captured in this film by director Luca Guadagnino. 

There are those rare films that suddenly make a very cold Parisian day feel warm by adding a different colour to life, like a filter on an old Polaroid picture. Call Me by Your Name, is one of them. In fact, the setting is gorgeously specific: summer, northern Italy, the early 1980s. This summer romance is saturated with poetic languor and a deeply sophisticated sensuality. This is a fittingly lazy description of a time and place that could hardly be more idyllic. Men and women blissfully busying their time riding their bicycles by day and dancing well into the night. They read and play, swim and sunbathe, pausing only to drink fresh-squeezed apricot juice and savour the sight of each other’s bodies in the sun. Here, there is no supervillain breathing down our protagonist’s neck, Call Me by Your Name is set in 1983 - no one is staring at a smartphone either. And the time frame means that AIDS does not figure in the story, though there clearly is a suggestion that the closet does.

Like most of Guadagnino’s characters, Elio enjoys a life of enviable privilege; seventeen-year-old, precocious only child of a middle-aged American professor of classical antiquity and a chic continental mother, whiles away the endless afternoons, in a handsome Italian house, as teenagers - or at least soigné European ones - do: playing Bach variations on the piano, reading battered hardbacks by the pool, lounging in the town square or cooling off in the river. It is a cultured household, in which everyone is fluent in English, French, Italian and, German. The family is also Jewish. Elio calls them “Jews of discretion”, a sense of otherness that is to serve well as a metaphor of concealed sexuality.

Throughout the movie I grew to be fascinated by Amira Casar, playing Elio’s mother, Anella. In one scene, her clear and calm gaze locks onto her husband and her son as she translates a German fable to them, asking unspoken questions of both: “Is it better to speak or to die?”

Then, there is Oliver, a grad student, who seems almost too beautiful to be true, a towering blond Adonis in polo shirts and high-top sneakers. He registers as a handsome cypher with a face and body uncannily like one of the Roman statues Elio’s father is crazy about. Oliver also appears in a series of impossibly tiny shorts, in electric shades of mango, petunia, and lime, which is apparently the overriding theme of his seasonal wardrobe, he never wears a pair of long trousers in the entire film. Not since he played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network has Hammer used his 6-foot-5 physique to such witty, self-effacing effect? Oliver establishes his academic credentials early on by presuming to correct Perlman’s derivation of the word “apricot”. Oliver charms his older hosts — especially Mr Perlman — but stirs in Elio a strange mix of intense dislike and equally intense desire. The genius of Call Me by Your Name is that it refuses to distinguish between these two impulses. As played by Hammer, Oliver is the smouldering embodiment of cocky self-confidence, and yet, there is an endearing vulnerability in the way he needs for Elio to make the first move. Indeed, there is a new kind of empathy here. One that allows the captivating Timothée Chalamet to shine and pulls surprising new depths from Armie Hammer, an actor whose serene symmetry finally cracks open to reveal the remarkably flawed and feeling human being beneath.

The performance given by Chalamet as Elio is outstanding, especially in an unbearably sad sequence, when he has to ring his mum from a payphone and ask to be driven home. Elio has this cocky sense of mischief has the curious effect of making him seem all the more unguarded. He broods and blushes, schemes and fumbles, and seems both enraptured and terrified by the power of his physicality. He does not quite know who he is or what he wants yet. Reading books and writing music, carefully observing the actions around him, Elio looks like a boy who could have fallen straight out of a song written by The Cure. So, when Oliver asks him in their first encounter what he is doing the whole summer Elio’s answer is simple, yet it carries a fierce, dramatic undertone, he replies: “waiting for the summer to end.” This indicates that deep down, Elio already has an idea of what this could mean, however, as with all great love stories, the rules of attraction are not that simple, and can neither be summarized in just one sentence. 

Michael Stuhlbarg plays Elio’s father with an intellectual kindness that resembles Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. He is the centre of another much-talked-about moment from the film: a monologue that should go down in screen-parenting history - it also might earn him an Oscar. Call Me by Your Name culminates in this quite amazing speech. It is a compelling dramatic gesture of wisdom, understanding and what I can only call moral goodness; also putting to rest a question subtly raised earlier in the film, when homoerotic slide show doubles as a hesitant proposition of sorts. It falls to Stuhlbarg’s deeply moving performance, an authority on the ancient world and a man ahead of his moment, to make sense of this eternal riddle: “Our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once,”. No matter how intellectually progressive the Perlman family is, no father has ever said something so open-minded and eloquent to his son, and yet, the film offers this conversation as a gift to audiences who might have desperately needed to hear it in their own lives. This splendid conversation makes such an impact, the film could have ended right at this moment. It is this scene that gives Elio the agency to be who he is without having to “come out” and brings home the message that in the end, feelings are not about being gay or straight, they are about allowing yourself to have compassion for someone else and to make yourself vulnerable.

Call Me by Your Name has been adapted by Oscar nominee James Ivory from André Aciman’s acclaimed 2007 novel. The non-rushing narrative casts a sort of languorous spell over the film two-plus hours, capturing the unhurried sun-drunk rhythm of Elio’s days as his crush evolves from intriguing distraction to full-blown obsession. James Ivory had originally been slated to co-direct and has a producer credit. His presence inevitably calls to mind his film version of E.M. Forster’s Maurice, to which Call Me by Your Name is frankly superior.

The concept of leisure is all over the film. What is perhaps so incredible is the concept of leisure, a cousin to pleasure, pure gorgeous indolence and sexiness for six whole weeks here. No one appears to have very much to do in the way of dreary work, despite the references to typing up pages and cataloguing slides. People sunbathe; they impetuously jump up and go swimming, have unhurried meals al fresco, cycle into town to drink in bars, or play volleyball. The main work-related activity is when Perlman and Oliver go to inspect a sensational discovery: parts of a classical statue recovered from a lake. Hellenic sensuality is resurrected in concert with the not-so-secret sexual tumult emerging all about.

Both Elio and Oliver do not – cannot or will not - always say what they mean. So Mr Guadagnino speaks for them by eroticizing their world, making desire visible in the luxuriousness of the setting, in the green enveloping the villa, the gushing waters of a pool and the graceful lines of male statues. When Oliver hungrily eats a soft-boiled egg, cracking the shell and causing the yolk to messily spurt, Guadagnino’s lyricism slides into comedy; it is hard to know just how self-mocking the moment is meant to be though. The Italian director, best known for stylized sensory feasts like last year’s sleek A Bigger Splash, excelling in the creation of cinematic moments so beautiful and so rich that you want to frame and conserve them forever.  And he even finds repartee in moments like an already internet-famous dance to the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way,” or in the sheer awkwardness of living inside a teenage body. He is a master at hitting all five senses. In Call Me by Your Name, Luca Guadagnino manages to create an incredible level of light-heartedness which lifts the film to heights rarely found in modern cinema and which linger with you well after the credits roll.

Director has no interest in rushing Elio and Oliver toward a premature consummation. The drawn-out waiting game is the whole point of the movie. At any one time, nothing is happening, and everything is happening. Elio and Oliver will catch each other’s eye in their adjoining bedrooms or downstairs in the hall; they will casually notice each other changing into swimming costumes. Each of these intensely choreographed, superbly controlled and weighted moments is as gripping as a thriller. And when the main event arrives, Guadagnino’s camera wanders tactfully away from their bed, gazing thoughtfully out of the window at the hot summer night. He directs our gaze both inward and outward, toward the treasures and mysteries buried within this Italian paradise, and also toward the unseen, unspoken forces that have threatened bonds like Elio and Oliver’s for millennia. Nearly every relic we see: a decorative reminder of the Fascist era, a Greek sculpture dredged up from the Mediterranean, speaks in some way to the vulnerability of their love and the tyranny of time.

In conclusion, the small miracle of the movie is not just that it tells a gay love story with such unreserved tenderness, but that it makes the fate of a romance not meant to last feel like much more than exquisitely framed filmmaking. It is real life, heart-breaking and sublime. There is such tenderness in this film. I was overwhelmed by it. The film remains an uncommonly enveloping and affecting experience, a romance that swoops you up and then gently sets you down. What stays with you is not just its visual beauty but also its melancholy wisdom, its understanding of the fickle, fleeting nature of what it is showing us. Call Me by Your Name is less a coming-of-age story, a tale of innocence and loss, than one about coming into sensibility. In that way, it is about the creation of a new man who, the story suggests, is liberated by the pleasure that doesn’t necessarily establish sexual identity.

Overall, in one alive, vulnerable and life-altering summer, Elio’s desire finds its purpose. The final scene of the film is torture – the camera rests on Elio’s face in the foreground as he processes his heartbreak. This is first love encapsulated in one, sumptuously sad, single shot.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

34 Movies and TV Series to Look Forward to in 2018

Whether you've arrived at the finish line fresh and invigorated for another trip around the sun, or are so exhausted you may wheeze out your actual soul, 2017 is almost over ad a new year is beginning. Luckily, there are all kinds of cool movies to look forward to in 2018 to mitigate all others films you will inevitably come to loathe and dread as the year progresses. That means an all new wave of blockbuster movies are on their way. 2018 will herald the return for some much-loved comic book characters, some long-awaited sequels and a few movie debuts. So, next time someone says, "Do we really have to go on living for another whole year?" comfort them by mentioning these existence-friendly movies. Here is my pick of the big screen delights coming to cinemas near you in 2018:  
#1 Big Little Lies S2 returns in 2018 and will explore the “malignancy of lies, the durability of friendships, the fragility of marriage and, of course, the vicious ferocity of sound parenting. Relationship will fray, loyalties will erode and the potential for emotional and bodily injury shall loom.”  
#2 Wayward Sisters, the new spin-off of Supernatural, in which Judy Mills help train younger girls to be hunters.

As you may have noticed, Netflix is on fire lately and it has been hard to keep up with series on the streaming service, and a 10/10 on everything.  

#3 Strangers Things S3, the very anticipated new season of the Netflix hit.
#4 Mindhunter S2 deals with the late 1970s two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters.

#1 The Post discloses the cover-up that spanned four U.S. presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.
#2 X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the new X-Men instalment taking off when Jean Grey begins to develop incredible powers that corrupt and turn her into a Dark Phoenix. Now the X-Men will have to decide if the life of a team member is worth more than all the people living in the world.

#3 The Predator is the remake of the 1987 sci-fi film Predator
#4 Mary Queen of Scots introduces Mary Stuart’s attempt to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England, finds her condemned to years of imprisonment before facing execution.
#5 Robin Hood is a gritty take on the classic Robin Hood story with Taron Egerton, Jamie Dornan and Jamie Foxx.
#6 Rampage with Dwayne-The Rock-Johnson, a movie based on the classic 1980s video game featuring apes and monsters destroying cities.
#7 The Commuter deals with a businessman is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.
#8 Incredibles 2 will FINALLY be released next year and it has been a long time coming. This time around Bob Parr (Mr Incredible) is left to care for Jack-Jack while Helen (Elastigirl) is out saving the world.

#9 The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in which a young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.
#10 Ready Player One might be my most anticipated films of 2018, I absolutely loved the book and with Steven Spielberg at the helm of the adaptation, the book is in good hands. When the creator of a virtual reality world walled the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. Wade Watts finds the first clue and starts a race for the Egg.
#11 A Wrinkle in Time is directed by Ava DuVernay. After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.
#12 A Star is Born is the new film with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, in which a movie star helps a young singer/actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.  
#13 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second instalment of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series which follows the adventures of Newt Scamander.
#14 Sharp Objects is the new adaptation by author Gillian Flynn in which a reporter confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder.
#15  Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom is the second instalment of the follow-up movies part of the Jurassic Park franchise. When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event.
#16 Wonder Wheel is a story based on Coney Island in the 1950s, a lifeguard tells the story of a middle-aged carousel operator and his beleaguered wife.
#17 Aquaman is the new instalment in the DCEU after the very awaited Justice League assembles, this time around, Arthur Curry learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and to be a hero to the world.

#18 The Shape of Water is the new film by Guillermo del Toro staged in a 1960s-research facility, a mute janitor forms a relationship with an aquatic creature.
#19 Avengers: Infinity War Part.1 is one of the most awaited blockbusters this year and it is easy to figure why that is. The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe. 
#20 Ant-Man & The Wasp is the Ant-Man sequel. As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.
#21 Ocean’s 8 is the all feminine spin-off of the Ocean’s trilogy in which Debbie Ocean gathers a crew to attempt an impossible heist at New-York City’s yearly Met Gala.

#22 Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just revealed its first trailer but the plot of the sequel to the 2008 musical comedy remains unknown.
#23 Solo: A Star Wars Story follow the path of Rogue One, this time around Han Solo and Chewbacca’s adventures before joining the Rebellion, including their early encounters with Lando Calrissian.
#24 Sicario 2: Soldado is the follow up of the 2015 Denis Villeneuve’s movie. The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.
#25 Every Day is the book adaptation of the story of a shy teenager falling for someone who transforms into another person every day.
#26 The Irishman is reuniting two legends of the cinema: Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as a mob hitman recall his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.
#27 Mission: Impossible 6 (plot unknown)

#28 Untitled Deadpool Sequel and I will just let you go and read this amazing plot.  
#29 Pacific Rim Uprising is the sequel to the first Pacific Rim, starring John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.
#30 Insidious: The Last Key is the last instalment in the horror franchise. Now parapsychologist Dr. Elise Rainier faces her most fearsome and personal haunting yet-in her own family home.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Best Movies of 2017

2017 is coming to an end and it is time again for me to choose my 10 favourite movies. The following movies might not be the most technically perfect films this year but one personal opinion. Do not be disappointed if you come here for validation on your personal top 10. This year again, there were so many good films – also some misfire - in the big-budget franchise category but there were also a lot of films that flew over people’s radar. These are films I can see myself watching over and over again for years to come.

Top 10: