Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Watched 'Catch Me If You Can' (2002) on Netflix.

Its based on the true story of Frank Abagnale (Leonardo Di Caprio) who, well by his 19th birthday, has embezzled millions of dollars through forged checks, and through posing as a pilot, doctor and a lawyer.

Tom Hanks plays Carl Hanratty, a cop out to get the bad guy, but quite fatherly, trying to help the guy because he is just a child.

The movie should have focused a bit more on the methods of the fraudster, that’s where all the spice is and that’s the most challenging part of movie making; but there are just a few scenes showing him removing company logos from souvenirs and sticking them on bank checks after which he is shown making his millions rather easily. I mean, you have to believe it without seeing it.

The movie is credible because it's set in the 1960's.
When information was confined to one file in one place. Not easily available, not shared. When the guy you were looking for was standing right before you but you could not identify him before you hadn’t seen his picture. Because his only picture that was a passport size black and white was on an old newspaper in the possession of his mother who lived in a different city.
I mean, the forged medical certificate of Frank is accepted by the hospital, without cross verification with the university. Today it would be impossible.
The movie would be laughable today. In the age of Google and smart phones and universal connectivity.
But the irony of it is, fraud has gotten bigger and better than ever before. New loopholes appear faster than you can close the older ones.

The most remarkable thing about the movie is the viewing lens.
It seems unjust and unfair.
A fraudster is depicted as this smart charming fellow cleverly eluding the nuisance of a cop.
The choice of Leo for the role was the first wrong step. He is a popular star and hence endears himself to the audience - despite being a felon who has swindled millions of dollars.
All along the movie it is the bad guy whose side you take and that's not right.
It's called glamorization of evil. Trite but that’s alright.
To keep the balance, the story should have shown the plight of an old couple who had lost all their life savings to this unthinking unscrupulous cheat.

The baddie transformed in the end alright and helped the FBI catch hundreds of fraudsters, but to depict him as a charming hero right from the beginning was a flaw in the lens.
It would have taken more talent to depict him as the criminal that he was, evoking resentment from the audience and then change that resentment to sympathy towards the end, as the boy transformed to a lawful citizen.

That apart…

Leonardo looks so young, so boyish in the movie. He plays a sixteen year old. I don't know if he really looked that young then or it is thanks to the make up artist. I love that look of his, especially his hairdo.
Perhaps they made him lose weight for that role.

A nice analogy.
“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn't quit. He struggled so hard, that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out”

The past is incredible. For being so far removed from the present.
A story of the 1960’s. Frank’s dad opened a checking account and put 25 dollars in it for his sixteenth birthday.
Frank, is asked if he is Lutheran. When he reveals to Brenda(Amy Adams) he is not, she is devastated.

New words learnt
- a person who attends a performance, sports event, etc., or travels on a train, airplane, etc., without having paid for a ticket, especially a person using a complimentary ticket or free pass.
- a train, railroad car, airplane, truck, or other commercial vehicle while operating empty, as when returning to a terminal.

2.Paperhanger - a person who passes worthless checks


Friday, October 26, 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Watched 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (1961) on Netflix.

It’s the story of Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), her life as a socialite, her naive ways, her pursuit of rich successful men, and her eventual choice of the not-so-successful writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard).

The movie is very light. So light that it is superficial. The woman is a socialite, attending parties, and such, so there must be superficiality, but showing parts of her personal life and the workings of her mind behind her make up would have helped to make the movie touch the audience in some way.

You go through the whole movie without ever being touched by it slightly, even once. I wouldn’t call that a great formula.
It ends with moral victory and that's a redeeming factor.

Holly (Audrey Hepburn) is endearing because of her naivete. If not for it, perhaps she would have come across as a gold digger, quite repulsive.

The tone in which the actors deliver their lines makes it seem more like theatre than cinema.

The movie has been deemed ‘culturally, aesthetically, historically significant’ and that’s a good reason why you may want to watch it.

The Japanese owner is a caricature with buck teeth, and thick spectacles. Running into walls, doors, just about everything, providing comic relief. Typical of the movies of those times - when humour was usually crass.

Women in parties are shown smoking using a long stick with the cigarette at the far end.

The social etiquette seems queer.

Paul touches his cold glass of drink to the bare back of a woman in the party he doesn't even know.

Another man lifts up a woman and seats her on his shoulders with one leg dangling on each side of his face.

Another woman has what looks like a watch tied around her ankle.

Holly and Paul with their limited means look for something below ten dollars to purchase at Tiffany’s, a Jewlry store in New York, and are offered “a sterling silver telephone dialler for 6.75 including federal tax”

So there used to be ‘telephone diallers’, and as other utilitarian objects, they were made stylish and fancy, such as ‘sterling silver telephone dialler’ and they cost 6.75 dollars in those times.

An interior designer was called the Decorator.

New York taxis weren't yellow.

Holly is shown whistling like a man, for a taxi. Perhaps it was an attempt to show how naive she was.

There is frequent mention of the powder room and Holly’s getting paid 50 dollars by men for the powder room, I am not sure what that means.

Holly is allowed to visit a convict Sally Tomato in his prison every week to provide conversation or light talk and gets paid a 100 dollars by his lawyer.

The actors are shown eating ‘Cracker Jack’ and pocketing the little prize that came with it. Paul chooses to have his cracker jack prize, a ring, engraved, as a present for Holly.

Cracker Jack is an American brand of snack consisting of molasses-flavored, caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts, well known for being packaged with a prize of trivial value inside. Some food historians consider it the first junk food.

All of these, characteristic of that time period, not prevalent today, are what make the movie culturally, aesthetically and historically significant, I presume.

Paul is ‘kept’ by his ‘decorator’, Emily, a rich older woman. When Paul, finding himself in love with Holly, tells her towards the end of the movie, he has another woman on his mind, she says,

“She would have to be someone rich, someone who could help you.”
To which Paul answers “Curiously enough, she is a girl who can't help anyone, not even herself. I can help her and it's a nice feeling for a change”
So true, while we like to receive help, care, presents and love from other people, we have a deep seated psychological need to be needed, to be of value, to be of use to someone - so I thought. The scene of this conversation depicts that truth very well.

I noted these lines for they seemed interesting.

“You could always tell what kind of a person a man thinks you really are by the earrings he gives you”

“People in New York never get to know their neighbours”

“That's the trouble. It's a mistake you always made trying to love a wild thing.

You mustn't give your heart to a wild thing. The more you do, the stronger they get.

Until they are strong enough to run into the woods, fly into a tree, then to higher trees and then the sky”

“She is amusingly and superficially talented but deeply and importantly, no”.

“It would be tacky to wear diamonds before I am forty”

“He is too prim and cautious to be my ideal”

“There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl's complexion”


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Watched 'Sleepless in Seattle' (1993) on Netflix.

Tom Hanks is a widower, whose eight year old son goes live on radio one day and wishes for a new wife for his father. Among many many women who upon listening to this on radio write to him wishing to date him is Meg Ryan from the other coast.
She has never seen him, met him, spoken to him but feels connected strongly enough to make attempts to meet him inspite of being engaged to a man she likes.

The story is about how the two finally meet through a series of coincidences and conscious efforts.

I would not have been able to appreciate this movie if I had not myself experienced a similar feeling of being connected with someone living in a faraway land who I had never seen nor met before. This was last year.

Given how much I love New York and the Empire State building, this movie was a treat. It showed empire state in all its glory, even with heart shaped red lighting on valentine's day - something I may never see in real life. The last scene is shot on the observation deck and brought a flood of memories.

Initially it's a bit slow but gets interesting later.

Meg Ryan was likeable. But Tom Hanks - I didn't like his face in this film.

The movie could have been made more realistic if kid were ten or twelve instead of eight. For not only does the kid find a match for his dad but also travels all alone from Seattle to New York by airplane and then through taxi and foot from the airport to the Empire state and all...

I noted these beautiful lines.

"People who loved once are far more likely to love again"

"Winter must be cold for those who have no warm memories... We have already missed the spring..."

During dinner date. Really funny.
"Do you have kids?
Do you want to have mine?"

This is super funny because it comes from an 8 year old boy persuading his daddy to take interest in Annie.
"Dad, I was talking to Jessica about reincarnation. You knew annie in another life...
I know this because I am young and pure and in touch with cosmic forces"


And oh, exactly 11 years ago, the October 21st weekend, which was a long weekend in the US, Barbara McPherson, my colleague, had taken me to her home in Seattle. we had toured some scenic places around, and I had stood there on top of the Space Needle! Its serendipitous that I should have chosen this post, this movie summary for posting today.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

Watched 'Crazy Stupid Love' (2011) on Netflix.

This is an entertaining movie.

There is a long married couple that is breaking up, a casanova who suddenly find himself becoming serious about a girl, a teenage boy in love with his adolescent baby sitter, the adolescent baby sitter in love with a middle aged man, a woman who has cheated on her husband of long, but still loves him.

The threads remain separate for a long time, and then suddenly they all converge and during the scene of the scuffle, you will find yourself laughing aloud, and falling off your chair.

There is a flaw in the script, in the opening scene itself, which you will perceive only later in the movie.
Emily (Julianne Moore) asks for divorce, following a one day fling with David, her coworker. Cal (played by Steve Carell) agrees without a word but right from that point on she misses him, and wants to keep him somehow.

When David reaches out to her, she shows no particular interest.
If Emily wasn't in love with David, and if this thing just happened between them incidentally, why would she ask Cal for a divorce? That was an overkill.

The script should have shown their separation to have been a consequence only of her confession to Cal about her fling with David. That's it. Her asking for divorce is inconsistent with the story that follows. Just doesn't fit in.

As the couple drives home, his wife refuses to stop explaining her decision to part ways, in spite of his insistence that she shup up. Cal drops off the moving car after. It is something I have so often thought about while being seated on the window seat and imagining my imaginary fears. I have never seen such a scene before, of a man opening the car door and rolling off. Its the first of its kind.

Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) though a casanova doesn’t evoke disgust or disapproval because he is sincere about what he is doing. Though he is using little tricks, he is only using them to charm the ladies, he isn’t creepy.
“You are wearing that dress as if you were doing it a favour” is one such charming thing he says to Hannah (Emma Stone) while trying to woo her.

I can so relate to Jacob, the casanova, becoming serious about Hannah. During my days in Jain college that was full of flirtatious young boys and girls, I had heard someone remark that these same guys are the ones capable of becoming very serious when they find the right one. I think its true.

In western movies, the sight of children that are not children enough is a painful one.
A 13 year old boy falling in love with a 17 year old girl would be perfectly alright if it were shown to be puppy love or calf love. Just an emotional thing.
But no, even at 13, the boy doesn't know to love with only his heart; he is shown doing adult things like touching himself while looking at the girl's photo and even discussing it with the girl later. Disturbing. Gross.

A 17 year old girl falling in love with a middle aged man too is understandable. But taking naked photographs of herself for showing them to the man is gross, something you would expect from a woman soliciting, not from someone in love. Kind of coquettish, slutty. The cherry on top, in the last scene, she hands these photographs to the little kid in love with her, as a present, to ‘get him through high school’!