Wednesday, November 27, 2013

20 Feet from Stardom: Music to Our Ears

Director/writer Morgan Neville has given us a real goodie with 20 Feet from Stardom. Bad pun notwithstanding it lives up to its claim: ‘meet the unsung heroes behind the greatest music of our time’.

There are many great singers featured but the households names that appear such as Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, Mick Jagger, Sting, David Bowie, Tom Jones, Stevie wonder, Ray Charles and Michael Jackson are not the stars of this first class documentary.

That honour goes to the backup singers: Darlene Love; Merry Clayton; Lisa Fischer; Judith Hill; Tata Vega; Jo Lawry; Claudia Lennear; Oren, Maxine and Julia Waters; and more. We’ve all heard them, even if we don’t realise it.

Despite their imposing voices, most of them have not become stars in their own right. Sheryl Crow who makes a brief appearance is one of the exceptions.

It is also a nostalgia trip for baby boomers as it ranges across the post-war period of popular music. Go to a cinema with a good sound system – well worth the effort.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ship of Theseus: Sum of the Parts

Anand Gandhi's Ship of Theseus is ambitious in scope and and original in treatment for a first feature-length film. As director/co-writer he is both captain and helmsman.

This movie is three stories and one, which befits Theseus' paradox that begins the voyage. 'If the parts of a ship are replaced, bit-by-bit, is it still the same ship?'

It is a overly long film at 2 hours 20 minutes. That's three-quarters-of-an-hour per story. At times the slow pace is annoying until the importance of detailing everyday life becomes clearer.

The cast is well chosen. Aida El-Kashef plays Aliya Kamal, an experimental photographer. Neeraj kabi is Maitreya, the sick monk. Sohum Shah is Navin the young stockbroker. They face their own individual searches for identity and life's meaning. But the key is the sum of the parts.

This is a bold experiment in filmmaking. Its background development is explored on Wikepedia.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gravity 3D: Poor Pulling Power?

Gravity in 3D, as a space vehicle for Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, is disappointing. It is mostly action and little story. It is supposed to be Sci-fi but it contains little that is new in its technology. It is also heralded as a thriller but its predictability robs it of much of its disaster movie potential. There are not too many instances where you find yourself holding your breath.

It is a satisfying visual experience but the impact of the special effects is not groundbreaking. Its grand 3D potential was somehow lost in space. There were few wow moments.

It is basically a cast of two: scientist Dr. Ryan (what kind of name is that...) Stone and shuttle astronaut Matt Kowalski. The rest are just voices. Clooney spacewalks through his role without having to extend his acting beyond chat show level. Bullock has more to do and does it competently. Director and co-writer Alfonso CuarĂ³ncan must take the blame for the over-the-top sentimentality.

As for the scenario, the longer it went, the sillier it became. Mercifully, it lasted only 91 minutes. It was a very small audience but it's difficult to say if that can be put down to Gravity's poor pulling power. Its box office and critical reception have been strong.