Lion: An Inspiring Story reflecting on Hidden Hope and Love Embroiled in the Cruel Game of Life

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Lion, based upon the non-fiction autobiography called A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley, is a story of finding your identity, an identity that faded away when one was in the system as yet another lost child. Lost hundreds of miles from home, and after months of living in poverty and government shelters, Saroo was adopted by a couple in Australia. When he grew up, he became determined to locate his family in India, to find his way back home, to find his brother, Guddu. But what he really yearned to find was himself. Lion is a truly heart-breaking account of a serious issue that is plaguing India, lost children, and Saroo inspires many with his story and the journey he embarked upon to no longer be a lost child.

 

The film begins in India, a peek into the life of a young Saroo whose childhood was so poverty-stricken that he and his family would have to share the smallest pot of milk and be denied seconds. Played by Sunny Pawar, a little kid who has stolen everyone’s hearts with his strong performance and happy-go-lucky persona posing on red carpets, Saroo hails from a poor background, the middle of three children abandoned by their father, forced to suffer the unknown fate of each of their days. The malnourished class of rural India suffers a great deal; cramped living conditions, little or no money, limited food and water, and just about no rights at all. Director Garth Davis doesn’t hold back, or trivialise these highly prevalent issues in demonstrating the true story of the lost Saroo, a little boy who cannot remember where he is from and how to get back, and the people or system he relies on to help him are unable to do so. Why is that? Because the system is flawed, his village could not be located, nor his mother and family. These are the negatives surrounding India, and they are not sugarcoated for the benefit of the films international audiences. All countries have their problems, and their setbacks, and Davis displays that clearly in this film, but he doesn’t forget to inhibit the wonder of such a nation in its aesthetics.

You can still see the beauty within the simplicity of Rural India and its culture; there is no grandeur in their homes or richness in their clothes, but the people find majesty in what they have, they find enjoyment in leaves and sand rather than material possessions. The artistry of the film shows this kind of man-made, self-sought out wonder, especially with young Saroo becoming mesmerised by a field of butterflies or when he mimics a man eating soup with a spoon he finds while living on the streets. There is a plain truth to the poor/rich divide, and that comes out in the sweet and innocent persona of a child who has practically nothing, loses it in an instant and suddenly has everything, and that truth is that it only takes one person to move past the corruption and extend some help to those in need. This story is a true showcasing of courage, determination and pure love within a time of isolation and turmoil, and the film does justice to it by running the thread of hope deep within themes and imagery we are saddened and haunted by.

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Dev Patel plays the older Saroo who travels along the Google earth images of India, retracing any steps he can remember, to locate his real family, to find the part of himself he has been lost to all these years. Nominated for all the major awards, including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Patel gently drives his character to a point of almost no return after audiences see him in an array of emotions. Happy, sad, hopeful, distraught, angry, Saroo encapsulates all feelings, but remains grounded despite the probable reaction of loathing life and everything it has thrown in his lap. Patel brings a sense of realism to the role with his own background. His inability to speak the Hindi language, something the real-life Saroo forgot as he aged, works into his own grasp of the role and the non-Hindi speaking majority of the international audience are able to watch and experience with the character. Nicole Kidman, also critically acclaimed for her work in the film, embraced the role of the adoptive mother with a warm truth as she too has two children by adoption, correlating to her character. The bond lost between Saroo and his real mother, Fatima, was re-built between Kidman and Patel’s characters, a bond that wasn’t shaken or broken over time, nor was it forgotten after his pursuit of Fatima and his pre-lost child life. Lion does not only portray a bond between a person and his past, but also his present, that being the mother/son relationship, founded from the honourable, loving act of international adoption; giving a disadvantaged child a home.

The entirety of Lion felt like an immersive experience, we ran alongside young Saroo as he became lost, we travelled with him to Australia; we experienced everything as he did. By doing this, Davis allowed for Saroo Brierley’s story to remain hidden in the minds of Pawar and Patel as they enacted their roles as young and older Saroo – the audiences were not considered superior to the characters. Brierley’s A Long Way Home revealed itself page by page, just as a reader would experience and understand it, book in hand. We were watching a film, but we were also reading the story, not being told the story – the difference is key.

Dev Patel stars in LION

The ending is the pinnacle of the story, the moment Saroo had been waiting for, the discovery of his family’s fate since he became lost. The climatic point of the film is truly a beacon of answers at the end of a character journey darkened by enigma, and while I have been praising the film for its theme of hope and mode of inspiration, you must know how it ends by now. Saroo finds his mother; he reunites with the little village he grew up in, his sister, a country he felt disconnected from. The artistry imbued within the scenes filmed in India returns at the end where Saroo envisions his brother, Guddu, like a guardian angel taking him back home, and fulfilling the promise he couldn’t keep when he lost his little brother. The inspiration and hope behind Saroo Brierley’s story melded with the final moment of tragedy tells the audiences that the movies cannot always be a form of positive escapist art, and films are made to relay an important message to the world.

Lion encapsulates the positive and negative sides to the cruel game of life, where the themes and motifs of journey, identity, hope and inspiration can be used to educate the world on the act of saving a soul, no matter how it is done. The Brierley’s saved young Saroo through adoption, older Saroo saved himself through courage using the apparatus of Google Earth, and Guddu saved Saroo through whatever memories Saroo had left of him.

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2015 Awards Season

Sorry for the lateness, blame 3rd year stress! 🙂 Enjoy

The Oscars surprised me this year in many ways, from a disappointing host (even though I was so excited for Neil Patrick Harris, and he did get off to a good start) and the shock of Boyhood only winning for Best supporting Actress. Now I haven’t seen Richard Linklater’s incredible, 7-year spanning creation about the simple, yet complex situation of growing up, but even I feel that the prestige of an academy award would have just made his day. However, after saying that, I am exceptionally pleased that the genius that was Birdman won three major awards, best original screenplay, best director for Iñárritu, and finally the mother of all, best film.

Those epically written scenes of Edward Norton and Michael Keaton raging at each other under contexts of reaching your inner actor, whether or not their Raymond Carver revival will turn heads or not, and well just acting like a jackass, formed a twisted bromance that played on Keaton’s psychological instabilities. His moments of casual meditation in those, now highly popular and probably fastest selling retail product since the Lotso Bear from Toy Story 3, Y fronts to his illusory powers of telekinesis and dystopic frenzy all constitute for a whirlwind conception of the Birdman, deserving of Academy recognition. And well if the writing gets an Oscar, the main man behind transferring the words to the screen is as equally as worthy, especially for crazily deciding on ONE shot as sufficient for harbouring these entwining desires and anxieties of a du=dysfunctional and deluded set of individuals.

Back to Boyhood, Patricia Arquette may have given a beautiful performance in the film, but I think its safe to say, her performance as an Academy award-winning WOMAN won her more praise that night. Voicing her opinion of the equal pay act and women’s rights on the biggest, most powerful, most notable platforms in the film industry had her fellow actresses, the likes of Meryl Streep, cheering and even jumping out of their seats in agreement. After winning almost all the major awards for this performance, giving well thought out speeches every time, she waited for the ultimate mode of campaigning, and she got it, she made herself heard and earned the backing of important people close to the US Government, like Hilary Clinton.

To be honest, what are these speeches for, to suck up to the board of directors that decided you were good enough to be in these nominations, or to list every damn name in the world. I think good speeches are those that address the feelings of pride and happiness that come with achieving such heights in your career. If thanking people is a part of it then so be it, but a long list? That will have us yawning until we can down some drinks at the after party. The best Oscar speeches I have heard have been much more subtle in their long list of supporters. Arquette is up there with Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis, and another great speech from the very same ceremony, John Legend and Common. They won for Best Original Song, after an emotional performance, bringing the likes of Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, and Chris Pine to tears.

To finish off, I just want to say that Neil Patrick Harris IS funny, he is his own type of comedian, but before that he is a singer, a dancer and an actor. So he may have epically failed, coming out with an all time low for ratings, but he did have to follow Ellen. I mean, come on, she was brilliant last year, she interacted with the audience, she charmed everyone at home with her unique wit and hey, and she fed them, with pizza. That was the steal. So, maybe not the Oscars Neil, you’re a Tony guy.

Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

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So, we have Michael Keaton levitating in only his underpants in the middle of his dressing room, during the first clip of the film, sort of talking to himself, or is he talking to his alter ego/tormenting soul, or is someone actually talking to him. Either way, we are immediately invited into this intensely dark presence of mental incapacity within Riggan Thomson’s, played by Keaton, slow, delirious breakdown as a washed-up actor trying to revive, and adapt to a new, less comic-book character-driven, career, ironically, through a Broadway adaptation show.

Irony, in fact, plays a pivotal role throughout the film, from which a great portion of its comedy derives from, most heavily represented through Riggan’s portrayal of Raymond Carver’s Mel, when in actual fact he is spewing his life’s woes to the ignorant audience, right to the dramatic climax of the opening night performance, all the while denying his mental instabilities in the big bad world of showbiz. So, it is a play within a film, ricocheting between three stories, Raymond Carver’s ‘What We Talk About When We Talk about Love’, the actors’ lives during the build-up to their opening performance, and then solely Riggan’s psychological torment, at the hands of his Birdman character/alter-ego, which also happens to be another film. So, González Iñárritu has invited us into a destabilisation of conventional modernist art, and opened audience’s eyes to a postmodernist style of intertextuality and bricolage.

The story plays with our imaginations, the enigmas of higher powers within the capacity of the ordinary human. So, can we all just simply levitate into the sky and fly across the city of New York, freeing ourselves from soul-attacking shackles, or is that a mere hallucination of drunken loitering? González Iñárritu gives Riggan all the power in the world, from levitation to telekinesis, but forbids him the mere control of his own life, as the very attribution of these powers is due to his critically-invasive double identity, voiced, and soon visualised near the end, as his alter-ego, Birdman.

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Emma Stone and Edward Norton, respectively nominated for Oscar’s in supporting categories, along with the many other accolades Keaton has already, and is yet to, receive, played into their subversive, destructive and partially delusional characterisations exceptionally well, heightening secondary character’s broken identities, just as much as the protagonist. Its hard to find a fault in a film openly showcasing dysfunction as both, comedic and dramatic in the same sitting, and actually doing it well enough to garner many of the prestigious honours, like Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and Academy Awards.

The cast and crew of Birdman push the boundaries of generic filmmaking to stage immense creativity originating from a rebellious postmodern release of humanity into a world of the unknown. Instead of showing us what we want to see, we are prohibited from witnessing Riggan’s final soaring into his own, but not before telling his destructive other to fuck off, and simply have to concoct our individual conclusion of events from Stone’s embellished wide-eyed expression of awe as she gazes up, smiling at, what we assume to be, his well-deserved hurrah of liberating peace.

To conclude, Birdman is a creatively conceived deterioration, developed into a rebellion, of the mind, body and soul, delivered through a postmodern tone of ironic hilarity, the typical psychological drama film – a hybridisation of sorts.

Image sources: http://redcarpetcrash.com, https://redheadbooknerd.wordpress.com.

Best of BFI: What to expect from the headliners of the festival?

A little heads-up on the next in line, critically-acclaimed productions famed at the recent BFI festival; Foxcatcher, Whiplash and Wild.

  1. Foxcatcher

 Directed by Bennett Miller.

Starring Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Vanessa Redgrave.

Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman.

This eagerly anticipated sports biopic surrounding the lives of John du Pont and the Schultz brothers, Mark and Dave, in the efforts to train US wrestling Olympians, has been credited as career changing for all three actors. Carrell, Tatum and Ruffalo are seen in characterisations far from their comfort zone, engaging in the dramatic chemistry of the sport of wrestling at a level of psychological strain and pressure. Miller’s direction, if anything like Capote and Moneyball, will transcend boundaries of human ability, showcasing talents of the mind and body to deliver the true stories of highly influential people. Nominated for five Academy Awards this year, and best director winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Foxcatcher is set to take the industry by storm with a hauntingly decadent insight into the world of wrestling.

  1. Whiplash

 Directed by Damien Chazelle

Starring Miles Teller, J.K Simmons and Paul Reiser.

Written by Damien Chazelle

Chazelle takes his audience on a journey of blood, sweat and tears (literally for Teller’s character), as he represents the world of Jazz music in a different light from the famed glamour that we know from the front of the show. The unseen, in the background, painful drive one needs to possess to finally get on that stage is what we see between Teller and Simmon’s characters – a psychologically draining dynamic between teacher and student to be ‘one of the greats’, as he says in the film. Drawing on his experience as a drummer in a very competitive jazz band in his high school years, Chazelle decided to enlighten the public with the traumatic lows he suffered, through Teller’s character of 19-year-old aspiring ‘great’ jazz drummer Andrew Neiman. Simmons’ portrayal of this teaching tyrant, disciplining his students by hurling instruments at their heads and reducing them to a tearful vulnerability, to only slap them in the face with their lack of talent, has been continuously praised, winning awards from festivals across the States, including New York Critics Circle and Palm Springs Spotlight award, as well as the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. Whiplash is also in the running for five Oscars, including supporting Actor for Simmons, best film and adapted screenplay for Chazelle.

 

  1. Wild

 Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Gaby Hoffman.

Written by Nick Hornby

Witherspoon’s character Cheryl takes on the tough task of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after suffering many heart breaking trials, pushing her closer and closer to the edge, in the hope of regaining her self back from a draining emotional downward spiral. Witherspoon portrays Cherly Strayed, the writer of and real-life hiker in the novel, on which the film is based, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, showcasing her bestseller story to the world on the screen. Vallée, director of last year’s critically acclaimed Dallas Buyers Club, digs deep to demonstrate ones condition after facing so much trauma and tragedy, and presents a character of unrelenting strength and bravery to command her life back. As it looks from the award race this year, Witherspoon seems to be back in the running for Best Actress, since her last win in 2006 for Walk the Line, according to the critical reactions of Variety and Deadline.com. If its anything like their previous successes, Wild will touch audience’s hearts, involving them in a journey to find ones identity and to stay true to ones self.

Ones to Watch in 2015

The buzz on Birdman, The Theory of Everything, Into the Woods, American Sniper and Ex Machina.

  1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifinakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts.

Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo

With an ensemble cast, a director that brought us Babel, in 2006 and a cleverly eccentric plot, Birdman has reached great heights since its October release in the States, with Globe wins, and SAG and Oscar nominations, not to mention festival and box office acclaim of $34.2 million gross worldwide. I already have my slot lined up, ready to watch in awe. Critics have been rampantly praising it, with the Telegraph calling it ‘a Dark Knight of the soul’ and Michael Keaton’s portrayal of lead character Riggan Thompson has been credited as bold and ‘soaring in this electrifying character study’, as reviewed by online entertainment site Digital Spy. It’s a must-see psychological and darkly funny drama that I have had my eye on ever since that odd teaser of a half-naked Keaton jogging through a busy (its always busy) Times Square.

  1. The Theory of Everything

Directed by James Marsh.

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, David Thewlis and Harry Lloyd.

Written by Anthony McCarten.

Biopics have been making their mark in recent years, from the likes of My Week with Marilyn, Lincoln and The Kings Speech, all faring well at the box office and garnering critical recognition and success. Well, the life and work of Stephen Hawking is the next biographical venture for film, headed by James Marsh, from Man on Wire and Project Nim fame. Adapted from Hawkings’ first wife, Jane’s, memoir, ‘Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen’, Marsh touches upon themes of science, romance, and ultimately, life during the time of Hawking’s biggest achievement till date. Eddie Redmayne fresh from his Golden Globes win for Leading Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, and Felicity Jones’ portrayal of the Hawking couple has been met with praise and appreciation by The Guardian, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, as well as cinematographer Benoît Delhomme and Jóhan Jóhannsson’s score receiving acclaim. If you like learning as well as being entertained, this scientifically-driven romantic drama about Stephen Hawking is just right for you.

  1. Into the Woods

Directed by Rob Marshall

Starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Lilla Crawford, MacKenzie Mauzy and Daniel Huttlestone.

Written by James Lapine

Another ensemble cast of brilliant acting abilities, who can hold a tune, which is exactly what Stephen Sondheim and Rob Marshall wanted for the film adaptation of the former’s classic Tony-award winning Broadway show. Sondheim and Marshall team together to bring us a beautifully dark big screen version of the Brothers Grimm tales entwined into the fictional story of a baker and his wife. If its $120million and over worldwide gross is anything to go by, I’m sure the public were raving to see this movie. With many surprising performances and awe-dropping vocals of the younger stars, families across the world who have a love for fairy tales will turn out to watch and enjoy this fantasy musical. Meryl Streep takes centre stage as the frightening Witch, but I am sure nobody will care if she looks ugly and old, her voice alone will steal the show.

  1. American Sniper

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.

Written by Jason Dean Hall.

Since that teaser was released of Bradley Cooper’s character, Chris Kyle, a United States Navy SEAL, silently and calmly in the midst of a sniper attack, I was intrigued to know more about this film. We know Cooper can do comedy well, he can do romance well, and since Silver Linings Playbook, he can let audiences into a more dramatic depth of personality, so I was under no impression of negativity when he was cast as the lead in this Clint Eastwood production. My surprise came from its many Academy Award nominations, but with Eastwood for a director, and after his many successes with Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, this is not his first dance at the Oscars. Based on the memoir of Chris Kyle, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, this biopic tells the mentally and physically tumultuous tale of a man torn between his love of the job or his true love at home. The sedate darkness of Eastwood creations with a harrowing story of the American Sniper is a match I would like too see.

  1. Ex Machina

Directed by Alex Garland

Starring Domhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander.

Written by Alex Garland.

This eagerly anticipated British Science Fiction production is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, known for his writing abilities in the Danny Boyle films 28 Days Later and Sunshine, about a man unknowingly becoming involved in the investigative challenging of the powers of humanity in the latest Artificial Intelligence experimentation, Ava, portrayed by Vikander. Gleeson’s character Caleb and Isaac’s Nathan go head to head in this thriller-esque reconfiguration of typical Sci-Fi to stimulate our minds into either accepting the unsettling notion of a new mechanically engineered world or undeniably fearing the lengths one would go to, to succeed in such a task. With his previous roles in the shadows of other actors, Gleeson comes into the forefront as the face of good against the aesthetically unnerving and formidable characterisation of Isaac, recently famed for his portrayals in Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year. Still in post-production, the film is set to storm the UK and US film industries, elevating the Science Fiction genre to new heights of mysterious emotional instabilities.