Archive for September, 2011

Violet & Daisy: Another sparkling gem in TIFF’s necklace

If Geoffrey Fletcher showed the movie world his Academy Award winning talent as a screenplay writer for Precious, he showed equal talent, if not greater, as a director in his debut film Violet and Daisy which premiered today at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) .

Two teenage nuns walking down the street with pizza boxes in their hands and one telling the other a very perverted joke. Weird? Absolutely. But there is more. They get inside an apartment but the camera doesn’t follow them inside. Instead it lingers in the hallway and then… series of gunshots. The nuns come out with a brutally beaten up man between them and are followed by wounded bodies spilling out of the apartment on to the hallway. On of them just refuses to die and keeps trying to aim a shot at the nuns while one of them continues to fire at him till she  empties every last bullet in the magazine and finally finishes him off with the swing of the fire extinguisher on the mans head. Got your attention now?

Violet (Alexis Bledel, Gilmore Girls fame) and Daisy ( Saoirse Ronan, Lovely Bones ) are teenage assassins. Snuffing people to get enough money to buy the latest Barbie evening gown, which is every teenage girls dream. Their last gig which was supposed to be an ‘in and out’ job takes an unplanned turn when the target Michael (Sopranos star James Gandolfini) doesn’t turn out to be how they expected.

The water runs deeper than one can imagine under the fiery demeanor of Violet and almost innocent and uncorrupted mind of Daisy. For them the job was same as the job of a waitress in a restaurant or the customer service girl in your bank. They refer to their gigs in a very matter-of-fact way and seem unaffected by the gruesomeness of their jobs. Their victory dance after a job well done is jumping and dancing on the dead bodies and watching the blood gush out of their mouths and nose. Fletcher opens tiny windows through which we get a glimpses of Violet’s, Daisy’s and Michael’s life as we go along, which instead of conjuring the expected response from the audience, “Oh that’s why!”; just lets them hang there with a “Take it how you will” effect. So your mind is doing somersaults all along, desperately trying to paint the characters  in either Black or White but you end up using every colour of the rainbow.

Is it possible to like or even fall in love with assassins? If the director is Fletcher, yes it is hundred percent possible. In-spite of the dark storyline filled with guns and bloodbath, cinematographer Vanja Cernjul’s camera work is soft, nurturing, caressing in every frame with exuberant colours which effectively soothes your otherwise rattled nerves.Violet opens a door and finds herself standing under a blazing sky in the light of the setting sun, studded with hundreds of static planes and then a snow covered terrain where Daisy tells her that she keeps missing her flight; are both sudden, abrupt yet captivating. The ambiguity is the strength of the movie.

Alexis was excellent as Violet; vibrant, strong, practical yet vulnerable and very much a teenager who has grown up too fast too soon. She is complemented by Ronan as Daisy; angelic, soft, almost fragile but headstrong and confident. Both the characters have multi-layers and complexities which were brought about by the pair effortlessly. James is a pro in bringing to life a author backed role and he does a stupendous job yet again. Guns, goons and the underworld is home turf for him and he takes full advantage of it.

A plate of freshly baked cookies, a letter from a dying father to his estranged daughter and a yo-yo are what make this movie unforgettable.

My Review: Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

Although my blog is mainly about LGBT issues, I thought I will make an exception and write my review of Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt starer Salmon Fishing In The Yemen.

I had short listed about 18 films I would want to watch from the whole gamut of different films showcased in Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and Salmon Fishing In The Yemen was not one of them. So it was a pleasant surprise, how enjoyable and moving the movie turned out to be.

Adopted from Paul Torday‘s bestselling novel by the same name,  the movie is about a Fisheries expert Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) who was forced against his wishes to work out a plausible way for a multi-billionaire Sheikh (Amr Waked)  to enjoy salmon fishing in the heart of Yemen. When Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), the representative of the Sheikh approaches Fred with the preposterous idea, Fred tries everything in his power to discourage her and make her see how ridiculous the whole concept was, till he meets the Sheikh himself. Fred, a staunch scientist, was devoid of the finer nuances of emotion and to him everything was an equation. Things that add up and things that don’t. Projects, relationships, future planning, everything follows a pattern and deflecting from that was not an option. This project was one of the things that doesn’t add up and the idea of wasting his valuable time and energy behind this madness was unacceptable to him. The political urgency to repair damaged relationship between the Yemen and the British governments, saw this as the best opportunity. The British Prime Minister’s spokesperson Bridget Maxwell ( Kristin Scott Thomas) takes it up on herself to publicize this project as a feel good and generous gesture of the British government towards the Middle-East , making it impossible for Fred to back off from it. Harriet, who described the Sheikh as a “visionary” , if ever had any doubts herself about this frivolous project, never let her personal thoughts to clash with her work.

After a few meetings with the Sheikh, Fred watched in mute horror his own departure from the world of science and cautiously entering the Sheikh’s world of faith, dreams and visions to do something for his people, the rush of thinking out of the box and the pleasure of witnessing it turn to reality.

The movie is not a love story, or about relationships, but director Lesse Hallstrom nourishes every character with much love and affection and effortlessly weaves their individual lives along the main storyline without compromising  the flow of the movie. Fred’s practical approach to his life’s problems, Harriet’s emotional struggle to cope with her personal losses help the viewers relate to the characters easily. The amazing cinematography captured the rustic, raw, landscape of Yemen and the plush locales of Scottish highlands and the result was breathtaking. The comedy was subtle, chaste and felt as fresh as minty chewing gum.

Only an ace director like Hallstrom can delve deep inside the viewers psyche and evoke simultaneously a myriad of emotions so that when you finally leave the theatre wiping away the tears, your heart soars with hope and optimism and have a big smile firmly plastered on your lips.

BREAKING: UK Ban on Gay Men donating blood to be lifted

The United Kingdom has proposed to lift the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

Men who have not had sex with another man in the past 12 months, now would be allowed to donate blood in Wales, Scotland and England. Northern Ireland has not reached a decision yet but is expected to declare their stand on the issue soon.

The restriction which was brought forth at the wake of HIV outbreak in the 80s are not relevant in today’s time as proposed by the latest medical evidences.

More detailed report can be viewed by the BBC.

Here is hoping, other countries like Canada and US would follow suit soon.

Illinois college, first to ask students their sexual orientation

‘Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT community?’

Elmhurst college is the first to ask students to disclose their sexual orientation while applying for admission.

I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, trying to figure out what was the motive behind such a step. But reading in detail, I must say I am pleasantly surprised at such a stance taken by the college.

No one is required to answer the question, however if anyone answers with an YES, he/she maybe eligible for a scholarship that would pay upto a third of the tuition fee.

“Increasing diversity is part of our mission statement,” Rold told the Chicago Sun-Times. “This is simply closing the loop, in many ways, of another group who has a very strong identity. It may not be race and religion, but it’s an important part of who they are.”

Elmhurst is a private Liberal Arts college and has 3300 students and affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

The idea of directly asking a student about their sexual orientation is novel, to say the least however, it is to be seen how it goes down with students and parents. Students getting in a college knowing that the college embraces them for what they are, with no judgement or discrimination should leave them relaxed and bring the best out of them academically.

Kathy’s new target: Marcus Bachmann

Kathy Griffin came on Craig Fergusan’s Late Late Show on the 1st of September. I always have loved her, like any other gay man, I guess.

Among many other hilarious comments, when she talked about her new show on Bravo ‘Kathy Griffin: Pants Off’, she informed that originally she wanted to name it ‘Kathy Griffin: Pray the Gay Back’. The initial title was self explanatory, as been taken from Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann‘s husband’s clinic where Marcus Bachmann claims to cure gays of their homosexual craving through prayer.

She openly declared that Marcus is her new target. And honestly I can’t wait to see what all she comes up with against this man. She already gave us a good hint of what we can expect when she insinuated that Marcus Bachmann himself is gay. Being warned by Craig not to openly talk about Marcus’s sexuality, she drew a very poor and deliberate comparison to Marcus and the kind of guys that mostly come to watch her live shows, leaving nothing to speculation.

Watch it and enjoy.

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