Annecy 2017: Funny animals & an unlikely pair

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

A marvelous animated collaboration inbetween Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert, titled The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales premiered at the 2017 Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France. The film is a collection of short stories comprising of a fox, a duck, a lizard and a stork. The longest story, and by-far the most moving one too, has been allocated to the fox, who one day while out looking for food comes across some baby chicks that he must look after; the fox immediately switches from his major naturalistic desire to eat the chicks, to a loving and doting parent instead.

The other animals have rather equally interesting experiences of their own: a lazy stork hands over the task of delivering a baby to a rabbit, pig and duck and the lizard is a random figure, versed in Mandarin. Humorous and intelligent, the choice of animation for the movie is a mix between sketches and something primarily off the nineties, which makes the film even more of a curiosity to want to appetite. It’s the all-out adventures of a range of funny and neurotic animals running around though, which delivers, each story (complete with a lively music score as an accompaniment) just brilliantly.

Rating: 9/10

A Slient Voice

A Silent Voice is an adaptation of a seven volume manga series into one full feature length film. That thought alone suggests it’s an impossible task but the movie, which also premiered at Annecy (2017),  shouldn’t be expected to be an animated play-by-play of a comic novel because what it is, is a rendition of the key elements of the manga of the same name by Yoshitoki Oima. The movie opens with an attempted suicide by a boy called Shoya Ishida. Shoya tries to take his own life by jumping from a bridge – he’s a bully who in class use to terrify a young deaf and mute girl called Shoko Nishimiya.

Shoya doesn’t have any friends in school because of his bullying ways, and Shoko has a similar disposition herself: she is always at the receiving end of other kids’ jokes. Shoko hopes for forgiveness from Shoya and in pursuit of that the two become friends, and even wooing is thrown into the picture for a very unlikely pair. It’s a relationship filled with hurt, sporadic comic moments fetched by Shoko’s newfound friend, Tomohiro Nagatsuka, but pushed together by loneliness, and yet what is striking throughout it all, is how different Shoya and Shoko are from each other; Shoya can only communicate with the help of sign language, so her life is quiet but the isolation in school for Shoko, makes him look like he’s always yearning for, at least, a chance of redemption for his previous acts and an exit from this prevailing state of quiet loneliness.

Rating: 7/10

Amazing Spring Sounds

Bruno Mars ’24K Magic’

Bruno Mars’ new album is a fresh take on sounds of the nineties – in the R&B department. Inspired by songs from the decade, which Mars classifies as the kind of songs all the girls in school would love to listen to, which he would belt out once upon a time in his life, 24K Magic is a good follow-up to Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010), Unorthodox Jukebox (2012) and his dubious collab Uptown Funk (2014). It’s largely a party anthem, and a glorious party anthem, centered on R&B, which is really hard to find. Expect the expected though, with audacious lyrics and new tracks stylistically springing off hits by Boyz II Men and Michael Jackson.

Rating: 4/5

Harry Styles ‘Harry Styles’

Harry Styles’ debut album, since One Direction went on hiatus, was his one chance to carve out something entirely different: a solo project, which would be just as magical as the songs his band is recognized globally for. A mix of rock – particularly, the Los Angeles rock anthem variety, and ballads, it’s very different material because the music is more mature than before in Harry Styles.

The opening track Meet Me In The Hallway, is expressively about a singer/poet from the 11th-13th centuries who travels to and fro from the south of France to the north of Italy, to entertain the rich + a lot more of similar bases, like the big rock anthem Only Angel, where Harry sings of a woman who’s a devil between the sheets and how he thinks he might just like that he cannot take her home to his mother because she loves to wear mini skirts – fascinating…a really fascinating invented tale in the lyrics for Only Angel.

Everything, surprisingly, is an exploration of rock in the album, as often a departure from a prominent pop band grows into for a young star of Harry Styles’ stature. In fact, this might just be the biggest indication of a conscious switch from pop to rock for the British star but it would have made for an even better album to have the sounds mix with pop, as much as well.

Rating: 4/5

Linkin Park ‘One More Light’

Linkin Park has gone in a brand new direction from the previous amazing genres it had placed itself in as a band – rap metal, alternative metal and alternative rock. The latest album is a cleaner pop adventure, filled with melodies and sounds, which sound more contemporary than before. It’s a shocking move away for the band towards something a lot more experimental but it really is still far greater sounds when the band sticks to what it’s known to do – what it does best, which is brilliantly chart in nu-metal, instead.

Rating: 3/5

 

The Witty Ways Of Deepika Padukone

From getting fearless on-screen in Bollywood to making her debut in Hollywood, Deepika Padukone proves she is a force to be reckoned with

Deepika Padukone is one of the finest examples of Bollywood glamour. After making her debut in Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om opposite Shah Rukh Khan, which turned out to be a dreamboat role in itself, there has been no looking back for the young actress. I can vaguely recall Deepika from her initial modelling days, where she had walked the ramp for Indian fashion designers, such as Suneet Verma and starred in advertising campaigns for Liril, Limca and Maybelline. It was a drastic professional change for Deepika to join Bollywood and came as a bit of surprise as such, since she was already a pretty recognized model herself. Nonetheless, it was perhaps one of the best things to have happened because over the years, Deepika has been going from strength-to-strength as an actress.

Recently, the 31-year-old also made her debut in Hollywood, with xXx: Return of Xander Cage, opposite Vin Diesel and the movie managed to label itself as a critical failure, in spite of critically being noted as an improvement on the previous xXx franchise. The movie introduced Deepika Padukone to Hollywood, but personally I have always preferred her work in Bollywood more, where she can naturalistically very much demonstrate a larger range of emotions and portray a wide range of very interesting Indian characters.

Deepika’s first big break came in Cocktail (released in July 2012), after she had manged to survive through a string of failures. Even though her career had begun with a bang of sorts, it didn’t take long for it to sink to a very bad level – in retrospect, I have to say that you kind of saw it coming, when Padukone got primarily negative reviews for Chandni Chowk To China (2009), despite it only being her third major film. But those are bygone days now because Deepika managed to underwrite all of those setbacks that define nearly every Bollywood star’s career, with enormous films, such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani (2015), and two Disney-UTV films Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (2013) and Chennai Express (2013).

It’s not just about saying goodbye to career setbacks for Deepika Padukone – nowadays she also feels no pressure to make petty conversations with people in parties. Hailing from Bangalore, Deepika sports an entirely non-film-industry-background, so the idea of making petty conversations with people about Bollywood films, such as Sholay (1975), which she has never watched, like me unless snatching seconds of glimpses count, has now been exchanged with behaving as a recluse comfortably. Deepika’s roles have also evolved into ones which boast an intrepid nature off-late and she shares this with her male co-stars but things didn’t always use to be this way – earlier on in her career she had felt the burnt edges of working in a male-dominated film industry, where ace directors would not run the distance with her in terms of proper guidance.

I guess, like fashion, which Deepika describes as something that is dictated to a person, not everything or everybody can always act as a great leader. Speaking of style, I really must say I liked how Deepika chose to wear a Rohit Bal sari at Cannes in 2010 instead of a pretty gown – it is the definition of strutting around in Hollywood, for a little while, for Bollywood celebrities, at large, and I think it must have taken a lot of guts for the Indian actress to do something different and singularly bring the Indian equation to the Red Carpet at Cannes.

I really feel that an Indian woman looks very good in a sari, and unlike for women in India (and Bangladesh) it is tough to imagine most cultures in the world can even carry a sari well. It’s not just that they are not naturalistically built for it, it’s also that draping yards of fine cloth like the ancient Romans used to isn’t really in their culture so I don’t understand why besides those cultures curiously sampling, it would be even remotely interesting whatsoever. I think that if Deepika is smart with her script choices, as well as her mantras in life, there should be no doubt over seeing a lot more of her (and her unique idea of glamour/style and life as a celebrity) in Bollywood, for years to come.

Jackie

Jackie is a tribute to the steeliness with which the former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (also known as Jackie) manaevoured the assassination of her husband President John F. Kennedy, when the two were out on a trip in Texas. Dressed in a pink Chanel suit and a pillbox hat of the same colour, the young First Lady’s choice of attire on that day has since then evolved into one of the most memorable fashion reference points in history, particularly for the sixties. In the film, Natalie Portman stars as Jackie and it is directed by Pablo Lorrain; the film is quite dramatic in places and more often than not it is emotional and historically-evocative.

Natalie Portman portrays 'Jackie'
A class act in fashion

Portman looks very much like she is keeping up appearances for her role and it is tough upon first sight to strike a chord with it because I think the most endearing quality of a biopic is the level of realism that can be sourced and splashed on screen. That nature of the film acts as a major drawback because Portman doesn’t convince enough as Jackie and it almost throws off a very good script off it’s tracks. The story is, first and foremost, about an interview given to LIFE magazine soon after the sudden death of her young husband, during which she is rather easily irritable and even flat out tells the unknown reporter (for the magazine) that he cannot print segments of it.

Jackie comes off as a woman that you cannot help but sympathize with. She divulges that the ‘Camelot’ remarks surrounding the presidency was a pure marketing pull and nothing else, and she always has to have a sense of higher duty: whether or not she is on the other side of Atlantic and projecting a classic American culture because once she did use to be the First Lady or if she is at home in the United States managing to keep the whole story of what transpired on that tragic day the least bit sensitive that is possible. The film is watchable for that new angle on a remarkable political figure, and then there are also the breathtaking costumes.

Rating: 6/10

Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane is a thrilling tale of a lobbyist called Elizabeth Sloane. The film is directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and the cast involves Jessica Chastain, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterson, Mark Strong, and John Lithgow amongst others. It is an angular story somewhat on a selected range of day-to-day work that Sloane does, hinged on subjects such as senator connections, the probable imposition of tariffs on palm oil and downright harassment of people lower than her in life.

Sloane sports copper hair, pale-as-a-ghost complexion and a steely demeanor – at first sight, it’s hard to imagine Jessica Chastain playing the role because she stands out so much from what comes in your mind as to how a steely woman would look like but the story carries itself so effortlessly, everything blends in absolutely perfect. Sloane has foresight, she knows how to win at guessing games and directing her winning points according to her well-pinned-out guesses, and is so robotic at times, nothing ever earns her surprise.

A very nice look inside the lives of Washington's elite
A very nice look inside the lives of Washington’s elite

Sloane, despite her favourite lipstick shade of crimson (which she wears a lot) and designer heels, is a frightening woman. I mean, when backed into a corner the woman readily expresses her disdain in a lordly tone. Sloane is a private person but she is not a loner because she does keep the company of numerous male escorts, such as Forde, who she sees a lot of. Nonetheless, friends turn foes for Sloane within an instant if it means that she can professionally get ahead.

It’s naturally a subject of debate: Sloane does not strike as a sympathetic character sometimes unlike Esme Manucharian, a survivor of gun violence, who is forced by Sloane to share her personal experiences with the world. You can see how it would be easy in the film to sympathize with Manucharian because of the kind of life she has had and how hard it must be to feel the same way for Sloane fiercely trying to climb the career ladder, no matter the cost and on her own terms. It’s a no-brainer win for Sloane, for me, there because those are the very qualities that make a woman admirable in the twenty-first century.

Sloane manages to disintegrate circumstances around her, where everything just breaks down and goes neurotic, all thanks to her attitude to life but she doesn’t back down from any of it, even going so far as to look forward to being a powerful threatening force in the world. Sloane is the mother-of-all-characters in the film, and the movie is a deep and very good look at the life of a highly successful woman, who always aims to win.

Rating: 8/10

Florence Foster Jenkins

Set during the Second World War, the film Florence Foster Jenkins charts a story about a novice soprano, who is adamant about pursuing a musical career despite never receiving any favourable judgments over the question of her singing talent. As the founder of the Verdi Club Florence has friends who are sympathetic to her ears, a husband who gave up his faltering acting career to be there for his wife as she pursues her musical interests and is the subject of constant ridicule from commentators in music, and audiences of her performances alike. British director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons and The Queen) brings the tragic (and sometimes darkly comedic) biopic remarkably alive. The titular character in the film is played by Meryl Streep and the film also pairs Streep with Hugh Grant, who plays St. Clair Bayfield and Simon Helberg, who plays Cosmé McMoon, respectively.

What makes the subject of the film interesting is Streep’s strong desires to sing even though she is terrible at it. Bayfield’s money goes a very long way to ensure Streep’s hopes aren’t shattered beyond repair, but in the end a terribly scathing review by the New York Post does do it. Money gave Florence the chance to perform in Carnegie Hall, and her 1944 opera singing episode there turns into a rather memorable figure in Carnegie’s illustrious history for it’s distastefulness and the ruckus of laughter that spread out amongst audiences when Florence had opened her mouth to passionately sing, which really no amount of money could cure.

A nicely comedic tale
A nicely comedic tale

There is very little exploration of the American scene during the war, except for soldiers being part of the audience at Carnegie Hall, which was disappointing to say the least. What was entertaining was how Florence’s marriage with Bayfield is very absurd: they do not live underneath one roof and there is no sex in the marriage because Florence tragically contracted syphilis from a previous romantic liaison. It was interesting how Bayfield simply romps up his masculine sexual urges with a mistress called Kathleen Weatherley because of the absence of a sex life with his wife, but strange how emotionless and accepting Florence is of that. Despite the odd marriage between the two, Bayfield does his part to buy critics and also shows signs of affection towards Florence, albeit rarely.

McMoon and Florence’s friendship, on the other hand, is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs; McMoon is horrified, at first at the level of support Florence has despite her lack of talent in opera music, but a recording tape of her singing manages to alter it. McMoon’s eventual friendship with Florence does nothing for doubts in his mind over her singing ability at Carnegie Hall, however as he confides in Bayfield how pleased he is to be able to accompany Florence in singing in such a distinguished space in New York. The film isn’t melodramatic at all but instead it is an emotion-filled and realistic portrayal of a tale of an aspiring music artist, who wants to continue singing despite her bad reviews, and a kind of soul-crushing criticism she is often subjected to for it.

Rating: 7/10

A Cozy Christmas

A Cozy Christmas