Monday 20 February 2012

A better life - a review


There are these rare times, when a movie comes along and lifts your spirit with its freshness. There is nothing extraordinary about it. Infact, it is so excellently ordinary that it's beautifully special. A Better Life chronicles the story of Carlos Galindo, a mexican immigrant father struggling to make ends meet, to give his son Luis what he couldn't accord himself. Carlos works as a gardener/landscaper, tending the manicured lawns of LA's rich. However, with his employer Blasco returning to Mexico, Carlos is out of work, and is forced to wait with other immigrant workers, waiting for an employer to call them out. The day wears on, leaving just Carlos and one other old worker - Santiago, still waiting.

Carlos admires the view perched atop a palm tree

Luis doesn't think too highly of his father's toils, and in the company of his girlfriend Ruthie, leans dangerously close to joining one of the local gangs, who are relatives of Ruthie. Realizing that he is left with no other choice, Carlos asks his sister - Anita for help to buy Blasco's truck, so that he could run the landscaping operations. Carlos sees this truck as a means to give his family a new lease on life. In a cruel twist, the truck is stolen from Carlos, leaving him shattered. Luis joins his father in the hunt for the lost automobile. Luis who is more streetsmart doesn't see eye to eye with his father's straightforward, almost naive manner of dealing with people. The movie's strength is in the portrayal of the relationship between the two, riding on exceptionally natural acting by the two lead actors.

This is not a movie with an overload of melodrama. It's not a movie that raises the issue of immigration. The story line is quite predictable. What sets it apart is the extremely real and touching way the characters are sketched. You feel their angst, you understand their frustration and the simple joys they share. The story feels very real and human, an uncommon trait in movies of today. There is an underlying hope throughout the movie, that strives to bring out the goodness in all of us, and Chris Weitz has done a brilliant job of making a touching film which is definitely one of the year's best movies. Hard to believe that his last film was Twilight New moon! Bichir's moving portrayal of the single father has earned him a worthy oscar nomination, and I have a feeling it will stay only that, a nomination. For true gems like this performance are seldom rewarded over more recognised names.

"Why did you have me? Why do these poor people have children?" asks a frustrated Luis. "Don't say that Mijo" dismisses the offended father. In the last minutes of the movie, Carlos answers his son's question - "Because I love you.You are the most important thing in this world to me, mijo.I wanted you to be able to be anything you wanted to be. That would make me feel worthy. If you became somebody. That's why I had you. For me."

It's beautiful. Watch it.

Father and son

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Not quite number one

Being unemployed brings with it, its own benefits, one of which is catching matches in the afternoon (another other being, you grow tired of being lazy and start excavating your own blog!). I was treated to an amazing Australian open which saw Leander Paes beat the Bryan brothers, with Radek Stepanek. It was a complete mauling and I enjoyed every minute of it! The women's event yielded yet another world number one, but hey, atleast she has a grand slam to her credit (she played excellent tennis, no doubting that!).

But then, the men's semi final is what everyone seems to be counting down to these days. The big 4 of men's tennis find themselves lugging it out with each other to get the opportunity to win/lose the final in pretty much every tournament they choose to take seriously. Nadal and Djokovic have monopolised the slams over the past 2 years, winning 8 slams consecutively between them! A friend pointed me to this post - http://goo.gl/gCpQQ . It's a prosaic romanticization of Nadal's perpetuity at number 2. First it was the man whom tennis should be grateful to for having graced the game, and now, is the indomitable Serb who has taken his game to entirely different levels over the past 13 months!

I remember writing a post about Nadal about three and a half years back (http://goo.gl/qRc8J). As I read it again, I see that while Nadal has improved multiple aspects of his game and is truly a beast on court, much of it remains the same. It must be said that the Nadal serve is now a force to reckon with, and his volleying is employed to more lethal effect. Still, in terms of raw tennis ability, he is definitely overshadowed by his technically brilliant peers. While Murray just refuses to win a slam, his semi final against Djokovic was definitely the best match of the tournament, as he brought out the best in the champion, with tennis of the most brilliant kind. However, what Nadal lacks in finesse and technique, he more than makes up for it by his monstrous athleticism. Federer comfortably dispatches opposition of any kind with his almost casual dismissal of the tennis ball to any corner of the court he pleases. But with Nadal prowling the lines on the other side of the net, every one of those shots are chased down and hit back with tons of venom, leaving Federer out of ideas to match the Spaniard's physical strength.

Nadal is a player I've come to respect over the years. I can hardly think of anyone who has established a reign of invincibility over a particular surface (ok Pete and the greens of Wimbledon :) ). His doggedness in going 100% to attempt a shot many wouldn't even bother moving for, is unnerving. What is scarier is, he can just go on and on for hours on end retrieving the ball, never relenting, never tiring, a true bull indeed. Nadal has his moments of magic, the opened up forehand winner whizzing past hapless opponents, the booming backhand down the line, the occasional drop and neatly executed volley. But I would think his superhuman athleticism has been the reason for him being a strong contender for every single title, more than anything else. Viewed in that light, is he probably the greatest ever world no. 2, the ever present nemesis to anyone who dares challenge for a title? Arguably so, I would think.

Friday 20 January 2012

The Insomniac is back

The Insomniac is back after a rather long nap. A post should be up shortly, like nothing ever happened.