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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oscar Predictions -2015-Acting Awards

  • Best Actor
Most Likely Winner: Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.  Wins at the SAG, BAFTAs and Globes makes Redmayne much more secure as frontrunner than a month ago. The academy tends to prefer dramatic portrayals over comedic ones as well. Even though the representation of Hawking by Redmayne manages to regularly show Hawking's trademark wit and sense of fun, it's mostly quite a serious take on the Professor. Factor in the difficulty of playing a real (famous) person coupled with the difficult representation needed to show Hawking's physical disabilities and it's very likely the Oscar goes to Eddie Redmayne.




 Backup Pick:  Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) . At the start of the year Keaton and Redmayne were almost at the same odds to win, but he's faded since then in the reckoning. That doesn't diminish the performance in any way, as the perfect mix of crazy, despair and arrogance is shown from Riggan so that the narrative always has the feel of satire and dark comedy. The performance of a man under constant pressure whose only departures from the worry are possibly symptomatic of mental problems (and definitely of delusion, if real world rules holds) is flawless.



Most Deserving (My Pick) : Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) . I'm very biased in this as I loved Keaton in the 90s and I love a comeback story. Throw in the self-referential frame of the story, where Riggan is a famous actor who peaked 20 years ago with a superhero franchise and is played by Michael Keaton, of Batman fame. How can I not want that to win?




  • Best Actress
Most Likely Winner: Julianne Moore in as Dr. Alice Howland in Still Alice. Swept every award it was nominated for thus far and any other winner would be a major upset. Portrayals of Alzheimer's are usually as vogue as Holocaust settings are for award bait, mostly because everyone is terrified it could happen to them. And as everyone knows someone who has Alzheimer's (usually), it's excellent to see the performance portrayed accurately as it is rarely done in films. Moore plays to perfection the person who becoming less of themselves every day, and the descent into the fear and hopelessness that come with that.




Backup Pick: Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliot-Dunne in Gone Girl. It's hard to give a review of this without giving away the story, but the acting of a character who is for the most part putting on an act is terrifyingly convincing. There has been outcry about how this portrayal would allow fuel to misogynists and rape myths (which I think overestimates how much films influence reality) but on the basis of this performance alone, I think it easily goes the other way to show equality. And by that, I mean, women can equally be a psycho character not  just a victim (finally).



Most Deserving (My Pick) :Marion Cotillard as Sandra Bya  in Deux Jours, une nuit (Two Days, One Night). Heavy bias again as I love Dardenne Brothers films and I'm a huge fan of Cotillard. Her accent is especially impressive as it's so neutral, neither the Belgian accent for the Liege setting nor Cotillard's usual Parisian dialect. It's a very subtle performance which I think is accurate for the depression of the character. In fact, the treatment of depression may be one of the most accurate in recent cinema (if not ever in cinema).



  • Best Supporting Actor
Most Likely Winner: J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher in Whiplash. Putting aside the treatment of jazz and misrepresentation of the importance of technical ability, you still get probably the most memorable performance of the nominated performances. The drill sergeant of a conductor in Flecther is a complete scene- stealer in his over-the-top pushing for perfection, clearly crossing the boundary of acceptable multiple times. The best villain is likely to be the Oscar winner as has been the case so often recently (Javier Bardem, Heath Ledger, Christoph Waltz).



Backup Pick: Edward Norton as Mike Shiner  in  Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Not able to take the spotlight off Michael Keaton but does a great job of being a demented character in pursuit of perfection by taking method acting to the extreme. Excellent character foil to Riggan Thomson as the antics of Shiner get the best out of him sometimes and other times just get him to snap.



Most Deserving (My Pick) : J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher in Whiplash. I completely loved this character and found myself identifying way too much with him. Though he's clearly over the edge and deluded, I do feel like the character is a response to the "everyone's a winner" culture that is present, even if taken to the point of crazy. Philosophical points aside, everyone's most memorable coach was the mad perfectionist and even if you suffered a lot with them, they were quite entertaining when they were off torturing someone else.



  • Best Supporting Actress
Most Likely Winner: Patrica Arquette as Olivia Evans in Boyhood. Just as the directing and filming of this epic of a movie must have been a task, the acting has to have been as well. Getting into character annually for a month over a twelve year span is close to an impossible ask. Hence, the lack of noticeable character affectation by Arquette is what is most striking. Her character is the actual everywoman, real and full of emotion but not in a put-on way but because she is that way. Total sweep of the awards as well, making this year's acting awards either wholly predictable or set up for a giant upset.



Backup Pick: Emma Stone as Sam Thomson  in  Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). In a somewhat weak field, Emma Stone is decent as the bratty Sam but compared to the intensity of Norton and Keaton she is somewhat in the background. But it wouldn't have been possible to give everyone an up-front role. If the Academy decides Supporting means background, maybe there's a chance.



Most Deserving (My Pick) : Patrica Arquette as Olivia Evans in Boyhood. My favourite film of the year and definitely the top performance in this category. Anyone else is a massive upset.




Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk





The Museum of Innocence  is Orhan Pamuk’s first novel since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006. It is set in Istanbul, the city which fuels Pamuk’s imagination, during the 1970’s. Pamuk once again explores the uneasy relationship between east and west in Turkish society from the eyes of Kemal, son of one of the city’s richest families.

In the beginning of the novel Kemal is to be married to Sibel, who also comes from a wealthy family, and so they occupy the niche of the westernized part of society. But this is Turkey in the 1970’s, as western as they try to be sexual etiquette is still very much stalled in the past. Virginity is expected to be part of the bride’s dowry. This all becomes relevant when Kemal begins an affair with Fusun, a distant, younger relative.

The city of Istanbul is a character in the novel as much as any of the other. The decaying old houses contrast with the apartments of the nouveau riche. These apartments become relevant for Kemal as it is there he conducts his affair. It is also there that he begins his collection of things owned by Fusun and so it is the start of the museum.

The seminal scene in the novel is the engagement party. It shapes the rest of Kemal’s life. He and Sibel separate after the engagement party, attempting one last summer idyll. Fusun refuses to spend a lifetime as the other woman and marries someone else. Orhan Pamuk, as he frequently does in his novels, gives himself a cameo in the engagement party.

Kemal is persistent though. He is content to become an old bachelor living with his mother as long as he continues going to have supper with Fusun’s family every day. It never enters his mind that in this world built around unrequited love that Fusun may be ordinary. In fact he sees her less as a person as time passes by and as an ideal. In a world where everything is done with speed, even relationships and love, such a lengthy love affair would seem tedious. But Pamuk never makes it unrealistic or boring and can even make you believe that such a fixation is romantic and not strange.

The novel is about the things Kemal collects. After his reconnection with Fusun he begins collecting mementos. He collects anything from cigarette butts to hair clips without a thought as to why. Because as he says about collecting ;“when the true collector, on whose efforts these museums depend, gathers together his first objects, he almost never asks himself what will be the ultimate fate of his hoard”. This book is a tribute to the power of memory and the intertwining of memories and objects.

The narrative is heavily inspired by Proust and his idea of objects and their connection to memory. Proust is mentioned in the novel by Kemal along with his idea of recoverable memory. Kemal reflects on his own story at times during the book, self analyzing himself as well as time, moments and the way they combine to create the present.

It is obvious that Kemal is an unreliable narrator. The realization that he is telling the story in a skewed perspective allows several different interpretations of the story. Depending on your level of optimism or cynicism, the book can be read as anything from a romantic love story set in a beautiful city to a strange and disquieting obsession of an older man for his past lover or any permutation in between.


A novel such as this does not have a clear cut plot but it is the looseness of the narrative which allows the story to work so well. There can be many interpretations of the story but you don’t have to make any to enjoy the book anyway. The storytelling remains enjoyable and capturing, even without probing too deep.