Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mini Review:
Radio Days (1987)
Starring: Dianne Wiest and Mia Farrow
Directed By: Woody Allen

Considering my love for Allen's 'Purple Rose of Cairo' (see review below), it is surprising that I never saw this before. I absolutely loved the feel of the thing and ended up smiling throughout the entire film. Seth Green is the debated protagonist, a young boy approaching his teen years during the days just prior to WW2. But the movie really revolves around a series of 'radio stories' that Allen remembered having heard in his childhood. The resulting tableau is a series of 'events' that appear to happen to the same family...and one cigar girl. Some of the 'stories' are hilarious, some are warmly engaging, and one is a heart-tugger. Performances are all first rate but Wiest and Julie Kavner come off as slightly better than the rest, in my opinion. The funniest moments involve the bizarrely effectual parenting skills of Joe's parents, played effortlessly Kavner and Michael Tucker. The pairing of the cast with such a great director and a medley of fantastic 1940's hits made me wish I lived in the time before television, myself.

A few slight incongruities concerning costuming were not distracting enough to hinder my giving this a solid 8/10

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Mini Review:
The Namesake (2006)
Starring: Kal Penn, Tabu, and Irfan Khan
Directed By: Mira Nair

Synopsis: The story follows an Indian immigrant couple as they give birth to first generation American children and attempt to instill in them a love for their own culture as well as for their new home. Gogol, the firstborn, at first resents his name which doesnt reflect either culture but soon comes to learn the reason his father chose it and to come to a new understanding of, not only his heritage, but also his father's love.

Without being heavy handed or preachy, this movie manages to involve the viewer in what it means to be an Indian immigrant in America as well as to understand the focus on family that is so inherent in that culture. The early scenes in India are lovingly handled and joyful in nature, relaxing into a comfortable manner of story-telling that immediately pulls us in. Tabu, as Ashima, is especially endearing in these early scenes and her adaptation to American Society is fascinating to watch. The arranged marriage between she and Ashoke (Khan) results in the type of loving relationship that most of us dream of having but still remains markedly different than what American culture has led us to believe is 'the norm'. Penn plays Gogol with definite skill, managing to bring the different nuances of his character into complete harmony by the end of the film. We feel as if we are growing along with him, not only physically, but in our understanding of the Indian people and of human relationships. However, it is Tabu and Khan who particularly stand out in their ability to bring their respective characters to life and to make a strong impact. Though there are definite moments of tradgedy in this poignant family drama, it remains an uplifting movie experience and one that deserves repeat viewings.

My rating: 8/10