Lion reviews

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Re: Lion reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:52 am

Mister Tee wrote:Maybe it's the cumulative effect of seeing a few True Life Inspirational Stories in quick succession -- Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures and now this -- but I'm coming to wonder why so many people seem to like going to movies where the premise pretty much eliminates the possibility of plot surprise.


I think it's the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. You have to go all the way back to the World War II years to find anything like it.

Like then, we live in a world where there is too much bad news coming at us, all day, every day. People want escapism. To some, that may mean fantasy films and animation. To others, it may mean musicals and comedies. To many, it also means escaping to a world in which you know the people or people who are like the people you know. That also means espousing films that turn out the way we think they're supposed to.

I've bemoaned the fact that this year's awards don't hold many surprises, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I can't find fault with any of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. Nor can I find fault with many of the films nominated in other categories. I think everyone got it as right as can be, which after last year I wondered if they ever would again.

Of those films not nominated for Best Picture, I can only think of three that should have gotten more consideration - Jackie, Loving and The Light Between Oceans, yet I'm hard pressed to say which of the nine they should have nominated instead of. As of the moment, I'm thinking Jackie was the year's fifth best film behind Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, La La Land and Arrival, but I haven't arrived at a final decision.

Of those nominated in other categories, only the insipid and wan umpteenth remake of The Jungle Book really annoys me. Well, that and Suicide Squad, which I haven't seen - the trailer was enough to drive me up the wall.

I was initially put off by The Lobster, but another viewing this past weekend convinced me of its merits . It's not a comfort food equivalent by any means, but it is deftly written and deserves its Original Screenplay nomination.

Of the acting awards, I only disagree with two. I think Joel Edgerton (Loving) should have nominated over Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams (Arrival) should have been nominated over Meryl Streep.

Maybe it wasn't a great year for movies, but it in the end, it was a good one, emphasis on "in the end".

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Re: Lion reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:56 pm

Maybe it's the cumulative effect of seeing a few True Life Inspirational Stories in quick succession -- Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures and now this -- but I'm coming to wonder why so many people seem to like going to movies where the premise pretty much eliminates the possibility of plot surprise. In Hacksaw, I knew the pacifist was going to do something brave (though the specific thing was more interesting than I expected); in Hidden Figures, I knew the space program was an ultimate success, and I assumed I wouldn't be hearing about these women if they HADN'T made crucial contribution; in Lion, it's perhaps the clearest: the only reason there'd be a movie was if this kid, grown-up, found his way back home. The press material even told me how he'd done it (Google Earth). Cinema of Tell Me a Story I Already Know Because It Makes Me Feel Warm Inside is apparently what many people want from the movies, and it's miles from my preference.

In structure terms, I had a somewhat different response from many of you below. I didn't find the first 45 minutes or so (past the initial abandoned-at-the-station scene) all that gripping. I found it instead reminiscent of other India-set movies I'd seen earlier -- Salaam Bombay, even parts of Slumdog – not to mention multiple other Dickensian lost-children films set elsewhere. During that entire stretch, I found myself thinking, the second part of this movie -- the recovery of family -- is the unique part of the story, and to get there I have to plow through stuff that's rather familiar to me. (Though there were some nice shots in this earlier section: those of you bemoaning Fraser's ASC win might be forgetting some striking night photography in the Calcutta portion of the film. Not to say he deserved to win, but the choice isn’t an outrage.)

However…what I thought would have been the best part of the movie -- that search for and reunion with family -- turned out to be the most poorly made section. It may be, as Uri suggests, that the adoptive family interfered and wouldn't allow certain issues to be explored. For whatever reason, I found much of this second half incomprehensible -- especially anything related to the other adopted brother, whose place in the story and relationship with Saroo I simply didn't get, and whose presence only confuses things. I was also very hazy on the Saroo/mother dynamic -- he was afraid she'd be upset he was searching for his birth mother, so he just didn't talk to her for three years? Exploring how the adoptive mother would feel about his quest is a valid, even obvious approach, but Saroo’s tactic to me seemed...how to put it...ridiculous?...and I’d have needed better articulation of why he settled on this approach. (Especially since everyone’s telling him he's making his mother sick this way.) Many times, I felt this part of the film was elliptical at just the moments when clarity was most called for.

But the worst failing of this second half was in simple story-telling. I had absolutely no idea how Google Earth helped Saroo locate his village. I certainly saw him looking at his computer a lot, and moving his cursor, and putting pins on the wall, but at no point did I grasp what he was doing (beyond the initial “calculate the speed of trains”). It’s possible if I’d actually used Google Earth I’d know more, but it strikes me any kind of competent director/screenwriter could have found a way to capture the high points, to make the audience feel the pleasure of progress – and, finally, success. All I know is, at one point he runs the cursor like he’s been running it for about half an hour in the film (and years in real time!), and there his village is.

Which leads, of course, to the reunion finale, which can hardly miss with even the most hardened audience. It’s pretty much impossible not to choke up a bit here, though the trace of tears is mingled with resentment as the filmmakers gild the lily – first having the crowd burst into cheers (movie phoniness recalling the factory finale of An Officer and a Gentleman), then giving us a series of title cards, each more loudly begging us to cry (the plea to help the lost children brought to mind War Bonds Go on Sale in the Lobby after WWII movies), culminating in the understandable but manipulative dedication to Guddu. I don’t mind being brought to tears; I resent having them wrung out of me.

As for the actors…the kid does the “natural” thing quite well. Patel is fine, though he didn’t do much to make his character’s actions comprehensible. And Kidman…well, she delivered that tearful monologue quite well, but am I alone in wondering just what that speech was supposed to achieve? It felt like a monologue that might have been delivered in an entirely different film – there was nothing about it that felt organic to this story, or moved the action further along. It was just a set piece, without narrative weight.

Oh, and pet peeve territory: I REALLY hate true stories showing us photos of the real-life participants over the credits. We’ve spent two hours suspending disbelief, watching these actors claim to be these people – and then it’s thrown in our faces that, actually, the real-life folk were considerably less attractive. (Also, as Uri notes, there’s an implicit bragging over how well the actors matched the clothing and hair styles of their inspirations – as if that matters to anyone.) Even old-time Hollywood didn’t feel the need to throw up photos of Pasteur or Zola at the close; you were supposed to believe they looked like Paul Muni. I don’t view this new wrinkle as progress.

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Re: Lion reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Dec 31, 2016 1:57 pm

Uri wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:
Uri wrote: offering a take on David Irving’s wrong perspective instead of (or at least along with) the right, yet rather obvious one of Deborah Lipstadt


Then don't complain if you get The Reader... :.


If there was a perspective of any kind in The Reader I'm afraid it went over my head.


:D

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Re: Lion reviews

Postby Uri » Sat Dec 31, 2016 1:56 pm

ITALIANO wrote:
Uri wrote: offering a take on David Irving’s wrong perspective instead of (or at least along with) the right, yet rather obvious one of Deborah Lipstadt


Then don't complain if you get The Reader... :.


If there was a perspective of any kind in The Reader I'm afraid it went over my head.

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Re: Lion reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Dec 31, 2016 12:43 pm

Uri wrote: offering a take on David Irving’s wrong perspective instead of (or at least along with) the right, yet rather obvious one of Deborah Lipstadt


Then don't complain if you get The Reader... :)

There'd be so much to write about this year's movies (which, from what I'm seeing seem to be as a whole a BIT BETTER than those from last year's Oscars). But lack of time prevents me from devoting too much energy to explain - in English! - what I feel about them. I still haven't seen, by the way, the three "big ones" (Manchester By The Sea, La La Land and Moonlight) - but while no masterpieces, there are good things in Hell or High Water and even in Captain Fantastic.

I think Denial is correct but unexciting - not as bad as its reputation and its lack of Oscar talk (never a good sign for a Holocaust movie) imply, but absolutely unmemorable though well-intentioned.

Lion is more involving - how could such a story not be? - and technically expert, but it's true that the Australian part is stronger at portraying its main character's torment (again and again) that at showing in detail HOW he finally finds his roots - it seems more like a matter of luck than anything else. There's a lack of storytelling here, which may be intentional - and a contrast to the first part's almost Dickensian structure - but still underestimates the audience's intelligence (the love story is especially worthless). Strange as it may seem, this will probably be Nicole Kidman's best nominated performance - but her much-praised monologue is confused and not as meaningful as the writers seem to think, and she can't do much with it. Dev Patel - a young, nice actor with an open face which the camera likes - will be nominated for this AND Slumdog Millionaire, but as you say, he's clearly a lead, and it's strange that not many, even on this board, seems to complain.

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Re: Lion reviews

Postby Uri » Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:44 am

I saw Denial yesterday, and the reason I’m mentioning it here is because I find both it and Lion, which I saw about a week ago, to be, basically, non cinematic entities. Yes, they capture visual images and spoken texts on film and feature people pretending to be other (and not accidentally, real) people in order to convey what can be conceived as narrative, but they totally lack that one essential factor, a sense of real, preferably urgent, creative drive. What they do have instead is commitment, a true, sincere Commitment - with a capital K, as Cole Porter would say. I’m sure the people who made these films believe the denial of the Holocaust is bad or children being lost is sad and as many people as possible should be aware of these travesties and maybe, as the card at the end of Lion suggests, be motivated to go online and learn more about it and hopefully DO something. But while all this is rather admirable, it’s not Art nor is it even artistic – it’s public service.

Of course, the filmmakers thought they were making films, so they did apply stuff from whatever filmmaking manual they were following, and in Denial it was mostly all this straight forward American in the maze of the strict Brit legal system, with its dusty law chambers and solicitor/barrister dynamics, making it, especially in regard of the Tom Wilkinson’s character, look like Witness for the Persecution Goes to Auschwitz (and no, it’s not a compliment, btw). This kind of material demands a far more acute and astute approach. A clinical one, or a grotesque one, or offering a take on David Irving’s wrong perspective instead of (or at least along with) the right, yet rather obvious one of Deborah Lipstadt – the notion, key element in Denial, that Irving is not worthy of having his day in court was translated into him, the most intriguing element of the story, not having his day in film (and a total waste of the potentially great Timothy Spall). So, unlike the case with other based-on-true-events films, where despite knowing the outcome there was still tension – intellectual, emotional, suspense-tional, whatever – there was none of it here. At one point, I was hoping for Lipstadt, who was cautioned not to jog in the same route every evening in London, to have some kind of a fictional encounter with an Irving supporter just for the kick of it (and feeling very bad for my perverse, thrill seeking self).

With Lion, the problem is different. I feel it has a lot to do with Privileged White Guilt when dealing with the hardships of those less fortunate, ahm, non-whites. And as is so often the case with holier-that-holy intentions, it’s being executed in a far more strict fashion dealing with the stronger (born as or adopted by) Westerners, whose take on the story is the basis for this film and therefore is being closely followed and guarded, while the earlier part of the story, taking place in India, is mostly, or at least partly, speculated, there for it has a far more narrative freedom to it, and yes, as Sabin said, is far more griping. For all the romanticizing and beautifying of it, it does have some energy to it. The latter part, involving the Brierleys in Australia, is so rigid, so lifeless, I’m sure they were so closely involved with the making of the film so everything regarding them was, totally unnecessarily, kept as close as possible to “what they really were like”. Let me put it like this – I’m sure Sue Brierley is a remarkable person, but she’s not Jacqueline Kennedy, and the elastic waistband slacks and floral shirts she was wearing in the ‘80s were not the pink Channel suit worn by Jackie in Dallas, still her particular look, as seen in her pictures shown at the end of the film, including her particular hairstyle, is meticulously recreated for Nicole Kidman, as if it were iconic - making poor Kidman look even less real-human looking than usual - instead of finding a look right for the character as well as her. Yes, my particular nitpicking has a lot to do with my usual dismissiveness of Kidman as an (non) actress, but it’s also indicative of the film as a whole. There’s no distinction between the essential and the trivial, or worse – so much energy is being spent on the trivial, nothing is left for the more crucial stuff – from the nothingness of the actual detecting process (leading me to doubt the miraculous yet conveniently aggrandizing of a mighty corporation nature of it) to the total lack of interest in the protagonist’s Indian family once they were found.

Now- Denial seems to be (rightfully) out of this year Oscar race, but so should every aspect of Lion be. And Dev Patel is more of a lead than Jeffrey Rush was in Shine. But he’s young and brown.

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Re: Lion reviews

Postby Sabin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:48 pm

Lion is a weird movie and I'm not sure it really could've totally worked. The things that are the most interesting about it sort of doom it in the long run. The first half where we follow young Saroo are fairly gripping. Director Garth Davis and DP Greg Frasier shoot it in a way where it's from the perspective of a lost five year old boy, which is impressive for how uninflected it mostly is. English isn't spoken for the first forty-five minutes or so. Then we leap twenty years into the future and setup the conflicts of Saroo as a young adult, and the film restarts its dramatic tensions by way of becoming thirty minutes of overwritten therapy and narrative water-treading for the character. To his credit, Dev Patel is very good. I've been of fan of his for some time, even his twitchy work in the rather unimpressive The Road Within. But he has to make the shift from well-adjusted to haunted to obsessed A) starting halfway into the movie, B) in a short amount of time, C) that also lags. Really that comes from the fact that this isn't really a story but rather something that happened. Everyone involved with this film (the actors, the director, the cinematographer, the editor, the composers) are very talented but they can only hide that so much. I'll laud it for mostly attempting authentic emotional journey.
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Re: Lion reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Oct 31, 2016 1:43 pm

Lion is definitely from the Philomena strain of Oscar vehicles, though I'd say it's a stronger movie overall. The story is actually quite similar, but inverted -- a young boy, Saroo, separated from his mother, grows up with an adopted family on a different continent, then decides to track down the biological family taken from him by circumstance. Tonally, this movie feels a bit more grounded than Philomena -- with its evil nuns and goofy moments of humor. Lion is pretty sincere throughout, and I imagine it will push the kinds of buttons awards bodies like, given that it's a clear tearjerker, but one that tactfully doesn't dip too much into schmaltz. I should add, for what it's worth, that I'm not immune to having my buttons pushed in this manner -- you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the finale of this movie.

Still, I can't say I thought the movie had a ton of resonance beyond the power of its amazing true-life scenario, especially because 1) we already know the ending, and that's essentially the movie's entire reason for existing and 2) I don't think, on a sheer plot level, the nuts and bolts of how Saroo finds his way home are all that interesting, at least as rendered on film. (I could imagine the details likely brought out in the book might amount to a more engrossing, page-turning mystery). There are definitely thoughtful grace notes along the way -- the guilt Saroo feels about the way fate essentially plucked him from a life of poverty into one of privilege, the conflict he has over whether telling his adoptive parents he wants to find his biological one will make them view him as ungrateful. But there are also elements that feel like a lot of treading water -- I'm sure the romance with Rooney Mara's character is based in fact, but I don't think the movie ever finds a way to make that thread feel relevant to anything else.

Dev Patel has sustained his career surprisingly well since Slumdog Millionaire, but I think this is the first time I've really taken note of him as an actor -- to my (American) ears, he nails the Australian accent, and carries his portion of the movie with both gravitas and charisma. The kid who plays young Saroo is adorable, and anchors his section of the film as well. And Nicole Kidman has a classic supporting actress role -- solid work throughout, and then one knockout monologue. You'll know her Oscar clip when you see it.

I certainly don't have any strong rooting interest against such a heartfelt, well-meaning movie -- it'll likely be my mother's favorite movie of the year -- but Harvey Weinstein has been known to push similar efforts to recognition way beyond their merits in past years, and I'd definitely prefer for that not to happen here.

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Lion reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Sep 12, 2016 3:46 pm

Variety is for some reason slow to post on this, but these reviews are pretty stellar. It's a Weinstein property, and might be a chance for them to get their mojo back.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/lion-927423

http://www.screendaily.com/reviews/lion ... tentID=592


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