Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

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A poster for the film.

This is a FUN (which we REALLY need these days) Technicolor musical full of dancing, singing (duh), and witty humor!  The tale centers on a trio: Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly)- popular star of MANY silent films, Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Conner)- Don’s comical accompanist/best pal, and Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds)- a unknown talent that Don meets by chance.  He brags about his work, BUT she is NOT impressed, calling herself a serious actress who works on the stage (NOT film).

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Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) performs at a party, along with other dancers.

At a big studio party one night, Don is amused to discover Kathy popping out of a false cake and performing w/ a troupe of dancers. Don’s co-star/wannabe fiancee, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), is VERY jealous when she sees him chatting w/ Kathy. Don has NO romantic interest in Lina, who is a self-centered bimbo, BUT the magazines have linked them together (w/ help from their studio).

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A director talks to Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) while Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) watches.

The studio head insists that Don and Lina make a talkie next; silent films are on the out (audiences are crazy for sound). The MAIN problem: Lina, though familiar to moviegoers, has a terrible voice (screechy w/ an unrefined New York accent)! Hmmm… HOW will this get solved? 

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Cosmo (Donald O’Conner), Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), and Don (Gene Kelly) perform “Good Morning”- an impromptu song.

Don and Cosmo realize (after spending some time w/ Kathy) that she has MANY talents, incl. her lovely voice.  SHE can do the talking for Lina in the new film; after that, she will get HER own work.  What could go wrong?

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Cyd Charisse (famed dancer/choreographer) with Don (Gene Kelly) during a number.

There is some VERY interesting trivia re: this film.  In 2007, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked this as the #5 Greatest Movie of All Time. Reynolds (only 19 y.o. when filming began) was NOT a trained dancer; Fred Astaire saw her crying on the set (after Kelly insulted her), and decided to help her prepare.  After the “Good Morning” number, Reynolds had to be carried to her dressing room b/c she had burst some blood vessels in her feet- OUCH!  Are you a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?  Cyd Charisse is the maternal aunt of Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor); you’ll see the obvious resemblance.

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Hell or High Water (2016) starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster & Jeff Bridges

NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.

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Tanner (Ben Foster) and Tobey (Chris Pine) drink beer on their ranch.

This is (most likely) the “dark horse” in the Best Picture category in the Oscars, BUT if you like fine films, you need to check it out! I heard great reviews of it on 2 different podcasts, BUT finally saw it tonight (thanks to Redbox). This film takes you on a journey (not TOO long or short); it has interesting characters (including the bit players); and Jeff Bridges is in it (so what’s NOT to like!?) 

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Deputy Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner.

Deputy Marcus Hamilton (Bridges- one of my faves) is 3 weeks from retirement when he gets VERY interested in a curious case. Two men have been robbing branches of a particular West Texas bank for moderate sums of cash. These men are our main protagonists- brothers Tanner (Ben Foster) and Tobey (Chris Pine) Howard. Tanner is a loud-mouthed ex-con ONLY out of jail for a year; he enjoys robbing banks.  Tobey is more quiet, and his reluctant partner. Though they are VERY different men, they love and protect each other. 

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Tobey Howard (Chris Pine) has his eyes on the future.

This is labeled as a crime drama and a Western, BUT I feel it defies genre conventions. There is much humor, thanks in part to Bridges and his Native American/Mexican partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). There is easy chemistry between Foster (a bundle of energy and volatility) and Pine (somber, scraggly haired, and unglamorous). I NEVER saw what the fuss was about Pine until this film! The music and cinematography (by Giles Nuttgens, who has worked w/ BOTH Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair- two of my fave directors) are VERY well-done; too bad I didn’t see it earlier on the big screen.

Piku (2015) starring Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone & Irrfan Khan

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Piku (Deepika Padukone) gets ready to clean the house; the maid was fired by her father.

I heard about this film from MANY young (20s/30s) desi people.  It was released in the Spring of 2015; it’s NOT a typical Bollywood film, though the stars hail from mainstream Indian cinema. Amitabh Bachchan (Bhashkor Banerjee) and Deepika Padukone (Piku) play Delhi-based Bengali father and daughter respectively. One of my favorite actors- Irrfan Khan (Rana) plays the driver who takes them from Delhi to Calcutta.   

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Father (Amitabh Bachchan) and daughter (Deepika Padkone) share a hug.

General Thoughts about the Film:

‘Piku’ is about relationships and responsibility. You feel for the characters & that kind of connect, is a huge bonus for any film. 

what is wrong with movies that are mostly dialogue and the interactions of close knit families? I found it realistic and I am not from India. Seemed kind of representative of one of the elements of the universal human experiences to me.

Excerpts from IMDB reviews

If you’re a sensitive viewer who takes offense to toilet humor, this is film is NOT for you!  In fact, there is NOT much to the story, aside from the road trip that this trio (along w/ a loyal manservant) go on.  Piku is a very concerned, stressed-out young architect who lives w/ her 70 y.o. cranky and constipated father.  She is a partner in a small architecture firm w/ her friend, Syed (Jishu Sengupta).  Though Piku is nearing 30 and not yet married, her father isn’t concerned.  Syed sets her up w/ a single guy he knows, BUT Piku has nothing in common w/ him.

Marriage without purpose is for the low IQ.  -Bhaskor’s philosophy on marraige 

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Rana (Irrfan Khan) and Piku (Deepika Padukone) share a snack on the road

Opinions re: Irrfan Khan’s performance

Irrfan is fabulous. He’s given some of the film’s best moments and the talented actor only elevates those moments with his superior act.

Irrfan Khan is known for his gifted talent of never disappointing his viewers. With this film, once again, he proves how worthy his presence is.

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Rana (Irrfan Khan) and Piku (Deepika Padukone) seeing the sights of Kolkata.

The MAIN reason I wanted to see this film (now streaming on Netflix) was Irrfan Khan.  Though Rana now runs his family’s car rental business, he had planned for in a different life.  He is a decent, hardworking man w/ family obligations of his own.  Rana has a LOT of patience- he’ll need that on the road w/ Piku and her father!