Viceroy’s House (2017) starring Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, & Huma Qureshi

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from this movie (now showing in wide release in the US).

[1] If you saw something similar in a high school world history class it would be interesting and effective. As a theatrical movie it misses the mark.

[2] ...as history, it is inevitably selective. Most glaring is the benign portrait of a compassionate departing colonial power.

[3] It’s interesting to see, but it’s by no means a cinematic masterclass.

[4] What could have been an epic, ends up being too pedestrian. It is this failure in character development which pulls the film down harder than all the other negative factors combined.

[5] A special mention needs to go to Gillian Anderson. Her performance as Lady Mountbatten is wonderful. The received pronunciation was perfect. Her character adds heart, she adds a moral core, to both Lord Mountbatten, and in my eyes, to the film in general.

-Excerpts from reviews on IMDB

I saw this movie (ONLY available in SD- ugh) last night on FIOS On Demand. I had been anticipating it for almost 3 mos, so was VERY excited. (American actor Manish Dayal was posting bits about it on his social media.) I was a big fan of Bend it Like Beckham, British director Gurinder Chadha’s breakout indie hit. I thought her Thanksgiving-themed film (What’s Cooking?) was pretty good. The posters didn’t appeal to me- TOO slick and stereotypical of a historical drama. I liked the trailers that I saw; the high production value was evident (which viewers expect from this caliber of film).

Sadly, Viceroy’s House was NOT what I expected. After it ended, I wondered: “There MUST have been MORE to this film!” It seems edited down (to a mere 1 hr 46 mins); however, it seems longer b/c of it’s plodding nature (at least in the first half). Maybe it needs to be seen on the big screen (for its sheer scope and spectacle)? Or maybe it would’ve been better as a miniseries or movie on HBO (where directors and writers have more creative control)? MANY critics/viewers felt that Hugh Bonneville was miscast as Lord Louis Mountbatten. Hmmm… maybe it’s TOO close to his role as head of Downton Abbey? Gillian Anderson (who plays Lady Edwina) is given some of the best lines in the movie; she does well w/ in her role. (You should check Anderson out in British work, incl. The Fall on Netflix.)

The veteran actors who play Nehru (Tanveer Ghani), Jinnah (Denzil Smith), and Gandhi (Neeraj Kabi) do what they can w/ what they are given. Basically, they sit around and debate w/ the Brits on if and how to divide India and the new Muslim majority nation- Pakistan. Some of you know that Gandhi didn’t want India divided; he imagined a land where ALL religions live together in peace (as before the Brits arrived and used their “divide and conquer” strategy to rule). Some Pakistanis were NOT pleased w/ the portrayal of Jinnah, who comes off as duplicitous.

Michael Gambon plays Gen. Ismay, a cold/intimidating man who doesn’t care what happens to the Indian people. He wants to get the boundaries created ASAP and get back to England. Simon Callow ‘s overwhelmed character, Radcliffe, says that it’s impossible to make these decisions in such a short time frame. Ismay finally shows him a plan from 1945 which already lays out exactly how India and Pakistan should be divided (NOT sure how accurate this is in reality)!

The recently deceased international Indian actor, Om Puri, has a small, yet effective/touching role. (He played Dayal’s father in The Hundred-Foot Journey). In this film, Puri plays Ali Rahim Noor, the blind/elderly father of Aalia (Pakistani actress Huma Qureshi), the Muslim woman who has captured the heart of Dayal’s character, Jeet Kumar. Ali Rahim was a political prisoner in the jail where Jeet worked for 2 yrs as a guard. Now, Jeet is a manservant (alongside his Sikh friend, Duleep Singh) for Mountbatten. As Dayal has said, Jeet represents the Hindu perspective in the film. He is an earnest/optimistic young man who feels that his destiny is to marry Aalia.

One of the servants (among 500+ in the viceroy’s household) who stirs up trouble is Mohsin (Samrat Chakraborti, an American actor/musician whose career I’ve been following since 2005). He also has a crucial role in Midnight’s Children (check Netflix to see if it’s still available). Another pleasant surprise is the original music by A.R. Rahman, an internationally recognized composer. I thought he did a esp. fine job in the last section of the film, when we see large crowds of refugees streaming into the palatial estate.

Related Videos

Two (differing) reviews of the film

BBC interview w/ Chadha (12:16)

BUILD Series interview w/ Chadha & Ghani (34:29)

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Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 3 (“The Queen’s Justice”)

SPOILERS: Don’t read this review if you haven’t seen or don’t want to know details from the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

Dragonstone

Yay- we get right to see right away Jon, Davos, and a few other Northmen land on the beach at Dragonstone (formerly Stannis’ stronghold)! They are met by Tyrion (who last saw Jon at The Wall in S1), Missandei (wearing a three headed dragon pin), and a group of tall, fearsome-looking Dothraki warriors. After initial greetings, the Northmen are asked to surrender their weapons (makes sense, since they are in Dany’s realm). There is some fun banter between Jon and Tyrion- MANY critics and viewers liked this. There are wide overhead shots as they walk the long/winding path up to the castle.

General rule of thumb: Stark men don’t fare well when they travel South. -Tyrion says

True, but I’m not a Stark. -Jon replies

Tyrion’s above line perhaps remind Jon (and viewers) of the Stark grandfather and uncle (BOTH named Brandon) burned alive by Dany’s father (Aerys), Ned’s beheading, and Robb’s murder. Suddenly, three dragons (WOW, they have grown!) call out and fly above; Jon and Davos hit the ground- stunned and scared. Tyrion comments that you never get quite used to them (LOL)!

From high above, we find Melisandre and Varys looking down at the newcomers. Varys wonders why she stayed away, even after asking Dany to bring The King of the North here. Mel (surprise, surprise!) actually admits that she made “mistakes;” we are reminded of young Shireen’s death. Her character has become less assured and more humbled over the last 2 seasons! I still want Davos to find and kill Mel, BUT she has decided to go to Volantis. Her final words (below) seem to disturb Varys:

I have to die in this strange country, just like you. -Melisandre explains to Varys

Jon and Davos enter the throne room, which was designed to look cold and intimidating. The expression on Jon’s face tells us that he is unsure (maybe even intimidated?) re: this meeting. After Missandei rattles off ALL of Dany’s titles, Davos introduces Jon (LOL):

This is Jon Snow. He’s king in the North. 

Davos explains that Jon is a “king,” NOT merely a “lord,” after Dany calls him “my lord.” Dany is confused, saying that Torran Stark was the last true King of the North; she goes on to tell his backstory. She assumes that Jon has come “to bend the knee,” BUT he (were you surprised?) refuses.

…I ask you not to judge a daughter by the sins of her father. -Dany says to Jon after asking forgiveness for how Aerys treated the Starks

You’re right. You’re not guilty of your father’s crimes. And I’m not beholden to my ancestor’s vows. -Jon replies (after Dany speaks re: how their houses were long-time allies)

Jon goes on to explain that everyone in the Seven Kingdoms is in danger b/c The Army of the Dead are marching southward. Instead of “squabbling” like “children,” they need to band together to defeat this common enemy. BOTH Dany and Tyrion look skeptical; after all, they’ve never been beyond The Wall and seen White Walkers. Then Dany slowly walks down from her throne and approaches Jon, recounting what she has faced in her life and what she has accomplished on her way to reach the Iron Throne.

Do you know what kept me going? Faith, not in any gods or myths or legends, but myself… -Dany explains to Jon

Jon says that Dany will be “ruling over ashes” if The Night King isn’t defeated. Davos steps forward and tells her of Jon’s accomplishments. The Onion Knight almost says that Jon died for his people, BUT Jon cuts him off. (Hmmm… WHY would Jon want to hide the fact that he was brought back from the dead?) Tyrion steps forward and there is more talk of pledging loyalty to Dany, who calls herself “the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms.” Varys quickly walks in, whispering in Dany’s ear, and the previous convo is discontinued. Varys’ news is VERY bad- their recent allies are either dead or captured!

Am I your prisoner? -Jon asks (before he and Davos are led out)

Not yet. -Dany answers

At sea

Theon is pulled from the freezing waters by some sailors on a Greyjoy ship. The captain recognizes him and asks re: his sister. Theon says that Euron has captured her, BUT he “tried to save her” (which we know is NOT true). His face has a bluish tinge and his expression is fearful (reminding us of when he was Reek under Ramsay’s power). The captain isn’t buying it; he and his men look down at Theon w/ disdain before walking away.

King’s Landing

This is the life. Look at them, cheering for a Greyjoy. -Euron gloats to Yara

Euron struts onto the streets of the city on his horse; this reminded some viewers of Tywin after he won the Battle of Blackwater. Behind his horse, we find Yara (trying to hold her head high), followed by Ellaria and Tyene, all in chains. The commoners toss flowers at Euron, cheer, clap, and some women even blow kisses (blech)! The prisoners get boos, curses, and rotten food tossed at them; this reminded me of Cersei’s walk of shame. Ellaria spits in the direction of someone, showing us that she is still a proud woman.

There are more cheers as Euron rides into court w/ his captured entourage; some of the “foreign invaders” (as they were called in E2) have been conquered. Did you see the sad/scared look on Ellaria’s face when she spotted Ser Gregor (The Mountain)? After all, it was he who brutally killed her beloved Oberyn in battle (toward the end of S5).

I give you what no other man could give- justice- justice for your murdered daughter. -Euron proclaims after presenting a shackled Ellaria and Tyene to Cersei

You shall have what your heart desires… when the war is won. -Cersei promises Euron

Whoa, did you see how Cersei gave leeway to Euron? He comes almost up to her level, bending very close to the Iron Throne! Well, some of you saw this as TOO much preference. (I was reminded of Catelyn’s advice: “Never trust a Greyjoy.”) The convo between Euron and Jaime is unexpected, yet disturbingly funny. Euron refers to them as “brothers” (ugh) and then asks for “advice” (gross, BUT he knows what’s going on w/ Jaime and Cersei)!

I never got to have a mother, but Myrcella did. She was mine, and you took her from me! Why did you do that? -Cersei asks Ellaria

Like some other viewers, I noticed Cersei’s pink lipstick right away in the dungeon scene. Ellaria and Tyene are both gagged and chained (to opposite walls); they are obviously fearful and in pain. Qyburn (who is Cersei’s Hand) and The Mountain are both nearby; we wonder what role they will play in this revenge plan. When Cersei starts talking re: Tyene’s beauty, Ellaria cries out, struggling to speak. Cersei removes the gag and kisses Tyene on the lips, just as Ellaria did to Myrcella. We ALL know that was poison- it’s over for BOTH these Sand women! The outro music in this scene is SO good- urgent and mournful.

What? What are you doing? No one can see us like this. -Jaime asks Cersei, bemused

I’m the queen of the Seven Kingdoms. I can do as I please. -Cersei replies matter-of-factly

Jaime has taken off his golden hand and is sitting in his chamber. Cersei struts in and kisses him passionately. Notice how he said “no?” (That was a BIT of a surprise!) The next morning, Jaime is looking at Cersei’s sleeping face w/ love (and maybe also worry). Cersei answers the door while Jaime is lying in bed, unmindful of what the servant will think. I think she feels that she is unbeatable at this point in the game!

In your experience, how do bankers fare with revolutionaries? -Cersei asks Tycho Nestoris

The “special visitor from Braavos” is non-drinking, straight-talking Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss, best known for his acting/writing on BBC’s Sherlock); he reps The Iron Bank, as we know from previous seasons. Some observant viewers noted that “the slave trade” is NOT something that the Iron Bank invests in; it is done by others in Braavos. So, was this a mistake? Or did the writers decided to change things up? We learn that the Lannisters owe a huge debt to The Iron Bank, BUT Cersei convinces Tycho that he will have the gold w/in “a fortnight” (two weeks).

Dragonstone

…I trust the eyes of an honest man more that I trust what everybody knows. -Tyrion to Jon re: his rationale for now believing in the White Walkers

More Tyrion and Jon convo- YAY! We see that Tyrion believes Jon, BUT he shouldn’t expect Dany to do that after ONLY one meeting. He also points out what Jon and Dany have in common- they are protectors. Cersei is a destroyer, as we know from the S6 climax (the Sept of Baelor blown up by wildfire).

So do you have anything reasonable to ask? -Tyrion asks (in a guiding way) of Jon before Jon walks away

In the next scene (in the war room), Tyrion explains to Dany re: dragonglass, which Jon wants to mine. With such weapons, the people of Westeros can defeat (or kill?) the White Walkers. (We know that already b/c Sam killed one!) Dany is skeptical, BUT Tyrion points out how it costs her nothing, and helps build a relationship w/ a potential ally. Way to go, Tyrion! I enjoy seeing him in the role of wise counselor much more than that of bitter drunk.

We all enjoy what we’re good at. -Dany comments

I don’t. -Jon replies solemnly

I think that Jon means he doesn’t enjoy fighting/killing. We are now up to the (much-awaited) scene w/ Dany and Jon. They are more cordial w/ each other here. Dany gives her permission to mine the dragonglass; she will even provide the workers and tools. Jon is surprised, but pleased. He asks if she believes him re: The Night King and The Army of the Dead, BUT Dany doesn’t answer. After Jon walks away, Dany takes a moment to look back at Jon.

Winterfell

Sansa, Littlefinger, Lord Royce, and the Maester Wolkan are looking at wagons filled w/ grain being brought into the courtyard. Sansa confirms that there is NOT enough food at Winterfell; armies of the North will need supplies in the near future. Sansa, in the role of manager, decides to impose a grain tax on every keep in the region. As they walk and talk, she notices that the breastplates being molded don’t have leather on top, which would be better for cold weather.

Don’t fight in the North, or the South. Fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy. Everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening, all at once. Live that way, and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before. -Littlefinger gives some advice to Sansa

The next scene- WOW, were you crying, too? Sansa and Bran are finally reunited! She starts crying and gives him a hug, BUT Bran looks stoic. Some viewers wondered- has Bran lost his humanity? He has seen SO much- maybe there is no room for emotion. Bran says that he needs to speak to Jon. Under the large weirwood tree, Sansa tells her little brother that he should be in charge now, as “the last true-born son” of Ned Stark.

I can never be lord of Winterfell. I can never be lord of anything. I’m The Three-Eyed Raven. -Bran explains to Sansa

In an attempt to explain what he exactly is, Bran mentions Sansa’s wedding, when it was snowing and she looked beautiful in her white gown. He feels sorry that it [her rape by Ramsay] had to happen in her own home. Sansa shivers w/ recollection and quickly walks away. Whoa, what a sad and disturbing moment!

The Citadel

It’s a miracle- Jorah is cured of his dragonscale (after just one night)! Or, at least that’s what Jorah wants Archmaester Ebrose to think (LOL). It’s obvious that he’s NOT buying it, so says that he’ll speak to Sam about it later. We knew before that Sam removed the upper layer of the knight’s skin, then applied a solution, according to that book by an earlier maester (who had tried and failed to cure this disease).

I owe my life- to her [Dany] and you. -Jorah says to Sam

Your father saved me more than once. It’s the least I could do. -Sam replies humbly

Dany is the one who ordered Jorah to find a cure; Sam is the one who cured him. The MOST touching moment of this scene is wordless- it’s when Sam offers his hand for Jorah to shake. Jorah is surprised by this move; after all, those w/ dragonscale can’t be touched or touch others. Jorah shook Sam’s hand and smiled.

I read the book and followed the instructions. -Sam explains to Archmaester Ebrose (when he is asked how he cured Jorah’s dragonscale)

That man is alive because of you. You should be proud. -Archmaester Ebrose replies

Hosts of GoT Academy (Gil Kidron and Itamar Harel) wondered if The Citadel just holds knowledge for it own sake; it doesn’t seem to encourage experimentation. (Maybe that’s why Qyburn is a disgraced maester? Look at his creative experiments and inventions- yikes!) But Sam is NOT one to just read something w/o putting it to application or use- he knows what is at stake. It’s great to see Sam succeeding in something- he may turn out to be the biggest hero in this entire story!

Dragonstone

Dany, Tyrion, and Varys are in the war room talking strategy. Dany wants to go after Euron’s fleet w/ her dragons, BUT that’s too risky a plan. The next sequence is quite well-done, esp. Tyrion’s narration. It’s another first for the show- we are presented w/ what turns out to be an alternate scenario, then shown what actually happened (in the battle between Lannister soldiers and the Unsullied at Casterly Rock). Euron’s navy come upon Dany’s ships and start burning them up, much to the dismay of Grey Worm. This is NOT what he expected!

Highgarden

It turns out that defending Tywin’s home was NOT the main focus for Lannister armies- it was Highgarden! Jamie (general of the Lannister army) came up w/ this strategy, outwitting his younger brother (Tyrion). Riding behind Jaime are the Tarlys- Dickon, Randyll, along w/ Bronn (good to see him back). From a high tower, Lady Olenna (Dame Diana Rigg) watches as thousands of enemy soldiers approach. From her face, we can tell that she is resigned to defeat. In the courtyard of the castle, there are dead bodies w/ golden roses on their breastplates. Some Lannister soldiers pile up bodies; other load up chests w/ gold bars.

The camera follows behind Jaime’s back as he purposefully walks through the garden, up stairs, through passageways, until reaching Lady Olenna’s drawing room. He speaks to her, respectfully, and pours two glasses of red wine. He walks over to sit w/ her at a table. Lady Olenna admits that she did “terrible things” over the years to protect House Tyrell, b/c she thought they were “necessary.”

…your sister has done things I was incapable of imagining. That was my prize mistake- a failure of imagination. She’s a monster, you do know that? -Lady Olenna says to Jaime

Lady Olenna can tell that Jaime is deeply in love w/ Cersei; she feels sorry for him, b/c she will ruin his life. It turns out that Jaime convinced Cersei to let Lady Olenna die in a dignified (and painless) manner. He pours a small vial of poison into her wine. Lady Olenna drinks it all quickly, before revealing the part she played in the death of Joffrey. WOW- what a simple, yet fabulous, scene! Jaime’s face shows a myriad of emotions, then he flees the room. Lady Olenna still has her head held high at the end- VERY classy. RIP baddest granny in Westeros.

…not at all what I intended. You see, I’d never seen the poison work before. Tell Cersei- I want her to know it was me. -Lady Olenna’s last words

Matewan (1987) starring Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, & David Strathairn

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Director John Sayles at AFI Silver Theater on May 17, 2017.

I’d never seen this movie (part of DC Labor Film Fest this year) before, though I’m a BIG fan of independent director John Sayles. On this blog, you’ll find reviews of Passion Fish and Casa de Los Babys– two of his more female-centered works. In my view, Sayles was a “masculine feminist” even before the term became popular. He writes BOTH male and female characters who are multi-dimensional living inside stories which are realistic.

Now, you may be thinking- HOW does Sayles keep doing his own high-quality, yet rather low-budget projects!? He explained that his day job is “writer for hire”- he worked on movie and TV scripts, many of which didn’t get made by the big Hollywood studios. “In the past 15 years or so, studios seem to want their leads to be like Tony Soprano,” Sayles explained in the Q&A session after the film. (Most of the audience laughed at this part.) 

Matewan_ChrisCooper
Union organizer Joe Kennehan (Chris Cooper) addresses the miners.

Matewan is based on true events which occurred in a rural town in 1920s West Virginia. Some of the character names are real; others are amalgams of several people. When I first saw the trailer for the film two weeks ago, it reminded me of the Western genre (which Sayles was inspired by). The cinematographer here was Hollywood veteran Haskell Wexler (d. 2015); he won two Oscars, one for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and the other for Days of Heaven (1978)- considered one of the MOST beautiful films by critics and fans alike. The music is also a crucial element here; there is a blending of different styles.

A stranger- Union organizer Joe Kennehan (Chris Cooper in his first film role)- arrives in the town of Matewan. (Cooper plays the lead in Sayles’ Lone Star, which also stars a young Matthew McConaughey.) He gets a room at a boarding house run by a widow, Elma Radnor (Mary McDonnell- lead in Passion Fish), and her teenage son Danny (Will Oldham, then just 17 y.o.) Danny recently went to work in the mines, though he’s NOT yet 15 y.o. His real passion is preaching. 

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Few Clothes (James Earl Jones) is a representative/leader of the black miners.

Joe meets w/ (white/native born) coal miners at the local restaurant. These workers, struggling to form a union, are up against the Stone Mountain Coal Company operators and thugs from the Baldwin-Felts agency (basically guns for hire). Black and newly-arrived Italian immigrants, brought in by the company to break the strike, are caught in the middle. A tall, burly black miner- nicknamed Few Clothes (James Earl Jones)- boldly comes to this meeting. He’s an advocate for the African-American men brought in to work recently from further South. The local white miners don’t want to include the black men (or Italians) in the union; they consider these two groups to be a threat to their livelihood. (Well, some things NEVER change! And yeah, Italians were NOT considered “white” at this time in American history.)  

You think this man is the enemy? Huh? This is a worker! Any union keeps this man out ain’t a union, it’s a goddamn club! They got you fightin’ white against colored, native against foreign, hollow against hollow, when you know there ain’t but two sides in this world – them that work and them that don’t. You work, they don’t. That’s all you got to know about the enemy. -Joe explains to the white miners

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Police chief Sid Hatfield (David Strathairn) readies his pistol in his office.

I’ve met Mr. Felts. I wouldn’t pee on him if his heart was on fire. -Sid Hatfield tells the men from the Baldwin-Felts agency

This film contains some colorful characters, including stone-faced cop Sid Hatfield (David Strathairn). Kevin Tighe (a veteran of film and TV) and Gordon Clapp (who later made a name on NYPD Blue) play the main villains. Sayles is in the small role of a fiery, anti-union Baptist preacher. Producer Maggie Renzi (herself of Italian heritage) takes on the role of Rosaria, wife to one of the Italian miners and mother to several kids. Sayles and Renzi have been creative and life partners since their days as students at Williams College. Sayles also met Strathairn at Williams; they’re good friends. Local people (NOT professional actors) were used in MANY of the scenes of Matewan; they give authenticity to the film, as does the setting.

I think ALL the actors did a fine job; I esp. liked the characters played by Jones (what a great get for young filmmakers) and Renzi (who spoke in Italian). Cooper was the first actor who auditioned for the role of Joe; he had ONLY done theater before. Sayles revealed that several well-known actors also went in for the part, BUT he and Renzi kept thinking back to Cooper. As for Jones, they wanted someone like him, b/c they thought there was a small chance of the man behind Darth Vader taking on a supporting role. Well, you NEVER know until you try!