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10 Oscar-Nominated Films!



oscar nominated films 2022

Subhash  K Jha Reviews  The  10 Oscar-Nominated  Films, Predicts Winner

First  things  first. Never before have  10 films been nominated  in the Best Picture category. This can only signify one thing: that 2021 was  an  exceptional year at the movies. Barring maybe  one or two  nominees, I love all the nominees.

Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare  Alley is  a dark  sinister  menacing film with a  stand-out performance  by Bradley Cooper. The  1946 novel  by  William Lindsay Gresham on which the  film is based is dark  sinister twisted  and  unlikeable. The film follows the same  route, portraying its con-artiste hero  Stan as an illicit illusionist who lucks out when  he  manages to guess a grieving couple(the extraordinary  Mary Steenburgen and  Peter MacNeill)’s  source  of  sorrow and  proceeds to exploit their feelings.

Stan then  bites  into  more than he  can chew when he tries his  clairvoyant tricks with a mobster Ezra(Richard Jenkins). This episode ends on  a disastrous note, both for Stan and  for the audience , as  its underlying  message  of nemesis comes too late. All through the  film Bradley Cooper plays Stan as an artless , though not heartless deceiver, more sinner against  than sinned. Stan’s  self righteous  outlawry  comes to  a sticky end with no one  left any happier , us the  audience included,than the point at which  it all began. Nonetheless  The Nightmare Alley is  a work of  unexpected  rewards provide  you stick it out. The way in which Stan  misuses his gyan on reading the future, turning  it  smoothly into into  a scam industry, shows that  a  moral degeneration is  the worst scourge since  the plague….give or take  the pandemic.

“I was  born for it,”  sobs Bradley Cooper’s  Stan Carlisle at the end  of what is  an exhausting and yet exhilarating 160-minute  journey into the heart  of  darkness.He refers  to what  was known as the  ‘geek’ in the circuses  of yore  where a man was chained and starved and  put on display like an animal in  a cage.The geek in Nightmare Alley reminded me  of  the  creature in Guillermo del Toro’s last  film  The  Shape  Of Things for which he won an Oscar  for  Best  Director. There is  no such  danger  in  Nightmare Alley. The film’s  rocky destiny is marred by bouts of selfdoubt that every character goes through and  yet proceeds  to do the wrong things, from adultery to  forgery to felony.

This is  a  world of desperate gold-diggers,fortune-hunters with  no patience or appetite for  guilt. Cooper and Blanchett have a great deal of fun with  their parts, although  this is  not the  occasion for it.After scamming several  who trust him, Stan meets the  conniving seductress Lilith(Cate  Blanchett) who is sharp and saucy; in other words Stan with his dim-witticism  and dull comprehension of human nature in spite of being a fortune teller,is no match for Lilith.

More his  league is the straightforward  dis-enchantress(a new coinage to  describe  a woman who is  neither seductive  nor aspires to be) Zeena(Toni Collette) and  Mary(Rooney Mara). The  former  ,Stan fucks, the latter  he betrays until  Lilith fucks him over.

Nothing  is what it seems in  Nightmare  Alley. The drama  unravels  like  a  mirror of illusions in the travelling  carnival where  most of  the  darkness erupts   into a blinding light  of  frightening blight  where  nothing is what  it seems and what we see is  not even a part of the truth  regarding the  lives of the characters who  live in  a permanent  state of impermanence and treachery.

Having said the above,  let me hasten to  clarify that  I didn’t like the  film as  much as  the Oscars committee, which in all its wisdom, has shortlisted this strange untameable   beast  of a  film for Best Picture.  Best  of luck with that.Nightmare Alley leaves us with more questions than answers  on the nature of faith and belief.

I always  used  to wonder  what  the  fable of the Emperor’s Clothes meant. Then I  saw Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. And finally I  knew what it meant when  everyone goes  bonkers over something  that doesn’t exist just to  be in-sync with the  politics  of the times.Dune is  a weightless epic.And ultimately   pointless. For  a good 190  minutes Dune  takes us through an intricate labyrinth of trust and betrayal fanned and fuelled  by  the courtly  conspiracies  of  a  futuristic  Moghul dynasty.    It is a symphony with no  orchestra. A  world  ostensibly run by a   great vision with no insight into the  human conditions, just  a  series of striking images created  on the drawingboard  and executed  on screen with  a meticulousness as  hard to achieve as  it is to believe.

Dune is  a work of epic dimensions hollowed inside-out. It is  numbed by  a stream of  surreal images  that are put on screen like  paintings in a  posh gallery where  only the very rich are allowed. They  buy the coveted paintings without  questioning their value.Sorry , I am not buying into the  panoramic vision  of  this  emptied-out  numbed charade where  the  futuristic  vision is  stretched out so far,  we  need  a telescope, not a 3D spectacle,  to  see the soul beyond the spectacle.

The visual imagery is  incredibly  vivid.Full credit to cinematographer Greig Fraser  for bringing a sense  of  epic doom into the  landscape. The soul is inert, Perhaps dead. We would never know which. Sometimes  staying still is  seen as a sign of  sublimity.Dune is  a case in point.

But oh, what slothful sublimity  is this?!  Dune opens in  the distance  future,sometime  after the year 10,000 which makes the world safe for us as far as this kaleidoscopic  cock-n-bull   presentation  is concerned.It’s hard to pin this  futuristic  fiesta   down to any particular  theme  or  even emotion.There are scenes  where I  found myself trying to catch some  essence of emotions between  father and son Oscar Isaac and  the  very happening  Timothee Chalamet.  Sadly,  there is  little closeness between  the two actors.They seem more troubled by their costumes than the  troubles  that the  plot  heaps  on their  besieged kingdom.

Perhaps the sheer   scale  of  the  sets  discourages any human emotions to develop. By the time Oscar Isaac(fabulous in Scenes From A  Marriage)  is pinned lifelessly  to a chair in front of the villains, I  was  more worried about how  little life  there was  in the high drama.It  is  all too dry and sterile. Though  essentially the story of a  father and son battling for a rare  species of spice against  enemies who can  exterminate with a  strong blow  of their mouth(bad breath perhaps?),  son Chalamet spends more  time with ‘mom’ Rebecca  Fergusson who wears  a sour  look all through  the  film, as if she  knows what the outcome of this outing into the  dystopian distance is going to be.

The  caucus of  villains played by  Stellan Skarsgård ,Dave Bautista  and Stephen McKinley Henderson  look like they could so with some loosening  up. They behave  like tightly-wound dolls who would  like to be masters  of their own destiny. Two superstars  Josh Brolin and  Jason Momoa play Chalamet  mentors.What  do they teach him? Not courtship? Chalamet is  so amateurish with his romantic  co-star Zendaya. They behave  more like siblings  than lovers and  for all we  know they may turn out to be long lost  brother and sister in Part  2 of this  torpid  exercize in  selfindulgence. Best of luck with that one.  I am out.

Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast   is an outright  heartwarmer. Growing  up in Belfast at the  peak of  the Catholic-Protestant conflict  in 1969 was not all a bed of thorns  for writer-director Kenneth  Branagh.To  be honest, I saw Branagh looking at his  childhood in  Belfast  with rose-tinted glasses. And  the more he  relies on Haris Zambarloukos’ reflective  black-and-white  photography to give his nostalgic urges a wide berth, the  more  euphoric the broken world of  warfare and strife appears  to be.

Not that  there is anything  wrong with  a happy interpretation of an inherently bleak past. We  all  tend  to shut out the  ugly dark  passages  in our memory bank. This doesn’t necessarily make   the   memory bank any less bankable.In spite of that dizzying glow  of warm  recollection that bathes Belfast in a blaze of  colours and emotions,  it seems to be an  unimpeachably  scrupulous representation of the past, down to the street where our little 9-year old hero Buddy(newcomer  Jude Hill, doing that Shirley Temple  acting template , whether  by design or willinilly, I can’t say)  lives with his harried mother(Caitríona Balfe, dazzling in her workingclass sexiness) and grandparents(played by  Ciarán Hinds and an almost comically revamped  Judi Dench).

Absentee father (Jamie Dornan) keeps making  weekend appearances to  argue with his  mother on whether they should all move to England. Or else  the family is at the  movies singing along in Chitty  Chiity Bang Bang or  ogling at Raquel Welch  in  One million Year BC.Interestingly the  films that the family watches in  movie theatres are in colour while  the  family is throughout shot in black-and-white , imbuing the  ambience with a sepia complexion suggesting a close link between memory  and colour(or the lack of it).

Belfast is a beguiling  blend of  realism and style.  It is smokily shot to convey a  sense  of  ongoing  seductiveness as  Ireland burns with religious strife. The emotional scenes  are sniffles in  sly motions of cryptic emotions. Every actor catches on to Kenneth Branagh’s charmed memory waltz , hopping and skipping as he does from a  drama of  despair  to  a comedy of manners   like Jane Austen on a Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote-trip .

The mood of the presentation, though  deceptively upbeat,  secretes a  deep sense of loss and when little  Buddy finally leaves his  troubled neighbourhood in Ireland with his family, we get a heartbreaking closeup of grandma Judi Dench  whispering, ‘Go, go, and don’t look back.’If only life’s choices were that simple.

In Jane  Campion’s  The  Power  Of The  Dog   Benedict Cumberbatch, best known  for playing Dr Strange in the Marvel  franchise, comes up with his strangest  most  haunting performance  in Jane Campion’s  film, her first in ten years  and her best since The Piano. Here too the piano  plays  pivotal part, though the one  playing it is rapidly relegated  to  a  non-pivotal  position  in  a power-game that is  enrapturing in  its intensity.

You have probably heard  and read reams  of  praise  for this  enigmatic  shocking film on the burden  of  homophobic  masquerades and  the  concept of  a home, as opposed to  a stopover destination.It all begins and ends  in 1925  when Rose Gordon(Kirsten Dunst) moves to her new  husband George Burbank(Jesse Plemons)’s affluent ranch  where she  must take on his  uncouth violent  brother Phil(Cumberbatch)  who rejects his new Bhabhi  as a  “cheap schemer” out to  usurp his  innocent sweet  brother’s wealth.

The  tug ‘o’ war  between  Phil  and Rose is  so  tilted I  expected her to be  crushed  , killed, if not physically by her boorish  brother-in-law then by his murderous hateful looks. As Rose,  Kirsten Dunst  simply withers  before our eyes as Phil reduces her  to a nervous alcoholic wreck. But this is  not a film about marital discord and  sibling jealousy. Nothing so simple for Campion(whose fan I’ve been ever since I  saw The Piano 28 years ago). Jane Campion  wraps her  tale  around  a tantalizing   erotica, teasing and provoking our senses  into examining and re-examining the concepts  of  toxic masculinity and  homophobia.

As  in  The Piano where Harvey Keitel  had gone full frontal, Cumberbatch  sheds all his clothes and  inhibitions to deliver a performance that  would be talked about for generations. There  is  much that he  conveys about his uncouth character without enunciating  the requisite abusive words, with just one glance, one twitch   of the eye.So is Cumberbatch’s performance greater than the film? Not quite. The Power  Of  The  Dog is  a  great GREAT  film, filled with piercing silences and unspoken rebukes embedded  in relationships that are not  just incomplete  but also left dangerously dangling at the edge.

I wouldn’t want  to  insult  Campion’s  coercive and compelling neo-classic  by calling it “edgy”. It is  much more that. The storytelling sinks deep into the abyss of the  lost human soul in search of  a relevance to existence beyond what we see and what we get.So powerful is the central performance that it’s easy to overlook the other actors who confer an  inexplicable  immediacy to this  period drama. Kodi Smit-McPhee as Rose’s ‘soft’ son  is specially  fluent in a complex role.

The  Power  Of  The  Dog is not into easy solutions  to the tangled web  of human deceit. It  shows a spectacular regard for the  inbuilt complexities in  human relationships. It neither tries to mend  nor bend broken relationships.  It is  just content to be there when this happens.

And now to  Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King   Richard….At what point  in one’s parental duties does  push come to shove?This is  the larger  question that this bio-pic  tracing the phenomenal  rise  to  world championship  of  the Williams sisters, addresses.And this is  where this engrossing  real-life film acquires an  extra dimension.The  exploration of  the arching  relationship between  child and parent,and in this  case between  protégée and  mentor, is  explored with  surprising meticulousness.

I say,  surprising , because  this is a  palpably massy production, aimed at the  maximum viewership.If King Richard  was a Bollywood production there would be songs. Sassy and insouciant, King Richard, as  the title suggests, portrays  the Williams’ sisters Venus and Serena’s father as  a despotic doer. As Will Smith, in the role  and  performance  of his lifetime, keeps saying, he knows that both the sisters are born champ material. From that moment of realization he doesn’t spare his daughters a single moment  for recreational activities  such as  boys. Conveniently  the  neighbourhood boys are shown as predatory  layabouts with nothing  to do except ogle at  girls who probably have  higher aims in life, aspirations that are largely  lacking in a community that has risen  up the social scale the hard way.

While the two  actresses playing Venus and  Serena ,Saniyya Sidney and   Demi Singleton, are ‘pick’-perfect, this is Will Smith’s show all the way: make  no mistake about that.Smith is  so brilliant in portraying an indefatigable  vicarious  achiever, he  not only knocks the ball out of  the  court he  also makes the court  his stage  for a grandslam performance.A  bully and an insufferably arrogant   father, Smith’s Richard Williams is  borderline megalomaniac. Somewhere in the self-serving daughters-pushing achiever , there is  also a concerned father who dreams big for his  daughters.

In some ways Will Smith reminded me  of Aamir Khan in Nitesh Tiwari’s Dangal  .Of course Smith’s  performance is far superior to Khan’s. Watch him in the lengthy sequence  where he tells his daughter Venus about the  ravages of racism that he  faced as  a child when his father left him unprotected  during a racial attack. Smith’s  face is filled with pain and determination. He will see his daughters conquer the world, no matter what  it takes.

Where the  film flounders   is in  delineating Richard’s relationship with his wife,played well by Aunjanue Ellis. The  husband and wife’s big confrontation sequence is so clumsily written, going from recrimination to  reconciliation  with no  connecting dots, that I  ended  up wondering what  was  the need to show the fissures in the marriage when the entire focus  of  the  plot is to  accentuate  the father’s determination to  see his daughter’s at the summit.

King Richard  is not  without its  quota of flaws. The Daddy-knows-best mantra that  runs through the narrative must have taken its toll on Venus and Serena’s self-worth. We always see the girls as  obedient except once when Venus insists on a  career decision suggested by her coach, played brilliantly by Jon Bernthal.Otherwise,Will Smith  enjoys playing the  bossy daddy as much as we enjoy watching him play lord of  the  offsprings.

Not half as awful  as the savage reviews suggest, Andrew McKay’s Don’t Look Up is that  oddball  comedy about the  end  of the world which takes  swiping potshots at   the Establishment without any  lasting impact.Only in an American comedy as irreverent and  savage as this would we have a young scientist played  by Jennifer Lawrence(oddly listless)telling the moronic  US  President(Meryl Streep , doing a Trump in drag) that she  didn’t  vote for him, and boy, is she glad she didn’t!

If irreverence be the food of satire, then play on! … Don’t Look Up is  just your  poison.  It is viciously anti-establishment and  adroitly  bang-on in its endeavour to bring down all the holy cows  of   the Establishment. While Streep is  a scream as the tone-deaf Prez, Jonah Hill as the Chief Of Staff who happens,  just happens, to be   the Prez’ s son, is a riot of ambivalent ideology and scrambled  priorities.

Taking the extreme view, the spoofy  goofy  film painstakingly takes down the  governmental  machinery, part by part,  and exposes it for what  it is : inept and  brutally  insensitive.We get that. But once this pattern  of  exposing  the  dimwitted administration is established,a numbing monotony  kicks into the  satire which grows from tantalized  to just plain   tired.It’s as if  the more noise the  presentation makes, the less it deserves  to be heard.  After  a point  Don’t Look Up just  continues  to go around in  exasperating circles. In fact, the last 45 minutes  of the  plot could easily be done away with.

By the time  the  highly-regarded Timothee Chalamet shows up for a spot of  kissy-kissy with Jennifer Lawrence   the film is  more or less dead on survival.Speaking of  intimacy,  our Gujarati  Himesh Patel(remember  him from Danny Boyle’s Yesterday?) shows up early in the bustling self-important  goings-on as  Jennifer Lawrence’s slimy boyfriend named ‘Philip’. Not Indian, I presume?

There are  some highpoints,  though. Besides Streep who is  the  plot’s ‘Trump’ card, Leonardo diCaprio’s  scruffy scientist’s act is  enjoyable. His meltdown on  a news channel is the  cutoff  point , after which the  narration goes rapidly downhill. Cate Blachett as a  predatory  news anchor and specially Mark Rylance as a spaced-out philanthropist  billionaire are  sexily  cocky in spurts.But  I am not too sure  such  incentives add up to an experience worth   expending our 190 minutes  over. There is  nothing  earth-shattering about  this  satire  on an  earth-destroying  comet. It takes savage  swings at  several sacred  institutions   of   American democracy without  hitting target.

Is  Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive  My Car   the most vital Japanese  film since  Akira Kurosawa’s  Dreams?  More importantly, is Hamaguchi the most important  Japanese  filmmaker since Kurosawa?  The  world’s critics’  community  seems  to thinks so:  his other 2021  film Wheel Of Fortune & Fantasy is in my opinion  a superior work , but  the chances  of  Drive My Car winning the  Oscar  for  best foreign film are  pegged at almost-there.  Indeed  Drive  My Car is something we have never seen  before in  cinema  of  any language. It is cryptic and compelling, exhilarating and  yet exasperating in its refusal to let us  into  the  characters’ inner world.

Really, we can only guess at what our protagonist, a  filmmaker  named  Yūsuke Kafuku is  getting at. Is  he  lunging for  immortality through his work? It doesn’t look like it. Throughout  the 3 hours of playing time  Yusuke  seems disaffected from his  surroundings, a  state  of  ‘being there but not being there’ which is further compounded by  Yusuke’s wife Oto(Reika Kirishima)’s auto-eroticism.  Oto conjures  stories  during orgasm which her  husband is supposed to memorize  during their love-making  as she forgets her  stories the  next morning.

In the  midst of all this  ruminative  creative  conceit, Yusuke is detected with  partial blindness, just after he catches  his wife with another man in their bedroom(after a missed flight, the best fictional  alibi for proving infidelity since Man invented the motion picture and the  airplane).

Then Oto dies.

I thought this  was the end  of the  movie. But as  Karen Carpenter once reminded us, we’ve  only just begun.And to hammer in the  fact that what we’ve seen so  far is just the prelude, the director plays the credit titles at this   point of  his linear but loopy narrative , when  the inwardly-grieving Yusuke proceeds  to Hiroshima  to direct a  stage version of Chekhov’s Uncle  Vanya.

Yusuke  is assigned a  female  chauffeur to  drive  him around(Drive My Car, remember?).

The  driver,an 18-year old  imperturbable stoic girl  named  Misaki(Tōko Miura)now becomes  the focus of attention , as  Yusuke finds himself leaning forward from  the  back seat to reach out to his graceful  ostensibly emotion-less driver. Their interaction is initially  tentative but soon becomes  an escape-route  for Yusuke from  the implacable fortress that he has built around himself.

Complicating the  scenario  even  more(yes, the  swirls  of  conundrum  never cease  in this  mystical  journey  of  a filmmaker  into the  innermost recesses  of his most inaccessible  emotions) is the fact that Koji(Masaki Okada)  the  young man with  whom Yusuke had caught his  wife , is  also part  of  the  Chekhov stage adaptation which  Yusuke is  directing.

At the end Misaki drives Yusuke  to her native  place where she has buried some of her own secrets. By the time we reach  the end  of  the long drive into the darkness ,we are left with more question than answers on  the creative process: Yusuke’s directorial style seems   much more accessible than  what director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has attempted in Drive My Car.Or maybe  Hamaguchi sees  himself as  a superior filmmaker  to  his protagonist. Hamaguchi has  extracted  more juice  from a short story(by Haruki Murakam) than other  creative minds would  squeeze out of a 2000-page novel.In  making a  3-hour film  out  of   5-page story, Hamaguchi  is often  seen stretching  the emotions way beyond their prescribed limits. Drive My Car tells us that loss and  bereavement are best confronted when  they are least  expected to.  That  we  can get into our favourite car and  drive through stretches  of the imagination with nothing to lose except our stifling dependence on  the  trappings of  every day living.

Drive My Car is meant to leave us wiser than before.Tragically  I  was  left more confused about the  conundrum  of life after seeing the film.Can a  filmmaker really deliver us  from our uncertainties with his cinema? This question troubles  the film’s protagonist Yūsuke Kafuku  as  much as  director Ryusuke Hamaguchi.As  a spectator I would rather not interfere.

American  auteur  Paul Thomas Anderson has made masterpieces  like  There  Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights. Licorice Pizza is  not  one  of them. As a matter  of fact Licorice Pizza(which  I confess I  didn’t know the meaning of and had to look it up to know it’s a slang for vinyl  records, though I still don’t know the relations between  records and pizzas)  is nowhere near Anderson’s best. In Boogie Nights he had imagined the early years of the porn bom with such visual vigour that  it never felt forced.

Here  it’s all about atmosphere, baby. So lay it on thick!It’s San Fernando Valley in 1976 and Anderson is all revved  up about the  hyper-activity  everywhere. He  whips up  a  storm  in a teacup,and wants to be blown away.The  crises are  hardly worth a second glance, some social, others political , none in the league  of any great revelation let  alone any  sign of a revolution.

I have lost count of  the number  of  retro-American  films where the  girl (preferably chewing gum, though not this time) is bored  of all the attention the  boy insists  on showering on her. During those days  it was  not called stalking; it was  courtship. Hence Gary(debutant Cooper Hoffman, son of  the late and  borderline-great Philip  Seymour Hoffman who did  great work with Anderson  in Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and The Master) follows  the pretty Alana(Alana Haim)  around like  Mary’s little lamb. He  stares at her open-mouthed even when she warns him not  to act creepy(I am not too sure staring at women was considered ‘creepy’ in the 1970s).

Soon she succumbs to  Gary’s dubious charms although she is  10 years his senior. They are thrown into the  middle of what looks like  a contrived  conundrum,  selling waterbeds to  sleepless Americans.One after other a crisis shows up in the  script  forcing the  narrative  into tight corners where  Gary and Alana squeeze in as best as they can, hair  duly tied into a puzzle. Regrettably,  writer-director  Anderson has  little  patience with  letting the characters  breathe. The two young  protagonists are shown sliding into the  tragic-comic zone with  nary a space for a  sigh.

A  full redundant episode features a real-life temperamental  producer Jon Peters played by  Bradley Cooper only because Cooper wants to  finger  a freaky part. So  Peters harasses and bullies  our two protagonists who  take revenge in unexpected ways and  then when petrol runs out(the fuel crisis  forms a political  undercurrent  in the  feverish  goings-on) they roll their truck down a sloping winding road in reverse gear.

Before  I  could settle down to savouring the eccentric humour , Alana is a volunteer in  a  young dynamic politician’s election campaign . The politician Joel Wachs(Benny Safdie) is a closeted  homosexual whose lover is a sad man.Alan  gives him TLC to the sad gay man and runs   iron out her  differences with Gary…and…and… that’s it! At the end  I was left wondering what I had  just seen!  A  coming of age film with two newcomers  trying to dazzle  and succeeding to  just a fraction of  what they hoped for?The film is fashionably  unfocussed, littered with a   languorous  light that brightens up some of the less whimsical episodes. But most of this is just idol worship. Like  Boogie  Nights without the penises or  There Will Be Blood without the  oil.


Without beating  around  the bush, let’s get to the brass-tacks. Steven Spielberg’s  Westside Story  is a completely  unnecessary remake of   Robert Wise’s  1961 ebullien  musical feature film .There is nothing  Wise about Spielberg’s remake  which is  as  flat as a pancake  and  as  listless as an apple-pie left to  wither in   the sun. The actors are an energetic  lot, no doubt about it. But nothing compared with what  Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer brought to the screen in  the original. Their replacements Ansel Elgort and RachelZiegler are  zestful and  zingy. But at best  adequate  substitutes.  They create  no magic whatsoever  on screen.

Why would  anyone of Spielberg’s stature do this  to  himself?I  can see the challenge in  it  for Spielberg: take  the clichéd Romeo-Juliet story(there’s a firescape sequence  echoing the balcony scene  in Shakespeare) and turn it into  his own  kind of magic.Sadly  the outcome is  more tragic than magic. We are left looking at Puerto Rican  boys and  girl dancing and singing to challenge the ‘Gringos’:  that’s what the  local American  youngsters are called. The two  sides fight and dance and sing  and behave  like what they are: wastrels   with wasps in their waists and  a rumble  in their bellies.Some of the choreography that is original us exciting. Those adapted  from the  original are  casualties of excessive freedom.

None  of  the cast is  anywhere close  to echoing the  unstoppable energy  of the original.Puerto Rican Maria and American Tony meet at party.It is, you guessed, love at first sight. From these bland beginnings it’s downhill  for the storytelling which flirts with  flimsiness with the  enthusiasm  of  a young teenaged girl  trying to get the attention of a   local hoodlum by wearing her  mother’s high heels and lipsick.

The  romance grows  not so  much out of  their mutual  affection as  the  classic music score by Leonard Bernstein which  bursts at  the seams to make its  presence felt, because the songs are not accompanied by any convincing choreography.The actors take to the ethnic milieu shimmering  with a flamboyant  zest which at best is applicable to the milieu they occupy so  insolently. By  the  time the  singing and dancing stops for a tragic ending this remake of  a film that  was  adapted  from the stage , has run completely   out of steam.

Straightaway, Sian Heder’s Coda   is  a  not-be-missed  heartwarmer, so  rich in   authentic emotions it  feels and smells  like freshly plucked apples   from the tree of life. Coda is  the  story of  a deaf family,and their  daughter  who is  not   aurally  impaired and who  wants  to pursue a career  in  music.Sanjay Leela  Bhansali got there 25 years  ago in Khamoshi The Musical. Remember   the glorious Manisha Koirala  as Annie trying to live up to her deaf parents’ Nana Patekar and Seema  Biswas’ expectations ? Remember  her singing Yeh dil sun raha  hai while her parents stare mutely  wondering how well their daughter sings.

Coda is  no  less an emotional experience.Emilia Jones as  the  physically normal daughter of her  family of  deaf parents  and brother(the brother  died  young in Khamoshi) is devastatingly enchanting.  As Ruby, Emilia Jones nails  the  suppressed desires of a daughter  riddled with guilt for being physically normal. In  fact there is  a heartbreaking sequence in Coda(acronym for ‘childrens of deaf adults’) where  Ruby’s mother Jackie(the lovely Marlee Matlin who  aeons ago  made a grand  impact as  deaf-mute in The Children Of Lesser God)  confesses  to Ruby that she had actually  hoped Ruby would be deaf  like the rest  of the family when she was born.

Amazingly this emotionally-shattering confessional  sequence between mother and daughter  ends with a giggle rather a sob. There is  no  room for selfpity or wound-licking in this brave and beautiful story with rousing  edifying  performances by all.

Of course, Emilia Jones is a revelation. But is  she as  good as Manisha  Koirala in Khamoshi?  Wait, am I  being biased  here? No two ways about Marlee Matlin and  Troy Kotsur being superior  to Nana Patekar and Seema  Biswas in the earlier  classic.And with reason: Matlin and Kotsur are deaf in real  life. This opens  up a debate on whether only the  physically impaired should  play such roles.

Not that I am complaining. Coda  leaves no room for quibble. From the way  the director    officiates  unobtrusively over the  domestic  squabbles to the  scenes in  the  school choir where a passionate  music teacher(Euginio Derbez) prods Ruby into a  career in  music, everything is  pitch-perfect here.By the  time Emilia  Jones’ Ruby is on stage singing  Joni Mitchell’s  Both Sides Now in that angelic voice, her fate  is sealed. So is  the  film’s.

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