Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz

The Buzz: Nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category

The Run: Won Golden Globe for Best Picture (Comedy or Musical)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Truffaut meets Almodovar

Thank god we have Clint Eastwood. And thank god we have Woody Allen. One of the most gifted people of our times, Woody Allen is perhaps the only depressing-looking guy that can induce such energy into anyone. And those scripts. And those scripts. And those scripts… He has returned with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, with a script that isn’t as jaw-dropping as Match Point (2005) but fantastic in its own way.

We follow the lives of the two clearly defined titular characters – Vicky, played lovingly by Rebecca Hall, is a very conventional person. She knows her boundaries. Her morals are moderate and her opinions on love, platonic. She believes in commitment to love and nobility of the same. Scarlett Johansson’s Cristina is the quintessential free-loving European with absolutely extreme opinions on love and the restrictions it imposes. They meet Juan (Javier Bardem) in Barcelona, a divorced artist who is seeking to restore his inspiration. Both the girls find him totally wild and so different in their own way. Now leave it to Woody Allen to bring the essentially Almodóvar-esque twist to the plot. Enter Penelope Cruz. Cristina realizes how all her ideologies are no more than youth’s desperate fantasies. Now these are just a fraction of the twists and turns the roller coaster film goes through. Woody Allen elicits extremely natural performances from his stars with Cruz standing out in style.

Many feel that the voice over that Allen provides is needlessly repetitive and could have been completely done away with. But I believe it eases up the whole film a bit. Allen, visibly, loves his characters and with this voice over he provides them safety. He looks back into the past with a tinge of humour now that everything is over and done with. He does not make us believe that there are going to be serious ramifications and heavy drama as a result of these relationships that the characters get into. So, the voiceover aids the film to never put down the light-hearted atmosphere that is already being developed by its beautiful actors, its characters and Barcelona.

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Rebecca  Hall, Kevin Bacon

The Buzz: Nominated in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor,  Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing categories

The Run: Won the Satellite Award for Best Adapted Screenplay

Frost/Nixon

Not Exactly A K.O.

Ron Howard returns after his much trashed film The Da Vinci Code (2006) and he returns quite well. He takes up the iconic face-off between David Frost and Richard Nixon following the latter’s impeachment and churns out something that could have been only possible in Hollywood. Seen Rocky? Seen Mudhalvan (Nayak)? Now cross them and voila!

Riding on two striking performances (well, Sheen’s is easily questionable), Frost Nixon is yet another underdog story from the industry that is surprisingly riveting until the third act. There is a sense of balance among the characters. The interview is the last chance for both of them to redeem their lost pride. A lot is at stake for both of them. All this is quite subtly done. Oh yes, please add a clause “till the phone call” to all the statements above. And after this notorious phone call comes the fear of all ordinary directors of Hollywood. The fear that their effort may go unnoticed by the audience. Ron Howard is no exception here and verbalizes and over-determines whatever he wants to say in the final act as if pointing out to the audience his directorial skills. It’s downhill all the way from this point. The showdown is so dumb to the point that it contradicts the point of the whole film so far. And Sheen’s cool attitude sums up to nothing at all. How I wish the film was handled by some veteran. 

But a few points do stand out in the film including Langella’s confident performance of the American president. Frost/Nixon does not pretend to delve into the truth or offer a fair trial to Nixon. It assumes that Nixon is guilty and concentrates on his conviction alone. And I feel that this is a good move. But best movie of the year? Come on, this must be the joke of the year!