The Sopranos reaches its pinnacle in Season 6. Truly. Two episodes down and with the Jersey Godfather comatose, you have his shadow loom as large as it did when he was active. Tony Soprano’s dreams during this time make for a compelling story as he shifts from situation to situation in a travelling salesman avatar. Never have dreams been so engrossing on screen. In the outside world, the burning never stops, nor does the rush of the mafia struggle that takes place clandestinely as various players throw their hat in the ring to take over from the ‘boss’.
This series has lived up to everything it stood for. The unapologetic violence, the unpretentious swag of the Jersey mobs, the loyalty and betrayals and above all – family. Episode 2 of the last season is a wonderful narrative in the stream of consciousness. It could be a tribute to Don Sopranos Psychiatrist too. It weaves from reality to the ‘other world’ seamlessly, giving away few secrets as the characters move ahead. The ending solidifies the goosebumps you feel throughout the episode and with the hauntingly beautiful ‘When it’s cold I’d like to die‘ playing from Moby‘s soundkit you have one of the most beautiful episode closures in this saga.
A quaint snow covered town. A whole lot of murders. A villain who could be the devil himself. And the lady with the lamp who shines it on clues that define good old police work. The last one is Molly Solverson, one of the best cop characters on television.
I approached ‘Fargo‘ keeping in mind the Coen Brothers ’90s movie and my love for all things that come out of those dark humoured minds. I was never disappointed as the creators of the show (who didn’t happen to be the brothers) strictly followed the Coen code of story-telling to come up with a fantastic crime drama that saw me watch the whole season from start to finish.
Fargo is a series that takes on the Minnesota landscape and all that its lonely inhabitants stand for. The nuances from daily hellos to uncertain suspicions to paradoxes, as defined by story titles, bring in a slice of life that can be a suitable parable in our time. And you have fantastic leads in Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks and supporting acts from Bob Odenkirk (famous as Saul Goodman from Better Call Saul). There is the primary antagonist, a deliciously devilish portrayal by Billy Bob Thornton. You cannot have asked for anything more evil than the Lorne Malvo character that he portrays. He is the devil with his sense of dark principles and justice absolutely intact. There are hitmen (one of them is deaf), the mob and a whole lot of characters whose inclinations would be in line with themes from ‘Alice in Wonderland‘.
Martin Freeman takes time off from his Dr. Watson duties to give us a William H. Macy-like Fargo performance that makes you feel for and then revile him. His bumbling Lester Nygaard is as fool-hardy as they come but with the presence of mind to survive. And yes, there are major cameos from, surprise surprise…, a comedic pair who put in quite a good law enforcement performance. Comedy Central regulars will get this.
Chief of Police Bill Oswalt brilliantly summarises what Fargo is, “I used to have positive opinions about the world, you know, about people. Used to think the best. Now I’m looking over my shoulder. An unquiet mind, that’s what the wife calls it.”
Here is an Italian movie, watched seven years ago, once. I have never watched ‘The Consequences of Love‘ again. Such is this masterpiece, that I would rate above all features, and the haunting beauty of it all that makes me stop and just think of what transpired. I no longer wish to see this for fear that my view of this movie may diminish ever so slightly with every watch and make me forget about the plot. Gushing over this movie, I would like to reiterate that this is no run of the mill European cinematic fantasy where too much emphasis is given to the arty mis-en-scene’s and what not. There are moments of art that gel well into the storyline and do not feel forced or patronizing to the visual.
Paolo Sorrentino went on to greater things post this movie. ‘The Consequences of Love’ is set in Lugano, in the midst of the Swiss banks and retired expats who make this a haven of peace and calm, foreboding silence. The film breathes a richness in scene after scene enhanced only by the stars – Toni Servillo and Olivia Magnani. Magnani is one of the most beautiful actresses I have come across and her relationship with Toni’s character never extends beyond a touch. And there lies the beauty of this whole relationship with a backdrop of the mafia, money laundering banks, hitmen and gossiping retirees who come together to conspire and help the film reach a beautiful climax. Without revealing much, this movie is a moving visual spectacle that truly defines what dignity, character and beauty can mean in a relationship going past the ‘hurdles’ of trust.
Paolo Sorrentino went on to win an Academy Award much later but this movie is a masterpiece that will forever remain one.
There are a couple of songs that used to play at every college fest during the late ’90s and the early 2000s. Fun, peppy and with really good music videos to boot. ‘Paisa‘ by Agosh and ‘Kya Soorat Hai‘ by Bombay Vikings. The videos complemented the songs and featured the happy go lucky mood of this period brought about with the raw innocence of an age just getting into the internet/mobile/smartphone mode.
I wonder what happened to Agosh. They were really good and their tongue firmly in cheek video hit the nail on our aspirational heads. Kya Soorat Hai had Prabhudeva‘s brother shimmying around a late ’90s Bangalore and had some major Kwality ice cream product placement. Feast was it? So here are my two favourites on this Thursday evening.
Crime pays, and how. The critical and commercial success of shows like Breaking Bad, its latest avatar/prequel – Better Call Saul, The Wire, Orange is the New Black, Oz, The Sopranos…. well you get the drift, the list is endless. True Detective took on the really bad guys in brutal poetry. This series deserved its rating as the best series of 2014 and Matthew McConaughey‘s and Woody Harrelson‘s portrayals of the deeply sensitive and world weary detective gave the series its pathos. The series was disturbing from the start, never a sunlit moment. Even the few moments of happiness were moments of foreboding. This was the brilliant first season.
When it comes to the second season I am a bit of a sceptic here. How do you top something so darkly beautiful as season one. Directed mainly by Justin Lin (famous for the Fast and Furious franchise) I wonder what direction this season takes. The promo visuals are not exactly appealing. It’s got a good cast – there’s Colin Farrell, a truly gifted actor, Rachel McAdams, who is definitely not referring her Notebook for tips. The rest are iffy – Vince Vaughn‘s career is on the wane and I would like to see what he can do here. Promos can be misleading. They have in the past. But Season 2 doesn’t seem to have the powerful visual imagery that One had. The upcoming season seems more like a bright movie trailer. However, I would like to be confident that Justin Lin’s True Detective will surprise the daylights out of me. As McConaughey’s character Rust Cohle says, “Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.” My favourite quote from an intriguing character.
After the poster raid at last years Comic-Con in Bangalore, I never got around to framing/laminating the artefacts. Thanks to my sister, I now have four posters mounted beautifully on different frames and ready to be placed in my apartment. They include two official Mario Miranda reprints, an Incredible Hulk poster and a massive Godzilla poster. My favourites: The Mario Miranda work with the priest and the altar boy and the Godzilla poster. And the Yoda poster is my sister’s.