Anika Goes to the Movies: The Second-Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Quick review: 4.25 stars, Super freaking adorable. Go see it with someone who likes to laugh.

And now for spoilers.

This movie manages to add more romance and be less about sex than the first. WHICH. I. Love!! Way too often in our cultures offerings we are given the choice between no romance at all or an eye-rolling lust fest. But Second-Best does the favor of assuming its audience’s intelligence and implies rather than shows. Moreover, it gets into the emotional complexities of relationships at any age.

No one actually dies this time. But the shadow of Maggie Smith’s impending departure hangs over much of the film, and then is poignantly and tear-jerkingly wrapped up in a letter written to Dev Patel’s character Sonny and his fiancĂ© Sunaina. They are leaving for their honeymoon after a series of disastrous pre-wedding parties and half a dozen or so of Sonny’s screw-ups, and Mrs. Donnelly says a final goodbye. We don’t see her pass, but the feeling is certainly that she will not be there when they get back.

The not-quite-budding relationship between Norman and Evelyn played by Bill Nighy and Judi Dench (who is seriously just lovely) is perfectly frustrating and simultaneously delightful. And the random appearance of everyone’s least favorite ball of negativity, Norman’s wife, adds to the hilarity and gives Evelyn a chance to show her backbone.

It was, I think, just as good as the first. Which is very hard to do in a sequel. And since there was the addition of some bollywood style dancing at the wedding, it managed to be the same and different. Can’t wait until it comes out on video.

Happy watching!

Anika Goes to the Movies (on her couch): The Hundred-Foot Journey

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Quick review: 4.75/5 stars- SEE THIS MOVIE!! I love it. So much. The characters are well developed and fun. The plot is believable and still totally, “Aww, my feewings.” One of the best rom-coms to be released in recent years.

There will be spoilers. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Ok, first a confession. I love food movies. “Julie and Julia,” “Chocolat,” and “No Reservations” are always among my go-tos when I’m feeling down and need a little reassurance that life is beautiful and tasty.

I also have a budding love (as does most of America) for the Indian aesthetic. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Million Dollar Arm” were both thoroughly enjoyable, and I can’t wait to review BEMH’s sequel in March.

So when you combine those two and set them in France and add Helen Mirren you have essentially created my ideal rainy day movie.

The characters are lovable from the very beginning and your heart goes out to them. You appreciate their capacity to adapt, move forward, and resourcefully deal with the conflicts in front of them.

If I had a place for improvement, I wish the film were just a little longer so as to develop the romance between Hassan and Marguerite a bit more. Also, if I may draw your attention to the poster, Helen Mirren’s character, Madame Mallory is not the main character. She is simply the biggest actor and therefore gets her lovely mug in the middle. I love Helen Mirren. And she does not disappoint in the film at all, but the advertisers could certainly be a bit more honest about the balance of the film, as well as give the due credit to Om Puri and Manish Dayal, who have become two of my new favs, and I hope to see them often in the future.

Manish’s portrayal of Hassan, the young man with the potential to be a great chef, is balanced and endearing. He is manly and a little arrogant, but not overpowering. He is deep and thoughtful and proud, but not so prideful as to close himself off to the possibilities around him. He is, simply put, one of the most sympathetic and well rounded male characters in a romance that I have ever seen. He makes me happy.

The fact that Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon, doesn’t just fall all to pieces over him is wonderful. She likes him, she wants to be close to him, but she has her own ambitions and life before he ever comes to her small French town. In the end though she welcomes the chance to be his partner, in business and life. And it is beautiful to see them so well paired: independent, discerning, ambitious people who have realized their mutual passion for fine food and each other. It’s delicious. *rolls eyes at self, a little*

And unlike other rom-coms where the balance between the romance and comedy can be iffy or forced, this is just brilliant. So much to laugh out loud about, but with real stakes in the plot and relationships of the characters. I never felt put off by a joke or felt like the romance was over the top or the comedy out of place. It was all harmoniously synchronized.

See this movie!! Own this movie! It is funny, it is heartfelt, it is clean, and my husband liked it, too.

P.S. If you would like to ignore the following rant scroll no further. On the subject of awards: too often, way too often, those who are considered the gatekeepers- the ones handing out the shiny trophies- completely overlook the best performances, the best actors, the best writing, plots because they are too well, good. And by good I mean in an all around, decent, uplifting, and moral sense. When you walk away from a film feeling really pleased that you continue to be part of this little planet, chances are that film will get snubbed. I cannot begin to imagine all the reasons why, but a large one seems to be that those in charge of telling us what is award worthy have been chewing on edgy and dark for so long they have lost their sense of taste. The more I live my life, the more I appreciate good drama that doesn’t rely on the graphic, vulgar, and obscene. I respect great acting wherever it is found, but turning aside some of the best acting in the biz for the sake of seeming trendy and “on,” only proves that the gatekeepers have forgotten how to do their job. They are no longer the discerning folk to be trusted with handing out the medals. Yes, Helen Mirren was nominated for a golden globe as best actress in a comedy, but I’m not sure she deserved that particular nomination, especially given that Puri and Dayal’s acting was superior (in my opinion) and neither of them were acknowledged. Moreover, as it so often does, the Academy turned a blind eye to “The Hundred-Foot Journey” entirely, along with “Belle” and “The Good Lie.” (Not to mention about a dozen others that seemed right up the Academy’s alley, but no go.) I guess what I am saying here is that I would like to see moral films, uplifting films, performances that make us better people win. I want, as I always do, the good guys/gals to win. And if they can’t win, they should at least have a horse in the running. Rant over for now.

*poster image from IMDB.com

Anika Goes to the Movies: An introduction

I like movies. I particularly like the theater going experience. And despite having been a theater manager for a while, and thus retaining some post-traumatic stress associated with the smell of movie popcorn, I still prefer to see a good movie on the big screen. The emphasis on “good.” Just maybe not the way one might think.

The more I see of what Hollywood is offering up the more I feel like, “meh.” Especially this time of year when the posters on the cinema walls are full of blood and gore and fear. It’s not that I’m a total Puritan. I don’t feel indignation that there would be films with graphic content in the world. Mostly, they just make me roll my eyes, as they tend to be a filler for things like plot and character development. I did my stint of graphic content in late high school and college thinking that I was being rebellious and worldly. It just holds no sway for me anymore. Moreover, having lived a portion of my life where I viewed that kind of stuff, and contrasting it to the content I prefer now, I have no desire to go back. It wasn’t all that fun. The thrills were cheap, when the creepiness or the salaciousness lasted it made the whole world feel like a dark, scary place, and I was never a better person for having seen what I saw. So when I say I like good movies, I don’t just mean well made movies. I mean film that brings goodness into the world. That doesn’t mean it’s all flowers and sunshine around here. Titles like The Book Thief, Amazing Grace, and The Monuments Men come to mind. Good movies. Good messages. Sometimes grim or sad or just a little tough to watch. But still worthwhile. I also like light, fun, and funny as long as it isn’t stupid. And I enjoy a good Kung Fu flick or series of awesome explosions as much as the average American. So you could call my tastes eclectic with a few specific exclusions, I guess.

I tell you this because, as I said in the beginning, I like movies. And so from time to time the post title will read, “Anika Goes to the Movies: Title Here.” There may be spoilers, there may be contempt or praise for the creative choices made, but there will never be anything with graphic language, sexuality, or gore. I’m not a professional film critic. *sigh of relief* So I won’t see everything. And everything I say will be my opinion, which I am allowed to have. You are allowed to agree or disagree, with respect and thoughtfulness, in the comments if you like. And I genuinely hope you will. Vitriol and rudeness will be deleted.

I hope this will be a fun way for you to get to know me, my tastes, and ideas. To also see a bit of the worlds I choose to inhabit that inspire me in my creative endeavors. And also provide the periodic break from, “I’m an author talking about my book(s) again!” So sit back and enjoy the show.