Choices

“Left or right, my lady?” Ignore the words which make you think of the British aristocracy and colonialism and all that jazz. It is a profound moment in a film all about choices, the ones we think we are making, but which are so often not choices at all.

In a sequel, certain expectations have to be met about certain characters, but what I like about Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is that there is very little expected in terms of whom she should end up with. She is seen as on the hunt for a wealthy man in the first film, but seems to be living her life on her terms. She doesn’t have the confusing relationship Evelyn Greenslade does with Douglas Ainslie, nor does she worry constantly about death or being alone or other things. She just has to choose between a couple of men, and the moment where she decides she doesn’t really want either is epic. (With the help and advice of her trusty taxi driver of course.)

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel promised to be fun, but in the way of many sequels, it cannot be quite as fun. Though filled with the antics of Sonny once again, and centered around his wedding to Sunaina, the focus is on the residents of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  One storyline, that of Norman Cousins, is essentially devoted to being funny, as he tries to protect Carol from an auto driver that might have misunderstood him and now be attempting to finish her off. Spotting an auto with a scorpion on the back might seem easy in Jaipur, but catching up to it is the hard part.

Charming as the first film, it is filled with moments where the characters do sweet or silly things which are extraordinary for people their age (as they keep mentioning themselves) but still believable. Becoming a tour guide is one way to earn a little cash as long as the assistant feeding lines to you isn’t a child who can be distracted by games. Douglas had to learn that the hard way. Luckily, by the end of the film, he has Evelyn to support him with her successful career as a buyer for a fabric business.

Sonny holds the residents in his heart, and it is especially clear in his relationship with Muriel Donnelly. Riding dramatically through empty streets is usually saved for romantic relationships, but we see him anxiously looking for his mentor right after he got married. With fear of the worst possible thing–her death on his mind, and ours, it is a relief to hear her characteristically crabby but affectionate words as she tells him to go back to the party, these words ease our minds.

But we know all is not well. It is reinforced in her brief conversation with the honcho who invested in the Marigold chain and is obvious from the classic juxtaposition of energetic dancing at the reception and her writing a letter with utmost concentration. “Let go. that’s when the fun starts. Because there’s no present like the time,” she quotes Sonny back.

Why do people write so seriously in letters, why can’t they be full of smiley faces and jokes? That probably contributes a lot more to the death of letters than the internet. And I’m back from my little digression.

“I spent forty years of my life scrubbing floors and the last few months of my life as co-manager of a hotel half way around the world. You have no idea now, what you will become.” It all comes down to choices, even if you don’t think you have one. She chose to go the Most Exotic Marigold Hotel as a cheap place to recuperate. Who knew the curmudgeon would end up helping to run it?

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Not another Spy movie

I laughed. I laughed a lot. I cringed and then I laughed. I laughed because it was funny, and then there were the times I laughed because of years of conditioning that have taught me that all fat jokes are hilarious.

I like Melissa McCarthy, right from when I saw her as accident-prone Sookie on Gilmore Girls. Spy was a far better film to watch than another of McCarthy’s films,  Identity Thief. Not just because Rose Byrne was in it with her “bird arms”, at one point trying to push a gun across the floor to Susan Cooper AKA Penny Morgan, AKA Amber Valentine AKA whatever.

I like the paradigm of an inept but surprisingly awesome agent saving the day, I mean we all loved Johnny English, didn’t we? But Susan Cooper is not lucky the way Johnny English was. She is instead extremely ingenious, and has some scary-good combat skills, which we get to see in a video of one of her training exercises. “I wanted to put it up on YouTube”, says her boss, deadpan Elaine Crocker who threatens another agent if he dares to call her “Betty Crocker”.  That was one of the moments where the movie was funny without insisting on doing it at the expense of Susan.

In pursuit of someone who tried to shoot them, Cooper naturally got on a scooter, and immediately regretted it, “Who puts a roof on a scooter? What are you, the Pope?!” It made me pause the film to really get all my laughter out. The film offers plenty of these zingers, but sadly also insists on poking fun at Cooper’s clothes through other characters, mainly the villain Rayna. The upside to this is that we see how ridiculous it is to make fun of her clothes when either she has no choice about it, or because she is just dressing how other people expect her to (crazy cupcake necklace with a toggle system, seriously Agent Bradley Fine??? That’s your idea of a gift to someone you owe your life?). The many sides to Susan Cooper are probably better represented than a lot of women usually get in movies, from her sarcasm to intelligence to scary meanness to sweetness and fainting/vomiting at the sight of some gory things.

It was a chance to laugh, and a great one at that. It will probably be funny and entertaining for at least a few repeat viewings, which can’t be said for a lot of movies. Even though I objected to parts of it, I can’t deny the appeal of a comedy spy movie like it. Without films like it, our lives would be a lot more serious. Who wants that?

So what if I AM Sadness?

“Sadness, sadness, look here. You’re totally sadness.” I look up briefly, giving him my most supremely irritated look, the one reserved for annoying siblings. He kept insisting as I watched the film, It’s you, it’s you.

With every passing moment, I denied this. I am not always sad, I have other emotions, I don’t only sit around in some kind of existentialist funk. (Granted, I do get that way sometimes. ) With the idea of myself as “Sadness” reinforced constantly, it kept me from enjoying the movie as much. And isn’t that a huge problem? Other people labeling us makes us so aware of what we are and aren’t that we stop enjoying things, and it sucks.

Inside Out had been out for a while, I just hadn’t got around to watching it until this weekend. I wanted to watch it. I was really excited after watching the trailer, but somehow that feeling fizzled out as I heard more about it. I knew that it was bound to be disappointing in some way. It didn’t help that my brother had already watched it and any reference to it ended with my grumpy face and his smug irritating expression out in full force.

It was just a film, but it took on this massive topic, EMOTIONS, and the  emotions of a tween, can you imagine? It was a task not many people could have taken on, but those little animated figures worked really hard to make it seem real and yet fun. It was an interesting film, sort of like Osmosis Jones, but quite naturally, centered in this decade. With its basis in the human mind, Inside Out wasn’t like any other animated film I’ve seen.

Though it was definitely a children’s film, it was so popular among adults. From the feed of a psychiatrist I know, to an  uncle somewhere in my family tree, Facebook posts popped up for a couple of weeks after it came out here. It was not a phenomena, certainly not the way Frozen was, and it seems to have gone to the place where a lot of animated movies go. That list of movies teachers find appropriate for 9-year-olds, but interesting enough to show 13-year-olds as well.

I don’t know why this happens. Why don’t we ever want to re-watch these animated films the same way we do some dabba action film? There are exceptions of course, the Despicable Mes, the Kung Fu Pandas, and a couple of others that seem to have escaped the watch-once-and-don’t-repeat instructions.

Maybe it has to do with labels too, we don’t want to be outside of the popular culture of our age-group. Watching these films once is acceptable, but loving them as much as The Avengers is just not done. Or are we just too old to enjoy a bright bubbly world, Imagination Land and Bing-Bong’s song? Seems unlikely.