Lebanese Screenwriter Finalist in the European Independent Film Festival

Grace Shalhoub Yazbek, a Lebanese screenwriter originally from the village of Douma in the Batroun caza, has qualified as a finalist for the European Independent Film Festival in the Feature Film Scripts category for her screenplay titled “Gibran.”

As the title implies, the movie is about famous Lebanese author Gibran Khalil Gibran. The approach adopted to the issue, however, was not to retell his story like many other books and movies have done but to add a more flavor to it, spanning from his birth and childhood in Becharreh, to his travels and studies in Boston – all to the backdrop of him maturing as an artist and human being, culminating in the writing of The Prophet.

Grace’s sister, Nicole, spoke to me about the possibility of her sister’s inspiration being the fact that both them and Gibran are Lebanese American heritage who were raised in Boston and as such the figure of Gibran was always an influence in their lives as well as an inspiration. In a way the Lebanon-Boston connection that the writer shared with the author on whom she’s writing gave rise to the nominated screenplay.

I wish Grace the best of luck and hope her screenplay ends up winning the big prize. Lebanese talent is sure finding its way to success lately.

Advertisements

Inception – Movie Review

You’re waiting for a movie, a movie that will take you where no other movie has taken you before… Inception is that movie. To say this is a brilliant movie would be a gross understatement.

Rising to the status of a cult-hit in mere months, this is beyond a doubt the movie of the year. Regardless of whether the later hype of other movies didn’t help its award chances, this is the movie that will forever remain in the minds of audiences. Sort of like last year’s Avatar. This is the movie highlight of 2010.

Written and directed by the amazing Christopher Nolan (and I mean, is there a Christopher Nolan movie that you have not really liked or come to appreciate?), Inception tells the story of a time when accessing people’s dreams to obtain information is a possibility. Cob, portrayed by the brilliant and under appreciated Leo DiCaprio, is a dream architect who is haunted by his own subconscious represented by his deceased wife, Mal (think French with the name), portrayed by the breathtaking Marion Cotillard. Accused of killing his wife, Cob is offered the chance to go back home to his children on the condition that he pulls something that was never done before – plant an idea inside the head of a business giant’s son to break down his father’s empire; hence, the title: Inception. To do this, he must get together a team that will help him pull off this multi-layered dream construct.

The movie might be about dreaming but you need to be fully awake to comprehend what’s going on. I believe the reason Inception is not getting adorned with the awards it deserves is basically because the award personnel did not understand it or found it too complicated. However, a movie of this magnitude deserves much more than the technical awards it’s scarcely receiving. Not to give Christopher Nolan a nomination for his direction is an abomination and he doesn’t look like a favorite for the original screenplay he wrote as well.

Regarding the acting, Inception’s strength is in the collective work of its whole acting body. All of the actors and actresses in this movie are helping the main character, Cob, to find salvation through this dream into the subconscious. The interactions between the characters themselves and between them and their surroundings are truly marvelous, a simple manifestation of the brilliance of the screenplay and director moving them.

The special effects in the movie are top-notch and some parts are reminiscent of The Matrix. The movie bends around the laws of physics like child’s play  and somehow manages to convince you that all of this makes sense.

The soundtrack, composed by Hans Zimmer, is also my favorite out of all the movie soundtracks released this year. My favorite track on it “Time,” a musical composition that I believe is absolutely stunning. Another notable track is “Dream Is Collapsing.” Listening to the soundtrack, it flows very smoothly and  feels like it’s one part it’s separated into tracks. The inspiration for it was “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” by the great Edith Piaf.

Overall, if you haven’t watched this then what are you still doing reading this?

 

True Grit – Movie Review

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of westerns. Telling the story of a one-eyed Marshall helping a young girl to find her dad’s murderer, the movie transcends the Western stereotype I have come to associate with similar movies and found it to be a really enjoyable movie at that.

The Coen brothers’ remake of the 1969 original movie is remarkable, currently nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards with its lead actor and actress nominated for their roles as well.

I will not go into the plot of the movie apart from painting out a general picture. Marshall Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) is hired by 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) to kill her father’s murderer. On their path, they meet up with a Texas ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon) and together, the continue on their path to find the murderer, overcoming many hurdles.

What is really interesting in the movie is the community they are living in. I’m not sure how accurate a representation the movie is of a 19th century American Western community but the way law was enforced back then is quite fascinating. It it what moves the characters: their will to see justice enforced, regardless of how we currently view justice to be. Do you believe Mattie’s pursuit to kill her dad’s murderer is justified? or is she a hate-blinded fourteen year old? Do you believe Marshall Cogburn is a ruthless man who only seeks money or is he a compassionate person who really wants to see the killer brought to justice?

Jeff Bridges delivers a very strong performance. I cannot draw comparisons to his role in “Crazy Heart” which garnered him an Academy Award. But I have to say, I thought this was a more engaging performance. He delivers his sharp dialogue with a brilliant efficiency, helping the movie in its slow moments. Moreover, his embodiment of the “father-figure” for Mattie is filled with subtle nuances which make him assuming this role quite enjoyable to watch.

The breakthrough here, however, is the amazing Hailee Steinfeld. To say this teenager shines as Mattie Ross is the understatement of the year. Nominated for a supporting actress at the Academy Awards, I believe she belongs in the leading actress category. She is the movie. She is the main acting-driving force. Young as she might be, the other two men rarely do something without her approval – and it isn’t because she’s paying them. She portrays a very strong character and does so marvelously. In my opinion, her acting is the highlight of the movie.

All in all, True Grit might not be my favorite movie this year – especially with all the high-caliber movies that have been released. But True Grit excels at what it’s meant to be: provide an enjoyable Western movie that helps break out the misconceptions some people might have about the genre, while serving as a vehicle for its acting personnel to shine. Look out for a possible Hailee Steinfeld upset at the Oscars this year.