Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
As you can see the facial mask simply slips off the skull.
So says surgeon Robert Laing as he performs an autopsy on a schizophrenia’s brain during the first ten minutes of High-Rise. Yep they really do show him slipping the skin right off the skull and that gives you an idea of the mixture of horror and artistry this movie regularly hits. High-Rise directed by Ben Wheatley begins with Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston at his sexiest) adjusting to what appears to be a post-apocalyptic Mad Max style dystopia in a concrete high rise. We flash back three months prior to when Laing moved into the newly constructed tower block which architect Royal (Jeremy Irons) designed specifically to be its own self contained society. It has its own store, its own fitness center, a pool, and even a rooftop garden complete with a horse where Royal’s wife Ann (Keeley Hawes) plays Shepherdess just like Marie Antoinette.
Of course like any society there are also class stratifications as well. The lower floors house the poorest residents and those with children, like documentary maker Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) and his wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss). The middle floors tend to include the professional classes like Laing and his lover Charlotte (Sienna Miller), while the top floors house Royal and other elites. In case we fail to see the symbolism already they make sure that Laing gets thrown out of a penthouse party where everyone else is dressed like the court of Louis XIV. The building, Royal explains, is experiencing ‘teething problems’ like frequent power outages and clogged garbage chutes. As these problems escalate pre-existing tensions become ever more violent.
Wheatley isn’t aiming for subtlety here in his adaption of J.G. Ballard’s novel but he certainly delivers great cinematography. The movie often feels like a collection of beautifully photographed vignettes. As a film itself it feels rather well…flat. Because everyone here are stock figures and representations rather than real people you can warm up to. I was reminded a lot of Snowpiercer another visually brilliant allegory about class warfare. While Snowpiercer’s storyline was even more outlandish than High-Rise, I wasable to invest in the people on screen, something I did not feel this time around. Ultimately High-Rise the movie feels like its titular structure; stylistically impressive but lacking in a solid foundation.
All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing… and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn’t want me to praise him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent? Antonio Salieri in Amadeus
What makes a genius? Are these individuals born? The result of excellent schools and diligent parents? Or does God bestow on certain people exceptional talents? In Amadeus, Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham in his Oscar-winning role), railed against the creator for choosing to bless not him but Mozart with the enviable ability to create music that touched the soul.
In The Man Who Knew Infinity, Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel in a multifaceted performance), is a genius in another field, mathematical formulas gushing forth impressing the best analytical minds at Cambridge. When asked by his mentor, professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), where that inspiration comes from, Ramanujan says from God. Hardy, an atheist, finds it hard to accept that explanation. But what Ramamujan manages to put on paper continues to astound and certainly invites the idea that somehow a deity is involved.
The film takes some liberties from the true story upon which it is based. Ramanujan, an Indian from Madras (now Chennai), had little formal education. Without being able to write on paper, a luxury in his impoverished village, Ramanujan writes his formulas in the few books he possesses as well as with chalk on stones in the temple. Needing to support his wife and mother, he lands a job as an accountant with a condescending British boss (Stephen Fry, in a fleeting appearance), but continues his entreaties to be published by writing to Hardy at Cambridge. Intrigued by the formulas Ramanujan sends, Hardy invites him to England. Thus begins a relationship that will weather discrimination, numerous confrontations with the Cambridge hierarchy, as well as the misery that descends on the country during World War I. Alone in a foreign country, Ramanujan battles loneliness by immersing himself in his work. His letters to his wife, Janaki (Devika Bhise), are intercepted by his mother who resents his marriage. When Ramanujan falls ill with tuberculosis, he believes he has been abandoned by his family with no one but Hardy to come to his aid.
Hardy pushes Ramanujan to show proof of his work, a roadmap explaining how he arrives at his formulas. But Ramanujan’s mind doesn’t work that way. (Any math student who has been chided by a teacher to show the steps rather than just write down the obvious answer will understand Ramanujan’s situation.) Hardy, however, understands the academic hurdles Ramanujan must clear in order to be accepted. In the end, he does just that becoming the second Indian to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and the first Indian Fellow at Trinity. Even today, his calculations are seen as groundbreaking, influencing not only computer development and economics but also the study of black holes.
Patel, whom we know from a string of hits – Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel, as well as HBO’s Newsroom – tackles a more serious role here, portraying Ramanujan’s determination to have the world pay attention to his formulas. But he also displays the mathematician’s vulnerable side. While he’s made it to Cambridge, he’s not accepted by either the students or the professors, spending solitary days and nights in his room, cooking his own inedible meat-free meals. When the Cambridge green is taken over by tents sheltering injured soldiers, Ramanujan finds himself a target by those who resent his presence.
As Hardy, Irons is an academic with a cause. Hardy plays by the rules, but isn’t afraid to thwart those rules for Ramanujan recognizing the young man’s talents. Irons benefits with support from Toby Jones as J.E. Littlewood and Jeremy Northman as Bertrand Russell. The trio form an alliance to advance Ramanujan’s cause.
Films focusing on math – A Beautiful Mind and The Imitation Game – have defied the odds and done well with theater audiences. The Man who Knew Infinity may not rise to that level, particularly in the run up to summer movies when superheroes dominate. Yet geniuses are superheroes, brilliant minds that raise the bar and continue to wield influence. Chances are after seeing this film, you will find ourself launching into discussions about the genius factor and which individuals have earned that distinction.
The Man Who Knew Infinity opens nationwide May 6, 2016.
The latest powerhouse in comic-book adaptations, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, promises an explosive showdown between two of the biggest superheroes on the planet. Picking up where Man of Steel left off—with the city of Metropolis in tatters following Superman’s battle with Zod—Batman v. Superman opens in an uncertain era with many questioning Superman’s intentions and power. With Batman on a mission to stop Superman before he causes further harm, the two superheroes soon find themselves battling not just each other, but Lex Luthor’s evil creation, Doomsday, as well. Starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, the movie is chock full of explosions, and action, but does it live up to the hype?
It’s safe to say that the one saving grace of Batman v. Superman is its epic action. Featuring a wealth of impressive CGI over the course of two and a half hours, the film is bolstered largely by its highly-choreographed action sequences and explosions. These scenes are aplenty, and keep the film from collapsing into insipid tedium. On the other hand, the non-action scenes of the movie are surprisingly dull. Many of the performances only add to the muted, listless tone of the film. The acting is not bad, just dreary.
While there are some standout performances—most notably, Gal Gadot’s impressive Wonder Woman—Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader is disappointingly one-dimensional. Though Affleck succeeds at being stoic and steely, he lacks the charm of previous Bruce Waynes and leaves viewers yearning for Christian Bale or Michael Keaton incarnations. As evil Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg falls flat in his over-the-top attempt to recall a giggling villain on the brink of insanity, à la Heath Ledger’s flawless Joker character in the Christopher Nolan series. There are plenty of other famous faces in the movie—including Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch, and Diane Lane as Superman’s mom—but the real treat of the supporting cast is Jeremy Irons. Though he is in the movie far too briefly, Irons adds some much needed lightness and humor to the film as Alfred, Batman’s long-suffering butler.
If you’re a fan of the original D.C. comics that inspired the movie, or of big-budget superhero movies in general, then Batman v. Superman will surely knock your socks off. If, however, you don’t have a Batman costume hanging in your closet, aren’t already clued in on storyline, or even know who Lex Luthor is, you might be bored. Those viewers unfamiliar with the storyline will feel stranded by the scarce and flimsy explanations of critical plot points. Unlike other films that offer mass appeal to a large range of viewers, like the recent Deadpool or even 2015’s Antman, Batman v. Superman feels like it is specifically tailored for comic-loving audiences.
Ultimately, the movie offers an interesting concept but feels like it’s drowning in its own seriousness. Taking a cue from other superhero blockbusters and injecting some warmth and humor to the film, as well as adopting a more linear plotline, would have benefitted Batman v. Superman greatly. If you’re not a teenage boy, or a die-hard comic fan, skip this film and re-watch Deadpool instead.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opens nationwide on Friday, March 25.