My Thoughts on ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’

 

My Thoughts on ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’

By Veronica Nkwocha

‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, the movie directed by Biyi Bandele and adapted from the book by the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a story of two lovers who find themselves caught up in more than the regular mundane trifles that would otherwise concern those in their same situation.

The normalcy is captured quintessentially at the care free start, where Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) worry about things we see across time and across climes; does he/she love me enough, affairs that break the heart, and mothers-in-law who are frightened of the new woman.

We are introduced early on to an archetype angry mother-in-law (Onyeka Onwenu), a cheating boyfriend and a woman in despair and we have a recipe for what obtains quite frequently in Nollywood movies. Same ingredients but tempered as the particular conflict between mother and would be daughter-in-law did not overwhelm. The story was laced with more depth as the characters flowered and found themselves.  HOAYS also takes more risks allowing the audience a peek into a wider range of interactions, the scenes move in quick succession. It sits resolute in a time period, the near picture perfect setting transports the viewer giving integrity to the story.

The serious but optimistic doctor of ‘books’ Odenigbo (a university professor),   his returnee beautiful girlfriend Olanna, her twin sister Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) and her English boyfriend, Richard (Joseph Mawle) and their academic friends including Ms Adebayo (Genevieve Nnaji), enjoy some happy evenings discussing politics, wine, romance etc, laughing heartily and showing an optimism for the future. Ugwu (John Boyega) the houseboy trailed, never quite commanding the presence he had in the book, not a fault of the actor but more likely the adaptation.

The pacing allowed one momentarily forget that a war loomed. When the conflict that introduced ‘Biafra’ inserted itself violently into the narrative, it came as a shocking intrusion especially with the brutality shown. It drove home a well-known fact in wars; that those who are killed and those who suffer are the innocent, caught up in a gladiatorial contest far removed from their control. Swept along, we follow Olanna and Odenigbo on a journey through their pain and fears and heart-racing; through their triumphs served in small measures, tepid in parts but overwhelming in its intensity.

The gore that typically crowds war movies was nuanced and the flashbacks in black and white, documentary-like, gave a background to the story and fleshed out the narrative. The choice not to use real life actors but archived footage lent a stamp of authenticity of a real life war, it gave a sombre bent to the story taming the after-glow of the happy love story.

HOAYS portrayed the Nigerian Civil War with a delicate balance, walking a tightrope in a story of a two sided conflict of nervous protagonists and antagonists even in today’s Nigeria where a collective amnesia is the seeming default position, a shroud that never quite covers the ‘why’ of the story, barely there but the elephant in the room.

We are held curious to the end. The hunger for more lingered at the end, not only because Kainene was lost, an unending thread tying her to the hearts of her loved ones. Odenigbo and Olanna were brought to life by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton so strongly.

One must not forget Odenigbo’s blue car, it became iconic meandering here and there dodging bombs by sheer luck and nothing else.

The story was told in the second half in ‘quickened’ succession, we raced along as they raced for their lives and arrived at the credits breathless yet wanting more.

Related Articles

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/a-yellow-sun-london-review-647828
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/10756927/Half-of-a-Yellow-Sun-review.html
http://variety.com/2013/film/reviews/half-of-a-yellow-sun-review-toronto-1200603565/
http://africasacountry.com/review-of-the-film-version-of-half-of-a-yellow-sun-chimamanda-adichies-novel/
http://www.loladeville.com/2014/04/review-of-half-of-yellow-sun-movie-by.html
http://www.hotnaijagirl.com/2014/04/movie-review-half-of-yellow-sun-by-biyi.html
http://brittlepaper.com/2014/04/mad-men-nollywood1960s-fashion-yellow-sun-film/

 

My Thoughts on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

My Thoughts on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

By Veronica Nkwocha

He is an enigma;  a drink driving, cocaine snorting, sex crazed, sleaze ball whom they all adore. Welcome to Jordan Belfort’s world. A gigantic ball of shiny, newly bedecked, noveau rich stock brokers whom Jordan himself moulds into mini Jordans, each one garish, brutish but entirely loyal and fiendishly capable of separating obtuse investors from their cash in huge mouth-watering sums.

Leonardo DiCaprio hits the road running. He is the chameleon whom we can’t differentiate from Belfort as he strikes at the heart of the role giving it his all. There is nothing caricature about this. He becomes the character so much so that his excesses are no longer something to wonder about, it is just who he is.

Jordan changes his first wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti) as he would his old car and old life; he trades her for a newer fresher and more beautiful model with nary a look as she weeps fading away from our screens. Naomi, beautiful, voluptuous and willing to be his fantasy and go the extra step but it is not enough as he pushes himself further and further. His cravings have the lead and they drive him to seek satisfaction from even more debauchery.

The Wolf of Wall Street (directed by Martin Scorsese) is shocking in its decadence; naked grinding women and men become so common place they barely need a glance from the audience. Jordan and his clones are perpetually on a high from a cocktail of prescription drugs and hard drugs, they float on clouds from where they pluck witty comments by the dozen.

Jordan’s charm lie in his ability to sell stocks not only to investors but in his ability to sell his vision first to his friends beginning with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and then to a teeming army of passionate near worshipping salesmen; scratch that, parishioners.

When he stands before his audience, he is like a preacher whose intense belief in the rightness of his cause begins to inspire. He is charismatic, and funny and handsome. He ‘preaches’ with a passion so intense it appears to rival the orgasms from their many orgies, the ‘congregation’ trashes about on the throes of a high so infectious from their benevolent ‘saviour’ they remain hooked as they rake in their successes.

He is himself the proud husband who gifts his new wife Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) a yacht with a landing pad, a helicopter sits daintily on top.

When an investigation into his activities by FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) comes to light, he is nervous but yet arrogant. He belittles the agent’s poor wages and mocks his respectable normal life. His undoing is his greatest strength; his addiction to his vision. He simply cannot let go and when the steam train crashes, Jordan lies in a heap crafted with his own hands. He loses everything, every material thing. Except his gift of gab, his ability to sell and to inspire a following. He fades from the scene and sits a shadow of the former lusty Wolf astride his empire; he is a shadow that lurks as the movie ends, a fool and his money are soon parted.

The Wolf of Wall Street is audacious; it pulls no punches celebrating the lead character as an enigma, and although the victims are a part of the narrative, they are weak and hidden from view. When Jordan Belfort gets his comeuppance, they are but an afterthought, eaten and spat by the Predator and the storyteller.

Related Articles

http://www.theguardian.com/film/movie/155767/wolf-of-wall-street

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jan/22/jordan-belfort-wolf-of-wall-street-depiction

My Thoughts on ’12 Years A Slave’

My Thoughts on ’12 Years A Slave’
By Veronica Nkwocha

‘12 Years a Slave’ (Directed by Steve McQueen) feels like one is going into a hole, deeper and deeper into an abyss. The dark is cloying and the damp draining every spring within to merge with the tumultuous grey and wet of the Mississippi.

‘12 Years a Slave’ is the story of Solomon Northup played with aplomb by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a free black man from New York in 19th century America. A family man, his jaunty step as he strolls with his wife, son and daughter speak of hope, life and prosperity. He is a violinist, an excellent one. Things go ‘south’ when he is lured under false pretences to Washington for some work, kidnapped and then sold into slavery.

Solomon Northup sheds the garments of a fine gentleman and dons the toga of a slave, from then on, he must answer to the name Platt Hamilton.

Stripped of everything, there is nothing sexual about the nudity and we cover our eyes in shame, embarrassed for the slaves who have to wash in front of others. The dehumanising is thorough and the trembling obeisance that colours nearly every slave is infectious killing any semblance of rebellion.

In Louisiana, the flowers are mute and the surrounding plains of the cotton field are joyless even though there is a song for every scythe that hits the cane. Solomon is wide eyed almost throughout as though he cannot yet believe his new circumstances, even years after.

There aren’t many moments of happiness and life carries on. He leaves a near benevolent master (who even gifts him a violin) where he almost becomes a fatality, almost hanged after a falling out with overseer John Tibeats (Paul Dano). He is sold on to a ‘religious’ Edwin Epps. His new master reads the scriptures as though he believes them even though we catch him making up verses. Michael Fassbender is thoroughly believable and we watch as Epps attacks his role with glee. He is seemingly bumbling yet extremely faithful to the commonly held ideas of a vicious slave master.

Epps’ music by the slaves for his entertainment show a ‘disconnect’ on his part, he is the only one happy and excited as the slaves dance a pretend merriment. His missus (Sarah Paulson) is not pleased; what is there to be jealous of in Patsey? Played by Lupita Nyong’o, she is unwashed, enjoys no perks for being the masters bed mate, favours which he takes mercilessly.

Mrs Epps pristine appearance mirrors her halo wound so very tight, she looks like she has a perpetual headache. It is not a surprise when she declares her own bed is too holy for him. Her simmering rage does not discriminate, the rapist and the victim are fair game for her wrath. We would feel some compassion for her if she didn’t end up looking like she needed penance for her part. Patsey is the broken reed, bruised but waving in the breeze, flowing with the current unable to put an end to it all.

The master’s chat with Bass (Brad Pitt) is illuminating, sound bites and clichés take on new meaning as they are held under the harsh light of an anti-slaver’s scrutiny. Bass is eventually trusted with the buried secret as Solomon tries one last time, would he take a message home?

We hardly see Solomon’s family after the first moments in the movie and we never know how they reacted once they found out he was gone. In not knowing, we are cast into Solomon’s reality, the wall separating him from his loved ones is resolute, impenetrable.

The movie ends in an anti-climax. One is reaching for a happy ending and when the homecoming happens, it all ends suddenly. We are left hungry for more. We want to share in the redemption, in their celebration. We are robbed of the ecstasy that would otherwise have been a catharsis to the intense ordeal of Solomon Northup’s 12 years as a slave.

Related Articles

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jan/09/12-years-a-slave-review
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024544/

Pondering ‘Life of Pi’

Pondering ‘Life of Pi’

By Veronica Nkwocha

I watched Life of Pi.
It struck me how life has a funny way of throwing us out of our comfort zone.
It is inevitable.
Life is but a swing and we must brace ourselves for the ups and downs.
Sometimes she comes when we are least prepared but like Pi, we find on the inside, an inner strength that astounds us and our naysayers.
Tomorrow must come.
And tomorrow, full of life and love can be birthed from adversity and a seeming hopelessness.
Those who hold our hands through it all may come from the unlikeliest of places,
the ferocious tiger tamed to a degree how can it be?
Miracles pop out and usher us along as we traverse life’s path and bring cheer along dreary dark journeys;
towards an end which may not be what we first dreamed
but stunning in its beauty and happiness all the same.
The sheer miracle of having survived those dark days make up for the all the melancholy music that hummed
tauntingly
beckoning
as though towards an eternal hopelessness.
No, your end will surely be better,
the human spirit triumphs once again.

*P.s. I wrote this many months ago when I watched ‘Life of Pi’

My Thoughts on ‘The Wolverine’

My Thoughts on ‘The Wolverine’

By Veronica Nkwocha

If ever a man wanted to fade out of the mainstream and hibernate like his beloved bear, drifting in a limbo of self-imposed seclusion, away from a life of boisterous battles, it was Logan, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Away from all that was considered normal; a life trapped in a super-human profundity. He yearned instead for a life of peace and quiet. The only thing he had to battle were the painful memories, one from which he couldn’t find an escape, still he created his world and it was his, at least for a few years.

‘The Wolverine’ (directed by James Mangold) began strong. Nagasaki Japan, 1945. The mushroom cloud and its antecedents typically viewed from pictures taken from a safe distance was brought closer with the final race of an all-important duo doing all they can to beat it’s bellowing and fiery breath. Two men, interwoven in a tale of hope and humanity and unlikely friendship, and a giving of life.

One of the men is dying in today’s Japan. His protégé, Yukio (Rila Fukushima) has searched like a needle in a haystack, for the man who had saved her mentor for a final farewell. It helps that Logan is in a state of rage against those who have left his only companion for dead, a grisly at his most beautiful prime tenaciously holding on to life until Logan humanely helped him along.

Tokyo is laid out like a jewel pulsating with life and lights. Logan stands out like a sore thumb, unwashed, unshaven and in clothes that had seen better days. After he is scrubbed like a potato by an uptight chef, he is presented to Yashida now old and worn. Yashida who owed him his life. A sad farewell and he would be on the next flight home. But why did it feel like Logan was in the lair of the Tiger?

Successful and stupendously rich, Yashida is now a brand with a cult-like following. Logan and Yashida’s meeting is in a way, like the first, Yashida seeks to prolong his life by taking from Logan. And there begins a struggle that takes the story from Tokyo to Nagasaki, now breathtakingly beautiful, the fauna and landscape speak of Nature’s forgiveness of the decades old bruising inflicted by Man.

To save Yashida’s heir Mariko (Tao Okamotohe), Logan is lured to a final battle where his very essence is violently ripped out by Yashida in his bid for eternity. For a vulnerable time, Wolverine is fully human and must wrest what belongs to him out of the claws of the Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). She was slippery, magnetic and determined. And a chameleon. The shedding of the garments of the oncologist was swift and the snake that took her place was fluid and full of venom.

‘The Wolverine’ laid bare one of X-Men’s best. From Mutant to Human, how would it end? While the cinematography brought our superhero to life, the movie alternated the violent outbursts with themes of love, betrayal and benign normalcy in parts in tentative harmony. The story unveiled itself a little bit at a time and kept a grip on the audience. Yashida had awakened the sleeping giant and we weren’t going to sleep anytime soon.

My Thoughts on ‘Pacific Rim’

My Thoughts on ‘Pacific Rim’

By Veronica Nkwocha

Pacific Rim is an apocalyptic tale from acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. It is set in a future where strange beasts called Kaijus morphed out of a fissure on the seabed at the points where the tectonic plates shift bent on the annihilation of Man. They are met in epic battles by robots called Jaegers who fight them off time after time using twin drivers as pilots, their minds locked together via a mental bridge. The Jaegers are led by General Stacker Pentecost played by Idris Elba. He wore a stern and calculating demeanour and a tenacious belief in the effectiveness of the army of Jaegers and the machinery that supported them. Would they succeed?

Pacific Rim lived up to its hype. The Jaegers were colossal yet graceful, they did what they were designed to do; battle like warriors. The Kaijus were the object of the fight but the real enemy lay behind the scenes. The portal was a signal to another world which Man should have been striving to target from the start but as in life, a lot of energy was expended on the visible threat rather than what lay underneath, growing, transforming and near overwhelming earth. Every bolt, every screw, even the chips in the paint, the rusting hulk of the machinery even as the Jaegers were nearly being retired was shown with crisp cinematography.

I particularly liked the progression of the story, it was fluid up till the final climax where the final battle was fought deep within the waters of the ocean. I did wonder what happened to most of the sea life though, they seemed to have made a massive retreat in anticipation of the chaotic mangling in their front yard.

The choice of Jaegers as the proper fighting tool against the Kaijus was fun to watch and made the movie but why would the weapon of choice be a wrestling bout rather than a far off attack using long range missiles? Pacific Rim allowed us witness the heaving and trashing of ‘gladiators’ as they duelled, some to their death, a fascination of Man since time immemorial. We have come a long way from the days when all we had were two men in a ring fighting for a cheering audience. Today, we have robots the size of the’ Statue of Liberty’ and Kaijus the size of ‘tower blocks’, the arena we all sit around are cinemas, popcorn in hand satisfying a craving for duel as long as we are not in the thick of it.

Andre Rieu’s 2013 Maastricht Concert at a Cinema Near You

The much anticipated Andre Rieu’s Maastricht Concert 2013 holds 12-14th July at the Vrijthof square in his hometown Maastricht. They are yearly traditional summer evening concerts where the square is transformed into a ‘grand romantic open air concert hall’ . Those unable to attend can watch the concert ‘live’ at cinemas across the world on 13th July. You can find a cinema near you on CinemaLive.

Andre Rieu has been described as the Waltz King. Fusing traditional classical music with contemporary verve, the Johann Strauss Orchestra are pacesetters in tapping into the spirit of the times. They  have carved a niche for themselves and  have become hugely successful in reaching a vast number of music lovers of diverse backgrounds.

Here’s a small sampling of their work which I greatly admire.

With the Harlem Gospel Choir and the Soweto Gospel Choir Live in Maastricht 2011 (Amen)

Amazing Grace

Auld Lang Syne

Words for Auld Lang Syne (Poem by Robert Burns in 1788)

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.

CHORUS:
On Old long syne my Jo,
On Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On Old long syne.

 Enjoy ‘Live in Maastricht’!

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