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Hammerle on ... 'Life of Pi'; 'Silver Linings Playbook'

Robert Hammerle
February 27, 2013
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hammerle022713Life of Pi

“Life of Pi” is a cinematic philosophical painting of human existence. It is a metaphysical dissertation that dissects every human being’s continual fight to add some meaning to our short stay on this convoluted Earth. Death is faced head on, and is treated as nothing more than every human’s exit door.

What director Ang Lee has done is to bring to the screen the functional equivalent of a post-graduate Philosophy of Man class. It is giving nothing away to reveal that the extraordinary adventures of a marvelous young man are told in hindsight when he reaches middle age and is living in Canada, and his revelations to a young, interested author adds another moving dimension to the film itself.

In summary, we see the young star of our film, Pi Patel (Surai Sharma), growing up in India as his parents maintain an expanding zoo. Pi is a curious young lad, not to mention a serious student of life, which includes trying to determine if there is one religion that he should embrace.
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Suffering financial difficulties, his family is forced to move to Canada, planning on stopping in the Philippines on the way to sell their animals. This breaks Pi’s heart, in large part because of his fascination with their untamed Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker.

Tragically, the ship sinks in a terrible storm, and the traumatized Pi ends up on a lifeboat with several animals, one being Richard Parker. Inevitably, one of the most difficult moments in the film is when the animals hear the call of the wild and turn on each other, forcing Pi to dangle off the bow of the boat to stay alive. These are crushing scenes, which are made all the more devastating as young Pi must come to grips with the fact that his family has died.

However, don’t avoid this film because you feel it is far too traumatic for your taste. What evolves is magical by any definition. Richard Parker and Pi are forced to deal with one another, and the cinematography of this film will grab your heart as it elevates your soul.

Quite frankly, the cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, deserved an Oscar for his incredible mastery. There are a series of overwhelming scenes involving the sea magically reflecting the presence of numerous jellyfish; a whale leaping into the air as it nearly misses Pi’s tiny boat; a moment where Pi and Richard Parker are nearly overwhelmed when they pass through a monumental school of flying, aggressive fish and a terrific scene where the boat lands against a moving island that is completely occupied by millions of curious meerkats.

Does Pi ever recover? What happens to Richard Parker? Is his story completely accurate, and do you really care even if it isn’t? Why did I cry frequently through Pi’s enchanting crisis? See it and let it wash over you.

Silver Linings Playbook

To steal the phrase from the old song by Fleetwood Mac, “Silver Linings Playbook” “makes loving fun.” It is provocative, playful, profane, creative and terribly funny. Simply stated, it knocks on the door of cinematic greatness.

What director David O. Russell has brought us is a love story that mirrors life. There are no gimmicks or cuteness, just an engrossing story about battered, flawed people trying to rise above their weaknesses. In other words, it is a tale about characters from the real world, and you won’t be able to risk embracing every last one of them for it.

Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a young man about to be released following eight months of confinement in a psychiatric institution. He returns home to live with his doting parents who are wrestling with their own issues.

The father, in an Oscar-worthy performance by Robert DeNiro, spends most of his time fixated on the Philadelphia Eagles and his bookie operation. He wants his son back on his feet, and tragically thinks the best course of action is to spend as much time as possible watching his beloved Eagles.

Mr. Cooper’s mother is played by Jacki Weaver, fresh off her Oscar-nominated performance in the film hardly anyone has seen, “Animal Kingdom” (2010). Here she is a mother with a broken heart who just wants to give her son a second chance, a far cry from her mother hen role in “Animal Kingdom” whereham rate 2 she lovingly provided a home for her three murderous psychopathic sons.

Mr. Cooper is magnificent as a bipolar guy who wants to heal, but just doesn’t know how. And it is at this moment that the movie explodes into the cinematic stratosphere with the appearance of Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, an equally troubled neighbor. Her husband, a police officer, was recently killed while helping a motorist. She lost her job when she succumbed to having sex with all of her co-workers, and you can only marvel at her when she doesn’t run from the ugly truth.

It is simply remarkable that Ms. Lawrence has emerged in such a brief period of time into a magnificently gifted actress. As beautiful as she is, she continually breathes life into flawed characters. It began with her Oscar-nominated role in “Winter’s Bone” (2010). “The Hunger Games” (2012) was a justifiable hit, and she nailed her starring role perfectly. Here, she lives in a remodeled garage behind her parents’ home, and somehow her shortcomings become her strengths.

Without giving the plot away, it centers around Mr. DeNiro’s foolish financial risks gambled on the Eagles and Ms. Lawrence convincing Mr. Cooper to be her partner in a local dance contest. The events become joined, and seldom will you ever find yourself rooting for contestants who are average at best.

Though it forces us to confront our imperfections, I can assure you that you will be grinning like the proverbial kid in a candy store when leaving the theater.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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