Friday, February 28, 2014

Movie Review: Shaadi Ke Side Effects

Every once in a while there comes a film that is mostly clichéd and utterly predictable, and is yet difficult to hate because its leads are so darn likable. Shaadi Ke Side Effects is one such film.

Starring Farhan Akhtar and Vidya Balan as a young married couple dealing with the arrival of a new member in the family, Shaadi Ke Side Effects is not a Marriage-movie but a Baby-Movie. And on that front it pretty much ticks every box in the Baby-Movie genre: a) Witty observations on how a man’s freedom evaporates post marriage, b) Humorous scenarios involving babies annihilating your precious sleep, c) Sex life going for a toss, d) Gender politics regarding responsibilities, e) Funny baby care related anecdotes.

Yup, this is an ‘easy’ movie with easy jokes and scenarios. Surely this could have been a smarter film than it is, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a good movie. Shaadi Ke Side Effects is consistently enjoyable, mainly thanks to Farhan’s comic timing and his mystic ability to make contrived scenarios passable rather than cringe worthy. A large section of SKSE reminds you of Paul Reiser’s books Couplehood and Babyhood, and that could explain why director Saket Chaudhary named the film as a pseudo sequel to his earlier venture Pyaar ke Side Effects.

The premise involves Trisha’s (Vidya Balan) desire for children, something that Sid (Farhan) is not ready for. It’s less of a plot and more of a gimmick to get the ball rolling - from there you can pretty much guess the rest - Sid must juggle his job and his insecurity of being the alpha male bread winner of the house while keeping Trisha from wrecking his confidence. Along the way Sid gives you sardonic voiceovers about the hilarities of love, marriage and babies as he does more and more stupid things to keep his male chauvinistic ego afloat.

The lack of a well-developed story here can be overlooked because there are some fun moments, particularly when Sid and Trisha riff off each other. A scene where Sid, who is dazed by social baby-potty talk cracks jokes about his own potty is hilarious. Refreshingly, the characters are quite mature and have more than one dimension. Trisha is someone who sacrifices her career for her child but that trait doesn’t define her. Sid is a freelancer who loves to indulge in freewheeling, but is not a childish buffoon. The interplay between Trisha and Sid is pretty entertaining thanks to Farhan and Vidya’s onscreen chemistry, and they score extra brownie points for rooting their performances in reality. They are fun to watch together more so because their humor is identifiable instead of farcical. Both Farhan and Vidya seem aware of the script’s flimsiness but they hit just the right notes instead of overcompensating.

Sure, there are a few things in the film that paint marriage in broad strokes, and the baby girl herself is glossed-over. Rati Agnihotri shows up as the mom in law but she has fewer lines than scenes. The less said about Ila Arun’s crummy nanny character, the better. Unlike in Pyaar ke Side Effects, the songs in Shaadi ke Side Effects by Pritam are terrible and generic to say the least, and were obviously padded on just to sell the film. The final fifteen minutes have some ridiculous drama that consists of nonsensical confrontations and reconciliations. It’s when the film strains for story conflicts and solves them in lazy ways, but thankfully the finale eases out right before your palm reaches out for your face.

Still, the film’s blunders are outweighed by its goodies, a big one of which is Ram Kapoor as the Perfect Dad who keeps making Sid jealous. Vir Das is a scene stealer as Sid’s reckless single stoner friend, the personification of who Sid wants to be. There are a handful of solid giggles, and the film cleverly pushes the right double standard buttons to outrage both sexes, and ties it all up with a neat little bow in the end. That kind of balance is rare in Bollywood, and for that the film merits a definite recco. 

(First published in Firstpost)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Movie Review: Highway

Having liked (but not loved) Jab We Met, rolled my eyes through Love Aaj Kal and despised Rockstar, my faith in director Imtiaz Ali had mostly faded. I didn’t much appreciate the schmaltz, the contrived drama and the lame message of ‘the power of love’ in his previous two films. Nor did I dig their blatantly commercial elements, dumbed down to cater to lower common denominators.

It seems like Mr Ali somehow heard my complaints, made a checklist of things I hated in his movies and passionately made a film that trumps those elements. I had grossly misjudged his filmmaking prowess, because his latest venture Highway is not only a terrific movie but also an achievement in commercial Bollywood cinema. As a bonus, it also has a pleasant surprise - Alia Bhatt is a major acting talent.

Highway is a character driven piece rather than a plot driven one so the less you know about the plot, the better. Alia plays Veera, a wealthy Delhi girl who gets kidnapped by a gang of bandits headed by Mahabir (Randeep Hooda). Like in A Life Less Ordinary, Veera is afflicted with a serious bout of Stockholm Syndrome. However Veera is not like Cameron Diaz from that movie, or the Robert Redford starstruck Faye Dunaway in Three Days of Condor, she’s more like Zhang Ziyi in Couching Tiger – a vulnerable little kid with a fractured personality. Her attraction to Mahabir is confounding in one moment, heartbreaking in the next and hilarious when you least expect it to be.

If you’re an Imtiaz Ali fan you’ll be stunned by how different Highway is compared to his previous films. It’s not just different in concept but in form as well. The first thing you’ll notice is how subtle and quiet the film is. Despite a soundtrack by AR Rahman there is very little background music in the film. There are no tacky reaction shots and no helpful musical cues to spoonfeed you the emotions. The most dramatic scene of the film is enacted against pin drop silence, relying upon characters rather than background music to move you. There are no song and dance numbers either - in fact the film plays out like an offbeat indie, even crossing over to indulgent arthouse territory at times. It’s also quite dark, and more affective than expected.

For a commercial film, there is plenty of unconventional stuff in Highway. Often, the camera just follows Alia as she goes impromptu. Keen movie buffs will be able to figure out the scripted scenes from the spontaneous ones, the best of which is Veera trying to negotiate with a rock on a rapid stream. There’s a really funny bit when Veera pops in an English music CD in Mahabir’s truck and starts break dancing on the highway. Mahabir is a dacoit but isn’t a stereotypical rapey Puanjabi gunda, he actually gets annoyed when Veera constantly clings on to him. The first half is completely unpredictable, the ‘commercial’ elements arrive only in the second half, but they don’t get in the way of the story. They’re welded together with the songs and imagery of the protagonists driving through various terrains. It’s two people discovering themselves when they are at their loneliest, and with Mr Rahman’s music trickling lightly it’s tough to dislike what’s happening on the screen.  

Highway does not try to be Motorcycle Diaries or preach about Mother Nature giving you a perspective on life. Veera changes as she travels with Mahabir across deserts and mountains, but it’s not corny like Hrithik crying after a swim in Zindagi na milegi dobara. Veera’s change is gently realized, and she has a reason to behave the way she does. The one legitimate criticism one could bring up is that Veera’s breakthrough with Mahabir, where she opens up to him emotionally, kind of pops up out of the blue. It’s the one time where the editing is jarring, but it’s easy to glance over because the scene itself is very moving courtesy of Alia’s performance.

After watching her debut film, like many others I did not expect Alia to do anything more than safe commercial song and dance comedies. In Highway Alia punches the entitled star kid stereotype and pretty much shocks you with her range and dedication. Despite Hooda’s decent performance Alia carries the whole film on her shoulders without breaking a sweat. She had difficult material to deal with and the film is practically a collage of Alia moments, and she pulls off those moments very well. A lot of times Veera exhibits cooky behavior yet Alia manages to make Veera endearing when she so easily could have been hammy and laughable. She even has a tremendous five minute long single take dramatic shot in the climax – a million things could have gone wrong here but she hits the right notes, thanks no doubt to Ali’s solid direction. With Deepika, Parineeti and now Alia in the younger generation the future of Bollywood seems bright. 

A scary prospect is that Highway might not make money because people expecting a typical Imtiaz Ali commercial film will not find what they’re looking for. Some will no doubt criticize the film’s silences, long takes and lack of naach gaana. That’ll be a shame because it’s not often that a big commercial filmmaker gathers the courage to make something different and becomes successful at it. There is so much to appreciate in Highway and if it can goad other commercial filmmakers to take notice and also dare to try something new, we’ll all be richer for it. 

(First published in Firstpost)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Movie Review: Gunday

At one point in Gunday, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor watch Mr India in a dingy movie theater, and start drooling when Priyanka Chopra, clad in a blue saree starts dancing in sync with Sridevi to Kate katate ye din ye raat. It’s a pretty spectacular moment and a fun throwback to the 80’s. A few minutes after that sequence, the two friends start quarrelling over the same woman. And then they fight some more over a really lame case of mistaken identity. And then you want to grab the movie by the collar, shake it and yell ‘You are supposed to parody the 80’s, not be an 80’s film!’

There is a massive difference between trying to evoke 80’s Bollywood movies and becoming an 80’s Bollywood movie. That, alas, is the fundamental flaw of Gunday, a flat out boring film that tries to add masala into itself by utilizing uber loudness, mega overacting and fifteen thousand slow mo look-at-me shots. Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, the film is every bit as contrived, ludicrous, nonsensical and insipid as his previous film Mere Brother ki Dulhan. And like that movie Gunday also has incredibly stupid protagonists doing incredibly stupid things for two and a half hours, stretching the realms of logic and common sense to grating levels.

Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor play Bikram and Bala, two Calcutta kids who grow up as coal Gundas. They both generate the hots for a cabaret dancer (Priyanka Chopra) and spend the entirety of the movie fighting over her. That, folks, is literally the whole plot. There is absolutely nothing more in the film. So to pad up the lack of a decent story, Ranveer and Arjun become topless in slow mo, run in slow mo, grin in slow mo, shout in slow mo, slap in slow mo, walk in slow mo and sit in slow mo.

Everything that happens in every scene of Gunday takes place at 1.5 times the intensity required. Arjun makes weird faces and hams, Ranveer flexes his bare pecks while talking, Priyanka wears outrageous costumes and waxes eloquent. And the cycle continues in periodic intervals, as Arjun stares at the camera and saunters dramatically, Ranveer squeals manically and Priyanka does another cabaret number. All this makes you feel like a lone sober guy in the midst of a bunch of extremely drunk North Indians cackling loudly at their own silly jokes.

None of the ‘masala’ elements work here. When a goon smashes a bottle over Arjun’s head, he says ‘Rum? Ab dekh dum’ and kicks him out of the train. It’s somehow neither funny nor crowd pleasing nor entertaining, more so because the leads just don’t have the mojo to pull off such masaledaar scenes. There’s a reason why Salman Khan is a big star – he can deliver scenes like these with style. Ranveer and Arjun neither have the talent to pull off an 80’s throwback nor do they have any semblance of comic timing to make their camaraderie more fun. This is bizarre especially because they seemed to exhibit great timing in their recent Koffee with Karan episode. One expects the same kind of hilarious bromance in Gunday but it never comes.

In total contrast is Irrfan, who is sexier than both Ranveer and Arjun in the film. His police officer character is intimidating not just to Bikram and Bala but also very obviously to Ranveer and Arjun. Irrfan effortlessly proves that you don’t need hulking biceps and oiled hairless torsos to be suave and awesome in Hindi cinema. When Irrfan says ‘Pistol ki goli aur laundiya ki boli dono aadmi ki jaan le sakti hai’, the lines come alive and the cheers from the audience finally arrive. Both the young lads need to learn from this man.

Priyanka Chopra is the only one in the film who wants to satirize the 80’s, and she’s very interesting in the first half when her character does exactly that. Like Katrina Kaif’s character in MBKD who turns from a rocker chick to a sati savitri in a heartbeat, Chopra’s cabaret dancer character also undergoes a groan inducing pavitra rishta turn. 

There is a good film somewhere within Gunday, and I wish it showed its face fully. This is the film where a shootout in the movie theater ends with Bikram firing a bullet through the screen, and Alisha Chinoy’s ‘I love you’ echoes as the screen literally tears apart. I wish they made that movie instead of this uninteresting one. 

(First published in Firstpost)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Movie Review: Her

A review of Spike Jonze’s Her at this time is a difficult and futile task. There is nothing about the film that hasn’t been written about. It’s been constantly talked about on internet forums and heavily dissected by nearly everyone who has seen it. It’s the quintessential movie of our generation. And we’re lucky that we get to see it on the big screen here in India. So I’ll give you ten reasons to watch this film at the cinema.

1) The film’s story involves a man falling in love with a computer operating system, and that director Spike Jonze could make that plot into a heartfelt and believable drama is insane.

2) Spike Jonze is a hell of a filmmaker. This is the same guy who made Jackass and Being John Malkovich, and now Her. He can make a masterpiece in risqué fratboy comedy, a masterpiece in surreal cerebral arthouse cinema, and a masterpiece futuristic sci fi drama. The extent of his imagination and his creativity is infinite.

3) The film takes place in the future that is actually believable and highly possible. Instead of leaping out in front of our eyes with lasers and space ships the sci fi elements in Her merge into the story and in the background of its characters. That makes the audience focus on and care about the characters rather than look at the shiny CGI gizmos.

4) Joaquin Phoenix is probably the best actor out there. He spends the whole movie looking at blank space and talking to a computer, and yet he manages to make us feel for him rather than be distracted by this filming technique. Unlike in The Master, he has no tools to work with except for a mustache, and he still kills it.

5) Scarlett Johansson’s voice is mesmerizing enough to make you feel a variety of emotions. You never get to see her and yet you somehow end up investing yourself in her character. And she does this without distracting us with her familiar star power. You don’t feel like Phoenix’s character is talking to Scarlett Johansson, but to her character Samantha.

6) This is a movie meant for nearly everyone who has ever been through heartbreak. And that demographic comprises of almost everyone in the world, and definitely everyone on the internet. It will make you laugh, then giddy with its charm, then punch you in the gut and make you reach out for a few dozen tissue papers.

7) Despite its ability to bring some onions near your eyes, it is never schmaltzy or saccharine. It’s affecting and sublime, but never corny. It’s moving, but never mawkish. And even in the film’s most heartbreaking scene, the frame only contains a character looking at a wall. The fact that this was somehow achieved is incredible.

8) A lot of the film’s power comes from the wonderful music of Arcade Fire. The song Supersymmetry will be on your playlist as soon as you exit the theater. 

9) The script is full of one-liners that will be used in pop culture in the years to come. One of which is ‘love is a socially acceptable form of insanity’. 

10) If none of the above impresses you, the film has Amy Adams wearing no makeup, yet still looking gorgeous, playing a character you will fall in love with.

(First published in MiD Day)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Movie Review: The Lego Movie

At the end of The Lego Movie I stood up, clapped and cheered. I became a 7-year-old again. This movie cannot be quantified in a simple review so here are ten reasons why this is one of the most enjoyable films I have ever seen:

1) There are Batman, Superman, Gandalf, Dumbledore, Wonder Woman and Shaquille O Neal fighting together in this film. And Bert Macklin is the hero who leads them all.

2) Superman and Green Lantern are voiced by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill respectively. The former superhero is too cool to hang out with the latter.

3) This is one of the, if not the most gorgeous film ever made. The animation is groundbreaking - the Lego Characters move in Lego motion, and they have different frame rates than their backdrops.

4) There is a Lego ocean in the film and it’s a landmark in CGI. The ocean is a vast collage of blue Lego blocks that flow individually to give the illusion of water. Insane.

5) The film is so engrossing, imaginative and supercharged it feels like being inside a Lego game that a kid is playing with. You won’t believe this until you see it.

6) Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the makers of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street are comedy geniuses. They really get hipster culture and are the only filmmakers to have internet memes and hipster culture jokes instead of pop culture references that are found in most movies.  

7) Lord and Miller are also the kings of satire. The self-parodying comedy of the film is bone crushingly hilarious.

8) The film has a song titled ‘Everything is awesome’ that pokes fun at generic pop songs in kids’ films, and it slowly, somehow becomes catchy in itself.

9) This film has a severely awesome resolution of the centuries old hero-villain conflict that you will never see coming.

10) Despite the constant laughs, the dazzling visuals and the thrilling action the film’s greatest strength is its charming, surprisingly deep and thoughtful story.

I cannot say anything more about the film because I’m off to watch it again. I suggest you do the same pronto.

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: Hasee Toh Phasee

I did not like the promos of Hasee toh Phasee. They looked painfully generic and disappointing despite the mention of Anurag Kashyap, Vikram Motwane and Karan Johar in the credits. I sincerely believe the marketing guy who came up with the phrase Cucking Frazy is a Mucking Foron.

I’m happy to report that Hasee toh Phasee is very unlike its promos. For what it is, which is a bittersweet romcom triangle with a dash of dysfunctional family drama, it is actually pretty entertaining. And for all its periodic lapses in logic it is a well-made commercial film that actually does have a little something for everyone.

The plot is as simple as the recipe for a jam sandwich. Guy (Sidharth Malhotra) is a smart but wayward bloke. Girl is a smart but wayward neurotic dame, and a female version of Rain Man. Guy and Rain Woman meet briefly, and separate, but meet years later and are drawn towards each other when Guy is about to get married to Rain Woman’s sister (Adah Sharma).

With this familiar (and obviously old school) concept laid out, director Vinil Matthew and his writer Harshavardhan Kulkarni try to infuse a few layers of creativity into their project. Rain Woman has some sinister Chinese connection, and seems to be an addict and a thief. And there is a lot of dysfunctional baggage between her and her family. It makes me realize that director Matthew is trying to change the commercial Bollywood space, and Hasee toh Phasee clearly indicates that. Matthew tackles comedic scenes with refreshing restraint, playing them out without the familiar ‘comedy sounds’ and reaction shots. He tackles the drama by neatly tying all the strands up in the end. The love story and the offbeat banter between the two leads are reminiscent of Garden State in both tone and treatment.

For a first time filmmaker it must be a staggeringly difficult task to balance the commercial elements of Dharma’s target audience and the subversions of those very elements to create something new. Everything about this film’s script is formulaic but Matthew finds a new way to present it, finding a unique humerous tone in the formula. In an effort to become more ‘commercial’ Matthew seems to be stuck with some agonizingly uninteresting songs that stop the flow of the film, and he pushes most of them to the backdrop of a montage. He also seems to be stuck with the frightfully untalented Siddharth Malhotra who exudes very little charm and maintains precisely one expression throughout the film. Matthew somehow manages to make him tolerable rather than infuriating.

The dull songs and the unexciting lead actor are massive drawbacks and they make the film merely entertaining but never special, and that’s frustrating for a film lover like me. But it sure is a great demo for how good a filmmaker Matthew is. That he made a seamless shift from ads to cinema is not a huge surprise, that I'm now really excited for his future projects sort of is.

Plus there’s the Parineeti Chopra factor. Her performances in Ishaqzaade and Shuddh Desi Romance set the bar pretty damn high, and she hits a new high point in this film. She had a tough role that could have easily wandered into the ham territory but she somehow pulls it off. The film needed her comic timing, and it was spot on. She’d to wear a wig without looking ridiculous, and she did it. She’d to make bizarre hypochondriac facial expressions without overdoing it, and she accomplishes that too. She’s perfectly natural when she laughs and pretty convincing when she cries, and not annoying when she breaks the fourth wall. Clearly her performance elevates Hasee toh Phasee from something lightweight and disposable to a very watchable feature. About time someone cast Parineeti and Ranbir Kapoor in the same movie. You don’t even need to give them a script, they’ll just naturally set the screen on fire.  

You could point out the overwrought melodramatic turn in the finale and the dash of Gori Tere Pyaar Me thrown in Hasee toh Phasee. The film clearly dumbed down Rain Girl’s addiction to anti-depressant pills – a braver film would’ve shown her as a drug abuser. Things get quite ridiculous and some of the decisions the characters take don’t make much sense and are contrived to lay the foundation for a happy ending. The film also gets a little repetitive in the third act. But the goodies outweigh the gaffes here.

Wedged into the movie is a band of wonderful supporting actors including Manoj Joshi as Rain Girl’s empathetic dad, Sharad Saxena as a hilariously investigative retired cop, Sameer Khakhar (Khopdi from Nukkad) as a cantankerous uncle, Anil Mange as an amusing Bhojpuri Idol wannabe. Adah Sharma delivers a surprisingly solid performance as a girl stuck in a loveless impending marriage – it makes you wonder why she was wasting time in Vikram Bhatt’s horror films all these years. There’s even a really funny bit character who keeps bumping into everyone and tries to strike a conversation. The casting director has a good eye for little details and it makes the characters relatively fresh on the surface despite being resoundingly familiar beneath. It helps Hasee toh Phasee render an original spin on an old concept that is just enough for film lovers to get behind for two and a half hours.

(First published in Firstpost on 7/2/2014)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Adios, Phillip Seymour Hoffman

“I will be dying and so will you, and so will everyone here. That's what I want to explore. We're all hurtling towards death, yet here we are for the moment, alive. Each of us knowing we're going to die, each of us secretly believing we won't” – Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Synecdoche New York.

Ten years ago I was a Jennifer Aniston fan and was watching Along Came Polly on the telly. It was a terrible film starring Ben Stiller rubbing his face against a sweaty naked basketball player. The film also had a scruffy, ginger haired, overweight, deep voiced, wax faced actor cracking jokes about farting and spanking the heinie. But there was something peculiar about his delivery of the jokes – it wasn’t loud frat boy comedy. Somehow this actor managed to render all the lowbrow humor with panache and rich sophistication. It was bizarre and it felt watching a love child of Om Puri and Jack Black. I Googled his name and it was as peculiar and unforgettable as his performance.

A year later Capote arrived on Piratebay. I had a 64kbps connection that time and it took me three days to download it. I watched the whole movie, loved it, and IMDB’d it. And I spilled my drink. I’d never realized the same guy from Along Came Polly was the dude who played Capote. He’d completely disappeared in his character and even his voice was different. As my friend over_rated told me, he was a better Capote than Capote himself. As I sat back in awe, one thing was clear to me - this Phillip Seymour fellow was not going to dick around in shitty roles. This guy meant business. And I had to watch everything else that he had been in. Thanks to the wonders of utorrent, my love story with PSH began that moment.

I am ashamed to admit it but I was a bit of a homophobe back then. I was an ignorant kid and the society I grew up in only taught me to make fun of homosexuals. Two days and 700 aXXO megabytes after Capote, I watched Boogie Nights. Hoffman played a gay man and it was pretty unsettling for me to see him in that role. His Scotty had long hair, wore sleeveless tropical tops that enhanced his paunch and walked and talked effeminately. Amusing. But as the movie went on I got sucked into it and found myself sympathizing for Scotty rather than laughing at him. I realized Scotty is trying to ‘belong’ and is repeatedly failing at it because no one takes him seriously. After being rejected by Mark Wahlberg Scotty tries to cover it up and pretends to be drunk, sits alone in his new car, cries his heart out and calls himself an idiot. It’s a powerful scene, and I haven’t made fun of a gay man ever since.

Somehow earlier I’d little interest in watching Magnolia and Almost Famous, but I watched them both back to back only because Hoffman was in them. I was quite bowled over by the PT Anderson-Hoffman tag team and I couldn’t get enough of them. I damaged my ribcage laughing during the ‘Shut the fuck up’ scene in Punch Drunk Love – a movie that had Adam Sandler as its selling point but had Hoffman as its biggest asset. He didn’t get the recognition he deserved but appeared in a string of small roles in big films and ended up as the most memorable aspect of those films.

Red Dragon, Cold Mountain and Patch Adams were all disappointing films and yet Hoffman managed to breathe fire into all of them.

Matt Damon was the madman in The Talented Mr Ripley but Hoffman creeped me out more in this little scene at 0:23.

The most memorable part of Twister? Hoffman’s perverted and profane cameraman.

The funniest and most likable part of the highly unfunny and unlikable Flawless? Hoffman’s adorable drag queen, where he made Robert DeNiro look mediocre.

State and Main? Oh that comedy film with Hoffman.

The 25th Hour? That film with the Norton monologue and Hoffman.

Hannibal? That film where Hoffman is tied to a wheelchair and set on fire.

That’s how indelible this guy was. He was very good in great cinema and great in bad cinema. He was a sort of a magician really - he didn't need any makeup or fake accent to play a character - he was just himself, and yet somehow he was a completely new character. And despite his distinctive voice and face, he could play any character. He could make you cry and laugh in the same movie, and no one else could say ‘Go fuck yourself’ as beautifully as him, as demonstrated in Charlie Wilson’s War.

I was a little skeptical about Mission Impossible 3 since the previous movie was cattle manure, but Hoffman was absolutely raging as the villain. I’d seen the funny Hoffman, the dramatic Hoffman, but I wasn’t prepared for a scary as hell Hoffman. He had this ability to explode on camera when you least expect it. In the entire movie he was this quiet, cold, calculating character and he suddenly launched a verbal bomb in Ethan Hunt’s face – Tom Cruise’s reactions might not have been 100% staged. I still don’t remember anything from that movie apart from that one Hoffman scene.

Doubt, a film with a Christian convent plot I had no interest in turned out to be great thanks to that electrifying scene between Hoffman and Meryl Streep where she accuses him of molesting school kids. Most people applaud Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt while forgetting that Hoffman played a similar character in Doubt and was equally terrific.

And yet, I’d seen nothing of him before I was treated to the one-two knockout punch of Synecdoche New York and The Savages. Nothing I write could bring justice to his performances in those two movies. They’re two of the greatest American films and Hoffman really went the extra mile to establish the dysfunctional modern world that we inhabit. He certainly deserved the opening scene of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, another underrated gem where he was suave and classy to feign sophistry and an emotional trainwreck below the surface.

He was never the doyen of good health and fitness and it’s sad that he had to depend on drugs to fill the gap between fame, wealth and family.

You all know him as The Master, but it’s heartbreaking how meta Mary and Max has now become.

He could play anyone, and it’s depressing to know that we’ve been robbed of at least 20 years of great cinema because his best performances were ahead of him.

I’ve never been this upset by a celebrity’s death. I feel robbed. I feel cheated. I feel shock, and glumness. But mostly, I feel anger.

Let it rain.