Sunday, March 11, 2018

And the “winner” is …

award season

While Hollywood was busy repeatedly patting itself on the back for its supposed cinematic triumphs, the Golden Raspberry Awards continued their mission to balance things out by skewering the year’s most dismal releases. The 38th edition of this annual ritual was held at the peak of the award season, with the “winners” announced a day before the Academy Awards.

The nominees

The contenders in all the main categories for this year’s Razzies were about as surprising and creative as the movies they were “celebrating”. The announcement of the nominees in January had resulted in a bit of a backlash from audiences for the three nominations given to the polarizing Mother! (including a Noxious Enactment by an Actress nod for Jennifer Lawrence and Worst Director for Darren Aronofsky), but by and large the choices across the board were mostly easy targets.

To the shock of absolutely no one anywhere, Transformers: The Last Knight and Fifty Shades Darker led the list with 10 and 9 nominations respectively. The disappointing The Mummy found itself targeted in 8 categories, while the damp-squib Baywatch and the absolutely abysmal The Emoji Movie earned 5 nods each.

The “winners”

The winners – which can be seen on the Razzie’s YouTube channel in a shoddy video that could itself have won a Razzie – mostly went to very worthy offenders.

The Emoji Movie scored four well-deserved dishonours, not only earning the trifecta of Worst Picture, Worst Director (Tony Leondis), and Worst Screenplay (Tony Leondis, Eric Siegel, and Mike White) awards but also snagging the Worst Screen Combo title for any two of its many obnoxious emojis.

Other predictable winners included Fifty Shades Darker which was a shoo-in for the Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel trophy (Kim Basinger also won a Worst Supporting Actress award for this film); Tyler Perry, who beat the aforementioned Lawrence as well as Dakota Johnson, Katherine Heigl, and Emma Watson in the Worst Actress category for his reprisal of the role of Madea in the critically reviled Boo 2! A Madea Halloween; CHiPs, which was given the Barry L. Bumstead Award for being a critical and financial failure; and Baywatch, which won in the new category of The Razzie Nominee So Bad You Loved It! (with Dwayne Johnson subsequently accepting the blow “humbly and graciously” in a video online).

But Tom Cruise was a slightly unexpected – and a tad unfair – winner in the Worst Actor category for The Mummy. Surely that wasn’t the worst performance by an actor last year?

And just how did Transformers: The Last Knight and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales manage to escape unscathed? Was Mel Gibson really a worse supporting actor in Daddy’s Home 2 than Josh Duhamel was in Transformers: The Last Knight? The Razzies seem to think so, although the audience opinion remains divided.

Other highlights of the 2018 Razzies included an In Memoriam segment which, in light of last year’s events, featured a montage of sexual misconduct offenders, and the Razzie Redeemer Award, which went to Hollywood itself for changing its Razzie-worthy behaviour and morphing into an industry “where talent is protected, nourished and allowed to flourish with proper compensation.”

So, as always, the Razzies weren’t exactly a revelation but they did offer a bit of fun, and they also left us with a very important question: what would a local version of the ceremony look like? Sunehri Bair Awards, anyone?

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 11th March, 2018 *

Friday, March 09, 2018

Silver screen scrutiny

quiz whiz


1. The highest number of Academy Awards won by an individual is 22, and only one person in history has achieved this feat. But who is that person?
A. Composer Alan Menken
B. Producer Walt Disney
C. Costume designer Edith Head
D. Art director Cedric Gibbons

2. Who has won the most acting Academy Awards?
A. Katharine Hepburn
B. Meryl Streep
C. Jack Nicholson
D. Daniel Day Lewis

3. Which of these actors have never been nominated for an Oscar?
A. Marilyn Monroe
B. Jeff Daniels
C. Steve Buscemi
D. Emily Blunt

4. Three of these films hold the record for the most awards won by a single film (11). Which one of these films hasn’t won the most Oscars of all time?
A. Ben-Hur
B. Titanic
C. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
D. Avatar

5. Which of these actors is one of only 12 people to have won all four major annual American entertainment awards – Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards (EGOT) – in a competitive, individual category?
A. Katharine Hepburn
B. Meryl Streep
C. Whoopi Goldberg
D. Anne Hathaway

6. If a recipient wanted to sell their Oscar, how much would they get for the award?
A. $1
B. $100
C. $1,000
D. $10,000


7. In what year was the first full-length feature film ever released?
A. 1886
B. 1896
C. 1906
D. 1916

8. What was the first talkie ever made?
A. Alam Ara
B. The Jazz Singer
C. Singin’ in the Rain
D. The Wizard of Oz

9. Which movie was the first film made in colour?
A. The Phantom of the Opera
B. Ben-Hur
C. The Three Musketeers
D. Cupid Angling

10. What is the highest grossing film of all time?
A. Titanic
B. Avatar
C. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
D. Jurassic World

11. What is the highest grossing film franchise of all time?
A. Marvel Cinematic Universe
B. DC Extended Universe
C. James Bond
D. Star Wars

12. Who is the highest grossing actor of all time, based on the box office total of their films?
A. Scarlett Johansson
B. Harrison Ford
C. Samuel L. Jackson
D. Johnny Depp



1. B
American animation pioneer Walt Disney holds the record for most Academy Awards earned by an individual, having won 22 Oscars from a record 59 nominations. His first wins came in 1932 when he received the Honorary Academy Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse and won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for the film Flowers and Trees. Most of his wins came in the Best Short Subject (Cartoon) category, although he was also triumphant in other categories, including Best Short Subject (Two-reel) and Best Documentary (Short Subject).
Composer Alan Menken holds the record for the most competitive awards won by a person who is still living (8). Costume designer Edith Head is the recipient of the most awards won by a woman (8). And art director Cedric Gibbons, who designed the Oscar statuette, won 11 awards out of a total of 39 nominations.

2. A
Katharine Hepburn won four awards – a record for any performer – all for Best Actress. She won for her performances in the films Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968) (shared with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl), and On Golden Pond (1981).

3. A, B, C, and D
Despite their fame and/or acclaim, none of these actors have ever received an Oscar nomination.

4. D
Avatar (2009) was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won three – for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects.

5. C
Whoopi Goldberg is one of the few entertainers to have won an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, an Oscar, and a Tony Award.

6. A
The winners and their heirs cannot sell the Oscar statuettes without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for US$1.

7. C
The 1906 Australian silent film The Story of the Kelly Gang, which followed the exploits of 19th-century outlaw Ned Kelly and his gang, is believed to be the world's first full-length narrative feature film. With an estimated budget of between £400 and £1,000, the film took six months to make, had a running time of more than an hour, and was a success upon its release, making about £25,000.

8. B
The Jazz Singer (1927), starring Al Jolson and directed by Alan Crosland, was the first feature film originally presented as a talkie. The film was based on a play of the same name by Samson Raphaelson, and was a massive box office success.
1931’s Alam Ara (The Ornament of the World), starring Master Vithal and Zubeida and directed by Ardeshir Irani, was the first Indian film with sound.

9. D
While opinions differ on this matter, the now-lost Cupid Angling (1918), the only feature film photographed using the Douglass Natural Color process, is widely considered to be the first movie made in colour.

10. B
With a box office gross of over $2.787 billion, James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) is the world’s highest grossing movie of all time. 1997’s Titanic ($2,187), 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($2,068 billion), and 2015’s Jurassic World ($1,671 billion) are the second, third, and fourth highest grossing films respectively.   

11. A
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has made over $14 billion. Star Wars ($8.8 billion), James Bond ($7 billion), and DC Extended Universe ($3.7 billion) are at the second, fourth, and twelfth place respectively.

12. C
Samuel L. Jackson’s (#1) films have earned $5.149 billion. Harrison Ford’s (#2) movies have grossed $4,963, while Johnny Depp’s (#13) films have made ($3.644 billion).
Scarlett Johansson is the highest earning female performer with a total of $3.674 billion.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 9th March, 2018

Tully - a not-so-rosy look at motherhood

trailer review 

The collaborative partnership between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Brook Busey – a.k.a. Diablo Cody – has yielded two critically successful movies: Juno (2007) and Young Adult (2011). The duo have now worked together once again; their third film is Tully, a comedy drama that tackles motherhood and its many complicated realities.

The story revolves around the character of Marlo (portrayed by Charlize Theron, who was also the star of the aforementioned Young Adult), an exhausted mother of three, including a newborn, who is dealing with the impact that parenthood has on a woman’s life and marriage, and is clearly overwhelmed by the ever-increasing responsibilities of her growing brood.

When her affluent brother (Mark Duplass) offers to hire her a night nanny, Marlo initially resists the offer, but ultimately gives in and recruits the thoughtful young helper, Tully (Mackenzie Davis).

The trailer doesn’t really spell out the direction the film will take as a bond develops between these two women. Will there be more to the movie than a frazzled mother’s life improving with the arrival of a manic pixie dream girl Mary Poppins? The writing would have to be very sharp to sustain a film just on that premise alone. Should we expect a twist?

The most instantly striking thing about the trailer is Charlize Theron’s very convincing performance; the actress looks fitting exhausted in the clips. Also, Theron’s character seems central to the movie, so it will be interesting to see why Tully is the titular character of the film and not Marlo.

From the preview, it seems like female viewers in particular will probably relate to Marlo’s predicament and appreciate the film’s attempt to take an honest look at motherhood instead of offering a fantasy take through rose-tinted glasses. But Cody’s writing isn’t for everyone, and if you aren’t a fan of her stream of smart-aleck-y aphorisms, then Tully probably won’t be the film for you.

Reitman and Cody haven’t exactly been hitting home runs with their separate projects recently. Will working together again help these two filmmakers get their groove back? We’ll find out in a few weeks.

The movie is set to be released on 20th April this year.

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 9th March, 2018 *

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Paterno brings to light the aftermath of a child sex abuse scandal

trailer review

The sporting world has been rocked by several scandals of late, with everything from doping to match-fixing in various fields making headlines around the globe. One of the most appalling episodes that have shocked sports fans in recent years came to the fore in 2011 when news broke of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. Former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was indicted for child molestation over a one and a half decade long period while long-time head coach Joe Paterno was accused of being involved in an alleged cover-up of the crimes. It’s the latter who is the subject of HBO’s upcoming television movie, Paterno.

Helmed by director Barry Levinson, the film is set to chronicle the downfall of the most victorious coach in American college football history as the magnitude of the revelations and their implications lead to the end of his career.

Al Pacino portrays the disgraced Paterno, struggling in the aftermath of his fall from grace while the question of whether he knew about the abuse looms large. The trailer suggests the thespian will be terrific in the lead role. The actor is no stranger to the task of playing controversial characters, having previously portrayed infamous figures like euthanasia proponent Jack Kevorkian in You Don't Know Jack (2010) and record producer Phil Spector – who was convicted for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson – in Phil Spector (2013). Given his impressive résumé, Pacino seems like a solid choice for the lead role, and the clips we see of him in the prevue promise another strong performance by the celebrated actor.

The trailer also shows actress Riley Keough as Sara Ganim, a reporter investigating the story who ultimately won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the scandal. And we also get a glimpse of Kathy Baker as Sue Paterno, the protagonist’s wife, in the trailer’s most impactful scene – she mentions to her husband that Sandusky went in the pool with their kids before asking, “you couldn’t have known, otherwise you wouldn’t have let them go in the pool, right?”

Both the cast and the effectiveness of the trailer in capturing our interest indicate that Paterno could be an intense and impressive project, although it remains to be seen how well the movie handles the sensitive topic at its core.

The film will premiere on HBO on the 7th of April.

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 6th March, 2018 *

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Looking at new records by Justin Timberlake and First Aid Kit

album reviews

Justin Timberlake explores new grounds, while First Aid Kit are held back by lack of originality

Album: Man of the Woods
Artist: Justin Timberlake

It’s hard to imagine what Justin Timberlake’s post-NSYNC career would have looked like if it hadn’t been shaped by the immaculate production of Timbaland and The Neptunes. This observation becomes all the more apparent when you listen to the popstar’s latest album, Man of the Woods – you can immediately discern the producers’ imprints on all their respective tracks, and while it doesn’t reflect too positively on the artist that his sound is so heavily reliant on the sonic wizardry of the people around him, it does help him come up with a few interesting tunes.

The primary production duties for the American singer’s fifth solo set – the title of which was inspired by his son Silas’s name which means “man of the forest” – are in the hands of The Neptunes (who also serve as co-writers for the songs they helm), and you can easily tell which tracks have been moulded by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo without even reading the liner notes. But the record’s more adventurous flourishes have been provided by Timbaland and Danja. The funky (and clearly very divisive) ‘Filthy’, in particular, stands out, thanks in large part to the production, although you do have to give Timberlake props for releasing something that doesn’t sound like anything else on the charts as the album’s lead single instead of going for something safer and more radio-friendly.

But while experimentation may serve him well in places, elsewhere it falls a little flat. It’s the artist’s attempt to incorporate country and southern rock into this record that doesn’t always yield very exciting results. Chris Stapleton helps elevate the ballad ‘Say Something’, and ‘Livin’ Off the Land’ is perhaps the most successful effort at melding Timberlake’s style with country, but his Americana-influenced tunes aren’t exactly the singer’s strongest work. Plus titles like ‘Montana’ and ‘Breeze Off the Pond’ might suggest that these songs would have rustic leanings, but these tracks basically just offer more R&B-tinged pop fodder instead.

The different styles Timberlake wants to explore on the record make Man of the Woods feel unfocused and inconsistent, and the cringe-worthy lyrics (all co-written by Timberlake) that plague the album don’t exactly help either. There is some interesting stuff on offer here – although sonically that seems more indicative of the producers than the artist himself – and Timberlake deserves credit for trying something different this time around, but overall the results are more mixed than his fans would have hoped.

Highlights: ‘Filthy’, ‘Sauce’, ‘Say Something’
Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Album: Ruins
Artist: First Aid Kit

After coming to the world’s attention with their YouTube video cover of the Fleet Foxes’ ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ almost a decade ago, Swedish indie folk duo First Aid Kit have impressed listeners by creating melodious ‘70s-reminiscent folk pop, powered by their sublime harmonies and gentle guitars. And while their fourth album, Ruins, sees the Söderberg sisters come up with another set of beautiful tunes, it is held back by the fact that there is nothing quite original or exceptional about their output.

Produced by Tucker Martine and written by the siblings themselves, the album revels in its throwback sound but doesn’t see Johanna and Klara move out of their comfort zone.

Inspired by a breakup as well as the evolution of their own relationship, Ruins benefits from the duo’s ability to come up with sweet melodies, and is at its best with songs like the country pop ditties ‘It’s a Shame’ and ‘Postcard’, which show just why the group has gained recognition. But elsewhere, it all sounds overly familiar and too polished for its own good.

There is no denying the Söderbergs’ songwriting talents though, and while Ruins may not be a very exciting, diverse, or inventive collection, it is still competently crafted and easily enjoyable.

Highlights: ‘It’s a Shame’, ‘Postcard’, ‘To Live a Life’
Rating: 3 out of 5

- Sameen Amer 

Instep, The News on Sunday - 25th February, 2018 *

Friday, February 23, 2018

Book befuddlement

quiz whiz

1. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” is one of the most well-known beginnings of a novel ever written. But which Charles Dickens’ novel is it from?
A. Oliver Twist
B. David Copperfield
C. A Tale of Two Cities
D. Great Expectations

2. According to estimates, who is the best-selling fiction author of all time?
A. Agatha Christie
B. William Shakespeare
C. Barbara Cartland
D. Danielle Steel

3. In her very prolific career, primarily as a children’s author, around how many books did Enid Blyton write?
A. 50
B. 100
C. 400
D. 700

4. What was the first play written by Shakespeare?
A. The Merchant of Venice
B. The Two Gentlemen of Verona
C. The Tempest
D. Troilus and Cressida

5. “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” Which book is this line from?
A. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
B. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
C. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
D. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

6. In Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, what is the result of Tom Robinson’s trial?
A. Guilty verdict
B. Innocent verdict
C. Hung jury
D. Case dismissed

7. Which author is considered the father of modern fantasy literature?
A. H. P. Lovecraft
B. C. S. Lewis
C. J.R.R. Tolkien
D. L. Ron Hubbard

8. How old was Sylvia Plath at the time of her death?
A. 25
B. 30
C. 35
D. 40

9. Terry Pratchett’s fantasy Discworld setting consists of a large disc resting on the backs of four of which animals that are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle as it slowly swims through space?
A. Elephants
B. Giraffes
C. Hippopotamuses
D. Horses

10. What is the longest novel ever written?
A. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
B. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
C. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
D. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

11. J. K. Rowling’s manuscript for the first Harry Potter book was rejected by how many publishers before it was finally picked up by Bloomsbury?
A. 8
B. 12
C. 19
D. 23

12. What is the best-selling fiction book of all time?
A. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
B. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
C. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
D. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes



1. C

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
That is the first line of A Tale of Two Cities (1859), a historical novel by English writer Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870), one of the most acclaimed writers of the Victorian era.

2. A or B
While precise sales figure don’t exist, it is estimated that the works of both English mystery writer Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976) and English playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) have sold between 2 billion and 4 billion copies each.
English romance novelist Barbara Cartland (1901 – 2000) is estimated to have sold 500 million to 1 billion copies, while American romance novelist Danielle Steel’s sales figures are thought to be between 500 million to 800 million.

3. D
The popular English children’s writer Enid Blyton (1897 – 1968), who published her first book, Child Whispers, in 1922 went on to write hundreds of children’s novels plus poetry and short story collections. Blyton is estimated to have written more than 700 books.

4. B
There is disagreement over the order in which Shakespeare wrote his plays (and whether he wrote them at all) but The Two Gentlemen of Verona is believed to be the English writer’s first play. Thought to have been written between 1589 and 1593, Verona isn’t regarded as one of his stronger works.
While there can’t be a precise chronology because of a lack of definitive evidence, the plays Henry VI (in three parts), Richard III, Titus Andronicus, and The Comedy of Errors may also belong to Shakespeare’s earliest period.

5. C
The line appears in American writer Jerome David Salinger’s (1919 – 2010) acclaimed The Catcher in the Rye (1951), the only full-length novel he published in his lifetime before retreating into seclusion.

6. A
Harper Lee’s (1926 – 2016) To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) – the only book she published till its “sequel” Go Set a Watchman (2015) – was centred on the story of a lawyer who compassionately takes on the unpopular case of a black man falsely accused of raping a white girl, but despite evidence proving his innocence, the defendant is still found guilty by a prejudiced system.

7. C
The South African-born English writer John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892 – 1973) created an enchanting mythical world in his magnum opus The Lord of the Rings (1954 – 1955) – an epic trilogy consisting of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King – as well as its companions The Hobbit (1937) and The Silmarillion (1977), and is regarded as the father of modern fantasy literature.

8. B
U.S. poet Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963) committed suicide at the age of 30. She died a few months after she had separated from her husband, British poet Ted Hughes (1930 – 1998) – whom she had married in 1956 – after finding out about his infidelity. Her poetry volumes as well as a semiautobiographical novel, The Bell Jar (1963), gained popularity after her death.

9. A
A large disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants which are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle … that’s the setting of fantasy writer Terence David John Pratchett’s (1948 – 2015) Discworld novels.

10. D
According to Guinness World Records, Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust’s (1871 – 1922) novel À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time), published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927, is considered the longest book ever written. The novel is over 3000 pages long and contains an estimated 9,609,000 characters.

11. B
Written while she was living on state benefits and completed in 1995, British novelist Joanne Rowling’s (born in 1965) manuscript for her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997), was submitted to twelve publishing houses – all of them rejected it. A year later, it was accepted by publishing house Bloomsbury, after the eight-year-old daughter of their chairman showed an interest in the book.

12. D
Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s (1547 – 1616) Don Quixote (1605) is thought to be the best-selling book of all time, having sold an estimated 500 million copies.
Other best-selling titles include Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859) (which has sold an estimated 200 million copies) and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (1954 – 1955) (150 million).

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 23rd February, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Battle of the Sexes - fascinating story, uneven execution

movie review 
Battle of the Sexes 

Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, and Eric Christian Olsen
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Tagline: He made a bet. She made history. 

Even nearly 45 years after it took place, the famous showdown between women’s tennis star Billie Jean King and former men’s champion Bobby Riggs remains one of the most well-known fixtures in tennis history. Fans of the sport who are old enough to have witnessed the 1973 match are certain to remember the hoopla around the encounter, but even those of us born years or even decades after it actually took place are likely to be familiar with at least the bare basics of the contest and how it went down.

It’s this sporting event, the circumstances leading up to it, and the people at its heart that are the subject of the film Battle of the Sexes.

The movie is primarily centred on the life of American tennis legend Billie Jean King (portrayed by Emma Stone) and her role in inspiring changes in women’s tennis during the 1970s.

When a tournament decides to offer women eight times less than the men’s prize money despite equal ticket sales, King – who is dissatisfied with both the compensation and respect that is being given to sportswomen – takes matters into her own hands and sets up her own tournament for female players.

Meanwhile, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) – a retired former champion who had been one of the world’s top tennis players in the 1940s – tries to make his way back into the limelight by challenging 29-year-old King to a match, claiming that he could beat any top female player even at age 55 since the women’s game is inferior to the men’s game.

King refuses to play the match, but after Margaret Court accepts the offer and then loses the contest, King is prompted to accept the challenge in the hopes that she will be able to defeat the male chauvinist and earn female players the respect they rightfully deserve.

Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris do a fine job defining the personal and cultural stakes of the event. Yet they fail to make the narrative sufficiently gripping and suspenseful.

There is too much going on in Battle of the Sexes, and not all of it is equally fascinating. The filmmakers not only explore King’s passion for tennis, her struggle for women’s rights and equality, her life off the court, her relationship with her husband (Austin Stowell), and her extramarital affair with a hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough) which distractingly gets a lot of emphasis in the movie, but they also take a look at Riggs’ personal life, his relationship with his wife (Elisabeth Shue), and the impact of his gambling addiction on their marriage. The execution starts to feel unfocused as less compelling storylines are explored at length while more vital topics and interesting characters only get a perfunctory treatment. Coupled with the uneven tone, the results are less than dazzling.

The cast, however, is very impressive. The acting of the leads, especially, is top notch. Stone is terrific as the protagonist and does a good job relaying her character’s societal struggles and inner conflicts. In the role of King’s nemesis, Carell also does a great job portraying the colourful, controversial, self-promoting Riggs. In the supporting roles, Sarah Silverman – who plays King’s supporter and co-founder of the women’s team – gives a memorable performance in an otherwise unmemorable project, but Bill Pullman (in the role of Jack Kramer, whose refusal to pay the women equally spurs King’s actions), Stowell, and McNamee’s characters leave you wishing the actors had been given more to do and had a better chance to make an impact.

Its execution could have been less predictable, the camerawork could have been better, the storytelling could have been cleaner, and the direction could have been more focused. On the whole, while Battle of the Sexes benefits from its fascinating story inspired by real events and a terrific roster of actors who bring their characters to vivid cinematic life, the film suffers because of its overlong running time (2 hours) and its desire to check too many narrative and ideological boxes.

Rating: 3 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 21st February, 2018 *