Thursday, February 22, 2018

It Is Written

Slumdog Millionaire
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Madhur Mittal
Released in theaters: December 25, 2008
Viewed in theaters: January 20, 2009

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (won)
Best Director - Danny Boyle (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Simon Beaufoy (won)
Best Cinematography (won)
Best Sound (won)
Best Editing (won)
Best Sound Editing (lost to The Dark Knight)
Best Original Song - Jai Ho by A.R. Rahman (won)
Best Original Score - A.R. Rahman (won)

What movie won the Oscar for the Best Picture of 2008?

a. The Dark Knight                b. Wall-e
c. Frost/Nixon                       d. Slumdog Millionaire

If you chose d, you are correct. And hopefully you didn't need to phone a friend to find out the answer! (Even though I literally just wrote it did win the Oscar right above the question!) Slumdog Millionaire takes a popular game show (Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?) and sets it in India where a young man gets on the show and does very well as the questions seem to correlate with his own (very harrowing) life. Not only that, but the questions are also asked in chronological order of the events that happened in his life.

When the movie starts, we get three different timelines. The first is the introduction of Jamal Malik (Del Patel), the eighteen-year Indian Muslim boy on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? with the charismatic host (Anil Kapoor) who pronounces the show's title with an enthusiastic, "Who wants to be a milla-naire!" The second timeline is after the show where he's being smacked around and accused of cheating because he knew all the answers. Being a poor, uneducated kid from the slums, nobody is buying that he could have gotten all the answers right. And the third timeline is any flashback to Jamal when he was younger and how he knew the answers.

The show begins innocently enough. The questions always start out easy, increasing with difficulty with each one. The first question asked is who is the star of a 1973 hit film? Jamal should know this answer regardless because the actor, Amitabh Bachchan, is super famous, but we get a flashback of when he was a young kid (around five) and how his favorite actor was filming nearby where he lived. Unfortunately for Jamal, his older brother, Salim, has locked him in a makeshift port-a-potty (which is just a wooden stall sitting atop stilts with a hole in the middle where you do your business) after Jamal cost his a customer (they charged people to use the toilet). In one of the more disgusting scenes of the film, the young Jamal holds his nose (like that's going to work!) and jumps into the lake of crap and swims his way out. He is just covered head to toe in crap and I can only imagine how awful the stench must be. To his credit, Amitabh signs the photo of himself Jamal gives to him without being grossed out by the sight or smell. It is now Jamal's most prized possession and we will later find out that Salim soon after sold it for money, establishing the rocky relationship between the two bothers.

So here's a fun fact: Amitabh Bachchan is the actual host of the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millioniare? (at least for the majority of its run), so I guess that question about him was a shoutout.

The second question is also very easy and should be one that every Indian should know since it's a question asking what it reads on their national emblem. However, Jamal doesn't know it and needs to ask the audience. The two police questioning him find it odd that he needed help with such an easy question while he knew the answers to more difficult questions. The police officer played by Irrfan Khan tells him that his five-year-old daughter could answer that question. Jamal replies by asking them if they know how much a plate of pani puri cost or who stole someone's bike last Thursday. The officers don't know even though Jamal knows both those answers. I guess this is to show us that some questions that are obvious to some, may not be the case for others. However, I think Jamal wasted his "ask the audience" card and should have saved it for another questions (like the last one!) Even if you didn't know the answer, you could probably guess it correctly just by using common sense. The options given were "Truth alone triumphs"; "Fashion alone triumphs", "Lies alone triumph"; and "Money alone triumphs." C'mon, you don't have to be a genius to figure out that one (which is exactly what Jamal tells them in reference to the first question). Total waste of a lifeline, Jamal! You're lucky you did so well.

The show continues and as the questions become more difficult, Jamal's life is about to as well. His mother is killed by a mob of Hindus who are rioting against Muslims. Jamal and his brother run for their lives through the chaos and call for a girl in their age range to join them. The girl's name is Latika and the three of them call themselves the Three Musketeers, after the book they've been reading in school. The three youngsters think they've ben rescued when a well dressed man finds them in a junkyard and gives them each a bottle of ice cold Coke. We next see them in a bus being driven somewhere with other young children. At first the "Three Musketeers" are happy as they are eating plenty of food and have lots of equipment to play with (like tire swings) so it looks like an amusement park to these kids from the slums. The looks on their faces when they see their new home is that of pure joy. They conclude that Maman, the man who rescued them from poverty and malnourishment, is "a saint". However, that's not the case and Maman is actually training homeless kids to be beggars in order to make money. Not only that, but in the most harrowing scene, he pours acid in some of the childrens' eyes after they've been drugged and sedated to blind them. He does this to the kids with the more beautiful singing voices because blind kids make more money because of the sympathy factor. Jamal finds this out and he and Salim and Latika escape. The two brothers make it onto a train, but Latika is not quick enough and her captors catch up to her which devastates Jamal, but Salim assures him that she'll be fine because she always is.

The movie takes a little break from all its bleakness and horrific moments and gives us a reprieve with some more lighthearted scenes including a montage of the brothers stealing food while traveling on trains through India set to M.I.A.'s Paper Planes. (Remember that song? It only seems like yesterday it was everywhere on the radio). During the montage, as you do, the brothers age so Salim is now a teenager and Jamal is probably eleven or twelve. They end up in Agra by way of Mumbai and pretend to be private tour guides for people visiting the Taj Mahal. Now I have no doubt the Taj Mahal is a sight to behold, but that attraction has to be infested with tourists all the time. They don't get the idea until Jamal is just standing around and a British couple comes up to him and asks him if they can give him a private tour and they'll pay him extra. (I guess they didn't notice he wasn't wearing a name tag like the other tour guides). Seeing the money, Jamal is glad to oblige, although I question his knowledge of the Taj Mahal because he claims it was supposed to be a five-star hotel but the emperor who built it for his wife died before any of the rooms were built and he calls the reflection pool the swimming pool. He tells the couple that the emperor's wife died in a road accident and when they question him and say they thought she died in childbirth, he tells them that she was on the way to the hospital when it happened. The boys also make money by taking photos of tourists in front of the Taj Mahal and also stealing and selling nice shoes that are required to be taken off before entering the premises.

After that nice little interlude, the movie goes back to being grim. They have returned to Mumbai and Jamal finds the boy with the beautiful singing voice who was blinded and finds out that Latika is in training to be a prostitute (at least she got to keep her eyesight!) and is known as "Cherry" on Pilar Street. It's a little disturbing because she can't be more than thirteen years old. By this time Salim has already perfected his thieving skills, but he can now add murder to his criminal record because he kills Maman when they retrieve Latika. He didn't even kill him in defense; it was just cold-blood murder.

The brothers have a falling out, and, to be honest, I didn't quite understand why Salim wanted to kick out his brother, I guess he just wanted Latika for himself. There's another time jump and Jamal is now being played by Dev Patel in the flashblacks, so I'm not sure what happened to Jamal in between those years. He's now working as a chaiwala (someone who serves and sells tea) at a call center (which we learn earlier in the movie when he tells the game show host what he does for a living) and when he covers for someone who needs to use the bathroom, he tries to find Latika and Salim by using the database. Unfortunately, he doesn't know Latika's last name, so he gets thousands of entries when he just types in her first name. Even typing in his brother's full name, he gets fifteen results and calls all the numbers until he reaches Salim. We find out that Salim now works for a crime boss named Javed (who was an enemy of Maman, so he admired Salim for killing him) and Latika is living with Javed in his posh house as his in-house whore, so to speak. She and Jamal have a sweet reunion before Javed returns and Latkia puts an apron on Jamal and tells Javed that Jamal is the new cook so as not to raise any suspicions. Jamal notices that she is watching Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? before Javed comes in and makes her switch the channel to the cricket match. He is such a jerk because he doesn't even watch the television in the kitchen; he goes to the living room to watch the game, so he wasn't even watching it on the TV in the kitchen! In a very low voice, Jamal tells Latika that he will wait everyday at the local train station at five o'clock until she comes, but she says it is too late for that. However, she does attempt to meet him there not that long after only to be found out and captured by Salim and is taken away.

There is an interesting part during the game where they are taking a break after a question about a cricket player has been asked and when Jamal comes out of the bathroom, he sees that the host has written "B" with the condensation on the mirror in an attempt to fool him. When they return from a commercial break, Jamal chooses the 50/50 lifeline for the question and only B and D remain as choices (the Indian Regis Philbin must know which choices get knocked off if the 50/50 is chosen). I have to give the host credit for remaining calm and acting excited for Jamal when he (after a very dramatic pause) chooses D, which is, indeed the correct answer when you know he was furious on the inside. I'm not sure why he wanted to sabotage Jamal and make him choose the wrong answer; is it because he doesn't want to pay him all that money? Do most game shows not want their contestants to win so they don't have to shell out the money? But wouldn't they want that because it's more dramatic when they do win? Hmm, we need an investigative report on this, stat! I know he thinks he's cheating, but I feel like you could find out if someone was being fed answers from an outside source.

That was the penultimate question and they have ran out of time and have to wait until the next evening to continue. I remember when Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? premiered and it was on every weeknight and you would have to wait until the next night if they ran out of time with one contestant. I suppose that makes sense because you don't know how far a contestant will get...they could get all the answers like Jamal or they could flame out by the third question (God, that would be embarrassing). I remember I had the PC game version of it. I probably won it, like once!

Remember how Latkia was watching Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? So now we know why Jamal went on the game show (which he was able to obtain a spot through his job at the call center) since he knows she watches it often. He tells the police officer that he went on the show because he thought she'd be watching. The officer tells him he is free to go. By this time, we are in current time with the timeline and all of India has been watching this young "slumdog" making a killing on the show and are cheering him on. A TV reporter claims that "an estimated 90 million people" will tune in tonight to see if he will win the grand prize of twenty million rupees. Ninety million people; that is insane! I don't think even that many people tuned in to watch the finale of M*A*S*H which is supposed to be one of the most watched shows in American history. Granted, India does have a population of a billion people, but still! Ok, so I just looked at a chart and the finale of M*A*S*H is the most watched episode of American TV and it actually had 125 million people, so okay, I was wrong! That's crazy. But this was back in the day (1983) when there were only, like, five channels, so what else were people supposed to watch? I also looked up the conversion rate for twenty million rupees and it is roughly equal to $308,000. What? That's nowhere near a million dollars! I feel like Jamal is getting gypped here.

Salim knows that Jamal will never give up, so he lets Latika escape by giving her his car keys and cell phone and tells her he'll take care of Javed if he finds out. She is trying to get to the WWTBAM? studios, but the streets are jammed with traffic and people. She ends up getting out of the car and watching the show in a display store window with a crowd.

The last question Jamal has to answer is "What is the name of the third Musketeer?" (The one that isn't Athos or Porthos). Keep in mind that this has been an ongoing theme throughout the film. When we first see Jamal and his brother, they are reading The Three Musketeers in school (or at least, supposed to be reading). When they meet Latika, Jamal says that she can be the third Musketeer and Salim points out they don't even know the name of that one. I definitely wouldn't know the answer to this question either! I love Jamal's reaction where he laughs to himself and smiles because you know he's thinking, Of course this is the question I would get. The one question he's never known or thought he would ever have to know. He even admits to the host he doesn't know the answer, but wants to continue to play and chooses to phone a friend. See, this is where the ask the audience lifeline would come in handy. True, they may not always give you the correct answer, but I would feel confident that this is a popular book that most people would know the right answer. The host reminds him that if he gets the wrong answer, then he will lose everything he's won so far, which is ten million rupees.

Salim's number is dialed and the audience (both in the movie and in actual theaters when the movie was released, I'm sure!) are on pins and needles as the phone rings and rings. When Jamal tells the host that it's his brother's number he's dialing, Latika hightails it back to the car where she's left the phone and answers right before they're about to hang up. Jamal is glad to hear from her and know that she's okay. He asks her the question and she admits she doesn't know the answer either. Jamal ends up taking an educated guess...and of course he's right. (The answer is Aramis, by the way). The audience just explodes into cheers as well as everyone else in the country who is watching. This is juxtaposed with a scene of Salim killing Javed and his men killing him in return. We all know that Salim wasn't long for this world with the life he chose for himself.

The movie ends happily, though, for Jamal and Latika who are reunited at the train station. And with the twenty million rupees he's just won, he is no longer a slumdog...just a slumdog millionaire! (Wouldn't that be an oxymoron?)

The end credits are one of my favorite end credits along with Return of the King and Kill Bill: Vol 2. The main actors and a bunch of dancers behind them are doing a flashmob dance at the train station to a song composed by A.R. Rahman called Jai Ho, with some very heavy Indian influences. I also love how they show the three actors who played the characters of Jamal, Latika, and Salim. I refer to them as Young (the characters at their oldest!), Younger (the characters as young teens or almost teens) and Youngest (the characters as kids). It is just very cool how the credits are unraveled.

And I'll cap this review with another fun fact: exactly nine years ago today, Slumdog Millionaire won its Oscar for Best Picture (not to mention the seven other Oscars it won) when the Academy Awards aired on February 22, 2009.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

How I Met Your Mother

Defintely, Maybe
Director: Adam Brooks
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, Derek Luke, Kevin Kline
Released: February 14, 2008
Viewed in theaters: March 13, 2008

This is a cute movie about a father (Will, played by Ryan Reynolds) telling his daughter (Maya, played by Abigail Breslin) the story of how he met her mother who we also learn will soon be his ex-wife. It kind of plays in the same way as The Princess Bride where a young kid is being told a bedtime story and we see the story being told as well as flashbacks to the present moment so we can get commentary from the person hearing the story. Of course, the only difference is that this is a true story being told! Maya tells her dad that she wants the real story of how he met her mother and not just the basic "we met, we fell in love and got married and had you". He agrees to tell her, but is going to change the names so Maya has to guess who her mother is in the story. There are three women who are candidates to be her mother: a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. While Will tells her the story, Maya keeps track of the women and crosses a name off once it is apparent that she cannot be her mother.

Now it's been ten years since I've seen this movie so I didn't remember who the mother was, but I did make my predictions after we met all the women and I was right. (Don't worry, I'll give you a warning before I spoil the movie). Now it could be I did subconsciously remember who she was, but it's not brain surgery to figure it out...they don't make it into a big complicated mystery. I correctly guessed who Maya's mother was and I correctly guessed who Will was really meant to be with, but that left one woman remaining and I couldn't remember what her storyline was.

Will starts his story in 1992 when he was a college student (and they make Reynolds and the other cast members look younger by giving them different hairstyles) and had a serious college girlfriend, Emily (Elizabeth Banks). They both live in Wisconsin, but he moves to New York for two months to work on the Clinton campaign because of his passion for politics. They both try to make the long-distance relationship work, but it isn't easy. However, despite the difficulties he decides to propose to Emily when she comes to visit him only to find out that she slept with his roommate back in Wisconsin. She tells him that she doesn't want to hold him back and that they don't share the same future. Maya crosses Emily's name off the list. But will Emily come back into the story in the future?

Another candidate for Maya's mom is April (Isla Fisher) who works the copy machine for the campaign. Will thinks he's met someone who is a Clinton supporter but we quickly learn that she doesn't care about politics and doesn't identify as a Democrat or Republican and is just doing the gig for the money. They run into each other later where Will finds out it's April's birthday and she was supposed to be with her boyfriend, but he ditched her. He takes her to a party she was invited to as a friendly gesture. This is the day before he proposes to Emily and April wants to know how he's going to propose so they role play. She is very touched by his genuine words and realizes how lucky Emily is. Her response after he fake proposes to her is, "Defintely Maybe! I have to think about it." So there's where we get the title. I'm not too crazy about the title; it isn't one that really sticks with you. How I Met Your Mother would have been a better title, but I think that one was taken at the time! (In fact, I wondered if the TV series inspired the plot for this movie which is a lot less convoluted than the TV show).

They go back to April's apartment which doesn't seem like such a good idea since they both have significant others and April even comments how it's nice that they don't have to worry about flirting and being attracted to each other since they are both already in relationships, but then they start making out because they ARE attracted to each other. However they quickly realize what they're doing is wrong and Will leaves quickly. In a later scene, they both decide that even if they were both single, they would never work out and are much better off as friends.

The final candidate for Maya's mother is Summer (Rachel Weisz) who is an old friend of Emily's (who Will has never met) and Emily wants Will to deliver her a package (which we later find out is a diary detailing a brief fling the two women had together). Summer is a journalist who is dating an older man, a well-regarded writer, Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline). She kisses Will the first time they meet which I thought came off a little too strongly and says she only did it because she was "curious".

Two years past and we learn that April is traveling around the world, something she's always wanted to do and she and Will keep a strong friendship as she sends many postcards to him. Will attends a reading from Hampton Roth and runs into Summer. Interestingly enough she is wearing glasses and in an earlier scene Will tells his friends he is attracted to brunettes with glasses (although his first serious girlfriend was a blonde). By this time Will is now running another campaign (for the governor of New York) and Summer writes an article about the candidate which everybody loves. There is a strong attraction between Will and Summer and out of the three possible women who could be Maya's mother, she is the one who is the most aggressive with Will...even before they start dating, even more so than his ex-girlfriend! We get a montage of them being lovey-dovey and starting to date, although I don't think she every broke up with Hampton, though something tells me they weren't mutual.

Will plans to propose to Summer but those plans are dashed when she tells him she was asked to write a follow-up piece on the man running for governor and it turns out he did a political favor for a friend in jail, allowing him to have early parole. Having this published will no doubt ruin his chances to win and Will tells her that he doesn't care if the story is leaked, but he doesn't want Summer to leak the story. He knows it won't look good if the speechwriter's girlfriend brings down the candidate. She tells him that she already sent in the article and they break up. Maya crosses her name off the list. This should leave April as the obvious choice. We see her return to New York and reunite with Will and it's obvious she has feelings for him, but this is right before he plans to ask Summer to marry him. When April finds out he is planning to ask Summer to marry him, she is shocked and angry because Will never told her this and she just thought they were dating and didn't realize how serious it was, but tells him she is happy for him.

A few more years pass and it is 1997. By this time we should be figuring out who the mother is pretty soon. Maya is 10-years-old (according to Wikipedia) and it is "current day" 2008, thus making her born in 1998. He hasn't talked to April in all those years, but they reconnect and she tells him she's dating a guy named Kevin. Will confesses that he's in love with her and she asks him why he never told her and he tells her that she would never be interested in him. Rightly, this makes April angry because it's been pretty obvious she has feelings for him (even Maya knows it!) but he was too oblivious to see it. She tells him she doesn't want him professing his love for her when he's a mess and he further angers her by insulting her for working at a bookstore and tells her she needs "life rehab". Ouch. April pulls a Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino and tells him, "Get off my front porch" before walking inside. Needless to say, things don't end well for them and Maya crosses her name off the list. So now all three women's names have been crossed who is the mother? Though I know because I predicted it several scenes ago.

Okay, even though you may have already figured out who the mother is, I'm going to go ahead and post my SPOILER WARNING for the rest of this review! Read at your own risk!

Will runs into a very pregnant Summer and Maya is horrified that she is the baby and that Will isn't even her father...which doesn't make any sense because if she WAS that baby, then Will wouldn't even be her father, thus wouldn't be in her life. Oh, wait. Unless she thinks Will and Summer still got married (obviously it didn't work out with the father of Summer's baby) and Will isn't her biological father. I guess that makes more sense. She decides she does not want Summer to be the mother. She tells her dad if she does turn out to be the mother, she's moving away to Canada and she's not kidding! (Spoiler alert: Summer is NOT the mother so Will doesn't have to worry about a runaway daughter!) Out of the three women they make Summer the least likable so right away I knew she wasn't going to make the cut. Emily and April aren't without their faults (the former cheated on him and the latter smoked), but they do have redeeming qualities.

There is a huge plot point from the April storyline that comes into play around this time. At her apartment before they start making out, she tells Will why she has so many copies of Jane Eyre and tells him a touching but depressing story of how she wanted a pair of earrings for her 13th birthday but received a copy of the novel with an inscription her dad wrote inside. She lost or misplaced the book and desperately wanted it back when her father died three weeks later in a car accident and has ever since been collecting copies of Jane Eyre with inscriptions inside of them while looking for her copy. This is why she eventually gets a job at a bookstore. This plot reminded me of Serendipity where John Cusack is looking for the book Kate Beckinsale wrote her name and number in and sold to a random bookshop. Well, guess what? Will is looking for the book, knowing how much he messed up with April and wants to make it up to her. He eventually does stumble across it and there is a very touching inscription written to "My darling daughter April" from her father. Will goes to give it to April. She isn't home, but her boyfriend Kevin, who she's been with for a while now, is. Will takes the book and leaves. Why he didn't leave it there, I don't understand. I'm sure April would have been thrilled and would have called him. But it just isn't meant to be.

In the present day of the story being told, Maya gets upset when her dad reassures her there is a happy ending to the story and she doesn't understand how that can be when he's getting divorced from her mom. Too upset to go on listening to the story, she falls asleep and they continue the story the next morning when they go out for breakfast. It turns out Will attended a party hosted by Summer and guess who is there? Emily! She moved to New York after getting a job. And she and Will start a new romance and get married, thus making Emily the mother. The very first woman we meet is the mother; how do you like that? We get a cute scene where her mother is walking towards them and Maya hugs her and says, "I'm so glad it's you!" and her mom replies with, "Who else would it be?" Will tells his daughter the story has a happy ending because of her. Awwwww.

We find out Emily's actual name is Sara and when I went back to re-watch some of the scenes on Netflix, I paused on the journal entry they show Summer paging through when Will gives it to her. I noticed one of the sentences written is "School started, saw Sara. She is so cool". (This is supposed to be written by some great writer?) Anyway, I thought it was clever that they used the character's REAL name in the journal entry because it goes by in such a flash the only way you can catch it is if you pause the screen. But then I read the rest of the entry and the name Emily is used. Yes, it's true when Will's friend (Derek Luke) is reading the entry to him he uses the name "Emily" but that's because how it's being told in the story. They should have stuck with writing "Sara" for the journal entry. It would have been a fun Easter egg. And even if you do catch it while watching the movie, it's not going to spoil anything because you don't know the mother's real name is Sara. (And by the way, I appreciate that they spelled it correctly, haha, or at least the not so common way!)

So now that we know Emily, excuse me, Sara, is the mother, Will decides it's time to make amends with April, the woman who probably would have been Maya's mother if things had worked out between them. They just never seemed to get the timing right: he was always with someone else or she was with someone else and oh, the fact that he majorly insulted her. We also find out that Will never changed April's name in the story (Summer's real name was Natasha).

Will stops by April's work to give her the book and she is delighted, but when he tells her he's had it for "years" (10 to be precise!) she is not happy and asks him to leave. Maybe he shouldn't have told her that, but I guess you don't want to start a relationship off with a big lie. But don't worry, later that night he and Maya go to April's apartment to apologize and at the last second April forgives him and we know a romance will soon start between them.

So everyone in this movie gets a happy ending except for Summer/Natasha. Will has an adorable daughter and ends up with the love of his life. Maya has a loving mother and father and will soon have a cool stepmom. Emily/Sara has an adorable daughter. April gets her guy and will soon have an adorable stepdaughter. And Summer gets...nothing. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Simple Plan

I, Tonya
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Juliane Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, Bobby Cannavale
Released: December 8, 2017
Viewed in theaters: January 31, 2018

Oscar nominations:
Best Actress - Margot Robbie (lost to Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Best Supporting Actress - Allison Janney (won)
Best Film Editing (lost to Dunkirk)

I remember the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding incident (as it is so referred to in the film), but I don't remember everything. This was a big deal when it happened and it was everywhere. But after it went away, I never really gave much thought about it (or Kerrigan and Harding as they both seemed to disappear, too) until this movie came out. Well, that's not true. I do remember watching a 30 For 30 documentary about this incident a few years ago on YouTube. I was trying to remember if I knew who Kerrigan or Harding were before the incident happened, but I honestly can't remember. I'm not a huge figure skating fan, but I do watch it at the Olympics and I'm sure I was familiar with their names prior to Lillehammer, especially Kerrigan's since she was the favorite that year. From this movie, I learned that Harding was at the 1992 Albertville Olympics, which I had no idea, but, I didn't watch those Olympics.

To be honest, if the incident had never happened, I don't think I would have remembered either Kerrigan or Harding or would have just vaguely remembered them. I looked up women's figure skating at the Olympics to see who medaled. This is what I remembered before I even looked at it: Kristi Yamaguchi got the gold in '92 (btw, I once wrote to her and got an autographed photo back); Tara Lipinski got the gold in '98, and Sarah Hughes got the gold in '02. If somebody asked me who the most famous figure skater of all time is, I would say Michelle Kwan, even though she never won an Olympic gold (damn you, Lipinski! (and that's really the only reason why I remember Tara!)) Kwan was huge in the late '90s and early '00 and I honestly don't know who really took her place when she retired...I really can't name you another famous skater since then.

Of course I remember Oksana Baiul got the gold in' 94 with Kerrigan getting the silver, but believe me, if KneeGate had never happened, I would not have remembered Baiul at all. While I was looking at the list, I saw that Sasha Cohen won the silver at the '06 and I had forgotten about her until I saw her name. I feel like this is how I would have reacted to being reminded that Kerrigan won the silver in '94 if the incident never happened: I would have recognized her name, but I wouldn't have remembered she won the silver. And as for Harding, I wouldn't have remembered her at all as she never even placed at the Olympics. Although, if the incident never happened, the Lillehammer Olympics may have been totally different...think about it, Tonya Harding (whether or not she deserved to be there) was under a lot of pressure and scrutiny from the press (whether or not she deserved it, and believe me, we'll touch on that later) so I think the broken lace (or whatever was wrong with her skate) was an element of that and she did have added pressure that I think contributed to her crappy Lillehammer Olympic performance. Who knows? If the incident had never happened and no more pressure than usual, maybe Harding could have been the Lipinski to Kerrigan's Kwan and gotten the gold medal. Okay, that's probably unlikely since she was not a darling on the ice (or off of it!) In fact, we learn from the film that the judges' were not too keen on Tonya. But I bet she would have placed better than eighth, although she definitely would have been forgotten.

When the attack happened, I was one hundred percent certain Harding was behind it and knew about it. Now, I'm not so sure. On the one hand, why would she be so stupid to go along with this plot? Her dream is to go to the Olympics and she would have to know if she got caught (which she most likely would), then she wouldn't be able to attend. You can call Tonya Harding a lot of things, but I just can't see anyone who is serious about going to the Olympics jeopardizing by doing something like bashing in her opponent's knee. It just doesn't make sense. On the other hand, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if she knew about it beforehand. There's a scene in the movie where she's at a competition and isn't happy with her scores and skates over to the judges to demand what she has to do to improve her scoring. I have no idea whether or not this really happened and if it did, I have no idea if she actually spoke to them the way she does in the movie!

The film is very interesting and stylistic in the way it is shot and we get the POVs of both Harding (Margot Robbie who plays Tonya from ages 15-44) and her boyfriend-turned husband-turned ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) on how a certain moment occurred. For instance, Jeff tells the audience that Tonya once shot at him with a shotgun and Tonya tells the audience that never happened. There's a lot of fourth-wall breaking, mostly by Tonya, but her coach also does it during a training montage. Even with the seriousness of Tonya being in abusive relationships both with Gillooly and her mother, LaVona (Allison Janney), the movie is played as a comedy, albeit a dark comedy. You feel bad for Tonya for being so abused, both verbally and physically. At one point, her mother even throws a steak knife at her and it lodges into her arm and Tonya has to pull it out. I was in the theater with about five other people (I saw it on a Wednesday afternoon, a great time if you don't want too many other people in the theater with you!) and everyone gasped at that. So while the film does a good job of making Tonya look sympathetic, I don't think she helped with her attitude towards skating. Her coach, Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) didn't want her skating to ZZ Top and gave her suggestions of things she should do rather than what she wanted to do, but Tonya didn't listen to her. I never knew the judges didn't like Tonya because she came from "the wrong side of the tracks" and one of them even told her they judge on style as well as the performance because Tonya is wearing this horrible pink outfit she had to make herself because she couldn't afford it. Tonya was not a figure skating darling that didn't get any sponsors or had any designers who wanted to make her costumes. It is highly unfair, but I think if she had taken her coach's advice she may have won them over and then maybe she would have been able to do what she wanted, but who knows. She does fire her coach (I think this was after her poor performance at the 1992 Olympics), even throwing her ice skate at her, but does rehire her when her coach comes back to tell her that the Olympics in Lillehammer is only two years away instead of four and wants to train her to get ready.

I don't know anything about figure skating and I don't know one jump from the next, but I do have a lot of respect for anyone who does it because I know it's not easy even though they all make it look effortless. I didn't know this until I saw the movie, but Tonya Harding is known as being the first American woman to land a triple axel in a competition, which I guess is a very complicated move, so you do have to give her props for that. They do explain what it is in the movie and how when you land you're landing on a very thin part of the blade so it's hard to keep your balance. She successfully attempts this move at a U.S. competition, but botches it in Albertville, blaming it on her blades not being properly attached to her skates.

Tonya has divorced Jeff by the time the she's training for Lillehammer, but tells the audience she still needs him, which I didn't get. There's a competition she's about to skate in, but she gets a warning from a security guard that someone phoned in a death threat to her, saying if she skated, she would get a "bullet in the back" and they can't protect her so she has to back out of it. We later learn that the phone message was sent in by her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser). I have no idea why he would want to do that or if that's even true, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was because he was a bit of an odd character. Jeff gets the idea to do the same thing to Nancy Kerrigan, to call the arena she practices at in Boston and to scare her with a death threat or a bomb threat so she won't be able to practice and maybe she'll drop out of the Olympics. Well, as we all know, the plan doesn't go that way at all, in fact, it goes much worse, but not as bad as it could have been.

So I always just thought the guy who whacked her in the knee was either the ex or bodyguard, but it was actually a guy named Shane Stant. The movie has it so it's the bodyguard's idea to have him do that and the ex still thinks they're doing the scare Nancy with a phone call tactic. While Tonya does know that they were talking about that, she thinks it has been dropped and definitely doesn't know anything about physically hurting Nancy, but of course, who knows what really happens. The movie plays as a mockumentary at times and we see the major characters (Tonya, LaVerna, Jeff, Shawn and a reporter for Hard Copy played by Bobby Cannavale) all talking to the audience in the "current" day. It is amusing when they're about to get to the clubbing of Nancy's knee because they're all like, "Oh, here's the part you've all been waiting for" and keep calling it "the incident".

It happened a month before the Olympics and I say it wasn't as bad as it could have been because obviously Kerrigan went on to skate in Lillehammer and won the silver. He just gave her one good whack and left, but not before he broke the glass doors to get out because they were locked with a chain. It didn't take long for the police to catch him because they saw security footage of him moving his car every 30 minutes at the skating rink in Boston where he originally thought Nancy was (she was in Detroit when it happened) and they thought it was suspicious and tracked the car down. The entire thing is just insane! As we all know, Tonya also made it to the Olympics despite the media storm showering down upon her and the accusations that she was involved in it which she vehemently denied. I guess she threatened to sued the IOC if she was not allowed to compete and tells the audience that CBS (the network airing them that year) wanted her there for the ratings. Anyway, it's not a surprise she had such bad karma at the Games what with all that was going on. I had no idea when she was sentenced (she pleaded guilty for learning information about the attack after it happened and failing to report it to the police) that she was not allowed to compete in any more competitions. I felt that was a little harsh as she was also given community service and a fine. I just assumed she either aged out of ice skating by that time (she was only 23, so she was still pretty young) or was just ostracized by the skating community (which probably happened anyway).

One of my favorite things about the movie was the way they shot the skating scenes. It was very cinematic and exciting the way they did it; they should film all figure skating competitions this way! Although having another person skating on the ice with them with a camera might be a bit distracting! I found this clip on YouTube where the director explains how they shot the first scene of Margot Robbie (and other!) skating as Tonya at a competition the first time in the film: