Edition 97

The Non-English Movie of The Week

In the Aisles (Germany, 2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

This German flick is about a young man finding his way through life while learning the ropes in his new job at the supermarket. He develops an infatuation for one of his colleagues and the story is hinged on this premise. The movie does turn tedious at times and a fast forward button on your remote may be highly useful while watching it. There are two ways of looking at this movie. The considerate view is that it is a tender, thoughtful and empathetic piece of film making. The less charitable view is that it is akin to watching Manchester United play: a slow dross.

Movies I Saw This Week

Ad Astra (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Ad-Astra means ‘to the stars’. The movie is mostly confined to the solar system. Philosophically, the movie borrows heavily from ‘Apocalypse Now’ with a plot strikingly similar to one of the best movies ever made. Brad Pitt plays an astronaut tasked with meeting his father who is stationed a few planets away. In the “near future” when space travel is a long haul flight with transit points, Pitt sets out to solve the issues facing mankind and to put to rest his inner demons. The background score is excellent. Brad Pitt gives probably the best performance of his life. The technological capabilities are evident. The movie, though, is less than the sum of its parts.

Joker (2019) [IMDB: 9.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

A city on the verge of collapse. Filthy streets, crumbling infrastructure, walls and windows ridden with graffiti and the terminal decline of social security. Sounds familiar? Well, this is the Gotham in which the origin story of Joker is set. A struggling yet decent man trying to cope with his mental illness loses the plot as he is abused by the society and finds his social support brutally cut short. Mayhem ensues as he becomes the worst version of himself. Watch ‘Joker’ for one of the most spectacular acting performances of all time. Joaquin Phoenix is sensational in this dark tale and the camera is an observer of his antics in every frame of the movie. If you can stomach the violence and keep your eyes on the performance of Phoenix, this is a movie that is more than worth your time.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

The plot of the movie is irrelevant. It is just a prop to string together encounters with various stars and get them to play along to the scripted interviews. If you are fan of the mock interview series ‘Between Two Ferns’, there is more than enough in this movie to have a few good laughs. Some of the humour is juvenile but some hit the bull’s eye .I would have liked it if they had more from stars like Keanu Reeves. Recommended strictly for the fans.

Yesterday (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Danny Boyle has some obsession with Maliks. His protagonist in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was Jamal Malik. In ‘Yesterday’ the lead’s name is Jack Malik. Maybe it is some cheeky reference but if it is some superstition he cannot be faulted for it. ‘Yesterday’ is inching towards 200 million dollars at the box office, becoming Boyle’s second biggest hit since ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The plot is about the Malik who one day finds out that he is the only one in this world who remembers ‘The Beatles’. His fledgling singing career which was on life support suddenly has a reversal. The movie is a throwback to the hysteria that surrounded the pop group. The plot of the movie is all over the place but the music is just phenomenal. Watch ‘Yesterday’ for the evergreen music.

Crawl (2019) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

‘Crawl’ delivers what it promises. It is a product of the branch of movie factory which pits man against nature. The alligators here could have been sharks, extraterrestrials, snakes, bears, foxes, monkeys, dragons or piranhas. Add a bit of a natural disaster like a hurricane or a flood (add lots of water). Just as in a video game, add few constraints. There you have the formula for a summer blockbuster. ‘Crawl’ is a hit. It ticks every box for a disaster movie. Funnily enough, it is not a boring film. One every few years is worth a watch and the best part is that ‘Crawl’ is not shoddily made. Enough praise. You get the drift.

Midsommar (2019) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

‘Midsommar’ is about a group of American friends who go to Sweden to live in a commune for a short period of time. This movie is a horror movie if you take it seriously, especially the second half of it. If you are not concerned for the group by the second half, then you may see more humour than horror in this movie. The standout performance is from Florence Pugh as the young woman recovering from a personal tragedy and going through cycles of mental illness. The most shining aspect of the movie is the way it treats her condition. The movie per se, leaves room for many metaphors. This is a very subjective film. Some may find meanings unknown and angles unexplored in this mostly riveting flick but the others may be uninterested as it hurtles towards its very predictable climax.

The Mustang (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

‘The Mustang’ is about a convict who is given the responsibility of taming and domesticating a wild mustang as part of his prison duties. Revelations about his crime and him finding solace in the process form the crux of the story. This is a thoroughly likable film with good acting and fine direction. My only grouse is again with the languid pace of the proceedings.

Late Night (2019) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5 ]

Trailer

Emma Thompson is usually at her best in verbose performances. She has a lot of dialogues in this movie in which she plays an embattled late night show host unwilling to ride into the sunset. To spice things up and shore up her ratings she is forced to hire a new writer for her writing team. Mindy Kaling plays that writer. Mindy Kaling also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Therefore, no prizes for guessing who gets the most screen time. Otherwise, it is a watchable and mostly benign movie which does nothing earth shattering.

Documentary of the Week

Diego Maradona (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

If anyone asks you to choose a place and day to do some time travel, Naples on 10 May 1987 would be a good choice. The sheer agony and ecstasy of being Diego Maradona captured like never before. As they say in the movie, you don’t know what you have missed.

Eagerly waiting for: Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’

Did you know: Joaquin Phoenix and River Phoenix were the first brothers to be nominated for Academy Awards for acting.

Edition 96

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Ash Is Purest White (China, 2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

At a macro level, this movie is about loyalty and the value of relationships with the background of gang rivalries which play out in a town in China. When you look closely enough, the movie is about China itself: its transformation over close to two decades, the changing values and expectations, and the forces that control the lives of the ordinary people in a behemoth of a nation. It is also a story about love. The love story of a gangster and a dancer. Slow burn.

Movies I Saw This Week

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)[IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

For those unaware of the real setting of this movie it is worth reading about Sharon Tate and the Tate murders. As for the movie itself, Tarantino is at his subversive best and borrows heavily spiritually from Inglourious Basterds (if you did not notice, that is the correct spelling of the title). Di Caprio plays an actor in the last legs of his career with his sidekick Pitt trying to get through Hollywood in 1969. Di Caprio also happens to be the neighbour of Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. The film starts at a languid pace but picks up the tempo as it progresses leading to an eventful climax. I found it strange that the bloodshed in this flick is a few notches below what one would expect from Tarantino. Tarantino has a field day with his pop culture references. The lavishly produced sets and authentic locales add heft to the movie. ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is Tarantino’s love letter to Hollywood and to himself.

Blinded by the Light (2019)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

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I have had opprobrium for most of the work that Gurinder Chadha has produced after ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ (which was a watchable movie). She redeems herself with what is her most accomplished film and one of the genuine crowd-pleasers of the year. A young lad in Luton in England finds meaning in life after he listens to the songs of Bruce Springsteen. His drab life becomes filled with hope and optimism even helping him gloss over the unfolding crisis at home. This movie not only has breadth and depth but also never shies away from reflecting on the state of the British society in the 80s. Highly recommended.

Framing John DeLorean (2019)[IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

John DeLorean was a star at General Motors before he decided that he should be an entrepreneur. This part-film part-documentary sheds light on his life and times. The hard hitting parts are in the documentary format especially when it comes his son. DeLorean had it all: a supermodel wife, a great career and a bright future. He took a mortgage on all the three and lost everything. Though the movie does not answer the ‘why’ part of the deal, it is a compelling watch. Was Delorean a victim of the circumstances or was he just plain stupid? Did his ego get to him? Some of the answers can be found in the movie. As a side note, I like the way they ended the movie which exploits the unique format of this feature.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Tarantino who is assaulted for the violence in his flicks looks like a toddler in front of John Wick. I tried counting the body pile up in this chapter of the John Wick franchise. I soon gave up because I realized that it was a pointless exercise. Everybody kills and almost everybody gets killed in a series of choreographed moves. Horses kill. Dogs kill. Humans kill. Chinese get killed. Americans get killed. Half of the population of Casablanca (in Morocco) gets killed. They kill in theatres, hotels, markets, glass houses, bridges, railway stations, shops and many more places. In this bloodbath, somewhere there is a fine story and good acting. I shudder to say this but this is the best chapter so far that John Wick has delivered. Recommended if you can sit through people getting stabbed, sliced, punched, kicked, shot and generally dying in awful ways.

Toy Story 4 (2019)[IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 6.0]

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When any movie comes with a fourth installment it is often a case of studios milking the udder till the blood comes out. Toy Story 4 avoids that sad predicament but only by a whisker. I have come to believe that the animation movies get a soft touch from reviewers compared to non-animation movies. Toy Story 4 is a very basic film with a wafer thin plot but with some good animation. The kids may love the movie but it is too convenient and contrived. This film is more of an indictment of the studio system lacking in daring and originality.

Long Shot (2019)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 6.0]

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I believe that the basic premise of this flick would have been ‘what if Seth Rogen romanced Charlize Theron?’ and then they developed the plot from this starting point. So Theron gets to be the Secretary of State who was once a babysitter for the journalist played by Rogen. The film walks the tightrope between being a romantic comedy and a political satire. It trips. It goes wayward and then finds the most conventional endings possible. Sure there are some light moments but the film sticks strictly to the quality you would expect from Seth Rogen: average.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)[IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 54%, My Rating: 4.5]

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Maybe I did not ‘get it’. Maybe I did. What I got was drivel in the form of a movie. Director Jim Jarmusch is lucky. He got the money to make this self indulgent waste that needs to buried with its head shot in the graveyards of cinema. Such a waste of talent. The ‘plot’ is about a small town hit by a zombie apocalypse. This film made it to Cannes where it got the treatment it more or less deserved. Sometimes it felt as if the director was abusing the audience. I dislike scenes when the characters announce that they are in a movie (of course, we know) or discuss the screenplay in the movie. Truth be told, I dozed off for twenty minutes during the movie. That is twenty minutes of my life saved from watching ‘The Dead Don’t Die’.

Documentary of the Week

The Great Hack (2019)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.0]

Flawed documentary on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Since nothing better has been made on the subject, worth a watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Rambo: Last Blood’

Did you know: Quentin Tarantino has a vow to stop making movies after he makes 10 movies. He counts Kill Bill 1 & 2 as one movie.

Edition 95

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Birds of Passage (Colombia, 2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

An instant classic depicting the origin and evolution of the drug trade in tribal communities in Colombia, this movie focuses on the slow but sure impact of the drug trade and the new found wealth. People who get corrupted by money lose their marbles as they straddle the worlds of crime and custom. The tribal rituals to honour the forefathers become a show of strength. Honour and stubbornness become a potent mix, especially when illegal money is added to it. Great cinematography and a strong screenplay add to the quality on show. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Arctic (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

‘Arctic’ at its core is a simple and at times cliched survival tale of a man who must find a way out of a plane crash in the Arctic. What will keep you engrossed is the acting and the surprises the director is able to pull off every time the viewer tries to second guess the flow of events. The bleak landscape and the impotence of man facing the wrath of nature add to the bleary feel of the movie. Recommended if you like survival tales.

Private Life (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]

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I have not seen any recent movie which mimics life with such honesty without falling into the trap of predictability. ‘Private Life’ is a sincere, funny, poignant and resplendent piece of film making. A middle aged couple desperate for a child try all that is legally possible to attain their goals. The roller-coaster ride that they take is devastatingly close to real life with characters the viewer can identify with. You would not want to miss it.

Stan & Ollie (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

I remember Laurel and Hardy as belonging to a different time and space. I have read comic books with them as protagonists and after a certain age the comedy duo just disappeared from my mind. The final years of the duo are brought to the big screen in this warm and spirited comedy. Even the biggest stars fade and some of them cling on to the vestiges of fame. Laurel and Hardy take a last lap of honour and resolve their differences in this sweet little movie. The best comic line though belongs to Hardy’s wife when she speaks about Laurel’s wife. Recommended.

Fighting with My Family (2019) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

This is one of the movies where the film is better than the real person it is based on. In fact, even as a standalone feature without any references to real life characters, this film is a thoroughly enjoyable watch with some truly heartwarming scenes and knockout dialogues. A British girl from a family for whom wrestling in not just a pastime harbours ambitions of hitting the jackpot with WWE. No spoilers here. She fulfills her dream. The ride to the dream is the fun here. Watch it.

Booksmart (2019) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

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When you think some of the genres are as good as dead, there comes a movie which rewrites the rules of the game. ‘Booksmart’ is the reinvention of the high school coming-of-age story which is as fresh as the dew drops in the morning. Two girls decide to do in a night what they missed in all the years of high-school. They accomplish the mission with palpable energy and infectious humour. With some rip-roaring scenes and outrageous comedy (I’ll never forget the ‘Malala rule’), ‘Booksmart’ is a fine way to spend your time.

Hotel Mumbai (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Do not watch this movie if you cannot stomach graphic violence. You have been warned. If you are the battle hardened type, this movie has rich rewards. A start to end thriller with gut wrenching scenes and edge of the seat moments, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is a recreation of the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai renowned for its excellent customer care of the rich and famous. Some of the staff take this care to the extreme which can be also interpreted as being foolhardy when the more reasonable option is to just escape from the slaughter scene. There is also the typical American hero who acts as if nothing will happen to him as he probably thinks that the bullets will discriminate. Still, a story that must be told because what transpired needs to be known and etched in memory.

Us (2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 5.5]

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For me, ‘Us’ was a monumental letdown. It is a film that does not scare and is very much predictable which makes it a weak candidate in the horror-thriller genre. The critics and fanboys can search for all the subtext and symbolism but at its core ‘Us’ is a poorly written movie about doppelgangers. There are no metaphors here. There are loopholes and more of them than you would want even in a romantic comedy. Some of the events have no explanation whatsoever. ‘Get Out’ was no masterpiece but was at least watchable. ‘Us’ is a train wreck that you get to make when your debut movie grosses 100 million at the box office.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%, My Rating: 6.0]

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The title of the movie reminds me of certain people I know. Jokes aside, Ted Bundy was the outlier among serial killers. He was also a charmer. The movie tells us how those who surrounded him thought about him. He was able to pull the wool over the eyes of many including female admirers who believed in his lies till the very end. My issue with the movie is that it fails till the climax to show the evil incarnate that Bundy was. For a more nuanced take on a serial killer, try ‘My Friend Dahmer’.

Documentary of the Week

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal (2019) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

It is only in the US documentaries that people come out to speak to documentary crew on the abuse they received. This makes for powerful documentaries. ‘At the Heart of Gold’ is one such documentary. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Yesterday’ by Danny Boyle

Did you know: Jordan Peele was so insulted when Sony offered him the role of Poop in The Emoji Movie (2017) that he retired from acting to focus entirely on being a screenwriter and film director.

Edition 94

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Burning (South Korea, 2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

‘Burning’ does not hit the viewer hard for about three-fourth of its duration. It is only after viewing the entire film that the finer points of the plot fall into place. Inconsequential scenes make sense and random dialogues fit in a jigsaw puzzle which looks different even after assembly based on the perspective of the viewer. The director uses metaphors abundantly while holding a mirror to contemporary Korean society. This mystery thriller tells the story of three youngsters who are acquaintances but share something far more than what is apparent. If you do watch this memorable movie, try to read up on it. The various interpretations by viewers of the scenes make for some interesting reading. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Wild Pear Tree (Turkey, 2018) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

From the director of ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ (a favourite of mine) and ‘Winter Sleep’ comes this three hour long movie of a young graduate trying to understand his role in the Turkish society while discovering himself. The movie is told through a series of long conversations with friends, family, strangers and a particularly acerbic yet incisive writer. The conversations reveal more about the protagonist and the people in the countryside of Turkey. Definitely worth three hours of your life.


Shoplifters (Japan, 2018) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 8.0]

Enigmatic and filled with surprises, ‘Shoplifters’ is a modern Japanese classic which showcases the craft and control of its director. A family’s life changes when they take in a small girl into their setup where they themselves thrive on stealing from shops and supermarkets. The director is successful in manipulating the viewers’ emotional response as the film progresses. The actors emote with perfection and the roving camera is a silent observer when the chickens come home to roost. Highly recommended.

Capernaum (Lebanon, 2018) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]


Acclaimed Lebanese director Nadine Labaki literally drags the viewer through the streets of Beirut in this movie about a young boy too sincere for his own good and yet corrupted by the environment. The clear triumph of Mrs Labaki is her ability to extract some phenomenal acting performances from the characters especially the protagonist. Poverty, refugee problems and parental responsibilities are dealt with in this movie which does tend to get a bit out of hand in the latter half. For all the good cinema on show, I had this nagging feeling that this could have been a much better movie with a better climax had more thought gone into the screenplay.


Border (Sweden, 2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.0]

Featuring what some call as the weirdest sex scene in cinema history, ‘Border’ offers a strange and compelling story about people on the fringes of the society. A lady border guard whose USP is her sensational sense of smell finds the reasons for her awkwardness and the dark history of eugenics in Sweden. The movie is, as all good movie must be, a director’s show. A special mention for the makeup department for transforming the actors who do not look anything like their real life personalities.


Instant Family (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 7.0]


A light-hearted comedy which plays it by the book and still keeps the viewer engaged enough to care about the proceedings on screen. Based on the life of the scriptwriter, the movie tells the tale of a couple who look for adopting a child and end up with three. Rose Byrne pulls off a heart warming performance as a mother trying to understand her new children. There are no twists in the tale but there are some genuinely funny moments. Hope Hollywood can make more of the same.


On the Basis of Sex (2018) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 6.5]

There are two or three cracking dialogues in this movie. One is when a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg is asked by her dean on why she chose to study law when a man could have had her seat at the Harvard Law School. This biopic on the Supreme Court judge looks at the making of a legal eagle and her family life. While successful in depicting the entrenched misogynistic attitudes of her times, the movie has glaringly obvious ideas on how to also show the times. The number of times the characters smoke on screen must be some sort of a record for the amount of fumes on display. Maybe the director just wanted to drive home the point that smoking in public was a normal thing those days. Felicity Jones performs with earnestness as RBG but if you want to know the judge better, watch the documentary RBG. The documentary is better than the movie.

The Mule (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%, My Rating: 5.5]

Good old Clint Eastwood returns to direct and act in a drama on a real life drug carrier who was the oldest in the world in that trade. How do we know? He was caught by the law enforcement and a reporter wrote a long article on it. Then Eastwood decided that this is what he was going to make a movie on. Notable more for the lack of drama and a sure sign that Clint Eastwood must be talking to chairs ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=933hKyKNPFQ ) nowadays, ‘The Mule’ is for large parts boring. For the remaining parts, you are left wondering: why was this movie made?


Holmes & Watson (2018) [IMDB: 3.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 11%, My Rating: 2.5]

Will Ferrell was once funny. Once as in, ‘once upon a time’ and not just one time. Now like the tagline of his movie ‘They Don’t Have a Clue’, he seems to have lost it, completely. Inane, idiotic and unfunny are the words that come to mind when ‘Holmes & Watson’ is mentioned. This movie is the opposite of comedy. Dreamt up by people who bring a bad name to slapstick humour and filled with feeble attempts to write funny situations, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of the Greek economy. Nothing can salvage it. I hear that medical marijuana has been made legal in many US states. Probably the writer and director had some medical condition.

Documentary of the Week

Leaving Neverland (2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

A damning documentary on Michael Jackson in the words of his accusers. Those words carry much weight. Not for the weak of heart. Not for the worshipers of Michael Jackson. For those who seek the truth.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’

Did you know: Clint Eastwood, is an anagram for ‘old west action’

Academy Awards 2019: Predictions

In a year where the general quality of movies left much to be desired, the Oscars may not have any movie which wins more than 4 of the coveted gongs. Here are my predictions for the winners of 2019.

You can also have a look at my predictions in the years from 2014 to 2018 here: https://couldhavebeenacontender.wordpress.com/2018/03/

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Who Will Win: ‘Roma’ but I would not be surprised if ‘Green Book’ steals it.

Who Should Win:’Roma’

Honourable Mention: ‘Green Book’. Why some movies like ‘Black Panther’, ‘BlacKkKlansman’ and ‘Vice’ have been nominated is beyond me.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Who Will Win: Rami Malek

Who Should Win: Rami Malek

Honourable Mention: Viggo Mortensen deserves some acclaim for his acting in ‘Green Book’

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Who Will Win: Glenn Close. Give that lady an Oscar please.

Who Should Win: Glenn Close

Honourable Mention: Olivia Coleman and Melissa McCarthy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali for ‘Green Book’. You can bet your money on this.

Who Should Win: Mahershala Ali

Honourable Mention: Richard Grant for ‘Can you ever forgive me?’

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Who Will Win: Regina King for ‘If Beale Street could Talk’

Who Should Win: Regina King for ‘If Beale Street could Talk’

Honourable Mention: Dames Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone for ‘The Favourite’. I have much sympathy for Amy Adams who is on course to be the next Glenn Close: lots of nominations but no wins.

Best Achievement in Directing

Who Will Win: Who else? Alfonso Cuaron for ‘Roma’

Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron

Honourable Mention: Pawel Pawlikowski for ‘Cold War’.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Who Will Win: ‘Green Book’

Who Should Win: ‘First Reformed’

Honourable Mention: Why was ‘Eighth Grade’ not nominated?

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Who Will Win: ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’

Who Should Win: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’

Honourable Mention: ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Who Will Win: ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

Who Should Win: ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

Honourable Mention: ‘Mirai’

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Who Will Win: ‘Roma’

Who Should Win: ‘Cold War’

Honourable Mention: ‘Shoplifters’

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron for ‘Roma’

Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron for ‘Roma’

Honourable Mention: Lukasz Sal for ‘Cold War’

Best Achievement in Editing

Who Will Win: ‘Vice’ in a very open category

Who Should Win: No clear favourites in this category. ‘First Man’ was not even nominated.

Honourable Mention: ‘Green Book’

Best Achievement in Production Design

Who Will Win: ‘Black Panther’

Who Should Win: ‘The Favourite’

Honourable Mention: ‘First Man’

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Who Will Win: ‘Black Panther’

Who Should Win: ‘The Favourite’

Honourable Mention: Mary Poppins Returns

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Who Will Win: ‘Vice’

Who Should Win: ‘The Favourite’

Honourable Mention: ‘Black Panther’

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Who Will Win: I really have no clue here because ‘First Man’ and ‘A Star is Born’ are not nominated. If having a lot of music is the criteria, then ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ should win but the award may go to ‘Black Panther’

Who Should Win: None of the nominated movie have an Oscar worthy score.

Honourable Mention: ‘Black Panther’

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Who Will Win: ‘First Man’

Who Should Win: ‘First Man’

Honourable Mention: ‘Black Panther’

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Who Will Win: ‘A Quiet Place’

Who Should Win: ‘First Man’

Honourable Mention: ‘Black Panther’

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

Who Will Win: Lady Gaga for ‘A Star is Born’

Who Should Win: Lady Gaga for ‘A Star is Born’

Honourable Mention: Diane Warren for ‘RBG’

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Who Will Win: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Who Should Win: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

Honourable Mention: ‘First Man’

Best Documentary, Feature

Who Will Win: ‘Free Solo’

Who Should Win: ‘RBG’

Honourable Mention: ‘Hale County This Morning, This Evening’

Edition 92

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Roma (Mexico, 2018) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Poles apart from his previous venture ‘Gravity’ in scope and temperament, Alfanso Cuaron’s ‘Roma’ is a study of the unraveling of a family told through the eyes of the housemaid who herself is in the midst of a personal turmoil. Rumoured to be based on the director’s childhood, ‘Roma’ is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the director’s vision. It is a love letter to the housemaid and his childhood told with evocative images and a deep empathy for the characters at the centre of the story. The movie is also remarkable for its attention to detail. ‘Roma’ is a universal movie that would not be out of place in any time or geography. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week 

Cold War (Poland, 2018) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 9.0]

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Deviating from the norm, I have included this Polish movie in this section of the blog because I loved this movie. I believe that it is one of the best movies of the year and would easily walk into the top three of the year. It is a searing love story set against the Cold War. With remarkable lead performances and memorable cinematography, ‘Cold War’ is an instant classic which is on a higher pedestal than the director’s previous work ‘Ida’. The political shenanigans and the intrigue of ‘Cold War’ are heightened by the drama and passion that the director brings into the movie. Two star crossed lovers go through hell as they cling on to the last shreds of hope when villains in the form of circumstances and people envelop them. For all my experience of watching thousands of movies, I never saw the ending coming. The climax of the movie is something that will etch this movie in your mind for a long time. Must see.

Green Book (2018) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

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‘Green Book’ has been at the receiving end of a concerted campaign to discredit it ahead of the Oscars. Truth be told, this is the most topical film of the year with an excellent screenplay and commendable performances. Mahershala Ali is a shoo-in for the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at the Oscars. ‘Green Book’ is a classic road movie which tells the true tale of an African American musician chauffeured by a Italian American in the racially volatile deep South during the 60s. ‘Green Book’ deals with important themes of racism, friendship and culture and emerges unscathed. The endearing movie is boosted by its charming sense of comedy. Overall, a very good movie which is worth your time.

Vice (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Adam Mckay holds back no punches is an all out assault on Dick Cheney in ‘Vice’. The director sticks to his signature style of film making which is a curious superimposition of the documentary style on a drama. Backed by first rate research, the movie reveals more about the events that catapulted Cheney into the driver’s seat in American politics and his links with the stakeholders. For the uninitiated, the movie also traces the depth of the relationship between the principal actors of the Bush-Cheney era. As a cinematic venture ‘Vice’ does fall flat on many occasions but it is a movie that needs appreciation for the mere fact that it was made.

The Favourite (2018) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

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In a movie where all three female protagonists are evidently relishing the experience of acting to a fine script, ‘The Favourite’ tells the scheming that defined the reign of Queen Anne. Severely weighed down by her infirmities and declining health, Queen Anne is no more than a figurehead controlled by people with a plan. Her feeble attempts to assert herself only reveal the extent of her helplessness. Into the scene walks in another devious character played by Emma Stone and then all hell breaks loose. The director who rightfully receives an Oscar nomination does not paint the times in the class and elegance movies have tried to portray the times. There are frequent encounters with ‘other sections’ of the society. Ultimately, ‘The Favourite’ is a universal story of a seemingly powerful person in decline who is controlled by more nefarious elements. Realization comes late to the monarch and by then all possibilities of a course correction are exhausted. Highly recommended.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Based on a true story and a bestselling book, this movie is a subversive take on the market for memorabilia. A down on her luck author, played memorably by Melissa McCarthy, conjures up a scheme to make some easy money. The movie is more of a social commentary on characters at the fringe of the society. Their small joys and a life which lurches from one crisis to another is shown with care in the movie. Watch it for Melissa McCarthy.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Bohemian Rhapsody ticks all the boxes of a biopic but what elevates the movie are the sensational soundtrack and an award winning performance from Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. Malek becomes Mercury and carries the movie on his shoulders from the first frame till the last one. The movie does not have any great surprises but is easy to watch and engaging. Recommended.

Widows (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.0]

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‘Widows’ from director Steve McQeen is a heist movie with several undertones. Four women find themselves at life’s crossroads when their partners are killed in a botched up heist. Some of them team up to finish the mission which took their partners’ lives without realizing that they are only foot soldiers in a larger plot. Deftly weaving politics, corruption and other criminal elements, ‘Widows’ proceeds with a rapidly mounting body count culminating in a implausible yet satisfying finale. A special mention for the performance of Viola Davis is warranted.

The Front Runner (2018) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Hugh Jackman plays a front-runner for the Democratic party’s ticket to challenge Ronald Reagan. The movie is based on the true story of Gary Hart who was consigned to the dustbin of history after the scandal that engulfed his campaign saw the wheels come off his juggernaut. The movie tries to play up the events in the story as a turning point in American politics but that argument does not hold up to scrutiny. The major problem with the movie is that Gary Hart is shown as a smooth talking politician with a vacuous personality lacking in any courage of conviction. His duplicity does not help the case of the movie.

Documentary of the Week

The Panama Papers (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.0]

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The inside story of the courageous journalism that drove the leak of the Panama papers. Could have been better but still worth a watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The Oscars

Did you know: The Golden Globes are decided by the 93 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association whereas the Academy Awards have more than 6,000 voters.

Edition 91

As we finish 2018, this year has been the best year for the blog in terms of readership with more than 500 views for each post. A big thank you to the readers across the globe and wish you a merry Christmas and happy new year!

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Guilty (Denmark, 2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]

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An edge of the seat thriller from director Gustav Moller who uses every trick in the book to keep the viewer hooked on to the proceedings. The movie is a tribute to how sound effects can be used to drive the narrative. With minimal budget and only a handful of characters, the director is able to maintain the tempo of this cracking thriller. The few calls received by a troubled police officer at the emergency helpline form the movie’s screenplay. Must watch for the high concept and innovative storytelling.

Movies I Saw This Week

A Star is Born (2018) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.0]

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I am not going gaga over this movie. It is the third or fourth time that this screenplay or its various versions (discounting Bollywood ripoffs like Aashiqui) are making it to the big screen. For those who have seen earlier versions, there is nothing much in the movie. It is a fine debut for Bradley Cooper donning the director’s hat. Lady Gaga does light up the proceedings with her singing and some of the songs are a joy to listen to. Judged purely on its cinematic quality, this movie is short on its merits. It is a testament to the state of Hollywood that this movie is the most hyped and over billed contender this award season.

First Man (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Damien Chazelle makes his most carefully calibrated movie with the always wooden Ryan Gosling. As every human knows, Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon. He was an enigmatic and reserved person tormented by personal tragedy. Ryan Gosling is weak as Armstrong in an otherwise strong film which starts slowly, picks up pace and has good liftoff towards the end. ‘First Man’ is not everyone’s cup of tea but in the category of tea it is the equivalent of the Makaibari Darjeeling tea: Elite and dwindling in quantity every year.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Coen brothers are back with a bang (well, mostly) in this anthology which stitches together 6 pieces to make what could have been a masterpiece but for the time being just is a good movie. Two of the six stories are misfits in an otherwise good collection. The acting is consistently good and the director duo bring their signature storytelling to all the sections. I especially liked the performance of Tim Blake Nelson. Highly recommended, more so if you like westerns.

Crazy Rich Asians  (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 5.0]

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While watching this movie and after watching this movie, I have only one question, ” What was all the fuss about?”. Neither a cheesy romcom nor a strong drama, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ falls flat with its insipid story and howlers in stereotyping. The only instances where Indian origin people are shown in the very multicultural Singapore is when they are hangers on who open doors and do menial jobs. The movie shows a Singapore even Singaporeans will fail to identify with. All the usual stereotypes about tomboys, gay men, Asians etc are paraded without the slightest hint of irony. This in a story about a woman who proudly announces her humble origins throughout the movie and asserts her identity and individuality. It does not help her cause that the story writers use and misuse every cliche including a last minute scene in an aircraft.

The House That Jack Built (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Lars Von Trier’s latest movie received copious amounts of boos and walkouts during its premiere at the Cannes film festival. It is not difficult to see why but in a rather twisted way (that is the only way with this movie), the film is watchable if the boldness of the filmmaker can be appreciated. The boldness does border on recklessness at certain points. With references to European horror classics like ‘Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)’, this movie does push the envelope. For those asking, the movie is about a serial killer told from his point of view of the events. Not for the faint of the heart.

We the Animals (2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Story of three siblings growing up and discovering themselves. The movie has many subtexts including parenting, sexuality, innocence and so on. What it does not seem to have is an editor who could have cut out large slices of flab, trimmed the movie and made it more appealing. Led by strong performances and a screenplay which promises more than it delivers, ‘We the Animals’ is a lost opportunity. In the hands of a more assured director, this movie could have been something else altogether.

A Simple Favor (2018) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Harvey Weinstein discovery Blake Lively gets on in the act as the busy enigmatic mothers who disappears. Her friend Anna Kendrick is left with the unenviable task of uncovering the mystery. With ample plot twists and turns, ‘A Simple Favor’ offers an engaging view of the dysfunctional aspect of American lives. For a movie which is essentially a character study, the one thing I liked is the ambiance the camera creates. ‘A Simple Favor’ will not be remembered for a long time but is well worth the two hours of your life you will have to spend for it. Recommended.

The Sisters Brothers (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Joachim Phoenix has resurrected his career after the voluntary sabbatical and remains one of the finest actors of this generation. In this film, he plays the younger ‘brother’ of the duo chasing a gold prospector. More than a thriller or drama, the movie is a comedy if you can get the right cues. Some of the dialogues are funny to say the least. ‘The Sisters Brothers’ is not groundbreaking or mold breaking cinema and hopefully the creators never meant it that way. Once this baggage is cleared, this is an eminently watchable flick.

Documentary of the Week

Pick of the Litter (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Enlightening, engaging and in some ways touching documentary about the making of guide dogs for the blind. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Arcticbecause it received a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

Did you know: Yesteryear Malayalam director A B Raj was an assistant director for the David Lean classic ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’.