Edition 112

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Good Boss (Spain, 2022) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.0]

This Spanish movie traces the life of the boss of a weighing machine company over a week. The company and the persona of the boss are interchangeable and so it becomes a personal mission for the owner-boss to win an award he deperately yearns. Javier Bardem uses his understated creepiness to great effect as the protagonist who will bend or break rules to get what he wants. He plays the terrifying boss with no insight into how hollow and self serving he looks in front of employees who could not be bothered to share his aspirations. A good corporate maxim to follow would be ‘the boss is always right’. Bardem’s character is a fine example of this in a rather twisted way, in this very well paced movie.

Movies I Saw This Week

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 8.5]

This is one of the greatest war movies ever made, and definitely the greatest anti-war movie ever. There is an old movie version of the same book and that was a classic movie. This updated version had a lot to live up to and it more than comes out in flying colours. Set during the First World War , the movie is about a bunch of Germans whose enthusisam to serve the failing war effort is doused by the bitter reality of war on the Westernt front. The movie is grim and barely watchable for the horrors that unfold on the screen with alarming regularity. This is not a movie about the glory of war but the humiliation and distress of the soldiers who are mere pawns in a game of destiny they have no control over. The scenes are too realistic that they hurt. There is no happy ending. In fact nothing in this movie will make you happy. It is soul destroying but it is true.The movie is both timeless and timely, when our present world is in a perilous state because of weak war mongering leaders littered across the landscape. This movie is definitely a major contender for the upcoming awards season. The direction, screenplay, visual effects and acting are absolutely spot on. Unforgettable and an instant classic.

The Good Nurse (2022) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5]

Based on the true story of a murderer nurse, this low key thriller unveils the painstaking effort of law enforcement to bring to justice a murderer who kills his victims in the safety of a hospital without even touching them. My personal favourite Jessica Chastain is on the right side of law as she assists the police to nail her colleague.The good thing about the movie is that even when the conclusion is foregone, there is an element of suspense in how the plot will play out. Eddie Redmayne who is an Oscar winner himself was probably roped in to play the confession scene because there is nothing else for him to do in the movie.

The Quiet Girl (2022) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

This film in the Irish language is a breath of fresh air. It tells the simple tale of a girl sent to live with her childless relatives while her own mother is pregnant. The new found freedom and an absence of malaise makes her a better person. The impending and unavoidable return to her parents is the pressure point at which things could take a turn for the better or worse. The movie is sometimes about grief but at a deeper level it is about the yearning for a better life and the tangible benefits of the little joys that a good life can bring. Highly recommended viewing.

Emily the Criminal (2022) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.0]

This is the type of movie Bollywood would like to make but fails every time it tries. This is also the type of movie Hollywood makes with relative ease. Aubrey Plaza plays the lead character who would like to do things the right way but would not mind doing things the wrong way when the first route does not work. There is a lot of social commentary in this movie ranging from unpaid internships to what really is women power. Besides that, there is a powerhouse performance from Plaza as she transforms from a rather naive girl to a consummate professional in the world of crime. A very well paced movie with small (really small) amounts of suspension of disbelief required.

Confess, Fletch (2022) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.5]

This is very good light entertainment in the form of a very light murder mystery. Jon Hamm is a man for all seasons in this movie. His enigmatic persona as a part time detective is tested in a whodunit where he is the prime suspect.There is some wild humour derived from outlandish scenes, notably one in a kitchen. The story is peppered with quirky characters with normal ones an endangered species. This movie is well worth your time.

Don’t Worry Darling (2022) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 38%, My Rating: 5.0]

The fundamental problem besides the obviously ridiculous plot in this movie is that it takes up too much time to set up the story and when the plot twist is revealed, the considerate view would be that it is underwhelming. The story is about a young housewife getting suspicious of her reality when she idles away her time in a commune insulated from the rest of the world. Now, if you do watch this movie, ask yourself what most of the events meant when the truth is finally revealed. Does the movie mean anything when the truth is revealed? From a potential thriller with a dark tone the movie invites you to digest its transformation into sci-fi picture. It is a case of ‘if you can’t convince them, confuse them’.

The Cathedral (2022) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 7.0]

The rapid rise and slow decline of a family told through the eyes of a child growing up into adulthood.The everyday struggles of existence are woven into an observational movie with no commentary. The viewer, once engaged with the thematic elements may find it easier to travel with the protagonist who is not overly critical or sympathetic to the fortunes of those around him. A good watch if you like movies which are not about song and dance.

Fall (2022) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.0]

Two idiots go to the top of a very very very tall tower and then lose their ladder for the trip down. They are also in the middle of nowhere. There is no mobile signal. Compensating for that there are enough vultures around. To top that, nights are cold and days are hot.Of course, there is no food to eat and hardly any water to drink. Also, they have not told anyone that they would be going on an insane trip. That’s the setting for the movie. Still, worth a watch.

The Forgiven (2022) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 68%, My Rating: 6.5]

Morocco is the winner in this mini advert for Morocco Tourism. Ralph Fiennes has no luck with the desert again in his career as he deals with traditions and his own guilt in this pensive movie shot across Morocco. Thematically, it is a small clash of civilizations. The story involves an accidental death of a youth and the repercussions that come with it. The underutilised Chastain plays the wife of a drunkard played Fiennes. The moral vacuum and the preachiness does get to you at times. Also, you can guess the climax practically at the mid point of the movie. Watch for the beauty of Morocco.

Raksha Bandhan (2022) [IMDB: 5.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 18%, My Rating: 2.0]

Where do I start in this horribly outdated and misogynistic movie? Couched in progressive values, this is the most regressive film I have seen in recent times. Bollywood does not do progressive stuff well. ‘Raksha Bandhan’ makes the Barjatyas and Karan Johar look like paragons of social progress. The story is about a brother who lives with the sole aim of getting his sisters married (He has four of them). He body shames them, tells them to get fairer and (this really takes the cake) involves himself in a bidding war for his eldest sister’s prospective bridegroom. By profession, he runs a shop that promises to give a male child to women who are already pregnant. The tragedy is that there are lines of pregnant wome outside his shop who believe that eating his golgappas will make the gender identity of the child male. What has the society come to? Who finds this kind of stuff funny? Maybe director Aanand L Rai whose track record includes the dangeroulsy misogynistic ‘Raanjhanaa’ which is the biggest glorification of stalking in Indian cinema. Here also his protagonist, played by a rather sincere and yet tone deaf Akshay Kumar, is a hero for averting the collapse of a marriage on the wedding night itself by getting some random bloodsucker the car he wants on the wedding day as dowry. The litany of dowry glorifying scenes is truly sickening. The brother get his eldest sister married off to a family once the marriage broker tells him that she has found a groom for his sister. She then tells Akshay Kumar that get ready for the wedding. The great all star brother that he is, he does not ask even the name of the groom. He rushes off to tell his sister to get ready for her marriage because her loving brother has found somebody to do the honours. (Spoilers ahead) Later when this same sister commits suicide, the loving brother’s first comment is, “This is not my sister. My sister was fair but now she is blue.” Jesus wept.

God save us all if the brother’s first thought on seeing his dead sister was that his sister used to be fair and not dark. The cringey scenes don’t let up. Later this brother gives a sermon on the harmful effects of dowry. You got to be kidding. Then he has an epiphany that his other sisters can make a living for themselves and get married without dowry if he backs them to the hilt and educates them. If you are a cynical viewer, it is as if plan A did not work, so let us try plan B. Akshay Kumar appears earnest in his portrayal of this role which is all the more disturbing.There is a suggestion in the movie that the brother is all the more great because he is not their real brother. With brothers like this, who needs enemies? As if to rub in the misogyny, the brother will not marry his sweetheart till all his sisters are married off. It is a man’s world where the woman in question has to wait till this idiot brother is done with his sisters. To take matters to another level, the director decides that it would tug at the heart strings if the brother in question waits till the age of 60 (yeah, you read it right) before he marries his similare aged girlfriend. Yes, you read that right. The man who thinks about liberating women makes the one woman who truly loves him, wait till he is 60 years old to marry her. All for what? So that the brother could marry off his sisters. How pathetic Hindi mainstream movies have become. It is a shame.

Documentary of the Week

The Pez Outlaw (2022) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]

There are things you would not know if you did not watch this documentary. Very important things.Start with, what is a pez and who is a pez legend?

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’. My first impression is that it will disappear without a trace in water.

Did you know: Wrexham FC, a professional football club in Wales, UK was rescued from total collapse and is now owned by the actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

Edition 111

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Parallel Mothers (Spain, 2021) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.0]

Almodovar is a notable director of our times. He has made numerous captivating movies and also some duds. In recent times Almodovar has become a byword for the Spanish film industry. ‘Parallel Mothers’ is neither his best work nor his worst. The middling quality pervades this verbose movie about two women who bond over the fact that they gave birth on the same day. The signature quirkiness of the filmmaker and resplendent colours cannot mask the notion that this is probably the twilight of the career of a remarkable auteur.

Movies I Saw This Week

Operation Mincemeat (2022) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.0]

This thrill-less thriller is a disservice to the potentially great source material. During the Second World War the British plan to use a decoy to outfox the Germans in a ploy that would turn out to be decisive in turning the tide of the war in favour of the Allied powers. There is high level of planning and subterfuge involved. The movie with an impressive cast somehow fails to entice the viewer into the subject material. The casual viewer cannot be blamed for thinking what all the fuss was about.

The Outfit (2022) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

The Outfit has many loopholes in its story but is a stylish and engagingly shot movie. It is set in the office of a bespoke tailor whose office also doubles up as a point of interest for the local mafia (hence the pun in the title). Though the final reveal is not convincing enough and the body count is unnecessarily high, the movie is an engaging watch reminiscent of the dramas spawned by the black and white era of Hollywood. Mark Rylance is a majestic presence and plays the intriguing lead to the hilt. Recommended.

Emergency (2022) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 6.0]

This movie has been hyped and reviewed in glowing terms by lot many critics which was the reason why I decided to see it. I beg to differ with those glowing reviews. This is just another run-of-the-mill high school film. It has students who make stupid decisions. A problem which could be addressed with a simple call to the police is blown out of proportion. The claims in some reviews about racial stereotyping and the mistrust in police are only justifications for seeing deeper meaning in a situation when there is nothing to see. The plot revolves around a group of non-white boys thinking of sorting out the ‘problem’ when they find an inebriated white girl in their house. The senseless stunts and the general running around like headless chicken form the rest of the movie.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 5.0]

Nicolas Cage is a filmstar of great paradox. His career has now descended to the levels of B Grade movies. While some of his contemporaries like John Travolta have faded from the scene and some others such as Tom Cruise still have a self-belief bordering on invincibility, Cage has apparently decided to cast his net far and wide. He unashamedly grabs even wreckage that clings to his nets. For all the hype that the fanboys could create, this movie is that piece of wreckage that the legend of Nicolas Cage decided was worth his time in return for money. Nicolas Cage plays himself in this mindnumbingly boring film that really tested my patience. Hope is a bad thing. It makes you sit through such movies with the expectation that there will be something that will magically make it an interesting/good movie.

Ali & Ava (2022) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 6.5]

Set in Bradford, this film is a character study of two lost people bonding through music and trying their best to overcome barriers through love and compassion. Generally an easy movie to watch, the overreliance on music is a dampener for those who have no interest in or do not understand the music being mentioned. At its core it is a simple story and no harm was done for the time I watched it.

All My Friends Hate Me (2022) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 6.5]

Lured into a holiday in a remote mansion, the lead character in this movie tries to make sense of the situation where he thinks his friends and strangers are behaving in a peculiar manner. Some are downright rude with him while some seem not to be in sync with his thoughts. Whatever be the reasons, he goes through a torrid time. Is he imagining things or is there danger lurking at every corner? Find out in this white man’s version of ‘Get Out’.

The Lost City (2022) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 5.5]

Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum play parodies of their onscreen persona in this cliche ridden but ultimatley harmless movie which has juvenile humour. For a second Brad Pitt may lead you on to believe that this is going to be another ‘Romancing the Stone’ epic caper but once those thoughts are swiftly dealt with there is much to enjoy if you put your brain in the freezer for the duration of this movie. The proceedings do get ultra cliched and tedious towards the end.

The Hustle [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 6.5]

This is the longest advert for NBA I have ever seen. A player scout (Adam Sandler) travels far and wide to find the next NBA superstar only to chance upon his one-in-a-million player in the backyards of Spain. His find has some unresolved issues and a grey background. Just like all other adverts this one does the hard sell and surely has a happy ending. Some of the basketball moves were incredible though.

Documentaries of the Week

Writing with Fire (2022) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

This documentary shadows a group of pioneering women journalists in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. The women journalists are inspiring. The society they work in less so. After seventy five years of independence the state of India when it comes to caste and violence is deplorable.

White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch (2022) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 63%, My Rating: 7.0]

Nuance is a commodity lacking in this documentary about the corporate saga of a fashion icon. Some of the issues raised are petty but some are pretty interesting.

Eagerly waiting for: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Did you know: Ennio Morricone’s father was a trumpet player. By the time Ennio started getting indepedent work, his father’s best days as a trumpet player were long over. Ennio did not use trumpet in his music till his father died. Ennio Morricone passed away recently. He will be much missed.

Academy Awards 2022: Predictions

‘Dune’ will be the clear winner with close to half a dozen wins and no other film will win more than three Oscars this year.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Who Will Win: The Power of the Dog

Who Should Win: Coda

Honourable Mention: Besides ‘The Power of the Dog’, the other good movies are ‘Dune’, ‘Drive My Car’, and ‘Nightmare Alley’

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Who Will Win: Will Smith

Who Should Win: Will Smith

Honourable Mention: Benedict Cumberbatch

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Who Will Win: Jessica Chastain because the competition is weak. She should have won earlier for ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ but was robbed by Weinstein’s machinations.

Who Should Win: Kristen Stewart is the saving grace in her Diana biopic.

Honourable Mention: Nicole Kidman

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Who Will Win: Troy Kotsur (for CODA) has built a strong claim with multiple triumphs this award season

Who Should Win: Troy Kotsur

Honourable Mention: Kodi Smith-McPhee

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Who Will Win: Ariana Debose could be the only Oscar winner for a rather boring remake of ‘West Side Story’

Who Should Win: Ariana Debose

Honourable Mention: Kirsten Dunst

Best Achievement in Directing

Who Will Win: Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog). This movie is all about her directing.

Who Should Win: Jane Campion

Honourable Mention: Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car). Drive My Car is a feat of direction.

Best Original Screenplay

Who Will Win: Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorize Pizza) because he deserves an Oscar for his body of work even though this film is one of his weakest ever

Who Should Win: Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorize Pizza)

Honourable Mention: Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier (The Worst Person in the World)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who Will Win: I would like Siân Heder for ‘Coda’ to win but ‘The Power of the Dog’ and ‘Drive My car’ would be deserving winners.

Who Should Win: Siân Heder (Coda)

Honourable Mention: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe (Drive My Car)

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Who Will Win: Greig Fraser (Dune)

Who Should Win: Greig Fraser (Dune)

Honourable Mention: Ari Wegner (The Power of the Dog)

Best Achievement in Film Editing

Who Will Win: Joe Walker (Dune)

Who Should Win: Joe Walker (Dune)

Honourable Mention: Peter Sciberras (The Power of the Dog)

Best Achievement in Production Design

Who Will Win: Dune (Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos)

Who Should Win: Dune (Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos)

Honourable Mention: West Side Story

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Who Will Win: Jenny Beavan (Cruella)

Who Should Win: Jenny Beavan (Cruella)

Honourable Mention: Paul Tazewell (West Side Story)

Best Sound

Who Will Win: Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett (Dune)

Who Should Win: Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett (Dune)

Honourable Mention: Simon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey and Mark Taylor (No Time To Die)

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Who Will Win: Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)

Who Should Win: Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)

Honourable Mention: Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr (Dune)

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

Who Will Win: Hans Zimmer (Dune)

Who Should Win: Hans Zimmer (Dune)

Honourable Mention: Germaine Franco (Encanto)

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

Who Will Win: Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell (No Time to Die)

Who Should Win: Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell (No Time to Die)

Honourable Mention: Lin-Manuel Miranda (Encanto)

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Who Will Win: Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer (Dune)

Who Should Win: Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer (Dune)

Honourable Mention: Charlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner and Chris Corbould (No Time To Die)

Best Documentary Feature

Who Will Win: Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) 

Who Should Win: Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) 

Honourable Mention: ‘Writing With Fire’. A damning indictment of the political and social conditions in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Best Animated Feature Film

Who Will Win: I would like ‘The Mitchells vs the Machines’ to win but I know ‘Encanto’ will win.

Who Should Win: ‘The Mitchells vs the Machines’

Honourable Mention: ‘Flee’

Best International Feature Film

Who Will Win: I like all the nominees in this category but ‘Drive My Car’ will win

Who Should Win: Drive My Car

Honourable Mention: The Hand of God

Edition 110

The Non-English Movies of The Week

The Worst Person in the World (Norway, 2021) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.5]

This movie is about a lady who perpetually feels that the grass is greener on the other side whenever she weighs up her romantic relationships. The subsequent silly decisions she makes which leave behind a debris of relationships, often with tragic consequences, form the crux of the movie. Needless to say, its stature is bolstered by the multiple Oscar nominations it has received. Amusing for the most part, the film cannot be accused of being boring. It is a bit bitter and a bit sweet or shall we say a bit bittersweet.

Drive My Car (Japan, 2021) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

A Saab 900 model car is the omnipresent item in this movie. So is an all pervading sense of grief. An actor who is past his best days plunges into unspeakable sadness with the death of his wife. He hires a driver who has an intriguing past. Together they heal. This movie merits a viewing for its acting and screenplay which are stellar. Though there are dozens of good road movies, this one is not about the road or the car or the journey. It is an exquisite drama. Watch it if you like high quality movies.

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Bhutan, 2021) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]

‘Lunana’ is the surprise contender for this year’s foreign language category at the Oscars. And why not? It is a small Bhutanese movie shot in the “remotest school in the world” in a village called Lunana. Five minutes into the movie you can predict how it is going to progress. I guess three quarters of the Oscar nomination is for the scenery which is breathtaking. The other quarter is for the audacity to take it to the Oscars. The story is a simple one. A young teacher awaiting to migrate to Australia is sent on some sort of punishment to Lunana. The experience changes his life. There is nothing bitter about this one. It is all through a sweet movie.

Movies I Saw This Week

Licorice Pizza (2022) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]

I am yet to figure out how this one is nominated for the best picture at the Oscars. It clearly is a competent movie but the best picture nod is stretching things too far. I guess the nostalgia got to the Academy’s older voters. As for the plot, a fifteen year old boy falls in love with a 25 year old woman in the Nixon era in sunny California. He is a budding businessman and she is a little lost in life. They go their separate ways, meet up again and eventually she says ‘yes’ to him. The main actors are all making their debuts and they look assured in the hands of a much celebrated director.

Nightmare Alley (2021) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 7.5]

There is a scene almost midway through the film which (if you are an avid moviegoer like me will spot) gives away the plot of ‘Nightmare Alley’. A remake of a black and white classic, the film gets a royal makeover in the hands of Guillermo del Toro. For once, Bradley Cooper can be proud of his work. The supporting cast is splendid as well. The story is about a man who trains himself to be a mentalist and tries to test the limits of his skill often with fatal consequences. The director goes out of his way to show that the protagonist is a flawed character, thereby laying the groundwork for whatever tragedy befalls him. Tragedy does come in copious amounts in a movie which is ultimately a morality tale.

House of Gucci (2021) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%, My Rating: 6.0]

Let me say it straight away. This is a bad movie with bad directing and terrible acting. The sorrow that I felt while watching the movie was from the realization that there was some great material available waiting to be shaped into a great movie. The script, direction and acting are unjust to what could have been a classic. Things are so bad that serious scenes look staged and funny. Jared Leto is insufferable. Adam Driver left the acting chops at home. Lady Gaga should stick to the singing. I am outraged that she got a best actress nomination at BAFTAs and is tipped to be the hot favourite to win. For what? This movie tells the rather eventful story of how the brand Gucci ended up with no one with that surname associated with it. There is infidelity, a gold-digger daughter-in-law, murder and intrigue at the core of the tale. This was an easy movie to make. How they botched it up is more interesting than the movie itself.

The Lost Daughter (2021) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 5.5]

I generally don’t like movies where the story has to be explained for the average Joe to understand what just happened. Apparently Maggie Gyllenhaal doesn’t share my sensibilities. In her debut feature, she asks the audience to please read the book from which the story is adapted. Coming to the story, it’s about a woman who does not like the idea of being a mother. Granted that motherhood is not for everyone. So what is the point? That the protagonist does not like being a mother. What else is there in the movie? Olivia Colman crying for no apparent reason as if she has been teargassed, Olivia Colman spending time on the beach, Olivia Colman trying her best to get another Oscar and so on and so forth. Yawn.

Don’t Look Up (2021) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 56%, My Rating: 4.0]

Completing the terrible list of movies nominated for this year’s Oscars is this slow car (or comet) crash. Adam McKay has made enjoyable movies such as Anchorman, Vice and the Big Short. This movie is a demonstration of how bad things get when satire goes wrong. The world is going to end unless immediate action is taken and a few scientists know that. The scientists in question being DiCaprio and Weinstein favourite Lawrence. Truth be told, these are the last people who should be on television trying to explain the earth ending phenomena to viewers. Watching them do their silly act on television instead of blurting out with alarm what they know is in itself a mockery of the movie. There is too much preaching and a holier than thou attitude. If it is not for the people associated with this movie and the star power they bring to the table, this movie should be considered for the Razzies and not the Oscars. Two thumbs down.

Being the Ricardos (2021) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 68%, My Rating: 6.0]

This is a real life story based on the life of Lucille Ball and the love of her life (that is, untill they divorced) Desi Arnaz who are linked to the communist party, when this equated with career death by association in Hollywood. The events during a tumultous week are covered in this breezy screenplay by Aaron sorkin. Nothing much happens though. Nicole Kidman is in the lead role playing an Oscar bait character while finding it impossible to move any muscles on her cheek. Is it Botox or is it the make up? You can devote half of your attention to this movie and do other chores with the other half if you plan to take up the challenge of watching it.

Encanto (2021) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.0]

‘Encanto’ has great animation. It has a sub-standard storyline, predictable scenes, unnecessary songs (a lot of them) and a clear target audience. To sum it up, it is in classic ‘Best Animation Oscar’ territory. A family in which the women have one specific small scale superpower (think of Superman and scale it down) are in an existential crisis as their powers wane. How they overcome this impending doom and gloom forms the rest of the movie. No prices for guessing whether it is a happy ending.

Documentary of the Week

Ascension (2021) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

China is the factory of the world. This Oscar nominated documentary is a slightly unfocused look on how the Chinese live and work.

Eagerly waiting for:  ‘Writing with Fire’, the Oscar nominated documentary from India

Did you know: Betty White who died recently (aged 99) was (at the age of 88 and a half) the oldest person to ever host Saturday Night Live .

Edition 109

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Hand of God (2021) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 8.0]

Paolo Sorrentino makes his most personal film in ‘Hand of God’ which starts as a happy feel good movie especially finding time to appreciate the languid pace of life in his home town Naples. The shift to tragedy and dealing with trauma forms the latter half of the film. Sorrentino blends the love he has for his parents and the memories that haunt him to skillfully keep the viewer engaged. He uses the classic template for a tragedy movie: building up the flame of joy before brutally extinguishing it. Sorrentino has tried his best to capture the gorgeous landscape of his city and his love for the Napoli of Maradona. In the end, the movie is both a love letter to his city and his way of confronting a wound that is hard to heal. Almost a classic film.

Movies I Saw This Week

Belfast (2021) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.5]

‘Belfast’ is another directorial love fest, this time the self indulgence is from Kenneth Branagh who recollects his time growing up during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. In a clear contrast with ‘Hand of God’, ‘Belfast’ lacks depth. The movie tries to navigate a very narrow channel between humour and drama. For large spells, the movie manages to pull off this feat but the weight of the whole movie rests on the small shoulders of a child protagonist which eventually shows. ‘Belfast’ is a true feel good movie with some genuinely funny lines but whether it says something new is a question that the viewer may ponder on.

The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

This is by miles the funniest animation movie I have seen in recent times. If you are unsure of what to watch for the holiday season, I recommend this film wholeheartedly. The movie puts a bumbling family in the midst of a hostile takeover of the world by machines and gives the four of them the task of saving the world. The clever thing with the script of this movie is that it uses every cliche and then subverts it to extract a laugh. The satire does not spare anyone, be it the ‘influencers’ or tech CEOs. The best thing about this movie is that the animation is secondary to the script and that is how it should be. Also, be sure that this is the film going to win the Oscar for its category.

Minnal Murali (2021) [IMDB: 9.4, Rotten Tomatoes: NA, My Rating: 8.0]

Move aside all ‘Mans’ ( Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Shaktiman etc). The real superhero does not roam cities. He is homemade, wears a lungi, gets his superpower out of sheer chance and is bothered about villagers (for once at least). ‘Minnal Murali’ is the first legit superhero movie to come out of Kerala (and dare I say India). This film is not some work that will be taught in film schools but it is a landmark movie for dreaming the dream and bringing to life what would be difficult for a small movie industry to execute. ‘Minnal Murali’ does not take itself seriously and this light touch allows it to stay relatable and fun all the way.

King Richard (2021) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

This eponymous movie tells the true story of the father of the Williams sisters who was the driving force behind their careers in tennis. The film is an easy watch and in some ways is a good retelling of a story that deserves to be told. Though the movie is thoroughly enjoyable, there are some views espoused by Richard which do not fit well with the flow of the movie. Even after accounting for these niggling bits, the movie does not make the viewer uninterested. Overall, a very competent film.

Spencer (2021) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]

Diana was not a saint but she has her fans. Most of them are not sure why they adore her; is it for the streak of rebelliousness against the royals or is it for the glamour quotient? ‘Spencer’ looks at this flawed individual with a lot of sympathy and gets the camera angles right. The story and screenplay are not illuminating in the slightest. Kristen Stewart does her best impersonation of Diana but there is not even a single scene worth remembering.

Dune (2021) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 8.5]

There are two types of people in this world. Those who ‘get’ Dune and those who don’t. If you ‘get’ it, this is a masterpiece. Occasionally, you may wish for things to be quicker but the whole point of this exquisite movie is that it requires commitment from the viewer and the returns are commensurate with the investment you make. View with subtitles on the grandest screen you can summon for an otherworldy cinematic experience.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, My Rating: 6.0]

The faith based networks are a big business in many countries but nowhere have they had the level of influence that they enjoy in USA. Tammy Faye and her husband were pioneers in this business. The film tries to capture their life with decidedly mixed results. At some points in the movie I was confused whether the director was making fun of the protagonists or was he being serious. The general tone of the film is very inconsistent. Garfield and Chastain look like a mismatched couple. There is also a strong attempt to get an Oscar for dear Jessica. Unfortunately she is not getting one for this film even though she deserves one for her previous films.

Passing (2021) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.0]

‘Passing’ is the story of a black lady who meets her black friend who is now impersonating herself as a white. The conflicts that arise and her insecurities form the rest of the story. The film is acted well and is suitable if you are looking for a harmless movie. The narrative tension does not engage the viewer. The movie will be a footnote in the filmography of Rebeccal Hall who has taken the pains to write the screenplay and chose this as her directorial debut.

No Time to Die (2021) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, My Rating: 7.5]

(Spoilers ahead) Bond dies and that too for his family. What has Bond come to? I may be in a minority but I don’t like the new Bond. I like the old Roger Moore – Sean Connery types minus the misogyny. There is no charisma or oomph in the present day Bond. On top of this, he is in for a drubbing if he hopes to compete with the superheroes for special effects and set piece sequences. Wipe the slate clean and bring in someone with style and charm who can bring the laughs and hold court without having to try too hard. As for the movie, ‘No time to die’ is shot in some exotic locations including Matera in Italy which looks splendid on screen.

Boiling Point (2021) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

The director of this movie made a cardinal mistake. He decided to shoot the entire movie in a single shot sequence which looks like a good technical accomplishment but does not add anything to the movie. If he had chosen more conventional methods, this movie about a chef struggling on a night when too many things go wrong in his restaurant and life would have been a much better product. Still, the movie is worth a watch which is mostly down to the performance from the entire cast including the fringe characters. Recommended.

Shiva Baby (2021) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.0]

A low budget yet critically acclaimed film, ‘Shiva Baby’ is about a host of characters attending a funeral party. The most prominent of them is the protagonist who bumps into her sugar daddy and also her former girlfriend. The awkwardness that ensues is the story. Nothing great about the film but for the budget it does elicit a few good laughs while maintaining a semblance of narratve tension. Watch if independent movies are your thing.

Atrangi Re (2021) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: NA, My Rating: 3.5]

This steaming pile of s*** works on the principle that anything you release for a festive season will have viewers. I am grateful for the fact that I was doing other things while simultaneousy watching this movie. So the sense of loss of time is largely absent. Why was A R Rahman at the helm of music in this movie is the only mystery because the soundtrack is not bad. The story goes something like this. Dhanush aka Vishu is kidnapped randomly to be forcefully married to Pinku. Vishu then takes Pinku to his scheduled real wedding where Pinku dances to spoil the real wedding. At this point psycho Vishu starts falling in love with Pinku. Why? God knows, or is it that Vishu did not want his arranged marriage to go ahead? Now that Vishu wants to retain Pinku as his wife, there a bigger problem. Pinku has a boyfriend Sajjad who is a magician and has gone to Afriqyah (yeah!) to learn more magic to beef up his resume. Then Sajjad returns from Africa. Now there is small problem. Only Pinku can see Sajjad because (you guessed it) Pinku is cuckoo. Then for the next one hour Vishu and friends humour Pinku who eats for Sajjad as well. Since the movie passes the two hour mark and has to end somehow, Pinku remembers (just like that) that her supposed imaginery boyfriend is her imaginary dad who died a real death as her real dad when Pinku was a very very small girl. All things sorted out , Pinku and Vishu stay married and live happily ever after. Santa Claus is more believable than the story of this movie. Enough said.

Antim: The Final Truth (2021) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 23%, My Rating: 3.5]

With the title ‘Antim’, I decided to watch this movie thinking that “Bhai” will finally stop acting after this movie and that it will be his sendoff whatever be the quality. Or is it that 56 year old Bhai will antim-ly (finally) reveal the trick behind his fake muscles and even more fake hair but it is only after I started watching that I understood that the title was Bhai’s dare to the viewer: watch till the end (ant-hmmm) if you can. Bhai turns producer for his real life brother-in-law but if Bhai has put in the money then Bhai has to have the best lines and also be the last guy standing. Bhai and his brother-in-law kill people whenever they please and mostly for no rhyme or reason. They stand on opposite sides and kill. Then they stand together and kill. The brother-in-law saves Bhai from being killed but Bhai cannot save brother-in-law from being killed. In between Bhai and brother in law speak about farmers, politicians and gangsters. They also turn a traditional dance form into an item song. Then in the very end Bhai sees the brother-in- law getting shot. Then bhai waits for the dialogues between the assasin and the brother -in-law. After the dialogues Bhai waits for the assasin to shoot more bullets towards the brother-in-law. Once this is done the brother-in-law dies. With the brother-in-law dead, Bhai had nothing to do. So Bhai goes home. The titles roll.

Documentary of the Week

The Rescue (2021) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.5]

The edge of the seat thriller that was the rescue of trapped children from a cave in Thailand. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The much acclaimed ‘The worst lover in the world’

Did you know: The film industry of Pakistan is sometimes referred to as Lollywood because it is based in the city of Lahore.

Edition 108

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Auschwitz Report (Slovakia, 2021) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]

The horrors of the holocaust are well documented, as is the fact that Nazis are deservedly the supervillains in Hollywood. It is no small feat to find freshness in a subject that has been looked at from every angle possible. Still, this movie is a fine watch and an uncomfortable one at that. The horrors of Auschwitz are captured in previously undiscovered ways and the second half of the movie is a survival film in the genre of ‘The Pianist’. Two Slovakian Jews put their life on the line trying to tell the world what really happens in the concentration camp. The movie is also a timely reminder of how hate makes men do horrible things. Among the highlights of the film is the scene in which the Nazi officer asks a prisoner where he will be after the war.

Movies I Saw This Week

Nowhere Special (2021) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.5]

This is a special movie. It is tender, emotional and empathetic without being exploitative. I’m sure that I will remember this movie for a long time to come. It has excellent acting and character development. Most importantly, it has its heart in the right place. The film is about a single father, who has only few months to live, trying to find a home for his four year old son. I have not been able to put my finger to it but there is something special in this film that is hard to pin down. Must watch.

Pig (2021) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.5]

Nicolas Cage has acted in many bonkers films in the last decade. Most of his forays into acting during this period have been absolute duds. There are exceptions and ‘Pig’ falls into this category. At his finest, Cage reminds us of his screen presence and acting chops. He plays a recluse who has a truffle hunting pig. The pig goes missing one day and Cage comes back to civilization in pursuit of the pig. The thing about good films is that they are inevitably very easy to pick up. They literally smell of goodness. ‘Pig’ smells good.

CODA (2021) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

The moment CODA starts you can predict how it is going to end but you would be surprised how good the ride is. CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults) tells the story of a girl who is the only one in her family who can speak or hear. This is not a groundbreaking film but it has a terrific screenplay and lots of laughs. The best thing about this movie is that it never looks absurd or preachy. In fact, it hits the sweet spot delivering a poignant message about love, family and life in general. One of the best films of the year.

The Power of the Dog (2021) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

Jane Campion is one of the best directors around. She delivers another powerhouse of a film to her glittering career. The film centres around the relationship between two brothers who are temperamentally poles apart. When the elder brother decides to marry a widow whom the younger brother has insulted, the strength of the relationship is tested like never before. The movie is beautifully shot and transports the viewer to another era. Special mention should be made for the cinematography and set decoration. The actors put on good performances with Benedict Cumberbatch probably at his best ever. If you like a drama with a twist, this one is for you.

The Night House (2021) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 6.0]

‘The Night House’ had my attention for the most part but the explanation at the end for what was going on till then is muddled at best. Rebecca Hall plays Beth who is coming to terms with the sudden suicide of her husband. She also has visions of a sinister presence in her house. Her effort to understand the puzzle and perhaps solve it forms the rest of the story. Rebecca Hall carries the whole film on her more than capable shoulders and there is enough to keep you engaged right till the end. If you watch this movie, you may find it engrossing but there are too many loose ends to make the climax convincing.

Dream Horse (2021) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.0]

Want to watch a movie which is all about the triumph of the human (or shall we say animal) spirit? A movie where the underdog must win. A movie where the community matters and the camaraderie is the highlight of the film. Again, from the first frame you know that ‘Dream Horse’ can have no ending other than a crowdpleasing one. The movie is a textbook take on the underdog story with success coming against all odds. To lend authenticity to the plot, the film is based on a true story of some Welsh villagers going through a rough time finding hope in a horse they hope will win them the Grand National. You get the drift. Now comes the important bit. They do this quite well. This is a geunine feel good movie even if you have seen it all before.

Old (2021) [IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%, My Rating: 5.0]

Shyamalan is a victim of his own success in ‘Old’ where he is compelled by the need to come up with a twist in the tale at the end. The unfortunate part is that by the time the end comes, you would not be bothered by the big reveal because the film has so many plot holes that you would be better off counting the dots on a polka dot dress. ‘Old’ plays out as a parody of itself for the most part. The dumb blonde must die in the most sordidly comical fashion while the kids do all the growing up in front of their horrified parents. ‘Old’ if you notice, is a cheap movie to make. There is nothing about the background to the story and certainly no characters you can relate to. The movie takes the view that the viewer will not have the time to pause and think about the absurdity of what happens on the screen. ‘Old’, I’m sure, will not age well.

The Paper Tigers (2021) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

Three Kung Fu friends who were a big deal in their heydeys get together to solve the mystery of their master’s death and also discover that they are no more the aces they were. The movie is a mix of average action and good comedy. It is about relatable characters who find meaning in their togetherness. The film does not go into out and out action mode intentionally as the focus is on delivering a story and remaining light on the Kung Fu aspect. Kung Fu is mined for some laughs, especially the ones featuring the white American who is more Chinese than the Chinese themselves. Overall, a nice movie.

Cry Macho (2021) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%, My Rating: 4.0]

Clint Eastwood is a legend. He is not helping his cause dishing out movies like ‘Cry Macho’ which corrode the stature of the man who embodies the hero of Western movies and who has helmed many classic movies. ‘Cry Macho’ is the latest evidence that Clint Eastwood should consider riding into the sunset of his movie career. He plays an oldie asked to return a favour by bringing back the son of his friend from Mexico back to the US. In a plot which promises nothing, the acting is ham, the characters are ludicrous, the direction is decidedly B-grade and the set pieces are amateurish. Eastwood goes for the old trick in the book (watch Indian movies for more info) where old men reassure themselves by casting women half their age who fall for them. Why would any girl fall for a walking skeleton in this movie? Clint Eastwood is 91 years old. He still thinks he is 19. Thank you but no thank you.

Documentary of the Week

Val (2021) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Val Kilmer talks about his life in this candid documentary. The best part is that he documented practically every second of his life with his camera. This obsessive behavious spills into his personal and professional life with unseemly consequences.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Red Notice’ starring Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot and The Rock

Did you know: ‘Squid Game’ is the most watched series in Netflix’s history. The runner up is ‘Bridgerton’. If you watch ‘Squid Game’, watch episode 6 (Marbles). I thought that it was a great one hour of entertainment.

Edition 107

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Whistlers (2019)[IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.5]

This Romanian tale of corruption and romance does get too smart for its own sake at few key points but brings novelty in the form of a whistling language. I found this film a thoroughly enjoyable ride with great atmospherics in the form of dark humour and a sense of foreboding pervading the movie. With a little more thought in its screenplay, this movie could have been a classic but falls short when such high standards of judgement are to be employed. Nevertheless, ‘The Whistlers’ is a quirky piece of filmmaking that deserves a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

A Quiet Place Part II (2021) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

Starting with a scene to establish the antecedents of a prominent new character, this sequel is, I dare say, better than the original. The director-actor Krasinski at one point employs three parallel story threads to keep the viewer on the edge of the seat. There are copious scenes in which what sound means to us is manipulated to keep the viewer engaged. The acting is first rate with Emily Blunt stealing the show. There are some smart props including the scene when water is emplyed to disorient the predators. I have some beef with the climax though. I thought that it is similar to the climax of ‘Mars Attacks’. On second thought, maybe I am wrong to think so. I just hope that they do not make a third part for the sake of the adage ‘quit when you are at your peak’.

Plan B (2021)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]

An A level student and her buddy go on an adventure filled mission to secure a rare lifesaving invaluable thing which will change their lives forever. Translated as, a teenager desperately tries to get the after pill in the anti-abortion heartland of USA. Americans who pride themselves in their freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom to carry guns, freedom to go to war and so on, cannot engage with the idea that women are free to choose for themselves and not to be dictated to by men. Though ‘Plan B’ is a movie with a lot of fun, at its heart it speaks to bigotry. Bigotry is not the monopoly of right wing nuts but seem to permeate what the movie calls ‘the Indian mafia’. Come to think of it, the whole movie has existence because a Punjabi pharmacist uses a dubious defence to not allow teenagers access to birth control. Even when the movie aims for a laugh and in the most part does not take itself seriously, it does not bypass the angst and frustration of being pilloried by the devious lawmakers who pander to a vocal minority. As for the movie itself, it is a joy to watch. Highly recommended.

Luca (2021)[IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.0]

‘Luca’ has some very good animation and a lot of attention to detail. Fundamentally, it is a story of acceptance and willingness to engage with people who are alien. The Italian setting with a Vespa thrown in makes it all the more an easy ride. My major gripe with all this Disney stuff is that they seem to fit a carefully curated template which has helped Disney rake in the moolah without ever pushing the boundaries of storytelling in animation. If you are not bothered about such profound things, you can easily grab your popcorn and enjoy the ride. Afterall, you are being taken for a ride (in a Vespa, that too).

Till Death (2021)[IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.0]

I have an admission to make. I have had only scorn for the acting prowess of Megan Fox. ‘Till Death’ has changed that wrong perception. Megan Fox looks the eye candy she has always been and I believe she likes it that way. Even in the first few scenes of the movie, she looks wooden without any acting chops. Then she embraces her character and churns out a career changing performance in this richly rewarding thriller. A wife finds herself handcuffed to her dead husband in a retreat in advanced winter. She also has some killers coming for her. She has to battle the odds to survive. The best thing with this movie is that once the stopwatch starts, it is a sprint to the end. Never boring even when there is no question on how the end will be.

Dinner in America (2021)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.0]

‘Dinner in America’ is not your average movie. It is about people on the fringes of the society and who do not fit in, in the conventional sense. Eventhough the storytelling is linear, it never gives the feeling that a story is being told. The characters evolve as time passes. ‘Dinner in America’ is a movie that grows on you with time. It is quirky. It has some riotous comic scenes. It is absurd. Also, it is a good love story. The usual story of a boy meeting a girl and finding each other as a reason to get better.

French Exit (2021)[IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%, My Rating: 6.0]

An heiress’ escapes to Paris to live the last leg of her life. She is accompanied by her wayward son and a cat who embodies her dead husband. Michelle Pfeiffer does the star turn with her elegant performance. Her whims and acerbic tongue are her able aides as she plays the denouement of her operatic life. ‘French Exit’ is unremarkable except for the protagonist. It is the moments when she decides to take on people that define her and bring out the eccentricity of her character. That eccentricity is her most endearing trait. Yet, I could not help myself from imagining Meryl Streep in the role. That would be unfair to Pfeiffer. That is because of the fact that there is not much in the movie and whatever good is in the movie is secure with Pfeiffer.

The Power (2021)[IMDB: 5.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.0]

In the Thatcherite years, a new nurse finds herself on night duty in a hopital where power cut is not the only darkness she has to battle. ‘The Power’ refers to more sinister characters in its title and not just the lack of electricity. The superhuman elements are weaved in to a movie where the heart of darkness is within those living and not those who are dead. The viewer need not be a genius to figure out who the antagonist is. The real credit for the movie is in the way it is shot and the ability to create a sense of horror and doom with minimal resources. ‘The Power’ seldom hits the high notes but insures itself against plunging to the depths. Overall, a one time watch.

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021)[IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%, My Rating: 6.0]

This movie has a lot going for it. An A-list lead, an A-list director and a budget to do justice to the script. The problem is with the script. The end product is slightly better than B-grade. Not a fail but just pass. There isn’t enough narrative tension. I was a disengaged viewer to the proceedings which boast some impressive set pieces but the sum of the parts does not add up to anything tangible. At every instance the movie gives a feeling of going through the motions. Watch if it’s free and you do not have to pay.

Documentary of the Week

Framing Britney Spears (2021)[IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:NA , My Rating: 6.5]

The guardianship of Britney Spears is a contentious issue. A look at how Britney Spears ended up where she is and why she yearns for independence.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Val’ the documentary on Van Kilmer

Did you know: Harvey Weinstein’s defence in court appealed in the name of movies his production house made and the art it created as mitigating circumstances for his behaviour. Clearly, it did not move the jury.

Academy Awards 2021: Predictions

I am publishing this edition to continue with the tradition of doing so. Otherwise, this is not a time for awards or predictions.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Who Will Win: ‘Nomadland’

Who Should Win: ‘Nomadland’

Honourable Mention: ‘Minari’

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Who Will Win: Chadwick Boseman

Who Should Win: Anthony Hopkins

Honourable Mention: Riz Ahmed

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Who Will Win: Frances McDormand

Who Should Win: Frances McDormand

Honourable Mention: Vanessa Kirby

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Who Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya

Who Should Win: LaKeith Stanfield

Honourable Mention: Paul Raci

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Who Will Win: Yuh-Jung Youn

Who Should Win: Yuh-Jung Youn

Honourable Mention: Olivia Colman and Maria Bakalova

Best Achievement in Directing

Who Will Win: Chloe Zhao for Nomadland

Who Should Win: Chloe Zhao

Honourable Mention: Lee Isaac Chung for ‘Minari’

Best Original Screenplay

Who Will Win: In a weak field ‘Promising Young Woman’

Who Should Win: ‘Trial of the Chicago 7’

Honourable Mention: ‘Minari’

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who Will Win: ‘Nomadland’

Who Should Win: ‘The Father’

Honourable Mention: ‘The White Tiger’

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Who Will Win: Joshua James Richards (Nomadland)

Who Should Win: Joshua James Richards (Nomadland)

Honourable Mention: Erik Messerschmidt (Mank)

Best Achievement in Film Editing

Who Will Win: Alan Baumgarten (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

Who Should Win: Mikkel E.G. Nielsen (Sound of Metal)

Honourable Mention: Yorgos Lamprinos (The Father)

Best Achievement in Production Design

Who Will Win: Mank (Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale)

Who Should Win: Mank (Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale)

Honourable Mention: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Mark Ricker, Karen O’Hara, Diana Stoughton)

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Who Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Ann Roth)

Who Should Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Ann Roth)

Honourable Mention: Emma (Alexandra Byrne)

Best Sound

Who Will Win: Sound of Metal (Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés Navarrete, Phillip Bladh)

Who Should Win: Sound of Metal (Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés Navarrete, Phillip Bladh)

Honourable Mention: News of the World (Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller, John Pritchett)

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Who Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson)

Who Should Win: Hillbilly Elegy (Eryn Krueger Mekash, Matthew W. Mungle, Patricia Dehaney)

Honourable Mention: Pinocchio (Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, Francesco Pegoretti)

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

Who Will Win: Soul (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste)

Who Should Win: Soul (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste)

Honourable Mention:  News of the World (James Newton Howard)

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

Who Will Win: The Life Ahead

Who Should Win: One Night in Miami…

Honourable Mention: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Who Will Win: Tenet (Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley, Scott R. Fisher)

Who Should Win: Tenet (Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley, Scott R. Fisher)

Honourable Mention: The Midnight Sky (Matt Kasmir, Chris Lawrence, Max Solomon, David Watkins)

Best Documentary Feature

Who Will Win: A shootout between ‘Collective’ and ‘Crip Camp’

Who Should Win: Collective

Honourable Mention: My Octopus Teacher

Best Animated Feature Film

Who Will Win: Soul

Who Should Win: Soul

Honourable Mention: WolfWalkers

Best International Feature Film

Who Will Win: Another Round

Who Should Win: Quo vadis, Aida?

Honourable Mention: The Man Who Sold His Skin

Edition 105

The Non-English Movies of The Week

Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia, 2020)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

This movie is set in Bosnia in the days leading up to the Srebrenica genocide. It tells the heartbreaking story of a local who works as an interpreter for the UN peacekeepers under the Dutch command and ‘leadership’. The interpreter tries to save her family from an imminent catastrophe while the Dutch soldiers are only interested in enforcing the law in a clerical fashion without bothering about the spirit of the law. This movie is a damning indictment of the UN and the failure of the peacekeepers in protecting the most vulnerable. This movie is to Srebrenica what ‘The Pianist’ is to the Second World War. Normal people are placed under the unstoppable force of events beyond their control. The desperation of the characters as the the finale approaches is truly a difficult sight. Watch if you have some humanity left in you.

Dear Comrades (2020, Russia)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]

In 1962, the people in a small town in USSR revolt against price hikes. This invites the juggernaut of the Soviet establishment to the town. The full wrath and fury of the establishment is unleashed on unsuspecting residents and the rebellion is quickly extinguished. A local communist party functionary who is otherwise enjoying the fruits of her exalted position begins to question her beliefs when she sees the events unfolding in front of her. The more pertinent question is how Russia entered this movie as their nominee for the Academy Awards when it does not show the Russia of the past in a good light. This movie can be construed to be more devious than it appears on the surface. For example, the grave searching expedition could be considered to be a test for the protagonist. The state could be trying to find out whether she is lying about the status of her daughter. There are some stand out scenes though. The rant of the lady in the car is a standout moment. For all that and more, watch the movie.

Better Days (2019)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 6.5]

This Chinese flick takes a strong stand against bullying. The problem with it is that in the process of taking the stand it takes too much time to tell the story which is syrupy and sentimental. Frankly, I do not get the hype about this movie. The story revolves around a girl’s revenge on those who bully her. The plot is convenient at best and crumbles on closer inspection. Ultimately, the movie is a testament to the fact that it is not often the best movies that get nominated at the Oscars.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Father (2021)[IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

‘The Father’ is adapted from a play and it shows. This is papered over by the performance of Hopkins who can draw parallels with his real life for this role. A man losing his memory in old age finds it difficult to make sense of the world around him. He finds it difficult to remember where he is. He even forgets the faces of the people nearest to him. I found this movie to be terrifying in some moments. Real horror is from lived experiences and not from the shriek of a shadow in the dark. The toll this illness takes not only on the patients but on those around them is alarming. Watch the movie for some solid performances.

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]

Fred Hampton was a young life cut short by betrayal. This movie tells his story. FBI infiltrated the Black Panther Party to quell the militant activism of its members. I found this movie to be morally in an area that can be described as dark grey. It would be a fallacy to not expect the government to deal with an organisation with a penchant for violence. Black Panthers were no saints. The question is about the extent to which the high handed tactics of the FBI is justified in the situation. Judging purely from an artistic point of view, the movie is a seamlessly edited piece of work. If you know the real life events there is not even an element of surpise. The real question in the movie is about guilt and about the life lived after the betrayal. Also, Daniel Kaluuya will get the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor.

I Care a Lot (2021)[IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 6.5]

‘I Care a Lot’ is an opportunity lost. I thought I was in for a treat fifteen minutes into the movie but then the director decided to take the fizz out of the soda. Honestly, I was cheering for the Russian mafia at a point in the movie against the sinister character played with panache by Rosamund Pike who seems to revel in these ice-cold outings. As a ‘guardian’, Pike’s character is a sociopath who makes the near fatal mistake of being drawn into the orbit of the mafia. The plot is a lesson in convenient endings, coincidences and a general inefficiency of the Russian mafia. For god’s sake, the mafia cannot even get a killing right. What the movie really is about is the Frankenstein’s monster that late stage capitalism has become in America.

The Mauritanian(2021)[IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 7.0]

Snubbed royally by the Academy at the Oscars, this crime investigation / legal drama set in Guantanamo works on many levels. It lobs the grenade of the accusations of inhumane behaviour at the US forces. It tells the real toll that life in a prison extracts out of a detainee. On the other hand, it also make the viewers question the leniency accorded to the accused by the director. It is not often that someone receives a call from Bin Laden or invites terrorists to one’s apartment. There are no easy answers in this movie. There are no good guys either.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 7.0]

This is a silly movie. This is a funny movie. This is a hoot of a movie. I have not laughed, smiled and chuckled so much watching an English movie in recent times. Two women who have never ventured outside their hometown take an eventful trip to a seaside town. Actually, the plot does not matter. Just go with the flow and try not to take yourself seriously. Highly recommended.

Pieces of a Woman (2021)[IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.0]

This movie is what I would call an acting bait. The whole idea is to get people awards and in the garb of doing so make it look like you have a story to tell. The first half an hour of this disjointed jigsaw puzzle is a birth scene (that is the baby variety, in case you did not get it). Vanessa Kirby has acted well in the scene and in the film. Otherwise, the film has nothing new to say. It is a potpourri of infidelity, parental pressure and some legal bits thrown in to fill the remaining parts of the movie. I watched it to figure out how Kirby got the nomination for Best Actress. I figured it out and (as Forrest Gump would say) that’s all I have to say about that.

Documentary of the Week

The Dissident (2021)[IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

Jamal Khashoggi was an insider who turned against the famouly short-fused rulers of Saudi Arabia. His story and modern day surveillance in this hard hitting documentary.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’ with Angelina Jolie

Did you know: ‘Godzilla vs Kong’ is the largest (pun intended) box office hit of the last one year.

Edition 104

The Non-English Movie of The Week

La Llorona (Guatemala, France 2020) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

‘La Llorona’ is billed as a horror movie. It is nothing like the scary movies that we are used to watching. There are no edge of the seat moments. There are no scenes with loud music and also no startling scenes whatsoever. It is the elegance of the movie and the ideas of guilt and retribution that make this a horror movie. The story is about the crimes of men and what they can get away with in societies where many women are enablers to the atrocities. ‘La Llorona’ is about a General whose victims come to haunt him. The movie is set in Guatemala with a clearly broken down justice system, but would not feel out of place in any society where the mechanisms of justice do not operate. A special mention must be made of the director who gives shining example of what a good director brings to a movie. Watch this and you will remember it for a long time.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Nest (2020)[IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 8.0]

A man who once had a million dollars but is on a rapid downward spiral finds it difficult to reconcile with reality in this hard hitting social drama. ‘The Nest’ is a remarkable film even when you get the feeling that you have seen similar scenes in other movies. The characters are well defined and their motivations and backgrounds are clearly laid out. The thing that struck me about this movie is the relevance of some of the earlier scenes to the latter half of the movie and the finesse with which the makers have blended in those scenes. For example, the scene where Jude Law’s character shows the picture to his mother, you realize that the character wanted that picture in a particular way when it was taken. ‘The Nest’ is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed watching even when some of the scenes get a tad discomforting to watch. Higly recommended.

One Night in Miami (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.0]

Hyped to be a strong contender for the Academy awards, this film does not translate well the exciting synopsis of a fictional meeting of four African-American legends. Cassius Clay is on the verge of becoming Muhammed Ali with some prodding from Malcolm X when they have a night with singer Sam Cooke and American Football legend Jim Brown. They discuss a buffet of issues which ends up the way you would expect: tasting a lot many dishes without eating most of them in any good quantity. There is nothing about this movie that catches ones eye. There is not even a single memorable scene. The movie neither floats like a butterfly nor stings like a bee.

News of the World (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.0]

Tom Hanks teams up with Paul Greengrass in a safe film which plays from start to end without any major surprises or hiccups. It is a smoothly edited movie which looks good especially with the scenery in between dialogues. Otherwise it trudges a path uncomplicated and limited in ambition. Tom Hanks plays an ex-army man who makes a living reading news to people in the wild west. He is tasked with taking a rescued blonde girl back to her family. One must be a particularly naive viewer to think that Hanks will not succeed in his mission. In between some cartoonish scenes of him trying to rouse a mini rebellion through news reading, there is some good acting in the movie but the face that you should be focusing on is the young lady who will get an Oscar nomination for supporting actress. Eventually, that will be the only reason this movie will be remembered.

Har Kisse Ke Hisse: Kaamyaab (2020)[IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: NA, My Rating: 8.0]

I saw this movie in 2020. It is, in my mind, the best Hindi film of 2020. It deserves more praise and viewership than what it has already received. Sanjay Mishra plays that once in a lifetime role in this homage to and celebration of the small time actor. A small time actor who leads a retired life and whose claim to fame is a single dialogue, is reinvigorated by the prospect of reaching an acting milestone. The film takes you on a journey of Bollywood dominated by the concept of the superstar where nobody else matters. The movie has good production values and is directed well. It is a breeze to watch and entertaining in the best way posssible. Please do watch it. By the way, that dialogue is, “Bas enjoying life, aur option hi kya hai.”

The Kid Detective (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]

Talk about the burden of expectations. A kid who finds fame by solving cases through deductive reasoning finds it difficult to live upto his reputation as he enters adulthood. He is then given the task of solving a murder mystery. ‘The Kid Detective’ for large parts is a black comedy and a satire but as the story progresses things get serious but not that serious. Even though the murder mystery does get solved as you would expect, the real fun in the movie is the humour which the writer-director finds in good quantities throughout the movie. It is safe to say that you get suspense and humour in equal amounts: a two for the price of one deal. Not everyone likes such deals. In this case, I do.

Soul (2020)[IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 7.0]

‘Soul’ is heavily tipped to be the winner of the animation feature at the Oscars. It may even get a nomination for the original score. It tells the story of a man who is on the cusp of realising his dreams and then has to grapple with the origins of creativity and more heavy stuff. Frankly my dear, I did not like this movie much. It is just passable with a score that was too loud for my taste. Maybe, I did not ‘get it’ but that’s alright.

Documentaries of the Week

Collective (2020)[IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 9.0]

The toughest competition for the Oscar this year will be in the documentary section. There are at least ten documentaries that are good enough to win but I hope nothing is as good as ‘Collective’. It tells the story of corruption in the healthcare sector in Romania. More importantly, it is about journalism and politics. You have to fear for democracy when the crusaders against corruption are journalists at a sports publication. As an aside, I could not recollect a professional investigative article from any Indian newspaper in recent times. As for ‘Collective’, it is a spellbinding documentary. Do not miss.

The Mole Agent (2020)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

An 83 year old is sent to spy on the residents of an old age home in Chile. I did not expect comedy in this documentary but I could not have been more wrong. There are some laugh out loud moments. The flip side is that as you would expect things are not rosy when someone is that old. The documentary does try its best to maintain its sense of balance. Poignant, funny, sad and much more. A must watch

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Old‘ from M Night Shyamalan.

Did you know: John Le Carre used to submit his books for official clearance before they were published. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold which was made into a movie in 1965 was cleared by officials as they thought that the story was too far away from real spywork whereas those who saw the movie thought that only someone who knew too much about spying could write that story.