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.

Edition 103

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Another Round (Denmark, 2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

The Danes have the worst record for alcohol consumption in the Scandinavian region. The movie is an exploration of the way of life in Denmark and how profoundly alcohol affects the social and personal life of people. The story is about a group of school teachers who want to experiment with low consumption of alcohol to test a theory that a small amount of it in the blood in fact has significant advantages for the sense of well being. Mads Mikkelsen is the leader of the group. The story evolves as one would expect it to with no major surprises. The director is in complete control of the proceedings. I was left confused by what the movie wants to convey. Is it that alcohol affects different people differently or is it that small amounts are fine or further still, alcohol is addictive and bad for health.

Movies I Saw This Week

Nomadland (2020)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]

A woman (Frances McDormand) whose life changes because of the 2008 economic crisis and the death of her husband, decides to lead her life by traveling and living around the country in a van. She supports herself with temporary jobs and she meets random people in brief encounters. It is the poignancy of the short encounters that make the film feel deep even when it is flawed. ‘Nomadland’ projects another way of life that celebrates the spirit of adventure when it is a choice but exposes the systemic failures of USA when that lifestyle is thrust on people. Besides being that one movie that makes Amazon look good, there are no major flaws in the film and the movie is arresting for the captivating performance from Frances McDormand who owns the movie from the start to end.

Minari (2020)[IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

A Korean family moves to Arkansas to start a new life by venturing into farming vegetables for the Korean expat population. Then the grandma from Korea joins them to take care of the kids as the parents work. The life goes on with its twists and turns. ‘Minari’ is an essential immigrant experience of trying to fit in but yet holding on to the cultural roots. When you finish watching ‘Minari’ what remains are the little vignettes of life than any major story. The denouement is hardly convincing but there is a lot to see in ‘Minari’ and those parts are told in a silky smooth way.

Promising Young Woman (2020)[IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

This movie could have been much better. That is the first thought that struck me when I finished watching. It could have been written better, directed better, edited better and acted better. The story of a young woman going to any extent to avenge the death of her friend is presented in a rather interesting way. Somehow the movie leaves the feeling that there was a tight budget and not enough money to spend on the production design. The coffee shop in the movie looks and feels like an enterprise which would not make the cut in a children’s play. The scenes between the protagonist and her boyfriend are rather forced. If you can close your eyes to some jarring notes there is much to be liked in the movie, especially the story it wants to tell. Although Carey Mulligan is tipped for an Oscar nomination for this role, I think that someone else could have delivered this role better. Overall, the operative word is ‘better’.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)[IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.0]

This film captures the drama on a hot day when acclaimed singer Ma Rainey has to record a few songs. For those who do not know, Ma Rainey was one of the first female African-American singers to be ever recorded and marketed. Her clout and ability to get things done her way in the movie is indicative of her stature and commercial pull. The more dramatic bit of the movie features the late Chadwick Boseman who I hope gets at least an Oscar nomination for his last substantial role. This movie is well edited but the fact that it is adapted from a play shows in some of the scenes. The restricted number of locations also demonstrated a script which fails to grow from its original material. Kudos to Coca Cola for the clever product placement. Keeping aside these infirmities, this is a movie worth your time.

The White Tiger (2020)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

This is a film about which I feel I can write a more authentic review for the mere fact that the novel is one of the few works of fiction I have read in the last many years. (I am a stickler for non-fiction) The booker prize winning work by Arvind Adiga thrives on dollops of sarcasm and dark humour. It is a difficult task to translate that on to the screen. The movie is successful in getting the essence of the book but does leave out some biting pieces of dark humour. It also adds few elements not mentioned in the book. For those looking for a story, the movie is about an unscrupulous man working his way up India’s notorious social ladder. Adarsh Gourav in the lead role has done justice to his role. Somehow he embodies the character you have in mind when you read the novel. As a movie, this one does not let you down but the book is better.

Sylvie’s love (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.0]

‘Sylvie’s Love’ is a movie which if you did not know its year of release would easily slot into the black and white era of Hollywood. It has the look and feel of one of those classics. It has enough drama to match. It is a simple story. (spoilers ahead) Boy meets girl. They get separated. Then they meet again. Then they unite. Then they choose to be separate. At the end, they reunite. Simple. Told you. The mood of the movie is unashamedly romantic but there are elements of the fading popularity of jazz music and the struggle of a woman to have a career in a not so distant past. Above all this is the fact that somehow a neat romantic movie got made when that is a genre which has struggled for screen space in recent times.

Run (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]

I had read about a girl being held captive by her mother in a magazine article few years ago. This movie seems to be based on that article even though it does not claim to be one. At a conceptual level there is nothing great here. There are enough movies that have dealt with such themes. I would not even say that the treatment is groundbreaking. It is a easygoing movie worth your time if you are thinking of opportunities to while away your time. At least it does not manipulate the audience and there is no structural complexity to make you scratch your head (Yes, I am speaking of Nolan here).

Bloody Hell (2020)[IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]

Similar to ‘Run’, this movie is also a hostage drama but with a twist. It is playful and has a wicked sense of humour. A hero who somehow ends in jail for stopping a bank heist ends up in the basement of a crazy family in Finland. He must find a way out before he is wiped clean from the face of earth. There is some intentional comedy in the gruesome premise. That itself makes it a movie which is worth your time.

Death to 2020 (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 37%, My Rating: 6.0]

This is a mockumentary. It lands a few good punches and some of the humour is genuine. The problem is that sarcasm in the real world is a dying art because there is too much of misinformation floating around. I would not be surprised if some parts of the population did not get the humour in this enterprise. I enjoyed large bits of it and would recommend it.

Documentary of the Week

Crazy, Not Insane (2020) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]

I did not know that multiple personality disorder is an area on which there is no consensus in the scientific community. A leading proponent of the dissociative identity disorder presents her case. Draw your own conclusions.

Eagerly waiting for: James Bond to come to a cinema near me.

Did you know: In 2020, Netflix released more movies than any other major Hollywood studio. It will do so again in 2021.

Edition 102

The year 2020 has been an extraordinary year. Consequently, the frequency of the blog was cut to once every few months. Still, there were enough readers to keep the flame burning. I will return with renewed vigour in 2021. Take care and stay safe. Wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year !

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Why Don’t You Just Die! (Russia, 2020) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

The point of this movie is not the suspension of disbelief required from the viewer. Though the characters survive assault on every sinew of the body, they conveniently die when the script demands that they do. It is a testament to the craft of the director that inspite of the heavy odds against it, the film remains a fun ride from start to end. For those looking for a story, it is about a guy who wants to avenge on behalf of his girlfriend. For those looking for the moral of the story: Good guys can win (in the end).

Movies I Saw This Week

Dating Amber (2020)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

‘Dating Amber’ is not a movie that reinvents cinema but it comes close to reinventing the genre of romantic comedy. The warmth and the effervescence are palpable. The performances are genuine and the characters relatable. The story of two queer young adults pretending to be in love to avoid the harsh realities of coming out is affecting. There are very few movies which resonate to such an extent that you care for the characters. The standout feature is that this movie is made with a lot of heart and it will keep you hooked till the titles roll.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5]

This film is a courtroom drama based on a true incident. The thing with movies based on real life is that often they would not pass muster if they were presented as tales of fiction. Indeed, truth is stranger than fiction. The high drama in the courtroom is amusing and appalling at the same time. The trial of civil rights activists descends into a sham under the leadership of an incompetent judge. Aaron Sorkin is in fine form as the director in this movie, whose immediacy and relevance to 2020 are concerning.

Sound of Metal (2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.5]

Riz Ahmed gives a career defining performace as a musician struggling to come to grips with his rapidly declining ability to hear. His whole world is turned upside down and he faces an existential crisis. The movie has nothing earth shattering to say. The story is fortunately or unfortunately eclipsed by the acting. Ahmed should be a shoo in for an Oscar nomination. I would recommend watching this movie with good headphones.

Swallow (2019)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

‘Swallow’ is a richly entertaining movie about a young and pregnant housewife who starts ingesting strange objects. The movie is very layered and raises many issues outside of the central character’s immediate concerns including unwanted pregnancies, the class divide and the vapidity of social soirees. It is evident that a lot of thought has gone into the screenplay and the framing of the scenes. ‘Swallow’ starts slowly but as it gathers pace it pulls in the viewer and does not let go. Very highly recommended.

Mank (2020)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, My Rating: 7.0]

For me, the greatest Hollywood movie of all time is ‘Citizen Kane’. If you have not seen it, please do. ‘Mank’ is the story of the writer who gave birth to ‘Citizen Kane’. Bereft of much drama, the movie rather surprisingly does not fail to keep the viewer interested othen than popping a question at the end about what all the fuss was about. ‘Mank’ is surely an Oscar bait and may yet be in the running for many technical categories and for Oldman’s acting. ‘Mank’ is a lurid look into the unseemly underbelly of the studio system. Hearst and Meyer are singled out for ‘special’ treatment. To take a harsh view, ‘Mank’ is a collection of vignettes from a rabble rouser of his time. Incidentally, he wrote ‘Citizen Kane’

Miss Juneteenth (2020)[IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

I would like to raise a toast to the producers of this gem of a movie for having the courage to put their money into this project. A delicate movie with a lot of self-respect and dignity oozing through its barely contained feeling of doom is a must watch for what I would call silently strong performances. The protagonist is a former beauty queen who has fallen on hard times and wants to give her daughter a better shot at success in life. It is not a movie where there are trumpets and lilting music at the end to herald the victory of the underdog. Victory does come, in a sweet understated way. Highly recommended.

His House (2020)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.0]

Horror is a genre that is so easy to get wrong and easier still to be prey to gimmickry. ‘His House’ channels the guilt of the lead characters and their total alienation from what is around them, as they try to build a life as refugess in the United Kingdom. The culture clashes and the dark past start catching up with them as time passes. There are few scenes which evoke laughter in a rather twisted way. Watch this for a different type of horror.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 6.5]

Charlie Kaufman is weighed down by his own formidable reputation in this movie with too many metaphors that I stopped caring. As is the case in a Kaufman movie, nothing is what it seems. There are subtexts and subplots but he stretches the metaphor too long. The story is a contemplation of a person’s life and choices just as the person is close to calling it quits. On a shoddiness scale it is much better than the insufferable ‘Tenet’ but that does not say much. Watch it if you have to and think about it after watching it if you have nothing else to do.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]

Abortion is a divisive issue in America. This movie should not be divisive for the humanity and heart it brings to the table. This grim flick is told in a matter of fact way without finding the need to preach. It prefers to practice. The story is of a young girl who has to travel out of state to get an abortion but has scant resources at her disposal. She must put to task every idea and thought that ensures that she gets what she wants. A deeply moving film that is highly recommended.

Happiest Season (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.0]

Kristen Stewart plays the same sex lover who has to visit her girlfriend’s family for Christmas. The twist in the plot: The lover’s family has no clue on the girl’s sexual orientation. There are a few laugh out moments in this straighforward romcom. There are a few cringeworthy moments too but it is Christmas and all is forgiven. If couch viewing for Christmas is what you are looking for, then this will suffice.

Documentaries of the Week

The Donut King (2020)[IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

If the Los Angeles donut empire looks Cambodian, there was a king to that empire. A story of an immigrant’s rags to riches and then to rags story. Very engaging.

Midnight Family (2020)[IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.5]

If you have to watch one documentary this year, watch this one. It is about a private ambulance service in Mexico.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘West Side Story’ from Spielberg.

Did you know: Oscar winning production company ‘Higher Ground Productions’ is owned by Barack and Michelle Obama.

Documentaries Edition

This edition of the blog features documentaries I have seen in the last six months that are worth your time.

The Fight (2020)[IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

Lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union fight cases for causes dear to them. There is never a boring moment in this documentary. It is great to know that there are still people out there willing to fight for what is right.

American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, My Rating: 7.5]

Story of an American criminal who loses his mind and kills his family in cold blood. The documentary is chilling and a reminder that nothing holds back some criminals from killing their loved ones. Some of the scenes with the kids are disturbing.

Red Penguins (2020)[IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.0]

Americans go to rescue ice hockey in Russia after the iron curtain falls. A cultural and political clash ensues. Mildly funny yet very educative.

The Social Dilemma (2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating:7 .5]

A stark reminder of the influence of social media and internet on our lives. Very revealing insights on how technology runs and ruins lives. Probably the most well made documentary on the subject.

Class Action Park (2020)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]

The farce that went on in an amusement park in New Jersey. How this park operated for that long by flouting all rules and regulations is beyond me. Still a lot of fun.

Coup 53 (2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]

The coup of 1953 in Iran orchestrated by the USA changed Iran in more ways than one. A deep dive into events that surrounded that coup which eventually led to the return of the Shah of Iran and his tyranny.

The Phenomenon (2020)[IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.5]

A compendium of all UFO related events that caught attention around the world since the early 20th century. I must say that the weight of evidence points to the existence of exta-terrestrial beings.

Scheme Birds (2019)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

A girl with a difficult family background tries to find love and life in a depressed Scottish town. I almost wanted to get inside the documentary and tell her not to do certain things. The feeling of impending doom is palpable. Affecting in a strange way.

Desert One (2019)[IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.0]

For those who have ever wondered why Jimmy Carter never won re-election, this movie gives the best answer possible. A botched hostage rescue mission ends in disaster even before reaching the hostages, sealing Carter’s fate.

John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]

John Lewis was a colossal figure in the civil rights movement. This documentary is an apt tribute to him. RIP John Lewis.

Boys State (2020)[IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.5]

Boys State is the documentary of the year (at least, so far). Riveting, engaging and ultimately heart-breaking, this documentary is an introduction to democracy in America. I found it quite alarming how many of the boys were willing to trample on women’ rights.

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

Walter Mercado was a celebrity astrologer who had a rockstar image in his prime. His story is traced in this interesting documentary. Harmless fun.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.5]

The documentary version of Thomas Piketty’s celebrated book. One of the best documentaries of the year. Dire predictions for the economic prosperity (or the lack of it) of millenials and generations that follow.

The Longest War (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]

How USA got into Afghanistan and then never managed to get out. A documentary of record.

#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump (2020)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 8.0]

There is a lot common to megalomaniacs and psychopaths. Gaslighting is one of those things. Learn more about gaslighting and other dark arts in this unflinching documentary.

Eagerly waiting for: Movie theatres to open and screen larger than life movies.

Did you know: Below is a picture of Helen Keller meeting Charlie Chaplin.

The Best English Movies of the 21st Century

This edition was originally titled “The best English movies of the 21st century to see before you die”.

Before I wade more into gallows humour, let us keep this simple. This is a list of 75 English movies from 2000 to the present which I recommend to everyone. The next edition will cover the best foreign language movies meeting the same criteria.

75. Nightcrawler (2014)

One line story: A hustler blurs the line between reporting and participating in a crime as he builds a career as a crime reporter.

Why I like it: A new and fresh screenplay. Riveting from start to finish.

The Highlight: Jake Gyllenhaal in his finest performance in a fine career.

74. Hell or High Water (2016)

One line story: Two brothers resort to robbing banks to pay mortgage for their oil rich land.

Why I like it: It is a Western with cars replacing horses.

The Highlight: The Robberies

73. Lady Bird (2017)

One line story: A coming of age movie of a girl in suburban America.

Why I like it: I like the way the movie ends. It does not try too hard.

The Highlight: Saoirse Ronan promising much more for the future and nowadays delivering on her promise.

72. Paddington 2 (2017)

One line story: Paddington from Peru wants to buy a gift for his aunt in the UK.

Why I like it: An animation movie with a soul and a rather playful one at that.

The Highlight: The animation

71. Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

One line story: The power play between a veteran and a rather naive understudy.

Why I like it: Like all good movies, it keeps you engaged till the end.

The Highlight: The acting performances

70. Before Sunset (2004)

One line story: They meet again in Paris and spend a day together.

Why I like it: A dismissively simple idea is turned into an elegant movie.

The Highlight: The ride on the Seine.

69. Lord of War (2005)

One line story: An arms dealer does what he does while the authorities try to corner him.

Why I like it: It is almost a celebration of the arms trade and goes to crazy places.

The Highlight: The dismantling of the airplane.

68. The Town (2010)

One line story: A bank robbery becomes complicated.

Why I like it: It gives a fresh twist to the bank robbery tales.

The Highlight: Nobody is shown as naive or stupid but film stays focused on their motives.

67. Munich (2005)

One line story: The nation of Israel wants to avenge the death of Israeli athletes at the Olympics.

Why I like it: It is a cold and calculated procedural.

The Highlight: Eric Bana cannot act and he gets a role that requires him to stay emotionless.

66. American Sniper (2014)

One line story: The story of the greatest sniper in the history of American army.

Why I like it: The movie tries to deal with the emotional trauma of a man who becomes a killing machine.

The Highlight: The greatest dangers are nearer home.

65. Capote (2005)

One line story: Truman Capote researches a killer for his next book.

Why I like it: Phillip Seymour Hoffman was peerless.

The Highlight: The acting, especially the jail scenes.

64. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

One line story: A rogue guy bending and breaking rules and laughing his way to the bank before karma catches up with him.

Why I like it: The last thing you would expect from Martin Scorsese.

The Highlight: The party in the office scene reminiscent of Citizen Kane.

63. Leave No Trace (2018)

One line story: A father and daughter try to live a life away from the masses.

Why I like it: It has an authenticity and rawness seldom seen on the big screen.

The Highlight: When the paths of the father and daughter start diverging.

62. Atonement (2007)

One line story: A budding romance is a victim of circumstances and lies.

Why I like it: One of the few movies which made me sad. So much beauty to admire in so much tragedy.

The Highlight: The final revelation.

61. Match Point ((2005)

One line story: A femme-fatale messes up the priorities of a dishonest social climber.

Why I like it: The closest Woody Allen has come to making a real erotic thriller.

The Highlight: The ravishing Scarlett Johansson

60. Syriana (2005)

One line story: Middle-eastern oil politics.

Why I like it: It burns slowly and then becomes an inferno.

The Highlight: The missile strike

59. The Ides of March (2011)

One line story: An aide to a politician learns on his job.

Why I like it: There are no heroes in this movie. Only survivors.

The Highlight: “No press beyond this point. She is press.”

58. Blue Jasmine (2013)

One line story: A rich man’s wife enters self destruction territory.

Why I like it: Cate Blanchett in a memorable performance.

The Highlight: How Woody Allen toys with his characters in his best screenplay in the last 15 years.

57. Phantom Thread (2017)

One line story: A dress designer’s life goes downhill as his partner starts wielding more power.

Why I like it: Daniel Day Lewis. The name is enough.

The Highlight: The background score.

56. 1917 (2019)

One line story: Two soldiers are tasked with delivering an order to prevent a catastrophe.

Why I like it: The camera is the star of the movie.

The Highlight: The last running scene.

55. The Big Short (2015)

One line story: A bunch of guys profiting from their knowledge when the 2008 finacial crisis hits.

Why I like it: The quasi documentary feel to an entertaining movie.

The Highlight: Margot Robbie explaining finance in a bathtub.

54. Moonlight (2016)

One line story: Growing up surrounded by guns and drugs.

Why I like it: The Oscar drama

The Highlight: The talent of Mahershala Ali

53. The Babadook (2014)

One line story: A mother and son battle the demons inside and outside their mind.

Why I like it: For reinventing a genre which was in dire need of a reinvention.

The Highlight: All the scary scenes.

52. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

One line story: A mother is willing to upset the applecart as she seeks answers to her daughter’s death.

Why I like it: The movie does not hold back on the anger.

The Highlight: The torching scene.

51. Green Book (2018)

One line story: A famous black musician is driven by a white driver for a series of concerts in the deep south.

Why I like it: The best road movie in years.

The Highlight: KFC

50. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

One line story: A 15 year old learns in the company of his seniors and confronts his personal tragedy.

Why I like it: It is a darn sweet movie.

The Highlight: The last scene.

49. Almost Famous (2000)

One line story: A young writer observes a band on their tour.

Why I like it: The most honest film about pop bands and their lives.

The Highlight: The scene when the plane gets into turbulence.

48. A History of Violence (2005)

One line story: A family man has a violent past to hide and a family to protect.

Why I like it: There are many films since and before the movie with the same story but this one stands out.

The Highlight: When the son picks up the gun.

47. Anomalisa (2015)

One line story: Mid-life crisis

Why I like it: The animation is suitable for the story it tells. The impact would have been less if real people played the roles.

The Highlight: When the lead character returns to his family.

46. The Tree of Life (2011)

One line story: A ponderous tale on faith, love and life

Why I like it: The camera work is sensational.

The Highlight: Nothing looks ordinary.

45. Road to Perdition (2002)

One line story: A father seeks to avenge the murder of his family. with his son in tow.

Why I like it: The second best gangster flick after the Godfather.

The Highlight: The cinematography is gorgeous, often lyrical.

44. Michael Clayton (2007)

One line story: A fixer has to deal with the biggest challenge thrown at him.

Why I like it: One of the best thrillers ever if you can read up on the coded messages in the movie.

The Highlight: Tilda Swinton creating the template for all future roles of a neurotic corporate honcho.

43. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

One line story: A spy comes out of retirement to find a double agent

Why I like it: Slow and steady suspense builds up to a good finale.

The Highlight: Gary Oldman carries the weight of the film on his very capable shoulders.

42. Inside Out (2015)

One line story: An eleven year old coping with her emotions.

Why I like it: Some breath of freshness from Pixar.

The Highlight: The animation.

41. Selma (2014)

One line story: Martin Luther King fights racism in Selma.

Why I like it: Some stories should be told.

The Highlight: The songs have been criminally overlooked.

40. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

One line story: Nobel laureate Nash tries to find equilibrium in his life.

Why I like it: Stories about scientists do not have to be boring.

The Highlight: The bar scene

39. Beasts of No Nation (2015)

One line story: Child soldiers and their adult leader try to trade power in a civil war.

Why I like it: It feels very real and immediate.

The Highlight: The first time I noticed Idris Elba

38. Rachel Getting Married (2008)

One line story: A sister turns up at a wedding and all hell breaks loose.

Why I like it: Nothing much happens but then so much happens.

The Highlight: The choreographed sequences looking all too real.

37. The Departed (2006)

One line story: A cat and mouse game between Police and gangsters.

Why I like it: I like the original better but it is in another language.

The Highlight: The explanation of the benefits of marriage at the shooting range.

36. The Last King of Scotland (2006)

One line story: A Scot is the doctor of choice to Idi Amin.

Why I like it: Idi Amin would have been proud of Forest Whitaker.

The Highlight: The limb rearrangement

35. Life of Pi (2012)

One line story: A boy on a lifeboat goes on an adventure with some unwelcome company.

Why I like it: A visuall feast.

The Highlight: That island.

34. The Irishman (2019)

One line story: Gangsters being gangsters.

Why I like it: For once, the invincible are shown as the tormented souls in their old age and almost invariably dying a painful death.

The Highlight: The daughter’s face when the family watches the TV news of the death.

33. Skyfall (2012)

One line story: Bond not being the classic bond.

Why I like it: They are trying hard to reinvent Bond when he is no more the guy with the coolest gadgets.

The Highlight: The train fight.

32. Adaptation (2002)

One line story: “The script I’m starting, it’s about flowers. Nobody’s ever done a movie about flowers before.”

Why I like it: “The book has no story. There’s no story.”

The Highlight: ” It’s like a brain factory in here.”

31. Lost in Translation (2002)

One line story: Two lonely people meet in one of the most crowded cities in the world.

Why I like it: There is so much unsaid.

The Highlight: When they part ways.

30. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)

One line story: Brothers are divided in their position on Irish independence.

Why I like it: Ken Loach’s masterpiece.

The Highlight: A terribly underrated movie.

29. Dunkirk (2017)

One line story: Soldiers have the choice between the devil and the deep sea.

Why I like it: The background score is a thing of beauty.

The Highlight: When they read Churchill’s words from the newspaper.

28. Gladiator (2000)

One line story: A gladiator must stand up after being knocked down.

Why I like it: The pageantry and the scale. Impressive.

The Highlight: The songs, especially, “Now we are free”.

27. The Social Network (2010)

One line story: A flawed genius wants to make friends and enemies.

Why I like it: No movie captures Silicon valley better.

The Highlight: The visiting card. Tells more about the individual than anything else.

26. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

One line story: Drug-fueled disintegration of a young man and people around him.

Why I like it: A tragedy without crying.

The Highlight: When he comes home in a taxi.

25. Spotlight (2015)

One line story: Sometimes great journalism is not just having the story but the courage to publish it.

Why I like it: Telling truth to power.

The Highlight: The end credits.

24. Elephant (2003)

One line story: Shooting in a high school in America.

Why I like it:You would not guess the story if you saw the first twenty minutes of it.

The Highlight: The freezer scene.

23. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

One line story: What revolution would look like in a post apocalyptic world.

Why I like it: Energy. Action. Madness.

The Highlight: All the crazy people in the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your …….

22. Her (2013)

One line story: A man starts falling in love with a voice.

Why I like it: Then he discovers the real deal.

The Highlight: Scarlett Johansson’s voice

21. Gravity (2013)

One line story: Lost in space, need a ride back home.

Why I like it: It looked out of this world on the big screen.

The Highlight: The moments before the touchdown.

20. No Country for Old Men (2007)

One line story: A psychopath is after 2 million USD of stolen money

Why I like it: Javier Bardem looks menacing.

The Highlight: That long silent take.

19. Memento (2000)

One line story: A man with the memory of a goldfish hunts for his wife’s killer.

Why I like it: It is an original piece of work unlike anything I have seen before. At least as far as I can remember.

The Highlight: The coffee scene.

18. Enemy at the Gates (2001)

One line story: A Soviet sniper turning into a legend.

Why I like it: The Soviets won the second world war and there is at least one good movie to honour their efforts.

The Highlight: The shot while jumping between the tunnels.

17. The Artist (2011)

One line story: Sound is a problem for a silent era movie star.

Why I like it: A silent spectacle.

The Highlight: When life gives you lemons, …………

16. Manchester by the Sea (2016)

One line story: Grief of a man understood by none.

Why I like it: The grief is palpable.

The Highlight: Whenever he meets his pregnant ex-wife.

15. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

One line story: A true rags to riches story via the financial markets.

Why I like it: You feel for the protagonist.

The Highlight: The climax of the movie.

14. WALL-E (2008)

One line story: Two robots fall in love and set out to change the world.

Why I like it: A masterpiece.

The Highlight: When the human stands on his feet.

13. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

One line story: The curious events in a hotel.

Why I like it: Quirky to the extreme.

The Highlight: The acting.

12. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

One line story: Can he win a million dollars and unite with the love of his life?

Why I like it: You don’t have to know everything. It’s what you know that matters.

The Highlight: AR Rahman’s music

11. Boyhood (2014)

One line story: Life, shot over 12 years.

Why I like it: It does not get more original than this.

The Highlight: Nobody died during the film making.

10. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

One line story: The hunt for terrorists in Afghanistan.

Why I like it: An edge of the seat thriller.

The Highlight: Nobody knows the real heroine.

9. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

One line story: A coach watches in pain as his protege boxer gets what she does not deserve.

Why I like it: If you feel too arrogant about yourself, watch this.

The Highlight: Hilary Swank.

8. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

One line story: A group of misfits go on a road trip.

Why I like it: “Everybody just pretend to be normal.”

The Highlight:

Olive: I’d like to dedicate this to my grandpa, who showed me these moves.

Pageant MC: Aww, that is so sweet.

[Audience applauds]

Pageant MC: Is he here? Where’s your grandpa right now?

Olive: In the trunk of our car.

7. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

One line story: What if your life was a script and you were living it?

Why I like it: Probably the most devastating movie I have ever seen.

The Highlight: The end.

6. Miss Sloane (2016)

One line story: Miss Sloane is a lobbyist who fears nothing.

Why I like it: If I could make movies, this is the type of movie I would like to make.

The Highlight: Jessica Chastain, take a bow.

5. There Will Be Blood (2007)

One line story: Oil is thicker than blood.

Why I like it: An acting masterclass from Daniel Day Lewis.

The Highlight: The pastor when he preaches.

4. Zodiac (2007)

One line story: The hunt for a real life serial killer with feedback from the serial killer.

Why I like it: If every thriller could be as nuanced and subtle as this one.

The Highlight: When he goes to the shop to look the suspect in the eye.

3. Mulholland Drive (2001)

One line story: Rita trying to understand what has happened.

Why I like it: Call ten people to write the story of this movie and you would get ten different stories.

The Highlight: Figuring out the relevant parts.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

One line story: In a world where memories can be erased for a fee, two people fall in love.

Why I like it: Love is an inexplicable emotion.

The Highlight: The screenplay of this movie is undoubtedly one of the best ever written.

  1. The Pianist (2002)

One line story: A Jewish pianist tries to survive through the horrors of the Second World War in Poland.

Why I like it: What is there not to like?

The Highlight: Classics age well. This one is a classic.