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.
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.
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)
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.”
Olive: I’d like to dedicate this to my grandpa, who showed me these moves.
Parasite (South Korea, 2019)[IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 8.5]
‘Parasite’, the winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes, is an instant classic. It is one of the most riveting films I have seen in recent times. Every scene and dialogue of this thriller hits the bulls-eye. Thought the complex interplay of societal tensions and personal aspirations are at the centre of the film, the script holds up to scrutiny even when these external dimensions are not considered. A family at the lower rungs of the society gets a chance to be the caretakers in an affluent household. As the plot gets more sinister and breathtaking, a maelstrom is unleashed on a stable household. The director is at the peak of his powers and the screenplay is a work of genius in this unmissable movie of the year.
Movies I Saw This Week
Ford v Ferrari [Le Mans ’66](2019)[IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.5]
The good thing about this movie and perhaps what makes it different from the run of the mill race movies is the care given to fully realize the emotional aspect of the characters on screen. The film tells the time when a snubbed Ford made it a personal crusade to bring down the hegemony of Ferrari at Le Mans. Even for a film with an expected climax, the movie leaves a bittersweet feeling at the end. For a running length of 152 minutes, the goings on screen captivate the viewer for most of the time. This movie is a salute to the American spirit of innovation and it does so without sounding jingoistic. I am sure American parents will be lining up to show their kids this smooth and uncluttered piece of film-making.
Judy (2019) (2019)[IMDB: 7.2., Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]
Judy Garland was a legend in her times. The difficult life that led to her stardom and her feeling of being inadequate made a mess of her life. Zellweger has a roll playing this flawed diva in her difficult final years. Zellweger’s performance is nuanced and she is able to draw the sympathy of the audience. She even sings the songs herself. Good enough to get an Oscar nomination for sure. The movie is all about Judy: her failings, her small victories, her poor decision making, her insomnia, her bravo performances, her terrible performances. Watch it for Judy Garland.
Extra Ordinary (2019)[IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]
This is probably the most fun ghost movie I have ever seen. Full of tongue -in-cheek references to the genre and made with a subversive spirit, ‘Extra Ordinary’ is a movie you would not want to miss. An Irish driving school inspector with powers to tackle spirits is brought to deal with a particularly interesting case involving absurd rituals, a one hit wonder singer and a whole lot of hangers-on. This parody of a movie uses and discards cliches when it suits the script. Plot devices like virgins required for sacrifice in satanic rituals are used to the hilt to bring out the absurdity of the concepts and get a few good laughs.
The Art of Self-Defense (2019)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, My Rating: 7.0]
A loner with no social connections is drawn to the world of Karate after a life threatening burglary attempt. As he descends more and more into the local Karate universe, he discovers the twisted secrets and dealings of what is essentially a cult. He also imagines himself to be somebody else. His newfound confidence and sense of belonging are questioned as the days progress. This is a fairly engaging movie with a convenient plot twist. Undoubtedly a good film to watch, the movie does leave a feeling that things could have been done better.
Harpoon (2019)[IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]
One of the independent movies of 2019 that is definitely a winner in every sense. For a movie with a cast of three marooned in a yacht, the possibilities are limited due to the space available. The director and writer are able to exploit every angle possible with enough twists and turns to keep the viewer engaged. The acting, background score and directing combine to make this a movie with good returns for a fan of thrillers. Highly recommended.
Good Boys (2019)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5]
There is nothing great to see here but lot of good material makes it a thoroughly entertaining venture. There is hardly a plot and it is all about friendship with dollops of reality thrown in. The movie is unpretentious and has some witty scenes and dialogues. It brings the naivety of adolescence and the optimism of childhood together in the life of three carefree boys. The film delivers on what it promises in the trailer. Do not watch with high expectations and you will come out smiling.
Luce (2019)[IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]
‘Luce’ is a complicated movie. The complication is largely due to the fact that the protagonist is a former child soldier rescued from Eritrea and raised by two suburban white parents. If this background is taken out of the conversation, then it is a movie about a self-centred teenager plotting his success and wiping out challenges or challengers to his plans in life. The provocative film has a slew of conflicted characters, none more than the white mother of Luce played by Naomi Watts whose unwavering loyalty to him in the face of evidence undermining him is shown as desperation to hold on to her belief that her life has not been wasted raising a deviant. There is much to ponder in ‘Luce’ but there are some rough edges that could have been smoothed out to present a more satisfying narrative.
The Laundromat (2019)[IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%, My Rating: 6.0]
Based on the Panama papers scandal, this movie is a narrative mess. Steven Soderbergh is an acclaimed director whose repertoire is rich with some memorable movies. ‘The Laundromat’ is not one of them. Meryl Streep tries to hold the story together but even she is conveniently forgotten for large parts of the movie. Too many loose ends are left unattended. Some interesting threads like the events in Panama or the Chinese episode are amusing but do not add to a coherent narrative.
Documentary of the Week
Cold Case Hammarskjöld (2019)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 7.5]
Mads Brugger made the real world parody ‘The Ambassador’. In this new documentary he tries to uncover the conspiracy that led to the death of UN Secretary General Hammarskjold. He discovers more than what he bargained for. Highly recommended.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘Knives Out’
Did you know: Christian Bale lost 70 pounds to play his role in ‘Ford vs Ferrari’, much of which was the weight he gained for ‘Vice (2018)’.
In the Aisles(Germany,2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 6.0]
This German flick is about a young man finding his way through life while learning the ropes in his new job at the supermarket. He develops an infatuation for one of his colleagues and the story is hinged on this premise. The movie does turn tedious at times and a fast forward button on your remote may be highly useful while watching it. There are two ways of looking at this movie. The considerate view is that it is a tender, thoughtful and empathetic piece of film making. The less charitable view is that it is akin to watching Manchester United play: a slow dross.
Movies I Saw This Week
Ad Astra (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]
Ad-Astra means ‘to the stars’. The movie is mostly confined to the solar system. Philosophically, the movie borrows heavily from ‘Apocalypse Now’ with a plot strikingly similar to one of the best movies ever made. Brad Pitt plays an astronaut tasked with meeting his father who is stationed a few planets away. In the “near future” when space travel is a long haul flight with transit points, Pitt sets out to solve the issues facing mankind and to put to rest his inner demons. The background score is excellent. Brad Pitt gives probably the best performance of his life. The technological capabilities are evident. The movie, though, is less than the sum of its parts.
Joker (2019) [IMDB: 9.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.0]
A city on the verge of collapse. Filthy streets, crumbling infrastructure, walls and windows ridden with graffiti and the terminal decline of social security. Sounds familiar? Well, this is the Gotham in which the origin story of Joker is set. A struggling yet decent man trying to cope with his mental illness loses the plot as he is abused by the society and finds his social support brutally cut short. Mayhem ensues as he becomes the worst version of himself. Watch ‘Joker’ for one of the most spectacular acting performances of all time. Joaquin Phoenix is sensational in this dark tale and the camera is an observer of his antics in every frame of the movie. If you can stomach the violence and keep your eyes on the performance of Phoenix, this is a movie that is more than worth your time.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]
The plot of the movie is irrelevant. It is just a prop to string together encounters with various stars and get them to play along to the scripted interviews. If you are fan of the mock interview series ‘Between Two Ferns’, there is more than enough in this movie to have a few good laughs. Some of the humour is juvenile but some hit the bull’s eye .I would have liked it if they had more from stars like Keanu Reeves. Recommended strictly for the fans.
Yesterday (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]
Danny Boyle has some obsession with Maliks. His protagonist in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was Jamal Malik. In ‘Yesterday’ the lead’s name is Jack Malik. Maybe it is some cheeky reference but if it is some superstition he cannot be faulted for it. ‘Yesterday’ is inching towards 200 million dollars at the box office, becoming Boyle’s second biggest hit since ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The plot is about the Malik who one day finds out that he is the only one in this world who remembers ‘The Beatles’. His fledgling singing career which was on life support suddenly has a reversal. The movie is a throwback to the hysteria that surrounded the pop group. The plot of the movie is all over the place but the music is just phenomenal. Watch ‘Yesterday’ for the evergreen music.
Crawl (2019) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 6.0]
‘Crawl’ delivers what it promises. It is a product of the branch of movie factory which pits man against nature. The alligators here could have been sharks, extraterrestrials, snakes, bears, foxes, monkeys, dragons or piranhas. Add a bit of a natural disaster like a hurricane or a flood (add lots of water). Just as in a video game, add few constraints. There you have the formula for a summer blockbuster. ‘Crawl’ is a hit. It ticks every box for a disaster movie. Funnily enough, it is not a boring film. One every few years is worth a watch and the best part is that ‘Crawl’ is not shoddily made. Enough praise. You get the drift.
Midsommar (2019) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]
‘Midsommar’ is about a group of American friends who go to Sweden to live in a commune for a short period of time. This movie is a horror movie if you take it seriously, especially the second half of it. If you are not concerned for the group by the second half, then you may see more humour than horror in this movie. The standout performance is from Florence Pugh as the young woman recovering from a personal tragedy and going through cycles of mental illness. The most shining aspect of the movie is the way it treats her condition. The movie per se, leaves room for many metaphors. This is a very subjective film. Some may find meanings unknown and angles unexplored in this mostly riveting flick but the others may be uninterested as it hurtles towards its very predictable climax.
The Mustang (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]
‘The Mustang’ is about a convict who is given the responsibility of taming and domesticating a wild mustang as part of his prison duties. Revelations about his crime and him finding solace in the process form the crux of the story. This is a thoroughly likable film with good acting and fine direction. My only grouse is again with the languid pace of the proceedings.
Late Night (2019) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5]
Emma Thompson is usually at her best in verbose performances. She has a lot of dialogues in this movie in which she plays an embattled late night show host unwilling to ride into the sunset. To spice things up and shore up her ratings she is forced to hire a new writer for her writing team. Mindy Kaling plays that writer. Mindy Kaling also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Therefore, no prizes for guessing who gets the most screen time. Otherwise, it is a watchable and mostly benign movie which does nothing earth shattering.
Documentary of the Week
Diego Maradona (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8.5]
If anyone asks you to choose a place and day to do some time travel, Naples on 10 May 1987 would be a good choice. The sheer agony and ecstasy of being Diego Maradona captured like never before. As they say in the movie, you don’t know what you have missed.
Eagerly waiting for: Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’
Did you know: Joaquin Phoenix and River Phoenix were the first brothers to be nominated for Academy Awards for acting.
Ash Is Purest White (China,2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.0]
At a macro level, this movie is about loyalty and the value of relationships with the background of gang rivalries which play out in a town in China. When you look closely enough, the movie is about China itself: its transformation over close to two decades, the changing values and expectations, and the forces that control the lives of the ordinary people in a behemoth of a nation. It is also a story about love. The love story of a gangster and a dancer. Slow burn.
Movies I Saw This Week
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)[IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]
For those unaware of the real setting of this movie it is worth reading about Sharon Tate and the Tate murders. As for the movie itself, Tarantino is at his subversive best and borrows heavily spiritually from Inglourious Basterds (if you did not notice, that is the correct spelling of the title). Di Caprio plays an actor in the last legs of his career with his sidekick Pitt trying to get through Hollywood in 1969. Di Caprio also happens to be the neighbour of Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. The film starts at a languid pace but picks up the tempo as it progresses leading to an eventful climax. I found it strange that the bloodshed in this flick is a few notches below what one would expect from Tarantino. Tarantino has a field day with his pop culture references. The lavishly produced sets and authentic locales add heft to the movie. ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is Tarantino’s love letter to Hollywood and to himself.
Blinded by the Light (2019)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]
I have had opprobrium for most of the work that Gurinder Chadha has produced after ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ (which was a watchable movie). She redeems herself with what is her most accomplished film and one of the genuine crowd-pleasers of the year. A young lad in Luton in England finds meaning in life after he listens to the songs of Bruce Springsteen. His drab life becomes filled with hope and optimism even helping him gloss over the unfolding crisis at home. This movie not only has breadth and depth but also never shies away from reflecting on the state of the British society in the 80s. Highly recommended.
Framing John DeLorean (2019)[IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]
John DeLorean was a star at General Motors before he decided that he should be an entrepreneur. This part-film part-documentary sheds light on his life and times. The hard hitting parts are in the documentary format especially when it comes his son. DeLorean had it all: a supermodel wife, a great career and a bright future. He took a mortgage on all the three and lost everything. Though the movie does not answer the ‘why’ part of the deal, it is a compelling watch. Was Delorean a victim of the circumstances or was he just plain stupid? Did his ego get to him? Some of the answers can be found in the movie. As a side note, I like the way they ended the movie which exploits the unique format of this feature.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5]
Tarantino who is assaulted for the violence in his flicks looks like a toddler in front of John Wick. I tried counting the body pile up in this chapter of the John Wick franchise. I soon gave up because I realized that it was a pointless exercise. Everybody kills and almost everybody gets killed in a series of choreographed moves. Horses kill. Dogs kill. Humans kill. Chinese get killed. Americans get killed. Half of the population of Casablanca (in Morocco) gets killed. They kill in theatres, hotels, markets, glass houses, bridges, railway stations, shops and many more places. In this bloodbath, somewhere there is a fine story and good acting. I shudder to say this but this is the best chapter so far that John Wick has delivered. Recommended if you can sit through people getting stabbed, sliced, punched, kicked, shot and generally dying in awful ways.
Toy Story 4 (2019)[IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 6.0]
When any movie comes with a fourth installment it is often a case of studios milking the udder till the blood comes out. Toy Story 4 avoids that sad predicament but only by a whisker. I have come to believe that the animation movies get a soft touch from reviewers compared to non-animation movies. Toy Story 4 is a very basic film with a wafer thin plot but with some good animation. The kids may love the movie but it is too convenient and contrived. This film is more of an indictment of the studio system lacking in daring and originality.
Long Shot (2019)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 6.0]
I believe that the basic premise of this flick would have been ‘what if Seth Rogen romanced Charlize Theron?’ and then they developed the plot from this starting point. So Theron gets to be the Secretary of State who was once a babysitter for the journalist played by Rogen. The film walks the tightrope between being a romantic comedy and a political satire. It trips. It goes wayward and then finds the most conventional endings possible. Sure there are some light moments but the film sticks strictly to the quality you would expect from Seth Rogen: average.
The Dead Don’t Die (2019)[IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 54%, My Rating: 4.5]
Maybe I did not ‘get it’. Maybe I did. What I got was drivel in the form of a movie. Director Jim Jarmusch is lucky. He got the money to make this self indulgent waste that needs to buried with its head shot in the graveyards of cinema. Such a waste of talent. The ‘plot’ is about a small town hit by a zombie apocalypse. This film made it to Cannes where it got the treatment it more or less deserved. Sometimes it felt as if the director was abusing the audience. I dislike scenes when the characters announce that they are in a movie (of course, we know) or discuss the screenplay in the movie. Truth be told, I dozed off for twenty minutes during the movie. That is twenty minutes of my life saved from watching ‘The Dead Don’t Die’.
Documentary of the Week
The Great Hack (2019)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.0]
Flawed documentary on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Since nothing better has been made on the subject, worth a watch.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘Rambo: Last Blood’
Did you know: Quentin Tarantino has a vow to stop making movies after he makes 10 movies. He counts Kill Bill 1 & 2 as one movie.
Birds of Passage (Colombia, 2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8.0]
An instant classic depicting the origin and evolution of the drug trade in tribal communities in Colombia, this movie focuses on the slow but sure impact of the drug trade and the new found wealth. People who get corrupted by money lose their marbles as they straddle the worlds of crime and custom. The tribal rituals to honour the forefathers become a show of strength. Honour and stubbornness become a potent mix, especially when illegal money is added to it. Great cinematography and a strong screenplay add to the quality on show. Highly recommended.
Movies I Saw This Week
Arctic (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]
‘Arctic’ at its core is a simple and at times cliched survival tale of a man who must find a way out of a plane crash in the Arctic. What will keep you engrossed is the acting and the surprises the director is able to pull off every time the viewer tries to second guess the flow of events. The bleak landscape and the impotence of man facing the wrath of nature add to the bleary feel of the movie. Recommended if you like survival tales.
Private Life (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]
I have not seen any recent movie which mimics life with such honesty without falling into the trap of predictability. ‘Private Life’ is a sincere, funny, poignant and resplendent piece of film making. A middle aged couple desperate for a child try all that is legally possible to attain their goals. The roller-coaster ride that they take is devastatingly close to real life with characters the viewer can identify with. You would not want to miss it.
Stan & Ollie (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]
I remember Laurel and Hardy as belonging to a different time and space. I have read comic books with them as protagonists and after a certain age the comedy duo just disappeared from my mind. The final years of the duo are brought to the big screen in this warm and spirited comedy. Even the biggest stars fade and some of them cling on to the vestiges of fame. Laurel and Hardy take a last lap of honour and resolve their differences in this sweet little movie. The best comic line though belongs to Hardy’s wife when she speaks about Laurel’s wife. Recommended.
Fighting with My Family (2019) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]
This is one of the movies where the film is better than the real person it is based on. In fact, even as a standalone feature without any references to real life characters, this film is a thoroughly enjoyable watch with some truly heartwarming scenes and knockout dialogues. A British girl from a family for whom wrestling in not just a pastime harbours ambitions of hitting the jackpot with WWE. No spoilers here. She fulfills her dream. The ride to the dream is the fun here. Watch it.
Booksmart (2019) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]
When you think some of the genres are as good as dead, there comes a movie which rewrites the rules of the game. ‘Booksmart’ is the reinvention of the high school coming-of-age story which is as fresh as the dew drops in the morning. Two girls decide to do in a night what they missed in all the years of high-school. They accomplish the mission with palpable energy and infectious humour. With some rip-roaring scenes and outrageous comedy (I’ll never forget the ‘Malala rule’), ‘Booksmart’ is a fine way to spend your time.
Hotel Mumbai (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]
Do not watch this movie if you cannot stomach graphic violence. You have been warned. If you are the battle hardened type, this movie has rich rewards. A start to end thriller with gut wrenching scenes and edge of the seat moments, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is a recreation of the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai renowned for its excellent customer care of the rich and famous. Some of the staff take this care to the extreme which can be also interpreted as being foolhardy when the more reasonable option is to just escape from the slaughter scene. There is also the typical American hero who acts as if nothing will happen to him as he probably thinks that the bullets will discriminate. Still, a story that must be told because what transpired needs to be known and etched in memory.
Us(2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 5.5]
For me, ‘Us’ was a monumental letdown. It is a film that does not scare and is very much predictable which makes it a weak candidate in the horror-thriller genre. The critics and fanboys can search for all the subtext and symbolism but at its core ‘Us’ is a poorly written movie about doppelgangers. There are no metaphors here. There are loopholes and more of them than you would want even in a romantic comedy. Some of the events have no explanation whatsoever. ‘Get Out’ was no masterpiece but was at least watchable. ‘Us’ is a train wreck that you get to make when your debut movie grosses 100 million at the box office.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%, My Rating: 6.0]
The title of the movie reminds me of certain people I know. Jokes aside, Ted Bundy was the outlier among serial killers. He was also a charmer. The movie tells us how those who surrounded him thought about him. He was able to pull the wool over the eyes of many including female admirers who believed in his lies till the very end. My issue with the movie is that it fails till the climax to show the evil incarnate that Bundy was. For a more nuanced take on a serial killer, try ‘My Friend Dahmer’.
Documentary of the Week
At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal(2019) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.5]
It is only in the US documentaries that people come out to speak to documentary crew on the abuse they received. This makes for powerful documentaries. ‘At the Heart of Gold’ is one such documentary. Must watch.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘Yesterday’ by Danny Boyle
Did you know: Jordan Peele was so insulted when Sony offered him the role of Poop in The Emoji Movie (2017) that he retired from acting to focus entirely on being a screenwriter and film director.
Burning (South Korea, 2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]
‘Burning’ does not hit the viewer hard for about three-fourth of its duration. It is only after viewing the entire film that the finer points of the plot fall into place. Inconsequential scenes make sense and random dialogues fit in a jigsaw puzzle which looks different even after assembly based on the perspective of the viewer. The director uses metaphors abundantly while holding a mirror to contemporary Korean society. This mystery thriller tells the story of three youngsters who are acquaintances but share something far more than what is apparent. If you do watch this memorable movie, try to read up on it. The various interpretations by viewers of the scenes make for some interesting reading. Highly recommended.
Movies I Saw This Week
The Wild Pear Tree (Turkey, 2018) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]
From the director of ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ (a favourite of mine) and ‘Winter Sleep’ comes this three hour long movie of a young graduate trying to understand his role in the Turkish society while discovering himself. The movie is told through a series of long conversations with friends, family, strangers and a particularly acerbic yet incisive writer. The conversations reveal more about the protagonist and the people in the countryside of Turkey. Definitely worth three hours of your life.
Enigmatic and filled with surprises, ‘Shoplifters’ is a modern Japanese classic which showcases the craft and control of its director. A family’s life changes when they take in a small girl into their setup where they themselves thrive on stealing from shops and supermarkets. The director is successful in manipulating the viewers’ emotional response as the film progresses. The actors emote with perfection and the roving camera is a silent observer when the chickens come home to roost. Highly recommended.
Acclaimed Lebanese director Nadine Labaki literally drags the viewer through the streets of Beirut in this movie about a young boy too sincere for his own good and yet corrupted by the environment. The clear triumph of Mrs Labaki is her ability to extract some phenomenal acting performances from the characters especially the protagonist. Poverty, refugee problems and parental responsibilities are dealt with in this movie which does tend to get a bit out of hand in the latter half. For all the good cinema on show, I had this nagging feeling that this could have been a much better movie with a better climax had more thought gone into the screenplay.
Featuring what some call as the weirdest sex scene in cinema history, ‘Border’ offers a strange and compelling story about people on the fringes of the society. A lady border guard whose USP is her sensational sense of smell finds the reasons for her awkwardness and the dark history of eugenics in Sweden. The movie is, as all good movie must be, a director’s show. A special mention for the makeup department for transforming the actors who do not look anything like their real life personalities.
Instant Family (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 7.0]
A light-hearted comedy which plays it by the book and still keeps the viewer engaged enough to care about the proceedings on screen. Based on the life of the scriptwriter, the movie tells the tale of a couple who look for adopting a child and end up with three. Rose Byrne pulls off a heart warming performance as a mother trying to understand her new children. There are no twists in the tale but there are some genuinely funny moments. Hope Hollywood can make more of the same.
On the Basis of Sex (2018) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 6.5]
There are two or three cracking dialogues in this movie. One is when a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg is asked by her dean on why she chose to study law when a man could have had her seat at the Harvard Law School. This biopic on the Supreme Court judge looks at the making of a legal eagle and her family life. While successful in depicting the entrenched misogynistic attitudes of her times, the movie has glaringly obvious ideas on how to also show the times. The number of times the characters smoke on screen must be some sort of a record for the amount of fumes on display. Maybe the director just wanted to drive home the point that smoking in public was a normal thing those days. Felicity Jones performs with earnestness as RBG but if you want to know the judge better, watch the documentary RBG. The documentary is better than the movie.
The Mule (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%, My Rating: 5.5]
Good old Clint Eastwood returns to direct and act in a drama on a real life drug carrier who was the oldest in the world in that trade. How do we know? He was caught by the law enforcement and a reporter wrote a long article on it. Then Eastwood decided that this is what he was going to make a movie on. Notable more for the lack of drama and a sure sign that Clint Eastwood must be talking to chairs ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=933hKyKNPFQ ) nowadays, ‘The Mule’ is for large parts boring. For the remaining parts, you are left wondering: why was this movie made?
Will Ferrell was once funny. Once as in, ‘once upon a time’ and not just one time. Now like the tagline of his movie ‘They Don’t Have a Clue’, he seems to have lost it, completely. Inane, idiotic and unfunny are the words that come to mind when ‘Holmes & Watson’ is mentioned. This movie is the opposite of comedy. Dreamt up by people who bring a bad name to slapstick humour and filled with feeble attempts to write funny situations, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of the Greek economy. Nothing can salvage it. I hear that medical marijuana has been made legal in many US states. Probably the writer and director had some medical condition.
A damning documentary on Michael Jackson in the words of his accusers. Those words carry much weight. Not for the weak of heart. Not for the worshipers of Michael Jackson. For those who seek the truth.
Who Will Win: ‘Roma’ but I would not be surprised if ‘Green Book’ steals it.
Who Should Win:’Roma’
Honourable Mention: ‘Green Book’. Why some movies like ‘Black Panther’, ‘BlacKkKlansman’ and ‘Vice’ have been nominated is beyond me.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Who Will Win: Rami Malek
Who Should Win: Rami Malek
Honourable Mention: Viggo Mortensen deserves some acclaim for his acting in ‘Green Book’
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Who Will Win: Glenn Close. Give that lady an Oscar please.
Who Should Win: Glenn Close
Honourable Mention: Olivia Coleman and Melissa McCarthy
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali for ‘Green Book’. You can bet your money on this.
Who Should Win: Mahershala Ali
Honourable Mention: Richard Grant for ‘Can you ever forgive me?’
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Who Will Win: Regina King for ‘If Beale Street could Talk’
Who Should Win: Regina King for ‘If Beale Street could Talk’
Honourable Mention: Dames Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone for ‘The Favourite’. I have much sympathy for Amy Adams who is on course to be the next Glenn Close: lots of nominations but no wins.
Best Achievement in Directing
Who Will Win: Who else? Alfonso Cuaron for ‘Roma’
Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron
Honourable Mention: Pawel Pawlikowski for ‘Cold War’.
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Who Will Win: ‘Green Book’
Who Should Win: ‘First Reformed’
Honourable Mention: Why was ‘Eighth Grade’ not nominated?
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Who Will Win: ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’
Who Should Win: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’
Honourable Mention: ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Who Will Win: ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’
Who Should Win: ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’
Honourable Mention: ‘Mirai’
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Who Will Win: ‘Roma’
Who Should Win: ‘Cold War’
Honourable Mention: ‘Shoplifters’
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron for ‘Roma’
Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron for ‘Roma’
Honourable Mention: Lukasz Sal for ‘Cold War’
Best Achievement in Editing
Who Will Win: ‘Vice’ in a very open category
Who Should Win: No clear favourites in this category. ‘First Man’ was not even nominated.
Honourable Mention: ‘Green Book’
Best Achievement in Production Design
Who Will Win: ‘Black Panther’
Who Should Win: ‘The Favourite’
Honourable Mention: ‘First Man’
Best Achievement in Costume Design
Who Will Win: ‘Black Panther’
Who Should Win: ‘The Favourite’
Honourable Mention: Mary Poppins Returns
Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Who Will Win: ‘Vice’
Who Should Win: ‘The Favourite’
Honourable Mention: ‘Black Panther’
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Who Will Win: I really have no clue here because ‘First Man’ and ‘A Star is Born’ are not nominated. If having a lot of music is the criteria, then ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ should win but the award may go to ‘Black Panther’
Who Should Win: None of the nominated movie have an Oscar worthy score.
Honourable Mention: ‘Black Panther’
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Who Will Win: ‘First Man’
Who Should Win: ‘First Man’
Honourable Mention: ‘Black Panther’
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Who Will Win: ‘A Quiet Place’
Who Should Win: ‘First Man’
Honourable Mention: ‘Black Panther’
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)
Who Will Win: Lady Gaga for ‘A Star is Born’
Who Should Win: Lady Gaga for ‘A Star is Born’
Honourable Mention: Diane Warren for ‘RBG’
Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Who Will Win: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’
Who Should Win: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’
Honourable Mention: ‘First Man’
Best Documentary, Feature
Who Will Win: ‘Free Solo’
Who Should Win: ‘RBG’
Honourable Mention: ‘Hale County This Morning, This Evening’