Edition 53: The Best of National Awards

Movies: Non-English

Fireworks (Hana-bi) (Japan, 1997) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Hana-Bi Poster

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With generous doses of blood splashing on the screen and numerous scenes with physical violence, this Japanese classic is not a pleasant film to watch. A cop gets out of the police force and gets into violent ways. He takes up painting after his voluntary retirement but the pent up frustrations in his life boil over. Shot with an element of sadism in the scenes of violence and marked with insensitivity to human life, the film is a masterclass in violence. The lead actor wrote and directed the film and it is safe in his hands as he is able to fully realize what he penned.

The Wave (Germany, 2008) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

Wave (2008)

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For many poorly informed foreigners, especially non-Europeans, the everlasting word association with Germany is ‘Hitler’. Though unfair to Germany and Germans, this is one association they find very difficult to shake off. This film explores the possibility of the rise of a dictatorship in Germany. Based on a true story (that happened outside Germany),  a social experiment trying to figure out how life would be under a dictatorship, spirals out of control. Though the film suffers much on account of the difficulty in making it believable, it is a study on how cults emerge and how a few committed mad men can create havoc in the society. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jolly LLB (India, 2013) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

Jolly-LLB-2013

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I did not watch this movie earlier thinking that it was one of the assembly line manufactured products from Bollywood. The ‘critics’ from mainstream media were also reserved in their reviews with no high praises being spoken of the film. It is after the film scooped few awards at the Filmfare awards that I thought that I should probably watch it. The probability turned into certainty when the film won a few more awards at the National Film Awards. It is a mystery to me (maybe, it is not) how pathetic mainstream movies with huge star casts receive glowing paid for reviews while good independent cinema is hardly recognized. Jolly LLB, minus the forced songs, is indeed the best Hindi film of 2013. It has a very original script and fine performances from all the main actors including Saurabh Shukla, Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani. Telling a contemporary story, it is a courtroom drama that exposes the ills of the Indian judicial system without taking itself too seriously. The court scenes look authentic and the dialogues are never forced. It is a quite an easy film to watch and keeps you interested even when the climax is a foregone conclusion.

Labor Day (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Labor Day

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This film looks like a 70s movie with better cast and poor directing. A cure for insomnia. It is baffling how Kate Winslet got a BAFTA nomination for her insipid performance. The plot involves a single mom and her son being forced to give asylum to a criminal on the run from the law. A lot of mushy moments that are obviously built into the story to initiate intimacy between the couple fall flat. All this makes it a B grade movie with an A list star cast which makes you laugh in the serous moments.

Shahid (India, 2012) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

shahid

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Based on the true story of the slain advocate who defended the accused in many high stakes terror cases, ‘Shahid’ is a tour de force. Punching many holes in the narrative of the investigation agencies, Shahid becomes a thorn in the proceedings for people wielding power. He succeeds in getting acquittals for many of the accused.The movie which starts with the killing of Shahid traces his story from almost becoming a terrorist to being at the vanguard of the fight against human rights abuses. Rajkumar Rao deservedly got the Best Actor award at the National Film Awards. ‘Shahid’ tells a story that needs to be told and they have told it quite well.

2 States (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

2-states-poster_139296427700

 

Trailer: 

First the good parts. It is not a boring film and Alia Bhatt has acted well. Discounting for the source material, the film is well directed and edited. In simple words, it is not boring. Otherwise, it is a story which was taken from a screenplay published as a novel. (Spoilers Ahead) Chetan Bhagat writes screenplays with melodramatic moments and high drama in plain English and first publishes them as books priced at suitable pricing points. Later they make them into movies which neatly fit the genre of the typical Bollywood romance. The film is a refined version of Ekkkkkkta Kapoor’s serials, with squabbling relatives and tender love caught in the cross fire. Here a Punjabi guy and a Tamil Brahmin girl (you see, the cast has to be mentioned. As if, others don’t study in Tamil Nadu) fall in love, copulate and even romance during interviews during their stint at IIM A. In what is bad advertisement for IIM A, the girl even takes the groom to task over his lower salary than hers at a wedding which is her way of addressing the dowry problem. I have only sympathy for the souls who think that Chetan Bhagat writes something new in every book. It is the same recycled trash. All his books have the same type of ‘liberated’ women. Just like the much prized pen in ‘3 Idiots’ there are plot devices that keep on repeating in the movie for them to be magically resolved. A case in point here is the poor singer mother-in-law who gets her place in the sun because of the efforts of her daughter’s boyfriend. Then there is the abusive father who has a change of heart when the director wants it. It is all too convenient.  The piece de  resistance was the ‘ring scene’. I was wondering if all family members would be wearing the ring and if the girl had a sister instead of a brother, would she be wearing one too? For once, I did not understand the need to have a session at the shrink’s place as a venue for the flashback. Maybe producer Kkkkkkaran Johar can explain.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2014) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues

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If you have brain, leave it in the freezer. Know that you are going to watch a stupid film and know that stupidity has no limits. Get ready for jokes that don’t care about any niceties. Racist jokes, jokes on the blind and so on are the categories that will have benchmarks with this one film which makes no pretensions about what it wants to tell. Finally it boils down to a matter of taste. Watch a version of how 24 hour news channels came into being. Just for the gags.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Why We Fight (2005) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Why We Fight (2005)

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Why Americans like going to war? Who wants America to go to war? A look at the powerful interests that drive the American war machine.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Chef’ because it is a movie on food.

Did you know: The first Twilight is the only film in the series to not receive any Razzie Award nominations.

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Week 47

I am happy to report that accuracy levels for the last week’s predictions were way beyond my expectations. Congratulations to all the winners at the 2014 Oscars.

Movies: Non-English

Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico, 1993) [ IMDb: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Like Water for Chocolate

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Considered a landmark in the history of Mexican cinema, this film tells the story of a man who is forced to marry the sister of the woman he is in love with. It is a lyrically told tale with moments where the director attempts to have scenes of magical realism. The performances are nothing to crow about. The way the story plays out and the twists and turns in the predictable family life make the film an interesting watch. The film remains one of the peaks of Mexican cinema. Highly recommended.

Bicycle Thieves (Italy, 1948) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

b_thieves_061609.pdf

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Often cited as the greatest film ever to be made, this classic from Italy is a must watch for anyone with even a passing interest in great films and the history of cinema. It is a simple story of a man and his son in search of a cycle. What makes it a classic is the universal theme it deals with, which has stood the test of time and can be understood by the common man anywhere in the world. An absolute must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Oldboy (2013) [IMDB:5.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 44%]

Oldboy

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Based on the Korean film with the same title this film deviates from the original, with mixed results. (Spoilers Ahead) While this one is shot particularly well, it leaves some gaping holes in the plot. A man with a dubious character is kidnapped and imprisoned for two decades without him knowing the reason for the ordeal he is put through. While in confinement, his only reason for staying alive is his hope of seeing his daughter. The film has a small but significant shift in the climax which looks good but is not easily explained by facts. It does sound strange when a 20 million bounty is unnecessarily offered to the prisoner without any explanation of why he is at the receiving end of such a largess. It does neatly fit in towards the end but the ending is just too convenient. In all this, the prisoner shows no remorse for his actions and he continues with his pre confinement persona after release too. I guess many thugs like him would be happy to go through the ordeal if they were offered 20 million dollars.

Hasee Toh Phasee (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

Hasee Toh Phasee

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The film is a genuine romantic comedy which falters severely towards the end. (Spoilers ahead) It is very difficult to understand why the director chose to go with Parineeti Chopra as the choice of the lead in the climax of the movie. It is evident that the protagonist had a strong seven year old relationship going with his fiancee and for him to leave her for a girl he meets after his engagement looks a dumb idea. This is augmented by the fact at no stage there are strong sparks between the hero and the new girl in his life, who also happens to be a runaway thief. The film has some really funny scenes and sharp dialogues but all the effort goes down the drain when the director chooses to go for the easy and conventional ending with lot of glycerin induced scenes thrown in. The acting is competent and the screenplay hold on its own for large parts but the songs are as stale as yesterday’s leftovers. Still, a one time watch.

Gunday (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 1.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 5%]

gunday_trailer_1

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Hell hath no fury like Bangladeshis scorned. ‘Gunday’ has been at the receiving end of Bangladeshi rage as mass voting from this country has made Gunday the worst rated film in the history of IMDB. ‘Gunday’ now occupies the unenviable position of the worst film in movie history going by popular sentiment. What has led to such negative reaction is the accusation of misrepresentation of the freedom struggle of Bangladesh. Bangladeshis have taken offence and responded with full vigour. As for the film, it is a triangular love story. It is a stock template of Bollywood movies and offers nothing new. The film is loud, boring and a total disaster. It has kids who think they are men and a spinster who thinks she is still a crowd puller. Come to think of it, this hated film hit the screens on Valentine’s day. The irony of it all.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Armstrong Lie (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Armstrong Lie

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For all those who are still in denial that Lance Armstrong was the biggest cheat in the history of sports, get your dose of reality from the man himself. Even the director’s attempts to save him fall flat. Must watch.

The : D Retrospective

My Fair Lady (1964) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

My Fair Lady

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A lady from a poor neighbourhood is picked up for a social experiment and groomed into a fine lady. Audrey Hepburn carries the film on her tiny shoulders and does it with remarkable success. It remains a mystery to me how the film landed up with eight Oscars because the best it could have hoped for was an invite to Hepburn to the Oscars. Watch it just for her.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

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An underrated gem which earned a young Di Caprio his first Oscar nomination. The plot involves Johnny Depp who is burdened with a dysfunctional family and his attempts to break free are stifled. The film has a great ensemble acting performance with all the actors putting in memorable performances. A bittersweet tale which deserves a more wider audience.

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) [ IMDB:6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

under the tuscan

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An author buys a house in Tuscany in the spur of a moment. Over a long period of time many characters enter and leave her life and she keeps on searching for true love. Watch to find out if she does find love. Diane Lane is a dignified presence throughout the movie and her acting makes you root for her.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘Blended’ because Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler think they are still good to be in romantic comedies.

Did you know: Following the tremendous success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the New Zealand government even created a Minister for Lord of the Rings, whose remit was to exploit all the economic opportunities the films represented.