Edition 53: The Best of National Awards

Movies: Non-English

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

Hana-Bi Poster

Trailer: 

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)

Trailer: 

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

Trailer: 

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

Trailer: 

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

Trailer: 

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

Trailer: 

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)

Trailer: 

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 41

Movies: Non-English

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3a50DJkCxqw

Academy award nominee for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category this year, this film from Belgium is a devastating tearjerker. It is a heady mix of music, romance and tragedy with moments of sheer brilliance. The wedding scene and the climax are scenes that stand out. The movie follows the challenges faced by a young family and their desperate attempts to overcome them but at the core of the story is the conflicting religious beliefs of the husband and wife which appear beyond reconciliation. I believe that one of the reasons that the film has a nod at the Oscars is because of the way it tears into the George Bush presidency by using actual footage to support the arguments of one of the characters. The good thing is that even if the politics of the movie is disregarded as inconsequential, it is a movie worth your time. Two thumbs up.

The Third Half (Macedonia, 2012) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

The Third Half

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJq03xHc6mE

Another film on Nazis, which I believe is a theme that has been done to death by Hollywood. Maybe the Macedonians did not figure that out. So they also came up with a mild version to suit their historical narrative. The end product is a movie which is not bad but does not introduce any new elements in a predictable story line. My curiosity stemmed from the fact that it tells the story of a football team trying to get its act together and at the same time bogged down by politics. If you can take another film on Nazis this film is highly recommended. Otherwise, highly forgettable.

Movies I Saw This Week

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Inside Llewyn Davis

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFphYRyH7wc

Oscar Isaac produces a scintillating performance as the title character of a movie which certainly falls into the drama genre but is neither a tragedy nor a triumph. Llewyn Davis is a folk singer who tries to piece together a living when he is not hopping from one couch to another in his quest to find a place to sleep. (Spoiler ahead) His life is so messed up that he gets to know through a third party that he has become a father and he still does not want to see the child. Llewyn Davis is a musician who is neither great nor ordinary. As a character, he is neither weak nor strong. It is this very quality of a man who cannot be faulted because he is not impractical but at the same time is not practical enough that makes this story a little complex. That also makes the film very engaging to watch as it opens up to unpredictable twists and turns. A special mention must be made of the cinematography of this movie which is a strong contender at the Oscars but may eventually lose out to ‘Gravity’. All in all, this is not a movie for everyone but for the discerning few.

All Is Lost (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

All Is Lost

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk_R04LfUQU

Robert Redford’s best movie in years tells the story of a man marooned with his damaged boat in the ocean when it is hit by a stray container. It chronicles his desperate attempts to rescue himself from imminent and painful death. The movie is slow but I believe that the plot dictated the pace of the movie. A standout feature is the background score. At the Oscars this year this category will be a straight shootout between ‘All Is Lost’ and ‘Gravity’. I would love to see an Indian version of this movie because the Hollywood hunks like to appear calm and composed under trying circumstances but imagine Shahrukh Khan in such a role. He would have cried his heart out and appeared vulnerable, making him endearing. Some movies are better off with such men and Robert Redford is not such a man.

Dedh Ishqiya (India, 2014) [IMDB: 7.9, Rooten Tomatoes: 77%]

dedh

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J3fkfUDkx8

A half decent story with a plausible twist makes this one of the early winners of 2014. All the actors are in fine form and the movie has a good pace to it. It is the story of two con men who think they have found their match in a mysterious duo. The good thing with the movie is the crisp writing which serves as a refresher course in chaste Hindi. Definitely worth a watch.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1Xk-yTuFEU

Ben Stiller should stick to comedies. His capabilities as a director are evidently limited and this movie is the best proof for it. He is neither funny nor engaging. The movie about a man with a fertile imagination and pretty much only that, is a damp squib. The story meanders along and is a big yawn. The producers could have donated the money to some charity. At least they wouldn’t have to explain to their children their poor decision making abilities.

Documentary Pick of the Week

20 Feet from Stardom (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%]

20 Feet from Stardom

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWyUJcA8Zfo

The story of the unsung chorus singers on stage. Nominated for the Oscar this year. Strong contender. Worth a watch.

Terrence Malick Retrospective

Days of Heaven (1978) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Days of Heaven

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlZDsMCW0U4

A story of passion, intrigue and treachery set in a farm. Competently acted. Beautifully shot.

The Thin Red Line (1998) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

thin red

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejm0XvT3rB8

The Army as it is. Sudden death, painful superiors and a low life. Dream casting with too many stars to count.

Badlands (1973) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]

Badlands-707049238-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKykxE7CBbc

A couple like to kill. A study in psychology.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ because it is going to be the first blockbuster of 2014.

Did you know: The sounds made by the Brachiosaurs in ‘Jurassic Park’ were a combination of whale and donkey sounds.