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.