Week 40

Movies: Non-English

The Great Beauty (Italy, 2013) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

The Great Beauty

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dyt430YkQn0

Winner of the Best Foreign Language movie at last week’s Golden Globes, this Italian film captures the beauty of Rome like never before. On his 65th birthday the lead character gets a blast from the past which makes him introspect the life he has led. The same Rome which is the home to the papacy also has a vibrant night life. It is in this melange that he finds the sublime and the loud. The film captures the wide open spaces in Rome which a casual visitor might miss for the hustle and bustle of a sprawling metropolis. The film is an ode to Rome but has some really sharp writing and the average viewer will be challenged to understand all the references to art and artists that the dialogues often refer to. It also has its fair share of philosophy but is never dull. Watch this ambitious and pensive work of art for the sheer grandeur it shows. I have not seen all the Oscar nominees in the Foreign Language category but I am willing to put my money on this film winning at the Oscars too.

Love Me If You Dare (France, 2003) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Yann Samuell

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtzjUjVQe9Q

Panned by critics but loved by audiences, this French film was a blockbuster in France. It is easy to see why the movie was butchered by critics. It has no sense of logic and tells an improbable story. At the same time it is easy to see why the audiences loved it. It moves at such a frenetic pace that you are not bothered by the lack of logic. The way it has been shot and the acting compensate for a listless story. I am an admirer of the acting talent of Marion Cotillard. As always, she steals the show. As for the story, it is about two friends who carry on a game they started as kids, well into adulthood and way beyond reasonable behaviour. The game subsumes everything in their life and becomes their life itself. Watch this madcap film on a lazy weekend.

Movies I Saw This Week

12 Years a Slave (2013) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

12 Years a Slave

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

Winner of the Best Picture at the Golden Globes and a hot favourite to land the same statuette at the Oscars, the movie tells a story that must be told. A free man who is good at playing the violin is abducted and sold as a slave. Based on actual events and adapted to the screen from the book with the same title, the movie is a must watch. The director Steve McQueen is notorious for making films which are difficult to watch and which don’t hold back their punches. His earlier work ‘Hunger’ was a pain to watch but this one has raw violence which made me turn my head away from the screen a few times. There are indeed more violent films that are released every year but with this one the realization that not a very long time ago this is what people did to other people makes it all the more direct. Still that is an education that is necessary, lest we forget. The film is a must watch. The only competition for Jennifer Lawrence in the Supporting Actress category at the Oscars will be from Lupita Nyong’o who puts in a memorable performance.

Her (2013) [ IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Her (2013)

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

Thank God that better sense dawned on Joaquin Phoenix and he came back from retirement to continue his career as an actor. Following up on his masterclass in ‘The Master’, he shows us why he is one of the finest actors of this generation in this ‘romance’. This original piece of work by Spike Jonze is more or less a lock in for the Original Screenplay at the Oscars as it was at the Golden Globes. The film has a very interesting first to its credit. It won Scarlett Johansson the Best Actress award at the Rome Film Festival, the only instance in its history that a character not appearing on screen has been given the award. That is explained by the story. Scarlett Johansson is the voice of the operating system with which Joaquin Phoenix falls madly in love with. The story is set in the future where the operating systems are intelligent enough to communicate intelligently with the user. They are pretty advanced too because they can understand and respond to even the speech of Joaquin Phoenix, an actor not particularly known for mouthing dialogues with clarity. There are other indicators to show that the setting is very futuristic. The city landscape in fog filled, hardly anyone ever wears jeans, all characters wear cotton pants with no belts and so on. The story is a lesson on how customization is important. There is always a demand for personalized services, be it professional letter writers (the job of the protagonist) or operating systems. At another level the story sheds light on how people sometimes develop a love for inanimate objects. After all this, it still is a simple love story with the associated highs and lows. What makes it a work of genius are some truly inspired scenes. (Spoilers ahead) The one when a surrogate visits the protagonist in lieu of the operating system is one such. Another one is when the operating system tells about her other loves. ‘Her’ is one of the most engaging films of the year with a screenplay that makes you think. Some of the metaphors are too good to be missed. How about men wanting to have girlfriends who are submissive and speak only when asked to? How about the allure of the voice over form and content? How about watching something new when you think new is no more possible?

Dallas Buyers Club (2013) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

dallas

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvMPU0WaPcc

Matthew McConaughey shed 45 pounds to look the part of an AIDS patient in this movie based on actual events. It is this kind of copious shedding of body weight which usually wins Oscars but then you have to raise a toast to the man who has given a string of strong performances over the last three years and transformed his career from being a gung-ho shirtless hero in movies like ‘Dazed and Confused’ to someone who has discovered that he could be remembered for his performances than anything else. That also makes him the leader in the pack for this years Best Actor Oscar. The film is not worth much. It follows the story of a bigot who gets AIDS and is forced to change his opinion on himself and others. Also, he circumvents the FDA to find medication for himself and in the process runs into a litany of court cases. At some stage in the movie I stopped caring about the story and started focusing on the acting of Matthew McConaughey. In the end that is all that there is to this flick but then that is one good reason to watch this one.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Dirty Wars (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:84%]

Dirty Wars

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KpzBAKJmig

The Oscar nomination for this one this year is down to the fact that it deserves to be seen widely and a few good men need to be appreciated. As a documentary, it is not a great one but just for sincerity and guts it needs to be seen. By the way, it is on the war in Afghanistan.

Coen Brothers Retrospective

Their latest work was snubbed at the Oscars but then I guess they have too many awards to be bothered by that. Here is a look at some of the best work from them. For more have a look at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001053/?ref_=tt_ov_dr

The Big Lebowski (1998) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

The Big Lebowski

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd-go0oBF4Y

The story of a man who is mistaken for a millionaire. Royally snubbed at the Oscars without even a nomination. History has since judged. Classic.

Miller’s Crossing (1990) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

Miller's Crossing

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYifReJJn4M

Divided loyalties in a gang war. The movie has never divided opinion. Must see.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?  (2000) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

O Brother, Where Art Thou

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqcnp8pHbwA

George Clooney doesn’t give two hoots about his image when he acts for the Coen brothers. Find out why.

Eagerly Waiting for:’The Wind Rises’ because it is supposed to be better than all the animation movies made last year.

Did you know: Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ was the director’s first film in twelve years without Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Week 26

Movies: Non-English

Le Samouraï (France, 1967) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

samourai

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs0XYssIlbo

An assassin who is at the top of his game suddenly finds the tide turning against him. The same qualities that made him a force may cause his downfall. Stylishly shot movie which is able to achieve the deadpan look which many other movies try so hard to achieve. A must watch. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that the title ‘Kamikaze’ would have been more apt.

All About My Mother (Spain, 1998) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

all about

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkUMC5Jw8MA

Pedro Almodovar is a great story teller but the most noticeable trait of his movies is the presence of strong female characters. Here, the usual dose of Spanish flair is an asset to the movie which moves at a rapid pace. The story is that of a single mother trying to cope with her son’s death. She is also forced to confront her own demons. The film scooped the Academy award for the ‘Best Foreign Language film’ after having tasted commercial success in Spain.

English Retrospective

Requiem for a Dream (2000) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

requiem

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgo3Hb5vWLE

One of the most depressing movies you will ever see. Four addicts who want to have a better life go down the drain as they are unable to battle their dependence on drugs. The movie is shot in a rather disconcerting way and is like a visit to hell and back. The performances are uniformly classy. A special mention must be made of Ellen Burstyn who as the mother puts in an unforgettable performance. One of the best movies you will ever see.

Pulp Fiction (1994) [ IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

pulp fiction

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

Director Quentin Tarantino is a self confessed fan of B grade slasher movies and action flicks. The good thing is that he shows his love for violence by making high quality classics which revel in violence and action. ‘Pulp Fiction’ is perhaps his most accomplished work and one of the most important movies of the 90s. The movie gave a new grammar to the method of making movies. With actors who act as if they were born to perform their roles, the move is a tour de force. This is one movie which you should watch if you claim to have any interest in movies.

Edward Scissorhands (1990) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

edward

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eq2PPFUhfpo

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated on many occasions with mixed results. This movie is perhaps the best that they have produced together. Johnny stars as Edward who has scissors for hands. He falls in love with kleptomaniac (in real life, that is) Winona Ryder. Though Depp tries his best to emote this is not his best performance. He is able to draw the sympathy towards his character but that is all what he is able to do. Still, a rather interesting film for the novelty of the idea.

Movies I Saw This Week

Mud (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Mud French Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFBC8ohhVUs

Matthew McConaughey has been the most consistent star in the last three years delivering remarkable movies starting with ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ in 2011. As they say, he saved the best for the last. ‘Mud’ is undoubtedly his most accomplished film with a solid story and screenplay that makes you wonder whether it is inspired by true events. Here McConaughey plays a man on the run from the law who makes a pact with two boys to help him escape. The locations are authentic and McConaughey looks the part. He deserves at least an Oscar nomination for his performance. All this adds up to one of the best films of 2013. Truth be told, it is difficult to find such movies anymore. Therefore, a must watch.

Disconnect (2012) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

disconnect

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqCcQOlDM4o

‘Disconnect’ is basically a lesson on internet. It is a movie for the beginners on what not to do on the net. Otherwise, it is a movie on incredibly naive people who have no idea what they are doing when they post personal stuff on the net and pass it on to complete strangers. The editing is tacky and the background score does not aid the setting. I did not find the movie much impressive but from the popular response it seems I am in the minority.

Besharam ( India, 2013)[ IMDB: 3.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 18%]

Besharam_movie_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzPjjqiG918

Finally, a Bollywood movie which lives up to its title. Shameless. The sentimental story of an orphan who has a heart of gold. Just kidding. The stupid story of an orphan who likes to steal cars for a living and steals the car of the girl he is chasing. The girl is also so filthy rich that she drives the latest Mercedes (poor idea of product placement) and then starts loving the guy who stole her car. Moral of the story: If the girl who you like does not like you,steal her car. Drive her around (in your car) long enough to make her love you. Then confess and return her car. Crack some crude jokes and when you are stuck on what to do next, start a song. Voila, you have a film.

Phata Poster Nikla Hero (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

phata

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCrNoy5OeOI

The only thing I liked about the movie is the title of the movie. I hope Shahid Kapoor goes the Abhishek Bachchan way. That is, I hope he makes enough flops that he stops getting movies.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Restrepo (2010) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Restrepo_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DjqR6OucBc

War in Afghanistan. A year with those fighting it. Must see.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ because it is a Coen Brothers film.

Did you know: Co-director of ‘Restrepo’, Tim Hetherington, was killed on April 20, 2011 while covering the conflict in Libya.