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.

Week 19

Movies: Non-English

The Life of Rose {La Vie En Rose} (France, 2007) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

La Vie En Rose movie poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xujvIs0DhJU

In his review of this biopic of legendary French singer Edith Piaf, Stephen Holden of the ‘The New York Times’ wrote and I quote, “The most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another ever encountered on film.” I concur. Marion Cotillard was a shoo in for the Best Actress at the Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes making her only the second actress after Sophia Loren to win the Oscar for that category in a non-English movie. The film tells the bittersweet story of Edith Piaf who died young. This is one of those biopics where you genuinely feel for the character who is felled by a succession of tragedies. Marion Cotillard is exceptional in the role and (Spoiler Ahead) her acting in the scene when she discovers the death of her lover is unforgettable. Watch it for her and get introduced to Edith Piaf whose death was the only instance after the Second World War when Parisian traffic came to a standstill.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

death of

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB5BktF00_Y

This Romanian tour de force is a niche comedy. It is not a chaplinesque slapstick and requires you to see the biting sarcasm at the heart of the film. The good thing is that even with the subtitles the humour is not lost. The story is that of a lonely old man who is stretchered off from one hospital to another on a particularly interesting night. The pace is rather slow but the dialogues more than make up for it. Overall, a good watch.

English Retrospective

The Paper Chase (1973) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

paper chase

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

The story of life at Harvard Law School told through the eyes of one of the less stellar students on campus. It tells the reality of high pressure academic life marked by rigor which is what finally sets apart elite institutions. Life is lonely and the weather is often very cold. To add to this the teachers are geniuses who expect the same quality from the students. It is a very grounded movie which tells things as they are. Very well written. I particularly like the classroom scenes with strong dialogues and games of one upmanship. Also, it looks very authentic.

MASH (1972) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Mash

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvijJ3RnRc8

Irreverent comedy which tests the limits of comedy and often breaches it through distasteful antics. The interesting part is that all the fun is by doctors and nurses of the US Army stationed in Korea during the war. They need an escape from what they encounter in their daily lives and once they decide to turn on the style it becomes a free for all madcap entertainer which maybe the best comedy in an army camp setting. Recommended only for those who can see the lighter side in everything.

Scent of a Woman (1992) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

scent_of_a_woman_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GUvsJc3vvE

How many Oscars has Al Pacino won? One. The legendary actor got his only piece of Oscar glory for playing a blind retired army Colonel in the remake of an Italian film by the same name. How his imposing and confident personality comes to the rescue of a student who comes to take care of him forms the crux of the story. His dialogue delivery, screen presence and emoting are essential viewing for anyone who cares to know the difference between run of the mill stuff and great acting. Essential viewing.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Conjuring (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

conjuring

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k10ETZ41q5o

First of all, this is a really scary movie and watching it in a movie hall with good sound effects is the only way one can do justice to it. The director and the writer duo have finally hit the bull’s eye after making a series of average horror movies. There is a certain air of imminent danger throughout the movie. Even routine events are shot as if something really bad is going to happen. In that respect the film takes some time to get the feel right. If you enjoy being scared, then this one is for you. Apparently the film is based on a true story but you will have to stretch your imagination to believe that all that really happened. There are some unintentional funny scenes. Like when the priest says, ” The kids aren’t baptized. The approval (for the exorcism) has to come directly from the Vatican.” Really?

Chennai Express (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 57%]

chennai-express_13570983881

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZGR5Sj1Bfo

Congratulations to Shahrukh Khan for having a proper hit after five years. Congratulations to the Indian multiplex viewer for making another dud a hit. Congratulations to Deepika Padukone for setting the new benchmark for Hindi spoken with a Tamil accent. Congratulations to myself that this movie is not playing within a 1000 miles of my residence. Truth be told, something inside me died every time Deepika spoke in Hindi. I have never seen such a hammed performance for a really long time. Shahrukh Khan plays a 40 year old, a fact which he keeps on repeating as if he is doing the viewer a favour by not playing a 25 year old. Truth: Shahrukh Khan is 47 years old and looks 50. Maybe the dialogue to that effect was true but then nobody would have noticed it because the star was peddling his Nokia phone worth Rs. 34250. You see, the phone still takes calls after being thrown out from a running train. Marketing lesson learnt: Nokia phones are sturdy and built for India where even the goons cannot destroy them. The movie may have swept the box office but one group who would have a tough time watching it with their families: Halwais. The hero gets off at a place near a waterfall on his way to Chennai but when he has to escape he finds himself in international waters near Sri Lanka. Take a look at the map of India. I am as lost for words as Shahrukh is in that scene. The action scenes or the ‘cars flying in the air’ scenes look like shots Rohit Shetty wanted to put in ‘Golmaal’ but then the producer of that series may have told him to keep them for another day.  Wafers have been made thinner to a new size called ‘Chennai Express Screenplay’. You know who is the biggest star and saving grace of the movie? The pictures of Rajnikanth when the end credits roll.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara! (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 30%]

Once-Upon-A-Time-In-Mumbaai-Dobara-Full-Movie-Online

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj9UXzyDsOA

What Shahrukh Khan can do, Akshay Kumar can’t. People don’t rush to his movies anymore because they have grown wiser after his gems like ‘Joker’ and ‘Thank You’. So he can kiss the 100 crore club goodbye unless he has a remake to hang on to. To add to this he has ‘accomplished’ actors like Imran Khan to thwart his every attempt to rise above mediocrity. Imran Khan may be in movies only because he has the right connections. His acting is defined by consistency. He looks the same and acts the same in every single movie. Only the costumes change. If there is a fan of Imran Khan out there, you are my enemy just because of the fact that you are a fan of Imran Khan. This movie is a pathetic attempt to cash in on the success of its prequel or is it that they don’t even put an effort to find a name for a movie. So just tell the world that it is the second part of some hit. Sleep, watch paint dry, count the waves on the beach, do anything but don’t waste your time on this flick.

Now You See Me (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

now you see me

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

An important tenet of magic is that the viewer should know that he has been tricked and should be generally happy about it. The keyword is, ‘tricked’. This movie makes use of all the technical advances in movie making for a film on magic. The problem is that it uses this to cheat the viewer and make a fool out of him. While trying to sound scientific with a nod to logic the movie is so full of loopholes in logic that the credibility of the film is easily questioned. From a piranha scene relying on editing to a bank robbery scene relying on god knows what, the movie is an insult to intelligence. The second time a character started playing the imaginary violin, I was thinking ‘what the heck is going on?’ The ending is convenient but to focus on it would be to say that other parts are of admissible quality. They are not so. I don’t want to do a laundry list of scenes where common sense is thrown out of the window because that would constitute half of the movie (or even more). As always, Morgan Freeman looks majestic. Thank god, he does not do any magic trick.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Tabloid (2010) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

taboid

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

A beauty queen kidnaps a Mormon Missionary with whom she is in love. The incident creates waves. Thirty years later a documentary tries to uncover the truth. Mostly fun.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The Monuments Men’ because it has Matt and Clooney.

Did you know: The ‘Hollywood’ sign in Los Angeles originally spelled ‘Hollywoodland’ when it was installed in 1923. ‘Land’ was removed only in 1949.