Edition 72

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Mustang (France, Turkey, 2015) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating:8.0 ]

mustang-toh-exclusive-poster

Trailer

This drama on the lives of five free spirited sisters in Turkey, is in turns poignant and triumphant. In a deeply patriarchal society where older women are accessories to reinforce the system, the resistance of two of the sisters to chart their own course forms the heart of the story. Shot in Turkey, this film is also France’s entry at the Oscars and rightfully earned its nomination in the Foreign Film category. It may not be off the mark to say that the movie depicts the creeping religious extremism in a once liberal Turkey. Starting on a low gear the movie gains momentum and becomes a tour de force as it progresses. At some point in the movie it feels that in some societies the only expectation from a woman is marriage; a marriage in which she has no say whatsoever.

The cast and crew of the movie deserve plaudits for the original vision and performances. The climax of the movie is an optimistic one but feels out of place and unconvincing based on the narrative till that point. For all its infirmities, ‘Mustang’ is still one of the best films of 2015. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week

Anomalisa (2015) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:92%, My Rating:7.5 ]

anomalisa

Trailer

Charlie Kaufman is one of my favorite screenplay writers. I thoroughly enjoyed his creations like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, ‘Adaptation’, and ‘Synecdoche, New York’. In ‘Anomalisa’, he addresses the all too familiar issue of mid-life crisis with an unfamiliar technique. With only three actors voicing this motion capture format movie, the scenes are thankfully not belittled by the limited budget. A rock star sales professional who focuses on customer experience and his mundane life form the core of the movie. Mildly dull at times, Anomalisa’s saving grace is the philosophical tinge that permeates the movie. At its center, the movie is a deeply sad one with disturbing visions on solitude and love. Charlie Kaufman is in his elements when he taps into the small things that make life, dissects them and holds a mirror to the daily life. The only grouse I have with this movie is that it would have looked much better if it had been shot in the conventional format with real people.

The Stanford prison experiment (2015) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating:6.5 ]

THE-STANFORD-PRISON-EXPERIMENT-movie-poster2

Based on the famous psychology experiment conducted at Stanford in 1971, the movie captures the behavior of students when they were segregated to prisoners and wardens in an experimental prison. As a classic case of how people respond to authority and power, the experiment itself was quite illuminating. This motion picture tries to capture the essence of what happened behind the scenes. At times revealing and at times painfully monotonous, the movie is dogged by the inconsistency of the material on screen. It is of interest to note that even unimposing characters show an air of supremacy when granted powers to lord over people. The high quality of research at top universities and the lengths to which researchers go can be understood with this showcase research phenomenon. The movie is recommended only for those with an interest in delving into the dynamics of power within a hierarchical system.

 

Sicario (2015) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:7.5 ]

Sicario-Poster

Trailer

Emily Blunt plays the role of a FBI agent who is coerced to ‘volunteer’ to be part of a team fighting the drug cartels in the area of US-Mexico border. The opening scene sets the mood and pace of the movie but as the movie progresses only the mood is retained. Painfully and unnecessarily slow in certain segments, the movie bursts into life in fits and then returns to dormancy. Sicario’s subject matter is not refreshingly different from movies which have dealt with the same theme. Its beauty is derived from the spellbinding cinematography of Roger Deakins and an engaging music score. It is a pity that Deakins may well lose out to Emmanuel Lubezki at the Oscars. Emily Blunt, whose vulnerability is exposed as the movie progresses, adds her weight to the proceedings. Her anger and fear as her role in the mission is revealed is where the movie rises a notch higher than the movies of the same genre.

The Revenant (2015) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating:8.0 ]

reve

Trailer

With a dozen Oscar nominations and a few Golden Globe wins, ‘The Revenant’ is in the driver’s seat for the ongoing awards season. It tells the true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass who was left for dead by his team in the wild with only the crushing winter for company. Director Innaritu follows his trademark hard hitting style he has carried from his directorial debut Amores Perros (reviewed in the first edition of this blog). The film opens with a scene similar to the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. Many movies have tried to copy that template of a high voltage opening scene to grab the attention of the viewer but very few have been successful. ‘The Revenant’ belongs to the latter category. Then the movie gets into its subject matter where DiCaprio is mauled by a bear. That scene basically checks out the Oscar for best makeup. Then our hero goes through all sorts of trials and tribulations. That checks out the ever elusive acting Oscar for DiCaprio. Finally the effort to act in such a demanding movie may be the only way for Dicaprio to get an Oscar rather than the acting itself.

The movie was shot only with natural light. That means that the crew had to plan shots and utilize the limited time in a difficult terrain to film. The scenery is engrossing and at times intimidating. Unlike last year’s ‘Birdman’, Emmanual Lubezki does not make the presence of his camera apparent and yet delivers one of the most exquisitely shot movie of our times. It is hard to see him not getting a hat trick of Oscar wins. The movie unnecessarily blends in other themes which are irrelevant to the central theme and create distraction. Now the question is about the best Film and Director. This will be a tight call because as an end product the film is spectacular but boring for much of the latter half. More on the predictions in my annual predictions issue before the Oscars. One category the film will not win is the Editing. As the film moves towards the climax you cannot be faulted if you are thinking of what to do after the movie. It does get tedious at some points but the movie is spectacular at some other points. Watch it for the spectacular points.

Creed (2015) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:94%, My Rating:7.5 ]

creedpostersmall

Trailer

‘Creed’ has been in the news for the Oscar snub delivered to its African-American director and lead star. The truth is that purely on the basis of merit that is a fair decision and so is the Oscar nomination for Sylvester Stallone. Creed is a good movie but not a great movie. It plays highly on nostalgia and extracts every ounce of the popularity of the ‘Rocky’ franchise to build its story line. The only one who puts the nostalgia to good use is Stallone who delivers the best performance of his career as the retired champion who takes the son of his great opponent under his tutelage. Full of sports movie cliches, the movie succeeds by keeping it grounded and anchoring the story on the capable shoulders of Stallone.

Joy (2015) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:60%, My Rating:6.0 ]

joy

Trailer

The third collaboration of the team of Director David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper after ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’, this movie is the weakest of the lot. In a role which doesn’t suit her Jennifer Lawrence still delivers a very competent performance but the word competent cannot be associated with anybody else who was involved in the making of this movie that meanders like a river before fading into irrelevance. The story is inspired by the life of the inventor of a long lasting ‘revolutionary’ mop and sundry other products. The mop looks to be a very good product but the same cannot be said of the movie which is tiring and directionless in large parts. Wish mops could mop up the remnants of such movies.

Landmine goes click (2015) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes:95%, My Rating:6.5 ]

land-mine-goes-click

Trailer

An entertaining revenge drama told in the format of a thriller makes this movie one of the better independent films of 2015. A group of friends in a remote location face an unexpected challenge when one of them steps on a landmine. Their efforts to rescue him lead to a series of events which extend much beyond the landmine itself. Delightfully directed and enacted, the movie is definitely worth a watch.

Mistress America (2015) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes:82%, My Rating:6.5 ]

MISTRESS-AMERICA_poster

Trailer

Well written comedy with good dialogues is a hallmark of Greta Gerwig movies. So is the case here. Greta plays a happy go lucky lady with a severely inflated image of her caliber. In reality she is just good at talking and has no plans or the will to implement plans. An episode in her life is told through the eyes of an outsider. The good thing about the movie is that the characters stay true to their roles and are able to connect with the audience. Good viewing especially if you have no great expectations.

Backcountry (2015) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes:88%, My Rating:6.5 ]

backcountry-movie-poster-bear

Trailer

A couple lost in the woods get attacked by a bear. There could be an Oscar competition for the best bear between the bear in this one and in The Revenant but both of them are a tribute to the way computer effects have helped in movie making. As for Backcountry, it is a movie in which the tension builds up slowly but surely. All hell breaks loose in the last 20 minutes of the movie. Some of the scenes are too graphic and meant only for those who can stomach them. Otherwise, worth your time.

Documentary of the Week

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes:95%, My Rating:6.5 ]

Winter-on-Fire_poster_goldposter_com_2-400x538

Trailer

A documentary chronicling the popular uprising in Kiev against the government. Nominated for Oscars this year, the documentary follows a dateline to show the events that unfolded in the anti-government agitations but is restricted by its inability to get the point of view of the opposing side.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ because three is a charm.

Did you know: 94% of Academy Award voters are Caucasian and 77% are male. Only about 2% are black, while Latinos compose less than 2%. Oscar voters have a median age of 62. People younger than 50 constitute only about 14% of the membership. (Source: LA Times)

Advertisements

Week 37

Movies: Non-English

Blue Is the Warmest Color (France, 2013) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

blue is

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2OLRrocn3s

The winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013 is a bold and provocative movie which stretches the boundaries of what a mainstream movie can depict. Already controversial for the agony it caused to the actresses during the filming, the film dwells on the relationship between two woman. The film follows the intense relationship between the characters over a decade. Surprisingly for a running length close to three hours the movie still holds your attention and is a tour de force. Highly recommended for highly mature audiences.

Persepolis (France, 2007) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten tomatoes: 96%]

persepolis

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ22VyjJ6n8

The coming off age story of a girl during the Islamic revolution in Iran. Based on the autobiographical account of the co-writer of the screenplay, the film is as political as it is personal. The non conformism of the girl and her willingness to fight for herself even when she veers off course is told in a poignant and heartfelt way. Even if we take Iran out of the picture, the story should resonate with any girl in any part of the world willing to stand up for what she believes in. Hence, calling it a fine picture from Iran would be an injustice. Calling it a must see movie will be just about just.

Movies I Saw This Week

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

SAVING-MR-BANKS-570

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5kYmrjongg

‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is the back story to the making of ‘Mary Poppins’ by Walt Disney. The thing that hits you immediately is the passion Disney brings to making movies but his passion is matched equally by the stubbornness of Miss Travers (as she would like to be called), the author of ‘Mary Poppins’. There is nothing exceptional about the movie but it does shed light on the autobiographical nature of the work. Emma Thompson pulls off a fine performance and Tom Hanks is competent in his role as Walt Disney. I particularly liked the scene where he convinces Miss Travers to sign on the dotted line. He gives the ultimate sales pitch but the thing with sales pitches is that it is dependent on whether the listener is in a mood to even think about what is being offered, as I found out the hard way quite recently. Coming back to the movie, it is not a great one but certainly worth a watch.

Fruitvale Station (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

FRUITVALE-STATION-POSTER-570

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

In a year where there was a miscarriage of justice in the Trayvon Martin case, this film sheds light on a true event which happened a few years earlier but has the same undertones of the inequality that African Americans face in the Land of the Free. As a piece of art the movie is not worth much but it has a compelling story to tell. Here the victim is not a teenager wet behind the ears but a young father who is seeking out a better life for his family. The film does build its case by showing us the good Samaritan the victim was. The movie is not a must watch but then I recommend it.

Lee Daniels‘ The Butler (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

kinopoisk.ru

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuojHqfe4Vk

The story of a butler in the White House who goes about his work over decades under different Presidents during times of great social turmoil. Forest Whitaker is an actor who is a joy to watch on screen. Even when the movie has an uneven tempo, he just keeps things from falling apart. An above average flick which has a standout performance from the protagonist.

John Ford Retrospective

John Ford is one of the greatest directors ever, with four Oscars for the Best Director. The funny thing is that I consider ‘The Searchers’ (reviewed here https://couldhavebeenacontender.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/week-12/) to be his greatest work but he did not even get a nomination for it. I think that compensates for the fact that he undeservedly took Oscar for ‘How Green Way My Valley’ beating Orsen Welles (for ‘Citizen Kane’).

The Grapes of Wrath (1940) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

grapes of wrath

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ayi81QMuak

‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is the kind of movie which no one makes nowadays because it may be considered too socialist in theme and socialism is an ideology that Americans fear more than the plague. The story is set in the Great Depression. A family tries to stay together and live with dignity in the economic gloom sweeping the nation. Watching such movies is also a reminder that certain movies deserve a one word description: ‘Classic’. Also, hope is a good thing.

How Green Was My Valley (1941) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

how green

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7CV9SZovfU

A sentimental take  on a mining town which has seen much better days, ‘How Green Was My Valley’ upstaged ‘Citizen Kane’ at the Oscars mainly because of the heavy propaganda that was unleashed against Orson Welles. Still, the film is a classic in its own right with very strong performances and a solid screenplay. Must see.

The Quiet Man (1952) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Quiet_Man,_The_01

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH4OFXlvzKA

A boxer returns from America to his home in Ireland where he finds true love and also things he had not quite bargained for. He also has a mysterious past. John Wayne carries the film on his shoulders (no pun intended) in this breezy romantic comedy. The good thing is unlike many of the old romantic comedies which have become dated, ‘The Quite Man’ has an appeal which is as fresh as it was when it first hit the screens.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Men Who Made Us Fat (2012) [ MDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed]

men_who_made_us_fat

No documentary has made me think more than this three part series from BBC on food and the way it has changed over time. Hats off to BBC for showing the guts to finance such a project. A must watch for anyone who eats food.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Invisible Woman’ because it is on Charles Dickens and the combination of literature and cinema is a heady one.

Did you know: ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013) was released in China with four minutes of additional footage starring Chinese actors and local product placements.