Edition 82

The Non-English Movie of The Week 

Frantz (France, Germany, 2017) [IMDB:7.5  , Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating:7.5]

Trailer

‘Frantz’ is set during the war which was to end all wars. A young German lady leads a forlorn life after her fiance’s death in the battlefield. Her life changes when a Frenchmen turns up in her quaint little town. Told with elegance and grace, this story is very much a romance in its first half but almost becomes an intriguing thriller as it progresses to its unpredictable climax. Francois Ozon has so far been an overrated director but ‘Frantz’ changes that. The characters are neatly etched and reliably performed on screen. The tension that builds up is resolved in the Louvre but in a way which leaves scope for interpretations. That is no excuse for missing a hauntingly beautiful movie.

Movies I Saw This Week

Dunkirk (2017) [IMDB:8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating:8.5]

Trailer

Much of Dunkirk is about setting the stage. This does test the patience of the viewer midway through the proceedings but the film soars as it nears the end. In hindsight, the slow build up is akin to a German musical piece which slowly but surely reaches a crescendo. For all the technical brilliance of the director, it is the background score which is the standout feature of the movie. The movie is littered with few unforgettable scenes, with the last flight landing acting as a metaphor for the whole movie. If you are wondering what that metaphor is, it is about hope and not giving up. It is about trying. Dunkirk is one of the best movies of the year. Dunkirk will be remembered.

The Wizard of Lies (2017) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating:6.5]

Trailer

Bernie Madoff will be remembered too. He is the most serious threat that Charles Ponzi has encountered to his name and infamy. Bernie Madoff is a fraud who duped his investors of billions of dollars leading to bankruptcies and suicides from USA to Switzerland. This movie tells the tale of the con artist with the focus being on his family. Robert De Niro carries his part competently and overall the movie is a one time watch. It is especially interesting for those who have an interest in knowing about the scandal and its repercussions.

The Promise (2017) [IMDB: 6.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

A love story set in the last days of the Ottoman empire which saw the killing of Armenians (Claimed to be a genocide by Armenia and vehemently denied by Turkey. Neutrals tend to side with Armenia). Oscar Isaac plays an Armenian doctor who falls in love, loses his loved ones and ends up being alive. He is also the weakest link in the story with his acting which leaves you underwhelmed. Even accounting for this, the film is a spectacle with its impressively mounted sets and breathtaking cinematography. The film has a few rough edges and would have been a much better product in the hands of a more competent director. Still, worth a watch.

7 Days in Hell (2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

In between the gloom of genocide and a Ponzi scheme, ‘7 Days in Hell’ feels like heaven. An uproarious mockumentary which has fun at the expense of the tennis world, this is a short yet sweet feature in which the last thing that matters is the story. For those interested in the story, it is about an epic seven day match at the Wimbledon. Sounds crazy? The title is just a warm up.

Norman (2017) [IMDB: 6.4 , Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

Richard Gere finds another level to his ouvre as actor in this poignant tale where he plays the title character Norman. There is nothing likable about the protagonist. He is the kind of social wannabe you want to avoid like the plague. He is disgusting and eminently detestable. The masterstroke of Gere is that it is he who plays the character to perfection and arouses in you the aforementioned emotions. Gere plays a loner who aims to be a power broker. Due to some circumstances he bonds well with an Israeli politician who rises to become the Prime Minister of Israel. What could have been Norman’s moment in the sun quickly becomes his downfall. ‘Norman’ is a movie which keeps you guessing till the end and is definitely worth the effort.

Some Freaks (2017) [IMDB:6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

This small indie flick relies on strong writing and the novelty of the premise. A one eyed boy and an obese girl fall in love (with each other, of course). The strength of their love is put to test when the girl goes to college and starts losing weight. ‘Some Freaks’ is a coming of age movie which is also realistic and peppered with characters who are relatable. There is an undeniable feeling of sadness that permeates the movie. Yet, ‘Some Freaks’ is one of the best indie films of the year and is not boring even for a second.

Jab Harry met Sejal (2017) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 54%, My Rating: 1.5]

Trailer

In the streets of India, we find hawkers who make savouries like samosa. They use the same oil and as their tenure lingers their surroundings become unclean. The oil becomes acidic and pungent but the hawker keeps on using it. ‘Jab Harry met Sejal’ is the cinematic equivalent of the samosa that is made from that oil. Imtiaz Ali has milked the same trope of ‘self-realization’ now so much that the cow has started bleeding (gau rakshaks: take note). An ageing 51 year old superstar romancing another girl (29 year old) in another version of the same movie in which they take viewers across Europe is so dated that Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister of India when Shahrukh Khan tried his luck in this story for the first time. This time the movie also takes a regressive approach when it comes to respect for women and the behaviour of the hero towards locals in Europe. Imtiaz Ali is so formulaic that his leads are from Punjab and Gujarat, two states in India from which most of the foreign based Bollywood movies have their protagonists. I saw reviews of this movie in which the critics have chided Imtiaz Ali for making a bad movie as if his earlier duds like Rockstar and Love Aaj Kal were any better. I saw Rockstar in the theater. I remember how it felt. The key learning for the director should be that you cannot fool everyone all the time. I do have sympathy for the viewer who wasted his money at the cinema. Not for having lost the money but for the sheer ordeal of sitting through this disaster flick. This prem katha should be flushed down the toilet along with the pseudo intellectual hubris of its director.

Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) [IMDB:7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’ is no whiff of fresh air. It is the same mass produced bottle of perfume but the point is, it smells good. It has no pretensions and aims to be a simple entertainer, a task which it accomplishes with reasonable success. It has the classic Bollywood plot. Two men love a woman. The movie relies on a convenient screenplay and a two hour suspension of disbelief. At some point in the movie when you are back to your senses you may ask yourself what the fuss is about. Can’t the guy just open his mouth and tell the truth? The movie is largely engaging because of its sleek editing and a decent performance from Kriti Sanon. Anushka Sharma can take classes from her on playing the bubbly girl. In fact, Anushka Sharma can take acting classes from anyone. Ayushman Khurana plays a confused character and Rajkumar Rao is mostly unconvincing in his ‘dual personality’ performance. In spite of all this, the movie feels more than the sum of its parts. Recommended if you are a fan of this genre.

Documentary of the Week

Icarus (2017) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

‘Icarus’ tells the true story of the Russian doping scandal. Right from the doping Guru’s mouth. One of the best documentaries of the year.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Mother!’ directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.

Did you know: Christopher Nolan is red and green colourblind.

 

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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)

50 Weeks: 50 Movies

When I started this blog 50 weeks ago, I had never imagined that it would have readers from 73 countries and the average weekly readership would cross 70. For 49 weeks I have written ( at times, by burning midnight oil) about my experiences at the movies. The 50th week is a tribute to all the readers who found something worth reading here. For this edition I asked a reader who has read all previous 49 editions, for a list of that person’s 50 favourite movies. This edition is about those 50 movies.

1. Bucket List (2007) [ IMDB:7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

The Bucket List

The Plot: Two terminally ill men from dissimilar backgrounds go on a journey together and try to do everything they always wanted to do.

Trailer:

The Highlight: Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson team up. If for nothing else, the film is worth a watch for the energy they bring to the screen. It is for the same reason and the high expectations from such a film that the viewer may find a little underwhelmed at the end. Still, a very good watch.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “Everyone’s afraid to die alone.”

2. Insomnia (2002) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

insomnia

The Plot: Two top cops from Los Angeles are sent to a small town to investigate the death of a teen. The sting in the tale is that the sun does not set in the town.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Christopher Nolan’s early work saw a bunch of accomplished actors on screen but the real winner was the cinematography which set the right mood for the film. Even the small town feels like a character on screen. Its beauty and serenity are breathtaking but also add the suspense in the movie.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “I can’t judge. There are two kinds of people in Alaska: those who were born here and those who come here to escape something. I wasn’t born here.”

3. Sliding Doors (1998) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

Sliding Doors

The Plot: How one event happening/not happening changes the course of a women’s life. The vicissitudes and glorious uncertainties of life.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Gwyneth ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ Paltrow who puts in her best performance after her Oscar winning performance in ‘Shakespeare in Love’.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “For God’s sake, Gerry. I asked you a simple question; there is no need for you to become Woody Allen.”

4. Shutter Island (2010) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

Shutter Island

The Plot: Set in 1954, the film purportedly shows the investigation to find out the location of a convict who has escaped from a mental asylum.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio team up to bring their most provocative story which requires multiple viewings to have a full debate on; a conclusive interpretation being a difficult goal. In the end the story does not matter. All that matters is how much of it is real.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “No assumption, no, not at all. You misunderstand me. I said, you are ‘men of violence’. I’m not accusing you of being violent men. That’s quite different.”

5. Scarface (1983) [ IMDB:8.3, Rotten Tomatoes:94%]

Scarface1

The Plot: An immigrant from Cuba builds his fortune in the world of crime and drugs in 1980s Miami.

Trailer:

The Highlight: Al Pacino shows once more time why he is one of the greatest actors ever.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”

6. Groundhog Day (1993) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Groundhog Day

The Plot: Bill Murray plays a weatherman who finds that he is living the same day again and again. The good thing is that he has Andie MacDowell for company.

Trailer:

The Highlight: It is a toast to the ordinary life which could be extraordinary if one lived it as if there is no tomorrow.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “I don’t deserve someone like you. But If I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.”

7. The Help (2011) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

The Help

The Plot: At the height of the Civil rights movement, a young white woman decides to write a book on the light of African American maids and their perception of their masters.

Trailer:

The Highlight: Viola Davis in an illuminating performance.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “Courage sometimes skips a generation. Thank you for bringing it back to our family.”

8. The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

The Greatest Game Ever Played

The Plot: A rank outsider wins against all odds at the 1913 US Open in golf, beating his idol on the way.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Nothing exceptional but once in a while the right cliches at the right time make the right kind of movie.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “Let me tell you something. I came here to win a trophy. And on the face of it Ted Ray or I should carry it off. Not for you, not for England, but for sheer bloody pride at being the best, that’s why we do this. And if Mr. Ouimet wins tomorrow, it’s because he’s the best, because of who he is. Not who his father was, not how much money he’s got, because of who he bloody is! And I’ll thank you to remember that.

9. Snatch. (2000) [ IMDB:8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Snatch

The Plot: A group of interesting characters join the hunt for a missing diamond.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Unbridled action, peppy dialogues and lots of style.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “Yes, London. You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary fucking Poppins… LONDON.”

10. Roman Holiday (1953) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Roman Holiday1

The Plot: An American newsman takes a princess on a trip of Rome on her day away from boring life.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Audrey Hepburn. William Wyler. Gregory Peck.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “I have to leave you now. I’m going to that corner there and turn. You must stay in the car and drive away. Promise not to watch me go beyond the corner. Just drive away and leave me as I leave you.”

11. American Gangster (2007) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

American Gangster

The Plot: A detective trying his best to nab a drug lord.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: A simplistic story and an average performance from Russel Crowe are eclipsed by Denzel Washington in one of his best performances.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “Success. It’s got enemies. You can be successful and have enemies or you can be unsuccessful and have friends.”

12. Kiss the Girls (1997) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

Kiss the Girls

The Plot: A girl who survives a serial killer’s murder attempt holds the key to nabbing him.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Though there are enough loopholes in the movie, it is the sheer presence of Morgan Freeman that makes the film worth a watch.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “Multiply your anger by about a hundred, Kate, that’s how much he thinks he loves you.”

13. Match Point (2005) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

Match Point

The Plot: A married man falls for the girlfriend of his brother-in-law.

Trailer:

The Highlight: What you don’t expect from Woody Allen and what you absolutely expect from Scarlett Johansson.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “The man who said “I’d rather be lucky than good” saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control.”

14. Blood Diamond (2006) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Blood Diamond

The Plot: A few people in the illegal diamond trade in Africa and their stories.

Trailer:

The Highlight: The acting of DiCaprio and the nose of Jennifer Connelly.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “Sometimes I wonder… will God ever forgive us for what we’ve done to each other? Then I look around and I realize… God left this place a long time ago.”

15. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Four Weddings and a Funeral

The Plot: A man discovers his true love over four weddings, one funeral and many other disasters.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Hopelessly romantic scenes and outrageously funny scenes. Also, Andie MacDowell.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “The truth is… well, the truth is, I have met the right person, and he’s not in love with me, and until I stop loving him, no one else really has a chance.”

16. Enemy at the Gates (2001) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Enemy at the Gates

The Plot: Sometimes a man can inspire a whole nation. Russia found inspiration against the Germans in the form of sniper Vasily Zaytsev.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: True story. Truly inspiring.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “He isn’t dead, and do you know why? Because I haven’t killed him yet.”

17. Shakespeare in Love (1998) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Shakespeare in Love

The Plot: Young Shakespeare who is in the doldrums, meets his love and this changes his life forever.

Trailer:

The Highlight: The germ of the idea and the way they brought that imagination to screen.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “All the men at court are without poetry. If they see me, they see my father’s fortune, I – will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all.”

18. Inglourious Basterds (2009) [ IMDB:8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Inglourious Basterds

The Plot: How about assassinating Nazi leaders during WWII by burning down the theatre when they are watching a movie?

Trailer:

The Highlight: It is fun to see Quentin Tarantino’s imagination run wild.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “Because you’ve just given yourself away, Captain. You’re no more German than that scotch.”

19. Yentl (1983) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Yentl

The Plot: A girl poses as a man so that she can be trained in religious studies.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Barbra Streisand, who is the only person to have won the Oscar, the  Grammy, the Emmy, the Tony, the Peabody and an AFI award.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line:”Why is it people who want the truth never believe it when they hear it?”

20. The Interpreter (2005) [ IMDB; 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 5.5]

The Interpreter

The Plot: Intrigue in the UN, with an interpreter being the unfortunate beneficiary of a discussion on an assassination plot.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: For a Sydney Pollack film starring Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, this one disappoints but there are enough scenes which have edge of the seat stuff.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.”

21. Gone with the Wind (1939) [ IMDB; 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

gone with the

The Plot: The US Civil War is the background for the doomed love story of a manipulative woman and a charming man.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: A great novel made into a great film with great music, great acting, great cinematography and great dialogues.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “You’re like the thief who isn’t the least bit sorry he stole, but is terribly, terribly sorry he’s going to jail.”

22. Marvin’s Room (1996) [ IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

Marvin's Room

The Plot: The only hope for a leukemia patient is to get a bone marrow transplant from her sister, a sister who is estranged from her for two decades.

Trailer:

The Highlight: Some stirring performances from Streep, Keaton and DiCaprio.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “Most of the time I just keep to myself. I think like what it would be like to be… someone else.”

23. The Last King of Scotland (2006) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

The Last King of Scotland

The Plot: How it was to be a confidante and physician of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

Trailer:

The Highlight: Acting lesson from Forest Whitaker.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “You deserve to die. But dead, you can do nothing. Alive, you might just be able to redeem yourself.”

24. The Tourist (2010) [ IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%]

The Tourist

The Plot: Angelina Jolie walks into the life of Johnny Deep while he is on a vacation in Italy. Wish that was true.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: I can’ think beyond Angelina Jolie here.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “It’s the um… the Roman god, Janus. My mother gave it to me when I was little. She wanted to teach me that people have two sides. A good side, a bad side, a past, a future. And that we must embrace both in someone we love.”

25. Behind Enemy Lines (2001) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 63%]

Behind Enemy Lines

The Plot: A pilot finds himself deep within enemy territory as his plane is brought down. He must escape from the area and time is a premium.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Spectacularly shot sequences.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “Everybody thinks they’re gonna get a chance to punch some Nazi in the face in Normandy, but those days are over. They’re long gone.”

26. Death Becomes Her (IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Death Becomes Her

The Plot: A woman wants to be immortal because that is perhaps the only way she can upstage her competitor.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Meryl Streep and the unconventional idea that is there at the core of the movie.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line:”Wrinkled, wrinkled little star… hope they never see the scars.”

27. Road to Perdition (2002) [ IMDB:7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

road to perdition

The Plot: His son is the only hope for a hit-man who has fallen out of favour.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Some great dialogues and outstanding acting are not a patch on the sensational cinematography.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “I’m glad it’s you.”

28. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) [IMDB:6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%]

My Best Friend's Wedding

The Plot: A woman realizes her love for her friend, a few days before his wedding.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Julia Roberts. Who else?

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line:”It’s amazing the clarity that comes with psychotic jealousy.”

29. Catch Me If You Can (2002) [ IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Catch Me If You Can

The Plot: A lonely master con artist and impersonator has a cat and mouse game with the FBI.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: The antics of the lead character so charmingly played by DiCaprio.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “Dear Dad, you always told me that an honest man has nothing to fear, so I’m trying my best not to be afraid.”

30. Jurassic Park (1993) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Jurassic Park

The Plot: An eccentric millionaire tries to recreate a park with dinosaurs using advancements in science.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Obviously, dinosaurs in starring roles.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line:”T-Rex doesn’t want to be fed. He wants to hunt. Can’t just suppress 65 million years of gut instinct.”

31. The Firm (1993) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

the firm

The Plot: A lawyer in a young marriage joins a famous law firm. He then finds out that things are not what they seem to be.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Tom Cruise can also act.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line:”I get paid to be suspicious when I’ve got nothing to be suspicious about.”

32. Goodfellas (1990) [IMDB: 8.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Goodfellas

The Plot: The rags to riches (through violence) story of a group of friends.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: The perfect blend of style and substance.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster. To me that was better than being president of the United States. To be a gangster was to own the world.”

33. Jackie Brown (1997) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

Jackie Brown

The Plot: An air hostess finds herself embroiled in the conflict between arms dealers and cops.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Guns and lots of it.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “You can’t trust Melanie but you can trust Melanie to be Melanie.”

34. The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) [IMDb:6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%]

The Mirror Has Two Faces

The Plot: Some people get married just to have sex. He gets married so as not to have it.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Jeff Bridges in a role you don’t expect him to be in.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “I don’t date these girls because they’re well-read. I gave one of them a copy of “Farewell to Arms”. She thought it was a diet book.”

35. The Aviator (2004) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

The Aviator

The Plot: The eccentricities of the Hollywood insider Howard Hughes.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: DiCaprio. As I write this list I see a lot of great movies in which he has had pivotal roles. I hope he gets due recognition some day.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “You don’t care about money because you’ve always had it.”

36. Milk (2008) [ IMDB:7.7, Rotten Tomatoes; 94%]

Milk

The Plot: The story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Sean Penn sealed his Oscar win with the title role.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.”

37. The Untouchables (1987) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

The Untouchables

The Plot: Notorious gangster Al Capone has to be brought to justice but the problem is that he is well capable of buying out justice.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: When Kevin Costner upstages Robert DeNiro.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.”

38. V for Vendetta (2005) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

V for Vendetta

The Plot: The masked fighter and his friend take on a system of oppressive government.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Natalie Portman and her torture scenes.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: ” I’m not questioning your powers of observation; I’m merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.”

39. Inception (2010) [IMDB: 8.8, Rotten tomatoes: 91%]

Inception

The Plot: Set in the future, a man will get back what he lost if he performs the impossible.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: The Direction of Christopher Nolan. Shame on the academy for not nominating him at the Oscars.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “Because, in my dreams we are together.”

40. A Few Good Men (1992) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

A Few Good Men

The Plot: A court martial opens a can of worms.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Jack Nicholson owns the screen.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: ” You can’t handle the truth.”

41. Ladder 49 (2004) [ IMDB; 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%]

Ladder 49

The Plot: A firefighter’s life told in flashback as he awaits to be rescued before he dies.

Trailer:

The Highlight: Reel life heroes find time to act in a movie that tell the tales of real life heroes.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “People are always asking me how is it that firefighters run into a burning building when everyone else is running out. Courage is the answer.”

42. The King’s Speech (2010) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

The King's Speech

The Plot: A stuttering king has to inspire his nation in times of war. Some men are thrust into greatness and they learn to speak along the way.

Trailer:

The Highlight: Colin Firth who is otherwise very good with his dialogues, had to unlearn.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “If I’m King, where’s my power? Can I form a government? Can I levy a tax, declare a war? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority. Why? Because the nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can’t speak.”

43. The Holiday (2006) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

The Holiday

The Plot: An American and a Britisher swap homes during a vacation and find their respective partners.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: One of Nancy Meyers’ more accomplished works.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “You’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life, for God’s sake!”

44. The Color Purple (1985) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

The Color Purple

The Plot: Adaptation of the classic novel on the life of an African American woman.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Shoddy direction by Steven Spielberg.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “The jail you planned for me is the one you’re gonna rot in.”

45. The Day of the Jackal (1973) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

The Day of the Jackal

The Plot: A conspiracy to kill the President of France.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: The coldness of the assassin.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “You have to employ a professional. Your organization is so riddled with informers that nothing you decide is a secret for long. No, the job would have to be done by an outsider. The only question would be by whom, and for how much.”

46. The Usual Suspects (1995) [ IMDB:8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

The Usual Suspects

The Plot: It must be easy to solve a crime when the suspects are limited and known. Or is it?

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Kevin Spacey can tell stories.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

47. My Cousin Vinny (1992) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

My Cousin Vinny

The Plot: Greenhorn Vinny has to defend his cousin in a murder trial in small town Alabama.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei make you laugh so much that your stomach hurts.

The Best Scene:

The Best Line: “Well I hate to bring it up because I know you’ve got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get married as soon as you won your first case. Meanwhile, TEN YEARS LATER, my niece, the daughter of my sister is getting married. My biological clock is TICKING LIKE THIS and the way this case is going, I ain’t never getting married.”

48. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) [ IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

The Silence of the Lambs

The Plot: A jailed serial killer is the only one who can help a young investigator reach another serial killer on the rampage.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor Oscar for which his onscreen time was the least among all previous winners in the category.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

49. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) [ IMDB: 9.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

The Shawshank Redemption

The Plot: How you can be good and still win.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: ‘Hope’, with voice over by Morgan Freeman.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.’

50. Good Will Hunting (1997) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Good Will Hunting

The Plot: An erratic genius needs the right kind of guidance. Two other geniuses fight over what should be the right kind of guidance.

Trailer: 

The Highlight: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck co-writing an original screenplay and winning an Oscar for it.

The Best Scene: 

The Best Line: “You’re not perfect, sport, and let me save you the suspense: this girl you’ve met, she’s not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other.”

 

Week 44

Movies: Non-English

In a Better World (Denmark,2010) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

in a better

Trailer: 

Winner of the Academy Award for the best foreign language film, this film from Denmark marries the liberal conscience of the Scandinavians with harsh realities of strife torn Africa. A Danish doctor serving in Africa has some ethical dilemmas to face and matters are not helped by the dysfunctional family he has back home. The film has been shot exquisitely, with the dust bowls of Africa contrasting with the serenity of the green fields in Denmark. The story is masterfully told, with an impending sense of disaster writ over it. The acting is competent, a reminder that good movies can be made without a lot of money.

Lust, Caution (Taiwan, 2007) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

lust caution

Trailer:

Shanghai is the setting for this espionage thriller directed by double Oscar winner Ang Lee. A woman infiltrates the establishment and becomes the mistress of her target. What begins as a cautious relationship with clear cut motives turns into an affair replete with passion and intrigue. The film took the festival circuit by storm when it was released, partly owing to the fact that the love making scenes were not simulated. The performances are uniformly good and the story never loses its zing in the safe hands of Ang Lee. Watch this movie for the way the story has been woven. As the adage goes, this is a story on love but not a love story.

Movies I Saw This Week

Nebraska (2013) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Nebraska

Trailer: 

Bruce Dern shows that experience in acting does count as he plays an old man with an alcohol problem and an even worse case of delusion. Falling for a marketing trick, he believes that he is the winner of a million dollar bounty which makes him take a road trip with his estranged and unwilling son to claim his ‘prize’. His encounters along the way and the reactions he elicits from other characters make up the rest of the story. The film is shot in black and white. The thing about the performance from Dern is that he is able to draw the viewer into the movie to the extent that the viewer may start to sympathize with him. Needless to say, the film is a Bruce Dern show all the way. His lack of Oscar wins make him a sentimental favourite this year but it could still be case of ‘so near yet so far’ for him.

Philomena (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Philomena

Trailer: 

An out of work BBC reporter finds common cause with a lady looking for her son who was taken away from her as a kid. Steve Coogan plays the liberal reporter who thinks himself to be beneath such ‘human interest stories’ and has no interest in the lives of common folks who seem below his radar of interest. He comes to the aid of a devout Catholic played by Judi Dench who holds on dearly to her beliefs even in the face of evidence that she was wronged by the church. The story is not riveting but the film does have a political statement to make. (Spoilers ahead) I was little amused that on discovering that her son was gay, Judie Dench says that she imagined him to be gay because he was sensitive child. This is exactly the kind of nonsense that gets you few brownie points but does not work in the real world. Think of it, sensitive children grow up to be gay. Even such gimmicks will not fetch Judi Dench the Oscar this year and I am willing to put my money on Cate Blanchette taking home the gong.

Frozen (2013) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Frozen

Trailer: 

Anna wants to find her sister who has magical powers. She embarks on a journey to do so. Disney has positioned itself as the ultimate family brand and it is not difficult to imagine that Disney films will be sweet and heartwarming fare. I am not a fan of musicals and I find it difficult to sit through scenes in which the characters try out the strength of their vocal chords. The animation here is good but it is a reflection of the state of the animation industry that this film is the hot favourite to win the Animation Oscar this year. I yearn for the days of films like Wall E.

Jai Ho (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

jai ho

Trailer: 

Think of all the issues on which there can be no debate on what is right, like patriotism, rights of the physically challenged, respect for women, corruption, right to education and so on. Get the dates (the ones on the calendar and not the girls) of Salman. Make him the common man (yes, the ‘being human’ poacher with a heart of gold). Get him to sermonize. When the social science class gets boring, bring on the songs. If songs are not your stuff, no problem. There are lots of action sequences where Salman turns up so that he can bash up all those who are eagerly waiting for the favour of being thrashed by him. If you still don’t get the story, it is about a perfect human being (who does not get drunk and maul down pavement dwellers) who does nothing but help people. He does not ask anything in return but asks the recipients of his help to help three more people. To illustrate this, he shows us that multiplication with 3 is indeed a great thing. After filming the movie, he then appears on ad campaigns and asks people to pay money and forward the films promos to three more people. In case you were wondering what is the technical name for such a scheme, it is called a Ponzi Scheme and Salman is at the top of the pyramid. In case you are still wondering, he has made fools out of you and laughed his way to the bank. Unfortunately, he knows that he cannot be prosecuted for making a Ponzi film.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Act of Killing (2013) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

The Act of Killing

Trailer: 

The Indonesian forces killed millions of communists to wipe out communism from the country in the 1960s. Thugs and gangsters were the leading lights of this state sponsored mass killing. In the most courageous documentary to have come out in a long time, the filmmakers interview some of the men who perpetrated the crimes and who boast in public about the killings they have carried out. The killers are given the chance to recreate the killings in the format of a movie genre of their choosing. Watching this documentary is a surreal experience. It takes some time to comprehend what you see. The grave danger to the lives of the filmmakers is exemplified by the end credits in which half of the crew are listed as ‘Anonymous’. If there is justice in the world, this documentary should win over ’20 Feet from Stardom’ at the Oscars.

Brian De Palma Retrospective

Brian De Palma has made some landmark films in his time. A key feature of his movies is the presence of a flawed protagonist fighting his inner demons as he faces the rough world.

Scarface (1983) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Scarface

Trailer:

Al Pacino plays a Cuban immigrant who turns to crime and loses his footing. Essential viewing.

The Untouchables (1987) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Untouchables

Trailer:

The story of the infamous mafia man Al Capone. Must watch.

Casualties of War (1989) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Casualties of War

Trailer:  

A man is the ony dissenting voice in his group when they decide to take a Vietnamese girl as a prisoner. Set during the Vietnam war. The best performance in the career of Michael J Fox.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ because I had liked the first one in the series.

Did you know: Katherine Hepburn only drank water throughout ‘The African Queen’ production as a protest against John Huston and Humphrey Bogart’s alcoholism. However, most of the cast and crew became sick from the water and only Bogart and Huston were unaffected because they drank only whiskey. (Source: Huffington Post)

Week 43

Movies: Non-English

Il Postino: The Postman (Italy, 1994) [IMDB:7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Il Postino The Postman

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-wrM1ptyHM

I was looking for some inspiration to pen the blog this week after a truly hectic schedule. What else could be a better movie to kick start this edition than this Italian classic about a poorly educated man who is inspired by Pablo Neruda’s poetry to finally convey his love to the woman he has always loved. The legendary poet from Chile moves into an Italian island and the protagonist who is a postman gets to deliver mail to Neruda. In the process, he befriends Neruda who aids him through his poetry and helps the postman to speak up to the village beauty he has always admired, from a distance. A blend of romance, music and poetry, this film shows the endless possibilities of literature. Shot elegantly, the movie sets the right tone and is one of the really unique pieces in movie making. Two thumbs up.

A Royal Affair (Denmark, 2012) [ IMDB”7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

ROYAL_AFFAIR_2dpackshot

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGXNQu3fpP8

‘A Royal Affair’ is a movie which unfortunately released in the same year as ‘Amour’, thus sealing its fate as the close loser to the latter at all the major awards in the Foreign Language category in 2012. On its own, the film is a rather engaging one and has been shot with the grandeur it deserves. The heart of the story is about an ordinary man who stretches the limits of imagination and customs to do good for the common man in an era when the buck stopped at the king’s door. A queen married to an insane king falls in love with a physician who has progressive ideals. The film is based on a true story concerning the Danish monarchy. As one critic noted, falling in love can change the world or at least the fate of a nation. Must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

August: Osage County (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]

August Osage County

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hd_uO72h1s

I was looking forward to this movie because the play on which it is based was very successful and it is not every other day that Mery Streep and Julia Roberts share screen space. The film though turned out to be close to a dud but is salvaged by the acting prowess of the thespians on screen. A family tragedy leads to the reunion of a few strong willed and opinionated women in a family in Oklahoma. Fireworks on screen should have ideally followed the setting but the film struggles to even ignite a spark. The movie fails to explore cinema as a medium and is constrained by the feel of a play which it is not able to shake off. An average effort.

About Time (2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

About Time

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7A810duHvw

The running joke about this movie is that Rachel McAdams falls in love in movies only with people who can time travel. Here, the man in her life is an ordinary guy who thinks about making his life better as opposed to changing the world when he discovers that the ability to time travel runs in the family. He tries to replay moments in his life he cares for, until they reach perfection. Though the film requires suspension of disbelief, you are willing to play along as it involves the extraordinary love story of an ordinary man. I like romantic movies with good production values, decent acting, good lines and soft music. I liked this one.

The Family (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%]

The_Family_2013,_Poster

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

Robert De Niro is the head of an Italian mob clan who hides out in France with his family under a witness protection programme. The family wrecks havoc in the local community with their trigger happy violent ways. Though I warmed up to the premise of the movie, it got too hot to handle with its unnecessary violence as it progressed. What could have been a comedy soon turned into a ultra violent movie. Catch it on TV  when you have nothing else to do.

Philip Seymour Hoffman Retrospective

There are some deaths which make you feel that they are so unfair. At 46 years Hoffman was not even near the peak of his acting abilities. He had so much to offer. Though it is a cliche to say this, it can be said without any exaggeration that his death is an irreplaceable loss. My tribute to the one of the greatest actors of his generation.

Capote (2005) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Capote

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjvBYqp8b6U

Quite possibly Hoffman’s best performance which also got him the Oscar. Hoffman is Truman Capote. Even Capote himself would have been less authentic if he had acted. Oozes class.

Synecdoche, New York (2008) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Synecdoche, New York

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIizh6nYnTU

A movie on existentialism. Not everyone’s cup of tea. Hoffman is so good in it that I have watched some scenes many times over in awe of how he pulls them off.

The Master (2012) [ IMDB:7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

master 2012

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ1O1vb9AUU

It is a competition between Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in the acting department. Both of them are winners. The story does not even matter.

Documentary Pick of the Week

How to Die in Oregon (2011) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

How to Die in Oregon

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F-525sCzhE

Two decades ago Oregon became the first US state to legalize physician assisted suicide. The documentary follows the lives of a few terminally ill people as they grapple with the question in light of the new law. Heartbreaking.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Non-Stop’ because Liam Neeson is the new angry middle aged man.

Did you know: Walt Disney refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s because he had made “that disgusting movie Psycho.”

Week 39

Movies: Non-English

The Dreamlife of Angels (France, 1998) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Dreamlife of Angels

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJxtNk5Q9V4

The first instance of two actresses sharing the gong for the best actress (for the same film) at Cannes is reason enough to watch this little French gem. I was reminded of this movie after reviewing ‘Blue Is the Warmest Colour’ a fortnight ago. If ‘Blue …..’ is the adolescent version, then this one is the mature version. Two financially broke women share a flat and hope for a better future from the misery of routine lives. Once more characters enter the frame, their relationship unravels. Then the two actresses revel like veterans on screen. Watch it for them.

The Mirror (Russia, 1975) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

mirror

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7SN7spZlZk

A man facing death recollects his life. His sorrows, his triumphs, his childhood, his loves and much more. The nation’s history also plays out in the background. As they say, once your whole life will flash in front of your eyes. Make it worth watching. A timely reminder on that concept from (of all places) Russia. Classic.

Movies I Saw This Week

American Hustle (2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

american hustle

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST7a1aK_lG0

I could not really figure out why ‘American Hustle’ is getting nominated at all major awards in so many categories this year. Agreed that it is a good movie but to call it a great one is a slight misrepresentation of facts. As the name suggests, it is a con movie but with a conscience. It certainly has some good performances going for it. Amy Adams delivers another competent one. I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence and that makes me think that she deserves the Oscar for Supporting Actress but that would be an improbable win considering that she just landed the Best Actress Oscar only last year. At the same time, Bradley Cooper may consider himself lucky if he wins for the Best Supporting Actor because it wouldn’t be possible but for the sympathy votes he gets for his failure to win last year. Coming back to the movie, it creates the right ambiance and the credit for that has to go to the director. Other than that I did not find the movie to be special in any sense. Anyone with the IQ of a lamp post could have seen the twist in the end coming because such movies need to have one. I think the guys in Hollywood are all excited because someone finally made a movie in which the FBI is taken to the cleaners.

Blue Jasmine (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

blue jasmine

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FER3C394aI8

What they say for wine is true for Woody Allen too. Both get better as they age. For a change, Woody Allen is not putting some old wine in a new bottle. He moves to a new terrain and after a long time I was really impressed by his direction as he brings the best out of Cate Blanchett. I have not seen the movie ‘Philomena’ in which Judi Dench is reported to have given a great performance. If Judi Dench has not pulled off something spectacular (and she is well capable of that), then this year’s Best Actress Oscar will go to Cate Blanchett for her affecting portrayal of a former socialite going through emotional distress and penury. Her acting is simply stunning and it helps that the the whole plot revolves around her. For a profoundly sad tale, the trademark witticisms of the writer brings relief even in the gloom. Two thumbs up to one of the best written and acted films of 2013.

Rush (2013) [ IMDB:8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

rush

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3XN54J8nY

‘Rush’ recreates the fierce and famed rivalry of two Formula 1 superstars of the 70s, Niki Lauda and James Hunt. I expected more thrills and edge of the seat action for a movie based on a sport which has a lot of scope for spiking adrenaline levels. It disappoints on those two counts. In fact, it is not even about the rivalry between the two drivers. It is more about their personalities and the obsession they have for winning against all odds. Niki Lauda comes across as a calm and determined man who is organized and thinks about racing even during his honeymoon. James Hunt, on the other hand, is the brash character who has too many woman in his life that he does not really have to have a separate honeymoon. To slightly twist the title of a book that went from non-fiction to fiction (cycling, if you still don’t get it), ‘it is not about the cars’.

Lone Survivor (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%]

lone survivor

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoLFk4JK_RM

The true story of an US assault team which sees their best laid plans go for a toss in an operation in Afghanistan. The film is quite slow off the blocks but soon catches up with long strides shortly after. Once the action starts it is quite an interesting film. There is nothing to rave about but then the film is definitely worth a watch.

Martin Scorsese Retrospective

Goodfellas (1990) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Goodfellas

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo5jJpHtI1Y

Perhaps the best story on the mafia outside the ‘Godfather’ series. Must see. Period.

The Departed (2006) [ IMDB: 8.5, Ritten Tomatoes: 94%]

The Departed

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGWvwjZ0eDc

The movie that finally got Scorsese the Oscar. In my opinion, the perfect screenplay.

Taxi Driver (1976) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Taxi Driver

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLpMx8_TYOo

Some movies define a period in history. Some performances are so great that it is impossible to imagine someone else in that role. Some movies are unforgettable. Taxi Driver. Robert De Niro. No excuses for not watching.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) [IMDB; 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Searching for Sugar Man

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDw7OqVBT-w

How does it feel to be a rock star (pun intended) in one part of the world and be an unknown in your country of residence? One of the most uplifting documentaries ever made.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ because it has a large cast and a fine director in Wes Anderson.

Did you know: After the release of the Tom Cruise film ‘Top Gun’,the applications by young men to the US Navy went up by 500 percent.

Week 12

Movies: Non- English

Merry Christmas (France, Germany, 2005) [IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

merry-christmas-joyeux-noel-poster-0

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkKkAg4Ew-s

Based on true events, the film tells the story of enemies united by music and the spirit of Christmas. During the First World War, German, French and Scottish soldiers momentarily stop fighting on the eve of Christmas and celebrate it together. It is little difficult to describe because it looks surreal. If I were at the scene, I would have pinched myself. They just lie down their arms, exchange hugs, sing, celebrate Christmas and then go back to fighting. Nominated for Oscar in the best foreign language film category. Did not win. Even the Academy voters would have found the story too good to be true.

Mediterraneo (Italy, 1991) [ IMDB:7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

mediterraneo

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU4G6mfyvhM

Exquisitely shot anti-war romance. Italian soldiers land in a Greek island during the World War 2. The story develops as they come in contact with the people (some of them too gorgeous) of the island. Picturesque locations and the laid back life of the islands have an enduring effect on the soldiers. Though set during the World War, it is a light movie which moves at a leisurely pace. Only thing that can hold you back from watching this Oscar winner is the damning fact that it was produced by Silvio Berlusconi (yes, the Bunga Bunga guy). On a serious note, worth a watch.

Hollywood Retrospective

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

fish called wanda

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

The thing about ganging up to commit robbery is that trust between the gang members is an absolute essential. The uproarious British comedy explores what all could go wrong when each member of a four member gang tries to double cross one another. Jamie Lee Curtis is in the role of a lifetime in this film which has comedy at its core but also has a story to tell. The sad thing is that many Indian movies have unashamedly stolen scenes from this movie. Otherwise, perfect weekend entertainment.

Raging Bull (1980) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

raging-bull

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiVOwxsa4OM

The original boxing classic based on the life of Jake LaMotta. LaMotta reaches the heights by channeling his rage and anger on the boxing ring but as he climbs the charts, the same flaws take a heavy toll on his personal life. Robert De Niro deservedly won an Oscar for his performance but Scorsese had to wait till ‘The Departed’ to land his first one. The movie is a lesson on life. Don’t miss the title sequence in the beginning. I would have given Scorsese the Oscar just for that.

The Searchers (1956) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

searchers

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI2AZb04HAc

A man’s search for his last remaining relative who has been kidnapped at a tender age. His persistence and focus also leads to morally ambiguous situations. After years of staying away in a different culture would the girl still want to come back? Will he take her back when she discovers that she is no more like the girl he was searching for? Tough questions. Watch the movie which is often cited as the best Western ever made.

Movies I Saw This Week

Upside Down (2012) [IMDB: 6.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

upside down

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkYvYGR7Ys4

A boy and a girl fall in love. Then they are separated. The boy does not let go and pursues the girl. Simple story. Only issue is that they live in different worlds which have opposite gravity. Since digitally everything is possible, we have a plastic world where things are so beautiful that you know they don’t exist. Since the science is spurious, the story also feels fake. Maybe, you can take your partner to the cinema, eat popcorn, discuss few things and occasionally look at the screen.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) [IMDB; 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DylgNj4YQVc

The initial idea behind big budget animation films was that kids will drag their parents to the cinema and help sell those extra tickets. Disney has laughed all the way to the bank on a couple of occasions milking this idea. Now things are not so simple. So they have to throw in Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams to attract the right kind of audience. The grown ups can ogle at the beauties while the children can have the real fun. The movie is strictly for kids. They may enjoy it.

Raanjhanaa (India, 2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%]

tum-tak-raanjhanaa-2013-trailor-full-720p-multi

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER9vmhxFucg

One line verdict: Not a bad film by the standards of Bollywood. Now the real thing (Spoilers ahead). If you think about it, ‘Raanjhanaa’ is a regressive film. The Muslim girl cannot marry any Hindu guy even when she has a choice of two. The leading lady is manipulative and does not really love any of her suitors. Truth be said, the film is about the love story of two different men for the same girl but it is all one way traffic. One of them is dumb enough to try his luck at marriage by posing as a Muslim and the other gets into politics of which he has no clue. The most sincere scene in the movie is when the men bond at the hospital bed of Abhay Deol. I have not lived in Uttar Pradesh but I can safely say that wrist slashing at the drop of a hat is not the preferred mode of wooing a girl in any part of the country. Come to think of it, Dhanush’s character is a bigger psycho than Shahrukh Khan of ‘Darr’. Here the stalking is direct and so in your face. Unfortunately Dhanush looks so earnest in his performance that you are willing to give him some sympathy but if you want to see why he won the National Award for best actor, watch ‘Aadukalam’. The good thing is that the movie does not really bore you and A R Rahman’s music helps the cause. Moral of the story for men: You cannot force anyone to love you and when you understand that get out of the scene. Otherwise you may find yourself in a coffin and the girl won’t even cry.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Man on Wire (2008) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

man on wire

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIawNRm9NWM

Some people have too much courage or are they plain crazy? In which category would you place someone who walks 200 feet on a wire between two buildings at a height of 110 storeys? That too, without any safety features. One guy did it in 1974 and this is the documentary on him and his activities. Don’t try at home.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Lone Ranger’ because of Johnny Depp.

Did you know: The African Americans who acted in ‘Gone With the Wind’ were not allowed entry to the premiere of the movie.