Edition 85

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Loveless (Russia, 2017) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this movie tells the story of a child caught in the crossfire of an ugly divorce. As the child goes missing, the parents launch a search which intensifies as the story progresses. The director whose earlier works include ‘Leviathan’, goes for a more nuanced storytelling with subtle hints on the state of the Russian society. Unlike ‘Leviathan’ which spared no punches, ‘Loveless’ is often puzzling and enigmatic. The suspense is intact till the end and the open-ended climax leaves much space for speculation and contemplation. The pace of the movie dips in the latter half when the proceedings turn plain boring but the quest for the missing boy keeps the audience hooked. ‘Loveless’ is sure to get an Oscar nomination but not good enough to win.

Movies I Saw This Week

I, Tonya (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Margot Robbie stars as real life figure skater Tonya Harding whose chequered career’s low point was a botched up and bizarre kidnapping saga of her opponent. Robbie, who used to play ice-hockey earlier, brings the expertise to give a creditable performance in scenes where she is in the ice rink. There is nothing compelling about the screenplay and it hurtles towards an inevitable end. Margot Robbie plays her much abused character with conviction but the only Oscar that this movie will win will rightfully belong to the controlling mother of Tonya played with relish by Allison Janney.

The Disaster Artist (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

For those who have not had the misfortune of watching a gutter movie called the ‘The Room‘ released in 2003, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is based on the events surrounding the making of that movie. ‘The Room’ had a second life when it gained popularity with some viewers rating it as the “best worst movie” ever made (which is a very generous assessment). The legend behind the movie was one Tommy Wiseau who wrote, produced, distributed, directed and acted in the original. James Franco, another goofball from Hollywood, has a field day as he tries to play Tommy Wiseau in a rather compassionate look at the original. Whether such a tribute to ‘The Room’ is warranted is certainly questionable. In fact, as a movie ‘The Disaster Artist’ fails to stand on its feet once it is robbed of the context. For most of the funny scenes to work, it is important to have viewed the original. Whether it is worth sitting through the mind numbing experience of watching ‘The Room’ so that ‘The Disaster Artist’ can be appreciated, is a question left to the discerning viewer. James Franco is sure to sweep awards which have a category for a comical performance but when it comes to the real deal (ie, the Oscars), he will be educated on good acting by the performances of veterans like Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93% , My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Frances McDormand gives her best performance after ‘Fargo’ in a masterpiece scripted and directed by Martin McDonagh. The movie begins with a mother’s pointed questions about the rape and murder of her daughter. The difference being that she goes for the audacious by putting those questions on three billboards. As a viewer, it may be difficult to foresee what unfolds in the narrative from there on. What surely does happen is by far the best Hollywood movie of 2017. The movie proceeds with the ease of knife sliding through butter. Frances McDormand, in what will be an Oscar winning performance, embodies the spirit of the character and plays it with the grit and steely determination making it one of the strongest woman protagonists in cinema. What elevates the screenplay is that all the cast members bring their A game to the show. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell add gravitas to their roles as the ailing police chief and a racist officer respectively. The humour in this tense drama is first rate and never out  of place. This movie is easily among the best to have made it to the cinemas in 2017.

Lady Bird (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 99% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Greta Gerwig turns director in a bittersweet coming of age movie set in Sacramento. Incidentally, Greta Gerwig is from Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan lives up to the promise she had shown in ‘Brooklyn’ as she plays the role of a small town high school student trying to find her bearings and love over the course of a few months. There are tons of movies with similar themes but what makes ‘Lady Bird’ charming is the freshness of the writing and the little twists and turns which keeps the viewer interested in the events on screen. ‘Lady Bird’ may not be a classic but it has its own rightful place in the list of the best movies of the year.

The Shape of Water (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

Gullermo del Toro is a master at story telling as demonstrated multiple times previously and most memorably in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. This is reinforced by ‘The Shape of Water’ where he blends fantasy, music and romance into an intoxicating concoction. For the grace with which he tells an impossible story itself, he deserves the Oscar for Direction. ‘The Shape  of Water’ is a love story between a cleaner at at secret facility and a water creature. The premise is so outrageous that you may be put off by the synopsis but as you watch the movie, you may find yourself rooting for this romance. ‘The Shape of Water’ owes its mood to the music of Alexandre Desplat who looks like a shoo in for the Oscars. Pity that Hans Zimmer will not be getting his Oscar for another extraordinary score in ‘Dunkirk’. Watch ‘The Shape of Water’ if you are willing to be taken to the stars and clouds by the magic of cinema.

Call Me by Your Name (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

‘Call Me by Your Name’ is a bit of manipulative film making. It is the one of those annual LGBT themed movies with a heavy Oscar bait thrown in. For sure, it is a gorgeous looking movie shot in achingly beautiful parts of Italy. The movie is worth a watch just for the scenery. Timothee Chalamet is another reason for watching this gay romance, in which he stands out and promises much more for the future. The story is about a young boy who is wooed by the associate of his dad. Recommended if you like the category.

The Florida Project (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

A24 studio has the uncanny knack of picking low budget features with a solid story line which would not be green-lit by the major studios. ‘The Florida Project’ is a film that A24 can be proud of. It tells the tale of a brash child spending her summer holidays with her single mom in a motel close to Disneyland. The story is told through the eyes of the child and portrays the life of the American poor. William Defoe puts in a good shift as the manager of the motel. The movie does stray a bit from its main story on a couple of occasions but there something magical about the way the director handles the whole movie. ‘The Florida Project’ is not a great film but it is indeed a memorable one.

Darkest Hour  (2017) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 85% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Winston Churchill whose career was built on his ambition to be the Prime Minister of Britain receives the honour when the soulless Nazi Germans are knocking on the gates of his country. All of his army is also facing an existential crisis as they are facing certain rout at Dunkirk. ‘Darkest Hour’ is the portrayal of Winston Churchill by Gary Oldman in the weeks following Churchill’s appointment as the wartime Prime Minister culminating in the rousing “We shall fight them….” speech. Overall, the movie is watchable but the screenplay is sometimes found lacking. The movie is a Gary Oldman show. He becomes Churchill. I would not be surprised if they mistakenly use the image of Gary Oldman for Churchill in the future. And, the Best Actor Oscar goes to Gary Oldman.

Molly’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Jessica Chastain has now become the reference point for smart  and smooth talking women operatives in cinema. Following on her remarkable success in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Miss Sloane’, she becomes the ‘Poker Princess’ Molly Bloom who was convicted of running an illegal poker operation in New York. Aaron Sorkin’s direction and screenplay follow the sleekness he had shown in his earlier screenplays. ‘Molly’s Game’ is not a thriller. It is a character study which can be viewed with mild amusement. It is predictable but engaging. The movie does leave the question of whether it is telling more than it is hiding or vice-versa. For instance, Tobey Maguire is the actor on whom the star in the movie is based. Watch it if you like predictable but fast movies.

Documentary of the Week

Cries from Syria  (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

The story of the beginning of the Syrian war told through citizen shot videos. Moving and disturbing.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Sicario 2: Soldado’ 

Did you know: ‘Get Out’ is the first film made by a debutant director to gross more than 100 million USD at the US box office.

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The Paper Anniversary Edition

In the last one year this blog has been published regularly every week without fail. When I started out, the idea was to quit after an year.During the last one year, the trying circumstances under which I have published the blog every week only cemented that thought but I won’t be entirely stopping with this edition. This blog will continue to be published but it will no more be a weekly. Thank you for the continued readership.

Movies: Non-English

Time of the Gypsies (Italy-Yugoslavia, 1988) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Time of the Gypsies

Trailer:

Five time winner at the Cannes, Emir Kusturica is a director whose oeuvre needs no introduction. His movies are remarkable for the fact that they do not try to tell unbelievable or extravagant stories. He likes to focus on ordinary people with interesting lives. He populates such stories with quirky supporting cast and shoots the films at a pace which keeps you interested in the proceedings on screen. This film is another in a glowing list that he has produced and this one takes us to the world of gypsies with their idiosyncrasies and rituals. A young man in a gypsy family blessed with telekinetic powers moves out to the big city where he gets drawn into crime. Peppered with remarkably shot sequences which are authentic, this film is a must watch for the glimpse it gives of normal people who are on the fringes of the society.

Amarcord (Italy,1973) [ IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

Amar

Trailer: 

Another classic from another master. Fellini looks at the lives of people in an Italian coastal town during the Mussolini years. The magical and saccharine tale is tempered only by the liberal doses of political reality. The number of characters introduced in the film are far too many but they are vital to the story and remain a part of it even when they appear only in a single scene. The cinematography is breathtaking and it is ably assisted by the original music. A must watch bittersweet story with heavy political undertones.

Movies I Saw This Week

Dom Hemingway (2013) [ IMDB:6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

DomHemingwayPoster

Trailer: 

Twelve years a prisoner, Dom who has been released from the penitentiary goes back to collect what he was promised for his silence during the trial. Once outside the prison, he realizes that the world has since moved on and it may be difficult to get what he believed was legitimately his. He also has an estranged daughter to deal with and has to fix his broken family and his fragile ego. Jude Law goes off the beaten track but the screenplay does not aid his cause. Not a dud but not a classic too.

Better Living Through Chemistry (2014) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 36%]

Better Living Through Chemistry

Trailer: 

A married and respected pharmacist loses control of his life when he meets a lonely young wife. They hit it off together with the aid of drugs. Coming at a time when a series like ‘Breaking Bad’ has made chemistry far too cool, this one also shows the vast powers that people who have access to the supply of pills can wield to amuse themselves.Unfortunately, the bubble bursts midway and then the film really goes nowhere even when it thinks it is making progress. Similar to the hallucinatory effects of some drugs, the story is a no brainer without anything substantial. I guess some of the guys dreamt up the story when they were high on something.

Diana (2013) [ IMDB: 5.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 8%]

Diana_poster

Trailer: 

Diana was an overrated,over hyped lady who gained sympathy for being the lonely rebel in an irrelevant monarchy. This disaster of a film tries to map the turbulent period in her relationship with the monarchy when it had reached a point of no return. Naomi Watts styles herself on the lady but there is nothing much she can do to improve a plastic lady whose photo op moments were her only contribution to the society. The screenplay is bereft of any value and looks like a string of tabloid gossip strung together to make an awful film. The film is not even able to match the voyeurism which mostly defines the British tabloids. The film never has an emotional connect and it is better to give it a miss unless you are not aware of some tempestuous chapters in the leading lady’s life.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Manufactured Landscapes (2006) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

Manufactured Landscapes

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ie5SJ39LsDg

Photographer Edward Burtynsky travels the world to see the effect of human activities on the environment and the beauty in the ugliness of the large industrial facilities. Thought provoking.

The : D Retrospective

No Way Out (1987) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

No_Way_Out_(1987_film)_poster

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lypNWLvpb0I

The film that catapulted Kevin Costner to stardom is a labyrinthine thriller which slowly tightens the screws as it proceeds. A Naval Officer is drawn into a cover up and an investigation designed to uncover nothing. He must be part of a process investigating the death of his ex-girlfriend when he is quite sure of what might have happened to her. An edge of the seat thriller which has a predictable ending.

The Hurricane (1999) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Hurricane

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsmszHWnO3k

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a renowned African American boxer who was wrongfully accused of murder and imprisoned. The film tells the story of  the people who help him prove his innocence. The film is cliched to some extent but features perhaps the best performance by Denzel Washington. He brings the anguish of the lead character to the screen with much success. He also looks the part as a boxer. A very good watch.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Fading Gigolo’ starring Woody Allen.

Did you know: In ‘Saving Private Ryan, all the main actors except Matt Damon were forced to undergo a brutal week long fitness camp for their roles as soldiers. Damon was exempt from it in order to generate genuine resentment towards him and his character.