The Great Beauty (Italy, 2013) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]
Winner of the Best Foreign Language movie at last week’s Golden Globes, this Italian film captures the beauty of Rome like never before. On his 65th birthday the lead character gets a blast from the past which makes him introspect the life he has led. The same Rome which is the home to the papacy also has a vibrant night life. It is in this melange that he finds the sublime and the loud. The film captures the wide open spaces in Rome which a casual visitor might miss for the hustle and bustle of a sprawling metropolis. The film is an ode to Rome but has some really sharp writing and the average viewer will be challenged to understand all the references to art and artists that the dialogues often refer to. It also has its fair share of philosophy but is never dull. Watch this ambitious and pensive work of art for the sheer grandeur it shows. I have not seen all the Oscar nominees in the Foreign Language category but I am willing to put my money on this film winning at the Oscars too.
Love Me If You Dare (France, 2003) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
Panned by critics but loved by audiences, this French film was a blockbuster in France. It is easy to see why the movie was butchered by critics. It has no sense of logic and tells an improbable story. At the same time it is easy to see why the audiences loved it. It moves at such a frenetic pace that you are not bothered by the lack of logic. The way it has been shot and the acting compensate for a listless story. I am an admirer of the acting talent of Marion Cotillard. As always, she steals the show. As for the story, it is about two friends who carry on a game they started as kids, well into adulthood and way beyond reasonable behaviour. The game subsumes everything in their life and becomes their life itself. Watch this madcap film on a lazy weekend.
Movies I Saw This Week
12 Years a Slave (2013) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]
Winner of the Best Picture at the Golden Globes and a hot favourite to land the same statuette at the Oscars, the movie tells a story that must be told. A free man who is good at playing the violin is abducted and sold as a slave. Based on actual events and adapted to the screen from the book with the same title, the movie is a must watch. The director Steve McQueen is notorious for making films which are difficult to watch and which don’t hold back their punches. His earlier work ‘Hunger’ was a pain to watch but this one has raw violence which made me turn my head away from the screen a few times. There are indeed more violent films that are released every year but with this one the realization that not a very long time ago this is what people did to other people makes it all the more direct. Still that is an education that is necessary, lest we forget. The film is a must watch. The only competition for Jennifer Lawrence in the Supporting Actress category at the Oscars will be from Lupita Nyong’o who puts in a memorable performance.
Her (2013) [ IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]
Thank God that better sense dawned on Joaquin Phoenix and he came back from retirement to continue his career as an actor. Following up on his masterclass in ‘The Master’, he shows us why he is one of the finest actors of this generation in this ‘romance’. This original piece of work by Spike Jonze is more or less a lock in for the Original Screenplay at the Oscars as it was at the Golden Globes. The film has a very interesting first to its credit. It won Scarlett Johansson the Best Actress award at the Rome Film Festival, the only instance in its history that a character not appearing on screen has been given the award. That is explained by the story. Scarlett Johansson is the voice of the operating system with which Joaquin Phoenix falls madly in love with. The story is set in the future where the operating systems are intelligent enough to communicate intelligently with the user. They are pretty advanced too because they can understand and respond to even the speech of Joaquin Phoenix, an actor not particularly known for mouthing dialogues with clarity. There are other indicators to show that the setting is very futuristic. The city landscape in fog filled, hardly anyone ever wears jeans, all characters wear cotton pants with no belts and so on. The story is a lesson on how customization is important. There is always a demand for personalized services, be it professional letter writers (the job of the protagonist) or operating systems. At another level the story sheds light on how people sometimes develop a love for inanimate objects. After all this, it still is a simple love story with the associated highs and lows. What makes it a work of genius are some truly inspired scenes. (Spoilers ahead) The one when a surrogate visits the protagonist in lieu of the operating system is one such. Another one is when the operating system tells about her other loves. ‘Her’ is one of the most engaging films of the year with a screenplay that makes you think. Some of the metaphors are too good to be missed. How about men wanting to have girlfriends who are submissive and speak only when asked to? How about the allure of the voice over form and content? How about watching something new when you think new is no more possible?
Dallas Buyers Club (2013) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]
Matthew McConaughey shed 45 pounds to look the part of an AIDS patient in this movie based on actual events. It is this kind of copious shedding of body weight which usually wins Oscars but then you have to raise a toast to the man who has given a string of strong performances over the last three years and transformed his career from being a gung-ho shirtless hero in movies like ‘Dazed and Confused’ to someone who has discovered that he could be remembered for his performances than anything else. That also makes him the leader in the pack for this years Best Actor Oscar. The film is not worth much. It follows the story of a bigot who gets AIDS and is forced to change his opinion on himself and others. Also, he circumvents the FDA to find medication for himself and in the process runs into a litany of court cases. At some stage in the movie I stopped caring about the story and started focusing on the acting of Matthew McConaughey. In the end that is all that there is to this flick but then that is one good reason to watch this one.
Documentary Pick of the Week
Dirty Wars (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:84%]
The Oscar nomination for this one this year is down to the fact that it deserves to be seen widely and a few good men need to be appreciated. As a documentary, it is not a great one but just for sincerity and guts it needs to be seen. By the way, it is on the war in Afghanistan.
Coen Brothers Retrospective
Their latest work was snubbed at the Oscars but then I guess they have too many awards to be bothered by that. Here is a look at some of the best work from them. For more have a look at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001053/?ref_=tt_ov_dr
The Big Lebowski (1998) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]
The story of a man who is mistaken for a millionaire. Royally snubbed at the Oscars without even a nomination. History has since judged. Classic.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]
Divided loyalties in a gang war. The movie has never divided opinion. Must see.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
George Clooney doesn’t give two hoots about his image when he acts for the Coen brothers. Find out why.
Eagerly Waiting for:’The Wind Rises’ because it is supposed to be better than all the animation movies made last year.
Did you know: Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ was the director’s first film in twelve years without Leonardo DiCaprio.