Thursday, December 29, 2011

I am wondering into the Foreign Land

HAPPY NEW YEAR Everyone !! Since, I started writing this blog back in June, one thing that has definitely changed is now a days, I am watching a lot of Foreign movies. Not that I did not watch them before but with this exposure, whole new world has opened up in front of me and I am trying to get as much of it as I can. I have seen more Japanese, Spanish, French, Italian or Swedish movies than Indian movies in past two and half years. So in this new year, it is only fitting that I am coming up with one more list - list of my favorite Foreign Films. More so since my End of the year list will take at least couple of more weeks to come up.

Foreign Films to me are films in the language I cant speak. So No English Films, no Indian films either. I am completely aware of the fact that even though I am watching many more foreign films these days, it still remains to be the drop in the ocean. So If you don't see a movie you love here, it is probably because I haven't seen it yet(As I said I haven't seen a lot of them) or I remain blissfully unaware of its existence. All the recommendations are most Welcome. Please let me know, I will love to check them out.

So, Here we Go !! 

1. Cidade de Deus (City of God)(2002): Definitely one of the most realistic films I have seen. It was also my Film of the year 2002. I said there as well that this film leaves a much lasting impression when you know that the almost all real life characters were the same age of the characters portraying them.

2. Rashômon (Rashomon)(1950): It tells you the same story in 3 different ways - 3 characters telling the same story from their perspective. It serves to show how important pretense is for everyone to preserve their dignity even after life. It questions humanity but restores your faith with the amazing ending.

3. Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves)(1948): One more classic and rightly considered as one of the most widely acclaimed European movie. It is a Story of a man and his son looking for their bicycle stolen on the same day he bought it. Beauty of this movie is in it's simplicity. But when it hits you, it hits you really hard.

4. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies)(1988): Tragic story of survival of Brother and his little sister in wartime Japan. I also admire the film for taking the medium of animation and exploring it beyond the typical animation world, now-a-days movies are limited to.

5. Incendies(2011) : There have been many movies with a really powerful ending - that one last moment which elevates the whole movie to another level. However, at least I haven't seen anything as powerful as Incendies(2011). From the very first scene it is imminent that we will witness something disturbing. But when it actually does, it is much more devastating than you can imagine.

6. Festen(The Celebration)(1998): It is 60th Birthday of patriarch of family. Whole family is gathered at their estate to celebrate it. What do you expect next? Nothing you will see in this film because plain simple truth is devastating. Also, It is first film made in Dogma 95 style with handheld cameras, direct sound and on location filming. Interesting stuff.

7. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)(2006): Story of a Secret Service Agent in Communist Germany asked to spy on the writer and his lover. While watching their lives through his own eyes, he finds his loyalty towards the government questioned. Most Fascinating part of the movie is watching his transformation from dedicated SS Agent to an anti establishment figure himself.

8. Shichinin No Samurai(Seven Samurai)(1954): Probably the best known work of Legendary Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa. Storyline of Seven unemployed Samurai hired to defend a village under bandit attach does not sound too illustrious. However, film has attained the cult-classic status and like The Godfather(1972), is the inspiration of many films to follow.

9. Trois Couleurs: Rogue(Three Colours: Red)(1994): Best film of the Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy by far. Maybe it is Just Irene Jacob, I found it really hard to take my eyes off the whole time. And maybe I haven't digested the whole thing yet and it will take few more viewings to do that. But even then I loved this multi-layered story of how our lives interconnect with complete strangers. 

10. La Scephandre et la Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)(2007): Real life Story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, Amicable, playboyish editor of French Elle magazine who suffers a stroke at age 43. This stroke leaves his left eye as the only functional part of his body. It's quite a fascinating story of how he survives to write a book about it.
And as I said I have seen many good foreign movies, it was almost impossible to stop at 10. So, I am just mentioning my 11 to 20 as well in no particular order. Any of these movies easily could have appeared in top 10 as well.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bollywood 101

I am going to try impossible here. After coming to US and starting this blog, many of my American colleagues and friends here at university, have asked me to give them couple of movies which will represent Hindi Film Industry. Every time I have found it impossible to do that. I probably can give you names of some of my favorite films, but they are not necessarily a reflection of Indian Cinema as a whole. However, after a lot of deliberation, I have decided to give it a try. But, then again, I am taking a little bit of Liberty and do it in 10 movies rather than just a couple.

Let me set some Ground Rules here. Now, since I am trying to give the glimpse of Hindi Film Industry,  I am going to try and choose these films so that they cover as much of turf as possible. Different actors, different directors, different time periods, different genres as well. Some of them will be cheesy, typical Bollywood-ish romances and there will be also be something groundbreaking at least for Hindi Movies. They may not be 10 best Hindi films made ever but in my opinion, for someone who does not have a clue about Indian Film Industry, they should be able to sum up the whole "Bollywood Experience". Also, Dancing and Singing comes as an essential part of any movie. In many cases, it is the best part of the movie(e.g Taal(1999) or Yes Boss(1997)). So, you have to bear with that. They might also be tad longish for your taste. And lastly, It is possible that there might be one more film, just like this, made somewhere in the other corner of the world. As much as I hate it, Bollywood is Privy to plagiarism and there are movies which are pretty much Hindi Translations of the original version (e.g. Pretty much everything from Bhatt Camp and that is why the name - Bollywood). So, even if it is a copy, I assure you that at least it is a good copy.

Here we go, in no particular order:

1. Lagaan(2001): I know few people who seriously believe that this is THE movie to represent Hindi Cinema. I never thought so because I don't think that any movie can represent a complete industry. But more I think about it, more sense it makes. So, I still don't think it is THE movie though it is closest thing. It is story of a village in per-independence India or rather British India. An eccentric British officer challenges a villagers to a game of cricket on the terms that if villagers win, they do not have to pay any taxes for 3 years and if they lose they will pay double tax. You have almost everything in this movie. Great music, great acting, good direction and some pretty interesting characters. It has romance, comedy, inspiration, thrill. It is a great package.

2. Satya(1998): It is one of the most influential films made, many even call it a modern masterpiece. It tells the story of a small town guy, Satya, who comes to Mumbai to get a job but gets sucked into the Underworld. It shows his slow rise from being nobody to the most important person in his gang. It has some standout performances such as Manoj Bajpei as Bhiku and Saurabh Shukla as Kallu Mama. Shephali Chhaya, in a small role of Bhiku's wife also leaves a lasting impression. It marked introduction of new genre 'Mumbai Noir' which represents slick, underlying portrayal of Mumbai underworld including gritty and realistic brutality and urban violence.

3. Do Beegha Jamin(1953): Most Indians will remember this film for the epic cart chase scene in it. However, actually whole movie is as good and tragic as that scene. Directed by one of the greatest directors Bimal Roy, it is about a poor farmer and his small piece of land which local landlord wants to buy to construct a mill on it. Our farmer rejects the initial offer and hence landlord makes sure that his life is miserable. Inspired by Italian Neo-Realistic style and Bicycle Thieves(1948), you can definitely draw many parallels between the two. However, Do Beegha Jamin(1953) goes beyond Bicycle Thieves(1948) to show their misery. Another reason it is very important for Indian Cinema is, just like Bimal Roy's another movie Madhumati(1958), movie was a trend setter in many ways and was one of the Pioneers of Parallel Cinema Movement.

4. Sholay(1975): Probably THE most important film in the history of Indian Cinema. Every aspect of this film has been Legendary. Story, Characters, Dialogues, Cinematography, Set and Music. It is an Indian version of Seven Samurai(1953) and probably only genuine Indian Western Movie. It is a story of Thakur Baldev Singh, whose family has been massacred by Bandit Gabbar Singh. So, he hires two outlaws to help him catch that Bandit. References to Seven Samurai(1953) are obvious. When released in 1975, it broke almost every possible box office record and no movie came any closer to it for next 2 decades. For any person associated with this movie, it is considered as THE movie of their career and there are many heavyweights associated with it.

5. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge(1995): This movie is perfect example of what Bollywood is known for in the Past couple of decades. It is pretty much cliched Family-centric Romantic Musical which started the horde of many such movies. However, if you want to see one, at least what you can do is see the best one and DDLJ is definitely THE one. It is about a boy who tries to win the hearts of the family of a girl he loves after they oppose their marriage. It even sounds cliched I know, but it is a litmus test. If you can not stand this one, you will probably not be able to bare with 80% of the movies made since. I am yet to meet an Indian who does not like this movie. So, I figure that should mean something.

6. Pyaasa(1957): Any list of this sort probably will not be complete without any mention of Guru Dutt, one of the most celebrated Indian Directors on International Level. And what other film can represent him better than one of his dream Projects Pyaasa(1957). Like the Hero of this movie, our Poet Vijay, who gets his work published and gets recognised for his work after he is considered dead, Guru Dutt and many of his movies achieved Cult Status after his death in 1964. Even now when re-released Pyaasa(1957) has run to full houses especially in France and Germany. Guru Dutt and Pyaasa have found their place in almost every 'Best of Indian Cinema' list all over the world.

7. Jewel Thief(1967): if someone asks me to choose a book of all the Harry Potter books, I will probably choose Prisoner of Azkaban, for one that I think that it is a book that can stand tall pretty much on its own and most importantly because after reading around 250-300 pages, you are told that whatever you read till now, was all wrong, it was just an illusion. I might have just told you the whole story of Jewel Thief. It is one of the good Crime Thrillers. If you like the likes of North by Northwest(1959), this movie should have something for you as well.

8. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron(1983): There are few good comedy movies I was considering here. But the only reason I am choosing this over others is I think this Monty Pythonesque satirical comedy might appeal to wider audience. Though you might need a liitle background knowledge in the last scene, which in my opinion is probably the most hilarious sequence. It is a satire on corruption involved in almost every governmental department and has a stellar cast. It has even attained the status of Cult Classic by now, since even after 28 years it applies perfectly to the current situations.

9. Ardh Satya(1983): Another Landmark film in the history of Indian cinema and probably is the best cop movie made in India. It tells us the story of a policeman who is struggling to keep his morals intact when the whole world around him is telling him against it. If I have to, I can draw some parallels between this and Serpico(1973) or Sidney Lumet other Cop Trilogy though ending here is more devastating. Besides the ending, it also has a cathartic moment when our protagonist breaks down while reading a poem from which this movie derives its name. Brilliance !!

10. Rang De Basanti(2007): And to sum it up, I have a movie which was the last Indian movie to be nominated in BAFTA awards and which reflects upon the youth of India. In my own opinion, ending of this movie is over the top. But it deserves special mention just for the transition from first half, involving a of Bunch of college students who do not give a damn about rest of world to second half where they are out on the roads to change the system which has claimed one of them. And again our very own A.R.Rehman comes up with some of the unforgettable music to reflect the perfect mood.

I know it is a very long list. But hey, you are learning about Indian Film Industry which in unlike any other in the whole damn world. What else did you expect?? I am leaving you guys with a Taste of India this holiday Season.Hope you Enjoy it and Happy Holidays !!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Award Nominations: SAG and Goldden Globes

It has been a week of Nominations. 2 important awards announced their nominations - Screen Actor's Guild and Golden Globes. Here is what I think about them.

Best Picture

Golden Globes - Drama                                                            Golden Globes - Musical Or Comedy 
The Descendants                                                                                50/50  
The Help                                                                                           The Artist
Hugo                                                                                                Bridesmaids 
The Ides of March                                                                              Midnight in Paris 
Moneyball                                                                                         My Week with Marilyn
War Horse
The Artist                                     
                                                        The Descendant
                                                        The Help
                                                        Midnight in Paris

SAG Basically has a Best Cast Ensemble award. So I was expecting Ides of March to be there, which does have a pretty strong cast. As for the globes, I will not comment on whether any particular film is musical or comedy or drama but other than that since they have more options, they are doing alright. Though, I might be missing something but Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was getting a lot of attention. Whatever happened to that? And if you ask me to predict anything from this, I shall say come Oscars, I will expect The Artist, The Descendent and The Help to get nominated. 

Best Actor: Male 

Golden Globes - Drama                                                              Golden Globes - Musical Or Comedy 
George Clooney – The Descendants                                                   Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar                                                            Brendan Gleeson – The Guard
Brad Pitt - Moneyball                                                                      Joseph Gordon-Levitt – 50/50
Michael Fassbender – Shame                                                           Ryan Gosling – Crazy, Stupid, Love
Ryan Gosling – Drive                                                                      Owen Wilson – Midnight in Paris
                                                     Demián Bichir – A Better Life
                                                     George Clooney – The Descendants
                                                     Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar
                                                     Jean Dujardin – The Artist
                                                     Brad Pitt – Moneyball

SAG again is pretty surprising. No Michael Fessbender(Shame), No Michael Shannon(Take Shelter) or Ryan Gosling. I don't know much about A Better life, but anyone of above three would have easily replaced DiCaprio. Globes missed Shannon as well. Gary Oldman(Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) was generating a lot of buzz but looks like he is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close here. And again, from this I think Come Oscars, Clooney, Dujadin and Pitt should almost certainly get nominated. I would love to see Fessbender and Gosling with them.

Best Actor: Female 

Golden Globes - Drama                                                              Golden Globes - Musical Or Comedy 
Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs                                                               Kate Winslet - Carnage
Viola Davis - The Help                                                                     Kristen Wiig - Bridesmaids
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady                                                           Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn
Rooney Mara - The Girl with Dragon Tattoo                                        Jodie Foster – Carnage
Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin                                      Charlize Theron – Young Adult
                                                          Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs
                                                          Viola Davis – The Help
                                                          Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
                                                          Tilda Swinton – We Need To Talk About Kevin
                                                          Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn
SAG again missed Charlize Theron and Rooney Mara. I am happy with Michelle Williams' inclusion and Davis, Streep and Swinton are everywhere. So that leaves Close to make way for either of them and I am not much interested in Albert Nobbs as well. So, I will be happy with that. I am also not commenting on Globes - Musical and Comedy. They just need 5 nominees - that is only explanation and their Drama is probably the most satisfying group here. I liked Elizabeth Olsen(Martha Marcy May Merlene) and Kirsten Dunst(Melancholia) too. But, even I am finding hard to get rid of anyone else. Oscarwise, I think Davis, Streep and Swinton should be certain. I would love Williams and Theron to join them.

Best Supporting Actor: Male
Golden Globes                                                                                   SAG
Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn                                Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn
Christopher Plummer - Beginners                                           Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Albert Brooks - Drive                                                           Arnie Hammer - J. Edgar
Viggo Mortensen - A Dangerous Method                                  Nick Nolte – Warrior
Jonah Hill - Moneyball                                                          Jonah Hill - Moneyball
This is like they are afraid of making all the right decisions. Globes got Brooks in but missed Nolte and SAG did vice versa and they both have Jonah Hill. Seriously? Do you know someone Called Ben Kingsley(Hugo) or at least John Hawkes(Martha Marcy May Merlene)? And Arnie Hammer ? I will reserve my judgement of Mortensen though because I have mixed reviews. For Oscars, Branagh and Plummer should enjoy the company of ideally Brooks, Nolte and Kingsley but I will be content with Hawkes and maybe even Mortensen.

Best Supporting Actor: Female

Golden Globes                                                                                         SAG 
Bérénice Bejo – The Artist                                                            Bérénice Bejo – The Artist 
Jessica Chastain - The Help                                                          Jessica Chastain - The Help 
Octavia Spencer - The Help                                                          Octavia Spencer - The Help 
Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs                                                        Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs 
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants                                             Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids

WHERE IS CARRY MULLIGAN ? How can you forget HER ? SAG is even worse. No disrespect to Melissa McCarthy - she was nice in Bridesmaids but definitely not enough to keep Woodley out. I have heard good things about McTeer but still I want Carry Mulligan(Shame) in the mix here. BTW, I am extremely happy for Jessica Chastain. I do not care which role she gets nominated for as long as she does.

Best Director 

Golden Globes                                                                                                        
Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
George Clooney – The Ides of March
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Martin Scorsese – Hugo

Nice to see Clooney here. He was good but at least I wasn't expecting him to get nominated. Payne, Scorsese and Hazanavicius are almost certain to get in. Spielberg(War Horse) is one more veteran that might make it. How many times do you have a chance of seeing Spielberg, Scorsese and Allen fighting with virtually unknown guy, Hazanavicius. And the best part is he actually has a realistic chance of winning.

So, all in all though Globes improved over SAG, there is still lot of hope for Improvement. Come On Academy !!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Awards Season is Coming up

2011 is almost gone. Just 1 more month to go and then award frenzy will start to heat up. Not that it hasn't already started. But it will reach high pitch by then. With Oscar nominations to be announced on 24th of January, predictions, anticipations and expectations will run high. Though I intend to take a piece of that as well, it is still early for me to do it now, since I still have to get around to see a lot of movies which are being tagged as Oscar-worthy (Moneyball(2011), Shame(2011) and The Descendents(2011)) and we are still waiting for release of the likes of The Girl with Dragon Tattoo(2011) and The Artist(2011). Maybe, I can catch up on few of them in near future and then I will jump in as well.

I have a kind of Love-Hate relationship with Oscars. (Well, who doesn't really?) I do not necessarily agree with many of the decisions. In some cases, their decisions are downright shameful - Slumdog Millionaire(2008) winning 8 Oscars?? No  Nomination for Christopher Nolan for Inception(2010)?? and these are just recent examples. Even though you attribute the vastness of the whole process and everything, and take into account that some mistakes are bound to happen, Academy has never made it easy to like them. With the kind of Prestige associated with the Oscars, only focus of it should be to celebrate the best of Cinema. Period. No Prejudices, No favoritism. Sadly, we do not live in the perfect world. How else can you explain the likes of Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet and Stanley Kubrick never winning anything ? I would expect Hitchcock to win for Vertigo(1958) or Notorious(1946) - two movies he wasn't even nominated for. But again, we do not live in the perfect world.

If you asked me few years ago. Oscars used to be my single point of reference. This movie was not nominated for Oscar, maybe it is not that good. That movie had so many nominations, it must be good. And another one won so many Oscars, it has to be the Best Movie Made Ever. Over the years, I have learned to judge Better. More movies I see, more exposure I have to the cinematic world, I can see the folly of my assumptions. Not that Oscar winners are all bad, I just have learned that there is a lot to it beyond them. They are just another awards like many others and they are to be taken as seriously an any other. And there are so many of them. We have Golden Globes, We have BAFTA Awards and then we have Actors, Directors, Writers, Producers Guild, so on and so forth. There are enough to keep us busy for first few months of 2012.

However, even then no one can deny the aura around Oscars. Even if I have grown out of using them as reference, I still am fascinated by them. Especially with all the stars attached to it, the Red Carpet, actual ceremony and all the anticipation behind it, even often only to bitch about it afterwards, never fells to allure me into that world. You can say that the Selection process is seriously flawed or Academy voters have no taste at all and many more things, but still it definitely is one thing almost everyone is looking forward to. And in that case, I am no different from everyone. If not anything else, at least I get to see what everyone else is thinking about my favorite movies of the Year. So, I will play along as well. Let's get it started !!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...