Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wrapping It Up: March

Another month, another wrap-up post full of this month's viewings. About 20 movies a month seems to be the pace that I have set for myself this year. It is slower than last year but right now, looking at my personal timetable, I am more than satisfied with it and thinking of keeping up with it at least for next few months. This was the month that I finally wrapped 2012 with lists like 15 Favourite movies of 2012 and Favourite Performances - Male and Female and finally made myself available for all the other movies I have been stalling for past few months. So, a bunch of classics, bunch of Foreign films as well this month. This was also the month that I went back to some of the masters of World Cinema like Bergman, Hitchcock and Kurosawa and once again, they successfully captivated me with their brilliance. Let us get to them, Shall we?


Bicycle Thieves(1948)(Re-watch): I think this is the only Neo-realistic movie from its period that I have seen. As much as I love this movie, it really breaks my heart by the end. Making myself watch it again for my favourites series, was a very tough decision I had to take. But the other option was Grave of the Fireflies(1988). So, I kinda had to choose the lesser of the two devils. I chose this one. You can read my post here.

Gentleman's Agreement(1947): Best part of this Best Picture winner movie on antisemitism is it covers a lot of aspects of the topic in one go and does it really well. Of all the BP winners, by now I have seen all those I had any real interest in. Most of whats remaining of the bunch either are the ones I have no idea about or have no particular interest in. If going through all them will mean coming across some more jewels like this, I think getting through with them will be much more interesting exercise, rather than something like homework. Hoping for few more surprises!

Farewell, My Concubine(1993): I had heard a lot of talk about it and was waiting to see this for some time. It took me some time to get into it, about an hour or so because of their loud acting, weird singing and some other odd the strange cultural elements which might be authentic but just stand out a little to outsiders like me. However, it had me by the end mainly due to two stunning performances by Leslie Cheung and Li Gong. I guess, I just needed a little warming up to it for it to take full effect on me.

After The Wedding(2006): This movie kept on surprising me, throughout its length. I loved that all the characters in it had so many shades. By the time you think you have formed an opinion about them, you are given another piece of information that makes you rethink your position completely. Its story and acting is so genuine that you can't help but feel for them. Sometimes, things just don't work out the way you want them to. If not for that continuously moving camera and excessive use of weird close-ups, I really wouldn't have anything bad to say about it.

Batman Begins(2005)(Re-watch): Many Thanks to Ryan McNeil @The Matinee who sent me the DVDs of Begins and The Dark Knight(2008). I put begins in because I have seen TDK too many times and to tell you the truth, as good as this first installment in Nolan's trilogy is, I loved the extras that came with the DVD way more. It has multiple clips of writers talking about how they wrote the story, Hans Zimmer talking about score, stunt coordinators talking about fights, production designer talking about sets and Batman's costume and his tumbler and so much more. I loved it!!

Marathon Man(1976): For some reason, I had it confused with Sleuth(1972) and was looking for that torture scene when I saw it last month. Off course, I didn't get it there but imagine my surprise when it popped up unexpectedly in this. I know it makes me sadistic but I was almost happy when it did, well, at least until Olivier started pulling Dustin Hoffman's teeth out. Also, another role of Roy Scheider besides Jaws(1975). I know I am not talking about the movie itself but everything has been already said. It's brilliant, off course.

Scandal(1950): When people talk about Kurosawa, I don't really think a movie like Scandal gets ever discussed. I mean, even look at me. I have seen about 12 movies he did and I still had no clue about this movie. I was under the impression that I have pretty much seen all the good or notable movies he did. But when it comes to him, it looks like higher or lower echelons seize to exist since movie like this, which should belong to the lower half in his own filmography, is still better than at least 70% of the movies I have seen. The stuff that legends are made of !!

Through a Glass Darkly(1961): First of Bergman's Faith trilogy was this month's Bling Spot entry. I had heard a lot of praise of this movie and Harriet Anderson in particular. I was glad to have seen it and found myself concurring with the assessment. It is one of Bergman's best but it is definitely the best of Harriet Anderson I have seen. You can read in detail about it here.

I Live in Fear(1955): Once again, I had not heard a word about it before but watched it just because it was available for free and subject looked interesting - an aging, industrialist Japanese man decides to move him and his family to Brazil due to the fear of nuclear war. Leave it to Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune to take it from there and I'll bet my life, if they miss a beat. It becomes even more devastating, if you consider it was made in 1955 when Japan must have still been recovering from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am just glad I did see this.

It Happened One Night(1934): One of the tree movies winning all the top 5 Oscars. Of all the Oscar winners, '30s is the decade I have seen least movies from. 1 - Gone with the Wind(1939) and hence I have been meaning knock few titles off from that decade. It Happened One Night is probably the best known film of them. Having already seen Hindi remake, it was like re-watching it, even though I am really seeing it for the first time. But it still not only kept me interested but quite entertained me. Either they have done good job of remaking it in Hindi or it is really a good film. Take your pick.

Snatch(2001): Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels(1998) is one of my favourite comedies. Since this is Guy Ritchie's follow-up to that and because of a lot of praise I have heard for this before, I was anticipating this for quite some time. In many ways, this is very similar to Lock, Stock. Off course, the director is same, many of the actors as well. Same look and feel, even similar storyline as well. However, Snatch never looked like a duplicate. It may not be better than Lock, Stock but it had enough originality in action, in jokes, in substance that I really had a great time and many laughs.

The Lady Eve(1941): In all fairness, only think I absolutely loved about this film is Barbara Stanwyck and the confidence and charisma that oozes out of her. She really was amazing. Other than that, I seem to have problem with screwball comedies in general. They just seem utterly unrealistic and just keep on getting more and more improbable as the story goes on. But I guess that is the point of them, so I aught not to fret about them and enjoy what I can. And I have to confess, barring that, it was quite enjoyable.

The Cider House Rules(1999): I still have no idea what was the big fuss about the cider house rules? I get their meaning but why name a movie after it? If there was some big statement made there, I missed it. All the actors made this movie for me. Michael Caine and Charlize Theron were excellent in their respective roles, even Paul Rudd and Delroy Lindo did good job in their small roles but someone really needs to teach Tobey McGuire to show some emotions. Throughout the movie, he had the same expression he had in all the Superman movies on his face. Didn't anyone tell him he is doing a different movie to him?

No Regrets of our Youth(1946): Due to Kurosawa's Birthday on 23rd March, Hulu made 24 of his movies on Criterion Free for that weekend. I wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity by watching some otherwise hard-to-find movies. I haven't seen any of Kurosawa's earlier films, specifically before Rashomon(1950) or some more of his non-Samurai period films. I saw three movies over that weekend and all the three movies fit this criterion. I might be wrong but I think this is the only Kurosawa with Female Lead, at least only Kurosawa film I have seen.

The Attacks of 26/11(2013)(Hindi): RGV did quite a decent job with the material but it really could have been much much better. It only worked in patches for me. Nana Patekar did a good job in the last scene but he was weird earlier, even the manner in which he was speaking was very distracting. I also understand that RGV chose to highlight only certain events of the whole attacks but he glossed over many details of the incidents he chose and including them would have made them better. And all the sound engineers of this movie should be fired, all of them and never hired again.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai(2011): Not to be confused with the original 1962 movie. This pretty such seems to be the remake of it but going by the ratings, old one seems to be the better of the two. I have seen many samurai epics and by now, am quite used to the cultural elements of it. So that wasn't a problem to me at all. It also wasn't a bad movie at all, very affecting, emotional and sad, just very slow and for the run-time of over two hours, the story seemed quite uneventful. If they would've limited it under 90 minutes or so, it might have worked much better.

Murder!(1930): Oldest Hitchcock I have seen. I had trouble getting into the film in first half an hour or so but mainly it was due to the technical aspects and being a 1930 film, I am ready to overlook them. I also had problem with its dubbing but even then can be my copy as well. To its credit, in his trademark style, Hitchcock made it interesting once it focused on Murder mystery part. My only real problem with this is, I am not sure the note Sir John gets in the end is enough to acquit Diana. Wasn't that the whole point of it?

Cul-de-sac(1966): On the merit of being a Polanski film, I went into this without knowing much about it. I will say that I actually liked the story and appreciate what he was planning to do with it. But I think it failed in the execution a bit. Most of the characters felt a little too weird for no apparent reasons and especially their acting was very off putting, in-your-face kind. I understand that he wanted most of the characters to be purposefully crazy but it was very ungraceful. BTW did you know the lead actress of this movie is Catherine Denevue's sister? The moment I saw her, I had a feeling I had seen her somewhere.

Chariots of Fire(1981): With this out of the way, I can set the bar for the earliest Best Picture winner I haven't seen all the way back to 1968. And that is about the most interesting thing I can say about this movie. For some reason, both the main characters completely failed to keep me interested. Their triumphs didn't exhilarate me, their failures didn't sadden me, their competition didn't excite me either. Watching this movie was like doing some chore you do because you have to, not because you want to.

Alien 3(1992): Last of David Fincher. I mean, I know it is his first feature film but I have seen all the others he has done. So now, I have seen all the movies he did. To tell you the truth, like a lot of people seem to, I did not hate this movie. I could easily get through it but that's about the best thing I can say about it. It was very predictable and it felt like there were a lot of wasted opportunities, too many avenues where he could have used them more effectively but he touches them only gingerly and doesn't really go anywhere. At least, I have seen all his movies.

The Fall(2006): I loved the visual imagery of this film. It looked absolutly fantastic and that girl playing Alexandria did a good job but beyond that I don't have anything nice to say. I hated the story, most of the characters were too loud and almost whole part of their story, really got under my skin. After a while, due to lack of any real interest in story or characters, even those visuals started seeming meaningless. To me, it was a clear case of 'style over substance' which, to tell you the truth, it had none. Sorry Tarsem Singh. In my books, you've failed this test.

Total Count: 21. 19 First Time Watches and 2 Re-watch .

2013 YTD Count
Total Count: 64. 60 First Time Watches and 4 Re-watches.

I started off this month with reading Sidney Lumet's brilliant book 'Making Movies', my first book about movies. Lumet being one of my favourite directors, I was excited to read what he has to say about making some of my favourite movies and he talks about many of them at length from all possible angels, giving each aspect of movie-making a chapter. His writing is poignant and very honest. At one point he admits to one of his own films being a failure and on top of that says that he knew it from the day he started working on it while at another point, he calls Cannes Film Festival 'nothing but, glorious Sales convention'. I followed that with George R.R. Martin's third book in A Song of Fire and Ice series, A Storm of Swords. Earlier, I was thinking off waiting to read this till the season 3 of Game of Thrones is over, since I read the second book before watching the series and didn't care much for the second season because of all the changes made to the story. But Lady Sati and others got me too excited for the book and I gave in. I am more than (3/4)th into the book and a lot has happened, a LOT. So much that now I feel like Martin is trying to stuff too much in too little time. I do think he should have given us, the readers, a little more breathing room to digest and some of these events would have had much more effect. I still have couple of hundred more pages to go. Let us see if that will still be my last impression and despite all that, I am still excited for the season premier today.

Last month, in this post, I said that I want to concentrate more on '1001 Movies' list this year and this month, I broke that promise. I hardly saw anything from the list this month. So to make-up, I am thinking of making April a '1001 Movie Month'. All the movies I shall watch in April shall belong to the list. I have good 600+ movie to choose from. So that shouldn't be big problem. Probably the only thing that will make we stir away from the list will be movies from my Netflix queue expiring. Otherwise, I hope to keep my promise. Let us see how that goes.

So, how was your month? Did you see anything interesting? What do you think of the movies I saw? Any favorites?


  1. Glad you liked After the Wedding, Marathon Man, Through a Glass Darkly, and Snatch so much. I just watched The Lady Eve last night, and I LOVED it, especially Fonda's and Stanwyck's performances and chemistry. (Of course, you know how I feel about screwball comedies. :))

    1. Yeah, off course you did. :) But hey, at least Barbara Stanwyck proved to be a saving grace here. So, I probably shouldn't complain.

  2. Like you, I'm slowly going through the Best Picture winners. After today (I'm screening All the King's Men), I'll have 15 to go. Unlike you, I can't set the Wayback Machine very far--the most recent winner I haven't seen is...Argo. Point of fact--the 1950s is the only decade in which I've seen them all.

    Glad that you liked Gentlemen's Agreement. I found that one a lot more interesting than I'd predicted, too. There are a couple of BP winners I'm still really looking forward to seeing, but some of what I have left...gonna be homework.

    1. Completely agree with Gentleman's Agreement. I wasn't expecting to like as much either.

      I have about 20 more to check and am really hoping for few more pleasant surprises. Or else, here is to Homework !! :)

  3. Oh, I completely agree about McGuire in The Cider House Rules, he really didn't do anything there. I really loved Charlize Theron's delicate performance there, she was fabulous. Glad you liked Snatch, it's my #3 movie of all time, it just always makes me laugh.

    A Storm of Swords is really packed but there is a lot of breathing room in book 4 and 5, we get to know new characters and travel to different places while all the original characters deal with the consequences of all the terrible things that happened in Storm of Swords. Hope you liked the premiere!

    1. Yeah, I mean Wasn't McGuire suppose to be the lead? and Theron was great, no doubt. I also know you loved Snatch. I thouroughlly enjoyed it.

      I liked the premiere. Some things could have been better, some things were made better. I just hope they can keep it at the level of book. Can't wait for book 4 and 5. Thanks for the comment, Margaret !!

  4. I just can't help but envy you, Shantanu. To some extent because of the number of new films (the movie mix is simply amazing... ranging from De Sica to Bergman to Kurosawa to you name it) that you explore every month but more so because of the elaborate manner you are able to document them, month in and month out. Btw, it's great to hear that you have been lucky enough to explore lesser know gems of Kurosawa's like Scandal and I live in Fear these days. Both of these films have been on my watchlist for some time. Btw, I ad the privilege of watching Kurosawa's adaptation of Doestoevsky's The Idiot some time back... may not be among his best works but definitely more than worth a watch.

    1. Thanks, Mate. The reason I borrowed this idea from other bloggers it to document this whole process and see how my personal tastes evolve. It helps a lot, especially since my rewatch count is very low, I can go back and check what was my first-hand reaction. :)

      Yes, it was great to check some of his lesser known work. I don't think you will be disappointed in either of the two, whenever you get a chance and I know about The Idiot. I'll definitely get to it.

  5. Sounds like a great month! I haven't seen a lot of these, but I agree with Bicycle Thieves getting 5 stars. What a fantastic film.

    1. Bicycle Thieves is one of the Best made. No Doubt.

      There are few real gems here Eric. Check them out when you can. :)

  6. Lots of variety again! I've added Gentlemen's Agreement to my watchlist, now that you, SJHoneywell, and Ryan McNeil are praising it.

    After The Wedding - For me, Susanne Bier's best, she should have won the Oscar for this, and not In A Better World (2010).

    Snatch - my favorite moment is I'm coming to London:

    It Happened One Night - It probably was more original at the time, when romantic comedies were new. I don’t quite know why they had to speak in such a loud voice. It had its cute moments, and well-written dialogue, though. So overall, I did enjoy it.

    1. Well, I try !! I don't think you'll be disappointed by Gentleman's Agreement. It was much better than I thought it would be.

      I haven't seen In a Better World but I've heard many people making similar argument, especially considering the competition of Biutiful and Incendies.

      Snatch is full of many, many wonderful moments. If I had to pick one though, probably it would be Tyrone parking outside the Bookie. :D

      To tell you the truth, It happened One Night didn't feel dated at all. For 1934 movie, I think this is very, very big achievement.

      Thanks Chris !!


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