Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wrapping it Up: April

Another month, another wrap-up post full of this month's viewings.This was a tumultuous month! Due to various personal reasons and also bit due to lack of inspiration, whole month almost went silent and then I had to rush to put 2 posts on consecutive days. I can not promise how regular next month can be either because there are many things still in the balance but here is to hoping it would be a bit more regular. On to the movies of this month...


The Godfather(1972)(Re-watch): The Godfather is one of my absolute favourites. It has always been and it will always be. But if I tell you I have only seen it once in its entirety, would you believe that? Because that's true. I have actually read Puzo's book twice but this was only second time I saw film. I mean, it is so prevalent in pop culture that it never felt like it. I have seen bits and pieces of it over and over but whole three hours of it in one sitting - just twice now and that Diane Keaton's face in that last shot will always, always make it worth it.

Gangs of Wasseypur: Part 1(2012)(Re-watch): I had seen first part back in 2012 itself but for some reason I never went to second one from that. And since they were originally planned to release as single 5-hour long film, it was imperative for me to give this another look before diving into second part. I know I will be watching it many times over, if only to watch Manoj Bajpayee imitating washing clothes, so I am certainly not complaining. And songs! Their lyrics, their feel, their style. Everyone who decided they shouldbe done this way and everyone who executed that plan to perfection is sheer Genius!

Gangs of Wasseypur: Part 2(2012): I have not felt as strongly for any Hindi film in at least 5 years as much as I did for Wasseypur. There is absolutely nothing I will like to see changed because these films are so well put together that changing anything might mean changing the whole product. And I don't know if it can get any superior. I mean, seriously, how can you do better than "Nervousao Nahi Mora" or whichever the hell songs Yashpal Sharma was on screen for. Accept it, nobody can! 

30 For 30: The Price of Gold(2014): If you ask my mother, she will tell you that I can watch any sport; however boring it might be. There is certain level of truth in it because I can but figure skating isn't one of them. I have seen bunch of sports documentaries but all of them have been about sport that I at least know some basics of. Figure skating isn't one of them too. But then, I also haven't seen a documentary about an event so pervasive that a President of any nation references it in his speech. That makes in unique in every aspect!

Chungking Express(1994): Maybe I had my expectations set little too high after In the Mood for Love(2000) but a couple of expeditions I have takes after that to Wong Kar Wai land have been rather disappointing to me. I was glad to see something that I liked. More than one simultaneous stories that are somehow connected to each other seems to be his style, at least early in his career and he uses it here as well though they are not really simultaneous. They are both interesting and executed really well. So, no complaints from me!

Jagte Raho(1956): One of the forgotten masterpieces of Hindi cinema. I remember I first came to know about this movie in one of the lists somewhere and I have been looking for this movie ever since. I never heard anyone else talking about this movie ever and it became evident that not many people know about this movie when I actually started looking for it. I have no idea why. It really is one of the gems of Indian cinema and I intend to dedicate my next 'Bollywood Essentials' to it.

Wings(1927): Even after getting through 70 Oscar winners, films before '40s have mostly eluded me. Sure, they are difficult to get hold of than most recent ones and that is a major factor why I have seen only 2 films before 1938. But many of them have also lost their place in public consciousness. Most of these films get into conversation only when you talk about Oscar winners. You respect movie like Wings even more if you consider that. It still holds its ground even after being very first Oscar winner.

American Graffiti(1973): Blind spot of this month. I have heard many people say "I wish George Lucas would go to make movies like he did before Star Wars". I am sure most of them would say differently if he did not put a bullet into his foot with Star Wars prequels but I was interested in checking out validity of above statement. I certainly liked it way more than I usually like movies like that but it is rather ironic that news of Star Wars 7 casting came same day I published my post. Whatever tiny smudge of soft spot formed inside of me for Lucas, vanished with reminder of existence of Star Wars 7.
The Secret World of Arrietty(2011): I have been a Ghibli fan for a long time now and as any real fan would, I have seen most of their films. I have seen every film Hayao Miyazaki ever directed except The Wind Rises(2014) which hasn't released here yet and I am not sure if it ever will but there are a few with him not at the helm that have escaped me. I managed to check one off here. It's a well-known story of The Borrowers but one that fits perfectly in Ghibli canon and is done with enough charm to make it worth your time. 

The Big Chill(1983): I am not exactly sure how to rate this film. I mean, I really like the camaraderie amongst those friends and there were several instances that I could relate to but at the same time there were as many instances that I felt like they are going too far or being little too pretentious. I am sure anyone who has seen this movie knows what I am talking about and maybe this is cultural and I might feel differently about it in few years but there was one instance in particular which I felt like was dealt with too lightly.

Captain America: The First Avenger(2011): To get ready for new Captain America, which I still haven't seen BTW but for that, I had to clear my backlog first. I am not sure why people call it one of the best. For me, it was a typical Superhero film - a decent, fun film but nothing beyond that. Hayley Atwell was good, even Chris Evans was not bad but I am getting tired of Hugo Weaving as a menacing villain and story was rather stupid. Plus, I have always had a bit of problem with Captain America. I am sorry but he is kind of lame superhero.

Tropic Thunder(2008): I understand that comedy is a very subjective genre but so many people sang praises of this film to me that I was quite excited to check it out. As I sat there watching it, in first couple of minutes I realized this is going to be a tough task as, except for Robert Downey Jr., I don't really care for anyone in the cast. I even downright hate likes of Jake Black. Withing 15 minutes, I knew even getting through this would be a task and by the end, my overall apathy of everyone else prevailed over RDJ and unrecognizable Tom Cruise.
Mr. Hulot's Holiday(1953): I have never seen a Tati film before and if you ask me in one line, it was supremely disappointing. Basically, It is like a series of various unrelated gags done at or around the same place put together and I had problem with everything about it. First of all, I didn't find most of the gags funny but that can be subjective, so I won't put too much wait on it. Second, if it is presented as one film, shouldn't there be some theme, some common element to connect various incidents together? Third, was it a silent film? was it a talkie or both or neither? Fourth, well... you get my point.

An American in Paris(1951): 71st of Best Picture winners I have seen and one of the worst so far. It was a colossal waste of my time. They had about 13 minutes of story that can actually amount to something and then MGM hired Gene Kelly and couple of other people who can sing and dance and stuffed it till it bloated to 113 minutes. Every single song or dance, including An American in Paris ballet, were completely, utterly and absolutely useless as they meant zip in terms of story. It was a torture of level in A Clockwork Orange(1971). I even struggled to keep my eyes open.

300: Rise of an Empire(2014): I have seen many bad films and I am sure I will many more this year as well but any 2014 film will have a very stiff competition from this film to beat as the worst film of the year. To tell you the truth, I knew exactly what I was walking into. As campy and ridiculous as first 300(2006) was, I still like it for great dialogues, amazing action and its graphic novel feel. Everything that made first one cool, mind you, I am not saying good, makes this one insufferable. I swear, anyone who sat through these two hours without fending strong urge to bolt out deserves some kind of medal.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song(1971): I know I am way out of my element saying anything about this film; I was way out of it just by watching it because I do not have any yardstick to measure this film as anything other than just a film. This might be a cultural phenomena, a cultural revolution even but that doesn't conceal the fact that this is a terrible film in every aspect. Maybe I am looking at it as just a film and that's biggest problem here but there was not a moment in this film that made me think "What the FXXX am I watching?"

Total Count: 16. 14 First Time Watches and 2 Re-watch .

2014 YTD Count
Total Count: 69. 62 First Time Watches and 7 Re-watches.

It certainly was a turbulent month. Last month, I said that my last month might be the best I have had in a long time in terms of quality of films I saw. I am following it with probably one of the worst. It certainly is very peculiar, if nothing else. I don't think I have had a month before where I had at least one film under each star rating. Under some circumstances that might mean something to celebrate but here it means 1/3 of films I saw in entire month were below average and I think I am pretty generous when it comes to calling a movie average.

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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April Blind Spot: American Graffiti

Whenever I choose my Blind spot films, I usually have certain thought behind them. Since I had a pretty late start to serious movie watching, there are so many great films I haven’t seen yet. So when I choose, I try to choose films from as many decades, genres, languages as possible while trying to justice to those glaring omissions as well. And obviously, they cater to my own tastes as well though I do try to use this opportunity to broaden them. So when I get to them, even though I don't go too much into details,  I do know few things about them; things that somewhat assure me that there is a good chance of me at least liking these films. I do this so that I would know what I am getting myself into, at least when it comes to blind spots. These spots are too precious for me and I try not to waste them as much as possible.

But sometimes, even after all this whittling, I do get a curve ball that I don’t know how to handle. I am getting into this entire preamble because this month’s selection, American Graffiti(1973), is one such occasion. I have been writing this blog for almost three years now and, however poorly I might be doing it, you would expect I would know how to get myself out of such situation. Don't worry! It isn't as plain and simple as I didn't really care for this movie. With Barry Lyndon(1975) last year, I have tasted those waters but here I was into something deeper. What, you ask? Well, you will know soon enough!

So why did I choose American Graffiti? In all honesty, I knew nothing about it walking in, except for the fact that certain George Lucas directed it. I don’t have any particular affinity towards this man (or you can say that’s my way of saying “I pretty much hate him”). I don’t even have any interest in Star Wars film, original trilogy or abomination of three more films that followed them, which basically made him whatever he is now. Again, that’s my way of saying “I don’t understand why people like them so much” and we can all see what this guy has turned into now. But I added Graffiti to the list because I have seen many people say something on the lines of – I wish he went back to making films like American Graffiti. That’s it! All my defense stands on that single line. Flimsy, eh?

Wait! There is more. Film is about two high school graduates leaving their small town to go to college in some big city. I don’t like these films. Sure, I haven’t seen all of them and sure, there are 1 or 2 I even liked. But mostly, I don’t like high school movies and more they are about last fateful day or nostalgia it brings with it, more I stay want to away from them. Maybe I am not just that kind of guy but I don’t get Dazed and Confused(1991) (See what I did there? and honestly, it should have been called American Graffiti 2 because that’s what it is). I have had enough last days of my own and surprisingly, I have even spent them in a similar way people do in these films but something about them never connects with me when it is put on screen.

You do realise I am leading you up to something, right? because we are almost there! What I am trying to tell you through all this blabbering is against all odds American Graffiti somehow got to me. Don't worry, I ain't head over heels in love with it and I still don't get how anyone just abandons their car and get into someone else's? Sure, it is just a strip but what if they don't drop you back to where your car is? How are you gonna get back to your car? Have you thought about that? and BTW how in hell do these cars start? because I will be damned if I see a single key in whole film. BUT... main point is I still like this film somehow.

I am sure people connect with this movie because of how authentic it feels. I am sure it reminds viewers of their teenage years and how they went about spending those fateful moments. Even though it is very distinctly '60s with its authentic rock-n-roll and suburban look, it is easy for anyone who has been there to get nostalgic about it. I haven't and that's why I usually don't get them. Maybe it is me back in my hometown, back to those hangouts and back with friends that I spent those times with had its effect but the fact that it did lure me in counts more than it would for any other film.

I like that most of the characters are not obnoxious or at least because I like the film and hence don't think they are. I like that they all have their own stories and they all get their own arcs, sometimes crisscrossing through each other to get to one common end. I liked how it got me invested in them, even those I didn't much care about initially. I knew Ron Howard had his career in front of camera before he got behind it but I liked seeing him and young Richard Dreyfuss. I can't believe this is the same guy in Close Encounters of Third Kind(1977). How much can a man age in 4 years? But most of all, I loved Cindy Williams.

By now, film's tumultuous production is as legendary as film is. One of the six films Universal sanctioned after success of Easy Rider(1969) to let young filmmakers make semi-independent films for low budget, this film hit the rocky road from start. With limited budget and time, Lucas often printed first take he would get even if they weren't necessarily according to the script. It all worked for good though as probably spontaneity of those scenes is what made it such a hit. Technical misfortunes were abundant and it is filmed almost exclusively at night but it looks as well-lit as any suburban strip can be. Apparently Universal deemed it unreleasable and shelved for six months and when they released it, it quickly became third highest grosser of the year.

We all know where Lucas went after this but now I understand why people want him to go back to him before Star Wars. Given his track record, this might be a colossal waste as he did go back to his glory days in 1997 and made what I called above an abomination of trilogy. But still, if he can make anything remotely close to this, it can be worth an attempt. How much worse can it be than Star Wars 7?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...