Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wrapping it up: May

Another month, another wrap-up post full of this month's viewings. Not much to add here so lets get to the movies of this month...


Departures(2008): I had never heard of this film for a long time and I probably never would've if I didn't go digging into Best Foreign Film winners list but I am so glad I did because this is a beautiful film. It's about a rather unpleasant business - a guy working as encoffineer, preparing dead for funerals and it easily could have been very sad or disturbing. But most of it is rather funny and all of it is a delicate and touching story. I kept on thinking that something will go wrong or might get weird at some point but it was so beautifully handled that it warmed my heart.

Day for Night(1973): I haven't been a big fan of either Godard or Trauffaut. Godard is bit better; at least there are couple I can say I like. As for Trauffaut, I have only seen three but I found even getting through two of them to be a task. Things they do never seemed anything more than gimmicky to me. And first film I see them going back to almost conventional film making is one I like almost unconditionally. Lot of people consider it to be the best film about films. Well, it is no 8 1/2(1963) but it is still a damn fine competition. And Jacqueline Bisset looks divine!

Do the Right Thing(1989): I haven't seen many of Spike Lee's films but his films come with a specific agenda and he tries too hard to shove it down our throat. This one is bit different because here he only gives us a perspective. That's the best thing you can do - leave a viewer with perspective and let him take choose a side. Another thing I like here is Sal is a nuanced, well developed character. Probably the most developed and that makes what goes down even more troubling. I respect this film for making me introspect many such things.

In a Lonely Place(1950): I have never seen a Nicholas Ray film before but I have a reason for it - I usually have problem liking stories with despicable lead, however good story might be. And his movies are known to be sympathetic of his troubled leads. This film, which I had heard a lot about and hence was anticipating it quite highly, however, proved to be an exception. Probably because it never sugarcoats how troubled Bogart's Dixon Steele is. And mystery that comes with is what makes it worth it.

End of Watch(2013): I came back from a wedding that day and didn't want to watch anything overly dramatic. I chose this because from what I knew, this felt like a lighter choice. I was completely wrong but I loved this one. So I am happy, I finally saw it. Right from the way it is shot, it is very different and I loved the path this story takes. Both Gyllenhaal and Pena make it even better and if anyone doesn't already know or has forgotten, let me remind everyone. Anna Kendrick. She. Is. Awesome!

Highway(2014)(Hindi): Randeep Hooda isn't bad, certainly not as bad as I thought he would be but lets admit - this was Alia Bhatt show. She looked really good in 2 States(2014) promos as well but there is no chance in seven hells that I am going anywhere near that film. So I will be content with judging her from this. She fell short in the most important couple of scenes at the end, yes, but I think she did a good job for the rest of it. And this is just her 2nd movie, man! Who knows, maybe one day with little more experience, she will even own those scenes as well.

Safety Last(1923): This month's Blind Spot. As I mentioned in the post, Lloyd is the last of classic comedians I was exposed to. About year and half ago was the first time I heard his mention in relation to Safety Last and that iconic climb of Bolton building in the end. First of all, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it got over. It's just 70 minutes long and secondly, even though Mark Harris does mention this in his documentary, I was rather surprised by how much time it gives to that climb.

Nashville(1975): I have seen a few Altman films by now to know about his style of large ensemble pieces and multiple overlapping story lines. There is no doubt that he can handle them really well and he does it here as well. I like what he does with this one, handling multiple aspect of this city at once - political, musical, personal - from multiple point of views. But I still feel like I haven't really 'got' this. I am not sure if there is supposed to be something common, other than Nashville off course, that brings them together. Is there anything Altman trying to tell us?

Paris, je t'aime(2006): I have been meaning to watch this one for too long. My only real complaint is they were too short; some because I really wanted to see more of and some because I felt like nothing happened at all. Gurinder Chadda, Coen Brothers, Wes Craven, Cuaron and Isabel Coixet fall in first, Bruno Podalydes, Christopher Doyle, Vincent Natalie and Chomet in second. But the real star was Margo Martindale. Sure, Payne deserves part of credit but what she was able to do just with her eyes was incredible!

The Counterfeiters(2007): Another one of films I had not even heard of until I picked it up watch from Best Foreign Film winners list. Another reason I chose this over others was I always feel like I haven't seen many German films. It's rather strange - I probably have seen most of the notable ones and there are many more languages I have seen less films in than German, I am sure, but for some reason I always like that about German films. None other! It was a good film to check out from both the lists, that's for sure.

Ninotchka(1939): Billy Wilder is one of my absolute favourite directors and obviously most of it is due to his astute writing. Since he considered Ernst Lubitsch to be his Guru in that area, I was pretty excited to watch some of Lubitsch's own movies. I did go for one of his best films or well-known films to start off but he did not disappoint me. Having Wilder himself with him writing for him might have helped as well. It was little simplistic perhaps but it is such a beautiful and heartfelt story.

All That Jazz(1979): First of Bob Fosse's duo I wish check off the list. I chose this over Cabaret(1972) just because it won Palme d'Or and Cannes was this month. It was really good. Sure, lot of them appeared in second half but at least earlier, most numbers were blended so well, I didn't even realize it was a musical. Second half dragged a lot once it starts going down or it would have been a bracket higher. I don't know anything about Fosse himself but I like that despite being such a dick, at least he can be so self critical.

A Serious Man(2009): Have you ever liked a film but hated every single character in it? It might be Coen Brothers doing their thing and doing it quite well but I think I just did. Coens have always at there best when they are handling dark comediy but this is completely another level of it. There was not a single character in this film that I wouldn't love to beat the living shit out of, including Larry Gopnik, but I think this polarizing reaction is what Coens must be going for because they never try to dial it down for even 1 minute. 


A Place in the Sun(1951): After watching An American in Paris(1951) last month, I checked out it's competition this month and though I had problems with this one as well, there is no denying that this was far superior than less than ordinary Best Picture winner. I liked it quite a bit but my only problem with the film was it felt like running on little below full throttle. Every time it seemed like reaching its peak, it would lose its steam and settle on idling mode. I usually love Liz Taylor but she mostly felt like wasted here.

Cheap Thrills(2014): I actually do not have a whole lot to say about this film. It seems to be sort of medium budget indie film that started with an idea that looked great. It keeps on climbing till the end and that part was interesting enough though it did gross me halfway through. And when it does aim for the peak in the end but for some reason, it didn't really hit me hard enough, or at all for that matter. The 3 pointer buzzer beater to win it all was just an air ball for me. NBA Playoffs are going on right now. So I think you will allow me that reference.

Out of Sight(1998): There are many things I liked about this film, like great chemistry between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez that hardly anyone ever talks about, and there is only one thing that I have problem with but it kept me bugging throughout this film. I have problem with sort of minimalist presentation of this film. I am pretty sure that is exactly what Soderbergh was going for as I was reminded of Haywire(2011) time and again but it kept me taking out of the film. Anyone will tell you that's never a good thing!

Godzilla(2014): It was exactly what I expected it to be. I wasn't expecting story to make whole lot of sense. Hell, even to have someone that resembles it would asking be a lot. I wasn't expecting any high class acting, though Elizabeth Olsen did stand out especially against Aaron Taylor Johnson who looked like he had no clue why he's there, or much else for that matter. All I wanted was none of it to suck too hard and a visual treat. Some thrills would be nice too! And it delivered all of that. Last big fight was so bitching, I loved it!


The Lego Movie(2014): The only thing I can say about this film, I guess, is it so wasn't for me. I never got into this movie for even a second. Checking your watch every two minutes gets really boring after a while. I know there are many people who liked this movie a lot, all age groups alike and it got lot of praise at the tile of its release but it was too childish and superficial for my taste. I literally started rolling my eyes in first 5 minutes and it only got worse; so much that there was serious danger of it being first film I walked out on.

Total Count: 18. 18 First Time Watches and 0 Re-watch .

2014 YTD Count
Total Count: 87. 80 First Time Watches and 7 Re-watches.

Considering it was another hectic month away fro this blog, I am quite happy with the tally for this month. If it was anything, it was a month of themed weekends. Almost all the weekends of this month, I went on small binges with some theme in mind. First, I saw three 2014 films in a week. Next week was Best Foreign film Oscar winners which, with inclusion of Departures and Day for Night, was definitely the most successful of all binges. Third was rather unsuccessful but I was planning on watching Palme d'Or winners because of the Cannes film festival that took place this month but all I managed was All That Jazz. I gave up on watching Underground(1995) after couple of attempts were interrupted multiple times.

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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May Blind Spot: Safety Last

When I got to see Mark Harris’ epic documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey(2011) last year, like everyone else who has seen it I am sure, it opened a lot of new doors for me. I always knew a lot of areas that I lacked exposure, like silent films for example, but what this doc did brilliantly was gave me starting points to eradicate those anomalies in my film knowledge. I am still working on many of those areas but it is always good to know where to start than just grapple with all the options. One such area was classic comedians and it introduced me to Harold Lloyd, probably the last of classic comedians that I was introduced to. I checked off lot of names from my watch-list over the last year and inclusion of Safety Last(1923) in this year’s blind spot line-up was to get rid of that last dark spot around the corner as well.

It is convenient for us viewers too but it's rather convenient of director to name characters in this film as 'The Boy', 'The Girl' or 'The Pal' and 'The Law'. So 'The Boy' and 'The Girl' are in love with each other and want to get married but he wants to become responsible first. So he leaves his small town, goes to a big city to get a job and make sure he can provide for his girl. After being in the city, 'reality' strikes and he has to share a room with his 'pal' and can only get a job in De Vore Department store as a salesman. Off course, he can not tell this to his girl as this would mean he can not hold his part of bargain. So he lies that he has a great job that pays sumptuously and will be able to get married and bring her to the city pretty soon.

Keeping this illusion alive takes lot of work. And Money. And if they had that, it wouldn't be an illusion. So he has to pawn almost everything they own to buy gifts a manager of his fabricated stature could afford like lavaliere and almost his entire paycheck for a chain to wear it. Though such gifts convince his girl of his well-being, they also convince her mother that a young man should not be left alone in big city with so much money. And 'The Girl' decides to surprise him by visiting. This puts our boy in a rather precarious situation and presents us with a long but well done sequence even though we must have seen similar scene played out many times before. And during this sequence, his real manager declares that he will give $1000 to anyone who will come up with an original idea to promote their store. This culminates into that iconic scene which most of us watch Safety Last for(see picture above).

It is actually a very simple story of boy and girl. Nothing specifically wrong with that especially since it is rather enjoyable. It's just that it is too straight forward and set up in a way that the whole thing is leading towards one big gig at the end. It largely depends for all the laughs on talents and physical humour of Harold Lloyd and his roommate, Bill Strother. Again, nothing specifically wrong with it either since lot of comic films did that in the day and considering how well choreographed and performed that one last, big stunt is, it's also worth it but it's just too old school. 90 year old, to be precise. And we being The Dark Knight(2008) generation and all, might have been a bit too used to a fight or an explosion or to at least whip smart one liners every second of every minute. If you can curb that instinct of yours, you can lean back and certainly enjoy this one. I did!

If you thought that I was making fun of its simplicity, let me remind you again - I enjoyed this film! As for its simplicity, it was a reminder to watch films with their time frames in mind. I am sure many things it does, like that iconic climb of Tower in the end or sequence in which he juggles multiple roles during impromptu visit of his wife-to-be, were rather difficult to film and to stage in 1923. They may not be today with technology so far advanced but that's why you need to keep in mind that it was made in 1923 and it is still quite enjoyable, if not exactly novel. Standing the test of time for almost a century, that in itself is quite notable achievement. I fail to imagine how many of today's films would pass that test in 2100.

The other day, someone shared a quote from Man of Steel(2013). In the middle of General Zod giving a pounding to whole New York and Superman trying to save it from that, he finds time to get Lois Lane somewhere alone and kiss her. Now how he was able to do that in the middle of shitstorm is matter for another post but he IS Superman so... Anyways, I digress. After their kiss Lois i.e. Amy Adams says "You know, they say it's all downhill after the first kiss". I can apply that analogy to all classic comedians and my affairs so far with their films.

In all reality, that makes Chaplin nothing short of Superman. His reply to Lois above is something on the lines of 'I am pretty sure that only counts when you are talking about Human' and Chaplin has proved his super-human abilities with every film. I don't even remember the first time I saw a Chaplin film; I must have been single-digit old. We have had our ups and downs, mostly ups though, but it hasn't hit a rough patch yet and after all these years, there is still something to look forward to i.e. Limelight(1952). Buster Keaton, based on analogy above, turns out to be very human. The first kiss was The General(1926) and it has been by far the best one. I have taken it forward from that and I genuinely enjoy the company but it has certainly been downhill since that first kiss. 

The Marx Brothers, on the other hand, have been extremely unlucky. They haven't gone much further than second date and even that second date was to ensure I didn't brush them off with one false step. There are certain things you just can't do in affairs like these, you know! Jacques Tati, though not contemporary of others in these ranks and it is too soon yet to seal his fate but, is another one that might end up with fate similar to Marx Brothers. Second date I will soon arrange might do the trick for him. I don't know much about Harold Lloyd but based on all these encounters is it wrong if I expect him to be at least Captain Freaking America? I mean he is sort of lame but he is still a super hero. Or... am I having just too many affairs?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Favourite Movie Titles Blogathon!

Brittani at Rambling Film is doing her first blogathon, and after seeing couple of entries, I thought it looked like fun. So I am going to try my hand at it. Here are the rules:
1) Going through the alphabet, list your favorite movie title beginning with each letter.
2) You don't have to necessarily like the movie to use its title.
3) Use the banner at the top of this post in yours.
4) Please have submissions in by Friday, May 23rd. (But I'll be honest, if you send them to me after that date; I'll still add them to my post.)
Another rule I self-imposed was I only chose from movies that I have seen. It did bite me in the ass like in case of Q and V as I did not have many options but I have stuck with it as much as I can. Hope you like it!

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Ace in the Hole

Before the Devil Knows You are Dead

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Gods Must be Crazy

Hold Me while I am Naked

In Bruges

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

No Country for Old Men

O Brother, Where art thou?

Paris, Texas

Que Viva Mexico

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

X-Men: First Class

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Thank you Brittani for organizing this blogathon! I have participated in a blogathon after quite a while and I had lot of fun putting together this list. Cheers!
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