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?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Blind Spot: Through a Glass Darkly(1961)

I am kind of obsessive compulsive about making lists. Not that I make lists about everything but when I do, I have to make them in a certain way. Off course, that habit seeps into my movie watching as well. Even in a simple case like Wrapping up post that I do at the end of month comprising of that month's watching, I try to keep my movie watching as dispersed as possible. If you have noticed it, it wasn't a coincidence. I make sure it happens. Almost every month, you will find that batch to be a fair mixture of Classics and contemporaries, English and Foreign movies. I have purposely tried to break that pattern, just to see if I can and have returned to it every single time. When I made this list of 12 movies last December, off course, I made sure that I am including movies from every decade and give good weightage to foreign and classic films. Now when it comes to watching them, I have seen a classic and I have seen an English movie before. So its time for a Foreign movie - I am slave to my habit, I am telling you and when it comes to foreign movies, there is hardly a better choice than Bergman. 

First and foremost, what makes this a Blind Spot movie? In other words, why is this film essential?
I have already told you - Two Words, One Name, Ingmar Bergman. I have seen quite a few of so-called 'Essential' films from his armada. What still remains to be an unventured territory for me in his filmography is his Faith trilogy and his TV Mini-Series Scenes From a Marriage(1973). The reason I wanted to include a Bergman film in the Blind Spot line-up was to force myself get back to his remaining films and I could not think of another movie than first film of his trilogy. 

So, what is the story about?
Through a Glass Darkly(1961) chronicles 24 hours in the life of one Family of 4 people. Our main focus is on the sole woman in the group - Karin. Karin has a problem; she is schizophrenic and has been recently released from an institution. This seems to be their first gathering after she got out. Other three men in the group are her Brother Minus, who seems to have some some problems of his own, Her Husband Martin who has been told by Karin's therapist that there is a very good possibility that she may never recover from her disease completely and hence is always protective, sometimes maybe over-protective of her. However Her father, David, who has just returned from his trip to Switzerland, is the most interesting character of these men or the most intricate. As the movie progresses, we become privy to the various parts of their personalities where they keep their deepest secrets that they have never shared with anyone. Karin understands that her condition is complicated and serious. She also understands that this has made Martin overprotective and her father seems often not to be there. So she confides in her brother who, to her, is a stronger person since he can take any news and right away doesn't think there is something wrong about her. Minus himself seems to go through patches of anger and depression which he has kept secret from his father as well. 

Of all the relations in this movie, Karin and Minus have the most interesting interactions, probably because they both are the birds of similar feather and hence prefer to sail together. It makes their interaction much more direct, frank and honest. Karin and Martin are kind to each other and try to be as good as possible. But their relationship as Husband-Wife is almost non-existent. Karin has lost her desire due to her treatment and Martin's over-protectiveness seems to repel her further. Her father, again good and kind man but Martin hates the fact that David always seems to have some selfish, hidden agenda and Karin and especially Minus think of him as emotionally unavailable. He almost seems surprised when David listens to him in the end but David is the character that reveals himself the most in these twenty hours, for better or for the worse.

What did I think of it? What did I like the most about it and what didn't I like?
It's dark, it's melancholic and it's depressing but it's an Ingmar Bergman film. You don't exactly sign up for them expecting a comedy(You didn't, right?). Existential angst with a bit of religious back current that we see here is Ingmar Bergman at his best. I am not sure if I will call it Bergman's The Best, that might still be one of his 1957 double punch - Wild Strawberries or The Seventh Seal, but it sure is one of the best I have seen and I have to say Harriet Anderson and her Karin is probably the biggest reason. Even though she was my favourite part of Smiles of Summer Night(1955), probably Bergman's only lighter film, I think this is the best role I have seen her in. Yup, even better than Cries and Whisper(1972) though these two roles are a little similar. Anderson handles all the ups and downs of Karin really well and as you can expect, this is hell of a bumpy ride. Of the other three, another Bergman regular, Gunnar Bjornstrand was the one I liked the most. His David is a regular guy on the surface but is much complicated beneath. Bjornstrand brings all the complexities of David to surface with such honesty that you can't help getting hooked. Lars Passgard also did a good job in Minus' role but Max von Sydow was little annoying, especially in comparison to such fine performances otherwise.

I have no idea if the two films really have something more fundamental in common but from the very first minute, I was thinking about Sidney Lumet's Long Day's Journey into Night(1962). Similarities in the two movies are uncanny - both came at around the same time, both revolve around only 4 characters of one family with a woman at center, both chronicle single day in their life, take place at a single location and bring a lot of skeletons out of the closet. Both are dialogue heavy, character driven movies that boast some amazing performances with leading ladies heading from the front. Long Day's Journey into Night is much more explosive though whereas Through a Glass Darkly leaves lot of things unsaid and being a Bergman film has some religious undertones that Long Day's Journey lacks. 

After having seen it, do I agree with its 'essential' status? and why? 
Ingmar Bergman has been immensely influential; over the years he has become one of the directors that has inspired generations of directors that followed him. To be consideredas one of the best in his oeuvre itself is a huge compliment. Add to the fact that Bergman's Faith trilogy, or Silence Trilogy as some might want to call it, is often considered as one of the Best trilogies in world cinema. I have never been able to answer 'Which is your favourite trilogy' question because there are far too many options to choose from but if the other two are as good as this, I can see myself agreeing to it being one of the best. Apart from that, it is one of the two films that won him back-to-back Foreign Film Oscars, if that means anything to you. I do believe that for those who are even remotely interested in the works of Ingmar Bergman or want to get into it, this is one of the films that you do not want to miss.

Does it open few new doors for me? Does this inspire to watch any other movies?
The driving force behind getting Through a Glass Darkly onto Blind Spot line-up was to get back on Bergman bandwagon. By now, I have seen about 10 movies he directed. I am hoping this would be the push I need to get some of those remaining essentials, including the next two installments of Faith Trilogy Winter Light(1962) and The Silence(1963) along with others such as only Bergman and Bergman collaboration Autumn Sonata(1978) and The Virgin Springs(1956), off my list that I have always meant to but for some reason or the other, never got to. I would also like to check some of his work before 1957, the year he made two legendary films.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bicycle Thieves: My Introduction to Italian Neo-Realism

Those of you following me on Twitter would probably know that I have been dreading this moment. As much as I love Bicycle Thieves(1948) and wanted to write about it, I have been trying to avoid re-watching it for as much as I can. The thing is, it is one of those movies that takes me into a state I don't want to get into, especially on the weekdays - this makes me hate the whole world around us. I mean, there is this normal, poor and honest guy just trying to do an honest day's work, trying to be a good father. If no one can help him in the cause, why can't the world at least let him be? Why do they have to put obstacles in his path and taste him? and make him prove himself? Why? Ok...Ok. Deep breath. I think I am running too far ahead of myself. Let's get back on line and start at the very beginning. So, the other option was Grave of the Fireflies(1988), which turns me into something even worse. I guess the time has come that I don't get the option. I just have to choose the blue pill and go with it. Dramatic much? I will try to keep my emotions in check. No promises though, some times they are bound to get better of you.

Based in Rome just after World War II, it concentrates on the grim realities of regular working Italian people and how even the mere survival has become a struggle. Antonio Ricci, played by Lamberto Maggiorani, is just another one of those regular guys looking for any type of work that can pay so that he can feed his wife and kid. One day, he gets lucky when he gets picked for putting up posters around town but foreman needs for him to own a bicycle. Antonio assures him that he will arrange something by next day, pawns pretty much everything he can to buy himself a bicycle and happily, joins in on the first day of work. It may not pay a whole lot but now, at least he has some income and even a bicycle. Antonio starts this new day with his son Bruno, played rather brilliantly by Enzo Staiola, full of hope of better future. However everything comes crashing down on him when someone steals his bicycle on the very first day. This bicycle is basically their lifeline. Without his bicycle, he won't have a job for another day and without his job, he won't be able to pay his debt. In hard times such as this, there is very real possibility that he wouldn't even be able to put food on their table. So for the rest of the movie, we follow this father-son pair knocking on every door they can to get their bicycle back. And quite frankly by the end of it, it broke my heart so much that I was just sitting in my chair, holding head in my hands for a long time. At the heart of all this is his relationship with his son. With Bruno around all the time, Anotonio is constantly aware of the example he is setting for his son and hence makes those final moments that much more effective, much more heartbreaking.

Vittorio De Sica who directed this movie was probably one of the most well known names related to neo-realism. He does a lot of things right in this movie to make it such a landmark picture, a true masterpiece in every sense of the word. Bicycle Thieves portrays a very vivid picture of how hard life must have been in the years right after war. Even in the small things like bunch of people waiting for announcement of who got the job, he paints the picture of poverty and desperation that must have swept through the whole country. As per the neo-realism guidelines, all the cast members chosen were unprofessional actors but they hit the ball out of the park, especially Maggiorani and Straiola. However the biggest success of the movie is in its simplicity. It's a very simple, straight forward story made even more effective by its brutal honesty. In fact it is this honesty or more correctly, its brutality is what makes it so much memorable. From the start, you see Antonio as this poor but honest, hardworking and likeable guy trying to earn a living. Within first few minutes, I was genuinely happy for him that he found some means of livelihood and was really concerned when his bicycle gets stolen right away. He seems like such a nice guy that I didn't want to get things any worse for him but the whole time conditions never stop getting any worse. By the time you reach the ending where all that is remaining is empty shell of this nice guy and his surroundings give him one final push that will make it impossible for him to redeem himself, I was literally praying for something good, something that will give us that old, simple guy back, to happen to him. But Mr. De Sica had some other plans, I guess.

The first time I saw Bicycle Thieves was about one and half years ago and that was pretty much my introduction to Italian cinema and the theme of neo-realism that was so much prevalent at that time in the Italian industry. Later on this movement even crossed its borders to influence, among many, many other things, Indian Cinema and more specifically Parallel Cinema movement in it which is also referred to as Indian New Wave. Satyajit Ray specifically sights it as one of the two most important influences on Pather Panchali(1955), first of his Apu trilogy movies and a personal favourite. Staying true to the concepts of new-realism which mainly feature stories about the hardships in the day-to-day lives of working class and lower middle class in the post World War II Italy, it was also filmed mainly on location, employed non-professional actors and has a strong focus on Child actors. Even though the films like Shoeshine(1946) and Umberto D(1952) have always been in the contention, I have only seen two movies by De Sica. Other one being Two Women(1960) for which Sophia Lauren won an acting Oscar. Based on these two movies, I feel like De Sica never lets anything good to happen to any of his characters and the looks of either Shoeshine or Umberto D don't help the cause much either. I am not complaining, rather just an observation because I understand what he was aiming for in this movies and he achieves it beautifully.

Arguably, Bicycle Thieves does have moments of humour which again come at the expense of this father-son pair. When Bruno falls in the mud and Antonio doesn't even realize it can be called one such moment. But the moment that I will remember the most doesn't come with such a silver lining, it actually comes at the height of his despair - when Antonio decides to take Bruno for lunch that he can not afford. It shows Antonio's inner conflict so powerfully that I was completely confused as to how to react to this situation. I had this uneasy smile on my face throughout the sequence. I strongly believe that is exactly the kind of reaction De Sica was hoping for and he succeeds time and again in getting it. If you haven't seen it yet, you are truly missing a gem of a movie.

Past Favorites:

Rating(out of 5):

Saturday, March 16, 2013

End of 2012: 10 Favourite Female Performances of 2012

Continuing with my lists to wrap 2012 up, I give you third and the last post looking at some of my favourite performances from 2012 by Actresses in leading or supporting role. I know many of us, including me, do believe that 2012 was a great year for cinema. But I also believe that it was even a better year for the actresses. We had so many amazing performances throughout this year that limiting this list to 10 was considerably difficult task than my previous list of Actors. The fact that only one of the two Oscar winners made the list and that too as an honourable mention should be an indication enough of it. 

Starting the list off with honourable mentions who very well could have made the list but missed:  Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, Kareena Kapoor in Talaash, Juno Temple in Killer Joe, Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild and Helen Hunt in The Sessions.

Off to the main list, which is once again listed in an alphabetical order as I did in the last list since I find it so much easier this way to focus on things that matter, like their acting.

Amy Adams in The Master: I LOVE Amy Adams. Best way to get me excited about a movie is to cast her in it. Now you know what to expect next, right? If I remember correctly, Disney's Enchanted(2007) was the first time I saw an actress named Amy Adams. She has certainly come a long way since then, even by becoming my favourite contemporary actress. I have not only seen every movie she did since then, I have plowed my way through most of her filmography before it as well. Even if we try to find, I don't think we will find someone who can go from Enchanted to The Master or from Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day(2008) to The Fighter(2010) or Junebug(2005), one of earlier roles to Doubt(2008) or... I can go on, but I guess you get my point. If you are wondering, the reason I am not talking about her role in The Master specifically is because I've said it time and again - off course, she was amazing. How can she not be?

Vidya Balan in Kahaani: Over the last few years, Vidya Balan has successfully established herself as the go-to actress for more woman-centric, serious and challenging roles. Starting off with Parineeta in 2005, she has tackled wide variety of roles in her career so far. The reason this becomes a significant achievement is even now, majority of actresses in Hindi industry are essentially caught playing the role of love-interest. Even Kahaani as a movie deserves special mention as movies with strong female lead with almost no male actor in much significant role is almost never heard of in Indian scenario. The fact that they not only made such a movie but did it well and got Balan for it who skillfully handles all the ups and downs of this character is just a cherry on top.

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty: 'Miss 2011' had a kinda quiet 2012. Off course by her 2011 standards, almost anything would be quiet but even by normal standards, 2012 wouldn't be called great. Off course, that was until she started making waves with Kathryn Bigelow directed Zero Dark Thirty which got many rave reviews for her performance. Even though I would say I quite loved ZDT, I have had my problems with it. And so did I with Maya as well but I guess that comes with the trade. Despite my reservation with the character, there is no denying that this was a praiseworthy performance. Determination and perseverance of the character really reflects through her performance. Maybe the die-hard Homeland(2011) fanatic in me has something to do with it because her character here is very similar to Carrie but I really admire them both despite their flaws.

Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone: In many ways, this was my real introduction to Marion Cotillard. Not that I had not seen any of her movies before but most of what I had seen includes her in the supporting cast. Midnight in Paris(2011) was probably the biggest role of her I had seen prior. So this was my first powerful Marion Cotillard performance and she did prove herself worthy of all the praises. Rust and Bone not so much, I found it hard to really connect to Mathias Schoenaerts' Alain until the last 15 minutes, which did give him some gravity but not much. Cotillard, on the other hand, was really amazing. Her independent fierce nature before her accident, her defeated, lost demeanour after loosing her legs but her slow transformation back into the world with the help of Alain is projected very ably by Cotillard. I honestly think if they focused more on her, Rust and Bone would have been a better movie.

Rosemarie DeWitt in Your Sister's Sister: If you know me, if you have been following this blog for some time, you would probably know that this role has been my soft spot this whole award season. I even did a post making case for her.The thing about Your Sister's Sister is Emily Blunt was the only person related to this movie that I can say I had any previous knowledge of. I had only seen DeWitt in Rachel Getting Married(2008), Mark Duplass and Lynn Ramsey pretty much nowhere. So, you can say I did not have much expectations of it and it really surprised me but Rosemarie DeWitt has to be the most pleasant surprise of them all. She was smart, funny, extremely subtle and very genuine in her role letting her eyes and her expressions doing most of the talking. She was so natural, so comfortable in her role that she had me completely won over by the end of it.

Ann Dowd in Compliance: I spent half of Compliance screaming 'Really?', 'Are you really going to do that?' or 'How can you be so stupid?' at the screen to Dowd's Sandy. The other half was spent in utter disbelief of her stupidity. But when I calmed down a bit after the movie and thought objectively about the movie and performances in it, I have to say that Compliance would not have been half as good as it was without performance of this gullible manager of fast food chain restaurant from Ann Dowd and then she just hits it out of the park in that last scene of her interview. Her submissiveness, willingness to comply to the apparent authority figure was the biggest selling point of the movie and from my reactions, I have to say they more than succeeded in it. Giving the credit where it's due - Ann Dowd, you have successfully gotten under my skin.

Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises: I know I said only one Oscar winner made my list and that was in honourable mentions. Even though Hathaway is second winner this year, she didn't win it for this role right? Now, I haven't seen Michelle Pfeiffer's Cat-woman in Batman Returns(1992). I have seen a lot of people praising her and maybe they are right, maybe she is really great, maybe she is even better than Hathaway in this role. But from the day this casting news was made public, almost everyone dismissed Hathaway. 'She will never hold a candle to Pfeiffer', 'Nolan should leave Cat-woman alone' they said. I'll admit that was mainly because 'In Nolan we Trust', a fan-boy motto and even though I do not have anything against her, I ain't exactly a Hathaway fan either but still I thought this was highly unfair. If I had one expectation from Rises, it was for Hathaway to kick some major ass. And Boy, did she deliver? Even beyond my wildest expectation.

Emmanuelle Riva in Amour: Of all the nominees for Best Actress this year, Riva was my choice. I am not exactly saying that she was the best of the lot but more like, I wanted her to win regardless of whether she was better than others or not. It was more emotional than logical though she was indeed really great. Amour was my 'movie of the year' as well and none of he other four movies made it to my top 15, so I guess that was the catalyst. This movie is all about the slow deterioration of her health after her stroke up until her eventual death and her relationship with her husband. Amour is painstakingly real, maybe even a little too real and Riva's portrayal of every stage of her deterioration gets a lot of credit for that. However, at the same time she also provides some of the rare lighter moments of the movie like running her husband over with her new wheelchair. What Riva does with moments like these was one of the very important reasons for making it my favourite movie of the year.

Sridevi in English Vinglish: To those unaware of who Sridevi is, she was one of the most popular actresses in the Hindi film industry in '80s and '90s however she hasn't really worked much since then. So in a way, this also marks her return to her glory days though I have no idea if it is for just this one film or she is thinking seriously about it but either ways, this is quite a return. I've always had issues with her voice and the manner in which she speaks which was really distracting. It didn't magically vanish in English Vinglish but by making her housewife considered insignificant by her own family director Gauri Shinde managed to use it to her advantage. To Sridevi's credit, she brings out the vulnerabilities of her character beautifully which makes her overall journey even more remarkable. Her sweet mannerisms make us like her character and genuinely care for her, quite an achievement for someone who would very easily annoy me.

Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea: When I saw The Deep Blue Sea, I did not know that this is a remake. After watching this, I checked out the older 1955 movie. When I saw Vivien Leigh played the part that Weisz plays, of Hester in original, I smiled to myself. Knowing what I know about Leigh, it made me a little sad but I thought Vivien Leigh would have been perfect for this role. Hester's love is self-destructing. I don't mean to get too philosophical but after something like the underground train station scene in this movie, I feel like nobody should love anyone so much that it hurts if you aren't loved as much in return. Cinematography and more importantly background score of this movie deserve good part of credit for it but every time you see Weisz on screen, there is so much yearning, there is so much pining, it wrenches your heart. My heart sinks a little even thinking of her now.

And with this, I am done with you 2012!! So what did you think of them? Are they really as worthy as I think? Did I miss someone?  Please let me know in the comments.
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