Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wrapping it Up: April

Another month, another wrap-up post full of this month's viewings. Again I have clocked 21 movies in a month. Third time this year. I am feeling like I am unconsciously doing it on purpose. I am not really, I try to watch them whenever I can but I guess, I've eased into this routine now. If you remember, I promised to watch movies from 1001 movies list only this month. Scroll down to see how did I do?


Do Bigha Zamin(1953)(Hindi): One of the most iconic films by certainly the most iconic Hindi film director of all time and the oldest Bollywood Essential I have written about. After finally watching this movie from start to end for the first time, I feel like calling it Father India - most of melodrama in it or at least first half of Mother India(1957). More about it here.

Four Lions(2010): I remember hearing a lot about it the year it was released. It even made the '1001 Movies' list that year but I guess it lost the steam pretty quick and was left out the very next year. I don't know what the exact reactions were that year but I imagine it must have offended a lot of people. There is a lot of material that is indeed extremely offensive but what can I say, I loved it!! It's ridiculous but is extremely well played, hilarious and more often than not very to the point. It's like I feel bad for laughing on these jokes but can't help myself laughing.

Three Kings(1999): After writing a movie blog for nearly two years now, you would expect I'll be able to say why I like certain movie, right? I am sorry but you are wrong. I am still kind of confused as to why I like this movie. Like I said here, there are so many things in this movie that ideally should not work or do not work in many other cases but somehow despite them all, I still think I like this movie. I did my best to try and explain in the post above.

Mulholland Drive(2001): Naomi Watts could easily go into one of my favourite performances of all time. She was absolutely fantastic in it. As for the film; for someone who has pretty much hated everything made by David Lynch, or everything I have seen that he made, this was quite a surprise. It took me some time to really understand it properly but even if I didn't, I would have agreed that it is a good film. It is an intelligently made mystery film which makes you think and even that is enough for me to like it.

Dear Zachery(2008): I had heard a lot about this documentary, especially how emotionally drenched it is. I wasn't a wreck after watching it; thankfully, I was able to hold my own but otherwise, every word I heard was true. It is shocking, terrifying sequence of events that nobody should have to go through but extremely laudable effort to help a child know his father that he'll never see. If not for the way it ends, I can not think of a better present for any kid.

Kes(1969): I never had very high opinion of The 400 Blows(1959) and I realize that these two films aren't exactly same but I think what they are trying to do is very much similar. Kes succeeded in doing everything that the former didn't to me. Basically I cared for Billy, who was played brilliantly by David Bradley, from very early in the movie. His teachers, his family and friends were terrible to him but I guess, that was a part of his allure. His eagle and all the shots featuring him were glorious but it was that ending that really killed me.


Blow-Up(1966): My first introduction to Blow-up was through the Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron(1983) tribute to the event that gives this movie its name. I loved that it seamlessly shifts its focus a couple of times with Vanessa Redgrave's entry and exit. While I thought that segment of the movie was really interesting and intriguing, there were many things in the movie I struggled to comprehend like I didn't understand what did the side story of painter and his wife was for? Overall, I like it but it is still a little all over the place.

Sideways(2004): This month's Blind Spot. With the help of his last two films that I saw, Alexander Payne is becoming one of the directors I really look forward to. This movie came very highly recommended from multiple sources and I have been meaning to check it out for a long time. As I said in this post, I like this movie. It is not Payne's best work but it is good enough to spend couple of hours on it. I just wish I didn't go into with so sky-high expectations that despite liking it, I feel disappointed by it.

The Wedding Banquet(1993): Ang Lee's second film, even before he made Sense and Sensibility(1995), which was kind of his introduction to the western world. When I put it on, only reason I did it was because it is in the '1001 Movies' list and was expiring on Netflix at the end of this month. By the end, I was really glad I did. It is nothing extraordinary but very honest, heartfelt as well as fun story. I really enjoyed the first half and even in the second half when things turn quite serious, it managed to surprise me with its heart. I really am glad I saw it.

Dr. No(1962): First ever Bond film and also one of the better Bond films I have seen. Given that what I have seen is mostly Brosnan onwards Bond, it probably wouldn't matter much but still, it's a good film. It has a good villain, Ursula Andress and Bond has decent mission which incidentally comes with something like script. Only thing it lacked was his gadgets and little less action but if you look at Goldfinger below, that turned out to be blessing in disguise.

Thirst(2009): I have seen a bunch of Korean movies and almost every single one of them contains crazy amounts of blood and gore. I had to get it out before saying that this is the craziest Korean movie I have seen so far to give you the idea of how crazy it really is. Chan-Wook Park's vampire drama is probably second only in craziness and the amount of blood and violence we see on screen to another one of Park's own movies - Oldboy(2003). Ok-bin Kim's Tae-Ju, however could easily be my favourite performance in Korean film.

One, Two, Three(1961): Billy Wilder's follow-up to the brilliant The Apartment(1960), which he all won a bunch of Oscars for and incidentally which can also be argued as his last great film. Considering it is a Wilder film, it felt a little too loud in acting and in dialogue delivery but Wilder's words are as sharp as ever, as funny and as effective as well. He wins it all with his script but I still think it could have been much better, if they dialed it down a bit in their dialogues.

Waiting for Superman(2010): I often find it very hard to comment on or rate documentaries that talk about social issues or on broader level, are about changing the system. Another one of my pet peeves is finding a fault in system, without giving a solution. Even though this documentary avoided these pit-falls, criticizing such a vast system based on a small sample set. Does the system needs improvements? Sure. Can they be implemented on that vast level? has to be the question to be answered.

Fight Club(1999)(Re-watch): After watching it a couple of years ago for the first time, I was kind of surprised by my reaction. Given a reputation of this movie, I really wasn't expecting that I'll hate it and yet I did. This month, when I decided to do Fincher's profile, I wanted to see it again before putting it on the paper and getting all the shot about it. I did and even though it worked much better this time around, I am still not in love with it. I don't even think it is one of Fincher's best.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button(2008)(Re-watch): Another one I wanted to watch again before saying anything in this post because I remember watching it about 4 years ago and never since then. Like Fight Club, I did not hate it the first time but wasn't much into it either. Second time confirmed my reaction. I like the topic, I even like his aging process from technical point of view but it is too long and even slower for its length.

The Kid with a Bike(2012): From point of view of cinema as an art, I appreciate this movie, even like it. From personal standpoint, there are some things that I like in this film but I hated that kid within the first five minutes. So much that I was completely indifferent to whatever happens to him in the end. Even though it makes me a bad person, it did not move me because I usually have a problem appreciating any film where I really don't care about the protagonist.

Natanki Saala(2013)(Hindi): I haven't watched a single English movie released this year yet but this is my third Hindi movie of 2013 and surprisingly none of them are really trash. Yeah, they aren't gems either but at the start of the year, we don't expect many quality films, do we? For me, this movie had more vices than virtues. Virtues include lead actor and his rapport with supporting one. Everything else could have been better.

Goldfinger(1964): I think I can understand why this is considered as one of the best Bond films. It has a great villain with equally good sidekick, Bond girls are great with Pussy Galore being one of the best, his gadgets(is it the first movie that Aston Martin makes appearance in?) and Bond's adventure actually is intense. However watching it now, it really shows it's age. Even more so for for an action movie as action sequences feel really dated now. You can see punches are nowhere close to the person and he still drops dead.

In the Loop(2009): Another movie that was in '1001 Movies' list for one year and was taken out immediately. But since I am including such movies as well, it was on my list and after loving Four Lions, I thought this would be a good choice as well. Unfortunately, I was wrong since most of the humour really did not work for me. A lot of characters were really stupid, annoying and very unnatural. When it comes to comedy, I've learned that there is nothing right or wrong. Some things work for you and some just don't and this one really didn't.

Godzilla(1998): You know a Rolland Emmerich movie when you see it, right? Well, unless you are watching Anonymous(2012). Knowing what to expect from his movies, in a typical Emmerich fashion, I think Godzilla more or less delivers. It is a fun movie that you should enjoy or rather you can harmlessly enjoy. If you start talking about weak script and uninspired, cheesy and illogical turns story takes, you are looking at the wrong place. Well, he didn't exactly claim to be Chris Nolan, did he? 

Dead Man(1995): Oh God! My very first Jim Jarmusch film turned out to be quite an ordeal to even get through. By now, I am sure we are all used to see Johnny Depp in all strange roles but I am really not used to see him as the most sane person surrounding all the other crazy ones that did not make a lick of sense and it wasn't just the way characters were portrayed that didn't appeal to me. The problem was absolutely nothing, nothing made any sense to me.

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

2013 YTD Count
Total Count: 85. 79 First Time Watches and 6 Re-watches.

So till about 20th of the month, I kept my promise of watching movies from the list only. Even my re-watches were on the list, haha. Then, as it invariably happens and as I forecasted in the last post, Netflix came in way by announcing to retire more than half a dozen movies from my queue off their instant service. Now there is a reason they are in my queue and that is I want to watch them at some point of time. So if they are about to retire, I can't just abandon them all. That'll be so cruel(?). So I had to abandon my plans and get them done by the end of month. So, 13 from the list this month isn't that bad and I hope to continue it going into the next month. However I do have one more urgent thing I need to take care of. I still haven't seen a single 2013 Hollywood movie. I HAVE to fix this this month. Looking at you, Iron Man 3(2013).

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

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tackling '1001 Movies' list: Mini Reviews

At the end of last month I promised that I will dedicate this whole month of April to watch movies from '1001 Movies' list only. I swear I tried hard and even kept my promise to a certain extent. Even though I did see some movies out of the list here and there, I stuck to the list even when Netflix decided to take half a dozen movies in my queue off their instant watch. So if I am dedicating so much of my movie watching time to the list, it only makes sense if I dedicate a post to it, right? In March, I also decided to concentrate more on the list for the rest of the year. So there is a good chance that I might make this a monthly feature, at least for the rest of the year to talk about some of the movies from the list I saw in that particular month? How about that? Now for the three movies in this post; when I chose them, I did not have any specific theme running through them all but as Sat down to write, it turns out that there is something there. You'll see everything in the right time. Let's get to the movies.

Mulholland Drive(2001): This was quite a surprise for me. I still haven't seen a lot of David Lynch's work but from little that I have, I have to say that I won't call myself an admirer of his work. Rather I am kind of predisposed to hate him. I have seen Blue Velvet(1986) before; which, except Laura Dern, I pretty much hate to the core. I have also seen Twin Peaks(1990) series and I swear to god, there is nothing else in this world that gets under my skin as much as that serial. It only has 30 episodes in it but I was watching it for months because there was only so much of it I could take at a time. I still don't think I have finished it yet. The Elephant Man(1980) is probably the only movie I have seen before today that I have some admiration for. His films are weird and unreachable for no obvious reason and I hate that. I feel like Lynch tries to shock his audience all the time and more often than not I end up either laughing at it or with 'Why the hell am I doing this to myself?' expression on my face. So when judging a Lynch film, my parameters of judging them have changed over the years. They are not how I like the story? and characters? They are more like how many times I feel like killing myself or bang my head against wall?  

Mulholland Drive, however, turned out to be something I genuinely liked. I won't go into the story for, one, I think I should be one of the last persons on the earth to see it and two, there really isn't much I can say about it without giving everything away. It does have its fair share of Lynchian moments and I still don't think I have my head wrapped around it completely. But despite some loose strands dangling here and there, which I am not sure I'll be able to tie together even on the subsequent viewings, I believe it is one of the best mysteries I have seen(Disclaimer: this assessment is based on usual standards and not my custom Lynchian standards :)). And I am certain, Naomi Watts in this is one of the best performances I have seen. From her very first scene as this dove-eyed, Hollywood-smitten girl with a dream of making it big one day to devastated, hallucinating self in the end, she was really a sight to see. Another thing that distinguishes Watts from typical Lynch characters is how real her character feels. One of the major turn-offs for me in Lynchian world is I can not think of a character in any other Lynch movie that feels real like Betty, maybe except for Laura Dern in Blue Velvet. Betty however, I'll never be able to forget how perfect she was in her audition scene. Wow! And to think that this was her breakthrough role, that Lynch got her out of almost obscurity. Just Wow!!

Rating(out of 5):

The Wedding Banquet(1993): So apparently Brokeback Mountain(2005) wasn't the first time Ang Lee featured a gay leading couple. He had done it in his second movie, even before people started knowing him after Sense and Sensibility(1995). Like Lynch, I still haven't seen majority of Ang Lee's work. However, unlike Lynch, I am very much interested in getting more acquainted with him. I have heard people admiring him for seamlessly venturing into multiple genres from one movie to another with equal finesse and that is something I really like about any director. My experience of his work so far, however limited it might be, isn't bad either. However despite all this admiration for him, The Wedding Banquet isn't something I generally would even touch with a six feet pole. I added it to my Netflix queue because Lee directed it and it's on the list and I saw it because it expires this month-end. But we love surprises, don't we? and it surely did surprise me. I don't mean to say that it does something ground breaking or something that will change your opinion about anything but it is definitely worth two hours of your time. Maybe because I had minimal expectations from it, it turned out much better than I thought but in either case, I am certainly glad I watched it.

It is a story of young Taiwanese guy, living in Manhattan, named Wai-Tung. He is gay and has been living with his boyfriend Simon for 5 years but he has kept it all secret from his traditional parents, living in Taiwan, for the fear of their disapproval. As he gets older, his parents keep on asking him to get married and settle as soon as possible and for obvious reasons, he has always been stalling them. Wai-Tung owns a dilapidated building where he has a painter tenant Wei-Wei who is not only poor but also has some immigration issues. One day, Simon puts forward an idea that might help them get rid of all their problems at once - Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei fake marry each other. It will help Wai-Tung to get this marriage monkey off his back, his parents will also be satisfied. Wei-Wei will get her immigration issues sorted out and they can go on with their life just as quickly. However Wai-Tung's parents have long since waiting for this day and decide to visit immediately to see their new daughter-in-law and from there on, their drama takes many turns none of them anticipated. It is such a beautiful story. First half of it, when fake married couple is just trying to satisfy Wai-Tung's parents is really funny and provides multiple hilarious moments like Wei-Wei's vows in court, their first kiss and finally Banquet. In second half, things take a little serious turn but Lee handles it with poise, making it very heartfelt story that audience can immerse in, rather than going down the cheesy lane.

Rating(out of 5):

Three Kings(1999): Third movie from another famous director that I have seen very little of(BTW, that is the theme I was referring to earlier). In case of David O. Russell, he falls somewhere in between Lynch and Lee for me. I am not as apathetic about his movies as Lynch but I am not as enthusiastic about delving into his filmography as Lee either. I have previously seen two of his latest movies, Silver Linings Playbook(2012) and The Fighter(2010) and even though I am not the biggest fan of either, I like them enough especially for all the acting talent involved in it. I am also very much looking forward to his recently titled American Hustle(2013) which again is based on the virtue of brilliant cast he has assembled(Who am I kidding? It is because Amy Adams is in it). However as I look at the rest of his filmography, I have nothing to look forward to. Thankfully, I liked Three Kings as well which should give me a little more drive to get into movies that I know absolutely nothing about. Hopefully a few of them will surprise me just like The Wedding Banquet above.

As for Three Kings, I had heard quite a bit of praise but it is still a bit mysterious to me. Let me try to explain why? The thing is I can think of about 100 reasons not to like this movie. It is very predictable - everything that happens after Clooney and Co. find that gold is pretty much exactly how I thought it would; it is almost cheesy 'and everyone lived happily ever-after' story which should not make sense; it is shot in weird way, especially with all the saturated colours during desert sequences and uses slow motion, among other things, ad nauseum and I am still not sure if it is a parody or a serious movie trying to take stand on very serious matter. Everything above dictates that I should hate this movie, even one of the reasons above would make me hate it. Yet... in this case, surprisingly I Do Not. I don't know. It is predictable, cheesy and happily-ever-after story but there was enough emotional involvement for me; enough reason, enough substance in the story to warrant that involvement. Half the time, screen is over-saturated and more often than not, he could have done without slow-motion shots but they still add to the tension on the screen. And his humour, almost certainly at the wrong time, in the wrong place keeps in tone light while making the strong statement. I swear, if you ask me few months down the line, I might say I hate Three Kings for all the same reasons but for now, I have to go with - I like it.

Rating(out of 5):

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