Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Movie Post

Things are completely lopsided with me. A whole year passed by without me finding time/energy/inclination to blog about anything. 10 months ago I didnt even have time to blog about the top movies of 2006 and the Oscars and now I am feeling this incredible urge to blog about 2007 movies because the golden globe nominations are about to come out.

So, here is the deal. I have not seen many movies this year. But, as usual, I know about most of the ones that came out and have a good idea about the awards buzz. So, here goes... a little overview of the notable movies of this year and my comments based on whatever I have seen of them (just the trailers in some cases) or heard about them.

No Country For Old Men: #15 on IMDb top 250. a rating of 8.9/10. Perched at no 1 or 2 on most critics top 10 of 2007 already. 2-3 Best picture/best director/best supporting actor awards in the kitty. But more than anything else, WOW! what a thrilling movie! Its not usual for a movie to get such unanimous Best Picture/Best director buzz and it not being, in a certain sense, an art-house movie ( i.e. a great movie which seems not too "massy"). No Country is FAR from being "arty". It is as thrilling a movie as I have seen all year, a movie that could pull in today's college crowd as well as top critics and make all of them enjoy each and every scene of the movie (except, maybe, the last one). I haven't read the novel but everyone is saying that the movie is exceptionally true to the book with most of the dialogue taken verbatim from the book. It is to the credit of Coen brothers then that I find that almost unbelievable. To me, this movie played as if it was written to be made into a movie. Some of the scenes just COULD NOT have worked as well in any other medium. Its the atmosphere, the pauses in action when you are waiting for something to jump at you from some corner.. its just perfect at times!
sureshot nominations: Best Picture (Drama), Best Director, Best supporting actor (drama), Best adapted screenplay
also, probably Best cinematography, Best editing, Best supporting actress (Drama)

There Will Be Blood: Nearly unanimously being hailed as one of the top two english movies of this year (along with No Country). Topped some of the critics list. Got some Best Picture awards already. And its already 9.1 on IMDb (its not even in limited release yet!). One look at the trailer, and you can see it getting Best Actor and Best Cinematography nominations (if not awards). But even the trailer didn't prepare me for the sort of reviews it is getting. It remains to be seen whether everyone is getting so completely blown away with Daniel Day Lewis's acting that they might be overselling the movie itself. Is it really THAT good? we'll see... hopefully it will be..
sureshot nominations: Best Picture (Drama), Best Actor, Best Cinematography
also, very probably Best Director, Best adapted screenplay, Best supporting Actor, Best Music (and possibly others like music, editing, art direction etc..)

Into The Wild: A BEAUTIFULLY shot movie directed by Sean Penn. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it is possibly a little slow at times and maybe a little too sad for a lot of people. Emile Hirsh is definitely going to get an oscar nomination for this. Go to see this movie if only for watching Hirsh or some truely breathtaking visuals of nature.
sureshot nominations: Best actor (Drama)
also, very probably: best adapted screenplay, best cinematography, best supporting actor (and possibly music and direction)

Atonement: Not much idea about this movie yet. I havent even seen the trailer. All I know is that it is the new offering from "Pride and Prejudice" people.
probable nominations: Best picture, screenplay, cinematography, actress, costume etc.

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead: New movie by Sidney Lumet, and it seems he is in form. That should be a good enough reason to go watch this. An amazing trailer only adds up to the excitement.
probable nominations: original screenplay, direction

Juno: This year's year-end comedy-ish light movie that takes everyone by surprise at how well it is written. Possibly the analogue of Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways etc for this year.
almost sureshot nomination: Best original screenplay

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly: the french movie that is sweeping everyone off their feet. And unless I'm very wrong, it was passed over by France as its entry for best foreign picture oscar. A sureshot foreign language movie nomination for Golden Globes. And even in oscar, if it is ineligible for foriegn picture category they'll honor it with some other nominations. Maybe even in some major categories (Cinematography definitely, maybe acting nods too).

Persepolis and Ratatouille: This year's animation masterclasses. I've seen Ratatouille (of course! its pixar! what do you expect? I even own the DVD now! :P ) and I didnt think any other movie could stand a chance of getting best animation oscar this year. But Persepolis is a french animated movie that was deemed good enough to be nominated for best foreign language movie by france! And that's a huge vote of confidence. So, chances are that it will give a good fight, if not beat, Ratatouille for the animation oscar.

sigh! didn't think this is going to take so long to write. So, maybe I'll just mention other notable movies of the year without writing much about them...

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days : The trailer is very reminiscent of The Lives of Others, and if this is anything like that movie, then I'm sold already. The Lives of Others was easily one of my favorite movies of last year, alongside Pan's Labyrinth and The Departed and this one looks pretty good too.
The Kite Runner: best picture, director, adapted screenplay possibly
Michael Clayton and Starting Out in the Evening: Best actor nominations. George Clooney for Michale Clayton is a surely. Frank Langella for SOinE might be nominated too. It is too small a movie though. So maybe not.
3:10 to Yuma, The Bourne Ultimatum, Lust, Caution, Gone Baby Gone: will probably not be nominated for anything, but very watchable. I can vouch for Bourne and Lust, Caution as I have seen them. Lust, Caution would get a best actress and cinematography nomination if I had the authority to decide. But it probably won't get any nomination because a) it wasn't eligible for a foreign language oscar and b) it is rated NC-17 and nobody gives awards to NC-17 movies. Hopefully I'm wrong.
Eastern Promises
Enchanted: definitely a lot of nominations and awards in Golden Globes. because they have separate "comedy/musical" categories
Away From Her:Best actress... sureshot
La Vie en Rose: possible best actress.. though this is a foreign language movie, so..
American Gangster: quite a good watch. Might even get Denzel Washington another best actor nomination. But probably won't.
The Great Debators: directed by Denzel Washington.
Zodiac: great ensemble acting. a bit overlong, maybe.. but really good!
Across the Universe: most of the "sense" awards... cinematography, music, art direction, costume maybe..
Waitress: came early enough in the year that it probably wont be nominated for anything but at the time of its release it was considered the Little Miss Sunshine (again!) of this year.

documentaries: No End in Sight, Sicko, In the Shadow of the Moon

will probably be back sometime to refine this list and come up with some sort of "my favorites" list. too premature right now.

forgot about The Bucket List (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, together! should've been a best actor/supporting actor bait, but the Golden Globes nominations that came out this morning didn't seem to think so). Also Once which was a well reviewed musical that came out earlier in the year. It should have some "best song" nominations if nothing else. I thoroughly enjoyed Hot Fuzz too, though it probably wasn't made for oscars. But if you are a fan of Snatch or Lock Stock then you'll probably at least like this one (if not absolutely love it!). The Host was an entertaining monster movie (from Korea, I think). Some parts of that movie are really funny which is not something you expect from what is essentially a monster movie. In that sense it is very much like an indian commercial venture with everything from comedy to family drama to action to thriller genres thrown in. No wonder it was a monster (heh heh!) hit in Korea.

Friday, August 31, 2007


What do you do when you are dead tired, not having had much sleep for last 3 days because of a presentation that you have to give in half an hour from now. You don't feel like reading anything, there is no time for a practice run-through of the talk, there is no one to engage in idle chatter with...

Well, you turn on your own personal heaven. your ARR-gems playlist. and play "Ennavale Adi Ennavale".

As I said... Heaven!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


This absolutely stunning looking teaser of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's next movie "Saawariya" is so good that I just can't keep it to myself. Hence this post on this now-almost-dead blog. See it to believe it. He might not be a great storyteller, but he has an amazing sense of visuals (and music too, but we shall judge that after listening to the album). What a trailer! Not once does he show the faces of the two protagonists, yet it is as compelling an introduction as any.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Spider Makkad Man

Funny!! if you can play flash movies and if your speakers are on, click here...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Seems only BIG news/rumours can get me to blog these days. (We'll not discuss why I didn't consider things like World Cup as big enough news items to blog about... then there is the little issue of no Oscar post... anyway, no comments there...)

So, what made me think about blogging today? This rumour (probably confirmed... I'm not sure yet) that a Tintin trilogy is in the works with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson set to direct one each. The movies are going to be motion capture CG. I can't wait! Now, all they have to do is announce that Brad Bird is going to direct the third one and I can die peacefully.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pixar Pics...

For the pixar fans among you who, like me, have been waiting for Ratatouille to release, there is now more to look forward too. Pixar unveiled their next project - WALL E - in january this year and today some new images have surfaced online. Look at this image!

It will seem even more cute when you read the synopsis given here. I can't wait! I want to see this one NOW!!! :)

courtesy character design blog.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Oscars delay

Oscar awards (and HP book releases) have been the highlight of my blog-year since the beginning of this blog with nomination predictions, nomination themselves, award predictions and the award night all having multiple posts related to them. This year was different. First, I still have to catch up on my 2006 must-watch list, which means that I havent yet seen at least some of the major awardees. But the major reason for not having even a "I'm happy Scorsese finally won" post is that I was in a conference for last one week. There was a serious danger of me missing the awards completely, but I managed to catch most of the ceremony live.

Anyway, back in Rochester (from balmy, beautiful and busy St. Simons Island, GA) and the oscar post will come soon. It won't probably be as elaborate as I'd have liked, but it will be there.


Friday, February 02, 2007

The Illusionist

Around september last year the trailers of both The Illusionist and The Prestige hit the net and the two movies resembles each other so much that most people thought they'd eat into each other's business by being released so close to each other. Movies set in a late 1800s-early 1900s with protagonists that are magicians don't come along too often, so it is understandable why everyone seems to compare them with each other. I had loved The Prestige when I saw it, and I got to see The Illusionist yesterday. I was more interested in The Illusionist initially mainly because I am a big fan of Ed Norton and even Paul Giamatti excited me more than either Christian Bale or Hugh Jackman did (at least before I had seen The Prestige). Anyway, turns out that the two movies aren't alike at all! Both of them are "twist" movies ( a la The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects etc) where the ending explains a lot of things but while The Prestige is more of an edge-of-your-seat thriller where you see the rivalry of two magicians, The Illusionist takes the love-story angle of the plot a bit more seriously making it more of a laid-back movie. Not to say that it doesn't make you anticipate the explanations at the end, but you are not quite as anxious to see the answer as you are in The Prestige. This, however, is not necessarily a problem with the screenplay. It is just that they are different kinds of movies setting out to do different things. The Illusionist tries to make you care about the story and the characters a lot more and doesn't worry much about the magic, the tricks, even the twist till very late in the story while The Prestige is all about these things right from the very beginning. This means that the sets, the cinematography, the music and even the performances of the actors becomes much more important for The Illusionist than for The Prestige. This is not to say that these things were not good in The Prestige, just that you don't seem to notice anything other than the actual screenplay (except, maybe Christian Bale, some of whose scenes were quite brilliant).

Anyway, for someone who started with saying that these two movies aren't alike at all, I've spent a lot of time comparing them! And it is probably clear that I liked The Prestige much more than The Illusionist. Coming to the movie itself, I haven't been able to decide how much of the plot I can write about without spoiling the movie. Lets just say that its a movie about a magician (Ed Norton... this guy is going to be as big as De Niro or Al Pacino, though not necessarily on evidence of this movie.. the character here probably doesn't give him too much range to perform... he's brilliant in whatever he gets to do though.. ) living in the latter 1800s in Vienna. His love story crosses paths with the powerful crown prince of austria (and, as a consequence, with the prince's chief of police - the ever reliable Paul Giamatti) and his magic has to cross paths with tragedies, conspiracies and a murder. And that is about as far as I can go without putting in spoilers.

I know, I know... Not a great review. But then I always have this problem with movies where one has to be worried about giving away anything. That is probably why I call them my "review/brief comments" rather than my reviews! :) Maybe I should just call them my "ratings" and be done with it! In which case I could just have written "The Illusionist: 7.7/10".

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A very premature "best of 2006" list....

As I posted previously, I still have to see a lot of worthy movies of 2006, so it probably doesn't make much sense thinking about a "top 10" list at this point. But looking back from this point, I can still figure out some sort of grading among the movies that I HAVE seen till now. Not ranks, which don't mean much anyway, but grades. Notice that Pan's Labyrinth seems to be doing great! This might be due to the recency factor (as it is the last movie I saw) or, more likely, due to the great "aftertaste" of the movie. Some of the scenes of the movie have been running through my mind since writing the review and I must say that I probably undersold the movie in that review. Anyway.. here is what the list looks like, as of now...

A+: The Departed, Pan's Labyrinth

A : Lage Raho Munnabhai, The Prestige, United 93, *V for Vendetta

A- : Babel, Cars, Inside Man, Little Miss Sunshine, Omkara, The Queen, Rang De Basanti,

A-- : Dor, *Guru, Thank You For Smoking

The reason all of them are called A's is because all of them were pretty good and should probably not be missed. It was quite difficult, considering that I didn't want to spend too much time mulling over an essentially premature list, to rank movies within a given grade, so they are presented in alphabetical order.

One more thing - it is heartening to see so many Hindi movies in this list. 2006 was a great year for hindi movie industry both in terms of economics and quality of the movies. I tend to think that these things aren't as independent of each other as people seem to think.

* - V for Vendetta and Guru aren't 2006 movies strictly speaking. But V for Vendetta didn't really go into reasonably wide release till well into 2006 and Guru was only postponed to 2007 at the very last minute, so it is difficult to recondition my mind into thinking of it as a 2007 movie.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

You see a Guru and you gush at all the good points and talk about the bad points. Then you go to see something like Pan's Labyrinth and things fall into perspective. If Guru is 7.9/10, where do you put Pan's Labyrinth? 9.5 perhaps? Problem is, its not as if its the greatest movie ever. If you judge it independent of Guru, it will probably fall somewhere around 9. But thats not too bad, is it?

In a year that seemed very bad for quality movies till very close to the end, there seem to be a million great movies that released right at the end of the year which makes this time a very exciting and busy time for anyone who wants to catch all these movies before they leave the theatres. I still have to see most of these movies. Of the top of my head, this must-watch list includes Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima, Dreamgirls, Children of Men, Volver, The Lives of Others, Blood Diamond, The Painted Veil, The Last King of Scotland etc. And maybe a couple others that are not quite must-watch but given an opportunity I'll see them (like Casino Royale, Borat, A Prairie Home Companion, The Illusionist etc). This probably means that I have absolutely no right to say "this is the best movie of the year" but I can't imagine more than a couple of these movies finally impressing me more than Pan's Labyrinth.

So, what is it that I just saw? A fantasy? probably. A war movie? most likely. A drama? A thriller? Horror? All of the above? Its a genre-bending movie that mixes everything and does it so well that the first thing that came to my mind was "What the hell does one start with when writing something like this? What is the seed? What is the basic idea that develops into something like Pan's Labyrinth? "

It mixes a story of rebels fighting an insanely cruel military captain with a story of a girl grappling with a fantasy world full of fairies, monsters and suchlike. The two stories keep running parallel throughout without a single place where the transition might seem forced/unnatural. The seamlessly bound threads come together in the end and even though I personally didn't quite see the thematic link between the two very clearly, it didnt bother me much just because everything seemed to work so well. Those who have been reading my reviews before already know how I completely fall for anything with great visuals and music. And this is a movie with beautiful images and even more amazing sounds. So you can see where that 9/10 rating is coming from. :) That is not to say that the story doesn't work. Its a wonderfully told story that just keeps you entranced from the first to the last frame.

Don't miss it, even if you aren't normally a foreign-language-movie person. But beware, there are probably a couple violent images and maybe just a couple of places where the images/situations might seem bordering on horror, at least for children in the audience. Another tip - as is true for any movie with great cinematography and music, it'd be a pity if you don't see it in a theatre!

Friday, January 26, 2007


There was a time when I used to think that any movie not worth watching twice is not worth reviewing, and any movie worth reviewing should not be reviewed without watching it more than once. Little did I know that a day will come when I won't have enough time to watch all the must-watch new releases just once, let alone twice! Probably the only movies that I was able to catch more than once in 2006 are V for Vendetta and Cars, which is probably why I have written almost no movie reviews for more than a year. I guess I'll have to forget this rule from now on. Better write a review as and when one gets time rather than wait forever. So, even though I'm going to see Guru again on this weekend, here are my comments on the movie. There is, however, a possibility that it might be updated after I see it again. Almost every movie feels very different when you are watching it again, at least to me. Its a pity that I never got around to see some of the better movies of last year more than once. Anyway, coming to Guru...

First of all, there's a chance that I might be more critical of the movie than I intend to be. Its a Mani Ratnam movie and that comes with a lot of expectations. Specially because it is thematically very close to Iruvar which happens to be my favorite Ratnam movie. So, inevitably Guru suffers by comparison. For all the bad things I might say about Guru, it is still quite a good movie to watch with many Ratnam moments.

Now that all the disclaimers are out of the way, lets get down to business. Guru is essentially the story of a man whose sole purpose in life is to get ahead in his business almost completely disregarding other people's opinions of his methods. It is very much like a Citizen Kane or an Iruvar in the sense that it follows one man's journey over decades of change. Needless to say, this sort of theme provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for anyone performing the protagonist's role. And even though Abhishek Bachchan doesn't come close to what Mohanlal did in Iruvar, he is amazing in his own right. Except for a couple of scenes where he resembled Amitabh too much for my comfort, he carries the movie wonderfully well. His body language, his comic timing, even the energy he infuses in some of the dramatic scenes are so good that you almost can't imagine Gurubhai any other way. The same probably can't be said about Aishwarya's Sujata. Even though she is quite good here, as she is whenever she is casted by a good director for a character like this, you can imagine the same role being played by other people (I could see Yuva's Rani Mukherji in my mind's eye in some of the scenes, and it looked more compelling; and that's just talking about the more mainstream actresses. After all, there's almost nothing that Konkona Sen Sharma can't do. and then there is Tabu. Anyway, I digress..). Aishwarya essentially is playing a combination of her two roles in Iruvar, something that she tends to fall back on for most of her prestigious non-masala movies and ends up being more than efficient. That some of her scenes are extremely well written helps in elevating the impact of her performance. At the end of the movie you remember a lot about Sujata, much more than the screen time that she has outside of the songs. This is true for a lot of other characters too. For a movie that has Abhishek Bachchan in almost every frame, its amazing how much impact the comparatively tiny appearances of Mithun, Madhavan, Manoj Joshi, Rajendra Gupta and Roshan Seth leave. Even Vidya Balan, whose character is essentially conceived just to add some spice to the Abhishek-Mithun and Abhishek-Madhavan relationships and has maybe a total of 10 lines to speak, doesn't seem wasted unless you are a big Vidya Balan fan who came to watch the movie just for her. Mithun started with a slightly over-the-top "achcha hai! bahut achchha hai" that made me cringe a little, but soon settled into a really good understated performance that is a perfect counterpoint to the punchline-driven characters of Gurubhai and Shyam Saxena (Madhavan). Madhavan is superb as Shyam Saxena. There really is no one in his generation of actors who can bring the combination of boy-next-door charm and righteous energy into his performances as effortlessly as Madhavan has done time and again. This role is right up his alley and he makes it his own even with the limited time he is on screen. After a disappointing turn in Rang De Basanti (to me he was one of the weaknesses of RDB, not necessarily due to his performance but just the way the character was probably conceived didn't impress me a lot), Guru will probably get him the long overdue recognition of people who haven't seen him in Alaipayuthey, Kannathil Mutthamittal, Ayidha Ezhuthu etc.

Speaking of punchline-driven characters, the dialogues here are brilliant. I guess the credit goes not just to Mani Ratnam who must've written the screenplay in English but also to Vijay Krishna Acharya who has translated them to Hindi amazingly. Punchlines follow one after the other making at least the first half of the movie a completely entertaining fare. So much so that at intermission the only problem I had with the movie was the placing of the songs. Mayya Mayya is pardonable as it comes right at the beginning (with extremely well done credit sequence) and so doesnt affect the flow of the movie. But Barso Re, even though very well picturized, could've done with better placement. That, however, is nothing compared to Tere Bina, that just didn't work for me at all. It plays at a time when you'd not expect it to, but rather than surprising you in a good way it just looks gimicky (like Roobaroo and some of the background score that just didn't work for me in Rang De Basanti... different, but gimicky more than anything else). THAT, however, is nothing compared to Ek Lo Ek Muft, which adds absolutely nothing to the movie. I don't know what Mani Ratnam was thinking. He probably envisioned it as another item song along with Mayya Mayya, but you don't put an item song just about anywhere in the movie. Specially not a song that isn't too great itself. Ek Lo Ek Muft single handedly takes away some points from the movie. Its a pity that Mani seems to be losing interest in song sequences lately and seems to be doing them more as a necessity than anything else (something that was clear even in Kannathil Mutthamittal and Yuva). For someone who is probably the pioneer of the great modern song picturizations, this is just not good enough. I guess the editor needs to be blamed too. Its not just the songs, there are some other places too where things just don't flow as well as one would expect from a top-notch movie.

The single biggest reason why the movie isn't as quite great as it could be, however, has nothing to do with the songs or the editing. Ratnam is just too good pre-intermission and comparatively lame post-intermission. The heady first half keeps you so interested that you tend to expect a lot more from the second half than what is there. Not that the climax isn't well done, just that it doesn't match the overall flavor of the movie, not for me at least. I guess you can't do much with a movie about business houses that is set-up like a thriller. How much more thrilling can you make the ending? I don't know what else would be more interesting, just that it wasn't quite interesting enough for me. Again, that sequence is actually done quite well, with some good writing. But it was disappointing nevertheless.

Rahman is brilliant as always with the background score. Maybe a bit too much so, in fact. There were places in the movie where the elaborate score required more a bit more punch on the screen than Ratnam was able to deliver. Which brings us to cinematography. And that is probably the only thing that is consistently awesome throughout the movie. There are some scenes here that are just breathtaking. Barso Re, even though not very imaginatively shot, has some beautiful images. And then there is this one scene when Abhishek is standing in the middle of a farm when it starts to rain. To me that one scene itself is well worth the price of the ticket! Its stunningly beautiful!

Having said all that, it is still an unmistakeable Mani Ratnam movie. For me, the defining characterstic of a Ratnam movie is the way he depicts relationships on screen. For all the action and gimmicks in Yuva, its the Ajay-Esha, Abhishek-Rani and Vivek-Kareena scenes that made the movie for me. Dil Se was all about SRK's interactions with Manisha and Preity for me. and Alaipayuthey is as good as it gets in making an engrossing movie out of a simple love story. Here too, its some of the scenes of Abhishek with Aishwarya, Mithun and Madhavan that are superbly written and performed. For all his attempts at making big movies with big issues, its sequences like these where Mani truely shines. Its these sequences where you want to give the movie 8.5-9/10.

That it probably settles at around 7.9-8/10 is due to all the little things that could've been done much better.