Saturday, February 28, 2009

My final* top movies list for 2008

* - 'final' only in the sense that this is unlikely to change for many weeks/months to come. The only movies that I still need to see that are likely to have any effect on this list are Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and the oscar foreign language nominees (including Waltz With Bashir and The Class). There have been some changes from the 'almost final list' posted earlier.

First, some special mentions. Most of these are pretty good, definitely watchable movies for one reason or another. e.g. Doubt is easily watchable purely for the performances, Benjamin Button is technically awesome in every way and most of the female performers make it worth your while even though things don't quite come together as well as they could've.

Special Mentions

20) The Wrestler

18-19) A Wednesday; Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na

16-17) Doubt; Mumbai Meri Jaan

15) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

12-14) Dasvidaniya; In Bruges; Slumdog Millionaire

11) Vicky Cristina Barcelona

And now, the top 10...

8-10) Milk; The Reader; The Visitor
I have already written about Milk and The Visitor. The Reader is thoroughly elevated by the two leading role performers - David Kross and Kate Winslet (a performance that probably deserved the oscar that it fetched for Kate.. probably, because I rate her higher in Revolutionary Road which wasn't even nominated!). It's also a great story which is really not as much of a holocaust movie as it is being made out to be. The central dilemma of the story is only set up with holocaust being the background, but it is still just Kate's character's extraordinary story. So, if you don't particularly like watching holocaust movies (even the one's that you think might be good), don't decide on passing on this movie for that reason. However, if you have a problem with excess nudity, be warned - there is more of it in this movie than perhaps all the Best Picture nominees of last 30 years combined! :)

6-7) Mithya; Frost/Nixon
Both of these were part of the original list, so I've written about them there.

3-5) Gran Torino; Let The Right One In; Revolutionary Road
I've already written about Let The Right One In. Gran Torino is so good that I still find it hard to believe that the academy didn't acknowledge it with even a nomination, let alone an award! And I'm not even talking about the Best Picture nomination. After all, none of my top 5 got a best picture nod, but at least one could see the reason (however unjustified) for some of them (Comic book movie, animated movie, foreign language 'vampire' movie). Gran Torino, however, is exactly the sort of movie that should've been an academy favorite. AND it did much better at the box office than most of the other nominees. I still can't believe it was snubbed so thoroughly. It is one of Clint Eastwood's best movies as a director, and that IS saying something.
Revolutionary Road was such a gut-wrenching experience for me that later I wasn't surprised to read in a lot of reviews that the movie is a bit "too sad". What DID surprise me, was that the reviewers seemed to think that being too sad is a valid reason to bring the movie's rating down! If a movie can make you sad, it really is doing something right. Kate Winslet is astounding in this movie - I think this might be her best performance ever. Or at least the best I have seen her perform. Leonardo DiCaprio is as good as he usually is, but is comfortably overshadowed by Kate here. I think I might be turning some of this movie's potential audience away by saying that it is 'too sad', but then it really did affect me very deeply at some level. That might be a very subjective thing, as things like this are probably highly dependent on one's own mental make-up, one's experiences in life etc. All I can say is, don't go by Rottentomatoes ratings in this case, specially if once in a while you don't mind a sad movie. A sad movie, but a great one.

already written about this

1) The Dark Knight
this too... :)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The post-oscars post

Due to the high demand from the audience (i.e. one out of a total of maybe 5-6 readers of the blog), here is the totally redundant post-oscar post. Brief comments on the oscars (Awards themselves, and the ceremony) 

1) It turned out to be one of the most predictable awards night in recent memory. The biggest surprise was Sean Penn edging ahead of Mickey Rourke, and even that wasn't entirely unexpected. 

2) I'm very happy that Kate Winslet finally received one. She is one of the most consistently great actresses of her generation.

3) I was hoping for an upset win for WALL-E in the original screenplay category and was a little sad when that didn't happen.

4) the little clips of short animated features were quite good. I wish they release them in a theatre around here. 

5) And, of course, the biggest screams of the night were reserved for ARR. I had been telling everyone that day that I was feeling like a proud parent! :D And I truely was. I don't know how many times I have daydreamed about him working in  the sort of movie that will get him an oscar and it is unbelievable how it all transpired. This almost came out of the blue (not on the oscar night, I mean.. that was expected.. but 3 months ago, who'd have expected or even dared hope for this?) 
Doesn't mean I will stop hoping for more national awards (and more oscars) :). If anything, the bigger reason for being happy at his Oscar is because it will make a lot more people sit up and notice his other great works and will hopefully get other great movie-makers to work with him. And that can't be bad, even if it happens at the cost of number of hindi/tamil projects. 

6) I actually liked most of the changes that they made to the ceremony. Hugh Jackman's opening number was quite engaging and getting 5 previous winners to pay tributes to the acting nominees was touching, even if it probably took a lot of time.

7) The musical production just before the best original score was quite boring, though. Perhaps it seemed better to people more aquainted with musicals here. 

8) I have mixed feelings about the original song medley. While the rush of seeing ARR perform right after winning one oscar and just before winning another was enough to make my heart race, some of the alterations that were made to the songs didn't quite work. I can understand why it might've seemed that 3-4 min performances for each song might be overkill, still mixing them and making a little medley really wasn't the best idea IMO. They can completely do away with the best song performances, but then if they are going to include a musical medley of the sort that Jackman/Beyonce etc did, perhaps performing the song nominees isn't all that bad an idea. 

9) Kate has cried so much during this awards season, that I won't be surprised if many people start hoping that she doesn't win another oscar ever! :) I, however, am not one of them. This was her first win after 5 previous nominations. I'm sure she'll be much more dignified from now on. Unless her second win comes after 5 more nominations!! :P

10) I loved to see the slumdog team come out in such a large number. the kids looked quite adorable and Anil Kapoor didn't make a fool of himself! :P ARR was quite dignified during his awards speeches and Resul seemed really sincere in his speech, even though he was clearly overwhelmed by the occasion. Frieda Pinto had a great dress (though I have heard that some people didn't like it!) and Dev Patel just looked like an overexcited kid! :)

11) Ben Stiller's Joaquin Phoenix act was hilarious when it started but went a bit too far when it started taking attention away from the nominee announcement. Perhaps it wasn't rehearsed very well, as Natalie Portman almost didn't expect people to laugh while she was reading the names and seemed not to know how to react. 

12) Jack Black's "collect money from Dreamworks and bet on anything from Pixar" was hilarious! :D

and 13) The "Coming this year" clips at the end is something they should stick with. It was exciting to see actual footage from the movies that we have only been reading about. 

So, that was 2008 for the movies. But, a proper goodbye will come later (with the almost-final list of 'best of 2008')

Songs of the day

I had mentioned in an earlier mail that Luck By Chance has some really good songs (specially lyrics-wise). Here are two songs that bookend the movie. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Song of the Day

Paayaliya from Dev.D. It can't be easy for a non-ARR song to fight its way into my playlist only a month after the release of an album as good as Delhi-6. But Paayaliya hasn't just found a place there but is probably going to stay there for a long time. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Oscar Post

The Oscars never fail to get me out of my hybernation, do they? :) And this year, specially, deserves a post written at some leisure (as opposed to the last minute manic typing that I used to do during previous years!). So, here you go... The predictions, and my own wishlist.

Picture: Prediction - Slumdog Millionaire. I personally liked Frost/Nixon most, among the nominees and I even rate The Reader higher than Slumdog, but honestly speaking none of the movies really screams out loud that it deserves to be the winner. Slumdog will undoubtedly win it. The only thing that I don't want is for Benjamin Button to win this. As good as it was technically, it really failed to move me at all. 

Director: Danny Boyle. Again, only the best among a weak field. How I wish they had nominated Chris Nolan! In this field, I hardly care who wins it. Danny Boyle is overwhelming favorite to win this, but I think there might be a small chance that David Fincher pulls off an upset win.

Actress in a Leading Role: Kate Winslet. Haven't seen three of the performances nominated (Hathaway, Jolie and Leo). But I will be cheering at the top of my voice for Kate. They robbed her off her deserved nomination for Revolutionary Road, but  her work in The Reader is also great. After all these years of being nominated and being recognized as one of the best actresses of her generation, this HAS to be her year. 

Actor in a Leading Role: Mickey Rourke. Though Sean Penn is probably breathing down his neck and might actually win. This is an amazing field actually. Every single performance (except Brad Pitt) deserves to win! Somehow I'll feel pretty happy if an upset happens in this category though. Perhaps because I didn't like The Wrestler as much as the other three movies. Richard Jenkins probably doesn't stand a chance, but I hope either Sean Penn or Frank Langella win this one for their amazing performances. Sean Penn might actually do it too, so I'll keep my fingers crossed for him!

Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger. Haven't seen Tropic Thunder yet. But out of the others, I'd have whole-heartedly supported the great Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt had this been any other year. Agaisnt Ledger's Joker, though, no one stands a chance. And it is NOT because of his death. He was astounding, and was about the only thing that kept coming back to you from a movie that was full of a lot of other great things.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Penelope Cruz. Marisa Tomei stands a reasonable chance to spoil the night for Cruz. I loved Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and wouldn't mind her winning one bit, but I must say that Taraji P. Henson was as good as anyone else on the list and I'll feel really happy for her if she wins it. Its not going to happen, though.

Orginal Screenplay: Milk. Haven't seen Frozen River, but Milk and WALL-E are easily the top 2 nominees here. And as good as Milk really was, I am firmly in the WALL-E team here. Andrew Stanton will be over the moon if WALL-E wins this. Pixar has consistently been nominated for its screenplay but WALL-E's first half takes it to another level entirely. How I wish that people realized that "best screenplay" doesn't necessarily mean writing great lines/dialogue. sigh!

Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire. I think Slumdog is favorite here, but I personally find Frost/Nixon  to be a much better written movie. In fact, I think it is much better than all the other nominees here. Pity it didn't attract many viewers to the theatres and will probably go home without a single win. 

Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog is well shot, but I loved the look of The Dark Knight  and Benjamin Button much more. I hope, and I don't think it is too unlikely, that one of them wins this. Benjamin Button probably stands a better chance than The Dark Knight

Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire. It is amazing that ARR is an overwhelming favorite in this category now, with almost every single award going to his score this season. I think both Benjamin Button and WALL-E  were really good scores though (as was The Dark Knight, which wasn't nominated!.. and I haven't seen Defiance). A month ago, I was really worried that Benjamin Button  might win this one (and perhaps deservedly so), but I think it is becoming increasingly unlikely now. However, there is just enough chance of an upset to make sure that the suspense will stay till the envelope is opened. I'll scream myself hoarse in excitement if it is ARR! :)

Original Song: Jai Ho. Vote splitting playing havoc with the two Slumdog songs aside, I don't see any chance that Jai Ho doesn't win this award (getting Gulzar an oscar for his lyrics that none of the voters understand!!! ). However, I hope for a miracle that somehow leads to O Sayya winning here. Jai Ho is really not nearly as good a track as O Sayya is, IMO. 

Animated Feature: WALL-E. As stupid as this category is, it'll hurt me a LOT if WALL-E doesn't win this. It doesn't matter much, though, because I'm sure it'll also hurt most of the voters if that happens. The horror night at the Annies notwithstanding, I really don't see how more than probably a couple of people can think of voting for Kung Fu Panda or Bolt

Animated Short: Presto. Actually, I don't know if Presto is a favorite to win this. After all, it is the only movie that has been seen by non-voters yet. One of the other 4 nominees might be a great movie, in which case good luck to them. I'll still be hoping for another Pixar win here. 

The rest of the awards either a) I really don't have any way of deciding because I haven't seen any of the nominees (live action short, documentary etc) or b) are technical categories where Benjamin Button  or Dark Knight (or Slumdog  in some categories) are probably going to sweep everything and I really don't have any favorites among them.