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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best Films of 2012

It goes without saying that an end of the year list depends on access to quality films from around the world. And my access to those quality global titles is getting harder each year with closure of arthouse/independent cinemas thereby delaying seeing foreign films in a timely manner. For example, only 4 of the 25 films (16%) listed below had a theatrical run of one week or more. The rest only played once or twice via a film festival/cinematheque screening. Since all film festivals don’t have access to the same films, that forces a wait of 1-2 years to see certain foreign titles. That is why this list, like all previous years, contains older titles.

Top 10 Films

1. Holy Motors (France, Leos Carax)



Leos Carax creatively captures the essence of cinema from the silent era to contemporary times while paying homage to key genres throughout. Pure Cinema!

2. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011, Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan)



A stylistic film that is packed with dry wit while depicting characters in the hunt for a murdered body over the course of a night. Also, the best shot film of the year which manages to use light and shadows to great effect. For example, the scene where the mayor’s daughter makes an appearance is pure cinematic bliss.

3. This is Not a Film (2011, Iran, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb/Jafar Panahi)

The film shows that in the hands of a talented filmmaker even a tiny confined space can be a liberating cinematic experience. The final moments capture those magical moments that Werner Herzog has claimed happen only when the camera is left recording just a little bit longer.

4. The Master (USA, Paul Thomas Anderson) 

5. Gone Fishing (Argentina, Carlos Sorin) 

A charming and relaxed film that contains plenty of contemplative moments in following a father’s (Marco played by Alejandro Awada) attempts to patch-up with his daughter. Such a story could have gotten a serious treatment in the hands of another director but Sorin smartly uses the visuals and pleasant score (composed by his son) to release any tension before it forms on the screen. When things are about to get serious Sorin ensures that the audience gets a nice reprieve either with a moment of humor or breathtaking beauty.

6. The World Before Her (Canada, Nisha Pahuja)



A perfectly balanced and insightful film that examines two very different camps of thought in India. The two camps, beauty pageants vs fundamentalism, contain the essence of issues that are dividing and ruining India. Given the recent brutal crime in Delhi, The World Before Her is one of the year’s most relevant films which should kick-start a debate about improving women’s rights in India.

7. Found Memories (2011, Brazil co-production, Lucia Murat) 

A mesmerizing film that deceptively appears as a contemplative piece but contains another layer beneath the surface. The ending, which puts a completely different spin on the overall film perception, haunts long in the memory because it forces one to rethink the lives of the residents and why they have continued to stay in a place cut-off from the rest of the world. One could easily classify this as an artful horror film!

8. The Bright Day (India, Mohit Takalkar) 

Mohit Takalkar makes his cinematic debut with a beautiful, poetic and hypnotic film. The visuals are striking as is the use of background music to enhance the film’s mythical tale. Plus, there are some smart touches such as using the same actor (Mohan Agashe) to play different characters that highlights how the main character Shiv perceives people around him.

9. Unfair World (2011, Greece/Germany, Filippos Tsitos) 

This smart Greek film shows how two cops’ efforts to save an innocent person leads to murder thereby forcing them to cover their tracks. Each frame is packed with absurd comedic moments which are slowly revealed as the camera movements act like a drawn out punch line. The film’s comedic style is reminiscent of Aki Kaurismäki, Corneliu Porumboiu (Police, Adjective) and the recent wave of Greek films directed by Giorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Alps) & Athina Rachel Tsangari’s (Attenberg).

10. Sleeping Sickness (2011, Germany co-production, Ulrich Kohler) 

15 Honorable Mentions roughly in order of preference:

Teddy Bear (Denmark, Mads Matthiesen) 

An award winning body builder who not only lives with his mother but is afraid of her. Despite his hulk like appearance, he has no luck with love. So he decides to fly to Thailand to find a bride. This setup brings plenty of humor and credit to the director to allow events to flow naturally without any extra drama.

The Queen of Versailles (USA co-production, Lauren Greenfield) 

Even though Lauren Greenfield’s documentary looks at a single American family, the Seigels, the film is a case study of the excess spending that played a part in the American Economic crisis of 2008. The Siegels clearly spent beyond their means but they were not alone in doing so. After 2008, when easy access to money was shut down, the previously wealthy Siegels suffered the same fate as the average American of having to cut back and making drastic changes in their lives. Essential viewing!

Polisse (2011, France, Maïwenn) 

An unflinching look at a French police division dealing with children and juvenile crime cases. The verite style heightens the tension and shows that even the police officers dealing with the cases are not immune to losing control.

Reality (Italy, Matteo Garrone) 

A devastating case study of a man who is so blinded by his quest for fame that he starts to lose grip on reality and starts to throw his life away.

Killing Them Softly (USA, Andrew Dominik) 

Andrew Dominik makes a very good decision to adapt George V. Higgins’ 1974 novel Cogan's Trade to the 2008 American economic crisis. The original book is devoid of any political or economic elements but the film depicts the effects of financial strain on the characters in every frame. The opening shots of abandoned houses plus the non-stop sound bites of presidential debates highlight that even assassins and mobsters are feeling financial pressure in cutting back. The grayish look of the film also emphasizes the constant gloom that envelopes all the characters. As good as the film is, two stylistic scenes don’t mesh with the rest of the film’s look. The slow-motion car killing and the drug trip may look good on their own but they have no place in an otherwise tightly constructed film.

Arcadia (USA, Olivia Silver) 

A wonderful American film about a father’s road trip with his children to their new home. The strong start sets the tone of the father’s parental methods early on, which makes for a fascinating viewing. John Hawkes puts in a strong performance but the young actors also shine brightly and evoke tender emotions. This film is another one of those that belongs to the Neo-Realist American cinema category which depict genuine stories with a fly on the wall perspective.

Take This Waltz (2011, Canada, Sarah Polley) 

Perfectly etched characters depicted in a beautiful fluid manner. Plus, Leonard Cohen's title song elevates the film emotionally.

I’m not a Rockstar (Canada, Bobbi Jo Hart) 

Bobbi Jo Hart has edited over 4 years of footage to craft a documentary about the struggles and journey of a young girl, Marika Bournaki, to become a pianist. There are few scenes which show Marika’s natural talent but for the most part, the film shows her relationship with her father and the sacrifices the father makes for her success. This focus on father-daughter is why the film works so well as we get to know both of them better and even listen to things that we should not have access to. The subject matter applies to all arts in general and highlights pitfalls that can trip up young artists.

The Dynamiter (2011, USA, Matthew Gordon) 

A visually stunning film that belongs to the same category of New Realist American cinema such as Ballast and Wendy and Lucy, films that show a true slice of American life by focusing on characters completely absent from the big Hollywood productions.

The Student (2011, Argentina, Santiago Mitre) 

A razor-sharp political film that examines core issues at the heart of politics: tactics, strategy, managing & manipulating people.

Mallamall (Canada, Lalita Krishna) 

A highly relevant Canadian documentary that looks at India's economic rise via the countless malls being constructed there. The film also highlights a Canadian connection crucial in developing these mega stores, something that is hardly ever seen in any newspaper headlines.

Snowtown (2011, Australia, Justin Kurzel) 

A chilling work that shows how evil can slowly build up until it explodes with horrific consequences. Based on a true life crime, this Australian film shares some aspects of family & crime shown in 2010’s Animal Kingdom but Snowtown is far darker.

The Color Wheel (2011, USA, Alex Ross Perry) 

Alex Ross Perry and Carlen Altman’s vibrant script ensures that The Color Wheel stands apart from other American independent films by including dialogues and jibes that have a purpose in illustrating the character’s insecurities and personalities.

Heleno (2011, Brazil, José Henrique Fonseca) 

Jose Henrique Fonseca has created a devastating portrayal that perfectly depicts the self-destructive habits that led to the Brazilian soccer player Heleno de Freitas' decline. At times, it is painful to watch Heleno throw everything away but given his personality, his fall from grace seems inevitable. The music and black and white visuals nicely evoke the 1940’s-50’s and enhance the mood of the film.

Lowlife (Canada, Seth Smith)

And now for something completely different. This unique film follows two characters who get high on slugs. Their repeated usage of slugs blurs the line between reality and their slug induced nightmares. The drug visions are shown in black and white while reality is shown in color but as the film progresses that changes, especially with a jaw dropping ending.

Best Performances & Cinematography of 2012

There have been many worthy films in 2012 but also many more fine performances and great visuals. So I created a separate entry just to highlight actors & cinematographers prior to publishing a best of 2012 film list.

Lead performances (both male & female) 

Denis Lavant in Holy Motors


Denis Lavant is the perfect vehicle for allowing Leos Carax to explore various film genres in a unique and mesmerizing manner. Easily the best performance of 2012.

Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are an ideal one-two punch that power Paul Thomas Anderson’s devastating film. However, Amy Adams holds the Master’s power (literally) in her hand and in a quiet manner manages to shine through.

Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour

Riva and Trintignant put in gut-wrenching and emotional performances as their characters deteriorate in a confined space.

Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Safe to say Daniel Day-Lewis IS Lincoln, not an actor playing the part. But then again, one expects nothing less from Daniel Day-Lewis who completely takes on the persona of every character he plays. It is still shocking to think that he had once retired from acting altogether. 

Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Waltz is given plenty of juicy dialogues to flesh out his memorable character.

Manoj Bajpai in Gangs of Wasseypur


Manoj Bajpai has performed many worthy roles in his career but he is still best known for portraying the wild Bhiku Mhatre in Satya more than a decade ago. That is why it is refreshing to see him tap into the same energy in Gangs of Wasseypur. The film also highlights that in the hand of the right director, Bajpai is one of the best actors working in the Indian film industry.

Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar

It is hard to imagine anyone else acting the title role in Paan Singh Tomar other than Irrfan Khan. His relaxed style ensures that his character does not deviate too much in tone when he is happy, angry, sarcastic or just plain innocent.

Nina Hoss in Barbara

Nina Hoss puts in a pitch perfect performance by playing a character required to control her emotions in every instance.

Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe

McConaughey plays slimy variations of a similar character in Killer Joe, Bernie & Magic Mike. But he is truly on the top of his game in Killer Joe where he plays a corrupt cop who oozes evil while delivering precise dialogues.

Aniello Arena in Reality


It is heartbreaking to watch Arena’s character throw his life away in Reality but he has put in performance that has shades of a young Robert De Niro from Scorsese’s The King of Comedy.

Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz

Michelle Williams nicely slips into a character who is easily bored of men and things very quickly. As a result, her character will never be happy in life & Williams’ expressions convey this impending sadness behind every smile.

Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone, Bullhead
Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone


Matthias Schoenaerts plays a different shade of a tough character in Bullhead & Rust and Bone. In Bullhead, Schoenaerts is a physical force of nature but one who has trouble finding love because of a past which has scarred him for life. His character is still physically imposing in Rust and Bone but he has no trouble getting love and can pick up a woman at the drop of a hat. The Dardennes' style used by Jacques Audiard ensures that Schoenaerts and Cotillard’s characters are properly showcased thereby finding beauty in moments of brutality & pain. Also, the visual style is definite proof that Marion Cotillard is gorgeous without any make-up.

Rodrigo Santoro in Heleno

Santoro plays a footballer prone to self-destruction. Just like Reality, it is painful to watch someone throw their live away but Santoro shines in every moment of joy, misery and anger.

Vidya Balan in Kahaani

For the last few years, Balan has outperformed her male co-stars so it was appropriate that she finally got a film where she was the main lead. And she nicely carries Kahaani on her shoulders.

Best Supporting Actor (Male & Female)


Rishi Kapoor in Agneepath

Rishi Kapoor’s ruthless portrayal of Rauf Lala comes as a real surprize given the warm loving characters that Kapoor has played in the past. Yet, Rishi Kapoor is able to extract enough charm from his past characters and transform it into the sinister Rauf Lala who appears to be trustworthy when needed and is ruthless when he wants to eliminate his enemies.

Tigmanshu Dhulia in Gangs of Wasseypur

It was a real surprize when Anurag Kashyap gave director Tigmanshu Dhulia an acting role but the move has paid off incredibly. If one has to see what is wrong with India and its politicians, then one need not look further than Dhulia’s corrupt and manipulative character of Ramadhir Singh.

Gina Gershon in Killer Joe

Gershon puts in a raw performance for a character forced to take the blows, both emotional and physical.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained

DiCaprio’s smooth yet wickedly evil plantation owner is a masterful performance.

Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly

The only thing negative about Brad Pitt’s character of Jackie is that he is not given enough screen time.

Carlen Altman in The Color Wheel

Altman’s character of JR delivers a non-stop flurry of dialogues from the get go and is a delight to watch.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur

Nawazuddin Siddiqui had quite a year by starring in many big named films such as Paan Singh Tomar, Kahaani and Talaash. But he gets the meatiest role in Gangs of Wasseypur and he excels in playing a drug addicted gangster thrust into seeking revenge for his family.

Best Cinematography

Gökhan Tiryaki, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Caroline Champetier, Holy Motors
Mihai Malaimare Jr., The Master
Rui Poças, Tabu
Julián Apezteguia, Gone Fishing
Amol Gole, The Bright Day
Ben Richardson, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Stéphane Fontaine in Rust and Bone
Lucio Bonelli, Found Memories
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Master

The Master (2012, USA, Paul Thomas Anderson)


"Nothing frightens those in authority so much as criticism. Whether democrats or dictators, they are unable to accept that criticism is the most constructive tool available to any society because it is the best way to prevent error. The weakness of rationally based power can be seen in the way it views criticism as an even more negative force than a medieval king might have done. After all, even the fool has been banished from the castles of modern power. What is it which so frightens these elites?"-- Voltaire’s Bastards by John Ralston Saul. 

The above words from John Ralston Saul came to my mind when viewing a scene in The Master when Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gets quite upset when someone questions his methods. Dodd starts attacking the questioner even though the person raised a question in order to have a rational debate. However, it is clear that any form of questioning of Dodd’s methods will be met with such hostility. In fact, Dodd appears as a person who would not entertain any rational analysis of his work. He wants everyone to follow his words as gospel, which is why he surrounds himself with those who blindly follow his words/writing. The only exception to this blind follower rule is Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) who does not believe in Dodd’s methods. But Freddie is fiercely loyal to Dodd and acts like a bodyguard willing to rough up anyone who troubles Dodd. As useful as his muscle is, Dodd keeps Freddie around for his alcoholic creations.

Paul Thomas Anderson brilliantly reveals that Dodd is a fake who makes up things as he goes along. In order to come up with new ideas and visions, Dodd needs alcohol. As it turns out, the only thing that Freddie can maintain focus for is mixing alcohol. Otherwise, Freddie is constantly haunted by sexual desires which prevent him from maintaining any form of focus. So Freddie's strange brews help in soothing Dodd. In return, Dodd is willing to liberate Freddie’s soul by training him in his methods. The two share a master-pupil relationship but even though Lancaster Dodd is shown be the master, it turns out his control is an illusion. One example of a scene where this illusion is shattered takes place when Dodd needs his wife Peggy’s (Amy Adams) assistance to masturbate. As Peddy holds Dodd’s member in her hand, it is clear that she exerts a lot more power than previously shown in the film.

In debunking Lancaster Dodd’s methods, The Master shares some sentiments with Todd Haynes’ Safe which also shows a fake teacher willing to profit from others. While Safe is a bit subtle in exposing a fraud, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is far more savage and does not leave any doubts as to Dodd’s identity. In exposing Dodd, The Master is also a devastating case study of how some people could easily be manipulated by impressive speakers. In this regard, The Master is a film whose message is much more universal and not grounded to just a single religion or ideology. The core message about manipulating people could easily be applied to political parties who try to seduce voters by telling them what they want to hear.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Film Log: 2012

I expected a slow down in film viewing this year and was certain I would finally drop below 300 films per year. It turns out that I ended up with 340 films for 2012, which is just one more than my previous lowest total of 339 in the last 6 years. Still, 340 films is too much. Although, I expect things to dip in coming years as more theaters close down and my choices are even more limited. Still, it was a good year of cinematic viewing.

Total number of features (fiction and docs) seen: 340

The above total includes about a dozen features that won't be released until 2013. Those 2013 titles are removed from the list below.

Film (Year, Country, Director): [optional rating out of 10]


The Hero (2004, Angola/France/Portugal, Zézé Gamboa): 7
Le Grand Voyage (2004, Morocco co-production, Ismaël Ferroukhi): 7.5
Kalyug (1982, India, Shyam Benegal): 10
Breakaway (2011, Canada/India, Robert Lieberman)
L’Appolinde (2011, France, Bertrand Bonello): 9
Rocket Singh (2009, India, Shimit Amin): 9
The Devil’s Double (2011, Belgium/Holland, Lee Tamahori)
The Strange Case of Angelica (2010, Portugal co-production, Manoel de Oliveira): 10
Dreams of Dust (2008, Burkina Faso/France/Canada, Laurent Salgues)
Jackie Brown (1997, USA, Quentin Tarantino)
Winter in Wartime (2008, Holland/Belgium, Martin Koolhoven)
Junoon (1979, India, Shyam Benegal)
Storm (2009, Germany co-production, Hans-Christian Schmid)
Terribly Happy (2008, Denmark, Henrik Ruben Genz)
Mammoth (2009, Sweden/Denmark/Germany, Lukas Moodysson)
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011, Turkey/Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nuri Bilge Ceylan): 10
Redbelt (2008, USA, David Mamet): 8.5
Green Street Hooligans (2005, USA/UK, Lexi Alexander)
The Guard (2011, Ireland, John Michael McDonagh)
Silent Souls (2010, Russia, Aleksei Fedorchenko): 9
Miss Bala (2011, Mexico, Gerardo Naranjo): 8.5
The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo (2011, USA/Sweden/Norway, David Fincher)
The Future (2011, USA/Germany, Miranda July): 4

Helvetica (2007, UK, Gary Hustwit)
Madame Brouette (2002, Senegal co-production, Moussa Sene Absa)
Take Shelter (2011, USA, Jeff Nichols)
American Psycho (2000, USA, Mary Harron)
Objectified (2009, USA, Gary Hustwit)
Adanggaman (2000, Ivory Coast co-production, Roger Gnoan M'Bala)
The Blacks (2009, Croatia, Goran Devic/Zvonimir Juric)
Agneepath (2012, India, Karan Malhotra): 8.5
Gambler (2006, Denmark, Phie Ambo)
Mysteries of Lisbon (2010, Portugal/France, Raoul Ruiz): 9
The Salt of Life (2011, Italy, Gianni Di Gregorio): 8.5
Husbands (1970, USA, John Cassavetes): 9
Badmaash Company (2010, India, Parmeet Sethi): 6
Kisses (2008, Ireland, Lance Daly): 8
The Gods Must be Crazy II (1989, Botswana/South Africa/USA, Jamie Uys)
Den Muso (1975, Mali, Souleymane Cissé)
The Mill and the Cross (2011, Poland/Sweden, Lech Majewski): 8.5
A Fistful of Dollars (1964, Italy co-production, Sergio Leone): 9
Life in a Day (2011, USA/UK, multiple)

In Time (2011, USA, Andrew Niccol): 7.5
Mildred Pierce (2011, USA, Todd Haynes): 9.5
Puss in Boots (2011, USA, Chris Miller)
Ratatouille (2007, USA, Brad Bird/Jan Pinkava): 9
Karen Cries on a Bus (2011, Colombia, Gabriel Rojas Vera): 6
The Man From the Future (2011, Brazil, Cláudio Torres)
Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011, India, Tigmanshu Dhulia)
The Tree (2010, Australia co-production, Julie Bertuccelli)
Everlasting Moments (2008, Sweden co-production, Jan Troell)
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (2009, China/Hong Kong, Yimou Zhang)
Polisse (2011, France, Maïwenn): 9
High Tension (2003, France, Alexandre Aja)
Le Havre (2011, Finland co-production, Aki Kaurismäki): 7
The Pink Panther 2 (2009, USA, Harald Zwart)
Life and Living it (2008, Ghana, Shirley Frimpong Manso)
Khorma (2002, Tunisia co-production, Jilani Saadi)
These Amazing Shadows (2011, USA, Paul Mariano/Kurt Norton)
Cafe de Flore (2011, Canada/France, Jean-Marc Vallée): 8.5
Snow & Ashes (2010, Canada, Charles-Olivier Michaud): 7.5
Kahaani (2012, India, Sujoy Ghosh): 8
Manhunter (1986, USA, Michael Mann)
Rapt (2009, France/Belgium, Lucas Belvaux)
The Message (1977, co-production, Moustapha Akkad)
Crank (2006, USA, Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor)
Crank 2 (2009, USA, Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor)
Parking (2008, Taiwan, Mong-Hong Chung)
Manila (2009, Philippines, Raya Martin/Adolf Alix, Jr.)
In Darkness (2011, Poland/Germany/Canada, Agnieszka Holland)
I Travel Because I Have to, I Come Back Because I Love You (2009, Brazil, Karim Ainouz/Marcelo Gomes)

This is Not a Film (2011, Iran, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb/Jafar Panahi)
Detachment (2011, USA, Tony Kaye)
Devil’s Town (2009, Serbia, Vladimir Paskaljevic)
The Lorax (2012, USA, Chris Renaud/Kyle Balda)
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943, USA, William A. Wellman): 10
Agent Vinod (2012, India, Sriram Raghavan): 8
Eyes without a Face (1960, France/Italy, Georges Franju)
Tinker Tailor Sailor Spy (2011, UK co-production, Tomas Alfredson): 9
A Dog’s Day (2001, India, Murali Nair)
Rockstar (2011, India, Imtiaz Ali)
Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012, India, Shakun Batra)
Starbuck (2011, Canada, Ken Scott): 7.5
God Bless America (2012, USA, Bobcat Goldthwait)
Klovn (2010, Denmark, Mikkel Nørgaard): 8
The Rum Diary (2011, USA, Bruce Robinson): 6.5
Turn me on, Dammit (2011, Norway, Jannicke Systad Jacobsen): 8
Immortals (2011, USA, Tarsem Singh): 7.5
The Color Wheel (2011, USA, Alex Ross Perry): 8.5
Inbred (2011, UK/Germany, Alex Chandon)
Snowtown (2011, Australia, Justin Kurzel)
Monsieur Lazhar (2011, Canada, Philippe Falardeau): 8
Shame (2011, UK, Steve McQueen)
The Last Circus (2010, Spain/France, Álex de la Iglesia)
Applause (2009, Denmark, Martin Zandvliet)
They Came to Rob Las Vegas (1968, Spain co-production, Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi)
My Joy (2010, Ukraine co-production, Sergei Loznitsa)
How I Ended This Summer (2010, Russia, Aleksey Popogrebskiy)

Warrior (2011, USA, Gavin O'Connor)
The Whistleblower (2010, Canada co-production, Larysa Kondracki)
38 Witnesses (2012, France, Lucas Belvaux)
Come As You Are (2011, Belgium, Geoffrey Enthoven)
Coming Home (2012, France, Frédéric Videau)
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011, USA/UAE/Czech Republic, Brad Bird): 4
Play (2011, Sweden co-production, Ruben Östlund)
Some Like It Hot (1959, USA, Billy Wilder)
The Apartment (1960, USA, Billy Wilder)
Calcutta Mail (2003, India, Sudhir Mishra)
Bliss (2012, Germany, Doris Dörrie)
Skylab (2011, France, Julie Delpy)
Bullhead (2011, Belgium, Michael R. Roskam)
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967, USA/UK, Roman Polanski)
The Double Steps (2011, Spain, Isaki Lacuesta)
Freaky Deaky (2012, USA, Charles Matthau)
Terreferma (2011, Italy/France, Emanuele Crialese)
My Father and the Man in Black (2012, Canada, Jonathan Holiff)
Mallamall (2012, Canada, Lalita Krishna)
Found Memories (2011, Brazil/Argentina/France, Lucia Murat)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, UK, Robert Hamer)
Bringing up Baby (1938, USA, Howard Hawks)
Teddy Bear (2012, Denmark, Mads Matthiesen)
Off-White Lies (2011, Israel/France, Maya Kenig)
Meherjaan (2011, Bangladesh, Rubaiyat Hossain)
Bestiaire (2012, Canada/France, Denis Côté)
The General (1926, USA, Clyde Bruckman/Buster Keaton)
Trafic (1971, France/Italy, Jacques Tati): 10
This is Spinal Tap (1984, USA, Rob Reiner)
Trouble in Paradise (1932, USA, Ernst Lubitsch)
The Man in the White Suit (1951, UK, Alexander Mackendrick)
Annie Hall (1977, USA, Woody Allen)

Sullivan’s Travels (1941, USA, Preston Sturges)
Madagascar 3 (2012, USA, Eric Darnell/Tom McGrath/Conrad Vernon)
Arsenic and the Old Lace (1944, USA, Frank Capra)
The Lady Eve (1941, USA, Preston Sturges)
Jaane Bhi do Yaaro (1983, USA, Kundan Shah)
Chhoti Si Baat (1975, India, Basu Chatterjee)
Blazing Saddles (1974, USA, Mel Brooks)
The King of Comedy (1983, USA, Martin Scorsese)
Being There (1979, USA, Hal Ashby)
The Great Dictator (1940, USA, Charles Chaplin)
The Thin Man (1934, USA, W.S. Van Dyke)
Gol Maal (1979, India, Hrishikesh Mukherjee)
Angoor (1982, India, Gulzar)
Smiles of a Summer Night (1955, Sweden, Ingmar Bergman)
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951, UK, Charles Crichton)
The Captain’s Paradise (1953, UK, Anthony Kimmins)
The Ladykillers (1955, UK, Alexander Mackendrick)
Duck Soup (1933, USA, Leo McCarey)
Dollhouse (2012, Ireland, Kirsten Sheridan)
I Am Not a Rockstar (2012, Canada co-production, Bobbi Jo Hart)
First Position (2011, USA, Bess Kargman)
Sons of Norway (2011, Norway co-production, Jens Lien)
California Solo (2012, USA, Marshall Lewy)
The Circus (1928, USA, Charles Chaplin)
Juan of the Dead (2011, Spain/Cuba, Alejandro Brugués)
Paris Under Watch (2012, France, Cédric Jimenez/Arnaud Duprey)
Happy Family (2010, Italy, Gabriele Salvatores)
Scialla! (2011, Italy, Francesco Bruni)
La kryptonite nella borsa (2011, Italy, Ivan Cotroneo)
The Dynamiter (2011, USA, Matthew Gordon)
The Bottle in the Gaza Sea (2011, France co-production, Thierry Binisti)

For a Few Dollars More (1965, Italy co-production, Sergio Leone)
Ferrari ki Sawaari (2012, India, Rajesh Mapuskar)
I Wish (2011, Japan, Hirokazu Koreeda)
A Bullet for the General (1966, Italy, Damiano Damiani)
The Great Silence (1968, Italy/France, Sergio Corbucci)
Teri Meri Kahaani (2012, India, Kunal Kohli)
Sabata (1969, Italy, Gianfranco Parolini)
Keoma (1976, Italy, Enzo G. Castellari)
Django (1966, Italy/Spain, Sergio Corbucci)
Shanghai (2012, India, Dibakar Banerjee)
Paan Singh Tomar (2012, India, Tigmanshu Dhulia)
The Bright Day (2012, India, Mohit Takalkar)
Lowlife (2012, Canada, Seth Smith)
Zombie (1979, Italy, Lucio Fulci)
Four of the Apocalpse (1975, Italy, Lucio Fulci)
Contraband (1980, Italy, Lucio Fulci)
Contraband (2012, USA/UK/France, Baltasar Kormákur)
Tabu (2012, Portugal co-production, Miguel Gomes)
Barbara (2012, Germany, Christian Petzold)
Generation P (2011, Russia/USA, Victor Ginzburg)

Duck, You Sucker (1971, Italy, Sergio Leone)
Ice Age 4 (2012, USA, Steve Martino/Mike Thurmeier)
Man from Nowhere/Arizona Colt (1966, Italy/France, Michele Lupo)
White Zombie (1932, USA, Victor Halperin)
Revolt of the Zombies (1936, USA, Victor Halperin)
Pablo (2012, USA, Richard Goldgewicht)
Arcadia (2012, USA, Olivia Silver)
Night of the Living Dead (1968, USA, George A. Romero)
Dawn of the Dead (1978, USA, George A. Romero)
Friends with Kids (2011, USA, Jennifer Westfeldt): 4
Cemetery Man (1994, Italy/France/Germany, Michele Soavi)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012, USA/UK, Christopher Nolan)
Unfair World (2011, Greece/Germany, Filippos Tsitos)
King Curling (2011, Norway, Ole Endresen)
Holidays by the Sea (2011, France, Pascal Rabaté)
Keep the Lights On (2012, USA, Ira Sachs)

Mandi (1983, India, Shyam Benegal): 9
Ankur (1973, India, Shyam Benegal): 10
The Watch (2012, USA, Akiva Schaffer): 6
Total Recall (2012, USA, Len Wiseman): 5
Kondura (India, Shyam Benegal): 8
Nishant (1975, India, Shyam Benegal): 9
Manthan (1976, India, Shyam Benegal): 10
Cocktail (2012, India, Homi Adajania): 6
Oslo 31 August (2011, Norway, Joachim Trier): 8
Las Acacias (2011, Argentina/Spain, Pablo Giorgelli): 7.5
Hysteria (2011, UK co-production, Tanya Wexler): 6
The Raid (2012, Indonesia/USA, Gareth Evans): 6
The Intouchables (2012, France, Olivier Nakache/Eric Toledano)
A Dangerous Method (2011, Canada co-production, David Cronenberg)
Chronicle (2012, USA, Josh Trank)
Domino (2005, USA, Tony Scott)
Man on Fire (2004, USA, Tony Scott)
The Hunger (1983, USA, Tony Scott)
Taken (2009, France/USA/UK, Pierre Morel)
Revenge (1990, USA, Tony Scott)
Days of Thunder (1990, USA, Tony Scott)
Bondu Saved from Drowning (1932, France, Jean Renoir)
The River (1951, France/India/USA, Jean Renoir)
Unstoppable (2010, USA, Tony Scott)
Deja Vu (2006, USA, Tony Scott)
True Romance (1993, USA, Tony Scott)

La fille de l’eau (1925, France, Jean Renoir)
Nana (1926, France, Jean Renoir)
Headhunters (2012, Norway/Germany, Morten Tyldum): 5
Elena (2011, Russia, Andrey Zvyagintsev)
Ruby Sparks (2012, USA, Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris)
Ekdin Achanak (1989, India, Mrinal Sen)
Ekdin Pratidin (1979, India, Mrinal Sen)
Gangs of Wasseypur Part I (2012, India, Anurag Kashyap)
The Doctor’s Horrible Experiment (1959, France, Jean Renoir)
The Elusive Corporal (1962, France, Jean Renoir)
La Marseillaise (1938, France, Jean Renoir)
The Dictator (2012, USA, Larry Charles): 3
La Grande Illusion (1937, France, Jean Renoir)
Patlabor (1989, Japan, Mamoru Oshii)
Samurai 1 (1954, Japan, Hiroshi Inagaki)
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955, Japan, Hiroshi Inagaki)
Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956, Japan, Hiroshi Inagaki)
The Cabin in the Woods (2011, USA, Drew Goddard): 6

Wrong (2012, USA, Quentin Dupieux)
The Day I Saw Your Heart (2011, France, Jennifer Devoldère)
See Girl Run (2012, USA, Nate Meyer)
Fat Kid Rules The World (2012, USA, Matthew Lillard)
Amour  (2012, Austria/France/Germany, Michael Haneke)
Rust and Bone (2012, France/Belgium, Jacques Audiard)
The Misfits (2011, Mexico, Javier Colinas/Marco Polo Constandse/Jorge Ramírez Suárez/Sergio Tovar Velarde)
Reality (2012, Italy/France, Matteo Garrone)
Holy Motors (2012, France/Germany, Leos Carax): 10
As Luck Would Have It (2011, Spain/France/USA, Álex de la Iglesia)
NO (2012, Chile/France/USA, Pablo Larraín)
Rebelle (2012, Canada, Kim Nguyen)
The Battle of Warsaw 1920 (2011, Poland, Jerzy Hoffman)
Margarita (2012, Canada, Dominique Cardona/Laurie Colbert)
The World Before Her (2012, Canada/India, Nisha Pahuja): 10
Antiviral (2012, Canada, Brandon Cronenberg)
I’m Flash (2012, Japan, Toshiaki Toyoda)
Mars et Avril (2012, Canada, Martin Villeneuve)
All In Good Time (2012, UK, Nigel Cole)
The Ambassador (2012, Denmark, Mads Brügger)

Vengeance (2009, Hong Kong/France, Johnny To): 5
Ek Tha Tiger (2012, India, Kabir Khan): 2
The Master (2012, USA, Paul Thomas Anderson): 9
The Avengers (2012, USA, Joss Whedon): 6
Where Do We Go Now? (2011, France/Lebanon/Egypt/Italy, Nadine Labaki): 8.5
Cosmopolis (2012, Canada co-production, David Cronenberg)
Fightville (2011, USA, Petra Epperlein/Michael Tucker)
Looper (2012, USA, Rian Johnson): 7.5
Moonrise Kingdom (2012, USA, Wes Andersen): 6.5
Kauwboy (2012, Holland, Boudewijn Koole)
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012, USA, Colin Trevorrow): 7.5
Mirror, Mirror (2012, USA, Tarsem Singh): 4
The Deep Blue Sea (2011, UK, Terrence Davies): 6
Argo (2012, US, Ben Affleck) : 7
To Rome With Love (2012, USA, Woody Allen): 6
Evangelion 1.11 (2007, Japan, Masayuki/Kazuya Tsurumaki/Hideaki Anno)
They Live (1988, USA, John Carpenter)
Escape from New York (1981, USA, John Carpenter)
The Wasp Woman (1959, Roger Corman/Jack Hill)
Rodan (1956, Japan, Ishirô Honda)
Shock Corridor (1963, USA, Samuel Fuller)

Heleno (2011, Brazil, José Henrique Fonseca): 8.5
Gone Fishing (2012, Argentina, Carlos Sorin): 10
La Sirga (2012, Colombia/France/Mexico, William Vega)
The Student (2011, Argentina, Santiago Mitre): 9
Skyfall (2012, UK/USA, Sam Mendes): 9
Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012, India, Yash Chopra): 4
Son of Sardaar (2012, India, Ashwani Dhir): 2
El Bulli (2011, Germany, Gereon Wetzel)
Take This Waltz (2011, Canada, Sarah Polley): 9
Cloud Atlas (2012, USA co-production, Andy & Lana Wachowski/Tom Tykwer): 6.5
Our Idiot Brother (2011, USA, Jesse Peretz): 6
The Palm Beach Story (1942, USA, Preston Sturges): 8.5
2 Days in New York (2012, USA, Julie Delpy): 7.5
Midnight's Children (2012, Canada/UK, Deepa Mehta): 8.5
Savages (2012, USA, Oliver Stone): 4
Prometheus (2012, USA, Ridley Scott): 6
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012, USA, Timur Bekmambetov): 5

Killing Them Softly (2012, USA, Andrew Dominik): 9
Life of Pi (2012, USA/China, Ang Lee): 7
Zero Bridge (2008, India/USA, Tariq Tapa): 8
Starship Troopers (1997, USA, Paul Verhoven)
Talaash (2012, India, Reema Kagti)
Lincoln (2012, USA, Steven Spielberg): 8
Sleeping Sickness (2011, Germany co-production, Ulrich Kohler): 9
4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011, USA/Switzerland/France, Abel Ferrara): 6
The Forgiveness of Blood (2011, USA/Albania/Denmark/Italy, Joshua Marston)
Total Recall (1990, USA, Paul Verhoeven)
The Queen of Versailles (2012, USA co-production, Lauren Greenfield): 9
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012, USA, Benh Zeitlin)
Gangs of Wasseypur Part II (2012, India, Anurag Kashyap)
The Loneliest Planet (2011, USA/Germany, Julia Loktev)
Bernie (2011, USA, Richard Linklater)
Magic Mike (2012, USA, Steven Soderbergh): 8
Margaret (2011, USA, Kenneth Lonergan)
Pandorum (2009, Germany/UK, Christian Alvart)
This is 40 (2012, USA, Judd Apatow): 4
Django Unchained (2012, USA, Quentin Tarantino): 8.5
Post Mortem (2010, Chile/Germany/Mexico, Pablo Larraín)
Footnote (2011, Israel, Joseph Cedar): 8
Arbitrage (2012, USA, Nicholas Jarecki): 6
The Lady (2011, France/UK, Luc Besson)
Barfi! (2012, India, Anurag Basu)
Heroine (2012, India, Madhur Bhandarkar)
Uski Roti (1970, India, Mani Kaul)

And that's a wrap for 2012!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Comedy Countdown

Back in the summer, Wonders in the Dark invited people to be part of a comedy countdown. The rules required voters to send a ballot of their top 60 comedic films of all time. Each person was given freedom to pick any form of comedy or even define what constituted a comedy. This resulted in a diverse selection of films from all corners of the world. The incredible project, now complete with the #1 film revealed on Dec 21, featured many excellent and in-depth essays on films. I personally enjoyed revisiting many classic comedies to come up with a list of 60 films ranked below in order of preference:

1) Modern Times (1936, USA, Charles Chaplin)
2) Play Time (1967, France/Italy, Jacques Tati)
3) The Gold Rush (1925, USA, Charles Chaplin)
4) Angoor (1982, India, Gulzar)
5) Dr. Strangelove (1964, UK, Stanley Kubrick)
6) Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975, UK, Terry Gilliam/Terry Jones)
7) The Circus (1928, USA, Charles Chaplin)
8) Duck Soup (1933, USA, Leo McCarey)
9) Gol Maal (1979, India, Hrishikesh Mukherjee)

10) Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, UK, Robert Hamer)
11) Chhoti Si Baat (1975, India, Basu Chatterjee)
12) Being There (1979, USA, Hal Ashby)
13) Sullivan’s Travels (1941, USA, Preston Sturges)
14) In the Loop (2009, UK, Armando Iannucci)
15) City Lights (1931, USA, Charles Chaplin)
16) Trafic (1971, France/Italy, Jacques Tati)
17) Annie Hall (1977, USA, Woody Allen)
18) The Big Lebowski (1998, USA/UK, Joel Coen/Ethan Coen)
19) Do Dooni Chaar (2010, India, Habib Faisal)

20) The Apartment (1960, USA, Billy Wilder)
21) Bringing up Baby (1938, USA, Howard Hawks)
22) The Man in the White Suit (1951, UK, Alexander Mackendrick)
23) The General (1926, USA, Buster Keaton/Clyde Bruckman)
24) The Lady Eve (1941, USA, Preston Sturges)
25) Arsenic and Old Lace (1944, USA, Frank Capra)
26) Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006, India, Dibakar Banerjee)
27) The Great Dictator (1940, USA, Charlie Chaplin)
28) 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006, Romania, Corneliu Porumboiu)
29) Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008, India, Dibakar Banerjee)

30) Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983, India, Kundan Shah)
31) Groundhog Day (1993, USA, Harold Ramis)
32) The Graduate (1967, USA, Mike Nichols)
33) The Lavender Hill Mob (1951, UK, Charles Crichton)
34) Songs from the Second Floor (2000, Sweden co-production, Roy Andersson)
35) The Ladykillers (1955, UK, Alexander Mackendrick)
36) Mon Uncle (1958, France/Italy, Jacques Tati)
37) Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001, France/Germany, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
38) Ed Wood (1994, USA, Tim Burton)
39) The Man Without a Past (2002, Finland co-production, Aki Kaurismäki)

40) My Cousin Vinny (1992, USA, Jonathan Lynn)
41) The Captain’s Paradise (1953, UK, Anthony Kimmins)
42) Smiles of a Summer Night (1955, Sweden, Ingmar Bergman)
43) Trouble in Paradise (1932, USA, Ernst Lubitsch)
44) The Dinner Game (1998, France, Francis Veber)
45) Hera Pheri (2000, India, Priyadarshan)
46) Andaz Apna Apna (1994, India, Rajkumar Santoshi)
47) Borat (2006, USA, Larry Charles)
48) Delicatessen (1991, France, Marc Caro/Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
49) You, The Living (2007, Sweden co-production, Roy Andersson)

50) Coming to America (1988, USA, John Landis)
51) The Princess Bride (1987, USA, Rob Reiner)
52) The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, USA, Wes Anderson)
53) Best in Show (2000, USA, Christopher Guest)
54) The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972, Spain co-production, Luis Buñuel)
55) Whisky (2004, Uruguay co-production, Juan Pablo Rebella/Pablo Stoll)
56) Being John Malkovich (1999, USA, Spike Jonze)
57) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986, USA, John Hughes)
58) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989, USA, Jeremiah S. Chechik)
59) The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales (1960, Mexico, Rogelio A. González)
60) Blazing Saddles (1974, USA, Mel Brooks)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sleeping Sickness


Sleeping Sickness (2011, Germany co-production, Ulrich Köhler)

Ulrich Köhler's film was my first choice for a German film entry for the Euro 2012 Book & Film Spotlight. However, the film only got a limited theatrical release in Canada (Toronto & Vancouver) and was not available for viewing prior to the Euro deadline of June 2012. Therefore, I had to leave the film out of the spotlight. Thankfully, the film is now available across Canada via Films We Like & iTunes and I am glad to have seen the film in 2012. Sleeping Sickness is indeed a mesmerizing film and it is easy to see why this film was #9 in Cinema Scope's Best of 2011 list. Cinema Scope's editor, Mark Peranson, has an excellent essay which outlines the film's beauty and charm. The entire essay is worth reading but I want to focus on the following:

Though there is a slight mirroring of Ebbo and Alex, there’s nothing simple about it, and this structural looseness is perhaps the closest that Köhler’s version of the cinema of the opaque comes to Apichatpong; to make this comparison due to the mere presence of a jungle is indicative of lazy thinking, akin to bringing up Claire Denis because she’s also a European filmmaker shooting in Africa. Indeed, I suspect most people who will watch Sleeping Sickness, like myself, will have formed their views of Africa through fiction, literature or film made by Europeans—hence the many comparisons of Sleeping Sickness to Joseph Conrad or Graham Greene (Köhler says the film was sparked by Sudanese author Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, and indeed the main characters are richly novelistic and complex—they jump off the page).

I had not read his essay prior to seeing the film but surprisingly found myself thinking of both Claire Denis & Apichatpong while watching Sleeping Sickness. Peranson attributes this comparison as "lazy thinking" but atleast qualifies it with the following words that are true in my case: "most people who will watch Sleeping Sickness,...,will have formed their view of African through fiction, literature or film made by Europeans". It is not true that any film shot in Cameroon by a European brings Claire Denis to mind. In my case, the comparison to Denis' White Material came about by seeing Ebbo's isolation. In the first part of the film, it is shown that the sleeping sickness disease is almost cured and no longer an epidemic. That means there is no need for further funding and Ebbo can conclude his work & return to Germany. Yet, he does not return home like his wife. He stays behind for a further three years and becomes as isolated like Isabelle Huppert's Maria in White Material. Both Ebbo & Maria appear to be clinging on desperately so as to avoid returning back to Europe. It is clear that it will take a lot of effort to force both Maria & Ebbo to leave Africa. In Maria's case, Africa is her home and she has a business to protect while Ebbo seems to have developed a deeper connection with his surroundings. One part of Ebbo wants to return back but another part wants to live in the jungle. This inner struggle causes him to appear on the edge, one step away from ending it all. The Apichatpong reference also jumps out not only because of the jungle but the presence of a key transformation that occurs near the end of a film divided in two parts. Like Tropical Malady, there is a connection between the two parts shown in the film and the hippo transformation that takes place near the film's end is mentioned in the first part.

Overall, Sleeping Sickness is unique and manages to haunt one's memory long after the film's final image.

As a late correction to the Euro 2012 Spotlight, I decided to plug Sleeping Sickness into the game 1 results to see how the final group standings would get impacted. Currently, game 1 results show Portugal's Mysteries of Lisbon defeating Germany's Storm by a 5-1 margin. With Sleeping Sickness taking part instead of Storm, this is how things would turn out:

Germany (Sleeping Sickness) vs Portugal (Mysteries of Lisbon)

Acting: Portugal
Story: Both Portugal & Germany
Direction: Germany
Cinematography: Germany
Production: Both Portugal & Germany

Final result would see Germany prevail 4-3 over Portugal. As a result, Germany would get 3 points and Portugal 0. Therefore, the final group standings would look like this:

Team         Points   Goal Difference 

Portugal     6            5 - 3
Holland      6            5 - 3
Germany    4            5 - 5
Denmark    1            3 - 6

Portugal & Holland would end up with the same number of points and goal difference. But Portugal would still take first place due to their 1-0 win over Holland which will be used as a head-to-head tie-breaker. Therefore, the top 2 spots in the group won't get altered which means all the results from the quarter-finals onwards would remain the same.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ship of Theseus

Anand Gandhi's debut feature Ship of Theseus has been getting some stunning reviews since its world premier at TIFF a few months ago. The tantalizing and thought provoking trailers have only increased my desire to see the film. Although, I have a feeling I won't get to see the film until atleast mid-2013. Of course, I hope it gets wider distribution soon...

Trailer 1: 


Trailer 2: 


Trailer 3: 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Calgary Latin Wave Festival

The Third Annual Calgary Latin Wave Film Festival ran from Nov 2 - 4, 2012 and featured an excellent line-up of films. The following nine were shown this year:

The Delay (2012, Uruguay, Rodrigo Plá)
Distance (2011, Guatemala, Sergio Ramirez)
Gone Fishing (2012, Argentina, Carlos Sorin)
Habanastation (2011, Cuba, Ian Padrón)
Heleno (2011, Brazil, José Henrique Fonseca)
Juan of the Dead (2011, Cuba, Alejandro Brugués)
The Student (2011, Argentina, Santiago Mitre)
The Towrope (2012, Colombia, William Vega)
Violeta Went to Heaven (2011, Chile/Argentina/Brazil, Andrés Wood)

I had originally planned to see atleast six films but I could only make it out to four. Here are some brief comments on the films in order of preference.

1. Gone Fishing / Días de pesca

Marco (Alejandro Awada) heads to stunning Patagonia to find and patch-up with his daughter. With a little bit of work, he manages to find her but she is not in the mood to forgive him. The film doesn’t give anything away about his past but it is implied that his alcoholism and marriage break-up played a part in him not being there for his daughter when she was growing up. So naturally the daughter has scars that won’t heal overnight. Such a story could have gotten a completely different and more serious treatment in the hands of another director but Sorin smartly uses the visuals and pleasant score (composed by his son) to release any tension before it forms on the screen. When things are about to get serious Sorin ensures that the audience gets a nice reprieve either with a moment of humor or breathtaking beauty. Gone Fishing has a pleasant relaxed tone throughout even though there are some strained issues beneath the surface. However, those troubled issues never bubble to the surface but enough is depicted about the issues to allow audience to fill in their own version of events. Overall, Gone Fishing is a charming and thoughtful film that allows for plenty of contemplative moments.

 

2. Heleno

The name of Heleno de Freitas is not that well known in international soccer mostly because he didn’t play in a World Cup but also since his goals came in an era before television. But in his time, Heleno was a star who scored goals freely for his beloved Botafogo club. Those goals brought him fame, money, alcohol and women. Such a combination of temptations is never a healthy thing especially for a man whose career depended on being in top physical and mental shape. Also, Heleno had other characteristics, such as his ego, which also played a part in alienating him from those around him.

Jose Henrique Fonseca has created a devastating portrayal that perfectly depicts the self-destructive habits that led to Heleno de Freitas' decline. At times, it is painful to watch Heleno throw everything away but given his personality, his fall from grace was inevitable. Rodrigo Santoro has put in an incredible performance and plays the arrogant and fragile sides of Heleno perfectly. Also, a lot of credit goes to Angie Cepeda and Aline Moraes who light up with the screen with their presence. The music combined with the black and white visuals nicely evoke the 1940’s-50’s and enhance the mood of the film.

Heleno’s story also contains shades of Garrincha who was truly a great soccer player. Like Heleno, Garrincha also played for Botafogo. In fact, both played roughly the same amount of games for Botafogo, Heleno with 235 & Garrincha with 236. Both were stars in their own time but alcohol and women sped their decline. At the height of their powers, both players were rich but were completely broke near the end of their careers. The one difference between the two is that Garrincha played in 3 World Cups and won 2 while Heleno could never fulfill his dream of playing in the World cup.

 

3. The Student / El estudiante

Santiago Mitre, writer for Pablo Trapero’s Carancho and Lion’s Den, makes a stunning directorial debut with The Student, a razor-sharp film that examines core issues at the heart of politics: tactics, strategy, managing & manipulating people. Even though The Student is set in Argentina (University of Buenos Aires), it is universal in showing negotiations & backroom deals part of any political process. Mitre’s films also shares some sentiments with The Storm (Kazim Öz) & Haasil (Tigmanshu Dhulia) in depicting political fires lit in universities.

 

4. The Towrope / La Sirga

At first, the isolated house in La Sirga appears as a peaceful retreat far from the chaos of the cities. But as the film progresses, that isolation appears less as an escape but more as a trap. In this regard, Vega’s film like Crab Trap depicts how an isolated picturesque part of Colombia is not immune to strains of conflict taking place elsewhere.

 

Saturday, October 06, 2012

CIFF 2012 Wrap-up

The 13th Annual Calgary International Film Festival featured a mouth watering line-up of films from all corners of the world and excelled in both quality and quantity. Continuing the trend from last year, CIFF had encores of most films and added extra screening slots making it more convenient than ever before to catch the films. CIFF scheduled two weekday matinee screenings (2-2:30 pm, 4-5 pm) in addition to the two traditional weekday evening shows and also had a midnight film for all 10 days. These extra time slots opened the door for a dedicated cinephile to take in more than 50 films and at the same time made it a lot easier to see 40 films than previous years. I mention 40 films because this was a goal for a lot of friends in the past but they always fell short, sometimes ending up at either 36 or 39 films. I briefly played with the idea of making it to 40 films this year but I remembered the painful aftermath of seeing 30 films over 10 days a few years ago. So, I instead opted for a comfortable target of 20 films which allowed me to enjoy all the films with enough time for socializing and discussing films with fellow cinephiles.

Here are the 20 films seen in order:

Wrong (2012, USA, Quentin Dupieux)
The Day I Saw Your Heart (2011, France, Jennifer Devoldère)
See Girl Run (2012, USA, Nate Meyer)
Fat Kid Rules The World (2012, USA, Matthew Lillard)
Amour (2012, Austria/France/Germany, Michael Haneke)
Rust and Bone (2012, France/Belgium, Jacques Audiard)
The Misfits (2011, Mexico, Javier Colinas/Marco Polo Constandse/Jorge Ramírez Suárez/Sergio Tovar Velarde)

Reality (2012, Italy/France, Matteo Garrone)
Holy Motors (2012, France/Germany, Leos Carax)
As Luck Would Have It (2011, Spain/France/USA, Álex de la Iglesia)
No (2012, Chile/France/USA, Pablo Larraín)
Rebelle (2012, Canada, Kim Nguyen)
Battle of Warsaw 1920 (2011, Poland, Jerzy Hoffman)
Margarita (2012, Canada, Dominique Cardona/Laurie Colbert)

The World Before Her (2012, Canada, Nisha Pahuja)
Antiviral (2012, Canada/USA, Brandon Cronenberg)
I’m Flash (2012, Japan, Toshiaki Toyoda)
Mars et Avril (2012, Canada, Martin Villeneuve)
All In Good Time (2012, UK, Nigel Cole)
The Ambassador (2012, Denmark, Mads Brügger)

The relaxed schedule allowed me take something memorable from each of the 20 films and I am glad I was able to attend them. I hope to write longer about the films in the future but for now just some quick notes along with my top 5 films.

Top 5 Films in order of preference


1. Holy Motors: An incredibly wild and creative ride that effortlessly glides through all film genres. Leos Carax has managed to capture the essence of cinema from the silent era to contemporary times while playing homage to key genres throughout. This is pure cinema and proof for why films hold such sway over people.


2. The World Before Her: Back in 2001, I was lucky enough to see Nisha Pahuja’s debut documentary feature Bollywood Bound at CIFF. That lovely film proved Nisha to be a born filmmaker. And she has reaffirmed that with The World Before Her, a perfectly balanced and insightful film that examines two very different camps of thought in India. The two camps, beauty pageants & fundamentalism, contain the essence of issues that are both dividing and driving India. On one hand, western capitalist ideas are flowing through India while on the other hand, traditional religious and cultural values are trying to block the western tide. Nisha Pahuja examines these issues with an objective eye and treats her subjects respectfully thereby allowing them space to bare their souls. The end result is one of the best documentary films of the year, cleverly edited and infused with a refreshing soundtrack.


3. No: Pablo Larraín’s gripping account of the 1988 plebiscite that put an end to Pinochet’s dictatorship may be rooted in Chilean history but the political issues at the core of the film are relevant to any nation trying to break free from an oppressive regime. The film also wonderfully recreates the grainy video look of the 1980’s and surprizingly contains one of the most catchy songs of the year.

4. Reality: Matteo Garrone’s film starts with a mesmerizing wide shot of Naples which depicts the vast beauty of the city and proceeds to follow a few different characters and does not settle in on one particular person. This creates the illusion that the film plans to chart the lives of multiple people. However, that illusion is shattered when the camera sets its focus on Luciano (Aniello Arena) and shuts the rest of the world out. This microscopic examination of Luciano results in a devastating case study of a man who is so blinded by his quest for fame that he starts to lose grip on reality.


Luciano bears a close resemblance to a young Robert De Niro which coupled with the film’s topic echoes De Niro’s performance in The King of Comedy. However, Martin Scorsese’s film heads into darker territory while Garrone’s film maintains an air of fantasy about it due to a dreamy musical score combined with a few Felliniesque moments. Reality is not on the same wavelength as Gomorra but it is a remarkable film about society’s obsession with celebrities and how that can cause some individuals to throw their life away.


5. Rust and Bone: Matthias Schoenaerts plays a different shade of his tough character from Bullhead. In Bullhead, Schoenaerts is a physical force of nature but one who has trouble finding love because of a past which has scarred him for life. His character is still physically imposing in Rust and Bone but he has no trouble getting love and can pick up a woman at the drop of a hat. The Dardennes' style used by Jacques Audiard ensures that Schoenaerts and Cotillard’s characters are properly showcased thereby finding beauty in moments of brutality & pain. Also, the visual style is definite proof that Marion Cotillard is gorgeous without any make-up.

A few quick notes on some other films


I unfortunately missed the opening night gala for Midnight’s Children but thankfully I caught the Black Carpet & Closing Night Gala for two other creative Canadian films. The Black Carpet Gala, Antiviral, marked the fascinating debut of Brandon Cronenberg. The film looks at a not too distance future where society’s obsession with celebrity culture results in people lining up to buy meat grown from celebrity cells and happily injecting themselves with the same virus that a celebrity has. Given current addiction to anything celebrity related, such a scenario is not entirely unbelievable so full credit to Cronenberg for extrapolating the present in such a thoughtful film. Martin Villeneuve adapted his own graphic novels for the poetic and meditative Mars et Avril, CIFF's closing night gala film. The visually beautiful Mars et Avril proves that a sci-fi film can be made without any horror or mindless action scenes. Both Brandon and Martin come from famous Canadian cinematic families as Brandon is David Cronenberg’s son while Martin is Denis Villeneuve’s brother. However, both Brandon and Martin have successfully made their own mark with their debut feature films.

Amour: For the most part, a warm film infused with plenty of humour that is hard to recognize as a Michael Haneke feature. Therefore, Haneke has included a scene or two to jolt the audience to let them know that he is still pulling the strings lest someone get too comfortable with the film.

Wrong: Quentin Dupieux’s follow-up to Rubber is a delightful leap forward and is packed with plenty of witty absurd humor.


Rebelle: This powerful film was joint winner of the CIFF narrative audience award along with My Awkward Sexual Adventure. In the hands of another director, Rebelle could have resulted in a violent film but Nguyen has ensured that the camera is not fixated on blood but instead on the characters and their plight.

My earlier preview post mentioned some of the other stellar films at this year's festival including Found Memories, The Bright Day, Unfair World, Teddy Bear, Barbara and King Curling which are some of the best films of the year.

Overall, it was another vintage year even though I missed some worthy features. Still, I preferred to properly enjoy each film as opposed to running from cinema to cinema to see 3-4 films a day, something which I regularly did in past festival editions.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

CIFF 2012

The Calgary International Film Festival kicks off today, Sept 20, with the much anticipated opening gala of Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children and runs until Sunday, September 30. As usual, the line-up is stellar and contains a healthy dose of worthy International, Canadian & American films. Also, new this year is a spotlight on 3D which contains a dazzling list of titles. I am looking forward to discovering some new gems and will put up a final report at the end of the festival but for now, here are ten favourite films that I have already seen.

Found Memories (Argentina/Brazil/France, Júlia Murat) 

A mesmerizing film that deceptively appears as a contemplative piece but contains another layer beneath the surface. The film starts off by capturing daily rituals in a sleepy Brazilian town, routines which are slightly disrupted by the arrival of young Rita. Rita does not attempt to alter the lives of the residents too much and keeps to herself while photographing sites and the town folk. However, she does not realize that her presence is critical to the residents, something which is only apparent by the film’s end. The ending, which puts a completely different spin on the overall film perception, haunts long in the memory because it forces one to rethink the lives of the residents and why they have continued to stay in a place cut-off from the rest of the world.

 

The Bright Day (India, Mohit Takalkar)

Mohit Takalkar, an experienced theatrical director, makes his cinematic debut with a beautiful, poetic and hypnotic film. The story revolves around Shiv who leaves his home to travel across India in search of his identity. There have been many films made about characters who undergo a self-discovery journey in India but those films were from the perspective of a foreigner arriving in India. On the other hand, The Bright Day shows a born and bred Indian who leaves to travel within his country. This makes a world of difference as the film does not focus on a checklist of items that must be shown in a film about India but instead dives deeply to uncover the torment that the main protagonist experiences. The visuals are striking as is the use of background music to enhance the film’s mythical tale. Plus, there are some smart touches such as using the same actor Mohan Agashe to play different characters that highlights how Shiv perceives people around him.

 

Unfair World (Greece/Germany, Filippos Tsitos)

This smart Greek film shows how two cops efforts to save an innocent person leads to murder thereby forcing them to cover their tracks. Each frame is packed with absurd comedic moments which are slowly revealed as the camera movements act like a drawn out punch line. The film’s comedic style is reminiscent of Aki Kaurismäki, Corneliu Porumboiu (Police, Adjective) and the recent wave of Greek films directed by Giorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Alps) & Athina Rachel Tsangari’s (Attenberg). Appropriately, Unfair World stars Christos Stergioglou who played the father in Dogtooth. The film swept the top Greek Academy awards this year and is Greece’s foreign film submission to next year’s Academy Awards.

 

Teddy Bear (Denmark, Mads Matthiesen)

A charming and delightful film that depicts an award winning bodybuilder who not only lives with his mother but is afraid of her. Despite his hulk like appearance, he has no luck with love. So he decides to fly to Thailand to find a bride. This setup brings plenty of humor and credit to the director to allow events to follow naturally without any extra drama.

 

Mallamall (Canada/India, Lalita Krishna)

An excellent and timely Canadian documentary that looks at India's economic rise via the countless malls being constructed there. The film also highlights a Canadian connection crucial in developing these mega stores, something that is hardly ever seen in any newspaper headlines.

 

King Curling (Norway, Ole Endresen)

Finally, a well made curling film! This Norwegian film incorporates some of the competitive in your face humor from Dodgeball within a deadpan framework similar to that of fellow Scandinavians Bent Hamer (O’ Horten and Kitchen Stories) and Roy Anderson (Songs from the Second Floor, You, The Living).

 

Generation P (Russia/USA, Victor Ginzburg) 

This Russian film combines the fierce energy found in Night Watch, the Russian film based on Sergey Lukyanenko’s novel, with some of Mad Men’s creative advertising ideas and tops things off with a layer of religion, nationalism, philosophy and mythology. There are plenty of conspiracy ideas presented and even though not all those ideas are tied up at the end, there is plenty to chew on.

 

Barbara (Germany, Christian Petzold)

Christian Petzold’s pitch perfect film features an incredible performance from Nina Hoss in depicting life in East Germany. Hoss plays the titular character, a doctor, who is sent away from Berlin to the countryside as a punishment for seeking to leave for the West German side. The forced exile does not dampen her plans as she tries to still seek an escape to the West with her lover. However, her presence is closely monitored forcing her not to trust anyone and maintaining a distance from the hospital staff. But with time, she slowly starts to warm up to her job and starts to develop relationships which force her to rethink her situation. Petzold’s cool looking film is completely different to The Lives of Others because of its singular focus on Barbara and using her as a lens to examine others. The film is Germany’s submission to next year’s Academy Awards.

 

I Wish (Japan, Hirokazu Koreeda)

Hirokazu Koreeda has come up with another masterful work that looks at two young siblings who are forced to live across Japan due to their parent’s separation. It is always amazing to see how Koreeda manages to bring out such rich performances from his child actors. His style ensures that the acting is natural and the film maintains a perfect emotional tone without resorting to melodrama.

 

The Dynamiter (USA, Matthew Gordon) 

The film follows a young teenager Robbie who is forced to fend for himself and his younger brother in a harsh and unforgiving environment after the mother leaves the family. It is a steep learning curve for 14 year old Robbie as he finds himself as man of the house and at first, his actions and behavior land him in some trouble. But his teacher gives Robbie a chance to atone for his stealing and poor grades by asking Robbie to write an essay that will allow him to graduate. Robbie tries his best but his task is made harder by the arrival of an elder brother who is not the role mode that Robbie once thought. Full credit to director Matthew Gordon for maintaining a sense of hope in depicting the kids which makes for a fascinating character study. The Dynamiter is a visually stunning award winning film that belongs to the same category of New Realist American cinema such as Ballast and Wendy and Lucy, films that show a true slice of American life by focusing on characters completely absent from the big Hollywood productions.

 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Samurai Trilogy


Criterion's release of Hiroshi Inagaki's The Samurai Trilogy this past summer is certainly a worthy event. While there have been many Samurai films, Inagaki's films stand out because of Toshiro Mifune's performance and the source material of the films. The films are based on Musashi Miyamoto's highly influential The Book of Five Rings. William Scott Wilson, who has written a biography of Miyamoto Musashi, sums up the interest in the book:

Since Musashi engaged in more than sixty duels during his lifetime and was never defeated, it may not be surprising that The Book of Five Rings is fundamentally a book about conflict and victory. It has long been revered not only by swordsmen but also by practitioners of karate, aikido, and other martial arts. However, The Book of Five Rings has found a much broader readership in recent years. Since its first English translation, its study has been touted as the equivalent of an MBA in Japanese business strategy—a competitive art, to be sure. At least one Japanese major-league pitcher keeps the book by his bedside for constant reference. Anyone whose life involves conflict may benefit from studying the techniques laid out in this slender volume.

Wilson also outlines some of the key principles in the book.

At the end of the first chapter of The Book of Five Rings, Musashi sums up his rules for understanding his style and putting it into practice:

1. Think in honest and direct terms.
2. Forge yourself in the Way.
3. Touch upon all the arts.
4. Know the Ways of all occupations.
5. Know the advantages and disadvantages of everything.
6. Develop a discerning eye in all matters.
7. Understand what cannot be seen by the eye.
8. Pay attention even to small things.
9. Do not involve yourself with the impractical.

Four other key points Musashi emphasizes in the book are as follows.

.....
The Way of Swordsmanship Is to Win
Fluidity of Mind
Psychology
The Everyday Mind


The films shown the spiritual growth in Musashi Miyamoto from a strong fighter to a pure samurai, a warrior who does not merely use his sword as a “murderous weapon” as referred to early in the second film in the trilogy. Along the way, Musashi also sheds some of his arrogance and his violent nature to adopt a more thoughtful approach in life and also towards his opponents. At the start of the trilogy, he would never back down from a fight but by the third film, he has become wiser and even instructs that sometimes it is better to run away so that one can win in the future “Lose today, win tomorrow.” The films do not show any blood but spend more time looking at characters' lives and their preparations leading to a climatic battle, which is over in a flash. As a result, the films don't glorify violence and are instead engaging character studies.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jean Renoir

Jean Renoir is a director one encounters very early in their cinephilia journey, with The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu) most likely a first stop given that many consider the magnificent 1939 film as one of the greatest films of all time. In my case, The Rules of the Game is the only Renoir film to have played in local cinemas multiple times over the last decade. However, Renoir directed many other worthy films that I missed and so a spotlight was due in order to play catch-up. The following eight were chosen with 5 of the films part of a Renoir box-set.

1. La fille de l’eau (1925)
2. Nana (1926)
3. Bondu Saved from Drowning (1932)
4. La Grande Illusion (1937)
5. La Marseillaise (1938)
6. The River (1951)
7. The Doctor’s Horrible Experiment (1959)
8. The Elusive Corporal (1962)



Renoir is a rare director who worked in three transitions of cinema, from silent films to talkies (both black and white) to color. Each new transition comes with its own set of technical challenges but also allows a director to treat cinema as an open canvas to freely explore new ideas and techniques. In this regard, Renoir made excellent use of each cinematic mode to keenly explore behavior of characters in different rungs of French society, from the lower to upper classes, from revolutionaries to politicians, from artists to the wealthy aristocrats. Remarkably, Jean Renoir’s first color film, The River, set in India shows that he was able to carry his sharp observations into a different culture. The River is based on Rumer Godden’s experiences which explain the intimate nature of the material but a huge credit goes to Renoir for properly balancing the Indian cultural observations with a tender touch. The film appears to have been made by someone who has lived and grown up in India for years not by a foreign director such as Renoir.

This spotlight was certainly a true pleasure and reaffirmed why Jean Renoir is one of the greatest directors in Cinema. However, I still missed out on some truly worthy Renoir films going by Sam Juliano’s comments where he rates Une Partie De Campagne and La Chienne as Renoir’s great films to go along with The Rules of the Game and The Grand Illusion. Also, Sam has high praise for La Bete Humaine as well.

Note: the only reason I saw Bondu Saved From Drowning was because of the film’s appearance on the comedy countdown at Wonders in the Dark, where Ed Howard has an excellent essay outlining the film perfectly.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mrinal Sen's The Absence Trilogy

Mrinal Sen’s The Absence Trilogy consists of Ekdin Pratidin (1979), Kharij (1982) and Ekdin Achanak (1989). The films are separated by almost a decade and made in two different languages, with the first two in Bengali and the third in Hindi. Yet, the three films are linked together. In the Seagull published book The Absence Trilogy, which consists all three screenplays, Somnath Zutshi examines the underlying connection in the trilogy.

The first is that each of these films attempts to examine the effects, on a group, of one member suddenly going missing, whether temporarily or permanently. The second is that in each of these three films, we see the past haunting the present. And the conjunction of the two consists in this: it is precisely in the manifestation of the absence, that is, in the gap that has been left behind by the one who is not there, that we see the shadow of the past fall. -- Somnath Zutshi, The Absence Trilogy

The three films examine different states of an absence, with the first film Ekdin Pratidin looking at a temporary absence when the oldest daughter in a family goes missing for one night only to return back in the early hours of the morning. The absence in the other two films are permanent and leave the family to deal with consequences of losing a key member in their lives. In Ekdin Achanak, as implied by the title (Suddenly, One Day) the father walks out of his home one day never to return. His body is never found but no one in his family believes that he will ever come back. So even though his absence is assumed to be permanent, the lack of a dead body ensures that a complete closure will never take place for the family. On the other hand, a couple find the dead body of their young servant in Kharij forcing them to deal with the consequences of the death and any responsibility they might have had.

The absence halts the lives of the families in all three films, forcing them to abandon their daily routines to examine either the past or their current situation. In Ekdin Achanak, the family has no idea why the father left so they spend their energy pouring over past incidents to search for a clue. They chase down a dead end or two, such as assuming the father ran off with a younger student, but in the end have no more insight into his absence. At the end of the film, an entire year has gone by since the father’s disappearance yet the family is still stuck in the past despite their best efforts to move on. One can assume their lives will never truly move beyond the day when the father left. On the other hand, even though the daughter returns in Ekdin Pratidin, the family will never recover their dignity and peace of mind. As indicated in the film, if a son had gone missing for the night, then not much fuss would have taken place but a girl coming late at night puts her character into question. This differential treatment of a female is not restricted to Indian culture but many nations around the world use a different judgement scale towards men and women. In many cultures, men are free to do as they please, including staying out of the house for late hours, but if a girl does that, then she is harshly punished or judged.

The trilogy offers a fascinating case study of human behavior and depicts how people are often busy trying to make ends meet without having much time for reflection or analysis of their situation. However, a critical event forces them to freeze time and truly examine their lives and relationships.

1) Ekdin Pratidin: The entire film in 10 parts.

2) Kharij / The Case is Closed

No online links for the film but the critical scene of Palan’s death can be found here.

3) Ekdin Achanak: Entire film.

Bengali Cinema

This The Absence Trilogy is part 1 of a multi-part spotlight looking at Bengali Cinema.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Tony Scott

The aftermath of Tony Scott’s shock death revealed how his films divided cinephiles and were not given much thought. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky’s excellent article points to this:

While the last few years have seen Scott embraced by a certain cinephilic community (the Cinema Scope  crowd, the Mann-Scott-Baysian "vulgar auteurists," etc.), he remains, for the most part, a director of immensely popular and commercially successful films who has never been all that popular or successful with critics or "serious film types."

I was certainly not aware of this polarization even though I should have figured something was amiss given the lack of articles exploring his works. I had seen 12 out of his 16 directed features but I couldn't remember reading a single in-depth critical analysis of his films, although many articles have now surfaced, some of which were written a few years ago. One of those older must read articles is Cinema Scope’s brilliant piece which uses Deja Vu as a jumping point to gaze at other Tony Scott features.

All the wonderful articles on Tony Scott inspired a quick film spotlight. The starting point was obviously to catch up with the 4 missing films from my viewing list, The Hunger (1983), Revenge (1990), Man on Fire (2004) and Deja Vu (2006). I revisited a few other titles to have an eight film spotlight, half of Tony’s total feature output.

The Hunger (1983)
Revenge (1990)
Days of Thunder (1990)
True Romance (1993)
Man on Fire (2004)
Domino (2005)
Deja Vu (2006)
Unstoppable (2010)

Trying to maintain control

"Control is an illusion," Kidman already said to Cruise’s NASCAR driver way back in Days of Thunder (1990), and in hindsight it seems an announcement of themes, even style. -- Cinema Scope 29

Christoph Huber and Mark Peranson hit the nail on the head with regards to “control” in Tony’s films. Obvious examples are films in which characters try to control fast moving objects such as planes in Top Gun, cars in Days of Thunder and a speeding train in Unstoppable. However, control is not limited to objects and a few of Tony Scott’s films explore emotional control. Crimson Tide is about staying calm and in control, something which is required in Domino & Man on Fire as well. On the other hand, The Hunger, True Romance & Revenge depict events that unfold when characters give in to their urges and fail to keep their emotions in check. It is incredibly difficult to maintain control when love is involved so it is not a surprize to find that a lot of Tony Scott’s films have love at their core. True Romance and Revenge are clear examples but Tony’s films are not limited to physical love but explore compassion and parental love as well. In Spy Game, Brad Pitt’s Tom Bishop puts his life in danger because of a woman (Catherine McCormack’s character of Elizabeth Hadley) while Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) puts his life savings and reputation on the line because of the father-son like relationship he shares with Bishop. A parental concern is also echoed in Man on Fire with Denzel Washington’s desire to save young Pita (Dakota Fanning). Deja Vu shows that love can manifest itself even when two people don’t share the same physical space. In the film, Denzel Washington’s Doug Carlin falls madly in love with Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) just by looking at photos and pixels of her.

Love is present in many of Tony’s films but that emotion does not dominate the films which are jam packed with thought provoking ideas packaged in a pulsating framework. Spy Game is set against the backdrop of complicated political policies, Man on Fire looks at corruption and kidnappings in Mexico, Deja Vu examines the possibilities when space-time is folded while Domino is a fierce commentary on reality television. As a result, Scott’s films are not hollow entertainment but offer an insight into society and human behavior in general.

Top 5

There are many Tony Scott films that I have enjoyed and revisited multiples times over the years but the following would be a current rough ordering:

1. Deja Vu: The film perfectly mixes elements of Rear Window and Minority Report with a tender loving touch.

2. Spy Game: Espionage, terrorism, compassion and some clever trickery while the clock ticks away.

3. The Taking of Pelham 123

4. Unstoppable: Besides the obvious attempt to control a runaway train, the film is also a brilliant take on the modern economic crisis by showing how an employee's blind rush results in a problem that gets bigger with each passing minute. If this employee had taken an extra few minutes to properly complete his job, then a small one person problem would not have turned into a gigantic mess that impacted millions.

5. Domino

Of course, just like Deja Vu this list would have been completely different four days ago.

Final thoughts

Domino (written by Richard Kelly) and True Romance (written by Quentin Tarantino) also show that Tony Scott nicely incorporated the writers sentiments with his visual take on the material. One can observe seeds of Kelly’s Southland Tales in Domino with regards to an over hyped pop culture while Tarantino’s trademark crisp dialogues and love of movies are all over True Romance.

And lastly, if I had to pick one frame to depict the sentiment of control and speed shown in Tony Scott’s films, I would pick the wheelchair race in Days of Thunder that takes places in the hospital between Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) and Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker). In the scene, a nurse is pushing Rowdy’s wheelchair down the hall when Cole’s wheelchair enters the frame. For a few brief seconds, Cole and Rowdy find themselves side by side before Cole decides to edge his chair forward a bit. Cole’s act is a call to war for Rowdy who then pushes himself ahead. And it isn’t too long before both Cole and Rowdy are racing down the hospital in their wheelchairs. A race that started in cars continues in wheelchairs. And even if there were no wheelchairs, both characters would have still found a way to race against each other. No injury could remove the urge to speed from their DNA.