Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snapshots of War

Stage One: Man to Man Combat

In ancient times war was an accepted part of life. Be it over a matter of land or a girl, a man gathered his group to avenge and fight for his cause. While the weapons were not as lethal as those in modern warfare, the savagery was not any less. Chopping and hacking was aplenty ensuring maximum blood. The one thing that made the ancient form of warfare stand out was that everyone fighting on both sides knew the reason for their war and in most cases knew their opponents.

Sergei Bodrov’s Mongol shows an example of the persistent state of war in ancient times. While the film is about the rise of Genghis Khan and his conquests in ancient Mongolia, many of the elements of war could apply to other nations in ancient times like the Nordic or Moghul India. In Mongol love and war keep equal pace at times and when the blood letting starts, the family and loved ones have to be left behind until the next battle, which is always around the corner.

Stage Two: Trench warfare

As the weapons used to kill other men got more sophisticated and advanced, the distance between the fighting soldiers also increased. The hand to hand combats were replaced by the trench warfare, where opposing armies lay in hiding before firing bullets over to the other side. In such cases, a solider never really knew if he managed to kill someone or not and even if he did kill someone, didn’t find out the identity of his enemy. In Kon Ichikawa’s masterpiece Fires on the Plain one of the Japanese soldiers utters this very relevant truth when he hears the American soldiers in the distance. He peeks to get a look at a passing group of American soldiers in trucks and comments that was his first look at the enemy despite being in combat for months. It is hard to imagine that men fought other men with neither side speaking the same language. In fact, they didn’t need to communicate as they let the bullets do all their talking. Fires on the Plain takes place in Philippines between the American and Japanese soldiers and also highlights another changing aspect of warfare in that two nations would fight in a third nation’s turf, a much more common aspect of war starting from WWII onwards.

War is a savage thing no matter how much one tries to defend its reasons. Kon Ichikawa captures this animal nature of war perfectly in his film while also accomplishing the rare feat of objectively showing the war from the perspective of the soldiers, the everyday men forced into combat. There is no jingoism in the film with none of the soldiers ever talking about the “good of the nation” as each person is only trying to survive and do what they believe is right, even if that means eating another man’s flesh.

Stage Three: Remote warfare, espionage and propaganda

World War II combined both past and even futuristic aspects of war. On one hand, trench warfare was still common but so was the use of aerial bombing, with the two atomic bombs signaling the future nature of combat. But World War II also ushered in a new stage of espionage and its spy game routines led directly to the cold war. Information became just as important as weapons and the cat-mouse game certainly ensured that the war was a complicated affair.

In ancient times, there was no need to sell war to ones citizens. But in the modern civilized world, war had to be sold to its citizens as men and women had to be given a reason why war was necessary. So propaganda became a very common currency during WWII, on both sides of the fighting.

Valkyrie combines the espionage and propaganda elements that took place during WWII. The film shows a true story about an assassination attempt of Hitler. Even though one knows that the characters attempt will end in failure, the film is still a gripping watch.

Stage Four: The inner war and path to recovery

Ok, the war is over. Now what? Can the horror be erased from the soldiers minds? Can the warring leaders actually enjoy the peace and listen to soothing music? Unfortunately, history has shown that peace can never be achieved with war. It never was and it never will. But this does not stop nations from trying to achieve peace with wars. After the war is over, the soldiers are left to fend on their own. In some cases, the men are fine and integrate into society. In other cases, the men can’t shut off the inner demons and look for a new war. Gran Torino can add its name to the list of movies where the men are never really free from their war. Even though the main character Walt (Clint Eastwood) appears to be at peace with his killings in the Korean war, when things get ugly he does reveal that he is still haunted by his demons and heads towards a very un-Hollywood like resolution in hopes of achieving peace for himself and his neighborhood.

Stage Five: Filming the war

Ever since Apocalypse Now, there have been directors who have aimed to film the most realistic war movie by ensuring their audience gets the grim details of war and feels the blood for themselves. Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder tries to parody such a director who aims to make the most realistic war film ever! In his quest for perfection, the director (Steve Coogan) take his cast to a jungle far away from the comforts of a studio set. But things don’t go as per plan and the cast hilariously find themselves in a real war. While the film does a very good job of assembling some excellent characters such as the sleazy film executive (Tom Cruise), the shallow agent (Matthew McConaughey), the fake war writer (Nick Nolte) and the actors aching to dive into their characters (Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr.), it comes across as a missed opportunity for something greater.

Ratings out of 10 for films seen in this series:

Fires on the Plain (1959, Japan, Kon Ichikawa): 10
Mongol (2007, Russia/Mongolia/co-prod, Sergie Bodrov): 8.5
Gran Torino (2008, USA, Clint Eastwood): 8
Valkyrie (2008, USA, Bryan Singer): 7.5
Tropic Thunder (2008, USA, Ben Stiller): 5

Monday, January 26, 2009

of rights and wrongs

Well I was wrong as The Dark Knight didn't get a best film nod and Slumdog.. did. But the hype over Slumdog.. is quite puzzling. I first heard of the film last summer before TIFF gave it a slot. Back then it was very difficult to find the book Q&A in North America but I managed to get it via some good sources in Delhi. Now I hear the book is selling very well in Delhi bookstores and closer to home even Costco is carrying the novel albeit with the title of the movie. Back in December only one theater in the city was showing the movie but now the movie has opened wider with almost all the big multiplexes playing the title. All of this makes for some interesting conversations with friends and family about the movie. Some have loved the movie but others have questioned the film's choices about portraying India in a negative light. Most negative comments I have heard so far have to do with the film's choices of including elements that the original story didn't contain like the boy covered in shit or the Hindu-Muslim riots that killed Jamal's mother. In the novel, the main character was an orphan who was named Ram Mohammed Thomas by the priest who found him in order to ensure that whatever religion the boy was born in would be covered. The name ofcourse was inspired by the 1977 Bollywood film Amar Akbar Anthony with a title that ensured that the main characters were listed in order of the religious hierarchy in India. But Slumdog.. made the main character a Muslim and instead brought the religious divide into focus. I have a feeling that if the movie was going to be shot in 2009 then surely an element of terrorism would have crept into the screenplay. While I do think that the screenplay does a very good job of balancing the past and present, unfortunately the major changes in the story appear contrived to ensure that only certain elements of India are shown.

There was an interesting observation I came across from a film fan who said that all the previous Indian films to have been nominated for an Oscar dealt with either poverty or villages -- Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay (1988) & Lagaan (2001). While Slumdog.. is not an Indian film, it certainly carries on the tradition of poverty in riding to its fame. All these four films are completely different yet the common thread of poverty does stick out.

Overall, I still think Slumdog.. is an entertaining film with all of its problems attributed to either the screenplay or the weak acting. Accomplished actors like Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan are given bit parts and not allowed to shine, while Dev Patel is quite weak in the main role. The real gems in the film are all the technical aspects such as cinematography, editing and the music. A.R Rahman's music is very good but then again he has scored amazing tracks for more than a decade in India.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Popular awards...

The 9 films short-listed for the Best Foreign film Oscar are:

  • The Baader-Meinhof Complex (Germany, Uli Edel)
  • The Class (France, Laurent Cantet)
  • Departures (Japan, Yojiro Takita)
  • Everlasting Moments (Sweden, Jan Troell)
  • The Necessities of Life (Canada, Benoit Pilon)
  • Revanche (Austria, Gotz Spielmann)
  • Tear This Heart Out (Mexico, Roberto Sneider)
  • Three Monkeys (Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
  • Waltz with Bashir (Israel, Ari Folman)

  • The most alarming miss from the list is Gomorra. I refuse to believe that all of the above 9 films are better than Gomorra. Ofcourse, I can only speculate about the validity of these movies as it will probably take me another 2 years to see the above films as none of the above 9 films have opened in my city yet although Three Monkeys had a solitary show at CIFF last year.

    Anyway, here are some predictions for the sake of it:

  • Waltz With Bashir will win the foreign film award and maybe that will be enough to ensure that the movie opens in my city.

  • The Dark Knight will not only get a nomination for best film but will win the award. Why? Because if an average yet highly popular movie like Titanic can win best film then The Dark Knight has a great chance.

  • Slumdog Millionaire will not get a nomination for best film but Danny Boyle will be nominated for best director. In fact, Slumdog.. will not win any awards and that includes A.R Rahman.

  • Unlike the Golden Globes, I think the Oscars will ensure that all the awards will only go to big Hollywood studio films and well known American actors. That is a feeling I got after seeing the expression of a majority of the people when some of the winners were announced at the Globes. Example: there seemed to be some puzzled looks when Shah Rukh Khan came on stage and joked with the Slumdog.. team. Only a few Hollywood actors, including Christina Applegate, appeared to be applauding for Slumdog..while the rest sat puzzled. Maybe most of the Hollywood actors had no idea who Shah Rukh Khan was or why Anil Kapoor seemed so happy? Or maybe they were still grappling with how to pronounce A.R Rahman's name, something the announcer mangled horribly?

    Honestly, I am not that concerned about who wins but the unfortunate reality is these awards dictate what movies open in smaller cities across Canada and America. So if a lesser known film wins then that will give hope that it might open in a city outside of L.A, New York and Toronto. Otherwise, one has to wait another year for a DVD release of the film while the multiplexes continue to be packed with movies about green ogres and flavor of the month super-heroes.

    Friday, January 09, 2009

    2009: Film Log

    Total # of films seen in 2009: 339

    The total number includes films (fiction & docs) over a length of 60 minutes.

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

    Jan 2009

    Slumdog Millionaire (2008, UK/USA, Danny Boyle/Loveleen Tandan): 8.5, repeat viewing
    Ghajini (2008, India, A.R Murugadoss): 4.5
    Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008, India, Aditya Chopra): 6
    Hostel Part II (2007, USA, Eli Roth): 5
    Dil Kabaddi (2008, India, Anil Senior): 6.5
    Comrades in Dreams (2004, Germany, Uli Gaulke): 7.5
    Brand Upon the Brain (2006, Canada, Guy Maddin): 7
    Valkyrie (2008, USA, Bryan Singer): 7.5
    Meerabai Not Out (2008, India, Chandrakant Kulkarni): 2
    Fires on the Plain (1959, Japan, Kon Ichikawa): 10
    The Ballad of Narayama (1983, Japan, Shohei Imamura): 8
    Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008, USA, Guillermo del Toro): 6
    Ghost Town (2008, USA, David Koepp): 7
    Mongol (2007, Russia/Mongolia/co-prod, Sergei Bodrov): 8.5
    Gran Torino (2008, USA, Clint Eastwood): 8
    The Wrestler (2008, USA, Darren Aronofsky)
    Diary of the Dead (2007, USA, George A. Romero):
    Employee of the Month (2004, USA, Mitch Rouse): 7
    Anger Management (2003, USA, Peter Segal): 6.5
    Eagle Eye (2008, USA, D.J Caruso): 5
    Bangkok Dangerous (2008, USA, Pang Brothers): 5.5
    Sangre de mi Sangre (2007, Argentina/USA, Christopher Zalla): 6

    Feb 2009

    Rambo II (1985, USA, George P. Cosmatos): 4
    Rambo III (1988, USA, Peter MacDonald): 5.5
    Luck, by Chance (2008, India, Zoya Akhtar): 7
    Chandini Chowk to China (2008, India, Nikhil Advani): 4
    Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006, India, Karan Johar): 2
    The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965, UK, Martin Ritt): 10
    Victory (2009, India, Ajit Pal Mangat): 0
    Billu Barber (2009, India, Priyadarshan): 5.5
    Body of Lies (2008, USA, Ridley Scott): 8.5
    MI-5, Season One (2002, UK, various): 7.5
    The Namesake (2006, USA/India, Nair): 8.5
    The International (2009, multiple, Tom Tykwer): 9
    Pineapple Express (2008, USA, David Gordon Green): 3
    Sicko (2007, USA, Michael Moore): 7.5
    Ganja Queen (2007, Australia, Janine Hosking): 7.5
    Chronicles of an Escape (2006, Argentina, Adrián Caetano): 9
    Zidane (2006, France, Douglas Gordon/Philippe Parreno): 9.5
    W. (2008, USA, Oliver Stone): 5

    Mar 2009

    Dev D (2009, India, Anurag Kashyup): 8.5
    Delhi-6 (2009, India, Rakesh Omprakash Mehra): 3
    Oh my God (2008, India, Sourabh Shrivastava): 7.5
    Cargo 200 (2007, Russia, Aleksey Balabanov): 8
    Che, part One (2008, USA, Steven Soderbergh): 8
    I’m a Cyborg but that’s ok (2006, Korea, Chan-wook Park):
    Refugees of the Blue Planet (2006, France/Canada, Hélène Choquette/Jean-Philippe Duval): 7
    Delta (2008, Hungary, Kornél Mundruczó): 9
    Guimba (1995, Mali/Burkina Faso/Germany, Cheick Oumar Sissoko): 5
    Zack and Miri make a Porno (2008, USA, Kevin Smith): 7.5
    Lakeview Terrace (2008, USA, Neil LaBute): 6
    Erin Brokovich (2000, USA, Steven Soderbergh): 7.5
    Young People F***ing (2008, Canada, Martin Gero): 6.5
    Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008, USA, Nicholas Stoller): 10, repeat viewing
    Japanese Girls on the Harbor (1955, Japan, Hiroshi Shimizu): 8
    Boarding Gate (2007, France, Olivier Assayas): 6.5
    Che, part two (2008, USA, Steven Soderbergh): 9
    Ashes of Time Redux (2008, Hong Kong, Wong Kar Wai): 6
    Gulaal (2009, India, Anurag Kashyup): 8.5
    Jugaad (2009, India, Anand Kumar): 3
    It’s a Free World (2007, UK, Ken Loach): 7.5
    Bombón: El Perro (2004, Argentina, Carlos Sorin): 8
    Wendy and Lucy (2008, USA, Kelly Reichardt): 10
    The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, France, Carl Theodor Dreyer): 9
    Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008, USA, Woody Allen): 9
    Pontypool (2008, Canada, Bruce McDonald): 8.5

    Apr 2009

    RocknRolla (2008, UK, Guy Ritchie): 5.5
    Rope (1948, USA, Alfred Hitchcock): 8
    King of Bollywood (2004, India, Piyush Jha): 6.5
    Sunshine Cleaning (2008, USA, Christine Jeffs): 7
    Foreign Correspondent (1940, USA, Alfred Hitchcock): 7
    Intolerence (1916, USA, D.W. Griffith): 6
    Strangers on a Train (1951, USA, Alfred Hitchcock): 7.5
    Saboteur (1942, USA, Alfred Hitchcock): 9
    I’ve Loved you so Long (2008, France, Philippe Claudel): 8
    Tokyo! (2008, co-production, Michel Gondry/Leos Carax/Bong Joon-ho): 8
    Phantom India (1969, France, Louis Malle): 6.5
    Calcutta (1969, France, Louis Malle): 7
    Dans Paris (2006, France, Christophe Honoré): 7.5

    May 2009

    Aa Dekhen Zara (2009, India, Jehangir Surti): 3.5
    Frozen River (2008, USA, Courtney Hunt): 7
    Enough! (2006, Algeria, Djamila Sahraoui): 7
    Aloo Chaat (2009, India, Robby Grewal): 6.5
    Dry Summer (1964, Turkey, Metin Erksan): 7.5
    Chop Shop (2008, USA, Ramin Bahrani): 8
    When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950, USA, John Ford): 8
    Up the River (1930, USA, John Ford): 5.5
    Hangman’s House (1928, USA, John Ford): 5
    Three Bad Men (1926, USA, John Ford): 6
    The Housemaid (1960, South Korea, Kim Ki-young): 9
    Iron Horse (1924, USA, John Ford): 6

    June 2009

    Taxi to the Dark Side (2007, USA, Alex Gibney): 8
    99 (2009, India, Krishna D.K/Raj Nidimoru):
    Born in Brothels (2006, USA, Zana Briski/Ross Kauffman): 5
    Synedoche, New York (2008, USA, Charlie Kaufman): 9
    Three Monkeys (2008, Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan): 7
    Achilles and the Tortoise (2007, Japan, Takashi Kitano)
    April Showers (2009, Portugal, Iva Ferriera)
    Be Calm and Count to Seven (2009, Iran, Ramtin Lavafipour)
    Sorry, Thanks (2009, USA, Dia Sokol)
    Three Wise Men (2007, Finland, Mika Kaurismäki)
    What a Wonderful World (2007, France/Morocco, Faouzi Bensaïdi)
    Stay the Same Never Change (2009, USA, Laurel Nakadate)
    Because we were born (2008, France/Brazil, Jean-Pierre Duret/Andrea Santana)
    Border (2009, Armenia/Holland, Harutyun Khachatryan)
    Everyone Else (2009, Germany, Maren Ade)
    Katia’s Sister (2008, Holland, Mijke de Jong)
    Native Dancer (2008, Kazakhstan, Gulshat Omarova)
    Vacation (2008, Japan, Hajime Kadoi)
    Calimucho (2008, Holland, Eugenie Jansen)
    Independencia (2009, Philippines, Raya Martin)
    Our Beloved Month of August (2008, Portugal, Miguel Gomes)
    Two Lines (2009, Turkey, Selim Evci)
    Adela (2008, Philippines, Adolfo Jr.)
    All Around Us (2008, Japan, Ryosuke Hashiguchi)
    Bullet in the Head (2008, Spain, Jaime Rosales)
    Mid-August Lunch (2008, Italy, Gianni Di Gregorio)
    Milk (2008, Turkey, Semih Kaplanoglu)
    Nucingen House (2008, France, Raoul Ruiz)
    Pandora’s Box (2008, Turkey, Yesim Ustaoglu)
    Peaceful Times (2008, Germany, Neele Leana Vollmar)
    Still Walking (2008, Japan, Hirokazu Koreeda)

    July/August 2009

    The Headless Woman (2008, Argentina, Lucrecia Martel)
    Rough Cut (2008, Korea, Hun Jang)
    The Reader (2008, USA, Stephen Daldry): 6
    Frost/Nixon (2008, USA, Ron Howard): 8
    Waltz with Bashir (2008, Israel, Ari Folman): 8.5
    Two Lovers (2008, USA, James Gray): 8
    Khela (2008, India, Rituparno Ghosh): 6.5
    Ryna (2005, Romania, Ruxandra Zenide):
    X Files: I Want to Believe (2008, USA, Chris Carter): 4
    Doubt (2008, USA, John Patrick Shanley): 8
    Nishijapon (2005, India, Sandip Ray): 8
    Revolutionary Road (2008, USA, Sam Mendes): 8.5
    The Hurt Locker (2008, USA, Kathryn Bigelow): 9.5
    Love Aaj Kal (2009, India, Imtiaz Ali): 5
    Short Kut (2009, India, Neeraj Vora): 3
    Public Enemies (2009, USA, Michael Mann): 8.5
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008, USA, David Fincher): 6
    Push (2009, USA co-production, Paul McGuigan): 3
    Coraline (2009, USA, Henry Selick): 8
    Bright Future (2003, Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa):
    District 9 (2009, South Africa/New Zealand, Neill Blomkamp): 10
    Kambakkht Ishq (2009, India, Sabir Khan): 0
    Inglourious Basterds (2009, USA, Quentin Tarantino): 7.5
    (500) Days of Summer (2009, USA, Marc Webb): 8
    Detective Naani (2009, India, Romilla Mukherjee): 3
    Religulous (2008, USA, Larry Charles): 8
    Kabluey (2007, USA, Scott Prendergast): 7

    September 2009

    12 (2008, Russia, Nikita Mikhalkov): 8.5
    Last Year at Marienbad (1961, France, Alain Resnais):
    The Night of Truth (2004, Burkina Faso, Fanta Régina Nacro):
    Insolação (2009, Brazil, Felipe Hirsch/Daniela Thomas): 4
    White Material (2009, France, Claire Denis): 7
    The Proposal (2009, USA, Anne Fletcher): 4
    Star Trek (2009, USA, J.J. Abrams): 7
    The Spirit (2008, USA, Frank Miller): 3
    Knowing (2009, USA/UK, Alex Proyas): 7.5
    I Served the King of England (2006, Czech Republic, Jirí Menzel): 8
    Siberiade (1979, Russia, Andrei Konchalovsky)

    Birdsong (2008, Spain, Albert Serra)
    Can go Through Skin (2009, Holland, Esther Rots)
    My Only Sunshine (2009, Turkey co-production, Reha Erdem)

    The Way I Spent the End of the World (2006, Romania/France, Catalin Mitulescu)
    Katalin Varga (2009, Romania co-production, Peter Strickland): 9
    White Night Wedding (2009, Iceland, Baltasar Kormákur): 7.5
    Tetro (2009, USA, Francis Ford Coppola): 8

    Fish Eyes (2009, Korea/China, Zheng Wei)

    Houston, We have a problem (2008, USA, Nicole Torre): 7.5
    The White Ribbon (2009, co-production, Michael Haneke): 8.5
    Crackie (2009, Canada, Sherry White): 8

    Call if you need me (2009, Malaysia, James Lee)
    Daytime Drinking (2008, Korea, Young-Seok Noh)

    Revache (2008, Austria, Goetz Spielmann): 9
    Police, Adjective (2009, Romania, Corneliu Porumboiu): 10
    The Happiest Girl in the World (2009, Romania co-production, Radu Jude): 9.5
    The Last Lullaby (2008, USA, Jeffrey Goodman): 8.5

    Amreeka (2009, USA/Canada, Cherien Dabis)
    Karaoke (2009, Malaysia, Chris Chong Chan Fui)

    St. Nick (2009, USA, David Lowery): 8
    Juntos (2009, Canada/Mexico, Nicolás Pereda): 7

    October 2009

    Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009, USA, Damien Chazelle): 7.5
    Wrong Rosary (2009, Turkey, Mahmut Fazil Coskun): 9
    Cyborg, She (2008, Japan, Jae-young Kwak): 6
    I Killed My Mother (2009, Canada, Xavier Dolan): 10
    Gigantic (2008, USA, Matt Aselton): 7
    Cooking History (2008, co-production, Peter Kerekes): 8.5
    Breathless (2009, South Korea, Yang Ik-June): 10
    Seven Minutes in Heaven (2008, Israel, Omri Givon): 5/10
    Daybreakers (2009, Australia, the Spierig brothers): 7
    The Prophet (2009, France, Jacques Audiard): 10
    Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009, USA, P.J. Hogan): 5
    Sin Nombre (2009, Mexico/USA, Cary Fukunaga): 8
    O Sangue (1989, Portugal, Pedro Costa): 10
    Goodbye Solo (2009, USA, Ramin Bahrani): 8
    State of Play (2009, USA co-production, Kevin Macdonald): 5
    Encounters at the End of the World (2007, USA, Werner Herzog): 9
    Days and Clouds (2007, Italy co-production, Silvio Soldini): 9
    Kaos (1984, Italy, Paolo Taviani/Vittorio Taviani):
    Chacun con Cinema (2007, France, various directors)
    Wake up Sid (2009, India, Ayan Mukherjee): 5
    Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (2001, Portugal/France, Pedro Costa): 9
    Rachida (2002, Algeria/France, Yamina Bachir): 7
    Law Abiding Citizen (2009, USA, John Maybury): 4
    Sugar (2008, USA, Anna Boden/Ryan Fleck): 8
    Bye Bye Money (1974, Italy/France, Marco Ferreri)
    Adventureland (2009, USA, Greg Mottola): 7.5
    The Edge of Love (2009, UK, John Maybury)
    Watchmen (2009, USA, Zack Snyder): 6
    Falafel (2004, Lebanon/France, Michel Kammoun): 8
    Close-up (1990, Iran, Abbas Kiarostami): 7.5
    It’s Winter (2006, Iran, Rafi Pitts): 10
    Salt of This Sea (2007, Palestine co-production, Annemarie Jacir): 8.5
    Love Khichdi (2009, India, Srinivas Bhashyam): 3
    Rudo y Cursi (2009, Mexico/USA, Carlos Cuarón): 7
    Dil Bola Hadippa! (2009, India, Anurag Singh): 2
    Shadow Kill (2002, India, Adoor Gopalakrishnan): 8, repeat viewing
    The Orphange (2007, Mexico/Spain, Juan Antonio Bayona): 6
    The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007, France co-production, Eric Rohmer): 7
    The Mirror (1972, Soviet Union, Andrei Tarkovsky)

    Nov 2009

    Kaminey (2009, India, Vishal Bhardwaj): 6
    Ali Zaoua (2000, Morocco co-production, Nabil Ayouch): 8
    Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977, India, Satyajit Ray): 8.5
    Be Good (2009, France, Juliette Garcias)
    Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis (2008, France, Dany Boon): 8.5
    Gabbeh (1996, Iran, Mohsen Makhmalbaf): 8
    The Mirror (1997, Iran, Jafar Panahi): 9
    The Kite (2003, Lebanon co-production, Randa Chahal Sabag): 7
    Delbaran (2001, Iran co-production, Abolfazl Jalili): 8.5
    The Fish Fall in Love (2005, Iran, Ali Raffi): 8
    Aagey se Right (2009, India, Indrajit Nattooji): 0
    The Class (2008, France, Laurent Cantet): 10
    Duplicity (2008, USA, Tony Gilroy): 6.5
    Beaufort (2007, Israel, Joseph Cedar): 8
    Aladin (2009, India, Sujoy Ghosh): 1
    My Suicide (2009, USA, David Lee Miller)
    Khamosh Pani (2003, Pakistan co-production, Sabiha Sumar): 9
    Do Knot Disturb (2009, India, David Dhawan): 0
    Unmade Beds (2009, UK, Alexis Dos Santos)
    Bombay 405 Miles (1980, India, Brij)
    Trouble the Water (2008, USA, Carl Deal/Tia Lessin): 8
    Love Exposure (2008, Japan, Shion Sono)
    In the Loop (2009, UK, Armando Iannucci): 10
    Dead Snow (2009, Norway, Tommy Wirkola): 3
    Man on Wire (2008, UK/USA, James Marsh): 9
    The Pear Tree (1998, Iran, Dariush Mehrjui): 6.5
    Chéri (2009, UK/France/Germany, Stephen Frears): 7.5
    Polytechnique (2009, Canada, Denis Villeneuve): 8
    Boy A (2007, UK, John Crowley): 8
    Firaaq (2008, India, Nandita Das): 9
    Le Circle Rouge (1972, France, Jean-Pierre Melville): 10
    The Cyclist (1987, Iran, Mohsen Makhmalbaf): 8
    The Damned United (2009, UK/USA, Tom Hooper): 9
    Away We Go (2009, USA/UK, Sam Mendes): 7.5
    The Cow (1969, Iran, Dariush Mehrjui): 8
    The Suitors (1989, Iran, Ghasem Ebrahimian): 6
    Absurdistan (2007, Germany, Veit Helmer): 7
    The Taking of Phelam 123 (2009, USA, Tony Scott): 6.5

    Dec 2009

    Of Time and the City (2008, UK, Terence Davies)
    The Brothers Bloom (2008, USA, Rian Johnson): 5
    A Serious Man (2009, USA, Coen Brothers): 8
    In the Pit (2006, Mexico, Juan Carlos Rulfo)
    Atanarjuat (2001, Canada, Zacharias Kunuk): 7
    The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (2006, Canada/Denmark, Norman Cohn/Zacharias Kunuk): 5
    Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinémathèque (2004, France, Jacques Richard): 8
    Whatever Works (2009, USA, Woody Allen)
    Jeanne Dielman....(1975, France/Belgium, Chantal Akerman): 8
    Up (2009, USA, Pete Docter/Bob Peterson): 5
    The Gleaners and I (2000, France, Agnes Varda)
    Spirited Away (2001, Japan, Hayao Miyazaki)
    Roadside Romeo (2008, India, Jugal Hansraj)
    Tulpan (2008, Kazakhstan co-production,Sergei Dvortsevoy): 8.5
    35 Shots of Rum (2008, France, Claire Denis): 9
    Il Divo (2009, Italy/France, Paolo Sorrentino)
    Paper Heart (2009, USA, Nicholas Jasenovec)
    What’s Your Raashee? (2009, India, Ashutosh Gowariker): 3
    Saraband (2003, Sweden co-production, Ingmar Bergman): 7.5
    Wings of Desire (1987, West Germany/France, Wim Wenders): 7
    Jerichow (2008, Germany, Christian Petzold): 6
    Antichrist (2009, Denmark co-production, Lars von Trier): 7
    Flash of Genius (2009, USA/Canada, Marc Abraham): 7.5
    The Box (2009, USA, Richard Kelly): 8
    Funny People (2009, USA, Judd Apatow): 7.5
    Ballast (2008, USA, Lance Hammer)
    Lifeboat (1944, USA, Alfred Hitchcock)
    Rocket Singh (2009, India, Shimit Amin): 7.5
    Paraguayan Hammock (2006, Paraguay co-production, Paz Encina)
    Scarface (1932, USA, Howard Hawks)
    Up in the Air (2009, USA, Jason Reitman): 8
    The Human Condition, Part I (1959, Japan, Masaki Kobayashi)
    Avatar (2009, USA/UK, James Cameron): 8
    The Limits of Control (2009, USA, Jim Jarmusch): 9.5
    The Girlfriend Experience (2008, USA, Steven Soderbergh): 6
    3 Idiots (2009, India, Rajkumar Hirani): 7.5
    The New World (2005, USA/UK, Terrence Malick): 9

    Friday, January 02, 2009

    11 months vs 1 month...

    David Carr perfectly captures the madness of Hollywood's december release schedules:

    But we should begin with the glut of movies that open in December. Where is it written that nearly every serious, good film should come crashing into one another in the last few days of the year? And really, how can that be good for business?
    It is shocking to those who spend the rest of the year scanning the newspaper in search of something, anything, to reach December and find all sorts of laurel-bedecked ads shouting at us about the must-see film of the year. Where were you back in August, pal?

    I would extend this problem even further and say where is it written that North Americans must only see serious movies after they premier at TIFF? Cannes officially ushers in a wave of new interesting cinema but most of those films are withheld from Canadian and American theaters until they make their way to TIFF. So what films open in North American screens in between Cannes and TIFF? The art house cinemas play the previous years Cannes winners while multiplexes have the 10th sequel of another loud explosion packed movie.

    It may be 2009 now but North American film distribution still seems a few decades behind. Although, when it comes to marketing then the film companies leave no technology untouched in convincing people to see "the greatest film of the year". When will the North American film market make changes and move away from the current release schedule of having only blockbuster films in summer, serious films in December and Cannes/TIFF films opening late fall and beyond?

    Thursday, January 01, 2009

    Best films of 2008

    10 Best new films, in order of preference

    Rachel Getting Married (USA, Jonathan Demme)

    A fascinating look at characters in their moments of stress, tension and limited joy.

    Happy-Go-Lucky (UK, Mike Leigh)

    Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is probably the happiest and most optimist character to be filmed in the last few years. And her character meets her match in the constantly irritable Scott (Eddie Marsan). The interactions between the two give a glimpse into the problems that exist in the world -- the happy people are not trusted while the unhappy ones continue to ruin the world for everyone else. It is too easy to lose one's temper and continue to be unhappy while it is significantly more difficult to stay positive and continue to smile no matter what the situation. While this movie won't change the world, atleast it is great to know that a director is willing to explore such characters.

    Wonderful Town (Thailand, Aditya Assarat)

    Peaceful and calming. Even when a murder takes place, it feels like a dream and not a nightmare. Just as the river flows, so does life. The tidal waves can come and go but the sun will still rise and a new day will start.

    The Fall (India/UK/USA, Tarsem)

    Visually stunning and highly imaginative. The abstract story structure is a perfect canvas to paint such a stunning view of the world. And when the story gets darker, so does the outcome.

    Oye Lucky Lucky Oye (India, Dibakar Banerjee)

    A thief addicted to stealing while longing for love and fatherly acceptance.

    Gomorra (Italy, Matteo Garrone)

    Darkness everywhere. Garbage piling up and the chemicals seeping into the ground; boys on the lookout for the police and rival gangs; illegal goods being imported. Guns give a false sense of power with a young kid feeling invincible while an older, fat guy in shorts and sandals can feel good about himself.

    Silent Light (Mexico, Carlos Reygadas)

    A love affair is transcended into a universal tale thanks to Reygadas visual understanding. A slow focus on a sun rise is a cue to start the story and when the sun sets, then the story is over. Until the next day...

    Tell No One (France, Guillaume Canet)

    There is a precious love story trapped within the confines of a thriller here. Fascinating to watch, especially if one does not read the story in advance. No cheating as the camera ensures we get plenty of clues along the way.

    Rock On (India, Abhishek Kapoor)

    Friendships and dreams fading away. Love? Does love still have meaning? Life isn't that complicated but it sure feels like it.

    WALL·E (USA, Andrew Stanton)

    WALL·E..Eve...WALL· cute. No human dialogue until the 40th minute and the first sign of robotic chatter takes place around the 20th minute mark. Yet one does not even notice the lack of words. Pixar has certainly taken animation to a new level, starting with last year's Ratatouille and now with WALL·E. Refreshing to see an animated movie not packed with animals constantly blabbering away with pop culture references.

    13 more films that could easily be in the top 10

    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (France/USA, Julian Schnabel)

    Blink. Blink. Beautiful.

    Syndromes and a Century (Thailand, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

    Calm meditation. Although Syndromes.. does not achieve the beauty of Tropical Malady but still makes me clamour for more films from Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

    There Will be Blood (USA, Paul Thomas Anderson)

    The first hour is pure cinematic excellence. The finale is pretty good as well. A simple dialogue about "drinking your milkshake" underlines the problem with greed. Someone is always carrying a bigger straw.

    Alexandra (Russia/France, Aleksandr Sokurov)

    What does war achieve? Broken down buildings and more feelings of anger.

    Idiots and Angels (USA, Bill Plympton)

    Dark animated film about how even the most angry person can change and find a tiny measure of goodness within themselves.

    Children , Parents (Iceland, Ragnar Bragason)

    Two separate films but joined together in their brilliant improvisational style. And made on a shoe string budget as well.

    One Week (Canada, Michael McGowan)

    A journey across this wonderful country called Canada. There are tiny charms about small town Canada that one only discovers by hitting the road.

    Forgetting Sarah Marshall (USA, Nicholas Stoller)

    Cute, damn cute. Although if it were not Mila Kunis, I wouldn't have loved this film that much.

    The Visitor (USA, Thomas McCarthy)

    It is essential to understand people and treat them individually as opposed to treating them with force and authority.

    Milk (USA, Gus Van Sant)

    In a way, this film is a cousin of Happy-Go-Lucky and shows that happy, positive people are hard to come by.

    Used Parts (Mexico, Aarón Fernández)

    Ah the promise of crossing the border for a better life. Nicely filmed.

    Slumdog Millionaire (UK/USA, Danny Boyle/Loveleen Tandan)

    Danny Boyle and his screenwriter Simon Beaufoy take the structure of the game show from Vikas Swarup's novel Q&A, borrow some tips from Fernando Meirelles (boys with guns from City of God & the energy of the Kenyan landscape from The Constant Gardner), add a pinch of a Bollywood love story before garnishing the mix with a checklist of the common Indian symbols of crime, poverty, slums, prostitution, Taj Mahal, Amitabh and call centers. The end result is entertaining all right but still feels like a key ingredient is missing.

    Older wonderful films arranged in order of viewing

    No End in Sight (2006, USA, Charles Ferguson)
    The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005, USA, Tommy Lee Jones)
    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005, USA, Shane Black)
    12:08 East of Bucharest (2006, Romania, Corneliu Porumboiu)
    We Own the Night (2007, USA, James Gray)
    In the Valley of Elah (2007, USA, Paul Haggis)
    Kaala Patthar (1979, India, Yash Chopra)
    Torremolinos 73 (2003, Spain, Pablo Berger)
    The Russian Dolls (2005, France/UK, Cédric Klapisch)
    Valley of Flowers (2006, India co-production, Pan Nalin)
    Rififi (1955, France, Jules Dassin)
    A Peck on the Cheek (2002, India, Mani Ratnam)
    Le Salaire De La Peur (1953, France, Henri - Georges Clouzot)
    Elevator to the Gallows (1958, France, Louis Malle)
    Late Autumn (1960, Japan, Yasujiro Ozu)
    The End of Summer (1961, Japan, Yasujiro Ozu)
    Tokyo Story (1953, Japan, Yasujiro Ozu)
    Tokyo Twilight (1957, Japan, Yasujiro Ozu)
    Equinox Flower (1958, Japan, Yasujiro Ozu)
    Climates (2006, Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
    The Syrian Bride (2006, co-production, Eran Riklis)
    Three Crowns of a Sailor (1983, France, Raoul Ruiz)
    Play Time (1967, France, Jacques Tati)
    Les ordres (1974, Canada, Michel Brault)
    OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006, France, Michel Hazanavicius)
    The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976, USA, John Cassavetes)
    Opening Night (1977, USA, John Cassavetes)
    Battle in Heaven (2005, Mexico, Carlos Reygadas)
    Machuca (2004, Chile, Andrés Wood)
    Los Muertos (2004, Argentina, Lisandro Alonso)
    Bolivia (2001, Argentina, Adrián Caetano)
    The Burmese Harp (1956, Japan, Kon Ichikawa)
    Away from Her (2006, Canada, Sarah Polley)
    The Inheritance (2003, Denmark, Per Fly)
    High and Low (1963, Japan, Akira Kurosawa)
    Manufacturing Landscapes (2006, Canada, Jennifer Baichwal)
    Shut up & Sing (2007, USA, Barbara Kopple/Cecilia Peck)
    A Married Couple (1969, Canada, Allan King)
    Montreal Main (1977, Canada, Frank Vitale)
    Dirty Carnival (2006, South Korea, Ha Yu)
    Sátántangó (1994, Hungary, Béla Tarr)