Saturday, May 25, 2024

Best Films of 2023

As Cannes 2024 is wrapping up, I still have to catch up with a few worthy Cannes 2023 films (Lisandro Alonso, Victor Erice) but I have seen enough 2023 films now to put together a list. I have previously mentioned the challenges of legally seeing newer 2023 films so won’t reiterate that here.

Without further ado, here are my best films of 2023:

1. Past Lives (USA/South Korea, Celine Song)

A tender emotionally beautiful film. Like a soothing piece of music.

2. La Chimera (Italy/France/Switzerland/Turkey, Alice Rohrwacher)

A warm shape shifting film that tugs at both the mind and heart.

3. Laapataa Ladies (India, Kiran Rao)

Kiran Rao and writers Biplab Goswami, Divyanidhi Sharma, Sneha Desai have done an outstanding job by seamlessly stitching socially relevant topics within the fabric of a humorous comedic film.

4. The Delinquents (Argentina/Luxembourg/Brazil/Chile, Rodrigo Moreno)

Takes the bank fraud at core of the 1949 Argentine film Apenas un delincuente and transforms it into a languid stroll through the countryside.

5. How to have Sex (UK/Greece/France/Belgium, Molly Manning Walker)

At first, this appears to be cut from the same cloth as Spring Breakers but the film digs deeper into how men can still circumvent consent in a post #MeToo world.

6. 12th Fail (India, Vidhu Vinod Chopra)

It is hard to believe that Vidhu Vinod Chopra, a major name in Indian Cinema, has made one of the best films of his career at the age of 70 (he is 71 now). 12th Fail is a film stripped of any fat and with a singular focus. The struggles of exams and getting a job in India have been documented in cinema before but Chopra has infused the film with plenty of hope.  Part of the reason for that could be that the film is based on the real life story of Manoj Kumar Sharma and Shraddha Joshi and highlights how that there was always a ray of hope around the corner for the main character despite many pitfalls.

7. Kho Gaye Hum Kahan (India, Arjun Varain Singh)

A highly relevant contemporary film that depicts impact of social media on current generation. The film is set in Mumbai but the scenarios and characters can be found in most internet-connected nations around the world.

8. Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Vietnam/Singapore/France/Spain, Thien An Pham)

An earthy interpretation of Apichatpong’s spiritual cinema.

9. La Cancha (Canada, Mustafa Uzuner)

Mustafa Uzuner lovingly depicts how a community basketball court in Montreal can be a meditation on life and social connections. Pure cinema.

10. Io Capitano (Italy/Belgium/France, Matteo Garrone)

A film that goes beyond the headlines and depicts the perilous journey of its two characters from Senegal to Italy. Garrone also shows how communities spring up and sustain characters in cities/nations that find themselves at centre of migration.

11. Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World (Romania co-production, /Luxembourg/France/Croatia/Switzerland/UK, Radu Jude)

One of the funniest films of the year that manages to take a dig at lengths corporations go to manufacture/sustain their social image. The constant social media attention of main character means she wouldn’t be out of place with the characters in Kho Gaye Hum Kahan.

Honourable Mentions (in order of preference):

Mast Mein Rehne Ka (India, Vijay Maurya)

Samsara (Spain,  Lois Patiño) 

Blackberry (Canada, Matt Johnson)

The Settlers (Chile/Argentina/UK/Taiwan/Germany/Sweden/France/Denmark, Felipe Gálvez Haberle)

About Dry Grasses (Turkey/France/Germany/Sweden, Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Worthy 2022 films seen in 2024:

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (India, Lijo Jose Pellissery)

Trenque Lauquen (Argentina/Germany, Laura Citarella)

The Beasts (Spain/France, Rodrigo Sorogoyen)

Showing Up (USA, Kelly Reichardt)

Sunday, May 19, 2024

20th Anniversary of Scribbles and Ramblings

The first entry on this blog was on May 10, 2004. Safe to say, it was a very different world 20 years ago. It wasn't a simpler time or crisis free world but lack of smart phones certainly helped in keeping the insanity down a few notches. However, instead of focusing on the political, social or economic differences over the last 2 decades, I want to focus on soccer differences because the first 4 points in this blog were about football/soccer:

1) Valencia crowned Liga Champions after an astonishing collapse by Real. Nothing fake about the win there -- pure hardwork.
2) Arsenal remained unbeaten after 37 games. Thanks to Reyes -- the Spanish connection.
3) Werder Bremen won the Bundesliga in the best possible manner, a 3-1 win away to defending champs, Bayern Munich. The result left no doubt about the best team in Germany.
4) Milan & Roma take dives. But will it be enough for Perugia?

La Liga / Spanish League

In 2004, Valencia won the Spanish League title, their last of 6 overall titles. Since 2004, only 3 teams have won La Liga:

Barcelona: 11
Real Madrid: 7
Atlético Madrid: 2

It is hard to see any team other than these 3 capable of winning the league although Girona gave it a go this year.

Premier League

Arsenal went through the entire 2004 Premier League season unbeaten, a feat that has not been repeated since then. Although, Arsenal have not won the League title since then either but tried their best in 2023 and 2024 and finished second against the financially doped Man City team. The influx of money that started with Chelsea in 2003 has only increased exponentially over last two decades and Man City are swimming in endless money. Safe to say, it is hard to imagine any other team winning the title again.

Over the last 20 years, title has been won by these teams:

Man City: 8
Chelsea: 5
Man Utd: 5
Liverpool: 1
Leicester City: 1

Bundesliga / German League

Werder Bremen won the Bundesliga in 2004, their last of 4 total titles. It is hard to imagine that given how Bayern Munich have dominated the last two decades including winning 11 straight titles. Bayern were finally stopped in 2024 after a historic unbeaten season by Bayer Leverkusen who finally won their first ever Bundesliga title.

Over last 20 years, Bayern have dominated the league:

Bayern Munich: 15
Borussia Dortmund: 2
VfB Stuttgart: 1
VfL Wolfsburg: 1
Bayer Leverkusen: 1

Serie A / Italian League

AC Milan won Serie A in 2004 and Roma finished second but Italian football went through major changes in 2006 with Calciopoli. The results of the investigations meant Juventus got relegated and there were points deduction for AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina. As a result, Inter Milan dominated initially by winning 5 straight titles from 2006-2010. Once Juventus were back to their old self, they won 9 straight Serie A titles from 2012-2020. The last few years have seen an actual title race even though Napoli dominated 2023 and Inter did the same in 2024.

Titles won by teams between 2004 - 2024:

Juventus: 9
Inter Milan: 7
AC Milan: 2
Napoli: 1
No title awarded in 2004-05 as Juventus had their title taken away due to Calciopoli.

20 Years on 

The last two decades of European football have been dominated by just a few teams winning their domestic league titles. This was covered in two earlier posts, one around the failed European Super League while the other post looked at how just fewer teams can actually win the Champions League. The actual on-field game has sped up and become exciting in some leagues but the lack of different winners means most competitions are predictable affairs.