The Year End Movie Babble – Best Movies of 2009!

December 26, 2009

2009 has been a fabulous year for movies. I personally have had the opportunity to watch an insane number of good movies throughout the year. And then there was last week’s International Film Festival of Kerala. One week of movies and movies only. It just had been a great year. So here is list of movies that really mattered to me this year!

Inglourious Basterds

THE numero one movie! Inglourious Basterds was simply one of the finest, coolest, greatest cinematic experience of my whole life. Yes, that’s right and yes of course I ‘am a huge Tarantino fan. QT gets you really close to his original classic ‘Pulp Fiction’, in terms of sheer excitement and entertainment. Basterds has got every single Tarantino flavor in the righteous proportion, that it can be fairly asserted as the Quentin Tarantino epic! The movie manages to retain the very unique personality of its genre, namely the Tarantino genre, even while it ambitiously experiments with a new kind of richness in the story and narrative etc. which is essential for an epic. Like always, the characters are all etched out with extreme care and love and their interactions with each other had never been so seamlessly comprehensive. The trademark stuffs like the tension build up and the long blasting dialogues (impressively multi lingual, this time) are all chillingly top notch! It’s just fun to watch how the Tarantino universe sets up itself, chapter by chapter, as an alternative to the history book stories. Just fun, unadulterated, one-of-a-kind fun that hardly existed before Tarantino! So in short, Quentin Tarantino reconstructs the war movie genre and so many other related sub genres (WW2, Dirty dozen, female vengeance etc) into a new kind of violent-sarcastic-vengeful- cultish-homage paying- movie loving-fearless-unique-bad ass experience that baffles us all the way with its cleverness. Tarantino is a fucking genius.  And then there is Christopher Waltz, Melanie Laurent and Brad Pitt. Whoa-fucking-whoa! The SS Landa character by Waltz is easily one of the best Tarantino characters ever. So is Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine.  So is Melanie Laurent’s Shosanna Dreyfus and so is everybody else’s! Damn it. Plus there is the breath taking visuals from Robert Richardson and the killer OST. Arggh..I could never stop writing about this one…

P.S: I had previously written a 3 page (incomplete) review on Inglourious Basterds for the blog, but gave up on it later for different reasons. It was getting too big and it was getting out of my hands. There are a lot more aspects about the movie that I would like to write about, including the flaws in it. But maybe another time!

Antichrist

The best thing that had happened to me at the iffk– ‘Anti Christ’! Went in without knowing what to expect, and came out horrified, puzzled and shaken to my core! I was haunted by the utter extremeness and have been, ever since, wondering about the purpose of a movie like Antichrist. The sheer pain this film endures on the viewers is just incredible. Lars Von Trier gets you to suffer abundantly and communicates with you while you’re in this pain.  The movie crosses all the boundaries and pushes through all the envelops with its visual language and thus attains a kind of unholy purity and originality in its narrative. Set up in an almost invincible atmosphere of horror, Antichrist speaks audaciously about evil and crime and redemption, keeping a strong misogynistic attitude. Most of the visuals are so brilliantly composed that you could think over and over about their meaning (like for example, the final scene where Willem Dafoe is coming down the hill… Whoa!). 90% of the visuals still stay with me afresh! With its clever re-interpretation of the Adam & Eve scenario, the movie leaves more than enough room for uninterrupted train of thoughts. On one side it is heavily pessimistic and dark and on another level it’s extremely contemporary and thought provoking. That is the genius of good art and the purpose of Antichrist, I believe, can’t be any different from that of any other great art work.

Unbelievably intense and brave involvement from the part of the two lead actors- Williem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg is the other thing that makes this movie very important.

Avatar

I don’t need to speak a lot about this one. Much has been written and spoken already. So I do believe Avatar is this one definitive cinematic experience of our decade. Never have been a director seemed so much in control with the realization of his visuals or with what he wanted to say or with an enormous budget like in the case of Avatar. 3D and every other advancement in technology have been brilliantly integrated to provide the ultimate immersive experience to the viewers. The awe-inspiring amount of detailing done at every level is simply…err…awe-inspiring! I would have certainly appreciated a bit more originality with its story line and characters and the dialogues, but if Cameron chooses audacity and accessibility over complexity for his epic blockbuster, I can totally understand it. And right now, I ‘am impatiently waiting to watch it again in 3D in full glory. I believe every movie lover should watch this one again and again just to savor the greatness and reach of the medium called cinema!

Hurt Locker

Hurt Locker is as engaging as any other great war film could be and at the same time it also maintains a totally different and unique style of its own. The greatest goodness about Hurt Locker is its nerve-racking kind of tension and suspense build up that would virtually take us viewers, to the distant war field and its conflicts. Kathryn Bigelow chooses to be less political with her war movie and straight away gets to the very essence of war and what it does with people. ‘War is a Drug’ quotes the movie at the beginning and proceeds on to ingeniously tell you how and why. There are almost no gimmicks whatsoever. Supported by mind blowing visuals and good acting, Bigelow slowly transfers the real feel and texture of war onto us. It also has the advantage of a very good script that knows what it is speaking about.  So Hurt locker is smart, sensible, thrilling and in the end, an extremely satisfying experience altogether!

Moon

One of the best Sci-Fi thrillers of the year, Moon was good fun in a very classic sci-fi manner! 2001 space odyssey stands as the biggest inspiration for Moon, which in itself is a very cool thing. The set up of the movie is both intriguing and thrilling and it easily stands out from the usual space opera stuff!! With an unbelievable low budget (5 million dollars) it’s surprising how flawlessly well constructed the movie is. Sam Rockwell is just phenomenal as Sam bell, the movie’s only human character. His performance certainly is the key factor in the effectiveness of the movie. Moon derives its inspiration from the right kind of classics and gets original where it has to be. Overall Moon was this smart engaging and satisfying experience that really left me wanting for more! Duncan Jones, really looking forward to you!

Watchmen

Okay, I don’t really care what the comic book fans think, but Watchmen was a really, really good movie. I would easily rate it above the much celebrated ‘300’, but that’s mainly because of the brilliance of the source material. For what was regarded as an un-filmable something, Zack Snyder have achieved quite a bit with his ‘Watchmen’. I mean, nobody would have expected it to be better than the comic or anything, right?  Snyder was spot on with the casting. The movie is so full of good performances. Characters are addressed very well. And you know, most of the story arcs are well assembled too! For some the 3 hour length may be a little intimidating, but honestly I didn’t feel a bit bored! The narrative is so rich (again, quality of the source material) that it all seamlessly falls into shape! And then I haven’t read the comic, so that really helped me, I guess!  Anyway, I believe Watchmen is an extremely well made movie and easily deserves to be on the best of 2009 list!

The Others

Other good movies that almost made into the list (but then I was lazy to do the write up) includes Bad Lieutenant, Public Enemies, Whatever works, Star Trek etc etc.

And more importantly Movies I couldn’t watch as of yet, but can’t wait, includes Coen’s ‘A Serious Man’, Reitman’s ‘Up in the Air’, Terry Gilliam’s ‘Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasscus’ and then Crazy Hearts, Precious, Paranormal Activity, Men who stares at the goats etc.

The INDIAN Ones:

Kaminey

I honestly didn’t except such crude kickassness from bollywood. Kaminey took me by surprise and really kicked some serious ass! This is a movie with an uber cool attitude and you’ve got to respect it. More than anything, it is the Smart, witty, weird, twisted and what not sort of characters that makes the movie so special! The brilliance of Kaminey begins and strengthens with the brilliance of these queer set of characters. Well, with the twin protagonists- one with a lisp and one who speaks ‘f’ instead of ‘s’, you simply know the movie couldn’t end up being ordinary! And it doesn’t. The plot offers so much confusion and so much surprises and twists that could keep you engaged for two days! It stays to be inventively funny and smart and keeps that cool attitude, all along.  And to back this all up, we have the awesome, awesome background score (Years’ best in my opinion)! Also, every single actor delivers!  I don’t know how Bhardwaj managed such a brilliant cast. Be it Amole Gupta or Priyanka Chopra or even Tenzing Nima as Tashi, everybody feels so much like the characters they play!  And who thought Shaid Kapur could act so well?

Right from the trailer, Bhardwaj have hinted upon heavy influence from Tarantino and the likes. Inspiration, with regard to Bollywood, usually means plain simple replication of story ideas and even scenes. But not with Bhardwaj and his Kaminey! Like what Tarantino would do, Bhardwaj digs up old Hindi classics and subtly pays homage through his characters and plot scenarios! Also influences of Tarantino, Coens and Guy Ritchie can be felt in the framing of shots and setting up of tense sequences etc. And all of that works out quiet brilliantly too! All in all, Kaminey was the best hindi movie of 2009 for me. This is what you call a real fun filled filmy rollercoaster ride!  And I‘ve enjoyed every twists and turns and falls and rises in this ride! Yay!

Dev D

Anurag Kashyap is on his way to becoming the most acclaimed Indian director, internationally. And within 10 years time, that is very much possible. At present, he certainly is the most innovative young director in Bollywood (And here is me standing with Kashyap, eat that! 😉 )! By doing a movie in the context of the over used ‘Devdas’ novel and by absolutely redefining it into something utterly original, Anurag Kashyap is actually screaming out loud to his fellow film makers about the need for some sort of a change! He thrashes down all the previous melodramatic renderings of Devdas and moves on to prove that he is the real thing! And in this brave quest, his lead actor Abhay Deol becomes his greatest supporter! Abhay delivers the most solid performance of the year as Dev D. And not just Abhay, Mahie Gill and Kalki Koechilin, the two fresh actresses found by Kashyap himself, also excel in their roles. AK also gets as experimental as he could with the narration, the visuals, the dialogues and the use of music (which is particularly brilliant) etc. And as a result Dev D ends up being an extremely interesting piece of cinema. Never before did a story about a perennial loser like Dev D felt so much appealing! Damn, right now I need to watch this movie again!

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja

Pazhassi raja is a really important movie for the present day Malayalam film industry. It is like Avatar for the Hollywood. Okay, may be not that big, but still really big. What our veteran director Hariharan have achieved through his 2-3 years long hard work is just something phenomenal. Other film makers should really learn from it. On a technical level, Pazhassi Raja stands above almost every other Malayalam movie till date. It is also probably the one movie that has made the maximum out of its large budget. You see so many movies these days, with this tag of a ‘Big Budget’, but in most cases none of them actually makes any sense. Pazhassi raja is different from all that.  Based on the M.T Vasudevannair’s masterful (yes, masterful!) script that strives to stay as close as possible with actual history of Kerala, the movie patriotically reminds us of our forgotten hero – Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja.  M.T interestingly arranges the life and struggle of Pazhassi Raja against the British and Hariharan visualizes it in such the grand scales. The movie also has towering performances from such talented actors like Mammootty, Thilakan, Manoj K Jayan etc. Art direction, editing everything looks exceptional! More than anything Pazhassi Raja is a war movie and the makers have made no compromises whatsoever, to make it more arty or anything. It just has got more action and thrills than what you would expect. And on another side, Pazhassi Raja is not a movie without flaws. It has got several flaws, especially some irritating ones in the department of action choreography. But I ‘am ready to overlook all of them, just for what the movie has dared to achieve. Pazhassi Raja is Malayalam’s very own epic and I felt really proud coming out of the theater! That’s all that matters!

Kerala Café

Inspired by Paris, je t’aime, Director Renjith and his friends have brought together Kerala café as a collection of ten beautiful short films vaguely based on the theme of travel. And except for two or three pretentious ones that failed, almost all of these short films are impressive. They entertain, disturb and shake you on different levels. Island Express by Shankar Ramakrishnan, Bridge by Anwar Rasheed and Puram Kazchakal by Lal jose were the best ones on the list. Such novel efforts are the need of the hour as far as Malayalam cinema is concerned and Kerala Café I believe is a good beginning in taking Malayalam cinema back to world class standards!

The Others

In hindi, other movies that almost made into the list includes Luck By chance..err only that one and then there are movie I couldn’t watch as of yet, which includes Gulal, Wake Up Sid, Rocket Singh and 3 Idiots .

In Malayalam, the one movie that almost made it into the list would be Neelathamara and the ones I haven’t seen include movies like Bhoomi Malayalam and Oru Pennum Randannum etc.

And thus we’re at the bloody end of this unnecessarily long blog post. I would really like to know what you guys thought about the movies of 2009. Also, Wishing you all a good time at the cinemas and a happy new year!


A-Z Movie Meme

December 24, 2008

movie-poster-collection

Ok. This is a fun ‘Meme’ which I stole from ruhi. The idea is to list out all your favorite movies in the alphabetic order. Quiet simple, but fun. Fun because there is no complication of rating one movie over another and such stuff. So here we go…

A is for Annie HallWoody Allen
The woody Allen favorite. Sincerely funny and smart! I think this movie is the best  prototype to the entire work of Allen. Love this guy!

B is for Bicycle theivesVittorio De Sica
Pure Classic and Beyond any words! ‘The more you watch it the more you love it’ kinda stuff!
B is also for The Big Lebowski
–Coen Bros.
True inspirational stuff! I ‘am aware of the irony here but the dude is simply too cool!

C is for The Children of Heaven– Majid Majid
The language of the film is surprisingly simple and touching. A movie that can be watched again and again.
(or The City of Gods)

D for Dr. Strangelove– Stanley Kubrick
Arguably one of the Kubrick’s best work (Space Odyssey is not being avioded. It is  considered as something much much above any catogarization!). Quoting one review in imdb- “the only movie that will make you laugh at the end of the world!!”
D is also for Desharadham – Sibi Malayil (Malayalam).
Beautiful movie and one of the finest performances by one of the finest actors in the country- Mohanlal.

E is for The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind– Michel Gondry
An extremely well constructed romantic sci-fi (or whatever you call it)!
(Or The Edge of Heaven)

F is for Fight club– David Fincher
Get ready to resurrect yourself with the fight club! This movie was almost an addiction for me at a stage. Tyler Durden is truly one of the best movie characters ever.
(or  Fargo or Following)

G is for Goodfellas– Martin Scorsese
Arguably Scorsese’s best work. Intense.  Joe pesci is unforgatable. Truly a priceless piece of art.
(Or The Good the Bad the Ugly)

H is for Heat– Michael mann
Its Pacino v/s De Niro Like never before. And also Mann’s craft in conceving crime saga is most evident here.

I is for Iruvar (Tamil) – Mani Ratanam
Mani ratanam’s best. Mohanlal’s best. Exceptional cinema.
(or In the mood for love)

J is for Jackie Brown– Quentin Tarantino
De nero with  QT. What else do you need? Excellent OST too!

K is for Kill Bill Vol 1&2– Quentin Tarantino
Pure Tarantino magic again. Extremely well etched out cinematography, fighting sequences, Bgm etc.  And the intensity of Uma Thurman! Well you seriously can’t ask for more.

L is for Laberinto del fauno, El (a.k.a Pan’s Labyrinth) – Guillermo del Toro
A movie which restructured the genre of fantasy movies, well at least for me. A haunting Experience. Del Toro is simply too innovative.
(or Life is beautiful or L.A Confidential)

M is for Memento – Christopher Nolan.
One of the most intelligently constructed movie ever. An unbelievable work by Nolan. Also one of the most inspiring work of art for me. I mean how could people create movies like this?
(or Moonam pakam (Malayalam)- Padmarajan)

N is for No Country for Old Men– Coen Bros.
Simple, powerful and breathtaking. Coens at the top of their craft.

O is for Oldboy– Chan-wook Park
From the beginning till the end a breathtaking thriller. And these Korean actors,  they are simply awesome.
(or O brother where art thou– Coen Bros.)

P is for Pulp Fiction– Quentin Tarantino
A movie which essentially changed my outlook on movies. QT at his best. Travolta, Bruce Willis, Samuel Jackson all at their best. One hell of an experience.

Q is for ‘Ask them to make more ‘Q’ movies’!

R is for Requiem for A Dream– Darren Aronofsky
An intense take on drugs, loneliness, love and human resistance and much more. Aronofsky  is a genius.
(or Ragging bull or Reservior Dogs)

S is for Saving Private Ryan– Steven Spielberg
Exceptional again .Spielberg is too good when he makes movies like this.  The cast is also great. I love Tom Hanks.
(or Schindler’s List or Sandesham (Malayalam) )

T is for Twelve Monkeys – Terry Gilliams
One of the best time travel movie I have seen. Beautifully and intelligently constructed. A thrilling experience.
(or Taxi Driver)

U is for Untouchables– Brian De Palma
A perfect classic style crime saga.

V is for Vertigo– Alfred Hitchcock
A murder mystery that is so much more than what it seems to be. The tremendous depth in the characters of the movie is just awe-inspiring. Greating acting too.
(or Vanaprastham(malayalm)- Shaji  N Karun)

W is for Wall-E– Andrew Stanton
Pixar movies seems to be getting better with each new one. Really lovable characters and enjoyable plot are mostly their highlights. Wall-E is no different.

X is for X-men- The last stand– Bret Ratner
The best ‘X’ movie I guess. 🙂

Y is for Yojimbo – Akira Kurasowa
A great example to the great story telling talents of Kurasowa. Beyond any distinction of generations, languages and cultures. Like almost all of his movies. Maybe the ‘coolest’ movie from Kurasowa. Loved it. Totally.

Z is for Zodaic– David Fincher
I think it is the fascination of an ongoing case being made into film that differentiate Zodiac from other movies. The true essence of the original happenings can be felt in the cinema and hats off to Fincher for that. Needless to say I love this man and I love his movies very much.

Uhh….The Longest post ever! I should have been really mad to write this all up! Shit!

P.S: One important point to be noted here is that the priority was given in finding and assigning at least one movie for each letter. And hence this may not be quiet the  list of my favorite movies. There is a slight difference between the two.

I would love to see  more people doing the meme, by the way!


A Day With The Director

December 17, 2008
Unni, Me, Arun, RENJITH, Hari, Damu

Unni, Me, Arun, RENJITH, Hari, Damu

When we reached Tiruvandapuram at morning 4 0’ clock nothing had any amount of certainty. Standing in the packed train for more than four hours to reach here, had already made us tired to death. The plan is to meet the acclaimed writer-director Renjith for an interview for the college magazine and to have some good fun at the ongoing international film festival of Kerala. Except for that plan, everything was in perfect chaos at that point of time. The friend who had an uncle, who supposedly was arranging everything for us, was not even available on the phone. Our expectations were quiet low and we were completely prepared to get kicked in the ass.

It all began when we heard that our college magazine has got three pages reserved for an interview every year. Since the editor was a guy from our own hostel, we made sure that we will do the interview this year.
Since then we had kind of elaborate plans and all such stuff. It must have been several months now. We tried to contact Renjith on phone but failed many times. So, everything was in ‘out-of-the-hands’ state when last day suddenly I got a call from my friend. He said Renjith had agreed for the interview on 15th morning 8 o clock (that was a day after tomorrow then!) at Tvm. It was 200+km and just one day ahead. Wow!

The plan was to make the questions for the interview while in the train during the 4 hour journey. But the train was fucking too crowded. Not even enough space to stand straight. Fantastic. Also some friends called telling that they probably couldn’t make it.

So now we stand at the capital city perfectly unaware of anything that’s coming our way.
Square one state!

After some 2-3 hours came the Friend’s phone call. Things gained pace with that. The vagueness started to disappear and to our own surprise, everything started to get into an order. At 10 o’ clock morning, we finally talked to the man on phone and he asked us to come. The venue was a theatre. Two of his movies were going to be screened today and he was awfully busy. We found him in the middle of a group of some top shot directors of Malayalam. Now, assuming our excitement level is your job!

Renjith

Interview lasted for something like one hour.

The man was just electrifying. He started to give elaborate answers to each of our questions with such ease and frankness. He suddenly took the control of the whole deal going on. We felt a particular warmth and love in the way he reacted. We felt valued!

It was a cricketer’s delight at his maiden century or a child’s excitement on being at the top of an elephant or the  ecstasy of the lost at being heard. It was beautiful. May be the interview wasn’t that good. But when we finally walked out of the place for some food, we felt really good.

Then there was a bunch of worthy movies to watch at the IFFK. But bad luck for us there. A pass was required to watch the movies and what did we knew. We went to watch Priyadarshan’s Kanchivaram, and were surprised by the huge crowd there. We understood that it was impossible without a pass and peacefully roamed around the city talking a lot of photographs and gradually started back home by noon.

It was still a worthy deal for us anyway.

I will post the interview (which was in malayalam) after our college magazine comes out. The photos are strictly copyrighted.


Akashagopuram

August 23, 2008

 

Inspired from the Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen’s famous play, “The master Builder”, Aakshagopuram is a Malayalam movie set in the back drop of London. This one has got a Global nature in almost all its aspects, and it is the first of its kind in Malayalam Cinema. It also features an international release.

Talking about the film, I ‘am not sure, if there have been a better film adaptation to a ‘play’, in the entire Malayalam film history.In fact Malayalam cinema have never cared to adapt from literature, neither Malayalam literature nor any foreign literature…

Albert Samson(Mohanlal), the movie’s protagonist(the master builder), is one of the most powerful characters created in Malayalam cinema over the last few years…As Mohanlal himself said, there is immense number of shades to his character…and his portrayal of the character, is just magical…the subtlety he express in each of his movement…the body language…the way he brings out all those restrained emotions…..all these seems too surreal. Don’t know, if anyone else in Indian cinema could do justice to this character.His involvement with character is simply awesome….he seems to have enjoyed playing every bit of this character…

The movie is completely about this one character- Albert Samson, his rise and fall in his profession, as a human being, his fear of the younger generation, his greed, his love, his desire…

To make a convincing and faithful adaptations to one of the world’s greatest writer’s masterpiece work couldn’t have been that easy. The point is that KP Kumran has done it masterfully. He was completely successful in keeping the essence and depth of the original…The movie is just 1hr 45 min and there is not even a single unnecessary scene.

The technical side of the movie is at such heights, where Malayalam cinema could never reach, up till now. Combining the best technicians from west and east, the movie looks too rich. The technical brilliance of the film just adds to its perfection. All such achievements make sure that finally we can proudly show one of our Malayalam cinema, to the world.Camera and art was done brilliantly. Felt some minor faults with the editing, which however is easily forgettable…

The music is yet another highlight. The veteran Hollywood music composer John Altman (Titanic, Shall we dance…) has done the film’s music. The part music played in creating the mood required for the film is inevitable. Sound design is also done by a biggy, Niegl Holland (Batman Begins, Brave heart…).The films music will surely stay with you…

The film is highly symbolic and there is definitely a lot of things in this small (in length) film…it all depends on how you look at it…like all classics…the film will be rewarding only if you are ready to give it, it’s due respect..

The Reception for this movie in Kerala, is however a sad thing. One of the costliest Malayalam movies is now running in the theatres without much audience. The movie is widely being marked as an art film and many are keeping away from it. I don’t expect such movie to run in packed houses from day 1, but surely it demands more respect.

Kerala is the place which has produced many masterpiece movies in Indian cinema and also many geniuses in the field.But the present condition of Malayalam cinema is pathetic. The quality of the Malayali audience is also degrading.

This movie wouldn’t be a box office success. But true movie lovers should watch this film (with the right inclination). And, for this acting legend-Mohanlal.

As for me, this movie was far beyond my intellect, and hence was a great enlightenment (I would have to watch it many times to understand it more). It made me so happy, mainly because rarely do such things happen in Malayalam cinema.

To make a final verdict, I would like to repeat that, Aakshagopuram is one of the best play (or any literature, for that case) adaptation in Malayalam film history. Try to watch it.

A trailor: