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!
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!
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.
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 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!
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!
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!
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:
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!
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!
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!
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!