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Also The List is in no particular order!
Dark, Intense and Disturbing : A tale of wretched human motives
It is one of the best to have come out of the Kashyap factory in terms of script and characters. It is one taut, dark, intense and disturbing tale of wretched nature of the human motives and how the grand plan has it's own way of laughing at those.
Interestingly Ugly through each of it's elements will take you back to Kashyap's previous works and remind you why he is truly the king. The brilliant script writing will remind you of Black Friday, Kashyap's first masterpiece. The excellent visual treatment, even though it's not a feature throughout the film is something without which any of AK's films is incomplete. The trippy background score by Brian Oncomber is the stand out feature in the second half of the film when the film begins to approach the tipping point.
Without doubt, the hero of the film is it's characters. Rarely would you come across a film full of complex characters, where the motives of every action of those characters get automatically clear as the story progresses. You do not know what to appreciate more, the courage with which the director is bluntly showing the depraved complexion of human nature or the ease with which that has been knit in a story.The non linear nature of the storytelling in the first half brings the necessary variation which adds to the build up.
Rahul Bhat who is seen on screen after a long gap tells you why there is no dearth of excellent character actors in the country, it's just that there are not enough roles for them. Vineet Singh, aka Danish Khan from GOW, will make you cringe and laugh with the expletive chain reaction. Ronit Roy, in his second powerhouse appearance in a Kashyap production, is perfectly cast. And one performance which is straight out of life is of Girish Kulkarni, as the police inspector. There is as much sincerity in his laugh as is in his sombre face. The one liners are so on mark that you would forget that there is a reel rolling.
Surely, the film has some of it's elements similar to that of Fargo, the classic Hollywood dark comedy, but it never plays on your mind, so it wouldn't qualify as lifting. Kashyapwa has done it again. Can't believe what made them to hold the film for so long.
Dear AK, you are the dark shining light of Bollywood. Keep'em coming
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Coen Brothers' ode to the heart of a true artist
Inside Llewyn Dewis is not a quintessential Coen Brothers' movie. It ain't dark. It doesn't have cold humor. It won't stay with you all your life. But, it is still one hell of a movie. Technically, it is as good as any period musical drama character study can get.
It is a story of the journey of an artist and a celebration of a musical form, the folk music. It is about the heartbreaks and 'no breaks' that an artist can get if he is not ready to compromise his standing on the manner and style of creation and display of the art form which gives him maximum pleasure and satisfaction. Inside Llewyn Davis literally takes us inside the heart of a true artist, how fragile it is and how that fragility, those sentiments translate into his works, in this case, his voice and his music.
It is a lovely movie and thank god there was Oscar Isaac, a Julliard graduate singer actor because it is hard to imagine anyone else doing justice to the role. Carey Mulligan in her short part in the movie, once again reminds you of how she made you fall in love with her in her previous movies.
Anyone who has ever felt the need to create art and has felt a special connection between his feelings and the desired output, you are in for an amazing ride.
American Hustle (2013)
Originality, Style and Wit written all over it
David Russell is on a roll. He is reinventing himself with every movie. Thanks to his splendid filmography till date, we know that he has his own and enviable style of humor. In Silver Linings Playbook he created a new genre called serious dromcom. In American Hustle he steps up and infuses humor in a rainbow of other emotions with typical Russelesque style, a style which is shockingly original and entertaining.
A lot of credit should go to the fact that he has used his tried and tested cast in ever versatile Bale, coming of age -Cooper and one of the most promising female actors of these times in Jennifer Lawrence ( Oh! She is so lovable). She is so bloody convincing at everything she does that its almost impossible to not travel with her whenever she is on screen. Jeremy Renner as usual gets into the skin of the character without fuss and Amy Adams can take your breath away while she is trying to play seductive games with Bale and Cooper.
The USP of American Hustle does not lie in its story (it is like so many other con movies that we have seen in past), it lies in the depth and range of human emotions and behaviors that have been covered and presented with amazing ease, butter smooth camera work, epic one liners and utmost attention of detail. Respect Mr. Russel.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
McQueen's poetic justice to the menace of slavery
Arguably the most remarkable movie ever made on the freedom of human soul along with Schindler's List, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and The Shawshank Redemption. If this piece of cinema can not make one respect and value one's freedom more, only actual loss of freedom will. It is hard to watch and harder to ignore.It is unflinching and provocative.
Steve McQueen has surpassed his previous works by miles when it comes to the scope of the theme, story telling, making the audience part of his vision, detailing, replicating costumes, tenor, sensibilities of a period dating more than 150 years back. At times, when he has juxtaposed silence, motion, sound and beauty of nature with the actions of characters/situations in the movie, he reminds you of Terence Malick, just that the message here is equally beautiful yet less ambiguous and more purposeful.McQueen has not for once held himself back and as a result created some absolutely unforgettable scenes and it is impossible for the viewer to not get absorbed by those.
The casting couldn't have been better. McQueen sticks with Michael Fassbender for the powerhouse character of the movie, the ruthless slave owner. Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt are all cast almost perfectly. And with the superlative performance that Mr. Chiwetel Ejiofor has delivered, there is no doubt that we have 3 top contenders for the Oscars with Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio filling the other two spots. It would be completely unfair to not mention the young actor, Lupita Nyong'o for playing probably the most difficult role in the movie.
The background score is minimalistic but even with limited scope only Hans Zimmer could have communicated the emotions of the scenes as powerfully as they have been depicted through the visual medium.This one is a must for everyone to have in their personal library because you will surely want to watch it again
Haider: Literature on screen. 'Bard'waj's best!
So, hours after I have finished watching the best movie to have come out this year( by a margin), I am finally in a condition to write anything about it. I am going to stick my neck out and say, Haider is the best work of Vishal Bhardwaj till date.
There is no doubt, that for a story driven by passion, revenge, love and power, where emotional dispute forms the core of it, no land other than Kashmir, which has been living under the clouds of dispute ever since, would have been a better choice as the setting for the adaptation.
The film is haunting and engrossing. It seamlessly adapts Hamlet and at the same time creates unforgettable characters of its own and makes us see a complex world through their eyes. I can't recall any other film which has completely been shot in the valley and surely none depicting it in all it's glory.
The film takes off with the event around which the actions of all the the players of the movie would revolve. One gets only the first hour to get to know the basic nature of the characters as platform for the mind blowing second half is being built. At the cusp of the interval when an ever assured Irrfan Khan makes an intriguing entry, you only get a hint of things to come.
The second half unleashes on you Shahid Kapur, who for the first time in his career shows glimpses of Pankaj Kapur. Those three minutes ( you would know which when you watch it ) where Shahid displays what all he is capable of, are those you would want to watch again and again. Kay Kay Menon is now a veteran and he doesn't disappoint.The only weak link to this extraordinary cast could have been Shraddha Kapoor, but she surprises everyone with a very composed yet captivating presence on screen. The heart of the film lies in the eyes of Tabu who makes the movie as deep as the depth of her eyes and as intensely beautiful as her voice. As we hear that Vishal Bhardwaj was not ready to make the film without Tabu, you will believe it once you have watched the film.
There is no way you can expect anything short of the best from the dialogues and music, when Gulzar Saab and VB themselves are at helm and they ensure that you do not fall off track even for a moment. A cinematographer can hardly mess it up when you are shooting in paradise. After a brushstroke in Rockstar and a miniature art-piece in Lootera, we get to seethe full painting of Kashmir in Haider. There are enough funny spots in this dark tale of complex emotions,thanks to the fact that Salman Khan had long hair during the period the movie is set.
The film has various undertones which were obviously part of the play as well. It would have required a director and screenwriter who is at the peak of his direction and writing skills to have made it happen. The dexterity with which Vishal Bhardwaj has been able to pull it off shows us why he is probably the best in the business in India. I feel, it requires at least another watching before one can completely absorb the enormity of the work that has been created.
Salute Vishal 'Bard'waj. Go get Haidered because rarely do you get a chance to read literature on screen.
Dhoom: 3 (2013)
Worst is the Dhoom 3 Year of the Movie
Didn't that mean anything ?
Oh Yeah, you are absolutely right!
Dhoom 3 is exactly that - MEANINGLESS
It has already taken 3 valuable hours of my life.
It doesn't deserve a review longer than this.
Aamir Khan - You have lost a lot of respect.
Not only because you signed for this movie. But also because your acting sucked royally.
YRF - This is no way to make money.
Abhishek Bachchan - Dude, just do something else. Uday Chopra is smarter. He has already quit acting.
Cinema is dying a slow death.
A 'Beautiful' Bond Job!
You grab your seat, with a bucket of popcorn, anticipating a bond-wagon to roll you over and you see a start which is perfectly in line with that anticipation- a mad chase in a Non-British, Non-American country which provides cultural variety, crowded streets, colorful landscapes and everything one has traditionally associated with a location for a spy chase sequence. Even before you get a chance to settle in, you are asked to get ready for a trip as start credits begin to roll along with some brilliant visuals and trippy music.
I have always considered Bond movies as wholesome entertainment packages with which a lot of famous names have been associated over years. I could never see it fall in the category of serious cinema where I would want to spend a lot of time. But I was pleasantly surprised and was full of hope the day I got to know that Skyfall is being directed by none other than Sam Mendes who has created more than one masterpiece in his not so long career and is a master at slow plot building/twisting and also loves to create life like characters who are complicated,dark and layered.
Skyfall is a rare experience in itself .It is a blend of what Bond movies have stood for over five decades and what Mendes has perfected as an art. It is that rare bond movie where scenes are not exhilarating but are absorbing in nature. Here, director doesn't want the adrenaline to rush but wants your senses to go numb and flat before they surge back with a different kind of excitement. Skyfall is by far the most beautifully shot Bond movie ever. The climax sequence which is being shown to be happening at the time of dusk in some beautiful Scotland countryside location is one of the most hauntingly beautiful shooting sequences that you will ever come across. The manner in which blueness of sky and the glow of fire and bulbs complement each other is a sight to cherish. The portions shot in Shanghai and Macau are neither loaded with nor devoid of what you are used to see in a Bond flick but refreshingly suck you in the scenes through beautiful frames and lighting and most importantly a surrealistically relaxed treatment.
In times where Nolan has created the most revered anti-hero character, it is very natural that any director, how so ever acclaimed he might be would tend to get inspired by the character of Joker (The Dark Knight). It would be extremely unfair to say that Mendes and his writers drew inspiration from Joker's character while they created Silva's character for Bardem but there is no doubt that there is uncanny similarity in the development and treatment of both these characters. Javier Bardem plays a fantastically devilish ex-agent of MI6 who takes the path of cyber- terrorism to seek revenge from M, the head of intelligence wing of British secret service played by Judi Dench. She has played her part satisfactorily as required by the plot but the expectations are much higher when an actor of her caliber is cast in a production like this and that certainly is an area where Skyfall could have thrown few more punches.
Go and take a plunge in the world of Mendes's Bond. It could work for you just like it worked for me but I have a feeling that a lot of 007 aficionados would feel a little cheated.
Ladri di biciclette (1948)
Bicycle Thieves - Steals the Show, Immortally
It is an immortal classic and now I know why. What a brilliant piece of film making at display! It is close to impossible to better this piece of work for many reasons, most importantly because it would take an event of the order of WW II to be able to do that. Of course, one can recreate it through a period drama but you can not recreate what isn't real(or neoreal) anymore with the same effect.
The movie depicts the social,economical and cultural panorama of Italy(focus on the lower/middle class) which is still suffering from the after effects of the war and is trying hard to limp its way out of it. Vittorio De Sica shows it all without ever focusing on it but through a very simple story in the forefront. There is no fuss around the story, there are no sub plots, there aren't any superfluous scenes either. The plot is as simple as it gets. It's the reality of characters and the treatment given to the film that creates a winning combination. The skill of director is such that withing ten minutes into the movie, one starts to relate with the protagonist and empathise with his situation. This certainly doesn't happen because of the problems and challenges the protagonist faces. Its the liveliness and realism that each frame of the movie possesses that completely absorbs the viewer into it.
The impact of the movie is accentuated because at the center of the plot lies a father-son duo. Its a relationship which is mostly understated be it the reel life or the real, which of course opens up the possibility of multiple layers. Once there is so much screen time available for this relationship to be portrayed, magic is always on cards, all it takes is a magician who can play the tricks right from his heart and for once not keep anything away from his audiences. This is exactly what Vittorio has been able to do here. If, like me you have also seen Life is Beautiful(1997) before Bicycle Thieves ,you will constantly be reminded of Bengini's masterpiece and which will in a way amplify the goodness of the experience. The fact that the kid here was also (Just like Lamberto was not a pro prior to this role of his) directly picked from the streets gives an immensely raw and mature feel to the kid's character and that reflects directly in the quality of each scene.His expressions, mannerisms,and specially the reflexes are too real to have been directed by anyone.
The brilliance of the movie also lies in the fact that it is being filmed in the same city of Rome which has those typically beautiful Europeon streets, lanes, walls, bridges and markets. These characteristics would have otherwise perfectly catered and serviced to the tastes of people who have special liking for these but yet the plot and its presentation is so strong and gripping that one hardly gets a chance to wander away from the core of it.
Bicycle Thieves, which is nothing less than splendid till its final chapter begins to unfold, transcends into the realm of immortality within a matter of minutes with what transpires. In those few minutes, you would look at yourself inside out (there are chances you might end up feeling naked), you would see those 'moments of truth' from your past flashing past your eyes at frantic pace and you are bound to experience a range of emotions at once. This was one of the very few occasions in my film watching career where I have found myself inside the frame as the movie begins to throw the end credits
English Vinglish (2012)
English Vinglish - Beautiful Sheautiful
English Vinglish is a beautiful journey that a middle class Indian housewife takes, to regain something she lost or probably never really got, ironically enough, in a foreign land with a foreign language as a tool.
The movie has a simple plan, and audience gets to know about it right at the beginning. There ain't any surprises or twists therein to wow you, its purely the execution of a simple yet universally appealing plot that makes English Vinglish one of the most beautifully made movie of the year.
This is a sort of cinema which has traditionally been oiled with loads of melodrama and any director would have wanted to do that considering the fact that people who are going to relate the most with the central character are most prone to be pleasantly affected by the overdose of melodrama ( Yes, I am being a little 'judgemental' here!). Credit must go to Gauri Shinde for shunning the temptation and going ahead with a recipe where she was able to create delight out of right mix of ingredients rather than putting a coating of sugar on the 'laddoos'.
Make no mistake, the feel good factor of the movie isn't there just because all the pieces have been put together in the correct order but also because there are layers attached to the story and the characters. These layers help English Vinglish surpass the expectations that an ordinary viewer would have had with it before stepping into the cinema theatre. These layers have been treated with utmost care and are interwoven in the script with great skill. Even though the plot of the movie doesn't encapsulate many genres, the scenes are successful in generating a range of emotions. Thanks to the central plot, humor becomes a part of majority of the scenes and it is never forced upon you.The entertainment quotient of EV is way more than one would have expected.
There are a few sequences which could have easily gone in the zone of 'Oh, thats ridiculous!' but yet they were right there in the 'that will do all right' category and this was only possible because of masterful Sridevi who hasn't lost even an inch of her charm and she still stands way ahead of any of the contemporary actresses when it comes to the art of acting. Her presence is so overpowering that one hardly notices or gets annoyed by certain instances of manufactured dialogues and stereotypical display of characters. The journey, the transformation and its impact on the movie and the audience wouldn't have had half the quality had there not been Sridevi at the helm. Every other actor (and guest actor) plays their part well enough to create the right garnish for this savory meal.
Without taking any credit away from Gauri Shinde, everything from costumes, to music and locations to screenplay had impressions of R Balki's(producer) previous works and he would have been of great help in the making of EV as well.
The affect that English Vinglish will have on a particular individual will depend on the relationship that he/she has with the one/two women that hold the most important place(s) in their lives. The degree of impact will vary, though one thing is for sure, it will only lie on the right side of the axis.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Some Like It Hot - The Classical Comedy
There is always a thing about Classics, even before you absorb the first frame; you are burdened with huge expectations. But, Some Like It Hot is one of those jet planes where you got to tight your seat belt and forget everything else to enjoy the joyride or you would fall off your seat.
I feel casting in a movie is one of the most under discussed elements of movie making amongst general public but it plays a very significant role in the success of a movie and SLIH is the prime example of it. Apart from Jack Lemmon, none of the protagonists were known for their superior acting skills and they would not have made the cut for a Billy Wilder piece. But, in retrospect, who other than Tony Curtis who had a boyish look and at the same time possessed sharp features could have played a saxophone playing woman charmer who could cross dress to be a part of a woman band. You can only get a flawless performance from a bad actor only if he/she is playing himself/herself and that is the exact reason why Marilyn Monroe wows you in every scene of Some Like It Hot. She is playing a dumb, vivacious and vulnerable damsel who can sing, doesn't mind sleeping with a charming guy whenever she gets a chance and then dips herself in a whiskey bottle when left all alone with herself. Jack Lemmon with a broad muscular jawline was surely the one who had a better chance of getting caught as someone not in the right clothes, but that is very small price to pay, as an actor of his caliber was indispensable to the cause of SLIH. He has an amazing sense of timing when it comes to humor; he is almost chaplinesque when it comes to expressions and the confidence with which he delivers his lines puts him right at the top of stack.
I am not sure when was the concept of black humor introduced in the world of cinema, but, SLIH has to be one of the better examples from the old times where black humor is integrated in the comedy. The black humor is there only to make its presence felt and nothing more. Other than that SLIH is a fun filled journey of Gerald (Lemmon) and Joseph (Curtis), two musicians on the run from dangerous Chicago gangsters who are after their lives. They find their safe house in an all-woman band that is off to Florida for a string of performances. This is where they meet the gorgeous Sugar (Marilyn) and try their luck on flattering her. It is all about how Joseph manages to get ahead in the race and Gerald like a true friend tags along without any explaining or pleading by Joseph. This is what makes SLIH sweet. The necessary salt is added to the movie by little moments like women having a party on train, Sugar hiding whiskey in her stocking, Fielding (Joe Brown) hitting on Dalphe (Gerald disguised as a woman) and further complications that set in because of these. What makes this classical comedy special is the fact that it makes you laugh at so many occasions without being slapstick or cheap or using the chaos technique. And when it doesn't make you laugh, it makes you smile. Most importantly, the movie stays with you.
The manner in which the movie begins, it suddenly makes you wonder - that's too much of real car chasing and shooting for a black and white movie of 40's and then you realize it's done in 1959 and the movie was intentionally produced in black and white. The first scene itself is a cracker and will create a cocktail of emotions, with words like liquor, crime, party, death, music all floating around at the same time. There are plenty of scenes where the camera pans out from one object to another capturing multiple things with different moods and complexion in the same scene and that is a technique which I guess wasn't used quite frequently back then. Make-up job of Curtis and Lemmon is too good for those times and it would have been so important for that to have been correctly done as that is absolutely central to the whole plot. Marilyn's costumes are way modern and she carries them effortlessly.
Some Like It Hot is without any doubt a classic but, probably in no other movie would have the last line played such an important role as in this. The finishing frames where Joe Brown utters the unexpected leave you pleasantly surprised and I am sure it would have had far better impact on the audience 50 years back.