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Captain Phillips (2013)
Rising tensions, pumping hearts and a jaw dropping ending
Paul Greengrass known for the Bourne Series and United 93 like tense, dramatized, sometimes real life events directs another movie with the same premise.
The real event of ship hijacking by Somalian pirates in 2009 is dramatized in this movie. As usual, the director rises tension levels to a fever pitch and you are on the edge of your seat in the entirety of the film. The constant cat and mouse struggle between first the Somali pirates and the unarmed crew members of the cargo ship and then between the pirates and the entire US Navy and Navy Seals is heart stopping to say the least. Two honorable mentions in the acting department. Tom Hanks as Captain Philips is impressive as always. The last 10 minutes of the movie where Hanks is shell shocked by the events was top class acting to say the least. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi who plays the Pirate leader is the revelation here. He is tough, mean and yet there is a humane side to him. He knows what he is getting into and yet he faces it with all conviction. This may not be the greatest movie to come out this year, but still it is worth a watch at-least.
Rating : 8/10
12 Years a Slave (2013)
Slavery....the greatest blot on humanity
The greatest blot on humanity ever imposed by humans was and will remain slavery. It is the lowest form of how one human can exploit another. Then it does not matter if it is sex slavery or slavery to pick cotton. 12 years a slave reminds us what some of the previous generations of humans had to go through just to survive.
Based on 18th century America, it is the true account of a free black man and how he is tricked and sold into slavery, separated from his family for a period of 12 years and how he survives those gruesome times. Faced with different experiences of kindness from one slave owner to absolute inhuman brutality from another, the protagonist manages to hold his ground facing adverse conditions. Some of the scenes portrayed in the movie are so gruesome and inhuman, you want to turn your face away from the screen. The act of considering another human as an animal just because he/she is of a different skin color comes as normal as sunshine on a summer morning to the white antagonists.
Acting is one of the strong points here. One of the few movies, where each and every actor plays his/her part almost brilliantly. The protagonist black man played by Chiewetel Ejiofor is a revelation. Surely, the front-runner for this years Oscar Awards for best actor. Michael Fassbender as the cruel slave owner disgusts you so much, you want to kill that bastard. The passion for cruelty which he portrays is awe-inducing. The simultaneous innocence and weakness portrayed by Lupita Nyong'o as Fassbender's sex slave leaves you teary-eyed. Definitely, the break-through performance of the year. A Small role by Benedict Cumberbatch and a cameo by Brad Pitt are perfect. This was the first Steve Mcqueen movie I saw, and I am totally looking forward to complete watching his filmography. Overall, a must watch movie.
Rating : 9/10
Way Way Way different than any Kurosawa movie I have seen
All the Kurosawa movies I have seen yet were either samurai based or mythological. Ikiru is way way way different than all those movies. To begin with, this is the most philosophical Kurosawa movie I have seen explaining life and death.
The movie is about an aged bureaucrat who has not taken official leave for 30 years, lives his life almost like a robot or a mummy - lifeless. His life takes a massive turn when he comes to know that he has about 6 months to live because of a terminal stomach cancer. The things he does in the remaining part of his short life constitutes the movie. The movie is not only about living your life, it also states that one does not need to party 24/7 or go travel the world for the remaining life-span to enjoy it, if one does the work given to him in the most honest way and enjoys it, it leads to a fulfilled life. The movie also talks about the petty politics that takes place in the low-level bureaucracy in any government system.
Takashi Shimura has been in all the Kurosawa movies I have seen. The difference though was those movies also featured Toshiro Mifune who always hijacked the movie and fairly so. This movie was meant for an aging actor who you would not even consider if he stands next to you. Takashi Shimura fits the bill perfectly. He has done a splendid job. Sometimes though, I wanted to shout and say, 'Why are you silent, slap your son and tell him your illness'. His portrayal of helplessness forces one to do so. Bollywood classic movie Anand can be said to have inspired from Ikiru. Enough Said.
Rating : 8/10
1927 - A revolutionary year in cinema
The year 1927 was historic and monumental not only for silent cinema but for cinema as an entity. Metropolis and Sunshine were released that year and it changed the way movies were made. Both had German directors. Sunrise is not only a revolutionary movie but it is also an emotional ride of love, lust, jealousy and redemption.
The technical advancements in this movie are huge. For example, the scene where the woman from the city shows the village man dreams about the city. The super-imposed shot of the city over the village river was unique. Another example is the ghostly image of the city girl over the man's body to show that she has the influence on him was also pretty breath-taking. Another good thing about the movie was that the actors refrained from too much melodrama and over the top reactions which was the norm of the day. They were pretty normal and reacted as a normal person would react. That was another thing which makes this movie unique.
Rating : 8/10
A very matured take on lessons of life.
The time period of our lives when we are the most susceptible and the most vulnerable to lessons of morality, differences between good and evil, death and life is childhood. But, the society norms say that childhood should be protected from all these thoughts. The White Ribbon challenges these norms and says the right time to discuss these things openly is from a very tender age. Hence we see a detailed discussion about death between a 13 year old girl and a 6 year old boy, where the girl says 'I am going to die, even you are going to die someday'. The level of maturity shown is very commendable.
The movie basically is about a pre-world war small town in Germany governed by a baron, pastor and a doctor who are powerful people holding moral and religious high grounds in the village. Some oddly weird things start happening which change the dynamics of the village and are felt mostly through the eyes of the village children. Narrated by the village school-teacher, the movie encompasses the life of several village families and more importantly the family children.
The director has used black and white as a medium to tell the story and it is extremely effective. Another unique quality of the director is his non-dwelling in scenes. He doesn't want the audience to linger in a particular scene for too long. Thus, sequences happen thick and fast and sometimes, you may loose track of what was happening (Thank god for the rewind button). Nevertheless the movie rakes the issue of violence and it's effect on children and the issues of morality and how they should be handled pretty effectively.
Rating : 8/10
Un chien andalou (1929)
The most famous short film ever
The most famous short film ever. Bunuel's first creation in association with his friend and fellow surrealist, the great Salvador Dali is a plot- less sequence of events having a psychological and religious undertones. There are some epic scenes which may also make you cringe but they are simply outstanding as an end product. The association of certain scenes to religion and culture is simply out of this world.
This film may not be understood in one watch. I read some popular reviews and analysis of the movie to finally understand the greatness that is Un Chien Andalou.
Rating : 9/10
Human behavior can be more frightening than horror movies
Director : Lars Von Trier
I have not felt so many different emotions after watching a movie for a long long time. Dogville is brilliant not only because it's shows us the frailties of human nature, but also because it does not shy away from showing the methods to deal with them.
The opening shot itself grips you and then you are hooked to this 3 hour movie, which is not in any way a deterrent, because of the way the movie is narrated and it's theater play like filming. The movie is narrated in 9 parts along with an prologue, in almost a novel like flow which encapsulates the mind of the viewer till the end. The parts are precisely named and described which helps to know exactly what to expect ahead, still it manages to shock you. The director decided to shoot the entire movie on the stage using stage props and lighting. It may seem weird and hard to accept initially, but the lack of a proper location, is advantageous for this kind of cinema where more focus is given to the human emotions.
The variety of human emotions and the complexity of human relations is the most shocking and revelatory part of this movie. How do humans exploit other human's weakness and unleash the hidden vultures from inside them is shocking to say the least. There are so few characters in the movie which are confined in such a small place, that you cannot help but feel the hostility. How can anyone survive this place is the thought that lingers in the mind as new chapters keep unfolding. This is one of those movies where the human behavior is so scary that it will haunt me for some days even more than a ghost horror movie could. The ending is also such that will leave anyone short of words.
On the acting front, Nicole Kidman may have played the greatest role of her life. The variety of emotions she portrays is applaudable. You sympathize with her but also hate her for bearing all this and being "too" good. In the climax, I felt like giving her a standing ovation and then felt bad about myself. It is that kind of a movie. The other cast has also played their parts to perfection and everyone will remain in your thoughts after the movie ended. Was good to see screen legends Lauren Bacall and James Caan after a long time even though in minuscule roles.
In conclusion, I would want to ask one question, would the movie would have been any different if the fugitive seeking a refuge would not have been beautiful Nicole Kidman, but a middle aged man, or maybe a less attractive woman? Anyways, this movie will linger for some time at least in my mind.
Rating : 9/10
La battaglia di Algeri (1966)
Not only part of movie history, but world history
Independence, Rebellion, Guerrilla warfare, military exercise, propaganda, state sponsored torture, clashes between local civilians and foreign tyrants. This may have been the history of most developing countries in the world. India can be a bright example. But, I have not seen a finer depiction of a rebellion for independence than this movie. I would rate it along with Battleship Potemkin, as the best propaganda movie, I have ever seen.
The specialty of this movie is the way it is filmed. Black and white cinematography which also gives the impression of a documentary. I really thought, I was watching a documentary in History Channel than an actual movie. Editing is crisp as well, which really helps in not lingering in the death scenes which is the case in many other movies. The movie does not have a single protagonist or antagonist which according to me is the victory of the movie.
I am so glad I watched this movie as not only a part of movie history, but a part of world history as well.
Rating : 9/10
Topio stin omichli (1988)
Landscape in the Mist (1988)
Dir : Theo Angelopoulos
This was my first Theo Angelopoulos movie and also my first Greek language film. Had read about Theo's movies earlier and viewed how it sparked polar opposite views. Some called his movies masterpieces in the sand of time. Some called them excruciatingly boring and a waste of time. I decided to find for myself. So decided to watch Landscape in the mist which was universally accepted as a masterpiece and for good reason.
Plot is about two kids wandering through the landscape of beautiful Greece to find their father which they imagine lives in Germany. It is about their experience, the people they meet and their ultimate coming of age. The movie is filled with strange and bizarre circumstances all throughout. In one scene, the director has depicted the joyful dance parade of a marriage in the background while a horse moans to his death in the foreground. That to me was one of the most perfect illustrations of life itself. Joy and sorrow being internal to life is the message he symbolically wants to put forward. There are other symbolic scenes as well, most prominent of which is the floating hand of a statue in the river. As a chopper pulls the hand out of the water and takes it across the highrise buildings it shows us how Ancient Greece and modern Greece have collided. The cinematography I must say is mesmerizing. The Greek landscape is extremely well depicted and could be an advertisement for Greece tourism. Theo's distinct style of lethargically reminiscing a scene is put forward here as well. He dwells and dwells over scenes. That may put some people to sleep. Overall, an exemplary movie which needs more recognition.
Rating : 7/10
The Wind (1928)
An ahead of its time movie
As the movie name suggests, the Wind plays a very important role in this silent Western. The Wind can be taken as a symbolic depiction of the mood and the mind of the lead actress. The story of an Eastern lady coming to the old, wild and windy west where the nearest neighbors are about 15 miles away. She has to adjust not only with the un favourable windy weather but also with the unfavourable nature of people around. I would call this a path breaking ahead of it's time flick with a very sophisticated message for that time. Add to it, some genuinely good camera-work, and this movie is an instant classic. For Western fans - This is not a typical western, the only action you will get is the turbulent mind of the actress trying to adjust with the turbulence around her.
Lillian Gish was the silent movie superstar and also has the distinction of working for the maximum number of years in movies. She is what I would like to call an ice cold beauty. She is the soul of this film and has depicted the emotions pretty well. I would suggest everyone to watch this movie once.
Rating : 8/10