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'Real men always treat women with respect'
My other lists: • My Ultimate Best Horror Movies • Best Sci-Fi, Superhero and Fantasy Movies: 2000-2013 • My Ultimate Best Movies: 1900-1999 • The Best Shows on Television • The Greatest Actresses of All-Time
I have to mention that this list only comprises of movies I've watched/re-watched since 2008. So, if you don't see some of the classics like Aliens, Rosemary's Baby, Frankenstein, etc, you now know why that is. I'll add them as and when I re-watch them.
You can check out my other lists here:
Here are my other lists if you're interested: • My Ultimate Best Movies: 2000-2013 • My Ultimate Best Horror Movies • Best Sci-Fi, Superhero and Fantasy Movies: 2000-2013 • The Best Shows on Television • The Greatest Actresses of All-Time
The following list of women/females may not be at their best in every movie, but that is mostly because of the writing and execution. They have evoked admiration from me because of their superb acting in one work or the other. The order of the following list is random.
Note: Totally subjective and has only those actresses I've seen in movies/tv shows.
The Artist (2011)
A celebration of the silent era
It's 1927. Arguably Hollywood's most admired movie screen idol, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), is enjoying the success of his latest picture, The Russian Affair. He enjoys his work and the adulation he receives by being a movie star, as witnessed by how he hogs the spotlight during The Russian Affair's post-premiere bows. Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is an aspiring young actress, who literally and figuratively runs into Valentin at the premiere, which ends up being the launching pad to her Hollywood acting career through bit parts. The advent of talking pictures brings a reversal to their fortunes as Kinograph, the movie studio where Valentin is under contract, is looking for fresh faces such as Peppy Miller to star in their talking pictures, while Valentin resists the entire notion of talking pictures. Peppy, who appreciates everything that Valentin did for her career, tries to help him as much as she can, but Valentin may have to decide on his own where and if he fits into the Hollywood machine, one where he doesn't think people want to hear him speak.
A celebration of the silent era and I can surely see why it won the Oscar. This represents everything that Hollywood loves and has nostalgia for. Jean Dujardin brought his character's joy, pain, pride and the love for another woman who wasn't his wife to perfection on screen. Surprisingly, Berenice Bejo's Peppy was a heart stealer and is one of the best performances of the year by any actress. All the supporting actors like John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller (though her character was painfully one-dimensional) and others are fantastic. The music, the costumes, the sets, the execution were all great. I especially loved the metaphor when George taps his bottle onto the table and he hears sound and he can feel his career vanishing away from him. That was simply marvellous to behold and I was so in awe of that scene. The whole movie is well put together, but my only gripe is that it isn't daring. The movie doesn't do anything that hasn't already been done before and the ending is far too sweet and saccharine and very wishful for the tale its telling and that it has no worthwhile commentary to offer for what happened to many of the stars from the silent era who didn't have such a happy ending to their own tales. But, the movie is unoffensive and I do think The Artist deserved the honours bestowed upon it since its so infectious and charming.
Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser) is a socially awkward, geeky, over-zealous man working a dead-end technical support job in a San Francisco computer company. He has no friends and his co-workers are always avoiding him because of his banal and embarrassing attitude. He has a crush for more than three years on his colleague, Alison Gardner (Frances O'Connor), but lacks the courage to ask her out. After Elliot is again ditched by his co-workers, at a bar while trying to talk to Alison, he says to himself that he would give anything for Alison to be with him. Satan (Elizabeth Hurley), in the form of a beautiful woman, overhears him and offers to grant Elliot seven wishes in return for his soul. If his wishes weren't going the way he wanted, then he could give her a call by dialling 666. Obviously, it doesn't go his way.
Brendan Fraser plays a Mexican drug lord, an overly sensitive guy who cries watching sunsets, a dumb basketball pro, a suave and smart gay gentleman and Abraham Lincoln among others. He brings some charm to his multiple roles which in another actor's hands would have been completely insufferable. But, there wasn't enough consistency in the writing where the laughs were few and far in between. It was fun to watch Elizabeth Hurley's Satan who was smoking hot and helped the movie from getting too boring. Her assortment of jobs involved a teacher, nurse, night club owner and others. From a prurient perspective as well as from an entertainment point of view, she was great and looked more like an embodiment of Lust rather than Satan. Though I do empathize with Elliot wanting the love of his life, one can't help but imagine how much more awesome it would have been to have Satan, especially one as ravishing as Elizabeth, as a girlfriend. Frances O'Connor doesn't have much to chew scenery with other than being the standard pretty girl here, though she did make me laugh with her 'I just want a guy who pretends to be sensitive' scene. The special effects are surprisingly not that bad. Bedazzled runs on a one note joke and it gets lame very fast. It does tell a morality tale, but its not too overbearing and the ending is just as goofy and heart-warming as the rest of the movie.
No substance beneath all its glitter
In 2154, the population is divided in two social classes: the wealthy people live in Elysium, a space station with all the resources; the poor people lives in the exhausted Earth. In Los Angeles, the former car thief Max da Costa (Matt Damon) is on parole and works on an unhealthy factory Armadyne managed by the CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner). He dreams on saving money to travel to Elysium. Meanwhile the Secretary of Defense of Elysium, Delacourt(Jodie Foster), plots a coup-of-stat against President Patel (Faran Tahir), with the support of Carlyle. He programs a software that can override Elysium's data system and make any change, including the president's name to Delacourt. Carlyle uploads the software to his brain to increase its protection. Max is exposed to a lethal amount of radiation in Armadyne and has only five more days of life. He seeks out the criminal Spider (Wagner Moura) expecting to travel to Elysium, where he can use a medical chamber called Med-bay that is capable to heal any disease and save his life. Spider tells that if Max steals profitable information, such as bank accounts, from the brain of Carlyle that is on Earth. Max accepts the proposal without knowing the powerful knowledge in Carlyle's brain. When Delacourt learns that the information she needs to become president was stolen from Carlyle brain, she sends the notorious agent Kruger to hunt down Max and recover the software at any cost.
Neill Blomkamp's Elysium is absolutely fantastic to look at, but it has no substance beneath all its glitter. It creates a believable future for the residents of Earth, yet Elysium doesn't look 'lived in' and the tale that's told isn't very compelling either. No matter how noble the intentions are to implement a class allegory into the sci-fi world, this was just hamfisted all around. Not once during the film did I really feel connected to the characters, story, or action. The script was way too-heavy handed in it's themes, while the characters were all woefully under-developed. The supposedly dangerous infiltration into the world's safest entity, Elysium, which has its own robot army, was breached so successfully without any defense measures when the protagonist wanted to. This is the kind of superficiality that hinders most sci-fi movies. In principle, this is the kind of movie I usually root for, but Elysium has mediocre acting, awful dialogues and one-dimensional characters along with a far-flung and completely illogical (within its own conventions) third act for me to support it. I like District 9, but don't worship it like its superfans, but this is miles apart from that movie. The only way to enjoy it is to turn your brains off and even that may not help its cause too much. Ideas don't make the movie, execution does.
The Help (2011)
A charming, yet harrowing tale
Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Emma Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives and a Mississippi town turns upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families and showcase their hardships to the world. Aibileen (Viola Davis), Skeeter's best friend's housekeeper, is the first to open up to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter's life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories and as it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittingly and unwillingly caught up in the changing times.
This is yet another Hollywood output where the story of the minorities is told through a morally righteous white person, but this time its done really well. Skeeter basically disappears after setting the movie up and only appears here and there when the story requires her and she leaves the floor for the others to shine. Institutional racism is fascinating and disturbing to watch, just like the sexism of the modern world which still exists in most countries. Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), the antagonist in our tale, thinks of herself as a progressive thinker among her peers and yet her actions suggest otherwise. Her club's efforts to save the hungry children of Africa was ridiculously ironic and hilarious.
The disparity, hardships and social status of the black people just because of the colour of their skin back then isn't exploited to the maximum. The critiques hurled at this movie for not showing it is simply laughable. This is just a story where none of the women shown on screen got raped or abused, though there are various viewpoints to the term, by their white masters and one should respect the story for it and not judge based on what didn't happen to these characters. At least, this is not a falsification of history like the supposed true story of Argo. Our critics and society are unfairly critical of female-oriented and minority based movies. Nothing is more telling than the hate bashing of the Twilight movies, a simple tale told through the eyes of a girl and her love for a supernatural being.
I digress. The Help has a good story at its core, but its the strong performances by all the actors which is a sight to behold. Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her efforts, though I do feel that her pie thing, though quite funny, was done in a slight distaste unbecoming of the movie, and Viola Davis was overlooked in my opinion. But it was Jessica Chastain, whom I liked in Lawless and Mama, who surprisingly impressed the hell out of me and was nominated for an Oscar for her role here. I was thinking that she'd just be another ditzy, suburban blonde, housewife/bombshell who I'd probably hate, but there was so much more to the woman and she made me empathize with her plight against all odds. She is definitely my new favourite actress. Emma Stone was infectious in her portrayal of Skeeter and the way her character's arc ended was realistic and sad. A charming, yet harrowing tale which doesn't overplay the aspect of racial discrimination to high levels.
Django Unchained (2012)
In 1858, in Texas, the former German dentist Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) meets the slave Django (Jamie Foxx) in a lonely road while being transported by the slavers Speck Brothers. He asks if Django knows the Brittle Brothers and with the affirmative, he kills one of his masters and takes Django for himself, but treats him like an equal. Then Dr. Schultz tells that he is a bounty hunter chasing John, Ellis and Roger Brittle and proposes a deal to Django: if he helps him, he would give his freedom, a horse and US$ 75.00 for him. Django accepts the deal and Dr. Schultz trains him to be his deputy. They kill the brothers in Daughtray and Django tells that he would use the money to buy the freedom of his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is a slave that speaks German. Dr. Schultz proposes another deal to Django: if he teams-up with him during the winter, he would give one-third of the rewards and help him to rescue Broomhilda. Django accepts his new deal and they become friends. After the winter, Dr. Schultz goes to Gatlinburgh and learns that Broomhilda was sold to the ruthless Calvin Candie von Shaft (Leonardo DiCaprio), who lives in the Candyland Farm, in Mississippi. Dr. Schultz plots a scheme with Django to lure Calvin and rescue Broomhilda from him. But his cruel minion Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) is not easily fooled.
From anybody other than Quentin Tarantino, this would be their life's best work, but from Quentin, this was a little underwhelming, especially after having done the brilliantly subversive Inglourious Basterds with such perfection before this one. Here he excessively panders to his own vices, especially in the third act. The spatterfests were too silly and overlong. Jamie Foxx is inconsistent and doesn't convincingly pull off his character throughout the movie and this becomes more obvious towards the end when everything rests on his shoulder without Waltz and Di Caprio supporting him. For a movie that is all about him, he makes for one hell of a boring character and the actor wasn't able to bring many emotions that the character did require. The first choice for the role was apparently Will Smith who declined the role, and in my opinion, he would have made a good Django Freeman. Jackson was hilarious and Waltz was great as usual, but Di Caprio surprised me big time. He should have also been nominated for an Oscar for his flamboyant and sadistic performance. Kerry Washington is nothing but a damsel in distress which is consistent with the time and racism that prevailed back then. Tarantino also played two characters in the movie to hilarious effect. At the end of the day, this is a pure cinematic experience with great music and songs integrated with such fluidity along with sweeping visuals and reminds me of why I love movies so much.
The Wolverine (2013)
Starts off as a wonderful character study, but veers off halfway through
In 1945, Logan (Hugh Jackman), the Wolverine, is held in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki. During the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Logan rescues a Japanese soldier named Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) and shields him from the blast. In the present day, Logan lives as a hermit in the Yukon, tormented by nightmares of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), whom he was forced to kill at the end of X-Men: The Last Stand. He is located by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a mutant with the precognitive ability to foresee people's deaths and is skilled with a samurai sword, on-behalf of Yashida, now the CEO of a technology corporation. Yashida, who is dying of cancer wants Logan to accompany Yukio to Japan so that he may repay his life debt. The moribund Yashida offers mortality to Logan, transferring his gift to him, but Logan does not accept the offer.
This movie is completely different from any Hollywood superhero movie. Its also a hardcore and character driven movie. It definitely stands out from the plethora of superhero movies. Halfway through the movie, I was thinking to myself about how surprisingly good of a character study this was even though I could predict most of the story and some of the action was over the top. Then it all went bonkers and the strong first half was ruined by a completely contrived romantic turn. Of course, the white guy has to sleep with the first beautiful girl that he sees in another country and she'd obviously be willing to jump him. I wouldn't really blame the girl though. Have you looked at Jackman! He could probably turn me gay. But, Logan moving on from Jean in such a short amount of time and loving the new girl didn't ring true on any level, especially when he dreamt of her every night and was highly emotional for her. A stupid typical final act destroyed any hopes of The Wolverine somehow veering on to the right path. The villains, Viper and the Samurai transformer, were ridiculously cartoonish and didn't have much purpose for the final fight to take place. The less we talk about them, the better. I'd still like to re-watch this movie someday in the future and see how it holds the test of time.
My First Mister (2001)
Has its charms, but its manipulative and flawed
Jennifer (Leelee Sobieski) does not fit in. A total misfit, she's as wacky as a teenager can be. Goth-ed out with multiple piercings, tattoos, and dyed hair, she listens to strange music, watches vintage TV, eats primarily chocolate, and self injures. But now high school is over and she needs a job. In an effort to secure employment at the upscale Century City Mall in Los Angeles, Jennifer, a 17-year-old goth-punk, makes a nuisance of herself at a clothing store run by 49-year-old Randall Harris (Brooks), who eventually hires her on a trial basis as a stockroom clerk. Jennifer refers to herself simply as "J", and thus asks Randall if it's okay if she calls him "R", to which he accedes and this is the beginning of a weird relationship.
The first half of the movie is very quirky, charming and intriguing. The two actors are wonderful in their roles and make us believe in the setting. The tone feels real in the beginning and the added touch of her school being a jungle, literally, adds a dark humour to the proceedings. Feeling isolated from the other people in her life, J finds she is somehow slowly attracted to a beer bellied Randall. The first signs of stupidity reared up its ugly head when ridiculously beautiful women were falling head over heels for this homely man who had no discernible attractive traits and weren't making another appearance, save for one lady. This had to be a strong point since jealousy, or some lower iteration of it, was a major point for Jennifer to fall for this guy and it was done horribly.
Society loves to wag their fingers and act judgmental when an older person who isn't family is out with a younger kid. They don't think that they could just be friends. While the feelings between Randall and Jennifer were understandable, it just didn't feel authentic since the very basis of their relationship was contrived and flawed. Then it went to sappy melodrama with Randall having a life threatening disease and a son (played by a young Quinn from Dexter) as well. The ending was gloriously asinine with none of the adults actually caring that their teenage daughter and this middle aged man were in some sort of a very visible relationship and went a step further with Randall advising his son to take care of Jennifer. If it hadn't completely gone off the rails before, well it did now. The movie has its charms, but its manipulative and flawed.
Andar Bahar (2013)
Despite the director's best efforts to derail it, the movie still makes for a wonderful watch
Surya (Shivarajkumar), an underworld don on the run accidentally meets a charming girl, Suhasini (Parvathi Menon) in a church. While his subordinate is being treated in the same hospital that she works in, Surya starts to admire Suhasini who has her own quirky views of the world. He discovers that she has a terminal disease and would die soon. He wants to help her fulfill her lifelong wish without her knowing it and acts like an undercover officer.
In an age where most commercial, mainstream Indian movies follow a set pattern of rules and stereotypes, this was a breath of fresh air though conventional wisdoms were strictly adhered to. Even the blatantly annoying and amateur director who abused the use of flashbacks couldn't stop the movie from being completely enjoyable. Despite his best efforts to derail the movie with silly shootouts and flashbacks, the story came through in the end. Actors Parvathi Menon and Shivarajkumar (their real names and our mythology of Shiva-Parvathi amuses me) were great in their roles and Parvathi, especially, was a delight to watch and the story complemented her character. A couple of the songs are really good with Maleyali Minda being my favourite. The supporting cast with veterans Arundathi Nag and Srinath whose characters went from silly to complex were simply riveting. A good family entertainer.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
The Emperor's New Clothes
Against medical advice, Pat Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) is released from a mental health facility into the care of his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) and father Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) after eight months of minimum court mandated treatment for bipolar disorder. Pat soon learns that his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), has moved away and his father is out of work and resorting to illegal bookmaking to earn money to start a restaurant. Pat is determined to get his life back on track and reconcile with Nikki, who obtained a restraining order against him after a violent episode where he beat her lover to near death. At a dinner setup with his friend Ronnie (John Ortiz), he meets Ronnie's sister-in-law, Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a recent widow who just lost her job. Pat and Tiffany develop an odd relationship through their shared neuroses, and he sees an opportunity to communicate with Nikki through her.
I so wanted to love this movie, but it turned out to be nothing more than a case of the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome. The story doesn't have one iota of surprise and painfully follows the clichéd romantic playbook to a tee. Just imagine this movie with a woman playing Bradley Cooper's character in the same style. This movie is being praised simply because its a romantic drama told from the man's point of view and he ultimately gets his young, hot girl after a bunch of pointless, heightened stakes which is supposed to develop their characters somehow. The best part is the beginning which was really strong and after that, it all spiralled down into mediocrity. Why would you want to introduce your bipolar friend who just came out of a mental institution to your wife's sister who herself was completely nuts due to the death of her husband!
I like Lawrence and it wasn't her fault for the way her character oscillated between shrill shouting and constantly being on the verge of tears. The character was terribly written and the Oscar she got was completely undeserved, along with being in the wrong category to boot. Hers was clearly a supporting role. But hey, she's the new darling of Hollywood. The rest of the nominations are also flabbergasting since they are all mediocre across the board, though De Niro rose above the tepid writing. I do not even want to talk about the portrayal of people with disorder here, but you gotta hand it to Weinstein though, he makes great award campaigns. Generic, contrived and a mediocre melodrama with a faux happy ending.
Turn your brains off for this one
Bharath/Bachchan (Sudeep), an honest realtor, gets caught by the police after killing a police officer and a doctor. In the interrogation room, he enumerates the events that took place beforehand for him to take the law into his own hands and kill them. Bharath had stopped a rowdy (P. Ravi Shankar) from conning an old couple of their property and had gone to give a complaint to the superstitious inspector Mahesh Deshpande (Ashish Vidyarthi) along with Anjali (Parul Yadav) who was in cahoots with the rowdy. He enrages Bharath who hurts his hand by smashing the window of a car and they get treatment from an eccentric Dr. Srinivasa Iyengar (Nassar) who advises him to never eat sweet/sugar items in his entire life and stalks him everywhere and makes his life a hell. Deshpande stops the marriage of Bharath and Anjali after falsifying a video between Monica and Bharath in a jewellery store and a heartbroken Anjali kills herself. All these circumstances push Bharath over the edge and makes him murder the doctor and the officer. But, the story doesn't end there and has a lot more twists.
This is a blockbuster project for one of the best actors, Sudeep, pure and simple. Over the top action, comedy, supporting actors from different languages, cool dialogues, extravagant song and dance routines (a couple of songs are fantastic - Sadaa Ninna Kannali being my favourite) and too many love interests for the hero are all present. The first half of the movie is absolutely trippy and so absurd that if I wasn't watching with family, who were all thinking that this was a stupid movie by that point and laughing their butts off, I'd have turned it off. The characters aren't believable and they still expect us to believe that this is a fully functioning family. This movie has twists at three different points. At the final twist, they literally ask the audience to forget everything that happened beforehand. These things aren't the marks of a competent director. There's literally no chemistry between Parul and Sudeep and her jealousy whenever a girl comes close to Bharath was painful to watch. You don't marry someone you don't trust. The final part also has flaws, but it is the most well-realized aspect which gives a lot of sense to the events of the rest of the movie and makes it almost worth watching. I definitely have to re-watch this again someday to analyze it better though. You may wonder why they didn't just make the last third into a full-fledged movie since it has such potential, but that would be too much to ask. Just turn your brains off for this one.