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These are some of my major influences over the years(work in progress):-
2001 a space odyssey
a clockwork orange
eyes wide shut
full metal jacket
hu tu tu
king of comedy
gangs of new york
the age of innocence
days of heaven
the new world
throne of blood
A story of floating weeds
WONG KAR WAI
in mood for love
No country for old men
The big lebowsky
jules et jimes
bed and beard
the mother and the whore
the dark knight
the godfather1 and 2
kill bill 1 and 2
la dolce vita
la notti de cabiria
the seventh seal
fanny och alexander
once upon a time in west
once upon a time in america
the good the bad and ugly
o luck man
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON
Punch Drunk Love
There will be blood
cul de sac
Knives in the water
Aguirre the wrath of god
the enigma of kasper hauser
sex,lies and videotape
the passion of the christ
JEAN LUC GODARD
band of outsiders
two o three things I know about her
obscure object of desire
the exterminating angels
belle de jour
the discreet charm de burgeouis
one flew over the cuckoo's nest
last tango in paris
12 angry men
dog day afternoon
school of rock
a scanner darkly
the dead zone
a history of voilence
Some of the movies that I am still chasing
the third man
chimes at midnight
Dacer in the DARK
(amongst many others)
MARLON BRANDO and DANIEL DAY LEWIS are the greatest actors I have encountered.
sean penn,jack nicholson,denzel washington,robert de niro,amitabh bachan,sanjeev kumar,dustin hoffman,leonardo de caprio,malcolm mcdowell,ralph fiennes,Christopher walken,dennis hopper,john ford,al pacino,toshiro mifune,Kamal hasan, Gary Oldman
Favourite TV SHOWS
real time with bill maher
the daily show
Dhobi Ghat (2010)
Tribute to the City
For a majority of Indian cinema audiences, films are essentially their only resort for entertainment which inherently implies escapism. Their expectations are not any different from a child being taken to local circus. Expect the child to get distracted and bored during the show if instead of the pyrotechnics of the Trapeze artists he is getting an anecdote from the Clown. With cinema in India, it is no different. The audiences want to be put into a different space preferably a more comfortable one. They want to be told how to feel and they invariably want to feel good at the end of the film. All of this would not go down well with lot of them, but in the spirit of the film, I would rather be truthful than be loved. In this climate of very limited expectations from the medium, comes a movie like "Dhobi Ghaat" which tells you a story without a plot ( 3 part structure ), without a necessarily "happy ending" in traditional sense, without the usual pomp and reverence that only the elite in this country enjoy, but just snippets from lives of 4 people and how they connect with each other in this great city.
Without giving anything away from the film, we meet Arun ( Aamir Khan ) an ambiguous, reticent, awkward, cynical and probably bored painter who has lost motivation for his work. This struggle with his work also impacts his relationships especially with certain Shai ( Monica Dogra ), an NRI, who returns to India on a "sabbatical" to discover the city. After one intense encounter, both seem to be reconciling and gauging their emotions from different view points. Then there is Munna ( Pratik Babbar ) who works at Dhobi Ghaat during day, works out at night (among other things ) and nurtures ambitions in the film industry. He is also connected to the above two characters. Now we come to Yasmin ( Kriti Malhotra ) through whom Arun and we as audience rediscover the city in all its beauty, brutality and innocence.
Reasons to watch the film : - 1) The cinematography, especially some of hand held shots, the still shots of the Mumbaikars at work. Director Kiran Rao shows great clarity, conviction and control with every frame. One is reminded of the great works of Wong Kar Wai. 2) The movie is shot on actual locations. Now, for most this might seem like a trivial comment, but it is an incredibly arduous task to shoot in the crowded locations especially with star like Aamir Khan whose presence could cause a stampede at most places in India. It is very important to capture the places in all its chaos to capture the vibrancy of the city cutting through different classes of people that reside in the city. 3) Absolutely haunting score by Gustavo Santaolalla ( of Brokeback Mountain fame ). Like any great Soundtrack, it never overwhelms the scene but underlines the essence and lingers in our mind long after you left the theater. 4) Performances by the entire cast especially a Kriti Malhotra. She is not an actor by profession which works for the film with "raw" and "innocent" nature of her performance.
I can't think of many better debuts in recent times than this one by Kiran Rao. There were so many times I was pinching myself "Am I really watching an Indian film!!". She shows great courage and maturity with her first film. There is lot to admire in her especially the subtlety and mis- en-scenes which makes the characters even more endearing. Not much is said "literally", but much of it is implied. This is her love letter to City of Mumbai. It is also not an overtly "flattering" one, but honestly embracing the city in all its fallacies. She also seems to have a stamp on every frame in the film, which reminds me a bit of one of my other favourites Sofia Coppola. Both dealt with themes of loneliness and longing in such honest and tender way.
I am not sure what it will do for Indian cinema. I am not even sure if another movie like this will ever get made. But I am glad for now. It brought me closer to my city. Sometimes you go through these very places without feeling anything. Through Yasmin I have fallen in love with Mumbai again.
The title of the film "Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford" says almost everything about the film, almost. But what it doesn't say is that Jesse James gets assassinated or murdered more than once. Jesse James embodied this larger than life Robinhood figure who was a criminal by the very definition of it and a cold blooded killer when he had to be one, but also by some accounts a committed family man who generously distributed the usurped wealth to the needy. Now, this perception may or may not be tenable, but it certainly appeals to a primal aspect of most human beings who strive for that contradiction of winning, ruthlessness, courage and fame, yet want this image of kindness, generosity and some inherent sense of righteousness. All this becomes even more aspirational when the state has failed for the people. James's folklore image could be a product of some of these factors.
Robert Ford ( Casey Affleck ) was a product of the times, a young 20 year old smitten by the image of James, collects every possible piece of literature mystifying the glamorous outlaw as he and his brother join the gang. His "fascination" with Jesse is akin to comic book fanatic idolizing his super hero, except maybe Ford had a certain innate infatuation which maybe not all would share. You want to believe that the ideal you idolize is real. There is something pure about it, not obscured by the ambiguous ideas of morality or decency. But the image is castigated when it confronts reality. This is where Jesse James gets murdered many times over in Ford's mind. As he watches, James sit alone and awkward as his brother leaves, as he sees James despondent with the failed train robbery, as James becomes increasingly paranoid, insecure and moody during his final days. But more importantly, Ford feels neglected by Jesse or not appreciated enough. Maybe all those conversation he had in his mind with Jesse as he explains to him the 12 things he had in common with him did not go according to plan when it actually materializes.
Every encounter with Jesse probably killed some part of him in Ford's mind, which by his own confession "he lost some curiosity over the years" and as he conveys to his brother of his motive to kill James "He is just a human being". I bet part of Ford also died during this time since all he wanted to do or be was Jesse James "You want to be like me or you want to be me". All the players in this dance of death were doomed from the beginning. Jesse James was in his final few days reviewing his life, trying to protect his family or cut off the possible trails but losing his peace of mind. By the end, he just wanted to be put out of his misery. Better to die as a mystical hero betrayed by one of his own which will only enhance the legacy than be caught and reduced to a trial of an average Joe. Ford had committed the act even before he pulled the trigger, Jesse was no longer the same for him. However, what he probably did not foresee, was that people still held James as the Robinhood figure and he would antagonizing them all, leading to his own end. Probably, he too wanted to end his misery, since he would only be the guy who killed Jesse James, nothing more. I feel for for him.
Andrew Dominik is one of the great talents of modern cinema who exploded on the scene with "Chopper", another story of a glamorous criminal although told in completely different tone. By his own admission he wanted to make the film, in a Terrence Mallick narrative with greater focus on tone, on images, on time and space. The film is contemplative and meditative. You can see the characters journey to the point they have to they were meant to. I shudder to think that there has been over evocative and sublime cinematography in recent years as one by Roger Deakins here. The Train Robbery sequence, as the light strikes through the dark frame reflecting from the surrounding trees will be the legacy of this great film. And lastly the score is haunting and evocative like the images almost transporting you in time amidst the snow clad mountains.
One of my all time favorites.
Peepli (Live) (2010)
Satire is always a tricky genre for directors. Always a possibility of making a mockery of a grave situation or making it too serious for the audience (especially Indian) to take it. This balancing act between the poignant and theatrical is a precarious one, which is why Anousha Rizvi's directorial debut is noteworthy. Rizvi, a former reporter/journalist from NDTV brings a more insightful approach to the problem of farmer suicides and dynamics of media coverage.
I am not a great fan of Indian cinema. But every once in a while a movie comes along that shows ambition and reach which is not reminiscent of our cinema in general. The script while focusing on the predicament of farmers also manages to bring in the role of the media and the politicians. Probably, one of the more well rounded scripts in Hindi cinema in recent times.
The plot:-" Natha a poor farmer from Peepli village in the heart of rural India is about to lose his plot of land due to an unpaid government loan. A quick fix to the problem is the very same government's program that aids the families of indebted farmers who have committed suicide. As a means of survival Farmer Natha can choose to die!!! His brother is happy to push him towards this unique 'honor' but Natha is reluctant. Local elections are around the corner and what might have been another unnoticed event turns into a 'cause celebré' with everyone wanting a piece of the action. Political bigwigs, high-ranking bureaucrats, local henchmen and the ever-zealous media descend upon sleepy Peepli to stake their claim. The question on everyone's lips - "Will he or Won't he?" As the mania escalates what will be the fate of Farmer Natha; nobody seems to care how he really feels?"
The criticism levelled out at the film inspite of the positive reviews is the lack of empathy it generates for the state of the farmers. It is a fair argument if those were your expectations from the film. My take is that it wasn't and it shouldn't be a director's prerogative to "effect" the audience. Especially in a satire, where the prime motive is to poke fun at the theatrical failure of system and its participants. Be it "Dr. Strangelove or how I learn to stop worrying and love the bomb" , "Network" , "Wag the dog", "Jaane Bhi do Yaaron" or any other great satire, I never really think the writer was conscious of establishing sympathy or empathy for the characters. Humour in life and films was essentially developed to convey some real harsh absolute truths in a sugar coated manner. We from the cities who our so pre occupied with planning our weekend, our holidays, our Diwali shopping, job appraisal etc can't be realistically expected to be social workers and understand the true plight of the farmers after paying Rs. 200 for an A/c theatre with sofa seat. It is quite incredible how insulated we are from "less privileged".
Of the performances everyone if top notch. Raghuveer Yadav is an explosive talent and I am glad he got this role. On a slight negative, the gag got a bit stretched in second half which could have been edited by 5-10 minutes. It is always a risk in a satire, when unnecessary emphasis is added on an element that audiences have understood, in this case it was of media "sensationalization". I think it was truly insightful in showing political and media nexus and how the cover stories and sound bytes are planned for. Maybe after this, people consuming the news will be more discrete.
The Dark Knight (2008)
There is haunting poetry to the narrative and characterization of Christopher Nolan in "the Dark Knight". It refuses to be reduced to just another comic book movie with actors wearing costumes and good guys fighting the evil ones. It refuses to be limited to the defined caricatures that we have seen other adaptations to do. The Batman unlike most other superheroes is not bestowed with super natural powers. He is a human being who happens to gifted with will power, money and technology but also inherits the human weaknesses and moral ambiguities. Hence, it is the most relatable super hero from the audience perspective. Hardcore comic book fanatics of all ages pride themselves on reading between the words and beyond the costumes, of being able to assess the theological and mythological undertone to these "cartoonish" comic books. I suppose Chistopher and Jonathan Nolan are two of them.
The film starts where Gotham is now under a strict vigil of the Batman. He has inspired fear among the thugs, smugglers, gangsters which has lead to an "escalation" of the battle for the city. This peculiar situation calls on a new kind of nemesis, one who is not drawn by money or power, one who can not beaten or toned down morally or ideologically, one who is driven by a certain philosophy "Anarchy", THE JOKER. In one of the performances that will define the genius of one of the short lived talents, Heath Ledger is the Joker. Nolan and Ledger play it smart by portraying Joker as an "absolute", without necessarily dissecting him. He is conniving, intelligent, driven and convincing which makes him doubly scary. The joker poses impossible moral, ethical and philosophical dilemmas to Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Batman and the people of Gotham city. It is a battle for the minds more than the city, battle of the good and evil within Batman who has his own demons.
And then there is Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Two face, who becomes a challenge, a personal project for the Joker, as an emblematic mean to propel his philosophy. The film has great dialogs that you would remember and keep thinking about even after you leave the theater. The screenplay is a bit rushed at times and story works on one too many tracks. The editing is bit shoddy at places. The Imax camera works brilliantly especially for the action sequences which are jaw dropping to say the least.
Overall, this is film, that all of us will look back on, and say, finally they got it right.
Not just the task of the Watchmen superheroes trying to prevent World War III, but also Zack Snyder who was trying to translate to film the only comic book that I can recall which was a masterpiece in literary terms . Needless to say I had very low expectations, since the previous adaptation of the same director 300 was reduced to a simplistic visually arousing film with no heart. But Watchmen is like no other comic book, its mythology and philosophy is not as abstract. It is based during the cold war when most of these moral questions were being asked, when absurd ideas and abstract notions were being put forth.
Now that I have underlined by initial apprehensions, let me assess how the movie faired in the wake of it. It did exceed my expectations to a large extent. The movie is visually stunning and captures the essence. Snyder got the tone right. It is not an upbeat story by any stretch of imagination. It is a story of superheroes in all their weakness and loneliness, in their anguish and disconnect with the people and establishment they are supposed to defend, in their pursuit for a normal life in an abnormal world.
For me the only thing that definitely didn't work was the casting. These are powerful characters written. I need some powerhouse actors to perform instead we get a bunch of efficient actors who don't do a bad job, but none of them stand out. Snyder is clearly not one looking for nuance in performance, more concerned of the look of the film. It is a tough movie to make, since the narrative will take its time, there will be intermittent flashbacks, so the audience might get restless. Snyder tries to infuse some life in the relatively dull moments with some soundtracks. Some of which fit perfectly others don't.
Please the rabid comic fan boys, please the large theater audience, it was a tough job. I think he struck the right balance tilting towards the latter. It is not an envious job. Watchmen as a multi layered comic book is very difficult to adapt to a film with the time constraints, maybe series might be more feasible.
ONE POINT:- Do you need to read the book to watch the movie? No, in fact, if anything reading the book hampers your attentiveness and involvement withing the film.
Just go for it, if you believe in it
There is a reason why I don't listen to critics or audience reactions before deciding to get of my couch go for a movie I believe could be good. It was again clarified with Knowing by Alex Proyas who gave the great "Dark City" comes back with an absorbing sci-fi that will keep you by the hook for the whole length.
Without going into the nitty-gritty of the plot, the movie revolves around the nature and existence of our being. Whether it is deterministic, derived from a defined set and sequence of circumstances or just probabilistic (randomness). It is not a unique theme but not explored in this fashion. We have seen it in Matrix, Dark City and few others. But the drama is unique to the film.
Knowing is not without some problems, especially with some of the writing as the mystery unfolds, but it is fair to say there is absolutely nothing you can preempt. Proyas is a top director and story teller and I feel comforted to submit to his narrative.
Top Sci Fi, falls short of greatness, but aspires for it and succeeds for best part.
Gegen die Wand (2004)
One of a kind love story
Here is a rare story that explores the darker aspects of Love. It can save you from self destruction, it can redeem for certain misgivings, it can provide a sense of comfort and closure but it can also lead to a path of jealousy, anger and self destruction. We learn this through our protagonists who are disinterested, disillusioned, narcissistic and suicidal. In a way made for each other and we explore their journey.
In St. Pauli, Hamburg, the alcoholic, drugged and hopeless German with Turkish roots Cahit Tomruk (Birol Ünen) lives like a pig in a small dirty apartment and survives collecting empty bottles in the night-club "Der Fabrik". One night, he gives up living, and hits his car against a wall. However, he survives the crash and is sent to a clinic, where he meets Sibel Güner (Sibel Kekilli), a younger German Turk, with suicidal tendencies. Sibel is the younger daughter of a conservative Turkish family, and proposes a fake marriage to Cahit, in order to permit her to leave her family; in return, she would share the rent of the flat, and she would cook and clean the place, and they could have independent lives. Cahit accepts, but while living with Sibel, he falls in love for her until something unforeseen happens.
The movie is based on Turkish immigrants in Germany with their rather orthodox cultural background colliding with the liberal German society. However, this disconnect that Sibel feel is more peripheral to the main love story. There are some magnificently shot sequences. The car crash with "I feel you" by Depeche Mode playing in the background is one of the best I have seen. Never has the impact seem so real, never has the "moment" of madness so beautifully captured. Faith Akin has a lot to offer to this medium.
A unique love story that is truthful and breaks every possible cliché.
Boogie Nights (1997)
One of the best of the 90s
90s was a great decade for films. We saw uprising of this whole new breed of young talent most of whom learned about film-making through movies and books. Linklater, Tarantino, Rodrigues and of course the best of the lot Paul Thomas Anderson. They brought a sense of freshness to scripts and screenplays as suppose to the zombie film schools technical writing that we were being dished out With his second venture Boogie Nights, Anderson sought to go back to his first amateur film "The Dirk Diggler" story.
For a young director, this was a tough film to make for several reasons. Can he make a film about Porn stars and the industry with nudity but without alienating the audience? Can he make a film that makes the audience connect to these characters who are more or less alien to these world? Can he make a film compassionate, emphatic and non judge-mental of these actors? Can he retain the audience interest and the pace of the film when it deals with so many characters with different sub plots? Can he re create the magic of swinging 70s? Of course will the prosthetic penis work? In many ways P.T.Anderson's task was just as daunting as that of Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) who had the ambition of keeping the audiences in the theater with an enticing story even after they "get off" on it.
The movie essentially centers around Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) who is an aspiring actor, gets discovered by Jack Horner, a porn director who considers his job an art form. Eddie then changes his name to Dirk Diggler and gets sucked in the lifestyle and relationships of the pornography industry of the late-1970s. The movie is an exercise in evolution of Porn Industry through the 70s and the 80s, the highs and lows of the characters especially Dirk. It reminds a lot of the great works of Robert Altman in its "ensemble" nature and also of Martin Scorsese in some of the camera work. Anderson is not shy and shows of every trick in his book, even the shot of camera following the girl into the pool from Soy Cuba.
The movie is fast paced, extremely funny in places, insightful in others with some of the most jaw dropping sequences one would hope to see. The sequence with Chinese crackers is out of this planet, early indications of the phenomenal talent of the man. But most of all, I feel the film is not judge-mental about any of the characters be it Rollergirl (Heather Graham, I never take my skates off), Little Bill (William H. Macy, My is wife is the back with a "cock" in her "ass"), Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) and many others who have taken this film to a new level.
Arguably one the greatest movies of my lifetime, it is a must watch for one and all.
A lost opportunity
I am not a religious person by any stretch of imagination. So even though I am in agreement with Bill Maher on basic nature and lunacy of religion, this movie was definitely underwhelming. Now if Bill Maher wants to get across his point on religion, why would he choose to talk to these dim witted fanatics. You really don't have to interview them to make them look stupid. Surely, if he was confident of his own beliefs, he would have talked or debated with more "intellectual" religious leaders or followers, at least those who can present a counterpoint, engage in a reasonable discussion. Bill Maher would have earned a lot more respect had he done that, instead they resort to cutting off people's statement, editing and interspersing it with some pop culture moments and movie scenes, to take the mickey out these guys.
I am sorry Bill Maher, you have ruined an opportunity to create some genuine discussion and reduced it to odd moments of "shitz and giggles".
I am mad as hell
2009:-As I write this reviews, I find Paddy Chayefsky's words in Network more prophetic than anything Nostradamus wrote. The television network including the news, has become a circus, a dog fight in search for higher TRPs, leading to propaganda and "bastardization" of what was essentially the means to enlightening the public with the "truth". Well the truth has been reduced to numbers. Now it is the numbers that dictate the truth.
Look at the American news network. It is entertainment. You have mad prophet in Bill O Reilly who screams from the extreme right and then you have Olberman from the left and I am just another person in search of making some sense getting squeezed in between. Look at reality television, look the WWE, it is just a reflection of what we have become, transistorized, deodorized humanoids as Paddy Chayefsky says. The film is less of an attack and more of an "expose" on reality of the tube. It is one of the great satires but not just on the television culture but on us, whose anxieties and emotions have been "tranquilized" by "corporate" nations. We have been reduced to "nothingness"
"It is the individual that is dead". It is hard to think of any other script that had the such command over its ideas, that had such genius in its tones, that had such clarity in its narrative. It is hard to think of any of any film which had such great cast and performances as Peter finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall, Ned Beatty and Cindy Creamer. I want to make special mention for Ned Beatty and Cindy Creamer. It is a clear evidence of the impact great actors with brilliant writing and direction can make even with their limited screen time. Sidney Lumet is one of the unsung heroes of American Cinema. I rank this as his best work. But the master of the show clearly is the writing. Paddy Chayefsky, take a bow. Just in awe of your writing and your vision.
Coming from India, I find this movie more relevant, since I find that America is already saturated with its television culture. India and other developing countries are the new market. I find the movie in my home country, where in search of TRPs, the news channels have reduced themselves to knee jerk, reactionary and sensationalist coverage. It is an apathy that this irresponsible medium is bestowed with such power over nation of millions.