Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Academy Awards Wishlist

My Oscar 2011 wishlist!*

Best Movie: Black Swan
127 Hours was inspiring; so was The Fighter; True Grit was good too. But the real contenders are Black Swan & Inception for the sheer fascination they provide. Black Swan beats Inception by a small margin & I ve picked it over Inception just based on an instinct.

Best Director: Christopher Nolan for Inception
Here again the contenders are Chris Nolan, Darren Aronofsky & for his brilliant tweaking & interesting presentation of a true story Danny Boyle joins the list. Considering Boyle already got his due in 2009 and for all the splendid works of the other two in their past, the toss-up is between Aronofsky & Nolan and I would like to see Nolan win it here.

Best Actor: Colin Firth for The King's Speech
Everybody around says Eisenberg did awesomely in The Social Network but to me, it wasn't an extraordinary work that deserves an Oscar. It is the stammering & complex-ridden King-to-be who deserves the statuette for his awesome & subtle portrayal in The King's Speech. James Franco's essayal of Aron Ralston in 127 Hours isn't far behind though.

Best Actress: Natalie Portman for Black Swan
No second thoughts. One must watch the film to understand why. Period.

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale for The Fighter
His was a lovable role in the film & he made it extremely lovable with his silly pranks, hyperactive reactions & a shocking makeover from his usual brawny self. The other contenders who he has pipped are Andrew Garfield of The Social Network & Geoffrey Rush of The King's Speech. They were good in their own rights but when I ve got to choose one, I would choose Bale.

Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit
Even though Helena Carter's pillar-like support for her husband in The King's Speech was pleasing, it is Hailee Steinfeld's resolve in bringing the killer of her father down in True Grit that tilts the table in her favour & the young talent gets some brownie points for her age too!

Best Cinematography: Guy from 127 Hours
The weird shots of the grand canyon; sudden tranisition to handycams & a single-tone employed for the entire film make the work stand unique. Alas, it hasn't even been nominated. Who cares! This is my wishlist!

Best Artwork: Guys from Inception
Structures turned 90 degrees; Stairs ended mid-air; Trains sped through speedways & there was a snow-clad building in a skiing mountain. If these weren't enough to fetch this for Inception, think about the huge building projections by the sea in the limbo!

Best Original Score: A.R.Rahman for 127 Hours
If there is one film among the ones in contention where the music creates the desired effect, provides an apt canopy for the canvas on screen it is 127 Hours. I am not sure if I am saying this for Rahman but I am saying this. Liberation, Acid Darbari, Touch of the Sun & Festival all express the exact feelings that the trapped man would have wanted to express. The cherry on the cake is If I Rise accompanied by the hallucinations.

Best Original Song: A.R. Rahman & Dido for If I Rise , 127 Hours
I haven't listened to songs from other nominations but 'If I Rise' deserves the Oscar as a triumph of the relatively unknown but mesmerising instrument that Harpejji is. I know it is nearly impossible but it would be great if Rahman can do the 'double whammy' for a second time!

* - I have prepared the wishlist only for categories I feel I can assess & choose the winner from.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #190

Movie: Central Station (Portuguese, 1998)

Plot: A child suddenly orphaned by an unfortunate accidental death of his mother is sheltered by a letter-writer who initially tries to make money by lending the child to an agency. She later realises her mistake, saves the child & the duo get set for a journey in search of the kid's father. The travel & the experiences it gives them strengthens their bond to mother-son levels & when she finally finds the kid's step brothers, she leaves him for good but does so reluctantly.

  • It is a moving travelogue where the two characters involved find companionship of a kind they were never able to get in life. Walter Salles's direction is perfect in bringing that out beautifully.
  • The lady letter-writer is awesome - be it with her initial crooked acts or with her emotional time with the kid.
  • The kid's smile speaks a thousand words; He's lovable & the sentiments donot go overboard which is a huge relief.
  • Nice music & photography that gel with the storyline & the scenic South American countryside are additional assets to this emotional ride.
A heart-wrenching yet feel-good experience of artistic cinema!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #189

Movie: (500) days of Summer (2009)

Plot: Tom meets Summer and for him it is love at first sight. He wooes her, she moves well with him but gives the 'I'm-not-yet-ready-for-a-relationship' verse. He's puzzled and after he explodes,splits with her and when a patch-up seems likely, she baffles him saying she isn't single anymore. For Tom, Autumn replaces Summer!

  • Romance & comedy have been presented in the right mix & a fresh and laced screenplay makes the viewing interesting.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Tom is a lovely role & The Inception man emotes awesomely to show the feelings of love, loath & confusion caused by his ladylove
  • The Summer lady's character is an interesting watch too.
  • Music tracks, a full-length dance song, comic dialogs & the friends of Tom are other highlights that add to the fun.
Enjoyable fare; An anglisised & lighter version of Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Look - #12

THE DOGS OF WAR by Frederick Forsyth
Plot: A UK based business maniac discovers the abundant presence of the mineral in demand - Platinum - in a politically unstable African province Zangaro; He wishes to dethrone the dictator there and install a new ruler of his choice so that he can get the mining rights and monopolise. He chooses a mercenary for the dethroning operation and the planning & execution of the operation by the mercenary crew form the fascinating majority of the book.

  • As is often the case, the meticulous ways of the protagonist - a mercenary Shannon here - is a major highlight of this work.
  • The way his plans are presented give us tremendous insights on to the relatively unknown mercenary operations trade, smuggling of ammunitions across the sea etc.
  • The final action of Shannon which makes him a true hero has a message which gets delivered right at the end - the last page!
After a decent enough hype, the role of the Russians as the party-poopers turn out to be insignificant at the end.

Two Line Reviews - #188

Movie: Lola rennt (or) Run Lola Run (German,1998)

Plot: A girl needs to get 100,000 in deutsch currency to prevent her boyfriend from robbing a bank & that needs to be done in 20 minutes. Three scenarios of her 20 minutes chase, differing in miniscule ways, are shown and how it changes the overall picture completely is fascinating!

  • The crazy and innovative idea of the film. The way it shows how a small act somewhere can have its effect on the bigger picture is super.
  • Lola's run. She runs , runs and runs . Yet, never becomes a bore.
  • The music that complements the film's tempo.
Some branching stories of a few characters are shown in frames which leads us nowhere.

A rollicking 'destiny-chase' ride.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #187

Movie: Det sjunde inseglet (or) The Seventh Seal (Swedish, 1957)

Plot: A knight who is in the quest of knowing more about God, his brave squire, a vagabond family living a content life, a worried peasant woman all rendezvous in a town affected by plague & during the journey from there, the knight meets 'Death' with whom he plays Chess & 'Death' gets a hold on the lot of them except the vagabond couple who escape its clutches.

  • Ingmar Bergman goes philosophical & the film is so much a weirdo stuff that some scenes remain beyond comprehension.
  • The man who plays the squire captivates with his talk-the-talk stuff. The knight man gives nice company with his confused mindset on the existence of God.
  • The supporting party keep the going alive with their roles.
The plagued lady, Jesus idol procession & some other things seem unattached to the film's course.

Abstract & heavily philosophical; Incomprehensible to a large extent.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #186

Movie: La Strada (Italian, 1954)

Plot: A vagabond gets a strange looking innocent woman as a helper for his street-shows. His anger and her innocence make co-existence difficult for the duo & his ruffian act on a fellow vagabond makes her go mentally ill. He deserts her and even after years, feels for the loss.

  • The film deals with special characters to give the positive message that 'anything that exists in the world has a purpose'. The scene between the innocent lady and the funny entertainer that stresses this wonderful point is a highlight in this Federico Fellini work.
  • Anthony Quinn as the ill-tempered traveller who doesn't know to express feelings - good or bad - acts marvelously.
  • The histrionics of the heroine who plays the innocent and strange looking Gelsomina is effective in making the viewer love the character she plays.
A touching tale on a contrasting couple.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #185

Movie: Nadunisi Naaigal (Thamizh,2011)

Plot: A kid traumatized by the sex abuse of his father & co., is later saved and fostered by a neighbour house lone lady. After a few years, dreams from his gory past disturb him and he becomes extremely possessive of his foster neighbour. He kills her newly wed husband and there the killing spree begins.
When he finally abducts a special lover, his spree comes to an end.

  • Gautham Menon proves his point quite convincingly - A film can be presented in an engaging fashion without songs and even a background score. The subject treated is quite different and has been handled deftly. Though it has shades of two famous films from the past, the film on the whole is daringly new.
  • Veera - The man who plays the psycho has done a very good job. Except a bit of over-acting in a few exaggerated scenes, his role is a delight to watch.
  • Some of the dialogues in the film stand out and so does the camera work.
  • The last half an hour or so of the film is special.
  • Most of the questions are logically answered (some convincingly, some not) but why the victims' hair is collected remains unanswered.
  • Sameera Reddy gets into the film so late that she doesn't have much scope.
Won't be liked by all; But,Surely a connoisseur's delight!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #184

Movie: Les diaboliques (1955,French)

Plot: The former and current wife of a wicked man plan to murder him to be rid off his cruelty and to save the school of destitute children he runs shabbily. The murder plan goes well but the victim's body gets lost which gives jitters to the wives and after some suspenseful moments, the case gets solved.

  • A tough and solid screenplay that keeps us guessing till the very end of the film sets up the premise for an ideal suspense thriller and lives up to it.
  • The performances of the two wives - the calm and collected first & the weak and guilt ridden second.
  • The role of the police interrogator and the twists that come towards the end.
A neatly made suspenseful psychological thriller.

Two Line Reviews - #183

Movie: Jungfrukällan (or) The Virgin Spring (1960,Swedish)

Plot: The daughter of a strictly religious couple gets raped and murdered on her way to a distant church. The criminals, accidentally, take shelter at the parents' house and when the father gets to know what they have done to his daughter, he takes on them with vigourous vengeance.

  • Ingmar Bergman's making style.An absolutely haunting treatment has been employed for a not-so-unusual story and that makes this film unique in many respects.
  • The fiery performance of the father and his practical & sensible monologue with God at the end.
  • The behaviour of the servant maid & the explanations she gives for her act.
  • The touching final scene where a spring gets sourced near the virgin girl's corpse. 
The treatment makes this a special film

Two Line Reviews - #182

Movie: The Great Dictator (1940)

Plot: A Nazi dictator Adenoid Hynkel is ruthless with his invasions and treatment of Jews and it takes a Jewish barber - a look-alike of the dictator - to explain the barbaric acts of dictators and set things right for the suffering minority.

  • Charlie Chaplin's satire and sarcastic digs at Adolf Hitler during the fuhrer's period of supremacy - Extremely gutsy.
  • The serious underlying message with a dose of super fun through Chaplin's antics. His sarcasm at the German language is terrific & also is his serious monologue at the end of the film.
  • The rivalry and fun between the dictators of Tomania and Bacteria are enjoyable.
Gutsily, seriously brilliant

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #181

Movie: Yudhdham Sei (Thamizh, 2011)

Plot: A CB CID officer takes charge of a probable serial murder case and there are two parallel tracks of killing happening; one, he feels, has answers to his sister's kidnapping too & the other, that gives him survival troubles, is connected to the other. Things get unraveled, as usual, in a flashback.

  • The core team of Mysskin, Cinematographer Sathya, Music director K. Mysskin, with his deep Kurosawa inspiration, fascinates with the way he frames even the casual scenes. The low angle shots, lamp post shots, leg level shots and the Requiem for a dream style music - all add value to the making style and it is fair enough to say that the film is technically sound.
  • Cheran's CID role's characterisation. He priorotises family over work at crucial points like anyone would do. But, I have the feeling that Cheran could have acted better. He just scrapes through the 'convincing' mark with his performance.
  • YG Mahendra, the lady who plays his wife, the eternal drunkard Judas and the lady officer do well but have little scope.
  • The mystery - the jigsaw gets solved automatically with a flashback and that is ridiculous  given the way things were shaping up with so much weight to the CID officers.
  • The flashback & climax portions were predictable and dragged a bit.
  • The horribly positioned traditional yellow-sari song of Mysskin; Unlike Vaala Meenukum & Kathaazha kannaala, it is an Irritant this time!
Loses steam after a refreshing & racy hour and a half.

Two Line Reviews - #180

Movie: The Gold Rush (1925)
Plot: This the rags-to-riches story of an innocent guy who is on a gold hunt in an icy mountain range. He takes shelter with a giant gold hunter to escape from a blizzard and when his friend finds gold, Chaplin finds his love.

  • Charles Chaplin has the uncanny knack in earning the sympathy wave of the viewer with his inferior show of self-pity & the humour he associates that with is his speciality.
  • His memorable antics in this film are - Hiding to save himself from gun barrels, dance display with meat and fork, climax hut collapse scene - which seems to have inspired the legendary MMKR climax.
An outdoor ride with Chaplin; no less memorable than his other works.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #179

Movie: Munich (2005)

Plot: A retribution team is formed to kill the terrorists who were responsible for the killing of Israeli Munich Olympic athletes. The execution of the vengeance mission makes the crew involved realise the meaninglessness of war and how a revenge only builds the rage of the fire of anger.

  • The core members of the team are characterised brilliantly. Steven Spielberg's expertise is on show with the plans, the executions, the locations to which they travel, the intermitten emotions shown etc.
  • Eric Bana as the passionate but sensible/sensitive Israeli & Daniel Craig as the passionate Israeli are the show stealers.
  • With his non chalant music John Williams, as always, gives good company to the Spielberg narrative. The murder scenes are engaging , especially the one involving the Arab fighters and KGB officials. 
A series of bombings are unsuccessful or done in public places and yet the crew escapes very easily which is tough to believe.

A slow-paced yet engaging film on a 'meticulous' retribution

Friday, February 11, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #178

Movie: Festen (or) Celebration (1998,Danish)

Plot: On a huge family get-together, the eldest son of the father who celebrates his 60th birthday unravels the shocking misdemeanours his father had inflicted upon his children and how that had led to the suicide of one of his sisters.

  • The suspenseful plot which keeps the viewer guessing on who would be lying.
  • The camera technique adopted. Stands out as a film with handy-cam style shots and some interesting editing.
  • Appreciable for being the first film of the Dogme kind; The efficiencies of low cost filming are clearly seen.
Things fall flat when twists donot happen where some should have happened.

Promising plot & making-style squandered by a damp screenplay.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #177

Movie: City Lights (1931)

Plot: A man stuck in poverty saves a wealthy man from a suicide attempt and changes his mind. The wealthy man befriends him and treats him highly when he is high and forgets him when he sobers down. Meanwhile, the hero also falls in love with a blind flower girl and in an attempt to help her pay her rent & get her eyes operated, he gets money from the rich guy who doesn't recognise him later and he gets arrested. When he's back, the girl gets back her eye-sight but her recognition of him and his love remain questions.

  • It's always Charlie Chaplin that draws a near 100% attention in his films and this one doesn't seem to be an exception. His antics, timing and humour are enviable.
  • The emotional subject dealt with. This film has inspired a lot of such sympathy-for-hero films.
  • The boxing match sequence is a laugh riot; absolutely enjoyable.
Where 'emotion + comedy' clicks bigtime!

Two Line Reviews - #176

Movie: Modern Times (1936)

Plot: A factory worker undergoes nervous breakdown because of the brutal monotony of his work routine and ends up in jail. On release, he acquaints with an orphaned girl and they face the difficulties of the times of german economic turmoil. All this and more is told in a lovably humourous manner.

  • Charlie Chaplin. This is the first full length feature of his I've seen & it is bewildering to note the amount of comedy he generates each and every second with his body language. He provides wonderful music for the film too.
  • The convincing way in which a dark and dull subject is presented in the liveliest of ways. You might not be made to laugh out screaming but the film would make you keep smiling right through its run.
  • The Jail & Restaurant events, in particular, are special.
A memorable 'Charlie Chaplin' experience

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #175

Movie: Citizen Kane (1941)

Plot: 'Rosebud' is the last word a popular individual utters and a newspaper agency is out to find the significance of it and that's how a popular story of Kane gets unveiled.Charles Kane, a man with a tremendous resolve and business acumen has another side to him - a self-centric, audacious side - which makes him lose everything he gets - his two wives, a presidential run, a huge castle he builds, people's liking for him etc. and his 'Rosebud' secret , aptly, dies with him.

  • Orson Welles' characterisation of the ruthless Charles Kane & his portrayal of the character. The illustrations showing how he thinks only about himself, in his angle, are crisp and new.
  • Joseph Cotten's role of Jedediah.
  • Wonderful camera angles employed in some of the conversation scenes.
A nice film on an uncanny,unusual character; slightly over-rated.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #174

Movie: El secreto de sus ojos (or) The Secret in their Eyes (2009, Spanish)

Plot: An assistant to a counselor, after retirement, plans on writing a novel on one of the most intriguing cases he had handled. He revives the memories on the case and finds answers to two of his most puzzling questions about it - the lost traces of the murderer; his own lost love.

  • This Argentinian film bowled me over with the intensity at which it moves. Full credits to the director Juan José Campanella for his crystal clear screenplay writing & his skills as a director are visible in the numerous close up shots and brilliant suspenseful scenes.
  • The actors - all, and I mean all of them have done extremely well.
  • The untold love story, the angst of the lover who loses his wife, the conniving nature of the murderer, the role of the alcoholic friend of the protagonist are all classy and refreshingly new.
  • The climax is special capping off a terrific tempo the film sets & runs through.
One of the very best; Probably into my 'All time top 5 films' list!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #173

Movie: Mou gaan dou (or) Infernal Affairs (Cantonese, 2002)

Plot: Two police recruits take different routes from their police training academy. One is an undercover cop who goes to work with a gangster & the other joins the police force as a mole for the gangster. The chase for one another by one another & who eventually wins the battle are what the film is all about.

  • Alan Mak, Wai-keung Lau - the writer director duo deserve great praise for this classy police film. Scorsese's remake of this classic - The Departed, unjustly, fetched him an Oscar! It is fair enough to consider the overlooking of Shutter Island for nominations as delayed justice.
  • The man who plays the undercover cop Yan - He commands respect & is supported well by the mole officer.
  • The best of the best scenes in the film are - phone trace during the first goods exchange, the gangster trap scene, the scene of the death of the senior officer, the touching climax.
Police story-telling at its very best; A must-watch!

Two Line Reviews - #172

Movie: Ed Wood (1994)

Plot: Edward D Wood Jr. is one director who makes films with whatever footages and characters he has with him & no shot he films goes to a second take! This makes him the one of the most awful directors of Hollywood. This film goes through his film-making ways and his association with an one time popular actor of 'Dracula' fame.

  • The heart and soul of this film is Johnny Depp. As the insane transvestite filmmaker, he is a riot with his hyperactive & urgent ways of making films. Some of the points he makes to justify his ways are quite acceptable too.
  • The dialogs are humourous and members of his crew are enjoyable - The Dracula actor, the wrestler, his producers at various times, his cameramen etc..
The insults he faces are funny till a point. But, beyond that, his continuation of clownish acts are irritating.

A not-so-worse film on 'the worst director of all time'!

Two Line Reviews - #171

Movie: Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Plot: A man who is considered mentally disturbed actuallys travels back to the past to get info on the origin of a virus that nearly wiped off the human race. The scientists goof up making him travel to different times from the past & that misleads him & his psychiatrist doctor of one of the past worlds to a wrong person who they consider the source.

  • Bruce Willis, as the confused time-traveller , does a fine job & Brad Pitt as a lunatic is electric in his short role.
  • Letting a sci-fi idea get to the viewer is not an easy ordeal; The maker scores with a pretty clear depiction of what the film is about.
  • The music in the background adds to the suspense.
Too much of time travel is too much of confusion & that somehow diminishes the desired effect.

Quite Compelling but Complex & Confusing at the same time.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Book Look - #11


The autobiography of arguably my favourite sports star;certainly my most favourite tennis star. He pips Federer on the measure that I have felt very very bad & I've even hurt myself physically when Agassi lost big matches(especially against Pete - the guy I disliked just for the reason that my brother adored him!) and I have never felt anything as remorse when Federer lost big ones. The book, true to its name is OPEN and he talks about his life on & off the courts, his relationship with people who mattered the most in his life and throughout the work elucidations of his inconsistency - Agassi's USP to which I could relate to;which made me his fan - are in abundance.

  • The flow of content is brilliant. He mixes events on & off the court seamlessly.
  • The 'tennis-life' analogies & loyalty he shared with Gil,his trainer; Brad Gilbert, his coach & Stefanie Graf, his wife are especially enticing.
  • The description of his romantic duels with the likes of Pete,Becker,Connors,Chang,Kafelnikov on court & Brooke Shields and Steffie off-court are extremely interesting.
  • The philanthropic deeds of his as described & the depictions of how he achieved his unpredictable late age comebacks are inspiring.
If you've followed Agassi - Liked or loathed mattering not, this is a book not to be missed.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #170

Movie: Big Fish (2003)

Plot: A man who likes to colour the events of his life withunthinkably fantastic stories woven around the real events earns the hatred or a lack of love from his son who feels he hasn't understood even a bit of his father. But, when the son realises all wasn't untrue , he livens up the last day of his father with a story of his farewell which turns out to be what happens exactly when he dies.
  • Tim Burton's  idea of such a film (or that of the author of the novel from which this film is adapted) is highly appreciable. Wouldn't tell the same about the execution of it but the climax that emphasises the idea was brilliant.
  • The action of the men who play the young and old Edward Bloom and his son are superb.
  • The characters of the sidekicks who accompany are memorable. 
There are quite a number of crazy stories which are too much to take as fantasies.

Verdict: Has its share of enjoyable fantasies & not-so-enjoyable fallacies.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #169

Movie: The King's Speech (2010)

Plot: The prince of the British empire is a victim of stammering - inflicted upon him during his childhood by curbing his instincts for the family's orthodoxies. He finds a therapist - one of the unconventional type who , with his extremely dedicated therapy, gets the prince-turned-king to give his first war time speech on the declaration of war against Germany in what would be the start of World War - II.
  • Colin Firth as the stammering, self-doubting prince is extremely convincing in his portrayal of the disability. Oscar-worthy effort for sure.
  • Geoffrey Rush who plays the therapist's role is the perfect foil and his determination & optimism are inspiring enough. The character of the wife of the king who is so sure of her man is beautifully etched too.
  • The final climax scene, with the subtle and smooth background score, fulfils the expectation that the build-up to it sets.
A highly motivating film on a man who defies all odds to triumph - REALISTICALLY!