Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Top 10 Films of 2017

Logan is a family drama, an action adventure & an epic superhero journey all rolled into one. It's the perfect culmination to 17 years of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. We see a brooding loner, a man at the end of his line who was always the most tortured and psychologically interesting of all the mutants, stumbling into somebody else’s fight (has always been an interesting aspect of westerns) and then fighting for them. James Mangold uses the story to comment on some extremely contemporary issues, including the refugee/immigration crisis and the persecution of minorities. It’s difficult to believe that this is the last time we’ll see Jackman's Wolverine on the big screen. Bidding farewell definitely is a bittersweet affair.

2. Baby Driver:
The most fun I have had in a theatre this year! Edgar Wright's 'Baby Driver' was a jaw-shattering spectacle of sight and sound that keeps you on the edge from start to finish. Easily one of the most original, unique, technically brilliant, intricately detailed & meticulously crafted films of this year.
"This shit was bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S"

3. Get Out:
'A sociopolitical thriller from the comedic mind of Jordan Peele', now this one-liner itself is enough to make my filmy-senses tingling!  With 'Get Out', Peele successfully delivers a searing razor-sharp satirical critique of systemic racism that's prevailing in the United States.

4. Blade Runner 2049:
From the opening shots, we know we are in the presence of a masterful storyteller & a visual tactician. Coming 35 years after the iconic original, Denis Villeneuve's sequel is filled with spellbinding visuals & profound themes. It's an investigative thriller that successfully transcends boundaries, evokes emotions, and becomes a transformative experience. 

5. The Big Sick:
One of the funniest movies of 2017! And it has one of my favourite dialogues of this year, a conversation that happens between Kumail Nanjiani and Ray Romano, who's playing Nanjiani's girlfriend's dad. Romano's dad character fumbily asks Kumail who's awkwardly having chips “So what’s your stance on 9/11?”, the Pakistani American replies, “My stance on 9/11?” he says, blinking slowly. “It was a tragedy,” he replies. “We lost 19 of our best guys.”
'The Big Sick' is delightful, extremely charming & has a big heart. 

6. War for the Planet of the Apes:
There isn't a War as much as it's a battle, but it sure is a technical marvel by director Matt Reeves & Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar in the trilogy. Matt Reeves ends the trilogy in perfect fashion, making us feel extremely emotional, connected, and content with Caesar. Just like the old 'Apes' movies, this trilogy too is filled with allegorical tales that are full of symbolism, adventure, satire, political intrigue and philosophy. Every single close-up shot of Caesar's face made me want to give a standing ovation to the genius of Andy Serkis. This is one of those rare trilogies that got better with each passing movie, and has one of the best endings of a film trilogy.

7. Dunkirk:
'Dunkirk' truly is an original & unique take on war. It is definitely not a character driven war movie, but a technically flawless war movie by Christopher Nolan. The intensity from the very first scene, is at such an insane level, that at times you'll feel you have been transported straightaway to the climax of a great war movie/documentary.
It's said that you need to first care about the characters, so that you can relate to their actions, but with Dunkirk, it's the 'War' that is the character, the one & only character. You might not remember any names or actors, but you are bound to remember the spectacle & the experience, that is Dunkirk. Dunkirk is a minimalist art film that Nolan successfully dressed in a suspenseful set-piece war-machine garb. To sum it up, I would say Dunkirk is like a bomb, you hear the ticking from the very first second, and you know, shit is about to hit the ceiling & something big is about to happen very soon.

8. Wind River:
Taylor Sheridan, the writer who gave us last year’s socially conscious crime-drama 'Hell or High Water' & 'Sicario' before that, proves us with 'Wind River' that he's undeniably a strong director. 'Wind River' is a chilling thriller that deals with the investigation of a murder of a local girl on a remote Native American Reservation known as Wind River, a vast, snowy area of land in central Wyoming. 

9. Split:
What can I say, M Night Shyamalan is back! And this time he had a great script & 24 different personalities of James McAvoys by his side. McAvoy’s impressive range is on full display in 'Split', in which he stars as Kevin, a man with dissociative identity disorder. 'Split' is Shyamalan's most entertaining film in years, and a great return to form.

10. Mother!:
Easily the most polarizing film of 2017, even more than 'The Last Jedi' & 'Bright'. If you are a fan of Darren Aronofsky's kind of psychological thrillers which have deeper meaning in them, then you are sure to love this one. 'Mother!' is jam-packed with symbolism, metaphor and allegory, and it plays like a visual poem & leaves a searing impression.

Honourable Mentions:
Call Me By Your Name, T2 Trainspotting, IT, Gerald's Game, Bright, Brigsby Bear, Coco, Brad's Status, Columbus, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Lady Bird, Thor: Ragnarok, Colossal, Don't Think Twice, Okja, Lego Batman, Gifted & John Wick 2.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

And the Oscar goes to ...

My 2016 started off in an average fashion and then just went downhill, the only saving grace were the sheer number of great movies that released. From 'Deadpool' to 'La La Land', from Ryan Reynolds to Ryan Gosling, we truly had some amazing movies in 2016, and I'm quite sure that the big Oscar day is going to start off with Ryan Seacrest asking the Ryans on the red carpet "how come Canada makes such amazing specimens, and can we all move into your country for the next few years?".
My love for the Oscars started way back in 2001, when I got up really early on Oscar morning (because of the time difference) and went to my neighbours house to watch the ceremony and see whether 'Lagaan' would win the Oscar for the 'Best Foreign Film' (Sadly it did not), and ever since that day I have been smitten by it. My admiration increased to a whole new level in 2009, when I saw someone whom I admire and love, stand on that beautiful stage and collect 2 statuettes. Those who know me well, already know who I'm talking about, for the others, I'm talking about music composer AR Rahman, who went home with the Oscar for 'Best Score' and 'Best Original Song' for the movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' that year.
I have seen lots of people whom I admire & look up to, stand on that stage and collect that golden statuette (Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Hans Zimmer, Steven Spielberg, Ennio Morricone - the list goes on).

As I always say with these Oscar posts, I know there are lots of you who might not value the Academy Awards that much or might think they are overrated, well I totally respect your opinion and understand where you are coming from. Secondly, these are just my opinions, you might not like the nominees & the movies and might want somebody else to win, which is totally cool.

So yeah, I write this post every year solely because I love movies. I have tried my level best to watch all of these movies (either in a theatre or in some other way or form). There are certain categories that I have left out because either I have no idea about them or haven't seen majority of the movies in those categories.
FAIR WARNING: If you are one of the few people who disliked or even 'hated' La La Land, then you are definitely not going to like what you are about to read. 

Best Picture:
Projected Winner: La La Land
'La La Land' was truly one of the most unique experiences I have ever had while watching a movie. It was one of those movies where I had this big grin all throughout the movie, and I was completely overwhelmed by what I was watching. If you have ever been in love or have been crazily passionate about something, then I suggest you give this a watch, if you haven't already. This is the kind of movie that you would want all your exes to watch, and may be even think of you at least once while they watch it. The moment the movie ended, I just wanted to bow down to the talent of Damien Chazelle (Writer-Director, previously nominated for 'Whiplash). The sheer tenacity with which he has pulled off this amazingly stunning project is just unbelievable!

Surprise Winner : Moonlight
If only 2016 was a year when we did not have 'La La Land', then this beautiful gem would definitely have been my pick. It's always inspiring and beautiful when a movie touches your soul, and when you feel and empathize with the characters, that's what 'Moonlight' did for me.

Best Director:
Projected Winner: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
From that incredible opening scene on the freeway to the last scene which features a fast-forward, Chazelle makes the whole movie just glide through. Whether it was the camerawork or the music or the dance numbers, it made me feel like I'm sitting in a raft and just gliding through a beautiful celestial stream, which occasionally had a few bumps here and there. I have no doubt in my mind that Chazelle is going home with this one. In 2014, I had gone crazy over his 2nd directorial movie 'Whiplash', for which I felt he should have got nominated, but this year I believe with 'La La Land' Chazelle is going to be the youngest winner in this prestigious category.

Best Actor:
Projected Winner: Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)
I have never shied away from saying that I am a big fan of Ben Affleck, whether it's his directing, writing or even acting, I love the guy. But this year, his little brother who used to get screwed around in 'Good Will Hunting' has finally shown us how gifted he is! Stephen Fry summed it up aptly during his monologue at the BAFTA's this year when he said "Casey Affleck is without doubt one of the most brilliant actors in his family." Well that he most definitely is.

As soon as the movie begins, you start having this incredible urge to console and hug Casey Affleck, even when you as an audience don't really know what's wrong with his character or what he is going through (which you find out much later in a heartbreaking scene), you feel like putting your hand over his shoulder and saying to him "I know it feels shitty right now, but it's going to be okay. Trust me." The beautifully subtle way with which Casey Affleck performs and does justice to this role is truly unbelievable. After watching the movie I remember feeling, only a person who has been through some kind of sadness would have been able to write (Kenneth Lonergan) and then act out such a role. Do watch this magnificently poignant movie, but beware, hearts will be broken & tears will be shed.

Surprise Winner: Denzel Washington (Fences) 
Performing a character from an August Wilson play on stage itself is a tough ask, but adapting, acting AND directing an August Wilson adaptation for screen, is a totally different ball game, but then we are talking about a superhuman by the name of Denzel Washington. He manages to pull it off amazingly well, the only slight negative is that the movie looks like a play being filmed. I felt there was so much Denzel could have done with the characters and the story but I guess, he wanted to stay true to the vision of August Wilson. He had played the role brilliantly on stage and even won a Tony Award for it in 2010, and had been trying to get this story made in to a movie for the last 6 years. What I loved about Denzel's performance is that it's completely opposite to the kind of performance Casey Affleck does in 'Manchester By The Sea'. Denzel is just the opposite of subtle, he lays everything out on the screen, his character's happiness, his sadness, everything is there for us to see in a hard-hitting loud way. Knowing the fact that he has missed out on the direction nomination for this one, I won't be surprised if Denzel picks up his 3rd acting Oscar for 'Fences'.

Notable Mention: Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
I have just one thing to say about 'Captain Fantastic' or as I like to call it 'World's Best Dad', PLEASE watch it. Think of it as a cross between 'Little Miss Sunshine' and 'Into The Wild'. Mortensen truly is an actors' actor and a gifted one.
If I could vote, my vote would have gone to this genius.

Best Actress:
Projected Winner: Emma Stone (La La Land)
This category is pretty much done and dusted. Everyone in Hollywood is in love with Emma Stone right now and she truly was adorable in 'La La Land'. She definitely was charming and was the heart & soul of 'La La Land', but this category deserved to be fiercely competitive, which sadly it's not. It's a travesty that some of the best performances of this year, some of whom I personally feel were way ahead of Stone, likes of Annette Bening, Amy Adams and Rebecca Hall who I felt outperformed Stone by miles are not even nominated.

Notable Mention: Amy Adams (Arrival)
Even though she wasn't nominated in this category, I just have to mention her name here. She single-handedly carries the whole movie, and still somehow was robbed of a nomination! My vote would have gone to this linguistically solid gem of a performance by someone who carries the whole burden of 'Arrival' on her shoulders.

Best Supporting Actress - Viola Davis
Surprisingly Viola Davis wasn't playing a supporting character in 'Fences', she was very much the leading actress in the movie. She had even won a Tony Award in the best actress category in 2010 for playing the same character when it had gone on stage, but I guess, the studio must have thought she would have a way better chance to win this category rather the 'Best Actress' category, where it's pretty much a given that Emma Stone is going to walk away with the glory.
I still believe Viola Davis was robbed off her first win way back in 2012 for her performance in 'The Help' when she lost out to Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady). 

Notable Mention: Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
In my honest opinion, it's Harris who deserves to win this category because like I said, Viola Davis is not a supporting actress in 'Fences', whereas Harris is perfectly that in 'Moonlilght', she's a strong and solid supporting character who excels with each passing second in the movie. 

Best Supporting Actor:
This is definitely the toughest category to predict this year.
Projected Winner: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
One of the major reason why I want Mahershala Ali to win is because I loved 'Moonlight' and he was incredible in it. It's an extremely powerful beautiful little film. And secondly, Mahershala Ali is one hell of an amazing actor, whether it's his performance in 'Hidden Figures', 'House Of Cards' or 'Luke Cage', he has been amazing in all the roles he has played in the last 2-3 years. If it hadn't been for 'La La Land', I would have wholeheartedly wanted 'Moonlight' to walk away with all possible statuettes this year. Trust me, 'Moonlight' is that beautiful, it's a brilliant coming of age story that you wouldn't want to miss.

Surprise Winner: Dev Patel (Lion) or Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
These two could very easily pull the rug from under Mahershala Ali's shiny shoes! These two definitely weren't the supporting actors in their respective movies but once again the studio must have thought they would have a much better chance in this category. 

Best Cinematography: 
Projected Winner: Linus Sandgren (La La Land)
'La La Land' opens with an extremely impressive musical number amidst a traffic jam on the freeway, which doesn't even feature the two main leads! Cars, trucks and buses get stuck and everyone suddenly just pulls to a stop. People get out of their respective vehicles and instead of raging and abusing at the top of their voice, they instead sing and dance to "Another Day of Sun,” The camera then swings and glides to keep up with all the movements;Linus Sandgren and his camera dance along with the folks on the freeway,which ends up being a perfect ode to LA.
Sandgren successfully manages to make Los Angeles look poetic, evoking the feeling of classic Hollywood, using long and fluid takes and creates a world of vivid and beautiful colour.

Surprise Winner: Bradford Young (Arrival) 

Best Music:
Projected Winner: Justin Hurwitz (La La Land) 
It took Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz more than 6 years to realize their long held passionate dream of making this Hollywood musical, which would be an ode to their favourite musicals of the 40's and 50's. Hurwitz had been working on the music of 'La La Land' even before the duo had started working on 'Whiplash' (their previous outing together).
This is Hurwitz’s 3rd collaboration with writer-director Damien Chazelle, his Harvard roommate. The two met freshman year at Harvard, where they started a band called Chester French with classmates. By sophomore year, the two decided to quit the band and work full-time on movies.
Well, you don't create a lavish movie musical in a hurry. These two classmates/roommates/fools-who-dared-to-dream who love movies and music would have the perfect ending to their story this coming Oscar night, or should I say, the perfect beginning. 

'And here's to the fools who dream. Crazy as they may seem.'

Best Song:
Projected Winner: 'City Of Stars' (La La Land) 
Justin Hurwitz is going to walk away with his 2nd Oscar of the day, and along with him the 2 debutants, lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who currently have a sold out Broadway show running by the name of 'Dear Evan Hansen' are going to walk away with their first win.

Best Editing:
Projected Winner: Joe Walker (Arrival) 
With 'Arrival', Joe Walker just showed us that he's a genius who can successfully manipulate time and space and keep the audience guessing. 
I'm going to sum up my feelings by saying that 'Arrival' is a like quadpod that has 4 very strong and extremely effective legs in the form of Amy Adams (Lead), Eric Heisserer (Writer), Denis Villeneuve (Director) and lastly, Joe Walker (Editor), who all get together and successfully pull off this amazing science fiction project about tolerance and unity. 

Surprise Winner: Tom Cross (La La Land)
If the Academy truly is blindingly in love with 'La La Land' then it's very much possible that it might win this category too.

Best Original Screenplay:
Projected Winner: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea) 
'Moonlight' should have been in this category rather than being in the 'Adapted screenplay', if not for the weirdly conservative Academy members who decided that Moonlight should be put in the other category, because the writer-director Barry Jenkins said that what inspired him to write 'Moonlight' was a play, 'In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, written in 2003 by Tarell Alvin McCraney that was never produced. So with 'Moonlight' out of this category, I am going with Kenneth Lonergan's 'Manchester By The Sea', a heartbreaking story of a man who's having a terribly tough time trying to deal with his past.

Surprise Winner: La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
Like I said before, depends on how much love the Academy wants to shower on 'La La Land'.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Projected Winner: Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
This is perfect example of how a story is supposed to be adapted. Eric Heisserer manages to make all the necessary changes required to elevate an already well written short-story of Ted Chiang's by the name of 'Story of your life' and makes it even more appealing.
With 'Moonlight' also being in this category, I'm split between the two. I would be happy if either one of these two win, but as this is an 'Adapted Screenplay' category, I'm going to go with 'Arrival'.

Surprise Winner: Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) 

Best Production Design:
Projected Winner: La La Land
I feel the only competition to 'La La Land' in this category is 'Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them' but even then I'm quite sure that Academy is going to go with the musical that evoked the glorious Hollywood of yesteryear in all its beauty.

Best Visual Effects:
Projected Winner: The Jungle Book
'Rogue One' was great, but jungle book is jungle book. Call me biased or nostalgic, I am going to side with 'The Jungle Book' on this one.

Out of the possible 13 Oscars that 'La La Land' could win, I'm going to say that it's definitely going home with at least 7. 

Following are some movies that may not have got a nomination or even garnered any kind of financial success but made an impact and left a mark on me: (Not in any particular order)
  1. Swiss Army Man - The Daniels (Writer & Director) You'll either hate it or just fall in love with the sheer magic & genius of it. Luckily, I fall in the latter.
  2. Deadpool - Tim Miller (Director) This movie in my personal opinion deserved to get nominated in at least 3 categories. This is exactly how a 'R' rated superhero movie is meant to be!
  3. Sing Street - John Carney (Writer & Director) I loved 'Once', I was smitten with 'Begin Again' and in 2016, I fell head over heels 'Sing Street'! Trust John Carney to make a really sweet little gem filled with great characters and musical pieces.
  4. Paterson - Jim Jarmusch (Writer & Director)
  5. Hunt for Wilderpeople - Taika Waititi (Adapted for screen & Director)
  6. 10 Cloverfield Lane -  Dan Trachtenberg (Director)
  7. The Edge Of Seventeen -  Kelly Fremon Craig (Writer & Director) John Hughes Re-Incarnated
  8. Don't Think Twice - Mike Birbiglia (Writer & Director)
  9. War On Everyone - John Michael McDonagh (Writer & Director)
  10. The Shallows - Jaume Collet-Serra (Director) Anthony Jaswinski (Writer)
  11. Tickled (Documentary) - David Farrier & Dylan Reeve (Directors)
  12. Hush - Mike Flanagan (Co-wroter,editor & director)
  13. Blue Jay - Alexandre Lehmann (Director) Mark Duplass (Writer)
And that's an official wrap for 2016! This scene from 'Zootopia' of a creature that is half blind and half deaf pretty much sums up my year. Hope 2017 will be kinder.
2016 was a great year for movies, here's hoping 2017 is even better.
All the best and May The Force Be With You.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Tribute to Robin Williams - You taught me more than any teacher in school ever did.

"No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world." - Robin Williams

'Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary'

It was early hours of the 12th, when I received that shocking text from one of my friends stating "Robin Williams passed away" to which I spontaneously replied "Screw you", thinking it was one of his usual sadist pathetic jokes but in a matter of minutes realized that it was sadly true. Honest to god, I have never been affected by a celebrity death (May be a little when Michael Jackson passed away in 2009) but I always had this notion that people who mourn celebrity deaths were just being superficial. I just couldn't understand, how we could mourn people we don't even know. But on 12th August,2014 I understood how. Just moments after getting this news I was overwhelmed by so much grief and sadness, felt devastated. My Twitter feed and Facebook timelines were being flooded with quotes and RIP's. I was getting these flashes of scenes, these brilliant unbelievable scenes of Robin Williams one after the other. Few hours later, when the feeling and the truth had sunk in, I had to ask myself "You don't even know the guy, how can he be so Important to you? How has he touched your life so much so that it has made you cry?". The answer to that I guess was, Robin Williams wasn't just a celebrity, he wasn't just somebody known to us through the tabloids, gossip columns or films: He was an artist, who touched us few lucky ones through his art.

I just knew 140 characters or a status update wouldn't do justice to him, I just had to write out my feelings. 
The One that's truly Special
I was 6 when I was introduced to him for the first time, when he dressed up as 'Mrs. Doubtfire' and a few years later it was 'Jumanji' and 'Flubber'. Even though I didn't have much idea about films or what acting was, I for sure had become a fan of this guy's work. A cameo in 'FRIENDS' (One of my favourite episodes of all time) and few stand-ups later, I stumbled upon 'Dead Poets Society' and 'Good Will Hunting'. Williams, in both these movies is like an Angel. He's just an actor who's on screen reading and enacting his lines but somehow when he smiles, you start feeling comfortable, you start getting this feeling that this guy is there for you and everything is going to be alright. Majority of his characters had that charm, whether it was John Keating, Sean Maguire or Patch Adams, when they smile, you feel home. It felt as if Williams could have the answers to all of our problems! That's the true Genius of actors and the legacy they leave behind.
It's your move, Chief
I am sure those of you who have seen 'Good Will Hunting' remember the Bench scene. The warmth with which Williams acts out this scene is wholly recognizable and till date I am in awe of this scene. We are able to sympathize with both characters, because they are held on equal grounds and neither one is played as positive/negative. 'Sean Maguire' is not trying to engage Will, rather, he is implicating him, he is forcing Will to assess himself, to come to terms with his own insecurities. Fittingly, the scene ends with Sean’s line: “It’s your move, Chief.” Williams and Matt Damon then go on and enact one of the more moving scenes in all of cinema, with Williams helping Damon tearfully palliate the self-blame he harbours from the abuse by softly repeating the phrase: “It’s not your fault.” The role got Williams an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This is one of those movies that I re-watch every time I feel down and depressed and it helps me every single time. 
When I think of Robin Williams as Sean Maguire, all I can think of saying to him is I never had a friend like you Chief, Thank you.
“You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself.” 
Another one of those great Williams movies that I re-watch almost every other month, that talks about the clash between traditional and conservative education system with that of progressive teaching methods is 'Dead Poets Society'. For starters, I have to thank John Keating and his 'Dead Poets Society' for getting me interested into literature and poetry. I always wished that either in school or in college, I would meet a teacher like him but I never was that lucky. Looking at Williams' Keating, you just wish you could be in this out-of-the-box teacher's class. Taking the boys outside, for class, encouraging them to stand on their desks, rip pages out of their textbooks, write poetry to woo the ladies, and meet in a cave in the middle of the night to celebrate the verse of the dead poets that came before them. The thing about his unconventional teaching style is that it is exactly what his trapped-inside-the-box boys so desperately needed. We all need that someone to tell us that there are rewards for taking risks, that someone to tell us to look at things differently, that someone to tell us that we are all exceptional in our own different ways.
Why Do I stand up here?
In one scene, Keating stands on his desk and asks his students: “Why do I stand up here? Anybody? I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
"Gentlemen, what are the four pillars?

Travesty! Horror! Decadence! Excrement"
Williams lived the role as the teacher, the kind who could actually change your life - it's hard to differentiate the man from the character. Just like Keating, Williams too believed in taking risks, being original, spreading love and joy, seeing things in a different and exceptional way and achieving them. Robin Williams was one of the teachers I will never forget, When I think of Robin Williams as John Keating, all I can think of saying to him is I never had a teacher like you. O Captain, My Captain! Thank you, You taught me more than any teacher in school ever did.

               'Dead Poets Society' - The ending that makes you want to stand on a desk

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
The more I get to know and hear about this man, I end up getting more and more pissed with god. From trying his luck as a street mime to then doing various stand ups to breaking into television and then into films. Even during his depression, he made sure that he continued performing for the US national troops in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, continued his unpublicized campaign for St Jude's Children's hospital, even funding Jessica Chastain's full-ride scholarship to Juilliard acting school when she was just starting out herself.

Oh Captain! My Captain!
From starting off as an alien on TV going on to play a disc jockey in Vietnam and talking about press freedom in 'Good Morning Vietnam', to being the real 'MunnaBhai MBBS'/ Clown doctor in 'Patch Adams', to improvising 70% of the dialogues as Genie in 'Aladdin' so much so that the Academy Awards rejected the bid in the Best Adapted Screenplay category because so much of Williams role ended up being improvised, to being a nanny and bringing out the issues of single parenting in 'Mrs Doubtfire', to being a therapist and bringing out the issues of domestic abuse in 'Good Will Hunting', to being an android who gradually acquires emotions in 'Bicentennial Man', to voicing a wise and all-knowing penguin in 'The Happy Feet', to being a photo lab worker who gets obsessed with a family in 'One Hour Photo' and in 'The Birdcage', at a time when it was still relatively controversial to be gay in America, Robin Williams and Nathan Lane played a loving gay couple who fought through stigma and showed their son why he shouldn’t be ashamed to be part of a gay family. From comedy to drama to even thriller, he excelled in each every role he did. Heck! He even made 'RV' and 'The Crazy Ones' watchable. 
He could pretty much treat anyone or anything.
His Oscar winning speech is still one of my favourites. It encapsulates the essence of this man, his passion for life, his love of people, his close friend and Oscar host Billy Crystal coming and hugging him, his quick witted humour. 
Robin Williams along with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, raised almost $80 million for people in need with their Comic Relief stand up specials, which spanned over 20 years.
 "And most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, The man who, when I said I want to be an actor, he said, 'Wonderful, just have a back-up profession like welding.'
May be deep down it was the hint of depression that made him excel in every single role, no matter what character he played, funny or dramatic. Always felt there was something different about this Genius, but i guess it can surface at any time, and devastate lives, even in the case of a man who's gusto for living and seemingly very happy life seemed he could be immune to. It will be very difficult to reach the benchmark that he has set and I personally believe that his shoes will never be filled. A truly remarkable comedian with electrifying energy, extraordinary actor and more than all that, an unbelievably great human being.

When you have a crazy, creative or different idea, NEVER EVER dismiss it.
I may not have been able to place flowers outside your home or on your Hollywood walk of fame but this right here, is my tribute to you Chief. God bless you Robin, few people leave this place with the impact of how many lives you touched. You are and will ALWAYS be an inspiration to me.
         A fitting Tribute to the Genius, who made us laugh, cry, think and a lot more.
                       Life is too short - stop worrying so much and start living it.

                                 The 'Good Will Hunting' bench in Boston Public Garden
Sorry guys, I went to see about a girl.
My tears are an evidence of his death, My laughter is an affirmation of his life.
Rest In Peace Robin. You were one of a kind. Now you are free to make God laugh. 
Thank You for everything.
The World will be a lot less funnier place without you.
Two words : 'Carpe Diem'.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Highway - Road to Liberation

“In the end, what we regret the most are the chances we never took.”

You walk into a dimly-lit movie hall expecting to be entertained, that’s it, nothing more than that, and then 2 hours and 13 minutes later, you walk out as a completely different and changed person.
Well, that’s what Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway’ did to me. It may not be a commercially successful film (yet) and might have got polarized reactions but it’s beautifully assembled, ambitious, holistic in its approach and most importantly touched me at a very personal level.
Judging a film or for that matter any art form is totally subjective, one can’t say, this movie or performance is better than that or this music is better than this and that. It’s a very personal choice; it might take you just a second to fall in love with a performance or couple of notes to fall for a musical piece. I remember in 2011, when ‘Rockstar’ had come out; it had got quite a lot of flak for its disjointed narratives, excessive flashbacks, many criticized its editing and some even when to the extent of saying “There were too many songs!” Now for a Rahman fan like me that definitely is something that would anger me to the point of no return but even through all that, I waved the “Rockstar was more soul, less logic” banner and stayed wholeheartedly with the movie. If you ask me, what made me connect with that film? I would have to say that every single flaw that got mentioned, each one of those “too many” songs, every bit of the lead character’s vulnerability and anger, their confusion regarding relationships and marriages, every single chaotic upheaval of the lead character somehow connected with me.

The same happened with me when I watched Imtiaz Ali’s latest ‘Highway’, it's strong and involving, it reaches beyond Bollywood clichés, transforming what could have been an ordinary road-trip movie into something with so much potential. Unlike the loud and splashy melodrama that comes out majority of the time, this one’s very thoughtful and subtle in its story and approach. It’s a tale of suffering, loss, pain and most importantly, it’s about self-discovery. It smashes all the commercial adornments of a typical Hindi film.

One main thought that lingered on as I walked out after watching the movie was “What is the true meaning of freedom and liberation?” Like in the case of Alia Bhatt’s character Veera in ‘Highway’, she found her true freedom on being a captive; her true liberation was [SPOILER] when her captor whom she falls in love with, dies in her arms [SPOILER]. To others liberation could be anything, a trip to Spain, buying your dream home, quitting your job and heading towards doing something that you truly have passion for. Everything and anything could be liberating.   
The character in ‘Highway’ takes us from carefreeness to vulnerability, petrification to liberation, all this on a 2 hours and 13 minute road-trip. Imtiaz Ali has always had travel as a recurring motive in all of his films. It is said that when you want to know someone, travel with that person. When you want to know yourself, travel. When you don’t know, what to do with your life, travel.

As much as I hate being or hearing preachy stuff, this movie did make me ask myself “Am I living my life?” “Have I been facing my fears?” “What would I regret not doing if today was my last day on this planet?” “Am I living a life that I chose or the one that I was steered into by the expectations of my family and friends?” and “Does traveling really have that much impact on a person?” The answers varied from noes and yeses but one thing which I couldn’t figure out was, “Why travel?” and then it hit me, I do need to get out of my comfort zone, all of us do. 

All of us need that one trip that just turns their lives around. That one trip that slows time for us which takes us away from our automated and monotonous routine, that one trip that helps us gain those important perspectives about life, that one trip that pushes us into a torrent of apparently uncomfortable situations like forcing us to meet and greet new people from completely diverse lifestyles and cultures or hike our way around a mountain where no one speaks our language, a second of “Culture shock” can leave an everlasting positive impact on us, it compels us to give back, share, help out and appreciate life.

We are not guaranteed old age. Without injecting too much of my personal opinion, I just have to say, stop living by the views that society imposes on you, those are just the expressions of a group that is already deeply conforming. At the end of it all, it is your choice to live how you wish.
Go for it and have no regrets. Always choose to buy experience over external objects.

Live for today. Take the Highway you feared.  

“The Purpose of life is to LIVE it.”  - Roosevelt
Special mention to the following books, movies and articles that made me want to write this piece.

Highway – Directed by Imtiaz Ali
Into The Wild – Book written by Jon Krakauer/ Movie directed by Sean Penn
Anything and Everything written by Bill Bryson 
On the Road - written by Jack Kerouac
Into thin Air - written by Jon Krakauer   
Bunch of Ted Talks, Articles on  Quora , Elitedaily and livelearnevolve

Sunday, February 23, 2014

86th Academy Awards ... Here We Go!

The Biggest Movie Event of the Year
Well, it’s that time of the year when I don my firangi movies ka hat and start blabbering about who’s hot and who’s not up for the 86th Academy Awards AKA The Oscars. Won’t be reviewing them but will surely give you pointers so that you can decide whether to watch them later or not. Happy Movies ;)

Out of the many brilliant and few boring movies that came out in 2013 these are the 9 that are up for the
'Best Film - Oscar'. The Race in my honest opinion is actually just between 'Gravity', 'American Hustle' and '12 Years a Slave'. Personally, I feel 'American Hustle' is over-rated and has been getting all the attention mainly because of the 4 leads, out of which 3 gave pretty impressive performances but the movie in totality doesn't stand out and more importantly doesn't stand against the MIGHT of 'Gravity' or '12 Years A Slave' .

This very well might be the FIRST time in the 85 years of Oscar History that we might just have a TIE for the Best Film. The probability of that happening is very minute but you never know ;)
 Here are the nominees for '86th Academy Awards Best Film' (In a very particular order):

  1. Gravity - Dir : Alfonso Cuaron ('Children Of Men' , 'Y Tu Mama Tambien')

     2. Dallas Buyers Club - Dir : Jean-Marc Vallee ('Cafe De Flore' , 'C.R.A.Z.Y')
  3. Her - Dir : Spike Jonze ('Being John Malkovich' , 'Adaptation' , 'Where The Wild Things Are')

  4. Nebraska - Dir : Alexander Payne ('Sideways' , 'Citizen Ruth' , 'About Schmidt' , 'The Descendants')
5. Wolf Of Wall Street - Dir : Martin Scorsese (It's F-in Scorsese .. So obviously whole filmography is EPIC)

6. 12 Years A Slave - Dir : Steve McQueen ('Hunger' , 'Shame')
7. Captain Phillips - Dir : Paul Greengrass ('United 93' , 'Bourne Supremacy')


8. Philomena - Dir : Stephen Frears ('High Fidelity' , 'The Queen')

9. American Hustle - Dir : David O Russell ('The Fighter' , 'Silver Linings Playbook')
Best Film:

Who Should Win : Gravity
And this would just ruin my day :  12 Years a

Best Director:

Last year we had
Ang Lee winning the Best Director for his highly visual effects laden fantasy-drama 'Life Of Pi', about a person who gets stranded at SEA whereas this year we have the GENIUS of Alfonso Cuaron (Children Of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambien & Harry Potter - Prisoner Of Azkaban) finally coming out with his Magnum-opus venture which took him 6 years to make, about a person who gets stranded in SPACE!
Both movies display the directing craft at its highest level of artistic and technological dazzle. Out of the 8 Harry Potter movies that came out, 'Prisoner of Azkaban' still stands out as my favourite.
Now with
Alfonso Cuaron winning the 'Directors Guild of America', Globes and The Bafta - Best Director, it’s almost done and dusted.

Who Should Win Alfonso
for 'Gravity'  
Alfonso Cuaron
Surprise: Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave)
Just like last year, here’s a list of movies that you might have missed for various reasons (time constraints, the title sucked, the cast was just plain damn boring or Yify didn’t upload it on torrents when you checked, etc etc):
1.   Rush - How in the HELL did the Academy snub this one? I have no freaking clue. Daniel Bruhl – Best Supp Actor, Hans Zimmer – Best Music, Ron Howard – Best Director. ‘Rush’ is hands down one of Ron Howard’s best works and I’m talking about a guy who has ‘Apollo 13’, ‘Edtv’ ‘A Beautiful Mind’, ‘Cinderella Man’, ‘Frost/Nixon’ in his filmography.
2.   Prisoners - The brilliant hollywood/english debut of Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (‘Incendies’). It’s sad and partly shocking to think that the script for ‘Prisoners’ had been doing rounds of various studios since 2009. Aaron Guzikowski's script for 'Prisoners' appeared on the Black List of the best unproduced screenplays of the year in 2009, but it took him and Jake Gyllenhall four years to bring the 2 1/2-hour kidnapping thriller to the screen. Prisoners has a brilliantly written screenplay with hard-hitting performances by Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhall & Paul Dano
3.   Disconnect - Intense and upsetting at times, this multi-story movie talks about the digitally obsessed world we live in. You could even say it’s the ‘Crash’ or ‘Babel’ for the current internet-crazy generation.
4.   Behind The Candelabra - First let me have a go at Steven Soderbergh (Director). Why the hell did you release this directly on VOD (Video-On-Demand) rather than having a theatrical release? You do know that you have robbed Michael Douglas of his 2nd acting Oscar right? Douglas, not just acts brilliantly but he LIVES as Liberace, the flamboyant American entertainer who was renowned for his skills on the piano as well as on vocals. Douglas’ performance is so deep and sympathetic that I personally don’t think he has EVER done a better role than this. This thoroughly entertaining biopic is unsettling yet lovable.
5.   The Spectacular Now – I’ll tell you when I kind of knew that this might end up on my personal best list of 2013, the moment in trailer when this comes up From the writers of ‘500 Days Of Summer'". Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber together had given us “500 Days…” way back in 2009 but it still and I guess it will forever remain one of those movies that is just too close to my heart. That one, had catapulted the career of a relative newbie (Read: Joesph Gordon-Levitt Alias Robin) and this one I am sure is going to take one Mr Miles Teller to greater heights. It tells us the story of Sutter (Miles Teller), a high-school life-of-the-party who falls for a nerdy nice girl Aimee. I know what you guys are thinking, “We have seen this kind of $**t N-number of times on screen” but trust me on this guys, you’ll like it. Screw it, you won’t just like it, you’ll love it. Let me sum it up by saying that “If you liked ‘Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ which came out last year and was easily one of THE Best movies of 2012 then you will definitely fall in love with ‘The Spectacular Now’.
6.   $50K, A Call Girl: A Love Story – These are the kind of movies that give us a reason to believe and have faith in the “Indie Movement” and in independent film making. Story revolves around a man with 30 days left to live, goes on a wild road trip with a call girl his older brother and his fiance, who use their wedding fund to pay for the journey. Very rarely do you come across a film that feels so real with such genuine performances that you start getting a feel that you are watching a documentary instead of a scripted feature. All the main leads involved (who were also the Writer/Director and Producers of the film) seemed so real that if I hadn't read beforehand that they were actors, I would have seriously thought that this was all real. Kudos to the whole team for pulling that off. 
7.   Mud - Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols (‘Take Shelter’), a coming-of-age expressive and adventurous story about 2 young boys who encounter Mud and form a pact with him to find and reunite him with his true love. It’s smart, witty, and has a Mark Twain-ish approach throughout, talks about boyhood on the brink of adolescence. Amazing cinematography with spectacular visuals of Mississippi. Oh! ya one more thing, It has Matthew McConaughey playing Mud. Am sure that would get you guys to watch it.
8.   The Best Offer – Written and directed by the great Guiseppe Tornatore, film buffs all around the world remember him for ‘Cinema Paradiso’ and tired-teens remember him for making ‘Malena’. A truly great writer/director, this time comes up with a truly artistic Hitchcockian caper. The suspense unfolds in a truly elegant way; music by the GENIUS Ennio Morricone is an added advantage which takes the movie to a higher level.
9.   The Kings of Summer – An indie coming of age drama about 3 teenage friends. It’s a poignant and witty at places and conveys to us the yearning for freedom and independence. This one is the ‘Stand By Me’ for the current generation.
10.  Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – British dark humour and Steve Coogan at its best! Coogan reprising his portrayal of Alan Partridge, a fictional presenter he has played on various BBC radio and television shows since 1991.  Alan finds himself at the center of a siege, when a disgruntled fellow RJ (Colm Meaney) decides to hold their station hostage after learning that he's getting sacked by the new management. The characters have great amount of irreverence about them along with that they are just laugh-out-loud funny. 
     Special Mentions:
  •          Bad Grandpa – One of THE funniest movies to come out in 2013.
  •          The Great Gatsby – Leonardo DiCaprio just owned the role.
  •          Stoker – Hollywood debut of South-Korean gutsy director Chan-wook Park, famous for Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, Thirst. Watch it for the amazing acting by the leads and for its Cinematography.
  •          The Art of the Steal – Who doesn’t like a fantastic heist movie?
  •          Don Jon – Writing and Directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Need I say more? Well, it also has Scarlett Johansson.
  •          East – Now why wouldn’t you watch a solid hard-hitting thriller that’s co-written and directed by a guy who’s named Zal BATMANglij?
  •         The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty - A project that many wanted to try out but eventually was helmed by Ben Stiller and honestly, has done a brilliant job.         
  Some really great movies from that came out of my motherland in 2013 (Contains Hindi/Tamil/Malayalam and English films released in India):
  •          Kai Po Che (Hindi) – One of those RARE occasions where the movie surpasses the book it’s based on.
  •          Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (Hindi)   A brilliant bio pic on the life of Indian athlete Milkha Singh.
  •          Madras Café (Hindi)   A Fictional take on the assassination of an Ex-PM of India. Brilliantly executed by director Shoojit Sircar (Vicky Donor)
  •          Raanjhanaa (Hindi)   National award winner Dhanush makes an impressive hindi acting debut, along with that add the brilliance of musical genius AR Rahman and a bit of UP-flavour.
  •          The Lunchbox (Hindi) – Well what can I say about this “controversial” flick? A brilliant film that could have got us the Best Foreign - Oscar.
  •          Ship of Theseus (English) – Well-crafted and beautifully executed indie film but pretentious at certain places.
  •          Amen (Malayalam) – 3rd Directorial venture of Lijo Jose. A layered screenplay with intelligent story that has amazing cinematography, different music and powerful performances by the leads.
  •          Thira (Malayalam) – A taut thriller by Vineeth Sreenivasan and his team that talks about illegal human trafficking.
  •          Drishyam (Malayalam) – A chilling crime-thriller that’ll keep you on the edge.The first Malayalam movie to enter the 50 Cr Club. Soon to remade in 3 languages. (Tamil-Telugu-Hindi)
  •          Soodhu Kaavum (Tamil) - Quirky characters in weird situations.
Now I’ll get on with the other Oscar categories:
Best Actor - Leading Role:

It's not that difficult to say that all 5 of the nominees have given their CAREER BEST performances this year. And being a Leo
DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street) fan myself, I don't know what more he could do to get his hands around the statue, but this year, one man is miles ahead of the other 4 nominees. For a guy who for 20 years has been struggling and was deemed as just another "Rom-com-stud-with-no-talent", this guy has made one of THE greatest comebacks ever seen in Hollywood. I'm talking about Matthew McConaughey, who has not just given a memorable performance as an AIDS victim but is definitely way ahead of his contemporaries. (Really looking forward to his association with Christopher Nolan, 'INTERSTELLAR' comes out on Nov 7th, 2014) He hasn't lost out a single award this year and the way things are going; he's sure to win his first Oscar from his first nomination and will go onto give an amazing acceptance speech starting with his trademark “Alright, Alright, Alrighhhht”. 

Who Would/should
Win: Matthew McConaughey for 'Dallas Buyers Club'
Matthew McConaughey
Biased Personal Opinion: Leonardo DiCaprio for 'The Wolf Of Wall Street'
"I'll have my Oscar, in this life or the next."
Best Actress - Leading Role:

This is one category which is all but locked. There is just no doubt who's going away with this. The moment I walked out after watching 'Gravity' I was pretty damn sure that it's going to be
Sandra Bullock's year but then few weeks back, I got around to watch eccentric genius' Woody Allen's 'Blue Jasmine' which stars Cate Blanchett in the lead role as a fallen, delusional, deeply troubled and in denial New York socialite.
In nearly 50-years of writing and directing movies, Woody Allen has conjured some of cinema's most vivid and lively female characters including 'Annie Hall', 'Hannah & Her Sisters', 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'. Strong and memorable women have become a hallmark of his movies and almost nothing connects these characters except that they have all sprung from the mind of the same gifted filmmaker/writer/director,
Woody Allen.

Who Should Win:  Cate
Blanchett for 'Blue Jasmine
Surprise: Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)/ Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
I know, I know, the whole world loves and adores Meryl Streep so do I but sometimes I just get the feeling ..

Best Supporting Actor:

This is another one of those categories where all 5 nominees have given their utmost best and sublime performances. Specially, Michael
Fassbender in '12 Years a Slave' and Jonah Hill in 'Wolf Of Wall Street' who just lived through their roles. Can’t freaking believe Jonah Hill got sodomized by the devil in 'This is the End' and also got nominated for an Oscar in the same year, very well my fellow pot-loving friend. 2 years back 'Moneyball' and this year a Scorsese film, you sure seem to be getting stronger and stronger every year.And then you have Jared Leto, who had "almost" retired from movies 4 years back, making an unbelievable comeback. His role in 'Dallas Buyers Club' as an HIV positive transgender woman required Leto to lose a lot of weight (20Kg to be precise!!) and spend a good while in the make-up chair. He’s won everything going so far, from the Globes to the SAGs, and looks to be in prime position to have everything his own way on Oscar night.

Who Should Win:  Jared
Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Now that's called a transformation
Surprise: Michael
Fassbender (12 Years A Slave)

Best Supporting Actress:
This is one category that might very well get decided on the sheer power of lobbying. Couple of months back we had Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) going as the strongest contender then later on we had the crowd favourite Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) winning quite a few awards and taking the lead. The definite showdown seems to be between these two. But the question is will the Academy really want to give Lawrence two Oscars in two years? It sure could happen, but Lawrence herself doesn't seem that interested and hasn't been lobbying much. Personally, I would have just straight away given it to Scarlett Johansson for being the voice of the Artificial Intelligence OS that Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with in 'Her' but surprisingly she hasn't even been nominated.
Who Should Win: Scarlett Johansson (Her) - This is also this years BIGGEST Oscar. 
Who would Win: Lupita Nyong'o / Jennifer Lawrence Dark Horse: June Squibb (Nebraska)
Best Original Screenplay:
Spike Jonze, this ones yours. Don't think anyone's going to snatch this one from you. You sure deserve it for the splendid original screenplay. In 'Her' you have a lonely man falling in love with his Operating system. Story about love and life that is heart-achingly brilliant and powerful. 
Who Should /Would WinSpike Jonze (Her)
Surprise : Bob Nelson (Nebraska)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Now with 9 nominations '12 Years a Slave' has to go home with at-least couple of Oscars and this is one of those categories that will be in its kitty. My personal choice would have been the master-piece 'Before Midnight' written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke which completes the 18-year long brilliant 'Before Trilogy' which showed us the journey of Jesse and Celine who just randomly meet on a train and fall in love (Before Sunrise). Some might consider this trilogy to be boring as majority of the story is conversations but I feel the writing is fun, clever, witty and really romantic.
Who should win: Richard Linklater 'Before Midnight'
Who would win : John Ridley '12 Years a Slave'

Best Cinematography/ Best Visual Effects :
I thought it would be better off to just combine these two categories as it has almost become like a tag-team event. Like last two years, even this year we will have the same team winning both the Cinematography and Visual Effects. It's high time the Academy starts to differentiate between "Camera Work" and "CGI".
Cinematography :
Who should win: Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Who would win: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
Visual Effects :
Hands down 'Gravity'
Now let me sum up rest of the categories as quickly as possible :
'Gravity' :  Best Editing (Alfonso Cuaron & Mark Sanger) , Best Production Design , Best Original Score (Steven Price) , Best Sound Editing , Best Sound Mixing.
Well I guess you got the hang of it. YES! according to me 'Gravity' deservingly is going to make a clean sweep at the 86th Academy Awards.
Comment, share, abuse me if you think I've totally messed it up , tell me what your predictions are.
Would love to hear. See you at the Oscars ;)
Telecast: March 3rd, 6:30 AM (IST) - Star Movies 

Oscar Nominees Luncheon