Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Great Unsettler

"The Hurt Locker" is intense, thrilling, unsettling and probably the best movie of the year. Why did I wait so long to watch it? Not a fan of war movies in general but this is fantastic.

It is a real portrayal of a few men at war. Living at the edge between life and death and how they get through that. Jeremy Renner is a revelation as Sgt. James the leader of the bomb squad. James is full of bravado and dangerous according to his squad-mates. But he has to be to survive this situation : going in to defuse a dozen bombs every day. The movie takes you inside his mind, you get to see where he gets his courage but also how unhinged he can become. Frighteningly real portrait. Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty are equally good as the two other squad members. The former a cautious by the book man who is hoping to get through the last 38 days of his mission. The latter a scared young man who knows all too well that he can die at any second.

This movie is awesome. Actually merits using that ubiquitous and awful word. Kathryn Bigelow has made the best movie about the war in Iraq. Although its themes are not particular to that war but universal. It does not comment on the politics of this war but rather tells the story of the everyday minutiae of surviving any war.

I left the theatre exhilarated, moved and thoughtful. This is a very smart movie. See it now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Wrestler 2: It’s a Country Song!

All I can say is seriously. Seriously? This is the Best Actor Oscar winning performance for 2009? At least that is what most of the Oscar pundits are saying. I can see why. Mickey Rourke was nominated last year and Robert Duvall won many years ago for basically the same story. Granted, what do I know and I have only seen the trailer. But this is just boring and predictable. It looks like it follows the plot of The Wrestler and countless other movies, to a tee. A n’er do well middle aged man on his journey to redemption. And it contains one of my pet peeve plots: a beautiful young woman falling in love with an older loser. Totally misogynist and a male writer/director's ultimate fantasy.

Look I like Jeff Bridges. I’ve liked him for years and enjoyed his performances in many films. From “Against All Odds” to “The Fabulous Baker Boys” to “The Big Lewboski”, he has always been compelling to watch. I saw “Starman” 3 times and cried my heart out every time (granted I was a little kid then, but still). I just don’t think this mediocre looking movie should be what wins Best actor this year. Particularly following “Capote”, “There Will Be Blood” and “Milk”; all superlative filmmaking achievements.

Well it’s only the trailer; maybe the movie would be better. Doubt it, though. And I’ll have to see this drivel if I want to make an informed decision on who’s going to win.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Getting excited about "Nine"

Earlier this year Nine was my most eagerly awaited movie. I love and follow the Oscars religiously and the stars of this movie have 20 nominations and 7 Oscars among them. They are actors I loved and admired and rooted for : Daniel Day Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz, and Marion Cotillard. There is also Fergie and the queen of bad rom-coms and movie star spawn Kate Hudson. No to mention I love musicals. Particularly modern ones. I've enjoyed the movie versions of "Dreamgirls", "Hairspray", "Chicago" and even the uneven "Rent". However my enthusiasm cooled off. Maybe because the movie was postponed to December making the wait even longer. Maybe I just could not see Day Lewis as a song and dance man. Maybe "A Single Man" and "The Lovely Bones" trailers just looked better. Maybe I don't think it will surpass "Precious" and "An Education", 2 movies that had superlative performances that could quench my thirst for "Oscar" bait.

Then this rehearsal footage was released. Check it out below. I am getting excited again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembering a fleeting moment

It is very funny sometimes what moments in our lives we remember and hold dearly. Is it true that happiness is remembered rather than lived?

Every time I hear the song "Chasing Cars" I remember a moment of true bliss. Early in the morning on a Sunday waking up next to the one I love. And this is what he said:
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me
And just forget the world?

The song was a favourite of ours. But at that moment it became of serenity and happiness. Did I realize at that moment that I was happy? I don't think so. Now I know I was. Does the fact that the relationship ended add to my nostalgia. Absolutely.

Another moment was years ago with my sister. We were by the river, under a bridge In London, laughing. We were both at a crossroads in our lives. But the moment was all about the promise we both had for the future. Looking back I see that I was truly happy. I just wish I knew it then.

Happiness, a funny thing, eh?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Looking Back : Best of 2000

Both the Times of London and Daily Telegraph have come up with lists about the best films of 00’s. Several blogs started compiling lists too and I thought I’d join in the fray. This entry started as a comment on

My take is a little different. I am writing about the movies that both touched me the most at the time and stayed with me throughout the years.

You Can Count on Me is the movie I return to time and again from 2000. A finely calibrated drama between brother and sister, it touches and breaks my heart every time I see it.
At the time Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the most amazing thing I've seen on the silver screen. I whopped with joy at the fantastical sword fighting scenes, but the story and the performances got me too. It was the movie that made me realize Ang Lee was one of the best directors working in contemporary cinema.

Billy Elliot was the best movie for 2000 for me at the time. What a beautifully told story about the things that matter to all of us: family, identity and wanting to take charge of our lives. I must have it at least 5 times in the theatre. I was so moved by how it handled the sexual identity of Billy's friend Michael. So subtle and moving. As I was coming out to my family that year it resonated the most with me.

And then there is In the Mood for Love. I lived in North Carolina at the time and I don’t think it played in theatres there. But I read so much about it that I bought the DVD when it came out. Wow. Lovely, heartbreaking and such a moody unique piece of cinema. In its non-linear and unconventional way, it must be one of the best loves stories on film.

I will update year by year.
Looking back at 2000, what are some of your favorite movies? As a reminder here is a partial list, noted the 5 best picture Oscar nominees:

Almost Famous
Amores Perros
Before Night Falls
Billy Elliott
Best in Show
Chocolat (Oscar Nominee)
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Oscar Nominee)
Dancer in the Dark
Erin Brockovich (Oscar Nominee)
Gladiator (Oscar Winner)
High Fidelity
Requiem for a Dream
Traffic (Oscar Nominee)
Wonder Boys
You Can Count on Me

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The most gorgeous trailer of the year

I've written about Tom Ford's "A Single Man" before. A new version of the trailer was released this weekend. Still gorgeous, still really interesting. Based on this I just can't wait to see the movie even though it doesn't really tell me what it's about. It reflects a mood and world I want to be in.

I've always thought Colin Firth is kind of boring. Hopefully Tom Ford has drawn out of him something new. Julianne Moore is always interesting to watch. There are a also a few up and comers in the cast : Ginnifer Goodwin from "Big Love", Matthew Goode and the little kid from "About A Boy" all grown up, Nicholas Hoult. Hoult was just recognized by no less than the grey lady herself as a breakout star for this Holiday season.

This is now at the top of my must see list.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Few Thoughts on "Precious"

Caution : Contains minor spoilers.

"Precious" is totally worth the hype. It is also sobering yet hopeful, a heavy drama that kicks you straight in the guts but still you leave feeling better for it.

It is not a very easy movie to watch. There is a lot of dark drama going on : abuse, incest, poverty. However there are also laughs, love and poignant moments. Most importantly there is hope throughout this story, you are pulling for Precious to make it through. Yes the changes to her life are not that significant by the end but you believe she's stronger and that there will be joy in her life.

And those performances. Mo'Nique is simply astonishing. She is so powerful and strong in building this character that she looms over the whole movie. I felt her presence even in the scenes where she was absent. Gabourey Sidibe is equally good although her performance has a definitive arc similar to Precious'. It goes from subdued to still subtle but strong as Precious goes from meek to willful. And who would've thought the star of Glitter had this in her. Mariah Carey is very effective in her few scenes. Paula Patton does the best with what I thought was a difficult part. I guess with all the grimness the teacher had to angelically perfect.

A lot has been said about the fantasy sequence and the sometimes jarring editing. However I found that both enhanced the story and moved it forward. Who doesn't escape to a fantasy where things are better when they are feeling down? And Precious needs to go there a lot more than most of us to escape her reality.

I also love that this movie and story stayed true to its heroine's circumstances. There was no knight in shinning armor and more importantly no white savior. We did not have a "white" guide through the movie as the case is almost always with movies with African and Black themes.

This is a very powerful piece of film making. I saw it a week ago and it is still very vivid in my mind.

And a movie that has this line "My favorite color is fluorescent beige" can't be all bad.

The most awful movie of the year?

I know that I should not give that label to a film I have not seen yet. But I think "The Blind Side" deserves it. Check out the trailer. It looks terrible. Saccharine, sappy, slow and you get the whole story from the trailer. No need to watch the movie. And do we really need another movie where an underprivileged black person gets a white savior? So 4 decades ago. I know it is kind of a true story but just because Sandra Bullock wants to win an Oscar we should not be subjected to this.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Precious based on the novel Push by Sapphire

What a title. And what a movie. The buzz is deafening. It has been going on for months, since the movie wowed audiences and won prizes at the Sundance Film Festival back in January. I am very excited to see it tonight but also overwhelmed by the media coverage. If you are like me i.e. read a half dozen movie blogs, in addition to EW, NYTimes and New York Magazine. Then you’ve been constantly reading about this movie. Here are some of the stories I read :
- shoo-in for best picture at the Oscars, this year’s Slumdog Millionaire
- Mo’Nique will win an Oscar
- Mo'Nique is being difficult and has lost the Oscar (the one she has not been nominated for yet).
- Lee Daniels (the director) is a genius.
- Lee Daniels is arrogant and is alienating everyone
- The movie is racist.
- The movie is uplifting.
- The movie is worse than Norbit!!!!! (Thank you for this gem Armond White).
- Critics love the movie.
- Critics hate the movie and what does this mean for its Oscar chances?
- Mariah Carey might get an Oscar nomination (and I have a chance to win the Nobel).
- Mariah Carey “uglified” herself for this movie.
- Mariah Carey’s rep denies that her moustache in the movie is “real”.

All of this does not matter if Precious is as good as it looks like in the trailer. So I rallied the troops and Union Square here we come. Tonight at 730 all will be revealed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Favorite Movie of the Year : (500) Days of Summer

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a couple of months now. I'm happy to finally get around to it. I’ve seen it twice so far and can’t wait for the DVD release. And believe it or not it was better the second time around.

(500) Days of Summer is a fantastic movie. Without doubt the best romantic comedy to come along in a long time. What makes it so good is that it is devoid of clichés in a genre known for clichés. Sure boy meets girl cute, boy falls in love with girl. But that is it. All that comes after that is fresh, new and most importantly feels a lot like what happens in real life. Things don’t go from cute to happily ever after. Sometimes they do not. What the movie says is that love is an accident; it may or may not happen.

Smart and sharply written dialogue. Very distinct in shaping out these characters. The first time I saw it I was totally on Tom’s (Joseph Gordon Levitt) side. The second time I understood Summer (Zooey Deschanel) better. I went from what’s wrong with her, can’t she see he’s the best thing that will ever happen to her to, you know what sometimes the heart wants what it wants. Exactly what happens in real life.

And these performances. Watching Gordon-Levitt come alive in this movie is witnessing a star being born. I know he’s been around for a while, but this is a new side of him. He emerges a funny and charming leading man. Deschanel has the more difficult role. The movie is told from Tom’s point of view. But she holds her own, you understand why Tom would fall for her and more importantly get why she does not fall for him. (These are not spoilers, you know how their story unfolds within the first few minutes).

Watch out for day 489. Devastating. If your heart has ever been broken, you’ll feel the pain. Right in your gut. Everyone who has ever asked themselves “why not me, you idiot?”, will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Did I bring you down? Don’t be sad. Here is the most joyful scene in the movie. Click away, your smile will back in no time.