Monday, December 26, 2005

MOVIES - 2005

I'm listing some movies released in the year 2005:

High on my Priority List:
• Match Point
• Brokeback Mountain
• Memoirs of Geisha
• Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

As much as I wanna see them As Soon As Possible;
this year-end is turning out to be really hectic ...

Wouldn’t mind watching; though not very high on priority list:
• Cheaper by Dozen
• Fun with Dick and Jane
• Rumor Has It

MOVIES I SAW :
• Munich
• Syriana
• King Kong
• Walk the Line
• Rent
• Goodnight n Goodluck
• The Weatherman
• Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
• Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
• The Wedding Crashers
• Madagascar
• Mr & Mrs Smith
• The War of the Worlds
• Batman Begins
• Starwars Revenge of the Sith
• Genesis
• Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
• Constantine
• Sin City
• Be cool
• The Longest Yard
• Kingdom of Heaven

Some movies I missed and I somewhat regret:
• Capote
• Constant Gardner
• A History of Violence

Much awaited:[to be released in 2006]
• Da Vinci Code
• Inside Man
• Apocalypto
• Casanova
• Mission Impossible -III

Thursday, December 15, 2005

SCI - Fi

I have a few very close friends who just love sci-fi /fantasy novels. Who would start a fresh one late evening and finish is overnight and claim their proudest possession is their library of sci-fi. Though I really admire them, I’m more of a movies person. These friends would always crib that novel-based-movies don’t do justice to the author, but to me, it’s the only exposure to the creative world of fantasy ….

Hollywood has great affinity with fantasies …
Some of Hollywood’s favorite sci-fi authors are:
• PHILIP K. DICK: Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck
• ISAAC ASIMOV: I-Robot, Bicentennial Man
• CARL SAGAN: Contact
• DOUGLAS ADAM: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Let me begin with TWO sci-fi movies released this year:
• HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO GALAXY
I absolutely loved this movie!!! It’s a bizarre, wacky, funny, futuristic, philosophical movie. The concept of a “babel fish” – as a translator; really impressed me. Then the author took his own potshots at the bureaucrats.

• STARWARS: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith:
It’s another brilliant movie. George Lucas finally closed his 6-movies saga. Intergalactic travels, Clone Wars, Dark Side of The Force, Jedi-master, good versus evil plot … Moreover it’s a movie that spreads over two generations and the series began when special effects were at a very nascent stage – A Sci-fi Classic!!!

Now I’ll move back in time ...
and mention “The Matrix” – trilogy” [Matrix, Reloaded n Revolution] There are so many different interpretations of this movie. A futuristic movie when life on earth is computer simulated; a scary idea; but it’s quite so possible. What especially struck me was the plausibility of AI using humans as energy-source. It reminds of an excellent TV serial – Battlestar Galactica, in which Cylons [robots] wage a war against their human masters; [even clone humans] Even I-Robot is a remarkable movie, most remarkable is the idea of adapting robots to human emotions – I almost felt sympathy for Sonny!

Sci-fi is a huge category; so I’ll just categorize a few movies I’ve seen. Though some movies belong to more than one category, I’ll place them in just one . For example “Independence Day “ is both an alien and disaster movie; but I’ll put it in disaster category.

DISASTER MOVIES::
• Armageddon – An asteroid headed towards earth
• Deep Impact – A comet may collide with the earth
• The Day after tomorrow – Abrupt climatic changes ushering global warming n ice age
• Independence Day – aliens coming with goal of destroying us
• War of the worlds

TIME TRAVEL:
• Terminator Trilogy : I like most of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and this one is particularly entertaining. Two antagonistic androids travel back and fight over the fate of a boy, who has the key to human future. All three movies had hugely popular catch-lines:Terminator – I [I’ll be back]; Terminator - 2 Judgment Day [haste La Vista baby], Terminator - 3 Rise of the machines [Talk to the hands]
• Twelve Monkeys – sent back to time but goes far too back
• Back to future Trilogy: An eccentric doctor invents a time travel machine

SPACE TRAVEL:
• Planet of the Apes – a space detour takes a person to a strange planet – where apes rule the human race
• The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
• Starwar Series

ALIENS:
• Men in Black
• Contact
• Alien
• Signs

ROBOTS/ AI
• Blade Runner
• Robocop
• I-Robot
• The Matrix
• Artificial Intelligence

MEMORY IMPLANT:
• Total Recall - memory implant
• Paycheck- erasing memory
• Eternal sunshine of spotless mind – erasing memory

GENETIC ACCIDENT/ TAILORING:
• Hulk
• The Fly
• Spiderman
• X-Men

OTHERS:
• Minority report – in future criminals are caught before they commit crime
• The 6th day – futuristic movie about a man who meets his own clone
• Gattaca: futuristic story – life expectancy and diseases are ascertained at birth
• Fifth Element
• Solaris

Saturday, December 10, 2005

EPICS: Beyond Entertainment - A Glimpse Into Our Past

Yesterday I saw an awesome epic : “Kingdom of Heaven”;
directed by British Sir Ridley Scott ...

There’s something about EPICS ...
When different dimensions of a movie - acting, script, direction, editing, cinematography, music and costume – all fall into place – it’s a masterpiece and this movie is one such brilliant classic! Somehow most epics put the audience through a range of emotions – love, hatred, pain, anger, defeat, victory and joy … so the movie leaves a deep sense of satisfaction. Epics take us back to age old battles fought in near-or-far-away lands and in a roughly 3-hours journey; gives us a glimpse of the culture, values, rituals and the lives of people in a totally different era; which gives us a new perspective of the events that led us to our present. Since they always mean lessons in “history”; which intrigues and fascinates me ... so ... I Love Epic Movies!!!

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: It’s a TRUE STORY set in the Medieval Times. It’s about the “Christian crusades” and the capture of Jerusalem by a Muslim “Saladin" in the year 1182. Jerusalem interestingly is a Holy City for Christians, Jews as well as Muslims. It’s a place where Jesus Christ was crucified and attained resurrection. For Muslims; it’s a place where the Al-Asqa Mosque [The Dome of the Rock] is situated. It’s also sacred for the Jews; as it has their holiest shrine “The Wailing Wall”. So historically Jerusalem has always been a centre of war over religion and land ...

The three main characters of the movie are well chosen:
- Orlando Bloom as “Balian” - a French blacksmith; who is drawn into crusades
- Edward Norton as "King Baldwin"; always in a mask, due to advanced stage of leprosy
- Syrian actor Ghassan Massoud as "Saladin"
The movie doesn’t take sides and shows that both Christians and Muslims have fanatics and war-mongers as well as fair-minded chivalrous people. What a parallel to today’s world!! A Brilliant Movie!

It reminds of few other Ridley Scott masterpieces:
GLADIATOR: This movie - a fictional tale on factual backdrop - takes us back to the heydays of second century Rome. It gives a glimpse into the life of gladiators, who used to fight with wide animals often to their death for the ‘entertainment’ of spectators. Colosseum which is a symbol of the pinnacle of architectural advancement of that age; ironically, is also the hallmark of decadence of the mighty Roman culture … Russell Crowe plays his Oscar-winning role as “general” Maximus; who becomes a slave and then a gladiator; defies the authority of Emperor Commodus [ Joaquin Phoenix] and gets back his honor!

BLACK HAWK DOWN: TRUE STORY of US involvement in Mogadishu, Somalia; in the year 1993. There was condition of famine, but warlords stole UN supplied food and ordinary people were dying of starvation. The world was outraged by human rights violation; and US intervened by sending Rangers and Delta Force troops to capture the warlord. But the mission was not very successful, and two choppers “Black Hawks” were gunned down by armed civilians on the streets. It’s a documentation of the horrors of war. Clinton had to withdraw his troops and this incidence influenced later US foreign polices and explains why US adopted a stay-out approach in the genocide in Rwanda.

Btw, “Hotel Rwanda” is another brilliant movie,
but I’ll cover later under “War-Movies” ...

SOME EPICS I've seen : Elizabeth, Patriot, Braveheart, Ben hur, Troy, Cleopatra, Alexander
The Last Samurai, Hidalgo, The English Patient, Ten Commandments ..
Some yet to see epics: Seven Samurais, Lawrence of Arabia ...

*** I've left out the names of most war-movies ...
which I'll cover under a separate topic on war movies ...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Indian Cinema On The International Platform

The winter months of Dec-Jan-Feb ...
are very significant for movie-enthusiasts, as it’s time of increased Oscar buzz ...
with deadline for accepting final nominations, insanely intense lobbying and the finale of this crescendo of real drama over reels; with a grand Awards Ceremony! This year more than 50 countries are vying for “Best Foreign - Language Film” Oscar category; out of which only 5 will be shortlisted. The mass media, has already started predicting winners; ratcheting up the betting ritual and adding to the overall glamour and allure that surrounds any film-artist’s ultimate dream – The Golden Statue of Uncle OSCAR!!!

The Film Federation of India [FFI] has chosen it's film to be submitted for Oscar considerations: a fantasy folk-tale “Paheli”. Directed by Amol Palekar; it casts Shah Rukh Khan n Rani Mukerjee in lead roles. Till date, only three Indian movies have made to the “Top Five” nominations in the Oscar “Best Foreign Film” category:
- Mehboob Khan’s – Mother India -1957
- Mira Nair’s – Salaam Bombay – 1988
- Aamir Khan’s – Lagaan – 2002

WINS - NONE!!!

WHY???
Some of my very dear friends argue that Indian movies are made with the Indian audience on mind and that we don’t need any acknowledgement of the West. But then they indulge in such animated discussions on Oscar possibilities; that it easily reflects their innermost desire for a Hollywood stamp of approval. I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic and throw me a dinner-party if we do win any. Oscars is after all “the mother of all film-awards” and a solid proof of universal recognition! When our film industry is such a large conglomeration of so hugely talented luminaries; we deserve a larger worldwide audience. Moreover films are undoubtedly a very powerful medium to showcase our rich and vibrant culture on a global platform. With our age-old tradition of story-telling, we have folklores and epic-tales, stories of kings and queens, battles and heroic victories, religious leaders and illustrious personalities, our struggles with Independence, our trials with modernization, our tribal and mainstream culture ... In short, we got a plethora of potential scripts to churn out scores of masterpieces ...

But still the academy awards elude us ...
An easy way out; is to blame everything on others. It’s a common complain that Hollywood has racist attitude and does not give Indian cinema its due credit. This I feel is the lamest of all excuses. Another, more valid excuse is that the West does not understand the spirit of “Indian” movies. We prefer long movies [ get money’s worth !!! ]; with song n dance sequences [ escape from dull humdrum realities of life !!!] and with oodles of family dilemmas, melodramatic dialogues, appeal to God’s blessings and a grand moral finale suggesting triumph of good over evil [ feel-good factor ensures commercial success !!! ]. Now this collective set of factors makes for a “masala” or formula Hindi movie. But these hardly have any semblance to the hardcore realities of life; so those not abreast with the popular Indian taste in movies are not able to connect; in other words these movies do lack universal appeal!!! So there’s no point blaming the West, before some hard introspective analysis …

SATYAJIT RAY received worldwide accolades mostly for the true-to-life portrayal of characters in his movies. In fact he is revered as a precious treasure in the annals of world film history and is often compared to the likes of Akira Kurosawa and Steven Spielberg! So the accusation that the West is racist and biased against Indian doesn’t hold much water. His most famous work is said to be the Apu-trilogy [Pather Panchali, Aparajito and The World of Apu]; but of these; I’ve only seen Pather Panchali, which is said to have been shot on location with his friends as actors! It received instant recognition at the Cannes film festival. His other great movies that I’ve been lucky to see are Charulata, Agantuk and Shatranj Ke Khilari!
Satyajit Ray was honored with:
- “Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement” in the year 1992; and
- “Legion d’Honneur” ; the highest civilian award of France; in the year 2000.

Some other Indian artists [or artists with roots in India]; to make their names in international film circles are:
- Mira Nair
- M.L Shayamalan
- Shekhar Kapur

MIRA NAIR: She was born in India, educated at Delhi University and at Harvard; and has now is settled in the US of A. She has made scores of movies with typical Indian ‘flavor’ which has generated a positive buzz in the international circles; like:
- Salaam Bombay [Bafta award for best foreign film]
- Mississippi Masala [Golden Osella at Venice film festival]
- Kama Sutra: A tale of love; and
- Monsoon Wedding [Golden Lion at Venice film festival]

M.L. SHAYAMALAN: Born in India, but raised in the US. Produced some commercially successful Hollywood movies:
- The Sixth Sense [nominated for 5 Oscars, including in the coveted Best Director category]
- Unbreakable
- Signs and
- The Village
Though personally I feel his magic is wearing off now ...

SHEKHAR KAPUR: His movie Elizabeth got 7 Oscar nominations and won one in the Best Makeup category.

Now he’s an Indian to produce movie on a British Queen. What a strange coincidence that the only Indian to win an Oscar [BHANU ATHAIYA; “Best Costume Design” category] is in a movie produced by a British Sir Richard Attenborough on “Father of our Nation”. In fact this movie “Gandhi” won 8 Oscars including the most prestigious Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director awards.

I’ll just add the names of a few movies on NRI’s or made by NRI’s …
- Hydrabad Blues
- Bombay Boys
- American Desi
- Foreign Body
- The Guru

Now with India creating ripples in international circles as an emerging superpower, it’s high time that Bollywood produces such movies that have universal appeal and wins the stamp of international approval: OSCARS!!!
So, keeping fingers crossed for the riddle ... Paheli !!!

Film Awards and Festivals ...

Just a list of International Film Awards and Festivals ...
More information is welcome ...


ACADEMY AWARDS / OSCARS:
Presented since 1929 by “The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences” [AMPAS]
Nicknamed Oscars only in the 1930’s
Venue: Kodak Theater, Hollywood & Highland, Los Angeles, California, USA.

EMMY AWARDS:
TV version of the Oscars awards.
Presented since 1949, by “The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences” [ATAS]
Venue: Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA.

THE GOLDEN GLOBE:
Presented since 1944, by “The Hollywood Foreign Press Association” [HFPA].
Venue: Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California, USA

BAFTA: Now known as, Orange British Academy Awards; as is sponsored by mobile phone company Orange. It is presented since 1947, by “The British Academy of Film and Television Arts” [BAFTA] Originally founded as British Film Academy, but later television was incorporated and named as BATFA..
Venue: Odeon, Leicester, London, England, UK
[Leicester pronounced as Lester]

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FILM FESTIVALS:

THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL:
It is held since 1946, at Cannes, France.
Most prestigious award is Palme d’Or [Golden Palm]

BERLINALE / THE BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
It is held since 1951, at Berlin, Germany.
Awards are called Golden or Silver Bears [The Bear is the symbol of Berlin]

VENICE FILM FESTIVAL:
It is held since 1932 at Venice, Italy
The main award is Leone d’ Ora [Golden Lion]

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL:
It started in 1978, at Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Awards: Grand Jury Prize and Audience Awards

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL:
Started in 1976 at Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Awards: People’s Choice Award

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FILM AWARDS in INDIA:
- National Film Awards: started in 1973
by the government sponsored Directorate of Film Festivals [DFF]
- Filmfare Awards: since 1953
- Zee Cine Awards
- Stardust Awards

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Blacks' Magic ...

Yesterday night, I was flicking through TV channels and I stopped at the movie “Ray”. As I’ve already seen this movie; when it was released last year; so I just saw a small bit where he sings … “ What’d I say” [ Absolutely love this song!!!]
I think Jamie Foxx was P-E-R-F-E-C-T for the role ...
... as he’s quite an accomplished musician; having performed with the likes of Kanya West, 50 Cents and Ludacris ... So he well at ease getting into “Ray Charles” skin. But what’s more interesting is that he’s a comedian, more than a sober actor; but this was rather a very serious role. Before embracing Hollywood, Foxx had performed in a variety of TV serials with comedy roles. He also has his own sitcom “The Jamie Foxx Show”. For a person associated with comic-roles; to carry-out so convincingly in staid role, deserves loads of credit ...

So Jamie Foxx very deservingly won the Best Actor Oscar for “Ray” ; and along with him, another African American Morgan Freeman also won the Oscars as Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Million Dollar Baby”! Now this was only the second time in the 76-years history of Academy Awards that two African Americans won Oscars in the same year. The first time it was not long back, but quite recently in the year 2002, when Denzel Washington won Best Actor for “Training Day” and Halle Berry own Best Actress for “ Monster’s Ball”. The only other artist to win the best actor/actress Oscar has been Sidney Poitier in “Lilies of the Field” in 1963. This reflects how poorly the African-American community is represented in Hollywood!!! But this scene is now changing ...

That brings me to 3 of my favorite Black artists:
- Denzel Washington
- Morgan Freeman
- Samuel L. Jackson

Some movies I’ve seen:
DENZEL WASHINGTON: Training Day, John Q, The Bone Collector, The Manchurian Candidate, Pelican Brief, Man on Fire, Philadelphia, Mississippi Masala ..

MORGAN FREEMAN: Million Dollar Baby, Shawshank Redemption, Bruce Almighty, Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven, Nurse Betty ..

SAMUEL L. JACKSON: Pulp Fiction, A Time to Kill, the Negotiator, Jackie Brown, Unbreakable ..

I’ll also mention DANNY GLOVER here; though not a superstar, but definitely an excellent actor!!! [Lethal Weapon, The Rainmaker …]

Hollywood also has a host of African Americans; especially in comic roles:
EDDIE MURPHY: Doctor Dolittle, Nutty professor, Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cops
CUBA GOODING Jr: Rat Race, Men of Honor, Jerry Maguire, A Few Good Men
WILL SMITH: I-Robot, Hitch, Men in Black, Bad Boys, Independence Day
CHRIS TUCKER: Rush Hour, Jackie Brown ...

Some leading ladies:
WOOPIE GOLDBERG: Ghost, Corrina Corrina, Rat race
HALLE BERRY: Monster’s ball, Die another day, X-men, Swordfish
JADA PINKETT: Collateral ...

Art Imitates Life...!!!
I remember an old movie “Gone with the wind” in which Blacks were depicted as slaves.
Now a days African Americans are largely integrated into American mainstream culture; especially when if compare with the situation 50 years back. Prior to the passing of the “Civil Rights Act” of 1964; Blacks were restricted by law, to attend only “Colored Theaters”; which had separate entrance and seats...
Some absolutely *BRILLIANT* movies that depict the struggles of Blacks:
- To Kill a Mocking Bird [based on Harper Lee’s novel]
- A Time to kill [based on John Grisham’s novel]
- Mississippi Burning [based on true events that occurred in 1964]

Though earlier movies brought out STEREOTYPICAL roles for Blacks; which were not very flattering [servants, criminals, prisoners ...] But now, with changing times; Hollywood is increasingly churning out CROSSOVER roles; where they are depicted as layers, doctors, scientists, detectives’ police and the likes. In fact recently I saw a comedy “Be Cool”; in which a White [Vince Vaughn] acted as a “wannabe Blackman” ...
African Americans have made considerable impact on American culture, and as the perception of the society on them is changing, films; which reflect the society in which they are made; are changing as well ...


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*** Except for Sidney Poitier’s “Lilies of the field”; I’ve seen all of the other movies mentioned in the post .. In fact I’ve not even seen his “Guess who’s coming for dinner”!!! The only Poitier movie I’ve seen is “The Jackal"; in which he has a minor role!