The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Dont get any ideas with tattoo and girl, or the dragon 🙂 The original title of the Swedish book/movie – Män som hatar kvinnor – is a spoiler, so it’s good they changed the name for the worldwide release.

The main story is about a middle aged investigative journalist hired to probe a disappearance that happened 40 years ago. The parallel track is about the punk girl who helps in the search. And how they make unlikely partners during the detective journey. But the real story is about the darkness surrounding each character. The mystery is exceptionally well handled till the can-figure-out point. Then it slips a bit into the clichéd genres, but thankfully doesn’t follow the beaten path to the end.

Enhancement to some of the sub-plots may look unnecessary on hindsight. But I am told that the novel is written that way. Some of the scenes are not for the weak hearted, but the movie is a must watch (8/10)

The Secret In Their Eyes

Movie is the story of a retired attorney from the homicide division in Argentina. Divorced, living alone with nothing much to do, he is contemplating writing a novel. And decides to base it on a 25 year old murder mystery that has haunted him since.

The movie is the interwoven story with a backdrop of murder, about his revisiting the past, meeting those people now and trying to find clarity with the hindsight. He explores and discovers layers that were fearfully left untouched. Depicted in a scene is where a phrase that came up in the dream, TEMO (i fear), changes with one stroke to TE-AMO (i love you).

The mainline story is brilliant for most parts, but perhaps too easy for the Lynch fans. But the real movie is about the other stories. The movie won the best foriegn language Oscars, pushing out some of the favourites. And I think they got it right this time. Must watch. (9/10)

Efter Brylluppet (or After The Wedding)

Jacob, Dutch, works with an orphanage in Mumbai. A prospective donor, a millionaire calls him to Netherlands to discuss funds for the project. The rich man wants to know more about the project but is busy with his daughter’s marriage. He invites Jacob to the wedding. Jacob reluctantly agrees.

At the wedding, Jacob runs into someone from his past that brings out a big family secret which threatens to shake everyone’s world. After the wedding, he is torn between his love for orphanage (and his adopted son there) and call of duty. Movie is all about his situations, decisions and reasons.

Brilliant acting by everyone – Jacob, the millionaire, his wife and especially the daughter, absolutely fantastic. The cinematography method of extreme closeup to get deeper emotions from people’s faces was sometimes jarring and definitely flow breaking, but works great. It has some clichéd moments, but the movie is a short workshop on how to build a scene, the players, situation, dialogues and its impact on story.

Loved it. (9/10)

Shutter Island

Marty seems to have lost it in a ‘yeah-i-got-it-all-so-why-care’ spell of film making in Shutter Island. It begins like a typical period thriller, but once some facts are established, it turns into a very juvenile (and very predictable) storyline like Identity, or Hide and Seek.

Some unnecessary loud score, characters, and sub plots – all make the movie jarring, confusing, tiring and artificially complex. All to fizzle out at the end. Direction is good, so is acting – a brilliant De Caprio as usual, but even for Scorcese fans, the advice will be to stay away. But for others, it might just bend the genre. (2/5)

3 idiots, or is it more?

Finally after so much pressure from everyone (must watch/ you dont know what you are missing/ i was born to watch this movie), I watched 3 idiots yesterday. yes, it’s fun, and has some really good moments. The casting was spot on, outstanding. But in summary, what stood out was all the unnecessary stuff, like a sore thumb.

Many of the sequences would have done with better context building. The revengeful comic friend comes back to campus and calls everyone to meet, OK so far. And within minutes, they are on a long journey. And the day also is the very same day where friend’s father dies, and also another friend’s marriage. And the group finds the latter out late, but take a detour and manage to spoil the wedding and then go find the lost friend. Too much of a coincidence. And all their destinations finally end at the super friend. All in a day/trip? Too much to handle.

Many jokes are slapstick. Many interludes/ sub plots of Joy, pregnant sister, the sudden change of character of mother, surprise at interval, and cliched family scenes etc are misfits or under developed. Some of the jokes actually spoil the moments. The baby birth scene was sheer trash. Thankfully, Kareena has only 5-6 scenes.

In short, it isnt path breaking, rather it is far from perfect. Why do the directors always have to tie all the loose ends and complete the story to a full circle? Perhaps they think that the audience is stupid, in this case, idiots. How many, is the only question.

Oscar Round-up

A quick round up of Oscar nominated movies, FWIW.

The Hurt Locker:
The opening of the movie is a very shaky low-fi footage from robotic camera, giving it an ordinary documentary feel. But from the moment the first bomb went off, in what would be the signature shot of the movie – super slomo, the movie was so engrossing that one forgot about everything else. The creeping tension – for even scenes with 2 dialogues and no action lasting several minutes, is of high quality. When any day can be the last day of your life, people become edgy/ careless, and bare out their dark sides – “he is trying to be a hero, but is being stupid. he will get us all killed. why dont we just kill him? accidents happen all the time” or the reckless sides, removing protective gear while trying to diffuse a car bomb saying “there is enough powder here to send us all to jesus, so i might as well go in comfort” etc.

Choosing the cereal scene, and the completely unexpected, totally genuine ‘lessons-for-life’ to the infant about keeping passions in life, leading to the end of the movie is just brilliant. It may not win Best Picture or Director due to other popular entries, but the movie is a lesson on how to write a screenplay. And certainly can win the original screenplay category. Or if the academy grows some sense before voting, best director as well. It was pleasing to see Renner getting a best actor nomination for an unpolished, true to the last bit performance. Intense, and a must watch.

Up in the Air:
It is impossible to imagine anyone other that Clooney playing the role of Ryan Bingham. What Tom Cruise used to do, or what Brad Pitt tried, Clooney has just mastered (from Ocean’s 11 to Michael Clayton and now Up in the Air). He takes to these cool, savvy, suit-clad, tongue in cheek, 40-something characters like a duck to water.

Up in the Air is about a professional who makes a living out of firing people, and always on the move, up in the air. Since he is a frequent traveller, he keeps his luggage and life very light (“last year I travelled for 322 days of the year, which meant that I spent 43 miserable days at home”, or “if life is a backpack, and it is on fire, what would you save from it?”). His seemingly shallow world is seemingly rocked when technology tends to take his job. Excellent supporting cast as well – both supporting actresses got nominated, along with script (probably win as well) and direction. The best part about the movie is that it doesnt do an oh-so-predictable “Jerry Maguire” all-izz-well-ending and embrace reality. Must watch.

The Blind Side:
Certainly not a best picture candidate, and will pale away in front of a Hurt Locker, or without Sandra Bullock. Frankly, I am not a fan of Bullock. Somehow her on screen presence always irritated me, regardless of the role (Chris Waltz’s SS Colonel in Inglorious B was irritating, or if someone recall the preachy lady from The Mist, but those are written so). Take Urmila; she was good in Rangeela, and that’s it. Or like Aishwarya Rai in Hum Dil De Chuke and nothing else.

Anyways, Sandra Bullock’s only other watchable movies – for me – were Speed and Crash, both for entirely different reasons. And I will go on one limb and say that this movie is watchable just for Sandra Bullock’s acting. She was amazing. It could be because so much was stacked against her, that we get very very pleasantly surprised by her performance in this movie – about a white family fostering a black boy and supports him on his way to big leagues. Will she win? Possibly, due to sentiments.

An Education:
If somebody can stop Sandra Bullock from winning the best actress, it will be Carey Mulligan. The fact that she is unknown or it is a less known British movie doesnt help her, but she was outstanding in the most fresh coming of age movie in a long time. And without doubt some of the best dialogues written for a movie after last year’s Doubt. The movie is all about Carey, a 16 year old school girl in mid 60’s in a convent in England and about her ‘hands-on’ education of life. The ending is one of the most intriguing one in recent times, without looking to complete the entire circle – a good sign of believing in the imaginative capabilities of the audience. Studios cannot do such a thing, only a British indy can.

District 9:
Most original alien movie in 30 years since Ridley Scot’s Alien. Must watch for excellent script, subtle undertones and realistic movie making (unheard of in sci-fi; while we are at it, let me also recommend Moon, another brilliant sci-fi movie from last year). Must watch, but since it went against the US norms of Alien movies, it has no chance of winning any biggies. Reviewed before.

Up:
Reviewed before, another must watch. Some parts are quite a stretch, but the concept of chasing a dream in a house is certainly the adventure ride of the year. And add to that outstanding, touching music score and some amazing montage on story telling in the beginning of the movie. Coraline (another must watch, somewhat an animated take on Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind) might give it a run, but should win best animated feature.

Inglorious Basterds:
Much has been written about Tarantino’s “best master piece” yet, and for many it may have fallen short of the expectations from a QT movie. But given the nomination for lesser movies like Blind Side, I am not surprised Inglorious got a nod into best picture, and best original screenplay.

Havent watched A Serious Man, Precious, or Avatar. I plan to catch on the first two, I am not sure if I want to watch Avatar though.

Bad Lieutenant, Good for Cage

I have been terribly disappointed with the choice of movies a talented actor like Nicolas Cage was making in the past few years; Giving us a bunch of silly, boring (but blockbuster) movies about seeing futures or hunting treasures.

He is back. Though Bad Lieutenant is a bit over the top, I am happy to see glimpses of vintage Cage here. Story is about a cop who is a little on the edge, does drugs/gambling, sort-of corrupt, as title says, bad, investigating murder of a family related to drug pedaling. As one critic called it, unhinged performance from Cage.

Though it might fetch him a nomination or two, since the movie didnt do well at the BO, there are good chances that Cage will go back to the money hunt again. That, I feel, is the real bad part of the movie.

Up and away!

Watched Pixar’s UP last night. Brilliant, conceptual, evenly paced adventure with loads of fun. What surprised me was the imaginative script and emotion filled scenes. The timeline of the movie is a little iffy, but the first 15-20 mins, especially the 5 minutes of boy-meets-girl story telling was undoubtedly the best animation sequence I have ever watched. Pixar rules! Must watch

Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds

Tarantino claims this movie as his best masterpiece yet; Also cleverly stamping it with the last words in the movie. Given that it took so many rewrites and 7 years for RTM, it better be. But having watched the movie, I must say that the on-the-edge feeling one gets watching PF (or, even Jackie Brown) was missing. Storyline had history stacked up against it, so it was bound to be “tense”. I read that this version is about 1/3rd the size of the original script. That probably explains why some of the gaps are too evident, which surprisingly included many of the character developments.

May be it’s just me, but I detest film makers using narration to develop the story. Instead of building the character/ story line, this I feel is a short cut way to set premises. Setting a period say, 1941, France, is alright, but I expect more from QT. On the other hand, short interludes works fine. Say, the blip shot of sex with translator was very QT.

Soundtrack is pretty good. Audio/Visual has nothing to complain about. In fact, the DP did a great job. And the German actor who did SS Colonel Landa was brilliant. One actually felt uneasy when the character came on scene. Rest of the casting was alright, just about. Brad was pits. Why Brad? Why not say, William Macy?

Anyways, I feel this movie was hastened up for release. In terms of craft, I would say that this is typical Tarantino. And given the kind of engagements he had after the Kill Bills, I can understand why critics are calling it, the return of the king. Still an 8/10 for me.

District 9

Write down all the regular features in a Hollywood alien movie.

  1. Aliens are attacking the world
  2. It’s the end of the world soon
  3. Everyone looks up to USA
  4. Americans have the best ideas and put a task force together
  5. Big ticket actors for the BO
  6. Overdose of patriotism, heroism and sacrifice
  7. Billion bucks mind boggling CGI
  8. Finally all aliens are destroyed, America saves the Earth once again
  9. The End.

Let’s work on a story that is exactly opposite to the standard fair above. Aliens aren’t attacking, but they live amongst humans, for a change this is *not* happening in the USA. The actors are fairly unknown, no Michael Bay budget for graphics, the filming is raw and like surveillance footage. Thankfully the hero is forced to fight for it, hence heroism is non existent. The simple (though racist) human nature and politics looks very natural.

The ending, emotionally wrenching, leaves some loose ends untied, involving the audience to stitch the story back. An often used trick to either let the story linger in their minds, or for the, oh, sequel. It works well on both counts.

Easily the most original alien story in 30 years, after Ridley Scott’s brilliant Alien. And certainly a must watch!

9/10