Saturday, February 27, 2016

88th Academy Awards

Note 1: This is the fourth consecutive year when I am doing this. Hopefully this one will be much more readable compared to my previous attempts. Hopefully. (prev: 87th, 86th, 85th) This year, I also wrote a story with the tag-lines of the Oscar-nominated movies.

Note 2: I suspect the ratings for this year's Oscars are going to be very low. I mean, outside of #OscarsSoWhite, Studios and producers need to freakin' make the movies available for viewing online (or in theaters)! I will pay money to watch these movies BEFORE the Oscars goddamit! Events are successful when people talk about it. And to talk about it, people need context. What should we talk about instead of the movies themselves, Clooney's tux, JLaw's stumble, host's fumble, and hot cleavages?

This is one of those years when I am not particularly attached to any movie that has been nominated. Atleast not for the big awards. But this year's Animated and Documentary nominations are a bunch of powerhouses compared to any year in recent history for these categories. It beats me why Inside Out didn't get a Best Picture nod. This just might have been a year when a Pixar movie, or any animated movie for that matter, won the top prize. Instead, we get Oscar-bait movies such as Room, Bridge of Spies, or even The Revenant. Mad Max getting in there is quite a surprise, not so much in retrospect. And yet, the top prize this year remains wide open, probable front-runners being Spotlight, The Revenant, and The Big Short, with the race getting more interesting than the movies themselves.

Emily Blunt's omission from Supporting Actress and Villeneuve's from Director (yep, I loved Sicario!) seems a little strange, but Villeneuve's time will come. His every successive movie gets better than the last! And Quentin, what did you do? He is forgiven though for getting too indulgent, considering that he might be nearing the end of his filmography. I hope though that I get to see him, among others, getting a Directing Oscar some day. Some day.

Right then.

Category / PickNomineesVishesh TippaniHit / Miss
Motion Picture


The Big Short


Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant


The Big Short: After The Wolf of Wall Street's rollercoaster ride, this seemed like pony carousel. I mean, we get it. Financial meltdown happened, and no-one responsible went to jail. Bravo! Selena Gomez explaining Collateralized Debt Obligations was cute though. Heh.

Brooklyn: It gets a lot of things right. Saoirse Ronan is an absolute delight to watch on screen, with a well-deserved Actress nomination for her. And the way the movie transports you to the 50s is incredible, effortlessly shattering a lot of things we take for granted today. And we are not talking about an ancient era, just 60-70 years ago. Brooklyn also does not resort to evil-looking people to further the plot in a way Titanic did, and in a way that makes the protagonists' struggles relatable, real, and very palatable - in a way that triggers a "Life is such," response rather than "They deserved this".
"I'd forgotten what this town is like. What were you planning to do, Miss Kelly?" 

Bridge of Spies: This is the "America is the best country in the World" movie for this year. Although both Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance nailed it with chiselled performances. Coen brothers wrote this, perhaps it would have been a much better movie if they directed it as well.
"Aren't you worried?"
"Would it help?"

Mad Max: Fury Road: This movie was an adrenalin-induced delight without end. Stunning camera work, absurdist humour, and louder than loudest everything, so much that one literally felt exhausted after the movie did not give any breathing space during.

The Martian: Someone please explain to me why Inside Out is not in this category, and why The Martian isn't in the Best Animated movie category instead? What is the line between special effects and animation? Considering the state of the art for motion capture and 3D rendering techniques, maybe it's time we do away with the distinction. Anyway, The Martian falls flat compared to Gravity, or even Interstellar. Maybe it was just an excuse to rescue Matt Damon... again.

The Revenant: A lot of people, including the Academy, seem to be particularly fond of Iñárritu. I find his movies boring, the technical brilliance notwithstanding. Birdman was perhaps Iñárritu's most enjoyable movie, and I didn't want Birdman to win (Boyhood... sigh). If The Revenant wins this one, of which there is a more than significant chance, it will be several firsts, perhaps the most interesting one being successive wins by the same Director. Sure looks like Leo's year though.

Room: This was a hit or miss and all over the place. Some scenes were striking, in particular the one towards the end where Brie Larson goes back to the Room. Jacob Tremblay was spectacular until he was inside the room, and made his escape. After that it seemed like the director just didn't give a shit anymore.
"There's so much of "place" in the world."

Spotlight: This is my favourite movie from this category. Tense, crisp, great characters, performances, writing, Spotlight ranks high up there.
"We got two stories here: a story about degenerate clergy, and a story about a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry. Which story do you want us to write? Because we're writing one of them."
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
As much as I loved Spotlight, I am not sure if Tom McCarthy's time has come for a directing Oscar. The race mostly seems between Iñárritu and Miller, both of whom are really fine directors. If Iñárritu pulls this one off, back-to-back Director Oscars would be a tremendous feat.

Although, if I had my way, Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman (directors of Anomalisa),  Andrew Haigh (director of 45 years), would have found a spot here. And when-o-when will Denis Villeneuve's (Sicario) time come?
Writing (Original)


Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out


Straight Outta Compton
Bridge of Spies is probably in here because... Coen brothers. Perhaps the movie would have been significantly better had they directed it as well.

Ex Machina had some really smart writing as well, reminded me of "Her" in a lot of ways.
Ava: "What will happen to me if I fail your test?"

I loved the fact that Inside Out got nominated for this, if not for Best Picture. They really got me from the moment the "train of thought" arrives. As cheesy as that is, really made me chuckle.
"Take her to the moon for me."

And as much as Tarantino would like to say "I truly believe in the material" for The Hateful Eight, he needs to sit on the bench for this one.

Spotlight though, crisp, taut, engaging from start to finish truly deserves this one.
"If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them."
Writing (Adapted)

The Big Short

The Big Short



The Martian

The Big Short is a no-brainer for this. I haven't read the book so I do not know how it reads, but this is one of those examples of an "adaptation", from a non-fiction, that would have truly meant a LOT of work.

Aaron Sorkin could have been slipped in here (for Steve Jobs), again adapting a non-fiction. Plus, in my opinion, his approach with the source material was remarkable and creative. With all the different sorts of issues Steve Jobs ran into during production, Sorkin was probably the only one who did the cleanest job for this movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

FINALLY, LEO! Boy am I waiting for his acceptance speech! SIXTH nomination, and what a journey! A story of survival, revenge, and life is also possibly the most fitting way he could have won this one!

But this doesn't go without mentioning the other quite remarkable performances in this category. Trumbo felt a lot like Argo, even besides the 'Hollywood making a movie about Hollywood thing' and John Goodman's huge (literally) presence. And I love this "genre" (if you may) too - Sunset Bldv., Chaplin, The Artist, to name a few.

Michael Fassbender did a fine job and literally saved the movie, but the most striking performance for me from this movie would definitely be that of Winslet's.

There are some roles where it is unimaginable for anyone else doing them except for Eddie Redmayne (you know, the kind of feeling we get quite often for Benedict Cumberbatch). I doubt anyone else would have been able to do Theory of Everything or The Danish Girl.

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Prediction: Brie Larson
Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Brie Larson seems sealed for this category. She isn't on my top 3 out of these 5, so I will be a little bummed about this one.

I am conflicted between Charlotte Rampling and Saoirse Ronan for my top spot. 45 years is a stunning film, and deserved much more than the solitary nomination it received, but Charlotte is really the heart and soul of the film. After Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) lost to JLaw, I would be too pleased to see Charlotte win this one, for a movie that has too many similarities to Amour.

I wouldn't mind Saoirse winning this one either. Her nuanced performance in Brooklyn left you yearning for more.
Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Prediction: Sylvester Stallone
Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed
The one thing that I loved about The Big Short was Christian Bale's performance. In the very limited time that he occupies the screen, every freakin' scene is fireworks. He would be my pick for this one, but Sylvester Stallone makes for a great Oscar story, so yeah... Mark Rylance.
Supporting Actress

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Prediction: Alicia Vikander
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
It's a shame that Alicia Vikander got nominated for The Danish Girl instead of Ex Machina. I am nuts about Alicia Vikander, she is what I would call "vanilla" beautiful. I know she is beautiful, I don't know why, and I find it hard to be able to figure it out. It's like she only registers when she's in front of me, but poof as soon as she's not, enigmatic almost. I think it was a stroke of casting brilliance to cast her in Ex Machina, a role which hinged significantly on this quality of hers in my opinion. You know, artificial... but not really, feels real... but can't put a finger on why.

But between her performance in The Danish Girl, and Kate Winslet's in Steve Jobs, my vote definitely goes to Kate. Them glasses. Sigh. And a performance that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Fassbender's as Jobs, that's really something.
Animated Movie


Prediction: Inside Out

Boy & The World

Inside Out

Shaun The Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There
What a collection of movies in this category! This is a collection which is missing The Peanuts Movie and The Good Dinosaur - movies which in any other year would have made the nomination cut and might even have won!

I want to especially talk about three movie here, Anomalisa, Inside Out, and Boy & The World, although Shaun The Sheep and When Marnie Was There are brilliant movies in their own right.

Anomalisa is one of those movies that leave you going "How on Earth did they pull this off on screen?!" The stillness of this movie, the calm, the poise, the detail - both in the little things and the not-so-little things - is astounding. I could write at length about this movie, but anyone who has spent any time travelling to a smaller city in the US (especially to the mid-west) will get all intricate details they have managed to so gloriously capture. The absolutely shocking sex scene, the long takes, the movie playing almost in real time... Anomalisa is an anomaly done right when it comes to pushing the boundaries of what can be done on animation.

Talking about pushing the boundaries of animated films, Boy & The World is gorgeous! Such raw beauty, it is a spectacle to behold. Lovingly crafted hand-drawn animation, the colors, the playfulness, the airiness, the fireworks-y sparkle, the dazzle, every still of the film could be a framed painting in an art gallery. This is how, I wish, The Peanuts Movie had been made. HAND-DRAWN! I hope we get to see more of Alê Abreu's work.

Inside Out is almost surely going to win this one. Don't get me wrong, it is a great film, perhaps one of Pixar's top 3, if not the best. But it is going to win it for the wrong reasons. Animation has very little to do with what makes Inside Out a great film, which is why it was much better off getting a Best Film nod, along with the Writing nod that it deservedly received.


Prediction: The Revenant 

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

The Hateful Eight is on this list because... 70mm, Ben Hur lenses, yada yada yada. It's not the tooling that maketh a genius. Nope. But okay Quentin, you were indulging yourself, you are allowed to do that, of course.

It will be a big surprise if The Revenant does not win this one. The cinematography, after all, is one of the biggest reasons why it has been getting oh-so-much love. But, have you seen Sicario! Especially the one scene where they perform the extraction from Mexico, sent a chill down my spine. That is a scene in the same league as the car scene from Children of Men.

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant


Star Wars: The Force Awakens
If there is one award that Mad Max truly deserves, it's got to be this one. How do you even cut this movie?! Hit!
Production Design

Mad Max: Fury Road

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Bridge of Spies


The Hateful Eight


Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Hateful Eight, again, is here because... Morricone. This is probably Academy's last chance to give a real Oscar to Ennio Morricone rather than the honorary one they had to give him a few years ago.

Sicario and Star Wars (obviously) truly deserve a special mention though.
Visual Effects

The Revenant

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
This category is really losing its significance extremely fast. It is too hard to tell what's special effects and what's not, considering almost every movie undergoes huge transformation during post-production. Ex Machina.

Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight For Freedom

Prediction: Amy

Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight For  Freedom
Just like the Animated Feature Film category, this was another powerhouse collection of films. I wouldn't mind Amy winning this one, Asif Kapadia is an accomplished director, his Senna ranks amongst my favorite movies. And, to be fair, Amy is an amazing movie, except, I didn't care a lot about the subject matter.

Winter on Fire, on the other hand, is a movie extremely relevant in today's day and age, and has managed to put together some really spine-chilling footage and beautifully. It also managed to give a first-hand glimpse into a country that we (I) know so little about, and around events that are being played out right now on the global political arena.

Total: 13 / 15

Saturday, February 20, 2016

This is a true story

Meet the little voices inside your headThe bounty hunter. The Hangman. The Confederate. The Sheriff. The Mexican. The little man. The cow puncher. The prisoner. No one to trust. Everyone to hate. The world's most dangerous times created the world's most dangerous group. Can a great man be a good man?

In a world on the brink the difference between war and peace was one honest man. One who has returned, as if from the dead. The dead are alive. When they tried to silence him, he made the world listen. Winning is the only option. Break the story. Break the silence. Blood lost. Life found. A heartbreaking journey. Bring Him Home. Midnight is just the beginning. Only the mad survive.

No One Comes Up Here Without a Damn Good Reason. Love knows no boundaries. The border is just another line to cross. Two countries, two loves, one heart. Her Story, Her Voice. Some people change your life forever. The girl behind the name.

Their spirit would never be broken. There is nothing more human than the will to survive. Find the courage to be yourself. Have the courage to love. Lose control. Your legacy is more than a name. Every generation has a story. The next generation of revolution. The future belongs to the mad.

What happens to me if I fail your test? Are you curious? Are you now or have you ever been...

We all dream in Gold. What a lovely day.

I wrote this as an experiment and for fun, written solely from tag-lines of the Oscar-nominated movies of 2015. The heading is from The Big Short. For the rest, hover on them to reveal the movie names.

Before this, I have retold Where The Mind Is Without Fear using movie posters, and wrote a story just out of movies' names: Stranger than fiction.

Friday, February 12, 2016

one in a million

Let's get realistic about love.

For this exercise, we will make certain broad assumptions, discounting exceptions and outliers. We will try to figure what's happening statistically when two people fall in love. We will also place our exercise in an Indian social and cultural context.

Let's start with the potential "universe" of people one can possibly fall in love with. We will start with the total population, and reduce for mutually exclusive groups. India has 1.2 billion people. ~50% for the opposite sex -> 600 million. India's median age is 27 years (50% population less than 27 years of age) . For this exercise, assuming that one intends to get married in the age range of 24-32, an 8-year span (our math won't vary much if we increase this window on either side by a few extra years, there is a bulge below this range), we are down to ~80 million.

It gets a little tricky from here. Remove for some semblance of economic backgrounds and we are down to ~8 million (80 lakh). Now from this, remove for religion & caste preferences (I am looking at you Brahmins), dietary preferences (no onion no garlic anyone?), height & weight preferences (taar bijli se lambe humaare piya), complexion preferences (it's only fair, right? Lovely), educational preferences, language barriers and north Indian and south Indian and Gujju and Mallu and Kashmiri and Jat preferences. And so far we haven't removed for people already married or in love with someone else who is not you. And after you have removed for all of the above, you need to be with a person with whom when you spend time, your emotional response to them lies between "surreal" and "I can stand this person" on a scale of butterflies, and the other person's emotional response also lies somewhere in the same ballpark. And whoever you are left with, you haven't even begun to find him/her yet. Given your life experiences of school, college, workplace, pubs, bars, travels, tinder and what not, and the count of people you potentially meet through these life experiences, what are the fuckin' odds.

I had always believed that the concept of "the one" does not hold. But given the odds, and given that there exists atleast "a" one, you are probably better off with a the. Two people falling in love with each other is a statistical miracle.

[from Watchmen] Miracles. Events with astronomical odds of occurring, like oxygen turning into gold. I've longed to witness such an event...; ...and out of that contradiction, against unfathomable odds, it's you - only you - that emerged. To distill so specific a form, from all that chaos. It's like turning air into gold. A miracle.

I hear "everything is great, but I am not so sure" ever so often that it's fuckin' unbelievable. I don't understand why anyone in their right mind would break up. You met someone and liked, and they liked you back, and you loved each other's company, and then you eventually started driving each other crazy and "it didn't work out"?! Huh?

For people who are single still, I feel sorry for you. The odds are stacked against you and there is little hope for you (lol). Live, is all, and maybe, just maybe lightning will strike (in this case, twice). And for people who are married or with someone and in love, go hug your Significant Other really hard right now right this moment, take a good look at them, smile, hold their hands, and know that they are your one in a million. You have witnessed a miracle.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beer, Music & Getting To Know Each Other

You must remember this?

Once upon a time there was a boy. Once upon a time there was a girl. Both were fond of beer. Beer was simple and easy - no commitments. Given so many types, there is always something for everyone. And you never drink beer to get drunk; you drink beer to drink beer. Of all the beer joints, in all the towns, in all the world, they walk into this one. Two tall glasses of foggy weiss in front of them, the concoction still retaining the character of the grain it was made from, and the continuous effervescence making it look like an abstract display piece with a hypnotic magical potion swirling inside. Smiles, sips, and a little chit-chat. All three of which serve little or nothing towards "getting to know each other."

It is a confused term, really. Getting to know each other. If they are getting to knowing each other, well, when are they going to get there? And what are they going to know after they get there? And what are they going to do after they know they got there? And if they have gotten to it, what happens when there is nothing else to know? The term suffers from an extra preposition and an extra verb. It should be distilled down to just... getting each other. There's nothing more, either they get it or they don't.

Once upon a time there was a boy. Once upon a time there was a girl. Both got this.

A kiss is still a kiss.
A sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply

Once upon a time there was a boy. Once upon a time there was a girl. Both were fond of music. The boy and the girl both collected music, making playlists as they swam through life. It was as if music gave a soundtrack to their lives - important events, people - in a life otherwise only filled with background noise. The songs aged and matured as their surrounding evolved, with them. And curating music with someone made it all the more special.

When this boy and this girl met, the boy asked if he could propose a song. The girl asked which one. The boy extended "As Time Goes By". The girl said, "I think it is the beginning of a great playlist."

And when two lovers woo
They still say I love you
Moonlight and lovesongs never out of date

Once upon a time there was a boy. Once upon a time there was a girl. Both got this.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

87th Academy Awards

Note 1: Hello, and welcome to the annual edition of my pretending to understand how the average-age-55-years-white-American-old-men vote to find the best movie of the year! It's almost like how the new Pope is picked. Almost.

Note 2: Post 3.0 is going to be awesome, just like my previous two posts. Also, this year, a bunch of us got together to make an AWESOME app for Oscars - Award Street. Check it out!

This year is pretty much going to be Boyhood vs. Birdman. A lot of people are going to get their predictions wrong this year depending on which way The Academy leans, unless your prediction is that a movie whose name starts with the letter 'B' is going to take home the grandest prize, and you can be sure about nailing it. Personally, I want to be screaming "It's a boy!" when it's announced. That man, Linklater, deserves a trophy by now. He got nominated for the last 2 movies of the 'Before' trilogy, and has made cult classics like Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, and School of Rock. He might just walk away with 3 trophies in his hands this year and that would be AWESOME. If The Academy leans towards Birdman instead of Boyhood, it will be sad, and them trying incredibly hard to be cool. Boyhood is an achievement, period. A movie event we are going to be talking about for a long, long time. It will be fitting if Boyhood is announced for the Best Picture, and this plays:

I don't wanna be a big man
Just wanna fight like everyone else

No major controversies with the nominations, although no love for Nightcrawler, The Lego Movie, and no cinematography nod for Interstellar broke my heart a little. But then, what's an Oscar without a little heartbreak, right?

Right then, let's get on with it.

CategoryPredictionPickVishesh TippaniQuotesHit / Miss
Best Motion Picture of the YearBoyhood
I think this category isn't even a contest. Boyhood is by far the best movie on this list. Also, instead of the standard Film/Director split the Academy is known for doing, I think this year is going to see a Film/Writing split, between Boyhood and Birdman.'You know how everyone's always saying seize the moment? I don't know, I'm kind of thinking it's the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.'Miss. Birdman. Oh well.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading RoleMichael Keaton, Birdman
Another year, BC! This year's going cleanly to Mr. Keaton.'A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.'Miss. Well, I am glad. Great performance by Eddie Redmayne in Theory of Everything.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading RoleJulianne Moore, Still AliceRosamund Pike, Gone GirlThe chills Rosamund Pike gives you! Goodness. I wish she won this one, but she won't.From Gone Girl: 'I'm the cunt you married. The only time you liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this cunt might like. I'm not a quitter, I'm that cunt. I killed for you; who else can say that? You think you'd be happy with a nice Midwestern girl? No way, baby! I'm it.'Hit!
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting RoleJ.K. Simmons, Whiplash
The only thing going for Whiplash. Simmons' powerful performance made this movie worth a while. His performance took me back to when I was in school.'There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.'Hit!
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting RolePatricia Arquette, Boyhood
Boyhood could very well have been called 'Motherhood', and it would have remained as true. Patricia deserves this gold!'I just thought there would be more.'Hit! YAY!
Best Achievement in DirectingRichard Linklater, Boyhood
Please. Starting to feel a little bad for Mr. Anderson though. Maybe Mr. Anderson is destined to be seventh time lucky another year.'I finally figured it out. It's like when they realized it was gonna be too expensive to actually build cyborgs and robots. I mean, the costs of that were impossible. They decided to just let humans turn themselves into robots. That's what's going on right now. I mean, why not? They're billions of us just laying around, not really doing anything. We don't cost anything. We're even pretty good at self-maintenance and reproducing constantly. And as it turns out, we're already biologically programmed for our little cyborg upgrades. I read this thing the other day about how When you hear that ding on your inbox, you get like a dopamine rush in your brain. It's like we're being chemically rewarded for allowing ourselves to be brainwashed. How evil is that? We're fucked.'Miss. Iñárritu, Birdman. Oh well. Another year, bigger movie, Linklater!
Best Original ScreenplayBirdmanBoyhoodThis is going to be a close call, but I think Birdman will pull through in the end. Also, if it does, the Best Picture announcement is going to induce double the nervousness. Writing/Film split seldom happens. The last time this happened was with Argo (2012), and Million Dollar Baby (2005) before that.From Boyhood: 'I mean, what makes you think that elves are any more magical than something like a whale? Yoy know what I mean? What if I told you a story about how underneath the ocean, there was this giant sea mammal that used sonar and sang songs and it was so big that its heart was the size of a car and you could crawl through the arteries? I mean, you'd think that was pretty magical, right?'Hit!
Best Adapted ScreenplayThe Imitation Game
The better crop are the ones in the original writing category. The adapted is pretty non-exciting, unless American Sniper takes it because of the emotions involved.'Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes... hollow.'Hit!
Best Animated Feature Film of the YearHow to train your Dragon 2
No nomination for The Lego Movie was really disappointing. Nothing much here.
'Some of us were just born different.'Miss. Big Hero 6. Blah. I couldn't care less without The Lego Movie nomination.
Best Achievement in CinematographyBirdmanThe Grand Budapest HotelNo nomination for Interstellar was a disappointment. A win for Grand Budapest would redeem it.'You're looking so well, darling, you really are... they've done a marvelous job. I don't know what sort of cream they've put on you down at the morgue, but... I want some.'Hit!
Best Achievement in EditingBoyhood
This is a no contest. Editing footage spanning 12 years into this masterpiece!'I find myself so furious at all these people that I am in contact with just for controlling me or whatever but you know they are not even aware they are doing it.'Miss. Whiplash. :/
Best Achievement in Production DesignThe Grand Budapest HotelInterstellarWell, I am going to pick Interstellar for whichever category it's nominated in!From Interstellar: 'Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.'Hit!
Best Achievement in Costume DesignThe Grand Budapest Hotel

'You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that's what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant... oh, fuck it.'Hit!
Best Achievement in Makeup and HairstylingThe Grand Budapest Hotel
A lack of Theory of Everything here was a little bit surprising.'I must say, I find that girl utterly delightful. Flat as a board, enormous birthmark the shape of Mexico over half her face, sweating for hours on end in that sweltering kitchen, while Mendl, genius though he is, looms over her like a hulking gorilla. Yet without question, without fail, always and invariably, she's exceedingly lovely.'Hit!
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original ScoreInterstellar
Zimmer's score made Interstellar more grandiose than it already was. Just 1 win for him from 9 nominations, I think he can use another win, and deservedly so. Theory of Everything has a good chance of taking it away.'Those aren't mountains, they're waves.'Miss. Grand Budapest Hotel. This movie is on a roll tonight! Desplat deserved a win, nominated for 2 movies this year, and 7 before this.
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original SongSelmaThe Lego MovieI like 'Lost Stars' from Begin Again. But my pick is The Lego Movie because it was AWESOME, and these buggers did not give it a nod for Animated Feature.From The Lego Movie: 'All this is true because it rhymes.'Hit!
Best Achievement in Sound MixingInterstellar
There was a bunch of controversy around Interstellar's sound. It doesn't matter. A couple of IMAX viewings is what those buggers need.'You're telling me it takes two numbers to measure your own ass but only one to measure my son's future?'Miss. Whiplash. For not giving it to Interstellar, I tell you, Academy, "Not my tempo."
Best Achievement in Sound EditingInterstellar
see: above. Although, American Sniper might snatch this one. Also, I think Fury should have gotten a nod here.'And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.'Miss. Sniper made a headshot at TARS.
Best Achievement in Visual EffectsInterstellar
This is a no-contest. Why are there even other nominees?!'Do not go gentle into that good night; Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.'Hit! Although it's sad that Interstellar might end its count with this.
Best Short Film, Live ActionThe Phone CallButter LampThis is the first time I got to watch all the live-action shorts before the event. Pretty great movies, all. My favorite's got to be Butter Lamp, for the sheer ingenuity of script.
Best Short Film, AnimatedFeast
It's a dog's life.

13 / 21

Who are you rooting for?

87th Academy Awards...

Friday, October 03, 2014

Durbhaagya Haider ka (Kashmir ka rajkumar)

Note 1: It is after a long time that I want to write about an (Indian) movie!

Note 2: Considering that Haider is adapted from a well-known (and arguably the most famous) Shakespearean play, The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, I will go easy with spoilers and without warning. And for those unfamiliar with tragedies by Shakespeare, spoiler alert, everybody dies.

I knew Vishal Bhardwaj has a fetish for Shakespeare. Haider is the final installment of his trilogy spanning Maqbool (Macbeth) and Omkara (Othello) before this. Shakespeare's influence on him is also evident in his outings not based on plays, most notably in Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola, and less visibly in 7 khoon maaf, and Ishqiya among others. But this is also a man who truly loves cinema and adores the medium. So much that the characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from the original play are depicted as Salman and Salman, a duo which run a VHS rental store, idling their time away to the moves of Salman Khan, the rising superstar from the 1990s. It is a fitting tribute to the time and place in which Vishal Bhardwaj grew up as a filmmaker.

I mention this because I wager this man is heavily influenced in his style by another man who adores cinema, Quentin Tarantino, a director famous for his revenge epics. With all the bloody gruesomeness that leaves its trail along a saga of revenge, the conflicts, the deliberations, the mess - how cool is it that our home-grown director does homage to Tarantino's trademark trunk shot and ends Haider with a sampling straight from his movies (edit: my bad. The sampling at the end of Haider is from Extreme Ways.)

Set in the mid-1990s in Kashmir, the story embeds itself flawlessly in the setting, rather than it just being a background setup for the events adapted from the original play.

Jhelum, jhelum dhoonde kinara
Jhelum, jhelum dhoonde kinara
Dooba sooraj, kin aankhon mein
Sooraj dooba, kin aankhon mein
Jhelum huya khaara

This has to be Shahid Kapoor's highlight performance of his career yet. I was skeptical about this casting choice from the trailers, but boy was I wrong. The amount of preparation he put behind this role shows. The monologue scene in front of an audience at the town square is exaggerated just the right amount, and the execution of the play-within-a-play exposition scene from the original is neat. His costumes, makeup, body language, all fit together seamlessly as he owns his character.

Hai ki hai nahi, bas yehi sawaal hai
Aur sawaal ka jawab bhi sawaal hai.

Dil ki agar sunoon to hai, dimaag ki to hai nahin
Jaan loon ki jaan doon, mai rahoon ki mai nahin.

And what a find Shraddha Kapoor is! Elegant, charming, poised, controlled, absolutely not afraid to let her eyes to the talking, and leaves you yearning for more. I wish I was there to see her keeping a straight face as she mispronounces 'loved' as 'love-edd' as they were filming it! I, for one, definitely want to see her do meaningful roles in the future. Irrfan Khan delivers a spirited punch during his meager screen time, playing the ghost from the play.

But the highlight performance in the movie has to be Tabu's, arguably her career's best, atleast in a very long time. A delight she is as she sets the screen on fire bringing her character to life. There is a scene in which she is trying to convince Haider to leave Kashmir for a better future. With her teary, swollen eyes, and a gun pointed to her head, she ultimately gets her way. I cannot imagine another actress from around here who can pull that off with such elegance.

"Vaishi bhediyaa ban chuka hai wo."
"Shukr hai aasteen ka saanp nahi banaa."

Vishal Bhardwaj, with his direction and music (for Gulzar's excellent lyrics), tops himself. Being true to the source material and still making it his own, he comes out triumphant. He is at the top of his game here. Kashmir has been shot so delicately! (I want to go there ASAP! And we we don't need foreign locations!) The gravedigger scene, in particular, is the crowning jewel, a scene which drips with his love and affection for his craft.

Arre aao na, ki jaan gayi, jahaan gaya, kho jaao
Arre aao na, ke thak gayi, hai zindagi, so jaao

I might have profusely appreciated the movie thus far, but the movie is not without its gripes. I'll start with the anachronisms. In one of the best and most important scenes in the movie, the play-within-a-play scene, there is a mobile cellular tower prominently visible throughout in the background. Forgetting for a moment that we did not have cellular networks in the 1990s, its presence is distracting. I would have expected this to come up in post-processing/editing, especially when a viewer is able to catch it in first viewing. This is the kind of attention-to-detail I would expect from a director of his caliber. Then, to depict Bangalore, they used footage of the iconic Domlur flyover here. Again, its construction hadn't started as late as 2003, and the footage of sprawling flyovers plastered suddenly coming from the valleys of Kashmir moments ago is jarring to say the least.

Also, in my opinion, the Oedipus aspects of the play were overplayed in the movie. It wasn't necessary. Not as much. But my major complaint is how they handled the character of Ophelia. Transforming it into a childhood love, and having scenes of brimming romance between Haider and Arshia feels out-of-place in a Shakespearean revenge epic such as Hamlet.

But hey, the movie is probably a little too "heavy" already for Indian audiences, and removing the little romance might have aggravated it, so what do I know? I am sure it took enough courage already to deal with the Censor Board's scissors and to release this film pitted against the 24,000-screens-release of multi-starrer blockbuster Bang Bang.

I can already read some negative Internet chatter around 1) The depiction of Kashmir; 2) It being a heavily political movie; and 3) "maa bete ka rishta". Please, folks, can we let art remain art? Pretty please?

I cannot recommend this movie enough. Please go watch it, something like this comes rarely in our country. Thank you Vishal Bhardwaj for making Haider.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Where The Mind Is Without Fear (retold in 12 movie posters)

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,

...let my country awake.

Poem: Where The Mind Is Without Fear by Rabindranath Tagore
Movie posters belong to the creators. Please don't sue me. :)