Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016 movies so far

Apart from cooking and running, one of my favorite destresser is watching movies. A good movie just makes you forget everything. It has been little difficult to make time out for movies but in between, I did manage to catch a few and some of them have simply been amazing.

Spotlight -
Aah spotlight!  Tom McCarthy's Spotlight is one of the best movies of this year. A behind the scenes take on Boston Globe's expose of how priests where sexually abusing young children, Spotlight makes one feel back in love with the process of journalism.

There is a scene in Spotlight which just moved me. As the journalists are unraveling this mystery, they are all shocked to hear that even their local churches are involved in this. Since the complete depth is not clear, they can not confide with any of their friends outside work. And when 9/11 happens, they have to further wait before they publish. In one such waiting moments, Mark Ruffalo reveals heart broken he is. He had a religious upbringing but with youth he became agnostic. He had stopped going to church. But even with his skepticism, he believed that there could be a day when he may start believing again, he had hoped that church may offer him some solace. But this story has killed the dream and he can no longer respect that institution after what the team has uncovered.

Spotlight is very beautifully written, acted and directed. It has got to be the best movie for me this year.

Sully -
Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood, is a dramatic retelling of the real life incident in which a Capt Sullenberger successfully managed to land an airplane on Hudson river with no casualties. It was called "miracle on the Hudson". I was there in US when it happened. I remember hearing about the story but did not view it to be a miracle. I was too busy to worry about miracles then :)
The movie follows up here and explores the aftermath of this, in particular, an investigation by the NTSP, on whether the plane could have gone to land at a nearby airport. In a typical Clint style, the movie has an easy pace, great acting and lot of patriotic fervor to it. It is a human emotional drama told in a style that is getting old, yet it is a delight to watch.
The only problem with Sully - the film comes after the movie when upon research it is learnt that the investigation as told in the film never happened. It is a let-down. It is ok to take artistic liberties but to falsification at this level takes some glean out of it.

Pink is the movie of our times. There are very few movies that depict the society we live in, very few that can capture the imagination of a country, especially its urban middle class. Queen, Jhankar Beats, Khosla Ka Ghosla, A Wednesday has done so in past.  Movies like Dil Chahta Hai or even Rang De Basanti do not fall in this genre, because even they do try to attempt our society, the Bollywoodization is too much for us to relate to them. On top of it, Pink is a legal drama, a genre for which I have a weak spot.
Pink is a movie about three girls who are molested at a Surajkund resort. They escape after one of them breaks a whiskey bottle on one of the perpetrators. The perpetrators intimidate these girls, the girls file a molestation complaint and in retaliation the perpetrators file an attempt to murder case. What follows is a legal drama.  But the underlying context is how our society views women, how we judge them and finally what is the meaning of consent.
The first half of the movie is very taut, like a noir with an edge-of-a-seat thrill.  Without revealing the original incident, it is beautifully left to our imagination and the intimidation, even though is quite simple, manages to touch a raw chord.  Till the first half, it could have easily been an Anurag Kashyap movie. With the difference that in a Kashyap cinema, things go further downhill, but in this one, we get the regular cliches to make it an happy ending cinema. Despite this, the social commentary and the hard straight dialogues makes it a movie that we have been waiting from Bollywood.  The industry has to grow and this movie is showing a way.

Udta Punjab
I loved it! Yes, the ending is far too much contrived for the first 75% of the movie but the first three quarters is so good that I don't care. Basing on the drug menace in Punjab,  Udta Punjab got into spotlight because of censor board recommending many cuts. The courts provided some sanity and the movie was released with just one cut.
Udta Punjab has many many flaws, the whole Kareena Kapoor arc is far fetched but it is still a special film. I have wondered why? I was instantly happy and ready to overlook so many things. Why this movie works while others don't?  The answer lies in the tone of this film. Boosted by its soundtrack, the background score, and the genuine human absurdity replete in this case, it just keeps you engaged. Subconsciously, one is aware that the underlying drug problem is very real and the movie's second sequence establishes it very convincingly. The four fictional story lines are a refreshing change and avoid the common tropes. The music has definitely grown on after the film.  This is good cinema, dark and serious but much needed.

It takes heart to watch Masaan. I waited for a year to finally put the dvd in my DVD player. I was not ready for the film. I knew that watching the film is going to be a stressful experience. So, one Sunday, after a good sleep, healthy breakfast and sleep, we put it on. It is exactly how I anticipated but loved it.
Masaan is a story of 4-5 different people living in Varanasi. It is as much their story as it is the story of Varanasi. The characters in film personify the city - a crumbling, sadistic, cynical city. The best sequence of Masaan is the falling in love sequence. How does one fall in love with small towns where main line of work is to burn bodies after death? How friends influence and how a  mela is the place to be. Plus the amazing lyrics and sound track of this film makes it a delight to watch. Richa Chaddha gives a tour-de-force. Her performance really fills the screen. Pankaj Tripathy fights for his screen presence and is able to pull it off in a manner that only he can do so.  Sanjay Mishra is at home here and newcomers pull it off very well. Overall, Masaan is not an easy film to watch. But once it gets going, it is not that difficult either. A million other things could have gone wrong but they don't.  It is definitely part of the new-age Art cinema of India.


Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Now, that is what I call a perfect family entertainer. We watched if when my dad was ill and we were looking for a light hearted movie that all of us can enjoy. A black & white movie, that too on politics but MSGW is an endearing effort, not enough for a one time watch.
Based on a fillibuster, MSGW is a lovely film. Played with heart by James Stewart, MSGW is a story how a rookie Mr. Smith gets nominated to the house of Congress. Naive and completely unfamiliar with the inner workings of Congress, he decides to pass a law to build camp for scouts only to realize that the space is earmarked by a corrupt businessman for his personal gains. It is a classic good vs evil movie, pure heart vs greed and MSGW is an out and out feel goodness that one seeks from cinema.

Shop Around the Corner
James Stewart again. Who knew that the cute and lovely You've got Mail is actually a remake of an equally lovely and affable film - Shop Around the Corner. Given that SAC came before You've got Mail, it is a truly remarkable script.

Other decent ones to watch - Nil Battey Sannata. Jungle Book. BFG
Did not like/Hated it - Dhanak, Captain America - Civil War.