Inception is like...

Inception isn’t impossible. It has been done effectively by filmmakers and novelists for ages and now it has been done by Nolan. Modus Operandi is quite simple. Be an architect, construct an elaborate dream world with certain rules. Be a dreamer, let your subconscious project your imagination and tell a story. Be the forger and create believable characters by stealing from the collective or individual psyche. Be the point man and see that your task is carried out and you don’t get interrupted during your work. Now steal the show in the mind of the audience. The visuals and words are just your tools.
 
Nolan does exactly that. He seeded a fascinating idea into the minds of the millions of people and wowed them with extraordinary storytelling, breathtaking visuals and spine chilling thrills while feeding rich material into their grey matter. Now they are all raving about it; calling it the best movie in a decade, his best work and putting it (collectively) in the top 5 movies of all time.
 
Inception is a spectacular film which had me captivated for all its 148 minutes. It had all that can be expected from a summer blockbuster and because of all the points I made above made a compelling and brilliant film but it isn’t so brilliant that it deserves all the unparalleled praise. Inception is actually like several other films we have seen in the past in the emotions it evokes and ideas it plants. But then it is not.

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Review: Sin Nombre

We are not born free. We are born into our culture, religion and the environment. Almost everyone gets carried away with the tide that has been around forever. You take whatever is handed out to you and do not question. Life is hard and relentless. Always brings you down. In some places it is more than the others. If you want to rebel, it stamps you down. If you want to run away it hunts you down. If you want to break free. It destroys your soul. Off the millions there are a few thousands thinking of the fight, a few hundred start it and eventually a handful might win. Now if one is among the millions or the thousands or the hundreds or the handful victors one knows not until the struggle is over. Only to start out a new struggle all over again.


You are born in a place where you are easily sucked into a criminal gang with a violent subculture and find yourself deprived of a life you want to live or deserve. Your loved ones are snatched away from you and you know that any form of dissidence and rebellion will only end with definite punishment. Yet in the spur of the moment when the deepest of your emotions overcome your resolve to stay sane to stay alive, you commit the ‘unforgivable’ and live with the dire consequences.

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Review: The Time Traveler's Wife ('s cheap knockoff)

heTime Traveler’s Wife, the book by Audrey Niffenegger is a decent book. Not great, not bad. It starts out slowly, becomes really good and drags on with some intermittent good scenes and ends. The only reason it stands out is it being a good concoction of science fiction and romance with neither being affected. Neither are really great again but I have never seen a plot so intricately woven together that is clearly both. It was a good read.

However the movie takes is a 10 foot dive into a pool of blunt hollywoodness. All the complications in the story are removed. Forget the fringe characters, some key characters are eliminated for the same reason. The plot is trivialized and the focus moves onto the romance. The science fiction aspect of it is lamented and ignored or abused to a point of regret. Key incidents are deleted. The point of critical character building sequences and the emotions gone through by the characters is lost. With the sharp edges of the story and characters shaved off, this might as well been a Disney movie if it had some jokes put in. They dint forget to make genuine characters clich├ęs!

They got two good actors, who were tied down by a lame script and requested to just look good and act troubled and pained throughout. That should be enough the crew must have thought. Why spend unnecessary energy on making something more personal and emotional? They must have have thought, ‘as long as we are pulling the audience’s heart strings portraying pain and suffering it doesn’t matter if there is logic and a sequence to it.  Put in a nice colour tone, neat settings and stereotypical soundtrack and we are done! No need to explain why suddenly the characters are brooding over something.’

Well if you didn’t read the book, you might have just yawned and said ok and walked away. But I did. What I found was a super crap adaptation of a mediocre book. Stepping out from the betrayed skin of the one who read it, I see the technical aspects of it were all on par and try to imagine how it can be any worse than Its Complicated. It isn’t. But how can anyone forgive a movie this bad which had decent source material to begin with.

May be decent is decent enough? I don’t know. I have seen great movies emerge out of mediocre books. They just dint try hard enough I guess. Once the book sunk into Hollywood pool it couldn’t be saved and had to go through all the punishment.

 (Poor)

p.s: The only good thing about this movie is the poster! It is mesmerizing.

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Ebert is a four letter word !

This post is in response to Roger Ebert's piece on movie critics and movie criticism. The article can be read here.

Roger Ebert is considered one of the most prolific movie critics of all time and in my opinion, that statement stands as the biggest oxymoron I have come across in my life. I occasionally read his reviews, especially to get his opinion on certain movies that I found delightful, and have found myself at times sharing the same opinion and sometimes contradicting his view completely. With this premise I venture into response to Ebert's piece on movie criticism and the clear undertones of high-handedness in his writing, a quintessential quality of a critic that conditions him/her to behave the way they do. 

Ebert cleverly chooses to play the devils advocate of his profession and starts off by stating all the typical invective thrown at critics and their job. He even makes a gracious mention of a quote that I have come to appreciate from the movie Ratatouille. It goes : "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends... Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere."

Without divulging or digressing into the situations that preceded this quote in the movie, I wish to have the readers attention on the importance of the quote! "in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so." While Ebert nonchalantly rubbishes this by claiming that junk movies are only successful in conditioning the audience's mind to watch more junk movies, he conveniently fails to focus on the grand scheme of things. Movie criticism is a high paying job for Mr Ebert and he makes his living from a cinema hall. The grand scheme of things could well mean defending his reviews and criticism but to many others, it values differently.


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Oscar Invisibles

Staying with the Oscar fever this week, we have a simple quiz for our readers. The quiz images are courtesy filmwise.

The images have the characters turned invisible and you have the simple task of identifying the movie the following images are from. In tune with the theme, all the movies are either Oscar winners or Oscar nominated flicks.




Biographical?
It's a sitter fellas!








                                                                        
All things sweet
All is not well in this land?








                                                           
Greatest movie intro?


Comment with your answers and if you thought this was a sitter quiz, click agree at the bottom of this article. :P

Peace!


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Could you double-check the envelope please?


The 82nd Annual Academy awards are around the corner and we will witness yet another page in cinema history take a glamorous turn. Take the best of world cinema over the year gone by, have a gallery of movie veterans judge them and give the world something to cherish for another year. This is the Oscars story that has lived on for decades and has stood as the single most awaited awards ceremony in the calendar. The desire to claim the golden statuette drives a lot of artists in the film fraternity and while some are blessed with it after one tremendous performance, many have come a long way to win the coveted prize and the name that first comes to mind when one thinks of the latter is the director Martin Scorsese.

"Could you double-check the envelope please?", this was the rhetoric that Scorsese gave the world as he picked his first Oscar for The Departed in 2006. Having been nominated 5 times before, the 67 year old director from NYC is a classic example of making cinema for cinema's sake and nothing more. One look at the director's record of movies and its global reception and we are swiftly reminded of audiences and critics who have showered more praise and honor on him than the belated Oscar. So I guess the question I am asking myself is, if I look back at Scorsese's career and his cinematic achievements, should Oscar glory really mean much to him or any other artist of the film fraternity?

Now a 23 year old, my fascination with Marty's movies began with his 1976 classic Taxi Driver. Straight after the success of Mean streets, Taxi Driver established Scorsese as a prolific film maker who brought European influences to Hollywood and renewed the film noir. Contemporary cinema during the 70's saw the likes of Brian De Palma, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese who enjoyed a sense of freedom in film making. That freedom was translated into great story telling for Scorsese. Teaming up with Paul Schrader as the movie's writer and Robert De Niro (who would become Scorsese's life long friend and screen muse), Taxi Driver was beaten at the Oscars in that year by the insufferable underdog classic Rocky. An interesting observation that was made on the difference in film making of the then directors from the West coast like Spielberg and Lucas and in Scorsese's East coast movies was the assertiveness and confidence that Scorsese possessed in giving his audiences what he felt like giving while Lucas and Spielberg were more careful yet experimental in trying to understand what the audience wanted and then giving it to them. This difference sometimes stands out for me as to why the Oscars ignored his earlier classics.

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Oscar Road: Best Picture Also Rans


The Oscars are nigh. In around 5 days they shall be given out. There are plenty of awards to be given away but the most prestigious one is for the best picture and for no small reason too. In retrospect, the academy awards for each year are marked and called with the picture which won. Like 2008 was the year of No Country for Old Men and 2007 was the year for Departed regardless of what other pictures were made that year.

But in this article I shall talk about those which are definitely not going to take the nameplate. It would be a titanic surprise if they do! This is the round of the most definite also rans!

The Blind Side
 
It is a heart warming story of human kindness told really well. Made out of a real life story from the South(ern America) with some of an extremely poor
African American teenager whose life changes radically after he is taken in by a wealthy white family. Unlike other such movies it doesn’t try to cash in entirely on the emotional quotient but yet makes a strong impact by getting the story telling elements perfectly right.

The performances in this movie just like the setup are natural and restrained. Everything and everyone just seems so right. Never would have I pictured Sandra Bullock in such a strong role. But she pulled it off really well playing a fine Christian woman from the South (Where the women of the family are generally strong willed and righteous). This role is similar to the stubborn boss she plays in her other movie of the year, The Proposal, but only much more central and powerful. Other than the every fantastic Meryl Streep who played Julia Child in Julie and Julia, she doesn’t have much competition for the Best Actress Oscar.

Overall it is a must see movie, something which will moisten your eyes with happiness.

Rating: 
Very Good

As I had tweet reviewed it sometime back , An Education is a bildungsroman of an intelligent teenage british girl in the mid 60’s. Carey Mulligan who gives a fine lead performance saves this movie from being lost in a pile of hundreds of such other movies. It is about a young girl finding interesting company and yearning to get out of her stale life due to the vastly exhiliarating and educating experiences she has in the brief getaways. We know where these kinda movies head and this one is no different. It also has a strong undercurrent of the purpose of woman’s education and the attitude of the parents and society when she has found the right match.


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Quick Review: Sherlock Holmes and Zombieland

We are starting off a new feature called Quick Review. Generally a review would be several hundreds of words long and delve deep into the movie. But not all movies merit such deep analysis or maybe we just dont have much to say. For all such movies where we have an opinion but not an opinion so huge we have quick reviews! Read on!

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

If you havent read Sherlock Holmes you should! He was the definitive character mould for the 20th century. A 100 years later characters like that began to seep into mainstream cinema. Now this Sherlock Holmes essayed by the fantastic Robert Downey Jr is a comic one with knack of showcasing his plot before he actually performing it, be it at trivial one to put the opponent in a boxing ring down or catch the villain. Besides distributing his immense capacity for love between lady love Morstan and man crush Watson he has a cheeky tongue which is delightful and racy making the most uncharacteristic remarks which would make even a progressive Victorian like the real Sherlock Holmes himself widen his eyes.

Sherlock Holmes is as much fun as the movies can get with a decent plot and strong characterization. It is a fun, on your toes ride much like the usual superhero movies; only the hero here is a 19th cent. detective. But the action sequences and the chases though fun are nothing new, Mark Strong was wasted playing the maniacal villain who was the weak link of the movie.

Rating:
 Good

p.s: This movie is actually like Iron Man in lot of its ways. The wasted hero, with a guiding light in form of his assistant, who is self obsessed beyond norm and so sunk in his work that he can perceive little else. But he comes around in the end to save the day. Also they both have a nice little pad of their own where they perform experiments and are in captive for certain periods.



There have been ah so many zombie movies and though I have not seen many(classic case of you have seen one, you seen em all feeling) I know how it is going to pan out like. Zombies arent inventive! They are dumb almost dead people and can do nothing but try feed of the normal ones. So in every zombie movie onus falls on the real people who live and weave around them fighting for survival. They set the movie's pace and tone. Be morose and heroic like in I am Legend or poke fun and run for your lives with tongue in cheek fear like in Shaun of the Dead. Zombieland is of the latter category. It entertains superbly mixing in all that you need for a fun and timepass movie; a geeky boy, a macho dude, a sexy chic, cute child and some hot wheels with some great cuts and funny jokes. 

Woody Harrelson gave a really good performance as the hack happy cowboy. Jesse Eisenberg who was being his usual fidgety self fit in really well. What really makes this film a must watch is the small but smart things. The rules appearing in and out are a riot and being contextual and active too just ads to the fun. The slow motion sequences with some great background score are a delight. This movies lives in its moments and does them all well.
Rating  
Very Good

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Best of Decade - Top 50 movies of the 2000's


It has been a great decade. Life in one decade is quite different from another but the 00's or noughties as some would like to say it. It goes with movies too. The decade which just ended had a huge diversity in the way it unfolded. The word blockbuster was redefined and the BO expectations were re adjusted to a level way up north. A major part of this was the re emergence of the superhero movies. Superheroes never really had it good outside the comics and on kids' channels but the emergence and success of Spiderman paved way for a decade full of heroes. Then there were the animation flicks which laughed their way to box office and critical success at the expense of all those people who thought they were just for kids. They have an amazing potential and next decade will be even better. And finally I should also call upon the Independent film circuit to honour them for being so brave and resilient in the face of the studio moguls spending hundreds of millions on every other flick. As like in any other decade it is the independent small budget (comparably) ones which actually deliver on the potential of cinema but this time round they had help from digital technology which has become affordable and thrown the fencing between producers and consumers in to the recycle bin. The youtube generation can deliver the punch as well as the studios. You have heard of
Paranormal Activity, haven't you? 15000$ budget & 100 million$+ gross. It was good film making coupled with brilliant marketing. This is just the beginning to all such breakout movies.
We do not know how next decade is going to pan out. What will the movie watching experience be? Will theaters still hold their pull or are we going to just be addicted to Netflix? Will Avatar truly revolutionize the industry and will 3D reach our homes and be a part of it as they predict? But we do know how the last one has panned out for movies. Here in this article I try and capture the 50 best movies of the last decade ie 2000 to 2009. These lists are tough, especially when they spread across such a long time and across the world. So
though inherently flawed I try my best to keep a level head and chalk out the decade's finest.

(update: highlighting and minor sentence and position changes)
 How did I make this list? After perusal of extensive ratings on my vote history on IMDB, reading of various lists all over the web, I took into consideration the quality of film making, my personal favourites, cultural and overall impact of the movies. Then the movies were microscopically weighed against each other and rankings in this list were determined. Ask me after a couple of years and it might be different. Such is the case with all lists.

There are more blockbusters than I expected. Of course there might be many more movies out there definitely deserving a place in this but I havent seen them yet. Sure will do someday and maybe a decade down the line I can make this list really, really comprehensive.

50. Love Actually(2003)
This is a tie between two very different romantic movies. One is an outrageous mix of several stories, some sweet, some bitter but all wonderful. One of the best ensembles cast of the decade.

Once(2006)
 Undoubtedly the contender for the sweetest movies of the decade. The latter is quaint independent movie capturing the life of two lost musicians who aren't exactly romancing each other. This movie took the industry by storm showcasing the power of the small movie.

49. Persepolis (2007)
Marjane Satrapi's digs into her own life and puts out a bildungsroman graphic novel of a young girl from Iran. The movie is unabashed story telling which has compelling visuals which seem pretty straight and simple.

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Too Much Cinema Movie Ratings: What do they mean?

Be warned! This is a very self indulgent post where I try to standardize the  movie ratings I give. This is to not only give an idea to the readers but  to maintain consistency in how I rate movies. I believe all movies of a certain ratings (say 6) should be superior to those with lower one(like 5 and below)

Everyone who watches movies rates them in their own way. Some may just rate them simply good or bad while others may call them Great, good , ok, poor and horrible or in similar other notations, to each his own. It gets complicated when you write about movies and you want to give a rating. Ratings are quite important for any audience cos they give a quick idea of how good the product is. There are ratings all over, right from electrical appliances to censor board ratings to chess player or cricket team ratings. Movies are no different. 

The ratings make life simpler for the reviewer/critic and the reader/audience in the same way. When one watches or read about  hundreds of movies every year an easy way to categorize them and recall for recommendations or any other purpose is by giving it a rating. For example I could make a list like 'my movies in 2009' because I rated them all in imdb and archived them in an excel sheet. Call me a geek but without doing so it would be virtually impossible to track the couple of hundred movies I saw last year.

When I started loving movies, writing about them and rating them seemed the logical next step. Since then(almost 6 years now) I have been trying to find the perfect rating system. Each and every critics have their own. Ebert and Siskel used the thumbs up/down method, while Ebert gives a 4 star rating. Lots of publications especially the newspapers use a 5 pointer or 5 star system. Even some podcasts I know like filmspotting uses the latter. Some sites like Yahoo, AV club give an alphabetical grading system. Aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic use a 100 point score. However the one I always chose was the 1-10 ratings system as you find in IMDB. Each of the selections made sense to the reviewer or publication because of the way they approached the rating.

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