Sunday, February 11, 2018

Movie No. 10 (2018): PATERSON

Paterson (2016)
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henly, William Jackson Harper

Adam Driver is Paterson, a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson loves poetry; he himself is a poet. Like the metrics of classic poetry, the movie seems to follow a certain metrics. The movie follows the everyday routine of Paterson. He wakes up as if on cue. He writes poems in front of the wheel before driving the bus out of the garage. He eavesdrop on his passengers while driving. He goes home to his live-in girlfriend who adores him and his poetry. He walks Marvin, a bulldog, who doesn't like him. He goes for a drink, just one mug of beer, in a nearby bar. That's is daily routine. It looks like nothing is happening except when he goes home, he sees changes, which are more of improvement, in the look of their apartment. His girlfriend is an artist in her own way. But, this girlfriend seems to have fixation on black and white and patterns, which are conspicuous on wall paintings, her jazzed up dresses, curtains, and cupcakes. I see this as visual poetry, too. I see the black and white patterns as metaphor for the mundane and routine everyday life or existence of Paterson. It is quite interesting, too, that when certain situation breaks the routine he seems helpless, but always gets over it with the help of strangers. 

Adam Driver is perfect as Paterson. Farahani gives a strong support performance. Jarmusch has just made a film which will be talked about in the coming years. He has complete control of the movie. He makes you aware that you are watching a visual poetry. Paterson, the movie, is a fitting ode to the ordinariness of things. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 11, 2018

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Movie No. 9 (2018): LOVING VINCENT

Loving Vincent (2017)
Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Cast: Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Saoirse Ronan, Eleanor Tomlison, Aidan Turner

Loving Vincent, a painted animated film, is first of its kind. It assembles paintings of Vincent van Gogh, as reproduced by several artists, to weave a story surrounding the mysterious death of Vincent van Gogh. Seeing the film, is like being in a gallery full of van Gogh's paintings, arranged to tell a narrative. The characters of the movie are real people whose portraits were among van Gogh's still surviving works. These people have their own take on the life and mysterious death of the tortured artist.

The film is one of the most visually stunning films I've ever seen. The visuals are so captivating that the film's flaws, if there are, are easily eclipsed by its stunning beauty like none I've ever seen before. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 10, 2018

Movie No. 8 (2018): LADY BIRD

Lady Bird (2017)
Director: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalfe, Timothee Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges

What I really like about the film is how it manages to show two people (mother and daughter) fight a lot about mostly petty things. But their love and respect to each other are not sidelined by these petty quarrels. It also explores Lady Bird's relationships with people she has close encounters with everyday and with the place she currently lives in, Sacramento. These are real experiences that shape her dream and mold her future. 

Great movie.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 10, 2018

Movie No 7 (2018): COCO

Coco (2017)
Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Voice Cast: Anthony Gonzales, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt

This animated movie is, in my opinion, the best offering of Disney's Pixar in more or less a decade. What really got me is the stunning visuals and really affecting story with a twist. It really captures the sense of family and its traditions and coming of age adventures. The song Remember Me has lyrics so clever that any character in the movie can relate to. The song is an integral part of the narrative.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 10, 2018

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Movie No. 6 (2018): THE FLORIDA PROJECT

The Florida Project (2017)
Director: Sean Baker
Cast: Willen Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Brooklynn Prince

The occasional camera shots suggesting a character's point of view are splendid. These are mostly the lead child character's points of view. The movie is told on a child's perspective. The lead child character is called Moonee. She, however, talks like and behaves like adult. But, in one breakdown scene, the way she cries is a giveaway that she is indeed just a child. She's good.

The story is full of irony. The story unfolds near some motels near Florida's Disney World. The children and the tenants who can hardly pay rent live a hand to mouth existence while interacting with tourists. The movie title itself is ironic since the Disney World was build under the so called "The Florida Project." That ending is wonderful.

Willem Dafoe, as the hotel manager, gives a quiet but strong performance. He is Bobby; he hates that tenants pay their rents late. But, he's subtly protecting the kids. You don't see Willen Dafoe; you see Bobby instead. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 4, 2018

Movie No. 5 (2018): NEWTON

Newton (2017)
Director: Amit V. Masurkar
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Anjali Patil, Pankaj Tripathi
In Hindi, with English subtitles

Newton is a movie from Bollywood. Good thing about it, in my opinion, is that it avoids the excesses of Bollywood. 

The central character is Nutan who renamed himself Newton. He is a civil servant with strict morals and ethics that will get challenged in the jungle during election day. He leads a team that was sent to a remote village in the jungle to administer the votes of 76 people. The village is a conflict area, where both the military and Maoist terrorists are present. There's always the danger of being ambushed and the village people are indifferent. The conflict arises when Newton insists about implementing the democratic process in the election while the military that escort them turn out to be pragmatic in getting the process done as soon as possible.

The movie has serious theme, which may resonate around the globe. There's some hint of comedy that is easily eclipsed by the morality play. The narrative is perfect for a literary novel.

I really enjoyed the movie. I'm so glad that the Bollywood signature is conspicuously avoided.

Newton competed at the Berlinale last year and was submitted to Academy Awards to compete in the Best Foreign Language Film for this year's ceremony.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: February 3, 2018

Movie No. 4 (2018): BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK

By The Time It Gets Dark (2016)
Director: Anocha Suwichakornpong
Cast: Visra Vichit-Vadakan, Rassami Paoluengton, Arak Amornsupasiri
In Thai, with English subtitles

By The Time It Gets Dark is a quiet film. The treatment is complex, which can be confusing in the beginning until more than half of the running time. On the surface, it is a movie within a movie about the massacre of student protesters by the military. A director interviews a survivor of the massacre from which she will base her script. The film shows how the director imagines the movie in her mind will unfold on screen. But the movie is also about the director herself, as it weaves into the narrative the life the director which was teemed with supernatural experiences. The forest and the vacation house where the interview takes place are integral characters of the film. There's a supporting actress who appears in different characters. Then there's this famous actor whose life unfolds in a parallel narrative. The result is an accomplished film. Beautiful.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 21, 2018

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Movie No. 3 (2018): THE SHAPE OF WATER

The Shape of Water (2017)
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Sally Hawkins,Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones

The movie looks like a fairy tale; the central thesis is the romance between an amphibious monster and a mute janitress. The backdrop is the America during the Cold War in early 1960s. The characters and the way they're treated are metaphor for the prevalent discrimination and 'silent' war. 

Sally Hawkins is fantastic as the mute heroine of this fairy tale. Cinematography captures the era and the characters superbly. Sound and score help the narrative flow fluidly. The hands of the director are felt in every scene, which is a good thing.

The Shape of Water is definitely one of the best movies of 2017.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 14, 2018

Movie No. 2 (2018): CLUELESS

Clueless (1995)
Director: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy

It's not your ordinary movie about teenagers that target teenagers as audience. Yes, it's about this self-absorbed teenager and her equally status-conscious friends. It becomes funny when she becomes clueless as she turns out to be casualty of her matchmaking game. But the movie is smart, satirical, and loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma. The movie is funny. Its subtext is universal and timely. Most importantly, it's really entertaining.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: January 1, 2018

Movie No. 1 (2018): POCAHONTAS

Pocahontas (1995)
Director: Mike Gabriel / Eric Goldberg
Voice Cast: Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson
Animated film

I saw Pocahontas on HBO last month. It was only my second time seeing it. The first time was in 1997, on VHS. I was enticed to see it as it was showing on TV on the first day of the year 2018 because I didn't remember much from the first time I saw it except for the song Colors of the Wind.

The movie is underwhelming. It appears that the ending is rushed. Pocahontas, who is an American legend, is underwritten. Even the animation itself is inferior. Just like what I've said, the only thing that one can remember from the movie is the song Colors of the Wind.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: January 1, 2018