Aneesh Chaganty

Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

Movie #43 Ransom

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2010 at 12:07 AM

Movie #43 Ransom

(1996, US, d. Ron Howard)

Ransom‘s plot is all in its title: it’s about a father who must decide whether to pay the ransom for his kidnapped child or seek another way to save his life. It’s a couple steps above the average thriller and Gibson gives a strong performance as the father. Ron Howard can always be depended on for delivering a popcorn flick but making it feel like it deserves something more. Two sequences must be noted, however: the first ransom delivery where Gibson keeps following a seemingly endless amount of tasks and the news scene (pictured) – for being examples of prime filmmaking and high tension.

Movie #42 Far From Heaven

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 12:44 AM

Movie #42 Far From Heaven

(2002, US, d. Todd Haynes)

Far From Heaven was a very interesting viewing: It’s a modern movie made completely in the vein of a 50’s movie. Every font, shot, and piece of dialogue was fashioned like an old black and white film. Even the music reflected the time. However, the sensibility towards the subject (homosexuality and Blacks) was anything but. It’s a melodramatic picture about the friendship a White woman finds in her Black gardener after discovering her husband with another man. Despite the thematic content, it actually was a pleasant watch and Todd Haynes’ colorful vision for the film definitely showed. The performances of the three leads (Julianne Moore as the wife, Dennis Quaid as her husband, and Dennis Haysbert from 24 fame as the gardener) should all be noted.

Movie #41 Dead Man Walking

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 at 9:55 PM

Movie #41 Dead Man Walking

(1995, US, d. Tim Robbins)

What happens when the face of the greatest prison movie of all time decides to direct a prison movie just a few years later? Well you don’t get The Shawshank Redemption, but you do still get something pretty good. Dead Man Walking was met with high acclaim, although to be quite honest, I couldn’t see where much of that came from. It was a movie about a man on death row coming to terms with the heinous crimes he committed. This is one of those movies that had nothing bad about it and nothing I can really point out and say “They definitely should not have done that”. But it also had nothing that really stuck out. We all know Sean Penn and Susan Sarando are pretty incredible actors, so if you take that out of the picture, you have just… a very decent film (By the way, Penn was nominated for Best Actor, Robbins for Director, and Sarandon walked away with an Oscar for Best Actress). However, I did enjoy the tiny references to classic films they managed to squeeze in. Ma Barker, anyone?

Movie #40 Spartan

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 at 1:44 AM

Movie #40 Spartan

(2004, US, d. David Mamet)

This was because of Mamet. Any other director – ANY other director – could have easily turned this into a popcorn action-film about an no-funny-business rogue agent on a mission to rescue the kidnapped daughter of the President. But Mamet manages something much more fragile and eerie. A quiet action piece. An action piece that takes its time in actually letting the audience know what the plot of the film is or who it is that has been kidnapped. Mamet’s incredibly minimalistic style reveals itself throughout the repetition of dialogue and the absence of any real character development (save for where the protagonist lives). In fact, the one time someone is about delve into their past, a gunshot rips the silence and shatters any hope of ever finding out who these people are. A skilled playwright, Mamet directs Val Kilmer to one of his best performances (his best easily being in Shane Black’s 2005 noir-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and one of the most incredible cinematic sequences in which Kilmer must convince two convicts he’s a baddie himself.

Movie #39 TiMER

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 8:50 PM

Movie #39 TiMER

(2010, US, d. Jac Schaeffer)

TiMER accomplishes something very few indie films can: it manages to be about more than any one small thing and instead capsule an element of life instead. It’s an incredibly original concept and belongs to a genre not so common to viewers: the sci-fi romantic comedy. It takes place in present day where a company called “TiMER” inserts little stop-clocks on people’s arms that will countdown to the moment that person makes eye contact with their true love. The only catch: Both people must have TiMERS on their arms for the thing to work. Otherwise, it just reads blank. Such is the rut our protagonist is stuck in. She and her sister (who is set to zero out in 15 years) both meet people who begin to change them even though they both know they are not their “ones”.  It’s a beautifully contrived film that, by speaking on our society’s views on fate and “the one”, manages to speak more on our ability to choose instead. Plus, the soundtrack is great, too.

Movie #38 The Godfather, Part I

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 4:01 AM

Movie #38 The Godfather, Part I

(1972, US, d. Francis Ford Coppola)

What can I say? Easily of one of the most tonally consistent and perfect films ever made, The Godfather is an example of filmmaking at its best. Every shot, from its close-up open in the “I believe in  America” monologue to the closing shot of Kay’s realization of Michael’s position in the Mafia, is meaningful and deep. I have very little to actually say about it except every time I see it, I feel like I’m watching it for the first time.

Movie #37 Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 3:53 AM

Movie #37 Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps

(2010, US, d. Oliver Stone)

They say an editor’s job is to be invisible. When a movie is good, you can never tell how much work the editor took to skillfully piece the film together. But when a film is edited badly, no matter how good the actual content was, the picture will be a mess. Such is the case of the lackluster sequel to Wall Street. It had all the necessary ingredients: the right cast (Shia LaBeouf, I will admit is one of my favorite actors), the right script, a historically and socially relevant sequel, and the right director. What went wrong? The answer: The editing. Arguably the most poorly edited film of the year so far, the editor actually retarded the pace of what should have been a fast and gripping story set in the economic collapse of 2008. Not a single character decision or plot point seemed impactful, the editing choices were poor and very flamboyant, and the music selection (maybe not the editor’s choice) was just not consistent. But all this negativity pales in comparison to the most inconsistent ending of all. What begins as a intense drama ends like a romantic comedy – with a happy LaBeouf clan celebrating a child’s birthday party on a Manhattan rooftop. Was I even watching Wall Street? For that, Mr. Stone, you get no sympathy.

Movie #36 Unbreakable

In Month 2 on October 22, 2010 at 5:46 AM

Movie #36 Unbreakable

(2000, US, d. M. Night Shyamalan)

Netflix was down for a period of time this afternoon so I was forced to watch a DVD. I had been listening to some Shyamalan interviews recently about the Unbreakable filmmaking process in general, and seeing as the 10 year anniversary of the release is approaching, I thought it a good time to revisit the film. Let me start off by saying that this picture is both on my Top 10 All-Time and is subsequently, Shyamalan’s best work to date. When initially released the film met with mixed reviews because it was marketed as a follow-up of The Sixth Sense rather than what it actually is – a drama – and people came in hoping for a scare. Over time, the film has been re-reviewed and most critics have changed their opinion. This is the best superhero film ever told. It is incredibly subtle, poignant, and moving. Mr. Glass (played by Samuel L. Jackson) is one of the most unique characters to ever grace the silver screen and his counterpart, David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis) is an unsettlingly realistic portrayal of a man who seems to be invincible. As Quentin Tarantino – who placed this film on his own version of  Top 20 Films list, said, the film asks the question, “What if Superman existed, but didn’t know he was Superman?” Please watch this film.

Movie #35 My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

In Month 2 on October 20, 2010 at 10:18 PM

Movie #35 My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

(2009, US, d. Werner Herzog)

Produced by David Lynch and helmed by Herzog, this Golden Lion Nominee is really a must-see if you’re a fan of either one of them. It takes a simple homicide/hostage situation and not only turns it on its feet, but force feeds it amphetamine and then proceeds to screw it in every pore. But I mean this in a good way. Simply calling it weird and not understandable would do this film severe injustice as it never tries to seek our objective judgement or rational acceptance. It is just a wacky and unconventional way of recounting the events of a mentally unbalanced (probably not the right word) Mama’s boy who finds “God in a cereal box and Satan on an ostrich farm” (Xan Brooks, The Guardian). Though it’s non-linear or strange narrative string is either a hate-or-love element of the film, there is no doubt of its riveting and electric pull.

Movie #34 Days of Being Wild

In Month 2 on October 19, 2010 at 11:36 PM

Movie #34 Days of Being Wild

(1990, Hong Kong, d. Wong Kar-Wai)

Wong Kar-Wai’s films are some of the most mysterious films to me. At a surface level, it’s about nothing. But a level before that, there is so much meaning in the every-day activities of the moody and afflicted characters that grace his pictures. For me, Days of Being Wild (the first part of a “trilogy” which includes In the Mood for Love and 2046) is about the subtle effects of rejection and the lottery that is true love. It’s a fleeting but beautiful and thoughtful movie. It feels so much like Godard yet Melville at the same time, combining elements of the French New Wave and the Italian Neo-Realist movement at once. His films always make me want to go back and give them a second viewing, but this Movie a Day Challenge must go on. Hopefully, one day I can.