Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Movie Review: Hugo

Let’s start by saying that if nothing else, Martin Scorsese and I DO have one thing in common: an undying love for movies. Not restricted by genre, style or school, this love is of the very art form that allows us to visually tell stories. Let’s also go ahead and say that Martin Scorsese and I agree on one idea, kids are NEVER too young to be encouraged NOT to be stupid. Unfortunately, the list of my similarities with arguably one of the greatest story-tellers of contemporary cinema ends right there. What starts now is a movie, about a boy and his love of movies, and a man and his love of movies, and a whole world of people who love movies, from the time they were first made. Do not miss this line if you plan to watch this movie: Hugo is NOT about a precocious young boy named Hugo Cabret, or of his adventures in the mystical and magical Paris. Hugo is a story about Martin Scorsese’s LOVE for cinema. Again, Hugo is NOT a movie made for children, no matter what the posters tell you or the MPAA rating says. Hugo is simply a movie for anyone who loves, or has ever loved, or is even remotely interested in movies, because, by the end of the movie, you may not love the movie, but you will truly appreciate the enormous power of the medium.

That is probably the highest concentration of the words movie and love in one paragraph, but the emphasis is necessary to truly grasp the incredible journey of Hugo. First, for the naysayers who hate 3D and think it’s just a way to drive up ticket prices, GO WATCH Hugo, IN 3D. The masterful use of the medium is more than justified with his small scope, restricting us to a Parisian train station and yet showing us a whole world we could never have known, in a way we could never have known it in. From the flakes of snow that fall towards you, or the first movie train that scared all its viewers, from the swinging pendulum in Hugo’s home/workplace to the bustling crowd, Martin Scorsese uses 3D not to enthrall you, but to truly involve you. This movie will hold up for its sheer genius even in the regular 2D, but not even Avatar could truly harness the potential of 3D to tell a story, not just enhance it, like Scorsese does in this film. From turning gears to winding toys, every frame of the film is adroitly put together, with a purpose beyond mere decoration, so much so that with every repeat, an interested viewer could unravel a new layer of this truly multi-dimensional movie.
So Hugo isn’t a children’s movie; that has been established. There aren’t dragons to be tamed and wonderlands to be explored or hot air balloons to rise up in. Yet it is accessible to people of any age. Unrestricted, simplistic, and relatable are adjectives that could describe Scorsese’s approach to this film. What is even more astonishing is something that could stand as a great lesson for schools everywhere. Scorsese immerses himself so entirely in his story-telling that he translates his own love of the cinema to his viewers, without preaching to them. Instead, he chooses to share his passion, and the sincerity of purpose truly translates to the person watching. He talks about French cinema from years ago, magical realism and Milies’s work, unknown to novice movie goers, and yet, even a child (in this case, the eponymous Hugo (Butterfield) and Isabelle (Moretz)) can easily relate to it, because instead of going one of two popular routes, being pedantic or being silly, Scorsese talks about them as a visualization of dreams, something everyone has and everyone can relate to. He also breaches dissatisfaction and dejection in a very real way, a feeling of having lost one’s purpose, and yet avoids being melodramatic about it. And yet, as is probably why Scorsese chose to make the movie the way he did, this is probably the best movie to take your child to this year. There are enough thrills, there is humour, and there is a happy ending, for the traditional-minded, but so much more. There is science, and magic and just enough history to pique one’s curiosity, and it’s probably about time that children found more stimulating fare than there generally is to offer.
I haven’t really discussed the story of the film, or any of its many technical merits, because these are best experienced by watching it. The performances are brilliant all around, right from the lead child actors to the stately Kingsley and the very adept McRory. I am more fascinated by the fact that this is a Martin Scorsese film, brilliant like he always is, and yet this is the biggest departure one could imagine from his regular brand. As a film historian within the film says, it is lamentable that one can only read about old movies in books, if that, because they were, in the days before we had this technological prowess, purely a flight of fancy. Scorsese uses this flight of fancy to mirror the fact that contemporary cinema is unnecessarily pigeon-holed, restricted from reaching a wide audience by prejudices and formulae and absolutely no imagination. All you need to tell a story is an imagination and a willingness to tell it. As Mama Jeanne (McRory) tells her god-daughter about the marvelous colour films of Milies, “We tinted it ourselves, colouring each frame individually.” Scorsese too colours each film with a stroke from the brush of his mind, and adapts an already acclaimed book to a sure-to-be acclaimed movie. And as hard as it was to categorize Selznick’s literary endeavor, so pointless it is to try to restrict Hugo to a genre or a target demographic. Therein lays Scorsese’s victory, because that isn’t the point of the movie at all. The only point is that this, finally, is a movie that you aren’t TAKING your child to, but GOING with your child for, a rare feat in the live action movie world.


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Friday, November 18, 2011

Movie Review: My Week with Marilyn

Never has a woman been more mysterious or more universally popular than Marilyn Monroe. She was the very essence of the damsel in distress, the helpless little angel who needed a man to admire her every little pirouette, who seemed both naively unaware of her own sexuality, and yet constantly manipulating men of all size and stature using it. She was the epitome of everything that the feminist movement was against, and yet, there was a grudging admiration amidst that resentment. She was in the exact position that every woman would want to be in. I first wondered why a biopic on the life of Marilyn Monroe wasn’t called Norma Jean, but ten minutes into the movie, and you know that this isn’t Norma Jean, this is Marilyn. Not just during the shoot of the movie within the movie, but even more so outside of it. And she’s quite something.

My Week with Marilyn
British cinema has made habit of making episodic true-story films in the new millennium, and making them damn well. It started with The Deal and its sequels, the more popular The Queen and The Special Relationship. Then last year, The King’s Speech swept the awards roster. This year, they’re doing it again, taking a very short period of time, the film shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl, and introducing into the fray the last true universal sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe (Williams).
Narrated by Colin Clark (Redmayne), this adaptation of his memoirs chronicle the time he spent making his foray into the entertainment business, as a third assistant director on the production of Laurence Olivier’s (Branagh) collaboration with Monroe. It is in equal parts a love letter addressed to an unattainable fantasy and a diary note of a young man’s coming of age. Curtis tells the tale of a privileged man, who is obsessed with the movies, a career choice not respected by his family. He is the fabled underachiever, whose drive is fueled by his lack of appreciation, and is determined to make it on his own. His delight is elevated when the object of every man's affection at the time, Marilyn Monroe, is amongst the people it is his duty to serve. As he and Sir Laurence discover quickly, she is anything but the dream one sees on the silver screen, riddled with insecurities and obsessed with her method and acting coach, Paula Strasberg (wife to the legendary acting teacher behind the eponymous Lee Strasberg Institute). But whilst Larry finds her incorrigible, Clark is entranced by her apparent vulnerability. And after her then husband, playwright Arthur Miller (Scott) goes back to the States, following a particularly vicious fight, Clark is suddenly at the start of his week with Marilyn.
The film has numerous triumphs, amongst which the MOST significant is its phenomenal casting. Besides Williams, who I will come to later, every character is incredibly well suited to its portrayer. From Dame Judi Dench, playing the stateswoman actress Dame Sybill, to Julia Ormond in her brief but captivating imagining of the original Elsie Marina, Vivien Leigh (yes, Scarlett O’Hara). There is one particular scene for Ormond where she discusses her husband’s (Olivier) love for Monroe with the naïve Clark which is a perfect representation of the stiff British upper lip, and is just delightful to watch. A week with Marilyn cannot help but be rife with men though, and men completely besotted. Whether it was Redmayne with his cub to her cougar, or Branagh who is simultaneously frustrated and yet transfixed, Scott who is profoundly aware of his incompatibility with this nymphet or Jackson who was once in Redmayne’s place, and is working with Monroe purely out of devotion, even after having his heart broken. Each of these men is but one spoke of a life cycle of men who were charmed, right off their feet, by the magic that was Marilyn. The direction by Curtis is seemingly adequate, and the screenplay is delicate, but the film, a vast tableau of character studies, is theatre come to life, and rides entirely on its performances.
And speaking of performances, there is Michelle Williams. It is hard to believe that the same woman who was effortless in Wendy and Lucy could so entirely transform into this character. The threat that exists, that worried me before I went in to the screening, was the fact that Monroe is such a larger than life character, her appeal so entrenched in her affectations, that it would be almost impossible to play her with any measure of sympathy. And perhaps even more than that, Williams would be not just seducing the bevy of men lining up on the stage for her, but millions of people, most of whom have at some point had a cut-out of Monroe shaping their fantasies. Just the fact that she took on such an iconic role shows incredible chutzpah, and boy, does she deliver. She is in equal measure vulnerable and enticing, innocent and yet wily, and startlingly, she manages to embody that deep conflicting misery that consumed Monroe, without making any of it seem disingenuous. Her every laugh, twirl, smile, song, dance, everything brings back Monroe in a way that is absolutely breathtaking. There will be people who think this movie is less than other similar movies, but no one could deny that Williams’s turn is not astonishing, it is spell binding.
Meryl Streep has won two Academy Awards out of an incredible sixteen nominations. What is even more incredible is that whilst the last time she was nominated was just two years ago, her last win came almost 30 years ago. With her forthcoming biopic on Margaret Thatcher almost certain to net her nomination number seventeen, it would be heartbreaking to see her lose, but the American dream in the British film may just beat out the Iron Lady herself.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Movie Review: The Descendants – Not quite ascending to greatness.


“Give your children enough so that they can do something, but not so much that they do nothing”. That is the first and last ‘movie line’ that you can expect to hear in Alexander Payne’s first feature length film in eight years. This distance from everything cinematic is immediately noticeable, as Payne tells the story of a man coming to terms with the changes in his life following his wife’s coma-inducing accident in a way clearly attempting to mimic reality instead of exhibit histrionics. The film is set in the beautiful tropical island of Hawaii, but like Clooney’s archipelago analogy, the film itself is one whole but disjointed and constantly separating.

The Descendants

One must first give credit to the film’s attributes, of which there are many. The foremost of them is Clooney himself. Long gone are the days when George Clooney suffered from the Cary Grant syndrome, of the star overpowering the actor. He inhabits the cuckolded Matt King with consummate ease, and lends strong credibility to this emotionally drifting and ineffectual man who has always done just enough to get by, and is now reaping the fruits of it. Payne uses Hawaii beautifully, taking us from island to island, and intersperses the natural beauty of the setting with the pathos of the situation, to lift the film from its natural tendency to depress. Another tool he uses to do this is humor, trying hard to add an accidental levity that often accompanies the dreariest of circumstances. At times this works wonderfully, and at times, not so much. The girls, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller, also do a very good job of playing their spoiled but innately well-meaning daughters who help Clooney glue back his fractured life.

Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to make a film an enjoyable experience. For the most part, there is just SO much happening in the movie that one might get tired of playing catch up. Payne tries to weave the screenplay so the subplots all merge seamlessly, but really they just entangle you in a mess of trying to understand his intention. Both characters and plot-points are over extended to a point where they seem to be superfluous. Judy Greer does her best in her small cameo, but her character adds nothing to the movie, except to add one more ladle in an already full bowl, and the same could be said for Nick Krause.  Finally, the ambling pace of the movie, as lazy as the Hawaiian background score, backfires on the director. Whereas in Sideways, his characters leisurely travels engrossed the viewers, in this film, it allows too many moments for disconnection. And that is potentially its biggest flaw. At the advance screening of the film, packed to capacity in anticipation, there were palpable moments when people lost interest, some even walking out, and even though there was a tepid applause at the close of the screening, the satisfaction that one hoped to derive was sorely missing. There are those that will enjoy it as a great character study, but for myself, I couldn’t help but be extremely underwhelmed.


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Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Name is Khan – A Movie Review

In a film industry that has gained worldwide renown for being all about the song and dance, it is but natural for material to be recycled. And unlike the west, which despite its many flaws has both an admirable respect for the concept of copyright and a conscience enough to credit a remake, over here, we just call it “inspiration”. After the shameless rip-off of ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’, ‘Dostana’ in 2008, which coincidentally was a huge commercial success, Karan Johar had a very good last year as producer rolling out two strikingly dissimilar but similarly fresh films in ‘Wake Up Sid’ and ‘Kurbaan’. He continues his roll this year, with his own directorial feature ‘My Name is Khan’, and ignoring his glaring shortcomings as a director, needs to be applauded for this effort to atleast find new settings and formats for the retelling of his trademark love stories.

My Name is Khan
Similar to the first person narrative feature of his directorial debut, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, MNIK is a story heard through the tongue of the Asperger’s afflicted Rizwan Khan, who journeys across half the world and then through the breadth of another continent, to say as we’ve all heard or read somewhere, “My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist”. After watching the uninspiring trailers, and the edited overly precious shots of Shahrukh playing Khan, I did not walk into the cinemas expecting much from this seemingly gimmicky film. I walked out surprised though, and pleasantly for the most part. In a polarized world, where the line of demarcation is clearly becoming religion even over race, the intent of MNIK is noble. To its credit, unlike the also well intentioned ‘Delhi 6’ last year, this film manages to build on its premise more effectively. In a nutshell, the story is in the form of a question: Are the world and its inhabitants so far gone that you are not allowed an individual persona that may be separate from your religious affiliations?
My Name is Khan has many stories, and many Khans, in spite of what the titular protagonist may have you believing. There is Raziya Khan, the mother who brought up her son believing in him with faith and pride, and ignored the rest of the world as she single handedly taught him all that is right and just, even till her death. There is Zakir Khan, the underappreciated but well loved younger brother, and Haseena Khan, his college professor wife, who are traditionalist Muslims but loyal family. There are Mandira and Sameer Khan, the mother and son who find place in their lives for another, who seek love and happiness and the feeling of home. And there are the thousands of unnamed people, who in brief moments of time, Johar introduces us too, if only to show us the impact this Khan has on them. Independently, most of these stories, and most of these people, are interesting, but together, in this ambitious screenplay written by Shibani Bathija, none of the stories develop to real fruition.
I like to start with attributes, and this film has those in abundance. Like I’ve said multiple times before, the biggest success of this film is its intention. It’s pure and it’s refreshing. The casting is unusual for a Johar film (aside from the lead pair of course), and most of the supporting cast does a fine job. Zarina Wahab, a departure from the Kirron Kher and Jaya Bachchan mould of Dharma Production mothers is very effective in her enthusiasm and both authentic and endearing in her manner. Jimmy Shergill is amongst the most underachieving of contemporary Indian actors (he was apparently a de facto choice after the actor originally cast for the film was denied a visa), and even though this isn’t his shining moment, he clearly needs to find a film where he can shine. Navneet Nishan is the cliché of the horny old woman/man Johar enjoys injecting into his film. The clear standout though, is Sonya Jehan. It took me a while to place her as the actress who started out her career as the lead in ‘Taj Mahal’, but she is stunning, and a very gifted actor. Even in the few scenes that she had in the film, she will hopefully catch the eye of someone with a good script and a good role, ‘cause she has the looks and the acting chops, and deserves a shot.
The music of the film is the better of the two albums Shankar Ehsaan Loy have scored this year so far, and the tracks Noor-e-Khuda and Sajda and even Tere Naina are fantastic. One huge plus for the film, and this in fact pushes the film up an entire letter grade in my book, is the fantastic cinematography. Ravi K Chandran is nothing short of brilliant as he captures a panoramic view of the United States, especially in the scene at the point of intermission in the Arizona desert, and even in more intimate moments, such as the scene in the song Tere Naina, whilst Kajol gives Khan a haircut, he uses natural light so effectively that it leaves you stunned. The look of the film also, is suitably opulent without being jarring, in typical style for a Dharma film, and Kajol looks her best in years.
Of the leads, Kajol is good. Scratch that, she’s awesome in the material she’s been given, and in my personal opinion, after the crazy awesome turn she did in ‘Dushman’, this is perhaps her most accomplished performance. BUT…more on that later. The film of course, unequivocally belongs to Khan. Shahrukh Khan has been called many things, but more often than not, a standout actor he is not. For so many years he has defined the term star, and despite his many popular awards for Best Actor, apart from ‘Chak de India’, there is hardly another movie you could cite in which he was more an actor than a star (‘Swades’ was an awful bore for me, sorry!). In this film though, which I suspect was written specifically for him, he has the time and the meat to bite whole heartedly into a game changing role, and for the most part, passes brilliantly. He has a naturally intelligent sense of humour that he lends to his character and despite some of the cheesy lines that may put you off in the previews this is an authentic, effective portrayal of a highly developed autist. Not even he can help pass this off as a masterpiece though.
The film has many flaws, and quite frankly, they overwhelm the film towards the climax. And that is very disheartening actually, because one hour, and an intermission later, I actually thought it was turning out to be just brilliant. Whilst walking out of the cinema, I tried to figure out what changed in the second half. Perhaps it is a problem only I face, but dialogue, IMHO, is the crux of any film. It is what layers an idea into a screenplay, and what distinguishes achievement from ambition. Like I’ve said before, this script has ambition aplenty, but somewhere along the way, and it is my belief that it happened whilst penning the dialogues, it veers away from living up to its potential. There are moments in the film where Johar and his collaborators could have perhaps opted for silence but instead choose to go for dramatic emphasis. It is the single threads of wool that make the quilt warm though, and in this particular case, just as you start to feel toasty, it shrinks to nothing. Also, unbelievably disappointing was the way they wrote bits of Kajol’s character and the initial interaction between her and Khan. Her opening scene and the terrible dialogue made you cringe at best, and then the constant fixture of Khan, a travelling salesman in her salon was inexplicable. There are two points on which I am going to elaborate here. A) The premise of Khan’s journey, whilst interesting, and some of his moments on the road, such as his meeting the motel owner played by Vinay Pathak, agreeably insightful, there is such a thing as too much. By the end of the film, the only good deed Khan had not done was blowing away Hurricane Katrina with the power of his breath, and honestly, I feel sure that Bathija at least considered giving him the Nobel Peace Prize. To go from entertaining to arduous in twenty minutes is a lesson to be learned from this screenplay. B) The crisis in the film, once again, seemed so juicy to Johar and his associates, that they gave it not just one harrowing scene but two. Whilst the first was passable, if only because of Kajol’s natural talent, the second was just overkill. It was loud, obnoxious, unreal and odious. What should have been a pivotal moment became a terribly overacted sham.
These may seem like a lot of shortcomings, but in truth and in all honesty, these are all of them. And since I’m being honest, they are far fewer than I thought they would be. And at the point of the interval, I couldn’t remove the plastered smile off my face, even if I tried. Whilst the second half may have been a tremendous letdown to the buildup of the first, it wasn’t all bad, and in a hackneyed sort of way, Johar does somehow get his message out. And it is a message that needs to be out. This may not be the best film Johar has made (‘KKHH’ will retain that for some time to come), but it is, at the very least far better than any other film to come out of his direction (and I’m counting the awful ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’ in that mix). Watch it, if only once, if only for Shahrukh Khan and Kajol together on screen, if only for the beautiful landscape of the US through RKC’s lens, or if only because not every Khan is a terrorist.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

List: My Favourite Movies this Year

With the Academy announcing nominations for this year’s awards, I thought it was high time I put this list up, that I’d compiled more than a while ago. Since, I’ve watched a few more movies, which might have changed the list a little, but I’ve decided I’m going to consider those to be 2010, and go ahead with my original list.
This year, there were some great movies, some stinkers and a gigantic bunch of films that ended up middling at best. There were some cinematic moments that you couldn’t help cheer for (Shoshana’s revenge), there were times you couldn’t contain a gasp (being introduced to Pandora or Paradise Falls) and then there were moments you were forced to cringe (sitting through Sonia and Pepperidge hamming their way through Clouseau’s feeble attempts at making funny). At the end of all that good, bad and sometimes very very ugly, we’ve come to the close of yet another year. And amongst a veritable collection of best-of-lists, here’s mine. There were many movies that almost made it to my favorites, but somehow couldn’t move me enough. So I’m starting with the movies that I also enjoyed, to the movies on the bubble, which on another day could substitute the movies that finally made the list, and finally entering the movies that this year made it worth my while to spend all those hours with all those characters.

Also enjoyed:
1.       Goodbye Solo – Ram Bahirini
2.       Un Prophete – Jacques Audiard
3.       (500) Days of Summer – Marc Webb
4.       District 9 – Neill Blomkamp
5.       Adventureland – Greg Mottola
6.       Away We Go – Sam Mendes
7.       Invictus – Clint Eastwood
8.       3 Idiots – Rajkumar Hirani
9.       Coraline – Henry Selick
10.   The Young Victoria – Jean-Marc Vallée
On the Bubble (in alphabetic order):
1.       The Brothers Bloom – Rian Johnson
Thoroughly entertaining, and wonderfully well acted, beautifully shot and cleverly written, ‘The Brothers Bloom’ just missed the cut for me. A lot of people felt the transition from frothy and light to Shakespearean tragedy was uneven but I, for one, found it intriguing. The only fault I found in the film was some patchy editing and uncertain repeat value. Still, it was a commendable follow up to ‘Brick’, another film I thoroughly enjoyed, and I can’t wait to watch the next film Rian Johnson churns out.

2.       In The Loop – Armando Ianucci
This film bounced in and out of my top 10 as I began to make this list. Always at the back of my mind for being amongst the first times I actually enjoyed British humour, there is a crassness that made the stereotypical Indian prude inside me cringe. And yet, there is no doubt in the fact that if you want funny, you got it. If you found the summer sleeper ‘The Hangover’ hilarious, you WILL pee your pants in this one.

3.       Kurbaan – Rensil DeSilva
Indian cinema has seen some remarkable thrillers, and yet, it would be a stretch to expect anyone to be able to name three memorable thrillers from the 2000s. In Kurbaan, which is a hard to classify movie, we finally have that. It isn’t a perfect movie, and tries hard to find its footing towards the end, eventually hobbling to a by-and-large dissatisfying climax, but is still not without mention. In fact, tautly written for most of the screentime, it ably avoids many of the pitfalls the similarly themed (and unfortunately better received) New York succumbed to. Special mention must be given to the surprisingly consistent acting of all the players, especially Kirron Kher and (incredibly shockingly) Kareena Kapoor. Kurbaan may not be amongst the best films this year, but it definitely better than over 95% of the colder than tepid fare launched out of Bombay Talkies this year.

4.       Sunshine Cleaning
A cute little Indie that slipped in and out of people’s mind this summer, I was conflicted on whether I wanted this film to have this spot or ‘Adventureland’. I finally decided to go with this one after watching ‘The Young Victoria’. I think it is high time Emily Blunt got her due, and whilst her performance in Victoria is deservingly garnering her accolades, this film comes together much more cohesively. If Viola Davis could get an Oscar nomination for one scene in Doubt, Blunt should’ve wished this film could have come out later in the year, ‘cause even though Amy Adams, Steve Zahn and Alan Arkin are no pushovers, she really gave her all and made this one of the most engaging character studies in a long time. This film isn’t art, but it is entertaining, and at least for me, has been memorable.

5.       Taken – Pierre Morel
A lot of people have probably forgotten ‘Taken’ already, but this is the one movie I’ve watched the maximum number of times this year, and is also definitely the reason I look forward to watching Pierre Morel and Liam Neeson in their next forays out in 2010. (I will have a list out on that as well). Definitely the action entertainer of the year, Liam Neeson put himself on the map in Hollywood with this flick in a bigger way than before and banked over $200 million worldwide on a budget of $25 million.


10.    Where the Wild Things Are – Spike Jonze
So many people wrote this film off as a misfire, but I still can’t get over how beautiful and simple and profound I felt it was. The last Spike Jonze movie I watched was the incredible ‘Being John Malkovich’, and this isn’t perhaps as revolutionary, but it has so much more heart. It is often difficult to adapt short literary works into feature length cinema, and some might even claim this to be better suited to a short film, but Jonze does a really good job of bringing life to the world created by Maurice Sendak. The music of the film is also fantastic and more than anything, Max Records does an incredible job of playing Max, the misunderstood, imaginative, and painfully lonely child who goes to the land of the wild things. Definitely not a movie for children, with its constant melancholic tone, but a fantastic film nonetheless.

9.       Star Trek  - J J Abrams
For a first time Star Trek watcher, I found the first fifteen minutes of this film unexciting, but as it catches on, and starts to take shape, I have to say I found the reason why so many millions of people do not shy away from making a fool of themselves by being labeled “Trekkies”. J J Abrams does an awesome job of contemporizing the story and leaving enough geek in it to satisfy the loyal fans. Zachary Quinto moves on from being Sylar in the now-decaying Heroes, and owns the role of Spock, even when faced by the original Nemoy.  _\\// (That’s a Vulcan salute for the uninitiated).

8.       Up In The Air – Jason Reitman
I enjoy Jason Reitman’s oeuvre more than any other contemporary filmmaker. I don’t think that means he’s the best filmmaker out there but I think it does mean that he makes amongst the most cleverly entertaining topical films. This is the second time he’s garnered award buzz is just three outings in feature length film-making, and under his own writing, I think he stands as good a chance at winning as the best of them. The film was hard to classify but impossible to not enjoy and he created some memorable characters for all the actors, specifically Clooney, who fit Ryan Bingham to a T.

7.       Wake Up Sid – Ayaan Mukherjee
Fun from beginning to end, if Wake Up Sid is amongst my favourite films this year, it’s probably the same reason I enjoyed Juno a couple’a years back. This film is unashamedly formulaic, and you could predict the ending thirty seconds into the film. Getting there is what makes this film worth watching. Ayaan Mukherjee puts together a bunch of endearing characters and milks the hell out of every cliché you could find in a feel-good film, and does a brilliant job of it. When you get out of your seat in the cinema, you’re bound to feel good, and for a long time after.

6.       Up – Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson
To start, I have yet to watch ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox’ and have been told that I might revise my opinion as to my favorite animation film this year, but for now, I have to say that ‘Up’ was awesome. Amongst my favorite films to come out of Pixar studios, a studio already renowned for its habit of winning big at the Academy Awards, Up is in equal parts inspiring and equal parts entertaining. Carl Freidricksen and Russel took us on a journey of a lifetime, and we can never thank them enough.

5.       The Blind Side – John Lee Hancock
Sandra Bullock! What a year it’s been for her. She played the typical rom-com heroine in the summer hit ‘The Proposal’ and then had a humiliating disaster with the over-rated Bradley Cooper in ‘All About Steve’. One might think that’d be enough, but she just bounced right back, and bounced oh-so-high. Some stellar performances, an all-American sport, a feel good story and an author backed role for Bullock in this film make it amongst the best we’ve had in this genre. Surprising everyone and no one and getting Bullock nominations galore, this film is already amongst the ten highest grossing domestic releases this year, and released on par with New Moon, this film has shown staying par with its collections amongst the slowest dipping in percentages. And yet, those aren’t why I find this amongst my favourite five films this year. It’s here because IMHO, only a stone could not leave the cinema with a big smile after this one.

4.       The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow
Not many people are aware that Kathryn Bigelow was one amongst James Cameron’s many wives. I’m not sure if there is a point to that, so we’ll call it interesting trivia. Either ways, this will go down as a genre defining movie, with a never before experienced closed-up examination of conflict zones, in a completely non-judgmental way. Jeremy Renner’s stunning turn as the conflicted squadron leader who only finds purpose in the combat zone is also worth all the hype. Oh, I remembered my point: With both Bigelow and Cameron churning out fantastic films this year, wonder who rubbed off on who!

3.       Kaminey – Vishal Bhardwaj
My initial plan was to separate this list into the ten Indian (Hindi) films I enjoyed watching the most, and the ten International films I enjoyed the most. That was before I actually began making my list, and stopped at four, and that too after forcing the last one in. Nevertheless, Kaminey would definitely be amongst my most enjoyable times spent at a cinema. Wildly entertaining, uninhibited in its stylization and treatment, with a mind-numbing music score, this film was unequivocally the best film to come out of a stalemate Indian film industry in this last year. It will hopefully inspire original writing and awesome acting in the future, or at least serve as a reference point for those trying to identify it.

2.       Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino
One great genius, one troubled time, and one incredible experience. Tarantino is clearly with this film, the master of entertainment. In your face, with traditional plot devices like revenge, authentic use of language and fantastic casting, this is the film that could have been my favourite of the year, had it not been for the next title. No mention of this film can be complete without also mentioning Christoph Waltz. Even if I never see him in another Hollywood movie again, he, much like Heath Ledger last year, has fulfilled his cinematic purpose, and will always be remembered as Colonel Hans Landa, and rightly so.

1.     Avatar – James Cameron
Now that’s cinema. James Cameron, twenty years of planning, three hundred thousand speculations in the press, billions of post-Titanic expectations, 350 million dollars, and an entirely new planet make this amongst the best experiences in a movie theatre of my life. If Steven Spielberg took us back in time with Jurassic Park, Cameron took us forward, with a fantastic film, simplistic in story and perfect in execution. Avatar should become the biggest success of all time, only to vindicate this man who took on the world, and turned it on its axis.

That's not all...