I’m trying to think back to January now, and remember what movies I’ve seen since the very beginning of this year… but I’m drawing blanks, largely. One of my favourite movies in 2009 was Revolutionary Road, which puts me rather in the minority, I understand. I haven’t read the novel and I agree with the criticism that April is if not a sympathetic character, certainly someone you can pity, but I thought the movie was brutal and real and a really convincing indictment of marriage and that time. Ordinary fucking people, indeed. On the other hand, I thought the Reader was terribly overrated – Kate Winslet was good but not brilliant and the movie itself was sentimental and unaffecting. I enjoyed Gran Torino – it wasn’t the best film I saw all year or anything, but it was fun. I think those are all the Oscar movies that released in India well after their American releases – I can’t remember others, anyway.
Of the other films this year, I loved Star Trek. I was very excited about the movie even in the lead-up, if only because I had a bit of a thing for Chris Pine in his pre-Kirk days. But I forgive JJ Abrams for his ADD, because this movie was just so much fun! I saw it 3 times in less than a week and fell into a new fandom – most unexpected after the Battlestar Galactica heartbreak. Now I’m excited about the sequel. I should add that I have never, and have no desire to ever, watch the original series. William Shatner in his Boston Legal avatar is so repulsive that I cannot ever imagine seeing him as anything or anyone else. I’m just so full of glee whenever I think about this movie, I feel like I could watch it on a constant loop every single day and not get bored. I am also getting the urge to write loads of meta about Kirk and Spock and how’re they’re so different but really also so very alike, but that’s another story.
Up was, of course, spectacular. Pixar doesn’t seem to know how to make a bad film. I was moved to tears several times (admittedly not a difficult thing to induce me to do), and the opening sequence of the progression of a marriage was incredibly touching. Dug the dog was adorable.
I adored Inglourious Basterds. I fall into the camp that is convinced of Tarantino’s genius and I really, really enjoyed this film. The opening sequence was just awesome. Christoph Waltz deserves every award he gets. As one of the few movies this year that had a strong central female character, I would’ve loved this film for no other reason but that, but this was just fantastic cinema. It may be called Inglourious Basterds but really the movie was about Shosanna and her quest for revenge and the actress who played her – Melanie Laurent? - did a tremendous job.
Other movies I liked this year…Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was surprisingly good beyond the 3-D and Away We Go, with the wonderful John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph was hilarious and warm and sweet, all at the same time. What a change of pace for Sam Mendes from Revolutionary Road, and a strange sort of bookend in a way. As Frank and April in Revolutionary Road bask in their smug superiority to everybody around them, realizing later that they’re no better than any of the neighbours they love to mock, Burt and Verona are an anomaly in the relationships surrounding them but are only looking for a place to fit in and call home. Yes, it was just on this side of twee, but Krasinski and Rudolph are so likable that none of us were put off. Public Enemies was also good… it wasn’t brilliant, but it was the kind if good, adult storytelling that I wish Hollywood would do more of. State of Play and Duplicity were both those kinds of movies and they were very enjoyable. I also liked District 9, though ‘liked’ is a strange word to use – the movie was so discomfiting and I spent large parts choking down vomit. Another movie I need to write about, though – it made me very thinky. Strangely, 2012 also made me thinky about two specific things, but that says nothing about how terrible the film was, because it SO WAS.
Terminator: Salvation was OK. I went in with reduced expectations and was rewarded with lots of sweaty and hot Christian Bale, which is all I really need for a movie to go from bad to ok. Wolverine, on the other hand, was a severe disappointment – in some places the CGI was so bad that we felt that India got the leaked version of the film. And the less said about GI Joe and Transformers 2 the better. Roger Ebert said it all in his reviews here. I enjoyed the 3D in A Christmas Carol but the movie as such was no better than OK, but I did love The Informant! It was so funny, and the voiceovers were gold and Matt Damon just is go good and so effortless at what he does. I wonder how/why they took the call to make this a comedy, but it was a great decision. The sheer absurdity of the man’s life is hilarious, and the guy is a cipher – a riddle wrapped up in a puzzle shrouded in an enigma. (Or however that thing goes).
Moving on to Hindi cinema: Kaminey was easily the best of Hindi cinema this summer – and, I suspect, this year.
Everything about the film from its two protagonists, to the rich cast of supporting characters, to the fast-paced narrative and little details, made the movie very enjoyable. Vishal Bharadwaj is one of those directors whose every film I will now watch, even without knowing a single detail about the plot/cast. I enjoyed the first half of Wake Up, Sid, and thought the second half lost its way by paying too much attention to an unconvincing romance and not really devoting proper narrative time to delivering on the coming of age part of the supposed coming of age story. Ajab Prem ki ghazab kahani was not offensive but not all that funny either – certainly not a patch on director Rajkumar Santoshi’s previous comedy classic Andaaz Apna Apna. There were moments in the former that were hilarious but the movie, as a whole, didn’t work for me.
Love Aaj Kal was another movie that wasn’t terrible, not when compared to fare like Chandni Chowk to China (which I was subjected to) and Blue and Kambakht Ishq (which I was luckily spared from). It was horribly miscast – Saif Ali Khan has done that role a million times and it gets tiring watching him do the same shtick all over again. Deepika Padukone is a pretty girl but she can’t act. And the script called for the two lovers to be played by much better actors, because in Saif and Deepika’s hands they were just unlikable people and I couldn’t care less if they got together. Luck By Chance, released much earlier this year, was very, very good. The end was brilliant and it shifted the movie from being all about the male protagonist to the female lead, who was excellent. Just saw Rocket Singh, and it was a decent enough movie, modest ambitions and such but not brilliant because it was JUST SO LONG OMG. But Ranbir Kapoor = yummy. And (surprise!) a good actor, apparently.