Taking a cue from Ashwin putting up a list of movies from 2014 that I loved. I don’t track the movies that I watch as well as I do books, so this is mostly a list of the most memorable ones. There is no particular order in ranking, they are pretty much just there.
1. Ballad of Narayama (1958)
Told in Kabuki style, this movie is based on a novel of the same name(or Narayama Bushiko) by Shichirō Fukazawa. The tale is about an old woman, almost 70 living in a village where when a person reaches 70, that person’s son takes him/her along on his back and deposits him/her on top of a mountain where they await death. Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, I spent most of the movie in tears (and am not someone who cries in movies). It didn’t even have to do much in terms of tear-jerking. This was listed by Roger Ebert in his Great movies list and it was the last movie he wrote a review of before his death.
2. Summer Hours (2008)
Added based on Ashwin’s review from his list from 2013. This French movie is again something to do with death. Three children meeting up at their mother’s place with their families, at the estate their mother lives in, where they grew up. Their mother talks about the estate and how to deal with it after her death. They eventually face that dilemma and deal with it, with all the pangs of past memories thrown in.
3. Studio Ghibli
I don’t think I can list one movie here. So am going with the three I loved most.
– Whisper of the heart (1995)
This could easily be one of my favourite movies of all time. That adaptation of John Denver’s “Country Roads” in Japanese is simply superb. A story of growing up, figuring out where one’s passions lie, of childhood love. And of course, Miyazaki’s gorgeous art thrown into the mix. And cats!
– Ponyo (2008)
One of the most gorgeous films ever from Ghibli. Read that after going digital Miyazaki returned to his old form of drawing by hand and the entire movie was drawn by hand. What an absolute piece of art! A little half-fish-half-human creature lands up in a little boy Sosuke’s bucket and he names her Ponyo. Ponyo grows fond of Sosuke, and after an argument with her Father (a Human who has renounced Human ways and living in the sea), she tries to return to him. This brings up the sea levels, almost akin to global warming and the two of them set out an adventure. The best part is, of course, the artwork. The sea at the end is even filled up with Devonian creatures – Miyazaki’s own treat.
-Only Yesterday (1991)
Memories. Of growing up. Of School. The first crush. The blush. Need I say more? As close to my heart as a movie can get.
4. Robin Williams
After his shocking and unfortunate death, many tributes put these two movies on my list. Neither are typical Robin Williams movies, with those positive messages embedded right through. While one is plain dark, the other is a dark comedy. As with many Hollywood movies, do not watch with parents.
– One Hour Photo (2002)
A loner working in a photo studio developing photos from film rolls. He develops an affinity and a protectiveness towards a seemingly perfect family made of pretty people. Expect lots of cringing and hoping he doesn’t do what he’s about to do!
– World’s Greatest Dad (2009)
This book reminded me of Manu Joseph’s The Illicit Happiness of Other People. A failed writer working as an English teacher in a school teaching poetry, he’s on the verge of being kicked out of his job. His son is a jerk and hates him, and is also on the verge of being kicked out of school. When nothing seems to be going right, his son dies at home in a freak accident (watch the movie for the weirdest accident in movie history!). The rest of the movie is about him memorialising his son’s memory and almost making him into a saint.
5. Chungking Express (1994)
Next time someone tells me the Dhoom series is stylish, I’d like to throw this movie at that someone’s face and ask him/her to watch. It’s based in Hong Kong. Enough said. Have spent 2 days of my life roaming around that city and have been smitten forever. Be it the streets of Kowloon, Chungking Mansion in Tsim Sha Sui or the view from Victoria Peak, this is one place that I’ll remember forever.
Wong Kar-Wai brings something special to his movies – especially this one and Fallen Angels. There’s less structure than in the trilogy starting from Days of Being Wild. But what it has is racy filmmaking with a hand-held camera, excellent performances (how hard is it to resist developing a crush on Faye Wong?) and a superb soundtrack (with one song sung by Faye Wong too). Two cops and two women, all living alone in Hong Kong and struggling with loneliness. Almost Murakami territory except that the movie refuses to go deep into their pathos, concentrating on their ways of life. Good stuff!
6. Remains of the Day (1993)
Based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker winning novel of the same name, this one stars Anthony Hopkins as the self-important Butler in Darlington Hall. Deeply elegiac, it is almost allegorical to the role England played in world matters before WWII and its decline in the international scene after that with the rise of the Cold War blocs. An excellent movie with evocative performances, this movie lost out on scoring its share of Oscars to Schindler’s List.
7. Drishyam (2013)
Mohanlal as a middle-aged cable operator with a doting family, and an accidental death of an outsider that kicks off a massive coverup operation hoodwinking the Police. This movie has inspired a whole bunch of remakes in different languages with all the out of commission middle-aged actors cashing in. There were rumours of it being based on Keigo Hagashino’s ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’. Inspired, maybe, but as similar as chapathis and dosas needing tawas.
(Honestly though, Indian movies don’t make good trailers)
8. Naan Kadavul (2009)
Bala. Enough said? Based on the novel Yezhaam Ulagam by Jeyamohan who also penned the dialogues for this film. An Aghori returning home to the family that abandoned him after listening to an astrologer. A beggar-mafia with a chilling kingpin (Rajendran, superb as Thandavan). And the beggars themselves, making fun of each other or their group’s handler Muruga. That song from Kalathur Kannamma – brilliant! And the dialogues – stunningly good!
This isn’t an easy watch. There’s a lot of blood and gore, and it isn’t easy watching actual disfigured beggars going about their lives beyond their begging. But I cannot recommend this enough! They don’t make movies like this too often.
(Once again, trailers seem to indulge the main male actor with no semblance of story or plot thrown in. Don’t judge movie by trailer here!)
That’s all folks!