Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Recap 2016 : Top10 Hollywood Movies

Just like Hindi Movies, 2016 was a year I found incredibly good at the Hollywood movies. I am gonna list my top10 movies here in details, but I can safely say that there are minimum 5 more movies that I feel bad they didn't make to top10.

As far as worst films are concerned, 'Batman v Superman', 'Suicide Squad', 'Shut In' and 'Hail Caesar' (which is favourite of many) I found completely ridiculous and time-wasters.

Among major disappointments, 'Silence', 'Doctor Strange', 'The Girl in the Train' and 'Jason Bourne', all of which I liked but they should had been much more than that.

Pleasant surprises of the year were 'The Nice Guys', 'Kubo and The Two Strings',  'Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them', 'Moana', 'The Accountant' and 'Lights Out',

'The Junglebook', 'The Witch', 'Nocturnal Animals' and 'Hidden Figures' just missed out on my top10 list, as I told it was a very good year.

Now, talking of the Top10, there are 6 oscar nominated pictures in them but the omission of 'Moonlight' will surprise a lot of people reading this, and also a horror movie I have included. Frankly Moonlight had a very weak 3rd act, after two superb chapters. Sorry Oscars, lets agree to disagree.

I love all the listed top10 movies here, the order is strictly on the basis of which film has higher repeat value for me.

P.S. Just a reminder, the post will be full of spoilers, so read at your own risk. 

TOP 10 Hollywood Movies : 

1. La La Land 

No, there ain't any mistake like Oscars did. La La Land indeed is the no.1 movie on my list, and its the best movie I have seen since 'The Dark Knight' in 2008. A movie where people talk about jazz, yet its not on jazz. One of major reasons why I love La La Land so much is that its not a routine musical movie from Hollywood like Les Miserables (which I really couldn't sit through as I hate such musicals). Instead here we get only some moments where characters would have conversations through songs, rather than having a whole film where characters keep breaking into songs every minute. That is why Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), even when they dance or sing, and appear so not prepared or perfect in that department, it comes off so well, because suddenly you feel that I can be that too, I could also sing and dance like that, and it gets relatable. Thats how the movie is, a tale about dreams and love, and the choices we make, but narrated in a very magical manner. I didn't get all the homage or references paid to past musicals which I haven't seen.
'City of Stars' and 'Someone from the Crowd' are my favs from the soundtracks. Mia requesting  'I ran' song and Ryan explaining jazz to Mia were two of my most fav scenes. Special mention to the starting song 'Another day of Sun' that sets the tone of movie right from beginning, it wants you to think that its real even though it isn't. Love the sizzling chemistry between Ryan and Emma, wasn't a surprise at all to see Emma win Oscar for her performance, completely deserved it. Like how the signature Mia-Sebastian relationship tune is used at 3-4 places very effectively. Final 15 mins of movie is simply heartbreaking, and so are the words from Sebastian 'Welcome to Sebs'. And still there's a smile on your face when the film ends despite a realistic and sad ending. Very few films can do that. La La Land is full of lighthearted humor, romance, drama and almost makes you cry, its a perfect five star movie for me, one that I will fondly remember with other all time greats. If you are a romantic, then La La Land should work for you surely. 
This is the dream! It's conflict and its compromise, and it's very, very exciting. 

2. Manchester by the Sea 

When this movie was getting great reviews from critics and getting applauded at awards, I was wondering this will be one of those typical oscar movie that won't appeal to me. But that wasn't the case, I loved Manchester by Sea so much that I had to see it atleast 4 times even when I was on a 15 day non-stop oscar movies watch spree. Its easily the most depressing movie I have watched ever that doesn't involve physical suffering (like 12 years a slave or Revenant or Silence or any other movies do). Here, we see Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) dealing with a past trauma that happened in his life when he lived in Manchester, and now he is forced to go back there and be guardian of his nephew after finding his brother has died. Director uses non-linear narration, one shows Lee before trauma, happy and friendly guy spending time mostly with wife, children, friends and sometimes nephew on boat.  And other one where Casey really excels is the post trauma, when he keeps suffering inside, not letting the pain come out, we see him get angry on random people at drink place twice, been cold to a girl at the bar, or the scene at hospital when he is finding it hard how to react on his dead brother news. Director does well, by taking time to reveal as to why Lee has a personality that makes people not like him. There's one terrific scene between Lee and his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) where she is trying to be sorry for her poor behavior or words she used for Lee, which we are never shown when the incident happens and also when Lee explains the entire incident to police and is surprised to be told he can leave as if he wants to be punished for what he did unintentionally. Personally, I love the scene when Lee finally seems to break-down and cry when he is getting first-aid, or when he dreams his daughter asking him that 'can't you see we are burning', and the one where he tells Patrick 'I can't beat it' (the trauma). Happy that Casey won the Oscar, no one else deserved it more than him, liked how he played the character internally, and making it thereby look even more depressing. Lucas Hedges (Patrick) is the only character who gives some light-hearted moments through his scenes with both girlfriends or talks with Lee on them, though I was wondering if his character was deliberately kept like that, as was surprised to see less emotions towards his dad's death. I like his dining scene with his mom most, and the one where he stares at the 3 photos kept in Lee's room which are never shown to us. Manchester by the Sea is definately a movie you should watch, as long as you don't mind a depressing movie.
I can't beat it. I can't beat it. I am sorry. 

3. Arrival 

Denis Villeneuve has soon become one of my fav directors in no time, Prisoners (yet to watch Enemy), Sicario and now Arrival. The best thing about his movies is that he uses the music so beautifully to build the tension, which here are the twelve spacecraft that have landed on earth and Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguistics professor is asked to help decode what is the purpose of Aliens on earth. The story thereby leads to amazing discovery of how well Louise handles the communications she has with the aliens when she goes inside the spacecraft. Also, excellent editing regarding Louise continuous past thoughts about her dead daughter, which ofcourse turns out to be something else as the story unfolds. Amy Adams was totally snubbed of not just a oscar nomination, but probably a win, I would certainly have rooted for her despite Emma being there. Amy carries the entire movie on her shoulders, without faltering anywhere. If La La Land showed in end, 'what could had been for Mia and Sebastian', Arrival shows us 'what it will be in future' for Louise and her family in an excellent montage with a background score that makes it even more emotional. I love the scene when Louise daughter from future says 'Daddy' and we are cut to Louise looking at Ian (Jeremy Renner) in present. Arrival is easily one of best sci-fi movies I have seen, it is slow-paced but if you are patient enough then its a movie that most likely you would love to have watched when it finishes.
If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things? 

4. Zootopia

Animation films are lot more appealing when it tries to tell a unique story, rather than just entertain with cartoon characters. Zootopia achieves to do just that, telling a story about a city where various animals of different sizes live together including predators and ones they prey on, and still manage their routine lifestyle like typical humans. When Judy (voiceover by Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she is so delighted only to later find out that she is allotted parking duties. Until one day, she gets involved in proving her worth by solving a mysterious case, and takes help of Nick, a fox (voiceover by Jason Bateman) to find he missing otter within 48 hrs. Zootopia entertains a lot, specially that laugh out sloth scene which is easily the best of last year. But what it also does, is tell about all the prejudices and stereotypes prevalent in the society, which can easily be compared to racism or equality. It talks about how tough it can be to fit in and you have to believe in yourself and not give up. There's another super laughout moment with the Godfather reference of Mr big (ironically his shape is opposite to his name, voiceover by Maurice LaMarche). Its Judy and Nick super chemistry with some excellent humor, that keeps you engaged when they go through various adventures and coming close to the reality behind the missing otter. Definately an animation movie, not to be missed, delivers to both young and adult audience.
Life's a little bit messy. We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you. 

5. Deadpool

Completely ignored at the oscars, and it was one of most pleasant surprise movie of last year for me. I mean the opening credits itself set me right into 'Oh yea, this is gonna be a some special kind of entertainer'. The story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelarated healing powers, adopts the alter-ego Deadpool as he hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life. To sum up the movie in 2 words, its Ryan Reynolds, he is so spectacular in his sarcastic humor with fast speaking, reminding of Robert Downey in Ironman. Whether the situation is happy/sad, tense/tricky it just won't matter, Deadpool has a sense of humor for all occasions and he makes fun of lots of movies whether superhero, or Taken series, or other random famous lines he uses in his routine conversations and he doesn't spare himself too. Told in a non-linear narrative by director Tim Miller, there's plenty of action, and good screen-time given to develop Wade's romantic life with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) before he became Deadpool, and we are talking of a different lusty relationship turned into love, and not a routine superhero love angle. Only weak point of movie is the villain Ajax (Ed Skrein) whose performance is rather good, but the character doesn't really offer much to be scared of or look forward to for that finale battle. Thats one curse many superhero movies go through sadly. Leaving that asides, there's nothing really to complain here, supporting cast is pretty good too but its just Ryan show all the way from the start for his witty adult humor and the writing that is top class.. Unless you are a sanskaari chela of Pahlaj Nihalani (who kinda of spoiled a lot of the movie with his stupid scissors), you are in for a laughter ride. Oh but I regret to have missed the hilarious end-credits scene. Waiting for the 2nd part..
You are probably thinking, "Whose balls did I have to fondle to get my very own movie"? I can't tell you his name, but it rhymes with "Polverine".

6. Lion 

I was worried that this could be another Slumdog type movie that shows India is a poor country n blah blah. But, Lion rather is about the struggle of young Saroo (Sunny Pawar), 5 yr old boy who falls asleep in an empty train only to find himself locked when he wakes up as train is headed to Calcutta, about 1500 miles away from his home. Saroo gets lost in the streets of Calcutta, trying to reach back to his family and avoiding wrong people he meets on the way, eventually an Australian family John Brierley (David Wenham) and Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman) adopts him. Dev Patel plays the grown up Saroo, who hasn't been able to come out from his childhood trauma and goes on a obsessive path of finding his real family. To my pleasant surprise, 1st half is entirely in hindi giving a very authentic touch to the movie. Nawazuddin Siddique appears in a one scene role, and makes it look very creepy. That scene where Dev Patel looks at jalebi and instantly thinks of childhood memory almost makes you cry, and so does all the failed attempts he goes through using Google Earth to find his home, or when he finally successfully finds home connecting every path to his home. Director Garth Davis keeps the narrative moving despite a story that spans over 25 yrs, and he perfectly makes sure that he never indulges in melodrama which this film had a lots of scope to do, the only time you see overflow of emotions is the climax and to be frank you gotta accept that scene as its done. Only weakness in the movie was Saroo-Lucy (Rooney Mara) romance which felt got affected by the film's main plot and comes up as half-baked. Special mention to 'Urvashi' track, just loved the cuteness of that scene with Dev and Rooney having a great time. Dev Patel is splendid in 2nd half of movie, better than his Slumdog act and sad he couldn't win oscar this time. Nicole Kidman has one very good scene where she tells her reasons for adopting Saroo. But Lion belongs mainly to Sunny Pawar, he is the soul of the movie, the one you remember when you are done watching movie,and harsh truth as end credits say is many children of that age go through such life in India. Hard to forget that heart-breaking scene when he steps out of train that stops at Calcutta, as he looks on platform calling out ammi (his mother) and Guddu (his brother), hoping they are somewhere there, only to be left disappointed.
Every night I imagine that I am walking those streets home and I know every single step of the way and I whisper in her ear 'I am here'. 

7. Hacksaw Ridge

I am not really fond of war films unless they offer something very different which Hacksaw Ridge does. The story is about Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the conscientious objector, who at the battle of Okinawa, won the Medal of Honor for his incredible bravery and regard for his fellow soldiers. Its a true story about a guy who believes that he would serve by saving soldiers rather than killing enemy soldiers, and refused to carry a rifle at the battlefield. 1st half mostly goes in exploring Doss childhood, his love at first sight with a nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) and then the combat training he undergoes. When Doss informs Sergeant Howell (an excellent Vince Vaughn) that he won't touch a rifle, the proceedings thereby becomes interesting as Doss religious faith is put to question by everyone at training. Being labelled coward, Doss goes through court-martial hearing but only to win the trial and getting the permission to go at the battlefield as medic without a rifle. Mel Gibson is very brutal when it comes to filming war sequence in 2nd half, lots of dead bodies full of gore, or terribly wounded soldiers that is very hard to watch, and Gibson makes sure it keeps coming non-stop. My favourite moment (must be for many) is when Doss feels dejected to an extent that he almost starts wondering what his role is at war, if he won't be able to save lives while he questions his lord, and then he takes that  decision to save everyone who is wounded and can't return back, when artillery strike is on by his captain. Doss even tries to cure one of enemy soldier at one point. And then the goosebumps moment when Doss saves one by one, 75 soldiers, and after saving every one, he would plead to lord 'one more, one more'. Its really good to see Andrew Garfield in such a good performance, and glad he went away from Spiderman franchise. Hacksaw Ridge is cheesy at places, bit of melodrama in 1st half, but a powerful 2nd half specially the war sequences and fact that its a true story makes it a very good watch.
Please, lord, help me get one more. Help me get one more. 

8. Hell or High Water

After excellent work as screenwriter in Sicario, Taylor Sheridan has a very good follow up in form of 'Hell or High Water' and I had a very positive vibe right from the trailer itself. A robbery based movie where 2 brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are trying to raise enough money to pay off the reverse mortgage and save their family's ranch in West Texas. Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto (Gil Birmingham) are two Texas rangers who try to understand their plan and catch them before they rob next bank. Tanner is a ex-con and prisoner before with a very impulsive attitude, but its Toby's idea to rob banks who has never been in the wrong line before. This makes for a very vulnerable sequence whenever they both go and rob banks, What makes this movie a compelling watch is the conversations Toby and Tanner have before the robberies giving an idea of their relationship, or the banter Marcus and Alberto share. There's a hilarious diner scene where the waitress asks 'what don't you want'. And a tense dialogue sequence between Toby and Marcus in the end, also I liked the open ending very much. Chris Pine gives a restrained performance that is quite likeable, but personally I loved Ben Foster a lot that I was surprised he didn't get the supporting actor oscar nomination instead of Jeff Bridges who was pretty good too. Hell or High Water is a smart heist movie, with great writing and well developed characters and robbery scenes when they come (opens with it), makes for a entertaining watch, Something for our film-makers to learn when they make these kinda of movies.
I have been poor my whole life, like a disease passing from generation to generation. But not my boys, not anymore. 

9. The Conjuring 2

My list is always incomplete without a surprise. The Conjuring 2 wasn't much liked by the critics or most people specially in comparison to 1st part. But, for me this part was lot more convincing. Be it 1st part or the two Insidious movies James Wan has directed, his horror movies always have a great atmospheric setting, he knows when to use jump-scares and when to fake it. Also, he is very good at developing the scare with long takes, and a haunting background score to go with it.  Story here revolves on a real life incident popularly known as Enfield Poltergiest, about an evil spirit that caused havoc to a Hodgson family of North London in late 70's with a particular liking for 11 yr old child Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe). We don't get the usual 'I don't believe there's a spirit' nonsense, the first time Janet informs her mother of something bad, we see spirit willing to scare her mother too letting her know its presence, and also the same when the police comes for a inspection in a somewhat comical scene. Wan uses songs like 'London calling', 'Bus Stop' very well, and also Elvis Presley's 'Can't help falling in love' showing Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) romantic angle. That was actually only part in film that felt un-necessary, even though it works if you look at it in context of the characters in the movie, but as a viewer you felt like it was more of a giving breather from scare element for a while which you don't want. All scenes of Valek are most scary, my favourite is when Lorraine goes looking for her in her home, also I love the painting Ed makes of her, think of living in a house daily with such a painting in your room. Or the train scene, where Ed and Lorraine finally are able to find the missing link to the motive of spirit. Just like 1st part, here also we have a toy game, a crooked man used many times to scare. Madison Wolfe comes up with a very good performance. Patrick and Vera are reliable as always, would like to see them always be in Wan's future Conjuring movies. The Conjuring 2 is easily one of those horror movies that I can watch repeatedly without getting bored, and getting scared every time.
After everything we have seen, there isn't much that rattles either of us anymore. But this one... this one still haunts me. 

10. Paterson

This ain't a film for everyone, because for 1st 10 minutes even I felt like what am I watching, but glad I didn't stop and it turned out so good. Paterson is one of those rare beautiful films that brings art out of daily routine life, without any drama or conflicts. Narrated linearly over a week span from Mon to Sun, Paterson is about a bus driver also named Paterson (Adam Driver) living in Paterson, New Jersey whose routine is getting up before 6:30 in morning (on his own, without alarm clock), listening to his wife Laura's (Golshifteh Farahani) wierd new dreams she had last night, eating bowl of cereals, going to work and noticing people on the way or while driving bus, coming home at evening to discover new creative activity of Laura, having a dinner where Laura experiments again, taking dog Marvin for a night walk, going to bar to have just one glass of beer. This routine repeats itself for 5 days of story-telling, and everytime we get to hear different poems from Paterson whenever he gets the lonely time to write it down. Even match-box is used to make a love poem out of it. Paterson also meets a little girl fond of poetry who herself has a secret notebook like Paterson, reciting a beautiful poem on 'Water falls'. Paterson is shown as a old fashioned, who doesn't like mobile phones, doesn't want his poem notebook to have any copies. The only drama in movie comes on Friday and Saturday which is very minimal too, and forgotten when Paterson meets a Japanese poet (Masatoshi Nagase) who gifts Paterson a new blank notebook to start penning down his poems again, after Marvin destroyed his old notebook last night. Love Masatoshi's 'Ahaa' and Adam repeating it after him. In a way, this gesture of the poet turns the entire movie into a poem, with Paterson's poem on 'would you rather be a fish?' Adam Driver's performance is very subtle, and hard not to draw parallel with Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, except for the difference that De Niro character went violent and different path, while Adam's Paterson never does that. Rather Paterson is about drawing inspiration from every small thing that exists, a very positive take on a boring routine life that can be enjoyable too if lived with joy. One can argue that its a 7 day period story, who knows what the equation between Paterson and Laura be, won't there be conflicts, with Marvin chipping in. Adam Driver was sadly snubbed of a best actor oscar nomination, and so was the film for various categories including Best Picture. Paterson is a beautiful movie, that you enjoy for been so simple and yet so poetic with wonderful visuals and musical score.
Would you rather be a fish?