Thursday, March 22, 2007

And the Oscar goes to...

Finally caught up on 3 of the Best Picture nominees at the Oscars...

The Departed
"A mole in the police force; an undercover cop in the mafia organization; the two try to uncover each other while keeping their own identity a secret... what a fantastic story!" - thats what I said to myself when I learned about the story of The Departed before the movie was released. Now I can say that the movie presents the story perfectly. The deliciously complicated story is presented in a tightly-woven screenplay that keeps us guessing right till the end. As the two protagonists try to block each other's moves while feeding their own organizations with news, the movie begins to resemble a high-stakes chess game with the players plotting their own moves while anticipating the other's moves and working to checkmate them. And like a good chess game, it requires total attention to the goings-on from the viewer but the results are well worth it. Some of the sequences, like the way the cellphones are used in the warehouse, are truly exhilarating. The story takes some genuinely surprising turns towards the end and it definitely didn't finish the way I expected it to. Leo is terrific, Damon is effective and Jack is Jack! A must-watch.

Babel
The movie belongs to the genre where apparently independent incidents are eventually shown to be connected. It is not as powerful or surprising as Crash and 21 Grams, 2 of my favorite movies in this genre but it does have its moments. There are 4 main segments - a Middle-Eastern boy's rifle practice and its consequences, an American couple struggling to find medical assistance for the wife in Turkey, a Mexican nanny who takes the 2 kids she takes care of to a wedding in Mexico and a deaf-mute Japanese girl in Tokyo. As the movie name indicates, the common thread running through these segments is the trouble people have, communicating in today's world.

The segment with the Mexican Nanny is the pick of the lot and is really intense. She and the kids gain our sympathy as they are caught in dangerous circumstances beyond their control. The actress playing the nanny is awesome and should've nabbed the Supporting Actress award. The segment with the Japanese girl is the weakest. Her loneliness is well brought-out(especially in 1 sequence where she visits a night club) but she is so brazen that her character doesn't make earn our sympathy. And the link her segment has with the others seems a bit forced.

Little Miss Sunshine
I think this one would qualify as a dark comedy. It is neither as dark nor as funny as Fargo, the gold standard by which I rate other dark comedies, but it is rather unique in that it is a feel-good dark comedy. The film revolves around a dysfunctional family(a husband, wife, son, daughter and the husband's dad) that makes a road trip to LA so that the little girl can take part in a beauty pageant. Almost everything that happens on the trip qualifies as sad - the husband loses a key deal in his job, the son realizes he has a handicap that will prevent him from realizing his dream, there is a death, etc. But the film succeeds in making us smile inspite of these small troubles since the big picture is that, putting aside their troubles, they come together as a family to make their little girl happy. That and the fact some of their antics(like the way they start the van) are hilarious! The actual pageant, with the little girls resembling Barbies, is more than a little scary but the riotous, unexpected climax ensures that we finish the film with a smile on our lips.

20 Comments:

At 12:37 AM, Blogger Narayanan said...

Maybe I dont analyze the way you do. But is 'Fargo' comedy ? :-/

I liked Little Miss Sunshine very much. Was one of the fresh family-drama movies I've seen.

 
At 1:19 AM, Blogger KayKay said...

The Departed is riveting with a mega-wattage star cast although it still pales in comparison to the original movie it was remade from, HK Crime Thriller Infernal Affairs.
My take on it can be read here:

http://tomesflicks.blogspot.com/2006/12/crime-spree.html

 
At 3:36 AM, Anonymous RDX said...

Balaji, have u heard the sivaji songs on e net....its available on cooltoad.com

grab it

 
At 4:26 AM, Blogger rads said...

Loved Babel, and the nanny part was the best! Yet to see Little Ms Sunshine, but on my list.

 
At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WATER...any time?

-Subha

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger srivatsan said...

BB, Departed is very good and got all the awards it deserved.

The committee was a bit too harsh on Babel (just one award) and Leonardo and Damon. The former atleast deserved best actor even if not for this movie, for Blood Diamond :) , he was awesome

 
At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Shwetha said...

Departed, I thot was good..but not as good as to deserve a best picture award. Not sure if you watched "The lives of Others" which won the best foreign film...it is such a splendid film with every angle (acting, direction, story telling and the message) being miles ahead of the Departed in terms of deserving such a high honor (tho the genres are completely different)

Babel was plain bad and had a terrible crash hangover! It was so contrived..but like you said the Mexican angle was some respite.

Sunshine was a pleasant breeze and I loved it, but not sure if I enjoyed the climax or necessarily agree with it. Why would a disfunctional Gramps (who is otherwise sensible in dealing with his grand daughter alone) give her such an act to perform? I kinda felt bad and thot it brot the movie down a bit. And then the whole family joining her up on stage gave it a crass feel. sigh...

Btw, since you are on an Oscar mode, pls do check out Pan's Labyrinth (and Lives of Others) if you havent watched alraedy. Beautiful films....almost poetic in its narration.

 
At 11:43 AM, Anonymous ram said...

ena BB, ipdi Departed pathi ezhudhittu, not a word on Martin Scorsese, that terrific director who finally won a much-deserved Oscar for this one. I've heard people comment that he didnt win for movies that were much better (I agree) than "the departed." i mean, to think that he didnt win for "Raging Bull" or "Goodfellas" two absolute classics, just baffles me...but my reasoning is, Departed maybe couldnt stack up to those movies...but for 2005, it was one of theee best movies of the year...great acting, superb scripting and deft direction...yes, as u mentioned, real sustained tension in many sequences...

and to answer narayanan's question, Fargo is a deliciously wicked dark comedy...you feel tense, you laugh, you feel for the characters...its a brilliant movie, the worth of which I appreciated fully only on repeated viewings...Frances Mcdormand was so lively...so was the inimitable William H. Macy, the loser's loser!

 
At 11:45 AM, Anonymous ram said...

i meant, 2006.
and, two more movies for those who admire the offbeat charm and quirkiness of WH Macy and Frances Mcdormand like i do...The Cooler (macy) and Wonder Boys (mcdormand).

 
At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Prin said...

Aishwarya Rai's English film, 'Provoked' is out in the United Kingdom on the 6th of April.

Is it out in the states as yet?

 
At 1:38 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

About time you watched The Departed! =P

 
At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and India died :(... Maybe the chefs should make Fois Gras with Tendulkar and Dhoni's livers in appreciation of their respective ducks.

Indian Cricket SUCKS:(:(:(:(:(:(

 
At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

That's putting it very lightly, Anonymous.. Think of all of us who spent $200 on Dish Network with big dreams for India.. that India SUCKS.. and you pointed out.. is an unfortunate and hugely underrated.. UNDERSTATEMENT! :-)..

There are many wonderful (educated and civilized) adjectives in the English language that I'm tempted to use here.. but have been typing all day for other things and have decided to save my energy for other things than comment on a royal group of losers..

I salute SL, Bangladesh and Bermuda.. they have showed great ability, skill and determination (considering one of these three teams has been beaten to pulp in every game and is still standing, enough to take more such beatings! :-) I applaud Bermuda.. Paavam!

 
At 5:50 PM, Blogger srivatsan said...

Sandya,

You must remember that SL was also like that not long ago..look at them now..the only team which has been shameless all the time is India :)

FYI even Australia was like that before Allan Border took up captaincy...

 
At 6:06 PM, Anonymous vijay said...

Balaji, I was casually watching a TV program called "top internet superstars" on channel VH1. They were counting down most popular internet videos and were interviewing some of the videos authors. Suddenly out of nowhere Rajni's video appeared with the dwarf(thavakkaLai?) called the "Little superstar". And a couple of Americans were seen praising the "Little superstar" :-) I was surprised and managed to find the video on youtube and was amazed to see the number of hits
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx-NLPH8JeM

Another surprising "hit" is Kamal's atrocious dance from ellam inba mayam
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koqeSXJtvvo

Its funny to note what sort of videos appeal to people from the West. Youtube has been something of a revolution, an online cultural melting pot :-)

 
At 6:13 PM, Anonymous vijay said...

SL is not just good now. Remember they also won the 1996 world cup. The coach behind that 1996 world cup win for SL is current coach of Bangladesh too .He took an impossible job for a previously poor team like Bangladesh and pulled off an upset win over India, after tasting success with SL earlier. His name is Dave Whatmore and he gets half the hype that Mr. "Chappal" gets.

India can still make it if Bermuda wins. But I hope that doesnt happen. My condolences for those who blew 200 bucks. Somehow, when it comes to cricket I have always had immense faith in our team to shy away from making big investments :-)

 
At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vijay...ur a bit behind times there....the number of hits that video was getting was talked about a while ago....it came on CNN or something....

and prabhu deva's videos are also pretty popular on Youtube...the Kadhalan songs and "Kalluri Vannil song....

 
At 5:50 PM, Anonymous DrSharavanan said...

Balaji, would like to know what you thought of "The Prestige". Saw it last night, and I feel it is the best movie in 2006.
Amazing twists and turns, we were discussing the movie the whole of today. Christopher Nolan at his best.

 
At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Departed was ok. Jack is Jack and that was irritating. come on how long can we handle this sarcastic/wise crack villian.Matt and leo are ok. overall not a great film. it kind of drags..if you had watched the original, then those tense scenes are real good.
Marin deserved oscar for other films not this..well may be we wont get better ones anymore..

 
At 3:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Departed was an average rehash of the Hongkong thriller 'Infernal Affairs', which was a 3 part series and more detailed.Somehow, Hollywood is never able to pull off a convincing remake of an Asian film. Some scenes were directly ripped off from the original as well. But I have to agree that Leo's performance in 'Blood Diamond' was stellar.

 

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