Sunday, August 19, 2007

I'll Be Back!

Considering the lack of new posts or comments from me for the whole of last week, you probably saw this coming. This blog(and bbreviews) is going on hiatus for a short while. Not sure right now of when I'll be able to come back but my guess is that it'll be atleast a month.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

2 Promotions

- Jo and Surya are now proud parents of a baby girl. The baby was born Friday, August 10th at 9.22pm. Friday was Aadi VeLLi, supposedly a very auspicious day, and so the parents must be doubly thrilled. Congratulations to the new parents!

- Our Ilaya Thalapathy is now a doctor! Vijay has been conferred an honorary doctorate by Dr. M.G.R University. The recognition is to "honour Vijay's spectacular achievement in the movie industry and rising to glorious heights at such a young age and his contribution to the cause of the poor and the downtrodden through social welfare activities". He will receive the degree on August 27 at the convocation, which will be presided over by noted scientist and chairman of ISRO, Dr. Madhavan Nair. First Pokkiri was a superhit and now he is going to be Dr.Vijay. This is turning out to be a good year for the actor!

3 New Reviews

Reviews for Veeraappu, Thee Nagar and Kireedam are now online @ bbreviews.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

2005 National Film Awards

After a long delay due to legal issues, the National Film awards for 2005 have finally been announced. As has been the trend in recent years, Tamil cinema has fared rather poorly with only a few awards in the major categories and a single movie being responsible for most of those awards. The only consolation is that Tamil cinema seems to have fared the best among regional cinema with Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films also getting very few awards and Hindi films scooping up almost all the major awards.

While there were obviously a number of news items on the awards, none of them(atleast the ones I read) provided an easy-to-read list of the awards. They mentioned the awards in no particular order with comments only about some of them and missed out a few of the award-winners. Some of them actually had erroneous information about some award-winners. So after reading multiple news items, here is the most complete, consolidated list I could come up with of the award-recipients.

Best picture - Kaalpurush
Best Director - Rahul Dholakia (Parzania)
Best Actor - Amitabh Bachan (Black)
Best Actress - Sarika (Parzania)
Best Supporting Actor - Naseerudin Shah (Iqbal)
Best Supporting Actress - Urvashi (Achuvinte Amma)
Best Music Direction - Lalgudi Jayaraman (Sringaram)
Best Lyrics - Barguru Ramachandrappa (Thaayi)
Best Cinematography - Madhu Ambat (Sringaram)
Best Screenplay - Prakash Jha, Shridhar Raghavan and Manoj Tyagi (Apaharan)
Best Art Direction - C. B. More (Taj Mahal – An Eternal Love Story)
Best Costume Designer - Anna Singh (Taj Mahal — An Eternal Love Story), Sabyachi Mukherjee (Black)
Best Choreography - Saroj Khan (Sringaram)
Best Child Artist - Sai Kumar (Bommalata – A Bellyful of Dreams)
Best Special Effects - Tata Elexi (Anniyan)
Best First Film of a director - Parineeta
Best Popular Film providing Wholesome Entertainment - Rang De Basanti
Best Audiography - Nakul Kamte (Rang De Basanti)
Best Editing - P. S. Bharathi (Rang De Basanti)
Best Male Playback Singer - Naresh Iyer (Rang De Basanti)
Best Female Playback Singer - Shreya Ghosal (Paheli)
Best Feature Film on National Integration - Daivanamathil
Best Film on Family Welfare - Thavamaai Thavamirunthu
Best Film on Other Social Issues - Iqbal
Best Film on Environment Conservation/Preservation - Thutturi
Best Children’s Film - Blue Umbrella
Best Film Critic - Baradwaj Rangan

Best Tamil Film - Aadum Koothu

I have seen only a few of the movies that garnered awards but among those, there's not much to complain about the awards. While the award-winners may not always have been the best(for instance, I think Mohanlal's performance in Thanmatra was way better than Amitabh's in Black), they weren't blatantly bad or unworthy of praise(as was the case when Saif Ali Khan won the Best Actor award a couple of years ago).

Coming to Tamil, Sringaram has won 3 prestigious awards - for its music, cinematography and choreography. But I haven't even heard of the film so far. While there have been movies I heard of and wanted to see but didnt(Janaki's Kanavu Meippada Vendum and Mahendran's Saasanam come to mind), I had no idea a movie like Sringaram had even been made. I'm not sure it was even released theatrically(maybe it was one of those films only sent to film festivals and submitted to award committees?) That's just sad considering the list of movies I saw in the same year included duds like Meesai Madhavan and Kicha Vayasu 16! My knowledge about the winner of the award for Best Tamil film, Aadum Koothu, is better but only slightly. While I have heard of it(it stars Cheran and I think it is about the travails of a travelling drama troupe), I thought it had been made only recently and was ready to be released! Turns out its already 2 years old...

I think something similar happened with Bharathiraja's Kadal PookkaL, which won the National award for Best Screenplay even before it was released. But it did get released soon after while the news about it winning the National award was still fresh in people's minds and did reasonably well. But with this being the awards for 2005, I'm not sure how good the chances are for Sringaram and Aadum Koothu to get released(if they haven't been released so far).

Looking forward, I'm not sure Tamil cinema's share of the 2006 National awards is going to be much bigger. I think Veyyil, which got some recognition after being sent to the Cannes Film Festival, has the best chance of getting us some awards. Then again, there could be some movie we've never even heard of, surprising us!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Credited with actually introducing the pleasures of reading to a whole new generation of kids with her Harry Potter series, author J.K.Rowling had almost the entire reading world waiting in anticipation for the final chapter in the saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Happily, she has met the sky-high expectations that accompanied the book. The book is a fitting finale to Harry Potter's journey and proves to be a fully satisfying conclusion to the series.

With the secret to destroying Voldemort finally revealed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows follows Harry's journey as he seeks and destroys the remaining Horcruxes. The book is a masterpiece of plotting. Rowling does a masterful job tying up loose ends and in the process, answering lingering questions from the 6 previous books. There are a few coincidences and unexplained leaps of intuition in Harry's search for the Horcruxes but for the most part, the story is pretty tight. Many of the revelations, even if they are not the knock-your-socks-off kinda twists like the ones in the first and third novels, are surprising and more importantly, make sense once explained. The definitive big twist about the true nature of one of the characters, though rumored for long, is probably the best example of the wonderfully intricate plotting of the book.

Every book has had a central concept driving it and here it is, ofcourse, the Deathly Hallows. The book takes a while to get to it but when it does, it is completely satisfying. What it stands for is suitably magical and with the myth behind it and the stories associated with it, it has the kind of grandness befitting the final chapter in the series.

But more than the fantastic imagination, more than the grand set pieces, more than the breathtaking action, Rowling's biggest achievement has been giving us characters that we could care about deeply. Over the course of six books, we came to love Harry, Ron and Hermione and that gave the books a special touch. Each of them has their own unique character and we have been with them as they grew from gawky kids simply enthralled by magic to mature youngsters who realized the enormity of the tasks that lay ahead of them but weren't sure if they were upto it. That continues in this book. So when Ron goes his own way or Hermione goes missing for a while, we keep hoping that the three get re-united very soon. In the same way, there are several action sequences where they have some close shaves and these gain an urgency because of our history with the three of them.

Its almost as if Rowling decided that she had had enough of set up since Deathly Hallows is packed with action right from the word 'go'. Harry's first trip to Grimmauld Place, the trio's break-in and subsequent escape from the Ministry, the duel with Nagini at Bagshot Bathilda's home and the trio's escape from the Bank are all marvels of imagination and adventure. The final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort is also deservedly spectacular. We all know its coming and yet, helped partly by a low-key sequence in the Forest preceding it that serves almost as a red-herring, it manages to be spectacular with goosebump-inducing scenes and lines.

I had mixed feelings about the epilogue. While it did provide a finality to some things that were never really confirmed earlier, it offered too little considering the amount of time that had lapsed.

Overall, Deathly Hallows is a fitting send-off for Harry Potter. The 'Boy Who Lived' will certainly live on in our hearts...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

This summer, it looks like Hollywood is saving the best for the last. After a lacklustre and disappointing start with Spider-man 3(and also Pirates of the Caribbean 3, if one was to go by the reviews), the season has gradually gotten better with much more entertaining films like Die Hard 4 and Transformers released in the last few weeks. The Bourne Ultimatum keeps up the trend. Tautly paced with spectacular action, Jason Bourne's third outing is easily the best of the 2007 summer blockbusters (I can almost imagine Baradwaj Rangan's tagline for his review of the movie if and when it comes - Bourne Again!).

The movie is just one long chase sequence that never loses momentum. From the sequence where Bourne tries to get the reporter safely out of the train station, the film never lets up as it gets Bourne on the run(either after something/someone or with someone after him) in a variety of exotic locations. And its not a chase without a destination either since each of Bourne's stops gets him a little bit closer to finally knowing who he really is. In that way, the entire film is one big jigzaw puzzle with the puzzle being Bourne's past.

The movie has some fantastic chase sequences with two in particular, the aforementioned one in the train station and a chase on foot on rooftops in Morocco, being spectacular. Though the results of the chases are pretty clear(and not just Bourne's fate. Its pretty easy to guess the fates of the people he is trying to save too) director Greengrass manages to film them in a very suspenseful manner (he did the same thing in his previous film, United 93. We knew exactly how the film was going to end but he still generated a lot of suspense and tension). And the chases are not just shootouts or explosions either. They are actually well thought-out and intricately choreographed and small touches(like when Bourne grabs a cloth during the chase on the Moroccan rooftops for a very clever use) elevate them above the usual chase sequences. The car chase is also staged very well but Bourne walking off after all the hits he - and his car - gets takes a bit of the shine off of it.

The film just couldn't have a better ending. We know what's coming but the build-up and the way the final shot is picturized are superb and make us exit the theater with a big smile on our lips.

Matt Damon plays Bourne just right - as a reluctant action hero. He kills enough people and even has a few one-liners and comebacks but does it all with an impassive face that conveys that he isn't really having fun. Joan Allen and Julia Stiles are on his side this time. The former brings her usual dignity to the role while the latter has more screen time but spends most of it on the run(there is a suggestion of some past between her and Bourne since she asks "You don't remember me, do you?" but it is never touched upon later).

The tagline of the movie is "This summer, Bourne comes home". Its a wonderful homecoming!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hey Ram - Extended Version

Regular readers know that Ram, a regular reader/commentor here on bbthots, met Kamalhassan briefly at a restaurant, when he went to India for his engagement. Ram is a huge fan(atic) of Kamal and meeting his idol, however briefly, was a dream come true for him. Ram is now again in India for his marriage and as the perfect wedding gift, met Kamal again, this time for an hour. Naturally, he was ecstatic.

Here are a few excerpts from Kamal's side of the conversation (as written by Ram):

"Devar Magan eduthathey late. If Raja Paarvai had done well, I would have made Devar Magan before 1984!"

"I hope I can grow as a director faster than I did as an actor. I really had to push boundaries in the 80s to grow as an actor."

"I am really happy for the guys who made Metro. But we did the same in AvaL Appadithan, just that it was not marketed properly."

"Nammavar oru dabba padam Sir. Ondra Varsham eduka andha padathula onnum ille."

"Rajni is not my competitor. Chaplin is."

"Anbe Sivam was not marketed properly. The film should have fetched me an award for writing and an award for acting."

"I will not blame the audiences. It is up to us to guide them. They are willing to be shepherded."

"After watching Hey! Ram, a friend of mine called me and said, "Sir, naange pongal saapadrom, chakra pongal saapadrom, neenge Rani Mukherjee-ya..." (then he started laughing!)