A collection for 18 short movies, directed by 21 world class directors. Each movie is about 5-8 movies long. Making short movies is an art- having the ability to pack a punch in only a couple of minutes. So, Dev , if you are reading this post, please do take a note.
About nine short movies are par brilliance. About 5 are very good. About three to four are pure hogwash. Since the average duration is about 5-6 minutes, sitting through some BS is tolerable. I did take a break for a couple of minutes every now and then because the stories are quite intense and it’s too much to take at one go. The Wikipedia page of the movie has a couple of lines on each short movie. Some reviews around the internet say that it’s worth watching this collection because it gives you an opportunity to compare the direction style of one director versus another. Doing this is a very difficult task for me. Compartmentalizing the direction of great directors like The Coen Brothers, Alexander Payne, Alfonso Cuoron, Gus Van Sant etc. is not easy. Each story is so different. It’s not disappointing to not see familiar sights like the Eiffel Tower, various Parisian museums etc. in every segment. Instead, each piece is set in a different part of Paris and elucidates a different angle of love, suffering, joy and longing.
Some of my favorites:
“Tueleries” by The Coen Brothers- Story of an American tourist in a subway station in Paris and how staring at a young couple for a couple of seconds lands him in trouble. If you have five minutes, you can watch the movie for free on Youtube:
Loin du 16e by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas- A young woman sings a soulful lullaby to her baby early in the morning at the daycare. She goes to her employer’s house. The employer’s baby is crying and she sings the same lullaby again, sans feelings and emotions. This video has no subtitles. Even then, it should be easy to understand because the emotions are well executed through a simple lullaby. The movie hardly has any dialogues.
Place de Victoires- I’m a big fan of Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe. I didn’t care much for Nobuhiro Sawa’s director. Juliette Binoche stars as a young mother grieving the loss of her young son. Her acting makes this movie worth a watch.
Tour Eiffel- Brilliant acting by mime artists. And the boy with the oversized backpack is really cute. One of the few segments that is very light hearted and makes you smile.
Faubourg Saint-Deni- Natalie Portman’s contribution to this wonderful series. She stars as a young actor who falls in love with a blind guy. The boy talks about their love and how it turns sour eventually.
14e arrondissement- Best ending a series can ever have. Directed by Alexander Payne, an American tourist narrates her tale about her love for Paris and her recent visit to the City of Love. The American-French accent is so lovable. If you’re short on time, just watch this one segment because it’s totally worth it.
Maria Elena used to say that only unfulfilled love can be romantic
- Juan Antonio
Woody Allen almost makes me ashamed of wanting normalcy and stability in my life. He also seems to propound that sex equals love. As in, unless two people are having lots of sex, they can’t be in love. Maybe I’m getting it all wrong. I enjoyed the madness and the Spanish scenery. I enjoyed feeling inspired to love, to paint, to create music and to live like an artist. I wish I’d watched this movie sooner. Perhaps I would have done something about what I didn’t intentionally want to happen.
Oh, Penelope Cruz looked very pretty. But I’m not sure if she deserved the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. I think Scarlett Johansson did put up an equally impressive performance. I’ve seen Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall together in The Prestige and it was a pleasure seeing them again in this romantic comedy. Javier Bardem looks delicious.
I love being in the United States for many reasons. Opportunity to watch world class movies is one of them. A lot of movies make their way here, sooner or later. I had no idea that Okuribito has won so many awards when I read its impressive story line using Flixstr app on the screen of my iPhone. I told A, “Let’s go watch this Japanese movie that seems to have figured out what death is all about”. “A” turns to me and says, “Oh it has won several awards, including an Academy Award”.
The small theater was filled with a lot of old folks. My guess is…about 80%. Maybe more. I don’t think it is a co-incidence that people who perceive themselves to be closer to departure are the very ones who chose to watch this movie. Did I know who Yojiro Takita is? No. Did it matter to these people? Probably not.
The opening scene of the movie shows a young man, driving a car in between snow filled roads. Think about the first scene of the movie Fargo. The similarity ends there though. He talks about his orchestra that went bankrupt. He quits his job as a cellist and returns his 18 million yen worth of cello. Daigo and his wife Mika leave Tokyo and move back to this hometown, where his deceased mother has left him a modest house. Soon, he comes across an ad in the newspaper for a person who needs no experience to help with “departures”. Little does he know what he’s getting into. The job involves working with dead bodies, cleaning them and putting them in the casket. Making the dead ready for their funeral and for entry into the next life. It pays him well and he keeps his job description hidden from his wife. In fact, his first assignment involves posing as a corpse for a short video that his boss is making. The boss plans to use this video to train others. The rest of the movie deals with his coming to terms with the realities of death, the effect of his deathly job on his relationship with his wife and the impact that the various funeral procedures have on him.
Some of the main characters of the film: His boss- Who hires him on the spot because very few people want this “unreal”, taboo-ed job; his wife Mika- a great woman who never questions the husband, finds happiness in the saddest of situations (sounds cliched, yes) and most importantly, has the strength to remain married to a man with an unconventional job and somewhere down the line, to understand her husband’s dedication and professionalism towards a job he grows to love and respect; his dad who leaves his mom when he was only six, the old lady who takes great pride in running a public bath and the desk attendant from work.
There is this scene in the movie where he is standing by the river, staring at salmons swim. One of the salmons gets stuck behind a big boulder. Daigo thinks, “Why do these fishes travel all the way only to get stuck and killed?”. A old man who is passing by tells him, “Because they want to come back to their old home first”. Such profound philosophy. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this before. Maybe it has to do with growing up in Southeast Asia, but we do have this notion that a person always wants to die in his place of birth. So far, I haven’t come across this concept in the US.
Not every death scene in the movie is sad and depressing; each funeral has something new to contribute to the general story line. For example- Imagine cleaning the body of a beautiful woman and stumbling on a penis. Yes, a man-woman commits suicide. Daigo’s boss asks the deceased’s father if he would like his kid to be dressed as a man or a woman. Then there is this young woman who dies on the motorbike of her boyfriend. Daigo goes about his usual job of cleaning her dead body and applying make up on her face. The mom realizes how innocent and pretty her daughter looks while she sleeps. And how much of a pain her daughter’s real-life persona was. Another widower breaks down when he sees his dead wife for the last time. He’d never seen her look so beautiful. These snippets are important because they show the impact the dead have on the living. Daigo, the professional that he is, remains relatively untouched on a personal level.
All hell breaks lose when Mika finds the taped video of her husband posing as a corpse. Daigo refuses to leave the job that he’s grown to love. He likes the influence that he creates on others during their most intimate moments. It makes him feel important. Mika leaves him and returns to her native village.
The death scene of the lady who runs the bath is the second most beautiful scene in the movie. She was the one who had heard little Daigo cry longingly for his father behind the closed doors of a public bathroom. For Daigo, it’s a tremendous honor to send her on her final journey. For Mika, this is the funeral that brings her closer to her husband. She witnesses Daigo’s love for his job. And the old man who Daigo had met near the river makes a come back. He happens to be the dead lady’s lover during her final months. He also happens to be the man who’ll push the button that will cremate the dead lady’s body electronically. The dead lady’s son wails loudly as he watches through a small window his mother’s casket light up in the fire. He regrets all those hours that he spent fighting with her, asking her to close down the public bath and to sell the land to a real-estate agent who can build modern condos.
Daigo’s life comes a full circle when news reaches him of his father’s death. He’s determined not to pay homage to a man who never inquired about his well being, after he deserted Daigo 30 years back. The only material thing that ties him is a large stone that was gifted to him by his father. Daigo doesn’t even remember what his father looks like. So the man that he sees lying dead is a stranger to him. Until he finds his father clutching on to the stone that Daigo had given him. I don’t even want to try and express the mixed emotions that were flowing through my mind and the minds of many others seated next to me. Tears were freely flowing down people’s eyes when they saw Daigo shaving his dad’s old beard, trimming his hair, cleaning his body and putting on fresh clothes.
“A” tells me that he saw lots of men in the restroom splashing cold water on their faces, deep in thoughts staring into open space. I don’t even want to imagine what they were thinking about. Perhaps imagining their own death scene.
This movie, at a subconscious level, reminded me of a very personal experience- Me, as an eight year old, witnessing the old body of my dead grandmother being cleaned. There were men and women all around crying loudly. My grandmom’s sister held me on her lap and gently rocked me. I don’t exactly remember, but I think my mom and some other aunts dressed my grandmom in a bright red sari, applied make up and made her look like a new bride. There was a hired photographer who took pictures. I’ve never had to go back to those paper photographs. That’s one scene I can never forget. It traumatized me for months. And this film brought it all back.
This movie has some of the finest cello and piano pieces. Japanese Cherry Blossoms and fine emotions that’s missing in a lot of Hollywood movies. Please do take a look if you get a chance.
Trailer from Youtube:
Lallopallo tagged me for a movie meme a couple of days back. I started off by writing a blog post, only to realize that I am wasting my time. No, not wasting my time doing the meme, but wasting my time re-listing all movies that I’ve mentioned in the Cinema page of my blog. But thanks to this meme, I’ve made a couple of adjustments: I have removed the categories (Action, Drama, Foreign, Documentaries etc.). Categories restrict the art of movie making. At least that’s what I feel. A movie is so much more than just drama or action. Instead, I’ve re-arranged the movies that I like based on their first names (A, B, C, D…etc).
Lallo, I know you wanted me to add why I liked each movie. I’m sorry I haven’t done that because it’s difficult for me to sum it up in a couple of sentences. I have linked each movie to the IMDB page, which gives ample information (the movie outline, main characters, quotes etc.). In any case, IMDB does a better job that I will ever do. Some of these movies have been previously reviewed on my blog and I’ve inserted the links next to the names of the movies.
I’m not tagging anyone particularly. Anyone who wants to take up this meme is free to do so.
I watched three great movies in the past week- The Prestige, The Silence of the Lambs and Changeling.
1. The Prestige- I like movies that deal with illusions, magic, wizardry etc. This movie stars Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Cane primarily. Another masterpiece by Christopher Nolan. I don’t know how I managed to miss it the first time around. If you haven’t seen it, then you’re really missing something here! The movie is based on two magicians and how they become professional rivals- how one is naturally gifted (Christian Bale as Borden) and how the other one (Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier) will do anything to triumph and in the process, lose almost everything. It’s refreshing to see Christian Bale in a role other than that of Batman. He’s such a wonderful actor. Click here for the plot summary from Wikipedia.
2. The Silence of the Lambs- I wanted to watch this one since such a long long time. It was almost embarrassing! I managed to get the DVD from a local Walmart store. The story revolves around two serial killers and an FBI agent (Jodie Foster) who is a student in the FBI academy and it trying to complete her assignment of convicting one serial killer with the help of the other (Anthony Hopkins). The movie won lots of Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), Best Director (Jonathan Demme) and Best Picture (Edward Saxon). It has also been rated as one of the Most Scariest Movies of All Times. Click here for the plot summary from Wikipedia.
3. Changeling- Clint Eastwood’s new flick and was released in the US on Oct 31st, 2008. I saw it in the theater today. Stars Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich among others. It’s based on the true story of one Christine Collins and her struggle to find her missing boy. The director, with great expertise, reveals the bureaucracy that was prevalent in the Los Angeles Police Department and the State Asylum. This movie had also created a lot of interest at the Cannes Festival this year. I’m not really a fan of Angelina Jolie, but she’s done a fabulous job in this movie. I remember seeing her in “A Mighty Heart” and almost cringing. I have a feeling that this movie will be nominated for lots of Oscars and will probably win some too. This is just the type of movie that the Academy Awards jury likes. The plot and the general atmosphere of the movie is extremely dark and depressing. So if you indulge in movie watching only for light entertainment, then I would advise you against watching this. The main plot of the story sticks to the real story almost everywhere, except for a couple of dates here and there. I don’t want to reveal the plot and spoil the fun. But please go watch it if you are a Clint Eastwood/Angelina Jolie fan. Click here for more details from Wikipedia.
I have no idea why Quantum of Solace is releasing only next week in the United States! I can’t wait to watch that and Milk- a movie that deals with Gay Rights…especially after Proposition 8 got passed in California.
One of the most impressive things about this book is this opening quote that is being flashed all over the internet-
Human nature will not flourish, any more than a
potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long
a series of generations, in the same worn out soil.
My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far
as their fortunes may be within my control, shall
strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.
“The Custom House”
Other than that, I didn’t see too many positives. Part I of the book has five stories, out of which Hell-Heaven had already been published in The New Yorker. Part II of the book has three short stories, based on the two characters, Hema and Kaushik. The first story from this part, titled Once in a Lifetime, was originally published in The New Yorker too; Jhumpa Lahiri decided to expand on it and that is how we get the other two stories.
I was expecting quite a bit from this book, considering the fact that it’s a collection of short stories. Having previously liked The Interpreter of Maladies, and having not liked The Namesake that much, I felt that this book might just be the literary piece that can seal the fact that Lahiri is a good writer, at least as far as short stories are concerned. I don’t see that happening though. I understand that writers tend to write about people, places and surroundings that they are familiar with. But there are many others who don’t stick to the familiar path. Lahiri seems to have beaten the topic of elite, Bengali Indian American immigrants to death. I can almost predict what her next character will be like- He/she will be a resident in the Cambridge/Massachusetts area, will only attend MIT/Harvard/Stanford, will marry a girl/boy of his parents’ choice in Kolkata and bring her here, go on to get a PhD and then a nice German car. The second generation will soon follow and the Indian immigrant will try his best to get his child into another Ivy a.ka. Envy League. The kid will be the talk of the town if he fails to get into an MIT/Harvard/Stanford. Oh, and the child will almost always marry a non-Indian and then feel awkward around his parents. Throw in some philandering, some desi eccentricities, garam masala and some memories of India and you have a Lahiri novel!
The only stories that I truly enjoyed were Unaccustomed Earth (from Part I), Once in a Lifetime (Part II- Story One) and Year’s End (Part II- Story Two). So, yes, 3/8 is not that bad.
I don’t want to write about every story in detail because it doesn’t make sense to do so. If you want to read about every short story, then take a look at NY Time’s review, which is quite detailed. Or read the book instead.
If Lahiri wants to write another novel, then I think that she might have to get over her comfort zone and pen down something new, something that we already don’t know about.
I think Gael Garcia’s performance in this movie (Spanish Trailer from Youtube) has sealed the fact that I’m a big fan of his. Who else can flawlessly walk like a woman, in 6 inches heels and carry a pair of fake breasts naturally? He even looks like a woman when he portrays the character of Zahara. Bad Education is the story of two lovers and friends, Ignacio and Enrique and their growing up years in the ’60s, in a rigid Christian School and how their life changes because of their principal, Father Manolo and his child abusing activities. Father Manolo develops a strong liking for the ten year old boy Ignacio, who in turn, falls in love with his classmate, Enrique. Both the boys are separated after they’re caught in the restroom in the middle of the night by Father Manolo. Years later, after Enrique has established a name for himself as a famous director, he happens to meet Ignacio again. Or so he thinks. The movie takes lots of unexpected turns and an enjoyable ride it is.
Gael Garcia Bernal plays the character of Angel/Juan/Zahara and Fele Martinez stars as Enrique. I haven’t seen any other movie directed by Pedro Almodovar; so I really can’t comment on his direction style, but I’ve read lots of review where people are of the opinion that most of his movies have a very strong homosexual element. I love the way he handled such a delicate subject- homosexuality and child abuse- so well. Most of the scenes have been shot very tastefully and the skin show has been kept to a minimum.
Gael Garcia seamlessly shifts between the characters of Angel and Zahara. While watching the movie, there was a point when I couldn’t understand who he is! That is how confusing it gets. Is Ignacio alive? If he is, why is he behaving differently? Why does he insist on calling himself Angel? There are subtle hints throughout the movie and if you probe deeper, you’ll know the truth. For example- There is this pool scene where Enrique tries to show his affection towards Angel, but the latter shrugs him off.
There are so many other scenes that I could talk about, but I’ll have to give away the plot then, which I don’t want to do. I was mesmerized by the mask-like heads in the last scene of the movie, when Angel and Father Manolo are talking to each other. The atmosphere was literally brimming with energy.
This might very well be Gael Garcia’s best performance to date, because of the sheer range of characters that he portrays.
Alltop has nine sections:
As you can guess, Ego features the rantings of “top” bloggers, such as Kawaski himself, Scoble, Fake Steve Jobs, Seth Godin etc. I am surprised that he’s given Mac a separate section. On second thoughts, I’m not really that surprised. But it does look a little unfair. If he’s given Mac a separate section, then why did he hesitate in giving technology and science two different pages?
The news sources that Alltop uses are quite good content wise. For example- The Science section has New York Times, BBC, Newsweek, Yahoo! Science News among others. Popurls is more focused on user driven content, such as, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Truemors etc.
- I’m hoping that with time, he will let us customize the look of the site.
- Don’t like clicking on different pages for accessing different sections. Probably I’ve gotten too Popurlized.
- Also, if you notice, the page footer is quite annoying because it keeps moving as you scroll up or down the page. A static footer would have been much better.
Will it be a popurl killer? Probably not. The crowd that Alltop wants to attract seems to be quite different. Unless Kawasaki makes some changes to the basic layout of the site, I don’t see myself being a regular reader. That footer is way too annoying.