Life Of Navin

Random Musings, Random Bullshit.

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Movies of 2018

2018 has been an amazing year for movies. It's interesting to have been able to witness so many genres of movies moving in new directions, often with amazing results. It's been a year when the sure-shot superstar-backed movies have bombed badly and better storytelling has taken stage front and center. So as we wrap up this year, here's a list of my favourite movies of 2018:

15. Tehran Taboo (trailer)
Rotoscoping (and similar animation techniques) hold a special place for me since the amazing Waltz with Bashir came out a decade ago, and Tehran Taboo takes that forward in a big way. A very strong female-focussed storyline with an amazing cast, set in the modern-yet-regressive Iranian society, which puts a strong focus on how society and personal relations interplay with each other in modern day society.

If you like Tehran Taboo, you'll probably also like: Have a Nice Day (Similar animation-wise, but set over a long night in China) and In Between (a movie focussed on the stories of 3 girls sharing a flat in Tel Aviv)

 

14. Loveless (trailer)
I hate watching movies like Loveless. Since Anurag Kashyap's Ugly, I've hated movies involving missing children simply because through the course of the movie, you realise how one person's tragedy is just a regular day for everyone else. Loveless follows in that school of thought and gets just as dark just as quickly. Don't watch this on a happy day.

13. 
Upgrade (trailer)
I'm fairly certain that Upgrade is a movie most people didn't even hear about, let alone watched. It's very similar to Venom thematically, except instead of an alien symbiote, it's a computer chip surgically implanted in the protagonist's spine. Sure, the storyline is fairly predictable, but it's the action sequences and punchy one-liners that keep this movie slick. Cyberpunk at it's finest!


Also, if you like this genre, you should also check out: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, which was an amazing attempt at an "Indian superhero", but couldn't find the story it wanted to tell clearly enough. 

12. October (trailer)
Fairly certain this is the most divisive movie in my list. October was very hit or miss for a lot of people, but I personally loved it. Yes it's slow, but honestly that was part of the charm of the movie for me. And Varun Dhawan was a pleasant surprise as well (it's easily his best role after Badlapur). As a star brat who's had the priviledge of not having to worry about career in real life, he manages to portray the love-over-career-bumpkin role well.

11. Avengers: Infinity War (trailer)
The end of an era. Literally the end of an era. I still remember watching the first Iron Man movie and being in awe of RDJ and the storytelling. After a decade of bringing comics to life, and 3-4 years of movies formulaic enough to be included in science text books, I had little hope for Infinity War. No, you cannot do justice to so many storylines and so many characters I thought. But I was glad to be mistaken. Avengers: Infinity War truly defines the term "Summer Blockbuster", and I simply can't wait to see how they wrap up this decade-long arc with EndGame.


 10. Borg vs McEnroe (trailer)
Adulting is a lot about finding a style of functioning that suits you. No two people work in the same way and what is the best for one may be the absolute worst for the other. And no two people at the peak of their sport displayed this contrast as much as Borg and McEnroe. The movie is equal parts stunning as devastating, showing how much individuals push themselves to "the best in the world", and how despite being very different people, they were the only two who really understood what drove each other. This movie reminded me a lot of another amazing movie: Senna. Top marks for the cast of this movie, especially Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LeBeouf as the titular characters.

9. Imaikaa Nodigal (trailer)
Anurag Kashyap as a serial killer. Nayanthara as a CBI officer being challenged to catch him. A soundtrack by Hiphop Tamizha. I needed to watch this, and boy was I glad I did. A tight psychological thriller with enough twists and turns to keep you at the edge of your seat, Imaikaa Nodigal was an awesome ride throughout. Reminded me in some ways of Vikram Vedha (but that's at a different level altogether)

The other thrillers I really liked this year was the much applauded Andhadhun and Oscar nominated The Guilty, which turns this genre on it's head altogether.

8. Batman Ninja (trailer)
I'm a simple man. I'm a fan of Batman. I'm a fan of anime. You do a crossover and I'll watch it. But boy, was I blown away by Batman Ninja! The art, the voice acting, the sheer audacity of the batman mecha-battle, everything was brilliant. Love how the movie incorporated the best of both cultures to create an experience that I could only have dreamed of.

I also really liked Into the Spiderverse as well, but for me, the best alternate reality animated movie for the year was hands down Batman Ninja.

 

7. Manmarziyaan (trailer)
Anurag Kashyap's take on love in the 21st century is what this movie promised, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. What made this movie amazing for me was that none of the characters were rubberstamps or selfless lovers (*cough* Devgan in HDDCS *cough*). Love is, in a lot of ways, a very selfish thing, and this movie does a good job of showing that. Vicky Kaushal is amazing in this (when is he not?) and the soundtrack by Amit Trivedi is easily the best movie OST for a Bollywood movie in 2018.

6. Heavy Trip  (trailer)
The only comedy movie in my list is this criminally underrated Finnish comedy Heavy Trip (Hevi reissu). It's such a quirky story, with such an amazing cast. And having travelled through small towns in Scandinavian countries, this movie is so soaked in the niche culture of these small towns that it's an immense treat to watch. I for one sure hope to hear more "Symphonic Post-Apocalyptic Reindeer-Grinding Christ-Abusing Extreme War Pagan Fennoscandian" metal by "Impaled Rektum" in the future.



5. Nanette (trailer)
Not a movie, but it's my list and you really should be watching this so I'll break every rule I need to to have this on the list. Nanette was marketed as a Stand Up Comedy on Netflix. And yes, it is laugh out loud funny in large parts. But Nanette just as easily veers into territory that makes you uncomfortable, teary-eyed and straight up outraged. Hannah Gadsby lays out her soul on stage during this show laced with social commentary about her life as a non-straight woman in a society that is split and often aggressive on the subject. If this doesn't hit you in some deep part of your soul, you probably are dead already.


4. Sorry To Bother You (trailer)
Every year there is this one movie which is so weird, and so metaphorical that you can't help but keep thinking of the movie long after you're done watching it. Sorry to Bother You easily takes that crown for this year. The metaphors in this movie are being dissected even today (think a 2 hour long This is America music video) but even leaving that aside, it's an amazing movie in itself. It's very socially relevent, in these times of ground-up movements like #MeToo and the rage against the 1%, all while the people at the top are happily having their 700Cr weddings and playing society like pawns in a game. Again, a kickass soundtrack that lends voice to the visuals (I especially like Level it Up)




3. Thunder Road (trailer)
I'd seen the short film that this movie is based on a couple years ago and when I heard they're making a full length movie on this, I really wondered where they could take that film without losing the spirit of it, and I'm happy that they didn't. The movie reminded me of another gem of a movie "Manchester By The Sea" in the sense that it starts off with a death but that's the happiest part of the film. Thunder Road a soul-crushing film and if you've ever lost someone you'll find yourself tearing up repeatedly in this movie. Jim Cummings as Actor/Director absolutely steals the show and there are so many moments in this movie which are absolutely perfect.


2. Tumbbad(trailer)
I loved a lot about Bollywood this year. Almost every pointless superstar movie failed, while gems like Stree, Andhadhun, Lust Stories, Badhaai Ho took center stage, with a lot of them getting popular through word of mouth. But the single best movie to come out of Bollywood this year in my opinion was Tumbbad. For far too long, we've tried to adapt Hollywood's idea of fantasy and horror to the Indian palate, but Tumbbad simply turns this idea on it's head. The story is extremely similar to the Jataka Tales and rural Indian myths I grew up listening to, the cinematography is absolutely top notch, the actors are brilliant and the background score is perfect. Here's a movie that's Indian Fantasy and proud of it. I sincerely hope the success of Tumbbad means that genre will be explored more


On a side note: We really need more Indian takes on sci-fi, superhero stories, fantasy, horror etc both in written and visual mediums. We've explored a lot of humor and drama from an indian perspective, but a lot of these other genres have been explored much less.


1. Thoroughbreds (trailer)
I'm a fan of dark movies, as is probably obvious from a lot of my movie recommendations. And I love movies that revel in darkness rather than try to skirt around it. Thoroughbreds is like a 2018 American Psycho/Gone Girl-inspired story which creates an experience which is simply par-excellence. I watched this movie around April, but I knew right then that this will be in my movies of the year list. Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy as the protagonists are simply perfect and their chemistry is brilliant. If you like demented, dark, twisted thrillers then this is right up your lane.


Also, this is another film that makes such amazing use of the soundtrack to add to the story. I've become a huge fan of A Tribe Called Red and Tanya Tagaq's inuit throat singing, since listening to SILA which is used extensively in the movie.

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A few other honorable mentions you should watch even though they're not mentioned above:
A Simple Favor (Anna Kendrick+ Gone Girl), I Am Not A Witch (African tradition meets modern world), Hereditary (That girl kid is scary), Leave No Trace (PTSD meets parenting), Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham's take on growing up in the 21st century), Tully (Motherhood in the 21st century), Office Uprising (pure unadulterated zombie fun), A Quiet Place (Shh... Don't talk), Foxtrot (Conscription affects a family in different ways), The Insult (when personal disputes grow to a political agenda), Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety (+1 for the dialogues, -1 for the misogyny), Roma (Cuaron's take on his childhood in Mexico. Childbirth scene still haunts), Three Identical Strangers (Fact is stranger than fiction), The Kindergarten Teacher (What would you do if your student is a prodigy?), The Angel (Egyptian spy saves Israeli lives), Searching (a thriller shown through computer screens), What will people say? (a Pakistani movie that hits close to home culturally)

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2018 has been an amazing year at the movies and I'm really looking forward to see what 2019 brings to the big screens. I hope Bollywood continues it's push towards better storytelling and other non-Bollywood Indian cinema starts becoming more accessible to audiences across the country (like Malayalam cinema has done over the last few years). Internationally as well, I have a couple of movies that I'm really looking forward to in 2019, including the end of the decade-long MCU chapter with Avengers: EndGame and I hope that 2019 as a whole lives up to the hype. I initially wanted to make a Top 10 list, but 2018 simply had too many good stories to share and I sincerely hope filmmakers continue to push the boundaries with film making and storytelling in 2019. Your audience awaits... :)

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Prologue

Finally after all these years, here's to the beginning of what was there, what is there and hopefully what will remain!! So here are my thoughts & words -Online!!