Life Of Navin

Random Musings, Random Bullshit.

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Movies of 2019

Well, another year, another set of amazing movies. 2019 was a great year for movie lovers, and brought a lot of great stories to the forefront, both from indie filmmakers as well as massive studio-led productions. Sure, there still exist the Housefull4s and the Pagalpantis, but between the influx of OTT platforms (Netflix/Prime Video/Hotstar/Mubi) and the ongoing globalization of cinema, which makes even the most esoteric movies accessible at the click of a button, it's a great time to be a movie buff!

Without further ado, here's the movies I absolutely loved from the last year:

13. Always Be My Maybe (trailer)
I think the romantic comedy genre has been badgered to death over the last decade with the same formulaic recipe being dished out over and over and over. Always Be My Maybe plays to the formula, but there's so many small things that they get perfectly right that you can't help but end with a smile on your face. Maybe it's just the vibe of San Francisco that they get perfectly right (One of two problem-ridden cities I love), or maybe it's just the Keanu Reeves extended cameo (which is by far my fave cameo in any movie this year), but just take my word on this one, and enjoy the ride.

12. Jojo Rabbit (trailer)
There's always one movie in my list which I struggle to find a decent synopsis of. This year it's Jojo Rabbit. So let's see: A Taika Waititi movie about a pre-teen German youth nazi in WWII Germany who has an imaginary friend who is the Führer himself (played by Waititi himself). Yes yes, it's true, but barely does justice to what is by far the craziest story you'll see on screen this year. It's funny, it's tragic, it's wild, and basically just everything that you'd expect from a Waititi flick.


If you like Jojo Rabbit, and are looking for more wackiness, you'll probably also enjoy The Art of Self-Defense

11. Ash is Purest White (trailer)
Jia Zhangke is another director who has rarely disappointed with his storytelling. His depictions of the intermingling between Modern Day and Traditional China, and the fallouts, the despair, the changes in relationships (for good or bad) that follow, have such a nuanced take on a culture that I've been fascinated by for the last couple of years.

Another movie which explores similar domains and is just as elaborate (with a sad real-life incident that grounds the movie) is An Elephant Sitting Still.

10. Shadow (trailer)
Another Chinese movie in the list! But truly a well deserved entrant. There's probably a handful of movies that can build out a movie from a minimalistic color-palette the way that Shadow has. Chinese period fantasy-based movies usually tend to be very similar to Indian period fantasy-based movies: Pointlessly cringey CGI, over the top acting, and very meh story lines. But like Tumbbad last year, which did it for Indian period fantasy, Shadow builds from the ground up (rather than borrowing from what came before) to build an amazing story.


I know I just said this 2 sentences back, but what an amazing color-palette! Kudos to the set designers, cinematographer, make up and visual artists who came together to speak the same visual language.

9. Us (trailer)
Jordan Peele (of Key and Peele fame) came into the limelight last year with the surprisingly dark Get Out, But I personally feel his latest film Us is what cements him more firmly into the "directors who get horror" group. Us, like Get Out, starts off normal, but just keeps building up into something darker and darker.

Big ups to the entire primary cast of Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex (and especially the latter two), for performances that made my skin crawl multiple times.

8. Ready or Not (trailer)
Every once in a while, you want to just sit back and watch some shit go down. And for that mood, Ready or Not is oh-so-satisfying! A simple concept: A newly-wed bride is made to play a game of  hide and seek with her new family, which she soon realizes is not a game but a hunt.


It's funny, it's wacky, it's gory, it's everything you'd want in a dark comedy horror thriller. Samara Weaving (aka "Sasta Margot Robbie") does a great job of holding the movie together, but the other characters of the family are what bring this movie to life.

If you liked this, you'll probably also enjoy Knives Out and Polar (the latter even more so)

7. Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota (trailer)
Some of the most fulfilling movie-going experiences are films made by film lovers for film lovers, and Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota is a perfect pick for that title this year. Vasan Bala grew up watching a tonne of movies and that shows in the lovely trope-filled, fun ride which redefines the superhero movie genre with a refreshing twist. Abhimanyu Dassani does a great job as leading man, but the show stealer is Gulshan Devaiah (who plays two characters in the movie, but shines as Jimmy). The child actor who plays a young version of the protagonist is great, and a quirky soundtrack rounds up the lovely package!

A similar take on the superhero genre this year was Shazam!

6. Jallikattu (trailer)


I watched Jallikattu after hearing rave reviews about it from friends, and I'm so glad that I did.

Malayalam cinema is truly leading the way when it comes to experimental cinema and Jallikattu is a masterclass in it. Director Lijo Jose Pellissery (and his cinematographer Girish Gangadharan who deserves special mention) takes us on a journey over a couple of hours exploring mob mentality and devolution to primality in the simplest of settings. The last 30 minutes, with the background track, the denial of rationality, and the visceral ending is something that's hard to forget.

5. Avengers: Endgame (trailer)
Ah, this just had to be in my list for the year. The end of an era. Truly the end of an era. I vividly remember watching the first Iron Man movie with friends and being amazed at what we saw on screen. Since then, a decade has passed and I've literally grown up with many of these characters (I  think everyone from my generation has been in a Whatsapp group called The Avengers at some point).

I'll miss you 3000
Sure there are plot holes and logical inconsistencies. But who cares? This was truly the end-of-an-era summer blockbuster we deserved. This was not just a movie, it was an experience. I laughed my ass off, I cried my tearducts dry, I cheered till my throat was hoarse, I recognized and appreciated the callbacks to previous movies, all alongside a hundred other people who shared the same emotions with me. It really feels like a decade long arc for Marvel has ended, and even if I don't ever watch another movie from the universe, I know I take back a tonne of great memories. God damn you Russos, I love you 3000.

4. Marriage Story (trailer)
Another movie that's close to my heart from 2019 is Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, which was succinctly described as "a movie about love told through the lens of divorce". Relationships can be hard, but at the same time can be the most fulfilling experiences you'll ever be in. What I love about this movie is that though it centers around divorce, there's barely any fighting in the movie. There's one (yes, one) fight in the whole movie between the protagonists, but the way the scene plays out makes it one of my favorite scenes from the entire year. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson is what is (by far) their finest roles.

On a related note: Not a movie recco, but the music video for Prateek Kuhad's Cold/Mess explores similar themes: How every relationship changes you in some small and not-so-small ways (brownie points for whoever had the idea to have the couple separated but eating Lemon Tarts at the end of the video)

3. Joker (trailer)
I told someone that the reason I loved Joker was because my expectations from it were so sky high that even if the movie was A-, it'd feel like a letdown. But damn, I didn't expect to be punched in the stomach so hard by the movie as it did. Todd Philips (who I admit I was skeptical about directing a Joker movie) builds a world so grim and so vivid, that you truly immerse yourself in the journey Arthur Fleck takes.


And damn, that performance by Joaquin Phoenix, just give this man every acting award there is. The last time a role of the power-insanity duopoly was played this well was probably Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. I still have so many unanswered questions about the movie and the way in which Arthur is used as an unreliable narrator throughout the movie means that the origins of Joker (if this is even supposed to be the same Joker as in the comics) continue to remain shrouded, just as it should be.

2. Gully Boy (trailer)
This is probably a divisive opinion, but Gully Boy was a masterpiece for me. I watched the movie 4 times with different groups of people, and each time I was pulled into the world of Murad. Zoya Akhtar really knows how to write great characters, and build a world around them. Gully Boy is as much about the world of Dharavi as it is about the characters.

Excellent performances across the table (Sid Chaturvedi and Ranveer Singh especially, but also a lot of the minor characters), the best movie soundtrack of 2019, and that brilliant ending scene with the closeup of protagonist, who has more than he ever hoped for, yet has a look that screams insecurity (Imposter syndrome? Life?).

1. Parasite (trailer)
Just like Thoroughbreds last year, I think the moment I knew Parasite is going to be in my top 3 favorite films of the year was the moment the end credits started rolling. And I've been thinking of the movie so much since then (and have become the annoying guy who recommends the same thing over and over again until you watch it), that it goes without saying that Parasite is my favorite movie of the year. Every single scene in this is perfection. For every movie in the list, I can find something I didn't like, but no matter how hard I try, I come up short for this. I genuinely feel that decades down the line, we'll look back at this movie as an exemplary example of moviemaking.


There's people who've dissected bits of the movie to try to explain why Parasite is brilliant (Accented Cinema & NerdWriter have some great videos on this), but I think it's a perfect combination of the class conflict, visually driven cinema, focussed character development and just the right amount of environmental events. And damn, that house is a central character in itself (and given me serious #HouseGoals). Take a fucking bow Bong Joon-ho!

Honorable Mentions you should watch even though they aren't mentioned above: Stan and Ollie (drama based on the later years of the comedic duo), Fighting with My Family (wrestling family kid gets to try out for the WWE), Aladdin (a fun Will Smith movie which has a prince and princess), Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino's homage to the late 1960s), Peanut Butter Falcon (Adventures of an autistic person and his nomadic friend), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Historic drama with forbidden love), Super Deluxe (which would be in the list above if not for one story arc), Chhichhore (3 Idiots-like college camaraderie tale), Guava Island (for showing glimpses of paradise), John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (Just the right amount of ridiculous Baba Yaga-ness) and The Wandering Earth (Liu Cixin's short story built into a CGI-loaded blockbuster)


Overall, 2019 brought lot of great stories to the big screen, gave a lot of reasons to cheer along  with and was an excellent high note to end this decade of movie making on. I look forward to see where cinema takes us over the next year and decade.

#CurrentMood Alors On Danse




"The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For the moment it is all that links them together. It binds them one to the other as only hatred can weld two creatures together. This is all I can discern clearly in this measureless universe where my adventure takes place."
Albert Camus

This Kind of Thunder Breaks Walls...

You truly defined the jilted generation. The sheer earth-shattering energy will be missed.

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!!