Sunday, February 28, 2010

Truly Worthy Oscar-Nominee

I must say I am not a huge fan of Oscar nominated movies because I feel that they are usually too serious and boring. I have watched only a handful of Oscar nominated films in the past including Crash, Slum Dog Millionaire, and The Departed. However, I have actually watched five of the 2010 Oscar-nominated movies in the Best Picture category. Well, technically only four and half - Inglorious Basterds was so bad that I had shut it down half way through. The others that I fully watched include Avatar, Up, Up in the Air, and recently An Education.

An Education is a story of a British high school girl, who meets an older man. Awed by how "fun" this man makes her life, she is ultimately faced with the choice of being with him or continuing her education. So what choice will she make? Watch and find out.

I really enjoyed this movie because it was very entertaining. It had an interesting story and not only made me laugh but also made me think. This movie portrays very well that in our male dominated society, the role of women is only to get married and take care of the household. Yes, this may not be true of all cultures but it is still true of some. Even though parents in such cultures now allow their daughters to attend college but that is only so that a nice man will choose them to be their wife. So even though these girls are intelligent and hard working, ultimately they are expected to become housewives. The film raises an important question: what's an education for, for such girls? Only so they could ultimately become housewives? And if they don't get married, are they not good enough for society? The film also shows that parents can sometimes be too trusting and naive to really understand that they are being fooled by their kids and hence, do not carefully monitor who their kids are hanging out with.

The movie also gives the message that the education system should be changed to make studies more interesting for students and teach them why they are being taught what they are being taught. The schools should teach the students how the information they learn in school will be useful in real life. The main message of the film was that sometimes important life lessons are learnt not in school but through your life experiences.

I think Carey Mulligan did an excellent job portraying the intelligent high school girl, Jenny, who is tired of her boring studious life. Carey reminded me of Katie Holmes, especially when she had her hair up in the movie. She has the same innocence, same smile as Katie Holmes portrayed in the TV series, Dawson's Creek. Alfred Molina was funny and remarkable as Jenny's trusting and naive father, who really wants Jenny to attend the Oxford University until she meets a man who can take care of her. Peter Sarsgaard was quite convincing as the older man, David, who is not only able to influence Jenny but also her naive parents through his charming personality. Kudos to Lone Scherfig for directing such an excellent movie and to Nick Hornby for writing such a remarkable screenplay.

I highly recommend this movie especially for all women and for parents, who have daughters. This film definitely deserved to be nominated for the Oscars, especially Carey Mulligan in the Best Actress category for her outstanding performance. I wish Alfred Molina had been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category.

Unconvincing Performance and Undeserved Award

Paa is the story of Auro, a boy with a rare genetic defect called Progeria, due to which physically he looks like an old man but mentally, he is only 12 years old. The real life father and son, Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan have switched roles in the movie.

Given that Amitabh Bachchan achieved the Best Actor Award for this role, I was intrigued by this movie and decided to watch it. However, I was extremely disappointed. Conceptually the story was good but unfortunately, the screenplay was weak, especially the school scenes and Auro's dialogues.

There were parts of the movie that were good such as the portrayal of how the media sometimes misconstrues the truth. The movie also showed that men are eager to have sex but don't want to take responsibility for the result of having unprotected sex because they think a child will be a hurdle in the achievement of their life goals. The part about progeria was clearly inspired by the 1996 Hollywood movie, Jack, in which Robin Williams played the role of a 10-year old boy who ages faster due to Werner syndrome, an aging disease similar to Progeria. Robin Williams was much more convincing in Jack than Amitabh Bachchan in Paa.

I think Abhishek Bachchan did a much better job than his real life father. He looked very handsome and portrayed his character as a "good" politician and Auro's father well. Vidya Balan also portrayed the role of Auro's mother well.

It makes me really upset that Aamir Khan, who did an excellent job in 3 Idiots, was robbed of the Best Actor Award because of Amitabh, who was not even that convincing as Auro. Yes, perhaps his make up artists deserved an award because his look was completely transformed but I don't think his performance was anything out of the ordinary and definitely not award-worthy. Obviously I don't know the inner workings of the Bollywood industry so I can only speculate but here's what I think happened. Since Aamir Khan doesn't attend award functions, the jury decided to give Big B the award because he is very well-respected in the industry as he was a legend at one point of time. Yes, at one point of time, not anymore.

Now the big stars in Bollywood are Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan. Aamir Khan is by far the best actor in Bollywood at this point in time because his films are always unique. I became an SRK fan after Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge but like I mentioned in my previous blog, I think he has mostly been type cast. I have new found respect for him after Rab Ne Bana De Jodi  and My Name is Khan because those were two movies in which he truly showed his acting skills.

I think Amitabh Bachchan should have gracefully retired from the industry a long time ago. I don't know why he keeps insisting on doing stupid roles that don't even suit him. Isn't it time he let his son, Abhishek, have the lime light rather than sharing it with him? Or if he still wants to work, why can't he do roles that are more appropriate for his age such as father roles like Rishi Kapoor and Anupam Kher?

It's sad that 3 Idiots scored most of the awards including Best Film, Best Screenplay, and Best Director, but did not win the Best Actor award, which Aamir Khan truly deserved. Yes, the screenplay, the direction, and the film overall was excellent, but what is the main reason people saw the movie especially on the opening weekend? No doubt, it was Aamir. It was his fans who knew that he would not disappoint them and therefore, they went to the see the movie. I'm sure a lot of people don't even know who Vidhu Vinod Chopra (producer) or Rajkumar Hirani (director) is but people for sure know who Aamir is. By not giving Aamir the Best Actor award, I feel like the industry is implying that he was not the reason behind the huge success of the film, when in fact he was.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Did Not Meet Expectations

I had high expectations from Shutter Island since it is a Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio movie. Unfortunately, it did not live up to its expectations, which was surprising because I was quite impressed by the duo's previous venture, The Departed.

Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, the film is a psychological thriller about two U.S. marshalls played by Leo and Mark Ruffalo, who are appointed to find a missing patient from a hospital for the mentally unstable, who commit severe criminal acts, on an island in Massachussetts.

The story was interesting especially the twist in the end but the ending dragged. I think the execution of the film was weak because the editing was flawed. The flashbacks kept popping up without a smooth transition from the present. The bloody scenes and special effects were not very believable; they looked too fake. 

Leo was excellent in the movie and so was Ben Kingsley. However, I was upset that I spent $11.25 to watch this movie. Yes, Fairfax Corner is even more expensive than Tyson's Corner, where the ticket costs $10.25 - what a loot!  

You may feel differently about this movie but I would still recommend not spending $10 - $11 on it. If you are very eager, watch a matinee show or a $6 show on Tuesday in a Multiplex Cinema. If you can be patient, just wait for it to come on DVD, which I wish I had done. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Must-Watch

Karan Johar brings yet another throught provoking movie to the big screen. My Name is Khan is the story of a Muslim man with Asperger's Syndrome, whose life is turned upside down after 9/11. This movie is about his journey and struggle to get his life back to normal and how he affects people's lives on the way.

Any Muslim or non-Muslim (such as Sikhs who wear the turban) who has ever faced prejudice or ridicule after 9/11 will be able to relate to this movie. I could personally relate because every time I fly through Dulles Airport on a United flight, I can never check in online or use the self check-in booth at the Dulles Airport because apparently my last name is on some "list" and every time, a United representative has to verify my date of birth before issuing me a boarding card.

This movie had a very strong message that it is unfair to label an entire nation as "terrorist" because of the acts of some extremists. It proves that Islam does not preach taking the lives of innocent people in the name of Jihad and if a Muslim thinks that way, he/ she is misguided. It shows how such extremists try to influence young minds to mislead them and make them go astray.

Kudos to Shibani Bhatija for writing such an excellent story and screenplay and to Karan Johar for making a movie with such a truthful and powerful message. Shahrukh Khan does an excellent job of portraying a man with Asperger's syndrome. Unfortunately, SRK has mostly been type cast as a romantic hero and appears to have the same style of acting in most roles. However, after Rab Ne Bana De Jodi, SRK again proves in My Name is Khan that he can do much more than just portray a romantic hero. I hope he continues to do such roles, where has a broad spectrum to exhibit his acting skills. Kajol seems to have gained weight, she even looked almost pregnant in some scenes. Is she preggers? I'm not sure. Nonetheless, she looked extremely beautiful in the movie and did a great job as expected.

After watching the trailers, you may think that a movie with a man wanting to go meet the President of the United States is stupid. But when you see the movie, you will understand that it is not stupid because a man with Asperger's syndrome always takes things literally because he cannot read between the lines or interpret body language like normal people do.

Yes, the movie is not perfect and has some flaws such as in the scene, where SRK is speaking to the people in the church in a town in Wilhelmina, Georgia, he speaks in Hindi. Why would he not speak in English to an English-speaking audience? How did those people understand him? Also, SRK has a dialogue where he says that he and Mandira (played by Kajol) had a Nikah, which was inaccurate because the way SRK and Kajol get married in the movie did not appear to be a Nikah, it seemed like it was a ceremony being conducted by a priest (not a Hindu priest though).

However, instead of paying attention to the slight flaws in the storyline, we should concentrate on the message this movie portrays. This movie is a must-watch for all!

It's All About Love!

Gary Marshall's latest directorial venture, Valentine's Day, has an ensemble cast of some of the most good looking and talented actors and actresses of Hollywood, including Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Topher Grace, Julia Roberts, Patrick Dempsey ("McDreamy"), Eric Dane ("McSteamy"), Bradley Cooper, Queen Latifah, and Jamie Foxx.

As the title suggests, the story line revolves around Valentine's Day, considered by some as the most romantic day of the year because it is the day of love. The movie showed that for some people Valentine's Day can be a happy day; for others who are single it can be a reminder that they are single. However, some singles could be lucky on Valentine's Day by finding love. But at the same time, those who thought they had a perfect relationship can have heartbreaks too. This film is about finding, losing, and keeping love. 

This movie is for chick flick lovers, others may not appreciate it as much. Being a chick flick lover, I liked it because it was cute, funny, and romantic. Inspite of having some rom-com cliches, the film definitely had unexpected twists and turns. The way the storylines for each couple ended was different than I had envisioned. This film reminded me of He's Just Not That Into You, which I really liked. I think He's Just Not That Into You was better, but Valentine's Day was good too.  

Except for Eric Dane, who I thought was a little stiff, and Taylor Swift, who needs to brush up her acting skills a bit, I think the other main leads did a good job. I would also like to add that I am so happy to see that Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher, who I grew up watching in That 70's shows, have really evolved and matured as actors. They both were adorable back then but now they look even better and even more adorable. 

It was one of my most highly anticipated movies of the year and I don't regret spending $11 on it. So depending on how badly you want to see it, I leave it up to you as to whether you want to spend $11 on it or only $6 on a Tuesday night in a Multiplex cinema.  But if you are a chick flick lover, I'm sure you will enjoy it. 

Do share with me your favorite storyline in the movie. My most favorite was that of Topher Grace and Anne Hathaway's. My least favorite was Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner's because they did not have good on-screen chemistry and their storyline was the most predictable. I thought the old couple's ending was cliche and Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx did not have good on-screen chemistry either. The story line of Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift was completely unnecessary.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Disappointing Debut!

I had high hopes for Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, Whip It, because she is one of my favorite actresses but much to my dismay, I was quite disappointed.

Whip It is the story of a girl, Bliss Cavendar, whose mom (like a lot of parents) tries to impose her own hopes and dreams on her daughter by "encouraging" her to participate in beauty pageants. Bliss soon discovers that she would much rather participate in roller derby than beauty pageants because that is her mom's dream not hers. But since she knows her parents would be against roller derby, she lies to them, joins a team, and participates in roller derby competitions under false pretenses. Her oblivious parents soon find out and are enraged. Soon her father starts supporting her but her mom is still against it. Will her mom ever support Bliss's passion for roller derby? The answer is just as predictable as the movie. The only unpredictable thing about the film was the fate of the love story that forms between Bliss and the member of a rock band, Oliver.

Tell me - what is so new about this story? It's the same old story and same old message that kids should stand up to their parents and do something they love rather than what their parents force them to do. It shows that when parents create an environment where the kids are expected to follow certain paths, kids are forced to lie. Therefore, parents should create a more encouraging environment and let their kids do what they love to do rather than imposing their own hopes and dreams on them. The movie seemed like a broken record; the only new part was roller derby.

The best performance by far was by Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven. Ellen Page proved once again that she is extremely talented. She gave just as good a performance as the main lead, Bliss Cavendar, as she did in Juno. Kristen Wiig gave a disappointing performance as Maggie Mayhem; it felt like she was holding back, which was quite surprising since she is so good on SNL. Drew Barrymore's character as Smashley Simpson didn't have much weight in the film - I don't know if that was a deliberate effort since she was the director but her character seemed irrelevant. Marcia Gay Harden could have given a much better performance as Brooke Cavendar, the overbearing mother.

Overall, I think the movie had potential but there just seemed to be something missing. Even though the story was predictable (which happens quite often), I think it could have been told in a much more interesting way. Watch this film at your own risk or wait for Drew Barrymore's next directorial venture in the hopes that it will be better.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rom-Com Mania

So since I was snowed in this weekend due to the first Blizzard of 2010 in the DC metropolitan area, I decided to rent some videos to pass the time. Two of my picks included the rom-com's (short for romantic comedies): Weather Girl and The Accidental Husband.

Weather Girl is a low budget, independent film written and directed by Blayne Weaver, starring Tricia O'Kelley, Ryan Devlin, and Patrick J. Adams. I picked it up from the video store because the story seemed interesting. However, I had low expectations as I didn't know any of the main leads and I had never heard of the movie before. But it definitely surprised me. This cute romantic comedy is about a woman in her mid-30's, played by Tricia O'Kelley, who loses her job as the "sassy weather girl" because of a melt down on national television when her boyfriend, who is a news anchor cheats on her. So she has to move in her with her brother, while she struggles to find a job. So will Sylvia's life ever fall back into place? Watch and find out.

Tricia O'Kelly is not that impressive as the main lead, Sylvia; however Ryan Devlin is quite convincing as Sylvia's brother, Walt. Patrick J. Adams also did a good job as Byron, Walt's best friend, who has the "hots" for Sylvia. Mark Harmon looked terrible in the movie and was not very convincing as the cheating news anchor, Dale.

The Accidental Husband, on the other hand, stars well-known actors such as Colin Firth, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey's Anatomy, P.S. I Love You), and Uma Thurman. Even though I am not a huge fan of the leading actors except for Colin Firth, when I found out that the movie was directed by Griffin Dunne, whose performance in the TV series, Trust Me, I quite enjoyed, I had high hopes for the film. However, I was quite disappointed.

The plot of the movie revolves around Dr. Emma Lloyd (Uma Thurman), a "love doctor" who provides love advice to women on her radio show. Patrick Sullivan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a New York fire fighter, is devastated when his fiance dumps him due to her advice. So in order to teach her a lesson, he with the help of his "hacker" friend, the son of his Indian neighbor, fake marries her on the internet. Oblivious to this and assuming it is a computer glitch, Emma finds Patrick to get an annulment so she can marry her fiance, Richard Bratton (Colin Firth). However, in the process of Emma getting the annulment and Patrick teaching her a lesson, they fall for each other. Big surprise - huh! Will Emma ever find out the truth about Patrick? Who will she choose in the end? Well, I'm sure you can guess so don't even bother wasting your time and money watching this predictable rom-com.

Even Colin Firth, whose performances I quite enjoyed in Bridget Jones Diary, Love Actually, and What a Girl Wants, was quite disappointing in the film - what was with his obsession to start eating when he was upset or worried. I don't understand what that had to do with the plot. Uma Thurman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan were not that convincing either. I didn't quite understand how they fell in love with each other; it seemed like they fell in love too quickly just after one meeting.

This just shows that you don't need a big budget to make a good and interesting film.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Exceeding Expectations

I used to be a fan of Lindsay Lohan before....well, you all know what happened to her. I enjoyed her movies including Mean GirlsFreaky Friday, and Georgia Rule. Therefore, I decided to give Labor Pains a shot but had low expectations from the movie. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

Labor Pains, as you can see, is the story of a girl, who fakes a pregnancy to save her job. The movie appealed to me because it had an interesting story. The film shows that when you tell a lie, sometimes you forget the reality and actually start living the lie. In this case, Thea Clayhill, the main character played by Lohan, discovers that faking a pregnancy, though making her life complicated, is making it better. She gets a promotion, feels appreciated by her coworkers, and falls in love. So how long will Thea fake her pregnancy? Will her coworkers ever find out the truth? Watch and find out.

Lohan was not as good in the movie as I had expected. At times, she was expressionless and hence, didn't appropriately portray the emotions the dialogues required. However, both Cheryl Hines and Bridgit Mendler did a great job portraying the roles of Lisa DePardo, Thea's confidant and friend at work, and Emma Clayhill, Thea's sister.

Laugh, Cry, and Smile...

Love Happens is a movie about life, loss, and love. This film will make you laugh, cry, and smile. Aaron Eckhart does a great job of portraying a guy, who teaches others how to cope with loss, but hasn't been able to move on himself after the loss of his wife. Jennifer Aniston looks great in the movie and does a good job too, but Aaron Eckhart definitely steals the show because the film is mainly about him. Why is he unable to move on? Will he ever be able to cope with the loss of his wife and fall in love again? Watch and find out.

Anyone who has ever lost someone they love will be able to relate to this movie. Even those who haven't will be able to empathize. I highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And the winner is.....

If you are a movie fanatic like me, you probably know that the 2010 Oscars are coming soon.

Here are my picks:

Best Picture - Avatar

Best Director - James Cameron ( Avatar)

Best Actor - George Clooney (Up in the Air)

Best Actress - Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

Best Supporting Actor - Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)

Best Supporting Actress - Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)

Best Original Screenplay - Up

Best Adapted Screenplay - Up in the Air

Best Animated Feature - Up

Best Art Direction - Avatar

Best Cinematography - Avatar

Best Film Editing - Avatar

Best Original Score - Avatar

Best Visual Effects - Avatar

Best Sound Editing - Avatar

Best Sound Mixing - Avatar

Who do you think will win on March 7th? Check out the 2010 nominees and 2009 winners.