by Luv Mehta
It’s a new year already. We saw our first celebrity roast (and then proceeded to lose our shit), saw a spate of popular and high-quality serialized webseries (like TVF Pitchers) and saw our first Indian news satire show (On Air With AIB). We freaked out about Free Basics and Narendra Modi, went into an outrage about how no one was in an outrage over the Chennai floods, changed our profile pictures to show support for legalization of homosexuality in the US, for the victims of the Paris attacks and for Digital India (that last one I judged the hell out of).
For a dweeb like me, 2015 was pretty alright. While making a top 10 list of movies, though, I fell kinda short. So, I reasoned, why not take a look at the year that passed and hand out arbitrary awards to various things I watched in this year gone by?
So, without further ado, I present the Name Pending Awards 2015. Cue recorded fanfare.
Tanu Weds Manu was a fun look at maladjusted characters and love triangles, but Tanu Weds Manu Returns upped the ante by an insane amount. The story finally embraces the dysfunction of all these characters and tells us that, yes, these are fundamentally selfish characters we don’t necessarily have to like, and uses that to deliver gut-bustingly funny scenes one after the other. As always, Madhavan is great, giving a subtly showy performance as Manu, but holy hell does Kangana steal the whole movie. She takes the very stereotypical trope of the double role and plays it to such perfection that I had to remind myself in the theatre, multiple times, that these were the same actress. Kangana’s in the upper echelon of great modern actresses right now, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
It was quite a trick to pull off, but the creators made sure that, despite the off-colour subject that permeates most of this movie, Piku never felt crass or unfunny. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to create a screenplay this balanced, and to make sure that the movie always feels classy. And while the topic of the upper echelon is still fresh in our minds, how can we forget Deepika Padukone? Through every subtle expression, every moment of happiness and pain shown primarily through her eyes, every moment she explodes with anger, and every moment of contentment shown, we watch one of the best performers in India today. And she’s ably supported by Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan as well, and the whole movie gets elevated as a whole with these three terrific performances.
And again, while not at the top level quite yet, Anushka Sharma’s getting there, as evidenced by her kickass turn in NH-10. We need more movies where she plays a lead role, as opposed to supporting roles like in PK and Bombay Velvet. She has to portray menace, exasperation, terror, happiness and anger, and she pulls it off without a sweat. The movie itself is quite terrifying as a look at a modern-looking Indian rural scene still stuck with relics of a more hateful age. It’s a gruelling watch, but a very satisfying one, especially because we get to see a LOT of scenes where Anushka delivers justice to the villains in brutally sweet fashion.
Look, a lot of the choreography in Manjhi - The Mountain Man is great, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui is amazing (as expected). But right around the time where Nawaz caused a bad CGI fire to erupt on the mountain and then collapsed in janky slow motion to an orchestral score that felt extremely out of place with the rural setting, I had a sinking feeling that was only confirmed once Glowing Ghost Radhika Apte decided to appear to him to deliver a motivational speech. The direction is bad, the villains are cartoonishly sketched, the treatment is shoddy, and all these talented people working in the movie deserved a whole lot better.
And I don’t really get why a lot of Indian audiences give a pass to poorly made movies as long as they’re attempting to tell the story that deserves to be told. If the real stories are really worth telling, is it wise to accept any attempt to tell it, even if they’re not up to the mark?
Well, admittedly, I’d like an O for effort in my semester exams as well. Here’s hoping the scrutineers for my Economics paper liked Manjhi.
HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THAT CG SKY.
I WILL NEVER WATCH HATE STORY 3 BECAUSE IT CANNOT TOP THIS ONE GLORIOUSLY STUPID FRAME.
Somehow, Pixar did it again. They made a movie out of another high concept, that was so insanely hyped that it could never possibly live up to it. And then Inside Out came out, and it surpassed all of it. ALL OF IT. And when the studio that made the Toy Story trilogy, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E and Ratatouille make a movie today that can arguably be claimed to be their best, you’ve got a rare and impossible gem. Movies like these make me happy that movies exist. Movies like these make me happy that art exists.
Sicario is simultaneously unrelenting and deliberately paced, which makes for some audience reactions that are quite misguided.
Firstly, we have Emily Blunt’s badass character who never gets to be a badass, and who’s shunted away by her superiors as they go on a morally and ethically dubious mission, which is disappointing and wasteful - and that’s the point. Sicario’s about frustration at the system, at people who think they know better than all the rest, that believe they’re morally superior to their enemies and can therefore use any means they want.
This ties in to the second mis-reaction, where a scene towards the end results in deliberate collateral damage in the name of revenge - which is bandied about by a lot of viewers as justice. Again, the point of the movie is to show how both sides are morally bankrupt out of desperation, and that scene’s the clincher.
We might get a sequel to this movie though, which is nice.
An artful lesbian S&M movie with a twist, The Duke Of Burgundy explores all the psychological ramifications of such a relationship, as well as the possession of control in both the dominant and the submissive. It features no actual sex, but is still more viscerally exciting than the ten-rupee vanilla ice-cream that was Fifty Shades Of Grey.
After all the hype and anticipation, the fact that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was so great feels like a miracle (in a different way than Inside Out - the memories of the prequels are still too fresh in our minds). Great new characters, great moments, and a movie that feels, unabashedly, like Star Wars, makes me feel really, really excited for the upcoming Episode VIII and Rouge One movies.
The Avengers was the best pure superhero movie of all time. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the most daring movie in the MCU, violently upsetting the status quo. So to see that none of the developments from Iron Man Three (Tony destroying all his suits) or The Winter Soldier (S.H.I.E.L.D. disgraced) mattered to Avengers: Age Of Ultron, as they made another boring and predictable villain (voiced by James Spader, which makes his dullness all the more baffling) and teased a whole lot of events and characters for future movies instead of telling a simple, coherent story, made it all the more disheartening. Ah well, let’s hope Civil War rectifies that.
The Prime Minister Porker controversy got me to pick up Black Mirror, and holy hell was I amazed. Each episode is brilliant, each high concept is fully explored, each character feels humanized enough to root us in all the fantastical (yet depressingly possible) futures we see. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a try already! If you love science fiction, anthology formats, and just plain old black comedy, watch it NOW.
That Hannibal even lasted so long, with so much gore and artful violence on a network broadcast channel, was a wonder, so it was somewhat predictable, if sad, that NBC would ultimately cancel it. But the last season of Hannibal delivered in spades, with even more brilliant tableaus, psychological examinations and surrealness, dipping fully into arthouse territory without sacrificing pacing or entertainment value.
And a best cinematography nod on the same page where Sicario (shot by Roger Deakins, aka God) is present speaks volumes.
And that ending. Holy shit, that ending. We hate to watch you go, you amazing beast of a show, but god dammit, we loved watching you leave.
And that’s it for the year! We’ve got so much stuff in 2016 to look forward to, so till then, same time, same place, and we might actually have a name next time! Yes, I know, exciting.
Happy new year, everyone.