‘Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum’ (Evidence and the Eyewitness) review – The film you must watch.

I don’t usually review non-English language films on this blog, and I have many reasons for it, one of the biggest ones being the smaller audience for these films. Writing a review is a pretty time-consuming task, and with my readership being as low as it is already, writing one for a non-universal language just doesn’t seem worth it. (The few Indian language films I have reviewed are also the result of requests by my friends.) But last night, I saw a film called Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum – in my own native language of Malayalam – which changed my previously held opinion and reminded me of why I started doing this in the first place. This film, the title of which roughly translates to ‘Evidence and the Eyewitness’, is one which deserves to be seen by a larger audience: and that is the purpose of this review. With excellent cinematography by Rajeev Ravi, and featuring Fahadh Faasil, Suraj Venjaramoodu, and Nimisha Sajayan in lead roles, this Dileesh Pothan film is a real-life masterpiece in its truest sense.
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The Best of 2016 in Film – Dreamers, witches and nice guys.

It seems that the events of 2016 have birthed a new generation of cynics, and at the turn of the new year, all one can hear around are people crying over the horrible year that has passed. However, being one who prefers to count gifts over curses, I consider ourselves blessed to have received a stellar list of films, taking various different genres to stranger waters, and realizing the full potential of some others. Now while the movies that big franchises and studios have churned out were more in the form of financial investments than works of art, 2016 has witnessed masterpieces from global filmmakers and the independent categories. The following is the list of films that I think made the most of their run-time this year, and deserve to be seen by one and all. (This year, I’ve added suggestions of old movies similar in some way to each film on this list, so the doubtful ones can decide what to watch.)
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‘La La Land’ review – Here’s to the ones who dream

What makes a great song, a great film or, for that matter, any great work of art? Damien Chazelle’s answer to that question is that great art is anything done by a person who is passionate about it. His latest film La La Land is then a testament to great art, combining the passionate performances of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling with the equally passionate filmmaking by Chazelle in a story that brings two characters, equally passionate in their own arts, into each other’s lives. While being a refreshing revival of the grandiose Hollywood musical, La La Land also turns out to have the biggest heart of any film in a long time. And in this year when most of the world seems to be taking a step back for the worse, isn’t an escape of optimism something we could all use?
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‘La Tortue Rouge’ review – The story of life woven in fairytale yarn

They say the best pictures need no words, and what are films but moving pictures? La Tortue Rouge (The Red Turtle) is the latest animated feature from Japanese giant Studio Ghibli, and has its signature themes of surreal journeys, humanity and ennui written all over it. In fact, it was the studio’s wonder child and animation maestro, Hayao Miyazaki who saw director Michael Dudok de Wit’s previous work in Father and Daughter and convinced the studio to take him on. Free of the restraints of language and dialogue, this Robinson Crusoe-esque tale of a man washed ashore on an island sings a universal song of isolation, dreams and the cycle of life.
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‘Sing Street’ review – Ridicule, Risks and Rock n’ Roll

‘For brothers everywhere.’

These are the words we are left with at the close of John Carney’s coming-of-age romance Sing Street, which tells the story of an Irish teenager in the ‘80s who forms a band to win a girl’s heart. In a world full of strained home relationships and parents finding it difficult to live with each other, we often find brothers to be the secret to survival, whether it’s dealing with the oddities of our parents or learning the art of rock n’ roll in order to impress a girl. One of the first and strongest bonds we form in our lifetimes, brotherhood is the stepping stone from which we find the strength to chase more mature emotions and form relationships with new people. By letting us into the world of the teenager apart from just his mates and the girl, Sing Street pulls off something special in this powerful character drama, placing the character in a raw reality which appears cold and emotionless until you watch it come alive with every risk you take.
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‘Suicide Squad’ review – When marketing consumes a movie.

Ever since the movie-going audience took to the internet, and especially since this year’s Deadpool, Hollywood has been paying more attention to the advertising campaigns of their films than the films themselves, in the ever-raging struggle for box office results. World-building is the game of today’s superhero film genre, and as we move forward, it seems that references and easter eggs have taken a higher pedestal than the story or characters themselves. And when your market is served by a duopoly of two comic book goliaths, it is only inevitable that they mimic each other in attempting to recreate the other’s success. David Ayer’s Suicide Squad is the third film in the DCEU and their answer to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, bringing together unfamiliar names and secondary villains in what was intended as a flashy thrill ride of twisted team spirit and no-stops action. Brimming with exposition and forced dialogue, strung together in a plot that lacks motivation, and succeeding one of the most commercial advertising campaigns in recent history, it proves to be the most disappointing film in recent times. Continue reading

‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ review – The spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused

You would think that we as an audience know exactly what to expect from a frat comedy, having seen more than a fair share make their way to the screens, starting with Animal House back in 1978. Fast, loud and surrounding its protagonist with a bevy of cookie-cutter characters, it wastes no time in pushing the adults out so that the rock and roll can blare, the beer and girls can come pouring in, and the party can start. With Everybody Wants Some, however, Richard Linklater chooses to go a different way, sketching out the characters of the people who call the frat their home and the pack-mentality that binds them, without leaving out any of the dazed fun. Staying true to the themes of its spiritual predecessor – Dazed and Confused – this glance back at the ‘80s picks up from the weekend before college, and meanders through the many parties and escapades the team needs to make it to the first day of college.
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‘Deadpool’ review – The art of tasteless satire

Satire is one of the hardest genres to pull off, but one of the best when it’s done right. Masters of the rib-tickling art in the past have shown us through films like Airplane! and Dr Strangelove that satire thrives when handled with utmost subtlety, resorting to as few crass jokes and pop culture references as is possible. Tim Miller’s – and really, Ryan Reynolds’ – Deadpool brashly subverts these rules and adopts only those jokes and gags that draw out the most amount of ‘WTF’s from the crowd, and in doing so, gives us one of the most faithful comic-book adaptations to date. Deliciously meta and embracing the irresponsible, wisecracking persona of its protagonist (as well as the actor who portrays him), Deadpool is the kind of superhero movie that you will never see under another banner. It was a unique creation when it came to Marvel Comics in 1991, and succeeds in gleefully shocking cinema audiences in 2016. Continue reading

‘Anomalisa’ review – A heartbreaking existential masterpiece

Perhaps the only screenwriter working today whose work shines through above and beyond that of the director is Charlie Kaufman. Be it Being John Malkovich (directed by Spike Jonze) or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (directed by Michael Gondry), the distinctive feature of all these films is that they were conceived in the bizarrely introspective mind of Kaufman. Anomalisa, his second directorial outing (the first being the phenomenal Synecdoche, New York), while not failing the vision of this auteur, is also strangely the most human story put to screen in a long time. Done entirely in stop-motion animation, it allows us an intimate gateway into the mind of a lonesome narcissist who is perpetually depressed by the boring characters around him. Continue reading