Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 movies

It is impossible to pay attention to all the movies that are available, especially as everyone has other responsibilities in life.  That is true even when you cut down to those that really are worth your time.  Although a lot of movies are covered many more were seen, some of which were arguably just as justified being listed.  Many not .  To make it easier to read I have broken movies into categories so you can skip the ones that don't interest you--but you might find something more interesting down the path not traveled.

English Language

"The Shape of Water, "the Oscar winner for best picture and best director was unique and worthy.  Guillermo del Toro has done another movie combining fantasy and reality, "Pan's Labyrinthe."  It was filmed in Toronto, but I recognized Hamilton City Hall.

"Darkest Hour" brings us back to a four week period in May of 1940 that was one of the most pivotal times in history.  the Germans had backed England into a corner and Winston Churchill, newly in power was being urged to negotiate with the Germans.  A proud, stubborn man he stood up like almost no other historical figures.  Gary Oldham won the Oscar for his portrayal of Winston and well deserved it.

"Hacksaw Ridge" was about conscientious objector in WW II that went on to win the Medal of Courage.  Alan Garfield played the lead in a.bloody action film  comparable to Private Ryan in random violence.   Based on a true story

"Call me By Your Name" was a big breakthrough for Timothee Chalamet who was Oscar nominated for his role as young brilliant man awakening to his gayness.  Armie Hammer played the older scholar who  attracted Timothee.

"The Big Sick" gives comedic treatment to how an inter-racial couple got together after breaking up.  Kunail Nanjiani played himself while his wife Emily Gordon co-wrote and acted as an executive producer.  A lot of laughs, but some food for thought.  Cultural barriers break down with contact.

"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri"  provided an Oscar winning platform for Frances McDormand who played a woman determined to get the police to re-open her daughter's murder investigation.  It left an ambiguous ending.

"The Edge of Seventeen" is about teen angst.  Friendship is tested when her best friend dates her older brother.  Adults will enjoy.

"Love, Simon" a coming of age for a gay teenager.  Nick Robinson was such a likeable person he could confess almost anything and be accepted.  I read one comment that this movie was really for straights.  Nick did win an award for best kiss.


"Lady Bird'  was highly recommended by my daughter Heather and proved to be worth seeing.  Saoirse Ronan demonstrated a remarkable range of acting, this time as a rebellious teenager.   Timothy Chalemet played a relatively supporting role.  Directed and written by Greta Gerwig.  Received 5 Oscar nominations.

"Coco" came out under the Pixar banner film enjoyable for the family.  Lush color, with clever animation.

"Game Change":  was about the 2008 presidential campaign focused on John McCain and Sarah Palin and Steve Schmidt.  What I got out of if (with some help from features) was the elections today need media stars.  Sarah Palin was seen as a potential star, but in reality was very unprepared.  Julienne Moore was great as were Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris.

"The Color of Freedom" couldn't be resisted as I feel Nelson Mandela is the man of the century.  This movie was focused on Mandela's time on Robben Island.  Dennis Haysbert and Joseph Fiennes as a prison warden who is later supported by Mandela.

"Breathe" was another inspiring movie  based on a true story.  Alan Garfield and Claire Hoy
played the couple who overcame a normally fatal health condition in difficult circumstances.
  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/10/paralyzed-men-in-4-foreign-movies.html

"The Promise" looked interesting although it had a low IMDB rating.  It was a love story around the Armenian massacre during WW I.  I have read many explanations about what happened, but it seems evident that many Armenians were led to their deaths.  The movie was very well done and dramatic.
It seems that they received over 50,000 IMDB votes of one star only making it very likely that Turkish denialists voted politically.  It is an excellent movie.

"The Post" was a timely movie defending freedom of the press.  Meryl Streep received still another Oscar nomination and was was well supported by Tom Hanks and others.  Steven Spielberg was director and producer.    A widow takes over her husband's newspaper and resists attempts by others to make important decisions.  Based on real evens around the Pentagon papers it portrayed a rivalry with the New York Times, but with a direct presidential threat to The Post.



The Greatest Showman, a musical written for the screen.  Loved the story, acting and music.  There was an  interesting discussion of how the songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul were developed.  Hugh Jackman played a fictionalized P. T. Barnum.

"Secret In Their Eyes"was a remake of an Argentinian Oscar winner.  I loved the original with Ricardo Darin, but this one was more than acceptable.  The original writer-director Juan José Campanella was an executive producer and appeared on special features to explain how they planned to give it a new twist.  Emilio Kauderer was involved with music for both movies.  Learned that Julia Robert's husband was the cinematographer, Daniel Moder.

"Wonder" was about social acceptance of a deformity.  They chose to show it from different viewpoints.  The neglected sister, the guilty friend, the old girl friend of the sister.  The young boy Jacob had been seen in my favorite movie seen in 2016 "The Room"

'Blindspotting" was very interesting.  Two men, Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs were friends who wrote this movie and acted the leads and produced.   Covers race relations and gentrification.  Two supporting women made some of the more subtle points.

"Far from the Madding Crowd" was a remake based on a Thomas Hardy novel.  This version starred Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts.  Directed by a Dane, Thomas Vinterberg.

"Gifted" was a very charming movie.  It hit a nerve as it was about a young girl who was a genius and was the subject of a custody court battle partly around her schooling.  My kids weren't that smart, but were gifted and we felt honored to have them in a special class.  There certainly are advantages, but there is another side such as being normal.  The cast (Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate) was excellent and you are very apt to feel good after watching.

Science Fiction

Admittedly don't watch many science fiction movies, but thought "Upgrade" from Australia had a message about artificial intelligence taking over the world.  It had a few nice twists about perception.

"Blade Runner 2049" was a sequel with at least one holdover actor, Harrison Ford.  Lots of special effects, hi-tech.  Director, Canadian Denis Villeneuve is commanding lots of respect with success of "Arrival" last year.

Older movies

"The Defiant Ones" (1958) had Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier both nominated for Oscar awards.  Two prisoners (one black and one white) handcuffed together learn to overcome their prejudices.

James Cagney in "G Men" (1935) had a slight role switch.  Special features pointed out that critics had been upset that gangsters had been glorified too much.  But the public was fascinated by violence and the solution was to turn gangster actors like Cagney into law enforcement heroes and still carry on with violence.  Cagney is excellent in roles calling for comic talent.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/09/james-cagney.html

"One Eyed Jacks" (1961)with Marlon Brando playing a baddie and also directed.   An unusual western in that part of it was filmed by the ocean.  Marlon apparently waited several days to get the ocean cinematography the way he wanted it.

"Hearts of Darkness;  A Filmaker's Apocalypse" (1991) showed Francis Ford Coppola efforts to product "Apocalypse Now"  I remember a tremendous long time effort involving uncooperative actor and the determination to complete the film.

After the background story I had to see "Apocalypse Now"  Lots of violence, but the main theme was about the evil in mankind.  Starred Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando.  I had read "Heart of Darkness" in high school, but had not seen the movie.

"Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962) from play by Tennessee Williams with some changes due to censorship concerns and given a happy ending.  Paul Newman, Geraldine  Paige, Ed Begley were standouts.

"The Remains of the Day" (1993) wasn't quite the slow movie I anticipated.  It pointed to a time when some English aristocrats had Nazi sympathies.  Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson were outstanding with excellent support from Christoper Reeves, Tim Smith Pigott, Hugh Grant.  Respect for the author and also screen writer.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher winning 5 Oscars.  Directed by Milos Forman.

"Amadeus" (1984) seen for the second time after its original theatrical run.   I like Mozart's music, but this is not a biography of him.  The main character, Antonio Salieri feels jealousy and rejected by a God that gives real musical talent to a immature person.  There is lots of enjoyable music. 

"The People vs. Larry Flynt" (1996) was available when I was writing about Milos Forman, but I didn't want to associate myself too closely with a pornographic subject.  As often happens looking for a filler I picked it up.  A lot of people would consider it more pornographic than even many restricted movies it does get to the issue of freedom of speech.  Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love (who presented an insurance problem to the producers) and Ed Norton were all excellent.  Interesting parts played by Jim Carville (a favorite left wing commentator) as a right wing prosecutor and Larry Flynt himself played a judge who in the script sentenced himself to jail time.  There was a lot of conflict with the evangelical movement, but the one that caught me was a self righteous religious authority played by James Cromwell who turned out to be Charles Keating who was instrumental in a multi billion dollar fraud.  A significant part of Milos Forman's career which you can catch a little of with the link to Czech  films down below.

In "Hotel Rwanda" (2004) had Sophie Okenedo and Don Cheadle each nominated for best Oscar acting awards.  The movie captured the dynamics of a genocide.

From 1998 "Enemy of the State"  a thriller that really thrills, but with a scary message.  The government has incredible access to information which can be abused.  Technology by 1998 was already well advanced and capable of invading anyone's privacy.  Will Smith and Gene Hackman were great.

Tarzan was an obsession as a youngster around 10 I used to watch the Johnny Weissmuller version on our home tv.  I used to yell like Tarzan or at least I thought I did.  One irony was that because we had only one tv my Grandmother used to watch with us.  My father pointed out that when he was my age his mother refused to let him watch Tarzan.  He had been raised during the depression and his parents were in their 40's when he was born.  I was part of the baby boomer generation and were given more freedom.  I think his mother, my grandmother got to like the Tarzan movies.  It struck me as very juvenile (in a fun way), but in the 1934 film, 'Tarzan and His Mate" one could spot more nudity than one would expect in family entertainment.  Also saw "Tarzan Finds a Son.' (1939)

In about grade 5 some school mates and myself somehow became obsessed with "The Jolson Story" (1946) and "Jolson Sings Again" (1949).   Both movies were watched probably more than  any other movie.  Perhaps some sixty years later they do seem dated, but I realize they played a role in my musical education.

"Hope and Glory" (1987) had a different perspective on the German blitz of London.  Told from a young boy's view it was like an adventure with lots of fun experiences although he lived through real danger.

East of Eden (1955) was one of only 3 movies that made James Dean a legend, at least in the mind of a former university room mate.  I missed that, but now many years later I can admit there was more to him.  He was nominated for Oscar along with director Elia Kazan, but Jo Van Fleet won for best supporting actress.  Also had Raymond Massey. 

"Splendor in the Grass" (1961) introduced Warren Beatty and also starred Natalie Wood.  William Inge won an Oscar for best script written directly to movie while Natalie was nominated for best actress and Warren was nominated for a Golden Globe.  Directed by Elia Kazan.

"McCabe and Mrs Miller" (1971) directed by Robert Altman was a realistic western  set in the northwest.  Warren Beatty and Julie Christie starred.   Reminded of an Hungarian connection with the cinematographer Vilmos Sgismond who had escaped after the Hungarian Revolution.  Realistic without romanticism (for the most part).

"Rachel, Rachel" (1968) was marked by Paul Newman first directing effort.  His wife Joanne Woodward, was the lead actress.  Based on a book by Candian author Margaret Laurence.  Apparently there was a big lobbying effort for Paul Newman and he and his wife both won Golden Globe awards. 

"Do the Right Thing" (1989)  by Spike Lee who had in some quarters a reputation of an angry black man.  He is an intelligent man using the film media to try to understand racial dynamics.  It is baed on one day, a very hot day in a black neighborhood centered around a pizzeria run by Italian Americans established many years previously.  There are a few hints of racial tension--a ghetto blaster, a wall full of photos of famous Italian Americans that upsets a black customer  black underclass mostly jobless & directionless--Korean storekeeper--riot, death

"Children of a Lesser God"( 1966) let us outsiders realize there was a big conflict between sign language and lip reading.--Prejudice is most obvious against visible minorities, but really we realize it is against differences such as communication and maybe especially thinking

"Matewan" (1987) a young Chris Cooper played a union organizer.  Racism was used by management to keep workers in place.  Black  (led by James Earl Jones) and Italians learned to co-operate despite their own prejudices. 

"Victim" a British film from 1961 was daring for its time.  Its contention was that the sodomy laws opened up possibilities for blackmail.  Starred Dirk Bogarde as a lawyer..

I had watched Tyrone Power remembering him mostly as a swashbuckler.  He was a pilot and saw action in World War II.  He wanted to shake his swashbuckler image and do some serious acting. "The Razors's Edge" was released in 1949.  He campaigned hard for "Nightmare Alley" (1947) and despite a lot of resistance from producers he got his best acting reviews

Documentaries

"Home"  ecological movie from 2009.   Scary in that the warnings have proved valid and we still have not learned enough.  Reinforcing other  information sources it emphasized that trees were very critical with climate change.  As sea level rises it brings salt into river systems making water undrinkable.  We are all linked.

"Jane" (2017) about Jane Goodell was someone I have admired for years, but did not realize she was not trained scientifically, but was lucky enough to be a secretary with Dr Leakey who recognized her abilities.  Music by the distinctive (and enjoyable) Philip Glass.

"RBG" (2018)was about someone I have come to admire.  As used to be said, "behind every successful man is a woman" it is also true that "behind some successful women is a man."  Her husband, a successful man in his own right recognized in Ruth before their marriage that she was especially smart and dedicated.  She has had tremendous impact on American society.  Donald Trump would love to replace her, but it would be a loss for the rest of us, especially if he were the one. 

"Salmon Confidential" (2013) Scientists in British Columbia dealing with salmon dying from an unknown disease find themselves dealing with a ban of science knowledge

Sharkwater (2012) by Canadian Rob Stewart who paints a different film than common fears of sharks.  A reference to campaign to restrict shark fin soup.  Rob died in the process of filming "Sharkwater Extinction" in 2018.

Horse movies 

"Zameer" dealt with racing stud farm  Bollywood--lost son was able to communicate with horses the way his father could.  Early Amitabn Bachchan.

"12 Strong"  depicts the first American attackers after 9/11  to Afghanistan.  Circumstances suggested they travel by horse, not everyone had experience. They were confronted with tanks, but nevertheless met with success.   There is a  statue in NY near Twin Towers commemorating the events.

A special feature on Akira Kurosawa focused on "The Hidden Fortress" had quite a few comments on filming horses.  Akira Kurasawa greatly admired John Ford's horse filming.  He sped up camera speed to get a better view  on the horse's power and developed some techniques involving lens and dollies.  Toshiro Mifune was considered his best rider and was shown in a scene when he pursues two other horsemen where he brandishes a sword overhead with hands off bridles.  Filmed a second time as first time camera not able to get full picture of horses.

"The Rider" a good movie with training horses.  A bronc rider injured.  There are actual participants after injuries.  I anticipated more emphasis on "breaking' the horses, but in fact "gentling" was the more effective term.

SUBTITLED 

Many will lose interest in this section, but you would be missing a lot.  My thoughts on the opportunity:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/09/do-subtitles-scare-you-who-knows-what.html

French

"Rules of the Game," came out just before WW II in 1939.  Considered a classic, directed by Jean Renoir, son of the famous painter.

"Roman de Gare" (2007) is about a ghost writer and false identities for an intrigueing mystery suspense movie. 

"Korkoro" set in War time Vichy France focused on Romany who are very distrustful and freedom loving.

"Back to Burgundy" (2017) is a family drama set against Burgundy wine

"Rapt"(2009) used a kidnap as a vehicle to reveal human nature.  A wealthy arrogant man is kidnapped and the viewer watches the drama of that, but also the drama of his family and business partners who learn that he had had gambling debts and had a number of mistresses.

"Skirt Day"(2009)  teacher intimidated by her students by fluke gets her hands on a gun and takes here students as hostages.  Most of them are Muslim.  Lots of talk about anti-Muslim, feminism, immigrants.  It seems a worse problem in France than in the U.S. Starred Isabelle Adjani.

"Shoot The Piano Player" ( 1960) starred one of my favorite singers Charles Aznavour, but no singing, although he did play the piano player.  Directed by Francois Truffaut, a Cannes winner and Oscar nominee.

Hispanic

"El Sur"(1993) seemed an ok, even artistic, but watching some of the special features opened my head.  The cinematographer was granted the option of using dark lighting for many scenes which had been considered undesirable.  The director, Victor Erice only made 3 movies and this one was not completed to original plans but was requested for Cannes.  It was claimed that the budget had run out, but it was also said there was a conflict with the producer.   "The Spirit of The Beehive"(1973) was considered another masterpiece with the cinematographer again being innovative with his work.  Censorship was a big concern.

"Time Sweep "(2016)watched because I was very charmed by Maria Nella Sinistera.  She played few minutes in this interesting movie, but was critical to plot.  From Argentina.

Pedro Almodovar has created a lot of attention for unconventional movies.  "All About My Mother"  (1999) won an Oscar for best foreign film and has an early Penelope Cruz as a supporting actress.

"A Fantastic Woman" from Chile won the 2018 Oscar for best foreign film.  My second movie about a transgender woman character (in this case the actress was as well).  Like the other one it helps to humanize people I am mostly unfamiliar with.  The difficulties of being transgender are told through the death of her lover and her inter actions with the family.  The music includes a little salsa and pleasant background music including two opera arias by the lead character, Daniela Vega.  Santiago was a bigger part of this movie than others I had seen from Chile and impresses as a cosmopolitan city.



Czech Republic

'Divided we Fall"  (2000) interesting plot, well acted and written
This was one of the films that inspired me to do a post on Czech cinema:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/06/czech-cinema.html

German

"The Silence" (2010) an excellent German murder mystery--Denmark's Ulrich Thomsen was one of the leads--the twist is different--title refers to a period of 23 years in which an accomplice kept quiet

"The Wall" from Austria had a science fiction base.   The main character is trapped by invisible walls.  She has her loyal dog and later a cow and a cat with a few wild deer to hunt.   Slow moving, but with great landscape shots set in Austrian Alps.

A classic from 1931, "M"  Compelling over 80 years later. This movie brought Peter Lorre to attention and led him to act several classic American movies.  Unusual in that the crooks and the police worked to find the schizo pedophile.  He eventually was cornered and confronted his attackers.  He claimed eloquently that he couldn't help himself.

"Veronika Voss" (1982) might remind some of "Sunset Boulevard" as it about a washed up actress.  She is being taken advantage of.  Well done, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.  Won a TIFF award.

Denmark

"Land of Mine" (2015 )from Denmark received an Oscar nomination.  Tension comes from needing to defuse mines and the hostility of the local citizens.   It portrays the Danes as villains and the Germans as victims.  The director, Martin Zandvliet  commented on financing came a lot from Germany.  The Danes were seeking revenge against German atrocities, but took it out on the young boys recruited by desperate German military.

Polish

"Loving Vincent" (2017 was )another visual treat--an interesting story that connects to a song I heard probably 50 years ago--Don McLean's,  "Starry Starry Night" which I now realize was not some teenage angst, but a story about Vinceny De Gogh--he was said to have died after suicide attempt that took a few days, but had been preceded by mental illness.  Another theory was that he was shot in the stomach (the angle suggested it was not self inflicted).  Was selected by the AGH film festival and I had seen in the trailer.--done by paintings  presented in an animated form--originally by Polish

Romania

Finally able to view four movies of Cristian Mongiu  "Four Months, three weeks two days" (2007)is one of the most gut wrenching movies I have seen.  The topic is abortion, but it is not likely to change anyone's opinion.  It is depicted as a horrid action prompted out of desperation.  Cristian has done a few thought provoking films you can read about here:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/10/cristian-mongiu-filmaker-from-romania.html

Finland

"Open Up to Me"(2013)about a transgender woman who gets entangled with a problematic family.  Second movie with a likeable transgendered women.

"The Other Side of Hope" (2017) focused on refugees to Finland.  Directed by Aki Kaurismaki.

"Tom of Finland" (2017)shows  us straights don't quite understand how it works.  Heterosexuals especially in the past had awkward efforts to connect.  Obviously so do gays who have to identify one another when most were closeted.  In this film the hero is an artist and does explicit homo erotic drawings.  After many years he is convinced to share them publicly.  This movie goes through the Aids crisis and the artistic contributes to an effort for safe sex.

Norway

"Troubled Water" (2008) directed by Erik Poppe  Protagonist was a church organist the music was very good as well as cinematography.  They borrowed Danish actress Trine Dryholm.

Israel

"The Cakemaker" (2017) was a surprise.  A superficial synopsis doesn't do it justice.  It is very well done.  An unusual love story surrounded by grief.  Israel's nomination for Oscar foreign film award for 2019.    

Bollywood

The highest rated movie was seen just before Christmas on Netflix, "Andhandun" (2018) with Ayushmann Khurrana and Tabu, both of who were sensational.  It deserved its high marks.  It has some unexpected twists.  The background music and a few songs lend some atmosphere.  Ayushmann plays a blind pianist.  Written and directed by Sririam Raghaven.  One of my three favorites for the year.

More on Ayushmann:
http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/ayushmann-khuranna-actor-to-watch.html

more on Tabu, one of my more popular blogs:
http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/12/tabu.html




"Raazi" (2018) was very exciting, tense.and credible..  Alia Bhatt is excellent and is well supported.  Good music from Shankar Ehsaan Loy.  One comment I read was that the actors playing the enemy Pakistannis were not caricatures.   There were a lot of good Bollywood movies this year, but I would say this one had the most tension. Another of my three favorites for the year. 

Just after posting evaluating negative movie review (https://bit.ly/2MEb9I8 ) I watched "Khatha Meetha" (2010)--several characters die on screen while other deaths referred to, but I couldn't help laughing a number of times--the overwhelming theme was of corruption with even our hero played by Akshay Kumar was corrupt, but struggling--after a happy ending you could appreciate corruption impacts too many people in India

Sridevi died tragically at age 54. Had seen her in two movies as a mature adult--"English Vinglish" and "Mom"--excellent--saw a very few older movies--"Sadma" with Silk Smitha (the model for "Dirty Pictur"e)  Her daughter Janhvi Kapoor made a debut in "Dhadak"(2018) a remake of "Sairat" my favorite movie two years ago.  The movie and she received very bad reviews, but I was struck at how much she resembles her mother and thought that some adaptations were meaningful. The leading male was Ishaan Khattar.

"Damini" (1993) with Sunny Deol.  He was a rival with Shah Rukh Khan.  Sunny was more popular, but another movie in 1993 provided Shah Rukh a big break at the expense of Sunny--personally think it was best.

Bareilly ki Barfi  (2017) a variation on Cyrano de Bergerac starring  Ayushmann Khuranna

"Manorama: Six Feet Under" (2007) with Abhay Deol playing a corrupt official, caught and fired and asked to to spy on possible adultery.  Very suspenseful and well done.   Vinay Pathak plays a supporting role different from what many of his fans might have expected.

"Ittefaq" (2017) is about resolving some conflicting testimony about a crime.  Akshaye Khanna plays the detective while Sidharth Malhotra and Sonakshi Sinha play the two suspects.  Well done.

"Devi Ahilya Bai" (2002)  is an historical drama about an 18th century woman who rose to leadership and builder.

"Phas Gaye Re Obama"- (2010) with Rajat Kapoor in a clever comedy regarding corruption. An NRI (no resident Indian) is about to lose his house in New Jersey during the 2008 re recession and decides the only course is to sell his ancestral home in India.  But he finds nobody wants to buy it during the recession.  We are acquainted with several kidnapping groups who are all suffering due to the recession.  They decide to kidnap our  hero not realizing he has less money than them.  Although threatened he finally convinced the first group that he could recoup their expense and help them make a profit if they would sell him to another group who didn't realize he was poor..  He ended up wiring money to his wife, but this group soon realizes they have lost out, but he has another idea, really the same is to sell to another group and this turns out to be a group of women (who could be bawdy house) and they are tougher and smarter than the first group.  Again he sets up another sell off to a bigger group -this time to a politician who wants to make money to get a higher political office.  He is tougher than the others, but again our hero outsmarts them and turns it around so the politician is seen as a rescuer and is praised by many  for the next level.  Bollywood accused of being over the top, but this movie is not--just funny and well done.

"Chalo Dilli"  (2011)another comedy that caught my fancy.  It had a message that hits home towards the end.   Check out more details:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/04/chalo-dilli-deals-with-snobbery.html

"Secret Superstar" (2017) had the most hysterical laughter plus brought tears to my eyes (not for sadness),  Aamir Khan is very versatile and was a producer.  The lead girl Zaira Wasim played a small role in a previous movie, "Dangal."   Very well done.



"Raid" (2018) with Ajay Devgn was about tax collections.  It showed an extreme example of a wealthy man avoiding tax.  Intimidation and courage were contrasted.  It is good to see a movie extolling the virtue of paying and collecting taxes for the good of all.




"Hichki" (2018)  is about a woman with Tourette's Syndrome, but really it is about education.  Rani Mukerji has Tourette's and is unable to get a teacher position because of it until she agrees to teach kids from the slums.  It deals with a lot of prejudice realistically, but contrives for a happy ending.  Inspiring.  In this case there is little if any swearing which is a common way of portraying Tourette's.

"Gulaal" (2009) is considered one of Anurag Kaahyup's best films, although not very successful at box office.  It is political involving corruption and violence.   Kay Kay Menon heads the cast.

"Tikli and Laksmi Bomb"(2017) is about a group of prostitutes in Mumbai who set up their own system cutting out pimps.  They develop some innovative procedures to take over from their male controllers.  There are laughs, but there are also tears.  At the end the viewer will appreciate it is an ongoing battle, but a little progress is made.

"102 Not Out"(2018) seemed at first to be a typical Bollywood comedy, but before too long you realized there was more to it.  The premise was that the 102 year old was more physically active and modern than his 75 year old son.  However nothing was quite as it appears.  Amitabh Bachchan adding more to his impressive career.

"Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran,"(2018) is about how India developed a superior nuclear bomb.  A lot of intrigue with satellites and CIA and Pakistani  Americans come across as self righteous.  Most of us believe that nuclear proliferation is one of mankind's most dangerous possibilities, but you could interpret this movie to demonstrate the fear that drives it.

"Beyond the Clouds"(2017)  was written and directed by Iranian Majid Majidi c, an internationally awarded film makers. A very emotional movie.  Ishaan Khattar won a debut award.  A R Rahman wrote the music.

"Padman" (2018) gives Akshay Kumar (who has Canadian connections) another cause to boost.  Women;s menstruation has always been a taboo subject, never more than in India.  It wasn't as though sanitary pads were unknown, but they were far too expensive for Indian women and this caused disease and even dying.   Based on a true story.  An interesting detail is that Amitabh Bachchan was used to further  boost the cause and given credit for the name Padman (based on Superman, Spiderman, etc)   Had an effect on women's education and economic prospects.

"Once Again" (2018) is a mature love story with an older movie star by a fluke meets a widow who runs a catering business that services him--she doesn't like the attention and her family also resents her late life romance.  Well acted by Neeraj Kobi and Shefali Shah.

Within  the last two days of the year I lucked upon a movie I wanted to include in this overlong blog post.  "Chakravyuh" (2012) is in many ways a typical Bollywood movie with emphasis on action, violence and a few unnecessary item numbers, but it made me more aware of an Indian issue that has been glossed over in a few other movies that mentioned it.  Essentially the Naxalite movement is one of violent protest.  Previously in other movies they have been depicted as backward people not understanding the need for modernity.  In fact they are the dispossessed, unable to change their circumstances in conventional ways have sought desperate means.  Directed by Prakash Jha noted for his political movies it is entertaining, but for me opens my eyes that as often as in Hollywood, Bollywood entertainment can minimize reality.  This movie does show that the 1% can be greedy and merciless in achieving their goals.

REGIONAL INDIAN MOVIES

"The Hero" from 1966 is a Bengali film done by Satyajit Ray, considered one of the early masters of Indian cinema.  Sharmila Tagore is famous as a relation of famous poet plus she married into Indian royalty who also happened to be the top Indian cricket player and has left two actors in Bollywood. Her son, Saif Ali Khan and daughter Soha Ali Khan are well established in Bollywood.  She explained that because of economics Satyajit usually took only one take for a scene, but was well prepared.  The lead, Utta Kumar was well composed to portray a big movie star having doubts, perhaps because in reality he was a big movie star.  On commentator thought this film was modeled on Marcello Mastroianni in 8 1/2.

 In "The Silence" (2015) Marathi is listed as the second language, but I suspect it was primary--the bad guy was played by the director/writer of my top film for 2017, Nagra Manjule.

Looking over a list of top rated Indian films I was surprised to see a 1987 Tamil film, "Vallu Nayakan."  It is a gangster movie, but in the same league as "The Godfather."  The essential commonality was that they both started with the protagonist correcting an injustice and then being asked to deal with other injustices and taking up activities against the authorities. Each had a unique set of circumstances.  It had the contributions of three legendary film artists.  Mani Ratnam, produced, directed and wrote the script.  He has mostly done movies in southern India, but has succeeded all over.  Ilayarraga wrote the music--he was the first Asian to score a symphony for the London Philharmonic Orchestra.   The lead actor, Kamal Haasan is accomplished not only as an actor, but also as writer, director, producer playback singer, and even choreographer.  In this movie he compares very well to the Marlon Brando role from a young man to an elder.   This should be regarded as a world classic.

"Sometimes" (2016) is a Tamil film to publicize the need to be more understanding of HIV and Aids.  Six people with different back stories worry they might have aids.   The suspense holds to the end .

A surprise was "Robot" (2010--"Enthiran) in Tamil which like a lot of today's blockbusters are big on special effects and it was very effective  The star was Rajnikanth along with Aisharwaya Rai. Bachchan.  The story did have a message--artificial intelligence can be abused.

Shubh Aarabh (2017) is a Gujariti film with an interesting plot involving a marriage counsellor in an arranged marriage.  She learns her groom's parents are planning a divorce. Lots of laughs, a little drama and lovely background music.

"Naa Banagaru Talli"  (2013) is about sex trafficking, but with a horrible twist of deception  Very well done in the Telegu language.  Siddique had been the lead in the Malayalam version of "Drishyam."  His daughter was played by Anjali Patil from Sri Lanka.who had appeared in Bollywood movies.


"Children of War" (2014) is of two languages, Hindi and Bengali (I can not distinguish the difference).  It was about the genocide of East Pakistan which paved the way for independence of Bangladesh.  Rape was used as a weapon of humiliation.  At end one pregnant female looks longingly at a man and then walks away, but he grabs her by the hand accepting the reality which was a big relief after the horrific violence shown before.  Background music was stirring

"Jindua" (2017) was set in Calgary, Alberta as a romance drama.  Jimmy Shergill, a moderately successful Bollywood actor here plays an immigrant forced to seek Canadian citizenship, but in the process rejects his true love.  Shergill is a Punjabi speaker and apparently there are enough Punjabi speakers in Calgary to justify this effort.

Chinese

"Touch of the Light" (2012) from Taiwan is not slick.  Inspirational and a true story with the hero playing himself.   A dancer inspired by a blind pianist who in turn is encouraged by her.  Only a tease of a romance.  Some very pleasant music, some of it written by the subject.

In Love we Trust  (2007) Mandarin speaker Xiashuai Wang was director and writer --emotionally tense--child with cancer needing a bone marrow transplant--needs a match--after some strategies fail--it comes down to parents, now divorced to have another child--new spouses concerned--a few realistic complications--attention to detail in plotting--one child policy--also saw "11 Flowers, "also worth seeing and "The Drifters" This is ranked in my top three for the year.  More details at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/08/in-love-we-trust-is-movie-title-with.html

"Happy Together"(1997) from Hong Kong meaning mostly in Cantonese.  It is   considered one of all time best films about a gay couple on verge of breaking up after traveling  to Argentina




Japanese

"The Naked Island" (1960) had no dialogue and depicted a very harsh life by peasants. 

"Kagemusha" (1980) colour movie by Akira Kurosawa--his first film in 5 years bolstered by admirers, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola who agreed to be producers  

"High and Low"(1963) a kidnapping suspense movie.  Learned that Kurosawa does editing and considers a goal to do a scene as short as practical.   Based on book by Ed McBain

"Rhapsody in August" was Kurosawa's 2nd to last film and is often passed over in deference to his earlier masterpieces.   There were three generations reacting to the atomic  bombing of Nagasaki.  Richard Gere takes part as a part Japanese relative.  It is a difficult topic, but makes one more conscious of man's inhumanity to others.

Also saw two more Kurosawa films; "No Regrets for our youth" and "Dersu Uzala" (1975), collaboration with Russia. 

Thailand

"Bad Genius" (2017) is not my first Thai movie, but it is the most entertaining.  It is very clever and professional.  I think of it as a heist movie, but without a bank or valuable jewels.  Students are wanting to get the answers to important university entrance tests and the bad genius is very creative.  Read more about it:   https://bit.ly/2ytQJs5

Emboldened by "Bad Genius" on Netflix I checked out another Thai movie, "One Day" (2016)  This was a highly rated romantic comedy.  A familiar type of plot--loser pining after an unobtainable girl gets a lucky break, very contrived involving memory loss of only one day.  Actually most of the scenes were set in Hokkaido and Sapporo, Japan. in the winter time.  Very slickly done with an ending that begs for a sequel.  Noticing a pattern similar to Bollywood where scenery outside the native land helps entice local viewers with a glance of places like Australia and Japan

Korean

"The Age of Shadows"  (2016) was about Korean resistance against Japan during World War II.  A double agent adds to the suspense.   Written and directed by Jee-woon Kim.

"Forgotten" (2017) is a psychological movie with a very big twist most of us won't catch.

"Silenced" (2011)  was about a sexual abuse case at a school for the deaf. The frightening thing was how well connected people can gang up and abuse disadvantaged children.   Well done.  A quote, "We should not fight to change the world itself, but stop it from changing who we are."

Not a fan of Zombie movies, but after watching "Silenced" I enjoyed the two leading characters and noticed they were both in "Train to Busan." (2016).  I decided to take a chance.  It would satisfy most Zombie fans, but I felt there was a lot more on human relationships and I loved the music by Young-gyo Jung  over the credits.  One disappointment was that the two characters again never paired off, but were both very good along with a good supporting cast.

"Along with the Gods Two Worlds," (2017) was a fantasy with amazing CGI, but more an interesting account of the meaning of life.

"How to Steal a Dog" was a bit frivolous with a family moral.  It was told from a child's point of view.  The young girl had been the lead in a very hard hitting movie, "Hope" or you can find it under "Wish" about an 8 year old girl who is violently sexually attacked. http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/11/hope-gut-wrenching-film-from-korea.html

Philippines

"Manila in the Claws of Light" (1975) is only the second Filipino movie I have seen.  Filmed in 1974 under the direction of Lino Brocka during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.  Introduced by Martin Scorsese who borrowed the ending for his movie, "Taxi."  There is a love story, but it also carries a political message.  Corruption is very evident.

Indonesia

"The Look of Silence" (2014) was a multi national effort regarding a genocide in the 1960's. This film would not be possible without careful political manoeuvering, luck and courage.  Originally  the director Joshua Oppenheimer, set out to talk with victims of the genocide, but circumstances encouraged them to talk to perpetrators.  Surprisingly they boasted of their deeds in front of their own relatives.  Adi, Rukan a brother of one of the victims actually confronted many of the perpetrators.  Horrifying tales of killing "Communists" mutilating and drinking of blood.   Told very matter of factly.  The protagonist was an optometrist and actually tested some of his targets and provided glasses.  Many of the perpetrators and their families either justified what was done or avoided responsibility.

Middle East

"The Insult" (2014) is like a petty quarrel between two stubborn men, but it is much more than that.  It is also very well executed, from Lebanon.  For many North Americans the Middle East is a scary place with all sorts of warring factions.  This movie is layered as in life there is always more than is readily apparent.  The characters themselves change their attitudes as they learn more.  One hopeful sign is that women's influence is increasing. The director decided to show a generational shift in attitude which is especially evident in that opposing lawyers are actually father and daughter.  More at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/09/the-insult_21.html

Afterwards I also watched "The Attack" (2012) by the same director, Ziad Doueiri with a powerful message.  In the effort to integrate willing Arabs into the Israeli economy there is still likely resentment for those very many who are left out.

It can be misleading to rate and rank films, but nonetheless the ones that are pictured/linked had the most impact on me.

To see my most memorable movies of 2017:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/12/2017-great-year-for-movies.html

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