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Old 12-15-2016, 04:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Post Dubai International Film Festival 2016 - Langdon's Takes.

Brief rants on the movies that had my attention at this year's Dubai International Film Festival, ranked according to the order I liked the most.

#1 – La La Land
Here's to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. Here's to the hearts that ache. Here's to the mess we make.

Damien Chazelle, you beauty! A perfectly made love letter to the vintage Hollywood for the hopeless romantics on artistic passion and how easily we can get distracted from achieving our dream through a movingly told love story between an aspiring musician and an aspiring actress. It has literally every aspect of filmmaking going relentlessly spectacular for it. Be it the mind-blowing making, the finely layered screenplay, the astonishing cinematography, the splendid editing, the mesmerizing performances, the heavenly music or even the appealing costumes, everything in La La Land has a surrealistic longing attached to it that ultimately makes it one of the best movies of this decade. The huge amount of perfectly conceived long shots was an absolute treat to watch. The way it gives more thought into giving more attention to the choreography movements of the songs unlike the usual musicals that focuses mostly on the lyrics was truly noteworthy. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone make a perfect couple on screen and their enamouring chemistry while they dance to love is truly a buoyant sight. Overall, a dreamy masterpiece to get ourselves lost in and possibly a life-altering love song to fall in love with movies all over again.
10/10

#2 – 20th Century Women
A spunky coming of age movie with lots of heart and laugh -- which is boldly and rightfully feministic at heart – set in the late 70s, about a teenage boy’s disarrays on life and how the three women in his life – his loner mother who smokes herself to death as if there’s no tomorrow (Annette Bening), his best friend who keeps platonically sleeping over with him (Elle Fanning) and a quirky photographer (Greta Gerwig) whom he befriends to understand women – influences him and his thoughts. More than its making, it’s the writing that absolutely wins you over with its well-defined characters and the thoughtful yet raw exchanges they share with each other. To be honest, this can also be considered as a significant movie about sex education too on how parents shouldn’t shy away from discussing sex with their kids. In the acting department, it was Annette Bening who completely steals the thunder away from everyone with her stunning restraint that warrants an Oscar nod, while playing a character that’s actually based on the director’s mother. Greta Gerwig, as always, lives as her character and was tremendous in bringing out the vulnerabilities of her portrayal so well. Elle Fanning too was apt and bold enough. Overall, a feminist movie in its rightful sense featuring lovable characters that steal your heart with their rawness and honesty.
9.5/10

#3 – I, Daniel Blake
A deeply affecting drama that’s more like a hard-hitting rage against the injustice of the system that we all are a part of. It tells the story of an elderly carpenter who requires jobseeker allowance after a heart attack and is deemed unfit for work by the doctors. Unfortunately, the government concludes that he is fit for work, forcing him to appeal to the "decision maker" to change the ruling. Meanwhile, he becomes friends with Katie, a young single mother with two children, who is also in need of financial assistance from the state but is denied. How they have each other’s back while trying to fight against the system forms the crux. Dave Johns as the titular protagonist was first-rate in making us raged about his situation and his comic timing is impeccable. Hayley Squires as Katie too was brilliant in portraying the enormous amount of pressure and helplessness when facing extreme tribulations that even causes to starve herself for days to provide food for her children. Overall, amidst all the predictability, it’s a well-made, superbly acted and sharply written drama about human resilience.
9/10

#4 – Manchester by the Sea
A deeply touching and wonderfully acted drama, which explores grief like no other movie in the recent past. It tells the story of self-destructive divorcee staying away from his hometown -- after a terrible tragedy inordinately caused by him, which cost him the life of his kids. He is forced to come back after his elder brother’s untimely death and be the guardian of the brother’s son in his teens. Casey Affleck as the loner protagonist was absolutely brilliant and this performance alone should guarantee him into the league of A-grade actors and in all probability an Oscar nomination too at the next year. Overall, a poignant movie that not only reminds you to forgive others that have caused you pain, but also asks you to forgive yourself and stop punishing yourselves forever for all the pain that you’ve caused people unintentionally.
9/10

#5 – Hotel Salvation / Mukthi Bhavan (Hindi)
A life-affirming tragi-comedy (like ‘Waiting’ that came out last year) about a father who wants his impending death to happen in Varanasi – a holy place to die – and his son who reluctantly accompanies him to an inn on the banks of the River Ganga – where you can practically stay indefinitely waiting for your death. Though the plot line may sound too grim, the movie is as much about death as it is about life that’s narrated in a deliciously light-hearted manner, which is sure to bring a smile on your faces. Adil Hussain as the responsible son trying hard to make the ends meet while going on a journey that changes his outlook on life was excellent, as always. Lalit Bahl as the father was lovely. Palomi Ghosh as the daughter of Adi Hussain was lively and charming while playing a character that reaffirms your faith in life and to send our loved ones who died with a happy face on a celebratory note. Overall, a profoundly touching movie that also makes you laugh out loud with its brilliant performances from almost everyone in the cast.
8.5/10

#6 – After The Storm (Japanese)
A heavyweight family drama that takes a brilliant look at unrealized dreams and broken hopes by delving into the complex relationship between a divorced father – who’s perceived as a loser harping on his past glory as an acclaimed writer -- and his young son who’s living with his mother. The writing is exquisitely subtle, which is the best thing about it. The acting from the entire cast too was exceptional and nuanced, especially the lady who played the protagonist’s mother who hopelessly turns no stone unturned to resolve her son’s failed marriage.
8.5/10

#7 – The Distinguished Citizen (Spanish)
A delightfully written and splendidly acted dramedy about a Nobel-prize-winning writer returning to his hometown after forty long years – the hometown that gave him all the inspirations to write. Loved the way it delves into the hypocrisies of the ones who’re too insecure when it comes to upholding their culture. While the making was decent enough, the writing is what really makes it a significant watch along with the masterful performance from Oscar Martinez (Wild Tales fame) as the protagonist.
8/10

#8 – Blessed Benefit (Arabic)
A heartwarming dramedy centered on a construction worker who gets sentenced to three months on a minor fraud charge and how he survives inside the jail while meeting new people. It’s a welcome relief from the usual movies set inside a jail, where torture and brutality are focused with abandon. The scripting was smart in the way it incorporated plenty of witty moments throughout its finely paced narrative that’s shot beautifully. The acting from the relatively inexperienced cast too was satisfying. Really happy to see such technically sound movies with strong content coming from the Arab cinema world these days. Last year, it was ‘Zinzana’, another Arabic gem that completely took me by surprise with its brilliant making and this year, it’s ‘Blessed Benefit’.
8/10

#9 – Nocturnal Animals
Story within a story has always been fascinating when it’s done right and Nocturnal Animals does that in style albeit few rough patches. It tells the story of a writer who sends the manuscript of his unpublished novel – a violent and sad western – to his ex-wife who’s estranged from him for over 20 years. The story seamlessly moves forward by intercutting in to the present, the past and the visualized narrative of the novel from the ex-wife’s perspective. Loved the way the story within the story was executed with the urgency of a Hitchcockian thriller. The director leaves us to interpret what was the connection between the story and the story within the story in a haunting manner that makes you ponder about it after you leave the cinema hall. The nuanced performances from Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon are makes it a compelling watch. Overall, a slick psychological thriller disguised as an intense romantic drama that’s open to interpretations.
7.5/10

#10 – The Teacher (Slovak)
A stylishly made satire – that fizzles out towards the end – set in Czechoslovakia in 1983, which tries to explore why communism is always fated to doom in the long run. It tells the story of an unsound teacher making the life of her students’ and their parents’ a nightmare with her utopian demands. But hardly anyone dares to go against her due to her political connections in the Communist Party. Will the parents be successful in moving her out of the school through a PTA meeting forms the crux. Zuzana Mauréry’s performance as the titular protagonist was the best thing about it. She was brilliant at her making her hate from head to toe with such ease. Though its hard-hitting at its surface in showing the mordant effect of favoritism, wish the movie had a better final hour that goes on and on.
6.5/10

#11 – Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey (Documentary)
An ambitious project that was in the making for over two decades. A documentary on the creation of the universe, the formation of Earth, the evolution of species, the dawn of civilization. Terrence Malick has always been a filmmaker who gives exorbitant importance to the visuals and this one’s no different to that fact. Heard it will be released in two differing formats. One a 90-minute version full of open questions narrated by Cate Blanchett and the second a 45-minute version narrated by Brad Pitt. And the one I saw was the former, which is more like a set of abstract visuals that are stunning to the eyes, especially if you see it on an IMAX screen. But the sleepy narration by Cate Blachette was a turn-off, to be honest.
6/10
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Old 12-15-2016, 05:00 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 12-15-2016, 05:09 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thank you Lungidoon
La La Land and Manchester By Sea kaananam
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Old 12-15-2016, 05:13 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Old 12-16-2016, 07:27 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Old 12-16-2016, 07:30 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Old 12-16-2016, 08:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Old 12-17-2016, 01:28 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Old 12-17-2016, 01:39 PM   #9 (permalink)
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