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Tackling '1001 Movies' List: Mini Reviews

Posted on the 25 April 2013 by Shantanu Ghumare @u_me_films
At the end of last month I promised that I will dedicate this whole month of April to watch movies from '1001 Movies' list only. I swear I tried hard and even kept my promise to a certain extent. Even though I did see some movies out of the list here and there, I stuck to the list even when Netflix decided to take half a dozen movies in my queue off their instant watch. So if I am dedicating so much of my movie watching time to the list, it only makes sense if I dedicate a post to it, right? In March, I also decided to concentrate more on the list for the rest of the year. So there is a good chance that I might make this a monthly feature, at least for the rest of the year to talk about some of the movies from the list I saw in that particular month? How about that? Now for the three movies in this post; when I chose them, I did not have any specific theme running through them all but as Sat down to write, it turns out that there is something there. You'll see everything in the right time. Let's get to the movies.
Tackling '1001 Movies' list: Mini ReviewsMulholland Drive(2001): This was quite a surprise for me. I still haven't seen a lot of David Lynch's work but from little that I have, I have to say that I won't call myself an admirer of his work. Rather I am kind of predisposed to hate him. I have seen Blue Velvet(1986) before; which, except Laura Dern, I pretty much hate to the core. I have also seen Twin Peaks(1990) series and I swear to god, there is nothing else in this world that gets under my skin as much as that serial. It only has 30 episodes in it but I was watching it for months because there was only so much of it I could take at a time. I still don't think I have finished it yet. The Elephant Man(1980) is probably the only movie I have seen before today that I have some admiration for. His films are weird and unreachable for no obvious reason and I hate that. I feel like Lynch tries to shock his audience all the time and more often than not I end up either laughing at it or with 'Why the hell am I doing this to myself?' expression on my face. So when judging a Lynch film, my parameters of judging them have changed over the years. They are not how I like the story? and characters? They are more like how many times I feel like killing myself or bang my head against wall?  
Mulholland Drive, however, turned out to be something I genuinely liked. I won't go into the story for, one, I think I should be one of the last persons on the earth to see it and two, there really isn't much I can say about it without giving everything away. It does have its fair share of Lynchian moments and I still don't think I have my head wrapped around it completely. But despite some loose strands dangling here and there, which I am not sure I'll be able to tie together even on the subsequent viewings, I believe it is one of the best mysteries I have seen(Disclaimer: this assessment is based on usual standards and not my custom Lynchian standards :)). And I am certain, Naomi Watts in this is one of the best performances I have seen. From her very first scene as this dove-eyed, Hollywood-smitten girl with a dream of making it big one day to devastated, hallucinating self in the end, she was really a sight to see. Another thing that distinguishes Watts from typical Lynch characters is how real her character feels. One of the major turn-offs for me in Lynchian world is I can not think of a character in any other Lynch movie that feels real like Betty, maybe except for Laura Dern in Blue Velvet. Betty however, I'll never be able to forget how perfect she was in her audition scene. Wow! And to think that this was her breakthrough role, that Lynch got her out of almost obscurity. Just Wow!!
Rating(out of 5):Tackling '1001 Movies' list: Mini Reviews
Tackling '1001 Movies' list: Mini ReviewsThe Wedding Banquet(1993): So apparently Brokeback Mountain(2005) wasn't the first time Ang Lee featured a gay leading couple. He had done it in his second movie, even before people started knowing him after Sense and Sensibility(1995). Like Lynch, I still haven't seen majority of Ang Lee's work. However, unlike Lynch, I am very much interested in getting more acquainted with him. I have heard people admiring him for seamlessly venturing into multiple genres from one movie to another with equal finesse and that is something I really like about any director. My experience of his work so far, however limited it might be, isn't bad either. However despite all this admiration for him, The Wedding Banquet isn't something I generally would even touch with a six feet pole. I added it to my Netflix queue because Lee directed it and it's on the list and I saw it because it expires this month-end. But we love surprises, don't we? and it surely did surprise me. I don't mean to say that it does something ground breaking or something that will change your opinion about anything but it is definitely worth two hours of your time. Maybe because I had minimal expectations from it, it turned out much better than I thought but in either case, I am certainly glad I watched it.
It is a story of young Taiwanese guy, living in Manhattan, named Wai-Tung. He is gay and has been living with his boyfriend Simon for 5 years but he has kept it all secret from his traditional parents, living in Taiwan, for the fear of their disapproval. As he gets older, his parents keep on asking him to get married and settle as soon as possible and for obvious reasons, he has always been stalling them. Wai-Tung owns a dilapidated building where he has a painter tenant Wei-Wei who is not only poor but also has some immigration issues. One day, Simon puts forward an idea that might help them get rid of all their problems at once - Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei fake marry each other. It will help Wai-Tung to get this marriage monkey off his back, his parents will also be satisfied. Wei-Wei will get her immigration issues sorted out and they can go on with their life just as quickly. However Wai-Tung's parents have long since waiting for this day and decide to visit immediately to see their new daughter-in-law and from there on, their drama takes many turns none of them anticipated. It is such a beautiful story. First half of it, when fake married couple is just trying to satisfy Wai-Tung's parents is really funny and provides multiple hilarious moments like Wei-Wei's vows in court, their first kiss and finally Banquet. In second half, things take a little serious turn but Lee handles it with poise, making it very heartfelt story that audience can immerse in, rather than going down the cheesy lane.
Rating(out of 5):Tackling '1001 Movies' list: Mini Reviews
Tackling '1001 Movies' list: Mini ReviewsThree Kings(1999): Third movie from another famous director that I have seen very little of(BTW, that is the theme I was referring to earlier). In case of David O. Russell, he falls somewhere in between Lynch and Lee for me. I am not as apathetic about his movies as Lynch but I am not as enthusiastic about delving into his filmography as Lee either. I have previously seen two of his latest movies, Silver Linings Playbook(2012) and The Fighter(2010) and even though I am not the biggest fan of either, I like them enough especially for all the acting talent involved in it. I am also very much looking forward to his recently titled American Hustle(2013) which again is based on the virtue of brilliant cast he has assembled(Who am I kidding? It is because Amy Adams is in it). However as I look at the rest of his filmography, I have nothing to look forward to. Thankfully, I liked Three Kings as well which should give me a little more drive to get into movies that I know absolutely nothing about. Hopefully a few of them will surprise me just like The Wedding Banquet above.
As for Three Kings, I had heard quite a bit of praise but it is still a bit mysterious to me. Let me try to explain why? The thing is I can think of about 100 reasons not to like this movie. It is very predictable - everything that happens after Clooney and Co. find that gold is pretty much exactly how I thought it would; it is almost cheesy 'and everyone lived happily ever-after' story which should not make sense; it is shot in weird way, especially with all the saturated colours during desert sequences and uses slow motion, among other things, ad nauseum and I am still not sure if it is a parody or a serious movie trying to take stand on very serious matter. Everything above dictates that I should hate this movie, even one of the reasons above would make me hate it. Yet... in this case, surprisingly I Do Not. I don't know. It is predictable, cheesy and happily-ever-after story but there was enough emotional involvement for me; enough reason, enough substance in the story to warrant that involvement. Half the time, screen is over-saturated and more often than not, he could have done without slow-motion shots but they still add to the tension on the screen. And his humour, almost certainly at the wrong time, in the wrong place keeps in tone light while making the strong statement. I swear, if you ask me few months down the line, I might say I hate Three Kings for all the same reasons but for now, I have to go with - I like it.
Rating(out of 5):Tackling '1001 Movies' list: Mini Reviews

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