A to Z of Films Meme (0–9)

I have been comment-tagged by Dev to take on his excit­ing A to Z of Films Meme. You can get many more nice rec­om­men­da­tions from oth­ers who have done this: La Vie Quo­ti­di­enne (She­faly), Vis­ceral Obser­va­tions (Poonam), My Ran­dom Thoughts (Reema), A Nomad’s Mus­ings, and A Wide Angle View of India (Nita). Also check out Time And Again’s (Ruhi’s) won­der­ful list of rec­om­mended movies.

I am idio­syn­cratic about cin­ema, but nei­ther am I a snob, nor is my list elit­ist. I believe one of the gifts one movie lover can give another is the title of a won­der­ful film they have not yet dis­cov­ered. If these words ring a bell, it’s because Roger Ebert, my beloved film critic, writes them in his Intro­duc­tion to Great Movies. His list of First 100 Great Films has often been my inspi­ra­tion to choose a film.

Need­less to say, I do not always like acclaimed films of great direc­tors. Each film view­ing is a unique and per­sonal expe­ri­ence, and what works for one may not always work for another. Ambi­ence, state of mind, age, eth­nic­ity, gen­der, cul­ture, gen­er­a­tion, role, life sit­u­a­tions, etc. all affect the chem­istry between the direc­tor and the viewer. The entire cin­e­matic expe­ri­ence is thus very subjective.

Finally, it would be impos­si­ble for me to sim­ply list films along with a cou­ple of sen­tences. Hence I will write about 2–3 films at a time, and spread out the meme over sev­eral posts.

0–9

2001: A Space Odyssey2001 A Space Odyssey

A sci-fi film unlike any other sci-fi film, and unlike any other film. I am in love with this cos­mos and fas­ci­nated with man’s rela­tion­ship with it. That is why when com­mem­o­rat­ing 50 years of Atlas Shrugged, I also com­mem­o­rated 50 years of the Sput­nik launch, boldly ignor­ing Ayn Rand’s hatred of Soviet Rus­sia. I also like to remind myself time and again, of the need to cher­ish what we have, like I did in my trib­ute to 9/11.

This was one of Kubrick’s more acces­si­ble films for me. 2001 is the film equiv­a­lent of that famous pale blue dot image of the Earth taken by Voy­ager. The Blue Danube and Thus Spake Zarathus­tra almost seem com­posed for 2001. The stun­ning spe­cial effects. The longest flash-forward in his­tory. The dead­liest non-human, non-alien, man-made vil­lain. The film does not extol man’s infin­i­tes­i­mal exis­tence in the vast­ness of the uni­verse, it does not awe view­ers with the grandeur of space. It awed me with its por­trayal of man’s right­ful place in the uni­verse, as a mean­ing­ful actor, not an insignif­i­cant bio­log­i­cal acci­dent of muta­tion in evolution.

This is an audio-visual med­i­ta­tion that inspired me, awak­ened me, once again, to the mir­a­cle of human existence.

Run­ner Up

12 Angry Men

When I watched Sid­ney Lumet receive a Life­time Achieve­ment Oscar in 2005, I felt sad that I had not seen more of his films, other than 12 Angry Men. I love court­room dra­mas. Jus­tice is the pil­lar of Democ­racy, and sub­tleties and chal­lenges of dif­fi­cult moral sit­u­a­tions fas­ci­nate me. 12 Angry Men is a crime drama, but not a court­room one, because most of the film takes place within the con­fines of the jury room.

12 Angry Men The 12 jurors are a kalei­do­scope, a spec­trum of ordi­nary peo­ple, as is real­ity. The char­ac­ter­i­za­tions are decep­tively sim­ple – the result is sim­ple, Lumet’s mas­ter­ful tech­nique is pro­found. Aston­ish­ingly, we are never told whether the defen­dant actu­ally com­mit­ted the crime or not. The guilt or inno­cence of the defen­dant is irrel­e­vant. What is of para­mount impor­tance, and is thus the focus of the story, is the jury’s abil­ity to uphold the prin­ci­ple of rea­son­able doubt. Lumet shows how uphold­ing this prin­ci­ple may seem easy at first glance, but is often dif­fi­cult in practice.

It was only in suc­ces­sive view­ings that I was able to appre­ci­ate other film-making aspects. Lumet shot the first third of the film from above eye level, the sec­ond at eye level, and the third below eye level. This impacts our first view­ing as well: the room grad­u­ally becomes more and more claus­tro­pho­bic and the dra­matic ten­sion increases as the film pro­gresses. We start by look­ing down at the jurors; by the end, the per­son­al­i­ties of the jurors over­whelm us.

The only Indian film I was able to con­sider for this seg­ment is Deepa Mehta’s 1947: Earth.

I am grate­ful to Dev as now I do not need to think about what to write for the next sev­eral posts! :-) Finally, as this is essen­tially a rec­om­men­da­tion shar­ing exer­cise, please feel free to share in the com­ments! (It would be help­ful to every­one if your com­ments per­tain to the alphanu­meric seg­ment being writ­ten about).

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  • http://nitawriter.wordpress.com/ Nita

    12 Angry Men I have not seen but it’s been on my list for awhile. About your other sen­tence:
    “A sci-fi film unlike any other sci-fi film, and unlike any other film. I am in love with this cos­mos and fas­ci­nated with man’s rela­tion­ship with it.“
    I am of the same frame of mind! And oddly I find this in com­mon with only men. For exam­ple this is what Amit Sharma feels too and it was some sci-fi post of his which ini­tially made me read his blog. And it’s some­thing I have in com­mon with other a cousin (male) and ofcourse this is also what my hubby feels! Dunno why I have not found a sin­gle woman who shares my pas­sion and intense inter­est in the cos­mos. One of my secret ambi­tions when I was grow­ing up was to be an astro­naut. And even now one of the regrets of grow­ing older is that it’s too late now…as if I ever had a chance! :)

  • http://alchemistpoonam.wordpress.com Poonam

    I had watched 12 Angry Men long­time back, I also watched its Hindi ver­sion Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, which is scene-to-scene copy of Eng­lish ver­sion. I loved the movie, but I cer­tainly wasn’t as obser­vant as you about any of the cin­e­maic aspects.

    And I haven’t watched Space Odyssey yet.
    P.S: THanks for linkback though! My movie list wasn’t elit­ist either. :)

  • http://gaurigharpure.blogspot.com Gauri

    I haven’t seen both the movies, but will be on a look-out now. 1947 was good, very dis­turb­ing though..

    (ditto with the book review. been think­ing of read­ing Seth for a long time… )

  • http://litterateuse.wordpress.com gauri

    Very nice pic(k)s! I haven’t seen The Space Odyssey. I have 12 angry men in our col­lec­tion; can never get tired of it. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s the slow pace that makes it grip­ping. Seen Ek Ruka Hua Faisla too — and it’s done jus­tice to the original.

    //…the room grad­u­ally becomes more and more claustrophobic…//
    Spot on! I won­der if the Lumet intended to por­tray it as Fonda’s influ­ence clos­ing in on the Jurors’ conscience?

    Alpha numeric nice ones that I can think of off­hand — K-19 The Wid­ow­maker (Liam Nee­son) and 22 June 1897 (Marathi). I’m sure there are more.

    g

  • http://laviequotidienne.wordpress.com She­faly

    Mahen­dra:

    Funny you spell it “12 angry men” and fit it under “0–9″ whereas I spelled it “Twelve Angry Men” and filed it under “T”.

    I have found the lit­tle Sci-Fi I have read to be tedious. Prob­a­bly because I start ques­tion­ing the sci­ence behind it. (And many peo­ple are actively try­ing to con­vert me, unsuc­cess­fully, just like the friends who try to urge me to read fic­tion.) How­ever I am inter­ested in robot­ics and HCI, as well as genet­ics so the idea that people/ automa­tons with unusual capa­bil­i­ties live amongst us is a more thrilling idea for me. I know the sci­ence exists, is exper­i­mented with, is beset with prob­lems and is not yet main­stream so the only way for it to be out is the rogue way. Now that is a story and a half! None of it need be fiction. :-)

  • http://opinionsandexpressions.wordpress.com Reema

    Nice blog! thanks for the mention.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Yes, the Hindi is going to fea­ture in my list, and no, it’s not a scene-to-scene copy — there’s one sig­nif­i­cant change. :-) More about it when we come to ‘E’.

    As I men­tioned, it was only in suc­ces­sive view­ings that these cin­e­matic tech­niques became appar­ent. Hey, no need for thanks for link-back!

  • Fast Dots

    Nice start Mahen­dra! I like both movies immensely as well and have seen them mul­ti­ple times. Though my instan­ta­neous reac­tion at see­ing 12 Angry men in the list for 0–9 was “hey, 12’s not in 0–9″ ;-)

    Speak­ing of 12, have you seen 12 Monkeys?

    She­faly — you prob­a­bly have not liked Sci-Fi because most of it is bad sci­ence and worse fic­tion! Some of my favourite Sci-Fi books may be accu­rately clas­si­fied as “futur­is­tic” fiction.

  • Dot­tie

    I love both the films. Although I much pref­ered the 2001 book to the movie. 12 angry men is just amaz­ingly gripping.

  • http://lallopallo.wordpress.com Dev

    Mahen­dra, thanks for doing it. And what a start!!
    2001 is my most favorite film of all time (I men­tioned it under T in sec­ond part of my meme).
    This film is more than just a great film for me. It’s kind of film which made many peo­ple want to become film­mak­ers, though I saw it only 3 years back for the first time. The movie spawned numer­ous intre­pre­ta­tions and even books regard­ing philosph­i­cal and alle­gor­i­cal dimen­sions of this film; peo­ple still won­der what exactly Kubrick wanted to say. Your intre­pre­ta­tion is one of those and per­haps equally valid. For me, this film was about ulti­mate ques­tions of human­ity and evo­lu­tion of man.
    12 angry Men is the best Syd­ney Lumet film I had seen. I havent been very impressed with some of his later works, but he cer­tainly is very pro­lific and an impor­tant film­maker.
    Lokking for­ward to read your other favorites..you can per­haps stick to just one film per letter..thet way you will fin­ish it sooner.. :)

  • Anand

    I am inter­ested in whats ‘out there’. How­ever, I pre­fer read­ing about space research and watch doc­u­men­taries as opposed to watch­ing sci-fi movies. As a result I haven’t seen this. Will check it out sometime.

    I really liked 12 Angry Men.

    I am gonna enjoy read­ing your blog over the next cou­ple of weeks :)

  • Prax

    I may have to watch a lot of movies all thanks to u

    I loved 2001 when i saw it, it is indeed a masterpiece

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  • http://laviequotidienne.wordpress.com She­faly

    Mahen­dra:

    See it is your site so I actu­ally spelt “spelt” as “spelled” :-P

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    ’12 Angry Men’ is the offi­cial title, ‘Twelve Angry Men’ is the alter­na­tive title. If you check the movie posters, you’ll not find ‘Twelve’ anywhere!

    And even if that wasn’t the case, isn’t this a clever way to free up a slot under ‘T’? :-D

    I am not much of a sci-fi reader myself. Watch­ing 2001 or Con­tact is highly enjoy­able though!

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Nita, I am able to empathize with you. I have met very few (a cousin in my case too) women who share this. I don’t know why Carl Sagan made the pro­tag­o­nist of Con­tact a female! You sure do sound like Jodie Foster! :-)

    In one of the links in my post, Roger Ebert describes how at age 16 we are open and curi­ous to new ideas and explo­ration, while by the time we are 20, we usu­ally nar­row down our tastes and likes to stereo­types (true with most peo­ple). Maybe what your obser­va­tion applies here as well, women are cul­tur­ally stereo­typed as non-geek, while sci-fi is for the select geeky men. I do not know, I’m not a female, and am just hypothesizing.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Hi Gauri, I envy you. You’ll be able to watch them as a first-time viewer! Do watch 2001 on the big screen if you can, it works bet­ter that way.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Ah, the lit­ter­a­teuse with the puns (or what­ever it is): liked “pic(k)s” very much! :-) You sure have a way with words to come up with such stuff while commenting!

    Thank you. Why is it counter-intuitive?

    I don’t think Lumet intended it as Fonda’s influ­ence on the other jurors. He wrote about this visual strat­egy in his book Mak­ing Movies (I haven’t read it), where he implies that it was for the effect on the viewer. After the slow, grip­ping build up of ten­sion, Lumet finally ‘let’s the viewer breathe freely’ by using a wide angle lens only at the end of the film.

    I was con­strained by movies start­ing with numer­als, so K-19 wouldn’t qual­ify! I like 22 June 1897 as a land­mark film in the Marathi cin­ema con­text, but in the over­all con­text, it didn’t make the list.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Is your Eng­lish get­ting spoiled as a result?! My apologies! :-)

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    You’re most wel­come Reema, and thanks!

  • http://laviequotidienne.wordpress.com She­faly

    Fast Dots:

    Pos­si­bly. With lim­ited time every day, I try not to devote it to fic­tion read­ing and as I men­tioned, yes, I do ques­tion the sci­ence which means I just can’t read things with my logic sus­pended. That is why genet­ics related stuff fas­ci­nates me. Because I know the sci­ence exists and works.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Oh, Fast Dots is finally here! Thanks, I’m happy you share these favorites of mine.

    I have seen 12 Mon­keys, but not as I would have liked to. It is now filed under ‘watch with no dis­trac­tion and bet­ter pre­pared­ness next time’ category. :-)

  • http://litterateuse.wordpress.com gauri

    Lol, thanks — all part of being a Pun-eri, you’d agree ;)

    Counter-intuitive because one’s gen­er­ally found bit­ing nails in a fast-paced film, wait­ing to see what hap­pens next. You (or rather I) watch slow paced movies savor­ing the pace and just tak­ing the movie in. This one I thought has the nail-biting fac­tor despite its pace. Not sure if I’m putting it across clearly.

    Oh, ok (claus­tro­pho­bic tech­nique). It’s inter­est­ing how a bunch of literature/cinema stu­dents could read too much into what’s out there, even when the author/director had no such thing in mind :D. I can’t think of an exam­ple off­hand, but what I meant was using a real cam­era tech­nique as an alle­gory to some ref­er­ence in the plot line. Not sure if Hitch­cock used it in Psy­cho / Rear Win­dow. Per­haps Fass­binder too, but I don’t rec­ol­lect off­hand. Will let you know if I remember.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    I haven’t read the book…will look out for study­ing more about the adap­ta­tion. Thanks for bring­ing it to my notice!

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    I’m happy you clas­sify my inter­pre­ta­tion as ‘per­haps equally valid’! Ha ha ha!

    Yes, I know it is your favorite film. In my posts, I will try not read­ing oth­ers’ ver­sions of this tag so that I keep my writ­ing fresh and first hand. Some­thing makes me feel you have gained more insight into this film than I have and that makes me envious! :-)

    No, I will not give up this chance of writ­ing about my favorite films, so I will do them at my own pace! :-)

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Yes, you are absolutely spot-on. Nail-biting dra­matic sus­pense, but not at a fast pace. Got you! :-)

    This hap­pens many times in art — where the view­ers inter­pret dif­fer­ently or much more than the artist intended. It is what makes art, well, art! :-) Some­day, I will post about my inter­pre­ta­tion of The Dark Side of the Moon, which I know is not exactly what Pink Floyd intended.

    Let me think about the cam­era tech­nique angle more. Off­hand the only one I can think of is using jerky/hand-held cam­era move­ments to reflect a character’s run­ning or faint­ing or what­ever. I can’t think of any in terms of longer time line, such that it applies to plot ele­ments or the story line.

  • Fast Dots

    Ah ha… the funny thing is that the book is an adap­ta­tion. Well not quite, but Clarke did fin­ish it AFTER the movie was made, so he does say that it was an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence to write / tweak the book after view­ing rushes of the film!

    I sup­pose thats a very expen­sive method of writ­ing books–
    1. Write screen­play
    2. Make movie
    3. Write book

    :)

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Wow! That is extremely inter­est­ing! This kind of thing only hap­pens in sci-fi! :-D

    I’m so glad you shared this fac­toid — I am very inter­ested in learn­ing more about the expe­ri­ence of final­iz­ing a book after its movie adap­ta­tion has been com­pleted. This is extremely unusual, to say the least!

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Like I said, this is a sci-fi film like no other. Make sure you get into a reflec­tive, med­i­ta­tive mood, have lots of time with no inter­rup­tion, and com­pletely sur­ren­der your­self to the audio-visual expe­ri­ence in front of you. I’m sure you’ll be left with a lot of ques­tions after it com­pletes. And that’s what this reflec­tion of man’s place in the uni­verse is all about. You’ll be intel­lec­tu­ally enter­tained as long as you keep think­ing about it.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    :-) Hope you have a good time watch­ing them!