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.


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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  • 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! 🙂

  • 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. 🙂

  • 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… )

  • 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.


  • 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. 🙂

  • Nice blog! thanks for the men­tion.

  • 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.

  • 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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