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.
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.
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.
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).