A to Z of Films Meme (B)

[I may write a para­graph or two at the begin­ning of each post about some aspect of film-mak­ing, shar­ing thoughts, facts, or expe­ri­ences, etc. This may or may not be relat­ed to the films I write about.

Do feel free to com­ment on the films, my writ­ing, as well as rec­om­mend and dis­cuss oth­er films. The more you par­tic­i­pate, the more mean­ing­ful and enjoy­able this would be! Last­ly, I plan to adopt the wide­ly-accept­ed tech­nique of refor­mat­ting titles begin­ning with ‘A’ and ‘The’.]

I always think that edi­tors are one of the most under-appre­ci­at­ed folks in film-mak­ing. How far we have come from the old days when edi­tors used to be exclu­sive­ly women! Edit­ing was con­sid­ered no more than a cut and paste job, and since women sewed and tai­lored, edit­ing was treat­ed as a menial job rel­e­gat­ed to women. Today, what would Spiel­berg be with­out Michael Kahn, or Scorcese with­out Thel­ma Schoon­mak­er?

Many Indi­an film-mak­ers aspir­ing for Acad­e­my Awards need a primer on edit­ing. A Slum­dog Millionaire’s edit­ing makes it appear as if Lagaan’s edi­tor was strick­en with diar­rhea and thus was unable to work.

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind

When I was young, one of my best friends became a para­noid schiz­o­phrenic. In the years since, I have seen schiz­o­phre­nia up close — its impact on patient and fam­i­ly, its treat­ment, and its social stig­ma. Not many movies treat men­tal ill­ness sim­ply as a dis­ease. It is usu­al­ly sen­sa­tion­al­ized, or triv­i­al­ized, or turned into tragedy or melo­dra­ma. A Beau­ti­ful Mind sen­si­tive­ly por­trays John Nash Jr., a math­e­mat­i­cal genius who fought para­noid schiz­o­phre­nia, and suc­cess­ful­ly achieved glob­al recog­ni­tion. This is Ron Howard’s mas­ter­piece after the ear­li­er Apol­lo 13.

Rus­sell Crowe is aston­ish­ing as the mild-man­nered, social­ly hand­i­capped genius. He meta­mor­phoses into a Glad­i­a­tor of the mind, fight­ing demons of insan­i­ty. The film deals with com­plex math­e­mat­i­cal the­o­ries to just the right extent, keep­ing it under­stand­able to lay­men. It shows what true love is all about – not pas­sion and romance, but hard work and com­mit­ment. It touched me very deeply, with­out insult­ing my intel­li­gence, and with­out offend­ing me by try­ing to manip­u­late my emo­tions.

Thoughts about insan­i­ty and genius lin­gered after­wards. In his Nobel auto-biog­ra­phy, Nash reveals that his recov­ery is not entire­ly a mat­ter of joy. “One aspect of this is that ratio­nal­i­ty of thought impos­es a lim­it on a person’s con­cept of his rela­tion to the cos­mos”, he says. I won­der if apart from his ground­break­ing work in math­e­mat­ics, this rev­e­la­tion will turn out to be his most sig­nif­i­cant les­son for mankind.

BabelRunner Up


The germ of four dif­fer­ent inter­lock­ing sto­ries caus­ing chaos remind­ed me of the but­ter­fly effect in chaos the­o­ry. Despite big-tick­et stars like Pitt and Blanchett, they are not giv­en any pref­er­en­tial treat­ment, as required by the plot. This integri­ty is rare in Hol­ly­wood. Superb cin­e­matog­ra­phy, strong char­ac­ter devel­op­ment, and deeply thought-pro­vok­ing. We can eas­i­ly iden­ti­fy with all the char­ac­ters, none of whom are vil­lains, and do not inten­tion­al­ly act wrong­ly, yet the sit­u­a­tion spi­rals out of con­trol. It is also an intrigu­ing look at how cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers have unin­tend­ed con­se­quences.

Such a pow­er­ful film shot in dif­fer­ent loca­tions of the world with numer­ous actors can­not be weaved into a com­pelling yet easy to grasp dra­ma with­out supreme edi­to­r­i­al work. In ret­ro­spect, I was mes­mer­ized by how the direc­tor and edi­tor man­aged to weave this thrilling com­plex dra­ma and piece togeth­er dis­parate clips into an inte­grat­ed whole.

Noteworthy Mentions

Ban­dit Queen – a film I saw once and do not wish to see again. A film that made me feel ashamed of being an Indi­an, with its caste sys­tem and patri­ar­chal soci­ety. A film with that scene of repeat­ed sounds of a door creak­ing – a sound I do not wish to hear again.

And, high­ly rec­om­mend­ed: Brief Encounter, The Bicy­cle Thief, Bridge On The Riv­er Kwai

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  • Babel is a movie I watched after doing that meme and I enjoyed it.

    I was quite has­sled after watch­ing this because some self-cen­sored DVD parts did­nt let me enjoy last part of the Jap girl’s sto­ry. I dont know what she read in let­ter in offi­cer, if they made love or what hap­pened. Those scenes were spliced in the DVD I had, which was gift from LG. I even called a friend to ask what hap­pened to her sto­ry.

    Amer­i­cans come out unscathed in the end but with not-so-pleas­ant results for Mex­i­cans and Moroc­cans.

    And I usal­ly expect film loves to put Bicy­cle Thieves first. Ddn’t watch A Beau­ti­ful Mind yet, despite plan­ning so many times.

  • Phew! My chain of thoughts broke while I was writ­ing this. So frag­ment­ed, incom­plete thoughts. Like this one:

    Amer­cians come out unscathed…so was there a mes­sage direc­tor want­ed to impart to the world? Def­i­nite­ly, loud and clear.

  • Dot­tie

    Both very grip­ping films and so total­ly dif­fer­ent. Was com­plete­ly mes­mer­ized with Crowe’s per­for­mance in the beau­ti­ful mind. The sub­ject was han­dled with such com­pas­sion, I thought.

    I think Babel is one of THE best films I have ever seen. I fall for inter­sect­ing nar­ra­tives and tim­lines that jump for­ward and back­ward. The sto­ry that Japan­ese deaf-mute girl sim­ply tugged at one’s heart strings.

  • Fast Dots

    Beau­ti­ful Mind, A” is one of my favourites too. I usu­al­ly do not get emo­tion­al­ly involved in movies, but I did have a lump in my throat when Nash’s col­leagues present their pens to him.
    (If you have not stud­ied Game The­o­ry and Nash’s con­tri­bu­tions to it, I very high­ly rec­om­mend it!)

    Havent watched Babel, but its on my list. I sup­pose I will wait for you to fin­ish A-Z before reorder­ing my to watch list!

  • Dev

    Babel was bril­liant and so were beau­ti­ful mind. The Japan­ese chapeter in Babel was extreme­ly mind blow­ing and also very loose­ly con­nect­ed to the main plot, which per­haps was one of the main rea­sons, apart from it’s sub­tle anti-Amer­i­can tone, which cost Babel it’s slip at Oscars despite being nom­i­nat­ed in all major cat­e­gories.
    Man, you are on a roll!!

  • Anand

    A Beau­ti­ful Mind — the movie by itself was real­ly nice and I enjoyed watch­ing it. What turned me off how­ev­er is that the movie was adver­tised to be a ‘true sto­ry’ and parts of it were far from it.

    Just like Gau­ri (she com­ment­ed in the (A) post), I was try­ing to guess which movie you would list. I thought that you would men­tion ‘The Birds’ some­where.

  • Darn, I guessed wrong. I was quite sure you’d men­tion A Beau­ti­ful Mind any­way, but that was out­side the one I intend­ed to guess. (I mean good & pop­u­lar Vs. good & not-so-pop­u­lar). I had The Bat­tle of Algiers in mind. Seen it? You must if you haven’t already.

    Babel, some­one did men­tion it a cou­ple times, but I didn’t take it quite seri­ous­ly — maybe because of the Brad Pitt fac­tor (sor­ry!). I will put it on the list now 🙂

    You know I’m enjoy­ing this meme of yours. It’s a win-win; you either write about movies I real­ly cher­ish, or you give me some­thing to look for­ward to 🙂 I’m sure a bunch of peo­ple here feel the same. Look­ing for­ward to the rest!


  • Hey! I didn’t place any blame on the Amer­i­cans for them get­ting away unscathed.

    But yes, an inno­cent gun-sling­ing is mis­con­strued. And Amer­i­ca sus­pects foul, plays the vic­tim, even before inves­ti­ga­tion ensues. That was not some­thing direc­tor left open to ambigu­ous inter­pre­ta­tion. It was loud and clear.

    And movies/stories/books ARE inter­pret­ed dif­fer­ent­ly by dif­fer­ent peo­ple, based on their own per­cep­tions and expo­sure (cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences if you want to call it). We all con­strue world in our way, we call it this phe­nom­e­non as ‘con­struc­tivism’ in my field of instruc­tion design.

    Any­way, I have no anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ments in case THAT is mis-con­strued. And I am aware of Ale­jan­dro, I dug up a lot about him after I watched the movie. He has already been part of a movie about affects of 9/11 on the ‘oth­er parts of world’. 🙂

    And my DVD was not bought by me, it was from LG as a gift pack for buy­ing one of their prod­ucts.

    P.S: Bicy­cle Thieves had no major impact on me either, I dug it out out of curios­i­ty. Remem­ber the Satya­jit Ray book review I wrote, he speaks a lot about Bicy­cle Thieves in the same book.

  • i enjoyed both. love Crowe’s per­for­mance as Nash.

    there is anoth­er B i enjoyed

    Bridge on the Riv­er Kwai — Alec Gui­ness at his best ! Pig head­ed British hon­our and pride at the build­ing of a Bridge — and its reper­cus­sions. fab­u­lous film.

  • g

    Yeah remem­bered this when I men­tioned a Shyam Bene­gal film in S (Suraj ka 7va Gho­da). Anoth­er Shyam Bene­gal — Bhu­mi­ka. Just watch it. Smi­ta Patil (there, I think I con­vinced you already! 🙂 ), Anant Nag, Amr­ish Puri, Naseerud­din Shah, Amol Palekar.…

    And Smi­ta Patil is mind­blow­ing. Yes, out­does her­self. If you haven’t seen it already, I think you’ll like it in spite of my hype 🙂

  • Anoth­er rec­om­men­da­tion for you:

    Before the Rains. Of course, B is a big let­ter, and there will be many more. But this is a mas­ter­piece. Strange­ly, this was released the same year as Pulp Fic­tion, and uses (almost) the same nar­ra­tive tech­niques, but the cen­tral con­flict is so engross­ing, that the whole nar­ra­tive struc­ture takes (a right­ful) back­seat.

    Amaz­ing movie. Here is my brief review: http://asuph.wordpress.com/2007/04/19/before-the-rain/

    Do check it out.

    As for Beau­ti­ful Mind, I loved the movie, then I read the book, and then I real­ized the pow­er of Hol­ly­wood stu­dios to dis­tort real­i­ty 😉 (in this case bio­graph­i­cal book it was based on).

    [Sheep­ish note: Babel is on my list too].


  • err. yeah. i real­ized that. i quot­ed the title from mem­o­ry and lat­er when i search i found two sim­i­lar names. before the rain, indeed.

  • what about Blame it on Rio? if u think non seri­ous