Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010: The Year in Review

I've restricted myself to whatever I can recall from this filmic year without double-checks, this in the hope that memories strong enough not to require the crutch of Google are the ones that are ultimately important. In order, then...

Ishqiya, with each its characters more foul-mouthed than the next, played out like a Vishal Bharadwaj movie crossed with a Western and shorn of beauty. Vidya Balan was unsettling, and Arshad Warsi, looking at everything with kohl-edged eyes, was as good as everyone suspected he might be.

Karthik Calling Karthik was the underrated film of the year. Its secrets laid bare by halftime, the last half hour was a surprisingly poignant look at whether it is possible, in this wired age, for a man to disconnect.

Love Sex aur Dhoka was shot on digital, and the coldness of the technology found an echo in the lack of overall human feeling that ended up making the whole enterprise seem like a slightly sadistic prank. But there's tremendous control displayed by Banerjee, and a conflicted, strangely moving performance by Raj Kumar Yadav.

For those who remember their childhood as a time of doubt and humiliation, Udaan was the real 400 Blows. Ronit Roy's performance was a reminder that Bollywood's lack of good roles often gets mistaken for a lack of good actors.

A Single Man barely ran a week, but whoever saw it, raved. The cinematography was astonishing, as were the sets, as was Firth's performance.

Raavan looked stunning, and were it not for its two unredeemable lead performances, might have been a half-decent film. As the pursuing police inspector, Vikram was a lot scarier than Bachchan, whose role should have been played by Ravi Kishan.

The fact that Peepli Live had a month-long media blitz on the very channels it so caustically sent up was a slice of irony missed, or ignored, by all concerned. The film was black, black, funny and black.

Tere Bin Laden was the only comedy this year that took its job seriously. Everyone else tried to make a statement, TBL just made people laugh.

Inception bent spoons and, for some strange reason, divided the critical community down the middle.

The Social Network will go down as a late entry in the screwball comedy canon.

These ones didn't release, but...

Remember the ten minutes or so of Ray Liotta's really, really bad day in Goodfellas? That's every second of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Nicholas Cage atones for a decade's worth of irrelevant films.

Emma Stone in Easy A was this year's Juno.

Music-wise...did anything happen? Vampire Weekend's second was as strong as their first. K'Naan's The Troubadour I loved. The National's High Violet sounded like autumn. Eminem did a couple of decent songs and more importantly, stayed alive. Clapton's album was mellow, perhaps a bit lukewarm. Gaga, Perry, Swift, "New York State of Mind", K$sha - who cares? I heard more music than ever, but hardly anything recent. It was a bleah year.

Who knows where time goes? ¡Felíz año nuevo anyway. Keep warm.

His fearful trip is done

Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, died a few days back. His idiosyncratic sound influenced everyone from post-punkers to Lester Bangs to Tom Waits. Here's a Guardian obit, but the man's weirdness/greatness is best judged when it's played out loud. Start at the deep end with Trout Mask Replica. If you recover, try the Mirror Man Sessions.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ten Reasons to Love The Wild Bunch

1. "Why not?"

2. The Treasure of Sierra Madre haunts it

3. John Woo's entire aesthetic's here

4. Peckinpah was as wild as any of those guys onscreen

5. "We're after men, and I wish to God I was with them"

6. How in the world did he film that bridge collapsing?

7. Robert Ryan is so crazy he had to die within the first twenty minutes

8. Warren Oates being denied the bottle

9. Never underestimates a child's capacity for cruelty

10. Ernest Borgnine's face just before the final shootout