Movies I liked in 2015

It is that time of the year again! I watched about 60 movies this year, roughly one every weekend. Though I continue to choose movies carefully, yet again many of the so-called highly-acclaimed movies did not really wow me. I found only a handful to be good enough to share here.

(Previous year-end movie posts: 2014 and 2013. Also, check out the 2015 movie list by Vaidya.)

The Only Son (一人息子)

Yasujiro Ozu was without a doubt the greatest discovery I made this year. This is his first talkie and my first Ozu. It was truly transformative! The parental themes explored are timeless and the acting is superlative. Every scene left me questioning how so much beauty and emotion could be effected in 2015 by a pre-WW2 B&W movie?! The only explanation is that Ozu transcends the medium he is working with. This simply has to be one of the greatest movies ever made.

Paths of Glory

This is one of the earliest Stanley Kubrick movies and I think his best one along with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick uses a single act from the trench warfare era of WW1 to explore the fears, emotions and complexities facing the everyday people thrown into the conflict and the power games played by their superiors. The first trench scene and a few others have the punch to wow almost 60 years after their creation.

Lost in Translation

A dreamy, other-worldly movie that is incredibly funny and mesmerizing. It revolves around two Western characters lost amidst Japanese culture and lost in their lives. There is a sensitive touch to everything at the hands of Sofia Coppala. Bill Murray is in his most enjoyable stint here. The Alone in Kyoto track from the soundtrack and its corresponding Kyoto exploration piece from the movie are delicious.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便)

A Hayao Miyazaki animated film for Studio Ghibli, need I say more? A fantasy about the travails of a young witch and her cat in a strange new port city. I was transported back to my childhood summers reading Enid Blyton adventures. As always, please watch the original with subtitles. The Disney-fied English version is truly pathetic, turning mature lines into childish dialogue aimed at kids!

5 Centimeters Per Second (秒速5センチメートル)

Themes of distance, love, time and seasons run around in this exquisitely beautiful anime. The narration and pace are a bit fast and I had to watch it a few times to absorb it all. I cannot but help hum the One More Time track from its soundtrack whenever I think about this movie.

Rashomon (羅生門)

A masterpiece and my first from Akira Kurosawa. The movie explores the selfishness of humans, depicted in how witnesses to a murder all embellish the story to suit themselves. Needless to mention that the B&W cinematography from this 1950 movie is stunning. I have to note that this movie is quite over-hyped in Western reviews, being their first introduction to Japanese movies. There are many equally brilliant directors like Ozu and Koreeda.

Nightcrawler

I am always up for some noir! Jake Gyllenhaal hits his career best performance in this fantastic caper. The soundscapes and vistas of past-bedtime LA are gorgeous. The subject is visceral, repulsive and creepy.

Middle of Nowhere

Slow, beautiful and complex black movie that looks into the delicacy and intricacy of a relationship. Emayatzy Corinealdi rules her role. I love the Perfect Darkness track from this one.

Dr. No

I have been watching Bond movies in order all through this year. I found that this first Bond movie is the best of them all. Exotic Jamaica and a fabulous young Sean Connery kick off the train. In just 5 minutes of his appearance, he blows away every other Bond actor since! This movie sets up almost all the tropes followed in the rest: the trademark music, the opening credit gunshot and animation, the cheeky lines, the dress, the manner, the equipment, the females, everything!

To Catch A Thief

A Hitchcock mystery, great lines for Cary Grant, the beautiful Grace Kelly and the French Riviera. All the guilty pleasures of a thriller novel delivered on a platter.

Anna Karenina

I have not read the Tolstoy tome and this is my first movie of that work. It is shot like a fantasy play on stage and took some time for me to get used to this unique perspective. Kiera Knightley is brilliant and so is Jude Law.

Piku

Great characters, an easy atmosphere and good discussion of family life. Irfan Khan is effortless, Deepika is great and Amitabh looks like he had loads of fun. The only irritation were the product placements.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha

What I loved in this funny movie was the 90s time period and the Haridwar setting. Bhumi Pednekar and Ayushmann have great chemistry. The ending is silly and abrupt, but a fine movie nonetheless.

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Dave Barry Talks Back

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One of the gems that I discovered when I first started surfing the Internet was Dave Barry. Countless hours of my life have been spent reading the archives of his hilarious Florida articles written for the Miami Herald. Considering the amount of pure happiness (and tummy ache) his writing has given me, those were probably the most well-spent hours of my life. When I recently discovered that he has many books to his credit I had to get started on it!

Dave Barry Talks Back is a collection of 63 old articles, from before 1992. I was pleased to discover that I had not previously read any of these. They sample all the zaniness on this planet, ranging from relationships to family to pets to government to politics. Since these were written for a newspaper with a strict word limit, each of them is just 3 pages long. You can get shots of the funnies all through the day by picking up this book!

Dave Barry is the real deal because the observations he makes about us are genuine. Something else clearly stood out: the world of 1980s was just as insane as our world today. The same ineptness and bungling by government departments, the same weaselly politicians and most importantly, the same crazy real-life events involving the common man that keep happening around the world!

Except for a couple of dull pieces at the beginning and at the end, it is hard to find fault in this collection. As an icing, each article has a pertinent cartoon, drawn by Jeff MacNelly, another of my favorites. Much like Calvin and Hobbes or Seinfeld, to me Dave Barry’s writings are epic. Beware of where you read this book cause you will not be able to control your snickering and giggling. This is a fantastic mood lifter from probably the funniest writer in USA.

Rating: 4/4

ISBN: 9780517588680

Excerpt:

From the article Skivvying up the profits:

Recently — I bet this has happened to you — I ran out of clean underwear in Los Angeles. So I wandered into the men’s clothing department of an upscale department store, the kind of store where the salesclerks all have sharp haircuts and perfectly tailored suits that are far nicer than anything YOU own, and, although they act very deferential, you know they’re secretly watching to see which clothes you touch so they can have them burned later as a precaution against vermin.

So I was skulking around, looking for the underwear section, and I came across the Ralph Lauren Exhibit, which, in addition to clothes, featured an old saddle, croquet mallets, and various other props associated with rich people. Ralph uses these to create a fashion look that has made him several zillion dollars, a look that I would describe as “Wealthy Constipated WASP.” His magazine advertisements feature Lauren-clad people with their hair slicked back, standing around in large antique-infested houses, looking grim, as if they have just received the tragic news that one of their key polo ponies had injured itself trampling a servant to death and would be unavailable for an important match.


From the article Yellow Journalism:

Dogs need to sniff the ground; it’s how they keep abreast of current events. The ground is a giant dog newspaper, containing all kinds of late-breaking dog news items, which, if they are especially urgent, are often continued in the next yard. We live next to an aircraft-carrier-sized dog named Bear, who is constantly committing acts of prize-winning journalism around the neighborhood, and my dogs are major fans of his work. Each morning, while I am shouting commands at them, they race around and scrutinize the most recent installments of the ongoing Bear oeuvre, vibrating their bodies ecstatically to communicate their critical comments (“Bear has done it AGAIN!” “This is CLASSIC Bear!” etc.).