Thursday, April 30, 2009

Salaam Bombay!, a Cinematic Masterpiece

I've just seen (twice) and reviewed Mira Nair's first feature film, Salaam Bombay! - made in 1988 after she had made five documentaries. There are many amazing things about this movie: only three professional actors, and 24 street kids, who couldn't even read the script. Shot entirely on location in the brothel district of Bombay, with several scenes inside a real brothel, several inside a real "orphanage", really a prison for children, several in street crowds where its obvious that Nair had little if any control of the crowds. A giant critical success, and Nair took the profits from the film and opened three centers to help street kids, which has now grown to 17. Cinema for social change: she also got better treatment for orphans in India. That alone places this a rank above nearly all other popular cinema. My reviews are posted at the two review sites: 1000 Dvds to See (the original review site, now close to 400 reviews of movies, tv miniseries/shows, concerts) 1000 Great Films (the new site just for films, new interface, no ads yet!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Picture

The Hong Kong Film Awards complete list of best picture winners 2009 - Ip Man (2008) 2008 - The Warlords (2007) 2007 - After This Our Exile (2006) 2006 - Election (2005) 2005 - Kung Fu Hustle (2004) 2004 - Running on Karma (2003) 2003 - Infernal Affairs (2002) 2002 - Shaolin Soccer (2001) 2001 - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) 2000 - Ordinary Heroes (1998) 1999 - Beast Cops (1998) 1998 - Made in Hong Kong (1997) 1997 - Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996) 1996 - Summer Snow (1994) 1995 - Chungking Express (1994) 1994 - C'est la vie, mon chéri (1994) 1993 - Cageman (1992) 1992 - To Be Number One (1991) 1991 - Days of Being Wild (1991) 1990 - Beyond the Sunset (1989) 1989 - Rouge (1987) 1988 - An Autumn's Tale (1987) 1987 - A Better Tomorrow (1986) 1986 - Police Story (1985) 1985 - Homecoming (1984) 1984 - Banbianren (1983) 1983 - Boat People (1982) 1982 - Father and Son (1981) I haven’t seen that many of these, but highly recommend: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Chungking Express, and Days of Being Wild, the latter two both from cinematic genius Wong Kar-Wai, one of my favorite directors. Check out his remake of Ashes of Time as well. Kung Fu Hustle and Infernal Affairs are average but enjoyable, though Scorsese’s remake of Affairs, The Departed, is much better. Departed won the Oscar® for best picture, and Crouching Tiger, directed by Ang Lee (Eat Drink Man Woman, Ice Storm, Brokeback Mountain) was nominated in 2001 but lost to The Gladiator, from director Ridley Scott (Alien, Black Hawk Down).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Australian Film Awards for Best Picture

Technically, the Australian Film Institute (AFI), as one of the directors kindly eMailed me; why they copied the American Film Institute's abbreviation is beyond me. Let's see: 50,000 films vs maybe 5,000 films, which has the richer history?

All Best Picture Winners (Only films produced in Australia)
2008 - The Black Balloon
2007 - Romulus, My Father
2006 - Ten Canoes
2005 - Look Both Ways
2004 - Somersault
2003 - Japanese Story
2002 - Rabbit-Proof Fence
2001 - Lantana
2000 - Looking for Alibrandi
1999 - Two Hands
1998 - The Interview
1997 - Kiss or Kill
1996 - Shine
1995 - Angel Baby
1994 - Muriel's Wedding
1993 - The Piano
1992 - Strictly Ballroom
1991 - Proof
1990 - Flirting
1989 - Evil Angels (aka. A Cry in the Dark)
1988 - The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey
1987 - The Year My Voice Broke
1986 - Malcolm
1985 - Bliss
1984 - Annie's Coming Out
1983 - Careful, He Might Hear You
1982 - Lonely Hearts
1981 - Gallipoli
1980 - Breaker Morant
1979 - My Brilliant Career
1978 - Newsfront
1977 - Storm Boy
1976 - The Devil's Playground
1974/5 - Sunday Too Far Away
1973 - Libido: The Child
1973 - 27A
1972 - Stork
1971 - Homesdale
1970 - Three To Go: Michael
1969 - Jack And Jill: A Postscript
1968 - The Change at Groote / The Talgai Skull
1967 - Cardin in Australia
1966 - Concerto for Orchestra
1965 - The Legend of Damien Parer / Stronger Since The War
1964 - The Dancing Class / I The Aboriginal
1963 - The Land That Waited
1962 - Bypass to Life / Night Freighter
1961 - Not awarded this year
1960 - Three in a Million
1959 - Edge of The Deep / The Power Makers
1958 - Conquest of The Rivers / Hard to Windward

Of these that I've seen, I would recommend:
1. My Brilliant Career - terrific story of an 19th century woman (Judy Davis) who wanted a career, not just be a housewife (to Sam Neill, both unknown at the time), directed by Gillian Armstrong
2. Flirting - the best interracial love story I've seen; Nicole Kidman is a supporting character
3. Breaker Morant - Bruce Beresford film about a true military event during the Boer War
4. The Piano - Jane Campions' rugged story of a mute woman emigrating to New Zealand won an Oscar® for fellow Georgian Holly Hunter (we both lived in Athens, so did Kim Basinger! meanwhile Julia and Eric Roberts were over in Atlanta)
5. Bliss, Shine, Strictly Ballroom, Muriel's Wedding - all worth seeing as well..
Geoffrey Rush (Pirates) won an Oscar® for Shine

Hey - where the heck is Babe and The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2)? these are my two favorite Australian films..George Miller directed Mad Max 2, now #391 (and moving up annually) on the critics consensus top 1000! Babe, which he produced, should be in the top 100..

Where are the Peter Weir films? Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave, The Year of Living Dangerously. I thought at least his early films were Aussie produced, and he's generally considered the best Australian director for Witness, Fearless, The Truman Show, The Mosquito Coast, Master and Commander, and those above.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recent Film Reviews, and Warnings

Here are some of my recently reviewed films at 1000 DVDs to See (Updated: 4.23.09): A Wednesday (2008) India - terrific Indian thriller about terrorism, with bombs planted in various locations in Mumbai; premiered just before the attacks there last year; this deserves a worldwide audience Burden of Dreams (1982) - brilliant documentary of Werner Herzog's obsession to film his dangerous epic Fitzcarraldo Malena (2000) Italy - another beautifully shot nostalgic romance from the director of Cinema Paradiso. Fight Club (1999) - David Fincher's cult classic, entertaining and crazy, unexpected Ghajini (2008) India - overblown Bollywood crime epic based on Memento Grand Illusion (1937) France, bw - Renoir's anti-war classic Farewell My Concubine (1993) China - yet another epic Chinese historical drama House of Flying Daggers (2004) China - Zhang Yimou directs again, after Hero, in another exciting Chinese epic, this one about a league of female assassins opposing the emperor's wars Fallen Angels (1995) China - Wong Kar-Wai's hypnotic 'second half' of Chungking Express; together the films inspired Pulp Fiction, but are more artistic. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) Germany, bw - another Fritz Lang expressionist classic with some eerie special effects. Best in Show (2000) - Christopher Guest's best comedy, about the nations biggest dog show and its wacky contestants. The Handmaid’s Tale (1990) France, bw - dystopian SciFi tale of a pleasureless society run by fundamentalists, where nearly all women are sterile; the late Natasha Richardson's best film, also stars Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, and Aiden Quinn. Munich (2005) - overlooked, gripping crime epic from Spielberg, based on the true story of the Israeli agent who hunted down the planners of the 72 Munich Olympic massacre with a team of agents. Here are some I didn't review that I would warn people to avoid: The Sacrifice (Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia) - Bergmanesque film made in Sweden by Russian director (using Berman's cinematorgrapher) who proves he can be just as boring as the Swede he admires. Painful to watch as we descend into dementia with an aging patriarch. 3* (of 10) Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia) - this is science fiction based on "Roadside Picnic" by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. It's worse than slow, you have to watch this 150 minutes of men sleeping and water dripping at high speed or else tear your hair out. Terrible science fiction, yet #125 on the critics 1000 (how?). The high contrast film also hurt my eyes. 2* [Note: the two Tarkovksy films I'd recommend: Andrei Rublev, his masterpiece, and Ivan's Childhood, a good anti-war WW2 film] The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008 remake) - Not great in b&w in the 50's, still not great even with special effects. Good idea, just not much of a story to go with it. Mankind is so brutal and destructive that an advanced alien race wants to eradicate us to save the earth. This is sad whether true or not, because we are definitely killing the earth for our short-term profit. Canoe, er Piano, er Keanu Reeves is even blander in this than normal. 4* Sansho the Bailiff (Kenzi Mizoguchi, Japan) - #88 on the critics top 1000, this b&w 'classic' is a boring and painful look at slavery in ancient Japan. Well filmed, this is still a totally miserable expose to sit through, and we all know slavery is awful for slaves. Made in 1954, the film looks like early 30's western films, it's that primitive. Watch Seven Samurai again instead, same era, two years later. 5*

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Natasha Richardson Filmography

Natasha Jane Richardson, 1963-2009 Update: at Bravo's A-List awards on 4.15, Natasha was named "Humanitarian of the Year" for her AIDS work, and am/FAR named an AIDS fund after her Natasha Richardson was the actress daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson, and sister of actress Miranda Richardson; she was also the wife of actor Liam Neeson. She was tragically killed in March when she had a brain hemorrage after a skiing accident near Montreal. She first came into public notice with the films Gothic (86, she played Mary Shelley in Ken Russell's pic of the Shelley's fright night that led to Mary's novel Frankenstein) and the tv biopic of Patty Hearst (88). In her next-to-last film, Evening (07), she fortunately got to act with her mother Vanessa, playing her daughter. She never won major awards, but twice won the Evening Standard British Film Award for best actress: in 1990 for both Handmaid's Tale and Comfort of Strangers (her two best films, imo), and again in 2006 for Asylum, a daring role about sexuality. Filmography
  • Every Picture Tells a Story (83)
  • Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, "Copper Beeches" (BBC, 84)
  • In the Secret State (85)
  • Gothic (86)
  • Ghosts (87)
  • A Month in the Country (87)
  • Patty Hearst (88)
  • Fat Man and Little Boy (89)
  • The Handmaid's Tale (90) - appearing with Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, and Aiden Quinn, this dystopian SciFi tale from the Margaret Atwood novel was probably her best film
  • The Comfort of Strangers (91)
  • The Favor, the Watch, and the Very Big Fish (91)
  • Past Midnight (91)
  • Suddenly, Last Summer (93)
  • Zelda (93)
  • Widow's Peak (94)
  • Nell (94)
  • The Parent Trap (remake, 98)
  • The Man Who Came to Dinner (2000)
  • Haven (01)
  • Blow Dry (01)
  • Chelsea Walls (01)
  • Waking Up in Reno (02)
  • Maid in Manhattan (02)
  • The White Countess (05)
  • Asylum (05)
  • The Mastersons of Manhattan (07)
  • Evening (07)
  • Wild Child (08) - unfortunately her last film was a 'not well received' teen comedy
The saddest part of this story is that she could have been saved if treated earlier, within 90 minutes; however she was not rushed to the hospital until nearly three hours after her accident. By that time she was losing consciousness and had irreversible brain damage.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Top 100 Nations by Visitor Count

These are not totally accurate for not every visitor to the site gets counted, but according to the data at ClustrMaps (that's their visitor map on the right side), these are the rankings for our visitor counts by nation so far in 2009 (I forgot to grab them at the end of 2008), after the U.S. of course, and India is catching up to the U.S., they passed the U.K. late last year and are gaining on our U.S. totals! The multiple listings are due to same count totals. Our Top 100 Visiting Nations 1 - India (IN) 2 - United Kingdom (GB) 3 - Canada (CA) 4 - Australia (AU) 5 - Sweden (SE) 6 - Turkey (TR) 7 - Philippines (PH) 8 - Denmark (DK) 9 - Germany (DE) 10 - Sri Lanka (LK) 11 - Norway (NO), Singapore (SG) 13 - Pakistan (PK) 14 - United Arab Emirates (AE), France (FR), Spain (ES) 17 - Romania (RO), Finland (FI) 19 - Malaysia (MY) , Czech Republic (CZ) 21 - Netherlands (NL) 22 - Bangladesh (BD), Iran, Islamic Republic of (IR), Egypt (EG), Poland (PL) 26 - Serbia (RS), Japan (JP), Mexico (MX), Estonia (EE) 30 - China (CN), Ukraine (UA) 32 - New Zealand (NZ), Belgium (BE), Lithuania (LT) 35 - Latvia (LV), Georgia (GE), Ireland (IE), Indonesia (ID), Greece (GR) 40 - Qatar (QA), Saudi Arabia (SA) 42 - Portugal (PT), Hungary (HU), Bulgaria (BG), Europe (EU), Switzerland (CH), Thailand (TH), Croatia (HR) 49 - South Africa (ZA), Colombia (CO), Korea, Republic of (KR), Slovenia (SI) 53 - Macedonia (MK), Russian Federation (RU), Israel (IL), Brazil (BR), 57 - Kuwait (KW), Slovakia (SK), Asia/Pacific Region (AP), Cyprus (CY), Malta (MT) 62 - Mongolia (MN), Hong Kong (HK), Austria (AT), Venezuela (VE), Bosnia and Herzegovina (BA) 67 - Iceland (IS), Argentina (AR), Moldova, Republic of (MD), Chile (CL), El Salvador (SV), Dominican Republic (DO), Montenegro (ME), Puerto Rico (PR), Tunisia (TN), Morocco (MA) 78 - Ghana (GH), Kenya (KE), Brunei Darussalam (BN), Peru (PE), Maldives (MV), Jordan (JO), Gibraltar (GI), Faroe Islands (FO), Nigeria (NG), Botswana (BW), Mauritius (MU), Ethiopia (ET), Senegal (SN), Trinidad and Tobago (TT), Dominica They always say math or music are the "universal language" - music at least needs no translation. However, it's obvious that everyone in the world loves movies. Thanks to all our visitors around the globe!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Online Film Critics Awards

These are all the awards given by the online film critics. You can see that they rarely agree with Oscar®. Note that their year is "when awarded", they do this in January after the previous year has just ended, so the film year is one year previous, which would be the corresponding Oscar® year. 2009: Wall-E (2008) (BP: Slumdog Millionaire) 2008: No Country for Old Men 2007: United 93 (BP: The Departed) 2006: A History of Violence (BP: Crash) 2005: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (BP: Million Dollar Baby) 2004: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King 2003: Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (BP: Chicago) 2002: Memento; Mulholland Falls (BP: A Beautiful Mind) 2001: Almost Famous (BP: Gladiator) 2000: American Beauty 1999: Saving Private Ryan (BP: Shakespeare in Love) 1998: L.A. Confidential (1997) (BP: Titanic) Some of these choices I agree with as well. I think I prefer Wall-E to Slumdog. Currently Slumdog has won 75 awards, Wall-E 35. Nice stats! United 93 was terrific, overlooked by major awards. Well, Departed was better.. but was a lot slower. Eternal Sunshine won one Oscar® for screenplay, and I loved it. but Million Dollar Baby was great as well; tough choice there.. Memento was one of the best crime films ever, now ranked #26 all-time at Internet Movie Database by viewers. (but, Mulholland Falls? dreary bore..) Almost Famous, also terrific Cameron Crowe film. But up against Gladiator, Traffic, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon! wow... those won 5, 4, and 4 Oscars® The only one Traffic lost was Best Pic. I actually did like Shakespeare in Love more than Saving Private Ryan, which fell off drastically after D-Day. Band of Brothers is much better overall, but then, at 10 hours and 100 million, it should be! Spielberg and Hanks produced that one together. .. and thankfully they didn't pick Titanic in 98! Here's the link at IMDB: Online Film Critics Society Awards