Friday, 6 February 2009

Must Watch Movies (Early 2009)

This is a personal list of movies I hope to catch early this year. No doubt Summer will bring in a new slush of Hollywood fare, and I will have to pick and choose again. In no particular order:

Australia
Sigh. It's not even playing in the cinemas anymore. Well, you see, I was supposed to watch it but thanks to an unintended blunder on the part of a friend, I had to pass. I guess now I'll just have to wait till the cheap VCD comes out.

Some critics liked the film and some hated it, the same way some liked "Moulin Rouge!" and some hated it. This mixed reaction is unsurprising—after all, Baz Luhrman's films are exercises in style more than in substance, so just enjoy the ride and don't expect anything else.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I was at first not keen on watching this movie—it seemed a bit gimmicky, dull and over-hyped. But it's garnered 12 Oscar nominations, so c'mon, it's gotta be worth something, right? Or maybe it was just promoted to death to the Academy. I'll have to judge for myself.

The main storyline of the movie is from a short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Trivia: The movie rights to Fitzgerald's famed novel, "The Great Gatsby", has been recently bought-over by Mr. Luhrman.

Revolutionary Road
Set in 1950s America, the film is about a married, stuck-in-surburbia couple, the Wheelers, who live (ironically) on Revolutionary Road. Kate Winslet's portrayal of one half of the frustrated pair won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

Reports have said that it is a faithful adaptation of Richard Yates's celebrated book of the same title—now I can get my hands on the cheap movie tie-in paperback. Heh.

Slumdog Millionaire
The screenplay is adapted from a book by Vikas Swarup called "Q&A" (which has now been rebranded with the movie's name). This modest film (at least in comparison to typical OTT Bollywood fare) has also got a lot of Oscar attention. 10 nominations including Best Picture, to be precise. It has done remarkably well outside of India, winning a host of awards including Best Picture at the recent Golden Globes.

This is either one of those unexpected masterpieces or good-but-over-inflated by awards movies, so I'll have to see which.

The Reader
This movie is based on the German book "De Voleser" by Bernard Schlink, which has been translated into English (and duly picked by Oprah for her book club). It revolves around the love affair between a young Michael Berg and train conducter Hannah Schmitz, and how he later learns about her part in the third Reich when he goes to a postwar Nazi trial as a law student. It's a theme is perhaps best understood and most often faced with by Germans—they call it 'Vergangenheitsbew√§ltigung', roughly translated as 'coming to terms with the past'.

Ms. Winslet won the another Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Schmitz and the movie also stars the incomparable Ralph Fiennes. I don't think the movie is hitting Malaysian shores due to it's sexual content, unfortunately, so I guess I will have to find 'other means' of watching the movie.

Watchmen
I am really, really hoping that this movie won't suck. I read the graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, and found myself agreeing with the consensus that it was a masterpiece of it's genre. Ok, not like I'm a connoisseur of graphic novels, but I deeply enjoyed "Watchmen", so I'm hoping the movie will be respectful of its source.

Having said that though, Mr. Moore has openly distanced himself from the movie, saying he will not watch it, and has asked to be uncredited. He has had similar disputes and disappointments over many Hollywood adaptations of his graphic novels, including "V for Vendetta", "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "From Hell".

The graphic novel itself has a complex plot and deals with knotty philosophically and psychological themes. Expecting a two and a half hour movie to convey the experience perfectly is to ask too much of a movie. One must understand that movies are movies, not books or comics. Film is an independent medium with its own limitations and advantages. I still hope it won't suck, though.

Doubt
OK, this movie has Philip Seymour Hoffman AND Meryl Streep AND Amy Adams. AND they're playing priests and nuns. AND it's set in 1960s New York. AND it's from adapted from a Pulitzer-winning play. How could anyone not want to watch this movie?! How? Sigh, unfortunately again, thanks to our friendly film censors, this won't be playing on Malaysian screens and I will simply have to support piracy. Don't blame me for this, it's beyond my control.

Milk
A movie about a gay rights activist played by Sean Penn. Definitely, definitely, not coming to Malaysia.

***

As you may have noticed, my selection leans heavily towards films with (Western) award wins/nominations and there are no foreign language films or local films on the list. Not that I don't watch these films, in fact I count many local and non-English films as all time favourites, it's just that there aren't any that have come to my attention and grabbed my interest. Call me a snob, but I refuse to watch Cicakman 2.

Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB, and the New York Times online.

(Edit 8/2/09: I've corrected a few typo and grammatical errors, but more importantly, I forgot to include Coraline, a stop-action film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's children's book. I am a fan of Gaiman (and stop-action films), although I have not read this particular book.)

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