Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Well, what do you know. Danish and I actually managed to enjoy some of the same films this year. Perhaps the world IS going to end next year after all! We may have bitterly disagreed on the merits of Contagion, The Tree of Life, The Ides of March and so many others but where's the fun if everybody in the world got along?  

Happy New Year, folks!

Danish's Top Ten 

10. The Source Code was a cerebral piece of science fiction with heart and a devilishly intriguing plot.  

9. Fright Night surprised me by how scary - and simultaneously hilarious - it managed to be. At a time when vampires are growing increasingly bloodless, this was a thrilling resurrection of the genre of yore.

8. In a year of shrill dramas and thudding blockbusters, Dhobi Ghat gave us a muted vision of the maximum city. Drenched in rain and coated in mellow guitar riffs, it was as unlikely (and perfect) an ode to Mumbai as Allen's reimagining of the Parisian nightlife.

7. 50/50 gave us the unlikeliest of genre mash ups - cancer comedy! - and made it work with charm to spare.

6.  Charm was also a prominent adjective for Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, which took a wondrous fantasy  conceit and combined it with a lyrical ode to a magical city.

5. and 4.  The Tree of Life gave us a vision of the creation of life, and Melancholia showed its destruction: both were transcendental pieces of filmmaking, by master film-makers working at the height of their powers. 

3.  A Separation was the best foreign language film I saw this year - the Iranian drama is remarkably complex and manages to dig deep into the well of its layered cast. 

2.  Beginners was suffused with wistfulness and hope, a hilarious and moving portrait of a gay man who comes out at the age of 70, and his straight son who struggles with commitment. Quirky and melancholic, this was Ewan McGregor at his sympathetic best. 

So that's the rest of the best - but what was the most purely enoyable cinematic experience I had at the movies this year? 

With the boy who lived, of course.  There were many, many ways for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to end up disappointing me. The preceding movies have had their fare share of disappointing moments. And yet, when it came to it, when it really really mattered, when we wanted, nay, needed a rip-roaring cinematic conclusion - well, they delivered. 

The Battle of Hogwarts was a slam-bang spectacle, but here more than ever, we got to see the giant beating heart of the franchise. When the Order of the Phoenix comes together to cast protective enchantments around Hogwarts  or when Lupin and Tonks stretch out their quivering hands towards each other or even when Harry walks up to Voldemort facing certain death .... oh  we knew what was coming, but it didn't matter; every Potter fan worth his/her salt got the cathartic emotional payoff they deserved. A roll call of goodbyes was weaved into the 2 odd-hour running time, but it never cut the momentum. Instead, we got one last glorious hurrah for everyone – Slughorn, McGonagall, Trelawney, Flitwick, Sirius, the Potters, the Weasleys, the Malfoys, Ollivander, Fleur, Neville, Luna and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army …  and everything – the Chamber of Secrets, the Room of Requirement, those pixies from Gilderoy Lockhart’s reign, even some final broomstick flight – every little detail that made up the wizarding world for us popped into the busy frames at some point.

“Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic” says Dumbledore to Harry. For years, Joanne Kathleen Rowling gave us a constant supply of that magic – and the movies carried it on for a while longer. It’s over now, this  magnificent journey, and those of us who were middle school kids when the Philosopher’s Stone entered our lives are now caught in the vagaries of adult life.  There’s something heartbreaking about this, but I’m mostly thankful that we got to see this cultural phenomenon through.

And again, if it had to end - what a way to go.

Mischief Managed, Mr. Potter.

Honourable Mentions: 

Friends with Benefits was one of the best romantic comedies I've seen in a while; Wim Wenders' dance documentary Pina was a sight to behold; and Delhi Belly is probably the film that made me laugh the hardest this year. Also, Tintin for giving us that sustained string of animated thrills, and MI4, for managing the rare feat of being the best movie in a franchise at such a late stage. 

Lekha's Top Ten

10.  Contagion:  This is not a film likely to end up on many top ten lists because of what many have criticized as an overly realistic and almost documentary-like attention to detail. Despite all the characters behaving exactly like how non-movie people do and a perfectly reasonable approach towards apocalyptic scenarios, this film never lost that sense of drama and humanness.  Be it Matt Damon trying to give his daughter a childhood while trying to keep her alive or Marion Cotillard's pathos towards her kidnappers.

9. The Guard:  The best black comedy of the year, this film stars a foul-mouthed, racist but surprisingly smart Irish cop (Brendan Gleeson) and a preppy, straitlaced FBI agent (Don Cheadle) who have revived the buddy-cop genre (like it could ever die!).  I also loved how this film so rightly points out how the proliferation of American pop culture has affected our perceptions of crime and investigation.  Whenever Don Cheadle introduced himself as a Special Agent with the FBI, people knowingly say, "ah, Behavioral Science Unit".  
I'd have done the same.

8.  X-Men: First Class: The Wolverine is going to have some serious competition for Hottest Mutant of the Year Award. Michael Fassbender's animal MAGNETISM (sorry, I had to)  with James McAvoy's charm have revived a series that everybody had pronounced dead.  While it may not be the best X-Men film we've seen, I'm very much looking forward to the next installment.

7.  Bridesmaids: One of the dark horses of the year,  Bridesmaids was a smart, funny film that despite targeting the female demographic, did not reinforce stereotypes. Is it the best ever film ever made? Probably not, but it's a good start.  If nothing else, it might make Hollywood desist from making pandering films like The Help.

6.  Source Code:  You'd think that watching the same 8-minute clip 20 times is going to get boring.  You'd think that a sci-fi film with time travel and alternate time lines is bound to be full of plot holes. But surprisingly, this film worked.  It was gripping, and will have you thinking about it even days later. If that isn't the mark of a good sci-fi film, then I don't know what is.

5.  Attack the Block:  It hasn't been called the District 9 of 2011 for nothing.  As much of a social and political commentary as it is an action film about alien invasion,  Attack the Block managed to be funny, scary and touching.  After monumental flops like Cowboys & Aliens and World Invasion: Los Angeles, it is heartening that a plucky little film showed the big studios how the alien invasion genre is done.  And with so much attitude.

4.  Moneyball:  I've watched a dozen movies about baseball, but that game is freakin confounding. That said, Moneyball was a surprisingly non-melodramatic but brilliant sports film.  This is one of the few movies where the focus was not on the players or even the coaches.  The general manager, who treats players like they're cattle; the scouts and analysts who build the team and see each player as merely a bundle of strengths and weaknesses-- they're the focus. What this film lacks in terms of training montages, it more than makes up for in gripping sequences where players are bought and sold in the matter of minutes. And Brad Pitt? Also (surprisingly) brilliant.  

3.  Rango:  Right from the start, Rango immerses you in this surreal, almost dream-like landscape.  It tells the story of a small village of animals in the Mojave desert, struggling to make ends meet with their dwindling water source and an administration that callously controls this water source for personal gain.  This hilarious and fairy-tale like animated film seamlessly brings together diverse elements like spaghetti westerns, cowboy motifs, mythology, mariachi owls and the economic recession. And Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrowesque character was not annoying for the first time in years.

2.  Paul:  Nobody makes fun of the nerds anymore except in an affectionate way.  Keeping with that trend, comic duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost return as two English sci-fi nerds with a deep interest in UFO-logy. Like any decent film by nerds for nerds, it begins at the San Diego Comic Con and takes us on a proper road trip across America. Also on the journey are a young earth creationist (it IS America, after all) and a foul-mouthed, Reese's Pieces loving alien trying to phone home ("Why does everybody assume that I want to probe their anus? Am I harvesting farts? How much can I learn from an ass?"). 

1.  Midnight in Paris:  It isn't often that a top ten of the year list also has a movie that made it to one's all-time favourite list, but Woody Allen did it again. With his wonderfully nostalgic portrayal of '20s Paris, he confronts and comforts the Walter Mitty in all of us.  You say is it merely a confection?  Well, all I can say is, the wisest thoughts I've ever had have been over a particularly good macaron or cheesecake. 

Ryan Gosling in Drive/ The Ides of March:  Enough time and space has been dedicated to Ryan Gosling's photoshopped looking abs. Most cant believe that this suave hottie was the awkward man in love with a doll in Lars and the Real Girl.  While Crazy Stupid Love shamelessly exploited his sheer yumminess, Gosling managed to stand himself apart from mere eye candy with his intense performances in Drive and The Ides of March. 


  1. Midnight in Paris - DEFINITELY the year's best! And what a comeback for Woody Allen. And I'm glad someone mentioned Rango. I would add Carnage to this list too. In the top 5 for sure.

  2. What about Hugo and The Descendants?

  3. Two movies you should should see, which, I suspect, would make this list if you had seen them - Hugo (I saw it on a laptop, and it was still magical. Can't wait for India release!!) and this Tamil movie called Aaranya Kaandam.

  4. I desperately tried to find a decent version of the Descendants but couldn't find. All legally of course.

    As for Hugo, it's releasing here in March and apparently its so awesome in 3D that I decided to wait it out.

  5. Rango? MI4? Tree of Life?