Friday, December 29, 2006

Top movies for 2006.. Not a movie review.. Dystopic visions/places

I have been mulling this post over in my mind for a while. I happened to listen to Terry Gross on fresh air on the public radio and she had their movie critic David Edelstein on, with a list of his top 10 movies for this year. The links take you to more information about the movies.

1. The Queen
2. Iraq documentaries: Blood of My Brother, Iraq in Fragments, Iraq for Sale, and The War Tapes
3. Our Brand is Crisis
4. Pan's Labyrinth and Children of Men
5. Flag of Our Fathers and Letters FromIwo Jima
6. Days of Glory
7 Neil Young: Heart of Gold
8. Religion documentaries: Jonestown, Jesus Camp, Deliver Us From Evil
9. A Prairie Home Companion
10. United 93

I am not a huge believer in top lists as such, numerous critics will come up with their own and countless others will quibble about their choices being left out. Well.. regardless his list is below. I have seen “The Queen”, it’s a good movie although it does not have that extensive of a storyline and it happens over the brief period of time from the death to the funeral of Princess Diana. But the brief time span of the movie is in complete contrast to the close look it provides in to the inner workings of the British royal family esp the queen. Not to rehash all that, but the movie has great acting especially by Helen Mirren in the lead role.

I have seen Flag of Our Fathers and loved it. I have to see Letter From Iwo Jima. I will skip United 93 for now. *A* watched it and said it was a great movie. I might watch it again, I just wanted to step back from movies related to 911 for a while. I have included a link to more about each of the movies on the list. Most of them we will catch on DVD. But the one that I really want to watch is “Children of Men”.

From the most excellent review by Manohla Dargis in the NY Times..

The end is nigh in “Children of Men,” the superbly directed political thriller by Alfonso Cuarón about a nervously plausible future. It’s 2027, and the human race is approaching the terminus of its long goodbye. Cities across the globe are in flames, and the “siege of Seattle” has entered Day 1,000. In a permanent war zone called Britain, smoke pours into the air as illegal immigrants are swept into detainment camps. It’s apocalypse right here, right now — the end of the world as we knew and loved it, if not nearly enough.

Based in broad outline on the 1992 dystopian novel by P. D. James about a world suffering from global infertility — and written with a nod to Orwell by Mr. Cuarón and his writing partner Timothy J. Sexton along with David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby — “Children of Men” pictures a world that looks a lot like our own, but darker, grimmer and more frighteningly, violently precarious. It imagines a world drained of hope and defined by terror in which bombs regularly explode in cafes crowded with men and women on their way to work. It imagines the unthinkable: What if instead of containing Iraq, the world has become Iraq, a universal battleground of military control, security zones, refugee camps and warring tribal identities?

From the reviews I have read and heard the movie has amazing camera work including a 6 minute battle scene shot in one take. Here is an audio link to NPR's interview with Alfonso Cuaron who also made Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Y Tu Mama Tambien.
This movie also has Julianne Moore who I absolutely love. The movie is in limited release, I hope to catch it in the coming weeks.

Talking about dystopic futures brought my mind an excellent article in the November 13th issue of the New Yorker magazine by George Packer about the mega city of Lagos, Nigeria. You can read more about it here. Your probably also aware of the recent pipeline explosion in Lagos, that killed more than 200 people. These two coup[led together almost make me feel there are places like this here and now. From that article...

The Third Mainland Bridge is a looping ribbon of concrete that connects Lagos Island to the continent of Africa. It was built in the nineteen-seventies, part of a vast network of bridges, cloverleafs, and expressways intended to transform the districts and islands of this Nigerian city--then comprising three million people--into an efficient modern metropolis. As the bridge snakes over sunken piers just above the waters of Lagos Lagoon, it passes a floating slum: thousands of wooden houses, perched on stilts a few feet above their own bobbing refuse, with rust-colored iron roofs wreathed in the haze from thousands of cooking fires. Fishermen and market women paddle dugout canoes on water as black and viscous as an oil slick. The bridge then passes the sawmill district, where rain-forest logs--sent across from the far shore, thirty miles to the east--form a floating mass by the piers. Smoldering hills of sawdust landfill send white smoke across the bridge, which mixes with diesel exhaust from the traffic. Beyond the sawmills, the old waterfront markets, the fishermen's shanties, the blackened facades of high-rise housing projects, and the half-abandoned skyscrapers of downtown Lagos Island loom under a low, dirty sky. Around the city, garbage dumps steam with the combustion of natural gases, and auto yards glow with fires from fuel spills. All of Lagos seems to be burning.

Newcomers to the city are not greeted with the words "Welcome to Lagos." They are told, "This is Lagos"--an ominous statement of fact. Olisa Izeobi, a worker in one of the sawmills along the lagoon, said, "We understand this as 'Nobody will care for you, and you have to struggle to survive.' " It is the singular truth awaiting the six hundred thousand people who pour into Lagos from West Africa every year. Their lungs will burn with smoke and exhaust; their eyes will sting; their skin will turn charcoal gray. And hardly any of them will ever leave.
By 2015, it is projected, Lagos will rank third, behind Tokyo and Bombay, with twenty-three million inhabitants.
Nigerians have become notorious for their Internet scams, such as e-mails with a bogus request to move funds to an offshore bank, which ask for the recipient's account number in exchange for lucrative profit. The con, which originated in Lagos, represents the perversion of talent and initiative in a society where normal paths of opportunity are closed to all but the well connected.
"Picture this city ten, twenty years from now. This is not the urban poor--this is the new urban destitute." He expressed surprise that the level of crime and ethnic violence in Lagos, let alone civil insurrection, is still relatively contained. "We're sitting on a powder keg here," he said. "If we don't address this question of economic growth, and I mean vigorously, there is no doubt as to what's going to happen here eventually. It's just going to boil over." He added, "And guess what? If all this fails, the world will feel the weight of Lagos not working out."
There is an even darker possibility: that the world won't feel the weight of it much at all. The really disturbing thing about Lagos's pickers and venders is that their lives have essentially nothing to do with ours. They scavenge an existence beyond the margins of macroeconomics. They are, in the harsh terms of globalization, superfluous.
You folks might feel there is a dark edge to this post, but there is a link here and a message or something and I think you folks can draw your own conclusions.


Sai said...

Hey Sanjay:

Out of the list I have only watched Priarie Home companion, which I absolutely loved because of Meryl Streep, who is my favorite!

About Lagos and the "dark-edge" to the post...all is can say is that it is the stark reality and needs to be acknowledged.

Carrie said...

I have seen any of these movies. I can't stand going to the movies because of cell phones. Then I forget what I want to see and never find time to sit down with a video.

meno said...

I love top 10 movie lists, even though i am limited in my movie going by the fact that i am a coward and don't want to see anything scary or depressing.

So the only movie i have seen on this list is Prairie Home Companion, which i liked. I want to see The Queen too because i adore Helen Mirren.

Sugarlips said...

From the top 10 movies I have seen only 2 *The Queen* & *Flag of Our Fathers* both movies were really good.
Can't wait to watch *Children of Men*
I have seen the previews & they were awesome...Thanks for the review :)

Stay Beautiful...!!

Beach Bum said...

Meno, I have the same issue lately watching depressing movies. While fascinated with the premise of Children of Men watching the news these days is almost like a prologue to the movie.

Teri said...

Hey, Sanjay, thanks. We all need to be shaken out of our comfortable complacency once in a while.

(Oh, and I haven't seen a movie (not on DVD) in, like, 7 years... can't comment on the top movie list...)

Maggie said...

I have not seen one of these movies - gawdy I am behind on movie watching. But, you know, in about three years I might have time to watch a movie all the way through. We laugh that here we get through the first third of a movie then fall asleep...raising kids. Sigh.

Dan said...

Nice list Sanjay. When I begin watching movies once again I'll have to look some of these up. Yes, I've heard great things about Helen Mirren and "The Queen".

Intern said...

Ahh movies ...
This year some excellent movies have been released ...

Surprizingly "Blood Diamond" didnt get good reviews ... I loved "Babel" & "Departed" as well. Talking about 9/11 movies, "United 93" is Excellent ... BUT I dint like WTC ...

Wish you and your loved ones a very happy new year ...

Sanjay said...


@Carrie.. Ppl use cell phones in movies all the time?

@Meno..You will love the queen. Mirren is fantastic.


@Beachbum.. Hope you manage to catch it sometimes. I Think its a good movie albeit dark.

@Teri/Maggie.. I hear ya.

@Dan. :)

@Intern. I like blood diamond. Have yet to see Babel. You have a happy new year too.

Nancy Willing said...

Happy New Year!
hope that this coming one will allow for suppression of the special interests in lieu of what is best for the common good.

MoDigli said...

Happy New Year, Sanjay!

I haven't seen any of those films on the top 10 list, but I did hear the NPR interview about the "Children of Men" movie. It's scary how possible it all could be. I wonder if we'll ever figure this all out in time? Sigh... What a thing to write when I'm wishing you a happy new year!!

Aditi said...

damn i havent seen a single one of those movies