A to Z of Films Meme (0-9)

I have been comment-tagged by Dev to take on his exciting A to Z of Films Meme. You can get many more nice recommendations from others who have done this: La Vie Quotidienne (Shefaly), Visceral Observations (Poonam), My Random Thoughts (Reema), A Nomad’s Musings, and A Wide Angle View of India (Nita). Also check out Time And Again’s (Ruhi’s) wonderful list of recommended movies.

I am idiosyncratic about cinema, but neither am I a snob, nor is my list elitist. I believe one of the gifts one movie lover can give another is the title of a wonderful film they have not yet discovered. If these words ring a bell, it’s because Roger Ebert, my beloved film critic, writes them in his Introduction to Great Movies. His list of First 100 Great Films has often been my inspiration to choose a film.

Needless to say, I do not always like acclaimed films of great directors. Each film viewing is a unique and personal experience, and what works for one may not always work for another. Ambience, state of mind, age, ethnicity, gender, culture, generation, role, life situations, etc. all affect the chemistry between the director and the viewer. The entire cinematic experience is thus very subjective.

Finally, it would be impossible for me to simply list films along with a couple of sentences. Hence I will write about 2-3 films at a time, and spread out the meme over several posts.

0-9

2001: A Space Odyssey2001 A Space Odyssey

A sci-fi film unlike any other sci-fi film, and unlike any other film. I am in love with this cosmos and fascinated with man’s relationship with it. That is why when commemorating 50 years of Atlas Shrugged, I also commemorated 50 years of the Sputnik launch, boldly ignoring Ayn Rand’s hatred of Soviet Russia. I also like to remind myself time and again, of the need to cherish what we have, like I did in my tribute to 9/11.

This was one of Kubrick’s more accessible films for me. 2001 is the film equivalent of that famous pale blue dot image of the Earth taken by Voyager. The Blue Danube and Thus Spake Zarathustra almost seem composed for 2001. The stunning special effects. The longest flash-forward in history. The deadliest non-human, non-alien, man-made villain. The film does not extol man’s infinitesimal existence in the vastness of the universe, it does not awe viewers with the grandeur of space. It awed me with its portrayal of man’s rightful place in the universe, as a meaningful actor, not an insignificant biological accident of mutation in evolution.

This is an audio-visual meditation that inspired me, awakened me, once again, to the miracle of human existence.

Runner Up

12 Angry Men

When I watched Sidney Lumet receive a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2005, I felt sad that I had not seen more of his films, other than 12 Angry Men. I love courtroom dramas. Justice is the pillar of Democracy, and subtleties and challenges of difficult moral situations fascinate me. 12 Angry Men is a crime drama, but not a courtroom one, because most of the film takes place within the confines of the jury room.

12 Angry Men The 12 jurors are a kaleidoscope, a spectrum of ordinary people, as is reality. The characterizations are deceptively simple – the result is simple, Lumet’s masterful technique is profound. Astonishingly, we are never told whether the defendant actually committed the crime or not. The guilt or innocence of the defendant is irrelevant. What is of paramount importance, and is thus the focus of the story, is the jury’s ability to uphold the principle of reasonable doubt. Lumet shows how upholding this principle may seem easy at first glance, but is often difficult in practice.

It was only in successive viewings that I was able to appreciate other film-making aspects. Lumet shot the first third of the film from above eye level, the second at eye level, and the third below eye level. This impacts our first viewing as well: the room gradually becomes more and more claustrophobic and the dramatic tension increases as the film progresses. We start by looking down at the jurors; by the end, the personalities of the jurors overwhelm us.

The only Indian film I was able to consider for this segment is Deepa Mehta’s 1947: Earth.

I am grateful to Dev as now I do not need to think about what to write for the next several posts! 🙂 Finally, as this is essentially a recommendation sharing exercise, please feel free to share in the comments! (It would be helpful to everyone if your comments pertain to the alphanumeric segment being written about).

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31 thoughts on “A to Z of Films Meme (0-9)

  1. 12 Angry Men I have not seen but it’s been on my list for awhile. About your other sentence:
    “A sci-fi film unlike any other sci-fi film, and unlike any other film. I am in love with this cosmos and fascinated with man’s relationship with it.”
    I am of the same frame of mind! And oddly I find this in common with only men. For example this is what Amit Sharma feels too and it was some sci-fi post of his which initially made me read his blog. And it’s something I have in common with other a cousin (male) and ofcourse this is also what my hubby feels! Dunno why I have not found a single woman who shares my passion and intense interest in the cosmos. One of my secret ambitions when I was growing up was to be an astronaut. And even now one of the regrets of growing older is that it’s too late now…as if I ever had a chance! 🙂

  2. I had watched 12 Angry Men longtime back, I also watched its Hindi version Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, which is scene-to-scene copy of English version. I loved the movie, but I certainly wasn’t as observant as you about any of the cinemaic aspects.

    And I haven’t watched Space Odyssey yet.
    P.S: THanks for linkback though! My movie list wasn’t elitist either. 🙂

  3. I haven’t seen both the movies, but will be on a look-out now. 1947 was good, very disturbing though..

    (ditto with the book review. been thinking of reading Seth for a long time… )

  4. Very nice pic(k)s! I haven’t seen The Space Odyssey. I have 12 angry men in our collection; can never get tired of it. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s the slow pace that makes it gripping. Seen Ek Ruka Hua Faisla too – and it’s done justice to the original.

    //…the room gradually becomes more and more claustrophobic…//
    Spot on! I wonder if the Lumet intended to portray it as Fonda’s influence closing in on the Jurors’ conscience?

    Alpha numeric nice ones that I can think of offhand – K-19 The Widowmaker (Liam Neeson) and 22 June 1897 (Marathi). I’m sure there are more.

    g

  5. Mahendra:

    Funny you spell it “12 angry men” and fit it under “0-9” whereas I spelled it “Twelve Angry Men” and filed it under “T”.

    I have found the little Sci-Fi I have read to be tedious. Probably because I start questioning the science behind it. (And many people are actively trying to convert me, unsuccessfully, just like the friends who try to urge me to read fiction.) However I am interested in robotics and HCI, as well as genetics so the idea that people/ automatons with unusual capabilities live amongst us is a more thrilling idea for me. I know the science exists, is experimented with, is beset with problems and is not yet mainstream so the only way for it to be out is the rogue way. Now that is a story and a half! None of it need be fiction. 🙂

  6. Nita, I am able to empathize with you. I have met very few (a cousin in my case too) women who share this. I don’t know why Carl Sagan made the protagonist of Contact a female! You sure do sound like Jodie Foster! 🙂

    In one of the links in my post, Roger Ebert describes how at age 16 we are open and curious to new ideas and exploration, while by the time we are 20, we usually narrow down our tastes and likes to stereotypes (true with most people). Maybe what your observation applies here as well, women are culturally stereotyped as non-geek, while sci-fi is for the select geeky men. I do not know, I’m not a female, and am just hypothesizing.

  7. Yes, the Hindi is going to feature in my list, and no, it’s not a scene-to-scene copy – there’s one significant change. 🙂 More about it when we come to ‘E’.

    As I mentioned, it was only in successive viewings that these cinematic techniques became apparent. Hey, no need for thanks for link-back!

  8. Hi Gauri, I envy you. You’ll be able to watch them as a first-time viewer! Do watch 2001 on the big screen if you can, it works better that way.

  9. Ah, the litterateuse with the puns (or whatever it is): liked “pic(k)s” very much! 🙂 You sure have a way with words to come up with such stuff while commenting!

    Thank you. Why is it counter-intuitive?

    I don’t think Lumet intended it as Fonda’s influence on the other jurors. He wrote about this visual strategy in his book Making Movies (I haven’t read it), where he implies that it was for the effect on the viewer. After the slow, gripping build up of tension, Lumet finally ‘let’s the viewer breathe freely’ by using a wide angle lens only at the end of the film.

    I was constrained by movies starting with numerals, so K-19 wouldn’t qualify! I like 22 June 1897 as a landmark film in the Marathi cinema context, but in the overall context, it didn’t make the list.

  10. ’12 Angry Men’ is the official title, ‘Twelve Angry Men’ is the alternative title. If you check the movie posters, you’ll not find ‘Twelve’ anywhere!

    And even if that wasn’t the case, isn’t this a clever way to free up a slot under ‘T’? 😀

    I am not much of a sci-fi reader myself. Watching 2001 or Contact is highly enjoyable though!

  11. Nice start Mahendra! I like both movies immensely as well and have seen them multiple times. Though my instantaneous reaction at seeing 12 Angry men in the list for 0-9 was “hey, 12’s not in 0-9” 😉

    Speaking of 12, have you seen 12 Monkeys?

    Shefaly – you probably have not liked Sci-Fi because most of it is bad science and worse fiction! Some of my favourite Sci-Fi books may be accurately classified as “futuristic” fiction.

  12. I love both the films. Although I much prefered the 2001 book to the movie. 12 angry men is just amazingly gripping.

  13. Mahendra, thanks for doing it. And what a start!!
    2001 is my most favorite film of all time (I mentioned it under T in second part of my meme).
    This film is more than just a great film for me. It’s kind of film which made many people want to become filmmakers, though I saw it only 3 years back for the first time. The movie spawned numerous intrepretations and even books regarding philosphical and allegorical dimensions of this film; people still wonder what exactly Kubrick wanted to say. Your intrepretation is one of those and perhaps equally valid. For me, this film was about ultimate questions of humanity and evolution of man.
    12 angry Men is the best Sydney Lumet film I had seen. I havent been very impressed with some of his later works, but he certainly is very prolific and an important filmmaker.
    Lokking forward to read your other favorites..you can perhaps stick to just one film per letter..thet way you will finish it sooner.. 🙂

  14. Fast Dots:

    Possibly. With limited time every day, I try not to devote it to fiction reading and as I mentioned, yes, I do question the science which means I just can’t read things with my logic suspended. That is why genetics related stuff fascinates me. Because I know the science exists and works.

  15. Lol, thanks – all part of being a Pun-eri, you’d agree 😉

    Counter-intuitive because one’s generally found biting nails in a fast-paced film, waiting to see what happens next. You (or rather I) watch slow paced movies savoring the pace and just taking the movie in. This one I thought has the nail-biting factor despite its pace. Not sure if I’m putting it across clearly.

    Oh, ok (claustrophobic technique). It’s interesting how a bunch of literature/cinema students could read too much into what’s out there, even when the author/director had no such thing in mind :D. I can’t think of an example offhand, but what I meant was using a real camera technique as an allegory to some reference in the plot line. Not sure if Hitchcock used it in Psycho / Rear Window. Perhaps Fassbinder too, but I don’t recollect offhand. Will let you know if I remember.

  16. Oh, Fast Dots is finally here! Thanks, I’m happy you share these favorites of mine.

    I have seen 12 Monkeys, but not as I would have liked to. It is now filed under ‘watch with no distraction and better preparedness next time’ category. 🙂

  17. I’m happy you classify my interpretation as ‘perhaps equally valid’! Ha ha ha!

    Yes, I know it is your favorite film. In my posts, I will try not reading others’ versions of this tag so that I keep my writing fresh and first hand. Something makes me feel you have gained more insight into this film than I have and that makes me envious! 🙂

    No, I will not give up this chance of writing about my favorite films, so I will do them at my own pace! 🙂

  18. Yes, you are absolutely spot-on. Nail-biting dramatic suspense, but not at a fast pace. Got you! 🙂

    This happens many times in art – where the viewers interpret differently or much more than the artist intended. It is what makes art, well, art! 🙂 Someday, I will post about my interpretation of The Dark Side of the Moon, which I know is not exactly what Pink Floyd intended.

    Let me think about the camera technique angle more. Offhand the only one I can think of is using jerky/hand-held camera movements to reflect a character’s running or fainting or whatever. I can’t think of any in terms of longer time line, such that it applies to plot elements or the story line.

  19. I am interested in whats ‘out there’. However, I prefer reading about space research and watch documentaries as opposed to watching sci-fi movies. As a result I haven’t seen this. Will check it out sometime.

    I really liked 12 Angry Men.

    I am gonna enjoy reading your blog over the next couple of weeks 🙂

  20. Ah ha… the funny thing is that the book is an adaptation. Well not quite, but Clarke did finish it AFTER the movie was made, so he does say that it was an interesting experience to write / tweak the book after viewing rushes of the film!

    I suppose thats a very expensive method of writing books-
    1. Write screenplay
    2. Make movie
    3. Write book

    🙂

  21. Wow! That is extremely interesting! This kind of thing only happens in sci-fi! 😀

    I’m so glad you shared this factoid – I am very interested in learning more about the experience of finalizing a book after its movie adaptation has been completed. This is extremely unusual, to say the least!

  22. Like I said, this is a sci-fi film like no other. Make sure you get into a reflective, meditative mood, have lots of time with no interruption, and completely surrender yourself to the audio-visual experience in front of you. I’m sure you’ll be left with a lot of questions after it completes. And that’s what this reflection of man’s place in the universe is all about. You’ll be intellectually entertained as long as you keep thinking about it.

  23. I may have to watch a lot of movies all thanks to u

    I loved 2001 when i saw it, it is indeed a masterpiece

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