- Clueless. “As if!” The film that catapulted Alicia Silverstone to fame is a teen-aged comedy, a sharp satire set against the backdrop of Beverly Hills, where high school kids use Valley Speak, drive a Jeep, shop in Rodeo Drive, and look like models off the pages of Teen Vogue.
Loosely adapted from Jane Austen’s Emma (it even has a Harriet!), Clueless helmer is sooo attuned with the teen-aged sensibilities of its time that it became a huge cultural phenomenon, with young girls copying Cher’s style, and Valley speak (think Barneys, Baldwins, and Betties).
The film, when viewed in ultra-modern lenses, might look dated, with incredulous teens now wondering what’s the big deal with Clueless characters – supposedly spoiled rich brats – carrying a bulky (by today’s standards) flip phone, when high schoolers now can afford to own sleekier models.
But dated tech aside, Clueless remains extremely likeable, thanks largely to the appealing (and extremely good-looking cast) led by Alicia Silverstone as ditzy blonde with a heart of gold Cher, and Stacey Dash as best friend Dionne (they were named after singers who are now doing infomercials), along with Britanny Murphy (RIP), and THE Paul Rudd before he became Ant-Man.
Memorable Lines: “No, she’s a full-on Monet. It’s like a painting, see? From far away, it’s OK, but up close, it’s a big old mess.”
“Ugh, as if!”
“He’s a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy, know what I’m saying?”
- 3 Idiots. Any Aamir Khan fan would always include 3 Idiots in their list of favourite films, and with good reason. Deftly combining comedy with drama, film is a story of three friends – Rancho, Raju, and Farhan, who were separated after graduating in a Delhi engineering school.
Film is set in various picturesque locations of India, as the two of the three titular idiots embark on a literal journey – along with an old college rival – to search for their long-lost-friends.
Told through a series of flashbacks, film is really a social commentary of the punishing educational system in India, which the film depicts accurately for having a high incidence of suicides.
The drama is nicely contrasted with vignettes, jokes, that sometimes make the film feel more like a sitcom. But 3 Idiots is engaging enough to keep audiences glued despite its extremely long running time (more than three hours!) thanks to a genuine funny script and one of the most satisfying twist endings ever.
All izz well!
- The Shawshank Redemption. I have not seen a film buff who has not included the film in their Top 10 lists. Rarely has there been a film that is well-loved both by audiences and by critics (popular is not necessarily good).
Interestingly, Shawshank was a flop when it first came out of in 1994 (people find the title quite cumbersome, and stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman were relatively unfamiliar to mainstream audiences, not yet the household names they are now).
Film is set against backdrop of Shawshank prison, where main character Andy Dufresne (Robbins) was sent to after having been found guilty of killing his wife. Here, he was befriended by fellow inmate Red (Morgan Freeman), who soon introduced him to his “crew”. Pretty soon, his talents in banking was noticed by the prison powers-that-be and that set off a series of events that culminated in one of the most glorious climaxes in cinema featuring a Bible, a poster, and a rock hammer.
Based on Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, the adaptation is chockfull of quotable sound bites, along with superb acting from all the main cast, and masterful pacing.
And that ending. As satisfying as any ending can be.
“Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”
“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright.”
- Spirited Away. There are cartoons, and there are cartoons. And then there are Studio Ghibli’s masterpieces. Specifically this masterpiece by Hayao Miyazaki.
Ask any fan of Studio Ghibli, and most would name Spirited Away as the GOAT. Ask any fan of anime, and Spirited Away will be most likely somewhere in the top 5. Ask any serious fan of animation (and not just one whose tastes are confined to Disney), and the film would be mentioned among the top 15.
That’s how well-loved it is, and for good reason.
Set in Japan and channeling heavily elements of Alice in Wonderland, film revolves around Chihiro, a small girl set to rescue her parents who have been turned into pigs. Along the way, she befriends a boy named Haku (who we later learn can transform into a river spirit in a form of a dragon), and Yubaba, the witch who owns the bathhouse where Chihiro sought employment, and the now iconic No-Face, a spirit that devours anything and anyone, enticing them by preying on their greed.
The lush visuals of Spirited Away makes it one of the most beautiful films ever done (a favourite Ghibli challenge of fans is to pause a scene, and note the details in the background, drawn lovingly in water colour.
And to think, according to creators, the film did not have a finished script when production started and the creators merely added the story as it progresses.
Still very highly recommended.
- Hot Fuzz. What could go wrong in a film starring Simon Pegg? Film is second installment to the so-called Cornetto trilogy and stars Simon Pegg as PFC Nicholas Angel, who was promoted to sergeant on the same day that he was transferred to a rural town called Sandford because he was making everybody else in his old station look bad.
Upon reassignment, the rather strait-laced and by-the-book Angel was partnered up with PFC Butterman in what initially promises to be a humdrum assignment. Until, that is, a series of “accidents” happened in the town that may or may not have been murders in disguise.
Film is a parody, deconstruction, and lovely send-up of action films, as tropes upon tropes were discussed in-universe, with said tropes eventually playing a role in the narrative.
Any action film fanatic will immediately recognize the films that were subject of the parody-cum-tribute. The knowing, self-aware humor and the sharp, tight script makes this one of the best action comedies of the past decade.
Watch out for: Cameos by Cate Blanchett, Steve Coogan, and Peter Jackson as a hilarious criminal dressed as Santa Claus