Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Movies Roundup 2016

This is my favourite post of the year, every year. It usually comes a few days after Aamir Khan waits for everyone to showcase their best, and then blows away the competition in a Bhuvan-esque fashion. Here's a recap of the years gone by 20092010201120122013, 2014, & 2015.

This year was special in quite a few ways for my movie watching experience.

This was the year of #100MoviesPact, conceived by Diptakirti of Bollybook fame (perhaps somewhat inspired by his wife's #100SareesPact from the previous year) and participated with religious zeal by a group of us 10 friends. Rules were simple, as long as you watched a 100 different movies between Jan-1 to Dec-31, 2016 it counted. The #100MoviesPact became the #1000MoviesPact (100 X 10) as the year drew to a close and on Christmas afternoon we managed to record our 1,000th movie.

The other shout out of the year goes to the Seattle Public Library. A ridiculously comprehensive catalog, from Kanchenjungha to Karan Arjun, from the latest Hollywood blockbusters to obscure Iranian titles of the past, it has it all. And all of this for the princely sum of $0 per movie, $0 per year, $0 for membership. God bless the American Public Library system. 

Now coming to the numbers. 

I personally missed the #100MoviesPact but quite happy with 76 movies for the year (up from 53 last year). While watching movies in theaters remained a luxury with a toddler, I did manage to catch 4 (Fan, Dear Zindagi, Kahaani 2, and Dangal), 1 more than last year. Also, 30 of the 76 movies watched this year were 2016 releases (again up slightly from 26 last year). 

Now for the popular summary table, in its 10th year now (only for current year releases):

Year     # Seen    Hindi:English:Bangla   Top Rating  Avg. Rating
2007     32               22:10:0                           9.0             5.78
2008     30               23:7:0                             8.5             6.35
2009     24               18:6:0                             9.0             6.85
2010     25               16:9:0                             8.5             6.62
2011     22               15:6:1                             8.5             6.77
2012     28               12:11:5                           9.0             7.33
2013     28               14:14:0                           9.0             7.12
2014     16               10:6:0                             9.0             6.16 
2015     26               20:6:0                             9.0             6.55
2016     30               17:13:0                           9.5             6.98

Happy to have watched a bunch of good movies, thanks to great recommendations by the #100MoviesPact gang, greater discretion used due to lack of time thanks to parenting duties, and of course the great Seattle Public Library system. The average of 6.98 is one of the best over the last 10 years and the trend seems to be going the right way. FYI, the overall average i.e. not just looking at 2016 releases was 7.31, highly boosted by a bunch of Satyajit Ray DVDs and also the Oscar nominated movies from last year.

The split of the movies by source can be found below, almost all of the DVD-Loaned were from the library again.

DVD - Loaned47
Amazon Prime Video6
DVD - Owned5
Amazon Instant Video1
Grand Total76

I also ended up watching movies in 7 languages, which was a new high for me.

Grand Total76
And now for rankings. As always, Top 5 Hindi and Top 3 English movies of the year. Disclaimer: I haven't watched a bunch of highly acclaimed Hollywood movies, and among the Bollywood ones of note that I missed out on were: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Aligarh, Neerja, Sultan, and Phobia.

English Movies

5. 10 Cloverfield Lane

4. Elvis & Nixon

3. The Jungle Book

2. Eye In The Sky

1. Zootopia

Eye In The Sky9.0
The Secret Life of Pets8.0
The Jungle Book8.0
Elvis & Nixon8.0
10 Cloverfield Lane8.0
Suicide Squad6.0
Jason Bourne6.0
Finding Dory6.0
Brahman Naman6.0
Kung Fu Panda 35.5
Now You See Me 25.0
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice4.0
London Has Fallen2.0

Hindi Movies

5. Waiting

4. Kapoor & Sons

3. Nil Battey Sannata

2. Pink

1. Dangal (Movie Of The Year)

(Full List)

Nil Battey Sannata8.5
Kapoor & Sons8.0
Dear Zindagi7.5
Kahaani 27.0
Raman Raghav 2.06.5

Special mention to Fan, perhaps the only movie (at least parts of the 1st half) which I can ever find somewhat autobiographical:)

And below please find the rest of 46 movies, by language, by rating, which I saw this year but were released earlier. 

Please do share your thoughts and lists, and wish you a very happy 2017 movie watching year.

Apur Sansar8.5
Pather Panchali6.5
Midnight in Paris9.0
The Danish Girl8.5
The Big Short8.5
In The Loop8.5
Gone Baby Gone8.5
The Walk8.0
Steve Jobs8.0
Planes, Trains & Automobiles8.0
Pawn Sacrifice8.0
Love and Death8.0
LOTR - Fellowship of the Ring8.0
Fatal Attraction8.0
A Clockwork Orange8.0
The Revenant7.5
Purple Rose of Cairo7.5
Black Mass7.0
45 Years7.0
The Man From U.N.C.L.E6.5
Penguins of Madagascar6.5
Our Brand Is Crisis6.0
Furious 75.5
Johnny English5.0
Shatranj Ke Khiladi8.5
Margarita With A Straw7.5
Buna! Ce faci?7.0
Wild Tales8.5

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 Books Review

Dreams and resolutions are similar for people like me. They rarely come true, or even close to true. This year I had a resolution of writing 52 blog posts, a modest goal of one post per week. Today is December 27th and this is my third. Yes, a sub 5% goal achievement is normal in my world. So, I share with disproportionate pride the completion of my Book Reading Challenge for 2016. 24 books pledged, 24 books read. A definite improvement from last year when I was ambitious enough to pledge 20, and lazy enough to complete 10 (2015 post). Oh, a small clarification, I did count my audiobooks as books for this challenge, so, there.

The fiction:non-fiction split was 15:9, a conscious effort to increase the imagination quotient from the recent trends of over-indexing on autobiographies, business, history and business books. Surprisingly enough I also found it easier to concentrate on fiction audiobooks while driving, the hypothesis was the opposite. 

And here's presenting the five best books I read in 2016, many most of which released many years back and should have been read long back as well.

5. Soccer In Sun And Shadow by Eduardo Galeano (recommended and gifted by Anal Ghosh)

As a international (not club) football/soccer fan and trivia fanatic the combination of nugget sized chapters covering the history of the world cup and world of soccer from the beginning of the 20s till the present age is quite heady. Also, the writing style is rich and humorous and through this book I was also introduced to some of the other great works of Galeano. The romance associated with soccer in South America comes across clearly and the journalistic background of Galeano makes this a much broader canvas than just soccer history. The recurring line around Fidel Castro's death become particularly poignant this year. This is as much a soccer book as Animal Farm is a book about raising animals in farms, almost.

4. The Mahabharata Murders by Arnab Ray (Read advance copy, book releasing in 2017)

[Cover image not available yet]

Arnab makes the list twice in a row after last year's Sultan of Delhi.

[Pasting (p)review from Goodreads] I had the privilege of reading Arnab's unreleased (as of April 2016) murder mystery - The Mahabharata Murders. As with all of his books, this review goes with the disclaimer that I am a friend and a fan.

Comedy/short stories, horror/thriller, drama, drama/thriller, and now murder/mystery. It's almost like Arnab is out there to prove his versatility and we should be thankful for that. Longtime readers of his blog, and there are plenty, know him for his wit, sarcasm, hold over current affairs, and a balanced approach on topics. However, his flair for fiction doesn't come across that clearly on that famous blog of his. With the Mahabharata Murders he displays his command over holding your attention with just 3 primary characters, with a plot that mirrors the greatest tale of them all - the Mahabharata. 

The narrative is in the first person of a policeowoman, and a Muslim to boot. Talk about breaking stereotypes. And as an eternally aspiring writer I understand it's quite demanding to write an entire novel from the perspective of the other gender, and not let the efforts show. With a grisly murder taking place within the first few pages you are sucked into the story from the get go. Ruksana is not just offbeat as a Muslim policeman but has a checquered past of her own (having just finished The Girl on the Train, could see some similarities with Rachel though they are purely unintentional as he had started writing MM much before GotT released). I think a quick wikipedia reading of the Mahabharata would be good warm up for this book, especially if you don't remember the epic in details. Pavitra Chatterjee's character is one for the ages. If this story ever gets made into a movie, and it should, there's an award winning role for the taking. And I hope SRK does that.

3. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (recommended  by Abhishek)

As an Indian who moved to the US for higher studies and worked in some of the largest companies and lived in the largest cities I had a blind spot for the "real" America, the one that apparently had a big role to play on November 9. This first person account of someone from that America who went on to become a lawyer from one of the top schools was an eye opener. Written refreshingly and honestly with rich anecdotes from the author's childhood and later years, it showcases a lot of things that have changed, worked, and not worked in that America. Vance has been candid in his thoughts and called out the issues that he saw from both sides. He provided some answers too, but whether or not they will be adopted by everyone, the clarity of his thoughts and richness of his narration makes for a compelling read.

2. Shoe Dog: A Memoir By The Creator of Nike By Phil Knight (Recommended by Mainak)

Not just the autobiography of the year, but one of the best autobiographies I have ever read. To be honest I have very little interest in shoes or fashion overall and had quite low expectations from this book. I value Mainak's book recos a lot so took this leap of faith and was generously rewarded by one of the most iconic men of modern business and beyond. Driven by a passion for atheltics and business, Phil started off without much of a plan but lots of ambitions. But what he achieved in the next few decades, and how he achieved what he did was nothing short of the drama we see in the tracks and fields of sporting history. His story ends where most of us know it begins, Nike going public as a company. If you read one business book next year, make it this one. If you read one autobiography next year, make it this one.

1. 1984 by George Orwell (Audiobook)

[Pasting from Goodreads] Where's the option of giving 6 stars here?

I am a fairly regular reader, for over 25 years, and this book is one of the strongest contenders for "Best Book of All Time" on my list. Obviously embarrassed that it took this long to reach the classic, but somewhat happy as one understands this book better slightly later in life, and in particular during the times we're living in today. George Orwell not only predicted the future in uncannily accurate details (this could as well have been describing what North Korea is today, or most government states are going towards) but showed great understanding of the human mind and how it operates when presented with extreme pain, humiliation, and lack of hope.