Three Can’t Miss Films of 2012

English Vinglish

The film’s story worked on many layers, and what I especially admired is how Sridevi becomes the spokesperson for lessons without being too overt about it, save for the ending speech that hammers in the emotion, and is sure to make your eyes well up. It deals with, on a macro level, how as humans we should be helpful and tolerant to those who don’t speak our language or understand our culture, that one shouldn’t be made to think one’s superior just because, or make the other look small. And on the more micro level, the structure of the family and its importance.  All these and more, told through a story about a woman finding her inner strength to stand out, stand up and be counted, building and reinforcing confidence that she’s more than just a Laddoo machine.  -A reviewer on IMDB.com

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Do you loathe typical Bollywood films (w/ vacuous portrayals of women, too old to play college Romeos men, and incongruous songs/dances)?  Then this is THE film for you!  (I liked it even better than Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake, two fabulous films you should check out.)  Two friends and I made the trip to Leesburg, VA to check it out; we live in Silver Spring, MD.  

Shashi Godbole (Sridevi) is a beautiful housewife and mother living a comfy life in India.  She’s also a well-known caterer of sweets in her area (called ladoos) who regrets the fact that she doesn’t speak/understand English (like her executive hubby and snarky preteen daughter).  But she’s still cool in the eyes of her little son.  When the entire fam is invited to the US for the wedding of her niece, Shashi jumps at the chance to take a fast-paced English course (led by a quirky British teacher with a motley crew of NYC immigrants).  She keeps it a secret, however, which poses certain challenges!       

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Who is that gorgeous/talented guy who befriends Shashi in the film?  It’s French-Algerian actor, Mehdi Nebbou, who’s a BIG star in his native France. 

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Life of Pi

life-of-piThis is another fine film from director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Sense & Sensibility; Brokeback Mountain, etc.)  It incorporates good acting with cool visual/special effects.  The teen boy in the film NEVER acted before!  (Suraj Sharma lives in Queens and was discovered during an open casting call where his lil bro was auditioning.) 

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One of India’s finest actors, Irrfan Khan (the dad from Mira Nair’s The Namesake), plays the grown-up Pi/narrator.  Another Namesake connection: Tabu plays young Pi’s mom!  My own mom (who read the novel by Yann Martel) enjoyed the film, too, as did her friend/neighbor. 

Lincoln

In 1865, as the American Civil War winds inexorably toward conclusion, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln endeavors to achieve passage of the landmark constitutional amendment which will forever ban slavery from the United States. However, his task is a race against time, for peace may come at any time, and if it comes before the amendment is passed, the returning southern states will stop it before it can become law. Lincoln must, by almost any means possible, obtain enough votes from a recalcitrant Congress before peace arrives and it is too late. Yet the president is torn, as an early peace would save thousands of lives. As the nation confronts its conscience over the freedom of its entire population, Lincoln faces his own crisis of conscience — end slavery or end the war.  -Jim Beaver, IMDB.com

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Who could’ve imagined that Irish actor Daniel Day-Lewis would one day play one of America’s most-loved presidents!?  (Liam Neeson, star of Schindler’s List was first considered for the role.)  Steven Spielberg humanizes Lincoln in this big, yet also small/personal, film.

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I esp. liked the scenes w/ Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt (who is becoming one of the young’uns to watch in Hollywood now).  Of course, you may know him from the comedy 3rd Rock from the Sun

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My mom was happy to see Sally Field in a big role (after some years); she plays Mary Todd Lincoln with intelligence and emotion (without ever going over the top).  Mrs. Lincoln did suffer from depression after the death of her son, Willie, as pointed out in the film.  I wanted to see more of Elizabeth Keckley (played by ER‘s Gloria Reuben), who was the dressmaker to Mrs. Lincoln. 

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Lincoln has class (David Strathairn, one of my faves), humor (James Spader, former ’80s heartthrob), and fiery rhetoric (Lee Pace and Tommy Lee Jones in the House of Reps).  Well, Jones adds some humor, too.  And yes, the revelation about his character’s (Thaddeus Stevens’) romantic relationship is true! 

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