Wait, what? Year end post? Is it just me or did time just fly this year? For all practical purposes 2014 was supposed to be my year, at least in my head. Done with MBA (and studies, I swear), done with long distance, done with uncertainty. But guess what, life never pans out the way you expect it to. Life has a twisted sense of humor about it. So, here I am sitting in my house, typing away on my laptop, not knowing what 2015 has in store but still thankful for all the good things to have happened to me over the past twelve months. One of the biggest lessons I have learnt this year is to learn to be happy in one’s own space. It is easy to compare and contrast your life with someone else’s but Facebook check-ins and LinkedIn job updates do not tell the whole story. So, doing one’s own thing has never been more important than in today’s times. I do have moments of negativity creep in, but I’m only human. (Gosh, I need to get Christina Perri off my track list). But, enough of life lessons. Let’s move on to the more interesting part – my year end lists. If you have read my blog previously you must know how seriously I take these year end posts, I have been writing them for 6 years now which makes it a nice little tradition and I am a sucker for traditions [Find the previous posts here: 20132012 2011 2010 2009]. So without further delay, here it goes
While I love that ballads from John Legend and Sam Smith were lapped up by everyone, the success of songs like Anaconda by Nicki Minaj shakes my faith in the music universe. But, that is what is great about music – there is something for everyone. Here’s a roundup of music I loved this year:
1. All of Me – John Legend
2. Stay With Me and I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith – Safe to say I am mildly obsessed with his voice. Plus, he sounds even better live. Now, how many current artists can we say that about? Listen to his magical duet with Mary J Blige:
3. Animals and Maps – Maroon 5 (My favorite band right now)
4. Sing, Thinking out Loud and Don’t – Ed Sheeran (His voice is incredible and undeniably unique)
5. Flawless, Partition, Drunk in Love, Pretty Hurts and Blow by Beyonce. I just love Beyonce. Period.
6. Chandelier – Sia
7. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars (Watch the video and I betcha you will start dancing) Probably my favorite song of the year as well!
8. Guts over Fear – Eminem ft. Sia (Two of my favorite songwriters in the same song! Plus Eminem is the only rap artist whose songs I listen to religiously)
9. Blank Space – Taylor Swift
10. Rude – Magic (Reggae in the house! Sid loves this song too, so it had to feature on my list)
11. Budapest – George Ezra ( In my humble opinion, this guy could be really great in the future)
12. Hideaway – Kiesza
13. Dark Horse – Katy Perry ft. Juicy J
14. Who you love – John Mayer ft. Katy Perry (I am a sucker for a good love song)
15. Black Widow – Iggy Azaela ft. Rita Ora (Not a big fan of either of the singers but the Kill Bill inspired music video and the song itself are pretty catchy)
16. Love Runs Out – One Republic (I love the band and Ryan Tedder in particular)
Top movies of 2014
Gone Girl – I haven’t read the book so my interest around seeing the movie was based solely on the trailer, which I loved. I saw the movie with Sid on the first day and we were both blown away by it. David Fincher is the master of suspense but he captures the psychological complexities of his characters in this movie quite brilliantly as well. If Rosamund Pike does not clinch an Oscar nod for this role I would be very surprised.
Interstellar: I have to admit that I am an unabashed Christopher Nolan fan. He combines mainstream commercial elements with decently intelligent scripts and delivers entertaining movies one after the other. Interstellar was more science documentary than blockbuster viewing and the last act of the movie was all over the place, but I still tip my hat off to the Nolan brothers for bringing worm holes back in vogue! Physics was always my favorite science so I may be biased here but how often do you see a movie that forces you to think, analyze and deliberate.
Edge of Tomorrow: The predictable title and unimaginative promotions did disservice to this very fine movie . My love for Tom Cruise has waned over the years but I adore Emily Blunt so my expectations from this movie were high. I did not expect it to be as good and entertaining as it eventually turned out to be. Tom Cruise in fine form is still one of the most charismatic actors on screen and he proves that with this movie. It may not be as high on adrenalin as the Avengers flicks but it compensates for that with some clever scripting and screenplay.
Nightcrawler: I read rave reviews and oscar buzz for Jake Gyllennhal online for this movie so I dragged Sid to the theater to watch it. If there was one word to describe this movie, it would perhaps be Twisted. I mean, the protagonist in this very dark, sometimes comic but very scarily real movie is like none you have seen in recent times. There were some scenes where the entire audience gasped or let out a loud sigh shocked at the proceedings on screen. This movie might not be for everyone (Sid almost fell asleep somewhere in the middle) but I loved it!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: I really enjoyed the first movie and thought Andy Serkis was phenomenal as Caesar. The second installment in the series delves more into the man vs animal debate with the entire setting shifting into a more dark, apocalyptic world. The movie is entertaining and keeps you invested thanks to some great visuals. Who else thought Koba was the star of this movie?
I wasn’t as enamored with Captain America: Rise of the Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy as some others. They were good movies just not memorable enough in my opinion. [I am loving the new and improved Chris Pratt though!]
(The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher, American Sniper and Birdman release in January in Singapore so will update the list once I get around to watching them. I am gutted they don’t release before I publish this post but I am 110% confident that these movies will blow me away)
Queen: Seldom does a Hindi movie blow me away the way Queen did this year. The movie was fantastic on so many fronts – great female lead in Kangana Ranaut, lovely music, earthy real dialogues and a warm message to top it all up. I hope more such movies are made where you feel that the makers invested time and brain cells into the process.
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya: I really like both Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt so it is no surprise that this movie features on the list. The movie is neither path breaking nor cliched in its story or execution and depends solely on its cast to elevate the film. Plus, I am a sucker for DDLJ so this movie felt like a nice, modern day tribute to Raj and Simran.
Hasee Toh Phasee: I also really like Parineeti Chopra and think she is one of the better female actors we have today. This movie won me over partly due to the novel female character and partly for its music. (I think Siddharth Malhotra is super handsome but he has a way to go when it comes to acting). To have a female protagonist who isn’t all perfectly pretty and dolled up in designer wear, is quirky and not dumb was a welcome change.
Mardaani: We all know Rani Mukherji can act but it has been a while since we saw her flex her chops the way she does in this flick. Sid and I saw this movie not knowing what to expect – we had neither seen the trailer nor read any reviews, so boy were we glad that this movie turned out to be so good. Crisp story telling on the back of a great story and fine acting from the entire cast makes Mardani one of the better movies of the last year.
I enjoyed watching 2 States, Happy New Year (I know I shouldn’t be defending my choices but I quite enjoyed this movie. Not all movies need to challenge you intellectually and if paisa vasool entertainment is done convincingly and with a certain amount of skill, it works!), Daawat-e-Ishq as well.
Drushyam: I love Venkatesh as an actor. I grew up watching his movies and think he is one of the finest actors in Telugu cinema. Of late he has had a tough time finding his space in the movies given the influx of young talent in the industry. Drushyam was such a fantastic movie not just for him but even in the larger scheme of things. Granted it is remade from a Malayalam film, but its success bodes well for Telugu cinema where hero idolization, over the top fight sequences and predictable plots have ruled the roost for way too long. My only hope is that movies such as these where characters and not heroes are the center of attention continue being made.
Karthikeya: Honestly, we watched this movie on a whim. It was a weekend, we wanted to see a Telugu movie and everyone was saying how good Karthikeya was. So we went ahead. I loved this movie. I was pleasantly surprised at the great visual quality of the movie despite not being a high budget flick. The story is different and keeps you engrossed while all of the cast, especially the lead Nikhil, perform well. Also, I though the songs and shooting them in South India gave a grounded look to the movie.
Manam: Probably my favorite Telugu movie of the year. When you are assigned the task of bringing together three generations of the Akkineni family for the first time, the expectations are high. So it is to the director Vikram Kumar’s credit that he doesn’t fall into the trap of conventions and instead tells a story that seamlessly navigates between the leads – Nagarjuna, Chaitanya and the legendary thespian Late Mr. ANR. I also liked that the focus was not just on the male leads and even the female actors were given author backed roles. The music, cinematography (especially in some of the flashback scenes) and crisp editing made this movie a fantastic experience. One of the rare times when I felt like watching a Telugu movie in the cinemas for a second time.
Oohalu Gusagusalade: I think the best work in Telugu cinema is being done by small, independent film makers. The focus is more on the content and delivery which is great because I have had it with all the regressive, repetitive crap. This movie is one such small budget movie that has a very refreshing take on a love triangle. The performances, especially from the female lead, are very good as is the cinematography. The comedy is clean and some parts of the movie reminded me of a Sekhar Kammula movie.
Movies I didn’t like in 2014
Entertainment and Humshakals: Every year I feature a movie on this list that I haven’t really seen. This year that coveted spot goes to to two movies. I had the bad luck of seeing the trailers for both these movies and that was all that I needed. I genuinely think Sajid Khan has learnt his lesson after receiving the kind of flak he has for Humshakals but I read somewhere that Entertainment actually made money. What? Excuse me while I go and puke at the sorry state of affairs in Bollywood.
Haider: I know I might be in the minority here but I did not enjoy watching Haider. I really liked the performances from the cast members – barring Shahid Kapoor, but the movie was all over the place. It had the potential to be great but faltered. Plus, I hate pretentious pseudo intellectuals praising a movie merely because it handles a different subject. Making a movie is not just about picking a tricky theme, it needs to be executed well too. On a side note, can Tabu please act more. She is such a fine actress and deserves to be seen more on the screen.
1. The Mangalyaan Mission – Probably the proudest moment for India this year.
2. Getting to watch Serena Williams play live ( I will also get to you Roger, one day)
3. Deepika Padukone teaching TOI a good lesson in journalistic ethics.
4. Travelling with Sid – There is nothing better than seeing different places and exploring different cultures. Wait, let me rephrase. There is nothing better than seeing different places and exploring different cultures with your partner. As a direct result of that, I started a new travel blog : The Round Trip Ticket!
5. Watching Bruno Mars perform live at his Moonshine Jungle Tour, Singapore. I mean, this guy is beyond talented. If you get a chance to see his concert, do not think twice. You will dance, lose your voice singing out loud and appreciate Bruno and his band – The Hooligans for being true artists. Plus, there is no twerking, auto-tuning and all that nonsense.
6. The Clean India campaign: Although the idea is not novel, the approach is. Kudos to PM Modi for bringing cleanliness and sanitation back into public discussion. India needs a mass scale, ground roots campaign like this.
1. The chief minister of Telangana – KCR and his countless gaffes. I wish we could recycle all the crap that comes out of his mouth and put it to some good use.
2. The sorry state of law in India. Every time you think maybe things are getting better, a news story hits you and makes you sick to your stomach. Women are of course suffering the most but like the Haryana case proved, so are men. As are the poor and underprivileged. And the middle class. Everyone. We need better functioning of law and order.
3. This video of Arnab Goswami and Subramaniam Swamy. Absolute facepalm! News channels in India are going to the dogs.
So, you read what I thought of this year. Did I miss out on any awesomeness? (Apart from the TVF’s Permanent Roommates which I will see shortly). Before I digress, here’s wishing all of you a very happy New Year. May 2015 be filled with adventure, love and laughter for all of you. And here’s hoping we all become better people too. Cheers!