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Posts from the ‘Rishi Agrawal’ Category


DVD of the Week – Review of Synecdoche, New York (2008)


I am not going to be so pretentious as to pretend that I fully understand Synecdoche, New York. Nominally, the film is about a playwright in upstate New York, whose wife leaves him, taking their young daughter to Germany. After receiving a Macarthur Genius Grant, he then begins work on an autobiographical play, which spirals out of control. Eventually, after decades, the play contains hundreds of actors and fills a warehouse. As the play becomes increasingly strange, it encompasses his life and eventually becomes one of the main subjects of the play. The director not only has to hire an actor to play himself, but has to hire an actor to play that actor. Read more »


Top Ten Films of 2008 by Rishi Agrawal



First of all, just to get something out of the way, a lot of people wonder why this list is coming so late. A lot of the films that I typically like don’t get released in places other than New York and Los Angeles until January or February, and it’s not as if I live in a small city. A lot of other critics that work for professional outlets are able to get screener copies of the films, but I don’t have that luxury. So, the Oscars are over and so I’m not sure if people are still interested in the Best Films of 2008, but I still enjoy the listmaking exercise, so here we go. Read more »


Movie Review – Doubt (2008)


Doubt (2008)

Writer-director John Patrick Shanley’s much anticipated follow-up to Joe Versus the Volcano is Doubt, a film based on Shanley’s own play that takes place at a Catholic school in New York during the 1960s. Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) befriends a young black boy, but Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) is convinced that there is impropriety in their relationship. Read more »


DVD of the Week – Review of Frozen River (2008)


Writer-director Courtney Hunt makes it seem so effortless in her debut film Frozen River, which surprisingly garnered two Oscar nominations despite its low profile. I realize that there is much more to filmmaking than this (and I know that Courtney Hunt had to work hard to secure funding for the film), but sometimes it seems as though all a director needs to do is find a good story, hire some good actors, and let things unfold. Read more »


Ten Highest Grossing Films of 2008


Next week, Commentary Track will start rolling out its writers’ picks for the top films of 2008. And with the Oscars approaching, there is a lot of buzz about what the best films of last year were. But, suppose you don’t care about that and want to know what the most popular films of last year were. We’ve got you covered.

We haven’t been spending a lot of time on box office receipts lately, so this is as good a place as any to announce that the Box Office Recap feature will return in March. It will be monthly, and list the three highest-grossing films of each week from the month before and the ten highest-grossing films from two months before (to allow films to get a full run). We’ll also bring back the Box Office Recap game, where you’ll be asked to pick the three highest-grossing films of the month.

This year’s list brings the usual fare. We have three superhero films, four animated features, and two films featuring iconic action heroes. There are a couple surprises, though. First of all, only four of these films are sequels, proving that Hollywood may still have original ideas. And, perhaps most strangely, two of the year’s most critically acclaimed films appear on this list. Read more »


Movie Review – Revolutionary Road (2008)



I know there’s a fairly large group of people who find that Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning directorial debut, American Beauty, is overrated. I understand why people don’t like it – they find it overwrought and pretentious, but I still think it’s a wonderful portrayal of suburban angst. His latest effort, Revolutionary Road, based on the seminal Richard Yates novel, returns to many of the themes of American Beauty. Read more »


DVD of the Week – Wall-E (2008)


It seems that everywhere you turn these days that there is yet another raunchy comedy to cater to our supposedly grown-up attitudes. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Judd Apatow machine as much as the next guy, but I didn’t realize how prevalent the R-rated comedy was until one of my friends was lamenting how few movies she could watch with her elderly father – he grew up in a different era and is sensitive to sex and violence. When I asked her why she didn’t take him to animated films, she said that her father would not watch “cartoons.” It was then I realized the value of the Pixar films like Wall-E. The reason the movies are so well-made is not solely that animated films have matured, but that they now fill a niche that live action movies have abandoned – movies for everyone. The point that I am trying to make is that if you have an aversion to Pixar films because you feel that they are aimed at children, then I would advise you to take another look. Read more »


DVD of the Week – The Counterfeiters (2007)


The most difficult part about making a Holocaust film must be bringing something new to the table. Almost all films in the genre are good. The subject matter doesn’t deserve shoddy treatment. However, at their worst, Holocaust films drift into melodrama, trying too hard to say something profound. Last year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film The Counterfeiters takes a different approach. Instead of playing with our heartstrings, it presents us with an interesting moral dilemma. Read more »


Movie Review – Iron Man (2008)


Iron Man launches yet another franchise in Marvel’s ever-growing stable of superhero films. I am not sure how well known Iron Man is outside comic book circles, but certainly he does not have the fame of Captain America or Spider-Man as far as Marvel heroes go and so the origin story is particularly important. The film fulfills its goals admirably, by giving us a very watchable film which creates a base on which to build future films. Throw in some decent acting with nice action sequences and great special effects, and this is the movie that fans have been hoping for. Read more »


DVD of the Week – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a French film by American director Julian Schnabel, is based on the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, former editor of French Elle magazine. Bauby, after suffering a stroke, is left paralyzed except for one eyelid, though he remains fully cognizant. By developing a system of blinking, Bauby is able to write his memoir one letter at a time. Read more »