For Cinephiles. By Cinephiles.
Originally known as M.A.TV.D on Instagram, this curious film blog emerged during the Lockdown, as we binged and chowed down on everything on offer – from books to films to podcasts – all through those portable and sometimes pocket friendly, thumb loving devices.
This page will act as a distillation of all the content that exists on Instagram, with a keen focus on reviews.
The Big Little Screen also ties into the podcast – For The Love Of – a segment where my guests and I discuss everything that has to do with all the latest films and tv shows.
From The Envelope
Little Fish: A Profound Love Story for the Ages
Based on the sci-fi short by Aja Gabel, ‘Little Fish’ is a remarkable love story that packs a punch – tender, bleak, tense yet brimming with the vivacity of life and the power of hope. Short story adaptations are tricky nuts to crack but allow room to build upon the many layers of texture and nuance that already exist within each piece. The director, Chad Hartigan, strings together a beautiful yet heart wrenching tale that would have been just any other speculative fiction feature had we not been in the middle of a pandemic ourselves.
Calls: The Universe Did It
Apple TV’s new original based on Timothée Hochet’s French drama with the same name, is an unnerving, tense, unforgettable and immersive sensory experience that manages to take you on a mind bending journey across time and space, as you – the listener – act as a fly on the wall and listen in on numerous seemingly random yet interconnected phone calls.
Possessor Uncut: Cronenberg ups the ante with a disturbing, compelling & provocative psychological thriller
Brandon Cronenberg, like his father, has a penchant for body horror so it was only natural for him to continue in the same vein, pun not intended. However, that isn’t to say that he lacks the vision to execute his own brand of storytelling. I might be shooting myself in the foot here, but Brandon may in fact go one step beyond David – carving out a niche within the Cronenberg world where high concept art meets sci-fi psychological horror.
Billie Eilish – The World’s A Little Blurry: Life indeed is a Song
Moving, authentic, raw, intimate, and a marvellous momentous achievement. This has to be one of the most seamless and articulate documentaries on any musician. Period.
Billie and music are inseparable and the film makes sure that it never moves too far away from it, nor does it succumb to the pressures of a conventional style of documentary filmmaking – that can sometimes turn people away from the content.
Is Love Enough? Sir: We need more Films like these
Bold, moving & stirring ‘Sir’ is a triumph for Indian cinema and a searing look at the divide that exists within society. With its simple yet elegant style – as the camera pans from left to right and one room to the other, often depicting the harsh reality and starkly different worlds of the two protagonists – this right here is emotionally intelligent filmmaking that shines a light on our vulnerabilities and insecurities.
Nomadland: Home is where the Heart is
A strikingly poignant, poetic and wistful adaptation of a book with the same name, Francis McDormand – who has most certainly outdone herself – stars as Fern, a woman who has lost everything during the Great Recession and is struggling to come to terms with it.
Minari: An evocative, spellbinding slow burn that has been exquisitely crafted
Authentic, moving and charming, ‘Minari’ paints a vivid and beautifully textured portrait with firm and confident strokes of resilience and tenderness interspersed with specks of Korean melodrama. Lee Isaac Chung proves that you can make a solid film without pandering to a particular audience.
Coup 53: You cannot miss this!
Riveting, provocative and revelatory, Coup 53 plays out like one of John le Carré’s spy thrillers and is one of the most important and relevant documentaries of our time.
Promising Young Woman: Mulligan turns it up a notch
‘Promising Young Woman’ is by far one of the most intriguing and beguiling films of 2020 which boasts a mesmerising performance by Carey Mulligan – just when you think that Mulligan has reached the zenith of her career, she pulls yet another rabbit out of her hat.
Atomic Blonde: What a blast!
Based on the graphic novel ‘The Coldest City’ – which I will most definitely be checking out – and set days before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, ‘Atomic Blonde’ is a feast for sore eyes with a stunning yet unique neon tinged aesthetic and sumptuous action pieces that more than make up for a sketchy plot – which to be honest, goes completely bonkers towards the third and final act.
Soul: “Is all this living really worth dying for?”
Pixar is back with a beautiful ‘Soul’ searching rip roaring journey across dimensions and is at its very contemplative, metaphysical & ambitious best – as it explores the realm of existentialism and what it means to be alive.
We are Who We are: This is TV like you’ve never seen before
Luca Guadagnino returns with a slow burn coming of age story for the small screen. Touted as “spiritual successor” to ‘Call Me By Your Name’, which to be honest really is pretty reductive. ‘We Are Who We Are’ is more than capable of standing on its own two feet and feels more like a spiritual awakening – a force of nature.
The Queen’s Gambit: A Thing of Beauty
Anya Taylor-Joy has finally come into her own and absolutely nailed it.
A brilliant character sketch of a young chess prodigy at the height of the Cold War – which could pass off as a true story and probably win a couple of Emmys. It still will. It better – The Queen’s Gambit is probably one of the best shows of 2020.
Court: A True Masterpiece
An astonishing piece of filmmaking that is a character study of the Indian judicial system as well as the lower echelons of society.
Chaitanya Tamhane’s eye opening tour-de-force of a debut is exactly the kind of filmmaking we need – smart, nuanced and socially aware.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things: The description says it all
Mesmerisingly disconcerting and audaciously brilliant, Kaufman pulls you in with his words that flow as effortlessly as the sands of time – an experiment of sorts that bubbles with the effervescence of Jessie Buckley, the versatility of David Thewlis, the reserve of Jesse Plemons, and the idiosyncrasy of Toni Collette.
Greyhound: Unrelenting and Steadfast
Tom Hanks stars as a captain of an armada of battleships – as the allied forces sail for Britain – escorting a convoy of merchant and supply ships across the Atlantic all the while defending them against the dreaded German U-Boats.
Incendies: Earth Shatteringly Good
Denis Villeneuve’s penchant for gripping, powerful, atmospheric yet emotionally devastating thrillers comes from a single source – Incendies. Period.
#Alive: A fun addition to the genre
Here’s yet another zombie movie from the Peninsula (see what I did there? :P) that breathes new life into the genre by finally introducing a gamer as part of the world of the living dead – we finally get to see some of those skills put to good use!
A Separation: Simple, Evocative and Poignant
Asghar Farhadi’s ‘A Separation’ is a fine piece of evocative filmmaking that is poetic, complex and deeply layered – led by a tremendous cast in Leila Hatami & Payman Maadi.
Just Mercy: Hard hitting & Powerful
A hard hitting powerful legal drama that is both extremely relevant and immensely moving – steered by a tenacious Michael B. Jordan with bigwigs Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson standing ably by his side.
Palm Springs: Sharp, Witty & Genre Bending
It’s been a while since a thoroughly enjoyable rom-com came a calling and this one is just that and a lot more – with a neat little genre – bending existential twist.
The Old Guard: Looks like we’ve got another Franchise in the making
Charlize Theron is made for films like these. Period.
Based on the graphic novel with the same name, this film could have gone either way but the creators stuck to their guns (pun intended) and rolled out a surprisingly solid film.
High Flying Bird: Provocative, Gripping and Tantalizing at its best
High Flying Bird isn’t your conventional Basketball movie. Sure it talks about it, but not one proper game is played during its 90 minute runtime.
Son of Saul: A one of a kind experience
A harrowing, unsettling and extremely tedious watch which all stems from the suffocating yet immersive perspective of the camera. And that’s exactly what the director tried to achieve and went on to win an Academy Award for it as well!
Dark: Everything is Connected
Dark is insanely cerebral, addictive and, one of those shows that you really can’t watch while scrolling through your Instagram feed, at the same time!
Paatal Lok: An Almost Perfect Neo-Noir Crime Thriller
A clever, confident, mature and bold new age of television and film has emerged in the Indian landscape and ‘Paatal Lok’ perfectly embodies those sentiments.
Normal People: A Breathtaking and Intimate Tale of Love, Loss and Acceptance
Wondrous, magical, messy, complicated and oh so relatable ‘Normal People’ is one show that revels in nuance and subtlety – capturing each moment in all its raw emotive glory.
The Lighthouse: What in the world was that?!
A strange, eerie, hypnotic, majestic spectacle of a film that goes down a rabbit hole of madness as the keepers succumb to the perils of desolation and the true power of the elements.
Blow The Man Down: Thoroughly enjoyable
A brilliant, entertaining and sometimes whimsical dark comedy thriller that reminded me a bit of something the Coen Brothers would have worked on.
Tigertail: Poignant, Powerful, Wistful and Nostalgic
A poignant, powerful, wistful and nostalgic drama that highlights the struggles of a Taiwanese immigrant in search of the American Dream.
The Complete Experience: The Story of Theranos
John Carreyrou’s exposè and subsequent Pulitzer Prize winning book (Bad Blood: Secrets & Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup) on ‘Theranos’ sent ripples across the Valley.
Vivarium: Why? Just why?
A creepy confounding nightmare of a film – that starts off with a strong premise – that exudes shades of wit, a startling setting and well, Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots.
Band of Brothers: Gear up for one heckuva Experience!
I recently finished watching the 10 episode HBO limited series and boy what a ride! ‘Band of Brothers’ recounts the incredible sequence of events as Easy Company (the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division) is deployed and parachuted into Europe.
Birds of Prey : There’s beauty in the Chaos. Eh. Maybe a bit.
‘Birds of Prey’ (I’m not even going to try writing that enormously huge sub-title, which WB eventually changed!) is a fun, not-so-serious, fast paced departure from the other hits and misses that Warner Bros. has conjured up in the past couple of years.
The Complete Experience: Watchmen
Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen revival (technically a sequel) was shrouded in secrecy from the get go amid a fair amount of scepticism. However, now that the cat is out of the bag and the dust has settled, I can safely say that the HBO series is a delightful piece of storytelling that is richly layered with time, race, motherhood, moral ambiguity.
Meeting Gorbachev : A Stirring Achievement
An intimate and moving portrait of the last ruler of The Soviet Union, ‘Meeting Gorbachev’ is in essence an odd love letter and ode to arguably one of the most important leaders of his time.
The Invisible Man : Elisabeth Moss brings the ‘oomph’ back to the horror genre
Smart, sophisticated and a marvelous retelling of a classic, ‘The Invisible Man’ is a relatable tale that packs some punches and redefines the horror genre – sometimes what scares us the most is what can be explained. A deeply layered film led by one of the finest actors in the industry today – Elisabeth Moss take a bow – draws attention to the realities of domestic violence.
The Complete Experience: The Plot Against America
Based on the novel by Philip Roth, ‘The Plot Against America’ chronicles an alternative universe where “Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin D Roosevelt in the 1940 United States presidential election.”
The Farewell : Mesmerizing and bordering on Therapeutic
Poignant, heartfelt, with a whiff of humor ‘The Farewell’ beautifully captures the essence of ‘being part of a whole’ – a family.
Based on the director’s family, the film is an ode to Chinese culture and of discovering one’s roots, Lulu Wang has done an incredible job at capturing the nuances, behavioural traits and strong familial bonds – orienting audiences towards a way of life and the people who strictly adhere to it.
The Complete Experience: Castle Rock
Four episodes in and I’m hooked! I may be a little late to the party but after ‘The Outsider’ this one seemed like the next go to binge-able show. “Castle Rock is an American psychological horror anthology web television series, featuring and inspired by characters, settings, and themes from the stories created by Stephen King and his fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. “
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson at his best
The suave, nostalgic, albeit melancholic radiance that Wes Anderson infuses into his films is a sight for sore eyes. Each and every scene is carefully crafted and laid out like a picture postcard.
Ad Astra: A fine balance between nuance and action
‘Ad Astra’ easily lies on the other end of the spectrum if compared to ‘Prospect‘ and that too in all categories – right from the budget to special effects. The film easily slots into the category of really good looking space adventures with an A-Lister steering the ship. Pitt has outdone himself and his career seems to be ageing like a fine bottle of wine.
Arrival: A Timeless Classic
A cinematic masterpiece that has been intimately expanded and adapted from Ted Chiang’s book – ‘Stories of Your Life and Others‘ – which incidentally should be on your reading list as well. ‘Arrival’ is an intricate web of ideas – out of this world and yet very much focused upon our own and how humans as a species communicate.
Prospect: Low Budget Sci-Fi done right
An offbeat, grounded, indie, sci fi adventure that elegantly takes advantage of the human condition rather than an over reliance on visuals super charged with jaw dropping cinematic effects.
The Complete Experience: Chernobyl
HBO has developed an arsenal when it comes to mini-series. Created for the small screen by Craig Mazin and loosely based on accounts from the book ‘Voices of Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich’, the show “chronicles the behind-the-scenes drama and horror of the infamous 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine.” – Tom Shackleford, Live for Live Music
Hunters: Controversial, Pulpy & Fun
Set in the 1970s, in New York City, Hunters introduces us to an odd yet eclectic group of American vigilantes who are out to avenge the Holocaust.
It is extremely easy to rip Hunters apart and tear it to smithereens for being “insensitive, brash and unimaginative”. Yes, it stutters and falters and does not seem to know what it is but in all the cacophony and beneath all those layers of mediocrity, violence and gore there exists a story.
You’re the Worst: Fare thee well, old friend
‘You’re the Worst’ perfectly encapsulates the anti-rom-com genre, and definitively so. Created by Stephen Falk and steered by an incredibly talented cast in Chris Geere, Aya Cash, Desmin Borges and Kether Donohue; the sitcom revolves around two self centred egotists who decide to give each other a chance.
One Mississippi: Amazon’s got some real hidden gems
Based on events right after battling with cancer and the sudden death of her mother, Tig Notaro’s show is honest, heartfelt and insightful. The dark comedy is a breath of fresh air that borrows snippets from the comic’s life as she grieves and comes to terms with her loss.
Formula 1 | Drive to Survive: It’s good. Really good!
The high octane often scandalous Netflix drama from the pit lane returns with its second season. As a PR move, this couldn’t have been any better. Formula 1 has been consistently losing support over the years partly due to the hegemony of the top 3 teams and the steady decline of unpredictability in the motorsport, as well as the numerous rules and regulations that no longer focus on racing but on the nitty-gritty details of technicality that suck the life and fun out of the grid.
Transparent: Sad to see this end!
The Pfeffermans embark on yet another journey of self discovery in Season 4, which is as revelatory, as dysfunctional and as human as the previous 3 seasons but with a firm handle on the brakes.
High Maintenance: A pot dealer in New York. Need I say more?
Over the years, HBO has developed an interesting and steady mix of anthology series which seem to have formed a niche – between the mainstream and the fringe. ‘High Maintenance’ joined Home Box Office in 2016 after enjoying some success on Vimeo and I am extremely glad that the creators (Ben Sinclair, who plays ‘The Guy’ and Katja Blichfeld) took that call.
The New Pope: A Provocative Meta Feast
Extremely self aware, over the top and beautifully executed, ‘The New Pope’ is a continuation of Jude Law’s story as Pope Pius XIII in ‘The Young Pope’ – with the brilliant entrance of John Malkovich.
The Outsider: A Supernatural Thriller that is both terrifying and grounded
Brought to life by Richard Price (The Night Of – another fantastic miniseries on HBO), The Outsider is an unnerving & addictive adaptation of Stephen King’s novel with the same name.
Raising Kratos: To all the gamers out there. This one is for you!
Way back in 2013, Cory Barlog and his team of 300 (see what I did there?) at Santa Monica Studios were set a herculean task of putting together a game that would revitalize a flagging franchise, by not only reaching out to loyalists but also catering to an entirely new generation of gamers.
1917: A Cinematic Masterpiece!
Shot and magically stitched together ostensibly as a single continuous take, Sam Mendes delivers a riveting, edge-of-your-seat nail biter that is brutal, awesome and yet so very human.
Monos: A tour de force unlike any other!
Dream like bordering on the therapeutic, otherworldly, atmospheric, visually stunning bolstered by alluring landscapes – Monos is a festival in itself, celebrating the art of filmmaking and elevating it to the next level.
Parasite: Bong Joon-Ho is back with a bang!
With the Palme d’Or and a recent Golden Globe ‘Parasite’ truly is one of the best films I have ever seen. Bong Joon – Ho brilliantly stitches humour, drama and suspense to create an impeccably shot cinematic experience – that is extremely relevant, thought provoking and gut wrenchingly beautiful.
Jojo Rabbit: “It’s definitely not a good time to be a Nazi.”
Inspired by the book ‘Caging Skies‘ by Christine Leunens, Taika Waititi’s latest film is a satire and thought provoking commentary on a system of beliefs that still plague us today.
For a film with a not-so-serious tone – imagine a dancing Hitler – Jojo Rabbit does a commendable job at hitting the nail on its head to drive its point home.
The Mandalorian: A Fitting End to an Enjoyable First Season!
Disney’s first Star Wars live action feels a bit clunky to begin with – ‘Mando’ jumps from one planet to the other in search of work – and the short episode runtimes do nothing to help.
Star Wars | The Rise of Skywalker: Absolutely Abysmal
A follow up to arguably one of the largest science fiction franchises was going to be a herculean task and only a giant like Disney could have succeeded in pulling it off. But boy, what a mess!
Knives Out: An intriguing ‘whodunit’ with a not so intriguing ending
Rian Johnson is an interesting filmmaker – Looper was really good – and was an inspired choice to spearhead the next trilogy in the Star Wars Universe (don’t know whether that’s happening now).
The Witcher: This is the Henry Cavill show. Period.
A fun and action packed first season with a muddled timeline that becomes slightly clearer at the very end. That being said, it’s perfectly alright to say that this did not live up to its hype.