Joker (2019)

The immediate message that got to me after watching Arthur Fleck slowly descend into madness is that I should get out of my head for good. 

Joker’s a really well made film, thoughtfully so in the departments of art and cinematography, but something about this record of madness doesn’t sit well with me. This was one of the reasons, I gave myself for skipping the film, until today.

Another reason is that I don’t really like the Joker character. 

There, I said it. 

Enough hot takes, I would like to elaborate a little, what I really mean is that I don’t really appreciate the modern interpretations of the character- starting from Heath Ledger’s take in the Dark Knight.

The character (in the movies) has traveled far from the camp that Jack Nicholson literally painted on screen. Now all the fun is gone. 

Well it’s been a generation since 1989. Things change, people tend to be attracted to different things. 

Maybe they do prefer this interpretation, where a comic prince of clown is moulded into this thinning frame which has nothing in its heart, but only itself ( and self pity of course). Maybe there is a reason why Arthur Fleck is a stand up comedian- a profession that requires a lot of suppressed anger (on society and on self) to be converted into jokes. And when those jokes don’t work? It turns into the descent, that I touched upon earlier. 

Drawing directly from Scorsese’s influential work in the 70s & the 80s that also featured decaying characters in cities of decay, Todd Phillips, adds too little. By throwing in Robert De Niro in as a funny talk show host, Phillips ensure that the Scorsese references don’t go unnoticed.

Gotham now has a rat problem, there is garbage everywhere and they hate the rich. The city then erupts into protests with people wearing clown masks because billionaire Thomas Wayne made an offhand comment, an indication that protests may not always have its origins in meaning.

But there is one thing, it doesn’t seem like a usual super hero(or villain) based film, and kudos to the director for that and Phoenix is in his usual great form; but after a point it becomes difficult to back the delusions of a depressed guy. 

Joker, the character itself is quite diabolical and is in constant need of space and adoration, it almost stole the movie from Batman in the Dark Knight; now it wants it’s own movie and going by the box office collections, it could have its own franchise. 

A franchise for those who feel they are disenfranchised. God, help me.

Enai Noki Paayum Thota

It’s been a week since I saw Gautam Menon’s latest film. I remember almost nothing of it. I take home images of a movie and only then, do I begin to form opinions on it (unlike whatever you might think). 

With ENPT, I can only recollect Dhanush dancing on the edge of the salt pans somewhere on the ECR. I know for sure that this does not directly concern the story- something like Sunaina’s character ( whose name I have to Google), but I guess one of the bad guys described her “gummunu irukka” (not translating due to lack of appropriate word) somewhere in the movie . 

It’s just me, I am getting old. I need to seek help to get this ENPT blog post out. ENPT blog out and ENPT out of my system, so we can really plan what to see and discuss in the coming year. Get the blog out!

So I decided to call up the buddies who put together the FRS, they of course had a good memory, but they said since we have already written the FRS of Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada or AYM, the points would hold good for ENPT. 

The writers were also very smart, they said that if I badly wanted a blog post about ENPT then I could just replace AYM with ENPT, Dhanush with STR, Megha with Manjima and voila, ready. 

Sometimes, I wonder how such smart people write for us. Mostly, I forget that these people are smart people. It’s just me. I am getting old. 

Next I look to the internet, which is a rich in opinion and low on insights medium. Maybe these opinions could help me remember what the movie was all about. After all, I needed to have a memory to form opinions, this seemed a logical option. I had to do it, I had to get into death wish mode and complete this blog post. 

But mostly the internet was talking about how ENPT had a lot of voice overs, hmm they were right, but also this was a Gautham Menon movie, what were they expecting? Maybe they were expecting smart voice-overs. But then again, this is a Gautam Menon film. 

Ah, now I remember; Dhanush’s college senior is Sunaina. But I know for a fact that Dhanush is much older than Sunaina, so maybe I should write about actors playing their appropriate age, that will surely resonate on social media. It is fairly an easy piece to write, almost a low hanging fruit, even our data analytics team in Pune said it would do good for overall website traffic. I rejected the idea, low hanging fruits don’t appeal to me. That’s why I didn’t write about a 30 years old actress playing a 26 year old. 

Another section spoke about how voice overs (i.e VOs) is the modus operandi (i.e MO) of Gautam Menon, they even said like if ‘we’ don’t question shadows in a Hitchcock film, then ‘we’ shouldn’t question GVM too. On the face of it, this seems like a very intelligent argument, our data analytics team also saw such arguments get the much needed traction. 

But is it not about using a method of storytelling but how well it is used and what impact it creates on the audience, the “we” in this case. Of course, if “we” say this, the response would be like, impact is subjective etc. Don’t ask me what I thought about the voice overs, I barely remember this film. It had voice overs. 

Ah! Now I remember, Sunaina’s character name is Mythili and she works in Mumbai. 

With only these minor memories, I was again faced with the question, should I even write about this film? The options before me were clear and they all pointed to one way to escape this misery, I had to. 

Don’t ask me why, you don’t have the right, because you did not ask when Scorsese used voice-overs or when Hitchcock used shadows. 

I should probably make up sentences like “first half was breezy-romantic, second half was action packed” , but honestly, I don’t know what breezy romantic is. But I should write these things, it’s probably what the ‘we’ felt in the theatres according to some critics. 

I know this blogpost will not add anything to discourse, much like Dhanush’s sister character in the movie, much like all GVM’s sister characters. 

So I should just put it out there, get ENPT out of the way and move on. Maybe I should go to Mumbai too, just to think about this movie in detail. But that would be a costly thing to do and my life might cross with gangsters and arms dealers. But I can always stay in Mythili’s place. Damn! I should just publish this blogpost.

“Do it. Do a spelling and grammar check. Now hit publish!” a voice in my head tells.

Don’t ask me why. 

Even if it is mediocre, some critic in the future might compare it to a blog post about a Hitchcock film. 

Ford v Ferrari (2019)

I am not a motorsports enthusiast, heck I am not even a sports enthusiast but the sports film, Ford vs Ferrari is one of the most impactful films I have seen this year. 

James Mangold’s film is a product of conviction and evident proof that the only way to win over the audience is through good story and great characters and not by pandering to them. When done well this approach brings in even those who are not remotely interested in the space that you are making the movie in. ( Me and sports)

I don’t think, I emphasised the previous paragraph to much effect; what I meant to say is that making a good film starts by having complete disregard to the expectations that your audience might have. 

“Oh right, this is one of those sports films and the movie ends with the winning moment” 

No it doesn’t.

But it plays on the existing sports movie template and makes it better. 

Make it better.

Ford vs Ferrari is a movie about optimisation. It’s not what movies are usually about, especially Tamil movies, in which we take the broadest of canvasses to tell the shallowest of stories. Optimisation begins where specialisation deepens. Ford v Ferrari is about making fast cars, faster. 

Bit by bit, Ken Miles(Christian Bale in a soon to be multi-nominated performance), our hero is trying to make things better. As a race car driver he is in search of an elusive perfect lap. Every race win, in this movie (and there are many) ends with a feeling of how he could actually have done it better, while the world watches in awe as Ken Miles breaks his own lap record. 

The search for excellence is a solitary game, it is a search that does not end with a pat on the back or the roaring sound of applause or admittance from peers. The search for excellence is in fact a never ending search. 

James Mangold takes the much seen sports drama arc which has the rebellious maverick- the considerate mentor- the conniving and unreasonable corporate into a drama about artisanal passion where the race (although shot with great precision ) gives way to the characters. 

Competing with respect

In any other movie, Henry Ford II ( Tracy Letts is brilliant) would be the corporate monster, a villain who derives pleasure in killing competition like boutique car mechanics. No, but here, underneath layers of tailored suit is an entrepreneur trying to do good by his grandfather’s legacy.  Mangold and his writers treat characters with respect, even the stock characters. 

Also in the movie is the relationship between designer Carroll Shelby( Matt Damon, too in a soon to be multi-nominated performance) and driver Ken Miles- a friendship so relatable when they have hands on each other’s shoulders talking about chassis and brakes, but not so much when they really try to spell it out. 

Nevertheless, Ford v Ferrari takes a close second place in my imaginary best films on friendship contest in 2019. That honor, as on date firmly rests with Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood. 

For Mangold and his crew, I do what Enzo Ferrari does, with his hat, at the end of the race.