Tag: 2017

First Reformed

In silence, a moving camera slowly stops at the entrance to a church; the First Reformed church in New York, the setting of Paul Schrader’s film.

The lack of camera movement is striking, the lack of music drowned by cawing-cawing creates an unsettling atmosphere; my movie mind immediately reclines to the mode of familiarity, that smug sense of the mind jumping ahead of the story.

Oh, but how wrong my movie mind was and how happy I am. It is not that I have not been wrong before, the lord knows I have but it is not often that the feeling of being defeated is accompanied by indescribable happiness.

First Reformed is nothing like anything I have ever seen.

Movies are a visual medium, meaning they communicate to us through the eyes and when that sensation is achieved, we have in our hands what is often called a visual treat.

First Reformed goes beyond all that. Schrader forgoes cinematic mastery for spare but sure-footed direction and lets his main character wrestle with the theme of the movie.

From the very beginning it concocts a headache giving mixture of hope and despair, headache giving because it confirms simply that there can be no hope without despair. But what should one do when those tasked with reigning us out in times of despair are themselves sinking in doubt?

Ethan Hawke in a career defining performance plays Reverend Ernst Toller, a former military chaplain who is now faced with convincing an environmental activist who strongly believes that we are headed for the worst of times and it is all our doing.

The restraint in film-making and lack of score, automatically puts the weight of the film on the actors and the success of the themes on the lines that they speak. Hawke is excellent and we must take time to thank the lines on his forehead, which jump from disinterest to doubt to finality of despair.

A spiritually moving and transformative film, which made me feel the truly small nature of our collective existence and how helpless we are in the great problems that we create for ourselves.

Finally, it felt like a great movie.

The Aunty Terror Squad

FYC: Spyder

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Has there been any Hollywood movie that has influenced so many Indian filmmakers within a short while than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight? Maybe it is about the obsession with creating an antagonist.

Oh but I’m only thinking out loud, but it could really be the next on the ‘movies-we-look-up to-for-immediate-inspiration’ after Coppola’s The Godfather.

But the Batman and Joker are already part of larger conscious because of decades of multimodal existence, making it easier for writers to evoke invested past strands and bring to life the characters; it is not the same case in a Telugu-Tamil bilingual; a genre where a master in the culinary arts would not feel out of place.

Such movies are not called masala for nothing.

The Dark Knight is a (dark) blockbuster superhero movie, the near equivalent from what we have is the south Indian mass masala.  While some of it can be considered as comic, but here the word does not refer to periodicals out of which characters leap out of.

Mass masala by itself depends much on its leading man and the story gives into him. By that very statement it means that these films are meant to work only for those who buy into the charms (or lack-of) of the star.

Which means that for the most part the writer-directors are restricted in their choice of ingredients, sometimes they have to make do with just one condiment, more often than not trick the audience by throwing garam masala in our eyes.

AR Murugadoss seems to, in my eyes at least an expert chef who can find different uses for the same ingredient.

(I am really overdoing this samayal-cinema analogy, must come to the point before things get over cooked)

Under The Influence

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I believe more than the act of being inspired by another work, it is more important to know why that particular inspirational moment worked and think before replicating it.

Spyder’s hero does what Batman wanted Lucius Fox to do, listen in on people; while the ethical ramifications of spying are superficially dealt, they provide a convincing motivation for the lead; to prevent crime before it happens.

Yes, this could be the pre-crime from Minority Report but it could also be the inversion that is seen in ARM films like making a Vijaykanth film without making a Vijaykanth film?

The hero becomes a mass hero as a reaction to personal tragedies or societal atrocities, but can he/she really still be called a hero by preventing events from happening and not let the world know?

But it isn’t really an inversion unless you follow through with the act of an unseen hero, ultimately compulsions prevail and there is a love track and so there must be songs and an overblown climactic fight which makes you forget the questions that the film tried to raise earlier.

Especially notable is when Madan Karky rhymes mosam with awesome and concludes love is eternal much like plastic.

But Spyder is still somewhere there and even these commercial elements are not without joy.

Who Wants To Be A Hero?

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Earlier in the Spyder, a scene made me reflect on an underlying theme in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, that every person is capable of heroism, Bruce obviously states this in the concluding chapter but there are enough visual examples.

The way the common folk are involved in the events that happen to the city, not just as observers but as  active participants, they are not alienated in the good vs. evil battle nor are they just used as bait for the hero to rescue.

But why?

In Spyder’s best segment which lasts about 20 minutes, has nothing to do with Mahesh Babu  or the antagonist S J Suryah, but about common people (middle aged ladies in this case) finding courage to do what they would not normally do and lend a helping hand beyond possible imagination.

It worked totally for me and convinced that this involvement of the nameless with whom we can identify, add to how we receive a film.

Yes yes, S J Suryah character and how he seems to have played it tries to match Heath Ledger’s Joker in every step, but then there is more to the Dark Knight trilogy.

Only if we choose to see, hence for your consideration.

 

 

 

FRS: Vivegam

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So we all know what an FRS is right? right?

-100: To us, we haven’t changed this boring intro, even with 14 writers on our payroll the fact that we can’t write a decent opening, shows the levels at which incompetence has seeped into the Laureate.<SHAME>

+5: Movie has no narration, a virtue especially when the last film we saw was Taramani.

-5: Whenever minor character says that they have x levels of security means mega security failure will happen within x minutes (Mega Security Mazhuppal Rule)

+30: Two eastern European uncles have been cast in such a way that just by looking at them you will know that they are villains, one has cigar also

-51.25: When confronted by assassin, victims will state their name, age occupation, designation and aadhar number(liberals no need to provide) so as to make life easier for the assassin.

Assassin is of course our AK

+21: hero’s name is AK!! hero’s character name is also AK!! how cool is that, i mean how inventive #AK25.

+101: How the movies have changed, like actors used to ‘play’ characters like villain, spy, doctor, minister etc; but in Vivegam it is what critics will call ‘turning-genre-by-the-head’

Wait buddies, we will explain.

Like Vivegam is not a story about a spy, it is about Ajith Kumar (AK) if he had chosen to become a spy instead of an actor. Yes that is the story.
+34: Writer-Director has embarked on toughest task of making every dialogue that AK speaks as punch dialogue.

Even when AK asks for sugar it is so menacing that you will not let children go near AK. More about children later
-54: Story? LOL what story?

-129.07: Messaging: Like this is not a movie this is AK’s personal videos to his fans,

+21: Serbians are not going to like this film

+50: AK’s super power is that no bullet will hit him unless he wills it himself, much like Mahabharatam Bheeshmar.

+112.33: When facing an entire army, always look at the camera and speak with optimism in tamil, this itself will confuse them. (AK’s escapism rule)

-34.5: As expected, dutiful AK will have cute family life

-11: GVM school of non-ordinary heroine naming, here it is Yazhnini, and of course she is a carnatic music teacher in inteeerior Serbia.

Hi to Cleveland Thyagaraj+ Death Metal Thangaraj

Oh wait, they also run cute tamil organic food restaurant which is popular among the locals. <Yeppa Dei Nativity>

-379: However cute, children must not be allowed in cooking area, safety reasons.

-150: Cute children

-29: As usual, hero looking at heroine playing with rain drops scene, hence love shot

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Pokkiri Pongal and all ok, have you seen Serbian Pongal? #Internaaational

+17: Yazhini is so the dutiful wife that even Valluvar’s Vasuki will have to take morning tuition from her.

-600: AK-Yaazhini level ideal couple pressures will seep into real life for couples after seeing the film.

Not ruling out divorce based on this pressure.

-89.12: Anti-Terror Squad head-office looks like one IT company with reception and all, I think they might have pre-sales division also, if free please put out JD at naukri boys!

+109: As expected head of Anti-Terror Squad is played by one person who will believe whatever people will say

+45: Hobbies: apart from being a top class spy, killer, assassin, strategist, husband, organic food chain owner AK is also a New York Times best-selling author

-300: War as photo-op: no seriously if you are army uncle in Serbia you will have lot of time to stand on tanks, do circumambulation to fighter jet, go to picnic, take and remove sun-glasses.

Yes, in slow motion.

-6.7K: Everyone talks about AK, every single character will talk about AK in the film, AK also talks about AK.

+23: Director believes hackers can do anything in life. ANYTHING

-56: If you are low ranking/new recruit in the espionage business you will be treated as a comedy piece (Arumaiprakagasam)

+902: Main Job of main villain is not to break the world into pieces but to praise AK, second job of main villain is to take over the world.

+15: Dei, in this movie everything is one hologram, even things you can do in simple PPT these villains will show in hologram.

Yeppa sci-tech-death

+15: Level of data analytics is MAX. eg: villain will shout: find the total number of running trains in Serbia, in that how many people are watching hot star in that how many people are eating lays chips type questions and his data team will give the answer within seconds.

Add to this, you will see 456 types of tracking and hacking #scitechdeath

We asked our data analytics team in Pune a simple question, how many people visit our blog nu. Still these fellows are giving reports.

 

-433: For our data analytics team

AK does data analytics in his mind only, so he does not need team.

+9: Phoenix paravai!

-213: Mind numbing mind games AK and villain will play for three hours, at this point we shouted “VARENNNN MAAAA!” into our phones and recorded the same for future use

Also all fights become tiring because anyhow you know that AK is phoenix paravai and nothing will happen to him.

-0.98: Analysts are telling that running time of the movie increased…..because….of….the….way…..AK…………spoke………………the……….dialogues……..given to…….him…..

-75: Spy uncles think that shutting down satellites is like switching off fan while leaving classroom

+101: Carnatic-mixed-martial arts based climax fight. One of its kind in Indian cinema.

AK’s T shirt rule: quality of t shirt will deteriorate towards the end of the movie so that it can be torn to reveal torso

Yes they have promised sequel and all.

Till then….

NEVER.EVER.GIVE.UP.

 

Subham/Ungal Naam

The FRS Team

Vanakkam