Categories
cinema

Kurt Vonnegut: Stuck In Time (2021)

So, it’s December now and I thought that this would be a year (like most) which would pass on without me having to cry about watching a movie and lie about not crying about it later.

Like how most grown men do.

But I was proven wrong, like how most grown men are (often).

So, I had read Slaughterhouse-5, sometime just after I could squeeze in a membership in a decent library to which I could cycle to.

Usually, people who do read books, talk about reading slaughterhouse-five in college. Others would have had a passing glimpse of the Cat’s Cradle cover, those folks ended up with an MBA.

Nowadays, people look at you as a genius if you remember that if you merely remember the author and the book title. They might even give you a prize for it.

So it goes.

Nevertheless, nothing ever prepared me (even reading Slaughterhouse-five) for Bob Weide’s documentary Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time. Otherwise, I would have carried a box of tissues with me.

The tears came not only because of the realization of the fact this was a thoughtful, cheerful and wonderful documentary on arguably America’s greatest man of letters of the 20th century.

Ok side note:

how to determine if you are really reading the greatest author of your generation?

Answer: If your parents have heard of him/her; then better throw the book away, far away.

Side note ends.

The tears came because, it is possible to lead a fruitful life by a man of letters (as this documentary shows).

Vonnegut Jr, died in 2007, he was eighty-four and he had retired ten years earlier. He regarded life very seriously and hence wrote funny novels about it.

The tears came because, any career length feature about Vonnegut would have simply been awe-inspiring.

But this doc which was forty years in the making where the writer-director is himself a character (a trait Bob inherits from Vonnegut) and makes it another great film about family, friendship, loneliness and the struggle of the creative process.

Just like Simla Special.

Ok, that was supposed to have been my punchline.

So, do yourself a favor and use the weekend to watch Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time.

Like most of the movies that matter, this is not on any OTT that you maybe paying precious money on.

That’s life, spending on all the wrong things, when all the right things are for free.

Simla Special can be watched for free on YouTube.

If you don’t know how to get hold of a copy of Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time, you are using the internet wrong.

So it goes.

Categories
cinema:tamil

Aranmanai 3: Into the Aranmanai-verse

Beyond Imagination

In Aranmanai 3, Yogi Babu plays a thief called Abhishek (lel), who thinks he has stolen 10 kg of gold and safeguards it in the titular Aranmanai.

But the audience knows that it is not 10 kg of gold but 10 kg of dosa batter.

How far can this joke be extended successfully?

Sundar C does it for almost 3 hours.

Actually, this is nothing for Sundar C, compared to how he has managed to extend the same-premise franchise for three whole movies and maybe into the future as well.

“Cash grab!” someone shouts.

Yes, but only in ways like how the MCU is a source of recurring revenue. It is a cash grab but certainly better in many ways than the immediately comparable Kanchana franchise.

“Okay, they are really serious about discussing the Aranmanai franchise” someone shouts.

Yes, as is the case, we are ahead of the curve in assessing pop-culture phenomenons, when all other review bodies can only see this as a cash grab. They will continue to see it as a cash grab till maybe the fifth or sixth installment (or till the point of ego-breakdown) and write think pieces about how “Aranmanai” is actually good.

This cycle happened for many franchises, including The Fast and the Furious, whenever review bodies see franchises, they see it is as a devious corporate attempt to extract more money from the same.

Maybe true.

But Aranmanai 3 is actually good. Very good.

And I am not saying this because of my inherent bias towards Raashi Khanna films. #FullDisclosure

Astrologer asks: What’s your Raashi, Khanna?

A good way to gauge interest while watching a movie is to pause it at any moment (thanks to OTT) and see if we are able to guess the rest of the way. Most of the movies would fail in this test, but the investment that I have in the characters alone would see me through.

For Aranmanai 3, I tried to do this multiple times and always Sundar C and team always won.

If Aranmanai can be seen as an extension of Chandramukhi and Aranmanai 2 an entry which was just finding it’s footing in mythological horror; Aranmanai 3 can be seen as Sundar C completely embracing the madness.

Chandramukiying!

Always crazy in thought and totally shocking in execution, you will see stone lions come to life, undying love and half dead bodies, scheming paintings, competing saamiyars, poison spewing paatis, piano playing ghosts, tik tok obsessed aunts, matted lock sadhu brigade and lots and lots more that you will forget to be shocked when singers Shankar Mahadevan and Hariharan appear as themselves leading a lord Murgan themed rock concert somewhere in the unreachable hills in this undefined film.

If the writing team had suggested 100 ideas during the discussion, all of them, repeat, all of them, made it into the film.

It’s great! It’s baroque! It’s nothing like anything!

It’s a movie where two ghosts come together to form a combined fighting unit!

What’s not to like?

Sundar C what you did there

Then there is director Sundar C himself recurs as Ravi, the great controller of all the strands of the plot. Each of these strands as dangerous as the snakes on Medusa’s head and only he can make sense of it all, and even that pressure is lifted off from our shoulders.

The satisfaction.

Also, this is the last appearance of Vivek sir, extending his sadboi comedian persona well into the beyond, he will be missed.

Aranmanai 4, yes over here, I’m interested; but can Sundar C ever top this?

Aranmanai 3 is now streaming on Zee 5.

Categories
cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Annaatthe (2021)

So, everyone here knows what an FRS is right? Right?

At the outset, Team FRS would like to wish everyone a Happy Deepavali.

May this festival of lights…

Editor: Enough, I’m done with festival greetings

Writer group: we haven’t even started and also can we add the now popular phrase “from us to you or from ours to yours, chief?

Editor: No! (shouts)

Let’s just stick with the FRS, okay? Already our brand is too weak, we haven’t done an FRS in months.

Just begin.

-101: Annaatthe begins with a voice over. Always beware of narration boys! Funnily enough this narration is never followed through again the movie. It is only used as a lead in to take us six months back.

-45: People of Kolkata are eager to know who is Annaatthe, they are also using the hashtag #whoisannaatthe, but we know that Annaatthe beats up gangs who hold black money of the rich and famous, so pretty much an underground operation, why would the media be covering this and why would people on the street want to know who Annaatthe is?

Cut to Soorakottai.

+52: Obviously hero is village president, but he is also arbiter of local fights, deliverer of pearls of wisdom and doer of kurumbu, singer of songs and dancers of the (omkaara) koothu

No need to mention that everyone from 6 to 60 love him, because he is hero.

Do villagers really love this kurumbu doing hero or is this a Kollywood based reality?

Also also innocent and cheerful villagers are innocent and cheerful.

<Idea Moment>

How about a story where the villagers are actually irritated by the doings of the kurumbukaara hero types because their innocence and mischievousness always come in the way of you know, farming and they send him to Kolkata which is actually a place where the kurumbukara hero learns reality of life, work etc.

</Idea Moment >

+31: Rajni’s hair for being the representation of bounce, at times it seems like it is a separate organism with its own thoughts, wants, needs and ideas.

Did someone say idea?

<Idea Moment>

Rajni’s hair develops its own consciousness and starts to pick up radio signals whenever there are wrong doers around him, it’s mostly like a on the body travelling sidekick cum guide which helps him clean up crime.

</Idea Moment>

+155: Rajni himself for being the embodiment of enthusiasm, he does so much in this movie, more than all the rest of the cast, more than all the list of writers credited, more than what he is supposed to be doing.

It’s a pain to watch, but also at the same time painfully admirable that someone has so much spirit in trying to retain an audience.

But can he do it alone?

Umm

400: Paasakara Psychos

If you popped in (your mouth) popcorn every time someone says Paasam (affection?) in this movie, then you will run out of popcorn within the first few minutes, if you want to continue with eating popcorn and counting the word paasam be ready to break your FDs, because Popcorn is costly bhais.

Also, this family is full of Paasakara psychos that it is literally their affection which brings out the main conflict between Kaalaiyan (Rajni) and his sister Thanga Meenatchi (Keerthi Suresh).

Paasam is above everything and controls everything, it’s almost like Kaalaiyan and Thangam are possessed like in a horror film, also people around them are enablers, except the comedian who as usual sees the inanity of this situation?

Would you shower affection so much that they break themselves?

Disturbing to say the least.

Editor: please order more coffee, our writers need it.

Owner: no money, just publish and get done with it.

+19: But the ensuing drama for about five minutes is one of the best, Rajni also has a brilliant Siva conflict moment earlier in the movie where he needs to get his sister married but does not really want to.

As the saying goes, obstacles are good but conflict is always better.

Obstacle is when the hero needs to overcome something to accomplish something, conflict is when hero has to overcome something but doesn’t really feel like doing this.

Siva really does conflicts really well and Viswasam is one of the best mainstream movies which did this well in the last decade and we can keep typing away on the conflicts in Viswasam, but this is not that blogpost, that is a different one.

Here the conflict is small and it hardly registers. Siva has shown he could do it, but not always past experience leads to similar performance in the future.

<Cut back to Kolkata>

Editor: Wait a minute! Did you mention about how Meena ma’am and Khushboo ma’am brought in the nostalgia element and how people were transported to the 90s etc.

Writer group: were we?

Editor: get on with it.

<Cut again to Kolkata>

Kolkata the city where it is always Durga Puja.

-103: To reinstate that we are indeed in Kolata, Keerthy Suresh is asked to run on Howrah bridge and Victoria Memorial.

We mean…

-67: Something something happens and we find ourselves with our first major villain.

-50: something something happens and we find ourselves with the second major villain.

The something something here refers to the designed action sequences which technically should be fun to watch, but since we don’t have any real stakes here and since both the villains are no match for Rajni, there is no swarasyam left with us the audience.

Swarasyam, there’s a good title for the next Siva and Team movie.

Editor: Do put in a word about the villainous roles of Jagapathy Babu, the audience will like it.

Writer group (in unison): we write for ourselves, who cares what the audience like.

Editor: Waiddaminit! Something struck me, you guys were telling about the paasakara psychos right? Where affection itself becomes deadly to those involved?

Writer group (in unison): Yes!

Editor: So it could be like Siva’s reading of the Rajni phenomenon itself, so many people love him and the pressure just gets to him every time he makes the movie, the love they have for him could be a deterrent to what he could do on screen, it almost becomes a controlling force.

Maybe Siva and Team did experience this deadly affection pressure when they were writing the film and thus he put all that into the movie?

How is this interpretation?

What do you all think?

Writer group (in unison): We are not film companion, sir.

Subam

Team FRS

Categories
cinema:tamil

Likeable Wannabeism : Project Agni from Navarasa (2021)

Of all the films in the new Netflix anthology series that I’ve seen (yet to see them all), the only one that does some justice to it’s rasa theme is Karthick Naren’s Project Agni. 

It’s the rasa of wonder and it works for me because it is not an all encompassing wonder theme of something beautiful which is hard to dislike, but a specific wonder that only wannabes experience.

Technically everyone is a wannabe, so the wonder in Project Agni should work for all; but then even those genuinely experience wannabeism are chided for behaving like wannabes and then are forced to lose it to put on the garb of refined taste and culture. Cursed to consume pretentious content for the rest of their lives.

While I have lost my early wannabe animal to growing pains, that animal still lurks and takes more pains when I call out on other peoples wannabeism- like we did when we did the FRS of Mafia, Karthik Naren’s previous film. 

That’s how people drop their wannabe avatars, their curious instincts lost to ex-wannabes constantly telling them so, it is in a way a loss of innocence. 

I am not asking you to embrace wannabeism here, I am well aware of its pitfalls- like not growing an own voice and constantly in awe of any swaying ‘in-thing’. I’m just trying to say that there are levels of wannabeism which are tolerable, when it does not go along for long, when it is really not on the nose- it is likeable wannabeism. 

Likeable Wannabeism is a group of friends (not more than four) sitting in a restaurant talking about the opening scene from Reservoir Dogs (I mean), but of course not for hours but just the right length until one ex-wannabe can groan (predictably) on how Tarantino is overrated (yawn) and then switch on to Scorsese or Antonioni or some such etc. 

Likeable Wannabeism is the goldilocks of Wannabeism and in the realm of cinema, in recent times, it is usually spent in the discussions of films of Kubrick, Nolan, Tarantino. It’s talking about references to and inspirations from, it is looking at important concepts of life, universe and everything through the lens of movies. Obviously it cannot go on for long, because probably your peer group has only seen Inception and the more you go on talking about it, the more they are going to order the main course. 

All I’m saying is, just allow the wannabe their time, don’t call them out on it (always, only when on the nose) and with age and when life happens to them, they too will read the Russian classics, watch Kurosawa movies and listen to Mozart or Beethoven, the generally accepted boring trifecta of books, movies and music or in other words culture. 

But when it is short and snappy, there is nothing like Likeable Wannabeism, it could actually get you noticed, it might actually make the Wannabe an interesting person and not a self suffering movie nerd.

For example, in Project Agni, when Karthick Naren’s short-movie is how we shouldn’t totally chase our obsessions because going too far could lead to tragic consequences and then he name drops a thread from Room 237, the Shining documentary where people almost spend their entire life studying the Kubrick’s movie for meanings to their life and losing it completely: some hair stood on end. 

The connection. The goosebumps. The wonder. 

The wonder that Project Agni goes for is not the general perception of what beauty is or what wonder is, but just speaking to a small subset of movie nerds (not cineastes- urgh what a term) who watch movies not as entertainment or as dinner conversation fodder (although they do end up talking all about movies at dinner- I meant in a non transactional way) or as means to acquire high culture cred but simply as a channel to understand things. Movies as a means to higher purpose. 

It’s why they (movie nerds) go into the details, the set designs, screenplay structures and director interviews- they really want to know what all this is about. Please don’t confuse this with the thala-thalapathy first look poster trailer decoding that things are reduced to on youtube today, what I’m talking about is something in the lines of NerdWriter or Patrick Willems (whose long videos ofc becomes unlikeable Wannabeisms- exactly the point). 

An obsession becomes wonder- when something is figured out and that is the wonder I feel Karthick Naren is going for and he even does some flexes by making the right references and combining genres all within 30 mins while others in Navrasa are not even able to maintain one single mood for ten mins. 

Yes the acting really does help, Arvind Swamy was born to give to exposition dumps and most of the movie is just Arvind Swamy and Prasanna sitting down and talking about the stuff they are obsessed about (another movie nerd attribute of being meta comes to the fore, it’s something we like). And Prasanna is so good that you wonder how good he will be with twice the screen time. 

Also admirable that Karthik Naren chose to go with almost all english dialogue, which the story does demand- try translating ‘subconscious world’ in Tamil and inserting it 25 times in the script, then you’ll know. For some subjects english really works and kudos for Karthik Naren for being himself, it’s a brave thing to be oneself, especially in Kollywood. 

PS

Blue Sattai Maran refused to review the film because it was mostly an English film, maybe this is the solution that the industry has been waiting for to get Maran to stop talking about things he doesn’t understand- just make movies in english, he won’t review. But we would rob the world of much humor.

I know Project Agni won’t appeal to a lot of people, but that is the point of it. We have already killed culture by making it so that it will appeal to all folks. Let this one be.  

So instead of commissioning the usual FRS for Guitar Kambi Mele Nindru, I thought I’ll just write about the stuff I liked. 

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: JAGAME THANDHIRAM (2021)

So you all know what an FRS is right? Right?    

Disclaimer: We can only begin an FRS, we can never finish it convincingly.

And so we begin, with our invocation against gangsterism

Yes it is a genre of film but we don’t have to like it.

Yes it does seem cool, but all of us here at the FRS are in this endless process of ageing, which automatically means that we are against cool stuff like coloured jackets-wearing-beedi-smoking-at-the-same-time-smirking-gangsters.

Maybe you can sense there is some hate or you can also take the logical reasoning about how when you make gangsterism the main vehicle of your film you can give any reason to justify it, where lies all our problems with gangster movies. Yes it’s a genre and we (FRS writer’s room) don’t have to like it because supposed cinematic greats have an affinity towards it and even to risk earning the wrath of all film bros.

So yes gangsterism is against the law, whatever is the reason.

+101: No Narration. Good call.

<Trivia Thagaval Sponsored by Wikipedia>

The first half (divide as you will this is a direct OTT release) is very much a reworking of ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’ which itself is a remake of Yojimbo, which in turn Kurosawa said might have been inspired by the pulp novels of Dashiell Hammett.

#PulpisGood

</Trivia Thagaval Sponsored by Wikipedia>

It is the story of an outsider who comes to town where two warring gangs compete for control, the smart outsider plays one against each other, of course for personal benefit.

Here the town is London and the man with no name, actually is named Suruli.

-45: In trying to paint the character of Suruli colourfully, the director has forgotten even to sketch the rest of the characters.

Even the most paraded character of London gangster Peter, here played by James Cosmo, who unceremoniously gets added to the list of foreign powers who pose no challenge.

-34: Reinforcement max: movie, characters keep saying that Peter is a racist and white supremacist, while we already got it with his nameplate which reads “WHITE POWER” and random Ku Klux Klan outfit in his room.

His introduction too shows that how immigrants fear him, but somehow Peter is not able to face the problems posed by the gang headed by Sivadoss (Joju George)

-69: Obsession with intros: the first ten minutes of the film is just intros, some with ultra-text splashed on screen ala Tarantino- most movies take time to introduce their characters and that’s not a fault by itself. But in Jagame, with every powerful intro, the acceptability reduces proportionately.

For example, you show Peter as the most powerful gangster in town, but then in the rest of the movie he hardly does anything menacing.

We don’t know anything about his philosophy, every dialogue of his is just reinforcing that he is a xenophobe, which as pointed out, has been already established.

This begs the question, was this really the character that Karthik Subbaraj wanted Al Pacino to play?

+21.9: Reasons: While the idea to make a cross over gangster film needs to be appreciated, the reason to take Suruli from Madurai to London is one of the flimsiest even by Kollywood standards.

+30: Intelligentally Eli: Hero finds out everything including complex smuggling networks about rival gang within one week which other gangsters (who are in the same smuggling business) could not for years

Suruli can start an online course on competitive intelligence; we would surely pay for such things.

-5: But if hero could find out such things, he could have surely been able to find out why Sivadoss’ gang is smuggling gold etc.  

+78: Mahatma Gang Leader:  For a gang leader, Sivadoss is too trusting.

Boss, like your job description to not trust anyone.

-34: Movie proceeds as thus, till it becomes about immigrants and the Tamil Eelam issue.

While there is nothing wrong in trying to address larger issues in films, but maybe if they had been portrayed with more conviction or convincing actors would have helped the cause.

D is an accomplished actor, the transformation Suruli goes through in the film feels more like the character’s ego trip rather than real internal change, we really cannot say more without spoiling the film.

-450: A Host of Issues: If immigration issues are not enough, movies marries another going nowhere plot for speaking against private prisons, the need for identification and living a free life without borders.

Hmm yeah, maybe that’s why every minute of Jagame feels like two minutes.

+23: Cameron-Kanni Spotted: Movie at some point shows a burning merry-go-round which we feel is a reference to Terminator 2: Judgement Day and so we are giving positive points like these.

Yeah like random.

+91.5: Cut to the Combat: It almost feels that the director and crew only wanted to film the final blast everything in our way to the villain’s room shoot-out.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s really done well with slow motion and all that, but it almost seems that the rest of movie, the emotions of characters, are just a ruse(wink wink, nudge nudge)to get us to here.

Well atleast you enjoyed filming that.

Maybe the Thandiram in Jagame Thandiram is to get us to watch 2:40mins of uninspired filmmaking for the last few moments of inspired action, if that was the intention, then we have a winner.

<Winks winks, nudges nudges>

Subam

Team FRS