When Movie Theatres Re-open in India.

I am thinking of ending things. No, not through suicide. But you know, not being able to go to a theatre to watch a movie. I am thinking about ending the fear and planning to enter a large screen auditorium again. 

Mulan the film is based on the Chinese folklore “The Ballad of Mulan”. The world currently is suffering from a virus that originated in China. So is that why Disney+ decided to release the 200M USD production as a premium premiere option? I am not too sure. But the route to bypass cinemas when TENET has opened exclusively in theatres is a curious one. The talk about the sound design of TENET more than the movie or its story itself is also the same. 

Also, I cannot wait for the Justice League miniseries from Zack Snyder, which features an “Elseworlds” story. Probably the best part from the theatrical cut of the film was the video and song released by Junkie Xl and Gary Clark Jr. This is also taking a risk, investing another reported 70-80 M USD to film additional scenes with the main cast and restoring the score, visual effects and re-editing the film from scratch. 

For cinephiles, indulging into some of the classics was always on. 

Now it is the only option. Many tentpole movies are pushing themselves as far away from the pandemic as possible. In terms of the Indian film industry, the market is now open. I doubt or would accept that I do not understand the distribution industry in India in detail. As film fans, it is easy to see that all bets are off. All studios are making deals with various streaming platforms and putting out as many films as possible. I am unable to grasp a sense of the industry’s calls for the need of the theatrical experience. 

Anyone who cares about quality art as a necessary part of the culture and the health of society would look elsewhere. Many people, especially in the larger cities, have access to unlimited international streaming content. They would perhaps develop a taste as they grow up with characters and moralities of other nations. Our consumers might not be able to accept some of the mindless entertainment which was going on in Indian cinemas.  

Venom – Why Tom Hardy?

I mean, that’s my central argument. Why cast a great physical actor like Tom Hardy for this film?

Venom is another SuperHero movie by Sony just because they own many of the Spiderman characters from Marvel. I do believe that most movies are made because they can. And in the present climate, every studio wants to be on top of the franchise game.

I remember admiring films, even really loving them. But not many of them recently have been that good or memorable. Maybe it’s me, looking from a perspective where I look through like an x-ray. I focus on the mechanics of the film rather than the emotional impressions it has. It seems to me that Tom Hardy was told this would be different. Maybe a character study. So he does give Eddie Brock a more physical presence with the subtle things he does with his shoulders. Keeping them high when Eddie Brock starts off as a superstar reporter and then this interview with a pseudo-Elon Musk like character completely turns his life upside down. That makes them limp and does enact his anxiety and panicky episodes physically.

Eddie already knows part of the rumours that surround Carlton Drake aka Riot, played by Riz Ahmed in a very exaggerated sort of way. So nothing is really a mystery in this film as the plot evolves. We can see from the first few minutes where this is going to end. And this predictability is a hindering factor.

Another argument is regarding the third act. I could not distinguish the CGI fighting in this film from flashes that came through from Black Panther. The models and lighting in the final boss fight looked so shiny and fake that I was like what is this shit? So those moments really made me want to throw up. I had such a negative response to those scenes that’s all of what I remember from the film.

Also, in comics or video games, Venom always only engaging with Spiderman in front of him to terrorize. This is specifically based in San Fransisco to stay away from Spiderman. It seeks to give Venom an arc as a protagonist while we’d rather see him get down and deceitful. The problem is that it made a total worldwide gross of $856.1 million. What’s hopeful though is that Andy Serkis is going to be directing Venom 2 with Tom Hardy returning. It will feature Woody Harelson as Carnage. Hopefully, this allows the next film to be a bit more emotionally arousing.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — In a Bad Mood

I didn’t even remember that Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood were also in this movie until I saw it again. But that’s not anyone remembers anyway. They remember the orange sweatshirt and that hair colour changing from orange to blue. What’s the shade she mentions in the train scene again? I wanted to see someone suffer, to be honest. And Jim Carrey is one of my favourite actors really, so he was the one I chose. I hadn’t seen it in a long long time so it was time to revisit it with fresh mean eyes. I don’t know why but a lot of film endings have been disappointing me recently. I can’t quite put a finger on what is it exactly. They have not been what I’ve wanted them to be. Some are maybe incomplete story arcs like Infinity War, those really piss me off. There are not supposed to be cliffhangers in a theatrical presentation. It’s not a weekly fucking soap opera. I strongly feel that movies need to have the balls to end a thought, have clarity about the destinies of its characters as a film ends even if you may go on to tell more stories in sequels but end one adventure with a satisfactory resolution. Emotional catharsis is what we look for when we invest two hours in a feature presentation, not two fucking post-credit scenes to advertise come back after a year or two to know what really happened or how it really ends. I can understand that it’s probably not a popular opinion but I don’t give a fuck. Not tonight at least.

Joel is shy, awkward and closed out. Clementine being the eccentric, impulsive orange-haired girl chooses a man like Joel because she likes the fact that he doesn’t approach her. That’s sweet and happens more often than many films like to depict. The atmosphere is cold as fuck. There is snow everywhere and people wear layers upon layers of grey overcoats which one would never consider as a setting for a romantic movie. But this is about a concept which is ‘Would you go about getting the memories of a failed relationship erased simply if you could?’ It’s a good idea which is well executed in terms of exposition by actually showing details about characters in non-linear memories. I believe most people with failed relationships would have wanted that at some point. Only if I could get back to a time when I didn’t know that person at all. Or the second best thing would be to erase them from your memory in a way that’s complete and that would help you move on in life. Of course, an impulsive girl like Clementine would go for it the instant it crosses her mind. And Of course, someone introspective and thoughtful like Joel would have second thoughts midway and would try his best to hide her in parts of his brain that no one else can access.

What does bother me at the end is that they go back in the real world as if it was a memory by taking the same shots as the beginning of the film where Joel skips his usual train to work and makes an impulsive decision to take a train to someplace new. They meet in the same way and this time they hear the worst comments about each other through tapes they recorded when they chose to undertake the procedure to get the memories erased. And still, despite knowing the eventual outcome where Joel will get bored of the sex and Clementine will start to hate herself for becoming boring chose to say “Okay” to all that. That’s the rubbish romanticism that most people relate to. I mentioned in the title “In a Bad Mood”. What would’ve been a more believable scenario is if Joel chose to go meet the erased Clementine and thank her for the memories despite the fact that it didn’t work out. Because to be honest they weren’t really good for each other if you think about it. They didn’t really respect each other based on the tapes. Romantic love can never work without respect. It’s hopeful ignorant fantasy that we wish we could live but none of us ever do successfully and for long enough to have happy memories.

Recommended track: Everybody’s got to learn sometime.

Marvel’s Avengers — The Problem with Infinity

Once upon a time, all Marvel movies were running riot at the box offices across the world. Young adolescent guys went about telling their gals in most screenings; which character showed up in which sequel and why they absolutely must wait till the end of the credits as straight face onlookers started looking at their phones again. “Because that guy will show up in the next movie!”, the guy would say with a toothy grin. And the girls would either nod stupidly or get disgusted internally.

So anyways the film starts off with the death of Loki and Heimdall and the Hulk gets knocked out by a tall, purple and bald alien with a grimace. But Heimdall manages to send the Hulk away in rainbow colours after which one bad guy says, “That was a mistake.” You know what was a mistake? They didn’t build up to the movie title with the Avengers theme by a line from fake Voldemort, “No one has ever wielded more than one infinity stone! Who could possibly stop him now?” *Cue theme.

Tony Stank and Pepper Potts will eventually have a boy called Morgan at the end of Avengers 4. We now know that. But then everything leading up to the guardians is absolute GOLD. Bautista as Drax is absolutely on fire! If it’s true that James Gunn rewrote all lines for the Guardians then he deserves two Oscars. We do see more of the emotional beats from Gamora and Thanos than anyone else. Thor is on a wonderful adventure, to a made up name for the planet Niðavellir, ideal for cross-cutting between that and the story of Vision and Scarlet Witch who are helped out by Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Black Widow, War Machine, Winter Soldier, Falcon, Black Panther among more people too ridiculous even for this absurdly long sentence! If you think about it for 6 whole seconds then surely you’d think up moon-sized praise for the Russo Brothers and, the screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

So what’s my problem in life you ask? I’d give you my number and we could talk about that for weeks but for now, I’d rather discuss the strange feeling of incompleteness and dissatisfaction that I felt after the end of Infinity War. Let’s call them SIX INFINITY ISSUES.

  1. We know that characters like Spiderman and Black Panther are sure to return from the dead. Given that fact; did you really feel anything, really? When he died in Tony Stark’s arms? Unless the audience is sure that there will be consequences they are not going to feel the desired emotional impact. It plays in a serious tone but would have been hilarious if it was intended as a joke. Absurdity brings laughter and if the filmmakers were going for deep emotional impact in a world where we know Tom Holland is shooting Spiderman: Far From Home soon then that’s absurd.
  2. Thanos achieved what he wanted. They (The Filmmakers) called it the hero’s journey for Thanos. But is he the hero?
  3. A plot point that was set up in this film; Doctor Strange knowing about the 1 in 14,000,605 chance of their victory, was not resolved within the confines of this film. Are we watching a TV series? Yes, it’s mutating into that but no! A good film must resolve what it sets up.
  4. They gave Thanos something to chase at all times but was there any sense of urgency? What was the source of it exactly? When thinking about screenwriting we are often advised to build a countdown (sometimes this features literally as a ticking clock in many movies), especially in the heist film genre. If this was that then what would happen if Thanos didn’t collect the stones immediately?
  5. The Snap as they call it now in the MCU has been shown to have consequences across Ant-Man and the Wasp as well as the upcoming Captain Marvel I’m sure but again it’s something could’ve worked in a fashion where it made Infinity War a bit more whole by perhaps resolving the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man by having them fight together for a common cause which was setup up nicely during Civil War. But despite that Thanos could have escaped after the snap but the team would’ve been reunited at last. Ask yourself what was resolved during this film exactly? I say not much. It was all set up for the next one. That’s infinitely disappointing.
  6. The after-credits scene for Captain Marvel was intended to invoke some form of hope but it seemed to invoke nothing more than curiosity mingled with confusion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now, these are issues with infinity not faults in the film. I enjoy the film very much and will do so for years to come, I am sure. It’s an excellent fantasy adventure of the highest quality and talent behind it. My thoughts here are more like What Ifs. Now imagine a little swap. At the end of this film, we go to the planet Thanos is at at the end and we find out that he’s alive and that his gauntlet is complete with all stones in it before we fade to black. And the after-credits scene in Captain Marvel, after the audience appreciates the range of her powers, becomes the one we saw in Infinity War.

Gangs of Wasseypur — The Hollow Epic

After careful examination of Anurag Kashyap’s well-renowned work in Gangs of Wasseypur and recently Sacred Games, one can make a variety of claims. His works may be more gritty and authentic but terms like that get tossed around by filmmakers everywhere without actually trying to make them work in the story they are attempting to tell. Stories are journeys of discoveries but often the satisfying ones which are certain about some characters and take a moral stand.

Sure, there are memorable lines and character interactions in Gangs Of Wasseypur sprinkled throughout its runtime. Lines are spoken by characters that mirror reality through a raw lens, inarguably more authentic than the ludicrous fantasies many big studio Hindi films offer today. But what’s lacking is a sense of morality or focus on the main threads of the narratives. Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1, for example, starts with a shootout which repeats later in the second film only to continue the story into another significant chunk. So the purpose of that inciting incident wasn’t really to incite or end anything, Was it? Or were we to savour the gunshots and dingy streets in a single long take which are just cinematically more experiential and engrossing. In such moments, we look for meaning and if such promises are handled with ridicule or confusion rather than a careful examination of difficult motivations then one is left disappointed, to claim the least.

The story actually begins with Shahid Khan who is murdered by the orders of the politician Ramadhir Singh and the revenge drama develops into a massive 5-hour epic which is enjoyable in parts for sure, mainly due to eccentricities exhibited by the characters, but ends in “Definite” killing Faizal Khan who is his step-brother. The narrator, who basically explains the whole story in voice-over throughout many sections, exclaims that “Wasseypur wasn’t affected by Faizal’s death, nor due to Ramadhir Singh’s death, It was a battlefield then and it is a battlefield now and will perhaps always be.” Now if someone, who is looking to figure out what to do in life, receives that cynical piece of advice then where is one to look for hope?

The Godfather series is ultimately a family tragedy which Gangs of Wasseypur could gloriously have been for Indian audiences but instead, it turned out to be a hollow, if not depressing and hopeless look at society. Vito Corleone, in The Godfather Part 1, hopes for this son Micheal to become the true Godfather that people respect. As in the very famous first scene, someone offers Vito money on the day of his daughter’s wedding to commit murder. He realises that he has no real respect or friends but only fear from the rest of the community. But the Mafia still stands a moral high ground because the police and government around them are either useless or corrupt. They would kill in the name of loyalty but even at any cost, Vito Corleone would never let the family get involved in the drug business. The loyalty for the family was of the utmost importance and that’s where Faizal Khan’s motivations also lie in Wasseypur. But unlike in the Godfather series; where there is apparent respect for the family, even though at the cost of law and other human lives, Wasseypur tells us that anyone can betray anyone. Isn’t “Definite”, the step-brother of Faizal Khan, the one who kills him on J.P. Singh’s orders to walk away with his mother at the end? Characters get so confusing that you forget who’s the good guy?

What Anurag Kashyap is really good at, is getting his actors to be uninhibited in their performances which is a quality of a great director but what’s lacking is the structural focus and perspective control in his narratives. He often fails to make a point entirely, even metaphorically or symbolically or visually. A theatre is a place where the audience comes to hear the truth. Drama helps us face that truth. I am paraphrasing Aristotle here. That’s why we would pay our hard-earned money and watch something horrible happen to someone else on a screen so that we can gauge what were we to do if we were in a situation like that? We go there to seek moral instructions not to come out feeling cynical and nihilistic. We can do that sitting at home doing nothing at all very well, thank you.