Category Archives: Movies
One of the most, if not the most, memorable scenes in the history of movie making is the shooting of Marvin in Pulp Fiction. It is a scene that completely turns the movie on its head, generates a shock value unparalleled in its nature, and leads the movie down paths that turn out to be future reference points in movie making. But I am not here to sing praise of the movie or the scene. I am here to point out something rather subtle that I observed in the scene and which has taught me a valuable lesson.
So let’s revisit the scene, shall we? Here it is, in all its glory:
Wow. Talk about shock value! Nothing hits you in the head (pun intended) more like this scene!
At about 55 seconds in, Vincent (John Travolta) shoots Marvin in the face that results in a blood and gut drenched car driving on the interstate in broad daylight, with two men in blood soaked suits in the front, and a dead, headless Marvin in the backseat! Now I am going to ask you to completely set aside the dark comic nature of the scene (no, really) and focus objectively on the way Vincent Vega reacts to the ‘incident’. Here is the transcript:
Vincent: Whoa! Jules: What the fuck's happening, man? Ah, shit man! Vincent: Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face. Jules: Why the fuck did you do that! Vincent: Well, I didn't mean to do it, it was an accident! Jules: Oh man I've seen some crazy ass shit in my time... Vincent: Chill out, man. I told you it was an accident. You probably went over a bump or something. Jules: Hey, the car didn't hit no motherfucking bump! Vincent: Hey, look man, I didn't mean to shoot the son of a bitch. The gun went off. I don't know why. Jules: Well look at this fucking mess, man. We're on a city street in broad daylight here! Vincent: I don't believe it. Jules: Well believe it now, motherfucker! We gotta get this car off the road! You know cops tend to notice shit like you're driving a car drenched in fucking blood. Vincent: Just take it to a friendly place, that's all.
Now Vincent’s first reaction to the shooting is significant. What he says is as important as the way he says it. What he says is “Oh man! I shot Marvin in the face!”. And the tone that he uses is completely out of sync with the nature of the situation at hand. Instead of completely freaking out (much like Jules does), the tone he uses is perhaps something more appropriate for far lesser ‘crimes’. Something along the lines of the following everyday oversights:
- Oh man! I forgot to add sugar to your coffee!
- Oh man! I forgot to charge my cell phone before heading out.
- Oh man! I still haven’t renewed my drivers license.
- Oh man! I spilled some milk on the floor.
- Oh man! I locked myself out of my car.
- Oh man! I left my debit card at the ATM machine.
- Oh man! I missed my exit on the interstate.
You get the idea.
Now use Vincent’s tone and expressions in any of the above reactions to every day oversights, and it will seem to be rather fitting for a ‘crime’ of that significance. So how or why would Vincent use that tone after he shot a seemingly innocent kid in the backseat who just ‘didn’t even have an opinion’ about ‘divine intervention’?
The answer to that is Vincent instantly acknowledged his ‘mistake’, accepted the situation, AND forgave himself for it. And with his ‘mistake’ forgiven and firmly in hindsight (within a few seconds), he proceeds to describe the situation as such – something wrong he did in the past that he doesn’t feel attached to anymore, and having come to terms with it completely. He even proceeds to clarify that it was indeed an accident and that he had no intention to shoot Marvin.
Now make no mistake. There was a marked carelessness that preceded the shooting – Vincent holding his gun in his hand, finger in trigger, AND pointing it straight at Marvin while talking to him. It is a carelessness that could have been easily avoided, thus sparing Marvin’s life*. But our man Vincent Vega chooses not to dwell on those aspects. He perhaps acknowledged those actions of his and ensures that he doesn’t repeat them in the future. And he does so instantaneously, thereby also ensuring that he doesn’t live with the guilt and blame for the rest of his life.
*But, seriously, why on earth would anyone want to be in a world where Marvin is still alive?!?
Now let us just ask ourselves some questions here.
- How do WE react when we or other people make mistakes?
- How long do WE dwell on our or others’ past mistakes and situations?
- How long do WE hold our guilt and regret over something that happened in the past?
- What does it take for us to accept the situation for what it is and move on in our lives – free of baggage?
We all make unintended mistakes – many of them arising out of our own carelessness or indiscipline. And then we typically spend months, years (and maybe even the rest of our lives) blaming ourselves or others for them and holding varying amounts of guilt/resentment and/or living in despair. Our lives and the lives of people around us are adversely affected because of our guilt and resentment. But what if we could simply forgive ourselves the way Vincent Vega did after accidentally shooting Marvin? It doesn’t have to be instantaneous, surely. But what if we at least genuinely considered that forgiveness was an option? Wouldn’t that be a far better option than living the rest of our lives with a ‘What if’ of ‘If only’ preceding our every thought?
So let’s run by a few such situations where we shall substitute our typical reactions with what Vincent Vega would say in a similar situation:
- Oh man! I got badly drunk the night before the <insert name of important exam> and screwed up my chances of going to college.
- Oh man! My alcoholic mom totally screwed up my childhood.
- Oh man! My ex cheated on me big time.
- Oh man! My dog got run over when I was distracted on my phone.
- Oh man! I wish I was around more often with my kids when they were growing up.
There is absolutely no attempt at humor with what I have written in the list above. I write this only to put across the point that even things mentioned in the list above (and similar) merit our acceptance and forgiveness. The path forward would lie in accepting the situation for what it is, recognizing our mistakes and role in the situation, forgiving ourselves for it, and ensuring that we do not repeat them in the future. And the first 3 are necessary to accomplish the last one because it is that much harder to not repeat the mistakes when we are still beating ourselves up over what we did in the past.
So please, whenever it is you find you are blaming yourself for something that you did or that happened in the past, just stop and ask yourself the following question:
What would Vincent Vega do?
PS: It should be pointed out that this post was written sitting in a coffee shop and watching Vincent Vega blow Marvin’s head off on a loop! Try doing that and still having a straight face to write a post about acceptance and forgiveness.
In the entire history of mankind, the pursuit of the dark and depressing has never been actively encouraged or even accepted. Yet, the most beautiful art ever produced has been the product of artists expressing loss, pain, solitude, anger and a sense of longing. This apparent contradiction between the source of inspiration and the acceptance of its products by society has diminished steadily for me over the past few years. The dark arts have moved from the fringes of what mankind has to offer to being the very lens through which I now view society itself. I feel no attraction or emotion every time I see a Claude Monet painting, but my whole world came to a standstill when I first saw ‘Masks Confronting Death’ by James Ensor.
Art that convey themes of gloom, doom, mortality, depression and that explore the human condition permeate my inner consciousness to connect with me on a very fundamental platform. I could make a case that the dark arts would connect with all of us in the same way, with the end result depending on whether we choose to fight it or embrace it.
As a consequence of my active pursuit of the dark arts, I have been fortunate to discover and experience a few moments of extreme intensity and fulfillment. Most moved me to tears at that moment in time. And all have stayed with me till today (and very likely for good). These are moments I have to think twice about experiencing again – not because I don’t want to, but because I am not sure I am ready to experience that intensity all the time.
It is important to emphasize that a lack of anticipation of what was coming next was critical to these intense experiences moving me to tears. There were no expectations and all I made sure was to not offer any resistance. And I strongly believe that is why they generated such intensity.
So here goes:
1.ROUTINE (LIVE)by Steven Wilson: When I listened to Steven Wilson’s latest album Hand.Cannot.Erase, I already knew ROUTINE was the standout song. The story was perhaps the most depressing Steven Wilson has ever come up with (even comparing it to Drive Home or The Raven That Refused to Sing). The sadness and absolute despair in the voice of Ninet Tayeb is perhaps what pushed this song beyond the realms of normal consciousness. But that was until I watched the video. The CD/DVD that I had purchased did not have the video to the song and it was not released online either. The place I saw it first was when I saw the band Live in Madison. Steven Wilson introduced the song by stating that he had received feedback from numerous people that this was the most depressing song he had ever made (with his response being “As opposed to what?!”). He made no mention of the video on the screen that was to accompany the song. And then this is what I saw on the screen while Steven Wilson and his band played it live:
To say that I was moved by the video would be a gross understatement. I was very much in tears by the end of it. And so was the entire crowd at the show. I will even go to the extent of saying that my inability to completely break down and cry at that point (largely because I was very self conscious there) will remain as something of an unfulfilled void. The video, the live performance of the song and the entire crowd feeling the same emotions – it was the perfect combination of factors that led to this being one of the most intense moments I have ever felt. And this is what Steven Wilson has to say about the video and how he felt about playing it live:
Amongst the hundreds of songs I have written over the years, ‘Routine’ has a very special place. It’s a deeply sad story of loss and denial, but at its conclusion the clouds lift and there is acceptance at least. Having worked with her on 3 previous videos, I knew as soon as I wrote it that it was perfect for Jess to do something amazing with. Even then nothing prepared me for the organic beauty and power of the film she made, a painstaking labour of love that took her months to produce. When we play the song live I look out into the audience and see people swept away with emotion at the combination of music and animation. To find poetry and beauty in sadness is a wonderful thing I think.
The last sentence ties everything together for me. And I urge everyone to listen to the song, read the lyrics and then watch the video. It will give you a sense of fulfillment that is unavailable in the day to day life that we all lead. (On a side note, the video was not released online till late last year, which preserved the significance of the whole experience for me. And I have still not watched it. In fact, my 2nd viewing of the video will likely be when I see Steven Wilson again this March).
2. Roger Waters The Wall (Movie): Roger Waters did The Wall tour between 2010 and 2013 and took the larger than life production all over the world. It is the closest a Pink Floyd fan today will get to experience the tour from how it was in the 70’s. Of course I can always make an argument that it is even better – what with all the new technology available now. I was fortunate enough to watch it Live at Wrigley Field in Chicago in 2012. To this day, it remains the gold standard in terms of a show production. And I highly doubt anyone will ever surpass that.
Roger Waters The Wall movie was part concert footage, and part road trip of the artist driving from his home in England to the beaches of Italy where his father was killed in World War 2. They show the entire concert from The Wall tour with scenes from the ‘road trip’ portion being embedded every few songs. Since I had been to the show myself, I knew what to expect out of the concert portion of the movie. However, I was not aware of what to expect from the road trip portion. I will not spoil a whole lot of the movie here. But will just recall that one specific sequence of scenes that led to me being moved to tears.
In the beginning of the movie, Roger Waters is seen reading a letter (probably for the 1000th time) that his mother received during the war. It is the letter communicating the presumed death of his father in battle. The place of death is specified to be the beaches of Anzio, Italy. He embarks on a road trip to visit the beach and the nearby memorial. Once he reaches the beach, there is a quiet, melancholic moment when Roger Waters just stands on the beach and stares at the sea, the same letter in hand, and with tears flowing down his eyes. The peacefulness of the moment is punctuated with the sounds of the waves washing up on to the shores, and of the birds calling in the sky. One can sense a feeling of acceptance and closure wash over him as he stands there and tries to imagine what happened 70 odd years ago, how he never knew his father, and how that has come to define who he is today. A very moving scene about loss, the futility of war, and a contemplation of all that could have been, but never was.
And then the scene faded into the start of Comfortably Numb.
What can I say? That moment when the scene showing Roger Waters at the beach faded out and Comfortably Numb started playing – that is what I live for. That is the kind of fulfillment that keeps me looking forward to the next day in my life. That transition could not have been planned better. I have listened to that song thousands of time in my life. I know every note, every pause and every word of that song. And I also know exactly where it comes on the album. And I am so glad that the previous scene swept me away so much that I forgot that this song was coming up next. Needless to say, I was moved to tears right at that moment and through the song. I remember that night in Chicago when Roger Waters played that song Live. Everybody just shut the fuck up and just watched in awe. Nobody sang along. And Dave Kilimister played the guitar lead to perfection – without improvising. I suppose there are some songs you don’t sing along to and some guitar leads you do not improvise. Comfortably Numb is one of them.
And sitting in that theater, I felt an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction – of having experienced something truly wonderful and fulfilling.
3. The Line of The Horizon (poem) by Maria Petrovykh: Poems have never been my go-to medium to explore art. Largely because of my aversion to popular poetry themes of nature, beauty, love and social/historical commentary. This aversion unfortunately shielded me from the poems that did deal with themes that I connect with. And it was last winter – in the middle of working outside in the fields of rural Iowa – that I found this poem about old age and death. Mortality is a theme that has led me to numerous bouts of contemplation. And this poem touched a chord in me that I still feel every time I read it.
The Line of the Horizon
Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh
It’s just how it is, it’s the way of the ages;
years pass away, and friends pass away
and you suddenly realise the world is changing
and the fire of your heart is fading away.
Once the horizon was sharp as a knife,
a clear frontier between different states,
but now low mist hangs over the earth
—and this gentle cloud is the mercy of fate.
Age, I suppose, with its losses and fears,
age that silently saps our strength,
has blurred with the mist of unspilt tears
that clear divide between life and death.
So many you loved are no longer with you,
yet you chat to them as you always did.
You forget they’re no longer among the living;
that clear frontier is now shrouded in mist.
The same sort of woodland, same sort of field—
You probably won’t even notice the day
you chance to wander across the border,
chatting to someone long passed away.
I still vividly recollect my reaction to reading it the first time. Everything around me came to a halt. I forgot where I was and what I was doing there. And all my attention was focused on the words of the poem. And it felt like the last four lines took me across the horizon to give me a glimpse of what lay beyond, before gently bringing me back – wiser and in awe. It was then that I truly understood what Ian McEwan had written about poetry in his book Saturday.
But to do its noticing and judging, poetry balances itself on the pinprick of the moment. Slowing down, stopping yourself completely, to read and understand a poem is like trying to acquire an old-fashioned skill….
Reading a poem that gave me a glimpse of the world beyond, and being able to truly appreciate Ian McEwan’s words in the process, generated an experience that felt like a piece of jigsaw falling into its place. It was like a new perspective gained, or reaching a vantage point that offers a bird’s eye view of the vagaries of life – and watching the horizon get increasingly blurry with the passing of time.
I do not recollect how long I was in that state of mind. But I have gone back to this poem a few times over the past year every time I wanted to get a glimpse of the world beyond. And every time, I have come back wiser and with a newer perspective. But as time passes, I know that some day my trip beyond that horizon will not include a return journey.
I can only hope that in the months and years to come, I have the opportunity to discover and experience an intensity and fulfillment such as the ones I have outlined here. I do believe that as long as I continue to seek, I shall be rewarded. And as this world progresses to an uncertain future, I do hope that society works to break down the perception of the dark arts, and that more and more people gain a sense of wonder and awe that is unavailable in their otherwise routine lives.
5 seasons and a lot of intense and memorable hours later, Breaking Bad’s finale is finally upon us. I got on to the bandwagon very late – in fact only after the first 6 episodes of the last season had been aired. Fresh off completing all 5 seasons of The Wire for the second time, I had decided to not watch any more TV shows. It was just not worth it – all the time spent (wasted??), the lack of any productivity, a desire to do something more useful and constructive with my time, etc. got me very hesitant to embark on another massive investment of my time and ….., well, nothing else really. But ultimately it was the lack of sufficient returns with regard to the quality of the shows available that I decided to take a break.
I do not know who finally tipped the scales in favor of this show, but I got started on Breaking Bad. And that was all it took – getting started – and I had committed ALL my non-working time to complete watching all available episodes. Thanks Netflix. Within a few weeks I was done. 41 episodes of drama of the highest quality – a quality matched only by very few TV shows. Only 2 come to my mind – The Wire and the first 3 seasons of Damages.
The story line and the plot was what kept most people hooked on to the show. Admittedly original, the premise of the show opened up a range of possibilities for the story to develop and take shape. But the writers stood grounded – all the time. No outrageous plot developments, no fabricated coincidences, no cliche situations, no Deus ex Machinas to save the day, and for once we did not see the inevitable game of institution politics being shoved down our throats in the name of reality. None of the painful cliches holding up plot and/or character development – something any seasoned TV show viewer will attest to.
However, the real strength of the show lay not in the successful absence of the cliche, but in the development of plot and characters. Fact is these two were never separate entities. Most story lines (TV shows or movies) have scripts where the development in character follows the development in plot. That is something happens to the character and then the character begins to think and act differently. Breaking Bad, for the most part, did this in reverse. They defined an initial sketch and history for all the characters and created initial situations (Walter White diagnosed with cancer and his meeting with Jesse). After this, the characters’ own natural responses and weaknesses were allowed to dictate the direction in which the story and the plot developed.
Walter White’s persistence with ‘providing for his family’ on his own terms, Jesse’s inability to cope with the impacts his actions have had on those he loved, Skylar’s disapproval of Walter’s choices and her initial fear of her family coming under harm, Hank’s single minded obsession to nail Heisenberg – and all the things that led to and resulted from these formed an intricate web of action and consequence involving every single character in the show. It is really a beautiful thing if you meditate on it.
Think of it. A set of people with a certain initial characters/personalities and tendencies living through different times in their lives. An initial set of circumstances are thrust on them and thus begins the indefinite and incremental loop of response, consequence and further stimulus. But every time the response is going to be incrementally different because of the characters’ previous experience and newer set of circumstances to respond to. All this happening with minimal to no external interference or involvement. It is almost like an elegantly crafted genetic algorithm.
Maybe it is. (Or maybe it is an allegory for free market economics).
But to me, personally, Breaking Bad was a celebration of the human condition. A celebration of how everyday people respond when subjected to stress, loss, unexpected wealth, getting caught, uncertainty, guilt, cancer, and ultimately just plain old fear. Everything – Walter White deciding to embark on his meth making venture, Jesse helping the cops to capture Walter, Skylar cheating on Walter, Marie returning to her kleptomania, Walter revealing the location of the money in the desert – was all just the perfect portrayal of what a normal person under extreme stress and uncertainty would do.
There is an inevitable viewer disillusionment that comes with the vicarious experience of watching the plot unfold on a Television screen. It leads the viewer to having a false sense of superiority over the character for ‘knowing’ what the correct choice the character ‘should have’ made for his/her own good (which is usually nothing more than just the viewer’s preference). But the question to ask yourself is this: If you were really in that character’s shoes with that much stress, fear and uncertainty looming around you all the time, would you be reacting any differently? Once you answer that question honestly, Breaking Bad begins to transcend to a whole new level of TV drama.
The show will be missed. All the characters will be missed – everyone from Walter White to the most adorable Saul Goodman and Huell. But most of all, I would sincerely hope that the series finale does not go overboard just to create a happy ending. I would be at complete peace if Walter never gets to see his family, Jesse commits suicide and Skylar gets hold of part of Walt’s money. But that’s just me. I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed.
So there is this movie that was released in 1994. It went on to win the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and brought to limelight a certain Quentin Tarantino. The movie goes by the name of Pulp Fiction. You may have heard of it. If you have watched it, you probably worship it. If you haven’t watched it, you WILL watch it….. and THEN you will worship it.
I classify in the former. I can probably justify the worshiping aspect with the small fact that I have watched it at least 50 times (That is to say I lost count after 50). And perhaps the reason why I revisit the movie every now and then is because every time I watch it, I find something new – something I hadn’t noticed earlier. It is usually something very subtle, but profound. These moments usually get lost in the build up to a more memorable piece of dialogue which we generally look forward to on every repeat viewing. One such moment came to my attention a few weeks ago.
This takes place during ‘The Bonnie Situation’ part of the movie. This is where Jules and Vincent come to Jimmy’s (Tarantino) house to clear up the mess in their car after Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in it. Needless to say, Jimmy is visibly upset with the situation he finds himself in and does not appreciate Jules much for putting him in it. This is the part where Tarantino utters one of the most memorable dialogues ever:
“Did you notice a sign in the front of my house that said ‘Dead N****er Storage’?!!!??!!”
Everybody who watches the movie is inevitably looking forward to this piece of dialogue – whether they like to admit it or not. The sheer audacity and the matter of fact nature of Tarantino’s character helps pull it off without sounding particularly offensive or explicit. But there is no need for me to talk about that. What I intend to draw your attention to is something that follows this above mentioned line. Specifically, it is how Jules reacts to Jimmy explaining that it “ain’t there to storing dead ni**ers in his fucking business!”. Watch the clip and see if you are able to catch what Jules exactly says to Jimmy in response to his explanation.
Caught it? Jules says it exactly at 1:00 but Jimmy overrides him with a dismissive “No, no, no…”. See it?
Well, in essence, what Jules says to Jimmy is this:
“Jimmy, we’re not gonna STORE the motherf***er…..!”
Do you believe it??!!? Amidst all the drama and tension that Jimmy is expounding, Jules makes a sincere and genuine effort to actually CLARIFY to Jimmy that they do not intend to actually STORE the ‘motherf***er’ in his house! Now how is THAT for comic and ironic humor??!?? I can’t decide which part is more funny – the sincere intention and attempt to clarify, or Jules referring to the corpse as ‘the motherf***er’! It really is a gem of a line!
Now go watch it again….and again..and again!
As I had pointed out earlier, this is one of the many instances in the movie which can easily be missed while we look forward to all the memorable parts. There really are plenty more like this. The true joy is when you discover it for yourself. I have given you a sample. Now go watch the movie a dozen times and find more for yourself! Then feel happy that you got it!
I have never been so motivated to write a negative review of a movie which is being hailed otherwise all over the world. And considering the fact that I am a big fan of this genre of movies and a fan of the previous installments of this FF series, my objectivity need not be questioned.
So I went to see Fast Five at IMax just because I had not had the I-Max experience before ever. Anticipating good action sequences and special effects, I went for a late night show. But what I ended up subjecting myself to was pure and unadulterated mediocrity and one that lasted for about 130 mins.
Now when I say that this movie is really bad, not only do I just mean that it is REALLY REALLY bad,but there is another more subtle reason. This is one of those movies which had a good mainstream director, good budget and already a measurable benchmark set in the previous movies. But the end product is what you might find from an amateur filmmaker who has no idea how to write a script and put the large budget to good use. And THAT is why I find it really bad. That it had all the resources and still managed to suck so bad.
I don’t even know where to begin. So let me begin with the first sequence of action. As Roger Ebert put it,
…steal cars from a speeding train by driving a truck beside the tracks, cutting the side out of a freight car with an acetylene torch, flipping the cars onto the truck bed, tilting the bed, letting them roll to the ground and then driving them away…”
The actual action sequence is actually lamer than what Ebert makes it sound like. In the scene, Paul Walker does a lot of acrobatics and stunts to get off a moving train and on to a car (driven by Vin Diesel) before the train gets on a bridge after which he may be forced to jump into the river running deep below. So he gets on the car just before the train hits the bridge but the momentum of the car takes them over the cliff and down into the river anway, thus making the whole action sequence redundant.
Come to think of it, the movie is replete with redundant scenes which do not amount to anything in the end. About 1/2 the movie is filled with such scenes. The whole planning of the heist, including assembling a ‘team’ (when half the members dont even contribute anything to the final outcome) and chalking out how to access the vault (when they really dont ‘access’ it in the end). There are also scenes where Vin Diesel and Paul Walker go in search of a faster car in order to beat the CCTV cameras in the heist site. They get a new car and show a bunch of scenes where they are practicing the run through the heist site but they still cannot beat the cameras. So later in the movie, they decide to use cop cars for the purpose ‘to camouflage’ their escape. And in the end, the way they eventually pull off the heist, they are not even avoiding to be caught, making all the previous planning scenes redundant.
The film tries to develop along the lines of a stereotypical heist movie. That is until the point where it suddenly decides NOT to be a heist movie. Sample this gem. Paul Walker says this somewhere in the middle of the movie:
“As a stealth mission, we will be in and out before they even know we are there.”
After watching the movie to the end, I am convinced the makers of Fast Five define ‘stealth’ as (Ebert) :
“…take two mid-size sedans, chain them to a bank vault and haul it behind you on a high-speed chase through the streets of Rio de Janeiro while being chased by the cops.”
I am not exaggerating here. In the end, The Rock takes his hummer and crashes into the concrete wall, thus breaking it. Then Paul Walker and Vin Diesel rip the vault off the safe room and haul it all around Rio. That is so ‘stealthy’ no? Totally making use of all the planning that went into the heist. But really, is it a heist anymore?
Some other notable instances of unwatchability: All the hot girls that are shown in the preview as the mandatory association with fast cars and the racing scene are shown for exactly the same duration in the movie as well. No exaggeration here either. And while portraying the racing scene in Rio, the characters decide to put a car-for-car bet on winning a race. Only thing, the filmmakers completely SKIP over the race part. Totally awesome no?
For a movie series that has made its name with action scenes arising out of car chase sequences and races, this movie features exactly 1 race and 1 car chase sequence. The inconsequential race lasts for less than 60 seconds (and it should have lasted even shorter considering the fact that they were trying to race for just 1/4 mile at super fast speeds). The car chase sequence is the last scene and it lasts for about 7-8 mins. The only other action sequences are the opening redundant train-car thing and a couple of ambush sequences of The Rock’s contingent (lasts for about 8 mins total). So that leaves you with about 110 or so mins of redundant planning and cheesy one liners.
The acting and the characters leave a lot to be desired. Vin Diesel looks like he is trying to be a wannabe Vin Diesel from the first movie. He tries too hard to sound and look invincible and totally awesome with his final-word-type dialogues. Paul Walker makes his presence felt by flashing his nice smile at the camera every time he agrees (like he has a choice) with Vin Diesel’s confidence-oozing plans. Jordana (Mia) shows us how you can jump 50 feet into a makeshift favella home and still escape uninjured – even while being pregnant.
Perhaps it is The Rock’s character that is the most hilarious and unnecessary. Seriously, his character has absolutely no influence in the movie’s story line, apart from a brief disrupting of their plans. And he seemed to be competing with Vin Diesel for cheesy and incongruous one liners and punchlines. The other female cop who supposedly has a tragic story to tell about how she lost her husband to the drug lord and that making her motivated to fight him seemed to be putting too much effort into her acting. It would have been better if someone just put up a message on the screen that read: “Ok. This female cop here has lost her husband to the drug lord. So she is motivated to fight him.”Oh and she is supposed to fall for Vin Diesel. But the chemistry between them is totally repulsive.
There are so many more sequences I can keep talking about. But I am getting tired of recollecting such intense mediocrity. And the worst part is that it has been getting extremely positive reviews all around. IMDB has it at 7.8. Roger Ebert gave it 3 stars praising the attention to detail in the story. ( I want what he was smoking when he wrote the review). I just found the movie retarded. Period.
Go watch it for yourself and feel retarded too. And hopefully you will do that BEFORE reading any review at all.
So I needed a haircut. When it comes to haircuts, my policy is to get it cut as short as possible, the only objective being to avoid going to the salon for the maximum time possible. And if you are in Des Moines, Iowa, if you want to get a haircut on a Saturday evening, then apparently the only way to get it done is to go to a small shop in the biggest mall in Iowa.
And so I found myself at Jordan Creek Parkway Mall, wearing PJs, a Tshirt and sandals. I was extremely tempted to walk around the mall with a White Russian in my hand. But alas, I found my ‘shop’ much too early for that. 10 mins and a bunch of hair lighter, I found myself standing in front of a movie poster and staring at it.
Apparently, there had been some things going on in the world of cinema while I had forgotten about it. There was POC-IV, there was Hangover 2, the mandatory sequel to a successful movie, and a bunch of other movies. And then there was Atlas Shrugged, the poster in front of which I was standing. I had absolutely no idea whatsoever that a movie was being made based on the 2nd (unfortunately) most influential book in the world. I looked at my watch. It was 6:50 PM. The movie was going to start at 7:10. At this point, I looked at myself in the mirror next to me. And this was what I found:
A T-shirt saying “My Phone number is 17. We got one of the early ones.” A blue pyjama clinging onto my waist. And a pair of brown sandals which could very easily be mistaken for my bathroom slippers. But more importantly, I had just had a haircut.
And where I am from, the only thing that should be on your mind after having a haircut is taking a headbath after making sure that you do not make any contact whatsoever with any household item, living or non-living. Your clothes need to be set aside and soaked separately. And only after the headbath will you be allowed to re-engage your sense of touch and taste.
So there I was, just after a haircut, in my to-be-discarded-separately night clothes, with all these thoughts going on in my head. After thinking for all of 5 seconds, I just said, “Ah! F*** it!” and bought tickets for the show and a big scoop of choco-nut ice cream for timepass.
Remember, I had no clue that this movie was even being made. So when the first scene showed that the movie was set in 2016, I feared that I was watching a movie which was mistakenly named after the book. But then I figured out that the writers had cleverly worked around the irrelevance of the railways in present day America by creating a partly dystopian world where trains are the only feasible means of transport. So this way, the main theme of the book was made to seem relevant.
The movie was good. I really liked it. One of the really good things the producers have done is to split it into two parts. Again, I was not aware of this until the screen showed “End of Part -I” at the end of the movie. Another really useful thing about the movie was that the cast does not include one single well known actor. This works for the better as the on screen persona of a well known actor could have easily spoilt the character’s true image in the movie. That being said, the casting is almost inch perfect. Dagny Taggart and James Taggart, Hank Rearden, Ellis Wyatt, Wesley Mouch all seem very much the part. Special mention to Francisco D’Anconia’s role. There could not have been a better casting for that.
The acting is quite convincing too, for the most part. And again, that is largely helped by the actors actually looking their parts. John Galt’s character is still kept in the shadows and is not revealed fully. The movie as such goes on until Wyatt’s Torch. (You will know what it means if you have read the book). There are some truly well-shot sequences in the movie. First among them is the train journey across the first Rearden Metal track. Really well shot, exploring the Colorado landscape to the maximum.
Even though the pace, characters and script stick true to the spirit of the book, there are a few things that I was really hoping to see. For instance, Francisco D’Anconia’s speech about Money is totally ignored. I was really looking forward to that. But having said that, the movie does cover most of the important aspects of the book. And I am already looking forward to the 2nd part.
But whatever maybe the case, there is still no substitute for actually reading the book.
After being subjected to a hype exceeding that of anything I have seen in the past 5-6 years, I decided to see for myself what the fuss was all about. INCEPTION it was. The Monday of the first week of its release. But the problem was that I was in Indore. And in Indore, you speak in Hindi, you think in Hindi, you listen only to Hindi, and as I had found out a few days earlier, you get to watch movies only IN Hindi or dubbed in Hindi. And thus Inception became CHAKRAVYUHA. (Knight and Day was called Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena. I thought there was already a Fardeen Khan Hindi movie by that name.) So I had sufficient reason to believe that I would have to wait till my return to Bangalore to watch the original English version. But thanks to the advent of Capitalism in the form of PVR Cinemas in some <Insert Stereotypical Mall Name> Mall, there was ONE show per day being screened and since it was NOT Bangalore, it was priced at a lowly Rs. 50. So I found myself purchasing tickets at 1130 AM for the 1155 show and I got myself a seat right at the centre of the top row.
After loitering around aimlessly in the mall (is there any OTHER way of spending time there?) for the remaining 25 mins, I found myself sitting in the top row of the cinema hall. It was not long before some random Amit came to me and told me ,”Boss, can you please sift to the next seat?” I didn’t see any reason not to so I just moved myself one seat while some Jewelery ad was being shown on the screen. Soon the guy who was supposed to sit in the seat I “sifted” to showed up and demanded that I go back to my designated seat. The other dude then told ME to remain where I was. It took me a good 2 mins to make both of them realize that they needed to be talking to EACH OTHER rather than to me if they wanted the seating arrangement sorted out. In the end, I found myself 5 seats away from a designated seat, sitting between another guy who had come alone and a girl who had come with her boyfriend.
Fast Forward to movie. The lights dim. The screen goes dark. Warner Bros logo appears on the screen. You can sense the anticipation in the theater fully thronged with college goers. And then, the title appears on the screen. But wait! WTF is that? The screen shows CHAKRAVYUHA as the name of the film! It takes about .5 ms for the entire crowd to start screaming that they had come there to watch the show in English and not in Hindi. (Of course the irony was that they were swearing at the projectionist in authentic Hindi slang such as Madar/Behen-C**d) And in the meantime, I had embarked on a thought process that would begin with me walking out of the theater and end with wasting my money trying to sue PVR. But not to worry as the movie turned out to be in English itself and the angry crowd who had been given a reason to get angry suddenly seemed to feel cheated off their anger and eventually stopped playing their parts in the herd mentality.
You see Inception is a movie that NEEDS you to THINK in order to understand it. And remember that there is a girl next to me. Ok. Did you make the connection? No? Sure? Isnt it obvious? Just suffice it to say that the girl found the urge to “inquire” from her boyfriend what level of dream was going on every 5 mins among other things. But perhaps the thing that was really ticking me off was not WHAT she was asking but the way in which she went about showcasing her (in the words of BORAT)’ retardation. ‘
And somewhere half way into the first half, the dude who had made me change my seats decided he was not in the acoustic sweet spot and so embarked on the process of convincing half a dozen of his ‘neighbours’ including Yours Truly to ‘sift’ two more seats to the left. The frown on everyone’s faces at that very moment got me thinking. What if anger in a group was accumulative in nature as opposed to being normalized to the most angry person in it? That would have surely cost the dude some teeth and a lot of money. But alas, group mentality doesn’t work that way and so the dude watched the movie from the place where he wanted to.
The Interval was totally uneventful as I simply did not move from my seat. And when the movie resumed, so did the girl’s badgering of her boyfriend for ‘answers’. Considering the fact that the guy then began to give her B.S explanations as to what was happening, two things are possible:
1. The guy’s retardation was also significant.
2. Or the guy might be super intelligent to realize that he could tell anything to the girl and get away with it! Hell! He could say that DiCaprio was doing quadruple acting with a different person in each level and that they were brothers seperated at birth or some shit like that and she appeared to be someone who would still go “OMG!! That is so complicated!”
And so the movie got over and I was feeling overwhelmed, until that time when I joined the crowd leaving the theater. You see, unlike me, most of them had come in big groups to watch the movie. And in every single group, you always had 2 dudes who were discussing and passionately disputing each other’s interpretation of the movie, as if Nolan had flicked the script from either of them. Here, sample one such conversation I heard:
Amit1: Arey yaar! That was so awesome! I had never known ki yeh itni amazing hogi! You understood the plot properly no?
Amit2: Of course man! The entire thing was a dream! That ending was just too good! Did you get that?
Amit1: Han Han! Woh tho I understood. It was like the main story line was in Level Zero!
Amit2: Nahi Yaar! The main story line was in Level -1!
Amit1: How can it be -1 man?
Amit2: You see………
And it is at this exact point that I decided not to dive into ‘retardation’ and so just moved away from the conversation. Within 2 mins, I had walked out of the mall and was in a rick headed back home.
And that was how i watched Inception.
And as far as the movie goes, there is no question it is a good movie. Is it a great movie? I am not too sure. It has a mind numbing script and structure agreed. But it is not a movie that I will end up watching over and over again. You see it doesnt have a bunch of sequences which are truly memorable- like Pulp Fiction or As Good As It Gets or Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans or that Tipping Discussion in Reservoir Dogs or even John Malkovic’s scenes in Con Air. Inception doesnt have anything like that and so it does not make it into my Great Movie list. Feel free to express total disgust and shock at that revelation of mine. This is public domain after all…..
The Author of the following post is my esteemed ex-roommate Sadanand Kamat. He continues to be either busy or plain lazy to create an account by himself and open a blog in his own name. And he came up with this totally awesome article about Multiplexes and cinema that I could not resist putting up here. So, with kind permission and full acknowledgment, here is the post by Sadanand Kamat:
There was a time in India where there were only single screen theatres. The ticket prices were one of the lowest in the world. Movies were affordable by everyone right from the auto driver to an investment banker. But, ever since the advent of multiplexes like PVR and INOX, ticket prices have inflated enormously and movies have become a luxury than a part of day to day entertainment. What surprises me the most that the supply demand theory doesn’t fit into this segment of the market. Let me explain. Yesterday, I decided to watch ‘Raajneeti’ the much hyped political thriller. I logged on to the net to check out where it was playing and obviously PVR was one of them. I was shocked to find that the ticket price was hefty Rs. 350 and only 4 seats were left. I showed PVR the middle finger in my mind and decided to download the movie from the net in a few days.
I get pissed off when people on television make statements like ‘Stop piracy. Watch movies in the theatre’. Well fuck you bitch – do I look like an idiot to watch that crappy 3 hour movie of yours paying Rs. 350 when I don’t make Rs. 100 an hour as a software engineer.
But then again I was getting so fucking bored sitting in my AC room doing nothing over the weekend that I decided to give it another shot. I remembered seeing a ‘Raajneeti’ poster in ‘Maratha Mandir’ on my way back from office that day. For, those of you who are not from Bombay, ‘Maratha Mandir’ is a very old theatre near Mahalaxmi that even to this day plays ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ on its screen. Just the thought that someone could be so passionate about a movie to play it even to this day makes you want to go to that theatre atleast once. So, I went to the theatre half an hour before the movie started and got a Balcony Ticket for Rs. 75. Can you believe it? Rs. 75 for the highest class of tickets available. The owner of the theatre could start online booking, paint the building, make the staff wear uniforms, serve burgers instead of Balaji chips and raise the price to Rs. 100 or Rs. 150 without affecting his revenues. But, then the whole point of having a movie theatre where everyone irrespective of their social class come and enjoy the movie experience would be lost. What is even more baffling is the theatre is really good. Good seats, excellent sound system, inexpensive food and a decent crowd.
I hate multiplexes. They have smaller screens, adopt variable pricing and excessively overcharge. People justify these shortcomings by saying that there is variety of movies that you can choose from in a multiplex. WTF kind of explanation is that? If I want to watch a particular movie, I bloody want to watch that movie only. I don’t care about the variety of crap available at the theatre. It is like saying I go to an underwear store because of the variety of sizes they have!
All this apart, by far the worst part about multiplexes is that they have created sub classes among people. People feel going to multiplexes is classier as compared to single screen theatres. And this is seen most rampantly when couples go to movies. Have you seen the number of couples in PVR. When I asked my brother why he doesn’t take out girls to movies he simply said that girls want you to take them to PVR and he couldn’t afford that. I totally agree with him. The girl who is more concerned about the elitism attached with the theatre rather than the movie experience, let alone your pocket is a fucking whore. The whore doesn’t realize that it is more fun to watch a movie like ‘Lagaan’ in a single screen when people started dancing when India won the match rather than go to PVR and stare at the screen for 3 hours. If you are a Bangalorean, think about the times you saw ‘Upendra’ or ‘A’ in a single screen theatre versus say seeing ‘Iron Man 2’ in PVR. Can you even compare the two?
The sad is part is that most of the single screen theatres today are being torn down to build shopping complexes and malls. Every mall that comes up will have more multiplexes, and will kill more single screens. There might come a day when the last single screen theatre is torn down and that day will probably be known as the ‘The day when affordable cinema died’.
Alright! Time to generate an algorithm that can be applied in any movie industry to generate a heist film. We have all seen it before and we shall continue to see it again. So here is the template for the archetype heist movie:
STAGE I: THE DEAL/OBJECTIVE
Location: Some shady place with a round table. Lots of cigar/cigarette smoke hanging in the room, visible through the dim overhanging light. Bunch of men sitting around the table smoking and sporting a supercilious attitude simultaneously. One of them is the protagonist and one is the arbit rich guy who wants to add something specific to his collection. The intended work is generally considered impossible but protagonist exhibits supreme confidence making the rich dude believe that he already has a fool proof plan but just never got around implementing it himself. Another common aspect revealed during making of the deal is the intention of the protagonist (and presumably his team members, if any) to “retire” and so is looking for a big money job that will help his cause. The deal is made after the protagonist agrees a fee.
Or alternately, the protagonist decides to carry out a certain heist for his own personal purposes.
STAGE II: RECRUITMENT
This is the stage where the main characters of the movie are introduced. These are primarily the gonna-be members of the heist team which is already in place or the protagonist recruits after the deal is made. The following lists the characters usually encountered:
1. The Protagonist (Necessarily male): Always brimming with confidence. Gives the impression that the entire universe has been playing its part all this time so his fool proof plan can work. Sometimes he can put plans into action without other team members knowing it, which also serves as a source of his confidence amidst lots of apprehensions being expressed by his team members. Fate varies.
2. The Computer Geek: Usually someone the protagonist knows. Is expected to be familiar with the latest in gadgets and technology. Dude didn’t make it big in corporate geekdom as he couldnt clear IIT-JEE or other entrance exams owing to his ADD Syndrome. So decided to put his awesome programming skills to hack into alarm and security systems. Fate varies.
3. The Lock Picker: Also someone whom the protagonist is familiar with. Picks locks. Very likely to have been a duplicate keymaker a while back before he got caught by the cops trying to “misuse” his talent. Emerged from jail (where he could have met the protagonist) to join the team. Fate unknown.
4. The Driver: Mainly used for getaway purposes. Is likely to have a history of being a mechanic. Has very specific intentions with his share of the money: usually a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. Fate varies. More likely to waste his money before buying either of them.
5. The Enthusiastic kid: This is usually someone who is picked up during the planning. Kid shows enormous enthusiasm as he has highly unrealistic dreams and usually lives in the dreamworld. Sees this heist as his passport to that world and readily agrees. Sometimes made to carry out acts without being aware of the risks. Fate: Always gets shot while escaping.
6. The Girl: Always the girl friend of the protagonist. Others may have their eye on her (and this may lead to the final twist). Main purpose of the girl in the team is to distract potential stumbling blocks (like security) with the judicious usage of deep cleavages and short skirts. Necessary qualifications for the role of the girl: 34c cup size, IQ<80. Same fate as the protagonist.
A meeting is called of all the above characters where the protagonist reveals the objective. It is usually met with a lot of skepticism from the majority of the crew members and many just walk out on the idea. However, certain inevitable personal circumstances compel the skeptics to rejoin the mission. It should be noted, however, that the protagonist ALWAYS would have made arrangement for ALL team members. At this stage there is usually a group shot of all the team members in a recognizable uniform sporting lot of confidence and attitude.
STAGE III: PLANNING
The entire team embarks on a lengthy planning procedure almost always involving surveying the target under disguise, noting down the positions of the CCTV Cameras, security timings and more significantly the change in their shifts. A mole maybe planted but usually the girl shows enough cleavage to secure the required information. Blueprints of the floor plans and alarm systems materialize out of nowhere. (I suspect the Right to Information Act comes handy here).The entry and escape routes are determined.
The planning usually takes place in an arbit shady place, much like where the deal was done, only with more light and a lot more electronic gadgets. The planning stage sometimes consists of the construction of a device that will eventually be used to deceive the people in charge of the item to be stolen.
STAGE IV: REFLECTIONS
This is a very short stage wherein the different characters reflect on the mission ahead of them the next day. Usually intended to provide inspiration for the job.
STAGE V: EXECUTION
The crew gets ready with all their equipment, sporting the respective costumes. The costumes are largely a function of the role of the person and the disguise it may be necessary to get near the item. Irrespective of what one wears, one always has access to ear-pieces/ walkie talkie. The Compute Geek begins his job by hacking into the CCTV feed. He then proceeds to upload a tampered feed to the security personnel giving them the impression that ALL IZZ WELL! (LOL! Couldnt resist!) The tampered feed usually involves a repeating video footage of the building where nothing significant is shown to happen. The computer geek then disables most of the alarms but for some reason, almost always, he is unable to disable the laser rays guided alarms. And this leads to the mandatory and inevitable scene wherein the protagonist and/or the girl go through the maze of laser beams by the generous use of acrobatics so as not to touch any of the beams. The protagonist then proceeds to get hold of the object after the lock picker has put his awesome skill and talent to use. They then make for the escape route. During the escape, in spite of all precautions, some alarm is always set off which alerts the guards and security begins to chase the team members. During this chase, at least one team member dies. And it is almost always the Enthusiastic Kid, and along with him, his big dreams and fantasies.
STAGE VI: TWIST (OPTIONAL)
A fallout between the team members is common. They turn against each other just before getting rewarded for their success and all may end up dead. Another twist could be the presence of a mole in the team who is also likely to die-shot by the protagonist himself. A common twist is the pulling off of an ancillary mission during the main mission which would usually have to do with something personal on part of the protagonist. Other team members need not be aware of this and they may have willingly taken part in it without their knowledge as well.
The stolen object may even be recovered by the authorities whereas the rich guy who made the deal may end up with a duplicate of the object. This is usually planned much in advance by the team members but it is not revealed till the end. Other twists also exist.
So there you have it. The most widely used template/algorithm to generate a heist movie. Slight variations are often implemented.
PS: This post was inspired by the Vigilidiot blog, which is really one of its kind. But I first decided upon writing this after watching, what is perhaps the first Kannada heist movie- NAVAGRAHA. Decent movie, but very cliched.