The cover pic for this post, an image of a vintage-looking 'The End' title with some text I have overlaid

Irficionado | Movies | ‘The End’? Not So Soon…

Logo for Irficionado seriesI wrote this piece for thREAD, The Hindu’s online space for perspectives, opinion, comment and essays. Here’s the thREAD link: This piece on thREAD

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The three sea lions from 'Finding Dory'As Finding Dory ended, I was surprised to find two words appear on screen that I haven’t seen appear on screen – Hollywood, Bollywood, or any wood – in a long, long time. ‘The End’, that too in lowercase, if I remember correctly. People of course had started exiting before that, once they had got their, and Dory’s, happy ending. But if you see a lot of movies, especially animation ones, and especially Hollywoodian, you know that ‘the end’ – whether that text appears on screen or not – is never the end. For after the credits finish rolling, at the ‘real’ end, and just before the production / distribution company logo, there typically is a bit more of the movie, a fun mini after-movie, if you will – a tiny little sequence around some theme in the movie, or even a side theme or character. In Dory, it was around the sea lions and… But I ain’t telling you more, as you chose to leave the audi before that, didn’t you?

The earliest I remember this trend was from Jackie Chan’s blooper sequences, which was aped by Bollywood and Hollywood alike, until there was no more novelty in it. Also, they were more like behind-the-scenes. I remember cute side scenes and stories from the first two Kung Fu Panda movies. They were like rewards for watching the movie right till the finish. Like this one from Kung Fu Panda 2, which shows how baby Po landed up at Mr Ping’s house.

The superhero movies seem to have picked up on the trend, and taken it further. Marvel’s movies don’t just have rewarding after-scenes, but before-scenes, so to speak – snippets that give a peek into what the next movie could be about. Ant-Man, for instance, first did the Wasp costume reveal and then talked about Captain America: Civil War. (Given how ho-hum Civil War was, they should have continued dwelling on the beguiling Wasp.) Deadpool’s after-scene was in the same irreverent vein as its hero and the movie, Deadpool coming out from the door, not once but twice and popping out a third time, to fool around with prescient lingerers, much to their glee and giving them their full ticket’s worth.

But I have gained more than just fun by staying behind in the audi, being very often the last to leave, even after the cleaning staff have come and wondered why I’m still there; or if in rapt on-screen attention, wondered if I’m dead; or if I’ve shown signs of movement, then almost given me dirty looks to leave and allow them to wrap up their duties quickly.

Logo of the Hollywood movie catering company, The Cast SupperI have picked up much trivia and information by being a stay-backer. I have noted that most movies with an Arab / Middle East setting, again whether Bollywood or Hollywood, are shot in Morocco (Sex and the City 2 and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation). I have come to know that the end credits of most movies are done by a company called Scarlet Letters, just as the catering company for many movies is one by the name of… Cast Supper.

I have learnt of concepts like ‘production babies’ in animation movies. These are (quite uninspired a moniker, after all) babies born to people working on the movie while working on the movie. I haven’t noticed this for live-action movies, I guess, because animation movies take longer, being all done in a studio. The work, that is; not the baby-making. Or, you never know; maybe that’s why they take so long.

Poster of the recent Marathi blockbuster, SairatIn the recent Marathi blockbuster, Sairat, I learnt that the unfamiliar tongue the male protagonist’s father speaks in for a good two minutes (an apparent mix of a Marathi dialect and Hindi) is Pardhi (through a credit for the language coach), the language of the tribe of the same name living in parts of Maharashtra. (This last part of course was from the net. The movie couldn’t give so much detail, no?)

Watching the end titles of the much-in-recent news Udta Punjab, I happily discovered a song that hasn’t been on the promo loops, is more haunting a tune than Ikk Kudi, and is as message-loaded as the movie itself. Hass Nach Le will make you feel: dus baar sunn le (listen to it ten times over).

While on songs, though I don’t have a big ear for music, I have come to know who the second, more rich-textured but less-promoted singer of a particular melody is, as also the varied instruments used in a soundtrack.

Getting back to animation movies, you experience some familiarity (and take some pride, for whoever this is a thing) in the number of Indian names that crop up in the various animation studios that have worked on that movie, as a lot of animation work is outsourced to India, especially studios in Chennai. For big movies, you also marvel at the number of animation studios that worked worldwide to create that movie.

And in some movies, forget after-scenes, the real movie isn’t actually over when you think it is. This is typically the thriller / whodunit genre, and there was a movie sometime back whose name or story I just can’t recall that really gets over a full 15 minutes after the first time it seems to get over, thanks to a huge twist. Now, who’ll tell this to the couple I saw walking down and out after they felt the movie was over? When discussing the movie the next day with others who had watched it too, they must have wondered if they had caught a different film, and on realizing what they had done, must have kicked themselves on the backside. Or the other’s, depending on whose suggestion it was to “let’s leave before the crowd”.

Speaking of which, and coming to a key point, I just can’t get what the big hurry is for people who walk out as soon as the core movie ends. Is it just one of the many things to do on their weekend / enjoyment list? Are they taking part in some Amazing Movie Race? Needing to reach home before their vehicle turns back into a pumpkin? Or did they come not for the movie, but for, erm, some in-the-dark “to-do”?

But there are also practical reasons why I don’t get up and going, which my friends who are impatiently waiting outside never seem to understand. (Maybe that’s why I end up going for most movies alone. Which also goes with watching so many movies.) I mean, what do you get when everyone leaves at the same time? A bottleneck at the exit. Which gets worse when it’s a 3D movie with you needing to re-deposit the glasses: the queue pretty much goes back up to the passage as the attendants check and count the glasses before letting you leave.

Poster of one of the best Bollywood movies of 2015, MasaanI also don’t get up and go because, to me, the movie-watching process is akin to an exercise session. I come early as warm-up, the movie is the main workout, and the stay-behind is the cool-down. If it’s a good movie, or a delicious slow-burn such as Masaan or Sairat (especially its intensely crafted first half and its chilling end), staying till the last credit allows me to be with the movie a bit longer, savour it a bit more, let it linger in my system. And while others would rush out of a lousy movie, even halfway in some case (Humshakals and Bullett Raja, in recent times, both incidentally starring Saif Ali What-Was-He-Thinking), I stay back in these cases too – to ensure I leave the movie behind in the theatre itself!

Seriously, and this could be the movie-lover in me talking, I wish folk could treat the ending the way they treat the beginning. They put in copious effort to ensure they don’t miss the start (rushing their dads, making frantic calls to their partners, giving ultimatums to friends: “If you come late, I’ll enter without you”). Those who are tardy despite these efforts ask those inevitable questions to those around, “How much did we miss?” and “What happened so far?” Yes, you should enter early for the movie too, if nothing else than for etiquette (not disturbing others with your silhouettes, sounds, and shoe jabs as you sheepishly enter), and for Pixar’s movies, for the cho-chweet short before the flick, which many times is better than the main, like Piper was before Dory. (What, you missed that too? See, now you have to go find Dory again.) However, to not make you feel too sore, here’s a snip.

But a British multiplex (don’t recall which one, as it was from a sea of social-media posts) has perhaps the best reason – from a cinephile’s perspective – for staying back till the end, and why they don’t open the doors until all the credits have finished rolling. They want you to respect the effort of everyone involved in the movie, and not just the top stars. Clearly, no Brexit in this case.

To me, there can be only one time when it’s okay to be in a hurry at the end. If you’re catching another right after. In which case, how about seeing if it’s playing in the same audi? That way, you get the ending of this one, and don’t miss the beginning of that one. Which should be great for you. And for the rest of the audience. Though not for the cleaning staff. Who’ll have to wait for you to leave… twice over.

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Movie poster of Pawn Sacrifice

Irficionado | Movie Review | Pawn Sacrifice

Logo for Irficionado series‘Pan-Sacrifice’

Years of playing Spider-Man seems to have done something to Tobey Maguire that we may have overlooked all along, or not thought about. Either he was quietly developing his acting skills beneath Spidey’s mask or that he is very eager to prove that he knows more than just to swing from buildings and kiss upside down.

Tobey Maguire holding up his Spidey costume in one of his Spider-Man movies

Tobey then takes to Pawn Sacrifice with a vengeance. As the madcap, mercurial, maverick mid-70s US chess GM, Bobby Fischer, he fills up a good deal of the movie. (The movie is about him, after all.) But not content with getting a meaty role, he goes about actually trying to fill up the screen. There are sequences and sequences that feature only him and his slow but steady descent with paranoia. And when that isn’t enough, you get scenes and scenes of his eyes moving from one side of the socket and screen to the either, as a display of his increasing suspiciousness.

Tobey Maguire with suspicion large on his face in Pawn Sacrifice

But forgive these, and you spot enough instances of Tobey possibly receiving a nod for a nomination. He gets into the character like the GM into his game (or does he ever leave it?), ostensibly living it as much as Bobby lived chess. He allows you to get very close to the character too. He conveys his growing loneliness, detachment, and annoyance with the world very well – to the point of you beginning to lose your patience with him, much like many of the folk around him, who possibly tolerated the genius only for his genius on the square board.

But that’s the limit to which Tobey, or maybe, the screenplay goes. It shows you his journey, and allows you at most to be a bystander, but doesn’t allow you to get into it and be a passenger with him. Unlike a similar movie earlier this year, also about a beleaguered genius and in similar territory of war, The Imitation Game, about the WW1 Germany-codebreaker and computer inventor, Alan Turing. In that ‘game’, you cheered for him (while he’s inventing the machine, and taking his time doing so, in the eyes of others) as well as felt his pain about his gayness, both as a boy and as an adult. There, you feel the film. Here, you merely view it.

Pawn Sacrifice though doesn’t suffer only on these counts. In trying to make its protagonist the hero, or king, of the piece, it reduces the supporting cast – all of them – to mere pawns. Be it his team of Priest and Paul (the one starts strong but slowly lets his light and presence fade in the shadow of the genius; the other begins commandingly – “I have been the agent to the Rolling Stones” – but next scene on, becomes softer than a marshmallow); the few odd women in his life (Mom leaves early on and resurfaces only as a faded figure toward the end; Sister makes weepy appearances, and ok, one cheering one; Hooker’s make-up and clothes have more to do than she); and the most incorrigible, his adversary, Boris Spassky. Boris is reduced to a wussy caricature, and if ever Liev Schreiber, who plays him, wanted a role to come out of his perennial fringe-line presence in Hollywood, he chose the wrong one. He is shown as a man of few words, and those words are all Russian, and someone who fails to even offer resistance, cinematically, to the emerging genius of Fischer.

And then, when the end credits roll, you understand why. Why all the pieces are stacked in Tobey’s favour. He’s produced the movie, damnit. Check and mate, viewer.

Joy and Sadness from Inside Out

The Joy of Sadness

Our stress-filled times have also given rise to people and things offering us antidotes: psychologists, life coaches, self-help books, alternative healing… Almost all seem to, um, stress on the need to remove sadness from our life, and thus offer us ways to do so. And how’s that working out? Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out provides an alternative point of view. In the movie, cheery-faced, happy-footed Joy sees the world only through sunshine-tinted glasses and wants everyone else – Riley (the girl whose mind she is in and unwaveringly cheers on) as well as the other emotions in Riley’s mind (Fear, Anger, Disgust, Sadness) – to do the same. And during the crisis of the movie, she draws a circle around blue-hued, feet-dragging Sadness, requesting her to stay within, in order not to add fuel to the crisis. When Sadness fails to do so, Joy then beseeches her not to taint any of Riley’s core memories with her touch (they turn from golden to blue if she does so), else they will turn a figurative blue forever – and so will Riley. And that’s how they resolve the crisis, right? Not. Quite. Her mind, and her heart (if our emotions have minds and hearts of their own), begins to change when she sees that Sadness does a more successful job of helping Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend (part candy floss, part elephant, part cat), deal with his sorrow than all of Joy’s ‘Go, Bong!’ couldn’t. Realising Sadness’s worth, and need, she rushes back to get her toward the end (after they are separated in the second half) to help Riley break down in front of her parents – so that they know what’s upsetting their daughter and can thus do something about it. (It was deeply satisfying to know that Riley and her family do not eventually leave the new city they moved to – that’s what triggers the crisis – but learnt to make happy adjustments to it.) Much as all those shrinks and new-age healing would have us believe then, we need sadness in our lives. (Much as we need all the other emotions. When Joy and Sadness are accidentally ejected from Riley’s headquarters, her emotional expressions are left to the trio of Fear, Anger, and Disgust, who try to be Joy, but fail miserably.) Without sadness, we wouldn’t know what we value (and how much), we may not be able to connect deeply to others (all of us are happy, right; so why bother?), we may not be able to help out somebody in need… Joy-Sadness are like yin-yang, or more crucially, 02-C02. We need oxygen, but not only oxygen. Too much oxygen, and everything around us will be freely combusting. Similarly, we need carbon dioxide, because plants, who we need, need it. So, the next time you’ve got the blues, don’t banish them away. Take your time to get over a low score, an unfulfilled dream, a broken heart, a lost one… Shed a tear, or a torrent, if need be. At the end, you will feel better. Inside out.Joy and Sadness: Inside Out

Jurassic World Poster

Meview: Jurassic World

Early on in Jurassic World, you see Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) informing both a group of investors and Owen (Chris Pratt), separately (great, not once, but twice, so that we don’t miss the point), “We need to keep upgrading, giving people something bigger/better, so that they don’t get bored, and keep coming.” And just in case you didn’t get that, a bit later, during crisis time, Dr Wu (the scientist, B D Wong) tells Masrani (the owner of the park, Irrfan Khan), “Why did we invent Indominus Rex? Because you wanted something cooler.

Great, we get it; the new Jurassic Park movie, a sequel to the first movie (from 1992) is a reload for the generation that was born after 1992 and is thus aiming to be bigger, better, badder, cooler for them. So, now, we can begin checking off.

More dinos (mososaurus, the ginormous whale-meets-croc one; the baby ones – in the petting zoo; pteranodon – the flying ones; more raptors – four; and of course, the motherlode, I-Rex).

More sophisticate: holographs of dinos in the museum; gyrospheres instead of the electric-powered cars; and whew, both terrestrial and submersible viewability of Gino Dino.

Cooler setpieces: the much-memed and already-cult sequence of Owen saving an apprentice, and himself, from his nurtured raptors; the flee, flight, and fury of the pteranodons; Gino whooshing up for its meal of a… Great White shark.

Jurassic World Chris Pratt cult scene

Stay: The already-cult scene from Jurassic World where Chris Pratt urges his raptors to behave

Tributes to many of Steven Spielberg’s cult movies, especially beginning with J: Jaws (Gino speeding to the surface a la the Great White); the Indiana Jones franchise (Pratt killing the terrain on a mean hog and alongside his raptors); and of course, J Park itself (I-Rex scaring the kid first with just his eye).

Standard forebodings about not caging, controlling, and messing with animals and their DNA – the best part about the movie to animal-freedom-advocate me.

And the final check-off. The movie’s achieved what it set out to do: appeal to a younger generation, earn gino amounts of money, and pave the way for sequels and triquels.

And then, you really check something: the eyes. First, the eyes of the kids. You notice them looking somewhere other than where they’re supposed to on the green screen. (Ah, maybe they are just kids and thus novices. Still, a bit unforgiveable in a movie of this monetary magnitude.) And then, you notice the eyes of the grown-ups too – Claire, Owen, Masrani: they all look empty, like they are just acting out and mouthing up what’s on the pages rather than feeling it. Yes, even the normally solid Irrfan Khan; at times, he even resorts to adding unnecessary, trite gestures to his dialogues to make up for the lack of feeling in the lines. And you slowly notice this all around: the baddie Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio); the support cast; the filler cast; heck, even the dinos – all going through the rigours of the screenplay without any feel and only because they got fat paychecks for such a movie. (Dinos not emoting? Lack of feel among the behind-the-scenes animation folk.)

It’s then you realize – a bit late, as you’re already lured in by then – that Jurassic Park Redux is just a monster movie (a movie with monsters, rather than a movie about monsters), and at best, a serviceable one. (In comparison, last year’s Godzilla was truly god-like.) As if bearing testimony to this, toward the end, there’s even a monster pile-up: raptors vs I-Rex; raptors with I-Rex; T-Rex vs I-Rex (yes, how could T-Rex not be reloaded?); T-Rex and raptor vs I-Rex; and finally, hold your breath, G-Rex (good ole Gino) coming up and gobbling up I-Rex. (Really, Gino needs his own movie to showcase all his skills.)

The new J Park movie sorely lacks the soul of Steven Spielberg. The soul of Spielberg, to folk born after 1992, is the opening sequence of Jaws, where you get the feeling that something terrifying is going to happen, and it does, only in a more terrifying way than you imagined, and you didn’t even see anything. It is the spine-scaring T-Rex coming close to the adolescent girl in the 4×4, and you’re shouting at the stupid girl to shut off the flashlight, but who’s too terrified to think or listen to you. It’s the claustrophobic and scarier-than-any-horror-flick sequence in the original J Park, where the raptors and the kids go hammer-and-tongs at each other, both psychologically and physically, in the place with hammer and tongs, the kitchen.

Jurassic Park T-Rex eye close-up

Eye on you: The classic and cult T-Rex intro sequence from Jurassic Park

In the middle of the movie, the younger kid Cray (Ty Simpkins) asks Owen near his raptor unit, after Owen has finished telling him the four raptors’ names, “So, who’s the alpha male?” Owen, uber-cool: “You’re looking at him.” Unfortunately, in this movie, you’re not looking at the alpha-male version of Spielberg, but just his holograph. The director-writer duo of Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly go, pitifully, full fanboy and hole soul. And as pitifully, exec producer Spielberg lets them. Now, we’ll just have to wait for Bridge of Spies (Spielberg’s next directorial offering) to rekindle what the master is like. And until then, watch Jaws and Jurassic Park all over again.