Monthly Archives: July, 2015

Friday Fun Fact | Terminator 2: Judgment Day – James Cameron

Terminator 2

Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the first film to have a production budget of more than US$100 million dollars. When the project was first announced in late 1984, the projected budget was $12 million. The final budget was $102 million. With the film’s domestic box office adjusted for inflation, it is the top grossing R-rated action film of all time. This was the first film to break $300 million at the “international” box office.

Given Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s $15-million salary and his total of 700 words of dialogue, he was paid $21,429 per word. “Hasta la vista, baby” cost $85,716.

During filming, a lot of situations emerged when the local citizens confused the movie sets for actual locations. A female passer-by actually wandered onto the biker bar set thinking it was real, despite walking past all the location trucks, cameras and lights. Seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger standing in the bar dressed only in boxer shorts, she wondered aloud what was going on, only for Schwarzenegger to reply that it was male stripper night. Another time, local residents in Lakeview Terrace held a protest outside the Medical Center when it was dressed up to be the Pescadero State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. They quickly realized it was in fact only a film set. And then, the steel mill effects were so convincing, some former workers from the plant (which had been closed for over 10 years) thought it was up and running again.

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A Shot of Short : Lumiere Brothers’ First Films

Ever wondered what the first films looked like? They were clearly so new as a medium that the audience, as well as the camera owners went beserk trying to find out everything that a movie camera could do; exactly the way you and I went crazy checking out each of the features of our first smartphones or DSLRs.

The Lumiere Brothers ( Auguste and Louis) were the first filmmakers in history. They patented the cinematograph, which allowed simultaneous viewing by multiple parties. Their first film, Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon (Workers leaving the Lumiere Factory), shot in 1894, is considered the first true motion picture.

True to the idea behind the invention of movie camera, the motive was not to tell a story, but to capture movement. That it became a popular means of storytelling is another piece of history.

This clip also includes another short of a speeding train approaching a platform. Considering people had never seen anything like the moving pictures ever before, at the first ever screening of this short, they jumped out of their seats, afraid that the train would run over them. Watch this video containing the first few films of the Lumiere Brothers, also considered the first ever movies in the world.

A Shot of Short: Prarambha | Santosh Sivan

Prarambha, directed by Santosh Sivan and written by Mubina Rattonsey and Ritesh Menon was one of a series of shorts made to increase AIDS awareness in India. In the film, a poor young boy sets out to travel across the country to visit his mother. He finds an unlikely friend in a truck driver but the reunion is not quite what the boy had hoped it would be.

Santosh Sivan is a cinematographer who has also made many feature films as a director, including Inam, Urumi, and The Terrorist (1997) — which finds mention in Roger Ebert’s list of Great Movies.

Shakespeare (plus Bollywood) Wallah

It has always been so hard to put a finger on exactly what makes Shashi Kapoor such a distinguished man and a fine actor. It is a combination of his many strengths that have made him so loved and adored, even by women like me, who are just about old enough to be his granddaughter. It warms the heart to spot him in Prithvi Theatre, sitting quietly in a corner of the cafe and being his cordial self despite the many intrusions into his solitude, for selfies and small talk, by people whom he doesn’t know. But he has always cared for his father’s legacy, his wife’s dream, his children’s efforts, and for the people who keep Prithvi Theatre thriving.
That, is a man who leaves you feeling good.

Baradwaj Rangan

Reflections on Shashi Kapoor, recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award for 2014.

I’m not getting into the whole “does he deserve it?” debate, but the news about the Phalke filled me with a vague kind of happiness. There’s always been something wholesome, something nice about Shashi Kapoor. You probably remember the Friends episode that was about the crush-worthy celebrities you were allowed to sleep with – in theory; no questions asked – if the opportunity presented itself, and no, the spouse/significant other wasn’t allowed to get mad, because she or he had to understand. For a lot of women of a certain generation, that celebrity was… not Shashi Kapoor. It was Rajesh Khanna. Every female friend or relation of a certain age will admit to a crush on Shashi Kapoor – “soooo cute, yaar,” followed by a liquid sigh – but things never really got out of hand…

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His Master’s Voice | Irrfan Khan

Irrfan_khan

Sahibzade Irrfan Ali Khan, aka Irrfan Khan (1967 – present)

Indian film and television actor

Recipient of the Padma Shri (2011), National Film Award for Best Actor | Paan Singh Tomar (2012), Filmfare Awards, Screen Actors Guild Award.

Films of Note: Salaam Bombay (1988), Ek Doctor ki Maut (1991), Kali Salwar (2002), Haasil (2003), Maqbool (2003), A Mighty Heart (2007), Life… In a Metro (2007), The Namesake (2007), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), Paan Singh Tomar (2012), The Amazing Spiderman (2012), Life of Pi (2012), The Lunchbox (2013), Qissa (2013), Haider (2014), Piku (2015), Jurassic World (2015),

TV: Bharat Ek Khoj (1988), Chanakya (1992), Chandrakanta (1994)

Friday Fun Fact: Skyfall | Sam Mendes

Skyfall_-_Gun_Barrel

The gun-barrel sequence was re-shot specially for this movie as it was in the previous film. With this third Daniel Craig Bond movie, Craig has still never appeared in a traditional series gun-barrel sequence shown at the start of the film (the last film to use the sequence at the beginning was Die Another Day (2002)). According to director Sam Mendes, there was an attempt to put the gun-barrel walk before the pre-titles sequence but it did not work out artistically. It was also put at the end of the film so as to be able mark the Golden Anniversary of the franchise with Bond’s 50th Anniversary logo. Daniel Craig is also the first actor to film three different gun-barrel sequences, which depict Bond wearing different suits and having different stances as he shoots. For the first time in the famous gun-barrel sequence, Bond is seen wearing a grey suit rather than a black one. Roger Moore is the other Bond actor to have shot more than one gun-barrel sequence as he had filmed one for Live and Let Die (1973), which was reused in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), and eventually would film a second one for The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) that would be reused for the rest of the Bond films starring Moore.

skyfall_daniel_craig_james_bond_judi_dench_mJudi Dench played the role of M in this film at the age of 77. The performance is also Dench’s 7th time playing M. This is Dench’s largest ever on-screen role playing the M character, the most significant James Bond film ever to explore a relationship between the M and James Bond characters. Producer Barbara Broccoli says that ‘Skyfall’ explores this relationship perhaps more than in any of the 22 previous films. She has said, “We wanted to really mine the relationship between Bond and M, because it is the most significant relationship he has in his life. M is the only person who represents authority to him. You have two extraordinary actors, and we just thought – let’s go all the way. It’s worked extremely well. It’s a very emotional story.”

spectreDaniel Craig told ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine that he wanted ‘Skyfall‘ to be his third and final Bond movie, saying, “I’ve been trying to get out of this from the very moment I got into it but they won’t let me go”. Craig has signed on for the next two James Bond films, both Spectre (2015) and Bond 25. Daniel Craig said that he was worried by the delays in the production of ‘Skyfall’ and was eager to get back into the role because, at the age of 43, he feels he is already getting too old to cope with the extreme physical demands of playing James Bond. Craig starts preparation for a Bond movie about six months prior to filming and works out for about two hours each day of principal photography after shooting has wrapped.

A Shot of Short: Meshes of the Afternoon | Maya Deren

The symbolism, representations of reality and fantasy and the interpretations that follow  in this Maya Deren film, all try to touch the base of this film but try as they might, this film is just untouchable. This multi-faceted short film is one that can never be fully understood.

It’s an experience more than a film. An atmosphere of mood and imagery tailor made to affect the viewer’s psyche. Co-directed with then husband Alexander Hammid, the duo crafted what is considered in many circles of critics, not only a transcended creation in the short film medium, but possibly ranked among the greatest films ever made. It is a surrealist tapestry woven with feminist metaphors and a repetitive visual narrative culminating in the downward spiral into the pits of insanity suffered by the film’s protagonist played by Deren herself.

An important piece of trivia to add is this film was originally intended to be viewed silent but the score that commonly companions it in most versions now was added afterwards by Deren’s current husband before her death Teiji Ito. The score is more than recommended and I would say essential to view the film.

Why children need (good) cinema

stanley ka dabbaOne of the things we do is take film appreciation to students by collaborating with schools and colleges. Needless to say, there is a big resistance not just from teachers at school but also parents, who do not deem cinema an art form that needs teaching, or even very simply, viewing. It is this very mindset that we seek to transform by exposing children to films from around the world, making it a vehicle for the exploration of distant lands, communities and their cultures, people and the universality of their behaviour, but their very personal ticks and traits that make them different from one another. These observations of the text and the deciphering of the subtext is what we believe would make children sharp and perceptive, leading to tolerance and empathy becoming dominant aspects of their personalities.

Considering this is the day and age when every kind of everything is easily accessible, one cannot keep children away from mainstream entertainment. They go to the movies with their friends and family, they watch soap operas and the latest box office hits on the television, music videos are on air 24X7 promoting unhealthy body images and spouting lyrics that have long blurred the lines between art and vulgarity, and the king of them all – the internet. In a scenario where all these are constantly bombarding children with questionable images in their formative years, we believe it is time we learned to guide these inquisitive minds in a healthy direction, and let them focus on the creative and constructive, rather than the kitsch.

sunny leone baby dollMany schools have told us that they use films as teaching aids. Kudos to them. But what we intend to do, is take that one step further and engage them with the medium in a manner which leads them to opt, in their spare time, say, for the National Award-winning age-appropriate film over one that stars the biggest name in Bollywood but doesn’t go beyond gimmickry, cheap thrills, sleaze and glorified violence. While the latter also has a right to be made and find a space to run, it is disturbing how it gets more than its fair share of attention and money than projects that are made with a deep respect for the art form that has constantly been evolving and surprising us for a little over a 100 years now. So rather than just show them movie adaptations of literary classics, we would like to bring to children original stories that were written to be made into films, and have a socio-cultural,economic, and sometimes, a political context that gives these stories depth – just like any literary masterpiece.

It is always sad to hear how cinema is dismissed. Just because it is relatively new, and just because it has a “popular entertainment” tag attached to it, we tend to disregard it as nothing more than just that. We would rather have children read books to expand their knowledge of the world and gain maturity. Fair enough. But there are two problems we see with that understanding of the what and how of cinema. First, just like popular films that set new records at the box office every weekend, literature also has its share of popular authors who have written unsubstantial books but have received as much popularity and fame (money too). For every Humshakals, there is a Fifty Shades of Grey. Second, not everyone processes information and the written word in the same manner. Some people read and learn, some listen and learn, some do and learn and some watch and learn. None of these are an ability or a disability. They are just the way our minds function the best. So for those who learn best from watching or listening, cinema is great way to do that. Even from those who learn from doing, cinema often proves to be a wonderful simulation exercise.

While most public debate about children’s film viewing focuses on protection rather than entitlement, the debate leading to the British Film Institute (BFI)’s compilation of “50 films children should see by the age of 14” shows how passionately people care about children’s film heritage.  Participants at the debate included a number of children’s film organisations across Europe and individuals including BFI staff, filmmakers and teachers, as they were invited to submit nominations. We know that the films on the list aren’t just there because people think they would be good for children: they are films that people have shown to their own families or to pupils and they know how much children have enjoyed them.

Billy_elliotSome of these films also tell us how people treat art-loving children as relatively mature beings – willing to expose them to cinema set against the backdrop of the UK Miners’ Strike of 1984-85 (Billy Elliot), the Iranian political scenario (The White Balloon, Where is the Friend’s Home?), the Holocaust (Goodbye, Children) and ideas of film noir, corruption of religion (The Night of the Hunter), class divide (Kes) and sexuality (Show Me Love), . Why are we so afraid of using these examples to open up our children to the world around us? They are definitely not learning the right things about sexuality by watching skimpily-clad women gyrating to lyrics about booze, drugs and money. Or about religion from seeing movie characters throw discriminatory expletives at each other. Teenagers are extremely impressionable and often, very stubborn in the habits and perceptions they pick up. It should be our responsibility to guide them and their choices in what means of entertainment they seek that will form their opinion about important facets of life. The BFI list is a great place to start. India has also recently seen a sudden spurt in focus on children’s films – Killa, Fandry, Kaakkaa Muttai are are immensely brilliant. It is time we counselled our children in movie matters more responsibly.

His Master’s Voice: Marlon Brando

Marlon_Brando

Marlon Brando Jr. (1924-2004)

American actor and film director

Hailed for bringing a gripping realism to film acting, and cited as the greatest and most influential actor of all time

Films of note: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952), On the Waterfront (1954), The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), Sayonara (1957), The Ugly American (1963), The Godfather (1972), Last Tango in Paris (1972), Apocalypse Now (1979), A Dry White Season (1989)

Friday Fun Fact – Mad Max: Fury Road | George Miller

Mad Max Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is considered an Ozploitation movie, an Australian genre and/or Australian exploitation movie.

Over 80% of the effects seen in the film are real practical effects, stunts, make-up and sets. CGI was used sparingly, mainly to enhance the Namibian landscape, remove stunt rigging and for Charlize Theron‘s left hand which in the film is a prosthetic arm.

The jacket worn by Tom Hardy is the exact same one worn by Mel Gibson in the original trilogy, although heavily worn. According to Tom Hardy, he had lunch with Mel Gibson to discuss him taking over the iconic role of Max Rockatansky. Gibson told him that he was fine with it, and gave Hardy his blessing.

The film editor, Margaret Sixel, is director George Miller‘s wife. When she asked her husband why he thought she should do it as she had never edited an action film before, Miller replied, “Because if a guy did it, it would look like every other action movie.” Interestingly, writer and feminist Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) was consulted to enhance the portrayal of female characters in the film, which scores very high on the Bechdel Test

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