Monthly Archives: August, 2015

Friday Fun Fact | Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud)

Despicable Me

The directors of Despicable Me, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaudactually wrote a language for the gibberish the minions speak throughout the film. They called it “minion-ese”. Each word the minions speak in the film translates into an actual word. The directors did the voices of the minions which is why they sound French and English at the same time. Originally, the minions were supposed to be more like henchmen (human-like) but the studio didn’t have the money for that. That’s why they’re all so short.

The name of the main protagonist, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), appears to be taken from the Russian Military Intelligence agency GRU. GRU is an acronym for Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye (roughly translates to Main Intelligent Department/Directorate), the foreign military intelligence directorate of the Russian Armed Forces. It is the largest Russian intelligence agency, six times larger than the SVR (formerly the KGB). This may hint at Gru’s own origins. Another possible reason for the origin of Gru’s name is that the French word “la grue” means a crane. Gru’s legs are long and thin, and resemble those of a giant crane. The look and body language of Gru bears more than a passing resemblance to British comic cartoon character Grimly Feendish.

Will Arnett gained weight for the role of Mr Perkins because since he’s playing a large, heavy-set man he thought it would improve his voicework. Mr. Perkins, the boss at the Bank of Evil, has two tufts of pointy hair, possibly modelled on the “Pointy-Haired Boss” of Dilbert fame.

A Shot of Short | I’m You, Dickhead (Lucas Testro)

Imagine the world is already familiar with time travel and regular people like you and I are allowed go to Time Travel Clinics to go back into our past and rectify small things that we regret, like saying goodbye to parents. Our dude, Richard, decides to go back into his part to a time when he was 10, and advise his younger self to learn to play the guitar. That, he thinks will solve his present problem of not being able to impress women enough to date them.

But time travel is always messy, right? You have watched Back to The Future, and you’ve heard our nerdy friends in The Big Bang Theory debate endlessly about the problems that are impossible to avoid in a time-travel scenario. Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban warns Harry about not allowing confrontation between his past and future selves. This problem is exactly what this film underlines and makes a comedy out of.

Australian filmmaker Lucas Testro has made several popular TV programmes and films for teens and young adults. I’m You, Dickhead has played in some of the biggest genre and pop culture destinations in the world, such as San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic-Con, and the Fantasia Film Festival.

Common men, uncommon stories

The words in the first two paragraphs of this blog post by Baradwaj Rangan were my exact thoughts while I was following the making of Manjhi in my last job. And this indeed is an insightful piece, tracing the history of biopics in Indian cinema and why their rhetorics have always been equivalent to the highest level of drama and hamming.

Indian biopics produced by large studios have never really been my cup of tea. Gandhi was an exception, probably because the director, Sir Richard Attenborough, was, well, Sir Richard Attenborough.

Baradwaj Rangan

On the eve of the release of ‘Manjhi – The Mountain Man’, Baradwaj Rangan traces the journey of our biopics, which are no longer just about larger-than-life achievers.

It all began in 1959, when a landless Bihari from the Musahar community, a scheduled caste that traditionally made a living as rat catchers, decided to make a road through the Gahlaur Ghati hills, to ease passage between the surrounding localities. His name was Dashrath Manjhi – and with a chisel, a hammer and a shovel, he began to chip away singlehandedly at the hill. Twenty-two years later, he had cleared a pathway 360 feet long, 30 feet wide. Manjhi’s story was the basis of a subplot in the 2011 Kannada movie Olave Mandara. But he gets his own, full-length feature film next Friday, when Ketan Mehta’s Manjhi – The Mountain Man releases nationwide.

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Yet another biopic, you might shrug…

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His Master’s Voice | Jacques Tati

Do you let the movie live in you when you walk out of that theatre?

Do you let the movie live in you when you walk out of that theatre?

Jacques Tati, born Jacques Tatischeff (1907-1982)

French filmmaker, actor, and screenwriter

In a poll conducted by Entertainment Weekly, of the Greatest Movie Directors, Tati was voted the 46th greatest of all time. With only six feature-length films to his credit as director, he directed fewer films than any other director on this list of 50.

Films of note: The School for Postmen (1947), The Big Day (1949), Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953), My Uncle (1958), Play Time (1967), Traffic (1971)

His Master’s Voice | Jack Nicholson

jack_nicholson

John Joseph “Jack” Nicholson (1937 – present)

American actor and filmmaker

Most nominated male actor in the Academy’s history with 12 Academy Award nominations. Also, one of only two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s; the other was Michael Caine

Films of note: Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Last Detail (1973), Chinatown (1974), The Passenger (1975), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), The Shining (1979), Reds (1981), Terms of Endearment (1983), Batman (1989), A Few Good Men (1992), Wolf (1994), As Good As It Gets (1997), The Pledge (2001), About Schmidt (2002), The Departed (2006)

Friday Fun Fact | The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan)

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The Sixth Sense, most popularly known for the line “I see dead people”, was filmed in sequence, and this particular line was voted as the #100 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007, and as the #44 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100). It is one of only four horror films to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture; the other three were The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs(1991).

The director, M. Night Shyamalan, deliberately used the color red to depict when the world of the living and the world of the dead would crossover. If red was in a scene where that was not the case, he would change it. Look at the following cases in point:

  • The door to the church where Cole and Malcolm first interact is red, and the statue Cole takes from the church has a red robe.
  • The doorknob to Malcolm’s basement is red.
  • Cole’s school uniform jacket is reddish (maroon); he is often approached by the dead people while at school and/or wearing his uniform.
  • Anna wears a red dress at the restaurant where Malcolm is late for their anniversary.
  • When Malcolm is watching his wife Anna in the shower and notices her prescription in the cabinet, it’s in a reddish-brown container.
  • Lynn Sear’s nail polish is red when she is pointing out the white spots (ghosts) on all the pictures of Cole in the hallway.
  • Cole’s ‘free association’ writing is in red ink; the writing presumably records things he’s heard from the dead.
  • At the birthday party all the visible balloons are pastel-colored, except for the red balloon that floats up the stairway and leads Cole to the small closet.
  • Cole is wearing a red sweater when he is attacked by the spirit in the closet.
  • Cole’s blanket at the hospital is reddish (pink) when he confesses to Malcolm that he sees dead people.
  • The birthday gift Anna gives to Sean is in a red box and she is wearing red when the two of them embrace and Malcolm breaks the shop door.
  • When Malcolm listens to a taped session with Vincent, as he turns up the cassette recorder volume the control numbers go from white to red.
  • Kyra Collins appears in Cole’s fort, and the blanket covering it is red. The box containing Kyra’s VHS tape is trimmed in red and has a red-lined interior. The outfit worn by Mrs. Collins at Kyra’s wake is bright red, and she is the only person wearing a bright color.
  • In the video, the soup Mrs. Collins brings to Kyra is tomato soup, and the bottle of pine cleaner Mrs. Collins adds to the soup has a red cap on it.
  • The bicyclist Cole sees next to the car is wearing a red helmet.
  • The blanket that Anna Crowe covers herself with while watching the wedding video is red.

Reputedly, Haley Joel Osment got the role of Cole Sear for one of three reasons: First, he was best for it. Second, he was the only boy at auditions who wore a tie. Third, M. Night Shyamalan was surprised when he asked Haley Joel Osment if he read his part. Osment replied, “I read it three times last night.” Shyamalan was impressed saying, “Wow, you read your part three times?” To which Osment replied, “No, I read *the script* three times.”

A Shot of Short | Sidewalk – Celia Bullwinkel

New York animator Celia Bullwinkel uses animation and jazz and tell us a wonderful story in under five minutes about how women look at their own bodies. The movie starts with a young girl walking on the sidewalk, and corresponding with the changing seasons depicted in the background, she matures into an adolescent, an adult, and finally an old woman who is at peace with who she is.

The original jazz soundtrack is by Josh Moshier and it accompanies the whole sequence as the woman walks through her life, meeting with society in the process. There are several indicators of what this society deems attractive about women’s bodies and what really constitutes sex appeal. There is no dialogue at all, and yet themes like sexism, nonconformity with the way she looks, the desire to grow up fast when she is little, and the fear of old age emerge so beautifully.

Sidewalk has been exhibited in over 25 film festivals around the world, including Festival Anima Mundi in Brazil and the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France to much acclaim. This is a beautiful piece to reflect upon, and in helping women in current times to not fall victim to societal pressures to look a certain a way.

Just another brick in the wall

bricks

The predictability of human interactions has become a bane for all those who seek excitement in meeting new people. I met someone recently for a formal interaction and there was an uncomfortable and overbearing sense of deja vu hanging in the air. The person was new and so was the ambience, but the conversation was extraordinarily drab. Talk of aspirations and personal or professional five-year goals only worsened my state of restlessness. I desperately needed a witty remark or a clever repartee to bring me back from the dead.

Where is the spontaneity now? Where is the naturalness gone? Why are we afraid to be different? How can we say we are unique when all we are doing is becoming someone who cannot be differentiated from another in a world teeming with a billion other you’s? Even our normal conversations are generously peppered with cliches and the chosen ten-fifteen words that form our vocabulary – “Awesome. Cool. Great. Cute.” We are becoming more unoriginal than ever. That’s all we can choose from to exclaim our excitement.

All of us seem to be rolling off the metaphorical conveyor belt of a mass production unit; we talk alike, dress alike, behave alike and sadly, even have begun to think alike. Our education system, right from the primary level doesn’t allow for exploration of concepts with an open mind. We are more used to the system of learning by rote and agreeing with whatever is told to us. We have grown so conditioned to this type of learning that now we rely on ready sources to tell us also how to act and react to questions, people and situations. We try to elicit responses of a certain kind, and in trying to be manipulative, we end up being predictable fools.

Consider this – you have a job interview to go to. You almost certainly know what kind of questions to expect – “What are your aspirations in life? Where do you see yourself five years from now? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Who is your idol?” and then some more. While these are perfectly valid questions, they also have become so commonplace, that  everyone has a well-rehearsed and well-thought-out answer to these well before the interview is even scheduled.

The mantra now is to create the impression that you are the best among the lot of rats squiggling their way to the “finish” line. Look around and you will see advertisements of courses that will help you crack the ultimate job interview, of counsellors who claim to rock your dating life, of personality development courses that help you make friends and enrich your social life, self help books to help you pitch your sales in the perfect manner and workshops to let you negotiate better business deals. We are all unaware, but eager participants in the rat race.

Ironically, having people speak, dress and behave similarly must make the process of evaluating people a more objective and easier task. Or does it?

It is a little alarming to realise how much of our behaviour is conditioned by these profit-making ventures. More alarming is the fact that while we are learning social etiquette, public speaking and acquiring charm and confidence, we have nothing left of our own that we can proudly stake a claim on; not even our impulses which are smartly conditioned to do the “right” thing at the “right” time. Political correctness rules. I do not disagree with the need to be smart and well-mannered. I have my problems with the umpteen replicas all around me.

We are all ultimately becoming like a set of actors rehearsing our lines and blurting them out at the opportune moment  What questions should the interviewer ask? How should the job applicant respond to it? What are the keywords, the catch phrases that slot you perfectly in an organisation’s recruitment database?

If you describe yourself as “dynamic young professional seeking to enhance his competencies in a reputed organisation of entrepreneurial culture while contributing to its multidimensional growth… (and all that blah!),” save it. All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.

*This blog was published on http://www.business-standard.com in November, 2010

His Master’s Voice | Guy Ritchie

guy_ritchie

Guy Stuart Ritchie (1968 – present)

English filmmaker

Films of Note: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Snatch (2000), RocknRolla (2008), Sherlock Holmes (2009), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

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