Batman vs Superman : On imagery

This post is filled with spoilers.

 

 

 

While we begin the movie, we see the distinct difference between how Superman’s and Clark Kent’s faces are lighted. Clark Kent is lighter normally, the features are softer and calmer. When Clark smiles, you see hope linger in his eye, you see him believing. Come Superman, keep shadows creep across his face throughout the movie. He is an outsider, there’s no splitting hairs about it, in fact people would have us believe that it is the point of the movie, and yet, this alone distinguishes the two.

Somewhere in the first half, Clark brings grocery home. Smile on his face, he is hoping to surprise the love of his life. Lois is worried, she asks him about the future, about the questions that are building up on them. They talk, Clark smiles. The cut ends in sex. For once, Clark seems to be having fun.

However, Superman seems angry at something, questioning himself. For the quintessential hero that has saved the world, someone who is portrayed so well by the papers, he seems apathetic. Only person he likes saving is probably Lois (and some times his mother). It breaks in, you are uncomfortable. You are uncomfortable because not much later from the first scene he flies full speed onto a terrorist, who is pushed through a solid wall. If Clark Kent even dares to believe in the power of press, Superman is so insecure that when full-metal armoured Batman pushes onto him, he throws him away (despite declaring that he just wanted to talk).

You can discuss about how toxic the masculinity is in this movie.

Snyder talks a big game, and there is imagery to support it.

While, Batman broods, branding criminals, and becoming one himself. Alfred justifiably questions his actions, however, batman’s attitude is unflinching, he is too far gone to come back. Superman is showed as Jesus. Everyone hammers that in. In a scene, you see Superman hovering over the flood victims. He is illuminated by the light from the back, he is heavenly.
Yet, Snyder does not believe in his own imagery, he hammers in the point through a series of interviews on TV, where one person brands him as a saviour.

Batman’s actions have gone completely rowdy, somehow he appears even more apathetic than Superman. In a strange sequence we see him move over the victims of a sex trafficker, only to interrogate him and brand him. He does not care about saving innocents, he cares about the “greater good”, a toxic concept when you are dealing with icons that have been altruistic for the majority of their runs.

But, we move on. Batman guns down people without mercy. If the original Batman comics show him as the Detective, here that goes out of the window. We have another icon, a Rambo-ish figurine who believes that guns are the best solution to the problem. At some point the question is raised, whether this vigilantism is necessary, but, that dies down. This is a film that is not interested in asking those questions. Even after compromising both of the icons morally to the point that they are cruel, it does not manage to ask the moral questions, which makes you wonder, what kind of universe are we really bringing home.

When we see the first sequence Martha Wayne is shot in the face as Bruce looks on. A scared Bruce runs, only to be saved by the bats which take him to the light. The second nightmare sequence denounces this immediately, Bruce doesn’t wish to be Batman anymore, and the Batman imagery leeks out of his mother’s and father’s grave, after all “mommy and daddy issues” is the one psychology that really connects the two heroes.
One wonders why does he do it at all. None of the superheroes are really interested in doing this. Batman wants to get the deterrent to Superman and he does not care much about Justice, heck, at some point I even believe that he would let everything go just to hit Superman.

Superman is so angry when he looks at people, the lighting on his face showcase him as a soldier, a soldier doing his solemn duty. One wonders why this duty needs to be done at all.

A nightmare sequence showcases Superman as an evil fascist, the parademons rain down. A homage to Darkseid.

Then we get Luther. Eccentric in everything he does. Yet, not effective. You can see him pulling the threads but, no where does he get character development.

Instead in a scene we get him throwing the tortured pictures of Superman’s mother at Superman, throwing perhaps the entire pathos of the character along with it. This is a clear homage to “The Killing Joke”, and a clear homage to the fact that the women here are only plot points and not characters. Lex is erratic, he would harm anyone and let anyone be killed for the sake of killing Superman. However, somewhere that is lost. His actions seem to be designed by a teenager who has one too many psychopathic movies. Lex’s character is like everyone else’s in character development though, throughout his conviction is never shown, and a lot of it seems to just appeal to the viewer visually. There is after all a more “fun” visual in a psychopath getting an elderly woman tortured, than the largest genius on Earth who misunderstands its greatest hero.

The movie doesn’t care though. it is a juggernaut. Batmobile mows through criminal after criminal like it out of a “Death Race” movie. Superman and Batman fight in a sequence that resembles a childish brawl in WWE.

When a 75 year old history of Lois Lane is thrown out to make a “damsel of distress” character. When the way to shut down Senator Finch is with a bottle of piss before her and a large bomb. When every single female character seems to be a stupid plot point. One begins to wonder if this morally reprehensible universe created by the same company which gave us much of our childhood? But, then as DC 52 moved onto the dark and gritty territory, morality has taken a secondary space to the “cool”ness factor.

No one is “cool” in the film though.

Except when Wonder Woman enters.

In a movie filled with testosterone, she becomes the only person you kind of care about. When she appears to fight in the movie, her motivation is clear enough, she is a warrior returning to war after a long time, and she rejoices. However, she also worries about the people in the city.

Snyder is worried too. In an attempt to stop the criticisms about MoS, the words uninhabited are hammered into our heads by different characters.

You walk out of the movie theater wondering what you have watched. Even when you have pushed out every character out of your mind, the images remain. We have reached the age where violence trumps over kindness. Where the question of xenophobia and vigilantism can be subverted because of a fist fight.

When Wonder Woman says “They do not know how to honour him”

DC itself seems to be the culprit.

We have lost, badly.

As human beings, we have lost our quality of selflessness and instead given into this cynical world. Apparently grounded in reality has come to mean that only the bad sides of the people matter, and not the good. Even our heroes dare not be good, since, in this world, that is not someone relates to. After all this WAS about the fight.

A Batfan in an interview proudly proclaims his plan to kill Superman and “win”

One wonders who wins over whom, finally.

One wonders if we were even allowed a battle field.

Till the answer comes, the fan in me believes in Wonder Woman, for she seems to bring the only dawn in the film

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“Doctor Strangelove”, politics

While watching “Doctor Strangelove”, this morning I appreciated Kubrick more and more. There was so much of a storyteller in that man, and those characters were so greatly etched. It was quite something I guess. However, the entire situation involving the cold war brought me to the stalemate of a situation we have here right now.

The world has faced disaster after disaster, and the only reason there has been a lack of mass scale retaliation is because the civilian loss would be too much to bear. But, heck, that does not mean there are no mad generals brandishing their phallic cigars and telling them to go ahead and do it. “Catching them with their pants down”, a General quips in the movie. It’s real though, it is happening even at this point of our time, even though the Cold War has been over for a long while.

However, you do not sympathise with the president either, he is trying to be soft with everyone when he should be tough. He is someone who is diplomatic towards the enemy and angry towards his own people. He is someone who is trying to find the best of the situation even though he remains blissfully unaware of the things happening all around him.

I guess, that is what is strange about the movie, the caricatures have all become real at this point of time. We are living with characters which follow these caricatures perfectly, and we are just waiting for a Strangelove to come around and offer a solution which would be so so tempting to us. We would probably forget our morality for a week, just to get that blowjob, and then it will all be over.

The ultimate story of life, ending in failure because our lusts guide us to a place which is worse. I don’t get that.

But, I guess, it is the reality of our times, and we are all caricatures, and we are going to end up being novelised again as the generations come. And the funny thing, it won’t be our fault either. We would be like the civilians in the movie, unaware, and literally caught with their pants down.

“Wazir”, A Review

Last day was tiring for a lot of reasons. Mother dear called me while, I was having lunch and told me that my dad had been hospitalized. That was followed by the usual feeling of helplessness and pain that often follows the student who is forced to study outside. I just could not hop on a train and get there and take care of him in any way.

Then again, I saw this movie yesterday. “Wazir” is a movie that holds promise at the very least even if it does not really live up to it all throughout.
While, the characters are quite lovely on pen and paper, on screen the transition is kind of clunky. Sadly, this is not the fault of the actors at all. Farhan Akhtar and Amitabh Bacchan both give stellar performances.

Yet, the script falters. It meanders endlessly in the first half and despite a brilliant set up that promises to deliver, in second half it just becomes a sort of a mess, with glaring plot holes everywhere.

The emotional impact of the film is put on the backfoot by the director to make the point with chess while, both could be interlinked in a beautiful way. And in a film which has such emotional ingredients that is quite a sad thing.

Then again one can only marvel at the acting and the set pieces. There are some images which stay with you as you leave the movie hall an some questions that eat at you.

I’m sorry for the short post, am thoroughly sad today

Dasrath Manjhi : A Story that Deserves Telling

If you are from India, chances are that you have heard the tale of The Mountain Man a thousand times. You have been wow-ed by the feat he achieved and shared that post many a times. Today, as I sat down and watched the film made on his life, I felt a need to re-tell the story again. Maybe, my heart could not accept that some people would not know him. Perhaps, I did not want him to move on as just another trend of the internet.

This was a man, who lost his wife to a mountain and decided to move the mountain itself. This is not a story of making the Taj Mahal, something of grandeur, something so beautiful that the Earth bows before it. This is the story of madness, and of romance, and the gift is that of great utility to everyone.

And you know what? This is such a strange tale. If you hear about rural India it is either about rags to riches or about the deplorable conditions. Manjhi’s story illustrates both and neither. There is this madness in the story of his. The madness of a man who takes on the mountain. This is perhaps not as glamorous as climbing the Everest, but, bringing down a whole mountain, bringing down the nature, that’s something poetic.

I miss Bihar now, have been away for a month.

I would love to feel the air again. There is a stubbornness there, that runs deep into the soul. There is a stubbornness everywhere in my country.

I guess that’s how we survive against all…

“Dum Laga ke Haisa” and finding yourself in loneliness

There is a time in the film when the camera goes out and films the light of a scooter moving through a large bridge. The song “Moh moh ke dhaage” plays in the background. This is a moment that would make you fall in love with the film itself, the simplicity of it, the whole deal that surrounds it. The best films give off an aroma that lingers with you even after you have watched it. With this there comes an aroma of old romantic books and indian food, and it permeates the senses.
“Dum Laga ke Haisa” is more a statement than a story that needs to be told. Looking back, this is not a story to win hearts but, the outcome is so earnest, so well made that you cannot help falling for it again and again. The soulful music tracks and the two beautiful human beings at the centre of the film just enhance the story.
The most wonderful part of this story is perhaps the simplicity, the normality of it all. We all desire for that fit person to be beside us. Someone who conforms to the society’s norms of what is hot. That is no crime. But, when the heroine looks at her husband and says “You never gave me the chance to show my love or tell about it”, you feel the pain of a person who is not there. The person who is not hot, who is fat is often the subject of ridicule but, here they make it into a statement and what a heroine that makes. The dialogues ring true, the ferocity, the anger rings true and you are left with a heartfelt romance.
Both people in a relationship are flawed, the man suffers from being ridiculed for the lack of education, the wife is well-educated and yet, her weight is criticized by her husband. The differences grow in levels and lead to nowhere at all, but, then it starts working. This is the second arranged marriage film that I am watching after “Tanu weds Manu”, that film is different, it makes fun of the situations and grows love from there, here love is never there but, the situations, the pains lead to them.
You see the characters, and they are not made of wax, these are people who bleed and are stronger than anyone else. It makes the story.
And you cheer them on at the last moment when the entire movie comes to a climax because you want them to end up together. You want them to make it because that proves love exists. And a movie that makes you care about its characters is perhaps better than a hundred other movies that don’t.
Watch this, and sit with a bit of tissues if you cry at romance.
And listen to the tracks again when the night falls.
For now the threads are again in the sky, falling leisurely at nowhere and romance is going to be found at the strangest corners.

“Woodstock”

“Woodstock” is less of a film and more of a statement. A statement that personifies an era, and celebrates it as a whole. What was NOT happening in the 60’s? The “peace” movement was taking over, Vietnam was tearing our old America apart with the protests and there was this revival going on of the youth. People were rising up, people were changing. And like any other decade, any other generation, people were realising that even if they did come out unscathed out of the whole deal, there would be no way that the world would remain unchanged.
The end of the decade came, and so came this music festival. The artists were all there, the protestors, the angry men who had called for a war fought using peace. There were children there, there was the youth, and they had created the third largest city in America. For three days, they celebrated their generation in something that has since, become a myth of sorts. For people who weren’t there at Woodstock, the place and time serves as something extraordinary, the start of something, the end of a lot of things. And the movie that circulates around it has become legendary too, lived to become something different, become a phenomena of our time.
Till date, listening to Joan Baez singing “Joe Hill” in that dark stage raises the shivers. You feel a fraction of the feeling that those present would have felt. These people were witnessing their own tragedies and their own triumphs all on the same stage. The energy was breaking the surface and it was making them realise that the world was becoming much wider. There would be people moving away from that place in trucks who would become another generation, who would raise kids and immortalise an idea of peace that still lives on. Maybe, a lot died with that festival too, but, that moment in perfect, so, so , perfect.
When Arlo Guthrie performs the song “Coming in to Los Angeles”, you see the people having a smoke, the smell of marijuana hangs around you too, but, there is peace there. As the soulful voice punches through the hearts, the blood is only flowers. The camera moves naturally, and we see the feelings out in the open. There is no shame at Woodstock, there is no pain at Woodstock. We know that someone died there because of some sort of heroin overdose, that people were sick because of the rain. But, then we hear the woman tell us about this guy who was high, and asked her something about what color would jealousy be, and we laugh. For, no matter whether we drink or not, we know that feeling.
“Woodstock” as a film, not only defines a generation, it defines something that is integral to every teenage mind, this feeling of brotherhood of goodness of being the person they are and not pretending just for the sake of it. There is something magical to be gained from that, something that is eternal.
Heck, this is the festival where helicopters dropped flowers and dry clothes over the people when there was rain. This is the festival where the rain could not wash the people away. Where the announcer says something like, “If some of you still think that capitalism isn’t that weird you can buy some burgers and help that burger guy out there.”.
There is spirit in there. And when we see this Port-o-san guy say that he has a kid in Woodstock and another in the Vietnam war we see the two faces of america in front of us. How many were drafted in the military at that time? How many children were dying while they celebrated their generation? The moment when the question is asked comes with a rag-tag singer asking about the Nam war over the stage. The feeling forces out everywhere and almost everyone is singing out loud. The song is seeping through the bones.
Sure, we can find fault with this generation, and there are many that we could list even now. But, the times were a’ changing. the wars had just ended and another had suddenly started, the music scene had suddenly become greater and encompassed so much more. Joan Baez tells of her husband being carried away from one jail to another, she makes a joke about it,. These guys are not afraid of the place and time. They are enamored with it. They are enamored with the entire deal. They are in love with themselves and the feelings that are starting out then and there. There is a brotherhood that seeps out to the genera;l public and we are in love with that feeling.
When Jimi takes the stage and plays the American national anthem it is unclean, the dirtiness a sign of the time that was then. The whole thing a resonation of the space with the people. The anthem a mockery of the America that was then. Hendrix is at the end, the whole deal is dwindling by then, but, you feel the rebellion in them./
As the people walk away from the festival, they carry a lot of memories that would be theres forever. The people of the locality who helped them throughout the three days. Can you believe local people coming together to making the festival a success? For giving food to all of the people who are there? The statement goes out, “Our dream is breakfast for 400,000 people”
400,000 people, can you believe that? Can you believe that at all?
There is magic in that number. There is magic in the performances too. “Summertime Blues” from The Who, The music bleeds out in angst but, there is no sorrow about the angst. There is pain from the people. But, that pain isn’t what shines.
Woodstock becomes a statement, a broken statement. A statement about the people who are there who would personify another generation to come, but, then there was a lot of things that they would end up doing that would influence everyone.

I ended up watching “he Breakfast Club” yesterday.And suddenly, I was taken again. Broken, battered, left on the front porch of a place that I didn’t want to visit, I tried to get up. I tried to look at the world less cynically, but, then I could not. No one really can look at the world as an optimist if they have seen the movie I guess.
Friendships get made, bridges get made, you traverse new roads and stuff, but, that is about it. You get to see the hollow of the world staring you down and you feel like a newly made babe facing off to something that is virtually impossible.

I wish I could escape this.

“Pride”…

There is a moment in the movie where Mark just goes

There’s a time honoured tradition in the gay community, that when someone calls you a name, you go out there, and OWN IT.

And the movie had made me cry before that. But, right at that moment, I sit up and let it rip. I am cheering, and after that, I have cheered for the smallest and the largest of the things. I have screamed at this movie, laughed at it, and cried with it. A bunch of actors showcasing pride is a watch I’d remember. And it’s not just that.

It is not only about the lesbian and gay communities, or just about the miners. It is about an era that was turning the world down, and about individuals who turned up against it and protested. About people bringing in a change, about the whole world standing witness to something so incredible that it makes them tremble. It’s about cheerfulness and hope and it is finally about romances, about the little things.

So, you hope as you watch them, you hope as you see them change little by little. There’s a lot to be gained, a lot more to be lost, but, as the actors go about it, it is fun. And the charm of the movie lies in its warmth, and its love of not taking itself as a very serious documentary.

It can burst out in “Every woman is a lesbian at heart…”
And put something as heart rendering as the fight of parent and child after the child comes out.

It can make you cry and scream.

And finally it can instill that pride in you…

The movie’s heart lies in the warmth, in the frames that depict a huge family like gathering. The actors are having fun here, the actors are being themselves. So, when the old lady takes out a dildo and goes forth with a burst of laughter, you don’t feel strange and out of place. You feel like it is with you.
So, when another old lady calls out, “Where are my lesbians?”, you feel like rushing to her too…

“Birdman” and “Nayak” : The Fault in our Stars

“Birdman” and “Nayak” both deal with actors, stars, and about the things that haunt their lives. It was only co-incidental that I watched both in a period of two days and was left awed by them. “Nayak” or “The Hero” is of course a part of Ray’s oeuvre and has won the Berlin film festival critics choice award previously, and “Birdman” has been gaining accolades all through this year. However, the awards matter much less than the subject matter they deal with.

However similar the subjects seem at the first glance they are vastly different. Though both stars are haunted by their past, Ray’s protagonist is at the height of his stardom while, Inarritu’s (pardon the misspelling, I am clueless about how to pull off the symbols) protagonist has fallen from it. This leaves the subject matter of what haunts them, for Arindam, he is haunted by his past failures, and things he did as he came into stardom, while Riggan is haunted by his own past stardom and the character that he played. Both movies though bring forward a star, a star who embraces his stardom as a necessity and not as something they enjoy. To Arindam, it comes easily, to Riggan, the need for stardom, the need for feeling important is so much that he would go to any length for it.

The fatality of stars seems to be always brought into the forefront, they are only human and once they start failing it is an easy downward spiral which ends up in rock bottom. The dealings of when they reach there is something we all remember. Their friends leave, the studios they knew so closely become strangers, and slowly but, steadily they disappear. The headlines read “The star has disappeared” but, no one makes an effort to actually find him. And the simple stereotypes, the thoughts about how every star finally turns out to be a scoundrel at least in part, it is quite prominent when one portrays them on film.

Does stardom really mean leaving our ideals behind? Riggan is haunted by his most famous character, as Keaton would be by the images of Batman that people still relate with him. This haunting by their famous roles, in perhaps what starts the downward spiral. And when Sharmila Tagore in “Nayak” says that the roles Arindam plays are “too perfect” you nod is agreement because somehow being a star has come to mean these cliched version of roles which are always superhuman under the facade of being human. A man can fight and sing, and do a hundred other things. In Bollywood and Tollywood that hardly raises a frown, In Hollywood, the genre of popular movies, the romances and action flicks exhaust their brand of stars with the similar roles under different names.

Riggan’s case is also easily seen, When Daniel Radcliffe is still named as Harry Potter and Emma Watson still called Hermoine even though they have had successful movie careers after the Harry Potter series ended. As Riggan seats in an office with some people, the subject of another sequel of “Birdman” comes out, the people, fans and producers, scream out in glee over it. “You release Birdman 4?” Riggan is dumbfounded, as much as Daniel must be when he is still questioned about Harry and his chances of reprising the role.

So, what does being a star finally mean? The loss of ideals or the dreamy state of things that the stars themselves would have us believe? Perhaps like every job, a famous personality himself faces the occupational hazards linked with it. These movies portray them. The falls, the small slips from the ideal, these are perhaps nt rare. The roles they reprise before the camera are not mirrors, and often being hounded by people all the time would give rise to a cryptic, angry mindset, something that is wrong and angry and all the way out there. The silver screen is only silver to hide the darkness inside? But, then there is fun too. You just have to wonder as you go on…