Let’s talk about : The Ocean’s Trilogy

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While we are on the topic of greatest movies ever made, let’s talk about the Ocean’s trilogy.

Hi there Avengers Infinity something. (yawn)

Steven Soderbergh is unpredictable, he retired from movie making some four years ago and then came back to make Logan Lucky, many called it an inversion of his Ocean’s trilogy; functional and without any style. The whole style vs substance would put the Ocean’s trilogy in bad light, but in reality style is the substance in these films.

Soderbergh himself has taken various positions on the Oceans franchise, from being appreciative to being ‘I don’t really care if you don’t like it’; but he has admitted that a lot of work went into the trilogy and that is why it is interesting (and great).A carefully constructed ode to old hollywood but still very modern and yet entertaining cinema.

Full disclosure: the Ocean’s trilogy for me is up there (obviously with LOTR) in terms of breaking up characters and their tales into three parts. The Lord of the Rings also had the cushion of a literary work and generations of readers who are familiar with the story.

Breaking down the Ocean’s trilogy; 11 sets up Ocean and his men brilliantly and 13 perfectly completes the story. Twelve falls short because it is unlike 11 or 13, but definitely the most interesting.

Soderbergh’s source material was a 1960 film directed by Moldovian-American director Lewis Milestone*; the original Ocean’s 11 headlined by Frank Sinatra and  Dean Martin, a film that currently holds only 48% weight on critic aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

Even as a choice this seems quite odd for a remake. Soderbergh is like that, he professes that many directors too are like him: attracted to not so greater works of great filmmakers. Positively, this could be seen as learning from other’s mistakes but realistically it is about ignoring what ‘most people’ have agreed upon.

Great work usually comes from not-so great sources

Having seen the 1960 film, memorable is not something I would associate with it; but I can guess it was the playful tone and actors bouncing off each other that attracted Soderbergh. He makes the source material his own and we get with three well directed classic films on professionalism and camaraderie.

Show, but don’t show-off

Like most films in this genre where we are indeed cheering for the bad guys, there is a sense of casual code; the team may seem like an assembly of rag-tag crooks but really they are bound together by their professionalism and dislike for vanity.

Let’s look at the antagonist in the three films

  • Villain 1-Ocean’s 11: Terry Benedict: owner of 3 of the biggest casinos and suitably self-obsessed
  • Villain 2-Ocean’s 12: The Night Fox: a self congratulatory European gentleman thief
  • Villain 3-Ocean’s 13: Willy Bank: megalomaniac, obsessed with building the best hotel on the strip

If there had been an Ocean’s 14, then it is quite possible that the rat-pack would have taken on Tony Stark (yawn). The only difference between the good guys and the bad guys is “you can be be cool by not saying so”

Also take into account that the villains have to be over the top, so that the thievery can be normalized but there is always an undercurrent of Ocean and co having a personal stake in the happenings. It is not about the money, but about the job.

It is always about the job

Coming back to professionalism: to sum up, the three films are about a bunch of guys who really really(emphasis mine) love their job and are very good at it, ready to accept unreasonable challenges but don’t want to be seen as very serious about it. It’s part of their act.

Daniel Ocean claims to look at the angles of buildings even when he is not working, Linus spends the prize of the first movie in improving his ‘skills’, Rusty tries running a hotel but feels he is not good at anything else.

The dialogue is loaded about skills, tactics(looky loo with a bundle of joy!) and planning , everyone working towards doing a better con than before. Like Basher puts it ” we don’t do the same gag twice“.

Much has been written about work and fun, as though they are too separate things; and coming from a society where the skills you have is almost always not the one which would be called to action at work I am able to relate. Meaning work is the complete opposite of fun.

But here films could have been about a bunch of accountants and still they would have made it in interesting. Oceans for me in many ways is about the triumph of work and not without the help of any hack productivity handbook.  A very American thing, but countries are really built by hard working passionate men (and women), who don’t usually get their due.

It is also about the gang

Already covered is their common dislike to individual success, Ocean despite being a master thief doesn’t work alone, the loot is equally shared even if everybody’s skills are not completely utilized.

Two of the three movies happen just to set things right for their mentor Reuben, and all the time they spend together is playful and devoid of any real conflict; the spirit of friendship pervades all through, just like friends having a good time in real life.

But more importantly, it all comes together very well

  • Addictive. Re-watchable. Laugh-out-loud funny.
  • Sweeping the casino carpet type cinematography.
  • A soundtrack that stays with you for life.
  • Blow-your-cinephile-mind team up.
  • Rusty and Danny saying so much by not saying a word.
  • The twins saying so much but actually saying nothing.
  • The Amazing Yen!
  • Bruce Willis as himself.
  • And introducing  Tess as Julia Roberts! (the whole Looky Loo sequence)
  • Vincent Cassel -laser dance.
  • Viva La Revolucion!
  • Al Pacino ordering a Samsung phone
  • Everybody knows Mandarin
  • “They have enough armed personnel to occupy Paris”
  • George Clooney saying “yeah”
  • The fountains swaying to Debussy’s Claire De Lune

The general coolness of it all. I mean what is not to like?

Among the greatest Hollywood films, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A New Beginning

AnbeSivam1Kamal Haasan (KH) announced that he would retire from films from barring Vishwaroopam 2 and Indian 2, not surprising at all. The fact to be noted is that both are extensions of his previous works and sadly not something new.

‘Something new’ would be the murmur of those who walked out of a Kamal film, even for the truest of fans, the films would be things that couldn’t be described at a moment’s notice.

Notice that KH has been very cautious about his late career, not wanting to be another curd rice eating lion (his phrase for the later phase of Nadigar Thilagam) but somewhere along the line he too had realized that it was time.

Time is of the essence, something that resonates in Kamal’s cinematic swan song “Uttama Villain” in which an ageing superstar has to balance between his final act to right his wrongs and his final act (in a movie) with his mentor.  For me the last Kamal consummate performance.

Performance that has no end is of interest, one song from the film claims. Yes we have finally reached the point in the universe that there would be no more waiting for a Kamal film. Waiting and patience, the two characteristics that binds even unlike Kamal fans of which there are many.

Many careers come to an end, but few leave a lasting impact; while in fields which are driven by statistics (hi sports), achievements  which will always be broken. Performance artists on the other hand achieve near immortality thanks to their craft and can comfortably disregard numbers.

AnbeSivam3

Numbers too are surprisingly in Kamal’s favour; in a career spanning almost sixty years he has played from camp to class and what lies between.  Take 1982 for instance which gave the Tamil movie going public both Sakalakalavallavan and Moondram Pirai. This is not a singular occurrence Sagara Sangamam came with Sattam, Nayagan came with AVM’s Paer Sollum Pillai, Virumandi and Vasoolist etc etc etc and it is hard to imagine any other actor who can withstand this stretch consistently and still look natural.

Naturally, his multifaceted nature attracted different kind of fans. His long career has ensured that there was a constant churn in admiration, old fans becoming disillusioned allowing new ones to take their  place. An example would be a generation that still believes that KH was the coolest in the 80s, while another set claim he peaked in the 90s, some say he should just direct and not act, others don’t want him behind a megaphone, some want him to even work with youth directors (LOL). Personally, it is KH’s ability to be all this and more that makes me revisit the films.

Films (of his) are all that we will have of him in the future (not discounting the interviews), and it is surely exciting to revisit them not just as a fan, but as an explorer of the medium. Especially now, when there very little to expect. You have given me a lot to work with and all the best for your future endeavors, Kamal.

AnbeSivam4

 

FRS: TSK

So we all know what FRS is right? Right?

<Slow narration in deep voice, usually male>

“The FRS was supposed to be a weapon of limited use, it has been so faulty as a device that even multiple upgrades have failed to better it ( hi to Microsoft system update), but the FRS (having a mind and life of its own) seems to have overstayed its shelf life far exceeding the expectations of those founding fathers (no mothers) who first thought of this nonsense crazy concept.  We thank all those film makers who keep the FRS alive.

Indha FRS ungalukku samarpanam <not translating>

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-1008: too much self-importance, no one cares about the FRS. More points should be cut for the FRS team which hates narration to use narration to begin this piece.

-5: Ganavelraja credited when someone from background asks “Do you have money? (In tamil, here we are translating, earlier we didn’t ok) because he is producer. Oh so funny. Studio Green fans can unite.

-5: Director credited when same voice over says “you have very bright future” #yeppa

-9.07: The usual-unusual method of hero introduction of showing hero’s fingers, mouth etc before showing face; while showing face and while “GETONWITHIT” would have been best way, what will the first day fans do otherwise. Also first words spoken by our hero is “jeichiduvom” (translated to we will succeed, ofc)

+1: GETONWITHIT

+23: Hero is very positive attitude based; also he is quick to provide two line summaries of goals, life and leadership and destiny. Hero’s friend is normal but.

-42.56: Hero breaks policeman’s neck, then breaks into a song “Sodakku”, suddenly whole of Chennai is celebrating, no one knows why #IntroSongParidhabangal

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-12: Hero blames system and their location for lack of jobs but doesn’t stop to address the issue of skills required for the job or the training. While opportunity (or lack of) is always the issue in such ‘hero saves his surroundings’ movies but we have always been asked to accept that the hero is skilled at face value, there is absolutely no learning curve established because mastery at anything comes with continuous…oh my god..GETONWITHIT…

-8: All rich people are not just bad but greasy palmed slave traders who profit off the spine of the bent labourer, while this may be true; again we have to accept this at a moment’s notice.

<FRS Mini Bytes>

Arthur C Clerk’s third law: any sufficiently underwritten Mass hero movie will be indistinguishable from the hero’s projected image in real life

Like here Suriya’s height is one major point to address, then how he avoid swear words but uses them only when the time comes, regular call backs to the hero’s other films etc.

All this exists in abundance

</FRS Mini Bytes>

-45: All songs whenever wherever

-32.5: Role of heroine is to make hero fall in love in <wait for it> 1….2…..3… oh my god they are cute couple now…seconds…

-62: Time and again we have fought for the rights of those who play the hero’s friend, very pitiable state

-5: Community of heroine or adopted community of heroine is explained in detail but to no real relevance to plot, oh I forgot hero gets to call her as maami. No other community is established anyways.

-89.42: Heroine knows classical dance means she will practice with children in balcony only, no other place, how else…i mean

+22: Hero sitting with kids dressed as bharatiyar means he is going to say something very uplisting

Number of kids dressed up as bharatiyar is tooo damn high!

-101: Ramyakrishnan says she has x number of daughters because in her days of youthful marriage there was no tv/radio and hence nothing much to do; this is delivered as a comic track

+12: Closely follows the adage that festival films should be colourful, Holi has been so highly adopted by Tamil heroes that entire temple floors are coloured with red colour powder.

+15: Some humour here and there

<FRS Mini Bytes>

Acting: a new dimension

The whole acting in this film is defined by how aggressive do actors put-on/ off their cooling glasses, this means that we have sit through 4600 shots of frustrated villains adjusting their sun glasses 

#ColorKannadiParidhabangal

</FRS MiniBytes>

-29: After sometime story doesn’t know where it is going so introduces one more villain, what is this da, demand based hiring?

-23.17: Movie is called Thaana Serndha Kootam but shows a lot of process of hiring thus telling that this is not a natural crowd but one that has been assembled, then how thaana serndha…seri namakku en

+75: Hero combats corruption with corruption (fighting fire with fire types)

+11: Audience made to digest that this movie is made in 80s because buses and dresses are colourful and TR movies are being released.  #PeriodFilmParidhabangal

-67: Senthil still doing Petromax comedy is funny (in the filmmakers head)

-23: It is not a film shot in Hyderabad, if there is no shot of the hero walking around the Charminar

Something something happens, obviously even two villains are not as skilled as hero and after an outrageous climax all his well

But not before hero has time to tell his message.

TSK1

+14: Movie predicts that movie ticket prices will increase, interesting foreshadowing but if we look at it from the point of ….well…GETONWITHIT….no one cares, this is supposed to by smartly written ‘festival’ film with roller coaster family audience magnetic heroic films with social angle in lighter tone

+189: Film believes that no one gives anyone an opportunity and you have to take it yourself: we still don’t know if this is the underlying philosophy of Tamil rockers, because like hero and co can adopt slightly shady methods to give justice but common people should watch films only in theatre etc…

Shubam

Ungal Naam

The FRS Team

Vanakkam