La La Land

la-la-land-pic-2048x1152Having seen hundreds of films in which actors routinely break into song for no reason, the musical is a genre something I could slip right into, only that in La La Land there is always some reason for the music.

La La Land operates in multiple dualities, the real city and the virtual city, the earth and the stars, the famous and those without a face, the past and the present, and more importantly how dreams push reality and how ruthlessly dreams are pushed back by this reality.

Yes and all this is told through the lives of two.

Mia and Seb.

The film keeps religiously hinting at the co-existence of real and dream states, where even a phone ringtone brings you back to drab daily life and the sight of an old movie theatre could push the leads into the clouds.

Not falling into the trap of grandness, Damien Chazelle shows meditative concentration on his leads, shot in the ultimate film maker’s wet dream of a format: cinemascope, when the screen is filled with Emma Stone’s crystal green eyes or Ryan Gosling’s timely nod, even the best of nature’s landscape would concede defeat.

I wouldn’t want to limit La La Land as a love story of two struggling artists in a big city, but it does brilliantly work solely as a love story, beyond the romance, has there been any film that uses the yearning for the past and aspirations to come and yet stay contemporary? Questions are a plenty and these gently push the film along, without being conscious and feeling self important about handing these questions.

La La Land is a film that flushes out all emotions, moments to cry into crumpled hankies are interrupted with moments to beam with happiness at what La La Land throws at us, but not for a moment it looks constructed or organised.

La la land doesn’t want to be brilliant, but it cannot help itself from being so.

Great films aren’t necessarily great because they utilize the finest of techniques or technicians, it is great because of their ability to bring out emotions that other great films too invariably bring out, something like a Casablanca, something like a Sagara Sangamam.

Maybe it is a mixture of all that.

A complete film which takes all from Old Hollywood but yet comes out as its own, the flourishes of which will be enjoyed for years.

To all those quick to use the phrase “they dont make them like that any more”,

they just did.

 

PS : It is only providence that I got to see a film divided into parts namely winter, spring, summer , fall and winter again in a theatre called seasons.

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FRS: Remo

The last time we did FRS or the Fawlty (Faulty) Rating System, we decided that this does not in anyway add to the discourse on film, it was a cheap way to get back at films that we did not like.

But things change.

Maybe some movies still do need to be ‘tried’ by FRS.

We thank Sivakarthikeyan for bringing us back to life.

remo-sathyam

-3: Narration

-6: Narration by Sj Suryah

-23: Hero is jobless, but one respite is that, he is trying for a job. Job here is to become the next acting sensation.

-10: His friends equally jobless, their lives are entwined with the life of our hero; who has no life anyways.

-78: Irritating yellow antique car is irritating, like let us spend a moment on this; i guess this car whatever model that is (soon to be a quiz question) is the male equivalent of the yellow vespa which is the default vehicle of all Tamil heroines for the past few years. I mean I understand that this is done to increase the classiness of the picture, but hero can sell that car for fortune and make his own movie only. Edho da, this is the poor hero with antique car- kadhalikka neramillai 1960s trope.

-12: Hero has doting mother, but of course. No, ok let us settle this right here, just because we know that Saranya Ponvannan is playing mother should we like think this is the extension of all the mother characters that she has played before? How do you even convey the script to her? ‘Madam, this is the same thing that you did in OKOK and zillion other films”. Also all mothers are doting on sons, except when not scolding kid for not getting job.

-5: KS Ravikumar wants to make Avvai Shanmugi part two

-45.6: Hero can do everything in life except love scenes, because he is very shy yaar, no experience with other girls

-24: Number of Rajni+Ajith+Vijay references in the movie is more than the number of pages in the movie script (well this is a fairly passable assumption)

-10: Apart from the above mentioned references, SK (which is SivaK rebranded and dumped on us as an excuse movie character-regular hero) makes references to his own films, atleast most of them in his looooong career. No we like self referential irreverance and all that, just we are being extra unkind here. Yes our tone is set.

-3000: LOL Cupid uses iPad for project management. Like how are cupids able to procure these gadgets? What is their allocated budget? and how many arrows are cupids allowed to have? How do they decide on projects? No i seriously want to know! Atleast that would be more interesting.

-78.99: Love

This is where it begins. Cupid strikes arrow at SK, now he is in love with some random girl walking on street on the way to work. This could happen to anyone.ANYONE

-100: AIM OF EVERY BOY’S LIFE IS TO GET LOVER GIRL WHO IS CUTE

-26: Hero believes that he is in love, because director has arranged for cute breeze to hit his face while heroine goes past. Dei in chennai no breeze da and you are not standing in beach road also. Summa.

-52: Hero follows heroine to supermarket. Maybe he thought it was important for him to know her favorite brand of curd. many serious reviewers have written about the different ways in which stalking is advocated in this film, if we start deducting points for each and every attempt then this will become like one 2G scam number only.

-52:  after what seems like 11 years of stalking, hero finally wants to speak to girl thing, but girl is getting engaged to some pune guy at the same moment.

+30: Girls parents think it is good to conduct engagement on flat terrace, i mean this is the sort of cost cutting that one likes to do in real life.

-10: for an engagement that happens on a terrace, it is WAY TOOO GRAND, only elephants they didnt call.

-40: whenever such engagements happen, hero will come and stand exactly opposite to the stage, so that camera man can focus on his sad face cliche, also flowers that he brings will fall on floor in slow motion. We would like to cut more points for the roses, but being kind here.

-3: You guessed it right, guy who is not hero but engaged to heroine is an ass of the highest order, although this will be revealed to you later in the movie. Yikes, spoliers

-10: for us, we gave away spoilers.

-15: Weta Workshop,

-98: Heroine is a doctor. But obviously the every moment she is on screen confirms our fears that surely she got through due to management quota or being cute.

-100K: Cuteness. Default character toolkit for heroines, if you do not want to take the glamour route that is (however eventually that too happens). Will come and say in any court that cinema is the main contributor for some stupid men thinking that girls like these actually exist and yearn for them. Being cute is to be a puppy but in human form, you have to appropriately curve your lips, widen eyes, take 300/moment selfies, draw in smileys, basically do these things so that some male fantasy is satisfied somewhere.

Because self righteous men can be graciously seen as fans of ‘cute heroines’. In the battle for cute vs hot (hot being the other kind in the heroine character toolkit, which is basically baring midriff and grooving to folk songs in some rustic background and biting chilli in close-up), hot is actually more honest (which is like, this is what you want, this is what we will show which is again wrong. Dei everything in heroine character writing is wrong only)

But this cute variety is a major killer and casual disrespect and utter disregard for heroine’s intelligence and esp in this movie when she is said doctor. And that cuteness happens only in U certificate films is an even more troubling thing.

Again, how does director come and say, “Madam, you have to turn up on set and be cute?” What fakery.

-20: Hospitals have advanced to the level that now they are indistinguishable from day care centres.

-150: using a child’s illness to progress your plot. yes, this happens.

-20: All songs, whenever.

All songs look the same btw. if you watch on mute, you might think all picturisations are same. Also some three colour gradient is used in the songs, we dont know why.

-5: Prataph Pothen

-20: Hero is best reader of body language, he can see love in heroine’s eyes. Also he wont take no for an answer (maybe he has not seen Pink). Heroine after saying no many times finally says yes, because arranged marriage is for fools and ugly peoples (actual dialogue)

-60: Suddenly pune doctor becomes villain, suddenly hero also becomes bruce lee type fighter.

-80: Cheating and confusing girls is ok as long as you spend some 20 seconds being remorseful. Also hero’s mother believes that what hero does is actually valiant. Hero’s friend advises against it, the only sane voice in the movie, no wonder he is playing the comedian.

+20: Chennai, some snobs still will call ‘madras’ but yeah good outdoor locations, this actually felt like a city film because mostly was shot outdoors in the locations that we go and come on a daily basis, and chennai still has a lot of those locations, good use of chennai metro as well, but as in all movies, here also it rains whenever hero and heroine want to kiss. But actually in chennai, it rains only for three days or something. I guess this is a very PC Sreeram thing, of shooting outdoorsy, dunno just guessing.

-10: For everyone telling, dei this is entertainment da, it will be like this only. What da we shouldnt ask anything? And why should we leave our brains at home whole watching films, is that even a valid expression

-3: for every reviewer who used the phrase “leave your brain at home”

Atleast i dont know, i have never made a film, maybe it is difficult to make a film which is entertaining but not irresponsible, but state that with your ‘alcohol is injurious to health’ message.

We are actually sad that people are profiteering from movies like these, I’m all okie if such movies come and no one watches them, but this will be a Blockbuster Budhan and now everyone will continue to make them, hence we can never stop FRS, which is even sad.

All this sadness is making us angry. Hulk level.

Edho da. Be happy. You have cracked the commercial code. We are only idiots.

As in every FRS, all numbers are surely random and arbitary, they do not mean anything.

Truth alone triumphs

 

(And also side characters)

andavan-kattalai

Before getting down to praising Aandavan Kattalai, let me first get down on the system; innumerable films have taken on the system, whisking out heroes who break the system, become the system even; but rarely acknowledge it.

Even in Manikandan’s film, the cheekily named Gandhi wrestles with the system and with the truth much like his Gujarati-namesake. Like everyone else, he doesn’t want to be seen as the one who is not smart enough not to take a short cut.

This mindset has served us well right from our daily commute, right up to the get rich quick plans we invest in. Short cuts have been ingrained into our skulls as an Indianism, street smartness is something even companies look for in candidates.

It is time to drive away this smartness.

The Messengers (or who says these things in the movie)

Vijay Sethupathi, in his fifth appearance on screen this year! (Surely this must be a criteria for TIME person of the Year) plays the small town guy in the big city with absolute plainness, there isn’t any special characteristic, there is no extraordinary back story, Gandhi could be anyone, Gandhi could be me or even you, maybe that’s why. So this isn’t much of a performance but more of an appearance.

But this appearance serves him well especially in the comic portions of the film, but the problems in Aandavan Kattalai is unusual because you really don’t know who to follow on screen, obviously Vijay Sethupathi drives it forward; but the supporting characters are not so much a supporting but  actually essential.

I am a supporting character sympathizer, as in if there is one movement I would like to be part of, it would be for the ethical treatment of “hero/heroine’s friend” in Tamil films.  First there is Yogi babu as the not so constant companion, he is luckier than our hero, which almost never happens in films, he gets the best lines as well; then there is the Srilankan refugee in search of his family but has to play dumb, the friends at the theatre crew and the intrepid journalist who also happens to be the heroine.

But my favorite would be the senior and junior lawyers at the family court, a truly unusual comic relationship, at least something I haven’t seen in Tamil films; the closest I could pair them to:  the similar comic duo from I heart Huckabees, totally brilliant, yet so fitting in the atmosphere.

Most of the characters seemed lived in, not just turning up for the shoot, but these aren’t serious roles which would require an entire long read on ‘method acting’, these are just everyday people in highly non everyday surroundings and that is how the humor is brought about. I could just go on about the other supporting actors as well, because this movie is a triumph in terms of casting, characters and dialogue.

A major win in a time, when giving a character a name and a job is seen as writing (something which is referenced in the movie)

Now to the message (Or what is being said)

A message movie is one troubling thing, not everyone will be empathetic enough for it to go all the way or sometimes the message itself might not be presented in a way to create impact, or hidden behind subtexts later to be brought forward by others. But there is something in every movie for everyone, it might not be the one that the director intended, but there is something; because that is why we watch a film.

Most of the times the message is lost in the telling. Here in Aandavan kattalai, the director puts first dart bulls-eye from slide one (This is a message movie #hehehe)

We (or you) can infer whatever you want, but this director is telling you not to take the short route, in fact there are no short routes, in fact (v2.0) the short route is the longer one and the one with thorns and no GPS.

No don’t take the short route.

Fill your own forms. Don’t break the line. Don’t ask your colleague if they know anyone anywhere. Don’t refer anyone from anywhere. Don’t break the process or try to bypass it. Just fill the form and wait.

Because the system might just be easier than the short cut.

Hey, I’m not saying this, the movie is.

Movie(s) of the year

Every movie blogger who thinks he/she is worth something will come up with a list of ‘movies of the year’, we are not exceptions; but we would like to do things differently.

Is Aandavan kattalai our movie of the year?

Our answer is “not quite Oru Naal Koothu” *

 

Epilogue

The movie begins with eighties style kaleidoscopic images, nice touch but I couldn’t see how they connect to the overall theme

*Pitting movie against movie is a very bad thing and I’m sure we will be punished for this.